Reflections on the Internet discussion over the last two weeks

RadicalCostlyLove

Two reflections from observing the flurry of Internet discussion over same-sex marriage discussion for the past two weeks, but with reference to the last few years:

1) It’s been quite a disturbing experience reading vitriolic threads all over the place, from both supporters of same-sex marriage legalisation and supporters of traditional marriage. I’ll be the first to admit that Christians, especially, are quick to come out with unreasoned and ungracious claims and arguments, and then swiftly proceed to appeal to “I’m just giving my opinion” as a defense against claims of intolerance and bigotry.

Fellow Christian, when did spending hours online trying to ‘win’ an argument and writing paragraphs that won’t be read a month from now become what it means to be a loving and gracious witness to the world? When sharing your opinion, you can’t be surprised that many will respond angrily and take offence to your opinion, particularly since there has been a history of targeted discrimination and feelings of inadequacy felt by many. Our first response is not one of getting defensive, but should be to be quiet and listen, then humbly respond knowing full well that we are ambassadors for Christ. And if we are so convinced of the beauty of what we think marriage is, then take that zeal and fight domestic abuse, and support families who are struggling to care for their members.

For everyone – as members of a democratic society we are given the privilege of presenting our opinions and viewpoints and making a case for them. We are to discuss, write letters to MPs, rally, and vote for our convictions and viewpoints. Can I ask for us to do so in a spirit of respect and civil discourse? One way to do that is to get off social media and discuss in person. Have a conversation, face to face. And who knows? You may not agree, but you just might understand each other a tad better.

Also, it’s struck me that many people who are commenting don’t usually post about political issues, or comment with the zeal and fervor that they are demonstrating currently. That’s ok; you shouldn’t be defined by what you post and how often you post. But can I challenge you to take this zeal and fervor and channel it to other political topics in addition to this one?

2) I am of the belief that marriage is defined to be the union between a man and a woman, and that this institution is given a shape by the Christian worldview and story as given to us by God. But it has disappointed me to see many Christians advocating for their belief without reference to God. Yes, children are extremely significant in this discussion. But let’s not kid ourselves – Christians are not convinced of their views primarily because of an appeal to a conviction about the benefit for the children of society (otherwise, persons who are unable to have children, due to health or age, would be excluded from marriage as well, and I don’t know any Christian arguing for that).

Rather, the primary reason why we believe what we believe is because it is what the Christian scriptures teach. The difference in sex in marriage reflects Christ’s relationship to the church, and is rooted in the story of the Bible. It’s about the Lord Jesus Christ. That is our message. That is our conviction. That is our Gospel. Don’t be ashamed of that, or even think that people who don’t share the same viewpoint as you need to agree.

For all people reading this – you have a responsibility to act and present your viewpoint with sincerity and integrity. That includes supporters of same-sex marriage and supporters of traditional marriage. Everyone has a responsibility to act and present their viewpoint in accordance with their convictions, which is not the same as forcing one’s viewpoint on others. Freedom of religion is not freedom from religion, and people with religious convictions (whatever religion that may be) should politically engage and vote according to their convictions. Furthermore, we need to respect and honour the decisions that are or will be made as a Governed society, whatever the outcome, while also remaining active in our voice and advocation of viewpoints.

This applies to all people (religious or not), but I specifically point out Christians because there seems to be an understanding that a religious conviction is immediately illegitimate in the public sphere. Not only is that dangerous because it asks people of faith to either be silenced or to adopt a viewpoint that they don’t actually share (or attempt to justify their convictions with reasons that they do not themselves use to justify their beliefs), but it also flies in the face of what it means to be a democratic society where the power is given to the people to decide – all of them. Christians should be expected to share their convictions honestly and truthfully. So should everyone else.

Perhaps at some point down the line I’ll write more about many of the issues that I’ve raised in my reflection here. For now, though, I’ve gotta get back to my Uni assessments. Thank you for reading.

James Chen

James is a Philosophy graduate from the University of Sydney and is currently a teaching and learning manager of a senior high school tutoring centre. James is a member of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Carlingford and loves reading and teaching the Bible.

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