Yesterday I talked a little about the importance of sexuality and the difference between the gospel’s understanding of life and the world’s. I’ve had a few questions and emails asking if this has been prompted by the debate surrounding Vicky Beeching: a Christian who has recently come out as gay and has been speaking about her experiences. I’ve followed the media coverage with interest and I think it’s great that she and others are talking about these issues. But I haven’t commented on her, because a) I don’t know her and b) I don’t think this debate is about one individual. Or more accurately, I think it’s about lots of individuals, not all of whom share her perspective, or her platform.
Beeching’s courage is to be applauded – not least because she’s in the firing line for criticism as well as support. But hers is not the only story. Many others feel as she does but have reached different conclusions about what the Bible says and how they respond – and these people are courageous too.
Homophobia is disgusting and wrong. Beeching is absolutely right to highlight and condemn it, especially within in the church. But the problem with the media coverage is that it often puts Christians into one of two camps: those who ‘agree with Vicky’ or those who are anti-gay, (and often anti-sex). In reality there are a wide range of opinions within the church: including those who identify as gay, hate homophobia and disagree with her conclusions about what this means for life. I say ‘her’ but this is precisely the problem: it’s not about ‘what Vicky thinks’ – it’s about what the Bible says and how we try to read it faithfully. This is not to undermine Beeching or her story (which is of real value), but to recognise that the debate goes beyond any one individual.
Yesterday the Guardian argued that Beeching has done more to advance the cause of homosexuals in the church than anyone else. She is to be commended for highlighting injustice and for having the guts and vulnerability to share her story. But here’s the problem. Hers is not being portrayed as one voice among many. Instead we’re presented with a one woman warrior, standing alone against a poisonous organisation. This posits a false dichotomoy between a church that hates (homo)sexuality and one which embraces every expression of it. It also ignores many within the church who have been and continue to support their brothers and sisters – irrespective of sexuality or anything else. (See for example Living Out).
My problem is not with Vicky or the ways in which we agree and differ. My problem is with the media’s depiction of Christianity as a rule instead of a relationship and the reduction of a loving community to the prejudices of a minority within it. The danger is that the focus is taken off Christ and placed upon someone who is no doubt brave and lovely, but also human and fallible. Within the church there are many with stories every bit as brave as Vicky’s, and these voices deserve to be heard as well.