The ACL, KR and SSM (Part 1: Mind Your Language)

Ok, that’s The Australian Christian Lobby, Kevin Rudd, and Same Sex Marriage, just so you know. Now that we have gotten the headline out of the way, let’s get on with the headlines.  The ACL did indeed make headlines in Australia this past week when, in response to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s about-face on SSM, it issued a press release likening the end result of SSM child-rearing to another stolen generation. You can read what Rudd said here.  You can then read what the ACL said in response (primary document rather than secondary source or critique) here.

Go on. Read the two documents. It’s important. Why? Because I guess that most people who have an opinion on either of these two perspectives have taken most of their information from the heat surrounding the light, rather than the light itself.  And what has become clear is that the heat of this issue is what is going to drive it in the public arena.

Language is theological. Language is moral.  Christians have always believed that. God is a speaking God and the Bible says that he spoke creation into existence.  When Jesus comes he is called by John, the Word.  Hence language can accurately reflect truth. When you read George Orwell you realise that once lost language – or at least its right to name something truly if not fully – is hard to reclaim.

What is clear about this public issue is that all sense of temperance in the use of language is lost.  One Facebook friend labelled the ACL statement “disgraceful”, whilst another labelled Kevin Rudd a “DISGRACE.” No sign of rapprochement there then! The battle lines have been drawn and they have been drawn along the lines of language.  Incidentally the Australian Nine news network’s online report on the incident was itself bizarre, putting aside all attempts at reportage and going straight for editorial.

Now, having looked at both documents here are my conclusions:

1. The ACL likening of the children of SSM couples to a new stolen generation is unwise and intemperate. For those outside of Australia, the term “Stolen Generation” refers to the children of indigenous Australians forcibly removed from their parents and placed in missions and government-run organisations.  And what a far-sighted, wise and humane policy that turned out to be fifty years later – said no one, ever.  In a media world awash with “white noise” lobby groups have to say things that are guaranteed a headline, and the ACL did itself no favours with this one.  Regardless of what outcomes such parenting will have (and the next hundred years will tell, regardless of what either side wants to be true), it belittles the experience of the Stolen Generation, which is still a raw and open wound despite Kevin Rudd’s official apology in 2008. Three issues were raised in their press release, the other two being that information about homosexual sex will be taught in sex ed classes in schools, and that gay activists will now pursue Christian groups through the courts to ensure that any voice having a different opinion on SSM is silenced.  These two latter points are probably true, though not the worry they need to be for traditional Christians that the ACL fears (more on those two points in my next post).

This furore over the use of the term stolen generation highlights the fact that sometimes such lobby groups are their own worst enemy.  If you look through the ACL website (I must confess I have not done so until yesterday), they also are involved in lobbying for admirable causes such as the Micah Challenge (hardly a conservative, right wing cause), and also backed Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s push for tighter controls on the internet.  So a mixed bag there.

I am also of the opinion that Christians do not need lobby groups, and that there is a real danger in a post-Christian context that the Christian witness is jeopardised by it.  We have a great Advocate in the Lord Jesus, so let’s not try to get by power, what we don’t seem to be getting by prayer.

2. SSM advocates are in danger of winning the battle and losing the war by trying to silence their opponents through their own intemperate language. Friends have labelled me the equivalent of a sixties “racist” for holding a traditional Christian perspective on this. With friends like that hey?  The “H” bomb – homophobe – and the “B” bomb – bigot – are also bandied about.  Are some people either one or both of those? Undoubtedly?  Is it true of all people who hold to a traditional view of marriage?  Give me a break! Brendan O’Neill’s syndicated article points out the perils of playing wedge politics on this one here.  The problem of language is that once you have said something about someone, it’s pretty hard to unsay it (take note Spanish golfer –  Sergio Garcia).  The result of being shut down by language is that it results in sullen silence. No one is trying to win anyone over by an argument, they are simply trying to shut them up.

The lessons for all of us are obvious.  The middle ground of debate in the West is being lost to polarising positions.  There is little opportunity to have a hearing on anything of any substance because the media thrives on polarisation.  It’s not news otherwise is it? Christians would be better served by being temperate in their use of language, regardless of what position they hold on SSM.  My gut tells me most traditional Christians in Australia do not hold Kevin Rudd’s position, but are not keen to enforce their own perspective through legislation either. So, whaddya know?  There IS a middle ground, and for the most part Christians, whilst the language war flies overhead, will probably keep their heads down and get on with living for, with and like Jesus, who  sustains all things by HIS powerful word.


  1. Hi Steve, just writing to say that…well not ,much actually! Just that I have really enjoyed your blogs recently. I also used your ‘Bell, McClaren…Willard?’ post in an assignment recently. Keep up the good work of promoting a balanced theology.

  2. Thanks Steve. As I have stated elsewhere, I think that ACL failed to make explicit the link between SSR and adoption or other forms of gaining children (surrogacy etc). There is a body of evidence linking higher rates of mental illness with children raisd without one of their parents, or both. It goes withou saying that a child in an SSR household will be lacking at least one biological parebnt hence the likening to Stolen Gen.
    There is a reality that this debate is being ovetaken by emotion. Thanks Steve

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Phil. ep, emotions may overtake it. Perhaps too the adoption issue is real, tho my point being that media releases like the ACL probably didn’t win hearts and minds. But we can, as we r doing here, model temperance among Christians! keep going!

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