Saturday, 26 January 2013

Don't take this the wrong way...

In the wake of leading evangelical, Steve Chalke ‘coming out’ in favour of same-sex partnerships, my friend Suem has written a fascinating blog post on not being  too judgmental about evangelicals, no matter how whacky they (we) may seem!
What makes it so striking is the way in which she takes the kind of language which is often used about the ‘gay community’, and reframes it around the ‘evangelical community’! 

Indeed, lots of things can be read or heard in two ways.  It is what makes us laugh at many jokes.   As a spokesperson for Accepting Evangelicals, (a pro-gay evangelical network) I am all too aware of how even that name can be taken two ways.
I once went to preach at an MCC church about Accepting Evangelicals and I only managed to get about 2 sentences into my talk before a lady in the second row piped up with the following words “Yes – I do keep trying to accept evangelicals”.

It’s a bit like the church advertising board in the photo.  Whoever put it up thought they were bringing a positive message of hope.   Other people might read it very differently!
Suem’s blog post reminded me of another piece of masterful misdirection which can be found in Brian McLaren’s book, “A New Kind ofChristianity”.  In the chapter on homosexuality, he begins with the following sentence, “I don't want to be closed minded or judgmental, but in good conscience I simply can't approve of the lifestyle.”

What follows however, is both profound and challenging.  I reproduce it here and hope you enjoy the irony as much as me (and hopefully Suem will too).

I don't want to be closed minded or judgmental, but in good conscience I simply can't approve of the lifestyle.  I believe it's a choice, although upbringing and genetics may have a role.  Freedom has limits - one limit being where others are hurt by a chosen lifestyle.  And this lifestyle, there can be no mistake, is hurting a lot of people.  Families are being torn apart by it, and churches too.  There is absolutely no question about God's opinion on this lifestyle if we begin with the Bible.  The orientation and behaviours associated with it are thoroughly condemned, especially by Jesus.  He was compassionate towards all kinds of people, but he had an absolute and uncompromising commitment to confront and expose one group:  those who dishonour themselves and others by engaging in this lifestyle and its practices.

When people choose this lifestyle, they often cut themselves off from everyone who doesn't agree with them.  They end up being assimilated and absorbed in closed communities where only their own voices and views are heard, and everyone who disagrees is mocked and condemned, often with very strong language.  Some, after giving themselves over completely to the lifestyle, have a crisis of conscience.   But when they want to leave, their leaders and peers depict their changing perspective as a betrayal and pressure them to stay, often using fear tactics to intimidate them and keep them in their gated community.  Special ministries have been formed to help people exit the lifestyle, recover from the abuse and pain the community has been known to impose, and be re-orientated to a healthier life and perspective.  But even with professional therapy, many people feel they have been wounded for life by their years in this lifestyle.

Advocates of this lifestyle are eager to recruit others into their 'love'' as they call it.   Through various organisations they raise huge sums of money to recruit youth and children into their chosen way of life, and they have been extremely adept at using media - radio, TV and now the internet - to create an aura of credibility and legitimacy.   They organise huge events and mass rallies to celebrate their growing clout and demonstrate that they are proud of who they are and what they stand for.  Everyone knows how much influence they have in our political system.  But look at the countries where this lifestyle runs rampant, and you'll get an idea of what your own nation will be like if some people don't have the courage to stand up and speak up.   Wherever this lifestyle spreads, a whole host of social problems inevitably follows.

Yes, activists may use the word love to justify their behaviour but those who disagree with this are seldom treated with love.   Many of us have already faced the scorn of these activists who promote their chosen lifestyle and defend it as legitimate and even godly.   For doing so we have received hate mail peppered with a wide range of threats and abusive speech.  But even so, we have learned that we must not respond to hate with hate;  we must hate the sin but still love the sinners.

The lifestyle I am speaking of is fundasexuality (not, as you may have assumed, homosexuality), a neologism that describes a reactive combative brand of religious fundamentalism that preoccupies itself with sexuality.

The term does not apply to the quiet, pious, respectful fundamentalism of straightforward sincere people, but rather to the organising, angry, dominating fundamentalism that declares war on those who differ.   Fundasexuality is rooted not in faith, but in an orientation of fear - fear of new ideas, fear of people who are different, fear of criticism or rejection from its own community, or fear of God's violent wrath on them if they don't fully conform to and enforce the teachings and interpretations of their popular teachers or other authority figures.  It is a kind of hetero-phobia: the fear of people who are different.

by Brian D. McLaren

Published by Hodder, 2010



  1. A very interesting extract, Benny. I shall have to read that book- I've read so few christian books really. It is ironic but telling that people can be at opposite ends of a political or ideological spectrum yet still exhibit very similar behaviours and be mirror images of each other.

    I do hope you know that I don't actually care whether someone is evangelical, catholic, atheist, hindu, whatever! What I like is to find that people live by love and kindness rather than their particular beliefs and ideologies.

    1. Hi Sue - I do know that you don't judge people by the labels! Keep on looking at people in the same way Jesus did...

  2. Excellent excerpt - absolutely spot on, especially the bit about fear being the main motivator. Although in suggesting this on the "Matter of Conscience" blog, I had one particular person react very negatively to the suggestion. Which rather proves the point!

    1. ... and fear makes some people very aggressive! Just look at how some people responded to Jesus.

  3. Great, Benny, thanks for posting this. I think I'd better get the book - and in the meantime, I'll be sending the link to a few others!