This is an unedited version of this article that was published by The Gospel Coalition Australia.
The original was edited purely and simply because of length….
Judge Not: When Dissenters Become Dictators
I had the great privilege of being a guest at a Christmas event at which the distinguished speaker was The Honourable Michael Kirby AC CMG, former High Court Justice. It was a fascinating evening that revealed a great deal about the current Zeitgeist in Australia.
Kirby is an activist judge. He was known as The Great Dissenter on account of the number of times he dissented from judicial decisions. Although he doesn’t like the term judicial activist (associating it with conservative criticisms) he does speak of judicial activism in ‘tune with the deeply felt emotions of ordinary citizens’. Amongst other things he is well known for his gay activism. To some people’s surprise he identifies as a Protestant Anglican – although it is fair to say that he clashes with the current Sydney Anglican mainstream. He is critical of both past and present Archbishops – Philip Jenson and Glenn Davies. As regards the latter in the course of his talk he stated, to applause, that he was not going to ‘pack his bags’ and leave the Anglican Church.
With this in mind I was looking forward to an ‘interesting’ evening. I went determined to keep silent and listen. I wanted to learn and understand.
What did I learn?
Michael Kirby is an excellent speaker, affable and engaging. He also showed himself to be something of an independent thinker, not afraid to ruffle feathers. I liked him.
Although the talk was meant to be about LGBT issues in terms of mediation, most of it was a series of personal reminisces.
He had a powerful, and in my view legitimate critique of the repeal of the Medivac legislation. He argued that much of the support for this came from ‘religious’ people who should remember that Manus Island and Nauru were not compatible with the Christian teaching about loving your neighbour. Although I’m sure that there are reasons that people could use to justify this repeal, it does come across as petty and vindictive.
Kirby then linked this issue with gay rights – and this is where his talk went downhill. Not surprisingly he spoke of the Folau case and the settlement that had just been made public. His summary was enlightening. However there were a number of statements which were, to say the least, questionable. Statements that seemed to be accepted within the room as ‘Gospel’ truth and I suspect statements that reflect the current Establishment zeitgeist in todays Australia (and probably the UK and US as well). Let me summarise the issues as follows:
You don’t to choose your sexuality therefore it is wrong to put LGBT in a category with drunks, alcoholics, fornicators and thieves. These are behaviours you can change, but you can’t change your sexuality.
But both these premises are questionable. There are those who would argue for a genetic determinism which means that you cannot change your behaviour. The adulterer can argue that he cannot help it because it’s his genes – ‘the way God made me’. And there are those, like Australian gay activist, Peter Thatchell,who argue that sexuality is on a spectrum and that many people can and do change. The Christian has a wider perspective…we regard behaviour and who ‘we are’ as inextricably linked. We don’t regard particular groups as being sinners, whilst the rest of us are righteous. All of us are ‘dead in sins and trespasses’. All of us need such a radical change that Jesus calls it being ‘born again’. It’s disappointing that a self-professing Christian does not seem to grasp the radical nature of the Gospel.
Kirby also admitted that he had used the name of Folau on a forthcoming paper because of ‘commercial’ advantage. I wonder whether there are Christians who also use ‘famous’ people and cases for ‘commercial’ advantage?
His comments on the use of language were insightful. The Honourable Kirby did not like being called Queer, but there was a strategy – to take over the ‘hate’ words and turn them against their opponents. I think that to some extent this is what Paul did – baptizing the Greek language and giving it a new meaning. The gay activists have largely succeeded in reversing that. By gaining control of the language they have changed and devalued the Christian values of liberty and tolerance upon which our culture was built.
The acceptance of same sex marriage was not enough. Kirby was disappointed that over 40% of the Australian population were still against ‘equal’ marriage – including some ‘in this room’. As one of the ‘40%’ I felt the enormous pressure being applied in that room. Not least when Kirby pointed out that the more ‘educated’ you were the less likely you were to oppose SSM – unless you were one of those nasty religious people who want to deny medical care to refugees. Kirby’s conflation of the issues was clever and disingenuous. And intimidating. Disagree if you dare!
Kirby then went on to the other issue of the day – transgender. There is a problem in the roll of the binary – male and female and nothing in between. His acceptance of ‘Queer Theory’ seemed to be based on little more than the Kinsey report.
But then came the somewhat surprising practical applications of his sermon. You should recuse yourself if you are involved in a case involving LGBT and do not support SSM. Preferred pronouns should always be used.
In a rambling section about exemptions for religious bodies he allowed his prejudices free roam. For example much of our health care is provided by churches – and to allow them ‘religious exemptions’ is to ‘allow people to be nasty to gay people in homes’. Kirby thus demonized the fine work done by Christian organisations such as Hammond Care and the Salvation Army, implying that holding to the view of marriage that Jesus taught, means that you are going to be ‘nasty’ to those we disagree with. Kirby’s idea that to disagree with someone is to be nasty, is one of the most insidious, dangerous and nasty doctrines of the new regressive ideology. He also seems to forget that Christians are commanded to love their enemies.
Another problem was his cut ‘n’ paste, ‘pick ‘n’ mix view of the Bible. There are some wonderful passages in the Bible especially in the NT, but there are quite a lot of nasty ones. Which being translated meaneth; ‘wonderful’ = the passages I like; ‘nasty’ = the passages I don’t like.
Speaking of nasty there was a somewhat tasteless comment about the ‘bloody’ people of Israel. Perhaps I am oversensitive but how is that different to the old ‘blood lust’ anti-Semitic meme?
The Bible v.s Jesus
For someone who does not like binary choices, Kirby was very good at presenting them to us. We could either go with ‘2,000 religious scripts’ or ‘Jesus Christ’s message of love and tolerance’! For a lawyer to make this remark seemed a bit illogical. How do we know what Jesus’s message of love and tolerance is except through the 2,000-year-old religious scripts that tell us? Unless of course what Kirby means is ‘my message of love and tolerance according to my values – which I can neatly tag on to my version of Jesus’.
Kirby also failed in his historical/political analysis when he spoke of the ‘British principle of secularism in the public space’. It is true that the UK has a secular government in that there is a separation of church and state. But it is not absolute and the UK constitution is fundamentally a Christian one. We have a Queen who swears to uphold the Christian faith. Our education, legal and welfare systems have fundamentally Christian roots. The UK is (or was) a model of Christian secularism. Kirby should know that. It is as we move away from the Christian foundation that we are losing the basic Christian principles of tolerance, diversity and equality before the Law.
As for my vow of silence?
I wasn’t able to keep it.
I felt it was such an intimidatory atmosphere that I did not want to speak- I much preferred to sit at the back in silence….but my conscience bothered me. I felt it was wrong to keep silent. As I wrestled with whether to say something or not, I prayed and reluctantly put up my hand. It was a relief when Michael stated it was the last question and pointed to someone else! But then he changed his mind and asked ‘the man at the back’. So I asked him about the Kinsey report which has been thoroughly discredited – both for its methodology, samples and bias (i.e.… https://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/alfred-kinsey-a-brief-summary-and-critique) He wasn’t happy because he had served on the Kinsey committee in Australia for ten years!
Here again is a problem with the new regressive ideology….it is highly selective in terms of its evidential bias. Adopting a flawed report just because it confirms what you want to be true, is the very definition of confirmation bias.
There was also a hint that beneath the cuddly exterior there beats a more steely heart. The Honourable Kirby’s main response to my argument was to point out how lucky I was to live in a country where I was permitted to dissent from his viewpoint. I felt suitably patronized, as though I were supposed to be grateful. But also a little threatened. The not so subliminal message was a warning to be careful how we used the freedom of expression – lest we lose it – in the name of tolerance.
I also argued the old Western liberal view that everyone should be equal before the law and that therefore judges should leave their personal political and philosophical prejudices and treat all people the same. Much to my astonishment he rejected this and declared what we have all suspected, that bias plays a great deal in today’s society and that Judges should not ‘leave their values at the door’. What surprised me was how he affirmed and celebrated this.
Michael Kirby is an activist judge who sees his role as making the laws, as well as applying them. As such he is not alone. The old principles of classical liberal jurisprudence– the laws being made by democratically elected politicians and enforced by neutral judges – are being swept away. But what are they being replaced with? The laws of the powerful and the wealthy. If you have the money, you have the power. If you have the power you make the law. Instead of Lex Rex (the Law is King) we are returning to Rex Lex (the King is the Law) – with ‘Rex’ being Mr Kirby and his allies.
One of the consequences of this is that if you work in a corporation, academia, the media, the legal or the arts establishments, you are under enormous pressure to conform. (I leave out the Church from this list – we don’t need pressure from outside – we are already excellent at apostasising from the Law and Love of God! In general those of us who work in the Christian bubble will be left to destroy ourselves.) The real threat is to those Christians who work in the new Babylon, because the new illiberalism does not permit dissent. The Great Dissenters of the past have become the Great Dictators of the present. They often don’t need to use force or the law – ridicule, peer pressure and social engineering are usually enough (as witnessed that evening) – but if that doesn’t work, they can always rely on the instruments of the State to enforce their new doctrines.
It was a revealing and somewhat disturbing evening. They know not what they are doing. But there is hope. After the talk several people spoke to me and thanked me for speaking up. There are still those who have not bowed the knee to Baal.