Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Posts tagged “diversity

Protection of religious freedom

“NSW needs freedom of speech laws, even for its own MPs. And also new laws for the protection of religious freedom”, Mark Latham claimed in his first speech to the New South Wales Parliament.

“Many migrants came to Australia to escape religious persecution. Now they are saying the problems in their home country have followed them here.

I’m not a Christian but I recognize the vital contribution of Christianity to our civilization: its vast social and charitable work; its teaching of right and wrong in civil society.

I stand with Israel Folau. In his own private time away from his job playing football, he’s a preacher at his community church and naturally, he quotes the Bible. He believes, as millions of people have believed for thousands of years, that sinners go to Hell. As per his valid religious faith, he loves the sinner but condemns the sin.

Yet for his beliefs, his Christianity, he is not allowed to play rugby, to chase the pigskin around the park. How did our State and our nation ever come to this?

I was on Folau’s list of sinners, more than once actually. But as I don’t believe in Hell, there was no way I could take offence. Those claiming outrage have fabricated their position solely for the purpose of censorship.

This is not an argument about diversity. The Wallabies (Australia’s rugby union team) have no female players, no disabled, no elderly, no middle aged. They are selected from a tiny fraction of the young, fit, athletic male population. By excluding a committed Christian, they are making their game less inclusive.

And as for Folau being a role model for young gay men, one only needs to state this proposition to understand its absurdity. Footballers are not role models for anyone, other than in enjoying their sporting ability. I say to any young person: if you are looking for guidance and inspiration in life, study Churchill, Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and Roosevelt, not Todd Carney (a rugby league footballer).

I believe that no Australian should live in fear of the words they utter. No Australian should be fearful of proclaiming four of the most glorious words of our civilization: “I am a Christian”. No one should be sacked by their employer for statements of genuine belief and faith that have got nothing to do with their job.

The Folau case exposes the new serfdom in the Australian workplace: how big companies, the corporate PC-elites are wanting to control all aspects of their employees’ lives – their religious and political views, how they speak and think, how they behave, even in their own time away from the workplace. This is a stunning intrusion on workers’ rights. Yet far from condemning the new serfdom, Labor and the trade unions have been cheering it on.

As per our One Nation election commitments, I will be moving legislation for the protection of free speech, religious freedom and the privacy rights of workers.”

He also blogged: “Quoting the Bible should not be a workplace crime. The ARU should respect the rights of those who preach valid religious beliefs. They cannot make their game more ‘inclusive’ by excluding committed Christians. I will be moving Protection of Religious Freedom Laws in NSW Parliament later this year. The culture war on Christians must end.”

His motion on religious freedom –
“The House agreed to:
(a) support the basic human right of NSW workers to express political, cultural and religious opinion in their private time, away from their place of work, without suffering employment penalties; and
(b) support Article 18 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political rights, covering the right of each citizen to have freedom of religion.”

Acknowledgement: Extract from a speech by Mark Latham (Member of the Legislative Council) to NSW Parliament, Australia, on 8 May 2019.

Posted, June 2019

Also see: Selective tolerance: Folau verses Rugby Australia
Is the Bible “hate speech” because it’s not “inclusive”?
More discrimination against Israel Folau


Change and diversity

Change is a major charac­teristic of our modern world. For example, technological developments, increased mobility and multiculturalism all impact on our way of life. How then, should believers respond, both individually and collectively, to change and diversity in their communities?

Two New Testament truths seem relevant here, namely: acceptance, not favoritism; and principles, not regulations.

It is important that we practice New Testament attitudes and behaviors, and not those more appropriate to Old Testament times.

Acceptance – not favoritism

God’s favored people in the Old Testament, the children of Israel, were of one nationality. They were given special promises (Gen. 12:2-3; 17:7-8), the sign of circum­cision, and detailed rules and regulations for their customs and cul­ture. (See Exodus to Deuterono­my). Other nations were despised as they had detestable customs (Lev. 18:30).

But in Christ, God’s favor and loving concern now extends to all humanity (Jn. 3:16-17), as His sal­vation is for all people and nations across the world (Mt. 28:19; Acts 1:8).

The New Testament principle is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts people who follow Him from every nation (Acts 10:34-35). All believers are now accepted and favored by God, regardless of their nationality, customs, culture, status in society, or gender (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11). Clearly, God does not dis­criminate among believers. In fact, we are told to accept one another just as Christ accepted us (Rom. 15:7), and that it is a sin to show favoritism (Jas. 2:9). Similarly, we are urged to do good to all people, especially all believers (Gal. 6:10).

The only people we should not accept are those who claim to be believers but who are immoral, greedy, who cheat, slander others, get drunk, worship idols (1 Cor. 5:9-13), cause divisions (Rom. 16:17-18; Ti. 3:10-11), or do not bring the doc­trine of Christ (2 Jn. 9-11).

Principles – not regulations

The Bible contains many impor­tant principles for humanity from the time of Adam and Eve up until today.

The Old Testament also con­tains detailed regulations and procedures on how many of these principles were to be prac­ticed by the Jews of that period. This even included the design of their building and furniture to be used for worship (Ex. 25-27, 35­-38; 2 Chr. 3-4). These were for a particular time in the history of the Jewish nation.

But Christ freed us from slavishly following the Old Testament law and its regulations (Gal. 5:1; Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14; Heb. 9:10). So detailed regulations are absent from the New Testament where the Holy Spirit is left free to apply biblical principles among the diverse nations, customs and cultures across the earth since the times of the early Church described in Acts. This means that local practices and methods may vary in different communities according to their
way of life and particular needs.

A changing world

The greatest change that faced the early Church was when Christiani­ty extended to the Gentiles (Acts 10, 11, 15). Prior to this time, the believers were mainly Jews and converts to Judaism (Acts2:11, 22; 6:1). Cornelius’ conversion repre­sented a significant step in the sep­aration of the early Church from Judaism. The divine principle of acceptance– not favoritism was given to Peter at this time. Evangelism among the Gentiles was pioneered by men from Cyprus and Cyrene (Acts 11:20), encouraged by Barnabas (Acts 11:23) and was Paul’s mission (Acts 9:15).

Different people can react differently to change in their circumstances and environment. When conflict arose among believers because of this change it was resolved after discussion by the elders. Peter claimed that God does not dis­criminate among believers, but accepts all by giving them the same Holy Spirit. Consequently, unnecessary requirements should not be imposed on fellow believ­ers (Acts 15:8-11). He had profited from Paul’s rebuke of his pride and hypocrisy in forcing Gentiles to follow Jewish customs, and then separating from them (Gal. 2:11-21). James agreed with Peter: they should not insist that Gentile believers obey Jewish regulations (Acts 15:19).

Likewise, we should not make it difficult for people in our com­munity who are turning to God by placing unnecessary and non-biblical requirements on them.

A multicultural world

Many of us live in multicultural communities where there is a diversity of customs and lifestyles. The Bible recognizes and allows for diversity among believers in the nonessential aspects of the Chris­tian faith.

Such issues faced by the early church concerned food and drink and whether one day was more sacred than another (Col. 2:16).

Paul commanded that we accept one another, as Christ has accepted us (Rom. 15:7) by respect­ing the other’s viewpoint and their conscience (Rom. 14:1-15:7; 1 Cor. 8; 1 Cor. 10:23-33). This means not criticizing and not stumbling another, particularly a weaker believer, but acting in love towards them. We will give an account of our conduct to God (Rom. 14:12). Remember, how we treat each other is how we are treating the Lord (Mt. 25:40,45).

Consideration of others, rather than selfishness, is given as the key to unity among Christians, with Christ the greatest example (Rom. 15:1-7). He always acted to please His Father (Jn. 8:29).

This principle also applies to our attitudes and behavior towards non-Christians. Paul went out of his way to identify with all kinds of people, by serv­ing them rather than imposing on them in order to effectively com­municate the gospel (1 Cor. 9:19-23; 10:33).

We also should be aware of local customs and respect those that are not evil (1 Th. 5:21-22).

The challenge

Let’s understand our times (like the men of Issachar in 1 Chr. 12:32) and follow the examples of Christ, Peter, Paul and James in our changeable and diverse world by:

  • Accepting and welcoming other believers and non-believers.
  • Encouraging each generation, nationality and community to express the Christian faith within their culture.
  • Assessing the appropriateness of our customs and practices. Some may hinder the communica­tion of the gospel or the building of relationships among believers.

Summary of attitudes to others

(from Romans 14:1-15:7 and Acts 10, 11 and 15)

Divine Nature Sinful Nature
Accepts, welcomes, encourages Criticizes, discriminates
Pleases and builds up Selfishly dominates and controls
Allows diversity Imposes uniformity
Is humble, confesses, forgives Is proud
Is loving, patient, tolerant Causes to stumble or fall into sin
Presents Christian liberty Loads with unnecessary rules

Published, May 1995