Monday, April 16, 2012

Freedom of Speech?

It's been an interesting week for many reasons, but i=one thing that I've been musing over is the rejected bus ad campaign. I was in London on Saturday for my course and saw the Stonewall ad on the side of one London Bus. If you don't what this is all about, the ad simply says something like: Some people are gay, Get over it!

There was an almost to be expected "Christian" response that wanted to run a counter campaign that was deemed unacceptable by the Mayor's office. The rejection of these ads precipitated another volley of comments about the rough deal Christians get in the UK, how we are marginalised and persecuted for our faith. Of course the other way to look at is to understand it as a rejection of narrow-minded and insensitive drive to promote our perspective over and against any competing philosophy!

Here's the struggle I feel. The proposed ads were, in my opinion, ill thought out and unhelpful. Maybe well intentioned, an attempt to bring a message of hope to those who find themselves struggling with issues of sexual identity and faith. But they didn't look like they would do, so I'm quite relieved that they have been rejected.

We need to read our advertising through the eyes of those who do not agree with us if we are going to find effective ways of communicating the grace of God rather than appearing only to have a message of condemnation and judgement. I'm not for one minute suggesting that either of these things were the goal of the ad campaign, but that's how they have been interpreted and we should learn from that.

In the end this is not an issue of freedom of speech. It is an issue of pastoral care and sensitivity, of finding ways to express grace and hope as our core message. Let me be very clear about one thing a least: I believe that it is sin (to use a theological word!) that separates us from God and not our sexual orientation or anything else. What we do with that orientation is another matter. King David expressed his heterosexuality inappropriately with Bathsheba and it was costly. He was not the only one.

Maybe, as Christian, we do need to get over the "gay debate and get on with helping people find God and learning to work out how to live in a way that honours him. Perhaps if we talked more about the power of grace to enable us to live within the limitations of a fallen world rather than as a prescription for normality we might just make some headway in Go'd grand mission to reconnect the missing.

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