Is it really the Christian way?
That’s the question asked, no doubt, honestly and with great depth of meaning by a young gay relief teacher, Craig Campbell on the ABC last night. Mr Campbell is no longer on the relief list of a Perth faith based school after he revealed he was in a gay relationship.
In the wake of the same sex marriage vote in Australia it’s no surprise that suddenly the next question being asked is whether the old way of looking at marriage in Australia is allowed to co-exist. More to the point, can faith based Christian schools be allowed to discriminate in this area when choosing staff. That’s the pointy matter.
Mr Campbell, first came to prominence in the local newspaper, before the national broadcaster, the ABC, ran a story on the matter last night. You can read the story here, or watch the story here.
It’s worth pointing out that Mr Campbell was a relief teacher, and not on full time staff. However the question is fairly moot, because the bigger issue is whether faith based schools will be allowed to receive government funding should they not sign up to anti-discrimination legislation in areas of sexuality for staff.
There are myriad issues surrounding this, but the key matter I want to address is the question that Mr Campbell raises, and that was the headline in the written article; “Is it really the Christian way?”
Here’s the context in which Mr Campbell asks that question:
I recognise there is a need for religious freedom but does it come at the expense of some of the most vulnerable in our society? Is that really the Christian way to act? I don’t think so.
In asking what is the Christian way to act, you have to ask what was and has been the Christian way to act down the two millennia since the followers of Jesus took foothold in the Roman Empire.
And the answer is this: Christians were known first and foremost in a brutal empire to look after the most vulnerable in society. They were defined by it.
But here’s what else they were defined by. The Christian way to act when it came to sexuality was to hold to the gold standard of the Old Testament, and this was reaffirmed by both Jesus, Paul and the other apostles. The early Christians did sex completely differently to the empire. They were known for it. That was the Christian way to act.
What is striking about the current debate is how the nature of who the most vulnerable in our society are. Up until recently the most vulnerable were constantly viewed as the poor, those who were trodden down by the rough economic forces of our rapacious culture.
That’s no longer the case. Christianity runs all but one or two of the biggest charities in Australia, precisely because the government has outsourced care for the poor, and has ramped up middle class welfare at the same time for those who think they are doing it tough but are not.
But secondly, since sexual ethics according to the Old Testament, Jesus, Paul and the apostles was, has been and will continue to be, the Christian way, then the culture and the church is headed for a showdown on this.
Mr Campbell articulates the tension perfectly in his question because he recognises the need for religious freedom also. He’s going to be disappointed if he thinks that both will be able to live side by side. Let’s be frank, these two matters will be unable to co-exist. One will have to yield.
And I find it ironic that progressive organisations such as the ABC, who seem to have little understanding of faith communities at any level, are confident enough to challenge Christians about what the Christian way actually is.
WA’s LGBTI Advocacy Group, Maxine Drake made it clear on the ABC report that things have to change.
The group is pushing for the state’s Equal Opportunity Act to no longer provide an exemption that allows faith-based schools to dismiss staff if their beliefs are at odds with the teachings of the school
To which I would say, it’s not simply beliefs, it’s actions, as Christianity is a corporeal religion. We believe that God came to us in a body, lived among us in a body, died in a body, was raised in a body. Therefore we are called to glorify God with our bodies. And the Christian way of doing that in terms of sex is heterosexual, covenantal marriage. Everything else does not glorify God, and even sometimes that is done in a non-God-glorifying manner.
So a school’s teachings have to be changed to accommodate those who do not hold to them, nor practice those beliefs.
Unlike say, a trade union or The Greens for example? But I digress.
According to Ms Drake:
That exemption is now out of date and out of step with community feeling. This is no longer a political issue. This is a human rights issue.
The very human rights that the Christian gospel gave to the Western world are going to be torn off and used to beat Christian orthopraxy over the head with. This is a critical time.
I think schools will eventually lose their funding over this. Not that we should take this lying down. But in the end the terms of reference have been framed, and not by us. Ms Drake’s view is generally the culture’s view, this is a human right issue. It certainly is, but in our sexular culture sexual rights trump all others. I believe that at some stage faith based schools that are funded by the government will have to line up or lose their funding.
Whatever the outcome, we should behave with dignity, love, compassion and moral clarity. It may not give us the outcome we desire, but that was, after all, the way of Jesus and therefore is the Christian way.