Our most harmful opponents are not going away

by Sam Somewhere

The recent announcement that Rob Bell has joined Steve Chalke in ‘crossing the chasm’ and coming out in favour of same-sex relationships should be seen as evidence that a damn-break moment is slowly coming upon us, especially amongst the Evangelical wing of Western Anglophone Christianity. We live in exciting times, and announcements like Chalke’s and Bell’s open up room for a debate. But they are not a sign of impending all-out victory, and those hoping for such a moment need to be vigilant.

It would be wrong to think that the willingness of many amongst the younger generation to rethink theological and political positions on gay marriage will eventually result in a total absence of opposition. In fact, it could be quite dangerous: there’s no guarantee that the current watershed will be in anyway permanent, as proven by a long view of history.

But for those on the far fringes, even an Evangelical like Steve Chalke is immediately dismiss-able. In fact, someone like Chalke, seen by many as being on the soft edge of the Evangelical wing, will cause as many reactions of visceral hatred as he does openings for debate.

I want to share a metaphor I came up with whilst discussing my concerns with a friend who also writes for this blog. I used the idea of support or opposition ‘evaporating’. As heat rises, so liquids evaporate, thus reducing the volume of what’s left. We’re seeing that now, as support for the ‘traditional Evangelical position’ appears to be evaporating. The problem is, we focus on the reduction in volume at our peril. What we’re left with is a thick and nasty sludge.

As those who hold views about same-sex marriage that are rationalised as loving ‘evaporate’, the effect they were having ceases. We could describe that effect as diluting the more caustic opinions. With no one on their side to ensure that they don’t come across as unloving, and with an impending sense of their own isolation, we can expect to see what’s left in the bottom of the test tube get darker, more concentrated and more overtly harmful.

So I’m worried that, in searching for a universal victory, what happens is that we dismiss the most hardened, and most dangerous characters in the opposition. Sadly, isolated people have a habit of doing unspeakable things out of fear that the world around them is against them. We should at no point dismiss them.


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