What can we do? This is a question I’ve been asked several times since we lost the plebiscite battle for the definition of marriage.
Last week’s rejection of freedom of speech by the Senate has sent shock waves through churches, mosques and Christian and Muslim schools.
The House of Representatives, which is this week debating Liberal Senator Dean Smith’s same-sex marriage bill, is unlikely to improve things.
Just as it did in the Senate, Labor is forcing its parliamentarians to vote against all freedom amendments. With the Greens and the votes of pro-rainbow politics Liberals, it is highly unlikely any meaningful protections for freedom of speech and conscience will make it through the Parliament.
It is lights out.
Christians and Muslims now realise that to speak and teach that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman is to risk being fined under state-based anti-discrimination laws.
Pleas to provide a Commonwealth override of these laws and an anti-detriment shield so freedom of speech about marriage in Australia can continue were ruthlessly rejected by Labor, the Greens and a sizeable cohort of Liberal Senators. The acting leader of the National Party, Nigel Scullion (filling in for Barnaby Joyce) joined them.
This scenario looks like repeating itself in the House of Representatives.
That conservative politicians have now joined the Left in suppressing freedom of speech is a tectonic shift in Australian politics.
I can’t understate how significant this is. The unthinkable is happening but much of the church is still asleep.
It was not long ago that many Labor and all conservative parliamentarians would back free speech and freedom of religion to the hilt.
Our nation is in uncharted waters.
The gay lobby likes to call anti-discrimination laws anti “hate speech” laws. That is what they think of any speech that does not affirm and celebrate the new definition of marriage.
They now have a powerful legal weapon to silence Christian teaching about marriage.
ACL’s new Human Rights Law Alliance, a legal body set up to defend Christians in court, will be in high demand in future years.
The reality of the intolerance of the rainbow political movement is starting to sink in as politicians use brutal legislative force to do the bidding of the rainbow political movement and quash the possibility of dissent.
All this is in spite of the Yes campaign’s assertions that our concerns about freedoms were “red herrings” and “furphies”.
It is clear that the Yes campaign was disingenuous in telling Australians that freedoms would not change.
It is now too late for freedom. The Ruddock review, announced by the Prime Minister as a consolation to the Parliament voting down freedom this week, will not result in the necessary legislative protections for freedom of speech and conscience.
Australian politicians lack the political will to preserve the most basic of human rights.
From this week, freedoms that Australians have taken for granted will be gone. This is chilling.
Pastors and imams, teachers and wedding service providers who wish to remain faithful will be on tenterhooks.
I am already getting calls from worried people in the Christian school movement and wedding service provider industries.
I’ve even spoken to the chairman of a large Islamic school whose school community parents are worried.
Some brave Christians will choose to break the law and keep speaking and teaching boldly about marriage without compromise.
I predict that most will choose silence and acquiescence. In some ways, I don’t blame them. The cost of speaking the truth is high and will be increasingly so.
Sadly, this was avoidable. ACL has been urging the church to speak for 17 years.
Asking what we can do now is the wrong question after decades of silence when one’s opponents have taken up the tools of democracy to prosecute their cause.
Those same tools of democracy – speaking in the public square, supporting advocacy groups like ACL, joining political parties and voting in pre-selections to make sure people with the right values got into Parliament – were and still are available to us if only we would use them.
I am grateful to everyone who rallied to the Coalition for Marriage – we were able to give marriage and freedom a strong defence.
But 30 years of silence could not be undone in three months.
I do believe though, that in the long term, our efforts will not be in vain.
I sincerely hope that the tens of thousands of you who donated, prayed and volunteered feel the same.
This is a wake-up call. It is not the end. It is the beginning of a freshly galvanised movement to keep speaking up for the truth.
But the question Christians need to be asking now is how do we remain faithful, even if it means being fined for our beliefs about marriage.
If we think this week’s decision by Labor, the Greens and a cohort of Liberals to take away freedom of speech and conscience on marriage is where it will stop, we are naïve.
This is a new era of pressure.
The great Czech playwright, resistance leader and political prisoner Vaclav Havel’s 1978 essay “The Power of the Powerless” electrified Eastern European resistance movements.
Havel said that if we “live within the lie” we collaborate with the system – in his case the atheistic communist system – and we compromise our full humanity.
The answer to the question “what do we do now?” is “refuse to live within the lie”.
This will be costly. But what choice do we have?
This is my last blog for 2017.
From next week, I will be on leave until early January. Thanks for supporting the ACL Team through what has been a challenging 12 months. Our office was bombed by a same-sex marriage activist, our front desk staff have borne the brunt of death threats and other threatening calls, white powder was sent to us and we have been called bigots and haters.
Despite the loss, it was a joy to fight for marriage as part of the Coalition for Marriage and to see a movement of determined people rise up. This is not the end, but the beginning of a new phase. I trust you are your family also enjoy a rest over the Christmas period as we celebrate the arrival of a baby into a dark world. That life shone a bright light and showed us the way. Let’s together resolve to keep shining the light of the Christ child’s truth in 2018 and beyond.
God bless you.