One of the most cowardly things ordinary people do is to shut their eyes to facts. CS Lewis
Lisa Severine Nolland
The following is written in the aftermath of events pertaining to the Duck Dynasty, A&E and GLAAD.
In his ‘Life on GLAAD’s Blacklist’, US Professor Robert Lopez describes his fall from grace at the hands of the US-based gay rights organization, GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) to become a persona non grata professionally and socially. Conjure up images of religious excommunication or informal McCarthyism and you will get an idea of what he has endured since ‘coming out’ publicly against gay ‘marriage’ (he was raised by two lesbians and so speaks from that vantage point).
Old friends and even some family members took GLAAD's marching orders and have summarily cut me out of their lives. And when I mean cut me out, I mean we will never be in the same room again. One person very close to me, who works in the entertainment industry, was accosted at a dinner and told in no uncertain terms that if he didn't join in denouncing me, he'd have difficulty finding work. (1)
But what about the situation in Britain? British evangelical leaders are not losing work, friends or status because of their public views, and indeed, the state authorities they partner with on various community projects are only too willing to have their input (and help). They hold orthodox Christian views on sexual matters, though they do not talk about it much, and certainly never with the said authorities, reassuring themselves ’preaching the Gospel’ will sort things.
Location, Location, Location
I believe that Robert Lopez’s situation is illuminative of what happens when the Stonewalls of this world (GLAAD is an American equivalent) are publicly challenged by professionals inside ‘the system’. Though we have a few brave souls here (think of the Bulls, Lesley Pilkington, Gary McFarlane, Mike Davidson) that there are not more examples shows how successful sex activists have been in taking over and shutting down public debate.
That most British evangelical leaders are professionals outside ‘the system’ means they are inherently protected by dog collars, and buffering religious communities and organizations; they have the luxury of holding and affirming convictions which the rest of us are rapidly losing the right to hold.
Because the Stonewall agenda does not directly impact the church leadership team, professionals in otherwise good congregations receive little if any help responding to being force-fed its ideology. Nor is the reality of the fact that church youngsters (with few exceptions) are presently marinated in all things LGBT affirmative through education, the media and their peers.
Indeed, frequently professionals in ‘the system’ end up quietly colluding with Stonewall’s agenda. Where is the sense in being the Lone Martyr?
The role of silence
I believe many sincere, well-meaning evangelical leaders fail to understand the consequences of their public silence on these matters. For them, there are many important issues and challenges: why privilege those surrounding human sexuality?
One reason why they give it a miss is that it is not a level playing field. Other issues are far more PC and thus garner much (and legitimate) hand-wringing, money-raising and conference-going — think of how human trafficking and the evils of pornography have recently emerged, and high time too. However, issues surrounding the LGBT are seen to be minefields and to be tarred with an anti-gay brush is the Kiss of Death; so many who would go there now steer clear.
However, not to ‘go there’ has led to Stonewall ideology taking over the public terrain and becoming the default position. If you doubt me try putting a dissenting point of view out there in the non-religious public square, with your name and address on it. It is not do-able now is it?
Though a very different and far more heinous context, Albert Einstein’s words about the role of public engagement versus silence are relevant for us here.
Having always been an ardent partisan of freedom, I turned to the Universities, as soon as the revolution broke out in Germany, to find the Universities took refuge in silence. I then turned to the editors of powerful newspapers, who, but lately in flowing articles, had claimed to be the faithful champions of liberty. These men, as well as the Universities, were reduced to silence in a few weeks. I then addressed myself to the authors individually, to those who passed themselves off as the intellectual guides of Germany, and among whom many had frequently discussed the question of freedom and its place in modern life. They are in their turn very dumb. …. Only the Church opposed the fight which Hitler was waging against liberty. (2)
Or, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer has famously noted, ‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.’
1 Do some research on what your congregation or network actually believes about sexual matters. In her powerful 'Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert', former lesbian activist Rosaria Champagne Butterfield observed how students and laity censor their real views when speaking with both professors and pastors, a situation which is compounded because ‘both jobs put you out of reach from the very people you think that you know’ (p 16). That such censorship was in operation was a key reason she opened up her home regularly to LGBT students and later to all.
2 Preaching the Gospel is about redemption and salvation for the body, the mind and the soul. As JI Packer/ Alvin Ung have noted, we do not have a soul, we are a soul. Addressing sexuality issues, including those of the LGBT, must be reinstated as part of the ‘preach’. Not to do so is failing to love and care for the entirety of the person.
3 That many evangelicals, especially youngsters, have become heterodox in their sexual morality, means there is a huge need for spiritual and theological education as well as offering practical help to sexual strugglers across the board. What does Jesus say about sex? Lots, and it includes gay sex. Do most Christians even know this?
4 In terms of Stonewall and the public square, there are solid reasons why traditional sexual morality is beneficial to all; those who hold these beliefs at least deserve a place at the table of pluralities and ‘inclusion’. Stonewall has only gotten this far because of heavy censorship of LGBT realities. For instance, does the public know the huge toll gay sex is having on boys and young men 13 to 24 ? In the USA (2013), over 90% of all HIV infections in young men aged 13 to 24 occur in MSM (men who have sex with men), leading to the staggering statistic that if a lad has sex with a male, his chances of acquiring HIV are 1,100 times more likely than if he has sex with a female. (3) We need to have honest and open discussion about statistics such as these.
5 Invite one of the brave souls mentioned above—the Bulls, Lesley Pilkington, Gary McFarlane, Mike Davidson etc— to come to your PCC and tell their story. You may agree or not with their strategies and how and where they drew the line, but they have been publicly crucified and their views misrepresented and even lied about. They are owed a fair hearing and some support, for they are doing what others will not!
6 In terms of freedom of conscience and the church, a final insight from Martin Niemoller and the Confessing church comes to mind. It relates to the necessity of publicly standing with the martyrs of the world:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.
Christian leaders may not be called upon to be public martyrs to the Cause — or they may be. But they have a moral duty to preach faithfully and equip and enable their flock to be winsome, articulate spokespeople for a relevant Gospel which touches the entirety of life, not just the soul. They have a moral duty to ‘come out’.
(2) Helmreich, Ernst Christian. The German Churches under Hitler: Background, Struggle, and Epilogue. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1979, p 345 from http://jamespaulgaard.wordpress.com/2009/02/09/the-confessing-church-in-germany-1933-45/ (accessed 30 Dec 2013)
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