Opinion  |  

Admit it, YES ‘romped it in’

Michael Frost on the wages of fear

When Danica Roem became the first transgender person elected to a state legislature in Virginia last month, there was outrage from some sectors of the American church. One church leader tweeted, “Christian parents, the nation’s first transgender elected official enters American history tonight. What are you doing to prepare your children for that?”

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Now is the time to redouble our efforts to love our neighbours, to seek to be Christ’s representatives in the world.

In response, bestselling author, Brené Brown tweeted: “We’re doing the same thing we did yesterday: loving neighbors, giving thanks, and finding the face of God in everyone we meet. You?”

I suggest we have a similar response to the result of the postal survey. What is the church doing in the new era of Australian society in which same sex marriage is soon to become a reality?  Still loving, caring, serving, welcoming, feeding.

Now is the time to redouble our efforts to love our neighbours, to seek to be Christ’s representatives in the world.

And all the more so because recent events in this country have greatly damaged the church’s reputation. After the testimony heard at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and the conduct of some sectors of the church in prosecuting the No case in the postal survey, the church is not viewed positively by many Australians.

The fastest-growing category of religion over the past 50 years has been “No religion,” up from just 0.8 per cent in the 1960s to 30 per cent last year.

But people aren’t rejecting the church just because they hate Christ. They distrust us because of the way some of us have behaved.

German Jesuit scholar Hans Zollner, visiting Australia recently, said Australians have completely lost trust in the church.

“There seems to be almost nil trust in what the church says,” said Fr Zollner. “This is not true in other parts of the world.

“I think you are in a pretty unique situation.”

I agree. But people aren’t rejecting the church just because they hate Christ. They distrust us because of the way some of us have behaved. Sure, Yes campaigners behaved badly (assaulting the former PM; firing a No voter from her job; graffiti-ing churches in Melbourne), but let’s be frank, a lot of the No campaign, supported by the churches, was in my view designed to foster fear among voters.

We need to grieve for the anger, fear and hurt that occurred during the campaign and seek to make amends for the ways we may have contributed to that.

While some Christian campaigners tried to make the No case based on biblical interpretation and Christian tradition, a great many, including advertisements made by the Coalition for Marriage, in my view were scare-mongering with stories about kids wearing opposite sex clothing to school and questioning the legitimacy of non-traditional families. There seemed to be no sensitivity to how these kinds of charges would be felt by those who don’t or can’t fit into traditional family arrangements.

Many in the LGBTIQ community have found the whole survey extremely difficult. Calls to helplines increased by 30% during the campaign period. One line received 10,000 calls.

Now that the vote is in, we need to grieve for the anger, fear and hurt that occurred during the campaign and seek to make amends for the ways we may have contributed to that.

And those people claiming it wasn’t an overwhelming victory aren’t helping. It makes the church look churlish. The Yes vote romped it in. For some perspective, any federal election won 61.6% to 38.4% on two party preferred would be the most comprehensive landslide since Federation.

In absolute numbers, Yes received more support (7.8m) than Labor or the Coalition ever have at a federal election (the record is 6.9m on TPP, 5.9 primary).

Now is not the time for moaning or nit-picking. Neither is it the time to appear so attentive to how the new legislation will effect us that we look like self-focused sore losers.

Now is the time to do the same thing we did yesterday: loving neighbors, giving thanks, and finding the face of God in everyone we meet.

Michael Frost is the vice principal of Morling College in Sydney.

Read a different view: Lyle Shelton says there is plenty of unfinished business after the postal vote.

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