February 11, 2016

Safe Schools No Match For Safe Churches

It would be ludicrous to imagine the Commonwealth Government handing out taxpayers’ monies to fund Creationism in the national school curriculum, would it not?  There would be an outcry from secularists, and rightly so.

Hebrews 11:3 says it is by faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

Hence I believe God created the world, but I cannot expect non-Christian, secular education systems to either promote that or provide money for others to promote that in the curriculum.   I’m pretty comfortable leaving it to the church and the Christian family to bring children to faith and from there, demonstrate that God did indeed create, whatever method he chose to use. So far so good.

So why is the Commonwealth Government funding the Safe Schools Coalition programs being rolled out in schools across Australia at the moment, notably in Victoria where that state has just recently cancelled SRE programs?

Make no mistake, The Safe Schools Coalition program is a faith-based program purporting, in this heady climate at the pointy end of the sexual revolution, to be an anti-bullying program containing cold hard facts.  And putting the word “Safe” in front of the word “Schools” is just brilliant, isn’t it?  It worked so well with the “Safe Sex” campaign too all those years ago.  After all, who would want an “unsafe” school?  Who would send their child there?  To willingly do so is grounds for DCP intervention.

I bumped into the Safe Schools Coalition in a school recently – quite literally.  Their two young representatives were just leaving the boardroom of a mainline church school after their sermon, er, presentation, as I was arriving to present to the school executive on the Christian perspective on sexuality and gender, and why it matters to students.

It felt awkward, a bit like meeting your “ex” in the street, where you sidle past each other with a “Hi, how are you? You’ve lost weight!” kinda thing, all the while in the knowledge that you and they are no longer on speaking terms.

That corridor crossover was significant.  One group ushered out as another ushered in. The day of dialogue is over.  But more about that later.

The Safe Schools material is, on any reading, a mishmash of facts, figures and data, purporting to be scientifically based, but grounded in a post-Romantic individualistic framework.  It claims to be about keeping gender diverse students safe at school.  In reality it is pushing a hard LGBTI agenda, with risibly unscientific data and presuppositions about human sexuality.

I won’t go into all of the details, but read this comment piece in The Age today.  Note how the article describes some of the key features of the Safe Schools materials which I quote here at some length:

Central to the program is the belief that a percentage of students are “same-sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse”, with 15.7% of Australian students being LGBTI. The coalition argues that such students suffer when homophobia and transphobia are rife in schools.
To further the cause of LGBTI students the coalition argues that schools should adopt a whole-school approach involving surveys of staff and students, teaching materials, library resources, posters, internet sites and professional learning packages.

The material endorsed by the Safe Schools Coalition argues that gender and sexuality are fluid concepts and that all forms of sexuality are acceptable. The belief that there are basically two sexes is condemned as “heterosexism” and students are told to celebrate diversity and difference.
One resource argues “there are many genders beyond ‘male’ or ‘female’; gender can be fluid or limitless” and that “There are no rules about who you can be: all you need to do is be yourself”.
Another resource tells teachers to “challenge gender stereotypes and heteronormativity in discussions inside or outside the classroom” and to actively support “days of action and celebration such as the annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT)”.

It’s a clever pincer move, designed to cut off the oxygen from naysayers.  But the stats are dodgy for a start.  Recent surveys put those identifying as not exclusively heterosexual in practice at around 3.5 per cent, rather than the 10 per cent the material presents.

And there are no rules about who you can be?  Surely the Biology department  of your local high school would have something to say about that?

Of course none of this is new.  This was the water we swam in at university  in the 1980s.  That water has now trickled downstream into our high schools, soon to be our primary schools, and will be the only water the education departments of the Western world swim in within ten years.

This is not to say that the backlash has not been strong.  Read the letters pages of many of the newspapers.  People are pushing back on this hard.  But to be honest that will not change the education elites.  Perhaps it’s just another example of the slow-burn, in which the decision by evangelicals to pretty much vacate academia at the start of the 20th century, is paying bitter dividends at the start of the 21st.

Why does this all matter?   It matters for a couple of reasons.  It matters because my hipster inner-west Sydney friend, a great Christian man heading up a great Christian family with smart, creative kids, has to find an adequate answer for his 11 year old daughter after she is pushed by her peers as to why she “doesn’t agree with gay marriage.”

11 year olds.  Is there an age limit to the material, or are kindergarten pop up books next cab off the rank?

For progressive Christians reading this who think it’s a storm in a tea cup and that conservatives obsess about sex, please realise that Christians are responding to a sex tsunami. The language of swimming against the tide barely seems appropriate to describe the force of the sexual torrent about to sweep away the biblical understanding of sex.  Just where is that force coming from, apart from the obvious spiritual answer to that question?

I have a good idea.  In the seminar I presented at that school I was at pains to point out that the biblical understanding of sex and gender are signs that point to a destination that will satisfy, (a place that is the safest place in the world – the arms of a loving God), not the destination itself.  And that’s crucial to understand.

The Safe Schools Coalition’s understanding of sex is that it is the destination, the end goal of what it means to be human and how to self-identify. It’s identity politics at its purest.

And it is idolatry at its purest.  Any created thing that we view as a destination rather than a sign will delude, denude and destroy us, if not immediately, then over time.  When the Creator is no longer the destination, then anything else; money, power, influence, experiences, and above all sex, will attempt to fill that roll.  Why “above all sex”?  Because sexuality and gender in the Bible are explicitly linked to the faithful and exclusive worship and adoration of something/someone like us, but different to us!  

Sex is an object lesson in worship!

And that’s why Safe Schools Coalition is playing such hard ball. It’s a worship issue.  If the very core of one’s identity is their sexual identity, then there can be no prisoners taken in this zero-sum worship game.

Hence the biblical view of sexuality and gender is not simply wrong, it is dangerous. Which was the very language used by the NSW Greens last year when describing three Christian books in the SRE programs that dealt with sexuality.

Which makes me more sad than it makes me angry.  Why?  Because sex as a destination rather than a sign will always leave you coming up short.  And as I pointed out in my seminar, that’s as true for the straight “rugger-bugger” jocks who try it on with as many girls as they can, as it is for the same-sex attracted students who are encouraged to experiment at a younger and younger age.

The word “suicide” was bandied around in that executive meeting, because that’s the great fear; that a troubled, abused teen who identifies as gay, will suicide at school, or because of school. And none of us wants that.  When that word is used, it’s as if all the bets are off, and we’ll do and say anything to stop it.  And Safe Schools Coalition blatantly, dishonestly and flagrantly uses the “suicide” word to push its agenda.

But here’s the truth: The Safe Schools Program just won’t stop suicides happening, which makes it, above all else, incredibly unsafe.

Blinded as it is by ideology, it will end up selling students short and many of them will pay for it with their lives.  If, as my clinical psychologist wife observes, the rates of suicide and suicidal thoughts among gay men is staying stubbornly high, despite the not only increased acceptance of homosexual behaviour in popular, legal and political culture, but its celebration and financially-incentivised promotion, then where does that leave us in 20 years time – a veritable aeon on the identity politics timeline – when those awful stats refuse to head south?

By then, in a culture, in which biblical Christianity is pretty much on the nose, and  a wide variety of individualistic sexual and gender expressions is not only cultural desirable, but scientifically and medically possible, who will be the scapegoat for the endless cycle of dissatisfaction, listlessness, and yes, suicide?

So what to do?  Well, there needs to be a counter-voice in the culture speaking out against the dishonesty of the Safe Schools Coalition. But that’s on the deficit side of the equation. What can God’s people do that is positive?  Well we could live as if created things were signs and not destinations, for a start.  We could live our sex, our money and our power the way Jesus talked about in the Gospels.  And that goes for progressives who are shouty about money and power, but whisper about sex, and that goes for conservatives who foghorn sex, but so often go strangely silent on money and power.

It’s a great couple of decades for the church to gird its loins, live a distinctly biblical sexuality, speak the truth in love, put aside its own idolatries in regards to sex (and everything else), and offer both a Saviour and a community of love and hope to those who, having reached the heights of their sexual experiences, and having literally replumbed the depths of their gender identity, still haven’t found what they’re looking for.

Because honestly, if the current sexual crisis is any indication of where we are headed, we won’t as much need a Safe Schools Coalition as a Safe Churches Coalition.

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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

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