By Joe Montero
I am reluctant to get into any debate about religion. Although not religious myself, I recognise the importance of respecting the views of those of faith. There is a lot we can have in common about important issues.
But when certain groups use religion to fan hatred and intolerance for others, just because they have a different belief, sexual orientation, culture, ethnicity or colour, it is entirely different.
When this happens, it is not about the freedom to practice one’s faith. This is the context the present debate.
Under the guise of freedom of religion, comes the false claim that Christians are being discriminated against.
The truth is that they are not the ones who are vilified in the street and sometimes even assaulted. Muslims are subject to this. Christians are not the target of white supremacists for being Christians. People of darker skin are. Non-Christians are not hitting the streets when a Christian community wants to build a new church.
There is disquiet among some Christians over the move to marriage equality. They say that same sex marriage runs against their faith. Two basic responses can be put forward. Many Christians are on the other side of this argument, and just like every-one else, those holding a particular view of Christianity have no right to impose their will on others. None are being impeded from practicing their own faith.
However loudly they may shout the opposite, those who want to impose their narrow view on others are by definition against freedom of religion.
At the extreme end is the claim that Christian civilisation it being invaded by outsiders. Some even talk about being taken over by Sharia Law. At one time it was the Jews and the Catholics. At every turn they had to be stopped. This is the same. In the past the fruit was the rise of intolerance and its shifting into hatred, greater inequality in society and less freedom. History is beginning to repeat.
A major lesson of history is that, when a population becomes to feel less economically secure and loses faith the future, there are always those about who are prepared to manipulate insecurity, by pointing the finger at a vulnerable group, because of a different belief, custom, ethnicity or colour.
When families are breaking down, as many are, it’s evil people who are twisting our kids minds. Not the impact of economic stress and the pressure towards extreme individualism. This is papered over.
Loss of a sense of community is blamed on multiculturalism. That the real problem is disempowerment of ordinary people and their transformation into commodities for some to profit from swept, is under the carpet.
Relationships between human beings are being poisoned by taking away the concept that we can help each other, that together we are stronger than alone. Isolating ordinary people into warring groups, takes the place of bringing people together.
A good starting point towards understanding what is going on, is to consider who stands to benefit. Who is profiting from the present economic order and rise in inequality? Who is benefiting from the way politics is operating in Australia.? Who gains by diverting attention from the privileges of a few, into alleys that promote intolerance and scapegoating?
This is the real nature of the push for so-called religious freedom.
It is right to stand in favour of freedom of religion, as long as it applies to all all, regardless of faith, or does not bring harm to others.
We must be against that which aims at imposing domination, and effectively forcing a theocracy and discriminating against those not seen as belonging.
Christians have a responsibility to stand up against those who do wrong in their name, and to help those who have been misled out of the cesspool. The rest of us are part of this as well, and must insist on tolerance and stopping those who hurt others.
Together, we must come up with answers to the real problems of society and share a vision for a fairer society.