These last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about the issues raised by Steve Chalke in his article and comments on faithful gay relationships. http://www.christianitymagazine.co.uk/sexuality/stevechalke.aspx
I admire Steve Chalke and have done for years. He is an engaging speaker, a powerful advocate for the Christian faith, an effective ambassador for social justice, and (in spite of what people have claimed - more anon) a fervent and committed Evangelical. Having twice briefly met him, I also know that he is a very personable pleasant and genuine guy.
But... he came close to being disowned a few years ago by daring to claim that some interpretations of one theory of the atonement held by some evangelicals may make God appear like a cosmic child abuser...
Well... some evangelicals got into a real lather about that! But this is not the focus of this blog beyond saying that when this controversy was boiling away I was bemused by the reaction of some as I thought what Chalke said was entirely reasonable and eminently sensible and I had thought that for years... and had not for one minute imagined that this meant I risked being 'drummed out of the Brownies'!
But of course now that he has endorsed faithful gay relationships for Christians things have gone nuclear!
Well... hang on a minute here.
Why is this the case?
Why are people so quick to seek to refute his views rather than engage with the argument?
Why are so many 'reasonable and learned' evangelical scholars so swiftly rushing to blog and write 'arguing against' more than 'engaging with' Chalke's views?
Perhaps I am wrong, but it does feel to me like fear, and if I am right I wonder what it is of which we/they are so frightened?
My reason for suspecting fear and for asking the question is not simply based on Chalke's article and the response it has occasioned but also arises from previous actions such as that of IVP in so quickly withdrawing all publications by Roy Clements after he 'came out' irrespective of the fact that these publications were thoroughly orthodox... even a tad conservative for some evangelicals But somehow they were regarded as 'tainted' because Clements had come out as gay.
Does that not betray quite a lot?
I say this with some sorrow... for at one level, despite the vilification, bruising and hurts I have endured at the hands of some, I still refuse to let go that particular descriptor; I think I am an evangelical.
Well, that raises more questions such as 'who is to say', 'to whom does this particular 'trademark' belong' and 'who has the right to define me'?
The sad thing is that as I read the various responses to Chalke's statement - even those coming from the most respected and learned of 'evangelicals' - I do not discern a huge amount of rigour or depth in terms of theological analysis. More than anything else I sense fear. Fear perhaps that the 'tribe' is threatening to fall apart?
When I have posted on this subject in the past, several public comments on the blogs have been unpleasant .. and some private ones have been nasty... some very nasty. Why?
But even more telling have been the several who have privately got in touch saying that they agree with me that there needs to be a forum for those who still self-identify as 'evangelical' but who either want to also identify as 'accepting' or 'affirming' of faithful gay relationships, or who at least want to have an open and considered dialogue.... but (they go on) I cannot say this publicly, I do not what to lose my friends I don't want to be ostracized by my fellowship etc etc...
So the question... why are we so frightened?