The Western world is rapidly changing. And with this change comes many challenges, particularly for Christians. So to get a better understanding of these upcoming challenges, I interviewed a few key Christian leaders.
What follows is an edited version of an interview I did with Archbishop Glenn Davies, from the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church.
Akos Balogh: Glenn, what would you say are the biggest challenges facing Western Christians?
Glenn Davies: The top challenge for the Church at a social level would be same-sex marriage. Any change to societal principles that God has put down in the Bible is always a challenge to Christians. Because marriage is a creation ordinance of God, and not for Christians only, then I think that we as Christians have a responsibility to inform society of the dangers of moving away from the time honoured definition of marriage.
Not least, because to redefine marriage would be to redefine family. A child can’t be born between two males or two females. That’s a biological reality. So if we deny the right of a child the nurture of their biological mother and biological father, for what I call the selfish interests of adults, then it’s fundamentally not helpful to a child.
And so it’s something that Christians need to speak up about, for the sake of children.
Akos Balogh: Are there dangers that you see coming toward Christians, as the result of the redefinition of marriage?
Glenn Davies: I think ordinary Christians, and not just leaders, need to step up to the mark [to discuss the dangers of marriage redefinition]. They need to be bold, and they’ll be persecuted for it: they will invite hatred, and they will kindle up criticism.
And I’ve already received two letters, one from Victoria, and one from America, calling me a bigot.
But you’ve got to wear that, and Christians need to remember John’s record of Jesus’ words: If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)
So we must recognise that speaking up is part of our Christian discipleship, and it will bring persecution and opposition. Nothing quite like what Christians are experiencing in the Middle East, but nevertheless persecution.
Akos Balogh: Do you already see examples of such persecution?
Glenn Davies: You see it in Victoria at the moment. They’re going to introduce adoption laws for gay couples, without any exemption for Christian organisations who facilitate adoption, to protect their right to put children only with heterosexual couples.
You can see it in Tasmania. An anti-discrimination commissioner has been asked to look at the Catholic publication ‘Don’t mess with marriage’, and accusing it of vilifying gay people. So it’s already begun. And it will continue.
Akos Balogh: Do you think it’s just the vocal minority that’s marginalising those of us who speak up in favour of traditional marriage? Or do you think wider non-Christian society is also seeking to marginalise us on this issue?
Glenn Davies: That’s a very good question. Opinion polls are very rubbery, and I wouldn’t want to put my faith in opinion polls completely. I wrote to the [previous] Prime Minister, and sought to persuade him to have a Plebiscite on this issue, and I went public with that in August.
Doubtless I was not the only one who did that. But then he made that decision [of the Plebiscite], and Prime Minister Turnbull has endorsed that decision. I think that is the best way forward.
Even when Ireland made the decision, you could not say at the end of the day that the adult population or Ireland wanted a change in the law. All you can is that over 50% of those who voted wanted a change in the law.
In actual fact, over 50% [of the total Irish population] did not express that they wanted a change in the law. But because we have compulsory voting in Australia, a compulsory plebiscite in Australia will tell us what the voting population wants. I am yet to be persuaded that they’re going to vote for same-sex marriage.
However, if they did do, then as Christians we would have to acknowledge that that’s what the nation in which we live wants. And we’ll be like 1st century Christians under Roman law, where there were all kinds of unhealthy lifestyles. We’ll have to become countercultural once again, by bringing the effect of the gospel into our culture.
Akos Balogh: If same-sex marriage did come in, where do you see it all heading? What impact would it have on our culture, and on Christians, say, in 15 years time?
Glenn Davies: The worst-case scenario will be that either Preachers of the gospel will be banned from preaching the truth of God’s word, or they’ll be so intimidated, that they’ll be fearful in doing so.
Those are severe dangers in my view.
And young people (children and youth) will be so embroiled within the culture of public schools, where the normalisation of sexual activity outside of marriage (whether heterosexual or homosexual) is encouraged.
Akos Balogh: With all the attendant pathologies that go along with that sort of behaviour.
Glenn Davies: Even with the best sort of covenantal training that parents can provide, once a child goes to school they’ve suddenly got 30 hours of their week under the tutelage of someone over whom you have no control.
And so it will be much harder for adolescents to go against the flow.
I was talking to Archbishop Fischer, the Roman Catholic counterpart here, and he says he’s got the same problem in the Catholic Church, that young people are being persuaded for same-sex marriage. And he said as I’ve said, priests haven’t got the courage to preach properly about it. So courage, boldness, coupled with compassion and sensitivity is what we’re called to.
Akos Balogh: Indeed. Glenn, thank you for your time. We certainly live in ‘interesting times’.