churches unite!: getting our priorities straight

Yesterday Christian leaders from a range of denominations in Sydney, including Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Baptist, joined together in a show of unity.

So what has the power to unite the largest branches of Christianity in Australia?

Is it global poverty and the recent deferral of Australia’s foreign aid commitments? No.

Youth homelessness? No.

Problem gambling? No.

Youth suicide? Australia’s failure to sign the ban against cluster bombs? The danger posed to the Great Barrier Reef and other natural beauty by mining companies? Australia’s role in unjust wars in Central and South-West Asia? Closing the gap on Aboriginal life expectancy?


Australia’s treatment of refugees? Wealth disparity? Racism? Climate Change?

No, no, no and no.

Instead these Christian leaders united to oppose same-sex marriage

Recently I was on a panel and the topic was Christians and political engagement. At one point, in response to a question, I turned to the fellow sitting next to me, an atheist. I asked, “What things is the Church known for in Australian society?”

He replied without the need for reflection – “Abortion and homosexuality.”

I’ll leave it to you to discern what this all means.

If you want to embody an alternative to fear-mongering why not unite to advocate for something worthwhile? Check out Welcome to Australia‘s Walk Together Event on Saturday June 23 in your city. June 17-23 is Refugee Week, so come join us to say:

We’re Aboriginal Australians, we’re refugees, we’re skilled migrants, we’re long-term Australians, we’re international students, we’re asylum seekers… we’re people. It’s time to Walk Together into a future where diversity is celebrated, fear is replaced with welcome and where everyone belongs.


Posted on June 18, 2012, in Advocacy, Church/Ecclesiology, Current Events, Sexuality & Gender and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. I was appalled when i saw this on the news last night with a Catholic Bishop speaking out against Same sex Marriage but not out against many of the issues you mentioned and especailly our involvement in the ongoing war on innocents in Afghanistan.

  2. Nice point, Carole; you have to admit, for the powers and principalities, gay marriage and abortion are nice distractions to more systematic issues; look at Obama for example — his policy on drone strikes is morally abhorrent, but he woos the progressive movement in the US with his advocacy for gay marriage… just a thought…

    • John Pilger wrote something along these lines about a month ago, Pete. Did you see it? Well worth a read, even if you don’t agree with it all.

      The rights historically associated with marriage are those of property: capitalism itself. Elevating the “right” of marriage above the right to life and real justice is as profane as seeking allies among those who deny life and justice to so many, from Afghanistan to Palestine.

    • Do you really think that abortion is a distraction? Sounds like you think it is not an important issue?

      Aside from the effect it has on the unborn child, I know women who have had serious psychological and emotional effects, as well as women who after having an abortion, found that the procedure physically damaged them in such a way that they cannot now have children.

      I won’t go into the effect that abortion has had on attitudes in society, as I am sure you already know about those…

      • Who said anything about abortion being a distraction? I simply quoted an atheist who made the point it’s all Christians are known for. Take care to avoid expressing passionate disgust at something that was never said.

        • Peter Wells said “…gay marriage and abortion are nice distractions to more systematic issues;”

          • I’d stand by that, George. Leaving your anecdotal ‘evidence’ aside (and I say that as someone who recognises abortion is a tragedy, but that legislating morality is generally the fastest way to get women maimed and killed) the way that gay marriage and abortion are politicised, particularly in the US but increasingly in Australia as well serve to act as dog whistles which act as tribal identifiers, creating divisions between populations that serve to distract from bigger issues, like the immorality of war or economic inequality or any other social evil you’d like to identify. What I’m saying is that when we hold up gay marriage or abortion as “the” issue it excludes the more systematic issues that we as Christians should be paying as much if not more attention to. It’s a way of co-opting Christianity into the state and making us servants to the powers and principalities.

            But from the looks of the rest of your posts, you seem to come at this whole issue with a paradigm that is totally brought and sold into the idea of a ‘Christian’ nation. The early church never subscribed to such an idea, they were ‘resident aliens’ in a foreign land. I believe that Christians shouldn’t subscribe to the Constantinian notion that imposing our beliefs upon wider society is the means by which the kingdom of God is to be achieved. So excuse me if we end up talking past each other.

  3. Nice one Matt. Reminds me of a song Grok used to sing (about Christian merchandise)… “and they’ll know we are Christians by our shirts, by our shirts, and they’ll wonder if this Jesus is enough”.

  4. Rene Girard would say that groups uniting against a common (innocent) enemy is the oldest religion in the world…haven’t progressed very far, have we?

  5. Why are you condemning the church for standing up for God’s holiness?

    You very well know why they are talking about this issue over the others, of which I am sure they also care about:

    it is because this issue is very loudly and firmly being pushed by certain parts of society.

    If/When it becomes legal, the whole framework of Australian society will come into question

    • Squishy Wendy


      We’re meant to be known for
      our love towards our brothers and sisters,
      not being judgemental
      and spreading the good news of salvation.

    • Interesting thought. So you are affirming the talking about this issue over others because it is being pushed by the gay rights lobby and because it will change the whole framework of Australian society?

      I would like to see the evidence of this predicted change.

      But more importantly, this kind of statement seems to suggest that the wars in which Australia is involved is not fundamentally changing the social world of people in other countries. Or that poverty is not resulting in the deaths of, say, 8 million children every year.

      It’s as if God’s holiness doesn’t concern itself with such things.

      But by all means, a couple of thousand couples committing themselves to each other for life is far more dire than the death of 8 million children.

      If Christians were really interested in “God’s holiness” and the importance of marriage we might have, for example, a (dramatically) lower divorce rate than the rest of the country.

      But we don’t.

      • Firstly, I’d like to know if you can you confirm that you know how much these Churches are talking about/acting upon the afore mentioned issues:

        global poverty, the recent deferral of Australia’s foreign aid commitments, Youth homelessness, Problem gambling, Youth suicide, Australia’s failure to sign the ban against cluster bombs, The danger posed to the Great Barrier Reef and other natural beauty by mining companies, Australia’s role in unjust wars in Central and South-West Asin, Closing the gap on Aboriginal life expectancy, Australia’s treatment of refugees, Wealth disparity, Racism, Climate Change?

        While I cannot comment on the position of many of the other churches you have pointed the finger at, I know that the church I am a member of has people in its leadership team who deal directly with these and other justice issues. Of course we cannot deal with them all, but we have a big focus on making the world a better place, both in Australia and overseas. We seek to be used by God to help others and show His grace in spiritual and practical ways. Around 80% of those who attend our church are actively involved in some kind of ministry.

        Secondly, In my opinion, one of the reasons certain church leaders feel the need to make a point of this issue is that the world is not attacking the church’s charitable and good deeds. It is attacking something important to the church and a part of its doctrine – marriage. The world tries over and over to say that homosexual marriage is normal and that God/the church is wrong in several ways. Most notably using these methods – “it is about love”, “it is about equality”, “they can’t help it, they are born that way”. Of course, these tactics have been implemented to take the focus away from what it is really about and to appeal to the emotions in other ways to win support.

        Another method I see more and more is the push to equate this to the civil rights movement, which is absurd, and effectively calls anyone who disagrees a racist. I am certain that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have held the same position as the church leaders here…

  6. The idea that we should victimise asylum seekers has been loudly pushed by certain parts of society for over a decade, yet on this issue the churches have never acted together in this way – and victimising social/ethnic outsiders was the sin for which Sodom was destroyed.

    There is indeed something queer going on when the denominations can get together on this issue, but not others.

  7. You beat me to the punch. We had this exact discussion tonight at our men’s group. Two thumbs up!

  8. @Joel – You are talking about two quite different issues –

    one is an issue of justice, which Christians should be standing up for,

    The other is about asking for something that many people believe is a God ordained thing to be changed to be against that which God has ordained it

    There have always been and will always be issues of justice which Christians should be campaigning for. These tend to be for people, glorifying God through them.

    Asking for something which God has clearly ordained to be turned 180, to represent something else, to redefine it, does not happen all the time. This is an obvious attack on something that God has called sacred. This is one the reasons people are upset about it.

    Justice issues are just that, each case is pretty much a singular justice issue. The homosexual marriage issue affects everyone in many many ways, of which some appear to be irreparable – for example, the whole structure of society which has existed for thousands of years will be thrown into disarray, We GUARANTEE that those “families” that choose to include two parents of the same sex deny their children either a mother OR a father (both of which provide valuable child raising attributes different to the other, not to forget the biological effects – e.g. studies have shown that girls who do not spend a certain amount of time in close proximity to a father before a certain age are far more likely to live a promiscuous life style).

    @Squishy Wendy. I am sure you already know that God is in essence made up of two equal parts – Love (which you talk about) and holiness. You cannot choose one without the other.

    Showing Love is also about not letting bad things happen. This whole issue is highly likely to lead to lots of bad things. Also, we stand up for God’s holiness because we want to show our love and respect for Him.

    Who is being judgemental? You know it is possible to say “I don’t agree with this thing” without being judgemental. As a Christian, I have nothing against people of any kind, including those with feelings towards those of the same sex, but this does not mean I support the lifestyle they choose. I am not judging them, but I cannot affirm this choice. BIG DIFFERENCE (FYI, there is no scientific evidence of being “born that way”, there may be some theological evidence from the standpoint of “we are all born predisposed to certain sins”, but that is a whole different issue).

    Thirdly, the “good news of salvation” is about God’s love, in that He sent His son to die on a cross, that whoever believes in Him will have their sin forgiven.

    Let’s look at that a bit more closely: Jesus died in the place of sinners. Jesus takes the punishment of sin.

    WHY? because God is holy and sin needs to be paid for. You have the love part – God gave His son for us – You have the holiness part – to die in our place, for our sins, that we might be forgiven.

    You cannot have the one without the other, they are the two sides of the same God

    • George, just out of interest, which ‘marriage’ did God ordain? Because you’ve got a long list of potential social contracts to choose from. Are we talking polygamy here? Or perhaps the version we practiced in the 18th century where you could sell your wife if you got tired of her. Are women to be considered chattel property or are we going to be ‘liberal’ and say they’re allowed to own and inherit things? In any case, how do you make the link between those concepts, the ‘sacrament’ of marriage as we understand it today and the legal ‘civil union’ attached to it by the secular state as matter of convenience? You seem to be making assumptions here…

      As for your ‘two sides to the same God’ spiel, I’d give you a lesson on metaphysics but it’s late and honestly it’s very dry. Suffice to say God can’t have two parts, because he’s completely love and completely holy at the same time. They’re not distinguishable as you seem to suggest. If your up for it, Edward Fesser’s “The Last Superstition” is a good primer…

  9. Matt, nice writing on your blog. While I completely agree your viewpoint that churches (and Christians) need to speak out more forcefully on issues such as poverty, I cannot help but feel that you belittle issues such as same-sex marriage. I feel that the challenge for our church is to speak strongly on all these issues, yet show love in practical ways to all these different communities.

  10. The issue here is that the church does not assign equal importance on both the ‘moral’ and ‘mercy’ issues of today. Contributing to this is the fact that the media really only wants to include churches on the moral issues for the sake controversy.

  11. I live in the U.S. It’s absolutely crazy to see how many people fall for the left/right paradigm over here. Both political parties are playing the American voter like a fool!! Gay marriage and abortion (I disagree with both as a Christian, but I also disagree with a lot of things!) are two perfect examples of a distraction. Our political elite want us to fight over these issues to keep us from realizing that Wall Street needs to be regulated, our rights are being striped every day, the Federal Reserve isn’t even federal and is the reason we are in so much debt, and we are constantly involved in some sort of war overseas. Geez!!

    I also think that Christians need to focus on judging those already in the church, opposed to those who don’t even believe in Christ (1 Corinthians 5:12). We are to live OUR lives in obedience to Christ and we are to LOVE. Are WE really doing a good job of that?

    Think about the Israelites in the Old Testament. They were set apart, and called to be holy- even amongst heathens.

  1. Pingback: Gay Marriage « (un)original thought

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