There’s been a lot of talking this week about Catherine Deveny and what she said on Q and A on Monday night. There’s plenty of information out there. I’d like to spend some time looking at what Peter Jensen said.
Jensen who has the title of Archbishop of Sydney, was a quietly speaking, smiling man with what seemed a sunny disposition. It’s the same sort of smug attitude I’ve noticed on others who think they’re right and have nothing to worry about.
I’ve taken the following from the transcript of Q&A.
This Question was asked:
PETER KEEGAN: The Australian Christian Lobby has again made the headlines for offensive remarks made by its director, Jim Wallace. As a Christian, I continually find that the ACL does not speak for me and does not represent the kind of faith that I see reflected in the teaching and ministry of Jesus. Archbishop, will you publically say that contributions like those we heard from the ACL pose a greater risk to the health of our public discourse and the integrity of our faith than the presence of lifestyles or beliefs that may differ from our own?
And Jensen’s response:
PETER JENSEN: Again, thanks for the question. No, I won’t say that. I am generally supportive of ACL, I have to say. I don’t support everything that’s said by its leaders.
Jensen straight off makes it clear that while he is generally supportive of the ACL, he agrees with them in this case.
TONY JONES: What about this very specific statement where Jim Wallace suggests that homosexuality poses the same kind of health risk to the community as smoking does?
PETER JENSEN: It needs to be observed that he has been somewhat quoted out of context in some reports. I’m not sure about that one but in some reports he’s been somewhat quoted out of context.
No it wasn’t. This is evident by Wallace restating the claim many times in the media after the event. There is no doubt that he said that being gay is worse than smoking.
But what he has done for us, rightly or wrongly, what he has done is given us an opportunity to talk about something significant, namely the question of health risks.
You must be blind. The health risks of having unprotected sex are well-known. In an effort to educate people last year there was a campaign in Queensland that included two clothed men hugging holding a wrapped condom. The image was displayed on bus shelters, and the ACL sought to have that removed1. They don’t want to talk about it.
Now, I think it is true to say – I think it is true to say – it’s very hard to get all the facts here because we don’t want to talk about it and in this country censorship is alive and well, believe me.
Yes, yes it is.
So what I’m about to say, I don’t want to say because I know I’m going to be hit over the head for the next 100 years about it so – and it’s a virulent censorship. Now, I will still go ahead.
Before the words are out of his mouth he’s claiming to be a victim. Don’t forget this is a man who has his tie checked by an assistant2. It’s hard to imagine him as a victim as he lives such a life of luxury. Just as his god demands.
What I want to say is that as far as I can see by trying to get to the facts, the lifespan of practising gays is significantly shorter than the ordinary, so called, heterosexual man. I think that seems to be the case.
If you were in the slightest bit interested you would have tested the facts rather than simply stating that they seem to be true. Plenty of people have pointed out that Wallace has relied on discredited research. Check out Chrys Stevenson’s great blog to start with3.
Now what we need to do is to look at why this may be the case and we need to do it in a compassionate and objective way.
People already have, it’s called research, and it’s out there and available. Alas, you seem reluctant to accept it.
Some people say it’s because of the things I say and the position I take and that creates, for example, a spate of suicides. That may be true but how can we get at the facts if we’re never willing to talk about it? Now, there may be other things as well.
Jensen accepts that some people may kill themselves because of the words he says and the position he takes. Let that sink in a bit. Really? He admits that people may die because of his attitude? You’d think if he understood that he’d actually take the time to ensure that he’s right. Instead he again ignores the research from some very well-respected people who clearly shows religious intolerance causes emotional distress to young people. The facts are out there, they are being talked about. How hard can it be for a church man to access the internet and check? You could check the position statement of Suicide Prevention Australia, in particular this paragraph:
Similarly, those belonging to religious faiths that promulgate negative discourses about homosexuality are particularly vulnerable to suicide and self-harm. Conflicts between spiritual or religious beliefs and sexuality can result in significant psychological dissonance as well as division and exclusion from family, friends and community.
Then a video question is played from Alistair:
ALISTAIR CORNELL: My question is for Peter Jensen. I was born and bred Anglican but at the age of 15 I tried to take my own life. What advice would he give to a 15 year old suffering almost to the point of death from the rejection of his community about being gay?
PETER JENSEN: Thank you and thank you for the courage of coming on and telling us that story.
I agree, it does take courage to tell the story. Alistair, thank you for sharing with everyone and showing us the depth of your despair. I for one am glad you didn’t reach the point of death. That must’ve been horrible for you.
You see, one of the difficulties is to get that story, to get it to someone like me and to give me the chance to assess it for what it is.
We know what it is. A young many struggling with rejection for his community. What assessment do you need to do? And why?
to offer whatever pastoral advice I may be able to offer, to listen to what’s being said, but to recognise that we’re dealing with very, very complex issues here.
Leaving aside the fact that his solution is to offer pastoral advice rather than get some real help for people like Alistair. I find it rather difficult to swallow that this is complex. This isn’t an unknown issue. The churches reject homosexuality. Some people are homosexual. That means that they either leave the church, some through suicide, or follow the churches’ rules. The church has a high level of intolerance on people’s sexuality, at least the hierarchy does.
It may be that the things I say are having such an effect but it may be something quite different all together and…
TONY JONES: Such as what, for example?
PETER JENSEN: Well a 15 year old sorry, I need to be careful here. We don’t want to talk about this particular young man with his courage.
I disagree, that’s exactly what we want to talk about. But you don’t because then it becomes about a real person. Someone who has said the words to your face.
But clearly a teenager is going through a period in their lives, exciting as it is, in which they’re seeking to find themselves. A person who feels in themselves same-sex attraction and I might add, a lot of such folk have talked to me over the years, is seeking, I think, to find themselves, to find an identity and in our sort of society, with its emphasis on sexual activity as an identity finding activity, there is therefore the opportunity to think that that is the way to do things and yet here you have this frowned upon same-sex feeling.
It’s hard to unravel that little beauty. It seems to me that he’s saying young men have confided in him about their same-sex attraction and that he’s told them it’s frowned upon and that it’s because society has an emphasis on sex and being gay is just a phase you’re going through.
TONY JONES: Okay, I’ve just to interrupt because we do need to hear other panellists on this subject but put simply are you saying or repeating, in a way, or making, you know, a sort of more complex argument about what Jim Wallace said, which is homosexuality is bad for your health? Are you seriously trying to make that argument tonight?
PETER JENSEN: I would like to know see, people tell me that it is and they produce literature on the subject. I can’t get a discussion going on this because it’s a forbidden subject.
You’re happy to take the words of Wallace as they’re said, but anyone else has to present the literature to you. There’s plenty of it out there. Perhaps your staff could do a Google search for you. The discussion is happening right now, in lots of places, so why are you claiming it’s a forbidden subject?
Now, I’m open on this. I hope it’s not true, Tony. I don’t want to see my friends dying and I’ve seen my friends dying. I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to hear stories like that. But, dear friends, sorry, when do we get to the point where we can talk about this without shouting at each other and hurting each other?
When you stop insisting that Wallace is giving you facts and when you are open to others talking to you. You’re not listening to all the other voices out there are you?
PETER JENSEN: Sorry. Yes, I am really serious but I would like to know in a dispassionate way, in an objective way, what the facts are. I think it’s very, very…
CATHERINE DEVENY: I think she’s got the facts for you.
PETER JENSEN: I think she says she has the facts.
Just like Wallace thinks he has the facts. How easy it is to dismiss someone else’s point of view because it doesn’t match yours. If you’re serious about having a dispassionate discussion then all you have to do is call on a few academics to give you the heads up. It’s really very easy. While you wait for someone to show you the facts, rather than find them yourself, young people are dying or in great mental anguish.
PETER JENSEN: Thank you, Tony. God did create homosexuals. I don’t need the gene to tell me that. God created homosexuals. God created every person and loves every person, without doubt.
TONY JONES: No, I mean he created if there is a gay gene, would you say the creator was responsible for creating that?
PETER JENSEN: Well, I would say that that that may be the case but we’re not talking about same-sex attraction, we’re talking about the acting out of same-sex attraction. We’re talking about well, I realise that we’re living in a very, very different world from the one I’m talking about but I’m living in a world where a number of my friends have life long committed themselves to no sexual relations.
The admission that his god is said to have created homosexuals, but they’re not to have sex. That’s what it amounts to. People may like to not have sex, there are those who seem very happy to abstain. But for a vast majority of the population that’s unacceptable, unfair and unjust. To even suggest that just because you’re attracted to somebody of the same sex means you can’t be physically intimate with them is to deprive them of the most basic of human desires. To be accepted and loved. Putting people inside marriage may curb the desire to have multiple sex partners, but there are plenty of divorces out there because one of the two had sex outside the relationship, and there is no escaping that sex outside marriage is probably happening more than inside marriage. Jensen is right, he lives in a different world, and he is allowed. Where I take issue is when he attempts to use his world to force the rest of society to follow it.
And that’s the crux of the matter.
Jensen and Wallace are not interested in hearing anything that gives approval to homosexuality as normal and natural. They use their positions to push their own ideology, ignore any research that disputes it and rejects anybody that shows them the research they rely on is flawed.
Under Jensen’s facade is a determination to treat gay people as second class citizens, and that is driven by the bible. He considers me to be a sinner. Sin comes from the devil, therefore I’m evil. I’m immoral, I’m without hope.
Jensen is allowed to have the last words for the program:
PETER JENSEN: Well, the last word is that in Jesus Christ we have that equality and in Jesus Christ was have that salvation and all I can say is the most wonder that the love of God for everyone, no matter who they are, no matter how they’ve lived or whatever, is the greatest reality in the world.
I accept that this is Jensen’s belief and he’s entitled to it. He can believe whatever he wants. I’ve also said that my acceptance of his right to believe means I have the right to not believe. To suggest that the love of his god is for everyone and that that is the ‘greatest reality’ is false.
In my mind his devotion to his religion causes great harm, and using it to influence government policy is unethical as we don’t all subscribe to his religion.
The facts are out there, religion causes harm. Gay people are more likely to be kicked to death by a duck than have a fundamentalist Christian sect accept all people as equal.
- Initially the posters were removed, but later reinstated. Brisbane Times ↩
- As observed by Catherine Deveny “At one point I watched Jensen’s adviser straighten his tie and wondered how much Jensen had been groomed and prepared for the appearance.” ↩
- In her blog Chrys reverse engineers the ‘research’ that Wallace and the ACL rely on. A bit of research would help the ACL see the truth. ↩