Dear Ms Gillard,
I want you to know that the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) does not represent all Christians. It certainly does not represent me.
I’m a Christian, of the vaguely-Anglican variety. I don’t claim to be a very good one, but that’s another matter.
I’m also a feminist, a trade-unionist, a supporter of marriage equality and of the rights of asylum seekers, and a mild sort of environmentalist. I’m an unashamed lefty, and believe in equal access to education, food and healthcare as the foundations of society. I don’t believe that any of these opinions conflict with my faith – indeed, my political beliefs are informed by my spiritual ones.
I don’t know if my beliefs are more typical of Australian Christians than those represented by the ACL, but I suspect many of them are. Still, the Christians I know tend to incline toward the liberal side of the spectrum, so my sample may be skewed. In any case, I would not and do not presume to speak for all Christians. I can only ask you to understand that Christianity in Australia is not a monolith and cannot be represented by a single peak body.
I can only tell you what I believe.
I believe in a God who created everything, but not in seven days – the evidence for evolution seems pretty convincing to me. And I see no intrinsic conflict between science and religion – they answer different questions, and for me, at least, understanding more about how the universe works only increases my faith.
I believe that God loves us all unconditionally, and that he sent a part of himself into the world to live life as a human being, to draw us closer to him. (I do not, incidentally, conceive of God as male, but English doesn’t really have a useful neutral personal pronoun) And I love that about him. I also believe – though this is unorthodox – that there are many paths to God, because every person is different, and I believe that this is one of the things God loves about his creation.
I believe that the Bible contains the word of God, but is not itself God’s word. Some of the books of the Bible are clearly allegories or stories written to address particular situations, and all were written by humans who may have been divinely inspired, but nonetheless held the prejudices and preoccupations of their era. There is wisdom to be found in the Bible, but a literal reading is not the way to find it.
I believe that Jesus came to show us both the love of God and how this should be expressed in the world. Reading the Gospels, it’s clear to me that Jesus was fairly subversive, and went out of his way to hang around with people who were poor or who had low social status, including women and non-Jews. To be frank, this is one of the things I like about him.
Finally, I believe that, as a Christian, I have a duty to act with love and integrity towards others. Actually, I believe that I have this duty because I am a human being, but, like my political beliefs, this duty is informed and made more urgent by my faith. I believe that my duty to others extends to supporting social policies that promote justice and compassion and provide opportunities to the disadvantaged. The ACL would probably say the same thing. We just disagree – vigorously – about which social policies will best do this.
Here’s what I don’t believe.
I don’t believe that people who are Christian better than those who are not. This has not been my experience. I don’t believe that Christians are more peace-loving and less violent than Muslims. I don’t believe that Atheists are hedonists, incapable of moral reasoning. I do believe that this sort of thinking is inherently divisive and serves only to alienate. We are all human, and what we have in common is more important than what divides us.
I don’t believe that homosexuality is sinful, or a choice, or unhealthy. I don’t believe that marriage equality threatens the institution of marriage, and I do believe that preventing gay people from marrying is unjust and fuels homophobia. Frankly, nothing makes me more ashamed of being a Christian than hearing other Christians say that being gay is wicked or wrong. This sort of talk hurts people in very real ways, and is the opposite of the love that Christians are commanded to show.
I don’t believe that Christians are persecuted in Australia, or that our religious freedoms are at stake. I actually feel fairly embarrassed when people start going on about that. The fact that we get our holy days as holidays when nobody else does more or less speaks for itself. Moreover, religious education in state schools still tends to be Christian. And really, why is there sectarian religious education in state schools anyway? If anyone’s religious freedom is being threatened, it isn’t ours.
I could go on, but in all honesty, just reading through the ACL’s website and list of recent achievements is enough to make me shake my head and sigh. And it’s even worse when I read the ACL’s recent statements and see just how many of them concern homosexuality. I’ve read the Bible many times and I don’t believe that God cares all that much about sex – he seems far more preoccupied with poverty, with justice, and with loving our fellow humans.
I wish the ACL had the same preoccupations.
Please do not mistake it for the voice of all Christians.