I am not a huge fan of the BBC Radio 4 program, “Any Questions”. While the format of getting four panelists offering quite different perspectives to answer a number of quite different questions, often on the big issues of the day, is an attractive one, I often find myself getting irritated because panelists are often too full of themselves, purport to know all when they know nothing and when it happens that I’m right and they’re wrong (an all too common occurrence). But other than that it is a worth listening to program when trying to come to a better understanding of what is happening in our culture and concerning the breadth of opinion that exists.
Yesterday, I found myself listening to the latest edition of the program, on the car radio. There was lively debate as one would normally expect and if anything the amount of disagreement among panelists was more than what has been witnessed in previous programs. That was until the last question: “Does the panel welcome the US Supreme Court ruling just in time for the Gay Pride in London?” The question received a big cheer from the audience and while not definitive proof of the mood change we have been seeing in recent years, in the country as a whole, it does reflect the changing national sentiment that is taking place, for example, thanks to Facebook, a number of my Facebook friends now include an LBGT flag as background to their avatar. While (I hope) this won’t untowardly affect our relationship, they have made it clear their feelings on these matters, as do I in this blog posting.
Even among real Christians changes in attitude are becoming increasingly apparent. As well as individuals coming out in favour of marriage equality, my Diverse Church friends have stated what a positive event the gay pride celebrations were and how they saw it as an opportunity to bear testimony to the love of God for us all. As for the Any Questions panelists, for the first time they were in unison and other than a gripe by the UKIP panelist that UKIP were not allowed to join the parade, each one answered the question with a resounding “Yes”, seeing this as a great break though in the LBGT struggle although there is more work to do.
As I have commented before, I am reluctant to flog a dead horse, having already given my views on gay related issues in my “The Gay Conundrum” book and subsequent blog posts. It is also a subject that arouses passions that few others do and such is the culture we now live in, to express an opinion that differs from the “gay is ok” consensus that appears to exist nowadays, one can easily be branded as a homophobic bigot and be reviled accordingly, frequently leaving one to contemplate that this is one case where discretion is a better part than valour. Yet as a cultural commentator, a gospel preacher and a community activist, it is not a subject I can easily ignore, nor mustn’t, because of the impact it has on society, not least because of the implications these changes have on religious freedom and the way it might impact on people who believe and do as I do.
To a large extent the US Supreme Court decision was as expected, although it should be noted that it was by 5:4 majority, with the wide gulf in opinion being made manifest in the majority and minority views that were handed down, along with the judgement, yet again symptomatic of the fact that the US culture wars are far from over. I suspect the reasonings will remain significant for years to come, especially the minority one, if there is to be a reverse. While it may be too early to say, this may come to have the same monumental impact in the future when it comes to same sex marriage as did the 1973 Roe v Wade judgment regarding abortion rights. It has often been said that when America coughs, Britain catches a cold, but, when it comes to same sex marriage, it appears that the USA may have lagged behind, given gay marriage was allowed in some states but not in others. But not any more, with the decision being hailed by many, led by its president. There are many dissenting voices of course and a lot has been posted already on the Web. Here, here, here and here are some of the less rabid postings that I have found particularly helpful in getting a flavour as to what many of these concerns are and why, most notably the potential impact this judgment may have on religious freedom.
As an orthodox, Evangelical Christian, it might be expected that I may not welcome the changes. While that is true, it may be less so than some might think. As a country we have strayed from God’s designs in many more ways than the matter of sexuality and why should we highlight this particular “sin” and not other sins, which in God’s eyes may be worse? There is a great deal of hatred still toward LBGT folk and does that not need to be addressed? Would it not be churlish to deny same sex couples the opportunity to express their love as do mixed sex couples? And how should churches respond to LBGT folk that wish to join them? How do we practically practice a paradigm where there is marriage that the state recognises and marriage which the church recognises? Why do some who oppose gay marriage support divorce? What about our own marriages? I have agonized over these and many other other “gay related” questions in my earlier writings and refer those who are interested in my views on such matters to these rather than repeat them here.
The thing that does bother me though from my perspective as one wanting to engage in all aspects of community life is how these changes might affect those who share my beliefs, in particular by creating unnecessary barriers for those like me who do not celebrate same sex marriage, yet have something to give that is of value to the community. For example, we are now in the midst of leadership elections for the Labour and LibDem parties. Two of those (at least) who have thrown their hats in the ring have stated it as their intention that schools (including church schools) must teach about same sex relationships and do so in a gay affirming way. Given that the best Christians will always act according to their conscience, will that mean they will be faced with either having to deny their conscience (not an option) or giving up teaching, and then why should they given it is Christians who have historically contributed most to advancement in education? While promoting values in education is always going to be a thorny subject and one that cannot be avoided as there is no such thing as valueless education, are we going to see a further downhill trend in our education system and further indoctrination, as a result of more wrong values imposed?
I truly wish LBGT folk, including the few I know, respect and would want to stand with as friends, every happiness etc., but please understand that if I were on the Any Questions panel, I would have been a (perhaps lone) dissenting voice – I do not welcome the US Supreme Court gay decision and, while I recognise the positives in holding Gay Pride events, I cannot wholeheartedly support them.