Christians must speak out against anti-gay bus adverts

Once again, groups that attempt to “cure” people of same-sex attraction have made the headlines. The Core Issues Trust (whose only “core issue” is an obsession with opposing same-sex relationships) and Anglican Mainstream (who are not at all mainstream) have co-sponsored bus adverts for London, promoting the idea of being “ex-gay”.

The Mayor of London has now banned the adverts. In the ensuing controversy, the two groups will get at least as much publicity as the adverts themselves would have generated. But they won’t have to pay for them.

Conversion therapy” for gay and bisexual people used to be a very marginal idea in Britain. When I (to my shame) supported a homophobic position, in the mid-late 1990s, most socially conservative Christians either refused to accept that homosexual orientation existed, or (in the case of the slightly more humane ones) insisted that gay people should be “celibate”.

But in the last few years, we have seen a sharp increase in support for “ex-gay” and “therapy” ideas deriving from the US. To understand the reasons for this, we need to look at the social and religious context.

Christianity – or at least certain traditional forms of it – have in recent decades moved from centre-stage in an increasingly multifaith society. This has been a welcome relief for Christians who want to move on from Christianity’s collusion with wealth and power. But it has been frightening for some more socially conservative Christians.

This is not surprising. What is worrying is that many of them have latched on to sexuality as the issue to fight over. They claim to be protecting “Christian values”, “biblical values” or “family values”. But they are usually defending their own privileges.

Extreme groups such as Anglican Mainstream and Christian Concern have become obsessed with sexuality. Their narrow focus and extreme rhetoric have alienated more moderate conservatives. There are people who still have a problem with same-sex relationships but who are open to dialogue with those who disagree and who think that Christians should also be concerned with issues such as poverty, peace and climate change. While I want to challenge these people’s views, I would not confuse them with people who sponsor anti-gay bus adverts.

Unfortunately, whenever a story of this sort breaks, much of the media cover it in terms of “Christians v. gays”, as if the two groups were mutually exclusive. The Core Issues Trust and Anglican Mainstream cannot claim to represent Christians generally – or even evangelical Christians generally. No Christian group can do that.

But these sort of stories perpetuate the impression that all, or nearly all, Christians are homophobic. Last year, when I went on a pilgrimage of repentance for my former homophobia, I received emails from people who had genuinely never heard of a non-homophobic Christian before (let alone a gay or bisexual one).

The media cannot take all the blame for this. Homophobia is on the march, and pro-equality Christians must be prepared to speak up as loudly as Anglican Mainstream and the Core Issues Trust.

Let us never confuse the radical inclusivity of Christ with the legalism of the homophobes or the shallow surface equality offered by secular liberalism. Let us have love for our opponents. Let us be open to learning and developing our views. Let us not be afraid to take a stand for love and justice. Otherwise, the only news that the world will hear from Christians is a message from people who want to “cure” them of falling in love with the wrong person.

9 responses to “Christians must speak out against anti-gay bus adverts

  1. Are your open to dialogue with those of us who disagree with you but would utterly reject the accusation that we are ‘homophobic’? I am always happy to enter dialogue with those who disagree with my stance, but usually find that my opponents can not accept that I disagree with their position, and end up dismissing my points as just homophobia. If you can move beyond that, genuine dalogue is possible.

    My position is that biblical teaching is that certain forms of sexual expression are sinful. Included in this category are same sex sexual relations. But for stating that I am accused of being homophobic?

    I refuse to be labelled in this way and will assert my right to stand by my religious beliefs. Do you uphold my right to my religious beliefs?

    • Dear Lewis, Everyone should have the right to stand by their religious beliefs but, unfortunately, many people’s religious beliefs are homophobic. I would therefore suggest that anyone who chooses to stand by them is taking a homophobic stance and must be themselves homophobic.
      In love, Sue

      • Hi Sue
        That is far from true. ‘Homophobic’ is an illiterate coinage anyway. It means, believe it or not, ‘fear of that which is the same’. Many millions of people are opposed to homosexual practice – indeed (and more importantly), the bulk of medical and statistical findings are also opposed to it. But they are not opposed to it for reasons involving ‘fear’ or ‘hatred’ (not everything in life operates at a merely emotional level, and indeed it is always going to be the less intelligent people who persist in speaking in emotional rather than rational terms about things) but because one should be opposed to harmful things just as one is in favour of beneficial things.

        For chapter and verse on findings re homosexual susceptibility to disease; intrinsic harmfulness of homosexual sexual practices; homosexual average life expectancy; promiscuity levels and briefness of average relationship; different ideas of what counts as ‘monogamy’; increased frequency of drug use, depression and suicide (an increased frequency which is shared with other more-than-averagely promiscuous groups, suggesting promiscuity etc rather than persecution as the cause – after all, Christians today are standardly treated worse by the law than homosexuals but are not becoming more promiscuous to compensate for or to comfort themselves for this so-called ‘persecution’), email me if you wish.

  2. Hi Symon – I wondered if you’d heard the recent news that I reported in my blog recently ( Dr Spitzer’s work from 2001 seems to be a major source of support to the ‘ex-gay’ movement, certainly in the US. His renunciation of it leaves them with little in the way of a credible scientific basis. I thought this might be of some use in your writing.
    Kid regards – Chris Park

    • Spitzer is fairly equivocal in his views. The findings of Jones and Yarhouse, among others, give the lie to your post.

  3. This is a great piece, thank-you.

    I have a question leading on from the point you made in the fifth paragraph, about the untangling of the church from its “collusion with wealth and power”. As these changes continue, do you not think that the church will naturally evolve to be less of a hotbed of social conservatism and rediscover its roots as a more radical, Gospel focussed group? And, if so, can we not expect the church’s position on homosexuality to take more of a back-seat, pushed aside by examination of Jesus’s frequently flouted teachings on money, honesty and compassion?

  4. Symon, Christians are not obsessed with sex.
    They are obsessed with truth.
    If a lot of the untruth about is (through no fault of theirs) on any given topic, Christians will concentrate on that topic (those topics). The alternative would be to let the lack of truth pass without comment.
    Currently sex is one such topic, and while it remains so , all people who love truth and have a conscience will talk about that topic. When untruth clusters around other topics, Christians will talk about those.

    • Christopher,

      Your opening line confused me a bit, because I had not suggested that Christians are obsessed by sex. I suggested that some socially conservative Christians have latched onto sexuality as a symbolic issue to fight over.

      I agree that it is important for Christians to challenge untruth and I appreciate your explanation of why this leads you to talk about sex. I also agree that there is a great deal of untruth around with regards to sex. However (while I appreciate that you and I probably have different views on same-sex relationships), do you not think there are other aspects of sex about which there is a great deal of untruth? Examples inlcude the commercialisation of sexuality, the vastly profit-making wedding industry, marginalisation of single people and many more.

      Furthermore, I am shocked by your suggestion that there is more untruth around sex than around other areas of life. The economic system we live under is built on faith in a series of numbers on computers, representing money and therefore value. This trust in something that is not real is basically idolatrous.

      With an economic, political and social system built on idolatry, what excuse can there be for Christians (whatever their views on same-sex relationships) to prioritise sexuality over all other concerns?


      • Hi Symon
        I’ll take your paragraphs one by one.
        (1) It is highlky unlikely that Christians are fighting over sexuality as a ‘symbolic issue’ rather than fighting about it in its own right. Modern society is very distant from Christian civilisation in the area of sexuality, so that is why Christians fight on this particular battleground, just as they (and you) fight on other battlegrounds where societal norms are unchristian. If it is wrong, they speak up and say so. If it is right, they speak up and say so. Simples!

        (2) Of course there are several different untruths floating around about sex. The idea that one can challenge only some of these, rather than all of them – the mutually exclusive or ‘multiple choice’ model – is as obviously untrue as anything can be. They just happened not to be the topic on which I was talking at that particular moment.
        Supposing I said ‘JFK died fifty years ago’ and you said ‘Very true, but should you not rather have said that Ronald Reagan died ten years ago?’, it would have been an example of the same error.

        (3-4) Here I worded things badly. I did not use ‘will’ as a future word but as a subjunctive word: ‘If such and such should happen, they will; whenever such and such does happen, they will’. Of course there are many lies floating around on many topics. I obviously did not mean that there is only one topic that attracts large untruths!!

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