‘I Kid You Not’: Notes from 20 Years in the Trenches of the Culture Wars, Lyle Shelton. Redland Bay, Queensland: Connor Court Publishing, 2020. Softcover, 273 pages.
I’m told that when you join an army combat unit, you’ll usually get a lesson on that unit’s battle history. I came to Australia nearly five years ago with little knowledge of the battles that have been waged here for what’s good and true. Since then, I’ve witnessed the fight for the preservation of marriage and a few other skirmishes. However, reading Lyle Shelton’s new book opened my eyes to many of the battles that took place before we arrived in 2015. It’s like reading the battle history of biblically-minded and politically-involved Christians in Australia for the last two decades.
For those who don’t know him, Lyle Shelton may be the most hated man in Australia. I follow him on Twitter and the abuse his trolls heap on him is ghastly. While he first started drawing fire as a city councillor in Toowoomba, Queensland, it was really as the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) that he became the target of intense animosity. This book documents two decades of his Christian political activism, battles fought — both those won (a few) and lost (more).
From his time in city government in Toowoomba, we read of the fight against brothels in Queensland in chapter 2. Chapter 3 describes the battle against pornography in Australia — a fight simply to introduce a mandatory filtering policy. There are chapters on abortion and euthanasia. The battle against same-sex “marriage” takes up three chapters. For me, one of the most interesting sections was the chapter on aboriginal relations. I took a keen interest in that area when I was serving as a missionary to a First Nations community in Canada, so naturally I wanted to hear Lyle’s take on the Australian situation. I was impressed with how Lyle applies Christian principles of forgiveness, atonement, and reconciliation. His balanced approach deserves a hearing.
As mentioned, there’s history in this book of which I was unaware, having come “late to the party.” For example chapter 6 describes Guy Barnett’s move to defund second trimester and late-term abortion. Today, Guy is a well-known figure in Tasmanian state politics. But in 2008, he was serving in the Australian senate. He made an effort to roll back some of the gruesome practices of Australian abortionists. The ACL supported his effort and, as part of that, invited Gianna Jensen, a survivor of a late-term abortion to come to Australia to assist the campaign. I’ll let Lyle pick up the story:
She is probably the only person alive today whose birth certificate was signed by her abortionist. He arrived back on the scene when it was too late.
Gianna indefatigably limped alongside me through kilometers of corridors in Parliament House — her bright and sunny disposition disarming the pollies before she unleashed her killer opening line (pun intended). [the opening line: “If abortion is about women’s rights, where were mine?”]
I’ll never forget the afternoon we ran into the then Greens leader Bob Brown in the Senate corridors. I hadn’t bothered seeking an appointment with him. The Greens care about saving tiny critters but, perversely, baby humans at risk of violence in the womb are not on their endangered list.
“This is Gianna Jensen from America, Senator,” I awkwardly said as we bumped into Brown. At that moment, I had no agenda apart from being polite. Brown, who is one of the most genuinely charming men you will ever meet immediately engaged Gianna in some good-natured banter about her need to see the sights of his home state, Tasmania.
My mind began racing as the Senator continued with small talk. I felt I had to say something.
“Gianna is a survivor of abortion,” I blurted. At that Senator Brown excused himself, turned on his heel, and walked off down the corridor. Some truths are more inconvenient than others. I’ll never forget it. It was one of the most profound interactions I had at Parliament in my 10 years as a lobbyist. I’ll always be grateful to Gianna for coming to our nation and telling her inconvenient story, even though her plea on behalf of unborn babies was politely ignored by our politicians. (page 108)
An unforgettable afternoon, indeed — one prays it was unforgettable for Bob Brown too.
‘I Kid You Not’ is a must-read for newcomers to Australian politics — it’s a great primer on how we got where we are. I’d also recommend it to Christian young people and others who are beginning to understand our need to be involved in the struggle for truth and goodness in the public square. Lyle Shelton not only provides the battle history, he also has some insights into battlefield tactics — those used against the truth, but also those that should be used for the truth. I would say that, unlike Lyle, and more like the current ACL director Martyn Iles, I believe we need to bring Scripture to bear on the situation. That point notwithstanding, this book makes a valuable contribution to reflecting on how to be engaged politically as Christians. If we love our nation, if our desire is to see the nation flourish, then this is a battle to which all Christians are called. Sign up.