Last week I had the privilege of debating Peter Tatchell, the renowned human rights and gay activist, on the subject of Same Sex Marriage, live for two hours on Revelation TV in Malaga.
I was greatly impressed with Tatchell. He is pleasant, sincere, intelligent, committed to what he believes in and is prepared to suffer for his faith.
Because we were able to discuss openly, honestly and respectfully for almost two hours we were able to go into greater depth than is normal in our soundbite culture.
One thing that came out was that Tatchell has changed his mind on same-sex marriage. 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 same-sex marriage as an issue of equality, whilst at the same time disliking marriage full stop.
All You Need is Love
Peter's opening was great - 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, if marriage was defined as just being between two people who love one another, that 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.
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. Peter's view is that of sex as 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 1960s 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.
Progressive or Regressive
Peter wanted to portray his position as 'progressive', but what if the inevitability of human progress is just a myth? What if instead of progressing to an enlightened secular nirvana, we are regressing into a Greco/Roman/Pagan world?
There were interesting responses before, during and after the debate. Of course there were the usual NFAs (New Fundamentalist Atheists) who let fly with all their abuse on social media. But there were many other people who really appreciated the event – one man wrote: "It was actually the most thorough and intelligent debate on SSM I've ever heard."
There were those Christians who wandered what the point of debating was at all, others 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.
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. That's why I gave him a copy of my book, Magnificent Obsession, at the close of the debate. The only ultimate solution for the justice and good society that Peter seeks is to be found in Jesus Christ.
For my fuller reflections on it click here
You can watch the debate here: