Friday, September 1, 2017

Why is the Same-Sex Marriage Debate so Divisive?

Ever since Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the Coalition would implement a postal vote on same-sex marriage social media has been in melt down.

Bill Shorten would have preferred a free vote in the House of Representatives.

I'm finding less and less videos of cats falling over balls of wool. My Facebook feed just isn't the same. Jimmy Fallon, why can I not watch another video of you lip-syncing?

Some of us hope, we'll wake up one morning very soon, and every politician in the land will have discovered they are dual citizens.

What a shame. Start again. 

I have been wondering for some days why changing the Marriage Act is so divisive? Why does any discussion on marriage equality seemingly bring out the worst in people?

If you agree with my line of thought that this debate has already been ugly at times, then read on. If you've been living in an alternate universe in recent days, then please, relax, switch off the internet and continue to watch West Wing reruns. 

Why is the same sex marriage debate so divisive?

  1. Issues of freedom, marriage, human sexuality, same-sex attraction, human rights and faith are all topics that evoke great emotion. We all have stories of hurt and pain, of isolation, of rejection, of misunderstanding and of a desire for people to connect with us and what we believe. Allowing same-sex couples to marry by redefining the Marriage Act speaks into each of these topics. It's like combining all the most emotive topics we can conjure up in society today and wrapping them around one issue. It's bound to be charged with passion. We're legislating about people's lives.
  2. We struggle to have civil debate. Some argue whether we should even have a debate, I mean, we're talking about people's lives here. We're talking so abruptly about the livelihood of others, and we forget real people are involved. We don't know how to disagree nicely anymore. I would love to hear the words, 'I respectfully disagree...' I won't tell you the other words I hear.

    Something has fundamentally shifted in Australian culture over the last decade. We've always been a very multicultural, easy-going kind of country, but in my lifetime at least, I don't think we've ever been so divided. The right have gone further right, and the left have gone further left, and the middle have shut up. So can we learn to have a civil conversation in the current atmosphere? I mean, can I say, 'I don't believe in that opinion, but I don't think you're a bigot, a homophobe, a racist or a left-leaning looney'? Someone just got offended. I'm trying to make a point. I'm not arguing for or against same-sex marriage in this post. I'm saying that, can we at least get to a point where we have respectful, intelligent conversations about issues without pulling out the 'I'm going to shut this conversation down because I don't agree with you' card.
  3. We don't think through what we say. We're lazy and dumb. We've become dumb because we're lazy. Instead of intellectually thinking through our arguments, we simply name call. It's easy. It's lazy and it's dumb, but it's easy. Did I spell dumbe right? Take for instance a conversation I was reading recently. Someone said (and I paraphrase), 'Well, I don't agree with how you have interpreted the Scriptures! You have simply made it say what you want it to say! You can't do that with Scripture! You can't simply cherry pick what you believe and share it with others. By the way, the Scripture I have picked out to strengthen my interpretation of the Scripture is... ' See what happened there? Take for instance, someone articulates a mildly informed response to the same-sex marriage discussion. Someone responds with, you guessed it, a counter-argument response with respect and grace. No. They just call the person, '*^%@#&*' - you choose the word. That's just lazy. Posters are lazy. Name calling is lazy and spiteful. Think through what was said, and provide a response with at least some measure of grace and intellect.


    My Facebook Page:
  4. We are hypocrites. Let me give you an example from the Family Violence archives. Think on this for a moment. Someone jumps on Facebook and outlines how appalled they are (and rightly so), of a man who has just beat-up their partner. The next line is where the hypocrisy starts... 'And if I ever see that man, I'm going to .... etc, etc.' Wait a minute?! You've just said that you are absolutely disgusted at the way someone else was treated and now you want to enact that same kind of violence on someone else?

    We can't say love is all inclusive, if it excludes; that's hypocrisy. You can't say that someone has the right to be loved unconditionally, and then berate the person you're talking to about that very point. That holds true for both the left and the right. We just need to be careful, lest we become hypocrites.
  5. We live in a fast paced society. We want everything now. We want everyone to agree with us, now. We're frustrated when someone doesn't immediately align themselves with our way of thinking. We should remember the words of James (1:19), 'My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.' My wife thinks I should live this out more. Australian society would do well to adhere to the words of James. Thanks James. You probably learnt that from Jesus.

Social media and the media at large (see ABC's extensive writing about same-sex marriage) amplifies the nut-cases on both extremes of the same-sex marriage argument, and any attempt at a civil conversation is lost amidst the noise of the extreme right and extreme left.

But, we need not always be so divided. We can do some things about it:

Have your vote.

Respect each and every person's right to have their vote.

Make your case known with respect.

Remember that the person you are speaking with deserves the same respect you do.

That being said. I'm signing off. I vowed I would never post a blog about marriage equality.

I still don't know whether I should post this.

My heart is very divided.

* These views are the personal views of the writer, and do not necessarily represent the views of The Salvation Army or other views expressed in the links provided. 

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