Are we free to disagree?

Do you feel free to disagree with society’s current wisdom on marriage, sexuality, and gender?

Recent reactions to an ad campaign in Australia claiming that it is “OK to say “No” (in the referendum on same-sex marriage) would suggest that we are not free to disagree. That in a YES or NO referendum there is only one acceptable answer.

I can understand why those voting YES would react that way. If it is a case of turn taking it is certainly their turn to. The state, society and the church have not only declared for centuries that NO is the only answer, but have treated those who disagreed with contempt, violence, and punishment. I imagine that it is only within my lifetime that those who disagree with the traditionally held views of society and the church regarding sexuality have felt any freedom to express that disagreement at all.

Not only that, but as society and the church have increasingly parted company over the rights and wrongs of all sorts of lifestyle choices and a wide variety of beliefs – disagreement in the area of non-heterosexuality seems to have been isolated from and treated far more roughly than disagreement over appropriate sexual conduct within heterosexuality.

Basically, as both Glynn Harrison in his book: A Better Story and Ed Shaw (The Plausibility Problem) so helpfully point out – there are massive planks in our corporate (and individual) eyes that we need to acknowledge and remove.

But, keeping that in mind, the question remains: Are we free to disagree with the status quo? Are we free to disagree with the messages constantly promulgated and reinforced by the media? Are we free to disagree with the majority view?

Because I do.

I believe that God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit as revealed in the bible and ultimately in the God-man Jesus Christ, is our good and perfect creator God. I believe that he made us male and female, that he designed sex as part of that good creation to be enjoyed exclusively within a marriage between a man and a woman.

I am not saying, by the way, that a secular state is wrong in aiming to provide equal legal status for all couples that meet whatever criteria the state deems to be necessary. What I disagree with is the use of the term ‘marriage’ and the lack of freedom I have to express my disagreement.

I was at a civil marriage ceremony recently and as part of the ceremony the registrar gave the definition of marriage as currently held by the powers that be in that district. It made marriage seem like a rather movable feast.

The tables have turned. What was the majority view supported by the media, and by prominent figures in society is now whispered by a scared, secretive and at times ashamed minority. Society has not become more tolerant, it has simply changed who it is intolerant of. It is not an open, objective society that debates and converses in a balanced and fair manner. Would I be likely to appear on Woman’s Hour (as a bi-sexual couple were recently invited to do) to talk about how hard it is to gain an equal hearing in society? The microphone still rests in the hands of the majority, it is just a different majority.

As I said at the start – you can understand why you wouldn’t want to let go of that microphone. You’ve been shouted down (and worse) all your life and now the tables have turned.

So what are we – the minority – going to do?

We could just shrug our shoulders and disperse. Perhaps we’ve had our turn and botched it. Maybe we’ve lost our right to say anything. What if we’ve been wrong all along? Can we really claim to be right when everyone else disagrees? When what the bible teaches (if it really does teach that) seems so at odds with what the world wants to hear? When so-called biblical teaching has caused such pain? And when it comes to it are ‘WE’ really a ‘WE’ anyway? The whole idea that there is one right way seems so implausible now – in fact, now I think of it, I’ve never been that keen on it. Your reaction is so different to mine and The Church certainly isn’t keen to offer much in the way of leadership. Maybe we should just each work out our own way to proceed.  In this area at least we might as well disband and follow our own consciences.

But the thing is – I believe in the world’s desperate need to hear God’s word and to see it lived out in the lives of his followers. I am 100% convinced that God’s commands in every area of life are not only authoritative, but also good and beautiful and right. If those of us who call Jesus Lord don’t openly celebrate the goodness of those commands no one else is going to. Are we really going to sit in the corner while our nation is quietly robbed of all knowledge of the Christian worldview? I want my children to live in a country where they can hear and see Christians openly and lovingly disagreeing with mainstream thinking. I want to play whatever part I can to contribute to carving out a voice for those of us who believe biblical truths about human sexuality and gender. I want us to be free to disagree.

So let’s not shrug our shoulders and passively accept the gag that is slowly tightening around our mouths. According to the law (currently at least) we are free to disagree. Let’s exercise that freedom.

In case you are worried – I’ll say it again – whatever we do we need to be honest about past mistakes, and we need to act in a way that is above reproach, dripping with gentleness and humility. We also need to keep the main thing the main thing. Our job is not to force our nation, or individuals into submission to God’s rules about sex. For many years – until relatively recently – our nation has been full of people towing the line – in public at least – regarding traditional teaching on sexuality and morality more generally. Sadly it has not been full of people hearing God’s just verdict on sin, or even being taught what sin is. It has not been full of people hearing of God’s costly love for sinners, of his grace and kindness to us in sending his Son Jesus to die and rise again for us – freeing those who put their trust in him to walk in God’s good ways and to look forward to eternal life when the battle with sin will be over. It has not been full of people sharing their struggles and helping each other walk more faithfully with the Lord.

Let me repeat myself – we need to keep the main thing the main thing. Our job is not to force our nation, or individuals into submission to God’s rules about sex. Our job is to go into the world to make disciples, “baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [Jesus has] commanded [us]”.

Caring about our freedom to disagree with and present an alternative to current mainstream thinking is just part of living authentically and publicly as Jesus followers. But it is a part that is currently under threat. How can we sit in our churches reciting hallowed be your name every week and yet do nothing to show that the Lord’s name is hallowed in our lives? How can we pray hallowed be your name and yet not long for it to hallowed all over the world – that he might be glorified and the whole world blessed by his loving and good rule?

Well my blogging morning is way past over and it’s time for me to sign off. If this post has caused any sort of reaction in you please do comment; and if you haven’t already please consider reading Ed Shaw’s book -The Plausibility Problem; and Glynn Harrison’s book: A Better Story. They both have far more right and are far better qualified to teach on this issue than I do/am. But let’s not leave it all up to the experts, and those on the front line. Surely we can all ask: Am I free to disagree?

#amifreetodisagree

No doubt I’ll return to this as I read and think more, but for now hear the concluding words of our loving saviour to his disciples as he commissioned them and be encouraged:

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age”.

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