By Mike Welsh
I’m neither bent nor bigoted, but I am confused. Baffled would be a better word. Baffled by the appalling attitude and blatant hypocrisy displayed by people who demand a tolerant and inclusive society, but fail to apply it to people who don’t share their opinion.
For a good chunk of the past dozen years I gratefully accepted a meagre stipend for ranting and raving daily at Canberrans on talkback radio. I have an intimate understanding of the “average Canberran”. Though many would be offended at the very term “average”.
Last week the outstanding weekly glossy magazine Canberra CityNews ran a front page story about Nick and Sarah Jensen, a local Christian couple who have threatened to divorce each other if same sex marriage legislation gets up. Call it a stunt or a foolish protest if you will, but the massive backlash to the story is a sad indictment on the parts of society who not only prides themselves on being tolerant, they demand it.
Some Canberrans believe they are not only better educated and remunerated, but more cultivated and couth than the rest of the country. Fact is, they pride themselves as being sufficiently civilised to tolerate the diversity necessary for the “social utopia” that is Canberra, be they cyclists, prisoners, or the pornographers. All manner of groups in the community are tolerated and some are even celebrated, but there is a limit to which the tolerance of this smart and civil city can be stretched. Christians. Yes there are plenty of Christians in Canberra and I have been one of them.
CityNews Editor, Ian Meikle, a veteran newspaper man, was neither shocked nor offended by the avalanche of vile and vicious criticism of him and the hideous hate slogans levelled at the Jensens, which swamped the site after the article. The ugly onslaught did leave Ian utterly depressed. Depressed by the obvious and total inability of a powerful section of the community to discuss an important issue in a mature manner.
“Having a conversation” is the new phrase that has crept into the lexicon to replace “debate”. But when was the last time you had a conversation that begun with “Filthy bigoted pigs” and ended with “Hope you homophobic morons rot in hell”?
The hate that CityNews copped did not all come from Canberra, in fact, the filth flooded in from around the globe to the scores of publications that picked up the story. Still, plenty came from the locals when there should have been plenty of support for the magazine’s courage.
Ian could only read a dozen “comments” at a time without becoming morose. Many had to be moderated, such was the disturbing content. He is simply the editor of a magazine that chose to publish the other side of an emotionally charged and important issue. He is not the Christian couple pulling the controversial stunt. Seems few are sadly prepared to make that distinction.
In 2011, ACT Brumbies and Wallaby player David Pocock and his partner Emma, both committed Christians, declared they would NOT marry until same sex marriage was legal. The couple had a wedding ceremony in 2010 and describe themselves as married, but didn’t sign documents confirming their union. So the Pococks, like the Jensens, who will continue to live together after the “divorce”, are actually married. I can’t recall any public outcry over their stunt.
Dare to say you don’t agree with same sex marriage and the odds are you’ll be labelled homophobic and bigoted. Politically correct individuals and lately, corporates, cover their potential homophobic and bigoted butts with the worn-out phrase “Some of our friends are gay”. Which is to say they are magnanimous enough to squeeze some gay colleagues into their vast array of besties in order to tick a few inclusive boxes.
Most of my friends are gay, but then again I don’t have many friends.
I’m sure one lesbian friend doesn’t understand why I’m a Christian about as much as I don’t understand why she’s gay, but it doesn’t impact on our relationship. We respect that and don’t judge each other. There are many things we don’t understand in society, but to disparage and denigrate each other will not lead to a better understanding of anything.
Up on a hill in Canberra, our pugnacious PM and former Howard head-kicker is seemingly hemmed in by the pressing same sex issue – a lesbian sibling and a man who thinks he’s the PM, Shock jock Alan Jones are both rubbing his nose in the rainbow. Yet Tony Abbott hasn’t seen fit to resort to the gutter warfare waged by the keyboard warriors and trolls who relentlessly refuse to concede opinions opposing theirs may be valid. Sadly a policy of zero tolerance to tolerance is just intolerance.