Monday 7 May 2012

Why Christians don’t say what they really believe about sex on Twitter

This morning, after the Coalition for Marriage Petition gained its 500,000th signature, and in response to an article in Pink News trying to undermine #C4M’s credibility, I sent out two tweets from my twitter account (@drpetersaunders) announcing the new milestone.

The first (admittedly provocative) tweet read as follows:

Growing paranoia from @pinknews over having its small unrepresentative cyber-community trounced by #c4m petition

The second was a ‘retweet’ from Archbishop Cranmer (@his_grace)

And many congratulations to the Coalition for Marriage @c4mtweetsfor reaching 500,000 supporters

As a result for the last nine hours I have been under constant siege from the several hundred secular twitterati who track my every move.

As I usually do, I have ignored frankly abusive comments but have attempted otherwise to take questions and comments at face value and do my best to answer them honestly and politely, but firmly and, as appropriate, with good humour.

Many of the responses have been in the same spirit, robustly but respectfully disagreeing with me. There has been a lot of mutual ribbing too and as is usual, certain members of the twitterati have taken great delight in retweeting some of my 140 character utterances to their adoring followers in order to demonstrate how self-evidently foolish I am.

This is all par for the course on Twitter. You can read the various conversations on my twitter page by clicking ‘view conversation’ on each tweet

Some of the twitterati have also tried to draw me out by asking specific questions that they know will elicit answers which will draw the baying mob most effectively.

Today I sent out two tweets in response to specific questions from a Dr David Jones (@welsh_gas_doc) that really sent the mob into a wild frenzy. As you will see he is copied into most of the ensuing tweets. My tweets read as follows:

@welsh_gas_doc @pocketapocketa @c4equalmarriage All people are sinners (Romans 3:23) and also all sex outside marriage is morally wrong

@welsh_gas_doc @pocketapocketa @c4equalmarriage Yes David. Sex between two people of the same sex - male or female - is always wrong

Both were simply factual statements about orthodox Christian belief. In days past, such statements would have been met generally with a reaction of patronising incredulity or even pity that someone could hold such unenlightened and antiquated, even quaint, views.

But today the sort of reaction such statements elicit explains I think why so few Christians ever talk about what they actually believe on twitter – at least about sex.

I’m pretty much used to this kind of stuff now and put up with it largely because I get a lot of traffic to this blog as a result from those who silently listen in to the conversations.

Anyway, for what it is worth, here is a selection of some of the more offensive tweets I have received today. I am frequently called a 'homophobic bigot' (although I prefer to think of myself as 'homosceptic') but as you will see some of these go a bit further than that. I haven’t replied to any of them.

For those unfamiliar with twitter, each begins with the name and account of the person sending the tweet. As you will see, some people appear more than once.

Simon Feeke ‏ @feekelife
@drpetersaunders @C4EqualMarriage you are such a terrible small minded person, I'm staggered by your hypocrisy, call yourself christian!!

Simon Feeke ‏ @feekelife

@drpetersaunders @C4EqualMarriage just admit you're a bigot and we can all just continue fighting the cause without your input, thank you

lisa pawson ‏ @emmliss
@C4EqualMarriage @drpetersaunders what a horrible out of touch man

Sarah Guest ‏ @sarah_gue5t
@jjswin @drpetersaunders ghetto??? Wot a shallow pathetic little man u are, I'm straight, live in the countryside #C4EM all the way! #twat

Sara O'Brian ‏ @Sara_OBrian
@drpetersaunders Shut up you stupid old bastard you won't be around to see marriage equality so pipe down.

Alex Graham ‏ @Rangaaar
@drpetersaunders I would love to give you the benefit of the doubt, but as a representative to lots of people, why are you so poisonous?

Lizzie P-B ‏ @LizzieMansfield
@C4EqualMarriage @drpetersaunders @mcgingersnap one day the gay community will receive a public apology from these homophobes. #c4em

Johnathon Waples ‏ @JohnathonWaples
@drpetersaunders But srsly? A civil partnership isn't equal. I hope your HATE for people who just want to be HAPPY makes you sleep at night.

Lorrie Hearts ‏ @LorrieHearts
@drpetersaunders: Smiley enough in his picture but he'd cut off your equal rights as soon as look at you. Not my kind of doctor.

Ollie James ‏ @OJB_clough
@drpetersaunders you're a massive cunt

Simon Feeke ‏ @feekelife
@drpetersaunders @UK_CMF @UCBMedia absolutley vile, no doubt you agree with Stephen Green on marital rape as well #OUTDATEDBADCHRISTIAN

The George ‏ @kaptainkrucius
@drpetersaunders no I merely stated that none of my friends were bigots like you. It was you who suggested I need to get out more.

Russell Norton ‏ @russyork
I find the opinions of @drpetersaunders scary. I would be terrified if he were my doctor, clearly has no idea about equal treatment #bigot

Simon Feeke ‏ @feekelife
@drpetersaunders utter tripe! thank GOD only the Daily Mail reports your offensive crap!!

Simon Feeke ‏ @feekelife
@drpetersaunders @C4EqualMarriage i fear if any of your children are gay, terrible things happen when you preach hate #BADCHRISTIANS

dam robinson ‏ @damrobinson
@drpetersaunders @C4EqualMarriage this straight, 2.4 kids dad agrees with equal marriage but not your small minded bigoted intolerance

Adam Kay ‏ @amateuradam
@welsh_gas_doc @pocketapocketa @c4equalmarriage I often have a wank to @drpetersaunders' avatar. That's still fine, right?

Rob Ward ‏ @PocketaPocketa
@drpetersaunders @welsh_gas_doc @C4EqualMarriage I feel sorry for you &your hindbound soul both. Still, it's never too late for ppl to grow.

Chris H ‏ @chris_m_h
@drpetersaunders (cc to @welsh_gas_doc @pocketapocketa@c4equalmarriage) Dr Peters, your discriminatory, prejudiced opinions are disgusting.

Dr_PaulC ‏ @Dr_PaulC
@drpetersaunders drag your bigoted ass out of the dark ages. @welsh_gas_doc @pocketapocketa @c4equalmarriage

Mr Stefani to you! ‏ @Glen_Stefani
@feekelife @drpetersaunders FUCK ME! How in this wonderful world can these ignorant morons peddle this hatred? Hang your head in SHAME!

Chris Wallace ‏ @CJWallace91
@drpetersaunders @welsh_gas_doc @pocketapocketa@c4equalmarriage Are you a medical doctor? If so, you're a disgrace to the profession.

Mrs Mackenzie ‏ @loftspace

@welsh_gas_doc @marty_hogg I thought @drpetersaunders must be a spoof account. He's real? Scary shit.

Shaun Lawrence ‏ @BigGayShaun

Want to see how some Christians regard LGBT people? I suggest dipping in to the mind of @drpetersaunders. What an intolerant person he is.

Stuart Sutton ‏ @StuSutton
@welsh_gas_doc @icuchris @drpetersaunders thank goodness he's not practicing. I would think a referral to @gmcuk appropriate if he was.

Wendy Lee ‏ @TheRealBaglady
@welsh_gas_doc @ICUchris @drpetersaunders Pretty terrifying that someone so judgemental would ever be let loose on people with a scalpel.

Shaun Lawrence ‏ @BigGayShaun

@welsh_gas_doc Frightening that people still think like @drpetersaunders but one ought to know one's enemy so I'm paying close attention.

ICU Chris ‏ @ICUchris

@welsh_gas_doc @deeteeuk @marty_hogg @drpetersaunders Does my tax money pay his wages? How do I stop this?

ICU Chris ‏ @ICUchris
@amateuradam @welsh_gas_doc @pocketapocketa@c4equalmarriage @drpetersaunders I bet you eat shrimp too, you godless heathen.

Paul Southworth ‏ @PaulMSouthworth
@DeeTeeUK @marty_hogg @drpetersaunders @welsh_gas_doc I hope they take a good deal of comfort from the people pointing out he's a twerp.

ThomThom ‏ @ThomJONeill
@drpetersaunders What of the kids who kill themselves because of the attitudes of people like you? Is your faith REALLY worth that?

Ruairi Doran ‏ @RuDoran
@welsh_gas_doc @drpetersaunders @nhs_hca @pocketapocketa@c4equalmarriage Is he quoting the Bible again? That doctor is sick. *notadoctor*

Heather ‏ @Spleather
Actually shocked that @drpetersaunders is allowed to be a medical professional with the unacceptably homophobic beliefs he holds

Owen Blacker ‏ @owenblacker

Wow. What an unChristian arsehole. RT @drpetersaunders: Yes David. Sex between two people of the same sex - male or female - is always wrong

Kris Manuel ‏ @kris_manuel
@C4EqualMarriage @drpetersaunders @c4mtweets what a prick!!!

Mike Ward ‏ @Schroedinger99
@zeno001 & I'm free to think he's an irrational evil misogynistic homophobe @anarchic_teapot @C4EqualMarriage

Will Jensen ‏ @mrwilliamjensen
@drpetersaunders This man believes its wrong for same sex sex!!! Tweet him and tell him he's wrong and should give it a go some time!!!! :-)

Alex Scott ‏ @alexscott292

@anarchic_teapot @drpetersaunders @welsh_gas_doc to be fair, it's big bumper book of bollocks he's got to thumb through to get the answer.

Owen Blacker ‏ @owenblacker
@helliewm @drpetersaunders Indeed. Sinners like him give Christians a bad name.

helliewm ‏ @helliewm
@owenblacker @drpetersaunders Yes Owen my news feed is full of it. The medics in my news feed are getting annoyed too. He is just a bigot IMO

Jason ‏ @Lewishamdreamer
@drpetersaunders I call you out as a liar. Based on my last retweet.@Spleather

G* ‏ @georgie_guy
That's a shame; it's just so good! RT @drpetersaunders: Yes David. Sex between two people of the same sex - male or female - is always wrong

Sam Beezley ‏ @sambeezley
Only if you don't know how to do it "@drpetersaunders: Yes David. Sex between two people of the same sex - male or female - is always wrong"

Alex Scott ‏ @alexscott292
@drpetersaunders eight. How is it relevant to your fulminating homophobia?

Bagguley ‏ @bagguley
@drpetersaunders @shanemuk @andyheeps How can anyone believe such obvious horse-shit-superstitious-nonsense? Grow up ffs.

Adam Banks ‏ @adambanksdotcom
Police officers can't be active members of the BNP, but @drpetersaunders can practise medicine. This isn't sustainable

Matthew Tibbit ‏ @MTibbit
@LeyNathan I look at his page when you retweet him and I fancy a laugh but I can't bring myself to follow the idiot @drpetersaunders

bagguley @Bagguley
@drpetersaunders @shanemuk @AbbieKWalsh @andyheeps @TheNiceLadyDoc You really believe this fantasy bullshit dontcha. You are delusional.

Alex Scott ‏ @alexscott292
It strikes me I could write whatever prejudiced, unreconstructed maliciousness and rename it something like @drpetersaunders "homosceptic"


  1. Doctor Saunders, thank you for being strong enough when so few are. I myself would be one on the worldly stage, you have my respect and prayers!

  2. I agree with Ja Tirad. I posted the news on facebook earlier, but chose to vet who could see it so as to avoid any backlash from certain people.

    Saddened to see some Christians attacking you for your views, sadly I think much of this stems from poor teaching which does not introduce people to the gospel - the result being people who truly believe that they are Christians when they are following something floppy and meaningless that has nothing to do with Penal Substitution.

  3. You complain that some people let you know that they view you as prejudiced.

    I know that if I said something - told a joke, made an assertion, whatever - and I received a wave of criticism, then I hope my first response would be to think about where that was coming from, rather than self-pity.

    You make no attempt here to consider, empathise with, or express any compassion for the people who are diminished by your views.

    Really, really try and put yourself in another person's shoes for a minute. Or - probably easier - imagine analogous things said about you. Allow me to assist...

    Let's say you have a happy consensual loving relationship. It's the cornerstone of your life. She is everything. When you make love (sorry to get personal, but hey this is personal) When you make love you know it fulfills some fundamental needs, physical, emotional, 'spiritual' even. You have been together for years. You are so happy, she is your family, your families are entwined, most of your friends are mutual. There are other things in life - your religion, your work, your children maybe - but she is your soulmate.

    Meanwhile, a whole media campaign is underway to tell you that you're wrong. Wrong about your love. People are signing a petition which says No, your love-life is undeserving of the same recognition as others, and recommends to the government that your love-life must not be fully equal with theirs.

    Your romance is inferior. Your love-making is "wrong". That life you live, even the things you do with the love of your life in your bed where you are safe and warm, is immoral, even disgusting, to God almighty.

    You want to shrug it off, you know that your relationship with your love is good. But the thought occurs that those people running that campaign against you, yes against *you*, want to take it all away. Their condemnation... you don't want to listen to it, but it burns away at you. You know when you are happy with your love, laughing with her, tickling, whispering, running, making love, cooking, all the things you do together, they are judging you; that campaign, well, they'd happy if you left her, told her it was all a mistake, that's what they want you to do, to the love of your life with whom you share everything.

    That is what you are doing to other people.

    When you say these things you say, perhaps you picture yourself in a newspaper, or on the telly, or even at the pulpit. But to the people you call "wrong", you are in their homes, in their beds, when you say these things. Because they may well think of their partner. Perhaps you did the same, above. They may think about their partner, in their safe loving bed. Their whole life. Their soulmate. And you're telling them "You're wrong. It's wrong. Your love is wrong."

    These things you say impinge directly on people's most personal, most sacred spaces.

    Yet you're surprised when people react to you with some repugnance, and you hold up the word "belief" as if therefore, despite your intrusion, your insinuations, they should just accept it.

    It would be easy just to shrug and dismiss yours as a small and pathetic view, but then you have some power, you are apparently closely linked with that campaign, a petition which says that all these lovers, all these soulmates, are in fact second-class, inferior, outright "wrong". So you can't just be ignored.

    You complain that some people let you know that they view you as prejudiced. But you have told people that their inner-most romantic enduring relationship, is bad. Which do you really think is the worse, more upsetting thing to tell another person?

    1. Bob I appreciate the sincerity of your post and be assured this is not self pity. I take all this stuff on the chin and am not complaining about it, just pointing out why more Christians do not say what they actually believe on twitter.

      My views on gay Christians are posted elsewhere - see

      I know many gay Christians and feel for them profoundly.

      But the Bible is very clear that the only legitimate context for sex is a life-long, exclusive marriage between a man and a woman. Sex between people of the same sex is wrong in all circumstances.

      There are many heterosexual Christian people who are single, divorced, bereaved or in marriages where for some reason sex is not possible who are in a similar situation to gay people who cannot marry. There are others who fall in love with people whom it is impossible for them to marry.

      Every Christian faces hardship of some sort in following Christ at some point in their lives.

      But life is more than sex or romantic love and I believe that Christ himself is sufficient for everyone.

      I appreciate the fact that you have taken time to share your position so eloquently and sincerely but I do not agree with it. It exalts romantic love and human attachment above obedience to Christ and as such I cannot accept it.

      I'm not saying it is easy. Not being able to marry the person you are 'in love' with can be one of the most difficult things in the world.

      But at the end of the day to put human desire above divine command is at heart idolatry.

      Many of the people on twitter whose tweets I have posted above are on their way to an eternity without Christ and for many the key thing stopping them, that they are unwilling to put on the altar, is sexual sin and/or romantic love.

      That is very very serious indeed. Your position does not help them but actually endangers them even further.

      And believe me the pain of eternal estrangement from God far far eclipses the pain from loss of any earthly pleasure.

      I urge you to think again.

    2. My point here wasn't to dispute your view as such. You are obviously set in your ways as it were. (And since you've told me you believe my views are "dangerous", with regards to the after-world, let me return the favour – I think fundamentalism such as that which you express is dangerous, with regards to this world.)

      You say "My views on gay Christians are posted elsewhere". Okay, but I wasn't talking specifically about the reaction gay Christians might have. I think that people can be saddened and angered by views like yours even while not sharing assumptions about the Bible etc. If I told you something which cut at the heart of your family life - your kids do stupid A-levels, your wife's personality is pathetic, your love-making is morally wrong - you'd be forgiven for lashing out, regardless of whether you nominally shared the assumptions that apparently prompted me to say those things.

      So, I wasn't trying to convince you of the intellectual case. But I was trying to make you see how personal and, yes, offensive your views are to others. Your views sound worryingly prejudiced to most people's ears. And it's not because those people are anti-Christian, or ignorant of the Bible, or stupid, or anything else. In some cases it may just be because there is a history of people deciding that other people are inherently inferior (or that certain behaviours associated with some people on the basis of their innate characteristics are inherently wrong), and it is not a happy history.

      You seem blind to this aspect of your views: You favour marginalising a group which has been struggling and is only just gaining recognition and equality.

      And on the basis of what? A 'faith' commitment that has little enough agreement with many practicing Christians in the UK, let alone the rest of the country. Your assumptions are stone-like.

      I'm sorry but it is not rational, and you must surely know that it is rarely convincing, to threaten someone with Hellfire. There's a reason people call that a "Dark Ages" mentality.

      Let's be clear, yours aren't just "Christian beliefs", like "Love thy neighbour". The people tweeting at you probably aren't tweeting at random Christians happily going about their lives. So don't dress this up as an attack on religion qua religion. Your critics have responded to very specific views which, to many, including perhaps most church-going Christians in the UK today, are extreme.

      The reason people think your views are extreme is not because they're weak Christians, or frivolous atheists, but because they recognise your views as socially and personally damaging, marginalising to whole sections of society, without any empirical basis let alone moral necessity.

      You are apparently a fundamentalist, which you have every right to be, but yes, frankly, you should expect a strong reaction when you commit yourself to believing that a particular, flawed book is inerrant Truth revealed by a supreme being. Especially when the conclusions this fundamentalism apparently leads you to are alienating, belittling and ignorant of the realities and complexity of other peoples' lives.

      If you can, think about those words, see if you can disagree with them. Alienating. Belittling. Express ignorance of the realities and complexity of other peoples' lives. Can you disagree that your words do these things.

      I am trying to put things in context for you. Yes, some people called you nasty names. No, that probably won't help anything.

      But yes, you must appreciate that that's what's going to happen if you spend your life telling people that their love, their most intimate love, is worthy of Hell.

    3. Bob, We need to be clear first of all that the Christian faith does not belittle anyone. Christianity teaches that all human beings are made in the image of God and therefore worthy of the utmost respect, empathy, care and wonder.

      But it also teaches that all human beings are fallen and sinful and need forgiveness and redemption. Christ's death and resurrection make this possible for all. All we need to do is to respond humbly in repentance and faith.

      That is not alienating but reconciling. It is not belittling but uplifting. It is not ignorant of the realities and complexities of peoples lives but engages deeply and compassionately with human beings at their point of greatest need.

      You seem to take issue with two main teachings - that eternal hell fire exists and that sex outside marriage is wrong. But both are taught repeatedly and unambiguously by Jesus Christ and his apostles. According to them that is the way the universe is. And I think it is wise to trust their judgement on it rather than our own.

      You can of course choose to ignore this, reject God's offer of forgiveness and go your own way. But that would be very foolish.

      At the end of the day we either accept that God is our judge and embrace him also as our saviour. Or we choose to judge him and his morality and take the consequences.

      The choice is yours.

    4. Yes, I do dissent from hell-fire beliefs (I find them simultaneously quite sinister and utterly daft, as well as trivialising of the human condition). And yes, I do dissent from absolutist views in general, including that sex outside marriage is always wrong.

      But neither belief was my focus.

      My focus was very clearly your stated view that all sex between two people of the same-sex is "always wrong".

      My intention was expressly not to contest the propositional content of your beliefs. Instead I explained quite clearly that I was just trying to get you to imagine, to experience empathy, with regard to how it might feel to be told (over and over again) by strangers, even by national petitions, that your intimate love-life is "wrong".

      I think I failed in that, because you haven't really said anything that indicates to me that you have vicariously felt the frustration that such judgmental views will cause some people. I tried to get you to imagine analogous views relating to your own marriage, or a mass-movement targeting your love-life. I hope you do, but I'm not getting any sense that you actually empathise with the people on the receiving at all.

      All you do instead is a switcheroo, claiming that redemption through Christ is uplifting not belittling - Well I never said that that message was belittling, I said the way you talk about gay people may alienate and marginalise.

      So, in lieu of soliciting empathy, let's actually look at the propositional content, then.

      Your notion that same-sex sex is "always wrong" is a fantastical moral claim. It simply labels a natural behaviour as bad, regardless of the consequences, context, or intent. You might as well say "All bees are bad." Or "Haircuts are always wrong."

      The world, thankfully, is growing up. The human race is slowly recognising that generic moral questions rarely have default absolute answers. So when faced with a moral quandary (like 'Was that action wrong?') people don't just put it in a box, they ask questions allowing them to discriminate one situation from another. For example, "What was the person's intention?" "Did they have a choice?" "Does it adversely affect others?" "Is it positive for them?" and so on.

      You on the other hand appear only to ask: "What does the Bible say?" And at that, only in reference to an entirely non-specific black-or-white general case, and you seem very sure of your interpretation, despite your interpretation being necessarily selective, and even though many other Christians are able to think a bit beyond Leviticus.

      I ask again, even if you insist that all same-sex sex is always wrong in some absolute way, can you at least acknowledge (if only to yourself) that passing this judgment on people's personal lives will, often, only marginalise and cause hurt.

    5. Bob,

      I actually had a respectful conversation on Twitter with Peter, in which I said that I could tell him how much and for how long I loathed myself due to being taught by the church that my love was perverted and disgusting. Love is a fundamental expression of the self, so if you know a tree by its fruit, then hey - what did my disgusting and perverted love say about me?

      (I'm pleased to say that with the help of much therapy and the steadfast love of a good woman, I came to realise that - you know what? - I'm actually not vile and unlovable.)

      Peter invited me to email him to tell my story at more length. The replies you are getting here illustrate why I have not yet done so. Do I really want to open my heart, to revisit old and deep pain, to risk being met with pat theological answers from people unwilling to listen to me as a fellow human being and consider the implications of my history for their own behaviour?

      That said, I understand the reluctance to engage. For many years, my mother was baffled as to why her beloved daughter grew up filled with such self-contempt. When I finally told her it was the teachings on homosexuality that had been impressed on me as a young gay person, she found it extremely hard to accept. Challenging. Painful. But she got there: those pat theological answers were not good enough when it came to understanding the suffering experienced by someone she truly loved.

      I do not expect this post to be received with a chorus of empathy. I don't even expect it to provoke self-examination in Peter and his readers. But these are my experiences. For what it's worth, they're experiences that are very, very common among gay people who were brought up believing conservative Christian views on homosexuality.


    6. Thanks for sharing this Rachel. I know a lot of people who have wrestled with this issue and I accept the experiences you describe are not uncommon.

      I do understand but I do not agree.

      The Christian life is a battle and nothing is ever perfect in this world, but Christ is sufficient, has been tempted in all ways as we are and has the power to help if we seek it and are willing to accept it.

  4. I do not think Peter is "complaining" he seems to be merely reporting it.

    Your post is very well-written, Bob Churchill - are you gay? I sympathise with anyone who is in love, whether they are gay or straight, whose love is "opposed" by others. But sometimes we have to give up the thing we love in order not to commit a sin. I think this is what Peter is saying. A person can always have a platonic relationship with the person they love, without having actual sex. So nobody is actually asking you to give up your "soulmate", they are only saying you shouldn't have sex with them - that is a different thing altogether.

    Another thing - opposing gay marriage does not mean that Peter is stopping you from having your soulmate. No-one can stop you having a full sexual relationship, and gays already have CP which give all the rights of marriage without the name.

    So your post is somewhat melodramatic and inaccurate - you are not being stopped from enjoying yourself with the person you love.

    1. Raghu, thank you for complimenting my writing.

      You say "A person can always have a platonic relationship with the person they love, without having actual sex." I can only tell you how disconcertingly unfamiliar with human nature this sounds to me.

      Later you say "No-one can stop you having a full sexual relationship", so perhaps the no-sex-at-all idea is only you predicting how Dr Saunders might reply? But you do seem to think the no-sex-at-all plan is a sensible plan, beacuse you say "they are only saying you shouldn't have sex with [your soulmate]"... as if this is a nice neat solution.

      So, assuming you are a straight man, imagine that in a parallel universe the religious fundamentalists told you that you could only have sex with the love of your life just once a year on a special holy day. Or - indeed - never.

      Analogously, that is what you put out there. That's your suggestion as to how gay people can avoid committing this terrible "sin", the sin of having sex with someone else who wants to have sex with them. I think it's absurd and beside the point to even consider suggesting that people shouldn't make love with their romantic partners, against all instinct. And your justification for suggesting such restraint is literally paper thin: It says in this book which I think is divine that it would be a sin.

      I'm not (right now) making an intellectual case, obviously, I'm just trying to induce some empathy. You need to at least recognise why people might want to laugh at a suggestion such as the no-sex-at-all idea, because it's ludicrously unfeasible, unnecessary, contrary to human nature, and an arrogant intrusion into people's most intimate lives. I would like you to try to understand why people may even express repugnance at the no-sex-at-all suggestion, because - as Dr Saunders does - you're reaching right into people's sacred love-lives and telling them they're wrong. You want people to refrain from intimacy, from a deep expression of their love, for no better reason than you say so.

      On the social issues, you suggest people should just be happy with the 'seperate but equal' model we have now. Some people are indeed content with that. Many other couples are not. Fortunately we don't need to worry too much about the numbers, because it's an issue of principle on a matter of social justice. Which means as far as I'm concerned that the number of same-sex couples it takes to mandate reform of the law is: one. One same-sex couple. That is all it takes to be able to say there is discrimination here; an unjustified, unnecessary discrimination, which marginalises and diminishes a whole set of people, on the basis of an intrinsic characteristic, for no good reason.

      Under almost any other circumstances other than same-sex marriage, most people are immediately unhappy with laws which give people largely the same rights, but call it something else. Imagine the following historical speech:

      "The slaves are now released. From this day forth, there is to be no more slavery. Former slaves will have the same rights as other members of society. However, due to some religious objections, to the effect that people of this race can't really be truly 'free' per se, we will call it 'shmeedom' for them. They are not free, they are shmee. Look, stop shouting, it's basically the same thing, we just have to give it a different name because some of the fundamentalists object. Well, they say that in their Bible it says you can have slaves somewhere. No in the Old Testament but they're still quite vocal about it. Look, most of the slaves are embracing shmeedom right now so what's the problem?"

      Do you seriously not see the problem? Do you not even see why others might see a 'separate but equal' law as morally inadequate?

    2. Bob Churchill,

      You have not answered my question - are you gay yourself?

      Anyway, I think Peter has answered all the points you have raised (in his reply to you, higher up). Obedience to God is paramount - romantic love and desire come a poor second. This is what all the religions teach, not just christianity (by the way, what made you think I am a christian? I am hindu).

      I am a heterosexual man, yes. If I meet someone and fall head over heels in love with them, does this mean I can leave my wife and children and pursue my "soulmate"? No, it does not. If I do that, one day I will have to pay for my sins and also answer to God. A lot of people are doing this, however, and every single time it ends in disaster and heartbreak. The concept of "dharma" and doing one's God-given duty is of utmost importance in my religion and upbringing. The modern western view however is to give in to all our base desires and pay the price later. This is wrong.

      Do you think married men and women do not feel romantic love and lust towards other people? But is it right that we should act on those desires? No, of course not. Some restraint and self-discipline is needed. That is what is lacking in our society. Our life on this earth is very very short compared to what we will have with our Creator one day. To risk our eternal happiness just for the sake of a few years' pleasure on earth is simply foolish. It is to think like a child, only caring for the moment and not bothering about the consequences of one's actions.

    3. You feel my suggestion about celibacy is being "disconcertingly unfamiliar with human nature", Bob. But I am very familiar with human nature. I am a man, I have the same base desires as everybody else. I do not think it is possible to be a human being and not have such desires. I know very well that it is "normal" to want to have sex with someone you love very much. But just because I feel the desire does not mean I should act on it. I have been in and out of love with various women since I was very young. But I waited until I was married to have sex. I believe that having sex outside marriage is morally wrong. My parents taught me this, and I teach my children this. We are not animals, we do not have to give in to our instincts - we can choose to be disciplined.

      Yes, I pointed out that nobody is actually stopping you from having a sexual relationship if you want. It is not against the law for you to have sex with another man. But there are many things that are not against the law of human beings which are against the law of God. So if you chose to do so, you could remain celibate and live with the love of your life, in the same house even, without having sex. Many married couples do it - not all married couples are having sex every day or even once a year. Do you know that every year I see many many married couples who are totally celibate for over 20 or 30 years? I have even come across many loving married couples, married for well over 30 years, who have never consummated the marriage due to physical problems. There is a doctor who has written a book about this phenomenon, I do not remember the name. Therefore celibacy within an "intimate" relationship is not something that is unique to gay people. Sex is not the only part of a marriage or even the most important part of it. Do you not think love and respect are more important?

      With regards to "shmeedom", that is a very poor example. It does not compare to marriage at all. Slavery is different from sexuality. Marriage has for centuries been between a man and a woman. Just because you want to change it now does not mean we should. I think some gay people are blowing this up into a big issue just to have something to fight about. Frankly, it comes across as a victim mentality.

    4. You don't seem to appreciate, here, that not everyone believes in God. The Raghu-Saunders position does not seem to be something like "I believe in God, therefore I must bury my homosexuality", which would at least be broadly consistent on your own assumptions.

      Rather, the Raghu-Saunders position reads more like, "My belief in God demonstrably proves that the homosexuality of others is sinful and therefore they must bury it."

      There is a huge difference between the two.

      We can all appreciate, in principle, the concept of giving up something, or exercising restraint, for a greater good. But you can't just compare suppressing homoerotic love to being faithful in a heterosexual relationship! There are shareable, practical, emotional reasons why people choose to forego affairs in favour of a committed relationship. There are no similar reasons why gay people should suppress being gay.

      You may believe otherwise, because you've chosen to take some specific bits of the Bible very seriously. But being gay and doing gay things is not actually immoral - such as actions e.g. that hurt other people, or are self-destructive, can be immoral. Instead, your prohibition on homosexuality is an arbitrary, cherry-picked convention.

      I might as well tell you that it's sinful if people with your starsign handle any money, or if people with your variety of mitochondrial DNA ever get married. ("Why?" you may well demand to know, "I ask, only because it will be massively inconvenient to me to forego all money and divorce my wife. Please explain why these things are sinful.") Because it says so in this esoteric book that I believe, I reply.

      Not very convincing, is it.

      Yes, you may have very strong feelings that it's a divine sin. But there's nothing here to suggest that anyone else should share that view. And when people can only back up their anti-other people views with Bible references, you have to expect that people are going to be suspicious that it's just prejudice that drives that view.

      I didn't answer your personal question because it doesn't seem relevant.

      You didn't answer my closing question which I think is relevant: "Do you not even see why others might see a 'separate but equal' law as morally inadequate?"

      I know this sounds patronising, but I'm trying to get you to see that when you say (more or less) that "God says your love is wrong" this isn't just some statement about theological propositions. It intrudes into peoples bedrooms, and hearts and minds. The offensiveness of your view is not necessarily that anyone is moved to doubt their love (though some gay Christians certainly are, and I have the utmost sympathy for anyone who is led to doubt, for no good reason, the moral worth of their love-life).

      It's offensive, because it always is when people feel they have the certainty, the arrogance, to say to other people that their very lives are wrong; and not wrong because of any substantive moral objection, but because of their own commitment to particular, selective, damaging certitude.

      To deign to say to others, as Dr Saunders does, that someone's real love is "always wrong", is breath-taking in its intrusiveness, it's presumption.

  5. The abusive comments (especially calling you a c***) are unacceptable. I would complain to Twitter if I were you, Peter. You might remember what happened to the twitter user who resorted to abuse about that footballer - he got a jail sentence. You should report the post as abusive, so that the person gets a warning.

  6. I think the trouble is that Christians, particularly with the C4M campaign, can make it into an 'us versus the gays' thing. For me, I believe sex is for within marriage (marriage til death, rather than handing divorces out like confetti, as happens in the Church currently it often seems) and is between a man and a woman, but when I hear of people having homosexual desires and practices I don't think I have to bash them over the head with a stick and tell them that they can't have relations because it makes me feel threatened, or because God will judge me because I didn't stop the gays saying they were married. Rather I want to support them and help them to encounter the love of God, either for the first time if they don't yet know Christ, or if they are following Christ, then to help enable them to receive healing so that they can follow him in this aspect of their life also. Obviously this can only be done if I know that person and I have their respect and trust, and would be done in a personal and pastoral way that honours and respects them and points to Christ.

    In terms of anything more general than that, I think it pretty much stays within the Church (although not in a secretive kind of way, just in terms of where it's aimed at), in terms of improving Biblica teaching so that people know WHY sex is for marriage between a man and woman. WHY is key, because often we just tell people that homosexuality is bad, without saying why and pointing to God and His ideal and purpose in creation. For me it is a deeper question about why he gave us marriage, particualrly when there's no marriage in heaven, and indeed why he gave us gender when we could have been made to recreate asexually. I think the best explanation is the one offered by Paul, that it points to the relationship between Christ and the Church, and so by living out that marriage we honour God and give people a picture of what life can be like putting your hope in Christ's hands. This also gives clearer reason for why there are differences between gender - whilst being equal - as often, again, Church leaders just say "men can do this and woman can do this" without a theological reasoning any deeper than "because the Bible says so". Indeed, I wonder whether many Christian leaders even know why this is the case, and whether it is more based on tradition than on the design of God as revealed through Christ and his prophets and apostles. A lot of them probably have never had to deal with these questions because they weren't prominantly discussed or encountered in their generation (gay rights and the increasingly blurred (or perhaps even rejected) concept of gender and what that means in the Church and the household and also in society).

    My sincere hope is therefore that this discussion will lead Christians to really discover what God's ideal is for marriage, sex, sexuality and gender, rather than just reciting lines from the Bible. We need God's wisdom and understanding to shape our lives, and then this will enable Christians to be consistent, clear and not hypocritical, equipping them to live better lives and to be able to share their faith with others.

    1. Thanks for this thoughtful post Christopher. I substantially agree with you and have expounded on the theology of marriage elsewhere on this blog.

      Marriage is a divine invention. It was God who first said that it was ‘not good for man to be alone’ and who created the unique complementarity of the marriage relationship for companionship, pleasure, procreation and the raising of children – ‘one man, one woman, united for life’ (Genesis 2:24).

      Marriage is also in this way illustrative of Christ’s own self-giving abandonment to his bride the church (Ephesians 5:31, 32) and points to a greater richness of human relationships beyond the grave of which the very best on earth are but a pale shadow (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10).

  7. I must say that for me it'd be better to disconnect the concept of marriage from the state. Marriage in the Bible wasn't anything to do with the state from what I can see, and so I belive the Church should reject the state concept of a marriage (which has already effectively been reduced to a contract between two individuals that lasts for an indefinite period of time). The Church should campaign to have the word marriage removed from the state's legal system, replaced by something like 'civil union', which would have tax privileges and suchlike, and would last for a minimum of, say, 20 years. Then any two consenting adults could enter into this, therefore then not 'discriminating against' homosexuals, but also not against celibate brothers and sisters who live together and want to leave their inheritance to the other without being taxed - there was a case of two elderly sisters going to the courts to say it was unfair that if one died the other would have to leave the house to pay the inheritance tax bill but this was only the case because both had lived without a marriage partner and seemed like discrimination against singles.

    This would then leave the Church free to define what they see as marriage, and would mean that as Church buildings weren't used to administer 'civil unions' there wouldn't be any issues about having to adminster same-sex unions, and it would be on the discretion of the Church as to what services they offered to people. Individual Chruches could in theory then give a religious blessing to homosexual couples who have entered a civil union, and might even call it marriage, but no Church congregation would be compelled to do so (of course Churches might be thrown out of affiliations/networks for doing this and members might lead, and those performing them would be answerable to God, but essentially it'd be their choice).

    Sorry for the long post, I just think that this debate needs to go wider and most importantly deeper, and that to focus on creating a conflict between Christians and gays is not only a distraction but also deeply harmful in terms of helping homosexuals to encounter the love of God, hear his truth and receive His forgiveness.

    Thanks Peter.

    1. Thanks for this but I think the public policy issues are more complex and that weakening marriage as a legal institution would seriously damage the common good.

      It's late so I will come back to this later.

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  9. "I thought @drpetersaunders must be a spoof account. He's real? Scary shit."

    "Want to see how some Christians regard LGBT people? I suggest dipping in to the mind of @drpetersaunders. What an intolerant person he is."

    "@drpetersaunders thank goodness he's not practicing. I would think a referral to @gmcuk appropriate if he was"

    Such reactions, as Bob Churchill pointed out, don't really help the debate at all. Whatever ones views on gay marriage, the response should not be one of hate but of seeking to understand the other persons position.

    I don't know Dr Saunders personally but I am aware of his orthodox belief, and the teachings he seeks to live out. Far from being an intolerant bigot, worthy of appropriate referral to the GMC if he were still practicing, he would be a man who would lay down his own life for those he is accused of hating. If he was your doctor, no matter what your sexuality or your past he would give you outstanding care and support and would never impose his beliefs onto anyone; all of this he would do with integrity whilst still being able to hold truthfully to the convictions he has with regards to marriage.

    How can I say such things of a man I don't know personally? Because I know that giving up your life to love others, even when you unashamedly but respectfully challenge certain beliefs those others stand for,is a key part of his belief,[any well read person can deduce this by reading the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the New Testament].

    In short, I'm not sure Dr Saunders has come to the point the finger, but rather to express the orthodox christian viewpoint. If people were looking for a target to bombard with hatred and accusations of bigotry, I think they've come to the wrong door. Firstly hatred is never the way to solve disagreements, and even if it were it would not be just to level such accusations at this man.

  10. Peter. It seems the problem is that you need to learn to be more tolerant like the people tweeting you obviously are. Isn't this what we've been relentlessly told? We ought to tolerate people with different views from ourselves?

    1. Excuse me but in what way does Dr Peter "need to learn to be more tolerant " when he is the very model of tolerance .His reply to Rachel earlier is "Thanks for sharing this Rachel. I know a lot of people who have wrestled with this issue and I accept the experiences you describe are not uncommon.
      I do understand but I do not agree." .He thanks the lady for her reply -even though he doesn't agree with it - showing that he actually welcomes and respects opposing views.If that is not tolerance ,then what is

  11. What worries me is that women's views are so little heard. I find it insulting that two of the very rudest words in the English Language are Anglo-Saxon term for the birth passage (one of which was used in these gruesome tweets- AND by a woman!) This shows a truly sick and misogynistic society, that doesn't even respect the way people come into the world. Furthermore to equate potentially fertile acts -reating a new life-between the complementary biology of man and woman with anything else is to denigrate the complexity beauty and complementariness of both male and female anatomy.

    What are we expected to say? Just what in this strange new world are we required to place in a black plastic rubbish bag and label as worthless so that a might =b.
    The answer for those with a mite of analytical power- which many seem to have been brainwashed out of, seems to be the picture of a mother and father - complementary in their strengths, a pregnant mother looked after by a usually physically stronger father, and a child nurtured between these two complementary strengths. All the great art which celebrates male-female complementarity now- would logically become old hat.

    Time and again one sees in the Church and elsewhere liasons are brazenly lied about, on the pretext that these old idiots will die off or see they are old-fashioned, out of the Ark bigots who will soon fall into line. I feel bad for the gentle and trusting folk who are regularly made idiots of in this way.

    There is little to no respect for other opinions, but those in the pc stream feel no need to analyse or question or even notice what lesbians & gays say and write themselves, of things like being abused, or not having good relationships with parents, or, or, or...Observation seems to have dwindled catastrophically. Quite why all of Freud, Jung and all the beliefs of the "peoples of the Book" have been thrown out I cannot comprehend, nor why Behaviourism has been hoiked out of its proper place to try to encompass and describe morality. Folks it wasn't meant to do that...and I still see much of Freud- by no means all- regularly borne out by my own eyes and observations.

  12. People are born gay. I know. They can be miserable or accepted. Raised as a christian it fills me even more with shame of the people who pick and choose words of a man-made, chapter-selected book of folk tales to justify their intolerance. I am sure there are many Bible verses you do not adhere to. You must not be around anyone gay and I can't believe you are a doctor.

  13. People can be born with all kinds of tendencies. This in itself is no argument for suggesting that it is right to act upon them. Indeed we need to direct and rationalise our desires. We are rational beings after all.

  14. Hello Dr. Saunder,

    I'm very glad to have come across your blog, as someone with strong Christian beliefs I am comforted to find people that take their time to discuss matters of sexual morality and have the strength to not be discouraged by a secular society and by real hate posts as the ones you have been receiving.

    Nevertheless, I think that we Christians, might be missing something in our approach. This is not only a battle against immorality, it is a battle against a culture that above all things exalts individual egotism, avoids sacrifice at all cost, and has forgotten what is Christianity and what real love is. Love in itself, caritas, is not something that has to be linked with sex, but as you can see from some commenters, this is an idea that is now totally foreign to the average Joe. And when you talk about chastity, people see you as if you were an alien, they say sexuality is part of human nature and with that, they attempt to justify their behavior, ignoring, or turning a blind side to many people, Christians and even non-Christians (Like some Buddhist monks) that have decided to live their lives bound by a principle of chastity and self-control.

    So I have to say, that it’s not enough to talk about what’s wrong and why is wrong, we might have to attempt to re-evangelize the world. I worries me when I see “Christians” regarding the Bible as antiquated or just taking the parts that they agree on. Still, it also reminds me of Matthew 22:14: “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” Being a Christian is difficult, particularly today, if people in the time of Jesus said to themselves “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (Jn 6:60), then with much more strength we will be rebuked in today’s world. Of course, talking about re-evangelizing is much easier than actually doing it. Yet I say again that I’m glad to know of brave people like you, you have actually encouraged me a little to talk about my faith. It might not be on topics as controversial as this, but I still want people to know what Christianity is really about. Keep the good work and blessings.


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