Religious Freedom and the Politics of Outrage – Part 1

Religious Freedom and The Politics of Outrage – Part 1

By Akos Balogh (taken from Gospel coalition website)

(According to Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times Journalist Nicholas Kristof,  the best way for the Mainstream Media to build audiences in this competitive digital age is by ‘reinforcing stereotypes and minimising nuance‘. [1]

Well, we saw both these behaviours in the SMH and ABC reporting of the leaked Ruddock Report last week.

On Wednesday 21st November an article in the SMH was titled ‘Religious freedom review enshrines right of schools to turn away gay children and teachers‘, an unfortunate title that framed the discussion from that point on.  Sadly neither ABC’s ‘The Drum‘ nor ‘Hack‘ on Triple J did much to challenge that given narrative.

This was disappointing on a number of levels.

1) The title of their article – “Religious freedom review enshrines right of schools to turn away gay children and teachers” – was needlessly inflammatory.

Such headlines (and articles) play into the polarising outrage machine driving discourse in our internet age.

Such a headline (and reporting) offended many gay people, and many Christians (particularly those around Christian schools) felt attacked.

What should have been a serious discussion about a complex (albeit contested) issue has been blindsided by the ‘politics of outrage’. This is not conducive to the civil debate necessary for a thriving democracy.

2) The article seems to insinuate that Christian schools are potential hotbeds of homophobia, ready to discriminate against gay students.

Yet there has been no allegation whatsoever of Christian schools discriminating against gay students.

Indeed, Australian Association of Christian Schools executive officer Annette Pereira said her members did not know of any Christian schools expelling students on the basis of their sexual orientation:

We have been disappointed with the way religious schools have been unfairly characterised over the past week…We have no desire to be allowed to expel students because of their sexual orientation.”

Considering that Christian schools are some of the most welcoming and caring environments for students of all backgrounds, this insinuation (of unjust discrimination) is troubling.

3) Many if not most of the Christian schools actively encourage students from non-Christian homes to enrol.

This is with the transparent aim of sharing the gospel with them. Again, you wouldn’t know this from the article(s).

4) Such reporting comes perilously close to presenting us with a false dichotomy:

Either you’re for religious freedom, and therefore pro-discrimination against gay people (even though the term ‘discrimination’ is left undefined), or you’re for gay people, and against religious freedom.

Such dichotomy is false to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, who a) died for all people (gay or straight), to reconcile them to God, and b) demands that people be free from government interference to have faith in Him (or not). In other words, Religious freedom, and loving gay people can and must go together.

This article is written by Akos Balough. He is a Christ-follower, husband, father, blogger. And the Executive Director of The Gospel Coalition Australia. He has also worked as a campus Chaplain, helping broken people get to know Jesus, and as a military Aerospace Engineer, fixing broken aeroplanes.