Moderator's Comments - Posted 1 November 2018
In the postscript to C S Lewis’ classic (Screwtape Letters), the senior devil proposes a toast at the annual dinner of the Tempters’ Training College for young devils. With tongue-in-cheek satire, Lewis makes some amazing predictions about where he sees western democratic governments headed. Let me pick up and evaluate for today two superb sayings from Lewis’ writing in the 1950s.
- Through the mouthpiece of Screwtape: the senior devil persuades how a devil can work on his man: “you thus induce him to enthrone at the centre of his life a good, solid, resounding lie.”
On the matter of gender, right now I think we’re being sold a lie. Why is there confusion? The Bible is clear enough: gender is binary.
God established this in creation. At birth, we are either male or female. The Word of God says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27).
As a result of God’s creation, there is distinction between genders, a distinction that’s purposeful and for the good of humanity. Of course, such distinction is not absolute because by God’s good design men and women have much in common. But, it remains a creation blessing that our physical sexual features, personal gender-driven expressions, sexual preferences and social roles have specific alignments according to whether we are male or female. It’s the more obvious particularities of these distinctions that provides the inclinations to fulfil the creation mandate to “be fruitful and increase in number”.
Binary gender is the teaching of Scripture. Any variation to this is a deception and will undermine the common good. I think we’re being fed a lie when it’s suggested that the male-female gender distinction is not a biological reality but a social construct – one that needs to be deconstructed. It’s a lie that causes much harm when it leads to men and women taking drastic action of sex-change hormone therapy or submitting to radical surgery to reassign sex organs. I think it’s harmful to children to encourage them to think of changing gender.
Of course, we acknowledge that life is difficult, and that people suffer with complex and unexplained conditions. None of the above is said without a recognition that gender dysphoria and related conditions exist. They are a result of humanity’s general Fall into sin and are not necessarily attributable to a person’s individual sin. And, as such, we respond to those who suffer in this way with understanding and love.
- Later on, in Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, the senior devil continues “in a perfect democracy, only state religion is permitted … and the individual is told that he has really willed (though he didn’t know it) whatever the government tells him to do.”
Beware of deception being pushed forward in the name of civilised democracy.
Unless we can persuade otherwise, the Government is about to remove an exemption for religious schools to make essential practical arrangements integral to the central ethos tenets and beliefs of our faith.
The government has under consideration a review of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 that will repeal permission for religious schools to make necessary practical arrangements that recognise the binary nature of gender (subsection 38(3)). Currently, this exemption exists for our Christian and Church-connected schools to keep distinctions such as: insisting on distinct uniforms for boys and girls, providing separate toilets, accommodation arrangements (for boarding schools) and sporting teams. The removal of the exemption clause in the Act will make it possible for a claim of “direct discrimination” against such a school.
There are more than 300 Christian schools in Australia operating under the banner of CSA and CEN, serving nearly 200,000 students. In addition, there are a host of church-connected schools some of which spoke out in yesterday’s Australian (34 Anglican Schools). For example, under the banner of Presbyterian Church of Australia, I know that we are educating 13,000 students.
Do we really want the situation where a secular tribunal is appointed to judge a claim made against us? And have that tribunal the arbiter of what’s integral to our belief and what’s not? Or, what’s an injury to our church’s religious susceptibilities, or not?
Some of our schools are single-sex schools, and for very good and defensible reasons. Again, do we really want to see their right to only enrol boys, or only enrol girls challenged? For what good purpose?
The need for exemptions within the Sex Discrimination Act is clear and (I would think) unarguable. Where there is a community of faith operating a school and, fundamental to the doctrine, tenets and belief, is the need to maintain separate facilities for binary gender distinction, why cannot this practice continue? Why is it that the government wants to undermine the integrity of our much-loved and valued schools where currently more than 300,000 students across the nation are flourishing?
The government wants us to accept a new social agenda that’s built on sand. It’s deception being pushed forward in the name of civilised democracy.
Why are schools being targeted and questioned like this for matters of faith and belief that are integral to how they function? Other community groups are free to maintain distinctions integral to why they exist and how they operate. Fernwood gyms are allowed to operate with facilities and programs appropriate to females. The Australian Club has facilities that exist for men only. But, ignoring these community institutions, I notice how this new ideology aims to bring under scrutiny the places where our young are educated.
There was a similar method employed by Nebuchadnezzar, King of ancient Babylon (see Daniel 1). Nebuchadnezzar invaded Israel and took away Israel’s youth for ‘re-education’.
Presbyterian Church of Australia – let’s be wise and read the signs and learn how to “interpret this present time” (Luke 12:56). Jesus said that we’re good at reading weather charts and interpreting the colour of the sky and cloud formations to predict tomorrow’s weather, but we cannot read the signs and see where we’re heading.
If you feel inclined to take more direct action, this week is the week to contact your federal MP and tell him/her of your concerns about the effect proposed changes may have on Christian schooling. You may only have this week and next to persuade, before Parliament resumes mid-November.
Rev John P Wilson
Presbyterian Church of Australia