Late last year Greens MP Adam Bandt put a motion into Federal Parliament that politicians seek out the views of their constituents in regards same-sex marriage. That motion was passed and MPs spent this year in “consultation mode” until last month when the period of official consultation ended. The position of Bandt and the Greens party in relation to same-sex marriage is of course well known. The consolation was really designed to create a bit of a smoke screen and advance the cause of same-sex marriage one step further. Besides the fact that numerous MPs disliked the idea of being told by the new kid on the parliamentary block how to do their jobs (as if they never consulted their constituents), in my mind the “consultation” process was a floored one from the beginning.
We live in a democratic nation and while that is a great blessing, it can lead us as citizens in that democracy to believe that our ability to decide on questions of ethics and morality is also a democratic right. If you walk outside now and ask the first ten people you see if the aforementioned consolation process was a good idea (regardless of their position on the issue) you would without a doubt get a very high ‘yes’ rating. If you pushed further about why those people believed it was a good idea you would likely get responses revolving around the ideas of democracy, freedom, listening to all opinions, majority consensus etc. Now that is all good and well if we are deciding on day-to-day matters of regulation and law, but for us to think that we can vote in the meaning of marriage in the same way that we vote in the Prime Minister is a misunderstanding of the “freedom” of true democracy.
Freedom is one of the most misunderstood words in modern language. We commonly perceive freedom to be the ability to do as we please, and to some extent that is true. Freedom does allow us the privilege to choose the direction we will walk, to decide the shape of our lives. However, as we all know, our freedom is not absolute, in fact, when you break it down we are not very free at all. You did not choose when or where you would be born. You did not choose your family. Your initial attitudes to the world when you were young are most often shaped by your parents and their personal attitudes. So while human persons crave freedom above all else, we exist with the tension of only a partial freedom.
True freedom though will always be a preeminent good because it is what allows us to be great sinners or great saints. Freedom is of course God’s gift to mankind and He will never impinge upon our personal freedom. That being said, there are some choices that we are simply not free to make. If we recall the story of our first parents in the Garden of Eden we will recall the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that was planted in the centre of the Garden. The man and the woman were “free” to eat from any tree in the garden but that particular tree they were not even permitted to touch. The deep truth hidden in this story speaks to us very much of freedom. It tells us that even though we have the ability to choose subjectively in our lives whether we should walk left or walk right, we do not have the ability to objectively declare that left will now be right and right will now be left. We can choose to share or to steal but we cannot decide that stealing will be a virtue and sharing will be a sin. The essence of morality has been planted within us, just like the tree in the garden.
The first man and woman misused their freedom because they attempted to do something they could not do and that was to reach out and take the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Each person since has been given the same freedom, we can choose to obey or disobey but we should not be so foolhardy to think that we can create our own realities. The job of government is not to create new realities, it is to help and assist people to choose good realities. When government takes it upon itself to “decide” the definition of marriage it is overstepping its boundary, it is failing to realise that we are not our own gods. Putting forward a consolation about an issue such as marriage has only served to further confuse people into believing that their freedom is much greater than it actually is.