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Weekly SNAC, 26 March 2017 - Coopers Beer, the Bible Society and Free Speech



I am sure that you’ve heard the furore over the partnership between Coopers Brewery and the Bible Society this week? It jumped all the way from Social Media to the mainstream news and chat shows. Very briefly, Coopers Brewery entered into a partnership with the Bible Society to release a limited number of light beer cans and cartons with Bible verses printed on them to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Bible Society in Australia. However, then the Bible Society created an online video of two Liberal party MPs (one openly gay and a supporter of same-sex marriage, the other openly Christian and opposed to same-sex marriage) modelling how to have a rational and respectful debate about this issue while enjoying a Coopers Light at the same time. It is unclear the extent to which Coopers were aware of the video before it was circulated.

Of course, after it went on-line, the rest, as they say, is history. The so-called ‘Marriage Equality’ lobby was up in arms. Pubs in the inner suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne were refusing to stock Coopers and smashing their remaining stock; there were wide-spread social media campaigns to boycott Coopers; and before you know it Coopers had been bullied (there is no other word for it) into not just disowning their connection to the Bible Society but coming out in public support of “Same-sex marriage”.

What are we to make of this? Many commentators (Christian and otherwise) have suggested that this is the death knell for free speech in this country. If you now disagree with the loud arbiters of what is right in this country you will be shouted down, mocked and bullied into submission. This is a sad indictment of the state of public debate in our country. It also shows the success of the “Marriage Equality” lobby. By turning this issue into a matter of ‘human rights’ (even though same-sex couples already have equivalent rights under law as traditional marriages) the attack of anyone who disagrees is justified. In this light much of the Christian response has been of alarmism.

However, despite all the alarmism I think there are other lessons to draw for Christians here (the wisdom or otherwise shown by the Bible Society in making a connection with a brewing company given the number of Christians who struggle with the issue of alcohol can be left for another day). One lesson is that we need to remember that Jesus encouraged us to remember that our world hates righteousness. If our world rejected Jesus, then of course they will reject those who follow him. If we are going to stand up for Jesus in the modern world it will take courage. Why do we expect a fair hearing when our Lord never received one?

The second lesson I would draw is that this should remind us that our main task in this world is to proclaim Christ so that people might be saved; NOT to lecture our world about morality. Christians should be arguing against same-sex marriage in a gentle and respectful way, but what good is there in lecturing people (even in a humorous on-line video) about how they should mount their arguments? Jesus said, “turn the other cheek”, not “explain to your attacker why they should be more gracious to you”! We should model how to disagree well, rather than lecture other people how to disagree. As one friend of mine said to me, “If we’re going to get persecuted, let’s be persecuted for telling people about Jesus, not for telling people how to be nice to one another”. In the end, our world needs saving, not improving.
Phil Colgan

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