Is This ‘Clicktivism’?


Exactly two.

That’s the number of signatories I got in response to my invitation in my last entry (see ‘An Open Letter to Kim Hyun-woong, Minister of Justice, Government of the Republic of Korea’, July 16, and ‘A Heads-up About My Next Entry’, July 15). And one of them was my wife!

I got a few ‘like’s and a few ‘share’s, and my last entry was viewed by more visitors from more countries than any other entry I’ve written to this point.

Yes, that’s progress.

But I was hoping for more than that.

And as I wrote previously, I realized that there would be those who would feel uncomfortable adding their signatures, as it would possibly have placed them in jeopardy regarding their workplaces, education, or relationships. I have no issue at all with people in that type of situation.

All the same…

I know people who are ‘out’, either as LGBT+ persons or as allies, like me, whom I thought would surely sign – but didn’t.

And some might respond, ‘It’s a Korean issue; why not aim it at a Korean audience?’

Fair enough – I had one suggestion to have it translated into Korean, with the idea that it would have brought an increased response. I freely admit that I balked. I worried a tad about how it would impact my current work position (NB – neither blogging nor preaching make me an income at the moment), so I didn’t do it. I own my ‘pigeon-livered’-ness[1].

Yet, I know Koreans who understand English well enough that they could have read what I wrote and responded.

Now, I don’t wish to whinge, denounce, or complain. I’m treating this as my cock-up and no one else’s. This is an experience from which I have to learn something. The thing is, I’m not 100% sure what that ‘something’ is.

Is this what Facebook activism looks like? Is this what ‘slacktivism’ or ‘clicktivism’ looks like? Is this how it feels – that is, kind of empty?

I don’t want this to be an uninformed rant, but a disciplined reflection, so I have done some reading up on this, including a few scholarly articles. The exchange between Malcolm Gladwell[2] and Leo Mirani[3] in 2010 was insightful. Gladwell’s thesis was that traditional activism, as evidenced in the civil rights movement, was based largely on strong ties between individuals through personal connections and effective organization, whereas much of what he called ‘slacktivism’ was based on weak ties between people – this may be good for passing around information, but not good for ‘high-risk’ activism. In response, Mirani suggested that much Facebook activism is effective because – or perhaps, when – it can provide information which is ordinarily not provided by governments or mainstream media, leading to changes in people’s perceptions of what’s going on. Mirani addressed the ‘Facebook activism’ in Iran and Kashmir at the times as examples.

Henrik S Christensen also seemed to question critiques of ‘slacktivism’ in his 2011 paper[4], suggesting that at worst, there is no evidence of a negative effect of online activism upon traditional political action, and that there may be a weak positive correlation between the two. In addition, Ismael Pena-Lopez suggested in a 2012 paper[5] that much online activity around political action is simply another form of ‘casual politics’, the kind of informal passing on of information that happens in the offline world.

While there may be validity in the views expressed which cast doubt on Gladwell’s original assertions, there is some concern among organizations which have an online presence and use online tools to pursue acitivism. In a pair of papers (one co-authored[6] and one written solo[7]) Jonathan Obar explored how groups in the US and Canada used and perceived the use of online tools to advance activist goals. In both papers, while groups lauded the potential for online tools to accomplish outreach, create feedback loops, send out information in ‘real time’, and allow for cost savings in communication work, there was concern expressed about how the ‘weak ties’ inherent in online communication (using Gladwell’s term) may not be enough to inspire further action without some kind of personal connection. This concern seemed to be even more strongly expressed in the 2013 paper based on Canadian groups, as some groups openly expressed their concern about the effects of ‘slacktivism’, creating a group of people who can easily click ‘like’ but would never come out to a public event.

Now, I realize that my blog has not yet gotten the public exposure of blogs that are in significant portals like Patheos, but I thought that at least among the ones who did follow, that adding an electronic signature wouldn’t have been a great thing to ask. It wouldn’t have taken any more effort to do it here than to do it on Avaaz or (portals where I have signed petitions in the past). Maybe the people who read my blog are ‘the choir’ to which I preach; since they’re already positively oriented toward the acceptance of LGBT+ persons in communities of faith, it’s enough to ‘like’ and to ‘share’, to engage in that ‘informal political action’. Perhaps in the post-Pride slump, where people needed their time to recover from that activity, it was a bad time to ask for people to sign ‘yet something else’. Therefore, when I’ve been in reflective mode, I’ve asked myself, ‘Is there a time when I felt like the use of social media had real import for an imminently unfolding situation?’

I now realize I experienced something like that in the lead-up to the KQCF Opening Ceremony. While I’ve written about this more extensively in previous entries entries (see ‘Thinking and Action, Conscience and Witness (Parts One and Two), June 10 and 13, 2015), I’ll give a brief re-cap. The KQCF Organizing Committee, in the wake of the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), decided to not have a full opening ceremony, but to broadcast it online, and asked people to stay home and watch online. However, conservative Christian groups had announced they would hold counter demonstrations at the time of the ceremony, regardless. The debate among differing points of view on the ‘LGBTQIA and Allies’ page was intense. Should we just follow the recommendations of the Organizing Committee and stay away? Would showing up be the wrong decision, causing Seoul City Government to cancel permits for the whole festival? Did we need to make a stand and have a presence anyway, no matter how small, to say ‘We are not afraid’?

I now realize that social media use was crucial to keep track of everything happening on the ground. It’s also true, though, that the people engaged in that debate were people with ‘strong ties’, who had great personal investment in what was transpiring. In my more recent experience, I was probably expecting too much of people with whom I don’t yet have such strong ties, and I should accept that it’s unrealistic for me to expect that a blog is a place where there will be stronger ties resulting in action – or if it can be such a place, those strong ties won’t be forged overnight.

Hence, I come from this experience having a more realistic view of what my blogging can accomplish, and that this place may not be the best place to pursue certain types of action. In the meantime, I’ve signed another online petition, this time for LGBT rights in Korea.

If I feel the need to do more, maybe I’ll write letters for Amnesty International or something…

[1] Thanks, Will. If you don’t know the reference, look up Hamlet, Act II, Scene ii.

[2] Gladwell, Malcolm (2010, 4 October). Annals of Innovation – Small Change – Why the revolution will not be tweeted.. The New Yorker [online]. Retrieved 26 July 2015 at

[3] Mirani, Leo (2010, 2 October). Sorry, Malcolm Gladwell, the revolution may well be tweeted. In the guardian –‘Comment is free’ [online]. Accessed 26 July 2015 at

[4] Christensen, H S (2011, 7 February). Political activities on the internet: slacktivism or political participation by other means? First Monday (Peer Reviewed Journal on the Internet) 16/2 [online]. Retrieved 26 July 2015 at .

[5] Peña-López, I (2012) CASUAL POLITICS: FROM SLACKTIVISM TO EMERGENT MOVEMENTS AND PATTERN RECOGNITION. In Balcells Padullés, J., Cerrillo-i-Martínez, A., Peguera, M., Peña-López, I., Pifarré de Moner, M.J. & Vilasau Solana, M. (coords.) (2013). Big Data: Challenges and Opportunities: Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Internet, Law & Politics. Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, 25-26 June, 2013 (Barcelona: UOC-Huygens Editorial); Paper 17 (pp.339-356). Accessed 26 July 2015 at


[7] Obar, J A (2014). Canadian Advocacy 2.0: An Analysis of Social Media Adoption and Perceived Affordances by Advocacy Groups Looking to Advance Activism in Canada. Canadian Journal of Communication, 39/2: 211-233. Accessed 26 July 2015 at


An Open Letter to Kim Hyun-woong, Minister of Justice, Government of the Republic of Korea

Dear Sir,

I write to you as a long-term resident of the Republic of Korea, having spent over 10 of my 18 years abroad in this country. I am married to a Korean national and I work here; I have invested my time, energy, and personal income into this country, and I have seen remarkable change take place as South Korea has developed.

I write to you, as well, as a Christian, as a layperson who serves as a co-Pastor of a church community which welcomes and affirms members of the sexual minorities communities as members of God’s family.

I have noted, and wish to express concerns about, comments that you made during your confirmation hearings at the National Assembly. In particular, I am concerned about comments which appear to show an attitude of prejudice against sexual minorities in this country[1]. In these comments:

  • You stated your opposition to same-sex marriage; and
  • You stated your willingness to consider restrictions on freedom of expression at events such as the Korea Queer Culture Festival (KQCF) if they went against ‘public safety’ and ‘social norms’

I realize that, as a non-citizen of the Republic of Korea, some may believe I have no business addressing these issues at all. However, I am a person who cares about human rights and equality, and my primary inspiration for this concern is rooted in the vision of distributive justice for all people, as found in the First Covenant with Israel, and as demonstrated in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, whom I recognize as Messiah. I believe this distributive justice is the right of all people, especially of the members of sexual minorities whom I minister to. For these reasons, I believe it’s important for me to share my concerns with you.

I admit that the sources I read did not state on what basis you are opposed to same-sex marriage (I assume you would include in that marriage rights for other sexual minorities). However, it appears to me that in order to maintain your opposition to this, you have to maintain that a subset of the Korean citizenry does not have the same right to fair and equal treatment that other citizens have. I find it ironic that I, a non-citizen of Korea, have greater rights when it comes to marriage registry in this country than certain Korean citizens, just because my spouse happens to be a woman!

I notice with interest that the Constitution of the Republic of Korea states:

All citizens shall be equal before the la w, and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic, social, or cultural life on account of sex, religion, and social status.[2]

It also states:

Marriage and family life shall be entered into and sustained on the basis of individual dignity and equality of the sexes.[3]

In order to maintain your opposition to marriage equality, it appears that you have to maintain that sexual minorities do not have the right to equality before the law and to protection from discrimination. Moreover, it appears that you must assert that sexual minorities cannot muster the dignity and equality needed for marriage and family life. On what basis could you make those assertions?

I can only guess, but I suspect (please feel free to clarify if you feel the need) that it would be on similar grounds as the ones on which you would justify curtailing the freedom of expression of sexual minorities – for ‘public safety’ and ‘social norms’. Well, Minister Kim, whose definition of ‘social norms’ are you functioning with? To my knowledge, the only groups that have come out strongly against marriage equality and freedom of expression for sexual minorities are from within the conservative Protestant elements of the South Korean population. These people do not represent the largest group of Koreans, since (according to the 2005 census[4]) 46.5% of the Korean population does not profess a religion. They do not represent the majority of religious people, either, since there are more Buddhists than Protestants among the remainder of the population who do profess a religion (43.0% to 34.5%). In fact, the real surge in the Christian population of Korea has been among Catholics, not Protestants.

Moreover, among religious groups in South Korea, there is not one uniform view on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Let’s begin by examining Buddhism. Both the Jeoggye and Won Orders of Buddhism declared their support for the LGBT+ community at the KQCF Opening Ceremony in June. In fact, the Jeoggye Order recently held a ceremony marking its official support for the LGBT+ community, complete with chants and a teaching (I know this because I attended the ceremony as an ecumenical visitor).

Let’s move to Christian groups. To my knowledge, there was no evidence of representation from Catholic bodies among the groups of protestors at KQCF events. Even among non-Catholic Christian organizations, there are diverse views, for there are groups within the Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, and Baptist (yes, even Baptist!) confessions of faith which have expressed their support for the LGBT+ community. Members of these groups helped form the Human Chain against Hate and Discrimination at the main KQCF festival on June 28th. Moreover, there is now evidence of movement within mainline Christian denominations. For example, when the Rev. Dr. Lim Bora of the Seomdol Hyanglin Presbyterian Church reported on the KQCF to organizers for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, she noted there were many voices expressing the desire to support the LGBT+ community.

Based on this evidence, it would appear that those persons who are advocating against sexual minorities represent less than the entire Protestant population of South Korea, which itself represents less than one of every four South Koreans. Do you think it is appropriate for the government to consider the views of such a minority within the population as being normative for the entire society? Would it be wise for you to listen only to these voices when you make decisions on how freedom of expression should be regulated?

Again, I can only guess, but I suspect I can anticipate your reply to these questions – ‘recent polls still indicate the majority of Koreans hold negative attitudes toward homosexuality’. Yes, according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center, that is true, by approximately a 3-to-2 margin[5]. However, South Korea has experienced the highest degree of change in people’s views toward homosexuality – the percentage of people holding more favorable attitudes toward homosexuality has more than doubled in the last decade! It was also discovered that the strongest support for positive attitudes toward homosexuality is among South Koreans under 30 – the people who are emerging as this nation’s leaders and citizens. Even among those aged 30-49, attitudes toward homosexuality are split. Therefore, in order to say that ‘social norms’ require limitations on the expression of sexual minorities, you would need to, in effect, ignore the attitudes of the majority of South Koreans less than fifty years of age. Are you prepared to do that – to effectively say to these people, ‘Your views don’t count’?

The fact is, Minister Kim, attitudes are changing among the citizens of this country, especially from generation to generation, and within the religious communities in this country, toward sexual minorities. There are legal and political precedents, too. Politically, the Seoul Student Rights Ordinance, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity protection, was passed by Seoul Metropolitan Council in 2011[6]. Among legal rulings, in March 2013, Seoul Western District Court ruled that alteration of genitals by surgery was no longer required to change one’s identified gender[7]. In addition, the courts have been willing to grant protection in the form of refugee status to members of sexual minorities[8], overturning decisions made by the Ministry you now head. To add to these precedents, the Supreme Court ruled that a 19+ rating of a film dealing with issues faced by a gay couple as being too restrictive. I find the wording of the ruling very insightful into the mind of the court: ‘Considering homosexuality as a hazard, and thereby making restrictions, imposes serious limitations on the human rights, rights to purse happiness, and other rights of sexual minorities.’[9]

And of course, the attempts by Christian groups to have the KQCF Pride Parade banned were overturned by the Seoul Administrative Court, stating that the parade was not a threat to public security and could be restricted only after all other possible alternatives were considered.[10] At the festival and parade, the Seoul Metropolitan Police demonstrated that they were more than able to provide the staffing and security measures needed to ensure a smooth festival and parade.

My point in citing all this evidence is that there appears to be an increasing willingness among the citizenry of this country, South Korea, as well as political and legal precedents, to recognize that the guarantees to equal treatment and freedom from discrimination guaranteed in the Constitution should be granted to sexual minorities. Or, to borrow the words and sentiments of the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, there is evidence that the moral arc in this country – even this country – as with the rest of the universe, is bending towards justice. If you seek, in your actions as Minister of Justice for the Republic of Korea, to restrict the movements toward marriage equality and freedom for sexual minorities, you could be undertaking a very risky course of action. You may possibly be heeding the voices of a minority which seeks to inflict its understanding of divinity, humanity, and sexuality on a nation which does not necessarily share its views. This would put you in the unfortunate position of willfully ignoring, or worse yet, struggling against, the changing attitudes of this society. You would also be putting yourself at odds with an increasing body of political and legal opinion. You would, in effect, be attempting to refract that moral arc of the universe – in so doing, you would be distorting it. Is that a risk you’d be willing to take?

I pray that you consider seriously the concerns I have raised.

Peace be with you.

C Craig Bartlett

Co-Pastor, Open Doors Metropolitan Community Church, Seoul

[1] Jeong, H (2015, 7 July). Justice minister nominee opposes same-sex marriage. The Korea Herald [online]. Accessed 9 July at

[2] Constitution of the Republic of Korea – Article 11, Section 1 (English translation). Accessed 13 July 2015 from

[3] Constitution of the Republic of Korea – Article 34, Section 1 (English translation). Accessed 13 July 2015 from

[4] I will be quoting the following census figures from Korean Broadcasting Corporation (2013) Religion. In KBS World Radio [online]. Accessed 13 July 2015 from

[5] The statistics I quote in this paragraph come from the Pew Research Center (2013) The Global Divide on Homosexuality [online]. Accessed 14 July 2015 at

[6] (2011, Decembcer 20). Seoul Student Rights Ordinance passes with sexual orientation, gender identity protections. In fridae: empowering LGBT Asia. Accessed 14 July 2015 at

[7] Um, J W; Park, H J (2013, 16 Mar). Landmark legal ruling for South Korean transgenders. The hankyoreh [online]. Accessed 14 July at

[8] (2013, 1 May). South Korea: Court grants Ugandan lesbian refugee status after family killed due to her sexuality. Pink News [online]. Accessed 14 July 2015 at

[9] Rizov, V (2013, 14 November). South Korean Supreme Court strikes down restrictive rating on gay film. Dissolve [online]. Accessed 14 July 205 at

[10] Hazzan, D (2015, 18 June). South Korean court lifts ban on gay pride parade in Seoul. DailyXtra [online]. Accessed 14 July 2015 at

A ‘Heads Up’ About My Next Entry


For my next blog entry, I intend to publish an Open Letter to the Minister of Justice for the South Korean government, Minister Kim Hyung-woon, about comments concerning the LGBT community he made at his confirmation hearings[1].

If you agree with the sentiments expressed in this open letter, I invite you, no matter where you are in the world, to show this in the ‘Comments’ section by indicating your agreement and including an electronic signature.

This is completely optional. If you are uncomfortable doing so, or if doing so would place you in some kind of jeopardy, I understand 100% – please don’t feel like you are compelled to do so. If you would like to do so, though, I strongly encourage you to add your voice.

And if you don’t agree, I’ll include your comments, too, if you are so moved. I’m not interested in stifling freedom of thought or expression in any way.

Watch this space!

[1] These comments can be viewed at: Jeong, H (2015, 7 July). Justice minister nominee opposes same-sex marriage. The Korea Herald [online]. Accessed 9 July at

…And Back to the Trenches!

If anyone needed that short, sharp shock to remind them that the seeming triumph of the KQCF Pride Parade (see ‘My First Pride’) was but a small step on a long journey, it wasn’t very long coming.

In fact, it came the day of the festival. On June 28, an article was published in the ‘National’ section of the Korea Observer, an online news site which ‘pioneers investigative journalism with the use of new media technologies and plays the role of a watchdog’ (from its page ‘About Us’[1]).

This ‘news’ article was an interview with the Rev. Kim Kyu-ho, a Korean Protestant pastor who is secretary-general of a group called the Counter-measures on Homosexual Issues[2]. While ostensibly an interview, I had the distinct sense that the interviewer lobbed ‘softball questions’ to the Rev Kim and allowed him to wax poetic, without follow-ups or challenges. In the light of the answers given, follow-ups and challenges were necessary. Among the claims that the Rev Kim made are the following:

  • Homosexuality is an addiction;
  • 90% of homosexuals will suffer STDs, the worst being AIDS;
  • Homosexuals are obsessed with anal sex, which ‘destroys the anus’;
  • Homosexuality is a learned, not innate, condition;
  • Homosexuality is an immoral import from the West;
  • Western countries like the Netherlands are supporting bestiality;
  • It is possible to ‘escape’ a homosexual life;
  • Homosexuals are advocating incest and other forms of ‘sexual anarchy’; and
  • The Bible prohibits homosexuality because of the aforementioned ‘damage’ it can cause. (NB – I encourage you to read the article for itself)

What bothered me the most about this article (which I made clear in my comments) was the apparent inability or unwillingness of the authors to challenge some of the assumptions made by the interviewee. With all due respect to the Korea Observer and its tradition of investigative journalism for the sake of justice, this article is not a good example of ‘comforting the afflicted and afflicting the confortable’. If Stephen Sackur had had the Rev Kim on Hardtalk (BBC World), do you think he would have gotten through without some very hard challenges to the claims of fact he made? I think not!

To its credit, the Korea Observer published an Op/Ed response from my colleague in ministry, the Rev Daniel Payne[3]. In it, he directly challenged many of the assertions made the Rev Kim. As one can probably predict, there were a variety of responses to Daniel’s article – some who agreed, some who disagreed, and those who think that it is a lost cause for LGBT+ people to seek acceptance from an antiquated religion and text. It’s just not possible to respond to all comments, but I focused on one comment that came along early[4]:

All the translations at the following link *explicitly* condemn “man lying with man as with woman”. It is disingenuous of the “Rev.” Payne, who rejoices in the thought of the demise of anyone who disagrees with his progressive tendencies, to gloss over this.

A link was provided to an online Bible Study resource which I assume supported the responder’s views. I responded thus:

…(Y)our posting of the above link addresses nothing. It simply sidesteps the core issue when it comes to the interpretation of Scripture – can the passages in question, as cited by the Rev Mr Payne, be used to condemn the variations in sexual orientation and gender identity as they are understood now? If ‘yes’, how are we justified in throwing aside the insights not only of modern Biblical exegesis, but also of psychiatry, psychology, sociology, and anthropology?

Moreover, there is a larger issue you simply do not address. Do you believe the Rev Kim Kyu-ho’s analysis is accurate and fair? I, and many other readers, I’m sure, would like to read your thoughts on this.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I am the Rev Daniel Payne’s colleague in ministry at Open Doors Metropolitan Community Church.).

This response has become more and more my style of dealing with these types of comments. As another example, I recall the debate that happened on a Facebook page I’m part of concerning the case of the Rev Matthew Makela, the Lutheran pastor who worked at St John’s Lutheran Church and School in Midland, Michigan[5]. He was clearly anti-LGBT, and counselled a gay teen that there was little difference between the ‘sin’ of homosexuality and the ‘sin’ of suicide. His profile, pictures, and comments were then found on the gay meet-up app Grindr.

Many comments in the Facebook posts I read centered upon the hypocrisy of Pastor Makela . However, one particular commenter on a specific post wrote about how (I’m summarizing here) mercy should be extended to those who believe being gay is a sin (whether or not it really is a sin), since they are trying to resist what they view as unnatural impulses; that it was a pastor’s duty to counsel people to not follow unnatural urges; and that the original poster was rejoicing over someone’s failures. I responded to these expressed opinions with the following comment:

Do you believe Pastor Makela’s so-called ‘pastoral advice’ to a gay teenager was an appropriate form of, to borrow your words, telling someone not to serve their impulses?

And actually, whether LGBTQ-ness is a sin or not is part of the issue. Pastor Makela treated it as a sin, and he declared it to be a sin. To hide behind words like ‘impulses’ strikes me as trying to avoid the elephant in the room.

In both cases, the commenters did not respond to my challenges to their opinions and assumptions. It is entirely possible that these people decided they were not going to cast their ‘pearls’ of wisdom before ‘swine’ like me. However, I’ve concluded that this is beside the point.

As I reflect on these experiences, especially in the light of my realization that I am more ‘activist’ in my faith orientation than I ever realized (see ‘Who? Me? An Activist?’ June 4, 2015), I’m trying to discern what it is in my own approach to these situations that appears to work. This is an ongoing process, but I’m beginning to discern some principles which I find are helpful to me. I hope you’ll find them helpful, too:

  1. I don’t respond to everything – For one, it’s simply not possible. For another, there are some postings and comments which are defined by emotionalism and irrationality (expletives and other condemnatory remarks are clear signs of this). However, others are clearly trying to make points that they believe to be reasoned and legitimate. If they’re willing to do this, they should be willing to receive critical analysis. In writing this, I know the same applies to me.
  1. I analyze, reflect, and take a deep breath & count to 10 if I need to – It is so easy to get ‘hooked in’ to vitriol and to type out instant responses. If I allow that to get the better of me, though, my response is likely to be no better. It’s not necessarily a bad idea to type out the first things that come into my mind, since that can help me to craft my response. However, I remind myself to NEVER PRESS THE SEND BUTTON ON THE FIRST THING I WRITE. That’s usually a recipe for disaster, and for eventually looking and feeling like a fool. Sometimes, I have to sit with the response for a while and ask, ‘What do I disagree with here? What in this article/comment is inconsistent with the principles I espouse?’
  1. I’m sufficiently clear within myself about my principles – I identify as a progressive Christian. For myself, that means (among other things) seeing God as mysterious presence rather than specific spiritual being in the Cosmos; viewing Jesus as a unique manifestation of God’s self-giving love, rather than an a God-man come to die in order to satisfy the need for a sacrifice to satisfy the requirements of a divine system which requires punishment for human sinfulness; and taking the Bible as an anthology of literature which carries the spark of divine inspiration yet which also needs to be carefully interpreted in the light of modern knowledge, not as a Book which carries complete, verbal, plenary, inspiration, and for which a surface reading is sufficient. I know there are conservative approaches to faith and the Bible, but I believe it’s enough to understand the approach that sustains me.
  1. I draft and re-draft, as much as I need – It’s important for me, even if I’m making a quick response in the context of a Facebook response thread, to fine tune what I write so that I’m crystal clear about what it is that I need to address, what I view as the weaknesses of the post/response, and weeding out any needless emotionality or peripheral issues not pertinent to the issues at hand.

I am not perfect. There are times I’ve allowed emotion to get the better of me. There are times when I’ve used phrases, like ‘brutally honest’, which simply allow people to point out vulnerabilities in my comments (e.g. ’Those who use the term “brutally honest” are more interested in being brutal than honest’). Nonetheless, I can say that there are moments when I feel like, ‘Yes, something good has been accomplished here’. That came most recently in a Facebook thread concerning a debate my ministry colleague, the Rev Daniel Payne, is going to have with another pastor of an English-medium church concerning ‘the Bible and Homosexuality’ (more on that later). The event has been posted on Facebook and, as you can predict, people are commenting already. One which I’ve responded to had the classic quote of Leviticus 20:13. I simply responded,

It is so easy to quote isolated verses from Scripture and just take a surface reading of them. I openly question whether this is a faithful way to interpret the Scriptures. I have concluded in my faith journey that it is not.

Another person responded to my comment with this, among other comments:

…My position is that if anyone can squirm away from all 7 Bible verses which, in their own context, condemn such lust and actions… … that person can then deny any part of scripture they choose… such as salvation, and sin itself.

I do not believe God is so misleading as to repeat something 7 times only to have that teaching be negated by interpretation and zero verses which teach to the contrary.

My response went thus:

…that is just too simplistic. Doesn’t matter if it’s 1 or 71, if a verse or verses are quoted out of context, with just a surface reading, that’s a disservice to the Scriptures.

Moreover, the point of ‘there is no verse approving it’ is moot. Modern information technology is not addressed in the Scriptures, either. Does that mean God’s against it?

The next point offered by my conversation partner went thus:

That’s a point to be debated, perhaps. I believe that the Holy Spirit and scripture itself interprets scripture. Just to be a bit more clear: context and other verses from the Bible provide sound interpretation.

I will definitely listen … but it’s unreasonable to ask a Christian to come with an open mind about your position when you’ll have to rewrite the entire Bible to make the argument work…(which I know is something you dispute).

…it will be an uphill battle to convince Christians who have read and studied the Bible to take that position.

Well, I detected a little inconsistency and even high-handedness in that last comment. My retort went thus:

Ooooh…I’ll remind you that other Christians have read and studied the Scriptures, and have come to different conclusions from yours.

Moreover, I don’t see the purpose of this debate as to convince people who have already reached their own conclusions…The best I’m hoping for is that there will be some people who are genuinely unsure, listen to both main speakers, ask questions, and have some things to think about.

This was part of his final response to me:

Well I agree with you on those things…As Christians, and especially for those who study scripture, we’re all used to other educated people having studied and come to different conclusions…

I don’t want to ignore, silence, or disrespect any of those people – only to have God’s truth be spoken among them. It’s easy to get prideful about knowledge or to let a stubborn “I’m right” attitude creep in – so it’s definitely important for all of us to remain humble and trust that anyone who truly looks to and seeks after God will arrive at His Truth.

I’m under no illusions that I changed this person’s mind on anything, and some might believe that any civility in the conversation was due to the Christian-ness of the other person. For me, neither of those things is the point. It’s important for me to be active in standing up for the principles in which I believe, and to let those who disagree with me know that LGBT+ Christians, and we who are their allies, aren’t going to back down. Call me presumptuous or even arrogant, but I take a little inspiration from one of last Sunday’s lectionary readings:

‘Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.’ (Ezekiel 2:5).

[1] (n.d.) ‘About Us’. The Korea Observer. [online] Accessed 3 July 2015 at

[2] Iglauer, P; Lee, T H (2015, 28 June) Pride parade must be stopped because gays are ‘diseased,’ pastor says. The Korea Observer. [online] Accessed 29 June 2015 at

[3] Payne, D (2015, 30 June) Stop deceiving Christian followers about homosexuality! The Korea Observer [online]. Accessed 30 June 2015 at

[4] Out or respect to the commenter, I will not use the commenter’s name in these or any other posts. Please feel free to reference the original articles or available Facebook posts, if you wish.

[5] There are many articles which recount the unfolding of these events, including the following:

Gander, K (2015, 20 May) Anti-LGBT vicar Matthew Makela resigns after being found on Grindr gay dating app. The Independent [online]. Accessed 7 July 2015 at

Williams, M E (2015, 22 May) An anti-LGBT pastor’s Grindr outing: The church’s hypocrisy and denial are the real sins.[online] Accessed 23 May 2015 at

Custer, D and Owczarzak, B (2015, 21 May/18 June) Church: Pastor in gay scandal welcome at altar, not at pulpit. WNEM.COM [online]. Accessed 23 May/7 July 2015 at

My First Pride…

Well, it happened.

‘Through many dangers, toils, and snares’ (read some of my previous entries if you don’t know what I’m talking about), KQCF Pride has come and gone. What do I remember from it?

I remember the festive atmosphere which was present throughout Seoul City Plaza, right in front of City Hall. As we greeted each other at our church booth, there was this invincible feeling that it was going to be a good day – no, a great day.

I remember the ‘noise, noise, noise, noise, noise!’ from the protestors outside. At times it seemed far away. At other times, it was as if they had set up camp right behind our booth! I couldn’t help but wonder, did they think they were Joshua and his armies, fittin’ de battle o’ Jericho? Didn’t work!

It wasn’t lost on me how they readily wrapped themselves up in Korean culture: hanbok, traditional fan dances, drumming – good God, the drumming! I didn’t miss the irony. Centuries earlier, Koreans were condemning Christianity as a Western import. Now, they’re condemning LGBT+-ity as a ‘Western import’. Hmmm…

I remember my wife’s boundless energy! As my ministry colleague said, ‘She must be a born activist’. She constantly handed out fliers, talked to people about our congregation, and encouraged people to enter our raffle – for sex toys, no less! Not bad at all for someone who self-identifies as ‘non-believing’.

I remember two of the guests we had at our booth, and my thinking, ‘I’ve seen them before…’ Then, there was my wife’s squeal of glee when she realized that they were from the touring company of Chicago, which we had seen the weekend before…and yes, pictures were taken!

I remember the people – oh, the throngs of diverse people! With all due respect to the head counters, I’m convinced there were more people attending the festival than the protests. There is also no doubt in my mind that for many people there, Korean and expatriate, this was the one day of the year where they did not have to be ‘invisible’ or ‘closeted’.

I remember those Christians, Korean Christians, who were part of the human chain against discrimination. They were unafraid to be counted as holding a different view from the protestors across or down the street. They were unafraid to stand up and be counted as being different and thinking differently, as being motivated through love and service, not through fear and hatred.

I remember the unexpectedness of the Parade. Yes, the ban on the Parade was overturned, but I had no idea of where the route would take us. With every intersection we passed, and with every corner we turned, the realization came that this was going to be a full parade – down Eulji-ro (street), through the shopping district of Myeong-dong, back up to City Hall and the Festival site. This was no quick walk-through, but a full parade!

I remember the police. They were out in full force, not to restrict anyone, but to ensure that the Festival could take place safely. The head of Namdaemun-gu Police Station may have been very comfortable with banning the Parade, and with claiming the blind administration of justice, but someone must have had a stern talking with someone else, because on the day, they were professional, impartial, and fair. They were unhesitating in their willingness to escort out, politely but firmly, any conservative Christian who attempted to disrupt the parade. There were some reports of scuffles between Parade walkers and protestors at the end[1], but for the most part, the police ensured the day unfolded peacefully – kudos to them.

I remember parents and children. There were parents with their children at the Festival – again, both Korean and expat – teaching them that there is nothing to fear with greater justice for the LGBT+ community in the Republic of Korea. I saw someone who posted a picture on Facebook of a Korean family who wanted to pose with her pro-gay poster. I saw parents walking with their children in the parade. I saw parents holding their children in the windows of a local coffee shop, waving to us as we walked by.

These are but a few of my memories from this, my first Pride Parade. I can tell you, now that this precedent has been set, there will be no going back for the LGBT+ community. Nobody will be able to backtrack and say, ‘This can’t happen in the future’. This is by no means the end of the ongoing struggle for LGBT rights (stay tuned for more). The tragedies and heartbreak will not end just because of this parade, or this Festival, but it is a step, a significant step. No matter – it’s my hope that this community, and their allies, will take the momentum gained from this event and move forward – for greater recognition of rights; greater safety; and greater representation in the political, social, and cultural lives of this country.

Happy Pride!

[1] Kirk, D (2015, June 28). Gay Pride In Korea Faces Christian Rage As Seen At Rally In Seoul. In Forbes [online]. Accessed 30 June 2015 at