I think I am largely even handed when it comes to various debates. I try very hard to hear the other side’s position and consider whether my position should change. Indeed, I have taught my children to be listeners and thinkers, respectful of those with whom they disagree. Equally, I have taught them to not leave a debate when issues of fairness are totally disrespected and people are left mistreated at the hands of bullies. That is a social justice issue. I hated bullies when I was at school and I have hated bullying ever since. So with that in mind I find myself again stepping into the Marriage Equality debate.
Recognizing the importance of this debate I was greatly encouraged to see two politicians, Tim Wilson and Andrew Hastie, one a Christian and the other an agnostic, one a homosexual and one not, having a civil discussion as each put their case for and against gay marriage. The brief discussion was organised by the Bible Society and Coopers was the shared beverage. Both Wilson and Hastie showed a willingness to listen, were understanding of the other’s views and were able to share an ongoing friendship. What a great outcome and model for us all.
The aftermath has been both surprising and shocking. Under pressure from the Same Sex Marriage Lobby, and the threatened removal of Coopers’ beer from pubs, it took less than a week for Coopers to abandon its support of the Bible Society and sign up as a supporter of Australian Marriage Equality. Mr. Wilson who is a supporter of same sex marriage said, “I think it’s a sign that there’s a section of society that’s very intolerant of a difference of opinion on an issue like this today.” He said, “I think the response has been way over the top, and shows just how easily people use the idea of being offended today now to boycott companies when they haven’t done anything wrong, when their product was simply used as a prop as part of showing how you can have a robust discussion.”
Coopers, an Australian family-owned brewery faced a vicious social media boycott, falsely accused of, “homophobic, religious rhetoric”. Tim Wilson was maligned as a “self-hating gay” and Hastie as a homophobic peddler of hate. Failed Greens candidate, LGBTIQ activist and Global Atheist Convention spokesperson, Jason Ball tweeted, “Nothing ‘civil’ about homophobia, and that’s what opposition to LGBTI equality is. Boycott @coopers brewery”. Greens MP Adam Bandt re-tweeted Ball, adding: “And I used to really like Coopers”. What a tragic reflection on the Greens. Equally, the intelligent atheists of the world would be unhappy to find the argument of Ball so vacuous.
The tactics of the same-sex marriage lobby are on full display for all Australians to see. Bullying, intimidation, boycotts and threats ruin all debate and create such mistrust that nothing said or advertised by them can any longer be trusted. If as a nation we are to respectfully deal with the issue of Marriage we must encourage, not denigrate, the kind of debate we saw between Wilson and Hastie, while all forms of bullying need to repented of.
It is a sadness that Coopers have so quickly submitted to bullying. Imagine stealing ones freedom of speech by the threatened withdrawal of a beer. That’s just un-Australian. What a pity that Coopers has become the drink you must drink in silence for fear of offending. What a pity such a great beer has become the beer of fear, the beer for those who are happy to be bullied into silence. Coopers may have become the drink of economic cowardice when they could have been the toast of civil debate.
I will not threaten to stop drinking Coopers in disrespectful, undebated protest. That would be childish. I think the Coopers stand is disrespectful of respectful debate but I will respectfully note their decisions. We must as a nation not meet disrespect by being disrespectful. When we see the real face of the bully, courage should demand civil debate and consider whether the bully is worthy of your vote. Jesus Christ was bullied to death because He stood firm in the truth. He didn’t succumb to pressure, He wasn’t swayed by the dollar, but sought friendship with the offer of forgiveness.
Armidale Anglican Diocese