For the past several months, the nation of Australia has been locked in a bitter debate about whether or not to support same-sex marriage. The conservative government gambled by holding a mail-in, non-binding plebiscite vote, which was supposed to favor elderly, more conservative voters who actually still use snail mail. Unfortunately for the conservatives, through a highly organized campaign, the Yes voters were able to get support from 61.6% of the voters, which is pretty well a crushing landslide statistically speaking. The majority favored Yes in every Australian province.
In the midst of the campaign, the Anglican diocese of Sydney donated $1 million from its social justice coffers to the No campaign. Archbishop Glenn Davies publicly announced the donation and defended it, saying that opposing marriage equality is a “social justice issue.” In other words, they spent money that is normally earmarked to support refugees, the poor, and other vulnerable people groups on television advertisements and flyers that sought to stir up fear against a queer “agenda.” I’d like to know how the diocesan end-of-year fundraising letter is going to explain this wasteful and evangelistically disastrous expenditure. How many widow’s mites that were tossed into the offering plate on Sundays to support marginalized people were snatched away to create anti-queer propaganda?
According to Australian Anglican priest Andrew Sempell, the decision about the donation was made without input from clergy and laity in the diocese apart from a small, secretive committee. The audacity of spending funds raised for social justice and charity on political propaganda is pretty astounding to me. It’s incredibly unethical regardless of what the political propaganda was for. Few conservative evangelical Christians in the United States would tolerate this kind of duplicity.
So what will Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies do now with the egg dripping from his face? Will he resign? Will he take money out of his salary to restore a portion of the money he took away from refugees and poor people? Will each of the members of his secret anti-gay committee contribute $100k out of their personal resources so that the Anglican diocese can continue to do its social justice work?
We are living in a season of global apocalypse by which Christian hypocrisy is being furiously exposed. I don’t think it’s an accident that God has unveiled the pedophilia of the anti-gay fundamentalist American ex-judge Roy Moore at the same time that anti-queer propaganda in Australia has exploited the fear of pedophilia to get people to vote against their neighbors. If one thing is clear, it’s that Christianity’s traditional sexual ethics have failed to protect people from sexual violence. They will continue to fail as long as they are concerned with traditionalism for traditionalism’s sake rather than a holistic consideration of humanity for humanity’s sake.
To believe that marriage equality is a sin means that you believe patriarchal gender complementarity is the means by which social stability is maintained. Insofar as the patriarchy expressed in Leviticus 18 has an underlying ethos, that’s what it is. Its wording makes it clear that it presumes a male audience because only men have sexual agency under patriarchy. If you believe that, so be it. Just make sure you own it and don’t try to play bait and switch games about it. Patriarchy is the presumed context for social relations in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. But Christian theology has provided different seeds that have taken a bitterly long twenty centuries to grow beyond the presumptions of biblical patriarchy.
The past two centuries in my country have been a long, ruthless game of trench warfare between progressive and conservative Christians that started with the basically humanist abolitionist movement taking on the Bible chapter-verse quoting slave-owners. The sides are the same today though the trenches have moved a few hundred yards from where they were. The social movements that evolved into what we now call secularism have been a major part of the means by which God has saved the world from Christians. The trench lines move very slowly until the stances of prior generations become embarrassingly unimaginable. But the same basic authoritarian patriarchal reading of scripture that was deployed yesterday is being deployed today to serve a different cause.
Imagine what it would look like for Christians to promote holiness not as traditionalist legalism but as a means of achieving mystical union with Christ (which is what the apostle Paul is actually all about!!!). By making holiness synonymous with patriarchal gender norms, conservative evangelicals are sabotaging the possibility of teaching holiness to anyone who doesn’t take their premises for granted. There is a campus ministry at Louisiana State University that gives its student membership a talk once a semester about their opposition to homosexuality. What that says to me is that they aren’t interested in the evangelism or discipleship of anyone who disagrees with them about this issue, which is now a large majority of the population, especially among the young. They are more interested in feeling “orthodox” and “persecuted” than in helping others gain spiritual freedom.
Are there really no conservative evangelical leaders out there who are willing to say that even though they don’t think the Bible supports gay marriage, they will help their gay friends and congregation members foster the healthiest, holiest covenantal relationships and families they possibly can? Are they really all consumed by their pursuit of the religious freedom to reject people? Will there be any repentance on the part of the Sydney diocese for funneling money into a propaganda campaign that claims queer people have an “agenda” to manipulate and exploit children? The ad that I saw doesn’t even address same-sex marriage, but uses transgender stereotypes as the bogeymen whose attack on social stability is supposedly the real secret agenda of queer people.
The apocalypse of Christian sexuality will continue. More hypocrites will be exposed. More pigs will throw themselves furiously into the lake of fire. It’s not going to be pretty. But more people will be awakened the more the exposure continues. God is using all of these events to pour out his wrath on the spiritual pride of his people so that we can enjoy the sweet repentance on the other side and become a people who care about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ again.
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