In the early 1970s a group named the Family Rights Association wrote
All families are suffering at present, infidelity and divorce are very common. Marriages are breaking down at a record rate. When love dies hatred emerges and the children are exposed to suffering and neglect. Parents often see their children’s lives being ruined by drugs, alcoholism and promiscuity, swept along by an overwhelming flood of pornography and evil. Pressure groups claim that marriage is outmoded. De facto relationships are accepted by society and are treated generously by the Government. Normal sexuality is almost submerged by demands for recognition of homosexuality and other perversions. Illegitimacy and venereal disease have reached epidemic proportions. Social anarchy threatens.
Much of that could have been written by Family First in 2009, or many other groups in the intervening 35 years.
Despite this constant thread of social conservatism and fearful reaction to social change, NZ has made enormous socially progressive change since the early 1970s. We have criminalised rape within marriage, decriminalised anal sex, provided access to abortion, passed the Human Rights Act, allowed no fault divorce, decriminalised prostitution, provided sex education in schools, enabled legal recognition of same-sex relationships, banned corporal punishment in schools, and passed domestic violence protection laws (to name just a few).
Perhaps the role of the Christian Right is a necessary one; it does not prevent change but it slows it and makes sure there’s enough discussion that the more conservative members of our society don’t get left behind and alienated from a society that moves too quickly and doesn’t take the time to persuade them and bring them along.
While I campaign for more liberal and progressive progress, I’m not sure I would be willing to pay the price of a divided antagonistic society. Perhaps I should thank the Christian Right for slowing us down enough that we can move together as a community.