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Letter from Australia

April 1998 | by Jim Cromarty

As I sit writing this report I never cease to be amazed at the wonder of the ‘Land Down Under’. The landscape is glorious and the scene from my study window is of trees and mountains. The sun is shining brightly and the countryside is green from the plentiful rain which has fallen during recent weeks. However, Australia is a vast land with a variety of landscapes — snowfields in the south, desert areas in the centre, lush pastures along the coastal fringe, timbered mountain areas and a wonderful coastline which is the sporting paradise of so many people. We are a multi-cultured society consisting of people from all parts of the world. The large majority of our society is very tolerant of the divergent attitudes and beliefs of the various sections of the population. However, toleration of some of the attitudes held by minority groups is impossible at times, and recently Christians have taken a stand and expressed their opposition to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Parade and parody

The parade through Sydney attracted crowds of some 750,000 people, both young and old, who lined the streets to witness a minority group arrogantly flaunting their ‘sexuality’ before the watching world. Approximately 10,000 people marched in what a newspaper described as ‘various costumes and states of undress’. It was estimated that there were 274 floats, many of which mocked Christian morality and things the community at large holds sacred. The parade was said to be an expression of pride (in what the Scriptures declare to be immorality) and the demand of homosexuals to be recognized as living an acceptable alternative lifestyle.

This year’s Mardi Gras attracted many overseas visitors and the entire parade was beamed by TV to eighteen countries world-wide. Many politicians gave tacit or open support for the marchers, arguing that the State would benefit from the ‘tourist dollar’. Christians however were encouraged when the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, indicated that he would not be attending. This parade saw for the first time a contingent of police marching in uniform, giving open support for the ‘gay movement’. Twenty years ago the police were arresting marchers who claimed they were demonstrating for ‘gay rights’. Community attitudes have changed over the years, and this year Australian Christians were horrified to learn that a contingent from the ‘Uniting Church’ was also marching.

‘Christian’ involvement

Rev. Fred Nile, Member of the New South Wales Parliament and minister of the Uniting Church, has for years spoken out vehemently against the Mardi Gras and in particular the action of fifteen ministers of the Uniting Church who this year marched in the parade. Mr Nile condemned the inaction of church authorities to deal with those who openly supported the Mardi Gras. ‘If no action is taken’, he said, ‘the Uniting Church will become a dead church with Ichabod — the glory has departed — written above its doors.’ He went on to say: ‘Their actions are rebellious against the Uniting Church, the whole church, the body of Christ, against Jesus Christ the Head of the church and against the Lord God Almighty who created a heterosexual world.’

When he threatened to resign his membership in the Uniting Church he found himself criticized by other church ministers. One said: ‘How dare he [Rev. Nile] threaten to split the church over the actions of a few individuals, when the President, State Moderator and the Presbytery of Sydney have each requested people in the church not to take part in the Mardi Gras march in any way which would identify them as Uniting Church … it is the right of any Christian to protest against evils such as violence against homosexuals. One can only surmise that Mr Nile is peddling fear and untruth to further his own political agenda. We regard his threats as utter disloyalty to a church to which he claims allegiance.’ Christians who are jealous for the honour of Christ can only say with Fred: ‘Sydney deserves the judgement of God.’ It is tragic that the Uniting Church has not openly condemned the sin in its midst.

The daily newspapers reported on the good behaviour of the crowd on the night. Only one person was arrested during the parade and he was charged with having two grams of cannabis hidden in his underpants. Many of the marchers wore no underpants and faced no charges. If, today, a citizen were to walk the streets of Sydney in the state of undress of those who marched in the Mardi Gras, he would be arrested and charged with indecent exposure.

Longing for the old ways

Our society is falling apart. Christian morality was once the cement that held us together. There is no fear of God in society, and sin and judgement are outmoded teachings to most. Today citizens are crying out for a return to the ‘old ways’ of respect of property and life, kindness, helping those in need, removal of drugs from the streets, and power for police to take action against trouble-makers.

The cry is for harsh penalties as a deterrent to those thinking of committing crimes. And while governments hold their discussion groups with their intellectual advisors, Christians pray for revival. Revival is our only hope and the history of revivals has shown this to be true. Our people need to understand the truth of God’s Word: ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people’ (Proverbs 14:34).

Politically, Australians are debating the position of the monarchy in our constitution and recently a Constitutional Convention met in Canberra to discuss the move towards a republic form of government. During the debate, the use of the word ‘God’ in the preamble of a new constitution was discussed. What was distressing was to hear professing Christians supporting the use of the word ‘God’, on the understanding that it would be an all-inclusive term which would satisfy Christians, Muslims and all pagan religions.

Christ the only way

Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. No one can know God or come to God except through him. A ‘God’ who is known by some other means is a false god. How necessary it is in these days to preach Christ and his unsearchable riches (Ephesians 3:8)! There is no salvation without him, and no other name by which men may be reconciled to God (Acts 4:12).

Our situation as a nation may at times appear to be hopeless, but all is not doom and gloom. Even amongst our Members of Parliament of all political persuasions, there are fine Christian men and women who regularly meet for prayer and spiritual encouragement. While many Christian churches remain silent when their voices of protest should be heard, there are also courageous Christians who speak out for the truth and glorify Christ in their community.