Some adverts are controversial. Get over it.
Once again, it falls to me to leap into the quagmire of misinformation and correct it with my iron sword of reason and moderation. (Everyone should have a sword of reason and moderation. They’re all rage these days.)
In case you hadn’t heard, a bus advert has been banned: a group called Core Issues Trust, together with Anglican Mainstream, tried to put an advert on some London buses. Before I say what the advert was, you might want to make sure you’re sitting comfortably and have plenty of air around, maybe a nice cup of tea, because it will shock and dismay you to the very core of your being. Well, maybe not that extreme.
The advert was (are you sure you’re sitting down?): “Not gay! Ex-gay, post-gay and proud. Get over it.”
Wow. Are you shocked and dismayed? Well, apparently good old Boris was – dismayed enough to ban the ads in the name of intolerance (one source quoted him as saying he was ‘intolerant of intolerance’, not sure how that works logically but there we go.)
Anyway, now it’s looking like Core Issues Trust want to sue for the ads being pulled. And, unsurprisingly, many people have been making remarks (on Twitter, where else? I honestly don’t know what we did as a civilisation before outrage could be widely spread in 140 characters or less) about how it would be nice if Christians cared about issues that actually mattered, such as poverty, healing the sick – the usual stuff.
There are just so many things wrong with all this, it’s staggering.
First things first: I don’t agree with Core Issues / Anglican Mainstream for running the ad. It seems to me to be playing ‘tit for tat’ with Stonewall – “hey, Stonewall have done an advert. Let’s respond and try to stoke the fires a bit more.” I honestly don’t know what they were trying to achieve with the advert, what their target audience were, other than trying to cause some controversy. Was there no other better way of getting the ‘message’ out there?
Secondly: this brings me on to Stonewall’s original advert, and TfL choosing to run it. What gives Stonewall the right to have their advert run, whereas the other ad has been refused? I mean, it’s not as if Stonewall’s was less provocative. Being tolerant used to mean managing the disagreements we have with people – i.e. disagreeing with things but still finding a way to live and maintain that relationship. Tolerance these days seems to mean, ‘not being allowed to have any disagreements, ever.’ You WILL conform, or else. Disagreements may be allowed to happen in the private sphere, but publicly we have to pretend we all agree. Perhaps a better ad would have been, ‘Some people have different opinions about homosexuality. Get over it.’
I don’t agree with running the advert, but at the same time I don’t agree with Boris banning it.
Thirdly: There has been a lot of confusion over what the Core Issues ad was actually about. What do the terms ‘ex-gay’ and ‘post-gay’ actually mean? Is there such a thing – and is it contradicted by scientific evidence? Well, Peter Ould has been doing a grand job of looking at this issue on his blog, so instead of writing about it here I will refer you to his Post-Gay FAQs as somewhere to start.
Fourthly: the response to it on Twitter has, unusually, got me quite annoyed. (OK, I give, I often get annoyed by things on Twitter. I also sometimes lie in blog posts). An MP yesterday tweeted that he’d never had a letter from a Christian about child slavery, poverty – but he’d had plenty about homosexuality. It got me wondering: if he’s had letters about child slavery, poverty etc – how did he know these weren’t from Christians? Did they sign their names at the bottom, “Yours sincerely, Joe Bloggs (Atheist)”? In other words, those letters could have come from Christian people, even if they didn’t self-identify as such in the letter. On the other hand, if he’d had no letters at all – then that doesn’t look good for people of all faiths and none. It cuts both ways.
The problem with saying ‘why can’t the Church focus on important issues?’ is that, to a greater or lesser extent many Christians do care about these things, and are doing a lot about them. I know plenty of people who are involved in caring for the homeless, or doing things like street pastoring – because they are Christian. But does that ever get reported in the media? Rarely.
The media love to report about controversy. They love to report about the Church’s debate about homosexuality. And, to an extent, I think the Church don’t help themselves – some in the church (perhaps historically, not so much now although it’s still around) have turned it into a ‘red letter sin’ (to use Wes Hill‘s phrase). But, frankly, it seems to me to be a storm generated by the media (and social media) rather than an inherent flaw in the church.
Well, that about wraps it up from me. I just have one thing left to say: Some people write blogs about gay ads. Get over it.