No Sure Try, This!

Shortly after the Australian government decided that the issue of marriage equality would be put to a non-binding postal plebiscite, the Global Moderator (Interim) of Metropolitan Community Churches, the Rev Elder Rachelle Brown, posted on Facebook that this was a ‘step forward’.

Well, yes, I can see that. I also know that polling in Australia indicates a majority of the population are in favor of marriage equality, considerably so. The latest poll to come in[1] indicates that 70% of those planning to vote in the plebiscite intend to vote ‘Yes’ in answer to the question ‘Should same-sex couples be allowed to marry?’ Apparently, this is a relief for the ‘Yes’ campaign after seeing and earlier poll indicating that support for ‘Yes’ was beginning to slip.

The scare was in, though, and even these numbers, in my opinion, are no cause for complacency or for the ‘Yes’ side to think they have this ‘in the bag’. I’ve seen enough political campaigns in my life to see that one event, one quote, one perceived slip can change the momentum considerably.

And make no mistake – this question of human rights has been transformed into a political campaign. That in itself is troubling enough. It creates the misguided idea that ‘rights’ are something which are granted by the majority population to minorities. I get enough of that flawed thinking here in the country where I live, South Korea, where the remnants of neo-Confucian philosophy are still strong enough that the patronage of seniors to juniors, the dominance of men over women, and the expectation of reciprocity between friends are very real forces. This mindset is inevitably linked to the appalling rates of violence in male-female relationships[2], and the strong collusion between politicians and business empires, as well as politicians and their associates, which led to the impeachment of the president of this country earlier this year.

I’ve been a follower of politics from a very young age, so I can remember a number of events from campaigns in my native Canada which have reversed the trends in political campaigns:

  • The leader of the Progressive-Conservative Party of Canada, Robert Stanfield, threw around a football during an airplane refueling stop. It was the picture of the pass he dropped that made the front pages on Canadian newspapers the next morning. That picture didn’t help his election campaign, and his second-party leader status was weakened[3].
  • In 1980, the province of Québec held its first sovereignty referendum. The ‘No’ campaign, standing against sovereignty, was running a boring campaign, and some polls suggested the ‘Yes’ side could win. Then, Lise Payette, a minister in the Parti Québecois, compared women who supported a Québec fully inside Canada to Yvette, a cartoon character of the past who represented the stereotypical demure, deferent, obedient girl. Many women in Québec protested against this, and the ‘Yes’ side went to a resounding defeat[4].
  • In 1992, the government of Canada negotiated with the provinces to amend the Constitution so that Quebec would be included (its government had not agreed to the repatriated Constitution in 1982). The resulting ‘Charlottetown Accord’ was put to a referendum in the autumn. At the beginning of the campaign, the Acord was popular in English Canada, with a statistical dead-heat in Québec. However, steady opposition from separatist leaders in Québec and the Reform Party in Western Canada, not to mention the desire of many Canadian voters to stick to the then-unpopular Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, led to its defeat.
  • In 1995, there was another referendum in Quebec. After a lackluster beginning for the pro-sovereignty camp, a change of leadership, as well as an apparent complacency on the part of federalists, led to a ‘No’ result with a difference of only one percent.

Those are only my own recollections of a few events from my own country. I’m sure you can think of many from your own. The point is that any one event can lead to a sudden shift in momentum in any political campaign – and now Australia is in the middle of one.

There have already been events which could have been that ‘tipping point’, and it’s accurate to say that no side is completely innocent:

  • One poster that has been distributed by ‘No’ campaigners has made a series of wildly inaccurate claims that the majority of children who have same-sex parents suffer abuse[5];
  • A group of campaigners for the ‘No’ side were confronted by counter-protestors at the University of Sydney, and things apparently became very tense[6];
  • A comedian openly mused about what it would be like to ‘hate-f**k’[7] opponents of marriage equality as a form of revenge[8].

None of these are forms of discourse I’d consider particularly helpful in this debate.


  • People are allowed to disagree with the concept of same-sex marriage. Australia, like any other nation which allows freedom of expression, allows people to disagree on different issues. It seems to me that the appropriate response is to challenge the positions of these people, especially on religious grounds: ‘Why should your interpretation of your religion be given the privilege of denying civil rights to members of this society?’
  • Assume nothing. As noted above, momentum can shift at any time. The ‘Yes’ campaign needs to be calm and dispassionate (not un-passionate), yet relentless in its work to make sure the majority of Australians are convinced of the rightness of their cause, and that they send in their mail-in ballots.

To coin a term using rugby terminology, it’s no sure try, this. A constant, sustained effort will be needed to ensure this plebiscite is successful in guaranteeing marriage equality. But as I wrote earlier, why is this being decided through popular vote, anyway? Aren’t rights rights?!

[1] Reported in Brook, B (2017, 12 September) New same-sex marriage poll a relief for yes campaign. In [online]. Retrieved 16 September 2017 from

[2] Kim, D S (2017, 17 August) 8 in 10 Korean men admit abuse of girlfriend. In Korea Herald [online]. Retrieved 20 August 2017 from

[3] (2004 2 June/2017). An unforgettable fumble for Robert Stanfield. In CBC Digital Archives [online]. Retrieved 16 September 2017 from

[4] (2013) 1980 Referendum. In Canada History [online]. Retrieved 16 September 2017 from

[5] Sparkes, D (2017, 29 August (updated)). Same-sex marriage advocates say anti-LGBTI poster inaccurate, distressing. In ABC News [online]. Retrieved 1 September 2017 from

[6] Heated scenes at the University of Sydney over same-sex marriage (2017, September 14). In [online]. Retrieved 15 September 2017 from

[7] If you’re unaware of what that is, it’s having sex without someone you dislike, often containing roughness, name-calling, and immediately kicking them out of your bed afterwards.

[8] Coalition MPs lash out at ‘vile’ tweet by same-sex marriage advocate (2017, 11 September). In [online]. Retrieved 18 September 2017 from


Doubling Down!

How interesting.

I didn’t realize that the term ‘double down’ has its origins in card gambling, specifically blackjack. If you ‘double down’ in a game of blackjack, you decide to double your bet after looking at your cards; however, you have to agree to take one more card. Considering the rapidity with which cards are dealt at a blackjack table, one has to make the decision to double down pretty quickly. I remember Bill Cosby’s complaint about playing blackjack in Las Vegas – ‘you don’t have time to wish on your cards!’

‘5, 8, that’s 13 – ok, 7 or 8, 7 or 8’


‘What do you mean 10?! You take that card back!’

Knowing that, though, makes it much easier to comprehend the more modern definition we associate with it – strengthening or re-iterating one’s belief in or commitment to something, especially something that may be dubious or suspect.

If you’ve been following my rough translations of the news articles documenting the harassment of the Rev Lim Borah by eight church denominations in South Korea[1], you’ll know that the committee charged with carrying out the harassment produced its report saying that the Rev Lim is guilty of heresy and of attacking orthodox churches & theology.

Ever since then, the conservative Presbyterian church in Korea which started all this nonsense (The GAPCK, or as I affectionately call them, the ‘Jesus Presbyterians!’) have decided to allow a proposal for an amendment to their Constitution which allows local church pastors to deny baptism to sexual minorities and to evict church members who are identified as sexual minorities from their congregations. Now, I don’t know how a pastor would be able to discern the sexual orientation or gender identity of a babe-in-arms being brought for baptism by its parents, but I suppose Chongshin University Seminary (the flagship university for the ‘Jesus Presbyterians(!)’) would probably be able to include the appropriate training for this!

Of course, many of you are familiar with the ‘doubling down’ done by the 45th President of the United States, who couldn’t just condemn the violence in Charlottesville, but had to go ‘off script’ and add in that the violence happened ‘on many sides’. This was followed three days later by his defense of the white supremacist marchers, saying there were ‘many fine people’ among them, and creating false equivalencies between the fascists and what has become known as the ‘antifa’ (by the way, if you think that a ‘radical left’ has become a violent equivalent of the ‘alt-right’ which must be discredited, read this[2]).

To add to this, I just read this morning ‘the Nashville Statement’, a statement which came out of a conference sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. It claims to the a definitive ‘Christian’ statement on sexuality which states what it claims are the appropriate ‘Biblical’ stances on sexuality, gender identity, sexual orientation, and relationships. Article Ten is of unique interest to me as an LGBT+ ally:

Article 10

WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.

WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.[3]

Well, I do declare! Even holding an opinion is a reason to be condemned as being ‘anti-Christian’. I feel a heresy trial coming on (Bring it! I dare ya! Bring it!)!

Now, what causes people to take these types of actions, to make these types of statements? I’ve concluded that most people do not take any type of action, or make any kind of statement, unless they believe that they have the protection – of law, force, opinion, or whatever – to do so.

Donald Trump has the force of his financial empire and his ego. He also has the authority of being the head of state of the US, an authority gained by eking out an electoral college victory in a presidential election he lost by over 3 million votes. I believe that authority has fed his ego, and that he lives with megalomania, if not some other more drastic mental illness. There is no doubt that his policies, statements, and actions, have given ‘cover’ to all those who may have harbored racist or fascist sentiments but have hesitated from expressing them for fear of retribution. I shudder to think that it’s only the law that is keeping the U.S. away from allowing lynching to be an acceptable social practice![4]

However, be it here in Korea or in the U.S., I get the sense that these are both ‘double downs’ from old guards that think – or worse, know – that their time in a dominant position in society are growing short. You look at any public poll these days, and the 45th President has approval numbers which are nothing short of dismal for a president at this early stage of their term.

As for the GAPCK[5], they’ve just commissioned a public survey which has indicated that around three-quarters of Koreans may view Protestantism in a negative light.[6] Moreover, on a hot-button issue of homosexuality, over half of respondents indicated they were either sympathetic to or not concerned about the issue.[7] We can add to that the most recent results of a poll conducted by Gallup Korea, which indicated that, while there is still considerable opposition among older Koreans to same-sex marriage, 90% of those surveyed agreed that sexual minorities should enjoy equality in employment opportunities, and 81% believed a person should not be dismissed from their position due to sexual orientation.[8] It’s very clear that the beliefs they treasure are beginning to not be reflected in the opinions of the Korean body politic.

But what is their reaction? If the results of the conference they held to address the issues surrounding this survey are any indication, they simply can’t deal with it. The ‘expert speaker’ brought into the conference at least tried to broach subjects like the challenges of artificial intelligence to questions of identity, and humility in evangelism – but the bigwig pastors they brought in to speak could not even address that! All they could offer was ideas about new church development (smaller churches, this time), attacking ‘neo-Marxism/materialist socialism’ (whatever that is!) and ‘the homosexual issue’, and engaging in Bible tests, prayer meetings, and revival rallies – ‘spiritual reproduction’, it was called.[9] They simply ‘doubled down’ and called for more of that ‘old-time religion’.

I smell fear. Among both white racists in the US scared of losing their privilege, and religious conservatives sensing that their traditional answers to the questions of life, the universe, and everything (including sexuality) are not satisfying people anymore, they’re simply asserting their old ideas with more fervor and sometimes more ferocity. They are peddlers of old wine, trying to force it into new wineskins. It’s only going to end up blowing up in their faces – that’s if the 45th President doesn’t try to start a war with North Korea and end up getting us all blown up!


[1] No, I’m not going to dignify it anymore by referring to their name for this, a ‘heresy investigation’. It’s harassment, plain and simple. Don’t understand why? Please read my blog posts entitled ‘An Evolving Train Wreck and Debacle’.

[2] Rimel, L (2017, Aug 23). My “Nonviolent” Stance Was Met With Heavily Armed Men. In Radical Discipleship: A Joint Project of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries and Word & World [online]. Accessed 24 August 2017 at

[3] CBMW/The Ethics and Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Nashville Statement [online]. Accessed 30 August 2017 at

[4] Refer to Cornell College (2017) ‘Dr. Martin Luther King Visit to Cornell College: An Address by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa, October 15, 1962’ [online]. Accessed 20 August 2017 at

[5] I gotta give that other moniker a break, as much as I like it!

[6] Choi, S H (2017, Aug 17) ’75.3% of Koreans mistrust Protestantism, confidence should be restored through “finances”’ (Korean original: 국민 75.3% 개신교 불신, 신뢰 회복 방안은 ‘돈’). Newsnjoy [online’. Accessed 19 August 2017 at

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ock, H J (2017, Jun 8) 6 in 10 Koreans oppose same-sex marriage. Korea Herald [online]

[9] Choi, S H (2017 Aug 8) The Thoughts of Pastors So Kwang-seok  and Oh Jung Hyun on the “4th Industrial Revolution” (Korean original: ‘4차 산업혁명’ 시대, 소강석·오정현 목사 생각은). Newsnjoy [online]. Accessed 20 August 2017 at