The Slippery Slope was a Precipice After All

The same sex marriage decision in Australia was not a slippery slope. It was a precipice after all.

No sooner had the vote come in than every conversation turned to talk about religious freedom and the role of religion in the public square. It was obscenely quick. And for the loudest and most influential of Yes voters that meant religion no longer had such a role. That was almost a given.

 

For all the talk of slippery slope arguments, when it came to it the same sex marriage decision in Australia was not a slippery slope. It was a precipice after all.

And in such times we need precipitous thinkers. We need leaders in our church who are not content to wait for the cultural changes to come our way, dodging and weaving until the last minute, but who lean into the changes and prepare their people with the ropes and tackle a precipice requires.

Why precipice thinkers?

Because the recent vote was precipitous. It was ironically, a binary decision. It was a decision—no matter what was claimed before—that this vote would now determine everything about the direction of sexuality in our culture, not just who could marry who.

And it was precipitous too because it laid claim to determining the kind of Australia we are going to be publicly; and what is transgressive to bring into the public square and what is not.

No sooner had the vote come in than every conversation turned to talk about religious freedom and the role of religion in the public square. It was obscenely quick. And for the loudest and most influential of Yes voters that meant religion no longer had such a role. That was almost a given.

And precipitous because, despite the honourable attempts by the likes of Andrew Hastie, our Parliament had no intention of ensuring religious freedoms, had no clue what that even meant, and when presented with the most basic amendments voted them down to roars of approval from the public gallery.

Meanwhile Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, proved once again how much he runs with the hounds and the hares. It’s ironic that he made his name as a trade union leader organising the rescue of miners who were trapped down a mineshaft, because after pushing No voters down a mineshaft, he is now yelling down at them saying help—his help—is on its way.

All through the SSM campaign Shorten labelled No voters as bigots and homophobes—no questions asked. Suddenly he’s all for religious freedoms. What will this man not do to become Prime Minister? He won’t have to do all that much unfortunately, because the current PM is such a dud.

Mineshaft, precipice, take your pick. It was only a week before the news articles started appearing in the mainstream media, first as news, then as opinion. News about how gay teachers were losing their jobs in faith schools, followed up with op-ed pieces about how faith schools need to be stripped of their funding unless they renounce discriminatory employment practices.

And if you thought the articles were harsh in their assessments, then read below the line in the comments sections if you dare. The mood is for blood, no two ways about it.

A week. There has been no slippery slope. There has only been a precipice. It was always going to be that way.

In a sense I find this refreshing. For a while now I have been saying that most Christian apologetics in the public square is a waste of time. It has constantly sought to find the via media in the culture, and point out how sensible we actually are, and if we play nice can we join in. That era is over. As Caitlyn Stark might say to those who espoused such an approach: “You are the knights of summer, and Winter is coming.”

That era was all about slowing down the slide down the slippery slope, getting the right pair of trial runner shoes in case we turn an ankle on the way down. And showing that, despite the fact we believe in some crazy stuff like resurrections and sex within marriage and all, we’re just like the rest of you at heart. We all seek the common goal of human flourishing after all, don’t we?

Actually we don’t. And the Yes vote showed up that sort of “we’re just like you” approach as hopelessly outdated. In fact it’s primary conclusion was that the biblical idea of human flourishing is not only not good, nor even a quirky but neutral position, but is bad.

The Yes vote pretty much ensured no Christian apologist will ever get a hearing about sexual ethics again on the ABC or in the public square—not in the sense of having something sensible to say, at least.

Besides, as Charles Taylor states, only in late modernity has human flourishing been the goal, not the means to a greater goal such as the glory of God. The future of Christian apologetics must be angular, gristly and repellently attractive in its insistence that we have our humanity in common, but not our destiny.

And that’s kind of refreshing too. The precipice gives us a sense of urgency and vigour that the slippery slope does not. It stops us becoming a whiney self-indulgent bunch worried about what we have lost. Sure, it is worrying what we have lost, but not in the grander scheme of things. I no more require Bill Shorten’s help than evangelicals in the US required Donald Trump’s. I don’t elect my saviour, my Saviour elected me.

The precipice means that our primary task is to look the next generation in our church in the eyes and tell them that we will help equip and support them to stand firm in the face of a sexualised culture that refutes the gospel sexual ethic. To encourage them that we have their backs as they start their careers and raise their families.

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