Something about a plebiscite

Something about a plebiscite

It seemed like a long drum roll, but it ended with barely a whimper. The Labour party announced on Tuesday morning that they would not support the bill that would have paved the way to a national plebiscite (and bunfight) on the single issue of same-sex marriage.

I am glad.

I am not glad because it creates a stalemate that could prevent SSM in Australia for at least three years.

I am not glad because it stops same-sex couples who are already deeply committed to each other from entering into the deepest relational commitment declared by their cultural landscape.

I am not glad because it delays a near inevitable redefinition of marriage to one that is not of my understanding.

No, none of those. I am glad because a rejection of a plebiscite as a pathway to legislating SSM saves us from ourselves.

While Labor cited the exorbitant financial cost of a non-binding plebiscite as part of their reasoning, my gladness is deeper than economic. It’s about the Gospel.

One Labor spokesperson was closer to the ballpark when they spoke of avoiding a harmful, divisive campaign that would surround the lead-up to a national vote.

A plebiscite, by definition, is a vote on a single issue. In the history of the Commonwealth of Australia, there have been just three plebiscites: two for national service in 1916 and 1917, and another in 1977 to establish the national anthem for our country. To think that we could have been singing enthusiastically about “worshippers at Mammon’s shrine” rather than our “boundless plains to share”!

I can’t help but think that we Dockers’ supporters could have saved ourselves much ignominy had we garnered greater opinions than a few in the selection of our Club Song, but that’s not a tangent worth exploring.

The thought that is worthy of exploration is the single issue, for if you are going to thrust the flag of your life into the mountain of any single issue, which mountain will that be for you?

If your vociferous support for a single issue (or Presidential candidate for that matter) affirms a perception of judgement and lovelessness, or of vitriol, invective, rhetoric, and condemnation, is that a price you will willingly pay? If a candidate operates, communicates, and demonstrates values that are fundamentally antithetical to Jesus and the values of the Kingdom he announces, do you want to pledge your undying social media allegiance to his wagon?

Suddenly I’m talking as much about a foreign election as I am a domestic plebiscite but for those who place their hope and trust in Jesus, I believed they’re tethered to the same truth.

Any time you thrust your flag into a mountain other than the infinite mountain of God’s grace that has been made known in Jesus, you subtly (but usually blatantly) affirm that there is another mountain worthy of your adoration.

I would go further and say that whenever a Jesus-follower (or someone who would profess to wear the title “Christian”) thrusts their flag in another mountain, they create a stumbling block that prevents the world from seeing, experience and enjoying the unconditional grace that can only be found in Jesus.

It is a grace that is greater than things present and things to come. It will not waver in the face of life or death, angels or rulers, nor anything in all creation. You can be confident that it will keep testifying to its power in the face of any plebiscite – or its outcome.

Us humans have a great tendency to do and say stupid things when our eyes are diverted from the greater and greatest YES of all.

The moment we take our eyes off Jesus and the unmerited favour that took Him to a cross on our behalf, the things of earth grow strangely big.

They become nasty, white-knuckled fights to the death rather than contexts from which to point to the source of life, the author of love, the way of freedom, and the unforced rhythms of grace.

How would I have voted in the event of a plebiscite? It doesn’t really matter, and you shouldn’t give a rip. But I can tell you how I vote on the mountain of God’s grace. I vote “yes.”

It is a mountain with an unfettered, eternal vista. It is not shackled by political persuasion, nor sexual preference. While Jesus doesn’t consider those things irrelevant, He speaks a bigger ‘yes’ by placing all things…all things…all things…under an authority that was written in His blood and testifies in grace. That’s the altar I want to be found bowing down before, for when I do, my view of everything else begins to come into alignment with the purposes and values of God’s Kingdom.

Go on, thrust your single issue flag into the mountain of God’s grace. Make a permanent home for yourself there.


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  1. 1
    Paul Cannon

    Well said. Just on the Plebiscites – they’re constitutionally Advisory Referendums and there were only two according to the Commonwealth. Whereas the 77 was a straight referendum, of which there have been 18.

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