CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Good News, Bad News in the Culture Wars

Jun 1, 2009

There is plenty of gloom and doom out there, which sadly must be discussed and chronicled, which I and others seek to do. But there are also the occasional bits of good news, which likewise must be noted – and celebrated. Two recent examples of good and bad news deserve a mention.

The good news story involves the California Supreme Court which has upheld a ban on same-sex marriages. Last week the court upheld last November’s vote on Proposition 8, which upheld the understanding of marriage as between a man and a woman.

The case had been heard by the Court since early March, but the issue actually goes back some years. Back in 1999 the State of California gave same–sex couples numerous marriage rights without giving them the actual title. The Domestic Partnership Act however was not enough for homosexual activists, so they fought for the right to “marry”.

A 4-3 Court decision in May 2008 went the way of the activists, until the November 2008 Proposition 8 reversed that ruling. The latest decision upheld the will of the majority of Californians who oppose same-sex marriage. While this is a great victory, do not expect the activists to simply give up and go home. Their assaults on marriage will continue unabated.

The not-so-good news comes from England, yet again. And it also has to do with the contentious issue of homosexuality. This nation has been a source of bad news on a regular basis for quite some time now. This is sadly just more of the same. It has to do with yet more “rights” legislation: the conferral of special rights on homosexuals, with the concomitant reduction of rights of the majority, especially Christians.

Melanie Phillips – as always – offers some incisive commentary on the issue. She begins this way: “The Equality Bill currently going through Parliament is the latest and potentially most oppressive attempt to impose politically acceptable attitudes and drive out any that fall foul of these criteria. Since the attitudes being imposed constitute an ideological agenda to destroy Britain’s foundational ethical principles and replace them by a nihilistic values and lifestyle free-for-all, they represent a direct onslaught on the Judeo-Christian morality underpinning British society.

“The most neuralgic of these issues is gay rights. This is because the tolerance of homosexuality that a liberal society should properly show has long been hijacked by an agenda which aims at destroying the very idea of normative sexuality altogether – and does so by smearing it as prejudice. The true liberal position, that it is right and just to tolerate behaviour that deviates from the norm as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, is deemed to be rank prejudice on the grounds that homosexuality is not ‘deviancy’ but normal. ‘Normality’ is thus rendered incoherent and absurd and accordingly destroyed altogether. The agenda is therefore not liberal tolerance but illiberal coercion against mainstream moral values, on the basis that the very idea of having normative moral principles at all is an expression of bigotry. So anyone who speaks out against gay rights is immediately vilified as a ‘homophobe’ and treated as a social and professional pariah.”

She continues, “Most people have been intimidated into silence under this onslaught. ‘Society has changed – get over it’ is the uncompromising message which few now dare gainsay. It is certainly the motto of the Tory Cameroons. But the people who find themselves in acute difficulty with this are religious groups whose faith prevents them from accepting these new sexual and moral anti-norms.”

Interestingly, Phillips is not a Christian, but she is aware of how Christians will especially be adversely affected here: “There has been growing concern that Christians in particular are being unfairly targeted by discrimination laws, following a number of high-profile cases of Christians finding themselves in difficulties – members of adoption panels having to step down because they oppose gay adoption, for example, or the nurse who was suspended (although subsequently reinstated, after protests) for offering to pray for a patient — by standing up for their faith.

“Until now, however, they have managed – in the teeth of considerable opposition within government – to secure conscientious exemptions from certain ‘equality’ laws so that they are not forced to go against their religious principles. Under existing ‘equalities’ legislation, any roles deemed to be necessary ‘for the purposes of an organised religion’ have an exemption. But now the deputy Equalities Minister, Maria Eagle, has said that under the new Equality Bill religious groups will be banned from turning down gay job applicants on the grounds of their sexuality. So churches, mosques and synagogues will therefore be forced to employ, for example, gay youth workers. The only exception will be the employment of priests or other ministers of religion where gay applicants can be turned down – and even that concession looks somewhat shaky.”

All this amounts to open season on religious folk: “But what about the unfair treatment of traditional Christians and other faith groups? The doctrine of equality means they have no right at all to uphold their belief that certain types of sexual behaviour are wrong. This is simply trumped by gay rights, which allows them no space at all to uphold their religious beliefs. This is not progressive. It is totalitarian.”

All this results in one thing: persecution: “One of the key tenets – possibly the key tenet – of a liberal society is that it grants religious groups the freedom to practise their religious faith and live by its precepts. Preventing them from doing so is profoundly illiberal and oppressive – and it is not made any less so by the fact that ‘progressive’ voices inside the church themselves deem such precepts to be ‘homophobic’. This is merely the sexualisation of heresy. And what follows from heresy, whether religious or secular, is persecution. Persecution needs an enforcer. And such a tool of oppression has been duly created in the form of the Orwellian-styled Equality & Human Rights Commission, whose role is to stamp out all such heresy.”

Phillips concludes, “Truly, as the joke goes, what was once prohibited has now become compulsory. Once, homosexual practice was outlawed. Now, it appears that Christian practice is to be afforded the same fate. This is a matter of fundamental civil rights. So where are the upholders of progressive values on this? Where are the human rights lawyers? Where is the voice of Liberty, Britain’s powerful human rights NGO? And where are the supposed defenders of core British and western values? Where (don’t laugh) is the Conservative Party? Marching in the ranks of the secular inquisition, every one of them.”

Such assaults on religious freedom of course are not limited to England. Right now here in Victoria there are moves under way to remove all religious exemptions to the State’s equal opportunity laws. The result will be just as damaging as what will occur overseas.

I too must ask with Phillips, where are the real liberals here, those who uphold freedom of speech and freedom of religion? If they exist, they had better speak up real soon, and real loud, before we lose it all.

www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/3643186/the-sexualisation-of-heresy.thtml#comments

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19 Responses to Good News, Bad News in the Culture Wars

  • It’s real simple, Bill, you won’t hear from them because they don’t really believe in freedom. Actions speak louder than words.
    Mark Rabich

  • Keep up the good work Bill.
    Stan Fishley

  • We are devoid of true leaders – in the real sense of that word. So, I doubt if we’ll hear from anyone! A true leader won’t be too concerned about what people say or think. Oh for another Nehemiah!
    Robert Colman

  • Melanie Phillips is Jewish, and she recognises the Judaeo-Christian heritage of Great Britain. Her columns are straight to the point and have an objectivity that is missing in columnists here in Australia in the MSM
    If this bill passes then I believe that the C of E’s divisions will increase, that the ArchBishops of Canterbury and York will support the provisions of this Bill, and that the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster will not. I also believe that Judgment will fall on Britain, in particular the British Government.
    I could be wrong,as I am not a prophet nor the son of one but we should tremble for Britain and our country as God is just (Jefferson paraphrased).
    Wayne Pelling

  • I feel there is persecution in all areas of life at the moment, particularly at work. Being a ‘true’ believer today calls for trouble. There are so many ‘moderate’ Christians who believe in nothing but the mantra of ‘tolerance’. I encounter them daily in the workplace of a ‘Christian’ school. Do not dare mention the hardline topics!! Most ‘Christians’ seem to believe in very little these days.
    Jane Petridge

  • The point is that the government here in the UK have established – subtly introduced – the principle that they can proscribe and criminalise areas of free expression (here, using the cover of establisihng “rights” and fighting “hatred”). In future, they can then simply add another category of expression at will, or another subject. Now, surely the many “liberals” and Christianity-bashers will applaud what the government have just done – but when criminalised free-expression concerns a subject they themselves have a vew on, they’ll sing a different tune …
    John Thomas, UK

  • This sort of thing seems to be getting more and more common sadly. I’m not sure what these people think will be the final result of actually “winning” and getting their nihilism made into the state religion that brooks no dissent.

    Do they really think it will be “progress” and “liberation” to succeed at this goal ? Oh well, they will ultimately reap what they sow.

    Kelly Williams

  • Jane very well put. Some Christians are too scared to rock the boat or they are just burrowing their heads in the sand. The church I go to does excellent work in the community but there was no comment over the Abortion law reform here in Victoria; no acknowledgement about an information night around the Bill of Rights that was held last Wednesday night at Crossways. It seems that they only concentrate upon the things within their own patch., but the issues raised by Bill are of concern to all.
    Wayne Pelling

  • I was born and bred in the UK. I came to Australia in 1980 after marrying an Australian. I went back in 1996 and again in 2006. I could not believe how bad it had become in 2006 as its demise was very evident. It seemed to have lost its vibrancy and get up and go.

    I visited an old college friend of mine who lived in Birmingham and he was the only white man in the street and he was there as an evangelist for the Anglican church.

    In London I stayed with friends who lived in a street with only three white families. I love Asians but when the whole foundation of society has been turned up side down by immigrants and minorites, you are in trouble.

    I live in an area of the country where respectable christianity is the norm. Be all things to all men so that they will like you. When I moved here, I went to a social gathering and asked what one did for entertainment. The answer was “the church”.

    I presented a paper to the ministers on how to form a united evangelism task force where all the churches worked together in evangelism. The response was “we don’t have time for evangelism, we are too busy running our churches” (religious clubs).

    Like you Jane, I taught in a Christian School which said the education was based on the “uncompromising” word of God.

    I don’t know which word of God they were referring to, but any talk or discussion that suggested the school was very compromising as in a principal that bore grudges, was roundly condemmed as it did not fit in with the concept of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”

    Every time we compromise we are saying that the opposition is right, so we only have ourselves to blame.

    Roger Marks

  • Does someone have a good source of excellent freedom of religion legislation or how to word policy on this matter?

    I’m in the DLP and while we’ve got policies on democracy and freedom, we could do with something more specific. After all, this right that God wants us to have is, as well as being a supernatural call, is as natural as the need for food.

    I would find it so encouraging too, Robert, to hear a Nehemiah speak with authority in the public square, and give voice to our position.

    Michael Casanova

  • Dear Bill,
    I suggest everyone read 2 Peter Chapter 2. Explains what is happening. We should not be surprised, as the Bible tells us these things WILL happen. I don’t approve of what is happening, but in a sense, I am excited, as it is another sign that Jesus is coming back soon. The best way we can fight these people is to tell them the truth about who they already are in Jesus Christ. ie they are son/daughters, forgiven, included, accepted,reconciled, not condemned, and let the Holy Spirit do HER work on them to transform them by the renewal of their minds. Not the religious do more try harder heterous gospel, which is really no gospel at all, according to Paul in Galations. We are now seeing the fruit of this false gospel!
    Busy, resting in THEM,
    Blessings,
    Lou d’Alpuget

  • What is happening in Britain is dreadful but there are many Christians there who have been writing to MPs and Peers (upper house of Parliament) and carrying out peaceful and prayerful demonstrations outside parliament against the attempts to put various heinous bills through to make them law in that country. Many righteous vicars and other ministers of religion of different denominations, notably ‘my own’ Mark Stibbe and, of course, Bishop Nazir Ali, have publicly condemned wrong moves within and without the church over things like homosexuality and the persecution of Christians.
    There is also an excellent organisation, “Christian Concern for our Nation” that informs Christians of what is going on – just as Bill does here in Australia. This group also runs the Christian Legal Centre, who represent people like the nurse who lost her job. Incidentally, another Christian nurse has been suspended because, in a training session, he suggested to a distraught ‘patient’ (another nurse actring the role) that she might find going to church helpful.
    There are many unknown heros and heroines in that country. Pray for them and that this country, Australia, does not end up going down the same route.
    Pray for the Christians in Victoria too as their state government has deliberately – if unknowingly- taken itself out from under the ‘umbrella’ of God’s protection.
    Katharine Hornsby

  • The government assaults on Christianity are never ending. Firstly, “rights” laws. I cannot understand why so many people just can’t see that these laws supposedly designed to enshrine freedoms actually work against freedoms. The government is using the long hand of the law to reach ever further into our lives, the practice of our faith and even into our very minds. Today, the Attorney-General Rob Hulls has anounced he will get tougher on “hate” crimes. I already know where this will end. Hate, like love is an emotion. How can the State outlaw an emotional condition? Can it be OK for me to “hate” the act of killing a whale yet be a crime to “hate” the act of homosexuality? Who decides what “hate” is in and what is out? Does anyone ever ponder the absurdity of what the government is trying to do?

    Secondly, religious exemptions laws. One of the great principles of democracy in Australia has been the separation of Church and State. But our government is clearly throwing it by side when it interferes by adjudicating on what constitutes religious activity, religious teaching, dogma and practices. Another one of our principles of democracy if being buried.

    The unfortunate thing is that being outspoken has consequences. I am sure many people would like to speak out more, but the fear of persecution is tantamount when it means possibly losing their jobs and the security for their family and home life that they have worked so hard for over the years.

    Frank Norros

  • I wrote this letter to The Age today (I write many, most don’t get published, so I thought I’d share this one)

    Something bugs me about that concept of laws covering ‘hate crimes’ Sure, it sounds great superficially no doubt to most Aussies who are laid-back and like to barrack for the underdog, so to speak. But I suspect the proposal is at best unnecessary and potentially divisive at worst.

    Why is it needed? Murder is already covered by the law, as is robbery, driving under the influence and any number of serious crimes and misdemeanours. So why burden our legal system with this additional fuzziness? And who gets to decide which crime against which minority is worse?

    Now I admit I’m no lawyer but it seems to me that courts should be empowered to deal with illegal actions equally and not mete out additional punishments for the same crime just because the victim has a different race or whatever. And I sure don’t like any idea which seems to me would only result in more work for lawyers, not less!

    Why are we considering basing some laws on the purported ability to try to read other people’s minds for past events? This is ridiculous and even odious. If it doesn’t work in real life why give it a run in our legal system?

    Mark Rabich

  • I’m surprised that in the midst of this discussion not much has been said regarding the Federal “Charter of Human Rights” that looms at present. I went to the Crossway meeting put on by the ACL last Wednesday 27/05/09 and was thoroughly impressed by the compelling case brought against such a Charter by Bob Carr and Prof Greg Craven. A Charter of Human Rights is one step away from a Bill of Human Rights and all the misery and confusion that it brings. The link below takes you to a petition and online submission point concerning the proposed Charter.

    http://www.makeastand.org.au/campaign/index.stw?campaign_id=22

    Anthony McGregor

  • Barely a year after Lord Waddington’s free speech clause 29JA, amended to the Incitement to homophobic crime that is part of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, was democratically passed by parliament, the government, without even allowing time to put it to the test, will remove it with clause 61 (formerly clause 58) of the Coroners and Justice Bill.

    Freedom of speech never comes cheaply as our history attests but here we are, on the point of throwing away our nation’s greatest asset, all within the space of a few minutes of parliamentary time. For the sake of our children and grandchildren, I would strongly urge you to vote for the retention off Clause, 29JA.

    It goes without saying that we live in unprecedented times. The world looks on with amazement as Britain goes into financial and moral meltdown. A nation that was once renowned for being a bastion of the Christian faith along with its contributions to science, art, music, literature, education, social reform, the democratic process and individual liberty is now in the process of relentlessly tearing up its own heritage – particularly by airbrushing the Christian from the public domain. I realise that even to identify myself as Christian, my challenge to clause 61, in the eyes of many, is immediately disqualified as being identified with Islamic extremism or the BNP.

    The Crime of Inciting Homophobic hatred is not in reality designed to protect individuals from harm, but rather to shield, from any question, debate or critical enquiry, the philosophy behind it and which currently dominates our government and the rest of western civilisation. It denies antithesis and obliterates the distinction between man and woman, good and evil, truth and falsehood. The incitement to homophobic hatred crime, like the proposed and failed religious speech hatred crime demanded by the Muslims, in 2006, is a gross distortion. There are already laws protecting individuals from violence or defamation, but not for philosophies or beliefs, the credibility and acceptance of which must always be determined by a free and open investigation of the facts – not by coercion. Clause 61, the product of a totalitarian mind has only one aim and that is to shut down all dissent. Today it is religion and sexual ethics, tomorrow it will be politics, resulting in the homogeneous, one party state.

    David Skinner, UK

  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission, like Stalin’s show trials of 1936-38, make the assumption that nothing less than a public celebration of homophilia , will clear us of the crime of hatred. Even then full affirmation will not be enough. Hatred is out there and Sir Trevor Philips will find it.

    So fundamental and radical are the changes to our society from being hetero to homo-centred that the government has embarked on far reaching diversity training for all – from the child in the nursery to the elderly in the nursing home. But the government’s ultimate tool for change is fear. In this, the government has been spectacularly successful; by deliberately creating a climate of doubt and anxiety that puts the public at a severe disadvantage. Having been ordered to abandon our old hetero conscience against which we were able to tell pretty well whether something was proved good or bad; right or wrong, we are totally dependent on the subjectivity of a magistrate or Attorney General. Never knowing whether what we will say will land us in court, we, the public have become compliant and silent. We are not prepared to gamble on being deemed homophobic when, with the threat of seven years in prison, the stakes are so high. This policy of creating doubt, uncertainty and unknowing is being deliberately and relentlessly pursued by this government.

    For the avoidance of doubt, the attorney general needs to state clearly that if, for example, I am walking at Hengistbury Head, Bournemouth, along a stretch of coastline that has always been a favourite walking spot of mine and I see men baring their genitals, masturbating, fellating and dogging and (in the words of Lord Waddington) I urge them “to refrain or modify their conduct,” or “I discuss or criticise their behaviour” with the Bournemouth council whether this “be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up homophobic hatred” and thus be liable to the same treatment that Harry Hammond received at the hands of this same council in 2001? I challenge any peer on my behalf to ask the government for an answer to this question.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Melanie Phillips again offers a very astute critique of the deteriorating situation in the UK, but I disagree with her belief that society should show a “tolerance of homosexuality”. It is the attitude that homosexual behaviour is some kind of benign activity to be tolerated “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else” that got us into this trouble in the first place. As Melanie herself says “what was once prohibited has now become compulsory. Once, homosexual practice was outlawed. Now, it appears that Christian practice is to be afforded the same fate.”

    It’s almost as if a society that condones and tolerates homosexuality and a society that provides the liberty for Christians to lable homosexuality a moral evil, are mutually exclusive. I can’t see how the two can easily co-exist. Legalising a behaviour will inevitably normalise it and once it is normalised it becomes very difficult to justify withholding any kind of benefit from those who practice it, such as with the transfer of superannuation benefits.

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Ewan, that’s the most blatantly intolerant, bigoted, criminal and insane thing I have ever heard. But you are completely right. Melanie is wrong. The two are totally and mutually incompatible. Jesus in effect said you cannot be an anythingphile and an anythingphobe at the same time. Either you will have philia for one thing and phobia for the other or the other way around. But you cannot be both.

    Using Greek terminology, I am a heterophile, someone who loves and respects difference, the complementarity of creation. This is also a Christian view, the view that God created just two according to their kind, men and women, who knew truth from falsehood and is commanded to love goodness and hate evil. Is it my fault if I cannot, at the same time, be the antithesis of a heterophile: a homophile, one who denies, difference, antithesis and who obliterates the distinction between man and woman, good and evil, truth and falsehood.

    Why cannot I also claim that I was born a heterophile and therefore have no choice but to be a homophobe? But I don’t believe that either. Both the heterophile and the 21st century homophile are the product of completely conflicting world views – the conflict between the one true religion and modern day idolatry – Judeo/Christianity against evolution and Hegelian Marxism. And as with all religious and ideological beliefs the credibility and acceptance must always be determined by a free and open investigation of the facts – not by coercion. Melanie is confusing being tolerant of beliefs with tolerance of behaviour. I might believe in the Aztec Gods, but that does not give me the right to offer up my children as living sacrifices. to Huitzilopochtli

    Some might object by saying that I can choose my religion and consequently also to be heterophile and I would agree, but that homophiles are born and therefore have no choice. Well, apart from the fact that there is not a shred of scientific evidence for the existence of a gay gene, cutting edge homophiles no longer feel the necessity to justify their homosexual actions, by identifying themselves as anything; they see this as an indignity and an infringement of their human rights to do as they wish – absolute freedom. And like the good people of Sodom they will force us and our children to follow this freedom wherever it goes.

    David Skinner, UK

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