Category Archives: Politics

Ah, the futility: debating marriage equality with “those” Christians

As a former Christian, here are some observations about the futility of debating marriage equality with Christian opponents. (I note that many Christians do support marriage equality and will be voting “yes”. The following isn’t about them.)

They “own” marriage

They believe the word/institution/sacrament known as “marriage” is solely occupied by the version of marriage they teach and practice within their churches. They do not consider the long secular history of marriage relevant, nor do they care that the Marriage Act is secular legislation that stands completely separate from any faith-based definition of the word.

They care about all marriages “equally”

Flagrant disregard for the sanctity of marriage among heterosexual non-Christians isn’t a priority for them (it’s a secular institution, after all). They are saddened by high divorce rates and widespread domestic violence between spouses, but when gay couples choose stable monogamy and want access to the legal rights of marriage, nothing else matters (because marriage is first and foremost a Judeo-Christian tradition, when it suits them).

They are “victims”

Their perceived ownership of “marriage” is so entrenched that when the validity of their arguments is challenged, they feel persecuted and refuse to engage with the substance of their own statements (much less any counter-arguments that are presented). They claim to be in a fierce battle for the preservation of marriage and believe they are part of the vulnerable minority. They cannot see their overwhelming privilege, nor the damage they’re doing to the actual victims: LGBTQ+ people and their families, all of whom are (in Christian-speak) “made in God’s image” and completely deserving of full participation in every aspect of society.

They are “loving”, not hateful

Because they never get sweary or violent, and because they are taught to “hate the sin, but love the sinner” (not a concept that appears in Bible, incidentally – it’s a Mahatma Gandhi quote), they will not accept that their demeaning words and actions are anything but “speaking the truth in love”. Many can’t even see that petitioning the government to refuse marriage to same-sex couples is a method of forcing their beliefs on others. Instead, they think it’s “loving” to “protect” people from “invalid marriages”.

When told their hatred is driving people away from Christianity — by the very people who are being driven away — they feel comfort, not pain. They’ve been taught to expect offence from unbelievers, and that being “in the world, but not of the world” should entail exactly this type of rejection. They must be doing something right!

What can be done about these “Christians”?

Nothing.

They are ignorant and abusive, and choose to remain so. We can only remove ourselves from their company, vote them out of office, outnumber them, and defeat them.

And while we’re doing it, we must relentlessly love all the people they hate.

Today, that’s the entire Australian LGBTQ+ community.

My friends, know that I love you and am standing beside you, along with so many others, to help you take what should already be rightfully yours.

Safe Schools: I’m a Christian and I love it

Even Donald Trump is calling himself an “evangelical Christian” these days, so it might not mean much to make the same claim, but I’ll do it anyway. I’m a Bible-believing, not-conservative-but-still-evangelical God-bothering type, and I’m here to say: the Safe Schools Coalition has my full support, and I hope it will still be around when my kids are in Year 7 or thereabouts.

The majority of my Christian friends have petitioned the government to review the Safe Schools program (or opposed it in some other way), insisting that it’s more than an anti-bullying program. There’s widespread concern (1) that it’s a vehicle for gay activism and recruitment, (2) that it “normalises” LGBTI desires and behaviours, and (3) that it is coercing children to doubt their own sexuality.

To each of these concerns, I say this:

  1. “It’s gay activism!” First, you can’t “catch the gay”. Second, it’s horrific to treat LGBTI people like they have a contagious disease. Third, please check out the Safe Schools curriculum for yourself rather than letting douchecanoes like Lyle Shelton from the Australian ‘Christian’ Lobby tell you what to think. (Bear in mind that each school, in consultation with its community, adapts the curriculum to suit its own students.)

  2. “It normalises being gay and being trans!” It’s an anti-bullying program. Of course it’s aiming to “normalise” LGBTI people. They are, after all, normal people, with much more to offer the world than the particulars of their sexuality, which is only one part of their identity. Failing to “normalise” the targets of bullying would be a pretty fundamental failure for a program like this, given bullying relies on a sense of “us vs. them”.

  3. “It forces straight kids to reconsider their sexuality!” Again, you can’t “catch the gay,” and coercion is not the same thing as teaching a group of children to genuinely empathise with people who are, say, same-sex attracted, or experiencing transsexual desires, or living with two mums. Obviously some kids who are already wrestling with the possibility of being LGBTI will feel empowered to open up about it in a safe environment, i.e. a “Safe School” that actively puts the issue on the table for respectful discussion. This is a Good Thing, not coercion or recruitment. (And if you’re going to make egregious claims like these, do back them up with evidence.)

To Christian parents who believe gay sex is wrong, and want to encourage their children to believe likewise: no-one is trying to control what you teach at home, nor is Safe Schools content aimed at vulnerable infants. Talk to your kids about this stuff. Start early. But most of all, teach them to follow Jesus in showing radical love, especially to minorities and outcasts, and model that love yourself. (Side note: do you really want to be kept out of the loop if your own child is LGBTI?)

I’m an Australian Christian and I support the Safe Schools Coalition. Also, Cory Bernardi’s homophobic witchhunt review should be dumped (along with Cory himself, preferably).

My speech at last month’s Rally Against Racism

This is post no. 6 in my “November” writing challenge.

Not all writing is for reading quietly. The words below were spoken at a pro-diversity rally held to stand against a hateful, anti-Muslim “Reclaim Australia” rally in Cessnock. We were one street away from tbe “reclaimers”, with a thin blue line of police keeping us separated. Thankfully there were no incidents.

Here’s what I said. My first ever rally speech.

I’m honoured to be here today … honoured to stand with you, my fellow Australians, confidently asserting the freedom we all share to worship however we please, wherever we please … but also honoured to speak as one citizen on behalf of many other citizens … and my message today is very simple:

Our unity is powerful. OUR UNITY IS POWERFUL.

When so many around us are doing everything in their power to divide us, our unity is powerful. It sends a message to cowards in Syria … and to bigots in Newcastle … and to social media trolls wherever they might live on Internet … it sends a message that love is greater than fear … it sends a message that the differences between us can strengthen us rather than tearing us apart … it sends a message that a brighter future awaits all of us when we start by turning towards our neighbours with open hearts and open arms.

Our unity — right here, right now, in this place — is powerful, but the unity we’re displaying here today, the unity we’re urging all Australians to embrace — this unity doesn’t come easy. Unity between people who think the same, look the same and talk the same is easy, but that’s because it’s not really unity! Real unity is when people who are fundamentally different come together, engage with each other even when it’s uncomfortable, and ultimately find ways to work towards shared goals. Real unity makes room for differences between people. Real unity doesn’t expect people to become the same as each other. Real unity is what we see here today, and as I’ve said already, it is powerful.

Of course part of the reason we’re here today is because some of our neighbours believe in a uniform Australia. They say we should be all white, or all Christian, and they’re standing particularly firm against the growth of Muslim communities in Australia.

I would prefer to ignore these people and the groups they lead, but sometimes we must respond directly to ignorance and fear and bigotry. So, by way of response to Reclaim Australia and its small but ferocious band of supporters, I have a few important things to say to my Muslim friends. I’m standing here as a white Christian who welcomes Muslims to live and worship and thrive in Australia — and not just in Australia, but right here in the Hunter Region — in Newcastle — in Cessnock — wherever freedom and opportunity might lead you.

I know your worldview is not the same as those who do evil in the name of Islam — in much the same way as Christian tyrants do not represent me. I do not see you as my enemies but as my allies. I’m glad your communities in this region are growing and do not feel in any way threatened by you or by the buildings you need in order to accommodate that growth. I know I speak for many, many others when I say that I love you, that I stand with you, and that I honour you for the courage you show every day as you endure words and deeds of vilification that have no rightful place in this country.

Our unity is powerful and I believe it will ultimately undo the work of those who seek to divide and destroy. In fact, it’s pretty much the only thing that can heal our broken nation. Let’s continue to stand together, not just as we rally against racism and bigotry together, but in our words and deeds and every day.

Whipping horses for fun: another great Aussie tradition

This is post no. 3 in my November writing challenge series.

Another Melbourne Cup has come and gone, and most of Australia has had a fabulous time pretending not to notice that the centrepiece of their frocked-up outings / office sweeps / drunken gambling was a race in which humans used whips to force animals more athletic than themselves to run so fast they might die.

Here’s my Facebook post on the topic:

There’s no nice way to say this.

If you placed a bet on today’s race, or found some other way to actively participate in Melbourne Cup festivities, then you–yes, YOU–are complicit in the flogging and maiming and killing of beautiful animals for no purpose other than your own entertainment.

This unforgivably cruel industry only exists because it’s profitable, and it’s only profitable because of people like you.

I say this not to make you feel guilty, but in the hope that next time a day like this comes around, you will stand against cruelty and injustice.

Together, we can end this national disgrace.

Of course there’s more to Melbourne Cup Day than cruelty to horses (which isn’t limited to one day of the year anyway). There’s also the destructiveness of the gambling; the repulsiveness of the drunkenness / waste / rubbish; the barely concealed money laundering by criminals; and perhaps worst of all, the millions of dollars of government funding that subsidises the whole sorry mess.

Ah, Straya. The land of shameful parties too sacred to cancel.

At least we’re not as bad as ancient Rome.

“Why we need to politicise the bushfires”

“Why we need to politicise the bushfires”

Whoever decided to launch The Guardian in Australia: thank you.

Love the last two paragraphs of this piece:

Nobody is saying we should stop talking about the fires and talk about global warming instead. With the Greens working harder than anyone else to get more resources for emergency services, certainly nobody is saying we should stop battling the bushfires and tackle global warming instead.

Only when we’re smart enough to do both at the same time will we truly be fighting fires.

Click through for all of the reasoning.

Cone of silence update #3 (a.k.a. the Jaimie Abbott affair)

My last interaction with Jaimie Abbott ended reasonably well.

Then, I received this in the opening lines of her June e-newsletter:

While Julia Gillard leads a chaotic, divided and dysfunctional government which has no plans for Australia’s future, we have a plan to deliver a strong, prosperous economy and a safe and secure Australia. To read more about our plans visit www.realsolutions.org.au.

“Chaotic” and “divided”? Maybe. The ALP’s leadership shenanigans could certainly be described in this way, although it’s remarkably united on actual, you know, policy. But “dysfunctional” and with “no plans for Australia’s future”? It’s a bit of a stretch to call a government that’s doing well on every KPI except public opinion* “dysfunctional”, and with Julia so clearly staking her political future on Gonski et al, I’d say the ALP’s plans for Australia are clearer than ever (whether you like them or not).

So, I tweeted this (click here to see a few follow-ups):

Got Jaimie Abbott’s latest email blast. Resisted urge to voluntarily lose hair.

Less than 24 hours later, I received this email from Jaimie (who isn’t on Twitter, incidentally):

Luke, considering your online comments about how you feel about my newsletter, I have now unsubscribed you – so you won’t have to worry about receiving future ones. I added you in good faith & I’m sorry you feel that way.

Take care.

Odd. Considering she had offered to subscribe me to her “event invitation list” despite knowing my thoughts on the LNP’s current [lack of] policy. And that I had accepted in order to be kept in the loop on her upcoming public debates and forums (given she seems allergic to any other form of public-access communication with anyone who doesn’t agree with her).

I sent this reply:

Jaimie,

So.. you’re on Twitter now? Do let me know your handle, I’d like to follow along. Or was it one of your nameless supporters** who alerted you to my tweets?

Either way, I make no apology for them. To accuse a government implementing Gonski, the NDIS and a bunch of other reforms of having “no plan for the future” is stupid, whether you agree with their plan or not. I KNOW you’re smarter than that. To say it when your big plan for Australia’s future is to cut funds to everything (except high-income parents), to “stop the [not-actually-illegal] boats” (despite having no international agreements in place for this) and to all-but-deny anthropogenic climate change is laughable.

I accepted YOUR invitation to your mailing list so I could be informed when your public debates occur. You knew my views and should have expected lies and vitriol in your mailings to be outed via the means available to me. Your response today is childish and petty, and I can only assume it belies overall disinterest in robust political debate in any public forum.

I’m disappointed, but not surprised. And you’d better believe I’ll be doing my job as an elector to insist on more facts and less fluff from you and your party in coming months (of course the same goes for the other major party, though right now their policy platform is pretty clear).

It seems the LNP’s strategy is to ride the tide of public opinion to office, without ever being held accountable for anything they say. Given they have no truth or intelligence or detail with which to defend their current “policy” platform, I guess they don’t have any other option.

Let’s defy Rupert and Tony, and turn public opinion around. Shall we?

* “being humane in general” is another disappointing KPI for Labor, but it’s not like the LNP have anything better on offer.

** I’ve received several scathing Twitter attacks from anonymous lovers of Jaimie. Oddly, no-one in agreement with me has felt the need to hide their identity..

Dear Australia, please stop being Rupert Murdoch’s bitch

Dear Australia, please stop being Rupert Murdoch’s bitch

If you’ve bought into the hysteria over Australia’s “economy in crisis” and/or believe Tony Abbott when he talks about our “budget emergency”, you need to click through and read Mr Denmore’s latest post. Follow the links if you doubt any of his assertions, and ask yourself if you’ve been allowing an offshore tyrant to tell you what to think.

[NB: there’s a lot about the ALP I don’t like, but for all of its flaws, it’s the only federal party making any attempt to work with Actual Facts and Credible Policy right now. If you get your news from mainstream outlets, you probably don’t believe me, which begs the question: why are facts and policy struggling to find oxygen in Australia? I think it’s because: 1. Rupert Murdoch and friends have vested interests and too much power; and 2. it takes brainless hysteria and xenophobic conservatism to keep the average Australian interested. Or, to put it another way, you’d have to be ADD to vote for the LNP.]

Cone of silence update #2

Early this morning, I received a reply from Jaimie Abbott to last night’s email. Here it is (my reply follows):

Luke,

I don’t use Twitter.

Please understand I receive over 300 emails a day from members in my electorate and I don’t have a single paid staff member. I also work full time on top of being a candidate. I personally reply to every single email that comes my way and I personally manage my entire Facebook page myself. At the moment I can’t keep up with replying to and fro with a million comments on Facebook so if people have specific concerns I ask them to write me an email so I can add it to the queue to reply. Everyone else has been happy to do this. With such a high volume of emails, it usually takes me around a week or so to reply.

I apologise if this method isn’t suitable for you and you don’t believe this is substance and instead you preferred me to go back and forward on Facebook and therefore delaying replies to other email questions from others in the queue, but I’m just one human being. As a Candidate at the moment that’s all I am physically able to do. I have a huge challenge in trying to win a seat which has never been held by a Liberal MP and I am trying to meet and respond to as many people as possible.

If you actually live in my electorate, and have specific concerns please email me with your suburb and I will endeavour to reply.

Our policies are found at www.realsolutions.org.au

I will also be engaging in numerous live debates between now and the election, and I would invite you to come along and watch.

Thanks,

Regards
Jaimie Abbott | Liberal for Newcastle

I was genuinely surprised to hear that the LNP are offering so little support to Jaimie, given their obvious hopes for her campaign. I just sent this in reply:

Hi Jaimie,

Thanks for getting back to me.

I’m sorry to hear you’re so under-resourced for this campaign. I hope you – and your electorate – will be treated with more respect by the LNP as September 14 approaches.

Speaking of electorates, I’m actually in Charlton at this time, but yours is the only face I see in ads and banners, and given Kevin Baker appears to have zero presence anywhere (not even a profile on the LNP website), it seems you’re the only hope for the Liberal Party in this region. I’ve opened communications with you on that basis, and on behalf of those in my network who DO live in your electorate but are too disaffected with your party to even start the conversation. I can assure you they’re following with interest.

I remain frustrated (to put it mildly) by your gagging of discussion on Facebook (it is, after all, a social media platform, not a blogging platform), but I do understand your choice of protocol. That said, if you’re overwhelmed by correspondence, wouldn’t it make sense to collate the questions and address them once-for-all in a public context, i.e. online somewhere? (not necessarily Facebook!)

I appreciate that constructive social media interaction is difficult, especially without any staff, but as one voter who is desperate for Australian politics to actually mean something, I still contend that there must be something between the vacuous slogans of www.realsolutions.org.au (surely even you must be ashamed of that website), and managing hundreds of private emails. Something sustainable for you, that will provide voters with something to sink their teeth into!

Or perhaps the real issue is that you can’t be seen to offer more constructive policy discussion than your party’s leaders?

Anyway, I’ll leave all of this for you to consider, and I do look forward to the rest of your campaign. Meanwhile, I’ll try to devise some creative and sustainable solutions to this communication challenge. I would love to be able to facilitate a new form of collaborative dialog between political candidates and the public. Failing that, I’ll certainly check in closer to September 14 if there are still insufficient details on the table!

Good luck,

Luke

That’s it, for now. There will be plenty of time to follow up.

Cone of silence update #1

As expected, my comment was deleted from Jaimie Abbott’s Facebook page, and I was blocked from making any further comments. There was a reply that started “Luke, this page is mainly for promoting my…”, but I couldn’t read the rest before it was also deleted.

I’ve decided to pursue this lack of transparency to the fullest extent possible.

First, this email to Jaimie:

Hi Jaimie,

Unfortunately I didn’t see your reply to my post on your page before it was deleted it and I was blocked … perhaps you could fill me in?

Meanwhile, here’s a little more context for you:

[link to my personal Facebook post on the matter]

More on Twitter, if you’re not too busy. I promise I won’t delete it.

I’m sure you can understand my disappointment re: your unwillingness to participate in public discussion of LNP policy. Given you’re asking for my vote, I would expect you to be jumping at the opportunity to demonstrate that you have political substance across a wide range of issues. Regurgitating LNP press releases is not substance. Photo ops are not substance. Private email correspondence, however impressive yours may be, is not substance.

You, and your party, need to offer some insightful, compassionate, responsible, visionary, detailed policy. You’ve put your name next to the LIBERAL logo in this electorate, which means you’re asking me to help you form a Coalition government as my representative, and I don’t think a little substance is too much to ask in exchange. I will do everything in my power to extract it from you – or to spread the word about your lack of it – between now and September 14.

FYI, I don’t have any affiliation with any political party at this time.

Here’s to the next 5-ish months!

Cheers,

Luke

I’ll keep you informed.