Monday 24 August 2009

The Bible as hate speech

Jackie Bruchi has posted an article about ‘The Bible as hate speech’ on Stand Firm commenting on my blog.

Jackie says I condemned the Bible as hate speech. I did not. I condemn those who use particular verses to preach in a hostile way against homosexuality. Her first paragraph is more accurate: “Colin Coward … has taken the position that the Bible is hate speech when used to preach the passages that are not on point with the GLBT agenda.”

Her prime concern seems to be the hate crime laws proposed by the Obama administration. She refers to the debate on the Coroners and Justice Bill in the UK and the amendment guaranteeing a defence of free speech (which was lost). Conservative Christians were concerned that the law would impose serious restrictions on the right of free speech and in particular on those who oppose homosexuality.

The comments on Stand Firm highlight key conservative arguments:

The Bible is “hate speech” because it speaks of hatred of sin.

There are people who love sin more than they love Jesus. They condemn what Holy Scripture says about sin.

Anyone disagreeing with homosexuality as normative is accused of hating LGBT people.
The 3-year Lectionary cycle omits the “clobber verses” and has been selectively edited to advance the pro-gay agenda.

The word ‘hate’ has been redefined to mean anything that disagrees with and opposes the LGBT agenda.

Christian ethics are being questioned while the Muslims are allowed to preach real hate from the pulpit - it’s unfair.

One more thoughtful comment notes that there are countless street preachers who proclaim a message which is little more than hate. In doing so they become the greatest allies the liberals could ever hope for. This is true, and not helpful to the moderate conservative position.

Another comment says that it is wrong, unbiblical, and neglectful of our duty to preach the gospel in its entirety. I’m not sure whether he didn’t mean the opposite: ‘not to preach the gospel in its entirety’.

No-one preaches from the Bible in its entirety – there just isn’t the time! Much of the Old Testament is ignored by conservatives and liberals alike when it comes to preaching.

We ALL choose the passages we preach on. Even when preaching from the lectionary, I choose which lesson or verses I am going to focus on.

Street preachers choose verses from which they can proclaim hell and damnation as a way to persuade people to turn to God. It doesn’t work for me. Conservatives preach about (or want the freedom to preach about) homosexuality and sin.

I choose to preach about love, forgiveness, reconciliation, hope, the reality of our lives, the reality of creation and my lived experience of God in dialogue with my understanding of scripture.

We are dealing with the church’s dilemma about human sexuality by polarising arguments and positions. This is not the Christian way. It does not achieve reconciliation and does not give people hope. It satisfies egos and confirms prejudice.

The church is learning about homosexuality with great difficulty and resistance. It doesn’t want, corporately, to change its mind-set (yet), its traditional teaching and attitudes towards homosexuals and homosexuality. Changing Attitude and other liberal groups represent a challenge to the church, a challenge presented by people who believe we are orthodox ourselves and are certainly speaking as Anglicans from within the church. We refuse to be marginalised or excluded from the life of the church. We want to be integrated in a church which embraces both us and those who disagree with us.

The language of Christians at the more extreme end of the conservative spectrum is hateful to us. They use the “clobber passages” against LGBT people because in their own integrity, they believe they are right. Tragically, they reinforce or encourage continuing prejudice against LGBT people, prejudice which at the extremes, results in hatred, violence and murder.

To satisfy those of us who are gay Anglicans, the church needs to engage with us without prejudging or condemning us. That means the conservatives have to relinquish their more extreme arguments, which I experience as hatred.


  1. Yes it is hatred. They are blind to the truth and are destroying the church and tearing it apart.

    I know I've mentioned them before but it is the same old extreme stuff pumped out day and night by the new boys on the block echurchwebsites blog

  2. Do you accept then that evangelical leaders such as John Stott, Jim Packer, Tom Wright and Nicky Gumbel reject homosexual practice because of the teaching they find in scripture and when they preach on these issues it is for the benefit of the church and those involved in such activities.Their warnings are given from a heart full of love. Thus your perception of hatred is something about you, not about them.

  3. evangelical is another word for hatred and bigotry. Have you even seen the echurchwebsites Blog as everyday it is seething with anti-gay rhetoric, calling us heretics or accusing us of running after the world or zeitgeit (or whatever nasty judgemental term use), just because we want to fulfil our calling to the ministry. Where is the love in that I ask you?

    Oh and by the way, I have tried to post our point of view and my posts never pass moderation, it is cynical censorship, not very democratic and loving for a so called "Christian blog"

  4. Anonymous 2, I accept that evangelical leaders such as John Stott, Jim Packer, Tom Wright and Nicky Gumbel reject homosexual practice because of the teaching they find in scripture. I accept that when they preach on these issues, according to their own particular understanding of scripture and creation, they believe it is for the benefit of the church and those involved in such activities. As a Christian priest who is gay, I believe they are mistaken. I accept that they may think that their warnings are given from hearts full of love. I experience their warnings as unloving, the result of ignorance, prejudice, poor biblical scholarship and a failure to engage with difference. Your comment about my perception of hatred being something about me, not about them, is a non-sequitur.

  5. Extremist blogs are not uncommon. As far as the motivation of evengelical leaders goes, it is pertinent that speaking for an ever reducing, more isolated, disenfranchised minority can be lucrative, in the short term.

  6. A good point regarding the isolated, disenfranchised minority, I mean the Lutheran Church that the echurchwebsites blog keeps bleating on about over these last couple of days, accepted gay equality by two thrids and accepted gay pastors by a huge majority.

    The extremist fundamentalist christians are a dying breed and the sooner they realise their blind error and join the majority the less damage will be done to the church.

  7. And the Quakers: the thing is not to rise to their fevered, swan-song polemic, if they get too vile the secular authorities will deal with them. Suits me. In 50 years time even people brought to faith through Alpha courses won't know what the old view of homosexuality was.

  8. Many don't actually care now! (But don't tell anyone at HTB, it will only upset them.)

  9. "Many don't actually care now!" LOL how true!

    What the extremists at the echurchwebsites blog don't seem to realise is that society is in the process of changing its collective mind about the moral status of same-sex relationships, and there’s a parallel theological movement, so that we can be inclusive and take our message to the WHOLE of society.

    It seems to me that these fundamentalist bloggers are just old hat Calvinist, right wing, zionist, zealouts.

    There I said it!

  10. I find it interesting that someone (anonymous) posted about the fact that Nick Gumbel, Tom Wright and others are speaking out against homosexuality out of Christian love, based on Scripture. I have yet to hear these same preachers talking about the fact that women should not speak in Church, keep their head covered, etc. - as it is clearly said in Scripture.

  11. They are trying to link up with the last vestiges of outdated prejudice to boost numbers and income for their institutions which are based on outdated approaches to scripture. There is no mileage in being anti-women, but there's still a bit of money in flogging the anti-gay adenda, just a bit, for the moment.

  12. I meant agenda, but spelt correctly addenda, a supplement to a book, is quite apt.

  13. I know something about the folks from echurchwebsites as i have them encountered on christian forums, but i'm not sure this is the right place to be discussing this, we need our own discussion forum.

    Just briefly, they seem to infiltrate christian forums with their "orthodox" agenda and we call them the "fundie mafia" which gives you some idea.

    They seem to be a mouthpiece for the likes of CCFON and the Christian People's Alliance or whatever they are called.

  14. fundie mafia, I rather like that!

  15. Yes "Fundie Mafia" is a very apt name as it happens.

    They overwhelm forums and the like and sadly do seem to make converts to their bigotted way of thinking. They are relentless and determined and seem to be very skilled online I'll give them that.

    They are not pleasant to encounter because they are quick to judge and condemn behaviour they see as "sinful" and of course their default position is Scripture, Scripture, Scripture, they simply don't seem to understand the cultural bias, nuances and interpretations of the Bible.

    It is quite sad and pathetic really and devoid of love.

  16. To post a comment on the Stand Firm website you have to be a member. If they don't like what you say you are banned! They only want to listen to themselves.

  17. Ah, exactly the same as the echurchwebsites mafia blog. There is no membership, but every comment is moderated. Not one of my comments has ever passed moderation and has been deleted and by the look of things only comments that afirm the "mobs" agenda are ever published!

  18. mmm, the trouble is with blogs like echurchwebsites, is that if they won't publish your comments, there's no way to hit back and put the record straight, so they're propoganda is left unchallenged.

    As an aside did you know that they don't believe in a man-made global warming, citing it as an un-scientifically proven "religion" of hysteria with the normal sinister plot under-tones. Unbelievable, where do these nutters come from?