One of the most powerful weapons of privilege is the refusal to listen

In Australia same-sex marriage is still illegal. But the movement for marriage equality is on a roll. Buoyed by victories in similar countries like Great Britain, Ireland, the USA, Canada and New Zealand, they can smell imminent success, and they want no further debate.

They want an act of parliament.


They believe they are on the side of history, so have no patience for hearing the case for traditional marriage any more. And this has led some of their more strident activists to try to silence conservative voices.

They routinely refer to advocates of retaining traditional marriage as homophobes or bigots. They exert public pressure on businesses to sign on with the marriage equality movement. They cast aspersions on anyone for having had ties to conservative Christian organizations. They’re particularly aggressive in their attacks on the Australian Christian Lobby, who felt forced to gain permission to keep its board members’ names secret on the grounds of “public safety” after sustained abuse.

All this has led many Christians to speak of the death of free speech and to refer to those who aren’t interested in their views on marriage equality as bullies.

The Anglican archbishop of Sydney recently referred to the same-sex marriage campaign as “narrow-minded, freedom-restricting carping.”

“People are beginning to wake up and take notice,” he continued. “They are starting to understand that the campaign for same-sex marriage is not sailing on a raft of rainbows but on a barge of bullies.”

Okay, let’s hold on.

A barge of bullies?

How does calling people bullies foster the environment for the civil debate you say you want?

Have marriage equality activists ever behaved badly? Yes, I think so.

Is some of the invective thrown at traditional marriage advocates cruel and hurtful. Yes, I think so.

Has the use of abusive or venomous language been used to censure or silence conservatives? Yes, I think so.

Have Christians ever behaved this way toward the LGBTQI community and their supporters?

Well, have they?

Yes, I think so.

Is it not possible for conservative church leaders to hear the vituperation from same-sex advocates as coming after decades of similar oppression and silencing perpetrated against them?

Instead of saying, “You’re all bullies. We want a civil debate,” could the churches not firstly acknowledge the great hurt caused to the LGBTQI community?

Surely, the most important way to get people to listen to you is to listen to them.

Like the archbishop I am privileged, cis-male, white, straight, English-speaking, and able-bodied. As the comedian Louis CK says, “How many advantages can one person have!?”

And one of the primary ways we can express our advantage is to refuse to listen.

It’s one of my most powerful weapons as a person of privilege.

Men refuse to listen to women, the rich refuse to listen to the poor, white people ignore people of color, adults refuse to listen to abused children. And for a long time the church refused to listen to the LGBTQI community.

Now it feels like marriage equality activists have the upper hand in society and they’re saying to the church, “You’ve had your day. You silenced us for so long. And now we no longer care to hear from you.”

Can’t we hear that? Can we really hear that? It comes from past hurts. It comes from feeling oppressed and silenced for so long. It comes from resentment toward the church’s privileged status.

They don’t want a “civil debate” about their private lives. They want us to shut up!

And the first step in listening involves closing our mouths and seeking to understand. Truly understand.

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The views expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent the official views of Morling College or its affiliates and partners.

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4 thoughts on “One of the most powerful weapons of privilege is the refusal to listen

  1. I agree..

  2. So right Mike. Thank you for acknowledging the great hurt felt in the past and STILL being experienced by many. Until we truly are sorry and bring that heartfelt repentance to our brothers and sisters there will continue to be a chasm between us, and sadly this will feel like a chasm between those who are hurting and God himself. The church should never be the one to cause such a feeling of isolation from the One who loves us ALL most. We have much to repent of and much to repair. I for one am up for that process, its about time!!!

  3. I agree but don’t agree. I am 75 and a priest and I’ve hated how gay people were imprisoned and treated. Now the church gets blamed. Yes some would have wanted to destroy the gay population thinking they were doing the right thing. However the church did not make the laws they were made in parliament by parliamentarians and I do not remember hearing or reading of descenting voices. The church has always being in a minority. How we govern our selves is for us to discern. We are in this society but not of it. Our concern is for families, aged people , children , education , the poor and broken and we dig deep in our pockets when people are marganilised whether in this country or overseas . We are conscious of those who have died for their faith by governments and people who don’t give a damn. We turn the other cheek, go the second mile and pray for those who wished we were not here. Yes it hurts. We have been doing that for thousands of years and are still doing it in many places around the world. Yes we will still be there to pick up the mess that will be left and will still get the kicks from those who don’t have a clue. The one we follow will still be saying to us “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. My point is first look in the mirror yourself before you smash the mirror over someone else’s head

  4. Interesting article which is full of emotive language, but lacks hard evidence to back up its claims – entering into moral relativism.

    The church AS A WHOLE is listening to the struggles of the LGBTQI+ community and feeling with them. The church has always been there standing up for the marginalized. We don’t live in Muslim countries where gay people are getting thrown off buildings and stoned. Living in Australia IS privilege.

    In Australia, homosexuals can acquire a Civil Union without going through the process of proving the status of their defacto relationships. The Civil Union is the same as marriage in everything but the title. The LGBTQI+ community is asking to change the institution of marriage which believes in truths which are not objective. Many Christians may/do feel strongly about this and have a right to. They are fighting hard because traditional marriage is something they believe reflects and once the law is passed they will abide by man’s law.
    Victoria’s DET can’t prove homophobic bullying in schools and it is the same case in the church. The Sydney bishop this guy refers to was recently sanctioned by the state for hate in his anti-gay marriage sermon. Those who ‘discriminate’ are punished under our legal system.

    Where is the evidence that the church as a widespread institution is discriminating against and refusing to listen to the LGBTQI+ community? The author shouting institutional discrimination doesn’t prove it.

    Of course everyone should be treated equally as we are all created in the image of God, however using the government to enforce a view upon people is an aspect of totalitarianism. Those that are shouting the loudest for gay marriage don’t want the church to listen. They want the church to compromise on their convictions.

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