The obsession of many Western Christian leaders with “inclusivity” has brought sexual politics and its activists into the church, turning off many seeking a simple solution to their faith, not depictions of gay sex on the altar.
The decline in membership of the Church of Sweden should accelerate this Advent thanks to one place of worship in Malmo deciding it needed to enhance its woke credentials despite the risk of upsetting Christians elsewhere.
On the first day of the Christmas season, and try not to simply raise your eyebrows yet, it chose to unveil its new altarpiece, a homoerotic painting depicting black and white gays and lesbians cavorting naked. Oh, and the work is by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin, herself a lesbian in case there was any doubt about her allegiances.
Of course the Church of Sweden thinks this is brilliant. Maybe that partly explains why in 1972 around 95 percent of Swedes belonged to the church, while only 57 per cent identified with it last year.
Church leaders extoll the virtues of the new altarpiece as a sign of inclusion, allowing more people to identify their position within this particular branch of Christianity.
And this is the crazy bit.
While there are some who will still pronounce Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination,” as their reason, and it has to be said, their right, for choosing to be offended, many others will see this for what it really is, the politics of identity activists crossing the church threshold, barging up the central aisle and declaiming: “Look at me, I’m LGBT!” from the pulpit while waving a big rainbow flag.
Needless to say, this is where the political left is these days. Bereft of any sort of real social policy, it has merged into one messy lump of identity politics where who you are is key and what you think, well that doesn’t really matter, because who you are says it all.
You get the self-righteousness of the Church of Sweden, insisting on inclusivity, when these days no one is even talking about exclusivity. Christianity is at such a crucial point that no one is turned away. “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). And that has always been the understanding. Turn no one away.
When the LGBT community asks why it suffers from such a negative perspective in the Bible, it is important to explain that while those stories and interpretations were written 2,000 years ago, most modern Christians don’t really care about your bedroom preferences or your sexual identity.
In fact, how the whole sex issue has hijacked nearly every conversation about religion and politics is one of the wonders of the First World because for those international Christian organisations trying to understand how measles can kill more than 5,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2019, for those national Christian organisations fighting homelessness on the streets of one of the largest Western capital cities in the world, and for those local Christian organisations collecting tinned food to feed the poor and elderly who cannot afford to feed themselves this winter in the UK, sexual politics are irrelevant.
To the Swedish left in the 21st century, with all the wealth of a modern Western democracy at their disposal and the indulgence that comes with that, complacency has set in, a decadent fiddling with symbols, at the expense of their core mission. For them, an LGBT stunt draws short-term attention, virtue signals to the whole world, and brings identity politics to the fore once again, exactly where these “modernisers” want it.
The thing is, that may not be what those seeking a lasting connection with the Christian faith are after and the insistent clamour about “inclusivity” is having the reverse of the desired effect. Do followers of Jesus really want to pray in a church whose sacred spaces are decorated by an interracial orgy, with a serpent depicted as a “transsexual woman”?
And when in the near future, the priests of the Church of Sweden may look out at the pews that are not just emptying but deserted, they will have no one to blame but themselves.
By Damian Wilson, UK journalist & political communications specialist
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