Of beams and splinters: Homosexuality and Christian activism.

World Vision has caved under pressure. I don’t necessarily count this as weakness on their part.  As an explicitly Christian charity, the kinds and amounts of pressure that can be brought to bear against them are unfathomable. Which leads me to my first point: the Gospel is under attack, but not from outside. Rachel Held Evans summarised this so eloquently.

I have been working myself up to this point for a while, thinking about complicity and bigotry and where I stand in the strange maelstrom of where all these things intersect with theology. To those who know the shape of our souls silence does not mean assent, but to the world at large silence is yes. This is true of social organisations too. To outsiders an absent no means you agree. Always.

This is how systemic evil stays alive: when good men stay silent. If nobody speaks out, everyone stays isolated and impotent in their dissent. It’s in the absence of communication that relationships break down, societies calcify, progress is hamstrung.

And I want no part in it.

This is what I believe. I lay it out in public, because that’s where it may be a small crack in the monstrous monolith that outsiders perceive Christianity to be.

The roots of Christianity are set in the hearts of the oppressed. It’s in the history of the Jewish people; it’s in the oppression of the early church. In the Bible we find, over and over again that God is the God of the oppressed, of those on the underside of power, no matter who they happen to be. The gospel is the story of a God who comes down to the powerless and broken, and offers them healing. I believe that it’s our sacred duty as Christians to speak out against oppression, especially when it originates within the church, because silence is complicity.

Jesus calls us to love. Wherever we support, even implicitly, the systematic oppression of others, we have moved away from God and His good news.

Homosexuality isn’t even close to the issue that it is made to be, even if you believe in its inherent sinfulness. In the Bible, homosexuality is outshone by things like greed, hate and oppression to such a degree that we can almost round its score off to zero. That’s the problem here: it’s become a political issue, not a theological one. It’s a hot-button topic used by lazy preachers to create a fictitious enemy that the church can unite against.

But the church doesn’t need to. The gospel is so much more than a set of rules to protect with force. The only people Jesus ever used force against were religious people. Everyone else received an invitation. So the question comes up for each of us: if Jesus were here, would he weave a whip for me?

Creating laws to kill and imprison people for their sexuality is deeply wrong. We cannot legislate our specific morality: down that road lies fascism and all the many inventive evils that flow from it. Jesus didn’t call us to patrol the actions of others, especially not those of people who hold different beliefs. Not even God does that. If the most high respects free will enough to allow me my faults, who the hell are we to withhold our love in some misguided attempt at social engineering? We’re to bring good news, love and healing.

Withholding homosexuals the right to work alongside fellow Christians for the betterment of the world is more than sad, then. It’s misguided, loveless and evil. As long as the church keeps pushing this stupid homosexuality agenda (in all its forms), it will be an empire of oppression. It will be part of the problem that our religion was started to solve.

The stance taken by most Christians on this topic is so disgustingly toxic that it beggars belief. It is so ‘far-sighted’ that it needs glasses to see its own sin. As long as we remain sinners, we have no right to even pick up stones, no less cast them. I am staggered by the amount of damage done by the rejection of homosexuals. It is possible only because the Christians doing so reduce these people to a single characteristic. These are people who love, fear, feel, cry, dream, and laugh. They are flesh and blood, with lives like ours, full of beauty and complexity. Just like us.

We are meant to be a force of love in the world. The body of Christ. Christ who loved and accepted whores and killers and you and me. We are in good company, no?

Personally, I don’t believe homosexuality is a sin, but “allowing it” (if we assume that it’s sinful) will never be able to live up to the destruction that is being sown all over the world by those who oppose it. Don’t we ‘allow’ so many other sins too, anyway? Isn’t that the point of forgiveness, of tolerance and love?

Christians must start speaking up against wrongs. If we don’t, nobody’s going to change it for us. So this is my start. I denounce Uganda’s gay bill, Russia’s legislation, every Christian’s clamour against a charity allowing homosexuals into its ranks. We must speak out against anybody who treads on those who are different from them.

This madness needs to stop. It’s small-minded and unworthy of people who claim that God is love.


Film Review: The East


I entered the cinema with reservations. The plot synopses I had come across all painted a problematic picture: An undercover agent infiltrates an anarchist cell, but soon starts to discover that things aren’t as clear-cut as she’d imagined. Ugh.

In my head, undercover films tend to go two ways:

  1. The undercover operative sees the error of her ways and joins the group. The focus here is on how brainwashed she had been and how they’ve opened her eyes to the sick truth of the world.
  2. The undercover operative realises that this is just a cult of deluded people fighting imagined injustices.

I completely understand why. Activism (especially of the calibre seen in the movie) is often divisive. It generates binary opposites, where you’re either with us or with them, which means that creating a nuanced portrayal within these confines is quite an accomplishment. It takes guts to steer clear of the obvious answers.

Which is the strongest point of The East. The script seems to lean one way, then the other, never allowing the viewer to get comfortable on the moral high ground. At heart, it’s a film about morality where the ethical questions raised are true conundrums that had my wife and I debating energetically for the rest of the night. No light, pseudo-intellectual moralising here, The East gives us a glimpse into the hard realities that we should be questioning.

Posing questions about activism and terrorism, family, love, loyalty, morality and acceptance, the film doesn’t shy away from showing us flaws in any of the characters: These people who gain complexity and contradictions as ‘Sarah’ (Brit Marling) sneaks deeper into their lives. Kudos to the actors here: the characters are well rounded and played with refreshing sensitivity.

The film is well paced, effortlessly building tension and confusion while allowing characters and audience alike room to chew on the implications of events. There are a few niggling issues in the script, but these are quickly forgotten inside the unfolding drama. The writing is clear and minimal and takes elements and tropes from its genre predecessors, but mixes them in a thoroughly engrossing way. The East is a beautifully crafted work brimming with humanity, which, despite its flaws, left me thinking.

And that’s the point. In showcasing the turmoil of the protagonist, we’re all forced to look at ourselves again, and in its wake, we may actually discover something new about what we believe.