Coming out: Is “Evangelical” the new “Homosexual”?

If Christianity is not persecuted in the West, why do many evangelicals feel more scared of coming out than some homosexuals today? Following on from what my protagonist called the “Tweet off“, James has posted the following,

“With the greatest respect to Adrian, I do not believe it is remotely plausible to maintain that Christians are persecuted, far less hated in the UK. Let’s look at the gross facts: Christianity is the state religion and the head of state is the head of the Church; Christians can freely practice and promote their faith, in churches and in public; Christians hold numerous respected positions in public and political life – the Prime Minister is a Christian, as are many members of the government, of Parliament, leaders of industry and the arts etc; Christianity still has massive cultural power, and the history of the UK is inextricable from the influence of Christianity . . .”

READ THE REST

It’s a compelling narrative. Why then, am I still afraid to tell people I meet that I am a practicing Christian?  Why do I feel like an alien in a hostile place sometimes? Here is what I wrote as a comment on his site, which I think justifies its own post over here:

Thanks for this interaction, James. The UK is a very complicated place. Nominally we are a Christian nation, but as I said, people are strongly encouraged to keep their faith out of their workplaces and out of the public square. If you are an evangelical it is very hard to get public office as I know from a personal friend of mine who found herself at the center of a vilification campaign.

I think we are at a tipping point, or possibly beyond it on both sides of the Atlantic, where what was once the majority perspective and unfortunately did oppress others, is no longer in that privileged position. For sure nominal Christianity may still be privileged, but if you dare to put your head above the parapet these days you will be admonished pretty quickly.

It does seem likely to me that unless we can somehow get to the point where we can all get along without forcing people to agree, then the group that once did the oppressing, will itself be genuinely oppressed. You are quite right that there is a massive challenge for us all in figuring out what is reasonable accommodation for those of religious perspectives.

When the Abortion law was passed, for example, it was made clear than nobody should be forced to participate in Abortion as part of their job. As a Junior Doctor I took advantage of that “conscientious objection” clause as many have. There have been moves recently in the UK to look at whether that concession should be removed. If so, evangelicals like me will be left with a choice: violate your own conscience or don’t work as a doctor. To me that is a fairly stark choice.

Every Christian will draw the line in a different place as to what they feel they cannot do. Some will have no problems with participating in a lot of things that violate their own personal convictions. But surely whether someone is a Muslim or Christian we have to ensure that in the future world of “tolerance for all” they can fulfill an active full role in society.

These questions are complex and difficult to answer. Should for example the Government have allowed the Catholic Church to continue to screen married couples to adopt children, while perhaps funding other agencies to screen homosexuals? Were they right to say to the Catholic Church, thanks for your help all these years in adoption, but we don’t want you any more. And before you too quickly jump to say they were right, sadly since the Catholic Church has stopped being involved in this process the numbers of adoptions in the UK has plummeted.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. But I can tell you this, as an evangelical in the UK today, despite this somewhat prominent blog, I tend not to “out” myself in the workplace. Ironically someone I knew in a work context once came out to me as homosexual, and I am glad to say that things have moved on so much in the last 50 years that neither he nor I felt awkward as far as I could tell. It really wasn’t an issue. I didn’t feel I could come out to him as an evangelical, however, so did not share that. I know that part of the reason for that I was concerned about some of the “baggage” I might carry with me. How he would react to me as an Evangelical is of course at least in part because of the unfortunate way many of my tribe have vilified yours in the past. I do hope that there is some way that we can all figure out of getting along together, as the trend to me at least does not look that way.

UPDATE

I should really have pointed to another previous post of mine about how in the UK church groups have been banned from saying God can heal today.  In the meantime, James has posted a further robust rebuttal which is worth every Evangelical reading. The only response to that which I would like to make to what he says is to affirm that I wholeheartedly deplore and reject the forms of discrimination and violence he talks about in that post. But I do not believe that simply because they are less severe, other forms of hate are acceptable.  I long for a day when Evangelical and Homosexual alike can live unmolested in our societies, and both be accepted as fully functioning members of that society.  How can we all live together in this world of ours without compromising our individual beliefs is the vital question of our day.

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock has been a blogger since April 2003, and a member of Jubilee Church, London since 1995, where he seves as part of the leadership team alongside Tope Koleoso.

Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus.

Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway.

Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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  • Dave North

    Perhaps you are experiencing the same vilification that gay people have had poured on them for millennia.

    And mostly by your lot.

    People are waking up to the fact that organized religions are selling snake oil, hate and division.

    Welcome to the world you have created for us. Not nice is it.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/adrianwarnock Adrian Warnock

      Here is the question: must the “majority” or “officially sanctioned” view always vilify minorities? Or can we figure out a way to all live together at peace that doesnt require the minority to take the sanctioned viewpoint?

  • http://alanmolineaux.blogspot.com/2012/01/message-from-coward.html Alan Molineaux

    My concern with this Adrian, is that the kind of things that you state are the possible points of contention are only one set of touch pionts by which people might recognise Christianity.

    If the issues that Christians feel silenced on are things like abortion and homosexuality then I think I have to agree with Dave that we have a shocking track record.

    Mainly because we have pushed our supposed absolutes on others without understanding their journey first. Life is generally more complicated that Christians often paint and we need to be sensitive.

    As an alternative perhaps we could be more discussional on issues like those above and start being more vocal on poverty etc. perhaps then our voice would be heard with less suspicion.

  • Ciaphas

    I can certainly understand how the problems you’re experiencing can make you uncomfortable, but I feel that it’s a bad analogy. Homosexuals were and are discriminated against arbitrarily while what some Christians run into is a backlash against a group’s actions.

    This backlash may not be fair on an individual level, but Christians are still voluntarily assuming the same label as a group recognized as having done some horrible things. I place the emphasis on actions because many Christians don’t simply want to be free to practice their religion, they want it written into law.

    I suspect there are many places someone might be uncomfortable admitting to being a member of the BNP, but are they being discriminated against or just receiving some understandable backlash for favoring toxic public policy?

    As an American, my views of Christianity and politics is colored by an American perspective and from what I have seen the relationship is a bit different in the UK. I do watch a fair amount of news and news entertainment from England and I’ve seen a considerable amount of coverage of American politics and I wonder if that might color some people’s view of Christians in the UK.

    • http://janitorialmusings.wordpress.com The Janitor

      Ciaphas,

      At one point you say: “I place the emphasis on actions because many Christians don’t simply want to be free to practice their religion, they want it written into law.”

      If the government is going to have a definition of marriage, why do you think Christians shouldn’t want what they believe to be the true definition to be reflected in the law? Homosexual activists want their own definition written into law. Do you have a problem with that? In other words, do you just not want the “Christian” definition written into law or do you have a problem with any definition being written into law?

      If it’s just the “Christian” definition you have a problem with, then your objection looks rather odd. I suspect at that point you might want to say that religious beliefs can’t be written into law or something like that. But actually that’s not the case in America (cf. Milner v. Apfel, for example) and many Christians have set forth *secular* arguments for their definition of marriage.

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/adrianwarnock Adrian Warnock

    The very fact that you can liken being a Christian to being a member of the BNP demonstrates how hostile culture is becoming to us. I don’t accept that the church is as evil as you make out! But we sure have some work to do in order to get our message of love and acceptance out!

    • Dave North

      I agree. That message has somehow become lost…

    • http://janitorialmusings.wordpress.com The Janitor

      Let’s not be naive. Any Christian message that maintains the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality is going to be labeled “hate”. The message is “lost” because the messenger simply refuses to let go of this biblical teaching. Check out this post by David Murray. Notice that David Murray is *still* accused of being hateful by several commenters. Why? Simply because he maintains the position that homosexual practice is sinful.

  • http://alanmolineaux.blogspot.com/2012/01/message-from-coward.html Alan Molineaux

    Hi Adrian

    I agree that the anology isn’t a good fit. I would make the following comments.

    1) Christianity, having been the majority voice in the past and not having a good record of allowing other voices cannot now simply complain without firstly repenting.

    2) Perhaps if we were a little more nuanced in our voices on the usual issues of homosexuality and abortion etc, and a little more vocal on feeding the poor and liberation of people, then maybe our voice would have more credibility.

    Hope that helps.

    Al

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/adrianwarnock Adrian Warnock

      Sorry for the delay in posting this comment you got marked as spam automatically! Hopefully I have now trained it that you arent a spammer but a valued commenter!

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  • Baal

    The UK may be geographically different than the US and that’s relevant to my views. Religionists of various types are due some amount of accommodation for their views. I was reading a piece today about rules in schools and find the analogy apt. If you have a generally valid rule – say no hats in school since they get in the way that’s unfair to those who wear hats for religious reasons. It’s better policy that a few students get an exception and wear their religious hats than to just junk the rule. – The harms of hats in school is worst when there are many hats and largely trivial if only a few students wear hats. Is it fair to the non-religious hat kids that they don’t get to wear a hat? eh, it’s unequal but a small burden – likely a smaller burden than that felt by religious students not getting to wear hats.

    This is a simple and easy case but it illustrates my views on your right to not provide abortions (or take a life as you prefer). You’re entitled to accommodation but you live in a society and everyone else counts too. Let’s take another easy example. A pregnant woman is hemmoraging and is 20 weeks pregnant. There is a fetal heartbeat but absent surgery (and an abortion) she will die. The fetus is dead in either event. Do you let the woman die? I’m not positing this question to you specifically Adrian but to point out that this woman is morally and ethically entitled to not die (or to recevie such medial intervention as is possible to save her life). The question then falls to who is to provide that medical care. In the US, unless you have good health care insurance, your choice may be limited to just 1 hospital that may be many hours from your home or work. If it turns out that the one hospital that takes all comers is a Catholic hospital or has only conscientious objectors on staff that women will die – this has happened in the US (i leave the googling to you). I find this situation morally repugnant.
    So I’m willing to allow that Christians get to have special accommodation but that accommodation stops when it runs into the lives and well beings of others. If that means you cannot be a doctor and provide care as a sole provider to all who depend on you while still keeping your faith then it is your duty to step aside and have someone else be that doctor. This need not be a large imposition – in the US we have a number of clinics or small family practices – no one would be driven to one in the case of a hemorrhage. You could fully carry out your religion and be a doctor with none the wiser that you’re willing to let other people die for your religious belief.

    To carry my point back to the topic of this post, you are entitled as a human being with views to have your views respect but only so long as they do not unduly disrupt society or create harm for others. It’s abundantly clear to me that homosexuals want to marry (and the rights, duties and privileges that entails). They are due accommodation on that point (exactly the same way your entitled to accommodation). So far as you being a devout evangelical gets you blow back for not wanting gays to be married, tough. It’s clear that the homosexual segment of society is harmed by having you and yours arguing a second class of citizenship for them (really go check out the suicide rate for gays and the impact of bullying on suicide rates).
    So you’ll have to understand that part of the price of your belief and decision to be openly evangelical includes folks telling you that your group does harm (even if you view it as love) (sidebar: when someone calls one thing hate and someone else calls it love, the person calling it love looks like a monster to any 3rd parties who are watching)

    You have my sympathy for the times where you a yelled at or treated unfairly; would that everyone followed my suggestion to set a basic harm and problem minimization rule followed with specific narrow reasonable exceptions (including the evangelical who appear to me to apply a very different rule set…something about glory to god is #1 and harms that may cause to people is at best #2)

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/adrianwarnock Adrian Warnock

      Are you seriously telling me that there are people who would not intervene to save the Mothers life in the situation you describe? To take a life to save a life is not something I would expect anybody to skip a heartbeat over making that decision. I am shocked and surprised if anybody would allow the Mother to die in such an obviously life-threatening situation. I found this article, is that what you are talking about? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2636458 Clearly the Catholics have to sort this out properly if it is indeed an accurate reflection of what is going on.

  • http://www.bibledifferences.net Herman Grobler

    It seems that whenever “homosexuality” is mentioned, the debate will focus on that subject. Is it because the Bible is absolutely clear on this point? Or is it because the Holy Spirit speaks to peoples hearts and they don’t like it? Or is it because Christians have in the past, and often still in the present make the sin of homosexuality something of a “death sin” apart of all the other sins it is mentioned with, inter alia in Romans 1:29-32, 1Cor. 6:9-10, 1Tim. 1:9-10. Or is it because the Christian message of redemption, healing, victory and a new life after homosexuality is often without power for lack of people having been redeemed out of this sad situation, coming out of the closet for fear of being ridiculed by both the gay community and the straight?
    God really gives victory, but also a way out of temptation! “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1Cor. 10:13
    God bless,
    Herman of bibledifferences.net

    • B-Lar

      Or perhaps it is simply because untempered disgust is being rationalised and justified by faith. Humans like to think that what they think is right and will use any means at their disposal to justify their chosen behaviour and avoid suffering ego damage.

      I think the faithful are particularly susceptible to this, because so much of faith is based on “interpretation” and “revelation” which can be easily subverted.

  • Kate Snyder

    As an American living in New York, a state where the abomination of gay marriage is perfectly legal and welcomed, I long for a day when most professing evangelicals and and all homosexuals repent of their sin and turn in deep repentance and genuine faith to Jesus Christ.

    There will come a day – and I believe it’s soon – when just saying you believe homosexuality is sin will bring imprisonment, even death. Here in NY you will lose your job if you believe homosexuals need to repent, and your children are ostracized and ridiculed.

    We are in the last of the last days.

    • John

      They also eat shellfish and wear cotton-polyester blends in New York, Kate. Has anyone been arrested for saying nobody should eat shellfish?

      • Kate Snyder

        No analogies there, John. When have we witnessed a Lobster Pride parade in Manhattan? We’ve endured over four decades of shameless in-your-face displays of LGBT pride. Diet and clothing are mere minutiae compared to this highly explosive issue. The persecution is intense. Christians may be passed up for a promotion or even pushed out of a job if they are vocal about their faith. Believing homosexuality is a sin and reaching out in love to help those trapped in that damnable lifestyle takes great courage. But light — when not hidden under a bushel — always overcomes darkness, praise the Lord, and some are being set free. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

        • Joesph

          Adrian

          This is your site. Do you honestly think Kate is speaking “truth in love”? Or is this a typical example of “christian” hate speech? Gay people inside and outside the church had to put up with these verbal assaults every single day of their lives – until very recently. Now the push back has begun in earnest and Evangelicals are calling it persecution!

          There is another way out of this mess. Block all comments by unrepentant homophobes. Examine yourself and consider how ungracious your posts are about your gay neighbours. Invite real gay people into your life and listen to them when they explain why they feel more despised than loved by Evangelicals. Steve Chalke has taken that courageous step with his church in London. There’s no ‘biblical’ reason why all the other Evangelical churches in the country cannot do the same.

          • Kate Snyder

            Crying out for the censorship of so-called homophobic haters is typical but far from new. The worn-out, dead label “homophobe” is utterly meaningless and not even used in politics here any longer.

            The last thing any my gay friends or bisexual family members would call me is hateful or homophobic, yet they know my scriptural stance. They may not agree with clear biblical teaching against homosexuality but they know where to go to receive Christlike compassion, comfort, and counseling from the Scriptures when they need it – to the true church – and some of them do, thank God.

            As a result, they are coming out — out of homosexuality and into genuine salvation in Christ Jesus, and it’s such a blessing to see.

            Highly recommended and available on Amazon:

            (1) “The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics” by Robert A. J. Gagnon
            (2) “Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth” by Jeffrey Burke Satinover
            (3) “Closing the Closet: Testimonies of Deliverance from Homosexuality” by Talbert W. Swan
            (4) “The Intolerance of Tolerance” by D. A. Carson

  • BabyRaptor

    This is just sick. How can you even seriously suggest that saying you’re a christian is comparable to what LGBT people go through (mainly from religious people like yourself)?

    Nobody seriously threatens to kill you based on how you were born. Nobody lies about you constantly. Your very existence isn’t reviled. Nobody is threatening to kidnap your children. Your rights aren’t regularly denied. People don’t talk about deporting you, or caging you off and letting you starve. Parents don’t disown or beat the hell out of their children for becoming christians.

    And why do LGBTs get treated this way? Mainly because of christianity and other religions. Maybe if you (general you) didn’t feel the need to continually attack people, force your religion down everyones’ throats and generally be someone nobody wants around, then you wouldn’t have to be afraid to tell people you’re a christian. But to claim that you’re anywhere near as persecuted as LGBTs are is just a sickening, faux persecution lie. And it’s yet another thing that’s going to make people not want you around.

  • Joesph

    Why do you still use the term homosexual? You say your first rule of offline and online interaction is “Always speak in a respectful way” but here you are using an archaic word for much abused minority. I’m sure you would never write “Is Evangelical the new Negro?”

    What chance do we have of convincing anyone outside of Evangelical circles that we don’t in fact despise gay people if we will not use the name they call themselves? That word is gay.

    • Zack

      The problem with this is that while “homosexual” is offensive to some, “gay” is offensive to others. From the context, it is clear that Mr. Warnock is not using it with any sense of disrespect. I am sure he would not want his word choices to offend, but instead to show love and respect.

      • Joesph

        Umm… who exactly is offended by the word gay in 2012? And apart from Christian websites and publications, where does anyone see the word “homosexual” these days?

        Also, I’m not saying “homosexual” is offensive – just that it’s use by Christians betrays a lack of real concern for gay people inside or outside the church. If you really loved and respected someone, you’d get their name right – wouldn’t you?

  • B-Lar

    Is Evangelical the new homosexual? No.

    It has already been pointed out in the commentary that to be gay is not a choice (I dare anyone), and persecuting someone for simply being who they are is unacceptable bigotry.

    If you are reluctant to reveal your faith, that is not persecution. Many people simply do not care what your faith is. Many people seriously dislike being proselytised. Many people will have heard ridiculously bigoted statements and arguments coming from those of your faith and will quite reasonably assume that you are going to hold similar opinions. Come back and talk about this when actual civil rights are being actually denied to you on the basis of your faith.

    With regard to your conscientious objections, no one should be compelled to act contrary to their morals. However, I challenge you: Saying “The bible tells me” or “God tells me” is not a moral position. It is an intellectual copout. A moral position is one which requires the exercise of empathy. Obedience is an abdication of your moral responsibilities and can only be justified if it also satisfies a morality check. Providing abortion or contraceptive services (for example) against obeying your faith is a false dilemma. It is only your responsibility to do your job, and if your reason for not performing an aspect of your job is not evidence based then why should anyone take it seriously? You cannot make life decisions for others. Making life decisions for others is what got the faithful into this mess in the first place.

    Final point: The simple fact is that christians now have to hope that society treats them better than they have been shown to treat others in the past. in my opinion though, we see the best religion in practice when its adherents are not in the majority. When Christians are in the minority they are less likely to trample others. We should see more practicing the in way which it was always meant to be – trying to be more like Jesus. Your post should have been a celebration, not a lamentation.

  • Richard

    Are Christians hated in the UK? Well yes a small minority of people do hate Christians (see fo example any Guardian blog on religion of any description which will bring out the same cabal of 10 militant atheists to post over 1000 bilious comments between them. But a vast majority are frankly indifferent .
    Are Christians persecuted? – not so much, I believe. I managed to work 15 years in the politically correct heart of the British public service and there were active and encouraged Christian groups within my employers. The one attempt by a denizen of the equality industry to ban Christmas was howled down in derision (they left very soon afterwards I recall).
    Sure there’s some media ridicule of Christians (but there’s some of everyone you could mentioned) but this doesn’t amount to persecution in any meaningful sense.
    I hate to say it but my only discomfort of using the term evangelical to describe myself comes from its association with the excesses of US based religious right. If Robertson, Falwell, Bob Jones and so forth hadn’t hijacked the term then it wouldn’t carry the negative connotations that it does.

  • http://politicsproseotherthings.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel

    Cry me a freaking river. You aren’t experiencing discrimination, you’ve brought down the thunder, and now you’re reaping the whirlwind.

  • A Queer Christian

    When I tell someone that I’m a Christian, I run the risk of them thinking that I’m a conservative Bible-thumper who will tell them that they are going to Hell. When I tell someone that I’m queer, I run the risk of being told that I’m going to Hell (and that I’m not a real Christian).

    As a member of the United Church of Christ and a resident of Connecticut, I am lucky to have a church and a state government that recognize LGBT people as deserving of the same rights as heterosexual people. If I had grown up in almost any other denomination or lived in almost any other state, I wouldn’t have that luxury. The federal government, however, is a different story.

    The government hasn’t taken away our right to religious freedom (no matter how many times you cry “wolf” when the government secures equal rights for women and LGBTQ people, this is not taking away your right to go to church, to believe what you want to believe, etc.). In most states and federally, you can’t be fired for practicing your religion or being non-religious, but you can be fired for being LGBTQ.

    By trying to claim the term “coming out,” you are denying the pain and suffering (much of which has been created by the hands of the Christian community) that is experienced by the LGBTQ community. Please do not compare the uncomfortable feeling of personal judgement that you may experience from some people to the legal discrimination and outright hate handed down to LGBTQ people.

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  • Daniel B.

    This post is sickening and vile. Co-opting the term “coming out” as an evangelical is low, though this dreck is something to be expected of Christians. It’s blogs like these that make the internet less than wonderful.


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