Australians need Another Christian Voice beyond the ACL

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The Rev’d Dr Ray Barraclough says Australians need a progressive Christian voice, as the strongly conservative Australian Christian Lobby does not speak for many Australian Christians.

It is surely an undeniable fact that there is a spectrum of views amongst Christians in Australia on a whole range of public issues.

Hence, there is a need for another Christian voice besides a group calling itself the Australian Christian Lobby. There are, indeed, thousands of Christian lobbyists in Australia. If one takes a broad view of lobbying activity, then every Christian who writes a letter to the editor of a major newspaper on a public issue is lobbying.

While the Australian Christian Lobby has every right to present its views, there is the need for another Christian voice in the public arena besides theirs — another organisation, another voice, to express more progressive Christian responses and initiatives in regards to public issues in Australia.

On its website, the Australian Christian Lobby, in asking Why a Christian lobby group?, asserts that:

“Most Australians and certainly all Christians, have simply had enough of the increasingly rapid erosion of traditional family values and ethics in Australia. We are rightly proud of a country that has built an enviable reputation for tolerance and quality of life and has so much potential.

The phrase "traditional family values", covers traditional practices in family life and relationships. One traditional "value" and practice that comes readily to mind is the subordination of women to men, of the wife to the husband.

Such a "value" is still taught in a number of conservative Christian churches in Australia. Such a traditional family value is a major basis for some churches refusing to ordain women or refusing to appoint them as senior pastors in a church.

Presumably another feature "of the increasingly rapid erosion of traditional family values" is that homosexual persons are no longer imprisoned for their sexual practices. So does the Australian Christian Lobby want that traditional practice restored?

A generation ago, the Sydney Anglican Synod, of which I was a lay member, accepted a report endorsing that recommendation. (Such a practice was lawful at the time in New South Wales). I can only conclude that the "erosion" of that practice of imprisonment is one of things the website is lamenting.

Whether Australia has "an enviable reputation for tolerance" is by no means established either in  the past (remember the White Australia policy?) or in the present. Was the sponsoring of a petition this year by the Australian Christian Lobby opposing legislation allowing same-sex marriage a feature of such world renowned tolerance? I sense contradictions rather than consistency in what the  Australian Christian Lobby says about itself.

According to its website, the Australian Christian Lobby aims to

“… promote Biblical concepts in relevant contemporary language”.

As one begin to unpack those words, questions arise. One Biblical concept (found in both the Jewish and the Christian Bible) is support for the practice of honour killing. Lest readers think my example is bizarre, may I note that this year in Uganda a lobby group of Pentecostal pastors pressed the government to bring in capital punishment for practicing homosexual persons.And they claimed that as "Bible believers" they were simply lobbying for Biblical practices.

I understand that the impetus for founding the Australian Christian Lobby came from personnel linked to so-called "Bible believing" Christian traditions.

Of course in patriarchal cultures, such as that which shaped the writings of the Bible, women come in as second rate in society when Biblical concepts and practices are endorsed. Where stands the Australian Christian Lobby on these Biblical concepts?

Just to give an illustration of women's inferior status in Biblical records. Of the persons named in the Bible roughly 90% are men and 10% women. It reflects who Biblical society thought deserved to be remembered by name. Is that a traditional family statistic Christians want to see restored in Australia? If so, count me out of that Christian lobbying.

I would like to see an organisation that could give voice to the more progressive Christian views that deserve to be heard in Australia generally as well as in the corridors of powers. My field is Biblical scholarship, not administration.

My hope is that there are, amongst my fellow Australians, those who could help establish another lobby group that can give voice to other Christian views besides that of the Australian Christian Lobby. Perhaps it could be called Another Australian Christian Voice?

I use the word Another because there will be times when differing Christian lobby groups will agree on some issues.

But there is a definite need for Another Australian Christian Voice in the Australian public landscape.

For those interested in pursuing my vision, I can be contacted at  dorray@westnet.com.au

(The Rev'd Dr Ray Barraclough is an Anglican priest.)

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