Over the weekend Christian, theologian, song-writer & blogger Vicky Beeching tweeted her support for the now legal equal marriage law in the UK and then spent the day receiving a variety of contrasting opinions in response. I wasn’t surprised that people had contrasting opinions however the tone of the tweets sent to her from people who call themselves Christian were shocking (Vicky started retweeting some of these!)
These tweets were the final trigger for me to actually write this post, the topic for which I’ve been thinking about for several weeks as I’ve read various stories including Christians dropping support for World Vision following their decision to allow married homosexual couples to work for them in the states (and have since retracted that policy) and seeing the Dr Christian ‘Cure Me, I’m Gay’ programme a couple of weeks back amongst other things.
This blog isn’t specifically about homosexuality it just happens that the triggers for me writing this come from publicity around it. The debate around women bishops is often equally heated.
Let me start by stating 3 things:
1 - I don’t have a problem with Christians having a variety of views, the bible isn’t always black and white and there’s always been a variety of opinions drawn from it.
2 - I think there is a time and place to challenge people on their views.
3 - I have personally found that as I’ve got older, looked more into things in the bible, grown in my relationship with God and developed my thinking that my views have changed. If people didn’t engage in discussions of faith then this probably wouldn’t happen.
The problem is the way in which some Christians go disagreeing. The tweets Vicky Beeching received over the weekend included people calling her a heretic, aggressively telling her to read her bible, telling her she would be going to hell, sending an horrific ‘women shouldn’t speak’ meme based on a verse in 1 Timothy and various other blunt and unloving responses.
I accept that there will be Christians who don’t agree with same-sex marriage but I feel like often with the church and disagreements theology gets pulled to the front and people pushed to the back which, in my opinion is the complete opposite to the example of Jesus!
My interpretation of Jesus and his teaching is summarised best in 3 ways;
1 - Jesus looked at the needs of individuals
2 - Jesus radically challenged the interpretation of the scriptures at the time
3 - Jesus teaches us to look at ourselves before judging others (how can you remove the speck of dust from your brother’s eye when there’s a plank in yours!)
Whenever Jesus came into contact with people he did so in a way which didn’t remotely judge people, He spent much of his time hanging around with those society (especially the religious leaders) rejected and sometimes (e.g. the woman caught in adultery) advocating on their behalves.
It strikes me that it’s very easy with things like equal marriage to strike up arguments of it being unnatural, redefining marriage etc. without accepting that it has a big impact on individuals.
There is nothing wrong with healthy debate, in fact I think it’s really important that we discuss these issues however threatening, carelessly worded generalisations have no place in that, they don’t encourage an open, honest discussion on how 2 people can have different interpretations of scripture which are both equally valid.
In any discussion of issues that Christians disagree on we must to do in a way that is loving, non-judgemental and acknowledges that whilst for us it may just be an irrelevant issue in our own lives for other people the issue of whether they can marry the person they love is a deeply personal issue. In the World Vision debate pulling your support the poor and for those suffering injustice because of a policy in another country strikes me as blowing things out of all proportion.
So if we disagree we must do it in ways which;
- Acknowledge that the person & people we disagree with are loved children of God
- Encourage discussion are are not blunt or unloving in the way they are worded
- Take into account that the people we are talking about are individuals. If we’re making a general statement about women bishops that statement applies to each & every female priest ordained in the Church.
- Accept that we may actually be wrong…after-all the church spent a lot of time thinking slavery was fine. We make mistakes, we get things wrong and our thinking and understanding of the bible does change with time.
As always, feel free to comment and discuss this post. I’m perfectly open to changing my opinion!
(Note: I appreciate this blog has been a little heavy on the use of same-sex marriage as an illustration, it just happens that it’s been the issue that’s led me to writing this…had there been lots of press/tweets on whether it was ‘Christian’ or not to have tattoos this post would have used those!)