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13 May 2010


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Jez Brown

David - good work, very helpful interview thanks. I am very interested in Shami's assessment of the way in which Christians, for example, should act in the workplace where their faith sets them at odds with their employer. Faith must surely inform decision-making and action - otherwise it has no efficacy. And having agreed that our faith should not be locked in the closet, Shami's argument does appear to need a better response under law than simply a blunt condemnation. Our law makers must surely be called upon to create space for dissention in the workplace, so that others can deputise where conscience will not allow others to perform certain actions.

David Kerrigan

Jez, I agree with Shami’s views a lot, but to be honest I'm trying to work out a consistent ethic here. Her take on the Lilian Ladele case (see link below) is that LL needed to leave her job if she did not feel able to officiate at civil partnerships. This is what I described as very 'totalitarian' in the interview and is based on the premise that LL's religious views (her right to freedom of conscience) count for nothing in the public square. That worries me. Will it be long before Christian nurses and doctors are told they have no further right not to be involved in abortions?

Yet, I don’t believe the B & B couple have the right to discriminate against people coming to stay as guests, for reasons I’ve given above. Am I being inconsistent or am I at the pick’n mix counter?

The privatisation of religion is at the heart of the matter. I dont want a return to Christendom, but I also do not want a religion-free public square.
See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7413298.stm

David Kerrigan

Graham Heath over on facebook commented:
“This interview and your comments are helpful. However, the comparison with excluding ‘blacks, dogs and the Irish’ may be misleading. Surely it is appropriate for people to exclude from their home, even one that is a B&B or café, behaviour that they find offensive, whether that be gays sleeping together, people boozing, bikers in leathers (that’s me), or families with children (we’ve experienced that too)? When I’m excluded like that I’m disgruntled, but I think ‘that’s their loss of custom’, rather than ‘I’ll sue them’. The degree to which people open their homes to the public is up to them; we don’t have a right to abuse their hospitality by imposing our lifestyle choices on them. Or have I missed something?”

Here’s my response:
Graham, you ask ‘have I missed something?’ I honestly don’t know if you’ve missed something, or whether I have. But there are two dimensions that trouble me here. Firstly, in the eyes of the law, discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation, or colour, or race are much the same. (And yet, earlier in the post I argue against the judgement in the Lilian Ladele case. Am I being inconsistent?)

But from a mission perspective, the attitude of the B & B owners seems at odds with what we are called to be in today’s world. So allow me to ask a question back to you. Would that gay couple, assuming they are not Christians, be more likely or less likely to go to a church having encountered the Christian B & B owners?

That’s where I’m coming from. There are all kinds of behaviours that people find difficult, but in Jesus I find someone who simply says ‘come to me as you are’. Street Pastors up and down the country spend the early hours of the morning with people who are out of their minds on drugs and booze, sometimes foul-mouthed and vomiting. Yet they stay there – behaviour is not allowed to be a barrier to showing love and acceptance. And that’s before we start shining the light on what we might call the respectable sinners - the Christians who have a perfectly good car but spend £30k on a Mercedes in a world where children are starving.

Graham, I know your heart, you’re a missionary down to your biker boots and few people I know are as committed as you to presenting Jesus as good news in today’s world. So hang on in there and let’s see if we can’t discern something that might just surprise us. We might not – but hey, we might.

Graham Heath

David, you raise a good point; in fact, for the reasons you suggest, I'm not sure that I personally would turn away a gay couple if I owned a B&B, although others might argue that politely taking a stand would be a better witness. However, I do want to stand up for the right of others to refuse to have in their homes behaviour that they find morally offensive. Which highlights the other point: surely what is being refused is not the person or his/her orientation, but the practice, whether that be gays sleeping together, or motorcycling, or whatever. If I owned a B&B I'd be just as concerned about an unmarried heterosexual couple sleeping together as a gay couple doing so; while I wouldn't be at all concerned by gay guests who weren't sharing a room. Perhaps that hasn't been made clear enough in the legal proceedings?

David Kerrigan

Hi Graham, I think a gay person or a straight person might say my sexuality is not 'what I do', its 'who I am'. We are whole persons, rather than segmented portions of personality and behaviour. Yes, I can love the robber but hate his stealing, but sexuality is different.

Of course, there are moral parameters in all areas of life including sexuality, things that are right and wrong, so I'm not saying there are no wrong behaviours. But in a fallen world many expressions of sexuality are tainted - which of us men hasnt tripped up on Mt 5:27-28? My 'missionary bias' desperately wants to find a way of being good news to people who feel rejected and I dont know if that is possible yet. To stand a chance , we need large portions of patience, wisdom, courage and grace, especially from evangelicals. Your input has been evidence of that, for which I'm hugely appreciative.


Thanks for this David. The para about Christians / lazy really speaks to me. Have a great weekend

Graham Heath

Hi David. I find your assertion that 'sexuality is different' fascinating; and it seems a popular view, if a recent one. Thank you for your graciousness in allowing me to express my concerns on your blog; I'll leave you in peace now. Graham.

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