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The Phoney War is Over

The days of free speech in Australia have come to an end. From today, public speech comes with a cost.

For several decades Australia has experienced a pseudo-peace. Since the 1960s the sexual revolution has been gaining momentum and slowly dynamiting deeply held views about God, humanity, sex, and family. We have noted these changes, and sometimes with protest, but mostly we just get on with life and pretend that things are not so bad. The last 3 years has seen an acceleration in social and moral change, and just maybe we are rubbing the sleep from our eyes and beginning to wonder, what’s going on? Gender is fluid, and it’s compulsory for my kids to be taught this in school? Marriage can be for 2 people of the same gender?

The Insatiable Revolution

For several years I have tried to speak to all kind of issues in the public square, with a measure of success and also with some mistakes. Today, I’m calling it, the days of free speech have come to an end. The end though won’t be the end because the appetite of the sexual revolution is insatiable, and we are fools if we think that the conquest will end should Australia adopt same-sex marriage. Changing the law will simply escalate the efforts of those who would love to see Christianity pushed into Southern Ocean.

The catalyst for this cultural epitaph was a video produced by the Bible Society. Understand what people are so angrily protesting about:

  1. The video does not present a hate filled preacher spitting out vitriol.
  2. The video does not present a Christian leader carefully and winsomely articulating the Bible’s view on marriage.
  3. The video shows a gay man who supports same-sex marriage and a heterosexual man who does not, and they are engaging in a respectful conversation about marriage while enjoying a beer.

What is so reprehensible about this video? Nothing, of course, but in the eyes of the self-determined moral judges of our age, this video debunks the myth they have spun, that civil speech and questioning same sex marriage cannot go together. From Canberra to Spring St, from SBS to The Age, we have been told that, unless we support same sex marriage without qualification, we are bigots and homophobes. The problem is, this video dismantles that myth. But instead of engaging with it, there has been outrage because there is no forgiveness for those who dare denude the same-sex marriage narrative. 

Rights and Reason

The Hastie/Wilson conversation (and there are many other examples that could be mentioned) reminds us that there are still people of good will, Australians of different persuasions who believe in giving everyone a say on these important topics. What we are seeing however, are vocal and powerful people overshadowing, and drowning out, these discussions.

To be fair, some people have also argued that the same-sex marriage is a human right, and to even question marriage change is therefore undermining their rights. I can see the point of view, but this is also a myth and needs challenging: marriage is not a human right…for anyone. It is a gift and a privilege but not a right. More than that, the onus lays with marriage change advocates to demonstrate the logic of their definition for marriage. How can any reasonable society redefine its societal foundation without first having reasoned, rigorous, and respectful discourse?

Let the reader understand, anyone, any organisation or person who allies themselves with civil discourse will not be immune for public shaming. Add God or the Bible to the mix, and the response will be even stronger.

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It’s also important for us to realise from today that opponents to free speech are not prepared to end with name calling. Despite not being a sponsor of the video, Cooper’s Brewery has been branded homophobic and could well suffer financial loss as a result. The lesson is, if you associate too closely with Christians and they happen to say anything about marriage, be prepared to take a financial hit.

The lesson is, if you associate too closely with Christians and they happen to say anything about marriage, be prepared to take a financial hit.​​

It is somewhat ironic, and indeed Biblical, that this watershed day centres on an organisation that exists to bring the word of God to Australians. It’s not totally unlike when Hamlet mistakingly kills Polonius with his sword.

Waving his sword around, Hamlet shouts, ‘How now, a rat? Dead for a ducat, dead!’ He then plunges his sword into a wall carpet and kills Polonius who is hiding behind.His mother cries, ‘what hast thou done?’—to which Hamlet responds, ‘dunno’.

I wonder, have we understood our actions and the consequences that will flow from them?

The Cost of Free Speech

I’ve had Christian friends suggest to me today, if only the Bible Society had stayed away from same-sex marriage, as though that would keep everybody happy. Respectfully, do we not realise that that is in itself a concession, and is simply buying into the rhetoric of those who wish to outlaw dissenting speech and belief from society?

In some formal sense, free speech will exist tomorrow morning, but  in practice, a cacophonous minority have succeeded in shouting down reasoned and respectful speech. I remember one year ago referring to freedom of speech as the gordian knot of our time; well, today the sword has been taken out of its sheath and cut right through the ropes.

Free speech is gone and what we have left is costly speech. To speak truth will cost. To suggest an alternative narrative, will have you branded as bigot, and more.

Again understand, this is not about what is right and fair, or about what is reasonable and respectful, it is about conforming to the program of what Stephen McAlpine has termed, the sexual fundamentalists.

What now?

For many Australians life will go on as usual, until the shrapnel finally crashes through their own lounge-room window.

The self-determined moral elite will celebrate with a pint  of anything-but-Coopers-Beer. 

Today may well mark the end of cost-free speech in this country, but it doesn’t mark the end of the Gospel and the relevance of the Church. The reality is, we could lose all our political and civic freedoms, and yet we will not cease to love Christ and to love and serve our neighbours.

What I am praying is that sleepy Christians will wake up, alert Christians will be humble, and compromising Christians will repent.

“Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Revelation 3:2-3)

Christians in this country have to often and wrongly believed that we can have our Christianity and  it won’t cost us anything. Sure, we recite those verses that talk about talking up our cross, and we nod in agreement, but our lives betray this flimsy assent to Jesus. We have believed the prophets of our time who calmly reassure us that there is peace, when in fact there is no peace. We work and play and make love, and believe the world is ok. We have turned to our false prophets who keep scratching where we itch and assuring us that all is well. But the phoney war has ended, and too many of us have been caught unprepared. We love our hedonistic lifestyle, and I fear many will be unable to let it go in order to follow Christ into this new Australia.

We need to wake up.

This is no time to leave behind Biblical convictions and godly character. We must resist any temptation to run away or to change teams. The one thing we can no longer afford to do is keep pretending everything is ok: I’ve got my family, and my job, and Church is there when I need it. She’ll be right, ain’t right!

If we (I’m speaking to Christians here) are serious about staying true to that which we have become persuaded of, namely the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we can no longer afford to live in isolation from other Christians. Christians without a Church don’t survive. We need one another for encouragement, support, care, correction, and courage. Roll out of bed and commit to a local church. Forget about the materialist and ultimately self-centred Aussie dream, drop the beach days every other weekend, and instead commit  to learning from and supporting your brothers and sisters in Christ.

We also need to listen to the Bible more closely than we have ever done before. Take for example, the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes have been misrepresented a fair bit lately. They are not cushy and likeable sentiments, they are vital words teaching us how to live in a fallen world.

Indeed the Beatitudes give us perhaps the greatest template for speaking and living in an environment that is eager for us to disappear. It is worth every moment to read and consider the Beatitudes. Be encouraged, be challenged, be rebuked, be changed:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."


The article was first published here

For an update to the story and an extended exploration of the how the Beatitudes will serve us well for living in these times, check out Let's revisit the Beatitudes

Murray Campbell is a child of God, husband, dad, pastor at Mentone Baptist Church in Melbourne, coffee drinker, Carlton supporter, music snob. You can follow Murray on twitter @MurrayJCampbell.

Murray is a member of the TGCA editorial panel and oversees the Evangelism and Apologetics channel.

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