Advent is one of those strange times in Australia. A time of preparation for the birth of Jesus. With Easter and Lent, when many people use Lent as a time of reflection, going without, giving things up. Advent, unfortunately, is often filled with end of school plays and presentation, work Christmas functions. You are maybe trying to catch up with those people you haven’t seen all year, Christmas shopping, getting the family arrangements made and preparing the Christmas meal. Some might even try to fit in a visit or two to Church.
When you do have a brief moment to reflect on Advent, some exciting things can come to mind.
In the Gospel according to Matthew, there is very little about the birth of Jesus, but a lot about his genealogy, a quick calming down of Joseph (the assumingly also virgin Dad), a quick introduction of the Wise Men, who provide the backdrop for Kind Herod and the first real event that Jesus has in his life, becoming a refuge.
When we look at the genealogy of Jesus, we are faced with several things. Some in the list are people who don’t really fully understand and wrestled with God. Some of them were not faithful in the multiplicity of that meaning, other less than desirable characters, and of course, there are women listed. All of this would have been dramatically confrontational to the people of the days it was written and scandalous.
Very rapidly, we head into Jesus Ministry, which again for those early Christians much of what they would have heard would be scandalous.
Jesus meeting in public with women, visiting the lepers, being with the outcast and giving sermons encouraging his followers to be with the sick, those in prison, without clothes or food. Praying in private without drawing attention to yourself, loving your enemies, and so on. Then ultimately saying that everything that went before was brought together in two statements, love God and love one another.
Advent is a time for reflection.
This Advent, Christians and non-Christians are undertaking a lot of reflecting and soul searching in Australia. The Australian Prime Minister has introduced another exposure draft religious discrimination bill. This bill is not solely about protecting religious people from discrimination, but more about providing religious people and organisations with the right to discriminate against others.
The bill effectively creates a system of a #religiousapartheid in Australia.
What are we discovering:
- If you are a defacto couple in an Uber, the Uber drive will have the right to make negative comments through your entire trip based on their religious views that there should not be in such a relationship and you should be married in a church.
- If you are a single parent, even as a result of domestic violence, when dropping your child off at preschool every day a teacher can make comments about the inappropriateness of your separation and the negative impact on your child.
- If you need an emergency “morning-after pill” the only doctor available in your town decides not to provide you with the prescription, or if they do, the only pharmacy open may decide not to provide the medication, all based on their own religious views.
- If you suspect you may have had an exposure to HIV and are in a rural area and the hospital is only resourced by visiting medical officers, they may decide not to prescribe you PeP because of your sexual orientation.
- If you’re a women in a regional location needing hormone therapy, the only local doctor may not prescribe you hormones because they feel they can not provide hormones to transgender patients. To ensure they can not be accused of discrimination by sex or gender, they refuse to prescribe hormone treatments to any patients for any conditions.
- You have a child that has early onset puberty, and puberty blockers are an appropriate treatment. Still, the doctor refuses to prescribe because another use of puberty blockers is to provide essential support for transgender children which they do not agree with on religious grounds.
- Your child could be expelled from a private school for standing up and supporting another student who is being bullied because they are gay.
The list of examples is growing and will continue to grow.
Christian Porter has named religious-based organisations who will receive benefits from the government’s legislation, around the ability to hire and fire employees on religious groups. Many religious organisations are saying they don’t need these powers.
The original exposure draft was said to be friendless, and PM Morrison believes the new draft is much better after listening to the responses from the exposure draft. Unfortunately, it appears that they have only listened to the conservative religious voices and very few others, and this exposure draft is worse and more dangerous than the first.
Scott Morrison talks about this bill bringing greater harmony to Australia. The legislation is nothing more than introducing a system of state-funded religious apartheid into Australia. This will bring greater disharmony and many negative social and health consequences for our society.
In Advent, when we are reminded about the birth of Jesus, the refugee, the preacher man who disrupted the religious and political elite, he would not be calling for a system of religious apartheid, he would be calling for inclusion rather than exclusion.
This Advent, it is time for Christians, people of other faiths, and the rest of society to spend some time reflecting. Do we want to introduce a system of religious privilege, of religious apartheid into Australia? If not, then the action is required to let your local members and the Prime Minister know that this is not the Australia we want.
Let’s remember that Jesus was a refugee, and advocate for the poor and the outcast, the people of different nations and ethnicity. He was not an advocate for the religious and political elite.
It is time that the people of Australia became more prophetic, rejecting the political and religious elite and take back Australia for all humankind.