A Christian in Australia voting for The Greens at the moment is a bit like the proverbial turkeys voting for Christmas (or Festivus or whatever we can call it these days).
I say this in light of a report in The Australian newspaper today that with the federal election running tight, The Greens have pushed the Labor Party should they win the election, to end any exemptions from anti-discrimination legislation for faith based groups. The article states:
The Greens have released policies that include the removal of religious exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act, putting this on the agenda for the next parliament and setting up a voting challenge for Labor.
I’ve heard all of the “Oh, The Greens are the closest thing to Jesus’ teaching we can get when it comes to community and social justice.”
Well perhaps that’s true in some areas, but their perspective on sexuality and sanctity of life are straight out of The Extreme Individualist’s Handbook For Navigating Late Modernity. Sorry, you can’t cherry-pick Jesus’ teachings like that.
This raises a serious question. Why would any Christian, regardless of their flavour, champion a group that seeks to quash the convictions of other Christian brothers and sisters, with whom they may disagree on these matters?
There’s a distinct silence from progressive Christians on this point. I ask it again? Why would a Christian champion a group bent on forcing the conscience of a fellow Christian through political means? I hear almost NO comment about this matter in the Christian conversation.
Surely a progressive Christian has, in Christ, more in common with a conservative Christian, than they do with The Greens? Don’t they?
Unless of course they don’t. Unless of course their primary identity is in their progressivism and not in Christ in the first place. Surely the Gospel calls us to bear with one another (meaning Christians bearing with Christians?) But that’s not what I am seeing and hearing from progressives on this point, in fact I’m seeing and hearing nothing. No sense of Christian unity despite differences. And to that I say, “Shame!”
I mean, there is an almost pathological disdain from The Greens for any moral community that does not reflect its own rather narrow, ideological and religiously secular framework. A deep inability to see the world from any other perspective such as a religious one, or to think that there are good reasons for anyone doing so. If you’ve got a different view of sexuality in your community to The Greens, then you are in the firing line.
This has interesting implication. If you are planting a church and looking to lease a school, or other public hall for your Sunday gathering then it’s going to get harder, if not impossible, to do so.
Think that’s scaremongering? I spoke to the senior pastor of a church of more than 500 just this week, who is dealing with this very issue, after a sermon from six years ago that dealt with sexuality matters, was trawled by an opponent and presented to the school board. A school at which they have been meeting at for their gatherings for many years. And 0f course, in the current climate, the school board was spooked.
The result? This church is going to have to use up a lot of time and energy sorting it out, showing it wasn’t being hostile or homophobic. Time and energy that could be focussed elsewhere (though let’s not discount God using what others meant for evil, for good. He’s got a habit of doing that!).
So if this thing gets up (and that’s a big “if”), the way many in Australia do church together is going to have to change. Maybe not this federal election, maybe not the next, but change it will.
Now that is not a problem in and of itself. The Chinese church, when facing severe restrictions during the Cultural Revolution, had a policy of “eliminating all that is not necessary”, and they did ok when the dust settled! And as readers of this blog will know, I have supreme confidence in Jesus looking after his Church without the aid of the state, thank you very much.
Anyway we might be in for a nice surprise. The Australian church may have to take a good long look at itself and its expectations of what the culture will and will not accept from it. It can then decide to cave in (and die), or stand strong (and flourish).
But in the meantime, there are some forks and twists in the road that we will have to negotiate. The Labor Party, thankfully, is less ideological than The Greens, and has the added complication that it will one day actually have to run the country, as opposed to standing in the wings egging things on.
I mean, imagine if all faith based schools (and I take it The Greens mean all faith based schools of all faiths), had to shut down tomorrow. How would the country fund the huge influx of students into the public system? (No, Greens supporter, printing more money is not the solution). There’s electoral oblivion right there.
Now, none of this is is any way to whinge about how bad we have it as Christians. Compared to so many others we don’t. But it does show that even though many Christians have been figuring out how, in a secular setting, we can live alongside with our deepest differences, groups such as The Greens have no intention of living alongside difference. Uniformity is their game, not unity.
Why is that? I suggest that above all else it is a sign of their ideological brittleness, and deep commitment to a substructure that is not only post-Christian, but hard pagan in its roots. Only those with philosophical confidence in the intrinsic value, beauty and workability of their own position can countenance true difference. But shrill, hard ideologies always feel like they are clinging on. They can’t share they toys in the sandpit. And, like a bully, they won’t.
For schools, churches, hospitals etc, that have confessional statements of faith and a commitment to enacting these in practice, there is much thinking to do over the coming few years. For make no mistake, the changes may not come in this year, or the next election, but come they will.
But for Christians of all persuasions there is a deeper level of thinking to do. Can we subsume our slants, perspectives and biases in order to stand up for Christian groups with whom we do not necessarily agree? More to the point, can I hear some progressive Christian voices standing up for their conservative brothers and sisters at this point?
Because that’s Christian unity right there, and it speaks a powerful message to the culture. All that The Greens have a take-it-or-leave-it uniformity, a mere shadow and parody of the unity that Christ gives his Church through the Spirit, despite their differences on some matters.