Hate speech? LGBT+ intolerance or ‘good disagreement’?

Since the launch of the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith (LLF) ‘resources’ last month, we have seen yet more ‘love and faith’ emerging from the LGBT+ community. Instead of greeting the materials with any degree of positivity, we have seen outrage (surprise, surprise) and referrals to the police (yes, really).

Jayne Ozanne, always to be relied upon for an accurate reflection of Anglican opinion, has actually compared traditionists with Holocaust deniers and rapists. Yes, really:

[LLF] encourages those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender to sit and “see the Christ” in those who think that their very identity is “sinful” and that they should instead “transform” themselves so that they become single and celibate – a teaching which has led many to contemplate taking their very lives! It is utterly ridiculous! Would one invite a survivor of the Holocaust to sit down and listen to the rantings of a Holocaust denier? Would one ask a rape victim to sit down with a rapist and understand why they want to rape people? It is not only ridiculous – it is downright dangerous!

Not only that, but in the same interview she actually quoted Jesus on the cross – ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do’ – and says that she does not believe this sentiment applies when perpetrators are deliberately causing harm. What does that say about Jesus forgiving his torturers? Dear God.

But back to Ozanne-world and the notion of forgiving abusers:

What about when the victims are crying out in pain, and yet the aggressors appear deaf to their cries and carry on regardless? Surely this, then, is different? Personally, I believe that it is completely different. Indeed, I think it is immoral, inexcusable, and cowardly.

So having wittingly or unwittingly denied Jesus the right to forgive those who were crucifying Him, she piles on the condemnation by saying that to forgive in such circumstances is ‘immoral, inexcusable and cowardly’.

Ok. That’s put Our Lord in His place.

She, and others elsewhere, go on, as usual, to criticise the Church in general for ‘not showing love’. For not being ‘safe spaces’ for LGBT+ people. This is despite the fact that untold numbers of LGBT+ Christians have been quietly worshipping inside a variety of churches for hundreds of years without being physically attacked, verbally abused or forced to commit suicide. And despite the fact that the so-called ‘findings’ of Ozanne-sponsored research have been well and truly debunked here, here and here.

In response to the launch of the LLF resources, Ben John of Christian Concern made a video (since removed from the website and condemned by the Bishops of London and Coventry) about some of the underlying assumptions that are evident from the outset in the materials. In this video he commented on the nature of the marriages of two of the couples interviewed by the LLF team in one of their videos.

He expressed amazement – rightly, in my opinion – that one of the couples, a young, traditional (i.e. man-woman) pair, simply considered marriage to be ‘just a deep sense of commitment’. Nothing there about the religious, economic, legal or cultural characteristics of marriage in the UK, or of the deep responsibilities involved, or the expectations of society on them as a married couple. One has to wonder if this is all these two understand marriage to be, or if the LLF editors simply left that bit in as a catch-all example of traditional marriage in the eyes of ‘modern’ young people.

The other marriage Ben John mentioned in his video was between a transgender man and a woman – both ministers in the United Reformed Church. John addressed the marriage of this couple, saying that if one considers trans ideology to a be a false ideology – which he believes is the case – then the marriage is actually one between a lesbian couple. It’s worth bearing in mind that at no point does John force his view as a ‘must agree with me’ on any of the audience – he’s simply stating his belief. Feel free to disagree with it, by all means. But the Rev Alex Clare Young (the trans man of the couple) was not apparently happy with these comments and apparently asked Christian Concern to take the video down, saying they (preferred pronoun) did not feel safe because of it. When Christian Concern refused to do so, Alex Clare Young referred the situation to North Yorkshire Police, who are now investigating the video as a possible hate crime against them. Yes, that’s right – a believer has referred another Christian to the police for disagreeing with them (preferred pronoun) on a theological point.

The Times reported Alex Clare Young’s comments on this:

‘I felt that [Ben John’s comments] were leading to personal harm to myself, my wife, and the others in the video. It feels as if he is denying LGBT people the right to be involved in Christian worship. It describes me and my wife as being in a same-sex marriage, which isn’t true. It made me feel very unsafe.’

Here again we have a case of either the failure to understand the expression of an opposing view, or a reading-into-it of meanings that were not actually expressed. Yes, Ben John questioned the nature of trans ideology and yes, he questioned whether the Church in general ought to be ordaining trans individuals into the ministry. But this is simply the expression of an opposing view to those held by Alex Clare Young. There is no expression in the Ben John video that denies LGBT+ people the right to be involved in Christian worship. John’s comments on trans ideology as it affects the nature of a marriage between two people is valid if one holds that trans ideology is wrong. If one holds with trans ideology, then the Clare Young marriage is a union between a man and a woman. If one doesn’t hold with that view, then the marriage is therefore a same-sex marriage.

If you are married, and believe that your marriage is valid and worthy of respect, who cares what anyone else says about it? Are you suggesting that your marriage is invalid somehow because someone else has commented on it in a way you don’t like? Ben John has no power over any of the individuals or couples about whom he commented. He is not in a position to annul or destroy any marriage. He was simply expressing his view. A view shared, incidentally, by many. And opposed by many as well. That is the nature of living in an open democracy – we can disagree on major issues openly and freely.

But wait! Obviously nowadays, we can’t! Ben John has been reported to the police, who now need to decide whether or not a hate crime has been committed. Has it? How exactly has the sharing of his views been a source of harm to anyone else? Other than the ‘speech is hate’ mantra – an ideology I do not agree with – I can’t see why John’s views have caused harm. Is ‘harm’ now to be identified as ‘being upset’? Where do we draw the line with that one? Is ‘being upset’ worse than ‘being offended’? Or ‘being annoyed’? Or is ‘not being upset/offended/annoyed’ now a definition of ‘feeling safe’?

In an interview for the Church Times, Alex Clare Young says:

“It’s really important to me that traditional or conservative views are allowed to be heard, as well as LGBTQ+ views of all sorts, but there’s a big difference between free speech and speech without consequence or reaction, and people are only free to express their beliefs and opinions in ways that don’t directly harm other people, which is why we have hate-crime legislation.

“I would also say that being trans is a protected characteristic — gender reassignment is a protected characteristic in law — and so misgendering a trans person in that sort of public forum is never OK in the UK.”

Interesting. Alex Clare Young is, after all, only following the lead of Jayne Ozanne in reporting a Christian to the police. This could be seen as the go-to response when ‘feeling unsafe’ I suppose – for which read ‘Disagree with me at your peril’. Just a thought. Nothing like a bit of ‘good disagreement’ is there?

So how exactly do we define ‘free speech’? Is that now just speech that somebody else does not object to? And what about ‘harm’? How do we define that? Are hurt feelings now ‘harm’? Says who? ‘Do no harm’ does not equate to ‘do me some good’ – i.e. in this case, only tell me what I want to hear. And what about ‘speech without consequence or reaction’? As an educated adult I have long been under the impression that speech is there to cause consequences or reactions. How exactly do we speak without causing consequence or reaction?

And don’t get me started on the ‘protected characteristics’ card. There are millions of people walking around the UK with ‘protected characteristics’ – myself included (Asperger’s – an autism spectrum issue). To produce this as a trump card whenever an opposing opinion or unsatisfactory action is aired could be seen as tantamount to a threat – agree with me or please me, or I will sue you/defame you on Twitter/whatever. To quote Jayne Ozanne (above) – ‘It is not only ridiculous – it is downright dangerous!’ Are those of us with protected characteristics now entitled to wave this card in the faces of those who ‘don’t treat us right’, or ‘won’t respect our differences’, or ‘don’t say nice things about us’? How is that going to work? In reality, to take such an approach will only achieve one outcome – getting people’s backs up. This is likely in turn to make people less accommodating of difference because people don’t like being called racist, homophobic, intolerant, Nazis or the rest of it simply because they disagree with something or someone.

The cases in point here, of course, are inside the Church. I love the way that many non-Christian commentators like to air their understanding of Christianity – ‘It’s supposed to be about love’, or ‘the Bible says we’re supposed to show love’, or ‘the Bible says we’re supposed to forgive’ (unless you are an Ozanne-type who rewrites/reinterprets it to suit), and so on. All I have to say about that is this – you may have read some of those bits, but read more. And I say the same thing to those inside the Church who quote this ‘love is all’ mantra at the expense of all the bits in the Bible that say different. Yes, Bishop Curry – I include you.

Once again we see here the failure of activists so tell the difference between a person and an ideology. Nobody in the Church should be treating LGBT+ people (or anyone else) badly. All should be welcome in Church. But don’t expect the majority to take on board the new notions of ‘harm’ or accept trans ideology. Having your feelings hurt is not harm. It’s upsetting, yes, but it’s not harm in the legal sense, even though some would like it to be. And nobody can make someone believe an ideology.

Whatever happened to ‘turn the other cheek’? Most adults have been doing that all of their adult lives in church. It’s called ‘getting along’.

And as I have pointed out before, the Church’s ban on sex outside marriage doesn’t only affect LGBT+ people, it affects everyone who is not married. Where is the evidence of hetero singles being forced to consider suicide because they can’t sleep with their girlfriend/boyfriend? Where are the widowed elderly who no longer have a bedmate? Are they all suffering ‘harm’? According to LGBT+ activists’ reasoning, they must be. But no – the reasoning of activists only goes in one direction, doesn’t it? Likewise, there is already a way for LGBT+ folks to be legally married in the UK – via a civil marriage.  But this is not enough for the activists among us – they want to be married in and by a Church that currently doesn’t ‘do’ same-sex marriage.  Just to prove a point. 

Tolerance for all views – hmm. Looks like a one-way street to me. As a Christian I wish all LGBT+ Christians well. But I won’t accept the ideology that goes with it. I can love people, but don’t have to accept an ideology I disagree with. Still, this is insufficient for many activists….

I expect that we traditionalists will need to get used to this ‘consequence and reaction’. When someone we love in faith as a brother or sister doesn’t receive or hear or see what he/she/they want, then they can just reach for that Protected Characteristic card and tootle down to the nearest nick, where they will be able to turn the other cheek by invoking the law against people having any other opinion than they hold. Oh yes, and they get to call us Holocaust deniers and rapists with impunity too! What’s not to love?!

Living In Love, anyone?

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