Spoke this morning to Eternity newspaper about Living with the Enemy.
Presumably ‘changing views’ isn’t why you signed up to this – particularly at least not to change your own view. What did you want the ‘other side’, as the documentary portrays it, to hear from you?
I’m not sure that I wanted them to so much hear something from me, because I’m sure these two guys, in fact I’m absolutely sure, that they’ve heard a lot of it before. What I wanted the opportunity to have some serious discussion about the point of view that conservatives are putting forward—to have them engaged with rather than shouted down.
That was my great desire, to actually have conversations like ‘What is your new definition of marriage? Articulate it for me. Tell me why it has the boundaries that it does.’ And on stuff like that, sadly, I actually didn’t get substantive engagement. And actually, it left me disappointed that— surely out there, there must be someone who has a more comprehensive and consistent argument and position on this. But I don’t know where they are yet. We’re not seeing it.
So I was hopeful that we might have that more sustained engagement, and a deeper conversation but I was gently disappointed, although perhaps not surprised that we actually never got there.
Do you think this serves to cement already-held views, or will it start a different conversation? Look I hope possibly it will encourage people to have a go at having conversations. There will always be people on both sides of any argument who are dug in and just don’t want to hear and just don’t want to listen and engage. And in one sense you can’t help that. But any discussion like this really is aiming the middle ground, and the soft positions on either side. And it’s a ‘look, come on there is more we can say about this. And actually there’s things we can do together to change the tone and the style of the conversation’ and there’s things that we can learn and take back to our ‘own sides’—that’s bad language but there you go—and say that, as we’re having these discussions, here’s some things you can bear in mind. And actually a big thing for me was I was reminded in a very clear way of the real pain that many gay and lesbian men and women feel over their identity and the way that people talk about their identity, and their perception of rejection‑whether they’re valid or not, we might think— the pain is still there nevertheless. That means that we as Christians, I think, have got to be doubly careful of how we say what we say. We’re always going to upset people, often, with the position that we take. But we can take responsibility and be careful about how we say what we say, and the way that we treat people. So that kind of thing hopefully will come positively out of this show. I hope this encourages people on the other side of the debate to think again about the labels that they use and how quick they are to jump to calling people fundamentalists, bigots, haters and the rest of it. And then that will have served its purpose, I think. To help society have better conversations.