Pride Comes Before a Fall – Lessons from Perth’s Shame.

We can learn a great deal from the continuing fallout from Perth Pride.    As I wrote about this – there was a backlash which involved a great deal of distortion and attempt to silence.  The Daily Record joined in the unthinking herd mob mentality with this article talking about the ‘love and acceptance for all’ of Rev Scott Burton vs the hatred and ‘fiercely personal critical attacks’ of yours truly.  We should not be surprised at this nor give in to the temptation to depression.   In a society which has lost its ability to reason and think, and where every story is reduced to emotive soundbites, it’s precisely what we should expect.    But if we step back and look in more detail at the backlash there is a great deal we can learn.  I received this article from the Perthshire edition of the Courier which is very revealing.   His words are in italics followed by my responses to the author.

The backlash against Rev Scott Burtons Perthshire pride speech was as depressing as it was predictable.The Church of Scotland minister opened the region’s first LGBT celebration last weekend with a speech which apologised for the Kirk’s historical treatment of the gay community.

downloadI wonder why you find it depressing that people, within the church (and outwith) disagree with Scott’s remarks – given that the position he is attacking is the position of the Church of Scotland (officially), the Catholic Church and most Christian churches?  Are you depressed at the mere fact of disagreement?  Or have you bought into the narrative that Rev. Scott has received a whole load of hatemail?  It appears he had eight letters of criticism and they seem to have been fairly polite.  I realise that the narrative is to portray Scott as ‘brave’ and a victim – but in reality ‘coming out’ as a supporter of the LGBT agenda which has become the main shibboleth doctrine of our society is hardly ‘brave’.  It’s about the most conformist thing anyone could do.    If you want praise from politicians and the press then this is the route to go.

The call for equality was warmly welcomed by Pride supporters. It seemed like an historic moment, like the church was finally breaking down age-old barriers in opening a door. And inevitably, there were other church leaders trying to slam the door shut.

I’m a wee bit confused here.  Which door are you talking about?  The door to the church is always open.  Jesus described himself as ‘the door’.  We always invite people to come to him – in repentance and faith.  But I suspect you mean the door to the church changing its beliefs in order to fit in with some beliefs that our society holds (or at least the beliefs of those who are in power).  In that case you are right.  The church does not exist to parrot the values and norms of a culture and society which is fundamentally anti-God.  The door to heresy and error is (or should be) firmly closed.  The door to all people is always open.

Rev David Robertson, minister of St Peters Free Church in Dundee, said in a blog that Rev Burton should instead be “apologising to God – for the horrendous sin or distorting and perverting his gracious word.” He wrote: “what if the press and politicians have got it wrong? What would that mean? It would mean the church had turned away from the teaching of Jesus – a disaster and an end to the church.”

Of course, Rev Robertson is entitled to his views, but from where I’m standing, it looks like his remarks are doing more damage to the church than Rev Burtons.  At a time when just 7.2% of Scotland’s population go to church – down from 17% in 1984 – it is clear that Christianity needs to start thinking about evolving and visibly moving away from outdated and divisive views.

Thanks.   It’s kind of you to support my entitlement to my views – even if somewhat dismissively.  It’s always good to get the advice and see the perceptions and prejudices of others.  But I’m curious as to where you get your information from?  You seem to be suggesting that my views are responsible for the decline in the Church, whereas Rev. Burton’s will be the salvation of it.  I realise that that fits your worldview.  There is however one slight problem.  The facts tell otherwise.

A couple of years ago Scott Burton appeared in the Courier with this report.

Churches face an “intolerable and utterly unsustainable” lack of interest from their congregations, according to a minister.An outspoken and wide-ranging attack has been made on members who fail to attend for worship or offer financial support to their churches.  The Rev Scott Burton, minister at St Matthew’s Kirk in Perth, said: “I have no reason to believe anything other than the fact that it’s only going to get worse in the next decade.
“It’s time for someone to say it as it is I’m afraid and I’m either brave enough or stupid enough to be the one who’s choosing to say it.
“I see the bank balance (deficits), I lead worship in the more than half-empty buildings, I feel the never-ending pressures, I counsel the office-bearers who are tearing their hair out to make ends meet. So I assure you, I’m note exaggerating.”

Scott Burton is admitting that the Church of Scotland in this area is in freefall – including his own church.  Indeed it is in terminal decline.  Every year I have been in Tayside another church (usually Church of Scotland) has closed.  If you want some more detailed analysis of  this read – https://theweeflea.com/2016/04/07/the-two-faces-of-the-church-of-scotland/       Half empty buildings.  Declining finance.  Never-ending pressures.  It appears that Rev. Burton’s theology, which you praise so highly, isn’t exactly working!

On the other hand when I came to Dundee in 1992 the Free Church had a total of around 50 people in the whole region in two churches.  Today we have five churches (and another one just starting) with over 800 people attending.  And it’s not just the Free Church – other evangelical churches are growing and prospering.  That hardly fits your narrative.

Let me illustrate with a story I have used before.  One Saturday I was sitting in our church hall waiting to pick up a child from a party when the elderly gentleman beside me struck up the following conversation (here is an abbreviated version from memory)

“I’m an elder in the Kirk (he named the village which I will leave out just now)…our minister doesn’t believe in teaching the bible.  ”

“Really?  Why?”

“He thinks it won’t attract the young people.  We need to be more up to date”

“That’s interesting – in this church they do a lot of bible teaching.  At least 30 minutes twice on a Sunday….and they have about 100 young people.  I’m curious – how many young people does your church have?”

“None….”

You see my problem.  You are telling us to ‘move away from outdated and divisive views’ in order for the church to grow.  But as the church has followed your advice, it has declined!  Your recipe for the church is a disastrous one – we know that because it has already been tried – and found wanting.  He who marries the spirit of this age will be a widow in the next.  Incidentally have you ever thought that your views are divisive?  Indeed I suspect all views could and would be considered divisive by those who don’t share them.   Maybe truth is divisive.  Especially to those who don’t like it and prefer ‘alternative facts’!

Why does there seem to be such a hangup about homosexuality? The Bible teaches some fairly abhorrent views on slavery, such as its apparently fine to beat your slave with a rod, as long as he or she doesn’t die right away.

We’ve all managed to move on from them, so why are LGBT rights still such a stumbling block? Is it really acceptable in the 21st-century, to continue persecuting gay people because a tiny part of a book written 2000 years ago says that we can’t?

Once again your divisive views and prejudices are shown.  The Bible is opposed to slavery – which is why biblical Christians were the first to campaign against it, in a society where it was considered divisive to do so.   I realise it’s a neat rhetorical and emotive trick to imply that beating slaves and not agreeing with Same Sex Marriage are two signs of the same coin – but it is demonstrably false.  Of course that won’t bother most of your readers who will just buy into that meme as ‘gospel truth’.  But if they bothered to find out ht the Bible actually teaches about slavery (and not cherry pick a few verses out of context just in order to accuse) and about sex and sexuality they would have a different point of view.   The Bible nowhere says that we can ‘persecute’ gay people – although I guess it depends on what you mean by persecution.  The Bible is opposed to adultery, gossip and lying….does that constitute ‘persecution’ for adulterers, gossips and liars?  Do you think we should campaign in the name of ‘love’ for this persecution to be stopped?

As for the hangup about homosexuality – it’s not the church but the society that seems hung up about homosexuality (although transgender now appears to be replacing it as the shibboleth issue of the governing classes).  It was not the Church that was having an LGBT Pride parade in Perth – funded by the Council.  Incidentally given that you are all for equality and diversity perhaps you could help us here.  Perth Council gave £7,000 to Perth Pride (around £10 per attendee) and Dundee City Council will doubtless do the same for Dundee Pride.  The churches in Dundee are going to be holding a big CreationFest event on September 29th – do you think that the Council should give us funding for that?  Or does equality and diversity not apply to the minority of Christians? Whats the hang up?

And why are you such a chronological snob (or at least why do you try to appeal to the chronological snobbery of your readership?).  What does the age of the Bible have to do with its quality?  Are you implying that because something is in the 21st Century it must be better?  Is Beyonce de facto better than Beethoven just because she is more modern?  Does your ‘progressive’ doctrine really go that far?!

It also depends on what you mean by LGBT ‘rights’?  Why them?  Why not other groups?  Who determines rights?  You seem to be presupposing a lot and giving us little rational justification for your desire to impose your values upon the whole of society.  It’s hardly very diverse or tolerant is it?

These days, it’s easy to be against organised religion. Mainly because of wars and atrocities committed in the names of the deity, but also because of the whole getting up early on a Sunday morning thing.

I hate to say this but that statement only makes sense to those who are ignorant and lazy. Did you know that in the  Encyclopedia of Wars documents the history of recorded warfare, and from their list of 1763 wars only 123 have been classified to involve a religious cause, accounting for less than 7 percent of all wars and less than 2 percent of all people killed in warfare?  I thought not.  Prejudice is no substitute for facts.

And I realise that you were trying to be witty in the ‘whole getting up early on a Sunday morning thing’ – but it just doesn’t work.  Firstly most churches don’t start early.  Secondly even if they did surely given the importance of the issues involved (life, death, heaven, hell, relationships, love, joy and peace) a little effort would not go amiss?!  After all people are commended for getting up early to go to golf, concerts and even political rallies.  But you want a church without commitment – just a nice place that tells you what you want to hear.

But religion is vitally important, particularly in times when people and families are being torn apart by politics and technology. Religion is what brought humankind together in the first place. Early societies that didn’t have religion couldn’t work together and quickly died out.  There is every chance that religion can, once again, be a powerful unifier. But we need to keep that door open.

This is such an interesting comment.  And such an interesting view of history.  Could you let us know about those early societies which didn’t have religion?  I personally don’t know of any – but perhaps you have the information?

Your notion of religion being a ‘powerful unifier’ seems at first glance to be wishful thinking.  Religion is actually very divisive.  Even Jesus said he came to bring division!  Of course he did that only to show that without a radical change in each of us we are divided and on the road to destruction.  He did not come to ‘affirm’ us as we are, but to change us into his image.    The truth is that you talk of unity whilst offering a solution which only divides and destroys.  We speak words which seem to bring disunity, but in reality lead to the deepest unity of all – in Christ.   Every Sunday I see that it expressed in the variety of people from all different backgrounds who worship in St Peters.

And I am intrigued by your call for unity?  What does that mean?  You want us all to think the same way, have the same point of view?  Would that be basically yours?  Or are you really prepared for a different kind of unity – one based on love, tolerance and diversity?  Your cheap and dismissive views of the biblical understanding suggests the former rather than the latter.

I agree with your analysis that people and families are being torn apart – although I’m not so sure I would just blame politics and technology.   I would also add in the destruction of the family,  greed, lying and Pride.   In other words the problem is human sin.  As a wise man once said, the heart of the problem is the problem of the human heart.

Your column did not get anywhere near addressing that.  It was shallow and superficial.  Just as Scott Burton’s ‘ love is love’ message is shallow and superficial.  Neither of you will be able to deal with the deep problems  that affect both church and community.

imagesLet me leave you with a bit of wisdom that I heard from a preacher last night.  A preacher who actually believes and teaches the Bible.   He told us that ‘love’ is an abstract noun.  In and of itself it means nothing because it is not a commodity out there.  Just saying ‘love means love means love’, is therefore pointless.  “Love is a reality in my life shaped by its object”.  The question is who do we love?

The message of Jesus gives us the best answer, summed up in two commands- “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and love your neighbour as yourself”.   I note that Scott taught the latter whilst leaving out the former – which makes it all meaningless.

How sad that you accuse me of hate speech just because I proclaim the message of the God who is love!

If you really want to have a conversation, please feel free to get back in touch with me (I know that Courier journalists read this blog) and tell me what I have said that is wrong.  I would be more happy to have a dialogue!

Yours
David

21 thoughts on “Pride Comes Before a Fall – Lessons from Perth’s Shame.

  1. Christianity has always been a false religion. Islam abolished slavery 1400 years ago, Christianity only abolished slavery after the Enlightenment, even the French Revolution abolished slavery before Christian Britain. It took 1800 years for Christianity to abolish slavery and that is only after it was influenced by Islam.

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    1. Abdullah, try telling that to the Yazadi and Christian girls who were enslaved by Daesh in Iraq and Syria. They will tell you they were slaves and not willing partners in their “relationships”.

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    2. Islam abolished slavery? Consider the millions of bonded labourers in Pakistan who are in virtual slavery because of debts that they can never repay. Some have been slaves since childhood, trying to pay off a debt that a previous generation incurred. Despite being outlawed by the Pakistani government in the 1990’s, this practice continues.
      Also, do not forget the Muslim Arab slave traders in Africa who kidnapped and sold slaves to the European traders to be taken to the New World.

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    3. I’m not going to attempt to debate with Mr Abdullah. My experience with him previously was that he doesn’t seem to want to listen. However I point him to some evidence that islam is a religion of slavery.

      https://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/muhammad/abolitionist.aspx

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tZxH4QYLRQYhttps://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tZxH4QYLRQY

      Muhammad himself kept slaves. I suggest Mr Abdullah isn’t as familiar with the quran as he likes to think he is. If he were to read the verses on slavery he would see that victorious jahadis are allowed to keep the spoils of what their right hand has gained in victory.

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    1. Not what, Martha, but who. The Church is the body of Christ: Jesus is the head, believers make up the body… the Church is living, organic, local and universal.

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  2. It’s always interesting to see who the media describes as ‘divisive’. I put ‘divisive’ into Google’s search engine and the first person mentioned in a link was Donald Trump. Obama created enormous disagreements in the USA but, surprise, surprise, he is never described as ‘divisive’. Only those with certain views earn the right to be called ‘divisive’. If you are pro-life you are divisive but not if you are pro-abortion. Similarly you are ‘divisive’ if you do not go along wholeheartedly with whatever the liberal elite’s latest view on sexual matters happens to be. But if you suddenly stand out and declare that young children should be allowed to determine their own gender you are not ‘divisive’.

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  3. Even the most conservative biblical Christian picks and chooses what to believe in the Bible. Jesus says to give up all your possessions in Luke 14:33 but I’ve never met a Christian who has done that. Jesus says to hate your family in Luke 14:26 but biblical Christians claim they are pro-family. And there are many other commandments of Jesus that biblical Christians refuse to follow. So what is the difference?

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    1. The difference is between those who are literate and can read things in context and those who can’t. I have met Christians who have given all their possessions although Jesus did not tell every Christian to do this. Nor did he tell Christians to hate their families. If you learn to read verses in context and not cherry pick according to your own prejudices you will get there! As a Christian I will follow every command of Jesus…

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  4. Hi David,

    Very well thought out. The sad reality of your statement: “We should not be surprised at this nor give in to the temptation to depression. In a society which has lost its ability to reason and think, and where every story is reduced to emotive soundbites, it’s precisely what we should expect…” shows us that we will have to continue the battle for a long time, given that nothing is being done to teach those in society how to think.

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  5. David
    I write this as an evangelical who loves the Bible before the will of people, passionately…
    Wake up and smell the coffee!!!
    The underlying issue has moved on from “does the Bible forbid gays” to “is the evangelical church a dangerous cult that is full of fake ignorant people who hatefully reject anyone who disagrees with them”.
    And every one like you who rises to the bait is just food for the anti-evangelical frenzy in the media right now.
    When just one or two people take an assertive tone against opposition – like your are doing – it is used to confirm how unloving we all are.
    So in my view the greatest truth we are fighting for right now is not biblical sexuality but that Gods love is best demonstrated in followers of Jesus who keep his word.
    Can i therefore urge you: When contesting theology, do it completely factually, devoid of emotion. When not contesting theology (e.g. responding to criticism), do it in a tone that is so loving that it does not bear a hint of being argumentative.
    Otherwise, they will use you to feed their lies about who Christians are even more, and our witness of Christ is damaged.
    I urge you.

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    1. Thanks Dave…for the advice. But you will forgive me for finding it a little patronising and condescending and also not quite grasping either the situation or what I am doing. The world is going to hate Christians whatever (at least that is what Jesus says!)….being nice won’t really change that. And there is no way that I am doing theology without emotion! You expect me to talk about the love of God without being emotional! Also your post does not follow your own advice (I don’t blame you for the post – just for the impossible advice!)…was it written without even a hint of being argumentative! Of course we are to be loving and kind and not argue for the sake of arguing…but we also need to avoid the kind of self-righteous ‘look how loving I am compared with all you nasty people’ approach. I just prefer to stick with the truth…and take the bullets and accept the corrections and say when I am wrong…

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      1. Thanks for the reply Dave. Yes I agree the world will find a way to hate us but aren’t we also advised to try to give outsiders no reason to slander us, love our “enemies” (meaning those who consider us to be enemies, of course, because we don’t see them as ours) and to live good lives before all people. I’m totally with you about being passionate about theology but I think in this case there is a trap being set, not by Vicky Beeching but the media in general, the trap being to discredit anything called evangelical, and we should not be unaware of the devils schemes. Oh they will try to discredit us anyway but why feed them. On being emotional and argumentative, well I’m being that way with you because I consider you a brother in Christ, but I think that’s different to speaking to those opposed to you! You know, the most powerful thing you could do is go on Twitter and apologize to Vicki Beeching for any offensive tone in your messages, though obviously not apologizing for defending what you believe is the truth. You would totally disarm those trying to put you down and you’d be demonstrating how to love your enemies.
        If you’re ever down south in the UK, I’d love to meet for a coffee.

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      2. Outsiders will always find a way to slander us….the question is whether that slander is justified. And yes we are to love our enemies (although I find your reinterpretation of that interesting! I think the trap is being set by Vicky – she knows exactly what she is doing in her almost daily appearances of secular media portraying herself as the victim and the evangelical church as the oppressor. I also don’t agree that the most powerful thing I could do is go on Twitter and apologise to Vicky Beeching for ‘any offensive tone’ in my messages. Firstly I would be lying because I don’t think there is an offensive tone and secondly I refuse to give in to the kind of emotional bullying which takes perceived tone as the touchstone of all debate. If I did I would not totally disarm those who put me down and I would not be showing how to love my enemies. I appreciate what you are trying to do but there is a naiveness and a lack of wisdom in your advice. (I already apologised to VIcky if I hurt her and told her that this was not personal – that also then resulted in a flood of abuse). And yes – I’ll take you up on that coffee!

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  6. Did you intend to say that no gay, bi or trans person has ever been barred from attending worship because they were gay, bi or trans?

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