Communications Officer Rebekah Moffett speaks with Keith Waters to catch up on his case and get his advice on what churches can be doing during ‘Pride month’.
Hi Keith, great to have you with us again. What happened to you in ‘Pride Month’ (aka June), and how far have you got with challenging it?
In June 2019, I found myself in the midst of a social media storm as a result of a tweet I put out reminding Christians that Pride events are harmful for children and not good things for Christians to get involved with. The upshot was a fair degree of abuse, threats, lies and the loss of a job. The Christian Legal Centre has been great in helping with a case against the Active Learning Trust who ran the school for which I worked, and we’re presently awaiting a court date.
Why do you think Pride is so harmful for children?
The fact that I experienced the fallout I did, from what was after all a pretty unsurprising comment from a church pastor, is, I believe, rooted in the Pride movement’s deliberate spinning and softening of its image, by intentionally reaching families and children through shops, schools, libraries, drama groups, local authorities etc. which all portray Pride as just another festival and a fun event for all the family. However, Pride has at its centre the celebration of all forms of sexuality and activity one can possibly imagine, and probably some that one can’t. If we add to that the images freely available, online or on mainstream media, showing high levels of nudity, sexual action, and generally crude and lewd behaviour, then we see the fundamental nature and purpose of these events.
It’s important here to be absolutely clear that my original, and ongoing, concern is not rooted in opinions on same-sex attraction – it has nothing to say about any individuals or groups of individuals who disagree with my orthodox Christian ethic. Rather, it is about protecting children from sexualisation and alerting Christians to be wise about which social action is good to support.
Surely that’s a cause that all Christians should get behind – protecting our children from hyper-sexualisation. And yet, too often we remain quiet on the issue. Why do you think it’s so hard to speak out against it?
I believe the full answer to that is both long and quite variable depending on the situation. However, generally speaking, I would say that there are a number of things that come together to cause us such difficulty over this. To name a few:
- Christians want to show God’s love, His grace and His mercy. As the old adage goes, we want to be as Christ is, and “love the sinner, but hate the sin.” So, we want to love, and be friendly towards same-sex-attracted people, and we don’t want to unnecessarily offend… and so we say nothing.
- As we have seen in recent days, radical groups like Stonewall have been given vast amounts of influence across areas our politics, media, education, judiciary, policing, and health. This unprecedented access to influence policy with a very questionable agenda, has, over several years, twisted and changed policies which address public morality in ways which are counter to Biblical Christianity. Christians are finding ourselves in a ‘new society’ which we struggle to negotiate because we struggle to relate… and so we say nothing.
- Over the past decade or so, the growth of social media has thrown us new challenges. There have certainly been some great and valuable things that have come out of social media. However, social media has also provided a powerful tool, for any who choose, to influence or sexualise children, which largely goes unchallenged. When it is challenged, the social media mob, encouraged by vociferous radical groups, descend… and so we say nothing.
- For many decades, the sexualisation of literature, film and TV has been a concern for many people (and certainly not just Christians), but with the advent of wider internet use, social media, streaming services etc. we have seen a rapid increase in the depiction of sex scenes, innuendo, casual sex, teenage sex, and sexual relationships between same-sex-attracted people portrayed as good and aspirational. In short, our media’s desire to normalise almost any form of casual sexual activity, has left us feeling powerless to stand up against the tide… and so we say nothing.
In our secular ‘inclusive’ society, it’s hard for Christians to stand up and speak out against things which we see as a danger to our society; there is a genuine and well-founded fear of persecution.
None of this is helped by liberal teaching in some churches.
What advice would you have for Christians – particularly Christian parents – who are worried about the effects of Pride?
Well, I would humbly suggest that we do what Scripture teaches us to do! That is, to show and share the love of Jesus alongside showing and sharing the truth of how corrosive sin is, and that God hates sin, will judge sin and did the most incredible thing to save us from sin.
When we take a read through the gospels and the epistles, we find the answers are there for us. The love of Christ was evident for all to see, but so was the hatred of sin and the teaching against it. The first century had all the sin we have today – humanity has not got more sinful or less sinful – it has just morphed into different ways of expressing itself.
All that is, of course, true, but it doesn’t actually answer the question: how do we Christians deal with Pride? What if, for example, your child’s school decides to visit a Pride event and you don’t want your child involved?
First, share the concern with your church family and get people praying. Next I would suggest that this, like so many other things, is best dealt with face to face. Try and make an appointment to discuss the issue with the head teacher (and have people praying for you). Explain that the reason you are unhappy about the planned trip is that you do not want your child exposed to an event that has at its heart the celebration of sex.
You might want to follow that up by being clear that your concerns are not related to any particular sexuality, but rather the sexualisation of children. Try and keep the discussion friendly and gracious, but be firm. Also, communicate with as many other parents as you can; it is not only Christians who will have misgivings over this. Again though, in discussing Pride with other parents, it’s important to be clear that the concern here has nothing to do with LGBT+ people, but rather uneasiness over the risk of sexualising children and safeguarding.
And how do you think Christians should generally engage with this thorny issue?
Just to be clear, I’m no expert and I know that I’ve a lot to learn. But in hope that I can get us all talking and praying about it, and how Jesus might be seen more through us as we engage in the issue, I’ll share some ideas!
Pride is only a small part of the big jigsaw of sexuality in our society, it mustn’t become our focus.
We need to remind ourselves that no sin is more or less acceptable in God’s eyes, that we need to have a humble and honest heart, and attitude when we are dealing with ‘other people’s sin’. Could we be guilty of pride? Might we be guilty of ‘turning a blind eye’ to ‘heterosexual sin’ whilst speaking out against ‘homosexual sin’? In God’s eyes there is no such distinction… We are all sinners, though of course, praise God, for as believers we are saved by His Grace and mercy. So let’s be asking the Lord to give us His compassion, wisdom and boldness in our relationships, interactions and conversations with those who are same sex attracted and may have a different outlook on what that means.
We also need to be very careful in the words we use, hence the need for wisdom and compassion. We must ensure that in every action or word, we’re aiming at the sin, not the sinner. In the case of Pride, we must not attack individuals, but instead speak out about the activities which we see to be harmful for children or society.
The message of Christ is overwhelmingly positive, in fact it is the most positive message ever, it is the message that the whole of our world needs to hear! So let’s ensure that we keep that message firmly front and centre in our conversations, communications and actions on this or any other issue.
Picking up on the points above, let’s engage… yes, we must support the positive things we see going on, in and around us, and we must respond carefully and prayerfully to those negative and corrosive things.
If you’re on social media then use it for God’s glory; if you’re not (and even if you are), sign petitions, write to your MP, to newspapers etc., support other individuals who take a stand, support (prayerfully and financially) organisations like Christian Concern, who do so much to enable us to be ‘Salt and Light’ in our society.
And finally, let’s not shy away from difficult subjects when talking with friends, family and colleagues. And let’s not find ourselves downhearted by all that’s going on in the world! As Christians, we’re told that we will be knee deep on the battlefield, but we have an incredible Captain, and an assured victory in Him, so let’s encourage one another as we glorify God to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.
As I’ve mentioned, for Christians, Pride or any other ‘issue’ we come across in our lives must not be allowed to become the things that define us, we must be defined and redefined by our love for Christ.
Briefly, what else have you been up to since you first came to Christian Concern?
As we wander through life, we’ll find that our circumstances change, issues and situations come and they go. For me over the past couple of years that has meant a number of things, not least the call to pastor in a new church some 100 miles away from our last church. It was of course a wrench leaving a church family we had served and loved for a dozen or more years, and moving into a new area to join a new church family in the midst of a pandemic and various lockdowns was certainly a challenge, but God is good and we’ve been blessed along the way, not least by joining one loving part of God’s family as we have left another.
In the midst of our move, we found that the government issued an edict forcing churches to close for worship and prayer, and in many ways, one could see how they might decide that closing such gatherings might be sensible. However, I was personally very concerned that the decision had been taken to criminalise gathered worship and prayer.
You were part of a group of pastors to seek a judicial review for unlawful church closures. What prompted you to take part in that?
For the state to take such action seemed wrong to me, church leaders should certainly receive good and honest advice from government, but decisions on church closures should, in my view, not be made by the government in such a draconian way and without proper understanding of what church is, and so I was pleased to join with a number of other church leaders in launching an urgent legal challenge of the government’s actions in unilaterally stopping church worship services. I believe that The Christian Legal Centre’s care and skill in handling this action had a significant positive effect on the government’s subsequent actions as further lockdowns were announced.
Thanks for joining us, Keith, and for all of your encouragement and advice. Have you got any final encouragements for us as we close?
We certainly live in challenging times, but there’s truth in the old saying “God IS Good, all the time, and all the time God is good!”
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