Conversations about sex and sexuality can get pretty heated. And more than a little awkward.
It doesn’t seem to matter whether they’re public conversations (online, on TV, or radio talk shows) or private conversations — with curious kids across the breakfast table, long-term friends over a meal, or near strangers at a party.
They just have a tendency to get very messy, very quickly.
Maybe it’s the nature of such feelingful conversations. Where people are deeply invested. Often in unforeseen and unforeseeable ways.
Such conversations are especially likely to explode when one or other party attempts to speak with a conservative Christian voice — especially on topics like homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
I’ve had conversations like this blow up in my face. And I’ve heard about it happening to people I know. Sometimes with tragic consequences.
In our culture of the sound bite and catchy slogan, you sometimes can’t even get past saying where you stand without being labelled and written off (one way or the other).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to play the victim here.
I’m just trying to think out loud about whether there’s anything to be done to facilitate better conversations — where we give each other enough airtime to communicate and learn.
One prominent Christian pastor I know of simply refuses to speak on such topics unless his conversation partners are willing to give him 3 hours to explain himself properly — setting his views in their wider biblical and theological context and addressing some of the often-unexamined ‘defeater beliefs’ thrown up by competing world-views.
Now there’s obvious wisdom in this. It isn’t necessarily an act of conversational cowardice.
Some things just take time to explain well. When I spoke about same-sex marriage recently, I took nearly an hour (including question time).
In addition, conservative Christians aren’t alone in needing to plead for time and sustained attention to explain themselves like this. Anyone who’s ever tried to answer a climate sceptic or explain some of the less ‘common sense’ examples of biological evolution can find themselves in a similar position.
But I doubt I’m alone in wanting something more. Something sharper.
What I’m after is some kind of counter-sound bite. A conversational foot in the door.
How can we win a hearing for the good (and confronting) news of Jesus — including his vision for us and our sexuality — without compromising or selling out?
I have a few thoughts to share. But before I do, I’d love to hear if you have any ideas?