It’s been an intense but revealing 24 hours. I have learned to an even greater extent just how deep the rot is in the contemporary church, and just how easy it is for us to be intimidated and bullied into silence.
Let me set the background, then explain what happened yesterday, and then offer some analysis of what precisely is going on.
Vicky Beeching brought out her book Undivided a couple of months ago and has been touring the TV studios and doing newspaper interviews ever since, telling everyone how bad and wicked the evangelical church is. I wrote an honest review of that book (here) trying to empathise with her, whilst not agreeing with her theology.
But Vicky has a problem. She is, either wittingly or unwittingly, being used as the poster girl for the liberal attack on the Christian church. Why else do you think the Guardian called her “arguably the most influential Christian of her generation”? Not because she is, but because thats what they want her to be. She herself believes that the church will eventually unanimously adopt her new found (illiberal and intolerant) position and she states in the book that she sees herself as being on a mission to change the church and get us to rethink our theology to align with hers. “I dearly hoped that the church would change its views on same-sex marriage. The most effective way of working toward this, I found, was having one-to-one conversations with pastors and leaders who’d known me for years, encouraging them to rethink their theology.” She has allied herself with Stonewall, Steve Chalke and any non-Christian group that will give her a platform and support.
I wrote to Vicky privately after reviewing the book pointing out that I wished her no harm and that I bore no personal ill will to her. Indeed I wish her well. I have nothing against her personally and would love to meet her. My concern is to defend the teaching of the Bible and to protect the church from the harmful teaching that she is now espousing. It doesn’t matter whether the poison is administered by a lovely or a hateful person – its still poison. I heard nothing from her. Until I was told about the following being posted on her FB page on Sunday. She had just tweeted:
Vicky then went on to show what she meant by ‘positivity’ by having a go at Peter Lynas of the Evangelical Alliance who wrote a fair and gracious review of her book and at the EA for daring to publish it. Then it was the turn of yours truly.
In addition to the official Evangelical Alliance article, supporters of the EA are also enthusiastically sharing another article too – an “Open Letter” to me, this time by a pastor/minister from Scotland. It lacks even more pastoral nuance than the official EA article.
Do read it and see what type of things are being circulated about people like me. This is the type of material that many in the EA’s community are happily standing alongside. I rarely give exposure to content like this, but in this case, it’s actually a very useful (although painful) example of what is going on behind closed doors. It’s good to bring things like this into the light.
In this article, my vulnerable, raw and intimate memoir about journeying with faith, God and the Bible has been given such a layer of spin that you either laugh or cry. Sadly, I have to confess I did the latter – especially on the back of the EA piece as well. It’s hard not to feel devastated when you are shot down by fellow Christians who claim to represent Jesus’ love.
In the piece, I am deemed to no longer be a Christian, nor a decent human being, nor a student of the Bible. I am said to be trying to damage the church, and am a money-hungry, fame-seeking liar. The only heroes are those who submit to enforced celibacy — the rest of us are thrown under the bus as anti-Christians.
What concerns me most is this — it’s not just me that these authors are firing at, as they load their weapons and take aim. Vulnerable LGBTQ people read these blogs and are deeply wounded by the shame and judgment they contain. Its no wonder the LGBTQ community has such high instances of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
I’ll say the same about this article as I did about the EA piece – – it’s not me or other LGBTQ people who look bad as a result of reading such reviews; it’s those who feel morally superior enough to write the articles in the first place and possess such an embarrassing lack of pastoral skills. To my LGBTQ Christian friends and allies; I am so sorry that you have to endure this kind of abuse too. My love and prayers are with you.
My heart sank when I read it, because I knew what my social media feeds would have in the morning when I woke up. I knew the abuse that would follow. After all Vicky has portrayed herself as “vulnerable, raw and intimate” and I was the unpastoral, abusive scumbag who made her cry! Having experienced social media abuse herself I have no doubt that Vicky must have known what she was unleashing.
Her comments were at best disingenuous. They distorted what I said.
This was not something going on ‘behind closed doors’ which she was ‘bringing it into the light’. I was very open about it and published it as an open letter. Nor was it an attack upon LGBTQ people – it was a review of her book with her particular attacks upon the Bible and the church. It was not an attack upon any group. Furthermore I quoted from the book extensively in order to ensure that it was not ‘spun’ and that I was responding to what she actually said. What would be the point of replying to what Vicky didn’t say? Although Vicky made this claim she did not provide one example of the alleged spin.
In her FB comments Vicky claimed that I called her a liar (I didn’t), that I said she wasn’t a decent human being (I didn’t – what I actually said was “you come across as a lovely person who has had a horrible time”); that I said the only heros were those who submitted to forced celibacy (I didn’t) and that this was aimed at the whole LGBT community (it wasn’t)…
But the inevitable happened – I won’t bore you with all the attacks – and there are some that cannot be repeated here…but here is a sample (there are hundreds more!):
Please don’t give this wee flea another thought. Like the insect, this man relies on getting blood for his own existence. The only way to outdo this sort of stuff is respond by loving, and loving the costly Jesus way.
Ah, clearly he knows nothing about intersex or about queer theory. Sad, ignorant man.
That’s just nasty. If he can’t debate the issue theologically without personal insults he should grow up or shut up. Too many churches are stuffed full of windbag leaders who always seem to be happy to exclude people from God’s kingdom when they don’t come up to a standard that many of the polygamous authors of the Old Testament would also have failed ! Must come as a complete disappointment to some leaders when Jesus accepts all who come to him. I seem to recall the pharisees having the same problem….
He seems to quote quite a bit from the book. Isn’t that copyright infringement and therefore actionable?
This guy is evil incarnate. Where did he learn to be so mean? The Bible?
And that total asshat will claim “theology” or he’s being “theological”.
No. Your homophobic and you picked a religion you thought you could hide in. Racists use it, child abusers use it. All sorts of nasty people claim it. Not any more. We see you and we will show you the light one by one. 🌈
Vicky, I think what pains me the most about what this person wrote was the hypocrisy and deceitfulness of his true motive, and yet he has the nerve to quote Jeremiah 17 against you about how above all else the heart is deceitful. If one Christian disagrees with another about any subject, we are commanded to engage in the discourse gently, and in love. Despite couching his language in “I’m sorry…” this and that happened to you, and closing his letter as if he loves you in Christ, it is evident from the language he uses throughout that he has no love or any kind of decent regard for you as another human being.
There are plenty of evangelicals who support SSM and LGBT+ equality. Usually, they are people who have actually taken the trouble to read the scriptures, rather than merely parrot the received wisdom. The problem is that of the swimming pool – all the noise comes from the shallow end.
Vicky, I read this a few days ago. It’s terrible, and the theology and history is pretty terrible too, for someone who describes himself as ‘a’ historian. But he has form, he’s an extremist and clearly thinks that someone who worked in queer theory and gender studies needs to repent. I’m sure it still hurts, but, he’s the Taliban.
I am so sorry you have to deal with this. It does not represent Christ’s love or compassion; indeed, it is the precise opposite.
Shockingly anti-Christian vitriolic diatribe. The irony is both jaw dropping and heart breaking.
What a patronising twit!!
Unbelievable! Talk about hypocrisy! He answers to the same God we do!
Bloomin heck the guy who wrote this review sounds pretty miserable and very unChristian.
How to respond to Soft Intimidation
It’s always difficult to know how to respond. Especially when you are tired and it takes over your day. I liked this tweet from Jordan Peterson today:
Speak, and risk something. Remain silent, and risk something else. Choose your poison.
I guess the only options are:
Fight back and abuse – Please, please, please don’t ever do this. Don’t return fire with fire. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. People who weigh in on my side with similar style insults are really not helping. I am ok with being robust (sometimes too much for todays mega sensitive, omniscient, tone-judging culture) – but there is a world of difference between robust disagreement and personal abuse. I was very concerned when I read a tweet from Vicky complaining about a horrendous three days on social media so I went to have a look and see what she had suffered and to disavow and discourage anyone who thinks they were defending me by attacking her – but I was surprised to find that there was no abuse (at least of her!) not one bit – the vast majority of what I saw were people affirming her and most, if not all of the abuse was (as above) directed to yours truly (all of which was allowed to stay and encouraged!). Given that Vicky posted who posted her attack on EA and yours truly, given that she permitted all the negative and bitter comments against me, I am not quite sure how she had a ‘hard time mentally etc’ on social media over the past three days. Unless she is looking for offence (where there is none) and sympathy, it seems strange to complain that your own posts have caused you mental anguish. (the problem is of course that many will read Vicky’s tweet about being caused mental anguish on social media and immediately blame people who have done nothing!). The bottom line is that if I am going to get upset everytime someone disagrees with me when I post on social media then its perhaps better not to post? I accept of course that it is different when it degenerates into personal abuse. But disagreement is not personal abuse.
Be nice – This advice is equally unhelpful. People take on board the criticism that I am not ‘nice’ and think that I should be ‘nice’ so that people would see that Jesus is ‘nice’ and then everyone will be happy. Whilst I accept that it is entirely wrong to be personally abusive or aggressive…the trouble is that ‘niceness’ is in the eye of the beholder. Its all about perceived feeling and tone but the problem is that these are almost always in the eye of the beholder. People don’t think about what you say, they are more concerned with how you say it – and because it is very difficult to work that out on social media they determine what ‘tone’ is by what they want it to be. If they think that SSM is all about love and being nice and you are opposed to SSM, then you (and your tone) must be hateful and nasty. And lo and behold that is what they see.
In this case Vicky continually goes on the secular media, using her personal story to attack the Bible and the Church – and then immediately cries, you’re not nice, if you disagree with her – because by definition she has made it all about her personal story…or in a widening of the ‘nasty’ narrative, accusing us of being responsible for hundreds of teenage suicides! When the story is about you and you are the victim, then every criticism just enhances that narrative.
Give in – This is the biggest temptation of all. When I saw the number of attacks in my in box this morning, I just wanted to close it all down and just give up. Why should I care if the world wants to go to hell?! Of course that’s wrong. It is a battle and so in the battle we just have to battle on. Anyway having posted my review – what did I expect? Intelligent engagement and civil discourse?! This is the 21st Century post-modern West!
Stand fast – and plead for strength and mercy. God knows we need it. We cannot move one inch from the word of God. And we must not give into hate and despair. Instead we pray and love.
So I did not reply to the comments – but I did to the tweets that were getting increasingly aggressive. A few samples (of the ones I read – there are many more).
I find you to be an embarrassment. Hopefully folks will realize that no engagement with you is the best way to shut you up.
You are up to the usual DAR. Jumping on the backs of the good to put forward your warped narrow theology.
I accuse you as a psychological abuser, yes absolutely. Your words constitute psychological abuse.
I begin to understand where David’s black and white view of the world comes from; from a clinical stance that appears to lack the complexity of human feelings.
However it wasn’t all bad!
He reached out very lovingly to her. Far more gracious than VB was to many in her book.
When the soft intimidation of online attacks, hate mail and the passive/aggressive ‘love’ mails, fail – then the harder stuff begins.
The first is seeking to get those who continue to speak out banned.
So this call to get myself and Peter Lynas expelled from EA
EA article – Peter Lynas – hang your heads in shame – your support for what can only be described as ‘the vile and repugnant’ views of @theweeflea is so incredibly sad You should be expelling Mr Robertson – and supporting the likes of @SteveChalke and @vickybeeching
When it was pointed out that I was a contributor to Christian Today, Mark Woods the editor pointed out that I was not now a contributor – a statement that was instantly ‘liked’ by Vicky. As though I had been fired because of my ‘extremism’. The reality is that I was removed from writing because of economic reasons – in other words they could not afford to keep me or many of their staff. Thankfully Mark posted that correction.
The second approach is to threaten and slander
I was absolutely stunned to see this posted in public:
I found this comment he made under the article the most concerning of all. He presumably has safeguarding responsibilities, so this suggests he would be unlikely to treat child sexual abuse and exploitation seriously. Reported to the Free Church of Scotland.
The comment referred to was this: “Who says paedophilia is not consensual? Child rape would be non-consensual. Given that the State currently argues that a five year old can ‘consent’ to change their gender how would you argue against a paedophile saying that a 10 or 12 year old consented? And paedophilia is now widely recognised as a sexual orientation – which is of course because it is…”
My point was straightforward. I was arguing that paedophilia is wrong (and serious) precisely because, a child cannot in reality consent. I was also pointing out the inconsistency of a society that says a child cannot consent to sexual activity but can consent to changing their gender. (on the one hand they say that a child does not have enough information to give informed consent, on the other they say they do?) . I have no idea how that can be construed as not treating child sexual abuse and exploitation seriously – so much so that the person concerns reports me to my employer! I think the problem is that I take child abuse far too seriously and regard the current vogue for pushing Queer theory ideology upon young children as child abuse. But the damage is done. No matter what happens someone somewhere in the future just needs to point out that I was reported for not taking child sexual abuse seriously. (Despite the fact that I could offer plenty evidence otherwise – it won’t matter). Its just pure hatred and evil.
If someone stepped into an argument on my side and spewed such evil I would disown the comment, remove it and probably block them. I asked Vicky three times to at least disown it – but she refused. That itself speaks volumes. Although she did at least remove her liking and retweeting of the accusation!
It was left to a secular atheist to come to my defence!
As a secular atheist, for years I’ve been one of @theweeflea most fervent critics. This dispicable smearing is outwith the realms of the context to which it was applied. You should apologize for this utterly dispicable Tweet immediately.
The final approach is to use the sledgehammer of the law
This comes back to where Vicky is going. Vicky writes in praise of Stonewall, attacks the EA, complains against Spring Harvest for refusing to employ someone who is in an SSM, and seeks to get conversion therapy banned. Her campaign is to use her new found fame and media status to intimidate. The trouble in these situations is that if you push back at all, the accuser uses their victim status and complains that you are attacking their fragility and immediately stirs up the social media mob by complaining they are being attacked on social media and equating you with any homophobic bully. There is no nuance or subtilty in such ad hom accusations. When the discussion is moved from facts and reality to feelings and then made personal, inevitably it gets nasty. The accuser accuses you of being nasty – if you say nothing its because you are guilty – you say anything and you upset the accuser, who then says the fact that they are upset proves you are nasty! It’s very hard to disagree with a hurt person who has already determined that their hurt is due to anyone who dares to disagree with their new found ideology and identity.
As regards Vicky’s campaign on conversion therapy – which of course the government will fall over itself to grant – this interview is fascinating.
The trouble here is what would actually be banned? The government ridiculously mentioned rape as a cure – by definition that is already banned. But the purpose of mentioning it is to link all forms of whatever they deem to be conversion therapy with that abhorrent practice.
Vicky wants conversion therapy per se banned. Of course the instinctive reaction of most people who know nothing about it, is simply to say ‘yes, it’s a bad thing. Bad things should be banned’. But should all bad things be banned (ie. should we make a law against adultery or swearing or not supporting the England football team!?). And in terms of conversion therapy what does that actually mean? She mentions confession, exorcisms, prayer, bible teaching. Are these all to be banned? She asks why are people seeking these therapies? And answers that we (the State?) need to look at the core teachings….especially the view that being gay is sin. Is this to be banned by the law? It seems to me that is where Vicky and her new friends are leading us -banning anyone who disagrees with their views, in the name of tolerance and love. If you want another example of this – look at Steve Chalke’s latest article on Premier Christianity which ends with these chilling words:
The Government’s 75 point plan is a step in the right direction. But previous research by Oasis has established that churches and Christians are now the single biggest barrier to LGBT acceptance and equality in society.
This week, I will contact other inclusive Christian organisations, churches and agencies. It is my hope that we can work collectively to compile a detailed plan of what needs to be done to tackle these five areas of psychological damage within churches. It is my further hope that Government partner with us to help make this plan a reality.
The practices he wants to partner with the government with to ‘tackle’ include prayer, ‘negative’ bible teaching and not permitting people in same sex relationships to be in leadership. Steve Chalke wants the government to choose our doctrine (or enforce his), our leadership and our practice! This is the only way that this kind of ‘liberal’ Christianity can work – it needs to enlist the power of the State to enforce its dictates upon the Church. Steve and Vicky propose to use the secular State and media in order to make the rest of us conform! Is this the power of love? Is using the secular State and media to impose your ideology really New Testament Christianity? (Incidentally does the publication of Steves article urging government intervention against the Church prove my earlier point? . Is Christian Media a Trojan Horse for Heresy?)
This is how we are and will be intimidated. The social media mob, backed up by mainstream media, will demonise and blame Christians who uphold the Bibles teaching as being responsible for ‘causing harm’; through the newfound and indefinable crime of ‘spiritual abuse’. In the name of creating media ‘safe spaces’ anything that is deemed by them to cause offence/harm will be excluded from the media. If that doesn’t work and they find that the true Church is not so easily intimidated and won’t bow the knee to the gods of this age, they get really angry and all that ‘love’ disappears in a sea of frustration and annoyance. If the mockery, social shaming and emotional manipulation does not shut us up – the law will be used to ban, fine and even imprison those who dare to disagree with the State doctrine. Those who dare to speak out will find themselves excluded from many careers.
Last week in the Scottish parliament I met with a couple of government officials to discuss the proposed gender self-recognition bill. It was almost surreal to find myself having a discussion which included my requesting that I would not be sent to jail for speaking against the Queer theory view of gender. I’m sure they agreed with me, but the fact that the discussion was even taken seriously shows how far down the rabbit hole we have gone and where we are heading.
That’s why – no matter how many times I am abused, no matter how many times I am threatened, no matter how many times I get it wrong (as I often do), I am not going to keep quiet – because I see where this is going. I don’t know whether Vicky is just being used (and if she is then those who are exploiting her fragility for their own ends should be throughly ashamed – if they believe that Vicky is as fragile and vulnerable as she says, then they should encourage to take a break from public life and to get some help – they should not be using her to promote their agenda – that is a very dangerous game) or whether she is fully aware of what she is doing. I cannot be the judge of that. I don’t know her heart. I can only comment on her words and actions. Vicky is not my enemy (and even if she was Jesus commands us to love our enemies) and I genuinely wish her health, happiness and holiness. But I can see where her campaign, teachings and attempts to silence and ban others is going. It would be utterly irresponsible of me to keep quiet. The love of Jesus is too precious to be contained in the PC box of illiberal conformity, or the passing whims of the cultural elites. The Lord will keep his church. The bush burns but it is not consumed. So help me God. Lord have mercy on us all…
Your statutes are wonderful;
therefore I obey them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
longing for your commands.
132 Turn to mea and have mercy on me,
as you always do to those who love your name.
133 Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.
134 Redeem me from human oppression,
that I may obey your precepts.
135 Make your face shine on your servant
and teach me your decrees.
136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
for your law is not obeyed.
Ps. I note that the most abusive, passive/aggressive and personal tweets come from people who affirm themselves as liberal/loving and LGBT affirming. Their anger is palpable and their lies disturbing (one for example tweeting this morning that I told Vicky to check if she had remembered correctly being raped – I said nothing of the sort – but the lie is instantly retweeted and believed). I think they are so angry because it is becoming clear that we will not all follow their ways and that we are not all right wing nutcases!
If you want an example of how this works – take this tweet –
I wondered what he was referring to. Would I really have been so crass as to ask a victim of rape if they were sure they had remembered it correctly? I was sure that was not the case but then you doubt – so I went back and re-read my letter to Vicky – this is what is being referred to –
The Church – Some of the things you describe are horrendous. I too have seen the hypocrisy you describe. Your description of being sexually abused by a priest in Wycliffe hall is something that made me really angry. What a horrendous experience that must have been. You also write: “Within the college, lots of unmarried seminary students were having sex, and a handful of married students were having affairs with other students. The shiny façade of evangelical morality seemed to be crumbling in front of my eyes. This was not what I’d expected to see at an evangelical college. “ Nor I. You have done us a great service by pointing out the hypocrisy. Although I should point out that all this is dependent on your memories being correct (married students having affairs, lots of unmarried students having sex) and also subject to the caveat that you cannot condemn the whole institution for a handful of rotten apples – after all it would hardly be fair of me to condemn all gay people just because I have known some who have committed rape or abuse!)
It takes a really perverted and twisted mind to see that as asking a rape victim “are you sure you remember it correctly?”. But even worse than that lie. Lord Matt doubled down and when someone else pointed it out he replied:
Apparently my response to his lie should be to apologise for making him lie….this really is from the pit! He then went on to claim that I was being ‘unreasonable’ and a Calvanist…(not quite sure what that is)….before a string of other insults…wonderful how love works!