How to Lose Our Religious Freedom the Bible Society Way

According to Australia’s most famous oracle, Sportsbet, the former trade unionist, Bill Shorten, could be Australia’s next Prime Minister with odds of $1.15 to the Liberals at $5.00.

Personally, I’m not so sure the results are a foregone conclusion, especially if Australians do some serious thinking between now and then.

Bill Shorten—or “Mr Inauthentic” as Miranda Devine aptly calls him—has given enough hints and promises that his party will be the most left-leaning, socially progressive Labor government this country has ever seen.

Just think of Daniel Andrews in Victoria, only with more Viagra. Shorten has announced that he’s embraced the current LGBTIQ zeitgeist with gay abandon (pun intended)—especially when it comes to dismantling religious freedoms under the political red herring of ‘anti-discrimination’.

However, I’m not so sure that the only threat to religious freedom is a coalition of Labor and the Greens. There are also some institutions within the Christian Church itself that are doing a cloak–and–dagger job of undermining freedom of speech and religion as well.

For instance, just take the recent policy of The Bible Society—Australia’s oldest continually operating organisation—allegedly muzzling one of its ministries from commenting on the Biblical teaching that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

But before we get to that, let me just back up for a bit. Remember how during the same-sex marriage campaign, The Bible Society tried to facilitate a respectful debate between Coalition MPs, Andrew Hastie and Tim Wilson, over a Cooper’s light beer?

The response from the #loveislove campaign was to commence—as expected—a vitriolic social media campaign boycotting Cooper’s Brewery. And sadly, it was discovered pretty quickly that Cooper’s philosophical convictions were about as strong as their pale ale, with them almost falling over themselves to offer this grovelling apology.

However, what was even more alarming was just how quickly The Bible Society itself followed suit and abandoned its assumed position on the defence of binary/traditional marriage. If it didn’t have such a position—as claimed—why sponsor the ‘respectful debate’ in the first place? It doesn’t make sense.

It’s obvious that Tim Wilson was advocating same-sex marriage. Obviously, the Bible Society wanted the alternative point of view, respectfully stated. And they got it.

However, after they copped a lot of heat it wasn’t long before they were stating that their official theological position was that they had no position. This was something that was deeply disappointing to Hastie who was quoted in the ABC in March, 2017 as saying:

Politicians alone can’t fight these battles…The revealing thing about the Coopers debate was how quickly Coopers stepped away, how quickly the Bible Society ducked for cover and left Tim and me exposed, when the whole point was showing two people can debate an issue like marriage in a respectful, reasoned and friendly way.”

But he says despite that, he still urges others to stick their neck out.

Take the hit, show a bit of courage… Because if people step away from the public square, we’re all poorer for it.”

The Bible Society CEO, Greg Clarke, then went on to justify their lack of scriptural conviction and courage as follows:

The Bible Society is an almost-unique organisation, in that it works across churches of pretty much every denomination, and always has for over 200 years. It was originally established to make the Bible available ‘without note or comment’, which is the phrase that was leading the way for Bible Societies.

This meant that the Bible Society could enter any political situation, any church scenario, without fear or favour, and be the providers of the Bible, and the providers of platforms for the discussion of the Bible.

So, the reason the Bible Society doesn’t hold a view on same-sex marriage is the same reason we don’t hold a view on the nature of the Lord’s supper, or refugees, or any other issue that we know the Bible speaks about. We provide the Bible for others to build the conversation around.

And it’s been that way since 1804. This is not a new development for the Bible Society – this is what we’ve always done – and I would say it’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to survive so long.”

Now, this kind of pharisaical legalese might be fair enough if your only business is distributing Bibles. But the problem for The Bible Society is that it oversees a number of ministries whose principal business is not to distribute Bibles. Their job is to disseminate Christian theology, ethics, news and opinion to Australian society, which is a significant step beyond Bible distribution.

For instance, Koorong, the book distributor, has a substantial, multi-million dollar market with fifteen outlets in Australia. For the last fifty years it has provided a distinctively evangelical stance throughout Australia, and more latterly, the UK.

The Bible Society also maintains a distinctively evangelical profile through the Christian newspaper, Eternity, with a monthly distribution of 100,000 copies around Australia. This paper, in particular, makes comment on political, social and moral issues.

The Bible Society also controls the Centre for Public Christianity, an institution that provides Christian views on social issues. Due to the public and teaching nature of each of these auxiliary ministries, surely it is part of their core business to actually promote what the Bible has to say rather than merely distribute copies of it?

My point in mentioning all of this, though, is simply as follows: If people who are religious take the same position as The Bible Society, then any future protections for religious freedom are essentially null and void. They don’t even need them. Because Christian organisations like this have practically silenced themselves.

The best way then to protect religious freedom is not to not to defend it per se, but to keep on exercising it. For instance, uphold the traditional, biblical view on marriage. Protect the rights of unborn children. Continue to affirm the binary nature of sexuality being either male or female as Jesus taught.

Because it’s only when people disagree and object to your argument that the issue of freedom of religion is truly put to the test.

You see, make no mistake, if we don’t exercise our religious freedom now, when Bill Shorten becomes Prime Minister, we will definitely lose it. Don’t get me wrong: like all good politicians, he’ll promise us freedom now, but it’s not what we are going to get.

It will be more like 1984 Orwellian ideological slavery with respect to sexuality in our churches, synagogues, mosques, and other meetings as well as in our religious schools and charities involved in social services.

By |2019-04-13T12:17:52+00:00April 9th, 2019|Australia, Authors, Faith|0 Comments

About the Author:

Mark Powell has six children and he is a Presbyterian minister at Cornerstone Church in Strathfield, Sydney. Mark writes for the Spectator and is a passionate advocate for faith and family; he has been on radio and TV advocating for Freedom, Faith, Family and Life.

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