Back in 2014, a young Christian man by the name of Troy Williams was sacked by Scripture Union in Tasmania for posting a quote by a gay activist author, Camille Paglia on Facebook.
Camille Paglia is a well-known lesbian academic, cultural historian and social critic who has worked as a university professor in the United States for almost 40 years. Her words are often blunt.
“Homosexuality is not normal… On the contrary, it is a challenge to the norm. Nature exists whether academics like it or not. And in nature, procreation is the single relentless rule. Our sexual bodies were designed for reproduction.”1
Paglia also believes that men and women were happier when women were gathered around the tub doing the washing up and the men were outside with their heads under the bonnet of a car. Paglia can withstand whatever criticism she gets because she has status. She’s a radical from the 60’s and has her seat among the cool kids.
Troy, as a young Christian man wanting to be faithful to his Lord, does not have such a seat.
In posting something on Facebook that runs against the current madness, Troy’s actions pose a dilemma for any para-church organisation working in a secular environment. One of those dilemma’s is the temptation to prioritise the protection of the brand, the organisations public image, above image of God.
In the case of Scripture Union, protecting the brand included protecting the source of funding (in this case, government funding) and protecting the organisation from accusation of homophobia (whatever that may mean).
Jesus commands us to use wisdom and prudence when dealing with the outside world. But this does not mean protecting “the brand”, or our public image, from criticism at the cost of concealing a true witness or distorting the image of the Lord Jesus, whose branding and name we bear.
In the case of Troy Williams, Scripture Union had a choice. They had entangled and yoked themselves unequally with Caesar and now needed to either side with the demands of Caesar and the current culture or bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
Here was the response2 by Tony Wilson, the Chairman of Scripture Union in Tasmania at the time.
“We asked [Williams] to take that post down… we thought we had to take action so we did not get ongoing debate… that would cause the chaplaincy programme to come into disrepute.”
In other words, they wanted to avoid being in opposition with the morality of the world as this could impact their reputation.
Wilson went on to explain the reasoning behind the dismissal. “The gay community is likely to say that you will discriminate if you have got certain views. We have to make sure they don’t have that opportunity.”
Here the priorities are clearly laid down. The issue was not the need for discipline for any sin which Troy may have committed. The issue was brand protection. The priority, Wilson says, is to avoid having (or declaring) certain views which other may find unpopular.
Discrimination here is inescapable. Scripture Union had to pick a side. They could honour an alliance in order to keep their funding and keep the Lavender Lobby at bay, or they could to publicly endorse the truth behind Troy’s Facebook post. They could stand with a brother who is attempting to proclaim the truth or they could take their seat among the scoffers. They could have even sacked Troy for being a goose (if in fact he was a goose), while at the same time endorsing a biblical position on sexual morality.
Sadly, the declared priority for Scripture Union turned out to be protecting the reputation of the brand from any accusation that it was blaspheming one of our little cultural gods.
This is a temptation that can be found in all walks of life.
It can be found in a Christian home where parents are trying to protect the family name by justifying, excusing or concealing their sons fornication. It can be found in Christian schools seeking academic status from the world or the embarassing spectacle of a 40-plus minister of a city church trying to emulate the surrounding youth culture.
Image matters. What we image to the world is a reflection of the god we actually serve, not the God we say we serve. And the stakes are high and should cause us to tremble.
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33)
We are ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though we all stumble in many things, our task is straight forward enough. That is, to set forth the image of the invisible God in the face of Jesus Christ. To declare God’s truth and His Lordship over all the earth with full courage and all humility.
May God give you that courage and that humility, equal to the task.