WITH a diverse panel of progressive, indigenous and conservative Christian leaders, gay marriage was bound to be on the agenda for Monday night’s episode of Q&A.
However one of the most heated discussions revolved around a suggestion the church’s attitude to homosexuality could be compared to life in Nazi Germany.
The question was raised by Daniel Comensoli, who asked Australian Christian Lobby managing director Lyle Shelton about comments made by American author Eric Metaxas at the Christian group’s national conference suggesting a link between the two.
Author Metaxas has written a book about German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said the church did not speak out about Adolf Hitler’s agenda, despite not agreeing with it. He suggested it was the same as the gay marriage debate where he claimed the church was not being vocal enough about its views.
“Do you personally think these comments are acceptable in a tolerant society such as ours, and are similar comments what we have to look forward to in an upcoming plebiscite debate on same-sex marriage?” Mr Comensoli said.
Mr Shelton said the point Metaxas was trying to make was that the church was silent then about cultural trends contrary to its teachings and the same thing is happening now.
“I think it’s a good point because I’m very concerned the church isn’t speaking up enough on this issue, because it’s a big social justice issue, it’s a big public policy issue and it has implications on the future of society, freedom of speech, freedom of children to be allowed wherever possible to know their mother and father and this is the sort of public policy that will change that,” he said.
Church elder and comedian, Julie McCrossin, who married her partner Melissa Gibson in 2014, was concerned homosexuality was even being talked about alongside Nazi Germany.
“Even if the intent is to criticise churches for not speaking up on something that you consider important, inevitably there’s a sense that the possibility of homosexuals having the opportunity to marry is in some way comparable to the threat of Nazism,” she said.
Ms McCrossin spoke of her family and how her mother and father were both in uniform service and her relatives were deeply involved in WWII.
“I’ve grown up hearing about what Nazism was really like and to me, it’s disrespectful to make that sort of analogy in a completely different context,” she said.
“I do feel it’s introducing to the Australian conversation an intensity and savagery that is not normally part of our pluralistic society.
“As we move forward towards this question of whether we have equality under the Marriage Act or not, we don’t want to descend into this kind of brutality.”
Progressive Christian and Anglican Priest Tiffany Sparks said progressive Christians were wanting to talk about same-sex marriage.
She also said Bonhoeffer, who Metaxas wrote a book about, was affiliated with a student Christian movement — one that is still in Australia today, and one that is actually OK with same-sex marriage.
“I just want to point out I think there’s a little irony there,” she said.
Indigenous Anglican Pastor Ray Minniecon then took at shot at the Australian Christian Lobby managing director for suggesting churches were silent on issues like same-sex marriage.
“Within the churches and the churches that I’m associated with, the Uniting Church for example, has a social justice committee, the Catholics as well as the Anglicans, and they are speaking out against this issue,” Mr Minniecon told Mr Shelton.
“To say the church is silent is wrong.”
Mr Shelton admitted after reading Metaxas’ book, he too saw the similarities with homosexuality and Nazi Germany.
“It’s easy for the church to compromise its teaching and it did in Germany and it woke up and it was too late.”
Another major issue discussed by the Q&A panel were the gender roles within religion and traditional viewpoints of marriage.
Bronwyn Fraser, and audience member and a progressive Christian, said traditional teachings suggest men are the head and women must submit.
“Within these contexts, 68 per cent of women and girls experience violence,” she said.
Ms Fraser asked whether churches recognised the role patriarchal beliefs were playing in domestic violence.
Reverend Sparks said it would be interesting to explore whether there was a connection between domestic violence and the male headship and subservience of women.
“I don’t know if there is one but it seems to make sense that there would be,” she said.
“I think it’s a significant thing within our churches. I mean even in our churches, regarding women’s equality, it’s still a moving and shaping thing.”
Reverend Sparks said scriptures in the Bible could be misused and seen as a way of justifying violence against other people.
Mr Shelton agreed and said it was dangerous for Bible passages to be used in a way that would condone violence.
Reverend Sparks said having more women in positions of leadership was important.
“I think holding up the Virgin Mary and the Saints as role models for women may actually be a bit of an issue because it’s a very unattainable thing,” she said.
Watch the full Q&A episode here: http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/qanda/NC1603H013S00