"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." - Mahatma Ghandi
I wouldn't want to be Jim Wallace this week. I wouldn't want to be Jim Wallace any day, but this week must've been spectacularly hard. This week, his moral crusade - the Australian Christian Lobby - is under attack on all fronts.
It was this week's surprise announcement that Sunrise was teaming up with Marie Claire and GetUp! in support of same sex marriage that triggered their latest campaign. The ACL, with their broad fiction linking the existence of homosexuality to endangering the welfare of children, jumped up and down and tried to convince their supporters to email-bomb Sunrise and it's advertisers.
The ACL even approached ACMA (the Australian Communication and Media Authority) complaining that a "news and current affairs" programme should not be allowed to support a position. I guess they haven't seen The Bolt Report or listened to 2GB lately.
Sunrise saw the gathering controversy ahead of time, and invited Jim Wallace to debate Dr Kerryn Phelps on the show. Jim's nightmare continued. In fairness, the ACL's supporters felt he did a good job in hostile circumstances. I don't know that I'd categorise the environment as hostile - well, not until Mr Wallace compared the gay rights movement to Nazi Propaganda Meister Josef Goebbels.
In that few moments, and with a national audience, he transformed the ACL from an annoying lobby group with rich, conservative friends in high places, to the an organised group of crazy extremists who represent the minority view.
The Australian published an editorial this morning in which Greg Callaghan commented:
In 2012 it is no longer acceptable to suggest that gay people are abnormal or unnatural, as the ACL regularly does, by separating us from "normal" heterosexuals in their nomenclature. Even columnist Andrew Bolt, a very vocal opponent of gay marriage, never descends to this, writing recently that "it offends me to hear someone say gays and lesbians are not normal".
The Fairfax press was also on the story today.
Canon Richard Tutin from Queensland Churches Together, a body which represents 12 Christian churches including Catholics and Anglicans, said people from different churches were frustrated by the ACL.I hear you wondering if the ACL knows just how far it has travelled from the mainstream. The answer is that they believe they are speaking for the majority, and that those in favour of same sex marriage are a noisy minority with an evil agenda - hence Mr Wallace's reference to Goebbels. Statistically, the opposite is true.
"They totally have an agenda," he said.
"They're more interested in upholding a very, very traditional view of marriage and that's derived in their eyes from scripture and societal practice."
In February 2012, a Galaxy Poll reported 62% of voters supported gay marriage. So there it is - only 38% of Aussies agree with the ACL's position on same sex marriage...and I'd bet far fewer than that would have approved of Mr Wallace's Nazi inference. In fact, the ACL's position on gay marriage is more aligned with the fundamental Moslem position than with many Christian groups.
But remember that the ACL is a lobby group, not a church. Sure, they'd love for you to join their supporters, but their primary focus is in influencing our governments, whether that's by getting their candidates elected, or by influencing those already in parliament. For that, they need money.
Doug Pollard's blog is shining a light on the ACL executive: who are they, what are their backgrounds, and who funds them. This information isn't nearly as easy to find as it should be, given the ACL's status as a political lobby group, but Doug has learned that Goldings, a Queensland construction company, contributed in the order of six figures to ACL. Gloria Jeans, the coffee chain previously associated with Hillsong, has also donated tens of thousands of dollars to the ACL.
Jim Wallace and the other members of the ACL team probably won't be surprised to hear that there's talk on Twitter of boycotting Gloria Jeans stores to protest their support of the ACL.
Yeah, it's been a bad week for the ACL: a frontal assault in the form on the Sunrise "I Do" campaign, Mr Wallace's cringeworthy appearance on the debate, the offensive Nazi reference, an opinion piece against them in a national newspaper, a news story in Fairfax publications about other Christians distancing themselves from the ACL, bloggers digging into their activities (including this one) and now murmurs of a boycott of one of their key donors?
Their war might be against gays and gay rights, but the ACL should consider choosing their battles. Taking on a national television show, a magazine and experienced activist group and the weight of public opinion armed with nothing but a website and Jim Wallace was not their finest moment.