I went to my first ever hustings last night. It was held in Hammersmith, a marginal seat in west London, with a Labour incumbent, but a Conservative council.
I was amazed by how many constituents turned up – nearly 300 – especially considering it conflicted with the second Prime Ministerial debate on TV, which a considerable number of people wanted to watch.
The quality of debate between the 4 candidates present (Tory, LibDem, Green, Labour) was pretty humdrum. No matter how hard the questionners tried to elicit personal answers, generally they toe-d the party line and stuck to well-rehearsed messaging.
The one moment when a couple of them appeared to speak a little more from the heart, and seemed to be less well-prepared was when someone asked what they thought about the recent case in which a Bed-and-Breakfast owner refused accommodation to a gay couple. The owners were Christians and refused to implicitly condone homosexual activity by allowing this couple to share a room in their home.
The candidates expressed a measure of sympathy for the owners, noting that they had been brought up in an earlier time, when attitudes were different, but basically said ‘the law is the law; you can’t discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual preferences’ (the last part is a direct quote from one of the candidates, but I forget which).
Three things struck me:
1) None of the candidates considered for a moment that the law might be wrong, or at least in need of review – it exists and now you have to follow it. Full stop.
2) There was no acknowledgement made that there are boundaries to what constitute reasonable sexual preferences – what if, for example, the couple in question had been a man and an under-age boy (or even girl)? If the child gave his/her consent, would the owners have been legally obliged to give them a room, as well as to report the paedophilia to the police?
3) When thinking through what was the right thing for the owners to do, I started wondering whether, in this case, the Godly response would have been to invite the couple in and show them God’s welcoming, forgiving, embracing love.
So far as we know from the Biblical account, Jesus never condemned any of the sinners he encountered in his time on earth, though he was pretty scathing of the self-righteous Pharisees (and I am not equating the B&B owners here with Pharisees – I don’t know them and am in no position to judge their hearts). Sinners who found themselves in Christ’s presence found only love, compassion and the offer of forgiveness and wholeness.
God is deeply grieved by homosexual activity, but no more than by the activities of crooked tax-collectors or ostensibly good ‘rich young rulers’ who put their faith in money, not in Him, and no more than He is by the sins of any one of us which create a separation between Him and ourselves.
This couple are lost souls, desperately in need of healing, forgiveness and restoration. Challenging though it is, we, as God’s ambassadors here on earth, need to represent His transforming love to all sinners.
I do think we need to work towards changing the equality laws, as they are a red herring, deflecting hearts and minds away from loving each other towards legislating for ungodly practises and attitudes under the guise of ‘tolerance’. I also think that, had one of the couple been underage, the owners would have had to give them the room then call the police immediately for the protection of the child.
But the way forward is the much harder road of compassion and generosity which Jesus modelled for us, regardless of the risk to his reputation.