The world is a surreal place. 36 hours ago I left Dundee and took the train to Edinburgh. Tonight I am writing this on the return journey. In between I have been in Malaga debating Peter Tatchell, live on Revelation TV. I find that surreal because we live in a world where it is as easy to go to Malaga for a day, as it was for McCheyne to go to Perth from Dundee for a day in the 19th Century. And I find it surreal because Peter Tatchell is a major figure with a very high profile. Why on earth would he want to debate someone as insignificant as yours truly on a small Christian TV station – and take two days of his time to do so?
There have been many many comments about the debate and the whole thing can be seen on YouTube and on the Revelation website. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0PMKVvl36A The following videos are much better quality!
I won’t rehash the whole debate but here are some of the things I learned.
Firstly I was greatly impressed with Peter Tatchell. For many reasons. We met for a meal beforehand and I suspect our hosts thought that it might be a little bit awkward. However we did not discuss the subject of the debate and instead found ourselves with quite a lot of common ground on especially political issues. We even had the same taste in food as we both ordered the identical main courses and desserts. Peter is very pleasant, sincere and intelligent. That’s one of the reasons he does so well. What I also appreciated is that he is committed to what he believes in and is prepared to suffer for his faith. It was also a joy to discover that his parents were both evangelical Christians, and his mother who is still alive, holds to her faith. I appreciated the warm and respectful way he spoke of her.
The Faith of Secular Liberalism. And faith it is. What astounded me during the debate was the extent to which his position is a faith-based position. He uses all the correct buzzwords; equality, love, freedom and I think he really does believe that that is what he is arguing for. And yet several times he came out with the statement that Same Sex Marriage would help and improve marriage. There is no evidence for this assumption. Yet despite this, our politicians are prepared to destroy the traditional view of marriage, for the sake of such wishful thinking.
Peter Tatchell’s Change of Mind and the Destruction of Marriage - He stated that he had changed his mind on SSM, after I quoted an article he wrote ten years ago, in which he castigated those Gay Activists who were arguing for it. “There were no calls for equality; our demand was liberation. We wanted to change society, not conform to it. Our radical, idealistic vision involved creating a new sexual democracy, without homophobia and misogyny. Erotic shame and guilt would be banished, together with compulsory monogamy, gender roles and the nuclear family. There would be sexual freedom and human rights for everyone – gay and straight. Our message was “innovate, don’t assimilate” Peter’s aim was to destroy what he regarded as the patriarchal and oppressive institution of marriage. I don’t think his aim today is any different. The only difference is the method. He regards SSM as an issue of equality, whilst at the same time disliking marriage full stop. I think he knows what I know. That the redefinition of marriage will destroy it far more effectively than anything else the “Queer Theory” proponents have been able to do so far. In a sense this is a no-brainer for him. He gets to pursue his agenda of ‘equality’ whilst at the same time getting to destroy that traditional vehicle of ‘inequality’, marriage.
All You Need is Love - Peters opening was great – and a gift to me. He just spoke about love. For me that is exactly the territory we want to stand on. The Christian position is one of love. But the question then becomes who defines what love is? When politicians speak of the legal basis of marriage being two people who love one another, if we accept that, then are we not handing over the definition of love to the State authorities? Do we really want to do that? Despite being pressed several times, Peter struggled to answer why equality, democracy and marriage being between two people who love one another, would not mean that two brothers would be allowed to be married. His only defence was that it was a) a different kind of love (back into definitions) and b) that it was not what the public wanted.
Public Opinion - When I pushed him on the latter point, he admitted that public opinion was not to be the arbiter of right and wrong. He does genuinely believe that and I am thankful for his acknowledgement of that. Politicians please take note. Peter is a radical and a rebel. But now that his position on SSM and sexuality is the default position of the conservative establishment and public opinion (controlled and manipulated by that establishment) is, or will be, on his side, I wonder if he is comfortable with now being on the inside? What happens when the rebel becomes the ruler?
Sex and Sexuality - A key moment for me was when Peter was speaking about sexuality and sex. The thought struck me, and I made the point later, that our disagreement is not primarily about sexuality. The debate has been framed in such a way that it has invariably become about what one thinks of homosexuals, and thus an issue about equality. To me that is the wrong approach and the wrong question. Peter and I have two different views, not primarily of sexuality, but of sex. And ultimately I think we have two different views of human beings. Reading Peters writings and listening to what he is saying, he has a view of sex that is basically that of appetite. If human beings want to have one partner or one hundred, that’s fine. If they wish to sleep with someone of the same sex or a different sex that too is fine. It is the 1960’s dream of the freedom of the sexual revolution. The biblical view of sex is very different. It is not one of repression but rather sex as being sacred – a covenant act of a man and woman where the two really do become one. These two different views of sex reflect two different views of humanity. I was arguing from the perspective that human beings are made in the image of God. Peter from the perspective of someone who sees us as, at best, sophisticated animals. That for me was the heart of the matter. One of the key lessons for us to learn is that when people cease to believe in God, inevitably their view of humanity will change as well. They cease to believe in humanity.
Speaking of equality – it does depend what you mean by it. For me equality is that all human beings are equally made in the image of God and therefore deserve the dignity, respect, love and judgement that come with that. For our secular humanists it seems as though equality is only the right to be as they say that we should be. And even then, some are more equal than others!
Progressive or Regressive Peter wanted to portray his position as ‘progressive’ and of course all the ‘progressive’ followers were delighted. My social media were full of lovely comments about how regressive and backwards I was, and how delightfully progressive Peter was. But I have a different perspective. One that is a complete game changer. What if the inevitability of human progress is just a myth? What if sometimes we progress and sometimes we regress? The liberal left have thrown all their progressive eggs into the one basket of same sex marriage and gay rights. But what if that is not progression but regression? What if instead of progressing to an enlightened secular nirvana, we are regressing into a Greco/Roman/Pagan world? Peter has no way of knowing that is not the case. He and those who agree with him, are leading a dumbed down and/or spineless elite, into the wilderness, not knowing what the consequences will be.
Those on the political right think we are ‘progressing’ through capitalism into a world of plenty and peace, those on the political left have largely given up on economic justice and instead think we are ‘progressing’ through social and moral ‘liberalism’. For them SSM, abortion and euthanasia are seen as shibboleth issues. And the elites of both the Left and the Right have become very accepting of each other’s emphasis. Thus the Tory Prime Minister boasts about how conservative he is in redefining marriage, and a Labour Prime Minister boasts about how he has deregulated the City and set up a global capitalist centre in London. I think Peter believes his philosophy and politics will lead to a secular Nirvana. But what if they don’t? What if we do regress not only into the sexual immorality of the Greco-Roman- Pagan world, but also into the social and economic injustice of that world, where might is right, the elites rule, and the gap between rich and poor grows ever wider?
What Causes Homosexuality? I quoted the following from Peter’s earlier writings: “Born gay? No. Human sexuality is too varied and complex to be reduced to a simple equation of genes plus hormones.”
“The truth is that nurture appears to be more important than nature when it comes to the formation of sexual orientation. Most studies indicate that genetic factors, while not unimportant, are of secondary significance compared to social influences, such as the relationship between a child and its parents, formative childhood experiences, cultural mores and peer pressure.”
I told him that that was basically my position. However Peter stated he had changed his view after reading ‘Born Gay’ by Glenn Wilson. Yet this book was published in 2008 and Peter’s new views seem only to have surfaced in 2012. I believe that he has moved his position somewhat but that he still holds to the view that sexuality has a number of causes/influences and that he acknowledges that sexuality can change. That is not a million miles from my own understanding. Yet in the simplistic world of the mainstream media and politicians it is just part of the cultural narrative that people are ‘born that way’. To suggest that people can change (either way) is to be perceived as being guilty of hate speech!
What I got wrong. This was a live two-hour debate. And yet I still came off thinking that I had, in the words of Russell Brand, barely articulated anything! I took lots of notes and tried to remember all the main points but the one I really regret not getting round to was when he cited the Levitical laws in Scripture and the usual stories of Sodom and Gomorrah. If I had had the chance to respond to that I would have pointed out how Scripture ‘progresses’ and also Calvin’s teaching about ‘accommodation’ – how God accommodates himself to our capacities and weaknesses. It is also always important to point out where scripture is being prescriptive rather than descriptive. In this regard it was interesting to discover that Peter had been brought up in an evangelical home- Baptist and then Pentecostal. He spoke very warmly of his mother, who is still alive and who still maintains the biblical faith, whilst accepting him.
The Deadness of Theological Liberalism and the Danger of Dumbed Down Conservatism – Peter spoke of how he had drifted towards theological liberalism and then into atheism, because the bible just did not make sense to him. It struck just how responsible the church is for many people like him. On the one hand we have the theological liberalism exemplified by the clergywoman from the LGBT Christian society, who managed to come out with the most banal comments (not least that the bible endorsed 9 and 10 year olds being married); on the other the kind of pietistic conservatism which refuses to take the intellectual questions and apparent inconsistencies seriously, and as a result leaves our young people to drift on a tide of emotionalism and ‘spiritual’ experience, which can so easily be undermined. Peter Tatchell is a classic result of that kind of Christian unthinking incompetence.
The Response: There were interesting responses before, during and after the debate. Revelation TV told me that they had had over 300 e-mails (the highest ever before was 182). They took some stick from Christians and I certainly did as well. Varying from those who wandered what the point of debating was at all, to those who questioned why a ‘Sodomite’ should be given a platform on Christian TV! One man had a go at me for ‘needless flattery’ because I appreciated Peter’s sensitivity and intelligence. The trouble is that it wasn’t flattery. I really did like him. And I really did think what I said.
Consider Jesus. When the rich young ruler came to Jesus he went away a non-believer. Yet we are told that Jesus looked at him and loved him. That is why he challenged him. And that is what I was trying to do. I was not there to condemn him in order to appease ‘Self-righteous from Swindon’. I was there to present the Christian case and to try to encourage him, and those who agree with him to see things from a different perspective. I loved Peter and feel an immense sorrow that he is so lost. I pray and plead for his salvation. Thats why I gave him a copy of my book about Jesus, Magnificent Obsession. May the Lord use it to reveal Himself to Peter.
Peter also came under some criticism from his own side. Not least for debating with me in the first place. “it will look better on Robertson’s CV than Tatchells’! But some of his adoring fans, who seem to lack lack both his intelligence and sensitivity to the issues, are atheist mirror images of the unthinking emotive Christians who automatically condemn anyone who does not fit their mould. So anything he said was wonderful/brilliant/true and anything I said was of course stupid/ignorant/lies. Some samples from those bastions of liberal secular tolerance – Secular Scotland.
“I can’t watch this. My heart goes out to Tatchell for doing this. Shit what a wasted time for him.”
“God is love – wha ha ha ha ha what an eejit”
“I’m struggling through and still can’t fathom how you have the energy to argue with this moron.”
“I can only take so much of the crap DAR spouts which is why I’m unable to watch it fully”
“Watching now… what a fanny’.
And this kind of attack was posted – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yy2IilNju4g&feature=youtu.be
One man was a little more balanced, but he was the exception as the secularists indulged in their favourite pastime of reaffirming one another through groupthink and mockery. “DAR had a good innings…Peter held his ground…it was a christian broadcast…the low point for me was the Scottish ‘ex gay guy’ who’d found Jesus…cognitive dissonance can’t be healed by faith and I wonder about such cases.”
But there was great appreciation for both Peter and the debate from many Christians. This for example was typical of many – I was really pleased with the debate. I too thought of Peter Tatchell as an angry man but he was very different to the way I had seen him on previous occasions. He seemed at ease and willing to listen (to a certain degree). But the whole evening was conducted with such respect and care and the Love of Christ, which is so very different to all other form of love was demonstrated abundantly by Rev TV. I just want to commend everyone who took part. Tim you were brilliant as the Chairperson, David and Peter were excellent. I just pray that God will open up the eyes of their hearts (the people wanting to redefine marriage) and hear the word of God and be able to understand why God has set out these safeguards for us to live by. God will have his way. Every blessing to you all and thank you for declaring God in public. Or this one: My husband & I both appreciated the 2 hours of programming last night … well done, Tim Vince, for being such an able host and chairman. Both speakers were clear and considerate of one another …no rancour or mudslinging … true debate. Thank you Revelation TV for an enthralling programme. Or this “It was actually the most thorough and intelligent debate on SSM I’ve ever heard.”
To the British and Scottish Governments: Have you actually thought about what you are doing? Or are you so concerned to be ‘on the right side of history’ that you are rushing into this without considering the social, moral, political and economic consequences for our society?
To the BBC– Peter said this was the best debate he had been in. We gave it two hours of intelligent in-depth discussion. You are supposed to be a public service broadcaster. Why then have you not allowed such a debate and discussion to take place on your network? Would that not be a public service? Why did you have to leave it to a tiny Christian TV station based in Malaga to have such a quality programme?
To The Church – When are we going to come out of our comfort zones and challenge the zeitgeist of this current age? When are we going to train our young people so that they can take captive every thought for Jesus? And for those who consider themselves to be on the ‘liberal wing’ – let me ask this one question. Why are Desmond Tutu and Steve Chalke so loved by those who hate the Lord and his Word?
Finally – I was very encouraged by this whole event. By the Lord’s timing, his preparing of the way, opening up the doors and enabling grace which allowed us to walk through them. I was very conscious of the prayers of many people. I was deeply conscious that it was a spiritual battle one fought not with the weapons of this world, but with the armour of God (Ephesians 6). In particular I was strengthened by reading the following from Isaiah 54 and Habakkuk 2
4 “Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
5 For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth……….
14 In righteousness you will be established:
Tyranny will be far from you;
you will have nothing to fear.
Terror will be far removed;
it will not come near you.
15 If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
whoever attacks you will surrender to you.
16 “See, it is I who created the blacksmith
who fans the coals into flame
and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc;
17 no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.
13 Has not the Lord Almighty determined
that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire,
that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
as the waters cover the sea………..
20 But the Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him.”