Lest we forget Is a warning It’s an acknowledgement That it’s easy to forget Easy to take things for granted Easy to let history repeat itself Easy to lose the peace and freedom we currently enjoy Easy for them to grow old and for age to weary them And so we must each year Work hard at peace Work hard at freedom Work hard at remembering Lest we forget
In 2002, I started a theatre company called The Backyard Bard and for nearly the last two decades, I have been committing to memory and performing Scripture. This theatrical artform is called “Biblical Storytelling”, though it isn’t limited to Bible stories. I also love performing sections from the epistles, prophetic writings, and Biblical poetry.
Narrative texts however, give me the wonderful opportunity to play lots of different characters, which is always heaps of fun. The most fun character I love to portray is an angel, and if you’ve ever seen a storytelling performance by The Backyard Bard, you’ll have noticed that our angels always have Scottish accents. See below as an example:
Once I performed at a very prestigious private boy’s college for the school chapel assembly, and even in that formal setting, there was an angel in the story, and so the Scottish accent came out. I recall being introduced to one of the teachers on campus who was actually Scottish. The school staff member introducing me told them that I had performed the angel in a Scottish accent and wanted their reaction. Without a beat, this teacher cheekily shrugged and said in his thick accent, “Aye, I’ve always thought angels were Scottish.”
Many have asked, so what’s with the Scottish angels? I often answer jokingly, “Well, if you ever meet an angel that doesn’t sound Scottish, tell me and I’ll do their accent instead!” But there actally is some thought that went behind choosing that accent for the angels, so I thought I’d explain it here.
Choosing an accent
Firstly it’s worth pointing out, I love doing accents. My Pharisees and kings often have posh British accents, my shepherds sound Aussie occa, Pilate and the Roman guards sometimes sound Italian and with the occasional character I might play with a bit of a Yiddish accent. I even once told the story of Samson from Judges, giving him the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger (check it out HERE).
Each of these accents plays into stereotypes and so I am careful when or if I use them. But sometimes those stereotypes can really help communicate some aspect of a character’s personality, like with the posh British accent reflecting affluence, status and a sense of arrogance, whereas the Aussie occa shepherds communicate their humble status and simple good nature.
The accent would of course, only be one in a smorgasbord of creative tools the actor has to create a distinct and engaging character. I’d also think about how I’d move my body, my hand gestures, my facial expressions and what simple props (either mimed or physically present) I might use. I generally would avoid costumes, because with Biblical Storytelling, you’d be switching between characters so quickly it would not be practical. In light of that, accents in particular, became a very useful device to make each character distinct and memorable.
What do angels sound like?
So when it came to a story that included an angel, I had to make a call – what should the angel sound like? Well, the most important thing I knew I wanted was for them to sound DIFFERENT. They were angels! They aren’t little cute cherubs with sweet sounding choir voices. They are awesome celestial warriors! Messengers from God that shone with the holiness and glory of God! In the bible, when people meet an angel they are either bowing down in worship, terrified for their life or wracked with guilt over their sin exposed by the presence of God’s holiness. That is why the very first words angels often say are “Do not be afraid!” Sometimes, like in Judges 6, the angel literally says “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die!”
So I knew I needed the angels accent to not sound like any of the other accents I used for other characters. It needed to be powerful, arresting, terrifying, warrior-like and clearly “not from around here”. It needed to be… Scottish.
Why Scottish works
The first time I used the Scottish accent in a Biblical Storytelling was back in 2005 in the performance you can see in the video above (the full video can be viewed HERE). It was the Christmas story from Matthew’s gospel and the angel appears and begins bossing Joseph around.
Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
Then a little later in the story he does it again!
Get up! Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.
Sure, you could also imagine that the angel spoke in a soft, comforting tone, but I wanted to shake people’s stereotype of what an angelic appearance was like. It was exciting! God was doing something! The brash boldness of the Scottish accent worked really well. It probably also helped that films like Braveheart and Rob Roy had culturally made the Scottish accent synonymous with being a warrior (at least in my mind) and this was the type of angel I wanted to portray.
I remember, in 2006, a year after I had introduced the Scottish angel, the movie The Nativity was released. I wasn’t overly impressed with the film, but the scene portraying the angel’s visitation was particularly disappointing.
The angel is relaxed and talks and looks just like anyone else she might meet on the street except for being dressed in white (and not as bright as lightning like in Matthew 28:3). And Mary’s reaction! So deadpan! One thing I learnt in Biblical Storytelling is that the performer is the “emotional guide” for the audience, helping them know when something is important or terrifying or news that will literally change the course of history!
Anyway, this film solidified for me that the choice of a bold and larger-than-life Scottish warrior that was one part William Wallace and one part Billy Connolly, was the right way to go.
Good news of great joy!
I mention Billy Connolly, not only because that’s the type of Scottish accent I try to go for, but also because he is a comedian. Inevitably (as you can see in the videos of my performances) the use of the Scottish accent will inevitably cause people to laugh. It’s just undeniably funny to hear a Scottish angel. Unless you’re that teacher I referred to at the start, it’s unexpected and disarming and people consistently respond to that surprise with a laugh.
Is that a bad thing? After all, the angel is a messenger from God Almighty! He should be feared, not laughed at. Isn’t inspiring laughter during a presentation of God’s Word disrespectful or ireverent or even blasphemous?
Well, as you can imagine, I don’t think so. And in my many years of portraying the Scottish angel, I haven’t found it to take away from the seriousness of the scene. That is partly because I take care to play the angel seriously. When he speaks with authority, I portray that. When he speaks tenderly, I change my tone. The Scottish accent is surprising but it is not silly. The laughs always come right at the beginning, but people quickly get used to the voice of the character and the initial comedy does not distract from the angel’s message or the point of the scene.
Also, often, bringing a smile to people’s faces is very appropriate at the arrival of the angels. Although the other characters may be terrified, we know their message is often one of hope and wonder. Or as the angel says in Luke 2:10 “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people!” I have often found, including humour and allowing laughter in a Biblical Storytelling performance lifts the mood right at the moment when the mood needs to be lifted. And when done intentionally, and not just for laughs, it can draw people into God’s Word far more than distracting them from it.
Anyway, I hope that answers your questions about why my angels are Scottish.
If you know of any angels that speak in a different accent and are feeling misrepresented, please do tell me.
I’m sure, on the day I actually meet an angel, they will speak with such a divine voice that I could not possibly try to immitate that now.
Or maybe… they’ll sound like Billy Connolly. I guess we’ll find out.
If you haven’t had enough of the Scottish angel, you can enjoy this Christmas play that I wrote and directed for my church’s carols event last year. It is a modernised adaptation of the first two chapters of Luke’s gospel and the angel pops in now and then.
My original submission was a bit longer and included some general social commentary, which didn’t make it into the snappier Damascus Dropbear version.
I include the full version for your humourous reading pleasure below…
New Christian “godly sexual consent” app
Sydney, NSW – NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has recently proposed the introduction of a “sexual consent” app to address the prevalence of sexual assault in Australia.
Many have praised the idea as a clever modern solution for our technological age, though the app is not without its critics. Some skeptics have pointed out that when two hormonal and possibly intoxicated lovebirds are stumbling off to the bedroom, the last thing on their mind would be finding their mobile, downloading an app and filling in an online consent form. Apart from the potential mood killer, not everyone’s house has great wifi.
Feminist groups have also raised concerns about whether this app treats “consent” too simplistically. Ms Rees Blake from Back Off Australia told Damascus Dropbear, “Consent is not a matter of simply pressing a button on a phone once. It’s an ongoing conversation. Someone may give consent at the beginning of the night or to one particular sexual act, but then withdraw that consent at a later stage.”
Dave Munro, a local scumbag and avid Tinder user, disagreed with their criticisms, stating, “I’ve always felt that I deserve some action if I buy a girl a drink. But now with this app, I can get her to sign on the dotted line after a few shots and she’ll feel obliged to follow through.”
When our female reporter explained to Mr Munro that the intention of the app was to actually reduce sexual assault he replied, “How interesting. Maybe we could catch up later and talk about it over a drink?”
In a press conference earlier today, Police Commissioner Mick Fuller welcomed both the enthusiasm for the app and the constructive criticism. He announced are hard at work on an update that will make several new exciting features available.
These will include:
A checklist of 400 sexual acts that you will have to tick “yes”, “no” or “ew gross” to before preceding.
After being asked “Do you consent?” it will then ask “Are you sure?”, followed by “Are you just doing this because you are trying to impress the other person or maybe to fulfill an emptiness in your soul that you think sex will satisfy?”, followed by “Are you reeeeally sure?”.
A high piercing alarm every 3 minutes that can only be stopped by watching an annoying video advertisement for Homescapes, after which you are forced to fill out the entire form again to ensure that consent is present at all times.
To coincide with the release of this app, Christian ap developer MoBibleTech has also announced that they are working on their own “godly sexual consent” app specifically catering for a Christian audience.
Damascus Dropbear had the opportunity to meet with MoBibleTech founder, Simon Eckles, to go through some of the app’s unique Christian features.
As with the government app, the opening question is “Do you consent?”, but it immediately follows with “And are you married to this person?”, with a dropdown feature explaining the biblical definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
If you answer yes, the app continues with a series of 40 helpful questions for Christian married couples, ranging from “Are you engaging in this one flesh union as a loving act of service?” to “Do you have any unresolved conflict that you need to pray about together first?” They even have a question specifically for husbands, asking “Have you done the dishes?”
Also, if you add your denomination to the settings it will ask personalised questions like “Do you intend to only have sex for the sake of procreation?” for Catholics and “Have you sought the Holy Spirit’s guidance before preceding?” for Pentecostals.
Speaking of guidance, the “godly sexual consent” app also has a handy adults-only visual guide to spice things up in the bedroom, stop your fetish while providing an exhaustive list of three approved sexual positions.
We asked what happens if the couple answers “no” to the “married” question. Mr Eckles explained that this unlocked a special random feature that was different for each user. For some, their mobile device bursts into an all-consuming fireball. For others, the ground beneath them opens up and swallows everyone in a five metre radius.
They are also working on a third possibility involving your pastor receiving a fornication alert with your precise GPS location, though the general feedback from beta users was apparently a preference for being burned alive or having the ground swallow them whole.
We asked Mr Eckles whether he thought introducing this sort of technology into the bedroom would be a romantic mood killer.
“We had anticipated that,” he replied. “Fortunately, the form should only take three hours to complete and once submitted, we’ve added a special feature to set the mood again. The app will start playing a complete audio recording of Song of Solomon read by David Suchet – or as we like to call him, the Christian Barry White.”
The app will be released later this month and the team at MoBibleTech are confident that its uniquely Christian features will ensure couples can honour their one flesh union in a way that is sensual, consensual and godly.
When I was a kid growing up Catholic, my family observed Lent.
For the uninitiated, Lent is a six week season leading up to Good Friday and Easter. It was supposed to be a time of contemplation, of self-denial and sacrifice, as we stepped closer and closer to the most important time in the Christian calendar.
In the spirit of this sacrificial season, every Friday during Lent (and especially on Good Friday) my parents would buy fish and chips for dinner. The idea was that we were giving up red meat on Friday and instead, having fish.
Of course, to a young kid, this was no sacrifice… It was a treat! I mean, how could you compare a pile of salty deep-fried deliciousness to the usual grilled steak and over-boiled veggies? If that’s self-denial, then give me my cross and sign me up! The true symbolism of “giving up” for Lent was lost on me and there was absolutely no sacrifice on my part.
Eventually, by God’s mercy, I came to know the gospel and over the years, though I now no longer observe Lent, I have grown to have a deeper understanding of the Good Friday that Lent was supposed to prepare me for. Now, many years later, as I reflect on my family’s fish and chips tradition, I have come to appreciate that was actually a perfect illustration of what happens in the gospel.
Good Friday is not in fact a day where we give something up. It’s a day when we receive something. It’s not a day where we make a sacrifice. It’s a day where we remember that a sacrifice was made on our behalf. Jesus took our guilt and the wrath of God that our sins deserve. And we? We are onlookers. We are called to respond to his sacrifice with trust, and repentance and dependent faith. But we do not make the sacrifice. We do not even contribute to Jesus’ sacrifice. It is all his work on our behalf. We simply receive it in gratitude and joy. Like a child being given a plate of salty deep-fried deliciousness that he did not pay for and did not earn.
So whether you observe Lent or not, I encourage you to not treat this season as a time that you have to prepare your soul for the holiness of the Easter weekend. As the old Catholic hymn that I still recall says, “Come as you are”. Or as Jesus himself said when he was asked why he ate with sinners, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)
We do not prepare our soul to be acceptable to God. We do not make a sacrifice. We come to God with nothing but our empty hands and repentant hearts. And we hear those delicious words from Romans 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Lent is not a time to sacrifice. Sure, give up chocolate or smoking or Facebook if it helps you reflect on the truth on the gospel. I am making no comment or criticism of fasting in this article. I’m just saying, if you’re going to do something to reflect on the gospel as Good Friday approached, make sure you really reflect on the gospel. The gospel that declares that the great sacrifice that brings us to God has already been done for us. It is what makes Good Friday so good.
So come as you are, grab a plate and pass the chicken salt, and “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)
The following is the testimony of a Christian man I know who has experienced same-sex attraction for years and has attended the sort of support that Victoria’s new “Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020” has just declared illegal.
There are many people who do not fit the narrative of “conversion therapy survivor”. Their stories are often ignored, or even silenced. I am grateful for this man’s bravery in sharing his story, and I am proud to present it here unedited.
MY EXPERIENCE OF A VICTORIAN SUPPORT GROUP FOR SAME SEX-ATTRACTED YOUNG ADULTS
I am an evangelical Christian and I have been attracted to both men and women from age thirteen.
I was a sensitive boy, creative and kind-hearted. In Grade One there was only one girl in my class and I felt sorry for her, so I became her friend. This led to my only close friends being girls, from Grade One til the end of Grade Four when my two close friends left the school. I then had to learn how to play soccer to try and fit in with the boys.
I am one of the Digital Pioneers Generation. We did not have the internet when I was a young child, but it came into popular use while I was in Primary School. We were flexible adapters and adopted this new technology as a way of life. This also made us the first generation to have access to online pornography from our homes. Our parents had no clue what we had access to or how to deal with it. This was not their fault, but it was a huge problem.
When I was thirteen, two major things happened. Firstly, I was bullied mercilessly by one boy in my class at school and did not connect at all with other boys at school. Secondly, I discovered pornography depicting men. It was actually a TV ad that was the gateway. It aired in prime time, maybe during the news or a sitcom. It was an ad for a movie they planned to air a few days later. I don’t want to name it here, but it was a mainstream movie that featured sexualised men’s bodies in an exciting way. This made me curious, so I logged on to our family computer and started googling. I have since reflected and have theorised that the heavy-handed rejection by the boys my own age may have confounded the problem.
This sin tormented me. I was hooked on the poison, and I remember feeling highly distressed while I was trying to get to sleep, saying “I’ll never, ever tell anyone about this!” However about 6 months later the guilt got too much for me and I confessed to my parents and prayed with them that God would help me repent.
However I was still attracted to men, in particular the athletic male form. I was also attracted to girls, and asked out a couple girls during high school. For the record, I have never had a boyfriend or any sexual encounters with men.
When I was 18, still attending church, I was often plagued with guilt and shame about my orientation.
When I was 18, still attending church, I was often plagued with guilt and shame about my orientation. I went to a friend of mine who suggested I speak to another young man who had connections with a ministry to help people like me. I was referred to a support group for same sex-attracted young adults, run by a Christian organisation that does not exist anymore.
One of the reasons I am sharing my story is to describe what my experiences were in this support group. In light of the new Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 becoming law in Victoria, I thought it may be helpful to share what it is like to be a Christian aiming to obey the Bible’s teaching on sexuality while having these attractions. And also to show you what this support was really like.
The group’s activities consisted of the following: sharing our testimonies, hanging out over a meal, praying for each other, Bible devotions, and using a video resource to fight the battle with porn. We also volunteered at a Christian conference on the topic of homosexuality which took place on the same weekend as a camp to support us. Part of that weekend were small group conversations. Those conversations consisted of tips on how to get support from your mates, even straight ones, and encouragement that God loved us and accepted us.
It is sad that at least two of those young men have “come out” since then, but I am glad that I was given the opportunity to know that I was not alone in this struggle, that it is possible to live a faithful Christian life while being same sex-attracted, and that there was help available to try to change my orientation if I wanted that.
I really wanted to change it. I wanted to obey God fully and also I feared that it would hurt my future wife emotionally if I were to marry one day.
I have since learned that God is able to change people’s sexuality if he wishes, but for me, he did not change that part of my experience. I know that Jesus is close to the brokenhearted. I know that people are broken as a result of the global problem called sin. Gay sex is a sin and so is lust. (Just like heterosexual lust and pre-marital sex are wrong.) I aim to live a celibate single life being content, or get married to a gracious Christian woman who loves me, warts and all.
It was only in the last few years that I realised that the world would call me bisexual. I am glad I never adopted that label. God has blessed me with an identity greater than my sexual orientation, because I am a child of God, adopted into his worldwide family, the church.
God has blessed me with an identity greater than my sexual orientation because I am a child of God, adopted into his worldwide family, the church.
My experience at the support group for same sex-attracted adults was a positive one, one that was encouraging and harmless. The leaders were kindhearted people who invited us to eat at their kitchen table, volunteered copious amounts of their time and taught us from the Bible how to live God’s way. They showed us the grace and love of Jesus.
Now in my thirties, I still have these attractions. I meet weekly with a godly friend as an accountability partner and have seen great progress in becoming more like Jesus. I am a mess, but a beloved mess!
I am horrified at the idea of what my life would have looked like without the support of countless pastors and other Christians who walked with me on this journey. Let us be that support for the current generation of same-sex attracted Christians, no matter what the law says, for the law of Jesus is far greater, and it is to him that we answer to at the end of the day.
To read more testimonies of Christians who both experience same-sex attraction and seek to follow Christ, I can recommend checking out: https://www.livingout.org/
The following was written by Rev Neil Chambers, Senior Pastor at Bundoora Presbyterian Church. It was originally published at bpc.org.au/updates/ . It has been reposted here with permission.
Click below to listen to Neil Chambers as you read the article:
The Change or Suppression Practices Bill
I have been asked to comment on the ‘Change or Suppression [Conversion] Practices Bill 2020’ which is currently before Parliament and has been a cause of concern for many. The origin of the bill is the conviction that LBGTI people have been harmed and are still being harmed by the continuation of ‘Change or Suppression Practices.’ This has to be acknowledged and we should be grieved at coercive and cruel practices based in ill-informed understandings of the origin of sexual orientation, especially where people have been pressured to participate in these against their will. Nevertheless the bill raises serious concerns about, amongst other things, its conflation of issues relating to gender identity and sexual orientation, its definition of change or suppression practices, its reach into private and voluntary conversations, its criminalisation of therapy that is not in line with affirming gender transitioning, and its enshrinement of gender ideology in law.
The Problems with the Bill
The bill combines both sexual orientation and gender identity in its scope and seeks to embrace them both in its prescriptions. But these are distinct issues and have different responses. It is the inclusion of gender identity in the bill and the insistence that the only response permissible to gender dysphoria in young people is affirmation of change to the desired gender that has provoked the most concern amongst professionals. Gender re-assignment treatment has recently been described in the recent English High Court judgement in Bell vs Tavistock [1/12/2020] as experimental:
“We express that view for these reasons. First, the clinical interventions involve significant, long-term and, in part, potentially irreversible long-term physical, and psychological consequences for young persons. The treatment involved is truly life changing, going as it does to the very heart of an individual’s identity. Secondly, at present, it is right to call the treatment experimental or innovative in the sense that there are currently limited studies/evidence of the efficacy or long-term effects of the treatment.” [paragraph 152]
It is also clear that the only response that is allowed to someone revealing a same sex or bisexual orientation is affirmation and strengthening them in that identity. Doubt about whether it is fixed or might change, grief at what that might mean for them and for their family, or the distance of distaste, all human reactions, will fall far short of what the government is mandating and in the complexities of family relationship may well be used against those who express them.
In addition the definition of change or suppression practices, the behaviour that is being criminalised is intentionally both broad and ill defined.
Section 5 of the Act states:
(1) In this Act, a change or suppression practice means a practice or conduct directed towards a person, whether with or without the person’s consent—
(a) on the basis of the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity; and
(b) for the purpose of—
(i) changing or suppressing the sexual orientation or gender identity of the person; or
(ii) inducing the person to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Sexual orientation is further defined to include sexual practice “”sexual orientation means a person’s emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, or intimate or sexual relations with, persons of a different gender or the same gender or more than one gender;”. [Part 5:59:3]
Thus encouraging someone who is same sex attracted to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage of a man to a woman would be seeking to suppress someone’s sexual orientation.
Section 5:3 gives examples of prohibited practices:
(3) For the purposes of subsection (1), a practice includes, but is not limited to the following—
(a) providing a psychiatry or psychotherapy consultation, treatment or therapy, or any other similar consultation, treatment or therapy;
(b) carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism;
(c) giving a person a referral for the purposes of a change or suppression practice being directed towards the person.
The Explanatory Memorandum [page 5] adds:
“These examples are illustrative only and do not narrow the definition in subclause (1) which is intended to capture a broad range of conduct, including, informal practices, such as conversations with a community leader that encourage change or suppression of sexual orientation or gender identity, and more formal practices, such as behaviour change programs and residential camps.”
There is a real possibility with this wide definition that conversations with a Pastor, or a youth group leader, or an AFES worker, where the biblical teaching that same sex activity was sin was being outlined to help someone understand the cost of following Jesus, would be breaking the law, even if those conversations were taking place [as they would] voluntarily [“whether with or without the person’s consent”]. Further, prayer with someone that he or she would be strengthened to resist temptation and live a chaste and godly life would also potentially be construed as breaking the law. This is deliberate.
One of the reports that has informed the Government’s development of this law [Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice, by the Human Rights Law Centre and La Trobe University] makes it plain that it considers the teaching in faith communities of homosexual practice as a sin [or of gender to be binary] to be a harmful suppression practice which develops a culture which is unhealthy for LGBTI people. The government leaving the definition broad leaves open the possibility that this teaching itself will be banned under this legislation, despite a mention of religious freedom in the Victorian Charter of Human Rights.
Another of the disturbing features of this bill is its reach into private and voluntary conversations. This legislation will make people reluctant to talk with those who might be troubled by their same sex attraction or their discomfort at their gender if they cannot be wholly supportive, if they have doubts or reservations. Yet it is helpful to people to be able to explore their feelings and responses with those they know and trust, and helpful to families to be able to speak openly about these matters. One sided conversations do not help understanding but the fear that what is now a welcome conversation may become later a resented conversation will cause many to hold back.
Others have written about the bill and its shortcomings, and links are at the bottom of the transcript. While the prevention of harm to others is a worthy goal, and while we should not minimise the distress of gender dysphoria or the cost of living a celibate life, this is a bad bill with significant implications for our freedoms. And it is a bad bill because it is based on false beliefs.
The Beliefs Behind the Bill
One is the idea that gender identity is fixed. The letter of the National Association of Practicing Psychiatrists says:
“The Bill is premised on the idea that gender identity is fixed and unchangeable, making attempts to change or suppress it futile. The press release accompanying the legislation put out by the Department of Justice and Community Safety makes this explicit. It says: “there is no evidence that…gender identity can be changed.”This is an extraordinary proposition and is contradicted by a large body of medical and scientific evidence.”
It is an extraordinary proposition where one of the goals of the Bill is to support people making a gender transition, and where there are a growing number of de-transitioners. The letter cites some of the evidence and you can pursue the issue of gender fluidity further there.
But the more fundamental problem is the false gospel of salvation through defining your own identity that runs through the bill, which is in truth an expression of that ideology clothed in prevention of harm.
That gospel is expressed in the ‘objects’ of the Bill. 3:1[c] states one of the objects of the Bill is:
“to ensure that all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, feel welcome and valued in Victoria and are able to live authentically and with pride.”
This means it is the intention of the Parliament to:
“(b) to affirm that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not broken and in need of fixing; and
(c) to affirm that no sexual orientation or gender identity constitutes a disorder, disease, illness, deficiency or shortcoming;”,
only just falling short of declaring no sexual orientation or practice to be a sin.
The important thing is that people can live ‘authentically and with pride’ for that is the vision of life found in the secular gospel. We are to be true to ourselves, and that means finding identity and purpose in ourselves and being free to express that in fulfilling our desires, in a context where sexual identity is central to personal identity. Salvation, the life of human flourishing, is found in sexual authenticity. Any gospel therefore that calls for authority to be found outside ourselves, or says that life is found in denying yourself, is an alien gospel in our society.
Our Response to the Bill
So how should we respond to this Bill?
It is possible to respond politically – to lobby politicians to ensure amendments that protect private conversations and our freedom to teach and preach the truth. There is a place for that, for the freedoms threatened by the overreach of this bill – freedom of speech, freedom of association [defining on what basis people can belong to voluntary associations], freedom of belief – are vital to the functioning of our society.
This bill will also, if it prevents the exploration of alternative treatments other than gender re-assignment for gender dysphoria, do harm to young people. Such action though must be done in love, not anger, and in humility not a spirit of offended entitlement, acknowledging the reality that some have been hurt in the past by responses to same sex attraction that have been co-ercive.
But the best way to respond to a false gospel is with the true gospel, proclaiming Jesus is Lord and life is found in denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him, for He is the one with authority to judge and to forgive. In love we want to be able to call people of all sexual orientations and all gender identities to follow Christ, to tell them that He is worth everything. But that means we must also tell them the cost of following Him, and the Scripture is clear that all sexual immorality, and that is all sex outside the marriage of a man and a woman, is sin, and continuing in sin is inconsistent with inheriting the kingdom of God [1 Cor. 6:9-11]. We need to show the goodness and the greatness of Jesus, and we need to be in truth a community of forgiven sinners who love one another, including believers called out of and tempted by sins we might find confronting.
To respond to the false gospel with the true gospel will now take courage. As others have observed the broad nature of the offence is meant to create a climate of fear in which we will self-censor, become less clear and bold in teaching what God has given us for our good, the sexual morality of Scripture. But our Lord Jesus has told us that we should ‘not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul, but rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” [Matt. 10:28]. And He has warned us that He did not come to bring peace but a sword [Matt. 10:34-39] and that anyone who does not love Him more than all is not worthy of Him.
Now is the time for we ourselves to remind ourselves of and build ourselves up in the truth and goodness of Jesus, to remember that what is at stake in being faithful to Him is eternal life, and that our Lord has all authority, including over governments, and will work all things for our good and for the glory of His Name. We will need to do this together, to know each other’s encouragement in a community of love as we face the hostility of a society seduced into believing a lie. The Lord Jesus is not less Lord because the Victorian Government is seeking to bring in a piece of legislation that may test our faithfulness. We must look to Him, and not expect allies either in free speech advocates or civil libertarians. And we should not be discouraged when people who claim to be Christian come out in support of affirming same sex sexual orientation as acceptable to God. In writing to the seven churches in Revelation our Lord warned his people that there were those who taught that God’s people could share in idolatry and practice sexual immorality [Rev. 2:14, 20]. His condemnation of them and those who follow them is clear, as is our Lord’s expectation that we have nothing to do with them [Rev. 2:21-24].
And we should pray. Pray for our government, that they would encourage and reward good, and shun wickedness. Pray that in His mercy the Lord would continue to allow us to ‘live quiet and peaceable lives, godly and dignified in every way’ [1 Tim. 2:2], where we are free to preach the gospel. Pray especially that this legislation would not be used to exclude Christian groups from campuses or chaplaincy. And pray especially for those most threatened – Christian counsellors and health professionals, Christian teachers and chaplains in schools, our own youth leaders, evangelists on our university campuses – that they would be sustained in love of the lost, in trust in the Lord to keep them, and in hope, the hope that tells them that the work of the Lord is never in vain, and worth the cost. And yes, pray for your pastors too. I do not think for the moment we are as much at risk as those others I have mentioned for we work in a more explicitly religious context, but we always need prayer for boldness in preaching the gospel.
Censoring ourselves would just embolden the opponents of the gospel. Worse, it would deny to lost people the Saviour who is seeking them, to dying people the Lord who can give them life. So hear the Saviour’s call to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. The path of faithfulness to His Father cost Him His life but was the path of exaltation over all, and one day every knee will bow and confess Him Lord.
Both Murray and Stephen have a number of helpful posts on the matter. Murray has been following this issue for many months, and was writing on it well before the final bill was introduced to Parliament. In addition Stephen’s book ‘Being the Bad Guys’ [Good Book Company] is very helpful in considering the changes taking place in society and how we can helpfully respond and persevere.
A poetic reflection written for my wife (who loves Ravensburger puzzles) on the celebration of our 9th wedding anniversary.
If marriage was a Ravensburger puzzle…
You’d start with an image that shows you exactly how your relationship will look in the end.
There would be no mystery, no deviation from the plan, no surprise at the end that it didn’t quite end up looking like the picture you imagined at the start.
As you worked to put it together, every piece would have its assigned place and with just a little time it would all eventually fit together perfectly, with each piece being placed down with an effortless and satisfying snap.
There would be no left overs, no pieces left to the side, nothing to be thrown away or sacrificed or accepted as simply just not meant to be.
Whenever you came across two pieces that didn’t fit, there would be no conflict, no effort to make them work together, no change or compromise required. You’d just put it aside knowing that it would perfectly fit somewhere else in the puzzle.
And in the end, the perfect picture you created would look just like you expected and portray some beautiful photoshopped mountain landscape or a cute litter of puppies or a plate of immaculately decorated cupcakes.
And before you packed it all away, you would gaze upon your accomplishment with a sigh of perfect satisfaction.
If marriage was a Ravensburger puzzle.
But marriage is not a Ravensburger puzzle…
There is indeed a beautiful perfect picture of marriage that together you are trying to create – The marriage between Christ and His Church.
But your puzzle pieces come from two different boxes and with that comes two different pictures on the cover that you each imagine you will be creating.
You jumble all the pieces together and try to sort them out.
Of course one of you likes sorting by colour and the other by shape. One likes to work on the images in the middle and the other likes to find the edges first.
And the pieces don’t exactly fit. They’re not cut with precision. Some are big and some are small and some are cracked and some are missing and some have even lost their sticker.
They take compromise, sacrifice, creativity, problem-solving, laughter, tears, communication, prayer, mercy and forgiveness.
Some pieces need to be shoved together. Some need to be cut to fit. Some need to be thrown away. And some, you’ll simply never find a place for, even though they look perfectly fine.
And now and then a couple of pieces will fit with that perfect Ravensburger snap, and it will be easy and effortless and leave you with a satisfying sigh. Enjoy those pieces.
But in the end the puzzle will be a mess.
A big beautiful 1,673.5 piece mess of a puzzle that will wonderfully display the ideal image on the box of Christ and the Church, not by its perfect symmatry, but by the love and sacrifice and joyful faithfulness by which it was put together.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
I am always looking for creative ways of having spiritual, theological, biblical and gospel-rich conversations with my daughter. I especially wanted to give her an open forum to ask me any question about God that she might have.
This is a difficult thing to do without the conversation feeling forced. If I just point blank asked her, “Do you have any questions about God?” she would always say no, and fair enough. Not only is that a big question for anyone to just respond to in the moment, she’s also only 5 years old!
Having said that, 5 years olds can be incredibly reflective and curious, and my daughter Dorothy is that and more! So I was so happy when I discovered a little game we play that has inspired some wonderful discussions.
Dot started listening to a podcast on ABC Kids Listen called “Imagine This“. It’s an engaging podcast targeted at little kids, where they answer some scientific question. Now, whenever Dot is interested in some show or activity, she always wants to use imaginative play to act it out. So, I thought I’d see if she wanted to act out doing a podcast where kids ring in and ask a question about God. We called our show… Godcast.
Dot LOVED it! She could make the ringing sound of the phone and invent the name of the child who rang up. And then, she would make up a few questions. That’s where the magic happened.
At first she would ask questions that she knew the answers to, but after a few times, her questions would get deeper and more interesting. Sometimes she would ask something really poignant that philosophers have been wondering about for centuries.
To mix things up, I would also now and then take on the role of being a caller and I would ask a question I was curious to see how she might answer. It has been really insightful to learn not only what questions my daughter has, but what is her current understanding of the Christian faith.
Welcome to Godcast
A week or so ago, I asked Dot if she would like to record this little game we were playing and share it with others. She was delighted to, and so I’ve begun posting them on podbean.
At the time of writing this, we’ve done four episodes, and we’ve covered such questions as:
Why do we have to read the bible?
What’s the biggest thing God knows about?
Did God create himself?
Why do we sing about God?
Why do we pray?
How did God make the birds tweet?
And then, the other night, something even more wonderful happened. Dot asked to play “Godcast” because she had a question about God she personally wanted to ask. It touched me that she knew that I would listen to her questions, make her feel safe about asking them and help her think through the answers in a fun and easily understandable way. And for a Christian dad, that is absolute gold.
If you’re a parent, get creative and experimental in your efforts to teach them the faith. Keep working with your child’s interests and personality and don’t be afraid to be a bit silly along the way.
And as Deuteronomy 6:6-7 encourages us, integrate spiritual conversation with your kids into every part of life. Talk with them about God “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”