Wednesday, 19 December 2007

learners not warriors

Anglicans need deep learning not cheap victory is the title of an article published by Ekklesia and written by Savi Hensman.

Some church leaders caught up in the sexuality row not only refuse to consider scholarship which does not conform to their own perspective but also demand the right to prohibit others from acting on the fruits of study. Anglicans need to be learners not warriors.

Read the article here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 9:59am GMT | TrackBack
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A deep personal thank you to Hensman for pointing to the previous Lambeth documents that affirm what I have been saying on this forum for months: that new scientific knowledge is a gift from God and must cause us to reconsider biblical interpretation in that light.

The absolute refusal to accept that gift and hold to interpretations that conflict with the truth God has shown us through scientific inquiry is an affront to the almighty.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 11:32am GMT

The principle every right minded person should agree with. Some of the application is biased. There is, for example, ample evidence that the sin in the story of Sodom was hypersexuality - apparently bisexual but with a homosexual element, indeed preference. It cannot possibly have been lack of hospitality - otherwise why would Lot offer his daughters? There are plenty of studies demonstrating this (if it needed to be demonstrated) in detail.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 12:24pm GMT

This article rather tends to claim the high ground of "deep and dispassionate study and genuine dialogue", but in fact rests on unfounded claims and tendentious argument.

The conclusion is already presumed in the reference to "homophobia" as one of the "destructive forces" threatening the world. Those who do not agree with the writer's position on same-sex relationships are characterized (or rather, caricatured) as aggressive, ignorant and obtuse. Those against whom she writes are not 'scholars' but rather "loudly" insist on their (traditional) view - as if volume in theology were measurable or relevant.

The "thinking" hat is always on the Liberal head, as if Conservatives are not part of scholarly discourse.

One may, of course, hold all this to be true, but one should not pretend any sort of dispassionate stance towards theology or desire for genuine dialogue in an article which makes these assumptions.

Worst of all is the appeal to 'scientific' understandings. The one thing we know from science is that we know next to nothing about the formation of our sexuality.

And the one thing we know from sociology is that society's re-evaluation of homosexuality was not based on scientific study.

Posted by: John Richardson on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 12:26pm GMT

The absolute refusal to accept that gift and hold to interpretations that conflict with the truth God has shown us through scientific inquiry is an affront to the almighty.


Pat:

How right you are!

Posted by: Andrew Innes on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 12:32pm GMT

"The absolute refusal to accept that gift and hold to interpretations that conflict with the truth God has shown us through scientific inquiry is an affront to the almighty."

The astonishing thing is that the middle ground appears to concede this point to the conservatives as though it was no big deal and that the church hierarchy prefers to strengthen a centralised organisaion rather than to challenge the prevailing mis-interpretation of Anglicanism.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 12:56pm GMT

"This is a sharp break with mainstream Anglicanism. ‘It is no part of the purpose of the Scriptures to give information on those themes which are the proper subject matter of scientific enquiry, nor is the Bible a collection of separate oracles, each containing a final declaration of truth."

It seems, though, according to the Advent Letter, that it is the purpose of apparent majority understandings to box in everyone via centralisation as if the Bible is an oracle and as if science is an irrelevance.

Posted by: Pluralist on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 1:20pm GMT

"The absolute refusal to accept that gift and hold to interpretations that conflict with the truth God has shown us through scientific inquiry is an affront to the almighty."

Which is why we're Anglicans. For some, I'd say many, and apparently for a distressing number of Anglicans, this is not only NOT an affront to the Almighty, it is a sign of faith and badge of holiness. For others, it is a challenge to create counter "science" to muddle the issue.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 1:34pm GMT

New scientific information is indeed valuable. The question is, of course, how you interprete the information and turn it into knowledge.

Many liberal scholars are guilty of exactly what Savi Hensman is criticising: "refusing to consider scholarship which does not conform to their own perspective"! The debate is closed in the minds of many.. not because the weight of all information supports their conclusions, but because the outcome of alternative interpretations is unacceptable to them. Often this is bolstered by an argument that any negative evaluation of someone's sexuality is tantamount to violence against their person (because they experience them as strong largely-unchanging parts of their sexual chemistry... an argument not used with regard other strong largely-unchanging sexual desires that the same scholars see as unacceptable!)

By designating only some strong largely-unchanging sexual desires as 'orientations' a judgement call has been made, based on an unspoken view moral; and unspoken arguments are otherwise known as prejuduces.. This refusal to speak about the real basis for moral judgement closes down discussion and leads to rejection of all information that might undermine it. Per SH, such scholars (and commentators here) generally "demand the right to prohibit others from acting on the fruits of study"... if it contradicts what they believe.

Savi Hensman seems to have not thought through what she was saying. If it can be applied equally to both sides in a debate it is at best rhetoric, and at worst prejudice, dressed up as concern for truth!

Posted by: david wh on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 2:32pm GMT

Pat,

We do need thoughtful reflection on "scientific knowledge," and on the relation between this knowledge and the Bible.

There is a key qoute from Hensman, "It therefore calls upon Christian people both to learn reverently from every new disclosure of truth, and at the same time to bear witness to the biblical message of a God and Saviour apart from whom no gift can be rightly used.’" There is a valid point here, if overstated.

At the same time if there is one thing to learn from the last hundred years of scientific work it may be that science does not simply "hand down absolute truth" (e.g. witness the theory about the make-up of light - is it particle or wave? Science has affirmed both but only to be challenged again and has not been able to decide finally. Science too has had to learn humility, after all it is human beings thinking and working). In this piece science becomes the new revelation - "every new disclosure of truth." This is the old confidence of 50 or a 100 years ago that science is the "ultimate revealer of truth." Are we still stuck in the Enlightenment rationalism? What is the critique of postmodernism about if not that?

There is reference to "a God and Saviour apart from whom no gift can be rightly used.’" There is the possibilty of some balance here. What is not clear though is if we take God seriously enough to think God might really have acted and spoken in the history with Isreal or in Jesus Christ. Then we have a basis for saying "apart from whom no gift can be rightly used.’" Otherwise reference to God becomes a fancy way merely to exalt and clothe our thinking as the "new diclosure of truth."

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 2:34pm GMT

Many thanks to Hensman for her depth and detail, not to mention her frankness and passion for the typical Anglican breadth now supposed to be ruled out of bounds by the current conservative realignment campaign. I also note with gratitude the companion essay linked at the very end of this one, titled, Rewriting History, and available in summary bullet points or complete PDF file. Taken together, they start a very good response to all the realignment matters being forced among us: Not least this whole business of whether and how a new covenant will settle and preserve Anglican space by narrowing and eliminating it for everybody who is not already a properly conservative believer.

From posting occasionally on rather con evo blogs, I must say that - most of the time - conversants carry on vigorously, as if none of the new facts of naturalness and competency were available, let alone had been widely published in any number of peer reviewed journals over the past five to six decades of empirical study. (The redoubtable Sarah Hey of StandFirm, for example, one posted a reply to me, saying: Nothing you can say will ever make me change my mind.)

Nor do these folks, so proud to ignore and be out of the light cast by these new facts, show much familiarity with any of the ancient and textual scholarship which runs parallel to modern sciences. The glee with which all this is performed makes me wonder what sorts of Anglican believers the con evo Anglicans really are, since they wish to close forever the rooms that other Anglicans have historically occupied, leaving only their own spaces and frameworks open for business. A curious sort of Anglicanism, then, which prides itself on fears of being deceived or contaminated by the empirical sciences, especially those which more and more often apply to human nature and human behavior and cross-cultural variations in global human society.

It is difficult not to suspect that the high pitched realignment screetch, which sounds from a distance like an old factory whistle at high noon, is really a sign that way, way, way too many people - in secular society and in church life across believer communities - have been changing - in mind and - oh dear, gasp - heart.

Posted by: drdanfee on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 4:15pm GMT

Hensman has done all of us a favor by pulling out the declarations of earlier Lambeth Conferences.

It is the closed-mindedness and the apparent rejection of reason that seems to be shown by so many of the homophobes which is truly most disturbing.

Indeed, in Creation, it was God's gift of reason which actually defined humanity and differentiated human creatures from all the rest. It was God's first and primary gift to humanity -- historical tradition developed later and that tradition produced scripture. But it was the uniquely human intelligence and reason which God intended to be definitive in all human undertakings. And over the centuries, it has been intelligent human reason which has led the Church to make some basic and significant adjustments to tradition and and vastly to deepen our understanding of scripture.

It is a recognized pedagogical norm that one does not learn merely by experience - indeed, our history of useless war-after-war-after-war is proof of that - but only by RATIONAL REFLECTION on that experience -- by the analysis of experience by reason.

And those of us who have had the broadening social day-to-day experience of committed, faithful, and devout partnered gays and lesbians have turned to a rational re-examination of scripture, and have concluded that the direct dominical mandates of the Gospel for universal love and the favoring of and caring for the oppressed trump the few "clobber verses" elsewhere. We have simply tried to put Jesus Himself and His own witness and mandates ahead of the culturally-influenced opinions of the writers of Leviticus and the Epistles.

Finally, it is no wonder that cultures which have NOT commonly had these experiences with committed and devout homosexual partners would not have been driven to the same rational reflection on tradition and scripture as have we. Hence, we have never made any demand that other cultures must follow our lead -- only that they not impede the movements of the Spirit for us.

Posted by: John-Julian, OJN on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 5:57pm GMT

Thank you Hensman and Amen Pat.

God does not need to be dumbed down or reduced to human comprehension, nor is God threatened by anything in Creation because everything in Creation is of God.

If God keeps manifesting something, that is because God wants it. It is not our place to challenge the pots' existence, but rather work out how to appreciate its beauty by putting it in the best possible light whilst not damaging it during its allocated span of existence.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 6:37pm GMT

If one examines the trajectory (re Anglican views on homosexuality) over the course of successive Lambeth conferences, the picture is clear: what changed between 1988 and 1998, was that in those countries where "deep and dispassionate study" were being done (primarily the so-called "North"), majority and minority parties were becoming evident, and increasingly reified.

...and the anti-LGBT party was the ***minority***. Those in the minority saw that their minority status was only likely to become *more marginal* (more discredited by the *Lambeth* standards of "biological, genetic and psychological research"---and that research's PERSUASIVENESS) over time.

Ergo, it became necessary to *change the Lambeth standards, by changing the Lambeth STRUCTURE* (and doing so, the *interpretation* of Lambeth's import).

Losing the game, the minority decided to (consciously) CHANGE THE RULES of the game.

This bad faith has been their hallmark ever since.

Lord have mercy!

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 7:05pm GMT

She makes some very intresting and valid points. It is a good thing to have this assessment of the situation out there to counter the "poor persecuted orthodox" myth that said that TEC just woke up one morning and decided it was going to thumb its nose at the rest of the world in the interest of getting the approval of society. One statement gives me pause, however:

"Yet one of the founding principles of Anglicanism had been that no man could claim the authority to speak with the voice of God."

To me, the question in response would be "Who does?" I suspect the conservatives would say "God as HE has revealed Himself to us in His Word." The trouble is that they would then insist that their way of interpreting that Divine self-revelation is the only one acceptable. But in essence, isn't this a debate between those who need absolute clarity in what or is not permitted by God and those who are far more comfortable with doubt and not presuming to know the mind of the Almighty? Those who need to be bound in order to feel safe are warring with those who cannot feel safe if they are bound. But Jesus breaks our bonds, no? I get the feeling that the phrase "the glorious liberty of the children of God", a not uncommon phrase these days, sets a chill in the hearts of those for whom such liberty is the path to damnation.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 7:27pm GMT

One of the things that fascinates me about this whole debate is the refusal of the more liberal side to consider the scientific evidence that has come in recent years, that has undermined their dearly held "scientifically proven" beliefs -- particularly the evidence of the changeability of sexual orientation and the lack of evidence for any strong genetic determination. Despite the copious evidence (much from researchers who are homosexual themselves) we still get the mantra of "its genetic -- God made us this way ..."

Posted by: Margaret on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 8:42pm GMT

"What is not clear though is if we take God seriously enough to think God might really have acted and spoken in the history with Isreal or in Jesus Christ. "

How is this not clear? I certainly believe God acts in history. Every "liberal" I have corresponded with, and I correspond with people far more left wing than I am, affirms this as well. They are all solidly Incarnational Christians for whom God's acting in history, God's immenence, is crucial to their understanding of this issue,. ISTM that those who see Divine self revelation as ending with the last full stop of Revelation are the ones claiming God doesn't act in history, or at least that He stopped doing so.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 8:51pm GMT

drdanfee,

Interesting that you should speak about the narrow minded thinking of one who disagrees with you and who you wrote you to say, "Nothing you can say will ever make me change my mind." That is the point of one of your compatriots on this list yesterday, in essence, "I know what I believe, listening is a waste of time, it can only be the way I already think." There is something about people living in glass houses . . . ?

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 9:13pm GMT

My goodness, there are some depressingly "flat earth" comments on this thread. Surely there are no intelligent people left in Britain, outside of illiberal churches, with such views. It does make me wonder how it is that the C of E has allowed such a pre-modern mindset to go unchallenged within it for so long. If Christianity has such a backward-looking anthropology, then I'm afraid it's not going to survive to the end of this century, and nor will it deserve to: no thinking people will take it seriously any more, which is exactly Savi Hensman's worry.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 9:46pm GMT

"At the same time if there is one thing to learn from the last hundred years of scientific work it may be that science does not simply "hand down absolute truth" (e.g. witness the theory about the make-up of light - is it particle or wave? Science has affirmed both but only to be challenged again and has not been able to decide finally. Science too has had to learn humility, after all it is human beings thinking and working). In this piece science becomes the new revelation - "every new disclosure of truth." This is the old confidence of 50 or a 100 years ago that science is the "ultimate revealer of truth." Are we still stuck in the Enlightenment rationalism? What is the critique of postmodernism about if not that?"

And here we see the classic literalist misunderstanding of science. Science is not a collection of facts...it is a method of determining facts. As such, it is constantly correcting itself...most often ADDING to our knowledge of God's creation, not subtracting from it. The wave/particle argument about light has largely been resolved...light is made up of particles that move in waves.

Yes, it takes time for science to reach steady conclusions...and about some things it may never lay down a "law". (And, of course, in science, all laws are subject to amendment by new discoveries.)

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 9:54pm GMT

Margaret: no, I think its actually an irrelevance. The fact is that gay people simply are - and why isn't something which interests me at all. More important is that as they are, then how should they be enabled to form fulfilling and loving relationships which can contribute both to their wellbeing and that of society?

However, your conclusions are wrong and I can only assume you have been reading the anti-gay research again. The vast bulk of scientific opinion believes that sexual orientation is largely fixed.

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 10:18pm GMT

I agree with Merseymike on this one. The aetiology of homosexual preferences doesn't interest me all that much - indeed, queer theorists would find nothing at all objectionable in what Margaret proposes. Genetic, conditioned, environmental - the important fact is that self-identifying gay people and same-sex relationships exist. What are we to say about this?

I once saw a bumper-sticker that said "If God didn't create homosexuals, there wouldn't be any." In one sense, of course, this is true enough: even Akinola would not claim homosexuals are not God's creatures, and "liberals" such as myself and Merseymike (I assume) would go so far as to argue that loving non-heterosexual relationships can proceed from God and reflect God's love for us. But God didn't stick labels on us in utero. The 'labels' come from societies, from language systems, from culturally contingent taxonomies (and - as we are discovering - not all societies cut up the taxonomic cake in these familiar, convenient ways).

Ultimately, people aren't simply gay or straight in any objective sense. They're just people who happen to fall in love with other people. Now, the question is: do we condemn them for it?

Posted by: MRG on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 10:40pm GMT

Sadly, there are some contributors to this thread who seem to have missed the doctrine-debunking scientific evidence referred to in the report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists as their Submission to the Church of England’s Listening Exercise on Human Sexuality.

"In conclusion the evidence would suggest that there is no scientific or rational reason for treating LGB people any differently to their heterosexual counterparts. People are happiest and are likely to reach their potential when they are able to integrate the various aspects of the self as fully as possible (19). Socially inclusive, non-judgemental attitudes to LGB people who attend places of worship or who are religious leaders themselves will have positive consequences for LGB people as well as for the wider society in which they live."

http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/uploads/rcp.html

It must be shocking to have one's flat-earth world-view shattered so convincingly.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 10:57pm GMT

I’m puzzled how “Anglicans need deep learning not cheap victory” becomes “learners not warriors.” Ahh, well . . . no matter.

I’d suggest to Hensman the inception of two indices: one listing the approved texts and one listing the disapproved texts. Then when those pesky civil wars subside such ignorant, but aware, clergy can quickly update their knowledge on the pressing issue of human sexuality. Even better—a cross-reference of which scientific texts illume which scripture and vice versa.

On the whole, it seems that Hensman has uncovered, in the non-binding resolutions, the basis for an Anglican CDF. Good idea! Keep the church pure.

Posted by: trog on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 12:18am GMT

The so-called sexual orientation change data doesn't much overturn any of this sea change in our modern knowledge. All it shows is that some people say they can become straights, regardless.

How many of those changers were functionally bisexual to start with? We do not really know from the available data. The successful changers Masters and Johnson reported, using surrogate sex therapy as their main treatment modality, were almost all functionally heterosexual before they showed up at the M&J clinic in St. Louis.

These questions are hardly news. The peer journal literature is simply full of them.

And it is quite curious that such changers are mostly at the very same time, transformed into nothing but extremely conservative religious folks to boot.

How does that happen so completely across the boards? Is being straight causing people to become religious conservatives, but only if they used to be not straight? Is conservative religion causing people to say them are straight, a witness of aspiration and faith, damn the contrary facts, full speed ahead? Is a third set of causes actually driving both pressured outcomes of such change?

Then we also must consider the data from the many reports of failed change, whether religious or otherwise. The failures reportedly outnumber the successes, by about two to one so far.

For now the best working idea is that it is probably about as difficult to make a queer person straight, as it is to make a straight person nothing but gay. And bisexual folks cannot be collapsed into either exclusive group, since they can go both ways, at least in sexual behaviors if not also in serious pairbonding.

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 2:05am GMT

"that the C of E has allowed such a pre-modern mindset to go unchallenged within it for so long" FR Mark

It is intensifying it: something about a letter some days ago.

Being gay is largely fixed, but who cares regarding what is still a reciprocal, consenting, loving relationship.

Pity that the scientific method of revision, correction, facts into world views cannot be used by religion, instead of it dragging up what some people in the past thought and trying to impose that on the findings of science, social science and philosophy.

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 3:07am GMT

Pat,

With all the huff and bluster I am glad to see you came around to my basic point:"in science, all laws are subject to amendment by new discoveries.")

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 4:00am GMT

Merseymike - I agree with your comment "Margaret: no, I think its actually an irrelevance."

It is very clear from many passages in the Bible including many of Jesus's own parables on God''s judgment that God judges us on our actions -- justly, of course. Our orientation is not relevant, either on sexual issues or on things like lying, stealing etc -- but our actions are extremely relevant.

My comment reflects the fact that this completely irrelevant argument is also outdated science --- and yet it gets pulled out again, and again, and again, and again by those pushing for "inclusion"/

Posted by: Margaret on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 5:23am GMT

Absolutely right.

Churches which reward no-nothingism are signing their death warrant.

Flat earth theories of NARTH etc. are gobbled up by people who have not a clue what open-minded research and study really mean. They recycle the long-discredited theories of viciously homophobic psychoanalysts like Bergler and Socarides, keeping their names that would otherwise be forgotten in the public domain.

The claim that there is parity of closed-mindedness between liberals and reactionaries on this issue is just as false as it would be to say that there was parity of common sense between the supporters and the opponents of Bush's catastrophic invasion of Iraq.

"By designating only some strong largely-unchanging sexual desires as 'orientations' a judgement call has been made, based on an unspoken view moral; and unspoken arguments are otherwise known as prejuduces."

Not at all, the judgment is based on phenomenological study, integrating the witness of gays and lesbians, which is found to be indiscernable from what heterosexuals testify about their own sexuality -- that is it not a matter of an unintegrated desire (something like a perverse hang-up) but an all-pervasive sexual and affective orientation.

"such scholars (and commentators here) generally "demand the right to prohibit others from acting on the fruits of study"... if it contradicts what they believe."

Well, of course anti-semites always claim to base their views on much study, as do racists -- but by their fruits they are known. The fruit of homophobia and its meretricious claims to intellectual respectability is (a) murder (b) wreckage of gay men and women's lives by legal persecution, psychological mystification, and social discrimination.


Posted by: Joseph O'Leary on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 7:05am GMT

Ben W wrote “That is the point of one of your compatriots on this list yesterday, in essence, "I know what I believe, listening is a waste of time, it can only be the way I already think." There is something about people living in glass houses . . . ?”

Now you are mixing the subjects Ben. It’s the indication of a very grave diagnosis. Dr Dan is not living in a glass house. It is you who are seeing him not as him, but as something other.

But then you said the other day that discrimination was a “simplistic” notion…

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 7:15am GMT

Margaret
I agree with you, the scientific debate about gayness is being abused by both sides.

But I come to a completely different conclusion.
It actually doesn't matter why I am what I am and whether I could change it if I tried.
Assuming that change is desireable is based on the questionable assumption that straight is better than gay.

Actually, it's about love.
Some people are capable of loving people from the opposite sex only, some are capable of loving people from the same sex only, some are capable of loving people from both sexes.
What actually matters is who they finally find love with, not what genitals that person has.

What conceivable reason could I have for no longer wanting to love the person I love most in the world?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 9:09am GMT

Ben
“Interesting that you should speak about the narrow minded thinking of one who disagrees with you and who you wrote you to say, "Nothing you can say will ever make me change my mind." That is the point of one of your compatriots on this list yesterday, in essence, "I know what I believe, listening is a waste of time, it can only be the way I already think." There is something about people living in glass houses . . . ?”

This is precisely where you misunderstand what we’re saying.
Listening does NOT mean having to agree, however often you repeat that that’s our expectation.
I will never agree with you and I doubt that you will ever agree with me.
But in our conversations and through reading what you say to others I have come to believe in your integrity. You truthfully believe what you believe and it does, to my mind, not imply homophobia. I don’t want to tar you with the extreme conservative brush any more than I would like to be associated with every word Spong says.

I have listened to you as an individual, not as a member of a homogenous category. And I know that I could meet up with you for a glass of wine, and that at the end of the evening we might actually respect each other quite well, although there would still be this one point on which we don’t agree.

That is what listening is supposed to do.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 9:31am GMT

Hugh of Lincoln after quoting Royal College of Psychiatrists submission to CofE on Human Sexuality: It must be shocking to have one's flat-earth world-view shattered so convincingly.

The trouble with quote "scientific or rational" reasoning on sexuality (or anything else) without discussing the information on which you base your claims, is that it all depends on your unspoken assumptions. Communists, for instance, prided themselves on having scientific, rational reasons for ill-treating religious people (or just killing them).

If you deify Self and make your world view "do what You want unless it hurts someone" then of course you're not going to think anything of the scientific argument that male-female sexual relationships are what humans are made for biologically, and that any other desire/behaviour is creating a dissonence between who one is physically/mentally and sexually. Nor, for instance, are you going to agree that sex is wrong other than within a life-long marriage. And maybe you'll close your eyes to the consequences too... sexual liberation has made a mess of society and many people's lives. Look at the massive number of abortions, sexual transmitted diseases (some fatal), relationship breakdown, and the effect of single parenthood on both parent and children. Not to mention the high rates of depression. This is, it seems, a price worth paying so that people can "reach their potential by integrating the various aspects of the self as fully as possible".

Keeps psychiatrists in business anyway!

Posted by: david wh on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 11:33am GMT

"the evidence of the changeability of sexual orientation"

Margaret, there's a difference between "It's fenetic" and "That's the way God made me." Furthermore, there is no such credible scientific evidence as you claim. This is what I mean when I say the Right has no credibility. You hate the sin, love the sinner? Clearly not, since you feel the need to spread misinformation like this about me. You are only obeying what God has said in Scripture? No, since God does not tell you to bear false witness against me, in fact, that's on the Big Ten. So, what fuels your need to speak falsehood? You can still maintain your understanding of Scripture, even argue that I should accept it unquestioningly without resorting to falsehood? Is it that you don't understand that this stuff is not fact? Well, you should educate youraself before making public pronouncements on something you clearly don't understand.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 12:31pm GMT

Ben:

As usual, you miss the point. I was pointing out the difference between science and biblical literalism. The former is self-correcting; the latter allows no corrections.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 12:39pm GMT

Quite right, Margaret. And there is nothing wrong with faithful and committed gay relationships - certainly nothing which the human writers of the Bible could have known about as they were a cultural impossibility at the time. That stems from the fact that there was no understanding of sexual orientation....

Its the problem with religions so wedded to outdated humanly produced books, seeing them as something more than just words written by men, inspired by their faith to do so. That's all the bible is.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 12:40pm GMT

"There is, for example, ample evidence that the sin in the story of Sodom was hypersexuality - apparently bisexual but with a homosexual element, indeed preference. It cannot possibly have been lack of hospitality - otherwise why would Lot offer his daughters?"

Ummmm. Jesus himself said it was lack of hospitality. Are you contradicting Jesus?

Posted by: ruidh on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 12:50pm GMT

Erika,

That is a helpful response. You help build understanding.

And I agree that listening "does not mean having to agree." At the same time further learning might lead to fresh insight and in some cases agreement (let's not close the door to that!). It is also interesting that the statement you qoute from drdanfee, "Nothing you can say will ever make me change my mind," presupposes exactly that. This is, he in effect says, foolish and the person should change her mind and agree with us. So what does one make of your statement? "This is precisely where you misunderstand what we’re saying."

The best,

Ben W

Posted by: ben W on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 1:51pm GMT

David Wh,

"If you deify Self"

Which is of course also manifest in claiming that your own understanding of Scripture is the only one. Also, this relates to what I have been talking about elsewhere, the Right's tendency to make baseless, negative statements about gay people, while pretending they are "scientific". There is also the right's tendency to make vile statements that we are worse than animals, inhuman, and God knows what else. Why should this be? There is, it seems, an overall assumption on the Right that Western society has abandoned God (I would argue it has abandoned the institutional Church, not God, and with reason) and that this abandonment has led us into a state of moral collapse and increased crime. In support of this, the Right appears to be willing to believe and claim anything, regardless of the reliability of the information, while claiming that all their claims are based on fact, and resist or ignore all evidence that their world view is as best distorted. Why is this? Is it not an attempt to justify and maintain a particular world view? How is this not deification of self?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 1:57pm GMT

ooooo, john richardson, the man who doesn't read blogs or post on them, has appeared again. perhaps he's so tired of no one posting on his own blog that he felt he had to join the party here. whatever jr thinks he knows about science or sociology, he should remember that gay people know they are gay, and many gay people know that god loves them for themsleves. that's a theological starting point he'd do well to accept. he objects to assumptions, then expects us to accept his assumptions about the nature and status of the bible. oh, come on!

Posted by: poppy tupper on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 2:18pm GMT

Pat,

To speak to this in a little more complete way, read what I actually wrote it, science does not "hand down absolute truth." In your words that is, "Science is not a collection of facts...it is a method of determining facts. As such, it is constantly correcting itself..." So we can drop the stuff about "literalism." And on light: you know the history here of back and forth on whether it is particle or wave, affirming one and the other, now with some convergence on light in some way as both.

There is still an ideological form of "science" around of the Richard Dawkins type - that science is "the only real knowledge" about who we are or even who God is - for Dawkins "science" means God is a "delusion." And your statement presents this kind of "final" view of science, at least at one point. If there is the question of a conflict you are clear, the refusal to "hold to interpretations that conflict with the truth God has shown us through scientific inquiry is an affront to the almighty." Time and again we have had to again learn the limits of science and that we do not simply discount Christian teaching on various matters. I simply say what I said earlier, "Science too has had to learn humility, after all it is human beings thinking and working)."

Ben W



Posted by: Ben W on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 2:43pm GMT

Ben
the thing is that someone like drdanfee will not change his mind because, just like me, he is living in a stable, faithful relationship. Experienced love, actual parenting of real children. That, plus the fact that we experience the reality of God's affirmation in our lives and that we believe there is theology to support us.

So, no, we're not going to change our minds.
But I don't think you need to be so sensitive and interpret our response as "your view is foolish so you'd better see things our way."

I think this is where the listening is going wrong, and I sometimes wonder whether this is where you personally stop yourself from listening. Because you believe we would want to compel you to change your mind.

We don't. I, personally, would be happy if you could accept my integrity and if you could accept that there is, just possibly, theology that supports my case. You don't have to agree with it, by no means.

Just like I accept that there is theology in your favour, which I don't feel compelled to agree with either.

Only if we can accord each other this kind of respect can we say we've truly listened and learned something about being Christians together.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 3:08pm GMT

The sea change in our current thinking has to do with two shifts.

One, we shifted from having a categorical empirical presumption - mainly based on religious revelation and cultural traditions? Or at least on reasonable inferences from these sources? - that same sex bonding was innately, what are the fav phrases? Disordered, and unnatural.

Why, so the rant which is our proper traditional legacy went, not even animals do it. (Nodding heads all round?)

Then, surprise.

We discovered a plethora of animal evidence across too many species to ignore, showing that, well, animals do, do it. Not just the sex bits, but even more dramatic for undermining the traditional empirical claims of innate disorder and unnaturalness - the pair bonding bits.

Empirically then, same sex pair bonding is as much a part of our animal heritage - a possibly evolutionary given in our species embodiment? We are still asking questions? - as all the valorized and gilded reproductive fruitfulness of heterosexuals in so much of con evo ethics and theology.

Two, we hypothesis tested various working notions of many of the ways in which queer folks were traditionally believed to be disordered - and surprise. We could not confirm the claims of disorder, innate. So research often shifted afterwards, to looking at why we persist in so strongly believing something which more and more often, careful hypothesis testing could not confirm. That bridged into a wide and deep research literature on all mannner of simple and complicated antigay prejudice and discrimination, using any number of best practice modern empirical approaches.

The peer reviewed journals have been fairly full of both sea changes, over the past fifty to sixty years. Apparently, in USA and elsewhere, the immense mobilizations of people in WWII helped raise questions, as fair-minded psychiatrists (whose training said queer folks were innately incompetent, psychologically) found queer soliders actively serving well under the horrendous pressures and contradictions of that war situation. This is only one tiny example of how empirical questions arose.

Proof burdens now rest empirically on the shoulders of people who still make traditional claims of disorder, unnaturalness. And a key component of competency, though not the only index, continues to be pair bonding. Arguing back from certain closed readings of scripture will not answer. Only good empirical research which demonstrates the flaws of disconfirming studies to date, along with empirical corrections, will do. Now.

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 4:59pm GMT

Ford, What I mean by 'deifying Self' is nicely encapsulated in the RSP's basis for their comments on LGB sexuality "People are happiest and are likely to reach their potential when ... self as fully as possible".

Leaving apart the fact that many people put down their achieving great things to having had unhappy lives, Christianity is not about trying to gain happiness for your Self. [I expect gasps from all American readers! - ok, generally happy citizens is a good guiding principle for ruling a country].

But happiness is not the only guiding principle for running a society well, and it certainly isn't the way to heaven. Those who DIE to Self gain Life. we shouldn't seek self-fullfilment - nor should anyone who wants to follow Christ. We are all made in the image of God, but the image is marred, so what we "are" is not relevant - only what He is.

In the meantimme, as I said, the Self-based pursuit of happiness is ruining a lot of people's lives!

Posted by: david wh on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 5:35pm GMT

And Richard Dawkins is wrong to see science in that way, Ben. Have you read Stephen Jay Gould on the separate magisteriums of religion and science? THAT is where I'm coming from.

Each must recognize the authority of the other in its own realm...including that when the writings of one violate the knowledge contributed by the other then the first must be willing to re-evaluate its interpretation of those writings.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 8:23pm GMT

Erika you said "Actually, it's about love."

Actually one of the clearest message of the Bible is that from God's viewpoint love has very little to do with it.

You find Samson and Delilah condemned because they were outside the terms of the Law, even though it was clearly a love match. You have Rachel being barren because Jacob was being unfair to Leah -- because of his love for Rachel. Love did not excuse his behaviour. No allowance was made for David's liaison with Bathsheba because "he loved her" -- as he clearly did. I could go on.

If you look at Jesus's own discussion about marriage (Mark 10 and equivalents) the word "love" or any conceivable variant is entirely absent. It is also absent from Genesis 2 when discussing marriage there.

In fact the first time love is mentioned in connection with marriage it is Paul who links it "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church ..." but it is important to notice that here the direction is reversed: BECAUSE you are a husband THEN you are expected to love your wife.

So the argument that because it is love it is OK, is another of the leading fallacies that comes up again and again and again and again.

Posted by: Margaret on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 2:27am GMT

Margaret
I don't know what to say.
I am absolutely staggered that the God whom John calls Love, who told us to love him and to love our neighbour as ourself as the top two priorities, should then expect us to lead a life of rigid morality in which love has no meaning.

I can see your quotes, as they stand in isolation they make no sense to me. They do not speak of the God I know, the God I believe in, the God I love.

They do not speak of the self-giving, self-emptying God who permeates Scripture. They strip everything truly important about our faith and speak only of a moralistic patriarch who sets up entirely inexplicable rules for us.

If God isn't love, if this is not about love, then we are all truly lost.
I shall continue to live my life believing in a God of love who encourages true love and understanding. There just is no other credible way for me.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 10:03am GMT

David Wh: there's some rather Puritan self-hatred in your post above. I'm British, yet I also think God made us to be happy. When I look at the misery visited by some churchpeople upon their fellow humans, particularly gay ones at the moment, I don't regard that as being godly.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 10:17am GMT

I haven't had much time to revisit this thread - Christmas is coming - but I've given a lot of thought to the 'science' issue in Hensman's article and would still hold that she relies on assertion, not evidence.

What ‘science’ tells us about homosexuality is still quite limited. Same-sex attraction in animal species could probably be described as a form of behavioural disorientation which is maladaptive from an evolutionary point of view. The causes are still obscure but undoubtedly when the Royal College of Psychiatrists says it is "determined" by genetic factors and early uterine development it is overstating the case. There is evidence for a genetic correlation but it is not absolute - see (http://bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/abstract/148/4/421) Eckert, Bouchard, Bohlen and Heston, Homosexuality in monozygotic twins reared apart, The British Journal of Psychiatry 148: 421-425 (1986).

They discovered that in a sample group of identical twins there were no cases where two women reared apart were both experiencing same-sex attraction. They thus concluded that "female homosexuality may be an acquired trait" whilst "male homosexuality may be associated with a complex interaction, in which genes play some part."

There is a 1992 paper online (http://www.tim-taylor.com/papers/twin_studies/index.html) considering this and other twin studies. This concludes that, “male homosexuality, or, at least, some 'types' of male homosexuality, are under some degree of genetic control, although various problems with this data prevent more precise conclusions from being drawn. Little can be said of the origins of female homosexuality.”

As to one of the papers quoted by the RCP (http://msu.edu/~breedsm/pdf/Blanchard2006IntFratHandHBFinal.pdf), it states at the outset of its discussion, “these findings should be regarded as tentative unless and until they are confirmed in additional samples.” With this in mind, they suggest, “some factor associated with non-right-handedness increases the odds of homosexuality in first male births. This same factor, however, prevents older brothers from increasing the odds of homosexuality in later male births. If that interpretation is correct, the problem becomes one of identifying the postulated factor."

"One possible candidate," they continue, "is fetal testosterone." However, they add, “There is no scientific consensus that the hyperandrogenization hypothesis is correct [regarding right-handedness].” Their concern is to ask whether, if the hypothesis IS correct, it might also explain their findings about homosexuality. The RCP’s use of this article seems to rest on the assumption that the hypothesis is correct.

Posted by: John Richardson on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 10:55am GMT

John:

Very little happens in nature that is maladaptive in evolutionary terms. Usually, it means we haven't figured out how the behavior is evolutionarily beneficial. I've read studies that suggest that homosexuality in all the species that experience it (including human) was developed as a hedge against over-population. IOW, if a certain low percentage of the population can be counted on never to reproduce, it creates a safety valve that can be opened up (by increasing that percentage) during periods of decreased food availability or habitat shrinkage or the like. If the initial small percentage of the population never existed, there would be no genetic material to build on for the periods when it was needed.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 11:40am GMT

Am I the only one who is finding this science conversation completely irrelevant?

It doesn't matter why blacks are black and whites are white, what matters is that both are equal.
The same goes for straight and gay.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 12:29pm GMT

Fr Mark: A lot of people are being made sick, especially gay people, and having their lives ruined by other people trying to make themselves happy! This is creating a lot more misery than "some churchpeople"... whose warnings about the effects of sexual immorality have generally been ignored or laughed at for decades.

Posted by: david wh on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 1:42pm GMT

Erika, you're right, completely irrelevant - well almost.

What always astonishes me, having read John Richardson's last post, is how obsessed conservatives are with our sexuality.

I haven't read the reams of research material which John clearly has, material which he seems to think is about me and my human identity. I have't read it because I know who I am. I don't need to read it. John does. John needs to read it to prove something - to himself.

Our society has made up its mind about LGBT people, on the whole, and the decison is ... there's no problem, apart from prejudice and homophobia, hence the introduction of further legislation, and the obessions of Ann Widdicombe and the Lawyers Christian Fellowship.

John, I suspect, won't accept the authority of my own experience. It's his problem, but his problem adds to the sum of prejudice against LGBT people in the Anglican Communion and has to be argued against and resisted.

Thanks for the research and your article, Savi.

Posted by: Colin Coward on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 2:23pm GMT

the whole science argument from jr is, of course, irrelevant and faulty. it's just a way of not listening to people. i'm surprised to see jr back here for a second bite. he has said that he does not read blogs nor contribute to them. you ought to go to his own, and see that he sets such strict rules for posting that no one bothers to contribute, so he has to come somewhere like to here to have a say. sadly for him, this site will not become another pulpit for him to make sweeping statements tht no one can challenge.

Posted by: poppy tupper on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 2:51pm GMT

could probably be described as a form of "behavioural disorientation which is maladaptive from an evolutionary point of view."

Evidence for this claim? It could just as probably be described as a variant of normal, or the result of a migic spell, for that matter, unless you can give some justification for your statement. You need for this to be so, so you make a bald unsupported claim.

"The causes are still obscure but undoubtedly when the Royal College of Psychiatrists says it is "determined" by genetic factors and early uterine development it is overstating the case."

You being so much more qualified than they to decide this! Other than your need for it to be so, what is your evidence for this?

"There is evidence for a genetic correlation but it is not absolute"

The only people who claim an absolute role for genetics in sexuality are conservatives who then dismiss it. They could save themselves the trouble by not inventing this falsehood in the first place. You claim limited sicentific knowledge based on two papers! What is your background in science?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 3:21pm GMT

RE: The expressed fears of valuing the human self.

The glory of God is humanity fully alive
Saint Irenaeus of Lyon

I believe this is actually not a new idea in our tradition, although much of our modern empirical understandings of what constitutes selfhood/society, and what constitutes thriving, are new.

It is not all that difficult to hold the scriptures in one hand while holding the empirical science journals in the other hand.

And leeway for doing that carefully, attentively - even something of an Anglican mandate for doing that - used to be a given in Anglican comprehensiveness and ethical or theological method.

Posted by: drdanfee on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 3:50pm GMT

David Wh: I don't think that living with someone whom you love is immoral just because they are of the same sex, nor does it conduce to sickness or unhappiness: quite the reverse. The fact that you introduce such terms smacks to me of despair of making a sensible argument. I am happy, healthy, partnered, fulfilled, ethical and Christian, thank you very much. I don't need to be scared by any Puritan bogeyman, and I oppose the attempts of illiberal churchpeople to scare others less strong than me.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 4:18pm GMT

Colin, the problem is that "gay rights" have been imposed as absolutes, and so as to create legal forms of same-sex sexual relationships. Effectively obliging the state to make everyone speak and act as if they are good.

This was justified at the time on the basis that sexual orientation (and hence behaviours) are 'givens' - like race or gender. But this was a not true. Measureable scientific information shows that sexual orientation is not predetermined by "nature"; people's experience also shows that it can change. As JR said, even genetically identical twins with the same womb experience do not necessarily experience the same sexualities - especially when raised in different families.

Sexuality is probably partly determined by developmental experiences (ie nurture) and partly by behavioural choices. Certainly sexual behaviour is predominantly a choice. Sexuality is rather more like culture or political opinion; it is not a naturally determined 'given' like gender and racial genetics are. Noone would want to discriminate against someone just because they did not agree with their politics or cultural upbringing. But most people would object to having to pretend to affirm them in those aspects of their politics or culture which they see as immoral, unhealthy or destructive, They would assert that they also have Rights!

What we currently have is ideological imposition of a particular view and attempts to label any opposing views as prejudice similar to racism and sexism - rather than as differing socioliogical and moral views; which I guess even you would accept were legitimate on issues similar to politics or culture.

Your labelling all expressions of negative opinion on homosexuality as "homophobic" is based on a lie. I doubt that you will change your tactics, whatever the negative consequences for people who peaceably resist, but the truth will come out!

Posted by: david wh on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 5:42pm GMT

There are a number of scientific fields which help inform our discussion: biology, psychiatry(as a branch of medicine), and the social sciences.

Discussion of the biological origins of homosexuality forms only a small part (one sentence) of the RCP report. As Pat mentions, there are likely to be strong evolutionary 'reasons' for same-sex pairings, as it is so prevalent in many species. The biological evidence informs our debate insofar as it subverts the claim that homosexuality is ungodly, contrary to nature or disordered.

But as Erika and Colin remind us, the debate becomes sterile when compared with the testimony and authority of gays and lesbians, which Lambeth 1:10 commits bishops to listening to.

The really compelling evidence, from a sceintific perspective, comes from the psychiatric research, and the positive health benefits accruing from carrying out the recommendations in the RCP report: by creating the conditions in which the psychological and social well-being of gay people and stability in same-sex relationships improve. The churches of the Anglican Communion have a massive role to play in this and it would be negligent of bishops and synods to renege on this.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 6:12pm GMT

"Measureable scientific information shows that sexual orientation is not predetermined by "nature"; people's experience also shows that it can change."

As I said, only conservatives mnake the first claim, and then only to dismiss it. The second claim is false. Rarely, people will change, but can you state that this is NOT the result of other underlying issues and confusion, and that some/many/all of them were actually confused and not gay at all? How many were bisexual?

"Sexuality is probably partly determined by developmental experiences (ie nurture) and partly by behavioural choices."

I'd be interested to know what choices you, who do not know me, think I have made. Further, when did you choose your sexuality?

"But most people would object to having to pretend to affirm them in those aspects of their politics or culture which they see as immoral, unhealthy or destructive"

You mean like forcing people into hiding by telling them they are inhuman, less than animals, that despite all their experience they could change if they want to, that God will hate them if they do not acknowledge all this, threatening them with jail, and in many cases encouraging them to get involved with "ex-gay" ministries that prey on thier pre-existing confusion, hurt, and self loathing, and drive some to suicide?

"What we currently have is ideological imposition of a particular view"

Far more applicable to the Right than the Left.

"Your labelling all expressions of negative opinion on homosexuality as "homophobic" is based on a lie."

I have explained this to you before. It's simple, if you love us, why the lies, misrepresentation, and slander? You do not need to elist falsehood in the defence of Gospel Truth. When you do this, you show pretty clearly that your position is based on more than just your interpretation of Scripture. If it was, you wouldn't need the lie.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 8:22pm GMT

No, David, nothing to do with it. Its simply unacceptable to discriminate against people because of their sexuality, and that has nothing to do with the origins of that sexuality.

So, you get some people who don't like black people and want to discriminate against them. Same with gay people. If you wish to try and rationalise the latter, go ahead - because in doing so, you win us more support. You don't appear to realise that the origin of sexuality or race or anything else isn't an issue for anyone else other than conservative religionist homophobes like yourself. The issue is preventing unnecessary and unacceptable discrimination, such as that practiced by yourself and your mates.

That's why the laws exist, and why they are here to stay - so get used to it.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 10:02pm GMT

Erika -- and I am staggered by your response. Are your really saying that "God is Love" really means "I can have sex with anyone I want".

You seem to suggest that the fact that God is Love means anything goes. And if you read the New Testament at all (and I mean at all) you will find that is not the case. Jesus clearly expected his followers to Obey God -- remember "If you love me, keep my commandments.." etc. After all "Love the lord your God with all your heart etc" is a COMMANDMENT... as is Love your neighbour as yourself.

So there are limits to what is acceptable to God, and my point is (and I stand by it) that when Jesus discussed the basic nature of marriage the word Love never entered the equation -- neither did it when marriage was created -- and we have copious examples (and I just gave a selection) where the fact that a match was a love match did NOT make it right in the sight of God.

That is why the fact that homosexual relations are always, and I mean always, said to be against God's wishes is important -- love does not make it right.

This is another of those arguments that gets raised again and again and again --- and which are just irrelevant.

Like Tina Turner my reply to "What's love got to do with it?" is Absolutely nothing.

Posted by: Margaret on Saturday, 22 December 2007 at 7:17am GMT

Margaret
"Are your really saying that "God is Love" really means "I can have sex with anyone I want"

No, of course not. That's not the accepted standard for heterosexuals, so why should it be the accepted standard of homosexuals?

But sex as a part of expressing the most beautiful love between two people, that sustains and supports them both through life - yes, I do say that the bible can be read to allow that.

You know the theology, Margaret, you just chose not to accept it. That's ok, but please don't pretend there is only one way of looking at this and that everything else is lying.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 22 December 2007 at 9:42am GMT

There were a lot of comments on my post and I only have 400 words, so I’ll be brief though I don’t mean to be curt.

Pat O’Neill wrote, “Very little happens in nature that is maladaptive in evolutionary terms.” No, a lot happens in nature that is maladaptive (eg wingless fruit flies, haemophilia).

Erika Baker wrote, “Am I the only one who is finding this science conversation completely irrelevant?” Take it up with Savi Hensman at Ekklesia.

Colin Coward wrote, “What always astonishes me, having read John Richardson's last post, is how obsessed conservatives are with our sexuality.” I was responding to Savi’s article which challenged Conservatives. “John needs to read it [the research material] to prove something - to himself.” I was pointed to it by Hugh of Lincoln (above).

Poppy Tupper wrote, “the whole science argument from jr is, of course, irrelevant and faulty.” Take it up with Savi. “i'm surprised to see jr back here for a second bite. he has said that he does not read blogs nor contribute to them.” I did say it would be better for me if I didn’t read comments or post them. That may still be true. “he sets such strict rules for posting [in his own blog] that no one bothers to contribute.” The requirement is proper name and location, which Giles Fraser also advocates.

Ford Elms wrote, “Evidence for this claim [by me that homosexuality is a form of "behavioural disorientation which is maladaptive from an evolutionary point of view”]?” It is a non-reproductive use of reproductive organs and instincts. “What is your evidence for this [that homosexuality is not determined by genes and hormones in the womb]?” Non-identity of sexuality in identical twins (the important word is ‘determined’ used by the RCP - see also the claim that ‘only’ conservatives claim this genetic determination.) “You claim limited sicentific knowledge based on two papers!” Have a look also at Jones and Yarhouse, ‘Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate.’ “What is your background in science?” A degree in Biology and Psychology.

That’s about it. To reiterate, it wasn’t me raised the ‘science’ issue, but I felt I ought to respond to the way it was raised, which I thought (and still think) implied more than what is actually known.

Posted by: John Richardson on Saturday, 22 December 2007 at 11:19am GMT

"Pat O’Neill wrote, “Very little happens in nature that is maladaptive in evolutionary terms.” No, a lot happens in nature that is maladaptive (eg wingless fruit flies, haemophilia)."

I can't say for sure about the fruit flies, but geneticists have suggested adaptive modes for hemophilia, usually based around having a gene pool that has the option for non-clotting blood when particular environmental circumstances might require it.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 22 December 2007 at 11:53am GMT

I've been thinking about this and decided I had something to contribute on the subject:

Margaret, of course Jesus never mentions "love" in connection with marriage. In the first century AD and for most of the next 1500 to 1600 years, marriages were political and financial alliances, even for the poorest, not matters of the heart.

Are you suggesting then that, in order to be biblically true, we should revert to that state of affairs? That the notion of a love-match ending in marriage should be abandoned and that we go back to arranged marriages for reasons of business, politics, or--God help us (literally)--breeding?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 22 December 2007 at 4:30pm GMT

Pat, thanks for your response. There is a danger of a theological blog becoming too biological. Nevertheless, though I appreciate the thought there may be an adaptive advantage in having a gene pool with a non-clotting variant in it, this would only be so in a case where it had already proven valuable on occasions in the past. Only if it has already proven useful, and therefore been selected for in the past, can it be said to have an 'adaptive mode'. Otherwise we must posit a gene that is, as it were 'awaiting' its opportunity, which suggest a kind of 'foreknowledge' to the evolutionary process - providing us with genes for new 'emergencies'. If that were the case it would lead to a very different theory of evolution from the classical model!

Moreover, even if the gene may have been useful in the past, and in other combinations and species, in the case of haemophilia it is definitely 'maladaptive' for the individual who manifests the syndrome.

My point is simply that gene pools contain potentially destructive combinations which the species can 'soak up' provided there are enough unaffected individuals. Forming non-reproductive homosexual pair-bonds may simply be just such a syndrome.

Posted by: John Richardson on Saturday, 22 December 2007 at 5:32pm GMT

That’s about it. To reiterate, it wasn’t me raised the ‘science’ issue, but I felt I ought to respond to the way it was raised, which I thought (and still think) implied more than what is actually known.

Posted by: John Richardson on Saturday, 22 December 2007 at 11:19am GMT

No JR we're just getting on with our lives. -- I REALLY couldnt give a shit about your science - I'm too busy living, loving, relation, creating --- you got a life ?

I hope this won't sound curt but I'm short of time (not words) -- living my life

btw
I am equally disinterested in most of the theological BS.

Get a life !


Posted by: L Roberts on Saturday, 22 December 2007 at 6:11pm GMT

"Forming non-reproductive homosexual pair-bonds may simply be just such a syndrome"

I'm not sure how far this gets us.
Even if what you say was true, the fact is that homosexuals exist. Like haemophiliacs. Like straight infertile people.

You don't treat haemophiliacs differently from "normal" people, although there are clearly things in life they have to be careful with.

Homosexuals cannot have children together, that's all. In that they are like any other infertile couple, whatever the biological reason for the infertility may be.

I'm not sure what actual consequences we are to draw from this, but I'm very sure that no moral point about homosexual love can be made here at all.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 22 December 2007 at 6:43pm GMT

Merseymike: No, David, nothing to do with it. Its simply unacceptable to discriminate against people because of their sexuality, and that has nothing to do with the origins of that sexuality.

We, like God, should loves sinners! I just differentiate between good and bad sexual behaviours, not between the individuals.

Posted by: david wh on Saturday, 22 December 2007 at 7:54pm GMT

Erika - my own views are actually not far from your own in this regard, when you write, "I'm not sure what actual consequences we are to draw from this, but I'm very sure that no moral point about homosexual love can be made here at all."

The physical sciences can (currently) tell us little about the origins of homosexuality, and absolutely nothing about the morality. The fact that this rather undermines Savi Hensman's article was partly what caused me to comment in the first place.

I think it is also a weakness in the submission from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, much of which is opinion, not 'science'.

To judge a behaviour which may have a moral dimension as being right or wrong, we really do have to look beyond the physical sciences or natural phenomena - and even beyond the effect on well-being.

Many animals kill, for example, and aggression is related to hormone levels. Watching my cat, it has an unnerving, and clearly natural, desire to attack things (which I often frustrate). But we cannot make any assessment from this whether, or when, we as human beings should kill.

Posted by: John Richardson on Saturday, 22 December 2007 at 9:11pm GMT

We can't dismiss the submission from the RCP on the basis that it is merely 'opinion', and not one of the physical sciences.

Clearly the RCP report bases its opinion on extensive research and evidence. They have decades of experience listening to gay and lesbian people, and as professionals, are giving their advice to those who do not have this level of expertise.

Surely if changing attitudes in the Church are likely to improve the well-being of a large minority, then this can only be a positive move?

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Saturday, 22 December 2007 at 11:36pm GMT

Hi Erika

So it's now 3 out of 3 interchanges where we have such basic differences that we are effectively on different planets. In your latest you say "You know the theology, Margaret, you just chose not to accept it."

Now where to start ---

Let's see, I believe in God's revelation ie He revealed Himself, and what He sees as good and what He sees as sinful.

My role is to choose whether I follow Him or not. I do NOT chose my theology. If I follow Him, then my theology is set by what is revealed in the Bible. If I don't follow Him, then I am free to choose whatever. That is why the fact that the Bible does not link love with whether a marriage is acceptable to God or not is important. It is also significant that ALL of the passages about homosexuality state that it is contrary to God's will.

I do not think I am at all out of line with my views here. The Archbishop of Canterbury in his advent letter stated (and I have just pulled out to highlight the relevant portion):

" The common acknowledgment that we stand under the authority of Scripture as 'the rule and ultimate standard of faith' .....Our obedience to the call of Christ the Word Incarnate is drawn out first and foremost by our listening to the Bible and conforming our lives to what God both offers and requires of us through the words and narratives of the Bible."

He has captured much more elegantly than I could what I am trying to say.

So if you are into choosing theologies -- I think again we have parted company on a very basic level about the meaning of being a Christian.

I am now away traveling for a couple of weeks -- so will not be able to pursue this conversation further. I am thankful in many ways as I had not ever accepted the conservative view that there are two different faiths in the one church -- but this conversation has made me significantly re-evaluate this claim.

Posted by: Margaret on Sunday, 23 December 2007 at 5:38am GMT

John
The difference is that biological science tries to explain the origin of characteristics. That's interesting in itself but doesn't say anything about moral implications.

Psychology or psychiatry, on the other hand, look at the given reality and see what effects it has. And that has deep moral implications.

Christian morals aren't a set of rule that God has written just because he felt like it. They actually make deep psychological sense.
That's why we're so careful about sex. The emotional implications are tremendous. Casual sex is wrong because we don’t fully know our partner’s emotional background and cannot know what damage we might inflict. And it can also damage our own emotional wellbeing. Too many who sleep around to it because of a deep seated belief that they're not worth anything else.

Adultery is obviously wrong because of the harm it does to the bond of trust between two people.

On the other hand, loving sex within the context of a stable and faithful relationship is healthy and supports both partners’ wellbeing. That goes for straight and gay. There is not a single negative psychological implication. It does no harm, rather, it helps to sustain those deep loving bonds individuals need to thrive, and which therefore our society needs to thrive.

To support the one but call the other dismissively and judgementally “certain behaviours” just shows that the underlying purpose of the moral rules haven’t been understood and that other psychological factors may be at play.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 23 December 2007 at 7:37am GMT

Margaret
Thank you for your reply.
I should like to continue this conversation when you return from your travels.

Only one thing now. We do not have different faiths. But within that faith we have different beliefs.

I believe that distinction to be important. That alone can help us to remain worshiping God and Christ, side by side, without necessarily having to agree.

You see, homosexuality is only one thing Christians disagree on. Somehow it has become THE divisive issue.

For me, personally, the more divisive issue is between those Christians who support the death penalty and those who don't.
And yet, despite the far more weighty consequences in society this has, no-one sees it as a particularly divisive topic.

And I can kneel next to those who would put others to death, deeply disagreeing. Because I know that although we don't share the same beliefs, we do share the same faith.

Have a blessed Christmas

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 23 December 2007 at 8:44am GMT

Margaret
if you're still around, you might want to file away a link for future reading.

It's a lecture on "being biblical" by The Reverend Dr Richard A. Burridge, Dean of King’s College London.

He has made me realise for the first time that in any major moral dispute, both sides have genuinely tried to be biblical.
Because, you see, just as you believe we simply ignore theology, so I have always believed that most of you simply use the bible to support your own prejudice. I know accept that this is not true and can talk to conservatives with a new respect.

You may not like his conclusion, he does come down on the liberal side, but please let that not stop you from enjoying his analysis.

http://clearingatkings.org/content/1/c6/03/14/90/ESAlecture2007i.doc

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 23 December 2007 at 8:50am GMT

"It is a non-reproductive use of reproductive organs and instincts."

Well, you see, it is not my instinct to mate with a female. This is the point. And what about all those straight people who more than somewhat frequently use thier genitals in a non-reproductive manner?

“What is your evidence for this [that homosexuality is not determined by genes and hormones in the womb]?”

Well, OK, I was a bit over the top on this one. My extreme reaction comes from what you are doing here: taking your basic premise that homosexuality is an aberration from "normal" and then latching on to whatever you can find to support that, regardless of its veracity. You mix it with a vague sense that "liberals" are somehow seeking to destroy truth as you understand it to be. The scenario as I see it goes like this:

Gay people are sinful by virture of being gay, or at least acting on it. Western society has abandoned God and seeks to justify itself, putting itself in the place of God. "Liberals", who likely don't really believe anything anyway, and certainly have no respect for Scripture, are going along with this in a vain attempt to get the approval of the world. They want conservatives to "listen" to gay people in oreder to make them change their minds about gay people. Any science that supports the claim of gay people to actually be normal human beings is suspect, while anything that supports your position is not, and what's more, when liberals try to counter it, they are just ignoring what they don't like, like they do with Scripture, hence "deifying self". This is an elaborate model, based on half truth, untruth, and propaganda. Again, why is this necessary if all you are trying to say is that your understanding of Scripture is that homosexuality is sinful? Why also is it necessary for conservatives to claim that not only liberals, but anyone who disagrees with them, have no faith? Why is untruth enlisted in the service of truth?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 24 December 2007 at 1:34pm GMT

The King's College London piece was very interesting. Sad also.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 25 December 2007 at 8:16am GMT

jr wrote:
'I think it is also a weakness in the submission from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, much of which is opinion, not 'science'.'
so now psychiatrists don't know what science is, but a clergyman does.
with some people you can only go so far in a discusion and then you have to let it go. doctors don't know what science is. gay people don't know what homosexuality is. theologians don't understand the bible. 'they're all out of step except our john', said his mum as the parade went past.

Posted by: poppy tupper on Wednesday, 26 December 2007 at 11:18am GMT

Flat Earth, Poppy.

And they are proud...

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 27 December 2007 at 9:56am GMT

After the Christmas hols I’d just like to respond to some of the later posts here.

Erika wrote: “biological science tries to explain the origin of characteristics. That's interesting in itself but doesn't say anything about moral implications.” Basically, I agree.

She added, “Psychology or psychiatry ... look at the given reality and see what effects it has. And that has deep moral implications.” Strictly speaking, though, psychology is the study of animal ‘brains and behaviour’ and, like biology, has no ‘necessary’ moral implications. The ‘odd one out’ is psychiatry, which is a medical discipline, and therefore raises moral implications.

She also said, “Christian morals ... actually make deep psychological sense. That's why we're so careful about sex. The emotional implications are tremendous.” I agree, and not just the emotional. As this board recognizes, there is a dimension to human sexuality which is absent in animals and plants. At the heart of human sexuality is the ‘one flesh union’ which parallels the spiritual union of Christ and the church. This gives it not just biological, psychological and sociological dimensions but a theological dimension.

This theological dimension, though, means that sometimes there is a demand over and above what seems ‘intuitively’ right. The classic example would be Jesus’ attitude to divorce. We would surely have expected Jesus to OK divorce on a number of grounds, but he didn’t. And undoubtedly, as a result, individuals have suffered things they would rather have avoided. But this raises the whole question of what life is about — well-being as we would have it, or something else.

Hugh of Lincoln wrote: “We can't dismiss the submission from the RCP on the basis that it is merely 'opinion', and not one of the physical sciences.” In fairness, I didn’t. I did say it contained much that was “opinion not ‘science’” and I felt some of their use of research evidence was questionable. They conclude, for example, “People are happiest and are likely to reach their potential when they are able to integrate the various aspects of the self as fully as possible,” and reference Douglas Haldeman’s ‘Gay Rights, Patient Rights’, 2002, as if it is definitive. But if you look at Haldeman’s website he is hardly a dispassionate researcher! (He also receives some trenchant criticism in Jones and Yarhouse for his “tendency to argue in an ad hominem fashion,” p140). And that's my 400 words!

Posted by: John Richardson on Friday, 28 December 2007 at 11:32am GMT

Continuing my response:

Ford Elms wrote in response to my comment that same-sex behaviour is, "a non-reproductive use of reproductive organs and instincts," that, “it is not my instinct to mate with a female. This is the point.” I agree, and if it were merely a case of looking at animal behaviour we would simply note this observation. Human beings, however, are different, as Ford noted in the next comment, “And what about all those straight people who more than somewhat frequently use their genitals in a non-reproductive manner?” Sexual behaviour in humans cannot be assessed simply on the basis of what happens in the rest of the animal kingdom. That is why the appeal to scientific observation must be made cautiously. All science can tell us is, as Erika observes, ‘what happens’, not what should happen.

Ford’s analysis of my ‘scenario’ is right in parts, wrong in others. Doubtless there are many scenarios! Ford asks, “why is this [scenario] necessary if all you are trying to say is that your understanding of Scripture is that homosexuality is sinful?” The Church Universal’s view that same-sex sexual activity is wrong has been based on Scripture and on a wider understanding of human sexuality and society. Some of the Roman Catholic teaching in this regard is, I think, helpful (but space precludes saying which bits!)

Ford asks, “Why also is it necessary for conservatives to claim that not only liberals, but anyone who disagrees with them, have no faith? Why is untruth enlisted in the service of truth?” Personally, that is not what I am claiming.

Poppy tupper wrote in response to my comment, 'I think it is also a weakness in the submission from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, much of which is opinion, not 'science', “so now psychiatrists don't know what science is, but a clergyman does.” Clergymen may also understand science (as scientists may be theologians and pastors). It helps to have a degree in science, which included a year’s module on the ‘Philosophy of Science’ (part-tutored by Anthony Flew, as it happens). That doesn’t make me right. I hope it makes me less than merely ‘opinionated’.

To conclude, it wasn’t me that raised the science issue. My concern was simply that there is good and bad science and good and bad uses of science. I’m happy to let it drop!

Posted by: John Richardson on Friday, 28 December 2007 at 11:59am GMT


John,
"We would surely have expected Jesus to OK divorce on a number of grounds, but he didn’t"

Did you read the link posted here a few weeks ago from the evangelical journal Christianity Today, on divorce? It makes fascinating reading.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/october/20.26.html

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 28 December 2007 at 12:08pm GMT

Erika - thanks for that. I hadn't read it, and I found it interesting and thought provoking. In summary, I'd be absolutely with him on points 1 Adultery and 3(a) Abandonment (as per 1 Corinthians 7), but I shall have a serious think about his 2, Emotional and physical neglect on the basis of the Exodus passage and 3(b) Abuse.

May I say it would make life somewhat easier for me if he's right? All the more reason, however, to think carefully about it. There is an obvious risk in choosing a 'reading' that is to our pastoral advantage.

I see that David has a whole website www.divorceremarriage.com, which includes responses to criticisms, so obviously I've got my 'holiday' reading sorted.

In fact I think I'll have to read his book.

Posted by: John Richardson on Friday, 28 December 2007 at 3:02pm GMT
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