There’s always a soothing (false) prophet announcing “Peace, peace” when there is no peace. It was true in Jeremiah’s time. It is true in the church today.
So in light of the fact that next week the Federal Government, wedged as it is by the Opposition, and vainly fighting for its survival, is about to sell religious freedoms in schools up the river, I thought I would post this from last year:
Anglican priest Rod Bower has always been something of a gadfly in the Anglican Church, especially with his ironically antiquated church sign that constantly posts progressive messages.
Every cause. Every week. And before you know it, there it is in black and white (and red all over, boom boom!).
Bower posted this one 14 months ago, just ahead of the same sex marriage vote. And he posted it with huge confidence, chutzpah even.
But, as far as this one is concerned, in just over one year he’s been proven wrong. Dead wrong. Completely wrong.
A false prophet if ever there were one. Marriage equality was always going to have the effect it is now having, precisely because it was a tipping point, a precipice. “Slippery slope” is so 2016! His message is as antiquated as his message board.
Hence we have the prospect next week that, with all of one hour’s worth of debate over the legislation in the Parliament, and for the (false) claim that the matter is merely about the safety of gay students, our politicians will sell faith-based schools down the river.
The Editor-at-large of the The Australian, Paul Kelly, wrote this today:
There is universal agreement that the law allowing schools to remove students because of sex or gender be repealed. That is not the issue, though it is constantly presented as the issue. The real debate is about the remaining protections for religious schools.
Faced with increasing pressure from an emboldened Opposition, the Morrison Government, short on numbers and short on time, is being wedged. Its attempts to place amendments on the legislation are being thwarted.
The Labor Party’s Opposition’s bill will, in the words of Attorney General, Christian Porter:
…completely remove[s] the ability of religious educational institutions to maintain their ethos through what they teach and the rules of conduct they impose on students. This is because Labor’s bill would, for the first time, expose religious schools to litigation under the Sex Discrimination Act merely because they impose reasonable rules such as requiring students to attend chapel.
Now lest you think our Parliament is full of noble souls who think deeply about the issues in front of them, it was reported to me from someone attending the Senate hearings, that when faith-based schools’ representatives were arguing their case, many an opposing senator simply rolled their eyes and pulled out their iPhones. That’s the level of intellectual rigour in our national Parliament. That’s the quality of community representative we have.
Kelly nails the issue when he writes:
Every sign is that the religious schools are broken and prey to radical change. Their will to defend their centuries-old, faith-based teaching mission is compromised by their terror of being labelled homophobic, while their parental communities do not comprehend what is happening.
Terror. Pretty much describes it.
Frozen by terror. Caught in the headlights. There is a convergence of conflicts that faith-based schools face, and, simply put, they’ve been caught napping. The time to shore things up is not now, especially with the obscene pace at which things are moving.
Of course, there are ways to navigate the waters, and they’ll be tricky and fraught with hidden rocks. But that it has gotten to this, and so quickly, should have come as no surprise. Yet it has.
Faced with a dirty campaign in Sydney that blew the issue out of the water, and with no “better story” getting any traction, the schools have found themselves wedged by a weak Government, a strident Opposition, an-at-times hostile media, and an at-all-times hostile activism.
Of course don’t expect Rod Bowyer to be putting up a church sign anytime soon supporting faith-based schools and their attempts to maintain a Christian ethic among their staff and school practices.
Rod, and plenty of other earnest social justice types of his ilk within the church who have extremely loud voices in the culture, huge social media followings, and are the darlings of the mainstream media, have remained silent throughout this process. It must be killing them, so eager are they to be heard about everything. Everything except this
So I say “silent”, not “strangely silent”, because their decision to remain silent (hard for many of them to do about anything, I know) is not strange. It was entirely predictable. It’s entirely in line with the decision by many of them to trade some integrity for the kudos that comes with being an activist who is always a day late and a dollar short to every progressive social change.
Rod Bower got it wrong. Totally wrong. If he knew it shame on him and he should be called to account for his loud, erroneous, public voice. If he didn’t know, then he’s naive and should be quietly sidelined. Either way he’s proven to be a false prophet.