I opened the envelope and sat down at my desk to cast my opinion (because it isn’t a vote – its an ‘opinion poll’), but as I was about to tick a box I hesitated. Because ‘Yes’ doesn’t say all of what I want it to say… and then ‘No’ doesn’t tell the full story either. I came back 4 days later and ticked a box but it wasn’t without some frustration.
The problem for me was that I only get to choose ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and unfortunately then I get to be defined by my choice (It seems to have become a defining issue) but I can see both sides of this argument and depending on the day and the conversation I am in, I can lean either way.
Its not that I don’t have strong convictions – I do – but rather that it is a complex issue and ‘yes’ or ‘no’ just doesn’t do it justice.
If I go with my Christian convictions based on how I read the teachings of the Bible in regards to human relationships then I will vote ‘no’. (I believe its God’ original intent for men and women to be together.) The fallout from this is that some will see me as bound to the teachings of a book that carries no authority for them and that has no relevance to a 21st C secular society. At best I may be perceived as lacking in my ability to think – perhaps a product of a religious system that prevents me from free thought. Or at worst I may just be cast as a homophobe and a bigot – and no one wants to be that… a modern day leper.
Then if I take a step back and look at what it means to live in a secular society where everyone has a right to their say and where we cannot assume any priority based on Christian heritage I can see a case for the ‘yes’ vote and a number of Christians have argued this case quite articulately and convincingly. It means equal rights for all and people get to choose their path – wherever that leads. If I take this tack then some of my Christian tribe will see me as a sellout – as having a ‘low’ view of the Bible – of caving in to cultural trends. At best I will be seen as out of step with the rest of the church community, or at worst I will be a false teacher and a heretic – one to be disregarded in future conversations around issues of this nature – the guy who lost the plot on the gay marriage issue…
You see ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ just doesn’t allow for any nuance whatsoever. When I say ‘yes’ I do so meaning ‘XYZ’, but I am concerned about ‘ABC’, or when I say ‘no’ I do with similar caveats and concerns, and if you are a Christian and can’t say that I’d suggest then maybe you haven’t grappled with the issue sufficiently.
I don’t expect my friends who aren’t Christians to share my wrestle – there is no need to consider faith issues when you don’t hold the Bible in high regard. That said, I do expect respect and to be taken seriously. I’m happy to offer my thoughts and reflections on the subject and to explain the challenge that this subject is for many people of faith. I’m even happy to have a good spirited argument about the issue – but I’m not happy to either use propaganda to demonise others or be defined myself by propaganda. The plebiscite was always going to be problematic, because campaigns call for propaganda and propaganda requires an enemy to fight against. So far the propaganda machine is doing its job well and managing to create ‘us’ and ‘them’ (whichever side you are on)
Likewise I would hope that my Christian friends would see the bigger picture of what it means if one group (the Christians) get to dictate the tone for society. Our own God allows us to choose our path – whether that is in line with him or not. Christians are as entitled to their say on this issue as much as any other group in society, but not more than any other group.
Increasingly I have felt the pressure increase to ‘get with the program’, ‘wake up’ or ‘see the light’ – and that’s from both sides. When you treat me like a moron and try to win me over with crass arguments, fear or manipulation then you insult me and I find your campaign weak. Unfortunately this is what it has come down to so often.
I expect most of my friends who aren’t God botherers will vote ‘yes’. (I’m not sure why you wouldn’t as it is the way our society is heading). But for my Christian friends who may vote either way, my great hope is not that you will ‘get it right’, but rather that whatever you do it will be done in a spirit of love and respect. Whether you are perceived as ‘progressive’ or ‘regressive’ the call from Jesus to love those who disagree with us and seek to live at peace with everyone is stronger and more powerful than the call to get the right answer to a vexed question.
I’m not going to tell you which box I ticked in the end but you’re welcome to have a guess…