Lots of people seem to be afraid right now.
My friends who are gay or lesbian are afraid of being attacked for who they are. They are afraid for their children, for their friends, for young people who are LTBGIQ who are watching this debate and seeing it as a referendum on their humanity.
My friends (and yes, I have a few) who are on the no side are afraid too. They are afraid of being attacked for what they believe. They are afraid for their children, for their friends, for young people who are vulnerable who they fear will be harmed if the law changes.
Fear seems to be something that both sides have in common.
There are some important differences though. For my gay and lesbian friends, these fears are not new and they are, by and large, grounded in experience; the experience of being rejected and hurt – sometimes physically – for who they are. And that experience is a lot more intense right now. It’s not a coincidence that psychologists and support lines are being overwhelmed by calls from young LGBTIQ people at present.
For my friends who are against marriage equality, it’s a bit different. While we Christians love a good persecution narrative (“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake”, after all), most Christians in Australia are not in the habit of feeling actively threatened in their daily lives. If I wear a cross to work, I’m not going to get weird looks or comments. And while, yes, certain atheists of my acquaintance do love to tell us how stupid we are for believing the things we believe (often without taking the time to actually establish whether we believe the particular things they are discussing), I can’t say I feel particularly persecuted by this. Persecution requires someone to actually have the power to make my life worse, after all.
I think it is important to acknowledge that for no voters, their fears are not grounded in the past, but in the future. Yes, marriage equality has happened in other countries, and there have been a lot of scare campaigns around what happened in these countries as a result, but most of us have not grown up in a world that rejects and physically attacks us for our beliefs. The fears of no voters are not imaginary – I won’t claim that yes voters are perfect snowflakes who never behave badly – but they are largely about things that have not yet come to pass – and which may never do so.
I’ll be talking mostly about and to my fellow Christians in this blog post, because the people I know who are against marriage equality have, by and large, reached that conclusion because of their faith. I’ve reached the opposite conclusion because of my faith – and I’ll write about that elsewhere! – and it’s very possible that you are shaking your head at me right now and thinking that I’m clearly not saved, and that’s fine. But I hope you will keep reading, because I think that as Christians we do owe it to ourselves to act with integrity and with honesty, and that includes being honest with ourselves. And a lot of the no campaign that I have seen has been based on conflating things that are true with things that are either not true or have nothing to do with this vote.
I don’t think this does anyone any favours, and I don’t think it’s a good look for Christianity.
If you are a likely no voter reading this, I’m going to assume that you are acting in good faith. I’m going to assume that you are not a hateful person, or a cruel person, or someone who wants gay people to suffer. I’m going to assume that you really do believe that voting Yes will be detrimental to society.
I’ll be honest – I think you’re terribly wrong. But I’m not here to yell at you or be mean.
I’m here to ask you to separate out what is really true from what is still a matter of conjecture. I’m here to ask you to vote for or against the measure being put before us, not a random collection of things that tend to get associated with that measure, I’m here to ask you to vote with love and integrity, not with fear.