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Erik is a public policy professional and owner of the online training course in democracy and civic action: www.3ptraining.com.au The Blog …explores ways to create a sustainable and just community. Explores how that community can be best protected at all levels including social policy/economics/ military. The Book Erik’s autobiography is a humorous read about serious things. It concerns living in the bush, wilderness, home education, spirituality, and activism. Finding Home is available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble and all good e-book sellers.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Tolerance and Liberty – the road less travelled



I am a Christian. There, I said it. I’m out of the closet. I am part of a marginalised minority group of around eight to ten per cent of the population. If you think that’s an exaggeration ask Dawkins. Those are his figures for the UK and they are generous.[1] I am assuming the same for Australia though I suspect the reality is half that. That said, most Australian Christians still think they are important and numerous, but that’s their problem.
We have been around for 2000 years, although Christianity is really an extension of Judaism which has been around for twice that long. That’s a lot of time to make mistakes, and we have made plenty. It would be nice if the secular world could learn from them.
The biggest mistake we made was to impose our values and beliefs by force on others. This took many forms. Currently gay rights activists are seeking to remove (non-technical term) convictions for thousands men convicted of homosexual conduct in the UK. The church was not judge and jury but religious attitudes clearly had a role. Most Christians now would prefer that they and everyone else had the freedom to live by their values and beliefs and would prefer that nobody when to jail for them. Jesus didn’t impose his values and we have no mandate to; but Christians do reserve the right to put their views and values forward in public life. It’s called democracy. It’s the right of people to live differently, to believe different things, and to say what they believe. It’s what we fought the Second World War for. It’s worth keeping, but not if you are an ideological zealot.
In Australia ‘freedom’ means the right to force your values onto others – apparently. When rallies against Islamisation occurred in Australia recently counter activists were proud to declare that they had physically prevented some speakers from attending. The other term for that is bullying. Apparently these bullies from the social left also believe in freedom of speech, but only for views they happen to like. Like all good fundamentalists they have the truth and this gives them the right to impose it on everyone else (yawn).
The Obama administration has taken this a step further and decided who can and cannot be a victim of genocide. Case in point Iraqi Dominican Catholic Nun Sister Diana Momeka. Sister Momeka represents the Nineveh Christians who have been killed, kidnapped and deported by ISIS. She was to testify to before Congress about ISIS atrocities as part of a broader delegation. Visas were granted to all the other members of the delegation who were to speak about the massacre of minority Islamic sects but Momeka was denied entry because…she is a displaced person … displaced by ISIS.  See here  In reality the US State Department just doesn’t want to hear that Christians are being systematically exterminated from the Middle East. The only national leader who is prepared to even talk about it is Putin who has positioned himself as a defender of Christian civilization and orthodoxy.  In Australia we wept over the execution of two convicted drug dealers but few people here even know about the quiet extermination of Papuan Christians by Javanese Muslims in Iryan Jaya/West Papua but our government knows and tolerates it.

Dominican Nun denied entry to the US - might tell the truth about Christians being slaughtered

It seems when real tolerance is no longer tolerated the State gets to decide whose persecution is worthy of attention. For Obama, gay marriage rates higher than the genocide of Middle Eastern Christians. The same is true in Europe.
Now I get it that some gay people want to give up a life where they can have as much sex as they want with as many people as they want as often as they want, in favour of a life of faithful monogamy, and they wish to call that marriage. And I get it that many of their supporters feel that heterosexuals should not be the only ones. I also get it that the primary reason why civil unions are not sufficient is because some people within a minority group of 2-4 per cent of the population want to adopt. I also get it that some people see that as the thin end of a bigger wedge to remodel society and redefine human relationships. It’s a complex issue – at least for people who are not into group-think. Of course people are going to have divergent views. In Australia we tolerated communism – an ideology that sought to overthrow civilisation and replace it with a totalitarian state. We seem pretty OK with importing people from countries where apostasy carries the death penalty. We even tolerate Tony Abbott (heck we voted for him). Can we tolerate divergent views on difficult social issues?
Well, they don’t in France. In France refusing to marry a gay couple can land you in jail for five years. Simply attending a rally against gay marriage can land you in prison. So 40 years ago the State imprisoned people for sodomy and now the State will imprison people for basically not being cool with sodomy…. here’s a thought: how about nobody gets thrown into prison and people live how they want to live? Apparently that’s now bigotry and intolerance.
And this is where it gets nasty. In many US States you can be fined and sued for refusing wedding services or accommodation to gay couples. You may also be targeted by LGBT activists who will seek to close down your business. So let’s be clear. There are ten florist shops in your city. One shop refuses to supply flowers to your gay wedding. Why would you give them your custom anyway? Why not buy flowers somewhere else? Sure you might say some hard words. You might make some statements about where they can put their flowers. You and your friends might do a consumer boycott. They don’t have to sell to you and you don’t have to buy from them. That would be tolerance. That would be respecting people’s right to have and live by their values.

But no, you can now sue the owner and go after their personal assets and the State can fine them and compel them to sell flowers. You can also attack and vilify the business owner on social media, and physical vandalism is OK too so long as you don’t get caught. That is forcing other people to adopt your values. It’s ugly and it doesn’t end well. Case in point, a 70 year old florist who after 40 years in the business now faces financial ruin because she referred a gay couple to other florists but for reasons of personal conviction, refused to supply flowers for their wedding.

Tolerance now means destroying peoples businesses, taking their homes, and throwing them into prison, because they don’t agree with you. For a list of recent examples see here: http://www.wnd.com/2015/04/flood-of-christian-cash-rescuing-florist-in-same-sex-war/  and here http://www.wnd.com/2015/04/courts-conclude-faith-loses-to-gay-demands/ \
In Britain State censorship now extends to which chapters of the Bible you are allowed to quote in public. Britain has a tradition dating back to the middle ages in which any person can say whatever they like from a designated 'street corner'. One person did so recently and was duly prosecuted under the Public Order Act of Great Britain. The learned judge ruled that he had offended by quoting  a particular verse from the Bible.
Perhaps in the future Christians imprisoned for not supporting gay marriage will have their convictions annulled. It would be rather ironic.

Freedom of speech means saying things others don't like
Demanding that the State force your views on someone else and give you a monopoly in the market place of ideas is pretty wimpy. If those are your values you have them in common with Islamic State, the religious fringe, and some on the social left who have no sense of irony. There are better ways to do business. Civilised people don’t need to lock one another up.
Civilised people don't need to lock one another up
I happen to live in a part of town where guys drive utes with hunting stickers on the back. Said utes often have the sticker “Shoot Ferals”. It’s a tongue in cheek reference to a particular subculture among environmentalists and it is also an incitement to violence. There are others in the genre. “Greens tell lies” is a favourite. I don’t like it, but I would rather live in a society where ignorant people can put dumb stickers on their cars than one in which there is an ‘office of sticker control’ that fines people for their bumper stickers. Fact is, if I bought the guy a beer we would probably get on OK.

Some time ago I was approached by a guy called Andrew who wanted to start a Christian based green party. It sounded intriguing so we caught up and shared ideas. The next thing I heard he had been charged with a Federal offence for sending hate mail through the mail service. In actual fact he had done a leaflet mail-out opposing same sex marriage. The leaflet itself was poorly written, angry, and highly offensive to many people. It is however a statistical fact that most adults in developed countries live within walking distance of a rubbish bin. It is also a fact that some of the content was true even if the delivery was regrettable. Andrew was duly charged and the usual line up rushed to condemn him. Andrew who is sensitive, nerdy and very likeable was clearly out of his depth so I took him out to lunch where I suggested politely but firmly that there are better ways to engage in public life. It’s what friends do. Others don’t seem to get it that yelling ‘hate hate’ at anyone who doesn’t share their agenda is in itself a hateful thing to do.
Can there be tolerance in Australia? I think there can but only if we discover a greater sense of decency and adopt a more generous spirit. The greater danger is that when a given ideology captures the State others inevitably suffer. It is no coincidence that the Nazi’s banned home education in Germany in the 1930’s, and it is still banned. The Nazis persecuted both Christians, homosexuals and Jews. I like to think that there is a place for all of us.













[1] This is based on a comparison of figures. 54 per cent of UK census respondents identified as Christians. Of those the number that identified with actual definitional beliefs – the physical resurrection of Jesus, accepting him as ‘Lord and Saviour’, belief in his teaching, the power of prayer, and regular gathering with other believers – is around 15 per cent. By their nature these figures are rubbery and Australia is arguably a more secular culture that Britain. I suggest the number of adults in Australia who Jesus, the apostles or the early church would recognise is around four per cent of the adult population. 

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