Wendy Francis

More like this: Wendy Francis meets SameSame

I have two more ACL posts to write. Including this one. And then I’m done on this round, and we’ll return to normal programming.

A big part of the problem with how the ACL does business is that they go in to situations with a hostile posture and things go down hill – situations like TV debates, university debates, interviews where they’re forced to defend something they’ve said or argue about how something has been interpreted – because they adopt an adversarial posture the conversation is immediately off the rails and unlikely to produce productive results.

They’re remarkably better when that’s not the case – it’s much easier to have a gracious and winsome conversation if you’re having a conversation. Which is exactly what happened when Wendy Francis sat down with SameSame editor Chad St. James. They had a civil conversation – and St. James has reported it with polite empathy. It’s a nice read. It humanises both of them.

Wendy provides an interesting account of the blow up that followed a tweet sent from her account by a PR person.

“But I think the very concept of child abuse is always linked to sexual abuse, well in my mind it is anyway. That was the real tragedy of that whole tweet. If the staff at the office had tweeted legalising same-sex marriage is taking a way a child’s right away to have a mother, then I probably wouldn’t have been so upset about it. But I was livid and really, really upset about it. My children were upset about it. Because it certainly inferred sexual abuse I think. So that just unforgivable. But I don’t think I handled the media well afterwards. But looking back I don’t think I know how I could’ve avoided it.

I can 100 percent promise you, I had nothing to do with that tweet. I hated it, I absolutely hated it. I wished I hadn’t been out of the office so I could’ve been there. I immediately sort of went into melt-down mode wondering what it was all about.

I was fuzzy with the responses afterwards, not really knowing what to. I had all these people advising me what to say. I had people ringing me saying “you should really go with that, that’s a great comment” and I was saying I can’t possibly go with that, it’s an awful comment.”

So that’s nice. She does a really nice job of making her position on the GLBTI issues a product of social concern, rather than homophobia, and leaves St. James feeling vaguely sympathetic for her position. So that’s nice. My one concern comes from her answer to these two questions…

What does the Australian Christian Lobby stand for?

It stands for being a voice for values. We see that there is a value set, that Australia has traditionally been built on, and that is the Judeo – Christian heritage. And that’s like a lot of the west has been built on that as well. And the some of the policies that we have, if you look at what is at the heart of them its things from the Christian faith such as “do unto others as you would have them to do unto you” and the good Samaritan.

Those sort of things are built into the Australian psyche, the whole good Samaritan, going a further mile, all of those things are from a Christian heritage. As we moved as a society away from being just Christian, and I don’t begrudge that, I think as we have had new immigration from other countries. In Brisbane for instance we celebrate Ramadan, we celebrate Buddha’s birthday, we celebrate Christmas. So we have this really good multicultural link, but as we have moved away from any one faith-base then we’ve got a bit of a void of where our values are based. So for me that is what I believe the Australian Christian Lobby is doing, seeking to keep us on track with the value system that has stood us in really good stead.

What does Wendy Francis stand for?

Wendy Francis is a mum and a grandma, a wife. I have always felt strongly about justice issues, I also feel very strongly about children. I think as our society has changed, one of the things that have changed for me the most is that we used to do whatever we do was on the best interests of the child. I think that’s changed, I think it’s now very “me”.

Mind you, I have to say I think your generation is turning that around a little. I think your generation is sick of that. I think it’s the baby boomers who are a much more me generation. We’ve had it very good. We’ve all got houses, and now houses are out of reach for a lot of the younger ones. I think that “me, me” has impacted how we look outwardly.

So for Wendy Francis, I think a lot of my motivation is coming from getting back to what is best for children. If we look at what is best for children, then I think that’s going to be what’s best for society.

If you want to be the Australian Christian Heritage Lobby, or the Christian Values Lobby, that’s fine. But if you call yourself the Christian Lobby, and you say you’re on about Jesus – which I’m sure Wendy is – I think these are the questions where the gospel comes in naturally. Rather than the moral framework that Christianity has produced in our legal system.

There was also this bit…

“You operate on a set of beliefs, and I do, and both of us are vitally important in what we call democracy, because if we’re going to have a true democracy every voice has to be heard. So I think it’s vital that the Christian voice is heard because we represent a large part of the constituents. In the latest census I think there were 62 percent of people that identify as Christians. It doesn’t mean that they’re all practising Christians, it’s probably more like 20 percent that are practising Christians, but still there is 62 percent identify in that way. So it would be ridiculous to think that there wasn’t some sort of input from what people believe into our parliaments.”

They need to decide if they represent the 20% or the 62% – and if the latter, they need to change their name and to stop pretending they’re speaking for the church.

In this interview Wendy Francis has the second part of 1 Peter 3:15 sorted, the ACL still needs to work on the first…

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…

Family Last: Why I’m not voting 1 for Family First despite being a Christian

A well meaning friend, perhaps unaware of my position on Family First, suggested that I become Facebook Friends with Queensland Senate Candidate Wendy Francis. I have met Wendy (a few years ago), I used to play football (soccer for the luddites) against her son. Anyway. I added her. She seems like a decent, hard working, Godly Christian lady, I’ve no doubt she’s a great mum. I’ve got no doubt she’s a Christian. I’ve got no doubt she’s moral. And I’ve got no doubt she’s intelligent. But I won’t be voting for her. She’ll probably end up somewhere above the Greens and the Australian Sex Party on my ballot paper (I like numbering the senate paper completely. I’m a politics geek. Sue me.). And here’s why. I don’t think she’ll make a good politician. Pretty much by her own admission. If you want a godly, motherly, intelligent amateur holding the balance of power in the senate (which might happen) then feel free to vote for her. I won’t judge you.

She’s been busy on Facebook posting 101 reasons to vote for Wendy Francis. Here are some examples.

#13 I’ve never had media training and I don’t know how to avoid or fudge questions.

#88 I really don’t know quite how to be a politician and I rather suspect I should stay that way and those who vote for me would agree

#71 In a campaign featuring robotic candidates controlled by media minders I’m a fresh contrast. It’s time for un-politicians!

My big problem with the Family First campaign (and its epitomised by Wendy’s appearance on Sunrise) is that they completely lack any form of nuance or any sense that they’ll be, if elected, governing for everybody. Not just the people who vote for them. What they say is fine (almost) coming from the mouths of lobbiests and special interest groups. But this sort of comment from her Facebook profile is just a little scary: “Atheist Prime Minister & atheist Greens with senate balance of power equals the wrong road for Australia”.

I can’t help but think that if she had media minders, or thought like a politician, she may have avoided situations like this.

“legitimising gay marriage is like legalising child abuse”

Comparing anything that’s clearly not in the same category of child abuse to child abuse is like comparing things to Hitler. We have a pretty solid definition of child abuse to work from – and we have myriad victims of child abuse in our community who must feel somewhat slighted by the idea that children with two loving parents are being placed in the same category.

Christians hate it (I know I do) when atheists suggest that Christian parenting is child abuse. So why would we, as Christians, use similar language to describe family structures we disagree with. Even if it wasn’t her who posted the message (and she says it wasn’t, but that it was a staffer) it’s the kind of amateur hour thing she seems to be proud of (based on her points above). And she didn’t distance herself from the sentiment in subsequent interviews. A little media training and political nous goes a long way.

Something can be bad for a child without it being child abuse. This lack of nuance is appalling. Is she saying that any child without a father is suffering abuse? Does it follow that any mother who leaves her husband and becomes a single parent is also an abuser? Or is it only if they leave their husband for another woman?

I sympathise with her position on same-sex couples adopting. But I think it’s a much more complex situation than can be adequately argued or justified on Twitter in 140 characters or less. Is it better for a child to have loving gay parents than no parents? Probably. As soon as you concede that point you’re on the back foot. Coming out with emotive tripe that seems designed purely to cause scandal is a ridiculous political strategy designed only to resonate with the lowest common denominator of Christian thought.

My biggest problem with Family First is that they almost completely fail to empathise with the people they oppose. Christians, by the grace of God and our parliament, enjoy incredible freedom in our country. This kind of “we speak for the majority so we’re going to prevent any minorities being represented” mentality is just scary. You know what happens in cultures that oppress and silence minorities. They start sending them to death camps. There. I made a Hitler comparison.

Politics has famously been described (probably by Churchill) as the art of compromise. By being definitively “non-compromising” and “non-political” you’re essentially saying that you don’t care about the outsider. The people who don’t hold your views. That’s not what being a senator, or being a Christian, is about.

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