According to a certain former tennis player allowing gay marriage will see cats and dogs living together in sin. For today’s post I ask that readers excuse my diversion into non-climate change matters.
The Herald Sun: giving voice to Christian extremism
When it comes to issues requiring an evidence based approach or intelligent debate (refugees, climate change, the Stolen Generations, the carbon “tax”) you can trust the Herald Sun will play to people’s base emotions: fear, paranoia and resentment.
What matters most to the editors of the HUN is the sense of outrage they hope to engender in its readers.
Not content with waging their War on Science, the HUN have given former Wimbledon “great” Margaret Court the opportunity to proclaim her distorted minority view of gay marriage, homosexuality and Australia’s Constitution in a two page opinion piece.
For those readers not familiar with this “controversy”, former Wimbledon champion (now Christian Pastor) Margret Court has publicly voiced her “objection” to gay marriage. The source of her objections is – of course – the Bible.
Her opinion piece in the HUN is simply one long argument from authority (it’s in the Bible!) . But what is interesting – to me at least – is Court’s adoption of the tactics and language of American Christian fundamentalists.
Oddly, while the Herald Sun proclaims itself the voice of the “average Australian” it frequently gives prominence to extremists view greatly out of step the general public.
Homosexuality as a “choice” and the Bible as Spiritual PowerAde.
Ms Court is given a two page spread in today’s HUN to air her views in a barely coherent screed about minorities, God’s love, the Constitution and how if only she’d believed more in God back-in-the-day she’d have one six Wimbledon titles.
Even then I didn’t understand the power of the Bible, his word. If I knew then what I knew now I could have won six Wimbledon’s, not three.
Yes, because God turns his eyes from the tens of thousands of children who die each day in order to bestow sporting prowess, prize money and fame on Margaret Court.
She also puts forth the idea that homosexuality is both a choice and a sin. Even worse in her mind, young people might think being gay is ok:
Let me be clear. I believe that a person’s sexuality is a choice. In the Bible it said that homosexuality is among sins that are works of the flesh. It is not something you are born with. My concern is that we are advocating to young people that it is OK to have these feelings.
Let’s not mention the incredibly high rates of suicide amongst teenagers afraid to discuss their sexuality for fear of prejudice. Or the fact that the vast majority of the public have no issue accepting homosexuality, and don’t subscribe to Court’s ugly homophobia.
Instead Court believes it’s better to tell young people with “the wrong feelings” an invisible power they can neither talk nor reason with, and is privy to their innermost thoughts and feelings, will snatch up their souls and place them into a place of eternal torment for what it considers the wrong thinking.
Because that’s what real love is.
As Christopher Hitches described it, that is a form spiritual totalitarianism.
Court’s strangest claim: our Biblical Constitution?
Within the article Court repeatedly claims that Australia’s constitution is based upon “Biblical Principles”.
She treats it like the Bible: an inerrant and immutable Christian document and the foundation of our society. Change it and we risk an immanent moral collapse:
Our Constitution is based on biblical principles and our nation is great because of it.
I can’t understand, if we are a blessed nation under a biblical Constitution, why there is such a push to change it? We will only start to tear away at the rich fabric and sustained values. Then God will take his hand off our nation and the lights will go out.
Australia’s Constitution is a worthy document. But let’s be clear, there’s no God in it. The Constitution outlines the relationship between the States and the Federal government, the role of judiciary and the powers of Parliament and the Executive.
There is not a single reference to God, the Bible, Yahweh or the Flying Spaghetti Monster in it. There’s not a hint that it’s divinely inspired or informed.
Religion does get a mention, but not in the manner Court would have you believe.
I’m also confident to say that should we change the Constitution, God will not “take his hand of our nation” and smite us. Just call it a hunch.
But warning of apocalyptic events in response to changes in public policy, law and social mores is par for the course for your average fundie. Lacking the real power to stop these changes often leaves them spluttering with rage and hoping their God is sufficiently angry to throw a few natural disasters our way as a form of punishment:
“Just you wait and see! My God is gonna whomp your a***!”
Section 116: freedom of religion, and freedom from religion
I’d invite both Ms Court and readers to examine the constitution. Now call it my secular bias, but I didn’t see a single reference to God or its supposed “Biblical” inspiration.
Section 116 does explicitly state that Parliament shall not make any laws in regard to religion:
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
Note the phrase that Parliament shall not impose “religious observance”.
The Constitution embodies a non-partisan and secular approach to the question of religion, taking s what could be called the classic Enlightenment approach to the question of religion in politics: exclude it from the process.
Not quite making God central to everything is it?
And yet what is the source of Court’s curious belief?
For that we can blame the creeping influence of that peculiar strain of American protestant fundamentalism that denies evolution, the separation of church and state, climate change and women’s reproductive rights.
Make no mistake: Court’s actions aren’t those of a slightly befuddled sports great trading on past glories to gain some attention in their fading years.
No, this was a very political act.
Margaret Court’s political act: reframing gay marriage and the Constitution
For several decades in the US, fundamentalists have been claiming the US Constitution is divinely inspired and the country founded on “biblical principles”. This debate has been raging in the US for decades, with fundamentalists trying to re-write American history by denying the Constitutions Enlightenment roots.
Their goal is to weaken the separation of church and state. They don’t like the secularisation of society. They don’t like gays. And they don’t like laws that disallow them from legislating morality.
By denying the secular origins of the US Constitution and the separation of church and state, they hope to overcome the limitations imposed by First Amendment:
Politically active evangelical Christians such as David Barton, a former vice-chairman of the Texas Republican party, emphasize the religiosity of the nation’s founders and assert that “separation of church and state,” as widely understood by modern historians and jurists, is a “myth” and that theU.S.was founded as a religious, Christian nation
The First Amendment is a rather pesky impediment to establishing a theocracy.
However, these same “memes” have been seeping into fundamentalist and conservative Churches in Australia. A number of those churches want to influence public debate and have been adopting the same strategies, language and tactics that have allowed their US brethren to become a force in politics.
Margaret Court is acting politically and is using the language of fundamentalism. She is following the same script used by conservative Christians in the United States in theor attempts to reframe the Constitution as a exclusively Christian document.
As such Court hopes to reframe the debate about gay marriage not in terms of equality, or legislative change but in purely Christian terms. And Court already has an answer to the whole debate: the Bible tells us it is wrong. The Constitution is a Christian document. Homosexuality is a sin, in contravention of God’s laws.
Ergo, you can’t change the Constitution. Framing it in such a manner is certainly a political act, designed to further the agenda of a small and extreme sect of Christians.
However, thanks to the legacy of her fame and the HUNs conservitive agenda we’re now witnessing the injection of this far-right-wing lunacy into Australia’s public debate.
When will Margaret Court speak up on the issue of mixed fabrics in today’s society?
I do hope Court raises other important issues outside those of gay marriage and the Constitution. No, really!
Yes, I am talking about the even more shameful practice of wearing mixed fabrics that is rampant in today’s society (Leviticus 19:19):
Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.
The youth of today are mixing wool, denim and linen. Just go outside and see for yourself. Did not someone tell them that it contravenes God’s laws?
Who exactly said that this kind of behaviour was OK?
To paraphrase Court:
Let me be clear. I believe that a person’s wardrobe is a choice. In the Bible it said that mixing fabrics is among sins. Your wardrobe is not something you are born with. My concern is that we are advocating to young people that it is OK to wear mixed fabrics…
I do so hope the Herald Sun allows Ms Court to expand on her views on this overlooked question of morality.
Because really, we should regard a former tennis player who bases their world view on select passages of an ancient text full of contradictions, bronze age myths and injunctions to kill unbelievers as an authority.