Apples From A Poisoned Tree

pic: Ben Sutherland

Just what does the ACL really believe about homosexuality? Can Lyle Shelton’s personal history afford us some clues?

So once again Lyle Shelton has compared gay people to Nazis. He said on Q&A (and I paraphrase) that homosexual ideology was running rampant, just like Nazi ideology once did in Germany, and good people were failing to stand up and speak out against it.

“The cowardice and weakness of Australia’s ‘gatekeepers’ is causing unthinkable things to happen, just as unthinkable things happened in Germany in the 1930s.”

And what are these “unthinkable things”? Same-sex marriage and the Safe Schools program. Equivalent to the Nazi Holocaust. Really.

I was contacted by someone who once attended the same church and the same college as Lyle Shelton. Andy Murdoch has first hand experience which  may throw some light onto what we are really up against.

These days I’m a gay dad, but back in the 1987, for a very short period (four to five months), I attended the same church as Lyle Shelton, and for a much longer period (1987-89) attended the same university as Lyle and/or had the same fundamentalist charismatic Christian colleagues. I shared a house for two years with people with whom, if Twitter is any indication, Lyle still has contact. Lyle’s father was 2IC to Howard Carter, head of the Covenant Evangelical Church and the associated Logos Foundation, organisations that advocated reconstructionist/dominionist theology, which I could explain properly or simply.

I’ll go for simple: they wanted to execute gays and lesbians (and witches, and adulterers, and various others) as per certain texts in the Old Testament. Interestingly, though, many members and supporters of CEC/Logos were also anti-Semitic Holocaust deniers, and supporters of apartheid; many also opposed any recognition of aboriginal rights and denied the existence of the stolen generation – at least partly because some of them had worked on missions in the north of Australia in the 50s and 60s and had “adopted”, stolen, aboriginal children.

When Logos collapsed, many members of Logos continued, re-branded, as Toowoomba City Church. (others are involved in the Family First Party). It still exists.

Ian Shelton, father of Lyle Shelton was a key figure in the Logos Foundation in Toowoomba, and indeed claims to have resurrected Logos from ignominy and disgrace when founder Howard Carter was found in flagrante delicto.

We’ll come back to the Toowoomba church later. Meanwhile, the slightly longer version of the theology Lyle and his father believed or believe, called ‘Reconstructionism’. Reconstructionists believe Old Testament law should be applied to modern society.The list of civil crimes which should, according to them, carry a death sentence include homosexuality, adultery, incest, lying about one’s virginity, bestiality, witchcraft, idolatry or apostasy, public blasphemy, false prophesying,kidnapping, rape, and bearing false witness in a capital case. Reconstructionists are also anti-democratic: their founder wrote:

“The heresy of democracy has since [the days of colonial New England] worked havoc in church and state” and: “Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies”, and elsewhere: “Christianity is completely and radically anti-democratic; it is committed to spiritual aristocracy,” and characterized democracy as “the great love of the failures and cowards of life”.

This is Dominionism, and forms the baseline theology of all the American Christian Right, who export their beliefs throughout the world, helping Russia and Eastern European and African countries draft their anti-G.A.Y.* laws, fund legal efforts to block the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Jamaica, India, as well as throughout the United States.

  • Dominionists celebrate Christian nationalism, in that they believe that the United States once was, and should once again be, a Christian nation. In this way, they deny the Enlightenment roots of American democracy.
  • Dominionists promote religious supremacy, insofar as they generally do not respect the equality of other religions, or even other versions of Christianity.
  • Dominionists endorse theocratic visions, insofar as they believe that the Ten Commandments, or “biblical law,” should be the foundation of American law, and that the U.S. Constitution should be seen as a vehicle for implementing Biblical principles.

So what does all this mean when considering Lyle Shelton, The Australian Christian Lobby, and all their fellow travellers currently mounting a full scale assault on G.A.Y.* rights and freedoms? Back to my correspondent Andy Murdoch.

At the time that I knew him Lyle, whose father is still a pastor in Toowoomba, revelled in this environment and embraced many if not all of these ideological positions. My reading of Lyle’s many, many statements as head of ACL over the past couple of years suggest not much has changed in his thinking – although to my knowledge he has never called for non-heteronormative people to be executed.

I’d be curious to know if that is a position he has resiled himself from utterly – or whether, like a certain Arizona Baptist preacher, he still dreams of an “AIDS-free world by Christmas” .

So, how far has the fruit fallen from the poisoned tree? Does Lyle believe in democracy? Or does he hold that the ten commandments ought to be the basis of a shariah-like Christian state, ruled by clergy, in Australia? We don’t know. But Andy Murdoch concludes:

The simple fact is he was once a very, very enthusiastic member of a church that promoted Christian fascism and theocracy and was knowingly and wilfully committed to undermining Australian democracy. That can’t be denied.

Lyle’s father Ian is still senior pastor at the Toowoomba Church. Lyle, Evan and Letitia Shelton also preach there. Make of that what you will. Has the fruit fallen far from the tree?  I’ll leave the last words to Chrys Stevenson.

In order to achieve their aim, dominionists plan to infiltrate, influence and eventually take over seven key spheres of society: business, government (including the military and the law), media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion.

This strategic approach to “taking territory” is part of the Reclaim 7 Mountains movement, to which the ACL subscribes.

Lance Wallnau, a leading exponent of the 7 Mountains strategy describes it as a “template for warfare.” It seems to be no coincidence that the ACL board recruited highly experienced professional military strategists (Jim Wallace and David Yates) to lead the organisation and its youth wing, Compass Australia.

It’s only fair to acknowledge that the ACL has stated clearly its aim is not an Australian theocracy. And yet the ACL clearly has its roots in dominionism, having been formed as an offshoot of America’s politically motivated Christian Coalition of America.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)