Category: Politics/Social Issues

Where Wong gets it Wrong (pt. 2): The idea of a secular society

This is the second of two posts responding to a recent speech by Senator Penny Wong on the rationale for same sex marriage ‘rights’ to be granted to gay and lesbian Australians. Please read Part 1 first and perhaps take the time to read Senator Wong’s speech for context.

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Assertion #2: Australia is a secular society & religious belief has no part in law-making

People of faith (as Wong herself claims to be) would be wise to reject the categorisation of Australia as a “secular society” – or at least insist on strict boundaries on what such a phrase is intended to mean.

We undeniably have a secular government: in the sense that there is no religious test for holding public office (a problem that long plagued the United Kingdom, but which was partly demanded by their unique historico-political circumstances). Nor is there any constitutional power held by the federal government to establish a national religion, nor any appropriate role for the government to interfere in spiritual, liturgical or theological matters.

But when we speak of a “secular society” or “separation of church and state” we must always be careful that we are not ceding too much ground to “secularists.” By secularists, I mean those members of society who take a combative attitude towards all forms of organised religion, supernatural belief and transcendent morality and seek to bar it from every aspect of public life and prejudice the national mind against all kinds of faith.

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We see a very active secularist push in the United States, where many political figures, educators and commentators are uncomfortable with the potential for enormous influence on the nation’s politics by a sizeable devoutly religious segment of the population. A more hardened form of secularism is entrenched in modern France, where the revolutionary spirit has driven the political culture to seek to completely sideline the Catholic Church from exercising its once powerful influence in the country. The most extreme and – arguably the most successful – projects in secularism have been Communist countries, where the regimes have eliminated both religious and political freedom, made Marxism a kind of religion of its own and thus kept religious views completely out of public life (N.B. secularists in democratic societies would likely contest my categorization of communist countries as secular, but I am suggesting it is the probable end-point of a secularism pushed too far).

Wong pays lip-service to the idea of ensuring that secular is not interpreted as meaning “anti-religious,” but her attitude toward religious beliefs she disagrees with suggests that she is masking her secularism to make her intentions appear more benign than they actually are. She doesn’t believe that Christian (or any other) religious beliefs about marriage should have any bearing upon the legal definition. And she seems happy to silence those voices in favour of exclusively heterosexual marriage by trumpeting her idea of secularism.

Australia should be more helpfully understood as a ‘pluralistic’ society. People of faith do have a right to express their views publicly (because we are a democracy) and seek what they think is best for the nation (because we are a ‘commonwealth’). Citizens who vote – and participate in the political process in other ways – have real beliefs about life, God and the universe and these views will naturally affect how they approach political and social questions.

Just as we might be exhorted not to leave our brains at the door when going to church, we should not be expected to leave our soul at the gate when we enter the polling booth.

secularism

Secularism prejudicially preferences atheism, humanism, agnosticism and religious indifference over sincerely held religious beliefs. Pluralism recognises that society is a complex combination of people with certain shared absolute values and beliefs and certain disputed ones. Secularism seeks to silence religious voices by telling them to keep their personal beliefs private. Pluralism accepts that people of any or no religion can freely express their honest opinions on a subject in the public sphere. These views will then be assessed and either accepted, modified or rejected by politicians and other members of the public in the course of the debate.

Secularism attempts to safeguard the religious neutrality of the state and government by limiting religious freedom and denying religious individuals and organisations political influence. Pluralism achieves a multi-religious society by legally enshrining religious freedom and preventing the establishment of a state religion. But it welcomes the input of all citizens in political life – irrespective of how much their religion shapes their political views.

Principled pluralism is a better way forward than hardened secularism.

  1. “Liberal democracy is not compatible with fundamentalism of any description, whether ideological or spiritual.”

There is a deep irony and lack of self-awareness in this statement. Senator Wong implies that you mustn’t take your religious beliefs “too seriously” (the majority of Australians would agree with the sentiment): because this might come at the expense of the paramount values of a liberal democracy. But she fails to acknowledge that there is a kind of sexual fundamentalism raging across Western civilisation which is seldom condemned as incompatible with liberalism and democracy by those who share its understanding of sexuality.

Perhaps the average Australian can more easily identify the difficulties posed to social cohesion by hardcore adherents of Christianity and Islam or the threat to political liberty that is inherent in communism and fascism. But it is time to wake up and acknowledge that a cultural revolution that idolises sexual orientation but detests religious liberty is continuing to unfold in this country (and others). Sexual fundamentalism and progressive fundamentalism promote their own forms of strict orthodoxy and are not hesitant to use tools of coercion and oppression to enforce their views and punish dissent.

“Religious freedom means being free to worship and to follow your faith without suffering persecution or discrimination for your beliefs. It does not mean imposing your beliefs on everyone else.”

This is one of the central themes of Senator Wong’s address. Religious beliefs are being wielded as weapons which harm the rights and freedoms of other members of society who do not share such views.

She later adds:

“Religion-based moral codes continue to limit the freedoms and the rights of those who, in the view of religious groups, do not ‘conform’ to their views. In advocating, and indeed proselytizing, their own views, they too often restrict and constrain the rights of others.”

This is proof that the Senator is herself a hardened secularist. She purports that secularism entails: “the ability of everyone to believe what they wish, to practise their religion as they see fit, to express their ethical and moral preferences, to say what they wish – but all without imposing their beliefs and views on anyone, and without inflicting injury or hurt.” But this amounts to saying that freedom of religion (and associated acts of free speech) must be exercised separately from any freedom to participate in the political process. If you have religiously-influenced views on marriage you can express them (until those rights are taken away by a future government anyway), but you are disqualified from acting in any way that advances those views in the political process.

Because Wong argues that “In a secular society, ‘the norm’ is not the view of the majority,” there can be no question of persuading the majority of your fellow Australians that your view of marriage is the one society should recognise and celebrate (especially by way of getting them to accept your religious worldview). Even if 15 million of the 16-17 million eligible voters in Australia could be convinced that marriage should legally remain defined by the current definition indefinitely, Wong’s moral casuistry would demand that the government still legislate in favour of SSM, because it supposedly proceeds from an inviolable principle of equality (the idea of which was rejected in part 1).

Arguments made from a non-religious stand-point are not inherently better than religiously-informed ones. Politicians seem to recognise that certain moral issues are better decided by a conscience vote in Parliament when there are serious ethical questions involved. In Australian history, such issues have naturally been resolved by MPs voting in accordance with their deeply held beliefs about life, death and humanity – often overtly religious in nature. Matters of marriage and sexuality have been resolved in this manner in previous Federal parliaments and funnily enough, the ALP repeatedly calls for a “free vote” on the issue, in which members from both sides could be expected to vote with their conscience and beliefs.

If politicians are entitled to vote in accordance with their conscience and core principles (something which the Senator and her party only believe in when it suits them), surely people of faith who vote, pay taxes and contribute to the well-being of society are entitled to vote according to their own deeply held values and petition their representatives to advance those views inside and outside of parliament? A hardcore secularism that won’t allow for this is no longer liberal or democratic. If Senator Wong pursues this path, she risks committing the very crime against the heart of our society that she accuses opponents of SSM of doing.

Unless something changes soon, a future government in which people with the same attitudes as Senator Wong hold the reins of power will foreseeably damage freedom of religion in Australia; pass laws that open the doors for persecution and discrimination on the basis of genuinely held beliefs; and impose their own (non-religious, but nonetheless ideological) beliefs upon the rest of us.

It’s time to stop being complacent and apply the blowtorch to politicians that want to use the idea of a secular society to curb religious freedom. Because they need to start feeling the pressure they’re trying to put on people of faith. Australian democracy must learn to thrive as a principled pluralistic society, or it will be slowly choked to death by a secularism that will squeeze the life out of religious liberty and silence millions of voices.

For more Christian responses to Senator Wong’s speech, check out David Ould’s sterling effort on ABC’s the Drum last week or my former theology lecturer Dr. Michael Bird’s response at The Thermidorian. John Piper has also written about the Christian commitment to pluralism – instead of secularism or religious coercion – in the context of seeking to glorify God as supreme in all things. 

[1] Orderinchaos “Penny Wong speaking at an event in Perth on 31 July 2014” CC BY-SA 4.0 wikipedia
[2] David Goehring “Hey, You Got Your Church In My State!” flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Where Wong gets it Wrong: The Nature of Marriage, ‘Rights’ & Australian Society

This week, Australia’s most prominent homosexual politician, ALP Senator Penny Wong, gave a lecture promoting the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry in Australia. While endless ink has been spilled and air expired concerning this ongoing social debate, it is important that Australian Christians listen, consider and respond to the latest arguments being made by perhaps the most significant proponent of same-sex ‘marriage’ in federal politics.

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Senator Wong makes a sweep of assumptions and assertions in this speech that must not escape our notice. I will not deal with each point individually, but have provided a summarised list of these below:

1) Legal Marriage is a ‘right’ for all loving relationships, irrespective of sexuality.

2) “At the centre of the opposition to equality of marriage rights for gay & lesbian members of the community is the conflation of religious concepts of marriage with secular concepts of marriage.”

3) Social conservatives “remove from marriage the idea of love, companionship, common enterprise and the creation of family” and make it about ‘utilitarian’ child-rearing

4) a. Australia is a secular society and religious belief has no part in law-making
b.
“Liberal democracy isn’t compatible with fundamentalism of any description, whether ideological or spiritual.”

5) “Discrimination against people on the basis of an innate characteristic, like sexual orientation, is anti-liberal and anti-democratic.”

6) “Religious freedom means being free to worship and to follow your faith without suffering persecution or discrimination for your beliefs. It does not mean imposing your beliefs on everyone else.”

7) Safe Schools style education programs are “essential” for Australian society

8) Why “should the gay and lesbian community be merely ‘tolerated’ when the heterosexual community takes for granted ‘acceptance’ and recognition of their sexual preference as ‘the norm’?”

9) A secular society is the creation of its own freedom, which is itself a consequence of the basic equality of human beings.

10) “the strongest argument for equality by lesbians and gay men rests on the assertion that . . . respect for natural rights depends on a foundational commitment to equality as the first moral good and a defining feature of our political and legal traditions”.

That’s way too many to tackle in a blog post, but the core of Senator Wong’s lecture boils down to two main assertions.

1) Same-sex marriage is a legal right being denied to homosexual couples (mainly) at the behest of religious opposition.

2) Australia is a secular society in which personal religious beliefs and convictions have no place in forming public policy or legislation that affects the wider community.

Or we could distill this further to problem and proposed solution.


Problem:
Same-sex couples in Australia are being denied a basic right: the right to marry. The law must change.
Solution: The Marriage Act can easily be changed if religious-based objections to change are discredited and dismissed as irrelevant in a secular society.

I will deal with these fundamental assertions that lie behind the rest of Senator Wong’s arguments, by arguing two counterpoints.

1) We should reject the idea that Same-sex marriage is a genuine legal right.
2) We should reject the suggestion that Australia is a “secular” society – to the extent that this means silencing religious viewpoints in the public sphere.

Same-sex marriage is a claimed and invented (human/legal) right, not a genuine, fundamental right

In opening her speech, Senator Wong sends a signal to “those who deny marriage rights to gay and lesbian Australians.” In doing so, she assumes a point that is in fact at the very centre of the same-sex marriage debate.
Is it actually a “legal right” (or even a “human right”) for two gay men or two lesbian women to have their relationship recognised by the rest of society as a “marriage”?

Homosexual individuals have real human and legal rights that must not be encroached upon. But the right to redefine the legal and social meaning of marriage to suit their own preferences and desires is not one of them.
No one in this debate is trying to deprive homosexual people of their basic rights to life, food, shelter, welfare, health care, political representation, free speech, religious freedom and protection under the law from violence, deprivation of liberty and discrimination in the workplace.

Homosexual citizens enjoy the same rights and freedoms in these areas as heterosexual ones do. And in fact, it is not facetious to say that they enjoy the same marital rights under Australian law as well.

The Marriage Act of Australia’s definition of marriage reflects the reality of a unique kind of human relationship.
An exclusive social, sexual, economic, domestic and legal union between a man and a woman for life is qualitatively different to any other kind of relationship – romantic or otherwise. That’s what marriage is and every Australian adult – even gay or lesbian ones – could legally enter into such a union, irrespective of their race, language, skin colour or religion.

The fact that most people who are not sexually or romantically interested in members of the opposite sex would not wish to make use of this right – and prefer an alternative arrangement under the law – does not mean they are being denied a right. Their quest to have marriage redefined – according to their idea of what it should be – is an option they can pursue in a democracy. But it is in no sense a human or legal right.

But even if the gay lobby succeeds in changing the legal definition of marriage (as has happened in other countries) – it does not change what marriage is. Homosexual relationships are inherently incapable of becoming marriages, because marriage is by definition a lifelong union between two members of the opposite sex. Changing the Marriage Act so it no longer reflects this reality is simply misdefining a different kind of relationship as though it is the same as marriage, when it isn’t

You can’t be entitled to a right where the thing being claimed doesn’t actually exist. Nor is it reasonable to seek such a redefinition as a legal right, when this novel view will then be imposed upon every member of society. There is no right to “forced recognition” of homosexual unions as marriages. To dress up such an incursion on other people’s liberties as a core right is dangerous sophistry that must be rejected.

Regrettably, we already see an analogous example of this at work in our society. The ability of a woman to wantonly engage in whatever sexual activity she wishes and then avoid the natural biological outcome of sexual intercourse by contracting the murder of her child is constantly defended as her fundamental “right to choose.” In this case, the freedom to behave promiscuously and then avoid the consequences of sex is dressed up as a fundamental right of bodily autonomy. But this supposed “right” requires the negation of another human being’s essential right to life, if it is to be exercised.

In the SSM debate, the purported right “to redefine marriage so that other people have to recognise my homosexual relationship as completely equivalent to a heterosexual marriage” is dressed up as a fundamental issue of people being free to marry the person they love. But like the abortion issue, this concocted right comes at the expense of a more fundamental right held by others. Freedom of speech and religion will be curtailed to force people to recognise homosexual relationships as something they aren’t. Members of society who sincerely believe that marriage is between a man and a woman will suffer – legally and socially – for maintaining this stance.

Senator Wong is wrong to suggest that there are religious people in Australia trying to deny a basic right to others. There is no genuine right being denied to homosexual people under the legal status quo. But can the Senator explain how people’s genuine, fundamental rights to religion and free speech will be protected if marriage is redefined by Parliament and the new definition is enforced with legal penalties?

I’ll address the question of whether Australia should be understood as a “secular society” in the next post…

 

[1] Kate Lundy “Penny Wong May 2012” wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)

English lessons

The federal Liberal-National Coalition government and the QLD LNP could do with some English lessons. No I don’t mean they can’t “speak proper”. But rather, while many conservative parties around the world are trying to learn lessons from Donald Trump’s “upset” election victory, I think it’s time ours learned a few things from a man and a people who share the name English.

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Bill English became the 39th Prime Minister of New Zealand today. With the transition from the now former NZPM John Key to the new PM, New Zealand goes from having an incredibly popular and politically savvy leader of a conservative government, to a less glamorous but far more genuinely conservative Prime Minister leading the National Party and the country.

While Key had electoral appeal with a significant segment of the population and led National out of the political wilderness it had languished in for years courtesy of the seemingly indomitable Helen Clark, he was significantly lacking in commitment to conservative stances on key (n pun intended) social issues. Key backed same-sex marriage when it came before the Parliament as a result of a private member’s bill; supported the status quo on abortion (saying he believed in women’s “right to choose”); was open to the possibility of supporting euthanasia and listed his main regret from his time in office as failing to change the nation’s flag.

Bill English is a solid conservative when it comes to issues of life and sexuality and has the strong economic management credentials that are necessary to persuade voters to let his party keep control of the Treasury benches for another term. English also has the reputation amongst some as being a “compassionate conservative” – a welcome change from the often harsh economic rationalism Australia and Queensland have seen from recent Liberal treasurers including Joe Hockey, Scott Morrison and Tim Nicholls.

Former President of the Business Council of Australia, Tony Shepherd made this kind endorsement of English in The Australian today:

He is down to earth, humble, intelligent and with an underlying toughness. He is immensely practical and has no airs and graces. English believes there is no such thing as a fair society without a strong economy. [2]

Simply put, if you’re a social conservative that values responsible but fair economic management (that doesn’t indiscriminately wound the poor in a zealous dedication to the budget bottom line), Bill English is a stellar political leader and would be a pleasure to find yourself able to back. I’d gladly trade Malcolm Turnbull or Tim Nicholls for a carbon copy of Bill English in a moment.

The other English

The other English our Australian conservatives could learn some lessons from is the English people. The discontent of the British public over the UK’s place in Europe and the world, expressed in the seismic shock of the Brexit referendum has led to the rise of another “compassionate conservative.”

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While Theresa May is not as socially conservative as Bill English (for instance, she very openly supported changes to the definition of Marriage in the UK, which ultimately led to the law being changed), she too would seem to be an improvement on her predecessor when it comes to a range of issues.

A couple of things of particular note. 1) There have been hopeful signals that May’s well known religious background (her father is an Anglican vicar) and open identification with Christianity will provide some respite in the face of concerning trends in religious liberty in the UK in recent years. In commending a recent report by the Evangelical Alliance and the Lawyers Christian Fellowship, Ms May said:

“…we have a very strong tradition in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech and our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of.” [4]

2) May’s identification with “One Nation Conservatism” [NOT to be confused with the Pauline Hanson approach to politics in Australia!!!] is a welcome shift in the direction of the British Conservative Party. It signals that May will not settle for a nation divided into the rich and the poor, but will consciously work to make the country she governs a better place for all its citizens. This style of conservatism has potential to better reflect certain Christian social values and takes seriously the old concept of noblisse oblige – the idea that the rich, privileged and educated members of society have a duty to use their position and resources to advance the less fortunate. This is potentially a happy medium between forcing the rich and powerful to part with their resources to be distributed amongst the less wealthy (as in communism and hard socialism) and pursuing policies that benefit those who already have massive resource advantage at the expense of those who fall behind (as is the case with much neo-liberal capitalism, shamelessly peddled by professing conservatives).

This is reflected in May’s commitment to the British public upon taking the office of Prime Minister:

“The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. … When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you. When we pass new laws we’ll listen not to the mighty, but to you. When it comes to taxes we’ll prioritise not the wealthy but you.” [5]

An English-style improvement

What Australia and Queensland need then is an “English-style improvement.”
Leaders like Malcolm Turnbull and Tim Nicholls who are economic liberals with weak conservative credentials may have just enough political ability to  scrape into office, but the parties they lead must realise that they are not leaders that conservative voters can wholeheartedly support.

It remains to be seen who could take up the mantle of a better conservative leader in the Federal political arena. Tony Abbott obviously has superior conservative credentials compared to Turnbull and there remains a distinct possibility that conservatives will return to supporting him. But Abbott will not likely be successful electorally and his 2014 budget showed he is by no means a “compassionate conservative.”

Scott Morrison would be a kind of reverse of Theresa May. He is a fairly solid social conservative, but shares Abbott’s capacity for ruthlessness in economic policy. While Julie Bishop could emerge as a compromise candidate between Coalition conservatives, moderates and progressives she offers no significant improvement to Turnbull from a conservative policy perspective. The most senior cabinet minister – after Morrison – who has a reasonably solid conservative approach to politics is Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. He would probably make a great Liberal Prime Minister, but as a foreign-born, Schwarzenegger-sound-alike, Senator (PMs always sit in the Lower House) he has some political hurdles to clear if he plans on becoming party leader (on the downside, I fear he is probably also an economic rationalist, rather than a compassionate conservative).

Tragically, there is very little, if any fresh blood in the Liberal ranks that could be a Bill English and little sign of even getting a Theresa May. When Turnbull is turfed, it will likely be Abbott, Morrison or Bishop replacing him: the future looks bleak.

In Queensland there is fortunately more choice. Tim Nicholls will probably be the next Premier of Queensland (perhaps with the parliamentary support of One Nation MPs **shudder**), but conservatives would be better served by his unsuccessful rival to replace Lawrence Springborg – Tim Mander.
While the LNP will be hoping the public can’t smell the stench coming from Nicholls’ role as the Newman government’s razor-blade Treasurer, Mander is a clean-skin that would bring fresh blood to the leadership. His background as a top NRL referee could endear him to the public, while his previous role as the head of Scripture Union QLD gives me confidence that he could be the kind of compassionate conservative with solid social values we’re looking for. Queenslanders are fortunate enough that he likely has a long enough political career ahead of him to have another shot at the job…

[1] New Zealand Tertiary Education Union “Bill English” CC BY-SA 2.0
[2] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/bill-english-helped-achieve-an-unlikely-quadrella-for-new-zealand/news-story/0976278655959e39b04ab2a0fe267140
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresa_May#/media/File:Theresa_May_UK_Home_Office_(cropped).jpg CC BY 2.0
[4] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/30/christians-should-not-fear-speaking-faith-work-public-places/
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresa_May#Political_positions

Kill and Shout: The proud normalisation of murder

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A few days ago Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC published an opinion piece that celebrated the brilliant ruthlessness of ISIS in putting their ideological convictions into action with devastating effectiveness in Iraq and Syria. The piece encouraged every Muslim who has ever waged jihad against infidels to go online and brag about the times they’ve successfully exterminated an unbeliever as a means of expressing their pure, self-determined identity and purging those who don’t deserve to live in Allah’s world.

No, you’re right, of course no such piece was ever published. There would be outrage; public calls for people to be sacked and a major review into the ABC if they ever allowed such an article to make it past the submission stage.

And yet, a few days ago, the ABC published an opinion piece that did promote a different form of ideological extremism, but one that is also willing to destroy innocent human lives as an expression of its convictions.

Extremist feminism is just as murderous as Islamist terrorism/militancy (perhaps even more so), but it operates differently in its bloodthirsty struggle for cultural and ideological dominance. On the one hand, its proponents seek to radicalise normal women into feminist jihadis, by encouraging them to exercise their power and autonomy in a way that demonstrates reckless disregard for the rights and lives of vulnerable human beings.

On the other hand, extremist feminism has dedicated male and female operatives who look like you and me and are virtually undetectable when they move around in the general populace. But with the complicity of many governments around the world, including those in Australia, these operatives commonly known as “abortionists” kill their victims one by one, behind closed doors and often without fear of reprisal – all to advance “the cause.”

#shoutyourabortion: Normalising evil 

Radical feminists, such as Jane Caro (the author of the reprehensible ABC piece in question), believe that every woman who has conceived a child and proceeded to abort the baby rather than continuing to carry him or her full-term to birth, has something to “shout” about. They should be open and unashamed about ending the life of their unborn child as part of a grand feminist struggle to completely normalise the practice to the point that it is no longer a subject capable of being debated.

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Talking about abortion in this way is supposedly part of empowering women. Those who sought such a procedure were exercising their bodily autonomy and reproductive rights (inalienable women’s rights according to feminist ideologues, which justify the killing of babies in order to uphold them). Because these “rights” can never be hypothetical (i.e. they must actually be used in order for women to enjoy the full freedoms they supposedly entail) essentially what this means is, according to extreme feminism:
The more normal and accessible abortions are the more powerful and free women are.

The fight to normalise abortion is one that Christians and anyone who values human life (and the fundamental right every innocent member of the human race has to have their life protected by law) must wholeheartedly counter at every stage. Our work will never be done until abortion is regarded as completely abhorrent, unacceptable and even unneeded. We too must “shout”, making our voice heard with respect to the hard truths of abortion. But we must be careful how we do it.

The question of shame

As Caro’s article points out, like certain other issues of contemporary debate (eg; sexuality), a big element of what is going on is “shame” vs. “normalisation.”

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Shame has a legitimate place in society and while we are eager to get rid of it and all too aware of the unfounded and unfair variety, there are times when being ashamed of our actions is entirely appropriate (eg; think Bill Clinton; Lance Armstrong; and your pick of footballers in the headlines for all the wrong reasons any given year).

Regarding shame as a result of an abortion, we can all agree that a woman should not feel shame when she has done nothing wrong. And while feminists always attempt to make this about the women involved, there is also the aforementioned medical operatives of the feminist agenda to consider. Doctors who perform abortions should likewise feel no ounce of shame if what they are doing is helpful to people and beneficial to society, without any ethically wrong or questionable element present.

The pertinent questions are therefore: 1) Are women and doctors involved in an abortion procedure doing anything wrong? 2) If so, should they be ashamed of what they’ve done?

Extreme feminists, and even many other people who are more moderate in some respects would, answer no or at least cast doubt on the first question – making the second irrelevant. But I and many Christians (and others who value life) would unequivocally answer yes to the first question, therefore making the second one a live issue. I will give a very clear yes to that question as well.

Anyone who kills another human being without an exceptional and compellingly justifiable reason should feel both guilt and shame as a result of what they have done.

Any society that attempts to alleviate a sense of shame for bloodguilt of innocent lives by normalising both the practice of killing and open, dispassionate discussion (even celebration!) of it, will stand condemned before God on the day He judges the world. Romans 1:32’s judgement of wicked Gentile societies is entirely relevant here: “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

But Christians should be thoughtful as to how they engage with these matters of shame. On the one hand, both the extremist feminists and faithful evangelical writers have rightly identified that there are probably people you know – perhaps closer than you dare imagine – who have had an abortion and fear talking about it with anyone in anticipation of condemnation or shaming.

It is not the church’s job to punish people or drive them out of our midst for such things. But nor is it appropriate for us to offer any alleviation of the very real guilt and shame associated with murder or manslaughter that is something less than God’s offer of forgiveness in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Churches can’t afford to be places where non-conformity to a moral norm is punished by gossip, looks of disapproval, ostracism or demeaning treatment.

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This kind of toxic gracelessness is so destructive that it is in fact an accomplice to the evil of abortion: countless young women have secretly sought to end their pregnancies before they could be publicly shamed as loose and irresponsible for engaging in pre-marital sex.

Every Christian heart should grieve to think that there have been churches throughout history where the stigma of being a single, unmarried mother was so great that young women would rather kill their unborn child than face the lifelong opprobrium their church community would dish out in the name of deterring others from going down the same path.

Women who find themselves in situations that might make abortion seem desirable or necessary, and women with secret abortions in their past, need the offer of love and forgiveness in the Christian gospel. Just like you and I do. And if you’re anything like me, you can relate to the difficulty of having shameful things in your past that you wouldn’t necessarily want to disclose to everyone.

But at the same time, there are people who really need to feel the full force of shame for what they’re saying and doing as part of addressing their sin and hopefully: a) bringing them towards repentance b) stemming the tide of the normalisation of evil.

Anyone who publicly promotes abortion and seeks to persuade women towards this course of action is committing a great evil and should be ashamed of themselves.

I earnestly wish that the full weight of my ISIS comparison in the introduction to this article would be appreciated by more and more people. Extreme feminists should be viewed with the same disdain we normally reserve for terrorists and ruthless militants. Advancing your ideological goals through the promotion of murder has no place in a free society with the rule of law and should not be tolerated.

Also, any doctor who performs abortions and thus profiteers from serial killing deserves no greater social respect than an underworld hitman. They should not only be ashamed of their actions, but permanently de-registered and locked away for a long time. A doctor with the level of education required to perform surgery knows what they’re doing when they perform an abortion. And yet they do it over and over again and get paid handsomely for it.

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Abortionists are the scum of the earth. They deserve to burn in hell for all eternity. But so does everyone reading this piece – whether you’ve committed murder or not. The gospel of Jesus is for idolaters, liars, thieves, slanderers, the greedy, the violent, the cruel, the selfish and for murderers of babies and promoters of wickedness too. The gravity of the Cross can only be appreciated truly when we see that the Son of God placed Himself under God’s holy wrath against sin – in order to deal with the most heinous sins in the world and set the most wretched sinners free.

Taking action

What are we to do when women are being encouraged by radical feminists to become the foot-soldiers in a jihad against chauvinism and patriarchy – where babies are at worst the enemy of female autonomy and at best collateral damage in the struggle – by “shouting” about their abortion experiences?

Christians and others need to be speaking up as well. Speaking up for the gospel and speaking out against the killing of innocent children. If you would like to think more about how to speak the right words to people concerning this issue, I cannot recommend the following articles highly enough:

https://australia.thegospelcoalition.org/article/time-to-talk-about-abortion

https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2016/11/23/trying-to-think-through-the-logic-of-abortion-rights/

Pictures

[1] Day Donaldson “Egypt’s Largest Terrorist Group Pledges Allegiance to Islamic State” (CC BY 2.0)
[2] Jon Chiang “Pro Choice Rally” (CC BY-NC 2.0)
[3] Suelen Pessoa “Shame” (CC BY-NC 2.0)
[4] Marc-Andre Lariviere “Day 003 – Shame” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
[5] Jeheme “Operating” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Fall of the West & “The City of God”

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The next President of the United States of America [1]
It’s the day after Donald Trump’s historic election victory in the U.S. Presidential contest and the sun has still come up, the world continues much the way it has since the dawn of time and one would think this will equally be the case on 21st January 2017 – the day after President Trump is sworn in as “POTUS.”

But while the rise of Trump itself is not necessarily the cataclysmic, Armageddon, nuclear-meltdown scenario that some of his critics have predicted, it is symptomatic of trends that do have concerning, world-altering implications.

In a repugnant failure of democracy, the American people chose one of two very poor candidates offered to them as the main – and perhaps only viable – contenders for the top office of the land. The fact that Democrat and Republican voters selected Clinton and Trump in the first place, thus setting us up for a contest that seemed best described as King Kong vs. Godzilla (Kong won, just like in the movie), was an appalling state of affairs.

Similarly tragic is the willingness of both major parties to endorse such terrible nominees and the compliance of millions of Americans who voted for one or the other, as though they truly had no other option. Nothing seemed able to fix the Trump v. Clinton debacle from eventuating and that fact itself suggests American democracy is broken.

America and its Western allies – particularly kindred nations in Europe and across the Anglosphere – are facing uncertain times. The political climate across these nations is volatile, restless and even enraged with the failures of the status quo. The deterioration of our collective cultural atmosphere should concern us to the same extent that many are concerned about the health of the physical atmosphere – perhaps even more. The West appears to be possibly years, rather than decades, away from degenerating into a putrid mess, where the healthy tension between competing and conflicting interests is no longer maintained through the mechanisms of pluralistic, liberal democratic societies.

Rather than worry about a “Clash of Civilisations” between Western and non-Western powers – which may still be the eventual outcome – we must first find ourselves gravely concerned with the seemingly unavoidable collision course of ideologies, values and claimed rights and freedoms that threatens to irreparably tear apart Western, post-Christian societies from within.

If and when this occurs, the American-led West may find itself a house divided to the point of being unable to stand in any meaningfully “united” way. Other powers will begin to encroach into what has traditionally been the Western sphere of dominion and influence and eventually, Western nations may find themselves in economic and even military decline in much the same way we presently are culturally, religiously, morally and politically.

Augustine’s City of God  

While many Protestants are excited about the 500th anniversary of the Reformation next year, there’s another – less notable – anniversary of a nonetheless highly significant event in Christian history, that might do us some service in the closing months of 2016 and beyond.

1590 years ago, one of the most significant Christian theologians of all time published a work he had begun many years earlier, as he sought to deal with the decline and eventual fall of the world power of his day: Rome. Augustine’s reflections in City of God offer a detailed defense of Christianity with respect to Rome’s downfall, in the face of accusations and criticisms from disgruntled pagans who blamed the Empire’s decline on her change of religion and gods.

But he also seeks to help Christians have the right perspective in a situation when the world was in massive upheaval, as the imperial stability offered by Rome was crumbling. Here are just a few of his thoughts which might help us deal with both the present political realities and the possible further decline of the U.S. and the Western world.

#1 “The Times of All Kings and Kingdoms are Ordained by the Judgment and Power of the True God.”

“Therefore that God, the author and giver of felicity, because He alone is the true God, Himself gives earthly kingdoms both to good and bad.  Neither does He do this rashly, and, as it were, fortuitously,—because He is God not fortune,—but according to the order of things and times, which is hidden from us, but thoroughly known to Himself; which same order of times, however, He does not serve as subject to it, but Himself rules as lord and appoints as governor.  Felicity He gives only to the good.  Whether a man be a subject or a king makes no difference; he may equally either possess or not possess it.  And it shall be full in that life where kings and subjects exist no longer.  And therefore earthly kingdoms are given by Him both to the good and the bad; lest His worshippers, still under the conduct of a very weak mind, should covet these gifts from Him as some great things…”
– 
City of God, Book IV, Chapter 33.

#2 Bad rulers hurt themselves more than they do their subjects and they can’t affect true freedom

“In this world, therefore, the dominion of good men is profitable, not so much for themselves as for human affairs.  But the dominion of bad men is hurtful chiefly to themselves who rule, for they destroy their own souls by greater license in wickedness; while those who are put under them in service are not hurt except by their own iniquity.  For to the just all the evils imposed on them by unjust rulers are not the punishment of crime, but the test of virtue.  Therefore the good man, although he is a slave, is free; but the bad man, even if he reigns, is a slave, and that not of one man, but, what is far more grievous, of as many masters as he has vices; of which vices when the divine Scripture treats, it says, “For of whom any man is overcome, to the same he is also the bond-slave.””
– City of God, Book IV, Chapter 3.

#3 It is tragically possible for nations and empires to fall or decline as a result of divine judgement, and yet not learn from their sins and punishment

“O infatuated men, what is this blindness, or rather madness, which possesses you?  How is it that while, as we hear, even the eastern nations are bewailing your ruin, and while powerful states in the most remote parts of the earth are mourning your fall as a public calamity, ye yourselves should be crowding to the theatres, should be pouring into them and filling them; and, in short, be playing a madder part now than ever before?  

…Depraved by good fortune, and not chastened by adversity, what you desire in the restoration of a peaceful and secure state, is not the tranquility of the commonwealth, but the impunity of your own vicious luxury…”

– City of God, Book I, Chapter 33.

#4 We have hope in the face of fading earthly powers, because the City of God excels every city, nation & empire! But Christians ought to exceed the pagan patriot’s love for his country with a greater love for God’s City. 

“But the reward of the saints is far different, who even here endured reproaches for that city of God which is hateful to the lovers of this world.  That city is eternal.  There none are born, for none die.  There is true and full felicity,—not a goddess, but a gift of God.  Thence we receive the pledge of faith whilst on our pilgrimage we sigh for its beauty.  There rises not the sun on the good and the evil, but the Sun of Righteousness protects the good alone.  There no great industry shall be expended to enrich the public treasury by suffering privations at home, for there is the common treasury of truth.  And, therefore, it was not only for the sake of recompensing the citizens of Rome that her empire and glory had been so signally extended, but also that the citizens of that eternal city, during their pilgrimage here, might diligently and soberly contemplate these examples, and see what a love they owe to the supernal country on account of life eternal, if the terrestrial country was so much beloved by its citizens on account of human glory.”

– City of God, Book V, Chapter 16.

[1] Michael Vadon “Donald Trump” CC BY-SA 2.0 wikimedia commons.

How the Nationals saved Marriage (and Turnbull saved himself)

We know it’s now almost certain that the bill relating to the plebiscite on same-sex “marriage” will not make it through Federal Parliament and therefore no public vote on the issue will be held any time soon. If we’re to believe news reports, no definitive parliamentary vote is likely to take place in the near future either.

While senior Liberals are blaming Labor for torpedoing any hope of “marriage equality” and Labor is blaming Malcolm Turnbull for backing a “dangerous” plebiscite – I think there’s one political force that deserves “credit” for delaying the redefinition of marriage and one political figure that really stands to benefit from it.

The media has focused too much on the conservative faction in the Liberal party when it comes to issues like SSM, such as Senators Eric Abetz and Cory Bernardi and Howard/Abbott minister Kevin Andrews (and of course Tony Abbott). We’ve been told that it’s these cultural-conservative-crusading, Abbott-backers who are kicking up a stink within the party and holding the government to ransom.

To some extent, this is true, but it  fails to grapple with the fact that some of the most influential opponents of same-sex marriage and strategic supporters of a plebiscite are people who were instrumental in establishing the Coalition’s policy on the issue, but never exercised a vote in the Abbott-Turnbull leadership contest. I’m talking of course about the National Party, led by Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce.

Barnaby_Joyce_Portrait_2010
Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce [1]

Astute followers of Australian politics would know by now that it’s far too simplistic to say that Turnbull stuck with the plebiscite policy against his will because of conservative MPs within his party that he owes his leadership to.
While Turnbull certainly needed the support of socially conservative Liberals who oppose SSM, in order to successfully topple Abbott – his ascendancy was in fact a brutal wounding of the conservative faction in the Coalition and his “moderate” supporters probably could have agitated for his preferred “free-vote” option more strongly than they did.

The problem was that the toppling of Abbott required a fresh Coalition agreement with the National Party – which although remaining officially secret, very obviously contained a memorandum of understanding about retaining Abbott’s policy concerning the plebiscite. It was the Nationals – probably moreso than their conservative cousins in the Liberal party – who made Turnbull drink from this bitter chalice. They got no say in whether he replaced Abbott as PM, but they had an enormous say as to the terms in which he would be enabled to govern.

By forcing the government to stick with this policy – even when it appeared doomed to  parliamentary failure, the Nationals appear to have pulled off an even better solution to the issue than a last-resort public vote. Once the plebiscite bill is defeated in the Senate, the Government will legitimately be able to let the issue drop for the term of the current parliament. This means no SSM unless and until an ALP victory at the 2019 election (which would still need the right Senate composition to get pushed through).

Nationals MPs Andrew Broad and George Christiansen have sent strong messages to Turnbull & Co. about any flirtations he might be having with the idea of switching to a parliamentary free vote. Broad intimated that he might withdraw support from the government over such a move, while Christiansen clearly indicated the plebiscite policy was part of the Coalition agreement.

While Deputy PM, Barnaby Joyce has reportedly chastised Broad over his comments, it is hard to see this as anything but political theatre – a backbencher taking one for the team. Joyce doesn’t want SSM and as he’s indicated in recent days, he’s very happy to see the government agenda move onto a range of matters he considers to be much more important for national development. By being seen to exercise authority and discipline over the parliamentary party and pulling an outspoken MP “into line”, while giving very strong public shows of loyalty to Turnbull, Joyce is able to maximise the power of the Nationals in this situation while others are blamed for the state of affairs.

So if you believe traditional marriage is something that should be protected, preserved and promoted, you should probably thank the one political party to do something serious about halting it’s redefinition for the forseeable future. I had lost a lot of faith in the Nationals over the years, as they seemed to increasingly become the lapdogs and lackeys of powerful Liberal governments. But under Joyce, they have shone at a critical junction in our nation’s social history and achieved a significant victory (however temporary), while the Liberal, Labor and Greens, along with others, were ready to abandon the meaning of marriage.

The strange thing in all of this is that it benefits Malcolm Turnbull and shores up his leadership security. While some view the PM as hamstrung on an issue he himself would like to see change on – and doomed to lose either government or the Liberal leadership if he makes a wrong step – his opponents now face a similar dilemma. If they get rid of Turnbull they’ll almost inevitably bring about SSM in Australia.

Should the conservative Liberals seek to reinstate Abbott or create a movement behind another potential leader (Bishop or Morrison), they risk handing Labor government (with or without an election). Turnbull would almost certainly resign upon losing the leadership and bring about a by-election in Wentworth, which would not necessarily see a Liberal candidate elected. The Coalition would struggle to govern in the circumstances and would probably need to call an early election, which on current polling they’d lose.

It also highly reduces the likelihood of any breakaway conservative party, under a figure like Cory Bernardi. If the government was torn apart by a split, it could lead to a Labor government, which would seek to legislate SSM within 100 days of taking office.

So while Turnbull still needs to perform (frankly, better than he has been so far) to keep the job – he’s a lot safer if he lets this issue die down. It puts to rest one of the things that made him untrustworthy in the eyes of many conservatives and it makes the alternative of an ALP government that implements SSM, all the more unthinkable.

If you’ve struggled to imagine a political scenario where Turnbull, the Nationals and the conservative Liberals all manage to win, while the organised Left of Australian politics loses – this may just be it. The Nationals saved marriage, Turnbull saved himself. At least for now…

[1] Bidgee “Barnaby Joyce…” CC BY-SA 3.0 wikimedia

 

 

A Tale of Two Minorities

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way
–in short, the period was so far like the present period,
that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received,
for good or for evil,
in the superlative degree of comparison only
.
-Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859).

How can the Australian public and their elected representatives stand in the way of marriage equality? Why on earth should so many, otherwise fair-minded people obstruct simple changes to the law – changes that could enable a historically marginalised community within our society to enjoy an enhanced and dignified status in our social and legal system? The changes we are talking about would not cause the sky to fall in, nor would they undermine so-called “traditional marriages” – in fact they would barely have any widespread ramifications beyond the people they are designed to empower, embrace and celebrate.

How many people in this country are truly hellbent on denying recognition of loving relationships – many of which already involve sexual intimacy, cohabitation and even dependent children?

What could possibly stop us from ensuring we secure marriage equality for the Islamic community?

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[1]

Surely it’s time to stop denying members of a vulnerable minority in our community the right to be with the man or women they love?

Surely it’s time to stop telling the second and third female partners of some Muslim men in this country that their relationship is second-rate; that they’re inferior to traditional, monogamous, heterosexual marriage partners; that the love, intimacy and family responsibilities they share with their ‘husband’ should never be legally recognised by the law?

Imagine the pain these women feel when their brothers and sisters can get married to the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with, but their relationship is relegated to a lesser status, just because they weren’t ‘first in line.’

Imagine the pain of the second ‘wife’ when our law and society marginalise her by treating her like a concubine or mistress – while their darling’s first ‘wife’ is fully recognised as such by law.

Imagine what the children of these women have to endure, if the wider community treats them as though their father and mother aren’t really married and their living arrangements are somehow strange or unpalatable.

As Professor Kerryn Phelps put it so well:
Denying one group within a society the right to marry deliberately cuts right to the core of the emotional world of those individuals. Today, most people can’t imagine a situation where blacks and whites, or Jews and non-Jews would still be banned from marriage, not here in Australia. But some of us do not need to stretch our imaginations because we are living in a state of marriage apartheid… in Australia… right now… “[2]

And as others have eloquently expressed: “Marriage equality is primarily about ending social exclusion and giving all Australians the same basic rights.”[3]”An equitable society, free of discrimination, allows all members to function at their best. Legalised discrimination in one area allows discrimination to flourish in all areas. Australia is a robust democracy with a proud history of social reform. We believe this should continue, with all citizens being treated equally, including those who are currently excluded from the institution of marriage.” [4]

Bigoted attitudes, Islamophobia, right-wing religious views and arcane social conventions must not stand in the way of this important reform. There is no good reason that two people who love each other, and can legally enjoy a sexual and domestic arrangement with one another shouldn’t be allowed to marry: the fact that one of them happens to be married to someone already just shouldn’t matter

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When the dominant narrative in our society says that the law should be changed to legally compel millions of Australia to recognise ceremonialised same-sex relationships as completely equal to heterosexual marriages and that homosexuality should be celebrated as something wonderful – it is bizarre and prejudicial not to grant equivalent rights and recognitions to a minority community that constitute roughly the same percentage of the national population.

There are plenty of objections that may be raised against this line of argument, so let me deal with a few pertinent ones.

There is no equivalent case for polygamy here – because Muslim men are not actually legally prohibited from getting married. It’s unfair to compare a man who can’t legally “marry” a second woman to a gay man or lesbian woman who aren’t allowed to get married at all. 

This really highlights one of the significant issues at hand when it comes to Marriage law. Do we want to change the law because of arbitrary legal discrimination against a certain group in our society that prevents them from marrying? Or do we want to change the law to give equal recognition to committed – potentially lifelong – romantic and domestic relationships?

On face value, there is no discrimination against gay men or lesbians in the Marriage Act. Everyone in Australia is legally bound to the same definitions and prohibitions around marriage. Gay and lesbian Australians have the same right to marriage that all other citizens enjoy – they can legally marry a consenting, non-related, adult of the opposite sex who is not already in a legal marital relationship. What they’re asking for is not the removal of discrimination, but a special right to have their relationships with people of the same sex recognised as marriages.

So the question becomes one of whether or not Australians have the freedom to have their relationships – based on sexual attraction, romantic feelings and permanent domestic arrangements – recognised as marriage. And since we all have the same freedom and rights under the definition presented in the Marriage Act, the question then becomes one of whether other types of relationship should be given the same legal recognition as marriages that meet the current provisions of the Act.

The popular argument for same-sex marriage is to recognise gay and lesbian relationships (where the partners wish to be recognised as “married”) as completely equivalent to heterosexual marriages, on the strength of their sexual attraction, romantic feelings and permanent domestic arrangements. The gender aspect (i.e. man + woman) is abrogated as unnecessary, because these other factors are seen as more essential to the concept of marriage.

A case for polygamy would simply alter or remove the numeric provision of the Marriage Act and make it less exclusive. The Muslim man who wishes to take a second wife should not have this right dismissed on the grounds that he can already legally marry a woman under the Act. A gay man has that exact same right!

If a man is sexually or romantically attracted to another woman and wishes to spend the rest of his life in a domestic relationship with her as his wife (and she consents) – why would anyone who supports “marriage equality” want to deny their relationship this special, equal recognition? The basis is the same – we’re just calling for a different, but similarly archaic portion of the Act to be changed for the sake of letting love be love.

Members of the Islamic Community are not actively pushing for polygamous marriage to the extent that the LGBTIQ etc;etc;etc; community is advocating for same-sex marriage.  

This objection is largely irrelevant because there are many Muslims in Australia that would happily enter into such marital relationships if they were legally permitted to do so. Significant figures in the Islamic community do in fact advocate for marriage equality for Muslims under Australian law.

One plausible reason that many more do not vocally call for law reform, is because they fear the same kind of bigoted reprisals that gay or lesbian activists would have experienced if they had called for marriage equality years ago.

While homophobia still exists, it is mitigated by a powerful and still-growing groundswell of pro-gay community support. Islamophobia is frequently decried by respectable voices within politics and the media, yet it is tolerated to a much larger degree and the pro-Muslim voices within Australia are much fainter. [The recent polls showing nearly half of Australians support a ban on Muslim immigration highlights this dramatically].

Disgustingly, there are virtually no significant non-Muslim Australians advocating for an expansion of the definition of marriage to include the beautiful sexual and relational diversity found in many expressions of Islamic identity.

Similarly, Australians are quiet in their support for Muslims being able to express their identity under sharia law – the adoption of which would be an enormously symbolic gesture of acceptance and dignity towards them, which ultimately wouldn’t affect the lives of non-Muslim Australians whatsoever.

Polygamous marriage is not intrinsic or essential to Islamic practice or identity and therefore is a poor comparison with marriage equality. 

This is simply refuted by the fact that having homosexual relationships recognised as “marriages” is in no way intrinsic or essential to their identifying as “gay” or “lesbian” (they’ve been doing that for decades without the appendage of legalised same-sex marriages) or living a homosexual lifestyle.

It doesn’t matter that Muslims can live out their Islamic identity in many ways without polygamous marriage; nor that many of them would not avail themselves of the opportunity to marry multiple women or wed an already married man; nor that some would be very content for the law not to change. Why? Because all of those things are comparatively true when it comes to same-sex marriage and the LGBTI community.

The fact is we unjustly restrict Muslims from exercising their freedom to express their love and sexuality in a recognised marital relationship between two partners, simply because our society has understood the mathematics of marriage differently.

This is not morally or philosophically different to the current Marriage Act’s restriction on gay and lesbian couples from having their sexual, romantic and domestic relationships recognised as marriages, simply because our society has traditionally understood the gender equation of marriage differently.

We can and should reject amending marriage to include polygamous arrangements, while supporting same-sex marriage, because polygamy is not about equality, but enables the subjugation of women. 

This may be one of your strongest objections, but it doesn’t matter, because you’re an Islamophobic bigot, whose prejudicial views aren’t welcome in this discussion.

You’re stereotyping Muslim men and Islamic culture as harsh and wife-oppressing, whilst completely devaluing a relationship that you don’t understand: one that is entered into willingly more often than not. It’s your bigotry that forces these women to live in relationships that are treated as second-class by the law and who are constantly made to feel their status is inferior.

Denying recognised marital status to potentially hundreds of women on the grounds that a few of them might be abused is not only faulty, but cruel and misguided. It does nothing to help women who may already be in unrecognised relationships with abusive men and everything to discriminate against those who are happily in a culturally and religiously approved sexual and domestic relationship with a man who already has a wife.

Furthermore, Islamic law requires wives in polygamous marriages to be treated with complete equality by their husbands – so charges of inequality and abuse can be seen as nothing more than hatred by people who don’t understand what they’re against.

Conclusion: The Tale of Two Minorities

If the media is to be believed, up to 70% of Australians support changing the law to enable recognition of homosexual relationships as state-sanctioned marriages.

We’re told this is about human rights for a vulnerable minority. A minority that should not only be tolerated and legally protected, but fully affirmed and celebrated by conferring a new and special status upon their way of life and their relationships.

On the other hand, support for changing the law to recognise polygamous relationships (permitted under Islam as a positive thing) as state-sanctioned marriage appears to be extremely low. In stark contrast to support for homosexual “marriage equality” there would seem to be significantly less non-Muslim Australians who support polygamous marriage equality for their fellow citizens, than there are Muslims in Australia.

Why this massive discrepancy? Surely it’s because polygamy is itself manifestly inferior to same-sex marriage; completely undesirable to many Muslim women; and out of line with mainstream Australian values? Is that the case? Or could it be Australians have chosen to play favourites with minorities in our community?

When it comes to getting what they want, LGBT folk are encouraged to yell louder because “change is at our fingertips”, “victory will be won”. But for Muslims, the message seems more like, “Be quiet and behave yourself and your nice, powerful white friends will make sure you don’t cop too much vilification.” “Don’t go and do something like promote polygamy or sharia – you’re not helping yourselves!”

Homophobia is vehemently denounced, while Muslims seem to struggle to gain more tolerance in society than their Islamophobic opponents are implicitly granted by the lack of true pro-Muslim advocacy. LGBTIQetc; interests are officially promoted to the point that they’re widely encouraged to seek to radically change a fundamental element of our society – while the Muslim community is typically encouraged to shy away from calling for any radical changes to customs or institutions. They’re to embrace the Australian life the way they found it and do their distinct “identity stuff” quietly, where it doesn’t get in people’s faces.

To be clear, I don’t support the legalisation of polygamy for Muslims in Australia (just as I don’t support altering the Marriage Act to include same-sex relationships). But I know some people who probably also don’t, but should. That is to say, same-sex marriage advocates should support polygamy, if they don’t want to be guilty of arbitrarily supporting the sexual, domestic and social interests of one demographic minority in Australia, while inexplicably failing to do so for another.

So what’ll it be Australia? Full marriage equality NOW? Or tacit Islamophobia and faulty social favouritism?

[1] Tord Sollie “One is not enough” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
[2] Kerryn Phelps http://www.australianmarriageequality.org/quotable-quotes/
[3] Headspace http://www.australianmarriageequality.org/quotable-quotes/
[4] Open Letter from Australian Academia http://www.australianmarriageequality.org/academic-support/