sex and the sound bite

CAD u37 Condenser Microphone

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?


  1. Thats was a really helpful sermon Chris!! As for me, like the last person who asked a question, I wonder how can we be truly non-condemming and unconditionally accepting and loving if we are at the same time lobbying against same-sex marriage? The 2 behaviours seem contradictory. Since the thing homosexuals are wanting from the term “marriage” is acceptance as a human being. However, if we lobby purely to prevent a change in the spiritual climate, ie stop the slippery slope of social morals, which will confer similar rights to other dangerious behaviours eg pedophiles, that might seem more reasonable. I wonder if better conversations will depend on how we may “protest” differently such that it will not contradict our willingness to love and accept other sinners as ourselves.

    1. Hi Kerri. Thanks for listening and interacting!

      I’m sure that you’re right about the quality of our conversations being linked to the way we actually love and relate to others. But I’m not sure I can agree with your suggestions about whether or how conservative Christians might go about opposing same-sex marriage.

      For one thing, I feel fairly uneasy with the kind of Slippery Slope Leading To Disastrous Social Consequences approach you suggest. I don’t think we actually want to oppose a change to the marriage laws on the basis of possible kick-on consequences — which we can’t really foresee anyway.

      And I’m also unsure about your statement that “the thing homosexuals are wanting from the term ‘marriage’ is acceptance as … human being[s]”. Of course, I know that’s exactly what some people want (and feel they’re being denied). But it’s not what others want. And at some point someone may have to point out that changing the formal, legal definition of marriage won’t guarantee same-sex couples the acceptance they crave — you can’t legislate a change in people’s hearts and attitudes.

      I guess the thing I tried to show from John 8 was that accepting someone doesn’t have to be incompatible with disagreeing with how they’re living. That’s certainly true for how Jesus relates to the woman. He offers her unconditional acceptance (as he does to everyone) — not just as a human being but as a sinner with a serious debt to pay; a debt he chooses to pay in her stead. And, at the same time, he calls her to embrace God’s radically different vision for her life.

      I want us to be able to make a conversational and corporate response like that…

  2. hmmm… given that Jesus never started any campaign, or tried to change politics, one does wonder if we should spend any resources protesting at all? and instead just keep sharing the good news in a non-condemming, all accepting and offer to change way. Although the consequences might seem grave to society….
    sorry, no ideas….:) we are afterall ALL BORN SINNERS, so if ppl think one is simply born with alternative sexuality, it is as true as being born with a bad temper, depressive tendencies or a genetic disease, we all have broken genes, but through grace we can manage that, temporarily, till He comes again in glory. It is only because every person we speak to is an eternal one with only 2 destinations, that only in grasping hold of souls’ eternity, could my conversations be hopefully salty. Just dropping in to say it was a great sermon!!

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