It’s been well over a year since I’ve blogged. What has encouraged me to write this post is that I’ve been struck by how poor “The Church” is at having conversations about difficult things. This has been clear for a while as we’ve argued about whether or not women can be Bishop’s. As we continue to debate about equal marriage and whether the Church of England should offer them, it would be nice to think we’ve learned the lessons. I don’t think we have.
The key problem is that we need to have a conversation, not a debate. We need to listen to each other, not be constantly formulating our next brilliant answer. Being human beings is more important than winning. Twitter is particularly unhelpful in this (in my opinion).
Sadly, I don’t get to set the rules of the conversation, but if I did, these would be them…
1) When debating on Twitter don’t feed the trolls. In particular that means not responding to people who say things like “Homosexuality is wrong”. That is a statement that needs some serious unpacking before it can be engaged with (What, just being homosexual? Or do you mean homosexual sex acts? What do you mean by wrong? How wrong and why?). If someone is tweeting that, responding by name calling, general contradictory statements or ridicule (however much it may be deserved) is unlikely to get you anywhere constructive.
2) Remember that we are all complex human beings. Not everyone who thinks the Church should conduct weddings for same sex couples is a heretic and not everyone who thinks it shouldn’t is a bigot. Some people who think the Church should not solemnise same sex marriages are totally fine with the state offering them. Some gay people aren’t keen on the idea of same sex marriage. There are people who are Guardian reading lefties but who would not like same sex marriages in Church and some Telegraph reading Conservatives who are in favour of it. People are complicated and you can’t tell much about them from their views on one topic.
3) Don’t talk what the Bible says or doesn’t say if you can’t back it up. The key issue here is that people often just regurgitate something that someone else has told them and they haven’t gotten to grips with it properly. I’m as guilty as the next person of that (hence you don’t see me on Twitter pretending to be a Bible scholar). Really, it’s not helpful. Again, Twitter is a nightmare for this, there are countless arguments along the lines of
Person 1: “The Bible says homosexuality is wrong”
Person 2: “No, really it doesn’t”
Person 1: “You’re reading a different Bible to me”
Person 2: “No, I’m reading the same Bible, I have a different interpretation to you”
Person 1: “But you’re wrong”
Person 2: “No, you’re wrong”
Obviously, Person 2 committed a sin by engaging with someone who tweeted “Homosexuality is wrong” – See point 1. But no-one is edified and neither person has any idea what the other person thinks or why they think that. This is not a conversation it’s a totally pointless exchange of views.
In a week when Caroline Farrow got spat on in the car park after speaking out against equal marriage on Question Time and Vicky Beeching got trolled on Twitter for supporting it, I’m not feeling particularly hopeful!