On billboards, bluster and the rest of it.

Nathan as a quite excellent piece on the recent fiasco over this billboard in Queensland.


Generally speaking, I’m a fan of freedom of speech, which means I am naturally opposed to censorship. Not viewing guidelines. But the prevention of ideas being able to be freely transmitted. Some ideas are criminal, and transmitting them is worthy of being locked up. But as a general rule people I disagree with should be allowed to advertise their messages. Because that’s consistent. The playing field is level. I hate the idea that we are a “Christian country” so therefore other religions shouldn’t be allowed to advertise. It’s wrong on about eight levels. Well. Two. We aren’t really a Christian country, and even if we were, that shouldn’t stop us letting minorities have a voice. There’s censorship of ideas, which is bad because liberty is good, and there’s restrictions on liberty for the sake of not hurting others. Which is good, because hurting others is bad… which brings me to the big gay controversy…


Two people. Cuddling or engaging in foreplay. Necking. Condom in hand, lowered suggestively towards groin. Clothed. The words rip and roll displayed prominently.


Safe sex message or not, I think you’d have a hard time convincing most people that the above scene is “G Rated”… it’s simply not. The subtext is clear. And while being “G Rated” is framed as being about children, it’s really not. It’s about protecting people from things that offend them in public places.

With him so far? Think you know where this is going? Think again, because Nathan has already pointed out to you that the notion of us being a “Christian country” is ill-conceived. He has a far more important complaint here:

Wouldn’t it be great if we had somebody out there fighting for G-Rated outdoor advertising.


Oh wait. We do.


The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL).


I’ve said before that I’m not really a fan of the Australian Christian Lobby. I’m not a fan of their approach to church and state, to morality, to the fundamental assumptions they have about what is a good witness to people, what will change behaviour, and how Christians should contribute to society. But I could support them on the outdoor advertising thing. I really could. But in this case. Their message is lost. And the advertisers win again. Because the Australian Christian Lobby’s Wendy Francis has a track record of being “homophobic” – thanks to an ill-advised tweet while she was running for Family First. I use the quotes there because she’s not actually homophobic, but rather is said to be. I don’t think she’s scared of gay people, I just don’t think she knows how to approach the issue of homosexuality in public from a Christian perspective.

And that, dear reader, is the key phrase “from a Christian perspective” because, as Nathan will go on to argue, the problem with much of the ACL's approach is that it is publicly moralistic, but not explictily gospel-shaped. Look, Nathan explains this better than me,

How can a “Christian Lobby” bang on about stuff so much saying so little about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. You get a free hit on national television on a popular breakfast show and you paint us all as moralising potentially homophobic wowsers. Why not talk about Jesus, even if it’s linked to what Jesus said about marriage and sexuality.

We’re Christians because we love Jesus, not because we don’t like other people putting safe sex messages on billboards. Even the Muslims want to talk about Jesus. And we can’t get it right.

Front of the class, Nathan. Spot on. You're not a “Christian” lobby if all you do is talk about morals and right-living. That's not Christianity in any way shape or form. The closest Biblical equivalent is pharisaism and I think you'll find they don't get a good press at all.

And, what's more, it was just a dumb thing to do. With Nathan I agree that the billboards were inappropriate but a little more wisdom about strategy wouldn't go amiss. There were only a few days left to run and who had actually really heard about the campaign until that point? And then there's the whole question of being extra careful to be properly understood when dealing with the issue of homosexual behaviour. But it appears that yet again the ACL just blundered straight in.

So, bottom line, if you're going to present yourself as a “Christian” organisation then speak about Christ and the gospel and grace and speak in a gracious way. Not that we're experts in the matter but perhaps our own recent attempt is a better example?


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