Book Review: Undivided

Vicky Beeching Undivided Review

I’ve been looking forward to reading Vicky’s first book ever since she shared, on Twitter, that she was writing one. Vicky Beeching may or may not be known to readers of this blog – I’veactually been engaging with her online since around 2011. These days, Vicky is likely most known for her LGBT* activism (Which is a major theme of this book) but before coming out in 2014 she was best known to me as one of the more thoughtful and careful Christian bloggers in the UK. Before that, Vicky would be best known to most in the Christian world as a writer and singer of worship songs, some of which are some of the best of their kind. I say all this by way of introduction because to review a book like this – a memoir – is always a difficult thing to do. Which version of a person or part of their story will be left out? What kind of emphasis will the author (Who is also the subject) take?

Vicky’s book has attracted a lot of attention – which is hardly surprising. I think the best response to it is from Peter Ould, a Church of England Priest and Consultant Statistician, who read theology at the same theological college as Vicky, also is attracted to people of the same sex/gender (Yes, yes, I know it is more complicated than that, but Undivided isn’t talking about other aspects of the rainbow as presently conceived) but has come to radically different conclusions.

As a book, Undivided reads beautifully. This is clearly a book written by someone passionate about the craft of writing, gifted with words and the connections between them, and who understands how to engage an audience with a story. Words mean something – how do we explain complex ideas? Spin the truth? Explain and understand the things that happen to us? I found this quote, early on in the narrative of Undivided, quite revealing:

As the news that I was moving to the States sank in, I began the process of applying for an American work permit. Eventually the voluminous paperwork was done, and I boarded a plane to Nashville. The first thing on my calendar was a signing meeting, where, on the top floor of the EMI building, I would put my signature on the long and detailed recorded contract.

My lawyer had already gone over it, so I knew I was getting a fair deal and had his approval. But I was worried about something else – the “morals clause”. Common in acting, athletics, and music deals, a morals clause allows the contract to be legally terminated if the person engages in behaveor that brings disrepute to the employer. What “disrepute” meant in mainstream contrast was open to interpretation, but in the Christian music industry it had faith-based overtones and would be judged by evangelical standards of behaviour. I knew that meant being openly gay or in a same-sex relationship would likely result in a one-way ticket out the door and the crashing and burning of my livelihood.

As Jennifer Knapp, another recording artist, wrote about her own journey in American Christian music: “It’s not unusual to have morality clauses woven into recording contracts … The principal obligation for every artist is to endorse and maintain that same evangelical standard, or look for another job.”

Here, Vicky has already taken a few steps into the evangelical/celebrity/industry culture of music and ‘worship’ that I’m pretty sure Jesus might have something to say about. I felt sorry for her – and deeply glad that I am not creatively talented enough to move in these kinds of circles. But, taking a step back, and noting Vicky’s own understanding of how some UK evangelicals have responded to her book, a few things are worth bearing in mind:

  • Stories develop quickly, beyond our control, and with the input and imagination of people we can never fully know and never fully trust.
  • Vicky was invited into a world she longed for (The Christian music ‘industry’) in spite of her reservations (she was not allowed to be, according to her own understanding, who she felt herself to be) – and this invitation came with caveats.
  • Vicky, in her own words, knew what was going on. This is an observation I make based on her published words – not my opinion – that must surely be borne in mind when thinking about the story that follows. The ‘likely result’, it seems, ‘came true’ when Vicky came out in 2014.

This is a difficult book, then, to review. I don’t want to discount and degrade the personal story of someone earnestly attempting to follow Jesus – even as I might desperately want to interject and invite and challenge regarding a number of the assertions mine. As I wrote back in 2014 before Vicky came out, I don’t want to be inhuman towards her or her story. For example, I found it fascinating that ‘Undivided’ is the title Vicky chose, less nuanced than the lyrics to her song ‘Undivided Heart’.

Personally speaking, I found it very refreshing that Vicky wrote with such honesty about her experience of leadership, ministry, and worship – this opens the doors on the unhealthy aspects of what goes on, as well as giving readers a sense of what to expect. More poignantly, I found Vicky’s reflections on mental health issues, her grappling with eating disorders, and her experience of suffering to be powerful and and thoughtful. This is a personal book – you cannot read or review it without having a sense of the person – but at the same time, it is demonstrably and deeply impersonal. Vicky chose to sign the contract above, knowing what it meant. She chose – and the narrative of Undivided goes into this in fascinating detail to come out to a secular journalist, pursue relationships, and act as an advocate for change in the teaching of the church. Readers can choose, as I have, how to respond. And this is where reviewing an autobiography or memoir gets rather tricky. Undivided is a complicated book, because (I expect) Vicky is a complicated, rich, unfinished and gifted person.

There are also other things that Undivided forces us to think about. Firstly, what I might group into ‘Societa’l reflections. I think Vicky’s experience – even as recorded in this book – should cause those of us in charismatic and evangelical churches (or, indeed, any blend therein) to prayerfully reflect on and think about our idols, our power structures, and our vision of the good life. As an example – a rare example, where the blend of internal church culture, apologetics, social pressures, wider culture comes together on (you’d never guess it) an issue of sex and sexuality, Vicky writes about the writing and ministry of Joshua Harris and the infamous book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. This reviewer felt that it might have been good to note his repentance of the movement that he created, that following Jesus whole-heartedly should never be reduced to one popular book or one story. If that is something that provokes you, dear reader, please do listen to my talk at a conference back in November of 2014, about ‘Postmodern Popes‘. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

As I continue this review – not really engaging with anything new, mindful and sobered by another story of a human being made in the Image of God, I think that the conversation Vicky is trying to engage with (Should the church change it’s doctrine on marriage and sexuality) is actually not the key emphasis of this book. Instead, I think, that Undivided has two things to challenge us with:

  • Firstly, the narrative of ‘conversion stories’, and the weaponisation of personal testimony. I think I’ll need to unpack this more in the future – but, simply put, in order to be ‘biblical’, we need to take stories seriously and at the same time not change our minds because one is particularly moving or well written. Similarly, personal stories should not (in my opinion) be weaponised as an agent for change, simply because they are the experience of just one person, and we could end up playing ‘testimony tennis’, playing one story off against another in a Machiavellian game of one-up-person-ship.
  • Secondly, and most importantly, I think Undivided should challenge us to think more deeply about the contrast between commercial and Christian culture. This tension sings from the pages of Vicky’s book, and is something that I think needs to be talked about and named more often.

Overall, then, Undivided has not convinced me to change my mind about the church’s teaching on sex and marriage. It is, however, a powerful challenge to a number of other shibboleths, and another essential memoir of a person caught up in the tensions of our culture and our churches. I can’t recommend it, but I look forward to talking to friends who have read it and want to continue to dialogue about the multitude of things that Vicky touches on.


I think that Peter Ould has engaged best with this book. Peter Lynas for the EA has also made some good points, though some have criticised a few sentences for tone. For a more helpful and pastoral angle, in terms of books that take a similar method (Sharing a personal story) but reach different conclusions, check out Champagne Rosaria Butterfield’s Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting, and David Bennett’s forthcoming A War of Loves.

If, like me, you are involved in relating to and pastoring people grappling with this issue, then I’d encourage you to check out A Better Story and Mere Sexuality as two books which go much deeper and wider than any of the above. For my full bibliography on sex and gender issues, which I update regularly and try to cover all angles, check out this blog post.

21 Responses

  1. Jason

    Hi Tom, thanks for the thoughtful review – as ever. Picking up the weaponizing of stories. Evangelicals have many faults, like everyone. One is an inability to listen to others. We are supposed to be the group around the Gospel engaging others. Instead, we are often the most malicious closed-minded bigotted religious lunatics. You in passing offer a link to one of the most deplorable examples of Christian animus with the link to David Robertson’s blog. His blog is an exemplar of the weaponizing by Christians against LGBTQ+ people. Yet you offer no comment on it, but just throw it in there like a hand grenade. Even if Vicky Beeching was completely wrong about the bible and her identity, monstrous, and vindictive posts like Robertson’s need calling out. His open letter is one of a very angry straight white man, not even a dog whistle but a Trumpesque rally cry for those unable to listen and offer any grace and good news. BTW I hope you are not implying Vicky is weaponizing her own story – it is her story. Straight white evangelical men need to be listening and seeking to understand. We have been so useless at that, we ought to hand out heads in shame at how we continue to shame others. Roberston’s post is a public stoning by a Pharisee.

    • Tom Creedy

      Hi, Jason. Thanks for commenting – really appreciate it.

      Not sure quite what you are addressing regarding evangelicalism – I wonder how you might relate to it given this comment.

      I think, personally, that calling David’s post ‘one of the most deplorable examples of Christian animus’ is pretty outrageous. He recognises that Vicky has been treated badly. He also engages with what she says – not just what we want her to say. I haven’t said that David’s writing is good, or bad, or anything, I’ve just pointed to it as another interpretation of what Vicky is saying. I’m surprised to read you claiming that he is Pharasaical – even a critical reading *should* (in my opinion!) see that this is not what he is trying to do.

      I also think that we all weaponise our stories. Vicky is certainly offering her story up into the battleground – whatever that might mean.

      Thanks again for your comment, Jason. I hope I’ve understood it.

      • Jason

        Dearest Tom,

        I stand by my claim about David Robertson’s blog. A man who in his post thinks it is wrong to ban conversion therapy (good grief does he support torture too?), and that celibacy is a command for those who don’t fit his understanding of biblical sexuality. Then these quotes: “You love the stage. You love to perform. Now you are just doing the same thing for a different audience”, then this ” You offer a beauty which is ugly, a diversity which is uniformity, a freedom from shame which is an enslavement to sin, an ‘authenticity’ that is fake, a wholeness which is broken, a peace that is war.” That goes far beyond engaging with any issues and attacks the person. Why impute motives to someone like this? Why?

        What a deplorable, and cruel way to address someone by a church leader. I can’t abide this any longer. It is not acceptable to let middle class straight white men speak about others like this. I won’t have my friends and church members and nonchristian friends think it is ok to use public platforms to spew invective at others.

        If you think Robertson’s post was acceptable then you and I are going to have a hard time charting waters in the discussion. Try to imagine the vineyard pastor who called me this week after reading Robertson’s post, whose daughter has recently come out as gay, who read his article together – they are distraught at how Robertson would speak in this way as they wrestle with this issue. It has driven them further away from any discussion about the issues you think valid in Robertson’s post.

        How we respond is as important if not more than what we respond to. Evangelicals have the most appalling history for how they have engaged with LGBTQ+ people and not despite what they believe but because of what they believe. If they ever want to be listened to, that behavior needs to change.

  2. Jason

    p.s and Peter Ould playing the ‘revisionist’ dog whistle card…another weaponising tactic by Evangelicals. They/we need to do better.

    • Tom Creedy

      Hi, Jason – thanks again for a comment. I appreciate you holding me to account and asking difficult questions.

      I’m not sure that ‘revisionist’ should mean what you are implying it means. Are you genuinely suggesting that Christians should revise and replace the consistent witness of Scripture in favour of one book/story/blog post? I know that that is unfair – hence my question. What is wrong with calling Vicky revisionist? I know Peter would have a deeper understanding of that.

      We do need to do better – and I think that calling things properly by their name is part of that. Looking forward to talking about this in person!

  3. Liam Beadle

    The problem with calling Vicky a ‘revisionist’ is primarily that it is unlikely to be a label Vicky and those who stand with her would choose. ‘Revisionism’ implies doctrinal change, and you yourself jump to suggest that is what Vicky and some other LGBT Christian leaders are proposing. However, their contention is not that doctrine needs to be revised, but that their reading of scripture leads them to conclude that Christian faithfulness does not mean Christian LGBT people must remain single or marry someone of the opposite sex. That is not necessarily doctrinal revisionism, and suggestions that it is are appealing only to two groups: first, the nervous conservative evangelical for whom faithfulness to the tradition is a crucial lens for reading scripture (and I would sympathise with him or her, to some extent); and secondly, the extreme liberal who places human experience above the authority of Scripture and the tradition, and who would rejoice in Revisionism with a capital ‘R’. There is a danger that by grouping those who are reading scripture differently with those who are simply rejecting scripture by calling both ‘revisionists’, conservative evangelicals are playing into the hands of extreme liberals.

    • Tom Creedy

      Hi, Liam, thanks for commenting!

      I think you raise a good point – but at the same time ‘revisionist’ is an accurate term, particularly as Vicky is attempting to persuade the church to change its doctrine and teaching. I’m surprised you aren’t comfortable with the term – I appreciate that it might be loaded – and so would welcome your comments on what term to use instead.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  4. Jason

    the main problem with all these online reviews is they perpetuate the stereotype of white middle-class straight men, giving a good kicking to a vulnerable woman.

    Revisionist – a technical term that most read as a pejorative unless they are up to speed on the debate. Almost as bad as people who want to throw the word ‘biblical’ before every statement.

    The Wea Flea: a deplorable review, a man trying to shame Vicky from an ‘open letter’

    Peter Lynas: His sentence on Vicky’s finances now reads “It is difficult to reconcile the apparent contradiction that the Christian music scene she describes left her with no money in the bank, with talk of giving up a glittering music career.” and was updated from something even more insinuating. This was rather distasteful – why go there at all, and impute financial motives?

    Again the knee-jerk evangelical reaction to posture, pontificate, react and issue statements to denounce. No wonder the world looks on and more and more Christians are pushed into polarising reactions. We can and should do better.

    Vicky is one of us, not one of ‘them’ and an ‘other’. Why oh why can’t straight white evangelical men stop issuing a statement like these and instead offer a relationship, discussion and support.

    For example how about people really concerned rock up to Vicky with a financial gift and offer of relationship and prayer support. No need to give up any theological concerns you have to do that. Then model discussion as a friend, not an adversary needing to correct someone.

    • Tom Creedy

      Just to say to anyone following my and Jason’s interaction – we’ve taken our conversation offline (literally!)

      Cheers,

      Tom

  5. Lyn

    I found Vicky’s book deeply moving. Reading some of the responses has made me very ashamed, in the same way that reading some of her story made me ashamed.

    As well as ashamed it made me feel very sad that people can feel so alone. I agree with Jason’s comment about reaching out as a friend. More than perfect doctrine we all need friends who will stand by
    us and help us to find Jesus in our pain.
    Vicky has told her story well and it can’t be dissected as it’s her story. Yes we do need good doctrine but we won’t always agree on what that is. For me Vicky has raised massive questions about how we as pastors care for people at the deepest level in a way that is honouring to Jesus and gives dignity to them. She has made me far more determined to grapple further with Scripture and other theologians and to pray that the Spirit would show us how to behave and discuss and listen and love one another. There are people in our families and congregations whose lives depend on it, because we are responsible for who we bless and who we curse.

    • Tom Creedy

      Hey, Lyn, thank you so much for commenting, I really appreciate it!

      Your heart really comes out in the comment, and I am so grateful for you sharing it.

      I wonder if I can push back slightly – you wrote “we do need good doctrine but we won’t always agree on what that is”. I would say that this is the key issue at play here. We can’t simply pretend that this is a disputable issue or something that we haven’t thought about – as you say, people are what we are called to, not propositions.

      I’ve engaged online elsewhere about caring for people – and I wonder if I didn’t make that clearer in my review. As I noted, there is a real tension in Vicky’s book/story between desiring to be known and loved, whilst at the same time feeling the need to hide, and being on the road a lot for her career/calling/ministry. This latter point is important – we can’t sustain, I don’t think, meaningful relationships without being in proximity to one another. The internet can help – but also hinder – us as we seek to do that. I think Jason and my interaction above is an example of that – we are probably a lot closer to each other on the substantive issues, but the impersonal black and white of a comments box is difficult to get the colour and nuance that in-person dialogue would give us.

      You are of course absolutely right that we should ever dig deeper and care for others better. And I think Jason is right that the language that is used is an important part of that. For that reason, I’ve removed the link to David Robertson’s review, though I may blog about that later.

      Thanks again for commenting, Lyn.

  6. Steve Burnhope

    Dear Tom,

    For those who don’t know me, I am someone who counts Tom as a highly respected friend (as indeed, I do Jason), so what I say should be read within those parameters. I am also someone who does not engage in blog forums very often (I’m not even sure I’m using the right term). I’m a PhD in systematic theology and a Vineyard pastor.

    I feel compelled to contribute something here because I am appalled and saddened at the manner of certain of the “reviews” that Vicky’s book has received to which, Tom, you draw attention, with apparent approval — otherwise, presumably, you would not have cited them.

    I’m going to focus here on David Robertson’s post. The accepted ground rules of academic debate, when engaging on subjects about which we may disagree, are to be polite, thoughtful and reasoned. Not vituperative, aggressive and cynically nasty towards the individual. Those, in contrast, are the tactics of fundamentalists (which, as Bebbington and others have observed, is a trait that unfortunately lies just below the surface in certain quarters of evangelicalism).

    Vicky’s book is not presented as a theological work. She is sharing a personal story, of how she experienced things, and the traumas and dilemmas that she faced along the way. Vulnerably, graciously, and not in the least vituperatively. Yes, of course, she speaks (from a personal perspective) about the relevant Bible texts, and the evangelical church’s teaching on what they ‘obviously do’ and ‘obviously don’t’ mean, that she’s grown up with, and how she has discovered the work of a number of respected biblical scholars who are questioning whether a ‘plain reading’ of “what it says”, devoid of any further consideration as to “what it means” (on the grounds that it’s simply ‘obvious’), is fully adequate in the light of societal changes. Societal changes in and of themselves don’t make right things that are wrong, of course, but if we are to have credibility in a world that will very largely read Vicky’s book with empathy we must do better than the kind of nastiness that runs like a sinister thread through Mr Robertson’s “review”.

    Tom, I’m not asking you to change your traditionalist view on sexuality, simply to read that review and say whether you continue to be happy to endorse it as helpful reading.

    If ‘winning the argument’ about same-sex relationships requires this kind of rhetoric, to treat our ‘opponents’ in that way, then surely we must question whether it’s an argument worth winning. Put differently, how likely are the people who read Vicky’s book, and then read the Robertson “review” alongside it, to be drawn to Mr Robertson’s type of Christianity, to be won over to this understanding of the “good news”? I am not (for the avoidance of doubt) talking about the theology of what he believes, but the belligerence of his attitude and language. You are perhaps aware of one of the definitions of a fundamentalist: “an evangelical who is angry about something.” Other well-known characteristics of fundamentalists include: an unwillingness to engage with the text beyond a plain reading of “the Bible says” (a rejection of hermeneutical method, seen as ‘modernist’); hence, an implicit rejection of the classic Reformers creed, that we must keep on reforming (our understandings) according to the word of God; and, what’s been dubbed ‘cognitive intransigence’.

    To keep this short, I will not cite the numerous examples in the Robertson blog, but here’s just one that has not yet been noted: “When I read your book there is another more obvious thought that crosses my mind – I don’t think you have left the Christian faith because I’m not sure you were ever in it – other than at a very superficial level. You may have been in the faith in a broadly cultural sense, but were you ever in Christ? Your Christianity seems to have been an outer clothing, a cultural badge, but in your own words it was clearly not your heart. You loved the things and the fruit of Christianity but you didn’t love Christ. Or at least there is no evidence of that. The idols of celebrity, family, self and culture were pre-dominant.”

    Are you still happy to endorse this as ‘helpful’? Questioning whether she is even a Christian?

    Jason is right about using the word “Pharisee” — it’s original meaning is not hypocrite (that’s just theological anti-Judaism speaking) but someone who was passionate about truth and blamed the woes of their faith and the state of their world on the sinfulness of the people. As a result, they lost sight of the love of God for people and overstated the judgement of God against sinfulness. They were determined to take a stand against unrighteousness in all its forms (as they saw it).

    Finally, in appeal to the academic in you, when you offer a list of “helpful resources” for people seeking faithfully to discern what the Spirit is saying through the scriptures on these subjects, why would you not include well-researched, scholarly works that reach a different conclusion to you and other traditionalist conservatives? Academics do not seek to suppress works with which they may personally disagree (rather, they want to hear and consider their research). Might you not provide (in good faith) a list also of all the best works that come to different conclusions to yours, so that interested people can read and consider those as well?

    NB this is not just a critique of you, since it’s a tendency I’ve noticed in others who offer “helpful resources” from one direction only!

    • Tom Creedy

      Hey, Steve, thanks for commenting!

      I’ll have to add ‘respected friend like Jason Clark’ to my resume’…

      Thanks for such a thoughtful comment. As you’ll notice, I’ve removed the link to David’s review. I agree that some of the language in that review was unhelpful – but at the same time, I’d push back on the particular example you give. I agree that *He* should probably not have written that in a review of a book, but I do think that the question (in the context of community) is one that has to be on the table. Hear what I’m saying – I am not saying I don’t think Vicky is a Christian, and I’m not saying that David was right to write that she isn’t. What I’m saying is that a valid question, in community, is whether or not a view or person is Christian. Certainly in our small group, we’ve had people interrupt conversation or study to say ‘you know what, I’m not sure I’m actually a Christian’ – they’d not felt they could discuss that before, and it was fascinating. So whilst I wouldn’t accuse someone of that, at least not directly (it might feel implied from a sermon/reading of something like James!), it has to be a topic or question that isn’t out of bounds.

      On the resources front, I’ve been hosting a list that does exactly that on my blog for over four years. I’ve just updated the blog post above with a link to it. I also think it’s worth noting that this blog is blend of academic and ‘normal’ – I don’t think someone seriously engaged with these issues is going to find ‘Undivided’ a new contribution, so I’ve recommended some resources that I think will help and will bring healthy conversations and life. I don’t feel I’m suppressing anything – indeed, I read and review books of all persuasions on a range of topics regularly – but I do feel there is a responsibility in the way I feel called to write this blog to be honest about what I think will be helpful.

      I’m always open to new suggestions, so do send any and all my way…

  7. Jason

    Tom sorry to continue here, with regards to Robertson’s review, you now say “I agree that some of the language in that review was unhelpful”, whilst confirming the importance of language.

    Steve above has quoted just one example from Roberston, I repeat it here:

    “When I read your book there is another more obvious thought that crosses my mind – I don’t think you have left the Christian faith because I’m not sure you were ever in it – other than at a very superficial level. You may have been in the faith in a broadly cultural sense, but were you ever in Christ? Your Christianity seems to have been an outer clothing, a cultural badge, but in your own words it was clearly not your heart. You loved the things and the fruit of Christianity but you didn’t love Christ. Or at least there is no evidence of that. The idols of celebrity, family, self and culture were pre-dominant.”

    Is that really merely unhelpful? The mild reduction of helpful. Is that the totality of your judgments on Robertson? I wonder what he would he have to have said to move into a different category for you beyond a tame ‘unhelpful’?

    His language in this one quote, is vituraptive, denigrating, calumniate, vile, defaming, undermining and demeaning.

    Beyond the actual issues involved in LGBTQ+, what is at stake here is the nature of discourse. If you consider quotes like this merely ‘unhelpful’, I am unsure how we can ever get to dialogue about the issues.

    It’s one thing conceptually to be able to ask if you know if you are a Christian and quite another to query the salvation fo someone else in this way. If Vicky Beeching is not a Christian then no-one is. Shame on anyone who stoops so low to query the status of someone’s salvation and relationship with Jesus, and of this beautiful, godly, Christlike woman.

    • Tom Creedy

      Hey, Jason, no worries, and I am trying to hear you.

      As you’ll see above, I’ve removed the link to Robertson’s review. I’ve done that partly out of respect for you and your challenge to me – which I appreciate. I’ve also done that because I think I agree with you that linking to it is not building people up. I still think there are aspects of his review which are useful – but that the bad outweighs the good.

      I’d also observe that we need to be careful of not making the errors we call others out on. I have not personally said anything about Vicky’s salvation – as I’ve stressed, that is a conversation to be had between friends in real Christian community. I’ve removed the link to David’s review – and I’d suggest that you contact him, as I’ve found him to be open to engagement, even if that doesn’t change anything substantive.

      I’m a bit concerned about you taking my usage of one word ‘unhelpful’ and extrapolating it to a wider conversation. If we want to seriously think about what the Spirit is doing and saying to us and the Church in this season and on this issue, we cannot ignore those who claim the name of Christ and yet whose words and ideas might horrify us. Surely this cuts both ways – hence I read both Robertson and Beeching, Gagnon and Vines, etc – however much any of us at different times might find that difficult.

      I would gladly observe that Robertson was wrong to say there was no evidence that Vicky loved Christ – I’d certainly agree that that is an untrue statement insofar as we can observe the lives of others at a distance. I *might* see myself saying that to someone I’m in a discipling relationship with, but I agree it is inappropriate for an at-distance relationship. I’d agree that there is some defaming and undermining and demeaning language in the review. I’m not quite sure what you are looking for from me in an online comment – we are now discussing a review of a book that I used to link to from my review, and that I have now removed. That isn’t to say that the point is moot, but I’d observe that this conversation could now be left to lie until we can eat and drink together.

  8. Steve Burnhope

    Tom,

    I’m appreciative of you removing the link to the Robertson “review” (but a little disappointed that the only reason is because “some of his language was not helpful”) but, as with Jason, I’m not sure that you can quite bring yourself to put clear water between you and him, simply because he is a person coming at it from what you would say is “your side” of a debate (and therefore you continue to have considerable underlying sympathy for what he says).

    I am not speaking on either side of the debate, per se; rather, I am saying I would be equally strong against the attitude, rhetoric and plain aggression nakedly on display here if it was coming from the “other side”. I am shocked that this language and behaviour can in any way be justified on the grounds of defending “sound doctrine” or the “enormity of the issues at stake.”

    Let me offer you a number of other quotations to ask you, please, whether you think these are also within the category of “some of the language in that review” that was “unhelpful” or, whether you think it is “justifiable critique”:

    “She now has a new career as a darling of the regressive establishment, as they continue their ‘redefinition’ of the Christian faith. Her new career has resulted in numerous media appearances, an award from the Archbishop of Canterbury and a new book.”

    “This is the world that you wanted so much that you were prepared to suppress your ‘identity’ in order to be part of it. In passing I note that you seem to want what I despise in the evangelical world and despise what I love!”

    “They were not remotely interested in you when you were just a Christian singer – but the minute you come out as an LGBTQI+ spokesperson, they are all over you. They didn’t want to hear about your Christianity before, now they want to hear about your views – not because your views are Christian, but because they reflect theirs and they can now use your views to attack and demonise further Christians who hold to the Bible’s teaching. You are exhibit number 1 of how evangelical Christianity ‘oppresses and suppresses’. They love you for providing them with that ammunition.”

    “There is another hypocrisy that comes across in the book. Your own. You knew you were attracted to people of the same sex. You knew you were gay. You also knew that you wanted a career in a world (the American Christian music scene) where coming out as gay would prevent that. You made the choice to stay ‘in the closet’. This was not a choice that was forced upon you. You were the person who decided that your career was more important than your ‘identity’. But in this book you turn the tables and claim that you were the one being victimised by hypocrites.”

    “You admit that you pretended to be one thing and then came out as another – but why blame the church for your hypocrisy! I’m sorry for using such a strong word, but I want to be as honest as you are in your (correct) accusations of the hypocrisy of some within the church. It’s as though you are seeking to justify your hypocrisy by saying ‘they made me do it’! It’s like a small child when confronted with a particular wrongdoing saying ‘the devil made me do it’ – only in this case the devil is the evangelical church – which in the eyes of your new friends, (gay activists and liberal Christians) is pretty well the same thing!”

    “You speak about the church as being responsible for doctrines you imply you no longer agree with – apparently it was the ‘church’ (the evangelical one which you are now rejecting) not the bible which taught that sex before marriage was wrong, that pornography was wrong, that married pastors who had affairs should be fired. Do you now accept these things as legitimate? How far down the socially progressive rabbit hole have you gone? You seem to have bought into the complete ‘regressive’ package (the church is always behind the times and needs to become more like society, the Bible is not the infallible word of God etc.”

    “You love the stage. You love to perform. Now you are just doing the same thing for a different audience. You delight in working for corporations and big companies to help them with their ‘diversity’ programmes (what I would call indoctrination and intimidation programmes). It seems to me that you have replaced the stage of the Corporate Christian music scene for the stage of the Capitalist Corporations seeking to virtue signal and impose their ideologies about society, whilst they get on with exploiting as many people as they can.”

    Would you not agree that the above represents a significant proportion of the word count in his entire “review”?

    I am ashamed on behalf of conservative evangelicalism (of which I am a part) and deeply apologetic to Vicky and others like her struggling with these issues, that they have to deal with this kind of abuse.

    Seriously: are these “points” more likely to win friends and influence people to the conservative side of this debate, or, cause them to recoil?

  9. Luke Geraty

    I must say that I find the suggestion that one can’t engage and evaluate a person’s public work, which is sold and intent on persuading folks to their side, a bit problematic, for numerous reasons.

    When one enters the public square to exchange ideas, it seems quite important to engage their views, partially out of respect for their willingness to go on record with their ideas.

    So thanks for doing that, Tom.

    Now the content of one’s review is fair game, so I can also appreciate any pushback in the discussion! That’s great! And healthy! And helpful!

    But chastising someone and telling them just to listen and keep their comments on a published work… nope. That seems quite wrong headed.

    • Tom Creedy

      Thanks for your comment, Luke, appreciate what you are saying.

  10. Steve Burnhope

    Certainly Luke, it is simply the manner of ‘engaging with and evaluating’ someone’s ideas that I am commenting on. Entirely happy that public work should receive public comment, and nor need it be in agreement. It’s just that I would ask for the generally recognised rules of scholarly discourse to be respected, rather than descend to the vitriol and personal attacks (including, unkind insinuations) that we have come to expect of fundamentalism. I also think that her story and experiences are far more common than we realise and therefore we need to listen (and ask ourselves deep questions) rather than simply engaging at an ‘I disagree with you doctrinally’ level, as if that’s all that’s involved here.

  11. Luke Geraty

    Oh Steve… I love when you type things like “generally recognised rules of scholarly discourse,” obviously 😉

    Anyway, of course. And as I noted above, that stuff is fair game. But that’s different than, “you should just listen,” no? And your point is the type of push back that I think is helpful in relation to methodology and engagement. Reading the review in question, I’m inclined to agree with you regarding it not being helpful. So I equally appreciate Creedy’s willingness to rethink its inclusion.

    Obviously.

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