Being silenced on sex isn’t the end of Christianity

In America and Ireland, the touchstone of public outrage about same-sex marriage seems to have been wedding cake bakers. In Australia, perhaps fittingly, its brewers.

Recently, an Australian beer company appeared to sponsor a debate between two politicians arguing for and against marriage equality (same-sex marriage isn’t legal in Australia). The brewery didn’t actually sponsor the debate (explaining that will take way too long), but the mere appearance of involvement in a debate in which the conservative view was being presented touched off a firestorm.

The brewery was the subject of a public boycott, social media ridicule, and even threats against their staff. They promptly renounced all involvement in the debate (which was true) and formally signed a pledge to support marriage equality.

The response by conservative Christians to this strange episode was nothing less than feverish.

One blogger announced, “The overriding lesson to learn from the debacle is that it’s over, baby – give it up.  The cultural narrative no longer includes us in its story except as the villain in the piece.  And we’d better get used to it.”

Yikes. That sounds bad, right?

Even worse, another distraught minister blogged that Christianity in Australia was going to be “pushed into Southern Ocean.”

“Let the reader understand,” he announced, “anyone, any organization or person who allies themselves with civil discourse will not be immune from public shaming.”

Oh boy. I’m in trouble. Public shaming and drowning aren’t high on my list of things to get done this weekend.

Of course, this same anxiety about the end of civil discourse and the silencing of the church lies behind Rod Dreher’s new book, The Benedict Option. He says,

“There can be no peace between Christianity and the sexual revolution, because they are radically opposed… L.G.B.T. activism is the tip of the spear at our throats in the culture war. The struggle over gay rights is what is threatening religious liberty, putting Christian merchants out of business, threatening the tax-exempt status and accreditation of Christian schools and colleges.”

Americans can’t get pushed into the Southern Ocean, but that won’t stop their demise. Dreher forecasts, “There are people alive today who may live to see the effective death of Christianity within our civilization.”

Okay, let’s get a grip, everyone.

Most Western societies have legalized same-sex marriage and most pundits believe Australia will soon too. Is it true to say that, because those societies are not interested in any further debate about the definition of marriage, the church is hereby silenced on all and every discussion happening in the public square?

 

Is the conservative arm of the church so focused on sexuality and marriage that being told to shut up about it is seen as tantamount to a complete public gag order?

In asking this I’m not defending the public vitriol heaped on bakers and brewers. But I don’t think being silenced on sex can be equated with the death of Christianity.

Feel free, outraged ministers and bloggers, to speak up about immigration policy, climate change, and gun control.

Feel free to enter the public square and champion the rights of disadvantaged first nations.

Please, don’t hold back on the corrosive effects of our nations’ addictions to gambling and alcohol and junk food.

Fulfill your mandate, please, to steward creation by opposing rampant strip mining, destructive pipelines, and corporate greed.

Feel free to speak out against bulging military spending, arms races and world leaders’ compulsion for conflict.

Sure, you’ll get plenty of debate, and there will be those who’ll tell you to keep quiet. These aren’t easy matters to address, nor popular campaigns to engage in. But surely, the church should have as much to say about justice, reconciliation, ecology and peacemaking as it does about marriage and sexuality.

And don’t be insensitive to the fact that much of the animosity present in attacks on the church over marriage equality are reactions to the church’s past treatment of the LGBTQI community.

It doesn’t matter to many in that community how measured or civil you claim your debate might be. To them, its personal. Very personal.

 

Being silenced on sexuality and marriage really galls a lot of church ministers, but maybe discovering fresh ways to communicate the values of God’s reign in winsome, engaging ways for the common good isn’t the worst thing for the church.

 

 

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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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22 thoughts on “Being silenced on sex isn’t the end of Christianity

  1. YES!!!!

  2. Mike, I largely agree with you. As Christians, we need to focus to what we are in favour of rather than to define ourselves by what we are against. And the things that you mention (justice, reconciliation, ecology and peacemaking et al.)are important things the Gospel does speak to. But I’m wondering if the sexuality is just another one in the list of things that the more outspoken parts of society have silenced, and will silence us on? Former prime minister Howard wanted churches to stay out of politics, we’re supposed to stay out of public education…the list goes on. Perhaps the former is part of the answer to the latter – perhaps talking about some of the things that society sees as the big issues (justice…) might allow us the space to talk about other stuff too?

    1. I don’t think a domino theory will come into play concerning numerous other issues. The earliest Christians didn’t take the Roman aristocracy to task for their orgies, having slaves and the like.
      Jesus did say with certainty the world would hate his followers. We go on with living the Gospel and proclaiming it and expect occasionally (or frequently) to be met with vitriol for simply being Jesus’ followers.
      I’m frequently puzzled by Christians expecting non believers to live up to our standards, when it is Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that saves them and the work of the Holy Spirit that changes them.

  3. I agree that this will not cause Christianity any more than a rippe fro those who are of the faith, not just ‘practising’.. However, to the point Mike, do you support Gay Marriage ?

    1. This question puzzles me. It only applies if someone has the opinion that what they think is true, and the other side of the argument doesn’t warrant their time of day.

    2. Who cares? This is a great post making a great point. And yet sexuality is still the only thing you can focus on.

      1. That comment was with reference to pete.

    3. Seriously, that’s your question and concern? I think you have missed the point and heart of Mike’s post

  4. Spot on, thanks for the perspective Mike.

  5. If homosexuality only effected the non believers too a degree I’d be fine with that. But using Leviticus 18:24-25 as a basis a personally believe that if marriage equality is allowed in Australia then I personally believe that the “land” of Australia will then be under a curse. I live in Australia and love my country so I don’t want to see anything bad happen to my loved country. Hence why I personally don’t have an issue with Christians standing up against this issue.

    That said I certainly agree that these other issues mentioned are also Inportant for Christians to stand up for,

    1. Australia’s been under a curse since 1788.

    2. @Daniel you make it sound like it’s contagious?

    3. Kind of depends on whether you think OT applies to now right Daniel? Jesus said he came to complete the Law not to do away with it. Does that mean to continue the curse on the land parts of the Law, or are you missing what He meant about completing the Law?

  6. Well said Mike. A righteous call to witness!

  7. Nailed it.

    Shame, we were all so comfortable condescending from our pews and pulpits. It turns out that that we can still serve, love, advocate and champion the marginalised though.

    Will we be bothered or was it all talk?

  8. Christendom, particularly in the West, has been so focused on moralization, sin management, and of course their favorite, “biblical correctness”. Yet, we have failed to admit that, particularly the New Testament, has little to say about sex or sexuality. Try to prove to a 20, 30 or 40 year old single person that sex outside of marriage is wrong from the NT. Go ahead, I dare you. We’ve pulled a few verses, put them together with our Victorian thinking and wallah, we have a new doctrine. That doesn’t mean that sex outside of marriage is healthy, or that it helps build a strong relationship or that it risk-less, or, or, or…. But, approaching every issue from a moralistic viewpoint, simply shuts off the ears of those that we try to engage with.

  9. It’s not about sex and marriage, it’s about power and priviledge.
    The institutional church has been sidelined for decades we just haven’t accepted it. Now, all of a sudden, on an issue that is vitally important to us (or so we have come to believe) we have been to to shut up. It’s not morality that is at stake. It’s our position in society. We are no longer invited to the table just because we are THE CHURCH.
    We seem to prefer priviledge and power to humility and service.
    But now we are closer to where and what we are supposed to be. So lets all stop sooking about it and get on with what we are supposed to do.

    1. I couldn’t agree more.

    2. Absolutely spot on! The first century Christians didn’t have a say in life and politics, but that didn’t mean they were hindered in progressing the gospel.

    3. Always happy to hear more people thinking like this. My new thought is that we need to “engage” the conversation rather than “enrage” it.

  10. Are we gettng off track. Our faith is not of this world is it our place to berate those who do not have faith or to show them Christs love through our actions. Out spoken judgmental leaders that seem to have a side agender do our cause no good . That cause is to love every man and woman what ever they do. Christ only publicly bersted corrupt leaders He quietly and privately showed others ther downfall. Be like Him not like the Pharisies of old

  11. I agree Mike. There are other, even more important, things we could be advocating for in the public sphere.

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