Bibles, beer and blindness

OK. I’ve been listening to this debate raging among Christians as well as in the general community – all without actually watching the video clip – until now. I’ve just watched it. And I think in this case I’m glad I’ve done it in that order. I’ve watched it with an eye to both (all?) sides of the debate, and I think I can see totally valid points in defense of both the Bible Society-Coopers ‘deal’ and the production of the video. But I can also see very compelling arguments by Christians and non-Christians alike, pointing the other way, suggesting that parts or all of it have been at best ill-judged or at worst a disaster of, umm, ‘biblical’ proportions.

I’ve chosen the words ‘valid’ and ‘compelling’ very deliberately. The central observation many of my fellow ‘conservative’ (relative and over-simple term) Christian friends are making is entirely intellectually valid. The hotly contentious video clip does indeed feature a civil discussion between two protagonists, who differ significantly on a few substantial criteria. It is indeed a cause for sadness that such an event could elicit public anger, opprobrium and even vitriol. It ‘ought’ to be otherwise; it ought to be celebrated rather than condemned.

But what I’m finding increasingly compelling is the metanarrative others are pointing to. I’ll mention two elements in reverse order of significance, as I perceive them. First, a political misjudgement. If Christians want to engage the public in useful dialogue on whatever issue, it’s a good idea to be astute about perception. It’s unfortunately not a good look that the two interlocutors chosen are not only both MPs, but also of the same party – and to wit the party currently in government, and the one most closely aligned with the ‘traditional’ position. We, the Christian community, could seriously do without a public perception that we’re aligned with one (doesn’t matter which one) side of politics. The danger is that that becomes a distraction from the issue itself, or worse – it actually becomes the issue.

And so to the second and I think most compelling metanarrative point. We the Christian community have not covered ourselves in glory when it comes to demonstrating God’s love for LGBT+ people. Plenty has been written and spoken on this point, so I won’t elaborate it in detail. But briefly, we’re fighting a clear public perception, forged over decades, that Christians don’t like gays – as people. Many of us are now working hard to reverse that perception. But as it took decades to establish, it’ll likely take decades to dismantle.

That, as several folk are telling me, is the big metanarrative. Thus when LGBT+ people or their advocates see a Christian organisation having a public discussion on a subject they hold very dear – and on which the general orthodox Christian position is both well known and unfavourable, the metanarrative carries the day. The civility or otherwise of the featured discussion is simply invisible beneath the torrent of long-established distrust of Christians.

That’s how it’s looking to me, anyway.


Bibles, beer and blindness — 4 Comments

  1. Firstly, having just watched the video myself I found it a very good discussion, particularly from the two parliamentarians, and thought it set a good model for how debate on SSM could proceed. The context of “Keeping it Light” seemed a bit odd, but any benefit of the doubt would see the best of intentions, and even a flawed but helpful precedent.

    In response to your points:

    As a general response, it’s great commentary, Lance, and I am only able to make my own points by addressing your clarification of the issues.

    Your address to Christians to be sensitive to the “meta narrative” of distrust of Christians because of our history in relation to LGBT+ people is very well made. However, I suggest that SSM activists are often keen to see offense where none can reasonably be found, as in this video, so your advise can possibly be construed as to avoid political activity while acknowledging our beliefs and scriptures, because offense will always be taken, or perhaps prefixing every utterance with a mea-culpa for when we’ve got it wrong.

    The flashpoint and unknown element in the controversy surrounding this video is the presence of the Cooper’s sponsorship and the Bible Society. Are these helpful to facilitating the discussion, as intended, are they an awkward distraction, or are they thoroughly misplaced? Would the same courteous and informed discussion have generated such heat from SSM advocates without these elements? I think it possible, but we don’t know.

  2. We have to remember that those who practice homosexuality are not going to get into heaven. The Bible is definite. (there are Christians who have those tendencies but know they cannot practice them) Does this concern us ? Should we just concentrate on talking about Jesus and his offer of salvation ? Then if they accept Christ as savior they will have to refrain from their sexual practice.
    What is your answer to the fact that we must talk about salvation thru Jesus .What happens then is not up to us.

  3. Thanks for commenting, David. I’m not sure I can see the direct relevance of your comment to my blog piece, though. I’m not addressing here the subject of same sex practice or same sex marriage. I’m talking about how we go about public engagement on the subject. I don’t really want to have a discussion of the subject itself here, for pretty much the same reason that I’ve argued the flaws in the Coopers video clip approach. I’ve approved your comment because I don’t want to shut down debate or reflection. And I’m ok with having a private chat, but I don’t want to have a public one along the lines you’re expressing. Blessings.

  4. Pingback: What I'm learning about communicating Christian truth in the public square » twenty-six letters

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