A healthy and vibrant democracy requires, in fact demands, active participation by the people with their elected governments in determining policies to protect and ensure the wellbeing and protection of all its citizens.
There is the obligation to participate and discern, not only on issues which affect a person’s own area of influence or self interest, but on all matters necessary to ensure social cohesion and the wellbeing of all.
The recent and ongoing debates in the Victorian Parliament on the decriminalisation of abortion and the rights and responsibilities of individuals suffering terminal illness (and the associated physical and emotional pain) are two issues that bring this obligation to the forefront.
How we participate and conduct the debates is of equal importance to the issue itself.
But, a healthy and vibrant democracy cannot exist where crude shock tactics are employed by minority groups or factions claiming to speak on behalf of Christians in general.
Members of the Church or those who count themselves as religious have a delicate ethical and socially important role to play. Yet serious questions must be raised about many of the tactics being employed by some reportedly religious groups.
If reports of the negative, emotive and crudely worded emails and comments from so labelled “Christian groups” directed towards those who support change in both of these sensitive and highly emotional issues are true, they represent a serious abuse of the democratic process.
I for one question the motives of these self appointed “Christian groups” and the shock tactics they have employed.
A number of these groups do not represent the views of church members. Both the tactics they use and the position they hold is not a true and complete reflection of the view of all Christians.
We live in a secular society, historically framed and influenced by the ethics of the Judea-Christian tradition. Today we live in the market place with many competing voices. There are some who want to drive out the religious altogether. There are the religious who seek to deny the right of those with differing views to speak or to be heard.
It is right and proper in a democracy to engage in rigorous, and at times conflicting debate about foundational values which define who we are as individuals and as community, but not to use tactics which border on abuse. The challenge for us all is how to create conversation. Christians are called to be bridge builders not divisive agents. There is a Christian voice, often ignored by the media, which speaks quietly and informed. Why can we not hear this voice?
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