A few days ago, I had the privilege of speaking about ''Queer Christianity: The media and public perception” at King’s College, London. The audience were great. The questions and discussion were really interesting, encouraging and enjoyable.
I spoke about the ways in which Jesus had challenged the gender and sexual conventions of his day. I encouraged an ethic that rejects both homophobia and individualism. The issues raised in questions ranged from the interpretation of particular Bible passages to same-sex marriage, polyamory and women bishops.
I was delighted with the diversity of views in the audience. The event was organised by the college’s LGBT Society. There were Christian, Jewish, Muslim and atheist audience members. Amongst the Christians were some who seemed largely to agree with me about sexuality, and others who didn’t. I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered such a diversity of religious and sexual attitudes among a small audience (there were about twenty-five people).
In particular, I was moved and encouraged by the comments of non-Christians who said they were pleased to have encountered a different image of Christianity to the ones they were used to. Several people said they had not previously seen Jesus presented in this way.
I was deeply encouraged by these sort of comments. Quite a lot of people who attend my talks or respond to my articles seem to be LGBT people who are not Christian but are pleased to encounter a form of Christianity that is not homophobic, that is positive about sexuality and that is firmly opposed to sexual abuse. Of course, there are many, many other Christians besides me who take such an approach.
I have no interest in 'converting' people to Christianity, if that simply means persuading someone to give themselves a label and join a club. But when people respond positively to Jesus, I am encouraged and delighted.
When I began spending lots of time writing and campaigning on sexual issues, I had expected to be mainly talking with Christians about sexuality. That is happening, of course. But also (to put it crudely), I seem to spend lots of time talking with queers about Jesus. That’s something I had not expected. God works in mysterious ways.
(c) Symon Hill is associate director of Ekklesia. His book, The No-Nonsense Guide to Religion, can be ordered at http://www.newint.org/books/no-nonsense-guides/religion/ .
For links to more of Symon's writing, please see http://www.symonhill.wordpress.com .