At the ALP National Conference last weekend, a decision was made in support of same-sex marriage, with individual members being allowed a conscience vote on the matter. In response to this news, the Australian Christian Lobby predictably came out with a sensational press release (which received broad media coverage) claiming that there would be a full-scale "church revolt" against the Labor Party because of this decision.
I felt my blood pressure rise as once again the ACL was quoted in the popular media, and treated as THE representative of Christians in Australia, when it was spouting rhetoric that was not only far removed from my own views (as an Australian Christian), but also removed from what I believe to be the all-inclusive grace of God; the self-giving love of Christ; and the ongoing, hope-filled presence of the Holy Spirit.
Once again, I ranted on Facebook that:
The ACL does not speak for ME!
Then I started chatting with a couple of colleagues, who were also frustrated that the ACL, with its particular views (that represent a narrow section of the Christian Church in Australia), had claimed a place as the "go-to" organisation whenever the media or politicians are seeking a "Christian viewpoint" on a hot topic. Can't we suggest a more representative group, that would give a more balanced and moderate view?
When asking this question, it became clear that the answer was no. There is no one single group that is truly representative of the whole Christian church, because there is such a diversity and breadth of viewpoints on matters of social and political interest across the church.
So, we set out to raise awareness of this diversity. To shout from the rooftops that the ACL and other such groups do not represent all Christians, because life is more complex than thinking that there could possibly be only one view on important and complex topics. Two of my friends and I started up a group on Facebook called Australian Christian Voices, with an associated public page, as a forum for people who recognise that Christian opinion is more diverse and varied than it is often represented in the media, or society generally. The aim of the group is to promote, and provide space for, the articulation, dissemination, and reception of broader Christian opinion within the media, the body politic, and wider society.
A number of our members (after only a few days, the group's membership is now over 100) sent emails to the Victorian Council of Churches, expressing our frustration with the way groups such as the ACL hijack media attention, and claim to speak for the whole Christian Church. Yesterday, the VCC released a statement which was picked up by some of the media, and especially went wild on Twitter after the ABC retweeted the link to the statement.
I am excited at the possibilities that are unfolding. For a long time I have been fed up with Christians being portrayed in the media as gay-bashing wowsers who are hyper critical, judgemental, and busy looking for things to condemn. I am hopeful that if the media starts recognising that the ACL and groups like it do not speak for all Christians, they might start seeking opinion from other branches of the Church, and instead of negativity, be able to discover and promote God's overwhelming, astounding love that is at the heart of the Christian faith.