OK, I am part of the old guard. For three decades I have been engaged in the culture wars here in Australia. While I am still very active in seeking to affirm biblical Christianity, and engage in many of the key political and cultural battles of our day, my ministry will eventually come to an end.
My many opponents will likely take that as great news indeed! They will be glad I and others will eventually fade from the scene. But the good news is, there are newcomers who are now taking a stand. Many of these folks I never heard of even a few years ago.
Partly they are somewhat new to the public debates and culture wars. Partly it took the war on marriage to see these champions arise. But a number of them are now becoming rather well known, and they are speaking out regularly, whether from the pulpit, from a website, or even in some of the major media outlets.
Some of my fellow Christian culture warriors that I have known over the decades have either retired, or some of them have passed away. One might worry that so many of these great champs are slowly fading from the scene. But God always keeps for himself a remnant.
One great encouragement for me is to find new voices fighting the good fight. Folks that I did not know even existed up until recently are now getting a good run, even in some of our national newspapers and other media outlets. I thank God for these newer Christian voices who are taking seriously things like the war on marriage and family.
Some of these folks are pastors, some are academics, some are bloggers, and some are just concerned Christians, but they are all standing up for the things that matter, and most of them are quite good writers too. Believers who love God and are willing to use their gifts to be salt and light always encourage me.
I am glad they are around. Bless you guys. There would be a number of them, but let me highlight just four of them. I realise this is risky, as I will be omitting others who could be listed here. I guess I will just have to make this an ongoing series in which I feature some of these champs from time to time.
Whether these four want to be known as culture warriors or not I am not quite certain about. However, they would all want to be known as faithful followers of Jesus Christ, and that they are. But all these guys have been willing to engage in the culture wars of late, so I wish here to honour these folks.
These four men are: Stephen Chavura, Mark Powell, Stephen McAlpine, and Campbell Markham, etc. I happen to know all of them, at least through the social media! And I have quoted most of them over the past year, and will continue to do so.
I hope they do not mind if I single them out here, and alert some of you to them. Many of you may not yet know about all these guys, so I am happy to alert you to them. They are doing much good for Christ and the Kingdom. They deserve a wide hearing, and also need our prayers as they stand strong.
Since the war over fake marriage has been so much of a focus over the past year, the four quotes from these four men I offer here all have to do with this massively important battle.
First, let me mention Stephen Chavura. He is a lecturer in politics and history at Macquarie University, Campion College, and the Lachlan Macquarie Institute. He has been quite outspoken of late on some of these key cultural and moral battles of our time.
In today’s Australian he has a great piece entitled, “Same-sex marriage: MPs’ ‘no’ to liberty ushers in new sectarianism”. Let me offer just one short quote from it:
The point should be clear: some rights to discriminate are valid because they are anchored to the preservation of social goods and ideals that constitute a free society. When business owners exercise conscientious objections to participating in same-sex marriages either through catering or photographing the event, they are not restricting the liberties of anyone else, and no one is being forced to use their services.
Some might say that by so refusing to offer services, the vendor is inflicting a status or dignity harm against the customer because the validity of their very identity has been questioned. This is seriously problematical: Who is to say that the customer’s identity as same-sex attracted is any more important to him than the vendor’s identity as a religionist is to her? And therefore on what grounds can we say that forcing the vendor to facilitate an event deeply at odds with her beliefs is any less an affront to her dignity than allowing her to refuse is an affront to the customer’s?
Also, photographers and bakers are not refusing to serve customers because of their sexual identity. If the same customers simply wanted to buy flowers or cakes for other occasions then the vendors would comply. If straight customers went in and requested a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, they too would be denied. It is about participating in an activity against which the vendor is conscientiously opposed, not the identity of the customer.
Such freedoms are not religious privilege. All Australians, religious or secular, should be free to decline participation in morally contentious events so long as it is no threat to others’ liberties, safety, or property.
Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield, NSW. He too has been quite vocal about the marriage debate, and his new piece in the Spectator is well worth quoting from:
In the space of just a few decades, homosexuality has gone from being a criminal offence to a psychological disorder, to an acceptable way of life, to today, the ‘new virtue’. Without doubt, we are living in a time of massive moral and cultural change….
In redefining marriage, a veritable Pandora’s Box of kinship anomalies has been unleashed. The structure of what constitutes a family will be fundamentally re-orientated. The implications that this has for intergenerational relationships, such as children with their biological grandparents, as well as extended relatives, is far-reaching….
Marsha Gessen, the lesbian political activist, brazenly told the 2012 Sydney Writer’s Festival that: “Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there. Because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change. And that is a lie.” The big difference now is they’re starting to tell the truth. And as we are already starting to see, everything is going to change. But this is where the real battle begins.
Stephen McAlpine is the lead pastor of Providence Church Midland, WA. He also writes helpful posts on the marriage wars. As he says in a recent piece:
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….
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.
I make no apologies for saying this: but the primary role of the church is not to be a place that tries to attract non-Christians to attend. The primary role of the church is to equip the church to live in the light of the gospel in a dark world.
Someone recently lamented that it’s no wonder we can’t get non-Christians to go to our churches because we won’t change our thinking on this sexuality matter. Sorry, but our aim is not to get non-Christians to go to church. Our aim is to equip the church to go out into the world and lean into it, in all sorts of brave and noble ways for Jesus.
Campbell Markham is also a church leader and writer. He is the pastor at Cornerstone Church in Hobart. His recent piece on why he will resign from the Marriage Act I have already quoted from on this site. His article concludes:
Love for my nation compels me to help ameliorate the damage that the novel Act must cause. Men and women who have forsaken their children will need to be called to repentance and healing, and will need to recover, if at all possible, their responsibilities to know, love, protect, and provide for their children. Children who have been unnecessarily removed from their natural parents experience a deep sense of pain, rejection, and loss, and will need to find healing and, wherever possible, reconciliation to their parents. Those who have given themselves to sexual acts that God has forbidden will also need to find his forgiveness and healing.
I will point all people to Christ. He can heal those who have been hurt and broken by the dissolution of marriage. He loves us, and died to set us free from all the painful and destructive effects of sin. Today the bright star of marriage sets behind the dank horizon of blind and selfish populism. It is a day to weep. But it is not a day to despair. For marriage is obscured, not destroyed.
In time we will see again what today we despise. In time God’s gift of marriage will once again arise in the collective heart of our nation, to be respected and enjoyed for the incalculable treasure that it is. For this bright distant dawn all Christians will work and pray.
The Bible says we should give honour to whom honour is due, so I am quite happy to honour these four champs. I hope they do not mind that I have done so! And as mentioned, there would be many others who could be singled out here.
In the recent past I have already singled out heroes like the ACL’s Lyle Shelton for example. Maybe future articles will feature some more of them as well. And it is hoped that in 2018 other fresh new faces will emerge – those who will fearlessly champion the Christian faith in public, and not be afraid to engage in the key social and cultural battles of the day.
And I should also mention some of the “old guard” as well. This too is dangerous as so many could be mentioned. But some longstanding faithful warriors do deserve mention, so let me just pick a small handful: Babette Francis, Warwick Marsh, Graham McLennan, Paul Russell, Fred Nile, Peter and Jenny Stokes, Ros and David Phillips. Well done champs.
In the meantime, we can be grateful to God that he is raising up a younger generation of champions who take their faith seriously, seek to put God first, and are not afraid to get involved in the culture wars when need be. Thanks Stephen, Mark, Stephen and Campbell.
God bless you guys. And please, keep these saints in your prayers.