The plebiscite body isn’t even cold in the ground, but the issue of whether religious schools are allowed to determine their employment policy based on gospel sexual ethic is already being courted in Western Australia.
It’s a case of “Next!”, cos the revolution never sleeps.
Today in The West Australian newspaper (both print and online versions) the headline reads thus:
You can read the article here.
The paper reports:
South Coast Baptist College principal Des Mitchell said Mr Campbell had been loved and respected by both staff and students and, like the rest of the community, the school was on a “respectful journey of understanding” on this issue.
I wish Des well, but good luck with holding on to that narrative.
No doubt there is more nuance to the story than what we have reported here. But since when was nuance a cherished commodity in our adversarial media culture today? Since when did nuance ever sell a paper or invite a click? Since when did the permanent revolution ever call for nuance?
And this lack of nuance is just a hint that the future that orthodox Christian education may not be bricks and mortar. We need to be proactive and have a Plan B.
The change has been rapid and will have huge ramifications for some if legislations are implemented. Not for all, however. For many mainline denominations, who have signed up already to the new sexual ethics in their theology, their schools will fill even as their churches continue to empty.
But for those committed to orthodoxy and orthopraxy among their staff, it is imperative to have a strategy now. No use scrambling around wondering what to do if funding is suddenly tied to sign-off on anti-discrimination legislation.
Speaking in Perth last week, Foreign Editor of The Australian newspaper, Greg Sheridan, observed that Christians must build new institutions to counter the captivity of the current ones to the new sexular culture.
Those new institutions will, by necessity, be off-grid; independent of government funding. That won’t be all bad. Like with the church, the cultural pressure to conform will weed out the dross. It will refocus and re-energise those committed to the Western tradition grounded in Christianity. That could be exciting.
But it will be daunting too. It will require a tighter, niche education model that humbly cuts its sail according to its cloth. It may also require a home schooling program that revives the classical education model.
The benefits will be twofold: well-trained, well thought out students who don’t simply parrot the zeitgeist, and the avoidance of state overreach. If home school is the model to go with, then parents might want to start thinking about that now. Someone is going to have to give up a full time job to educate their children. At least you’ll be saving on school fees.
For it’s never simply been about butchers and bakers and wedding candlestick makers. It’s about whether the state can cope with, indeed sustain, alternate ethical communities.
Secularists, who don’t understand how religion works, see no problem. Faith is private right? You can sing and pray to a sky fairy in your building, right? That’s all that faith is about, right? But leave that at the church door. Religion has no place in the public square. Religious ethical communities have no right to government funding.
And all it will take is a good, loud activist to source a teacher who has lost their position, and the media storm will have politicians scurrying for cover. It’s a guaranteed slot on QandA and The Project. Which simply tells us that politics is downstream of culture.
Modern Western politics always reacts, never acts. Which is why we had the sight of Bill Shorten and Penny Wong just a short time ago when in political power, not only vote against same sex marriage, but publicly declare that marriage was between a man and a woman.
But popular culture caught even Bill and Penny napping. And as with all revolutions they did a quick photoshop, before heading out for a photo-op to cover for their past sins.
And past sins they were.
For while the church in the West was busy throwing out the language of “sin” and “sinner” and “transgression” in a mass spring clean, the culture was equally busy doing a verge collection, picking up all our unwanted stuff, honing it, before using it against us.
That’s why it’s okay for a culture in which we’re told to be civil and not commit micro-aggressions, to shamelessly trash talk MP Andrew Hastie and his decision to abstain from voting for same sex marriage in Parliament.
That’s why it’s okay for students at Sydney University who are triggered by just about anything in a piece of fiction, to physically threaten, spit at and jostle No campaign students and shove their food in their faces. After all, those people are sinners. They They don’t count. And Pharisees never dine -or dialogue- with tax collectors and sinners.
The public angst in our culture around the same sex marriage debate was a presenting symptom of a much deeper angst, the angst around what it means to be human. Who gets to decide it. Who no longer does. At it’s deepest level it’s a religious push purporting to be secular.
In the West we have concluded that the goal of human flourishing is human flourishing. Of no other culture at no other time was that true.
We now live in a personalised Mobious Strip – a hamster wheel – in which our goals turn in on themselves. Which is, after all, the definition of sin – humans turned in on themselves. What the culture views as utopian progression, the Christian tradition views as the hellish diminishing and devaluing of humanity and its goals. Sin makes us smaller. Tighter. More repetitive. And like the hamster wheel, we’ll keep coming back to the same place, only more tired out.
Of course the great pressure point is that at exactly the time the state will put the squeeze on such alternate ethical communities, the state itself is applying pressure from the other direction.
Victoria’s education authorities (Victoria being the “watch and learn” state for all interested bystanders) are encouraging schools to help students make gender transitions without informing their parents. The amount of paperwork we parents have to fill out in these litigious days just to get our kids on the bus to the cardboard box factory excursion, yet somehow gender transition is the state’s responsibility? Get off the school bus!
And that’s pretty much what Christian communities will have to do. Get off the bus. It’s going over the edge one day. Today’s article in The West Australian is nothing special. At least it won’t be in the next few years. It will be so common place it won’t be front page news at all.