I woke up this morning in horror at the realisation that I am a right wing fundamentalist Christian. This has come as a great shock to me as I know that “fundies” are hateful, stupid, ignorant people, of more dogma than morals. Why today? Why am I today such a scorned and terrifying creature? And what was I yesterday? Well yesterday I thought I was kind of left wing. I voted Labor all my life, my parents voted Labor and I have always been a feminist and a unionist. I am pro safety net, universal health care and free state education. I married an Australian-Lebanese man from a Muslim family, I have gay friends and family who I love and accept, and who love and accept me. I love refugees and advocate for the inclusion of refugees, as well as the poor and oppressed. Let me add to this that I have been political minded all my life, my mother had a sharp political mind and drilled in me a feminism that was birthed in a generation who had to fight for equal pay as well as basic dignity. To put a nail in the coffin of the idea that I am anything but left I have an Arts Degree, in Humanities, majoring in politics, I took women’s studies, I was a member of Greenpeace, and at some point I was a member of a non-descript socialist organisation that entitled me to a subscription to The Green Left. My political heroes are Gough Whitlam, Paul Keating, Martin Luther King. When I became a Christian in my early twenty’s I didn’t see my faith as affecting my political beliefs much, Jesus was pretty big on what I saw as social justice issues.
So how did things go so wrong, and how did I wake up today the source of universal scorn and derision? It all started this morning when I read the “Nashville Statement”. This is a statement that a bunch of crusty, mostly old white guys, have written and signed as an agreed doctrine of evangelical Christian beliefs on sexuality. I thought it was a pretty accurate representation of the biblical Christian position on sexuality. So I googled to see what everyone thought, thinking, “water still wet, Christians are sexually conservative”. The Guardian tells me it’s a statement of the dying religious right. What shocked me was that ‘progressive’ Christians have labelled it ‘hate’, and attacked anyone who believed it as a “right wing fundamentalist Christian”. I went on to have a good read of some of the blogs of the Christian left and continued to realise in horror that these are no longer my people, well politically anyway. And maybe they were right, maybe I had become this thing they say.
I am well aware that the basic two concepts of evangelical belief on sexuality (ie. that sex should only be in marriage, and that marriage is a heterosexual institution) are not ‘trending on twitter’ popular at the moment, but it’s still pretty solid where I go to church. And in fact, where billions go to church or mosque or temple. What has become alarming, are claims that our beliefs and teachings are socially harmful in the extreme. That the libertarian view, that people are able to live and believe what they want, as long as it does no harm to others, is breached by our fundamental tenants on human gender and sexuality. That somehow our beliefs and teachings will cause young same sex attracted people to feel rejected and kill themselves. That our unwillingness to see human gender in any other way but binary will be the cause of the deaths of people suffering from Gender Dysphoria. That the appalling suicide rate among those affected by Gender Dysphoria will only be helped by the modification of our religion and more specifically our view on sexuality, the family and gender. That unless we change our beliefs, we are responsible for the blood of the same sex attracted, the gender expansive and those who were born with chromosome abnormalities. And this unsubstantiated, sociology theory driven LGBTIQ doctrine, justifies government intervention into our schools, our homes and our churches. That media and public discourse needs to be censored, that children need to be educated on ‘normal’ human sexuality and that the social evidences of ‘wrongthink’ in regard to LGBTIQ issues should be stomped out without mercy and without regard for evidence, common sense, or the feelings and beliefs and constitutional freedom, of not only our community, but the entire population who may at some point require religious freedom.
I knew for a long time that Christianity was being shunned by the left, but was just waiting for them to get smarter somehow. To run out of moral vitriol. To realise that they can’t change the beliefs of an ancient religion simply by protest and political argument. Surely they needed some proof that we were doing social harm, when it was clear that our churches are responsible for overwhelming social good? I seem to have been mistaken.
When I went to University in the nineties sexual politics, it seemed, was becoming less of an issue. The sexual revolution had come and gone, women were progressing in rights and everyone accepted, more or less, that you can’t legislate morality. However, sexuality has come roaring back into the political sector in the form of LGBTIQ issues, and they have booted me firmly out of the political ground I occupied all my life. Not just this group, but the entire left has decided I cannot be a decent person and have conservative Christian beliefs on sexuality, and I am pretty sure I am both a decent person and have conservative Christian beliefs on sexuality. Just for the record I didn’t leave the left, the left left me.
I am not going to justify my personal beliefs. For all you know, I could believe that sex is only for Wednesday and only in a golden orb, and it would be none of your business. Unless children are harmed, and children have been harmed in churches. In all honesty, in any institution which has sought to protect, teach or supervise children away from parents and without adequate safeguards, we have found sexual predators. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, ‘opportunity’ is a key risk factor in the abuse of children . And the church has worked very hard in recent years to reduce opportunity, and better guard children from risk. The family home of course is the most common venue for the abuse of children. In no literature that I have read, is church attendance considered a current risk factor in the sexual abuse of children. The Australian institute of family studies does indicate that institutionalisation is a risk factor. Age, gender, socioeconomic status and family dysfunction also play a part. In many of these areas of vulnerability, the church actively works in assisting families to reduce these risks. There is a reason I mention these issues.
In the successful recent attempts to remove the rights relating to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion from citizens, the citing of historical abuses in churches have been used as a cornerstone of the public argument. These historical abuses are being used universally as a way of undermining any authority Christians have in speaking about sexual morality and even in defining their own sexuality. On some left leaning media you will see the term “church abuse” used as if the church itself is indiscriminately the abuser. Christians dare not defend themselves on this front at the risk that they are seen as coming against the heroic survivors of abuse perpetuated within its walls. And those people are most certainly heroes. Many Christians are themselves survivors of sexual abuse, (mostly from family setting) and to hold them responsible for historic offences in public discourse is offensive and academically lazy.
So having been kicked out of the left, where do I go? Actually, I have been bi-political curious for a while. I have started following conservative political blogs and unfollowing left leaning media as they have started to annoy me more and more. So I have been questioning my political identity. You may think that this is a small thing, that I am mocking people questioning their sexual or religious identity by making silly comparisons. But I have been interested in politics all my life, and my political identity was always pretty important to me. I always felt it was part of who my parents raised me to be, and changing it has not been a small thing. But politics for me has never been at conflict with my religion. Because there is no contest. I will dissent from any political theory or government before I will deny the truths I hold as self-evident in the Bible. That’s just how we evangelicals roll. However, neither the left nor the government have ever made me choose really, not until now, this very minute. It has taken me to right now and a declaration by some ‘fundies’ in the bible belt of the USA to realise that I can no longer be the type of Christian I am and anywhere on the left side of politics.
So where am I standing politically now? I am like many Christians running with abandon for the safety in Liberalism. I am hiding in the rule of law, free speech, small government, religious liberty. I have no choice, because fundamental Christian beliefs are in danger of becoming illegal and the belief and practice of them in itself could become the subject of very unfavourable legislation. This is already happening. Money and resources that the church currently spends on feeding the poor and doing what churches do, could be soon spent in defending its rights to exist in courts of law.
In my grasp for a new political identity, more than political theorists, what is coming back to me from my studies is the famous play by Robert Bolt, “A Man for All Seasons”. Specifically, what Moore says to Roper when Roper questions giving the devil the benefit of the law.
And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.
So I will stand now with shock and not without some shame and say “hello, my name is Christine and I am a Classic Liberal, and a one very reluctant fundamentalist”.