It wasn’t until I worked for ACL that I realised how much I had gotten away with it.
I simply did not have to tell people that I was a Christian if I didn’t want to.
Whether a new friend, my dentist, or the checkout operator making small talk, I didn’t have to say a word.
But one day in August 2014 I introduced myself to someone new and it was all different.
“So, where do you work?” “Why did you move to Canberra?” “What do you do with yourself?”
I was studying at the time and some of my fellow students physically recoiled when I answered questions like these.
Suddenly I could hardly escape from bearing the offence of the name of Christ.
But the truth is this: I never should have been escaping it. The words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy are on point, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord… but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.”
Paul is writing as a prisoner, so he knows full well that the testimony of Christ can bring about suffering.
And yet, unlike Paul, so many of us have not had to deal with any real suffering because of the testimony of Christ. Rather, the mere prospect of awkwardness or discomfort is enough to stop us.
Take the simplest of examples. You stop for fuel on the way home from church and the console operator nonchalantly asks, “How’s your day been?” Are things so bad that we can’t handle the modicum of awkwardness that comes with telling the truth at this point?
Jesus Himself couldn’t have been clearer when He commanded us to let our light “shine before others.” He told us not to hide it; put it on a lampstand, make it like a city on a hill. In other words, make sure the entire room – no, the entire countryside – can see it.
He completes the thought by saying it should be such so that when people see our light, they may glorify God. They can’t do that unless they know that it is God who is at work in us.
It strikes me that the collective silence of Christians has contributed to an environment where it is harder for us to speak up than ever before.
Those who oppose us only have to pick off one or two at a time because it’s often only one or two who stick their heads above the parapet – or, to use the Biblical language – turn their light on.
Israel Folau… One man. Minimal support. Easy target.
Margaret Court… One woman. Minimal support. Easy target.
Many who are lone voices bearing the brunt of their bravery come to mind.
Professor John Whitehall: the paediatrician taking a stand for children being confused and harmed by gender theory. He is always under attack.
Dr Patricia Weerakoon: the sexologist who sticks to the Bible and suffers professionally.
Kathy Clubb: The sidewalk counsellor before the High Court of Australia.
Joshua: the university student who shares his faith on campus and gets suspended. The latest is Dr David van Gend, a tireless and self-motivated campaigner for the rights of children. He is the subject of a Medical Board complaint directed against two very tame tweets about gender theory and safe schools. He faces the prospect of disciplinary action for speaking out.
The tactic is familiar. Activists will pick on the one who speaks loudly, hopefully put him back in his box, or at least send the message to others that they better not do the same.
And it is working. In each of these, as in so many cases I observe through ACL’s legal work and the media, I can’t help but think we have made it easier for those who oppose us.
When speaking, I often use the phrase, “If we silence ourselves, we will be silenced.”
By self-censoring, taking the path of least resistance, clinging to reputation, avoiding discomfort… By hiding ourselves and hiding our light under a basket, we have left a yawning silence. It is a silence that permeates workplaces, professions, institutions, social exchanges, and the public squares. It is a silence that few dare to break. It is a silence that makes it easy to discredit, marginalise, attack, and make an example of the one or two who speak up.
How easy it is to keep the gag on an already silent community.
How easy it is to make an example of the few dissidents who speak out, when their own community will remain mostly silent.
The LGBTIQ community is only about 2% of Australia’s total population, but everyone has a gay friend who they know.
The Christian community is immense by comparison, yet many Australians report not knowing a Christian.
That’s not because it’s true. That’s because we’re hiding in plain sight.
If only Christians everywhere would open our mouths. What a difference it would make.
The voices would be overwhelming. They would reverberate through almost every workplace, every profession, every institution, countless conversations, and the public square itself.
The silence would break. And they wouldn’t be able to stop it.