These days it feels like people are just looking for a reason to be offended, to cry discrimination, exclusion, intolerance. Just turn on a TV program like The Project or The Today Show or Sunrise and wait only five minutes before the next 'outrage' is discussed and dissected. It's exhausting!
The latest one I've come across is this: the University of Sydney Union (USU) has declared it unacceptable for one of its oldest clubs, the Evangelical Union (EU) to require its members to declare they are, in fact, evangelical.
Indeed, if someone wishes to be a member of the EU, part of the membership requirement is signing a statement which declares their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as 'my Saviour, my Lord and my God.'
Unable to let these terms and conditions continue causing discrimination (!), the USU has threatened the EU with deregistration if they do not remove this membership requirement.
'It's exclusionary!' they cry. 'Participation must be maximized in the Clubs and Societies program,' they insist. You can read a summary of the issue here.
If you listen carefully, the subtext is these 'nasty' Evangelicals just won't let anyone and everyone be a member, and therefore they are discriminatory and intolerant!
Well, it would be if being a Christian was irrelevant to the identity of the club one wishes to join—as irrelevant as one's gender or skin colour. Except, and I hate to state the obvious, the purpose of the club is for Evangelicals to gather.
The outrage from the USU comes despite the fact that the EU does not require membership in order to participate. Anyone is more than welcome to attend their events and camps (what was that about maximising participation?). If they're not actually Evangelical, then they don't get voting rights or a valid say in how the club should be run or who should be on the executive.
I feel like it would be condescending to draw obvious parallels, such as an Arts student wishing to be a voting member of the Law Club and perhaps become president of the Law Club, but it seems in the face of such ... 'logic' from the USU, and such illustrations are actually necessary.
I believe, in time, common sense will prevail and the EU will continue as a registered club of USU.
If the USU threat is realised and EU is de-registered, then this would be a loss. Christians will continue to attend the university and there should be nothing stopping them gathering together for no other reason than they are Christians wanting to meet together—I believe it's called 'freedom of association.' Deregistration means they won't receive the 'perks' of being a registered club. A loss, but not a total loss.
It's rather like being a Christian in wider society. I see our society becoming more secular and Christianity being further sidelined. People see Christians as intolerant, exclusionary and backwards.
Our arguments and warnings regarding same-sex marriage/marriage redefinition fall on deaf ears. We're losing privileges like teaching Scripture classes in schools. Just watch an episode of Q&A where a Christian is on the panel and you'll get a feel for how we are perceived by some. (Actually maybe don't. It's depressing.)
I'm not saying Christians shouldn't have a voice in our society. I think we need to use our voice carefully, knowing we are always being watched and we are ambassadors for Christ. The stakes are high. As I write this column, editing and re-editing, I am painfully aware of this fact!
What the USU is demanding of the EU is, in my view, pretty outrageous and I feel indignant on behalf of the EU members. As I follow the story, I also feel impressed; the EU have risen above outrage and conducted themselves with maturity and grace in meeting the challenge.
If the EU loses, I think they will lose well and with the respect of the bystanders. If they win, they have won well and in a position to build a good relationship with USU. I'd like to see more of this when Christians are challenged and debated in broader society.
Sarah Urmston lives in Toowoomba with her husband, Stephen. She loves God, her family, writing, colouring in, crochet, and creating lists. Sarah works full-time at home and seeks to faithfully serve Jesus in many different ways using the time she's given.
Sarah Urmston's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sarah-urmston.html