Flagging it up

Dear Reverend Doctor Lee Gatiss, Director of the Church Society and professor/lecturer at various institutions,

I just stumbled across the text of your sermon for the Church of England’s online service on 9th August 2020 about God’s kindness and mercy and felt immediately compelled to write to you. I simply had to congratulate you for trying to prevent confused Christians across the UK from falling into the trap of supporting populist movements that aim to improve the lives of others. Or, as you put it, trying to make themselves “righteous…by doing whatever the latest campaign says it is that [they] are supposed to do”. It’s about time someone stopped Christians from trying to help others and, having read your sermon, it certainly seems you’re the man to do it.

The gist of your sermon is that Christians these days are being “buffeted” by the winds of modern-day society to deviate from the laws of the Bible. You illustrate this with the story of Jesus’s disciples huddling terrified in the boat on the stormy lake until he walked across the water and showed them how safe they would be if they had super powers like him. You say that Christians are continually being made to feel that they must be “on the right side of things” and that if they “don’t do that thing, [they’re] meant to feel ashamed… guilty…fearful of reprisals, of being tarred with a negative label, or of being left out”. It truly is a sad state of affairs when Christians start to feel they should be “on the right side of things”. Thank you for pointing out that, in fact, they shouldn’t.

One can only hope that the Christians who are being seduced into supporting campaigns you don’t like were listening to your sermon. And that they understood from your vague statements which campaigns you were talking about. Obviously, I understood straight away when you talked of “slogans, badges and flags” that two of the movements you are not a fan of are the gay pride and trans pride movements, because they are known for having instantly-recognisable flags (and because you’ve pointed out before that gay people are “recalcitrantly immoral“). But will all of the Christians who have been seduced by the desire to make the world a better, more equal, less deadly place for LGBT+ people have picked up on that? Isn’t there a danger they might have listened to your sermon and gone away not realising that being on the right side of things in fact puts them on the wrong side of things. You might want to consider rephrasing that section in the transcript of your sermon to make sure that Christians stop being tempted to do what’s right.

I hope you can forgive me for offering that advice for improvement. Please don’t get me wrong; I think this is an incredible sermon. The most incredible part is when you explain how Christians are being scared into following “campaigns” (instead of following your interpretation of the Bible) because they are “fearful of reprisals, of being tarred with a negative label, or of being left out”. It’s simply heart-breaking that some Christians feel shame and guilt at not supporting movements that seek to make the world a better place. It is, of course, the job of the Christian Church to dish out guilt, shame, fear of reprisal, negative labels and exclusion; not to be on the receiving end of them.

Anyway, I fear I’m rambling. You no doubt have much more important things to do than read this letter. As you state in your sermon, in the current climate “many people are worried about inclusion and diversity” and I’m sure you’re busy planning ways to fight against both of them. I wish you luck. Standing up for doing the wrong thing isn’t easy, especially when you follow a man who, from all the available evidence, wouldn’t have agreed with a word you say.

Kindest regards,

R

P.S. If you do have time later to read more of my posts about Christianity and homosexuality, start with these: