Sydney is also gay. In spite of that, I still appreciate his character.
Rewind a century to 19th century London. In season 2 of Victoria, her court member Alfred Paget carries on a romantic relationship with Edward Drummond. One kiss and a tragic ending later, Albert turns to an heiress to find a marriage partner.
For a while, Alfred is gay. I have a problem with that.
So what gives, Schuyler? What makes the difference?
There are some camps, of which I probably would have used to be one, that would say the portrayal of both men was something that Christians shouldn't participate in reading about. Boycott, protest, and warn people away. But I think it's a little more nuanced than that. It all comes down to why you're watching it and how you engage with the art.
I haven't seen season 2 of Victoria yet. I probably will, but I just haven't gotten around to it. But as a Christian, I disagree with Alfred Paget's character portrayal because he exists to celebrate an unbiblical lifestyle. He is not there to create truthful or beautiful art. He's given a hot-button issue (which isn't historically accurate) to connect with a modern audience.
However, I don't have the same problem with Sydney Stark's character.
read on, lizzy
No kind of gay relationship is portrayed on screen. In fact, you'd almost not even know he's gay except for one comment. Juliet confides to a friend that Sydney would probably have a better chance of loving her if she were named George or Tom. After a moment of confusion, her friend's face clears and she nods in realization.
Sydney maintains good art to a certain extent because he portrays a fully-dimensional person instead of a gay agenda. Alfred violates good art because his character exists to prove that sin is acceptable. The Bible contains fully dimensional sinners and is not threatened by them. But God never deceives his followers into thinking that sin is desirable.
Guernsey doesn't go further than making Syndey three-dimensional. But when I engage that piece of art with biblical truth, I can take that story to a further conclusion that leads to a fuller picture of Truth.
I'm speaking to my fellow conservatives here when I say that Sydney's characterization can open up a fruitful conversation to remind us that gay-identifying people are more than gay. Sydney reminds us that people who are gay are also...people. Warm, friendly, fully dimensional people. They have lives and professions, they can be wonderful friends and make good contributions to the world. Even unsaved, they are still Imago Dei.
This is how people like Sydney can help those of us who disagree with a gay lifestyle. You see, as conservatives, when we pigeon-hole someone according to an issue or a category, then we can easily dismiss them as an enemy. We lump them all into together and shut them out. They do not touch our hearts. But when we remember that the Sydney Starks of the world are real individuals with sins and struggles and a soul just like us, then we are much more likely to face the question: how are we going to respond?
It's much harder to dismiss a person than to dismiss a category. When you finally see someone as a person, then you are more likely to feel grief for their sin and love for their soul. When we feel grief and love for them, we are much more likely to engage them with the good news of the Gospel.
Good art can open our eyes to that.
Just to be clear, I don't believe that gay relationships are biblical. Nor do I believe that a portrayal of sin in stories is a neutral thing. I don't believe that Christians enjoying entertainment should take the casual inclusion of gay characters or relationships lightly. We need to think about these things. Mindless consumption of entertainment is not a good thing.
But I do believe that Sydney's story can open up doors to discuss these concepts. I think his character would be especially fruitful to discuss with a period drama loving teen or twenty-something--either one who struggles with Christians condemning the gay lifestyle, or one who cannot understand the power and compassion of Christ to forgive certain sins. Just as Paul engaged the people of Athens with their idols and their poets, and then presented truth, we can also do that with stories.
In a good conversation, Syndey's character can illustrate that even when a sinner is still loveable, he is still a sinner. Sydney can illustrate that even when he is still a sinner, he is not beyond the reach and transformation of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). And Syndey can illustrate that even believers who struggle with sexual temptation in this area are not the sum of their sexual sin, but they are the sum of their status as an image-bearer (Lies Women Believe, pg. 143-146.)
By itself, Guernsey will teach you none of these things. It's just a fun period drama with a quick, almost-miss gay comment. But art, and especially story, and especially Guernsey, can be a non-threatening, non-explicit vehicle for engaging the issue. It's not an end place. But with the right person, and the right conversation, it can be a springboard to further diving into Scripture.
Because I do not personally have opportunities to interact with people who identify as gay (though I would love to someday) Sydney's fictional personality helped me engage with that truth in a Gospel light. And I am grateful for it. The best kind of art is a springboard that, when wrestled and engaged with, and conversed about, leads you back to Scripture and Truth--which is Jesus.
I more than welcome comments or texts that will sharpen my perspective on this issue!