Praying away the gays: some responses from people who disagree with my last post

I’m not one to shy away from criticism. And I enjoy a good conversation where different ideas are presented and debated in the marketplace of ideas.

It’s fair to say that I have, in the past, been quite critical of those lobbying our politicians, from the outside, for the legislation of Christian moral values. Because I think on the whole it’s bad for the mission of the gospel. These groups don’t talk about Jesus enough. They tackle issues that play well with the people who fund them, but ignore the issues I think Jesus would have been concerned about in modern Australia. They confuse people about what the gospel is because they talk about morality, but not forgiveness, and sin but not grace. That’s my case. It’s not that I disagree with their views (or God’s views) on what sin is and isn’t. It’s just that I don’t think running around pretending the sky is falling in, and that the world will end if the word marriage is redefined (polygamy anybody?), is constructive for telling people how to find their identity in Jesus. And I think it’s often unloving to the minorities they choose to single out.

A friend shared the link to my post about “pray away the gay” on her Facebook wall. She has some involvement with the ACL and Family First, and many of her friends are card carrying members of the Christian right. Particularly one Jack Sonnemann, it’s fair to say he disagreed with my post. I sought his permission to post the conversation in the interest of presenting you, dear reader, with a “balanced” approach to the issue. Here it is, uncensored. There are moment when he refers to some comments from other people on the same thread – whose permission I haven’t received.

Feel free to respond to either of us in the comments – I will be supplying Jack with a link to this post. I don’t know if he’ll chime in though, but I will be inviting him to.

A conversation with Jack Sonnemann, Director, Australian Federation for the Family

Jack Sonnemann
I read the st-eutychus link and thought it to be pure unadulterated crap.

Nathan Campbell
Thanks Jack. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much and provided such constructive feedback.

Jack Sonnemann
I am very glad to have my battle scars standing up for Jesus in the public arena. I was just given a GLORIA award by the sodomite community for being one of the 10 most effective men in Australia thwarting the implimentation of the homosexual agenda, given an “Outstanding Achievement Award in Federal Parliament for protecting women and children from sexual exploitation, I have been featured, attacked and defamed in ALL of Australia’s porn publications, sued in the Supreme Court by one of our states Atty Gen, “targeted for destruction” by the professional pornographers, etc. There is a price to pay for our Christianity but I am afraid Sir Weary Dunlop was correct when he said, “The problem with Australia is that we have wimps in the pulpits and cowards in the pews.”

Nathan Campbell

Hi Jack. That’s great. I’m thrilled you’ve got scars and awards. I’m thrilled you’re protecting people. I’m just worried that the gospel of grace easily becomes a gospel of morality when we’re only ever quoted on moral issues in the public sphere and I’d prefer my pulpit to be used telling people the gospel and having them realise they need to reinvent their identity in Christ. Not telling people that they’re abominations or horrible sinners.
Jack Sonnemann
What a shame you do not know the gospel of grace is a moral one. Apparently you take authority over your pulpit. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards is heresy to you?
Jack Sonnemann
Sorry. We do have a better guide than reason and I have even had God’s Holy Word – just a guess but I think you are a Obama (who calls the Koran holy) sympathiser – printed in Penthouse magazine.
Nathan Campbell

Yes Jack.I’m sure it’s this sort of balanced approach to understanding people you disagree with that won you your sodomites award.I’m sorry, I can’t tell if you’re deliberately interpreting my words in the most twisted way possible. There’s a difference between telling people they need to not be sinners to be right with God (moralism) and telling people they need Jesus because all people are sinful and have turned away from God (the gospel). The problem is that the media don’t really handle nuance all that well when reporting our opposition to immorality, and we often don’t nuance what we say well, so the overwhelming perception of what the gospel is is that people need to be good to be saved.

I don’t really understand any of your second comment about Obama or Penthouse magazine.

Jack Sonnemann

Vikki Nathan just doesn’t get it. No wonder we lead the developed world in violent and sexual assault, no wonder we lead the world in amphetamine and marijuana use, no wonder our children kill themselves more than anywhere else in the world, no wonder abotrion is our most common operation, we allow our daughters to become whores and we sell and display pornography to our children under such “Christian” leadership. Sadly I am reminded of Neh 4 where we are supposed to fight for our wives, daughters, sons and families yet the men turned back in the day of battle. A good definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. I, for one, will continue to fight. Eph 5:11
Nathan Campbell
Jack, this has been a fun conversation. I’m thrilled that somehow I am responsible for marijuana use (amongst other things) because I think we should be telling people they need Jesus.Glad to have virtually met you. Do you mind if I reproduce this conversation as a post on my blog? It presents a very different view to my original post, and I’m not afraid of criticism of my ideas.
Nathan Campbell
Though I can’t say I feel like you’ve been particularly logical in your treatment of my statements, or particularly fair in your assessment of my character.
Jack Sonnemann
I care not what you think of my comments and you can always post anything I say wherever you like. Just be sure you quote me fully as some just do a half-***ed job.
Nathan Campbell
Hmm. I’ll quote you in full, except I’ll avoid foul language and slightly censor that last comment. And I’ll provide a link here for you to check in case you feel like I’ve misrepresented you.
Jack Sonnemann
Sorry to have hurt your ‘feelings’. I can see how important they are to you.
Nathan Campbell
Hi Jack, I’m pretty thick skinned. I just think the way you’re treating me in this thread, someone you’ve never met who owns the name of Jesus, who is a brother in the Lord, demonstrates one of the inconsistencies with your approach to politics. Given that Jesus says the world will know that we are his disciples by how we love one another…
Nathan Campbell
If this sort of bullying approach to disagreement is the way you approach political discourse I’m going to suggest that your manner is as problematic to me as the content of your message.

Nathan Campbell

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Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His Daughter. His Son. Coffee. And the Internet. He is currently a campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of the last 8 years working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online.

7 responses to Praying away the gays: some responses from people who disagree with my last post

  1. Wow. That’s pure mental – almost like thought disorder. Thanks for posting this – it’s a bit of an eye-opener.

  2. I’ve read some of your posts regarding the issue of Christian involvement in politics, and on the whole I think you make very good arguments. But I’m yet to be convinced that there’s no place for Christian lobbying, etc. You say “I don’t want to sound like I’m advocating political quietism, where Christians never speak out on issues”, calling it a cop out, but you seem to be against Christians speaking on issues, unless it can concurrently point people to Christ (is this a fair statement?).

    What do you think of Christians in politics? Is there a place for them? Should they oppose “moral” issues, such as same-sex marriage (the topical issue in your last couple of posts)? If so, when asked to explain their position, should they use exclusively theological arguments and make sure they bring Jesus and forgiveness into it?

    And if there is a place for Christian politicians, why not Christian lobbyists? At what point in the chain do we say political activity is inappropriate? Is voting based on “moral” issues appropriate?

    You say: “It’s just that I don’t think running around pretending the sky is falling in, and that the world will end if the word marriage is redefined (polygamy anybody?), is constructive for telling people how to find their identity in Jesus. And I think it’s often unloving to the minorities they choose to single out.”

    Firstly I think this is a very unfair and unhelpful characterisation. I realise you may not intend it this way, but it reads as though you are dismissing all concern about SSM as unfounded scaremongering. This doesn’t allow for intelligent people with reasoned concerns. The world ending or the sky falling in are not the only two things we should be worried about, after all.

    But your last clause – it may not be constructive for telling people how to find their identity in Jesus, but that’s not its purpose. You’re probably familiar with a recent Peter Hitchens article saying SSM is a distraction and we should put our energy into fixing Christian marriages. You seem to be making the same point.

    But I’m yet to be convinced it’s an either/or thing.

    Why isn’t there room for ministers to preach the Gospel faithfully and lobbyists to lobby the government, from the outside, for the “legislation of Christian moral values”?

    Also, and I apologise for the long comment, you say: “If that were the case, for starters, Jesus would have spent a bit more time as a political lobbyist, or revolutionary – rather than calling for people to turn to the kingdom of God and find their identity in him.”

    Are you suggesting that social goals which Jesus did not share, or directly act on, are inappropriate? Jesus came for a fairly specific purpose. There are lots of thing Jesus didn’t comment on. For example, should we dismiss environmental concerns by arguing that Jesus wasn’t interested in them? (As it happens, marriage was something Jesus commented on.)

    I’m sorry if I’ve misunderstood or misrepresented your views, and I don’t expect a thorough response.

    • Hi Daniel,

      I will respond in some detail, hope it helps. Also, I read something by Michael Horton from a few days ago that pretty much sums up where I’m coming from theologically on questions of politics – that may help.


      “But I’m yet to be convinced that there’s no place for Christian lobbying, etc. You say “I don’t want to sound like I’m advocating political quietism, where Christians never speak out on issues”, calling it a cop out, but you seem to be against Christians speaking on issues, unless it can concurrently point people to Christ (is this a fair statement?).

      I’m also not convinced there’s no place for Christian lobbying. I’ve never argued that. I just want Christian lobbying to be Christian, and not just taking Jesus’ name and applying it to conservative politics as though there’s nothing wrong with the status quo, or the status quo from the 1960s. I think there are bigger issues that are pushing society away from Christian belief than how our government defines marriage. There are a whole bunch of other sins that we ignore in our single minded pursuit of Christian morality. I have huge concerns that moralism makes evangelism much more difficult both by erecting barriers for those who struggle with areas of sin, and by making other people think they’re good enough for God.

      All the stuff I wrote about the ACL last year focused on how they never mention Jesus, or the ramifications of the gospel, when talking about social policy.

      I don’t want to remove the Christian voice from the public sphere, I’d just like the Christian voice to be starting with explaining the gospel. And I think we need to be careful how we operate in a democracy – both employing a little epistemic humility (presenting our case acknowledging that we might be wrong, and even if we’re not, that we only know what we know because God revealed it to us), and a little bit of understanding that the government’s role is not to legislate for the kingdom of God.


      What do you think of Christians in politics? Is there a place for them? Should they oppose “moral” issues, such as same-sex marriage (the topical issue in your last couple of posts)? If so, when asked to explain their position, should they use exclusively theological arguments and make sure they bring Jesus and forgiveness into it?

      I think Christians should immerse themselves in politics. But I don’t think this means setting up a Christian party. Why aren’t Christians joining the existing political parties and debating the issues as policy is being set – rather than waiting for the die to be cast and arguing from the outside, or putting together Christian how to vote cards. The place for Christian politicians is, in my opinion, within the party platform they feel most comfortable in. Politics, especially in a democracy, is about finding compromises that suit conflicting views.

      I don’t think Christian politicians should necessarily oppose “moral issues” because I think in many cases morality can be a grey area when it comes to the long term impact of policy decisions. Politics is complex, and this side of Jesus’ return I’d say ethics is more about retrieval – trying to salvage some good from a groaning creation, than renewal (though my thinking is shifting more towards renewal being an important part of the Christian’s role within the boundaries of the church – ie the church should be working towards making sure that things under its care are a tangible picture of God’s future kingdom). There are cases where “moral issues” are more black and white, I’d say abortion is one of these. I’d say there are several black and white issues ahead of gay marriage as well, I think we need to be careful when we speak not to be speaking against individual liberties (the arguments we use to determine who others can choose to marry can easily be turned into arguments others use to determine who we can choose to worship).

      And if there is a place for Christian politicians, why not Christian lobbyists? At what point in the chain do we say political activity is inappropriate? Is voting based on “moral” issues appropriate?

      I think lobbying, as a general rule, is an unhelpful distortion of democracy if some special interest groups secure a disproportionate amount of interest based on superior organisational skills and a more active supporter base. I think we need to find a balance between lobbying (which I think is actively trying to influence voters and politicians based on an agreement of votes for promises) and advocacy (which is simply speaking out and presenting a case on an issue).

      I think individuals have the right to vote however they want, and to choose how to vote however they want, some moral issues are important enough to change my vote. But I would say any argument that begins with the supposition that the only way a Christian can vote, in any election, is in support of a particular moral issue is a misread of the complexity of government, and life.

      You say: “It’s just that I don’t think running around pretending the sky is falling in, and that the world will end if the word marriage is redefined (polygamy anybody?), is constructive for telling people how to find their identity in Jesus. And I think it’s often unloving to the minorities they choose to single out.”

      Firstly I think this is a very unfair and unhelpful characterisation. I realise you may not intend it this way, but it reads as though you are dismissing all concern about SSM as unfounded scaremongering. This doesn’t allow for intelligent people with reasoned concerns. The world ending or the sky falling in are not the only two things we should be worried about, after all.

      Yes. I did say that. It should be read as a response to this quote from Jack:

      “No wonder we lead the developed world in violent and sexual assault, no wonder we lead the world in amphetamine and marijuana use, no wonder our children kill themselves more than anywhere else in the world, no wonder abotrion is our most common operation, we allow our daughters to become whores and we sell and display pornography to our children under such “Christian” leadership.”


      But your last clause – it may not be constructive for telling people how to find their identity in Jesus, but that’s not its purpose. You’re probably familiar with a recent Peter Hitchens article saying SSM is a distraction and we should put our energy into fixing Christian marriages. You seem to be making the same point.

      But I’m yet to be convinced it’s an either/or thing.

      I would argue that the gospel is our first purpose, and everything else we do should be done in support of that purpose. Yes, there is a place for advocacy, and for social justice, and for upholding morality – but if any of those ever interfere with people coming to know Jesus as Lord then we need to rethink how we’re doing them. I think all three of those are possible – I just don’t think guys like Jack (or Family First, or the ACL) are doing them right. So I agree. It’s not an either/or thing.


      Why isn’t there room for ministers to preach the Gospel faithfully and lobbyists to lobby the government, from the outside, for the “legislation of Christian moral values”?

      Why is legislating for Christian moral values even a desirable thing? Why do we want the world to conform to our values without the real reason for doing so, how can we expect the law to be anything but a frustration to those people with the absence of the Spirit?

      This is where I think I’d want to limit Christian advocacy to protecting Christian freedoms, and the innocent, and looking after the poor and vulnerable. Some may make the case that many areas of Christian morality fall into the latter categories, and I think that’s fine if you can make the case on the basis of something other than “God says this” – which is only a valid argument if you accept the premise that God did indeed say that. I think we’d be better off actually demonstrating the harm done by what we’re campaigning against, rather than creating boogeymen, or referring to Hitler or pedophilia.


      Also, and I apologise for the long comment, you say: “If that were the case, for starters, Jesus would have spent a bit more time as a political lobbyist, or revolutionary – rather than calling for people to turn to the kingdom of God and find their identity in him.”

      Are you suggesting that social goals which Jesus did not share, or directly act on, are inappropriate? Jesus came for a fairly specific purpose. There are lots of thing Jesus didn’t comment on. For example, should we dismiss environmental concerns by arguing that Jesus wasn’t interested in them? (As it happens, marriage was something Jesus commented on.)

      At this point I’d suggest you read my essay on the gay question, it at the very least answers your comment about Jesus speaking on marriage. I agree. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and Jesus cared about that – I just don’t think the Roman empire cared a lot about that. There’s even some evidence that Nero married a man.

      I think I’ve outlined where I think our social goals should push towards as an end in one of my statements above. I think Jesus gave the church a fairly specific purpose too. The great commission. I don’t think that rules out secondary purposes, or I wouldn’t spend most of my time online posting silly stuff, or as much time drinking and reviewing coffee. But I think when we act in Jesus name we at least have to be paying heed to that primary purpose, and while well meaning, I don’t think most of the “Christian” engagement with politics in our country does that, and in fact, I think it is damaging. Partly because the media doesn’t nuance Christian views and has no interest in just printing the gospel whenever a Christian is asked about gay marriage, and partly because these groups actually seem more interested in the spread of Christian morality by legislation than the spread of the gospel by proclamation.

      I’m sorry if I’ve misunderstood or misrepresented your views, and I don’t expect a thorough response.

  3. Thanks for taking the time to reply in such detail. This goes some way to satisfying my questions. I had few comments but I don’t have the time to respond now, perhaps I will at a later time, and I’ll follow up the essays you mentioned. I’m soul-searching on this issue but still find there are a few gaps to be bridged in my mind before I can cross over…

    Cheers.

  4. Has anyone suggested you write a book on the issue of public engagement? You should.

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