By James Moylan
This week the Liberal Senator for South Australia, Cory Bernadi, told SKY News that the Safe Schools Project is actually aimed at ‘intimidating and bullying kids into conforming to what is the homosexual agenda’. He was also worried the program might be used to ‘indoctrinate children into a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism’. George Christensen, the Liberal member for Dawson, talked at length about chest binding and penis tucking before going on to propose that the Safe Schools program might be engaged in ‘grooming’ in much the same way as a paedophile might groom a potential victim. All in all it was an arresting and profoundly disturbing display.
Prime Minister Turnbull was quick to act. He immediately commissioned a review into the $8 million Safe Schools program. For the jaded amongst us it seemed the obvious thing to do. Then of course the Australian Christian Lobby, which had already called for this ‘radical’ program to be axed, at once began applauding this further limiting of the ‘rainbow agenda’. They also encouraged all good Christians to immediately email their MP and complain about ‘teaching kids gay and lesbian techniques’.
Way back here on planet earth the rest of us were scratching our heads and feeling vaguely icky about the whole debate. Most commentators said nothing. Those that did just generally noted in a desultory way that our joint comprehension of the interactions between language, money, politics, and social institutions had moved way beyond this sort of ill-informed ranting. There were a couple of essays about how silly the Marxist cultural relativism argument now sounds when voiced in a modern setting, but not much else. It was all rather half-hearted really. I thought the response would be far more strident. After all, the whole thing made me want to puke.
Perhaps it’s all too big a target? I mean: Where do you begin? Why is it even necessary in this day and age to have to address such a chasm of ignorance? So reticence is understandable. Why bother? After all, to even adequately address all the different ways in which these individuals are detached from reality would be to expend lots and lots of hard work for little gain. None of these guys would even listen. We all know that. No matter how much evidence is presented to these individuals; they will all remain wilfully ignorant. They will remain joyfully and wantonly ignorant. Also they will be proud of their ignorance. Which is understandable as their ignorance and hubris is of black-hole like proportions. Any unwanted information that ever goes near any of them will simply not survive. It disappears below their belief horizon never to be seen again. And just like a black hole it is also apparent that these Christian evangelicals never illuminate any debate but rather simply hover nearby and assert a gross and distorting influence that is way out of proportion to their actual size.
It becomes immediately apparent when you listen to Senator Bernadi, the ACL, and other Christian evangelicals, that they either dropped through a crack in the space-time continuum that leads back to 1979 or they jointly missed the whole of modernism, post-modernism, the development of structural analysis and semiotics, feminism, gender theory, the whole of the 80’s, the whole of the 90’s, the sexual revolution, Political Theory 101, and any instruction in good manners. Moreover they all seem to have a creepy obsession with other people’s dangly bits.
The good news is that the younger generation seems to think that this whole argument is simply crazy. It took me three attempts just to explain to my nineteen year old daughter what George Christensen was talking about. After outlining the content of the Safe Schools program in much the same general terms he used I added that the program had then been accused of furthering the gay and lesbian political rights agenda. At first my daughter entirely failed to understand what the critique was. Her immediate response was that ‘the political rights of gay, lesbian, and transgender students are important. And so?’
I then had to explain that Mr Christensen thought that being gay was ‘unnatural’ and that it was wrong to teach kids that they had rights regarding their upbringing, gender, sexual identity, political ideology, and/or about the protections that are available to them under the law. For a moment she couldn’t quite grasp what I was saying. But when she did she just shrugged it away with the comment that: ‘He’s a religious nutter. So why is anyone listening to a religious nutter?’
My daughter was right. It made me angry that I had to be schooled by a nineteen year old. Simple intolerance is at the root of this whole problem. It has nothing to do with the Safe Schools program and everything to do with a small segment of our population who are unnaturally preoccupied with the sex lives of our children. It is a sick and arcane preoccupation being voiced by some of the most deluded people in our society. So why are we still listening to these religious nutters? Why do we adults all look away and cringe rather than protesting that George Christensen sounds like a creepy backwoods preacher and Cory Bernadi like an ill-educated country hick! My daughter is right! We should be laughing at these people rather than listening to them. And this is a golden opportunity to jointly point our fingers at these ill-educated religious thugs and laugh them right out of the public square.
These right wing dinosaurs seem to have forgotten momentarily that they only survive by dint of their camouflage. They look quite handsome and conservative when they loiter in the background but as soon as they walk onto centre stage and begin to speak everyone’s jaw drops in unison. They simply do not belong in the modern world. Not only do they believe a load of tripe. It is bigoted and hateful tripe. Not only do they deserve a good laughing at, they should also be run out of town on a rail.
This is because the tripe and nonsense that Christians teach our children inflicts endless suffering and humiliation before these developing minds gain the emotional wherewithal to understand that they are being conned. How many little children will fall asleep tonight in tears because some religious bully has convinced them that they are full of sin? All for no reason at all except to appease an imaginary friend that nobody except for the most deluded amongst us believes to exist. Blood sacrifice and original sin? Isn’t that a little bit middle ages?
And how can anyone associated with a Christian church still believe that they have any moral authority when they want to talk about sexual matters in the public square? The idea of leaving a young person in the care of a priest has now descended into the realm of black humour. Yet it is apparent that the religious right wing still has the hubris to accuse the mainstream of Australian society of being perverse. Even while they are enmeshed in endless sexual scandals. Even while they continue to squander a quarter of a billion dollars of public money each year on proselytising to our children despite being told it is unconstitutional. Then to top it off they have the hide to describe an anti-bullying campaign as being ungodly. It makes me want to swear in a most ungodly fashion.
These are the same people who continue to teach vulnerable children that they are damned to spend the rest of eternity in hell unless they bow down to a particular imaginary friend. They teach our kids that they are naturally and intrinsically broken and can only be healed if they lap up the spiritual snake-oil that is on offer. So, yes. I do agree that we need to stop funding the teaching of dangerous and degrading drivel in our schools. We should immediately commence by dropping all public funding for ‘religious instruction’. In the twenty-first century why do we still allow zealots to teach about blood-sacrifice and ‘miracles’, personal salvation, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ into heaven in classrooms across Australia? Why do we allow our government to continue funding this waste of money? This is a genuine scandal rather than an invented one. The High Court and public opinion both say that this is unacceptable yet still these religious nutters continue to abuse our children
The real crime is not the Safe Schools Program but rather our public funding of the teaching of Bronze Age beliefs in our schools. No imaginary friend is worth the anguish of a child. No Aussie child should be taught to fear god and hate their own body. Australia is a secular country and religious instruction has no place in our educational system. It is time to stop appeasing this backward and ignorant subsection of our community and banish these ignorant beliefs from both our public school system and from the parliaments of our land.
Also by James Moylan: