I have had a number of well meaning Christians respond to my blog post yesterday who suggested the move by The Greens to have three Christian books banned in NSW from the Special Religion Education program in that state due to their unhealthy view of sexuality is a positive one because it safeguards an open secular society.
One responded thus:
“Groups like the Australian Christian Lobby and Fred Nile’s barmy army are often those most vocal in the political arena, promoting their version of “christian values” – therefore it is often these groups that the Greens are responding ideologically to and against, and in all honesty, often have my support in doing this.”
Leaving aside the fact that neither of those two groups – Fred Nile and the ACL – gets within a cooee’s distance of the SRE program, the problem I have with this is that such arguments pitch the worst-case-Christian scenario against the best intentions of the Greens.
And at this point I have to say that the Christian framework is a far safer framework to be under if you happen to disagree with it, than the Greens framework. And it suggests that The Greens are unable to make distinctions between hardline fundamentalism and a traditional Christian perspective (which in fact is true – they are unable to make such distinctions). So what it tells us is that The Greens see things in black and white terms and do not actually value diversity at anything other than surface level.
Why do I say this? Simply because a book by Sydney evangelical leader, academic and writer, Michael Jensen, was one of the proscribed three books. And just how fundamentalist and dangerous is Michael Jensen when it comes to pushing forward dangerous views in our culture that breed hatred?
Well I am glad you ask that question. Because this very week in Eternity magazine the question was posed to a number of Australian Christian leaders as to whether they would, as a baker, bake a cake for a gay wedding. Michael Jensen was one of those leaders. You can read the article here. The question was prompted by the law suit levelled against a baker in the USA who had denied such a request on the basis of his Christian faith.
So what would Michael Jensen say? Well, here’s what he did say” “Yes, I would bake it.” And here are his reasons why:
As I understand it, the cake-related controversies have been direct and deliberate targeting by same-sex marriage groups with the aim of creating a situation in which they will look like the victims of discrimination. I don’t want to step back from supporting those bakers who have been trapped and then bullied to go against their consciences on this.
In ordinary circumstances, however, I think I would make the cake, much as I would disagree with its use. My job is to make the cake to the order of the customer. I am not officiating at the wedding. I am not called upon, in the making of cakes, to make statements about whether I think the purpose to which the cake is to be put is a valid one or not. If that were the case, then to be consistent, a cake-maker should inquire as to the validity and wisdom of any and all weddings for which he or she is invited to make a cake. Perhaps He is a well-known philanderer, and She is marrying him despite his intention never to give up womanizing. Perhaps a scrupulous cake maker shouldn’t make that cake, either. And since we are being scrupulous about who we are doing business with: were the ingredients of the cake made by happy cows, and justly paid farmers? Was the chocolate fair trade? It isn’t wrong to consider the ethical implications of what we do with our work, our investments, and our consumer choices, but it is important not to single out a specific issue for special ethical purity, and be blind to the demands of others.
Don Carson’s book, the Intolerance of Tolerance, nails the issue. Only those who truly love people (by dint of understanding how loved they are despite their unloveliness) are able to help others flourish, indeed aid their flourishing, even if they disagree vehemently with their behaviour.
Michael Jensen fully understands the true nature of how a secular society is supposed to run, and he bases his responses on an understanding of freedom of conscience that Christianity endorses, but which the modern secular state cannot come to terms with. The Greens (and the NSW Education Department) appear not to have a clue, and have no real desire, it would appear, for anything close to such freedoms. Hence they display a fundamentalist zeal that has no safety checks to stop it overriding any or all freedoms in order to achieve its own aims.
And that, folks, is not secularism, it is fundamentalism.