Turning a blind eye when it suits; why is no one angry that Clarkson is back so soon?

I love the show Top Gear. I own many of the DVD’s, went to see the live show in Birmingham and for a Christmas present, my family all chipped in and bought me the opportunity to be driven around the Top Gear Test Track by The Stig.



Me with the Stig in a Porsche GT3

When the show was cancelled after Jeremy Clarkson punched a producer, I was gutted but I fully understood why the BBC did it. It wasn’t just a case of it being Clarkson’s last chance, but he assaulted someone. In any line of work that’s a sackable offense (though technically he wasn’t sacked, the BBC simply chose not to renew his contract)

So you can imagine my excitement when it was announced yesterday that Jeremy, along with fellow ex-Top Gear presenters James May and Richard Hammond, are making a new car show to be shown on Amazon Prime. I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to see what these guys were going to come up with. I saw no issues with it. Amazon are well within their rights to offer him a new contract and my response to those who say “he punched someone, I wouldn’t be working again” was “you wouldn’t be working for that employer, it doesn’t mean that you would never work again. Same here for Clarkson” But note the past tense.

As I was discussing this on Facebook with Sarah and a mutual friend, something dawned on me; there seems to have been virtually no uproar to this. No petitions, no angry blogs; nothing and then the thought struck me. If Clarkson had assaulted a woman, what would the reaction to yesterdays news have been? I suspect the answer to that would be the polar opposite to now; miles and miles of opinion columns dedicated to it. It would be very easy for me to now take the moral high ground and get on my soap box about how assault is assault and just because it was a man that was assaulted doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. But I can’t because my response was not one of anger, as I said I was excited at the news; and I know I would be all over the angry blogs and petitions if it was a woman that Clarkson assaulted. But because it wasn’t, my reaction shows that its OK because it was a man that got assaulted. My work with the Great Men Project is partially about showing boys that there are other ways than resorting to violence, that men and women are indeed equal and assault does matter regardless whether a man or a woman is the abuser or the victim My reaction to Clarkson coming back actually undermines all this as my friend made me painfully aware of. It’s case of me contributing to the very problem I’m trying to solve.

There have been many things written about how public figures can assault people and seemingly not lose any status, can come back to the public limelight almost immediately and this is what has happened here. As my friend said, what does rewarding this kind of person teach people? The answer is that if you are a popular celebrity, you can get away with almost anything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in second chances when people have admitted guilt and are working to change; this is why I had no problems with Dwain Chambers coming back to compete after his ban for failing a drugs test. Jeremy Clarkson admitted he was in the wrong but that doesn’t mean he should be able to effectively pick up where he left off. If the message that assaulting a woman doesn’t mean you lose your status, the non-reaction to yesterdays news that actually assaulting a man doesn’t mean a loss of status either has now joined that message.

The Independent, to it’s credit, is asking whether people should cancel in protest but how many will and how many more will subscribe because they have Clarkson making a show for them? For my part I won’t be subscribing to Amazon Prime though I’ll probably going to end up watching the new show by another method because I love the work the 3 of them do, probably further proof that I act on my convictions when it suits me so I can’t really be surprised or angry when I’m not the only one to do so. But maybe I should be angry at myself, maybe we should all be angry that a man who carried out an assault is now pretty much immediately back in the limelight and be asking Amazon to reconsider their decision.

But I’ll take at least anger as a starting point.


Something has got to change

Some people may have seen this article in the Telegraph. Short story, it’s a great exercise in how to completely miss the point.

As many will I know I am a volunteer facilitator for The Great Men Project, one of the organizations the author takes a shot at, and I really have no idea where they get the idea we are about indoctrination from. They’ve read the website and……well, that seems to be about it. I’m pretty sure they’ve never attended a workshop so what is his information based on? Probably the same scare-mongering information that many Men Rights Activists (MRA’s) like to spread so here’s what actually happens during a session.

First thing is a word race where the boys write down as many words that come to mind when given a word. Those words given are usually “Man” and “Woman”. The aim is to see what they have in mind when they think about men and women. This essentially drives the conversation from then on. Next up is a discussion session where a statement is given, they stand in different parts of the room depending on whether they agree or disagree with the statement and the conversation goes from there. The role of the facilitator is to essentially keep order and ensure everyone who wants to say something gets the opportunity to do so. We may step in to challenge certain statements if they are homophobic, racist, etc. in nature, but usually it’s just to ask questions to get them to think about the topic of gender equality, masculinity and to ensure a safe space for them to express themselves.

The author mentions videos. Yes we show videos, they’re on YouTube and you can check them out yourselves (they’re here and here) but please do more than the author has done and get beyond the title. The second part after lunch is about thinking about some statistics and since the author loves statistics, here’s some more:

  • Most common cause of death in men under 35 is suicide
  • 1 in 4 girls across the globe have experienced sexual violence
  • 94% of the prison population is men

Towards the end we ask them what they can do to help lower these statistics, to make their schools a much safer place for everyone. And then they go home. Now I don’t have a degree in English language, but none of that sounds like indoctrination to me; but since when has teaching and indoctrination ever been the same thing? The aim is to provide a space for boys to think about difficult issues (most adults struggle with these) to express their views and work through them. There is no exam, there is no pressure for them to say anything, to get involved; but if it gets them thinking about it then it’s job done. The statistics above are shocking, so are the ones in that article, but this is not about men vs women. This is not about putting womens rights above mens no matter what many MRA’s want to claim, this is about making society as a whole a better place for everyone. Indeed 2 of the 3 stats above are about the pressures and issues facing men.

This is not about making them feel bad because they are boys. The exact opposite is true, it’s about breaking down those fears that they are less of a man because they do or don’t do certain things that society expects them to; and the boys openly express such pressure. The notion that groups such as Great Men make boys feel bad for being boys and label them a potential abuser is frankly nonsense and insulting. In the training each facilitator receives it is stressed that we absolutely do the exact opposite because we don’t even see them as that (never even crossed my mind to) we see people who can make a difference and unless you’re happy with the current situation, we need to be empowering the next generation to go out to show a better way. Sadly from the article itself and the comments on it, it seems many are happy with how things are and don’t like people trying to change the status quo (and almost everyone who benefits calls what we do indoctrination) which means we have much work ahead of us.

So why aren’t there programs like this for girls? Probably because no one has set one up so maybe the author should think about starting a Kickstarter campaign and start raising money to do just that. I’ve not exactly been polite to that article, we do seem to share similar concerns regarding the issues men face, but completely misrepresenting organizations trying to do something about it is not the way to go and unnecessarily clouds the issue .

If you want to know more about The Great Men Project, get in contact with them, they’ll be happy to answer any queries and many are covered in the Info section. For me though, I’m going to keep doing what I do because I see a problem; a problem that is affecting men and women and causing great harm to both; and something has got to change.

Undoing everything in one swipe

I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that Professor N.T Wright is the world’s foremost and influential New Testament scholar at the moment. His work on the resurrection and Paul are probably among the most quoted books in apologetics and scholarship. Like many, he has influenced my thinking regarding many topics, his ability to explain complex theological ideas so everyone can understand and I have a huge amount of respect for him and his scholarship.

Well, at least I did. It was quite a punch to hear his views on marriage equality; in short he’s not in favour for it and his argument seems to be based around the dangers of redefinition of marriage. He goes as far as dismissing same-sex marriage as “nonsense”. Now I’m not going to address his views on marriage equality, that’s not the point of this piece, but what this has done has raised a very interesting conundrum for me and many others which was every eloquently stated by Samantha Field on Twitter:

Indeed on a private Facebook group I am a part of, Professor Wright was summarily dismissed on not just this issue but on pretty much everything he had written. They had lost so much respect for him that nothing else he had said on anything seemed to matter. So the question is, should this be the case? Should someones life’s work be dismissed on the basis of their view on one subject?

On the one hand it’s completely understandable. This isn’t a mere disagreement on which flavor of juice is best, this is about whether the LGBT community are entitled to the same legal rights as the straight community and N.T Wright is firmly in the “No” camp. The fact that he is using the scholarship and history (2 subjects he is famous for) to do it just leads to people think that he can’t be trusted on anything regarding those subjects; at the very least the trust has been broken. It’s hard to listen to someone on anything when you see them as de-humanizing people with their views.

On the other hand, Professor Wright has spent his entire life studying the Bible and reflecting on many subjects associated with it. It is completely possible to be wrong on one subject and be completely correct on another; at the very least still be taken seriously on those subjects. Plus when discussing subjects you should be debating the points that are actually being made, not on what was said on another subject.

Professor Wrights view on this has sort of come out of nowhere since he’s been staunch supporter of women in ministry, and I’m extremely unlikely to dismiss his views on that; and in a video a few years ago he said he didn’t know enough about homosexuality to comment and there was nothing to suggest he was against it. I have no idea what has changed in the meantime. To me, the reason the question of whether you should dismiss someones work because of other views comes up is because of what holding those views involves. There will be many that will regard N.T. Wright as a homophobic bigot and it’s kinda hard to argue against that. So anytime someone quotes Professor. Wright, it will be seen as quoting a homophobic bigot. Steve Chalke was seen as quoting an abuser in a recent book and this caused a lot of controversy. Steve Chalke’s example is slightly different  as he was holding John Yoder up as an example of espousing good pacifist theology which is the complete opposite of an abuser, however as I said above Professor Wright is a big supporter of women in ministry. We would be holding Professor Wright up as an example of espousing good equality theology when he uses the same theology to deny another group legal rights (not just rights within the church) Would we be doing the same if we’re quoting him on the doctrine of Hell for example? (a subject he believes we have got very wrong)

When I sit down and think about it, I am uncomfortable with dismissing Professor Wright on other subjects, or indeed a scholar as a whole, because of his stance on marriage equality; but I certainly have lost respect for him as a person. Whether I like it or admit it, this has likely had an impact on how I see him as a scholar, but he’s not the only one. Ravi Zacharias, Michael Ramsden, Michael Licona; I’ve found I’ve lost a degree of respect for them as I find out their views on various subjects. But like with Professor Wright, those subjects are related to how people are treated, their use of the Bible to justify them.  They are still excellent scholars, and it seems a little silly to dismiss their knowledge and research because of their views, but I just don’t see them the same way I once did and that makes me reluctant to listen to them on anything else.

(Not my) Answers to Kevin DeYoung

So Kevin DeYoung over at The Gospel Coalition posted an article titled 40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags. As the title suggests, he asks 40 questions that “are sincere, if pointed, questions that I hope will cause my brothers and sisters with the new rainbow themed avatars to slow down and think about the flag you’re flying“. There have been some excellent responses posted on various blogs, the Google doc I set up to gather answers and other social media outlets. So below are the responses that were given on my document as well links to the other excellent responses to these questions. Some chose not to answer all the questions which is why you won’t see the same number of answers to each question.

So without further delay:

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?

  • About 2 years
  • Almost a year
  • Since my step-daughter and her wife were married in a church four years ago, and I had to face the Christians who somehow believed that going to that celebration was sending the wrong message.

2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?

  • Gen 19, Lev 18-20, Matthew 7:15-20, Acts 10:1-11+18, Romans 1, 1 Cor 6:9-10, 1 Tim 1:9-10, Jude 1:7
  • Matt 12:1-14, Mark 2:27-28, Luke 6:43-45
  • Comparing Genesis 19:1-9 against Judges 19:18-25 conclusively demonstrated two things: 1) The judgement against Sodom was NOT about homosexuality; 2) The Bible is not inerrant.

3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?

  • Genesis 2:23-25, Song of Solomon (entire book)
  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22. As I have seen these fruits in the lives of my GAY friends, including my step-daughter, I cannot conclude that gay is harmful. Admittedly, this is not a positive argument, except that the POSITIVE fruits evident in the lives of gay people nullify the condemnations often leveled

4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?

  • The same ones that show straight marriage as a depiction of Christ & the church
  • Does it have to? Can your marriage depict something that someonelse’s doesn’t? Lets list all the straight marriages we know of that do not depict Christ and the church
  • Read the Song of Solomon.

5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?

  • Yes
  • Yes, I do, and there is evidence in those times that Jesus WAS OK with the centurion and his eunuch servant, which may well have carried sexual overtones

6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?

  • Because he was answering a question about divorce between a man and woman
  • When did he do this?
  • In Matt 19, He was reflecting the cultural norm. But you cannot argue from this verse that the norm was exclusive.

7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?

  • Lust
  • Need to look up my notes on porneia, but my general view, in light of the Jewish understanding of “sin” as “disorder” is that the sinful part of porneia lay in the excess, or misdirection, or lascivious cruelty it can inspire. Merely HAVING an attraction to a naked body is not wrong, and responding to that attraction is not necessarily wrong, but that depends on response.

8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?

  • The exploitative homoerotic behavior common at that time; masters/slaves, pederastry, temple prostitution
  • In Romans 1, Paul would be talking about men and woman who go out side the bonds of their EXISTING marriage, or of their heterosexual nature — either or both

9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?

  • No. Salvation is through faith in Christ alone
  • I think Paul is not looking at things they way Jesus would. (Paul was, after all, NOT Jesus, and did not perfectly understand Jesus’ spirit, no matter what the inerrantists might claim.)

10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?

  • 1 Cor 6 – exploitative behavior & its explanation common at the time; masters/slaves pederasty, temple male prostitution stemming from excess of lust
  • They were referring to the sexually immoral, the idolaters, the adulterers, the men who practice homosexuality (malakoi)

11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?

  • They failed to appreciate sexual orientation itself, as well as Greco-Roman sexual mores & system of Pater Familias
  • That slavery is bad, women are dignified human beings or worth, and the world is bigger than my little bubble
  • The presumption of this question is faulty. But I’ll bite. Augustine did not take a literal view of Genesis. What do fundamentalists understand that Augustine failed to grasp? Luther famously felt uncomfortable with the Epistle of James and would have excised it. But it’s included. The Protestants in general accept 66 books of the Bible, where Catholics accept 70. Yet protestants are the upstarts, having been around only 500 years, where Catholics existed for 1500 years before that. The presumption of this question is that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin and Luther, cannot be corrected by a simpleton such as myself. Christianity itself is a grand dialog where no one has the entire truth, but only God.

12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?

  • I’m not familiar with their understanding, so I don’t know. Probably the same arguments that convinced me
  • Ask the homosexuals in those countries
  • I don’t see much need to explain to anyone “What the Bible says”, because I think the idea that the Bible delivers just one specific message on all matters of which it speaks is erroneous. But if there IS a message, it would be “Love God, Love Neighbor” upon which hangs ALL the law and the Prophets.

13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?

  • No. I think they were motivated primarily by political expediency and lust for power
  • They were motivated by societal trends and political pressures just like everyone else
  • No. They were motivated by personal aspirations informed by political realities. As is every politician

14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?

  • I think children do best with parents who love them in stable household
  • Some children do better with a great mother and a great father. Many children have one or both of a terrible mother and terrible father. Many children have great or terrible single parents. Many children have no parents. This is a red herring
  • Mother and Father, are not the only influencers in life. There are aunts, uncles, teachers, coaches, ministers and priests, and friends. Children do best surrounded by a community of people with influencers who are able to teach healthy responses to situations as they arise. The number of unhealthy mothers and fathers out there implies that motherhood and fatherhood are not guarantors of success. This question is tailored too narrowly

15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?

  • Current sociological research shows that when controlling family stability, income, etc. children of LGBT parents are no different than those with straight parents
  • Let’s locate national census data on households with single parents, on orphans and foster children, on academic performance relative to SES, etc A childs ability to thrive depends on so much more than their parents gender
  • There is no valid research to support your implied conclusion. And I don’t have a list of valid studies showing the opposite memorized. But as for the health of gay men in general, I would point to the seminal study done by Evelyn Hooker in her 1957 paper “The Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual

16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?

  • N/A
  • This is a loaded question. Society does privilege children from two parent households (gender aside) because by and large, they tend to have more many, live in better neighbourhoods, access better schools etc. We privilege the wealthy, not those deemed by a church to be “moral” Does the church have a role to play in promoting its view of morality on all families in the country or world? Absolutely not. Or, maybe, if promoting doesn’t mean imposing

17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?

  • Yes it does, but the suggestion that sexual fulfillment is the only reason LGBT people want to marry is offensive

18. How would you define marriage?

  • A union of two people to one, intended to be life long

19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?

  • Define “close” I would restrict immediate family members, grandparent/grandchild/aunt/uncle/nephew/niece/1st cousin due to concerns of exploitation and genetic diseases
  • No

20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?

  • I have no in-principle objection to polygamous marriage. Lots of practical problems, though

21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?

  • Lack of legal clarity for practical issues, property rights, parental rights & custody, estate & inheritance issues, etc

22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?

  • Yes, either age of majority or legal age of consent

23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?

  • No
  • No

24. If not, why not?

  • Marriage is still a unique relationship; not just any relationship qualifies. But I don’t think it’s exclusively 1 man-1 woman
  • Another red herring. Nobody is born a polygamist. People are not born with a desire to marry their relatives. Gay people are born gay. Minorities are born minorities. Neither should be robbed of basic societal privileges and norms and rights because of how they were born

25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?

  • To the extent that their beliefs do not harm or infringe on the rights of others, yes
  • Depends. They are free to exercise their beliefs by not engaging in a homosexual relationship or certain kinds of sexual activity. They are not free to deny others’ basic human dignity. Such denial, in fact, should also go against their religious belief. Particularly if they believe in an inerrant Bible which teaches love thy neighbor and to obey the authorities God hath put in place

26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?

  • To the extent that their beliefs do not harm or infringe upon the rights of others yes
  • Not if they are being jerks
  • In the same way Christians have spoken up for Daniel Kirk?

27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?

  • Yes
  • Yes but not if doing so equates to protecting someone’s right to bully someone else

28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?

  • The same steps as I do for straight marriages
  • What does this mean? Since we haven’t cared in the past, how can we start interfering with marriages now?

29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?

  • Yes, as should straight couples in open relationships. But LGBT couples should not be singled out
  • Nobody should be subject to church discipline

30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?

  • Yes, just like it is for straight persons engaging in sexual activity outside marriage. But because marriage was withheld from them until now, LGBT folk should not be condemned for previous activity
  • Yes

31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?

  • I don’t know. Probably similar to the way they speak against any other sin and injustice
  • Have you asked them?

32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?

  • See 1 Corinthians 13
  • 1 Cor 13:4-8

33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?

  • 1 Corinthians 13
  • 1 Cor 13:4-8

34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?

  • Given that love is the operative verb in the two greatest commands, the question is circular
  • Love others as you love yourself. Turn the other cheek. Be a peacemaker

35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?

  • Yes
  • Yes

36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?

  • Yes
  • Yes

37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?

  • It allows me to actually focus on those issues
  • 1) These questions are labelled as being for Christians, not all of whom are evangelicals. 2) Supporting gay marriage is not inherently at odds with substitution atonement or pursuing the lost. 3) What?

38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?

  • Too many to list. If you’re not aware of any, that’s on you

39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?

  • Yes
  • These are listed as three equals. Christ, the church, the Bible. This is not the trinity in which I place my faith
  • I only follow one of them (hint; there’s a reason why we’re called Christians)

40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?

  • Every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, depravity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, hatred of God, insolence, arrogance, boastfulness, inventing new ways to do evil, disobedience to parents, lack of understanding, infidelity, loveless, merciless

Links to the blogs of other fantastic people who have written some great responses are below:

40 answers for Kevin DeYoung by Ben Irwin

40 responses to 40 questions by Jeff Carter

40 questions for Kevin DeYoung; Now stomping the rainbow flag by John Shore

“40 questions for Christians now waving rainbow flags” by Buzz Dixon

40 answers for Christians now fearing rainbow flag by Ryan Stollar

40 questions for Christians who oppose marriage equality by Matthew Vines

Response to 40 questions by a rainbow flag waving Christian by Dwight Welch

A response to 40 questions for Christians now waiving rainbow flags by Kimberly Knight

40 Answers from a Queer, Rainbow-flag-waving-Christian by Alan Hooker

1 Question for People who won’t wave the Rainbow flag by Alise

To pre-empt the question of whether I will be writing a response to these questions, the answer is no. I was going to, but I’ve been thinking about it and I lack the grace of some my fellow Christians. For me, Kevin DeYoungs questions are neither thought provoking or sincere. They are pointed I’ll grant him that but there’s nothing new here, there’s nothing that those who support marriage equality haven’t thought, studied and prayed long and hard about and if Kevin knew about a small website called Google he’d know that already. I’m not going to play his game.  I will say this though. I don’t wave the rainbow flag because society thinks I must, I do it because my faith doesn’t allow me to do anything else.