These questions and answers were provided informal Q&A sessions held during normal growth group time at Kempsey and South West Rocks on the 13th and 14th of September.
I have posted them here for the benefit of our congregation. If you think I have gotten some of the material from other people – you are probably right! I can’t remember all that much where I’ve heard what from.
- Why are we having this vote at all?
Three is a long history to calling this vote. In 2004 the Howard Government amended the 1961 marriage act to make the legislation explicit about who the parties of marriage were between: a man and woman. That bill sailed through parliament. At that time though there were some rumblings about changing the definition of marriage in Australian society, that view was largely not prevalent. However, society’s view has changed quite rapidly since then. Polls have repeatedly showed for its support in Australia generally, and perhaps the main reason it has not already been legalised is because of Tony Abbot’s strong objections towards it. He forced his party members to hold firm to the party line of not allowing same-sex marriage (i.e, he did not allow private member’s bills calling for a conscience vote) but forced the Liberal Party to go through the means of a plebiscite before allowing the Parliament to vote. The Turnbull government, succeeding from the Abbott government has chosen to honour that election promise by at least using a postal survey, since the plebiscite was blocked by Senate.
- What are we actually voting for?
The exact question is:
“Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” Yes / No
The Turnbull government has promised that if the vote returns a majority “NO” then no bill will be presented to Parliament, but if so, then a private-member’s bill will be allowed.
- What does the Bible actually say about homosexuality and homosexual marriage
Individual Bible passages
Romans 1:24-27. Some commentators have said that this passage does not explicitly condemn same-sex unions but homosexual unions that have occurred outside a committed-homosexual relationship. To be fair verse 24 talks about the “lusts of their hearts to impurity” and verse 26 to “dishonourable passions”. Perhaps this is about adulterous relationships outside committed partnerships.
But ultimately, this is not a very widely held view among biblical scholars, and requires special pleading that somehow what Paul didn’t have in mind homosexuality in general.
Such a view also very clearly neglects the text. The passage is a condemnation about the human condition and its desire to pursue even things contrary to nature. If Paul was talking about adultery from committed relationships – then surely he would talk about that! But these unions are contrasted with male and female unions; unions that are clearly not “contrary to nature” (V26).
For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
1 Timothy 1:8-10
Bible as a narrative arc
But what is perhaps most persuasive is if we read the Bible as a story from the beginning. Genesis clearly shows that there is a certain design for creation – including their sexuality. He gives the woman to the man, and this is so that they can fulfil his creation mandate to multiply and fill the earth (Gen 1:28).
The fall of man occurs in chapter 3 when they defy God’s created order and wisdom – and that is when sin enters and with it all manner of things outside God’s design for his people. Murder occurs in the very next chapter. The flood comes to obliterate people in Genesis 6. When the people of Sodom engage in homosexual rape – yes – they are condemned and judged for the rape since their behaviour in not accepting guests was heinous. However, it would be a grave error not to think that their homosexuality was somehow within the bounds of what was clearly the ideal presented in Genesis 1 and 2. The extent of how far gone they are must also be seen in the type of unions they chose to be acceptable.
- What about the rights of the LBGT community?
It has been said that the LGBT community suffers from being excluded from several rights that being married enjoys. But let’s be clear, this debate is not about rights.
I would suggest that it is even disingenuous to say it’s about rights at all. If it were then any lack of rights (of which I do not know of any due to anti-discrimination laws and current laws regarding de-facto couples as basically married) could be achieved by introducing a legal arrangement called a “civil union” similar to how they are recognised in Europe. Also, I think most people who support the traditional view of marriage would support such a case for these rights.
This is all about recognition. Same-sex couples want their unions to be allowed to be also called marriages. They don’t want it to be called a civil union because it doesn’t fit with their desire of equal societal-recognition.
The right for their “love” to be called marriage totally misses the point about why the Government cares about marriages at all. It isn’t about love, but about regulating what is generally known to be essential is holding society together. The family structure that is most conducive to raising the next generation of citizens with minimal cost to society.
- Shouldn’t Christians just stay out of politics? Like isn’t there a separation of church and state? Why should we want to legislate something that will force people into submitting to our peculiar view of the world?
- As a liberal democracy we are invited into the political process. And our views are just as “invited” as the one who has a non-religious view.
- Every government at the end of the day is answerable to God
The government is answerable to God because God has installed it, and its job is to uphold justice. They don’t proclaim the gospel but they don’t hinder it.
‘[Governments] are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.’ (Romans 13:4)
- Government is by nature coercive. When we vote for government we are very nature being involved in the coercive process. It’s inescapable. So it is just a question of what is being coerced.
Blogger Akos Balogh makes the important point:
Justice, by its very nature, is coercive. It forces people to behave in certain ways or face the consequences for not doing so. Governments enforce this justice firstly by laws, which are backed up by the Police, and the Court system. The Bible says that God gives governments a ‘sword’ to ‘bring punishment on the wrongdoer’ (Romans 13:4).
- Laws embody someone’s beliefs – and whose would you have it be?
Laws also teach society what’s good and just and fair.
As ethicist Andrew T. Walker points out:
The law, like culture, is not static but dynamic and pedagogical. For good or ill, the forces of cultural opinion shape law, but, conversely, the law is an almost-unrivalled force for shaping cultural opinion.’
Jonathan Leeman (9Marks)
If the public square is a battleground of lords…any lawmaker or judge who forbids a so-called religious perspective in the writing of laws…is doing nothing more than clearing a path for the imposition of his or her religion.
- Marriage is a public good
Marriage is not merely for Christians, but for all people. It was instituted in the beginning by God (not the church and certainly not by even government). It is regulated by the government for the public good, especially to support the most basic structure in society – family.
It is well-documented that a happily married, heterosexual union by far is the most stable unit on which to build a family than any other arrangement. Family structures that exist around other units – whether unmarried de-facto, single-parent with unmarried-live-in partner, are less stable and more conducive to abuse to those most vulnerable in that family – i.e. the children.
Sadly marriage has not had a good run in the past century. About half end in divorce and there is plenty of family break-up. This is happening even among so-called Christians.
Nevertheless, I attribute this more to a result of society believing more in an self-serving view of marriage that is divorced from its original intentions. Marriage is now seen as little more than an icing on the cake to love… a statement of commitment until one feels otherwise.
This is not how it should be. The Christian view of marriage is that marriage is rather about serving the other, and the married-couple together serving the wider community, partly through the training of children to become good citizens.
Nevertheless, even with the saddening trends of how marriage is doing, there is still evidence to suggest that the traditional view of marriage – when the parents are both biologically related to the child – are a better context for raising families than any other family structure. This is yes, an ideal that is becoming further and further hard-to-see, but I think that normalising any other form of family structure will be overall not a positive step for society.
- Is there really no evidence that homosexual marriages harms children?
- The studies that somehow “prove” a homosexual unions do not harm kids are not very conclusive:
Even the academics admit that the “many studies” that show that same-sex parenting produces no-worse outcomes for children are based on lots of small studies that have very little way being able to randomise their data selection. Most studies are on reliant on volunteers to come forward and there is not much way of telling whether they have an “agenda” to want to show their parenting is on-par with others in society. This is freely admitted.
Even when we look at meta-analysis (that supposedly is more reliable because it combines all these smaller studies and makes a larger data set) we need to understand the weakness of this method. They really only look at the variability of past research and they make a judgement on whether that research are all fairly consistent. The underlying assumption is that single stand-alone studies can be weeded out for biases. But it cannot account for a generally consistent bias in a particular direction. And to a fairly sceptical person who thinks that same-sex marriage is a fairly controversial topic and there will be lots of gay/lesbian parents who want to prove that their parenting is no-worse to me is reason enough to suggest that most, if not all, studies should be treated with a level of suspicion.
Further to that, the research freely admits that most of the people who take part in these studies are white, well-educated, and well-off. You can expect children of these gay-lesbian parents to be doing better than average than the average population anyway – and they have not had any real way of accounting for that fact.
- There’s anecdotal evidence to support the case that such children are being silenced
- It’s framed in the negative and the bar is very low. Rather we need to ask what is the best family-structure for which to raise children:
First, research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risks of poor outcomes than do children in intact families headed by two biological parents. – Kristin Anderson Moore, Susan M. Jekielek and Carol Emig, “Marriage from a Child’s Perspective: How Does Family Structure Affect Children, and What Can We Do about It?”, Child Trends Research Brief, June 2002.
- What will actually change if the “yes” vote gets up?
Re: societal changes
I agree there is no direct logical relationship between SSM and the Safe Schools program.
But imagine this: we as a society has redefined marriage. 20 years from now the new normal (that families no longer need a mum and dad) is accepted. In fact, talking about such families as “abnormal” is no longer tolerated. It is political and social orthodoxy that it doesn’t matter what gender the parents are – and in fact they don’t need to identify with a gender at all! And of course there is no “normal” kind of sexuality.
Now, if that is what will be the norm, you can see that it will not take much more effort for society to be able to teach its children that there is no normal with regard to one’s gender and sexuality. Don’t let people tell you who you’re supposed that “because you’re a boy you must marry a girl”. No… decide what gender you are for yourself, and decide who you what sexuality you identify with.
Now of course we need to be sensitive to the fact that there are many in the LGBT community who ONLY want SSM, and nothing else, but it would be flawed to say that SSM is just about them. SSM is a step closer to a radically new kind of society, one in which freedom of sexual expression is the pinnacle of liberty – and that is what the LGBT lobby and many cultural elites want today.
Religious freedom changes
And this of course has repercussions to religious freedom as well.
We as a country do not have explicit laws protecting religious freedom as the Unites States does (e.g. 1st amendment).
We already witness huge intolerance against religious institutions. Advocates for traditional marriage are already taken to anti-discrimination tribunals. Such intolerance will only become more entrenched. For a society that already believes that the church’s teaching on abstinence and marriage-for-life is outdated and even dangerously repressive, what will happen when the bill is passed and this view is strengthened by our law as well?
Now when the bill gets passed, hopefully we will have some religious freedom explicitly given to include more than just clergy. E.g. What about Christian Schools? How will they be able to continue being exclusive in their education that marriage is between a man and woman to the exclusion of all else?
But the fact remains is that you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be greater and greater pushes for churches do away with legal protections (currently existing or not) against people with minority views.
- Final comments
- We are not anti-homosexual marriage so much as we are pro-marriage in its healthiest God-given state
- We are not fighting against flesh and blood – but against cosmic powers (Ephesians 6:12). Therefore let us not vent our anger at people.
- We need to know why are fighting for. It’s easy to judge the world and point out its faults. We are ultimately fighting for souls. I am worried that our fight will be seen to be a fight against people, judging people, rather than a fight for good – and ultimately a fight that people might know the Lord who even gave us mercy.