I’ve been following the debate in Australia’s House of Representatives on the Religious Discrimination Bill. As I write the debate is continuing and it may go well into the night before a vote is called. At the moment, it’s expected to pass with Labor signalling support – albeit with plans to move amendments to weaken the bill further in the Senate.
One thing that got my attention today is the number of times the Bible has been mentioned and even quoted. One Labor member read most of 1 Corinthians 13, the well-known passage describing love. But it was really the Labor member for Blair (QLD), Shayne Neumann, who spent quite a bit of his time referring to various Scripture passages.
Neumann, who claims to be a Baptist, quoted James 2:26, “…faith apart from works is dead.” So if you claim to be a Christian, but discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community, your faith is dead. Neumann referred to the Great Commandment mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 22 – to love God with your whole heart, soul and mind, and the second like it, to love your neighbour as yourself. You cannot love God and your neighbour if you discriminate against them. The last passage he mentioned was 1 Corinthians 13:13, “Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” “That’s what Paul said,” emphasized Neumann, singling out Citipointe Christian College as an example of an institution that seemed to miss the most important Pauline teaching. They did that by allegedly seeking to exclude LGBTQ+ students.
Through amendments in the Senate, Labor hopes to remould this bill so as to prevent vilification and discriminatory statements. According to Labor leader Anthony Albanese, they want to protect LGBTQ+ students. At the same time, Labor is trying to talk up their support for anti-religious discrimination as a nod to many of their multi-cultural constituencies in places like Melbourne and Sydney.
There’s an elephant in the room. The same Paul who wrote 1 Corinthians 13 also wrote Romans 1, as well as 1 Corinthians 6. No one is reading those passages in Parliament. The same Jesus who gave the Great Commandment in Matthew 22, also said in Matthew 19 that marriage is something created by God between one man and one woman (Matt. 19:4-6). Up until about 5 minutes ago, that was widely accepted Christian orthodoxy, including among Australian Baptists.
But the problem runs even deeper. The biblical Christian message is about rescue from sin through Jesus Christ. The issue is: who defines what “sin” is? In biblical Christianity, sin is personal – it’s against a person, God. God is the one who has the sole right to determine what is offensive to him. How could a puny human being presume to decide what’s offensive to the most infinitely majestic, wise, and good God?
God has revealed in the Bible what constitutes sin. There are a wide range of behaviours, beliefs, and desires that God has revealed to be offensive to him. Among them are “dishonourable passions” and relations that are “contrary to nature” (Rom. 1:26). There are “shameless acts” that men commit with other men (Rom. 1:27). Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because they “indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire” (Jude 7). What Labor and other MPs (including my local MP, Liberal Bridget Archer) are saying is that these words of God ought never to be spoken out loud to anyone. In other words, God has given hurtful and vilifying speech in the Bible. This is discrimination against God and what he has revealed to be offensive to his holy nature. That can never end well.
What Neumann and others fail to acknowledge is that there is an eternal hell waiting for those who rebel against God’s infinitely holy majesty. Christians ought to humbly speak the truth of the gospel to everyone around them precisely because they do love God and love their neighbour. It’s not loving or kind to fail to warn people about God’s standards and the judgment to come. We do that because we do love people and we want them to turn to Jesus Christ with repentance and faith. We love people and want to see them saved from sin and its consequences. Discriminating against God and his revelation in Scripture so as to prevent Christians from speaking the truth about law and gospel – that’s what’s truly wicked and unloving.