What kind of video do you get when the Bible Society of Australia films a gay Liberal Member of Parliament ("MP") and a Christian Liberal MP discussing same-sex marriage over beers? I don't know, because I never got to watch it. The Bible Society took their video down after legal threats from the brewery which made the beers.
The "Keeping it Light" video produced by the Bible Society was tragically misnamed. The release of the video, where the two parliamentarians discuss their opposing views on same-sex marriage in an agreeable manner, resulted in an uproar. Coopers, the brewery who made the "Premium Light" beers which were featured in the video, was subjected to huge backlash. People on twitter started using the hashtag "#boycottcoopers" to proclaim their hatred. One bar announced that they will stop doing business with Coopers. Other pubs, clubs, and bars in major Australian cities stopped serving Coopers.
This was rather the opposite of the intended response to the campaign. The Bible Society intended to create a national conversation which was respectful and agreeable. They wanted to "Keep it Light" while discussing a very heavy topic.
By all accounts, the video was actually successful in bringing two MPs together to discuss their different views on same-sex marriage in a respectful manner. The seven minute long video featured Liberal MP Tim Wilson, who is openly gay and wants to change Australia's marriage law so that he can marry his fiance, and Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, who is a "Bible reading Christian" and is opposed to same-sex marriage. Their discussion in the clip is reported as "light-hearted." At the end of the clip, both were asked to articulate the best argument from the other side, and did so well.
I wish that I could watch it.
But Coopers caved to all of the pressure, and apologized for their involvement in the clip, and for their involvement in the Bible Society of Australia more broadly. Celebrating 200 years of the Bible in Australia, Coopers printed Bible verses on 10,000 cases of premium light beers. Those have now been canceled.
Both of the MPs were surprised by the public response to the video. Tim Wilson said that he had "jumped at the opportunity" to demonstrate how to respectfully discuss important issues with a colleague. "[T]hat's our role as parliamentarians."
He had this to say about the public response to that respectful discussion:
I think the response has been way over the top, and shows just how easily people use the idea of being offended today now to boycott companies when they haven't done anything wrong, when their product was simply used as a prop as part of showing how you can have a robust discussion.
The other MP, Andrew Hastie, said that he didn't expect such a response to the video of a "good spirited discussion between friends who disagree on a very important issue." He said that some responses have been "downright abusive," and that the response from Coopers validated the "bullying."
"Frankly, Australians needs to learn how to live together, particularly when we discuss these issues." MP Hastie said. "The public reaction from the left has demonstrated there is something seriously wrong at the heart of our democracy."
These parliamentarians are right. There is something seriously wrong at the heart of our democracy (and I'm including the United States in this, even though this story is from Australia). The inability to discuss important topics with people who disagree with us is not going to help anyone.
Now I'm sure that I will be accused of doing the same thing, since I was quick to boycott Disney after the "exclusively gay moment" news about Beauty & The Beast. Let me be clear, I am guilty of doing this.
Far too often I fail to actually listen to those who disagree with me. I'm more prone to shut them up and shut them down. And I'm sorry for every time I've done this. It is wrong, and it is sin.
The Christian thing to do is to be slow to speak and quick to listen. And the Bible Society of Australia has pointed this out.
I'm going to close by quoting their statement from the website where this video used to be. It is my goal to promote civil discussions. It is my goal to facilitate understanding and unity even when we don't agree. I am pursuing godliness.
Keeping it Light is a short series of videos showing that it is possible to have a light discussion on the heaviest topics. It’s one of the ways we’re celebrating 200 years of the Bible and Bible Society in Australia.
If there’s one thing we’ve learnt in recent days, it’s that we, as a nation, need to learn how to talk, and how to listen, to people we disagree with.
It’s much more interesting to talk and listen to people who see things differently to us. Sure it’s not easy or comfortable at times. But then, it’s probably why so much of the Bible is about how to have conversations with each other and with God.
“Everyone should be slow to speak and quick to listen.” James 1:9
Twitter has been a-flutter with talk about the Bible and what Australians can - and can’t - talk about in public. There have been media reports that try to shame this person or that person for what they’ve said.
We think that we all miss out on something when dissenting voices are shut down. And this is where the Bible is so interesting. There’s almost nothing the Bible doesn’t discuss. Marriage, politics, the horrors of war, the quest for justice, the human struggle with guilt and failure and, of course, the real shame of our broken relationship with God.
Like the Bible itself, the Bible Society holds that everything in the human experience should be discussed, but with grace. And, most of all, since Christ has died on the cross in our place, shaming each other has no place in our lives. We want to lift our national conversation. We’re immensely grateful to our conversation partners around the country - some of whom are Bible readers, and some of whom aren’t - for being part of it. There are millions of people across the world who want access to the Bible’s perspectives and cannot get it. We are working hard to translate, share and engage all people with the Bible. Perhaps you can help?
We trust the next video in the series will create even more discussion about The Good Book and its importance and relevance to our everyday lives.
Further Resources: Watch - Video of MP Hastie