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To speak, or not to speak up?

18th December 2014

GEORGE GLANVILLE is determined not to stay silent
Recently I sat at the feet of Patrick Parkinson, Professor of Law at the University of Sydney, who spoke on the topic Religious Freedom in a Hostile World. Patrick is the founder of ‘Freedom 4 Faith'. He is an evangelical Christian.
Among other things, Patrick spoke of the expanding reach of anti-discrimination legislation, a gentle wave that has the capacity to become a tsunami.
The fundamental value behind this development is an unswerving commitment to human rights in general and individual rights in particular. It is an ideology that now claims the high moral ground.
With the demise of Christendom and the silencing, even ridicule, of Christian beliefs in the public square, religious arguments carry little or no weight.
With regard to the same-sex marriage debate, for example, individual rights and equality rights trump all other rights. Non-judgementalism in lifestyle choices has become a foundational moral value. In the name of tolerance, intolerance of alternative value systems is increasingly the accepted norm.
How do Christians committed to God's view of what is best for people respond to this seismic shift?
In his talk, Patrick made the following observations - In Australia, it appears that we are moving towards a monoculturalism dictated by the views of the majority (or the loudest, most influential voices - my comment) where eventually, there will be no concessions to faith-based groups (i.e. all exemptions will be removed as time goes on). However, we also have a history of respect for freedom of conscience on significant moral issues e.g., pacifism and trade union membership. We have a history of respect for basic human rights including freedom of religion and conscience, freedom of association, freedom to marry and have children and to choose the education that best suits etc. according to a person's religious and moral convictions. These rights need to be balanced with non-discrimination in a diverse, multicultural society such as ours otherwise so called tolerance and non-judgementalism become totalitarianism.
I'm quite impressed with Tim Wilson, Human Rights Commissioner appointed by the Abbott Government. He strongly asserts the importance of four foundational human rights - what he calls ‘the forgotten freedoms': freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of property. His is a Classical Liberal perspective - the role of human rights is to protect individuals from encroachment and abuse of power by governments. He is deeply committed to the rights of individuals and believes, for example, that the Government should keep out of the marriage issue. He supports civil unions rather than marriage for gays and is very concerned for the moral sensibilities of religious people on this issue. Tim Wilson himself is gay and has a gay partner.
You may have read Karl Faase's article in the Sept. 2014 edition of Eternity - A topic too hot to touch. He suggests three reasons why the church is largely silent on the issue of gay marriage: an over-emphasis on God's love, a fear of opposing a movement that is considered just by many well-meaning people and the fear of being unpopular. There may be another reason - we just don't care enough.
It seems to me that we should be praying and speaking up about gay marriage out of love for our neighbour, that is, for the sake of our society at large, for the sake of gay men and women, for the sake of adolescents exploring their sexual identity and for the sake of children. To elucidate however, would require another article.
The Australian Christian Lobby thanked the 42,000 people who signed their online submission to the Senate enquiry which has now recommended not to pass the Green's bill recognising overseas same-sex marriage.
This morning I signed another online submission to Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations in the hope of ensuring that modern slavery is prioritised in the Sustainable Development Goals under discussion at the U.N. right now. This submission is an initiative of Walk Free, a movement of people everywhere fighting to end one of the world's insidious evils - slavery, which particularly involves the abusive slavery of women and children.
There are many noble and urgent causes to keep a Christian busy. It is not always easy to choose let alone get involved. But pray, choose and get involved we must - for the Lord's sake and for our neighbours' sakes. In so doing, it is a wonderful privilege to be presented with so many timely opportunities to speak to people about the hope we have in the Lord Jesus - for now, for tomorrow and for all our tomorrows.
George Glanville is an ACC member and a former
Principal of Tyndale Christian School.

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