Marin on the UK Situation

A new video from Andrew Marin today (click here to see it) and a very interesting comment afterwards:

But the main difference that stuck out to me though, was that from the numbers of straight conservative Christians I talked to in England about the gay community I continued to receive two profound answers that were very consistent among almost everyone I talked to (I’m going to paraphrase here):

Gays and lesbians are such an ingrained part of mainstream culture that their sexuality isn’t a big deal and we’re (Christians) are already over it.


The church isn’t giving the younger generation any theological or practical framework on how to properly engage this topic, and because of that the next generation is scared to say what they believe because they know it won’t be accepted; or they are torn because since there is no framework, how can a traditional interpretation of Scripture actually be lived out in culture when their examples are either dodging the question all together because they don’t want to make a scene or they’re a part of a small minority that thrives on making a scene?

And from my perspective, therein lies the great debate within conservative Christendom in England. Which route is the church going to take – they’re over it (?), are they going to dig their heals in like American Christians have and fight (?), or are they going to try to figure out how to peacefully and productively engage a growing population of people that doesn’t need conservative Christianity to exist?

What are your thoughts?

Well I’ll tell you what I think. I think the people Marin has listened to are absolutely right. The “culture war” about the acceptance of GLBT people and institutions like Civil Partnerships is over here in the UK. Conservative Christians need to be concentrating on the real issue which is how do we do mission in a country which has a completely different ethical basis than the Judeo-Christian model which we might prefer but that we need to recognise simply no longer runs the roosts in Britain.

We need to equip the new generation of spirit-filled believers not with the old fashioned rhetorical devices of standing on street corners and berating a pagan culture, but rather with the theological tools to think clearly and biblically about human sexuality in the twenty-first century and how best to reach out to a broken society. Do we do that mission by always telling people they’re sinners, or do we love people first and wait for the Spirit to move in them, never compromising what we believe but at the same time never compromising on recognising the imago dei in everyone?

18 Comments on “Marin on the UK Situation

  1. Peter, I think your analysis is accurate, and was very struck by your implication that Evangelism now isn’t railing against people, as much as doing the real work of understanding what the Bible says (and recognising, frankly what it doesn’t that we might like it if it had said), working that material rigorously, then on that basis recognising God’s image in everybody, and engaging passionately on that basis.

    • Thanks Alan,

      It’s what I call “subversive evangelism” and it’s what we’ve being doing now in my parish for a few years. It’s subversive NOT because we pretend to make friendships in order to get scalps, but rather because it subverts the way that the heathen expect us to tell them about Jesus.

      They expect us to come with a Bible tract and say, “Can we tell you about Jesus?” (to which the answer is almost always “No”!). What we actually do is simply (and enthusiastically) love them because they are made in the image of God and then when the Spirit moves in them they say, “Why are you doing this?” and we reply, “Because Jesus loves you and we want to show that love”. The next thing they then often say is “Tell me about this Jesus”…

      In all this we never deny the truth and we never compromise our conservative moral theology if we’re asked about it. But at the same time, we never push it in people’s faces and they get to know us as genuine friends rather than simply God botherers.

      • Here are two thoughts as a liberal bisexual woman: I find the idea of being called a “heathen” degrading, hurtful, alienating, condescending, patronizing and insulting. Do you wonder why you cannot attract people to your fold? Is calling people who believe differently from you “heathen” your idea of loving them? Name calling does not lend itself to making me feel welcomed or befriended. I was brought up Christian, and am an English major and a seminary graduate, so please do not tell me that “heathen” does not have profoundly negative, sinful connotations. I have values and strong ethics, and I believe in God, though I may not believe exactly as you do; the word “heathen” smacks of irreligiousness, godlessness, sinfulness, unbelief, looseness, ignorance, those who are less than and need your (as superior conservative Christians) education. Arrogance and pride will reconcile you to no one and are not compatible with love, only hurt. Jesus was profoundly humble and saw people at their best, not their worst. Secondly, I am glad to see discussion of the church’s need to recognize its own failings and sins honestly instead of so ardently looking for the sins of others. What did would love to the word “humility” used more often in the church’s relations with the fellow human beings it hopes to engage, like me.

        • Andrea,

          By Heathen I mean someone who doesn’t know Jesus as their saviour. I think that’s a common usage, though it is quite clinical – what do you think we should use instead?

          “Heathen” obviously *doesn’t* refer to GLBT people who know Jesus but don’t share the conservative biblical morality of the majority of Christians. I can see how you might have perceived what I was saying as implying that, but I was having a wider conversation with Bishop Alan about evangelism in general. I’m sorry if you were offended by that.

          • Thank you for your reply. You may have been having a discussion with someone else but this is a public web site. Therefore, you must be ready for reactions from average people like me–people whom you are presumably trying to persuade or dialogue with to your posts. For example, I got here from Andrew Marin’s web site, who never uses such terminology; perhaps he has some suggestions for you and I have never reacted in this way to his posts though I do not agree with all his beliefs; I trust with all my heart his message of love and reconciliation. With one word, you threw up a barrier to trust in any dialogue–assuming you want dialogue with those different than yourself. I assumed you did, because to your web site from Andrew’s to read your post here. Anyway, dictionary .com defines heathen in part as irreligious, uncultured, or uncivilized. barbarous. Heathen, pagan are both applied to peoples who are not Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. Heathen is often distinctively applied to unenlightened or barbaric idolaters, esp. to primitive or ancient tribes. I don’t know of a good one-word equivalent that does not carry all this baggage; unbeliever would be just as insulting because I am a believer just not a believer in what you believe. How about “those I would like to convert” or “those I would like to recruit”. I imagine you feel the need to “save” me but I do not feel in need of salvation, feeling I believe in God and have found salvation in Jesus already. How about “my sisters and brothers” or “fellow children of God?” or “fellow sinners to whom I bring good news?”

            • Hi Andrea,

              If you claim salvation through Jesus then I have absolutely no intention of “saving” you. The job’s already been done right?

              I wonder if this is another example of the cultural differences between the US/UK? As I said in my reply to you, I was addressing to Bishop Alan the issue of how we approach those who don’t know Christ. Since that obviously isn’t you, could it be that you just need to go and read the thread again and see that I’m *not* referring to GLBT christians as “heathen”.

              We could use the language of “unbeliever” and once again let me point out that the context of my conversation with Alan was *not* about GLBT people. Rather it was about people who don’t know Christ. I guess I need to ask the question again – what kind of language should we use to describe *anybody* who doesn’t know Christ?

              • ‘sinners, doomed to God’s wrath unless they repent and trust Jesus’? Though it’s not as succinct and catchy as ‘heathen’!!

                The Church needs to talk about sin more. Saying that, I mean that we need to talk about our own experience of repenting and receiving God’s grace each day. The perception of many is that we have a ‘religious’ ‘try harder, do better’ that marks who we are and what it means to be a Christian. That couldn’t be further from the wonderful gospel truth of God’s grace.

                Jesus pin-points sin regularly but offers a new identity and life in Him so that our name and identity is no longer caught up in the type of sin that we struggle with (liar, fornicator, thief, etc). There have been comments suggesting that we should back off pin-pointing sin, but that would be wholly unbiblical. Problem is that for so long, what has purported to be biblical teaching (typically under the tag ‘evangelicalism’) has missed the emphasis on grace and has sadly communicated a form of ‘religious’ adherence / lifestyle that only stirs legalism (the roots of which are sinful pride).

          • “Such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:9-11) tells us that the homosexual lifestyle is past tense which ended when the heathen became a Christian at that time of justification.

            You said: “Heathen” obviously *doesn’t* refer to GLBT people who know Jesus

            But is there such a thing? Once a formerly GLBT person knows Christ, they should identify with Christ, not with a sinful lifestyle. Whether you use the term heathen or lost or whatever, it seems appropriately applied to a person that currently identifies themselves as “GLBT.”

  2. Sounds like Pope Benedict’s Creative Minority.

    In the end, I think that whatever problems the Church has and we have as Christians are not the result of poor pastoral strategy or tactics, but a result of not being Christian enough – not truly following our convictions and our Truth. Telling people they’ll go to hell is just wrong theology. Telling people they are sinners while implying others are less sinners is just wrong theology. Not loving people with different beliefs is a sin. And so on.

    I think that today, the issues are at a fundamental level the same as they’ve always been, and that is the need to adhere better to our convictions.

  3. I kind of think it’d be helpful for the church to get to grips with it’s own sinfulness. I’m not talking about being dour and condemnatory but rather undermining the accusatory note that always seems to sound when conservative moral sexual theology is held to.

    It wouldn’t solve everything, but if the Church learned to recognize its own failings (and continual need of its saviour!) then the need to demand behavioural transformation that instant (this is surely what every conservative Christian is thinking!) from every GLBT person who walks into their lives reduces. You have scope to live with and love people first and last.

    The question of Church discipline is still going to be there – and finding a consistent, compassionate and constructive way of practicing this would be helpful!

    Of course all this is undermined when the Church is fighting to retain its conservative sexual ethics – I think this very battle consistently causes GLBT people to be viewed as a problem and threat rather than someone to be loved and lived with. I’m not sure how you stop fighting it though :/

    • I agree with Matt – mainstream culture is attacking the Church as an institution, so how to you stop fighting it? You don’t, but I agree that main part of the fight is by continually working on fixing the problems within the Church.

      One big institutional problem, I think, is Christian disunity. As an Oriental Orthodox, I am glad about Pope Benedict’s emphasis on the point that the Catholic/Orthodox schism, to begin with, has put the Church in a persistent state of sin, so to speak, for which we have always and will continue to pay the price. I am ecstatic that people are now working seriously to solve this problem. These are the sorts of things that we should focus on, I think.

    • It wouldn’t solve everything, but if the Church learned to recognize its own failings (and continual need of its saviour!) then the need to demand behavioural transformation that instant (this is surely what every conservative Christian is thinking!) from every GLBT person who walks into their lives reduces. You have scope to live with and love people first and last.

      And on top of this, the insistence of some that the “goal” for those with same-sex attraction should be orientation change presents a false dichotomy (straight=good / gay=bad) that leads many to despair at the “Christian Life”. And what’s most irritating is that many who make this call for orientation change as a desirable goal don’t actually do the day to day pastoring.

    • @Matt:

      I guess it depends very much which conservative Christians you hang
      out with. Most of the ones I know tend to be (a) confused when it
      comes to sexual orientation issues, and (b) very much aware that in
      today’s society they are on the defensive when holding to a
      conservative view of sexual morality.

      Actually, I think the latter problem is mutual, and it exacerbates
      matters: LBG folks feel they need to defend themselves whenever
      confronted with conservative Christians, and conservative Christians
      feel they need to defend themselves whenever they encounter LBG
      people. BOTH GROUPS RESENT THIS, and it makes them more aggressive
      towards one another than they ought to be.

      As an outsider to this LBG thing I am sure I don’t fully understand
      the dynamics, but I notice, for example, that most divorced/remarried
      people I know can live with the awareness that I don’t think divorce
      is part of God’s plan. Most LBG people I know have a hard time living
      with the awareness that I don’t think homosexuality is part of God’s
      plan. And quite frankly, when they express that, I begin to feel tense
      and walk as if on eggshells around them, and they don’t like that

      So I am somewhat at a loss as to how to (a) maintain my convictions
      and (b) get along/build bridges to LBG people.

      • Thanks for that Wolf.

        Did you realise that you can do a direct threaded reply to a comment by hitting the [Reply] button directly underneath their comment rather than using the comment box at the bottom? Useful….

      • I’ll try to explain to you, Wolf, why you possibly get different reactions to the divorce / sexuality debate.

        If you say that you think “divorce” is not part of God’s plan, someone who is divorced may well agree. After all, they presumably didn’t want their marriage to fail and the divorce was painful but now it is behind them and as long as you accept their new marriage is valid, I can see people would live with that – maybe wholeheartedly agree with you. Also divorce is something outside of you, it is something that happens to you, it isn’t a part of you.

        Suppose you said to them ” I don’t think an adulterous marriage such as yours is part of God’s plan. I don’t think an ongoing and unrepentant adulterer such as yourself should be allowed communion. I think the ideal thing in God’s plan would be for you to repent this adultery, leave the fornicator you are with and remain celibate or return to your spouse with whom you are one flesh.”

        Would remarried people be quite OK with these type of comments, because they are almost equivalent to the messages gay people often receive.

        Perhaps when you say “homosexuality”, you just mean an orientation? Well, I do know some gay people who agree that their sexuality is not an “ideal” ( no, I don’t think they are “self loathing”) ) I know others who believe that is “the way God made me” and, especially if they are in a deeply fulfilling relationship, they find the labelling of all that richness as “sinful” or even “not ideal”, deeply hurtful. Some people have spent years accepting that they may be gay but they are deeply loved in God’s sight and worthwhile in every way. To be told that identity is “not in God’s plan” can feel like rejection.

        LGBT people have usually sufferered spiritual wounds, shame, pain and rejections that straight people can only imagine. Therefore I would ask you as a Christian to be particularly careful in your comments and language; LGBT people need tender loving care.

        I think you have to accept that if you see people as sinful and flawed in their sexuality, there are going to be barriers, just as if they see you as sinful and flawed in your attitudes, that may cause barriers. I don’t know what the answer is, genuinely loving each other in spite of it all, is difficult – but it has to be a better way forward that hatred

        • Sue

          I think you’re moving towards something quite powerful which is the answer to the question: ‘What is identity?’. As you quite rightly point out, the situation of a divorced Christian is not intrinsic to their identity and so they are able to recognise that their divorce, and possible remarriage, is not ‘ideal’ and is not part of God’s plan, without feeling that comments on their situation are an attack upon their identity.

          However, the difference with many, perhaps most, gays is that they see their sexuality as intrinsic to who they are. In a very powerful sense, rejection of homosexual behaviour is seen as a rejection of the individual who practices it, as Wolf documents.

          And, in my view at least, that runs back to the core question that is raised by Peter’s blog: ‘Who are we, and what is our identity’. My answer, and I also think Peter’s from the articles on his site, is that our identity is in Christ. The immediate corrolary of this conclusion is that our identity is what God says it is, rather than what the world or science or post-modern theory says it is. And therefore since we are male, sexual behaviour with another male is a sin.

          It really, in the end comes down to how you read the bible, and in turn how you read the Bible is determined by your worldview. Does God reveal Himself and, through revealing himself, reveal perfection and hence how we should live? Or does God reveal a ‘way’ amongst other ways that is one of many paths for personal enlightenment.

          >>>Some people have spent years accepting that they may be gay but they are deeply loved in God’s sight and worthwhile in every way. To be told that identity is “not in God’s plan” can feel like rejection.<<<

          And that is why your statement really comes back to how we see ourselves and our identity, and hence, logically, how we see God and his rule, or otherwise, over our lives.

          • ( I keep losing this response, so I’ll keep it brief!)

            If you see your sexuality as God given then there is no conflict between your identity in Christ and your sexuality. For example, because I am happy and accepted as a woman ( generally) I identify as a woman and “in Christ.” It is quite possible to be a very committed Christian and find your true self “in Christ” but also see your gender, race or sexuality as important and valued parts of your identity.

            I agree that it does come down to how you interpret the bible and you and I know that we disagree on that one. I don’t think however that that means that God rules your life anymore than God rules mine, although you are free to think so, if you wish.

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