Monday, 21 July 2008

Love Thy Neighbour

Stonewall has issued a report which Ruth Gledhill describes in The Times, see Faith leaders out of touch about gays and also Lambeth Diary: faith people ‘moderate’ on gays.

The Stonewall press release says:

Many faith leaders inadequately reflect their followers’ religious objections to lesbian and gay sexuality, new research has found. Love Thy Neighbour - published today by Stonewall and based on interviews with Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Christian participants from across the north of England - found that many hold significantly more moderate views of homosexuality than is often claimed on their behalf. Participants suggested to researchers from the University of Leeds that when the perceived tension between faith and sexual orientation is discussed in public, the agenda often becomes so dominated by aggression and sensationalism that levels of respect between faith communities and gay communities are overlooked.

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall Chief Executive, said: ‘Witnessing the saddening divisions in the Church of England demonstrated at this week’s Lambeth Conference, it’s telling that so many people of faith say they actually live, work and socialise with lesbian and gay people, and that significantly reduces negative ideas about difference. Many Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus are clearly markedly more moderate that we are often allowed to believe. The stark conclusion to draw when it comes to religion and homosexuality is that it may be time to start listening to the voices of the many people of faith in Britain which have until now not been heard enough.’

Interviewees suggested that new legal protections for lesbian and gay people, including civil partnership, have had a ‘civilising effect’ on British society. The increased acceptance of gay people on a national and political level has also had a positive impact on attitudes at a local level, they said. This confirms the findings of Living together, a YouGov survey of 2,000 people published by Stonewall in 2007, which found that 84 per cent of people who identified as religious disagreed with the statement ‘homosexuality is morally unacceptable in all circumstances.’

Ruth has made the full report available here. It’s a 200K PDF.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 21 July 2008 at 10:23pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

"84 per cent of people who identified as religious disagreed with the statement ‘homosexuality is morally unacceptable in all circumstances.’"

That's breathtaking. Why hasn't more been said about this?

By the way Ben, the recent legislation isn't "protections", it's privileging of something to a level it doesn't deserve - like suddenly deciding to pay cleaners as much as doctors.

Posted by: Dan Baynes on Tuesday, 22 July 2008 at 11:06am BST

On one level this is just another expansive exercise in stating the blindingly obvious. I think something went radically wrong when people started to assume that bishops somehow represent the people in their diocese or province. Lambeth, the ACC and the primates meetings aren't a parliament: very few bishops are actually elected on a popular basis. They can hardly claim to be representative when they express the fears of the most timid and reactionary in any given society.

And still the pharasaical game goes on among the leaders: finding yet more hair-splitting excuses for saying that the gay is not my neighbour. I found it most interesting that one of the quotes on RG's blog says that gay people "are people" -- not just nice, but fully and truly human. Perhaps the study basis for the Lambeth conference might better have been the parable of the good Samaritan -- the outsider who fulfills the law in an exemplary way when those claiming to defend it fail to do what it involves -- rather than all this navel gazing about the awe-fulness of being a bishop in these covenant-ridden times.

Posted by: kieran crichton on Tuesday, 22 July 2008 at 11:35am BST

This is all very heartening. It's certainly true of the church we attend in Durham, where a much-loved gay couple plays an invaluable part in running the church.

Posted by: john on Tuesday, 22 July 2008 at 12:14pm BST

"84 per cent of people who identified as religious disagreed with the statement ‘homosexuality is morally unacceptable in all circumstances.’"

Perhaps it's because, as many keep saying, that homosexual orientation and homosexual practice are not the same thing. So many will disagree with the above statement while holding to a wholly traditional view of sex.

Posted by: Phil Craig on Tuesday, 22 July 2008 at 1:49pm BST

Yes the religious, ethical, and theological prickliness and touchiness of those who still cannot fundamentally grasp that queer folks as varied citizens are simply, competently human - is tilting now.

Still we have plenty more besides anecdotes - even good Samaritan ones - about how this or that queer citizen's sexual orientation was not an innate ethical or human barrier to them enacting this or that good in their daily lives. We have carefully hypothesis tested data, published over the last forty to fifty years of human sciences research. A viable range of testing methods, data gathering strategies, and statistical analyses were involved - and the beat goes on even now.

After about ten to fifteen years of published research in countries which bothered with it and with paying attention to it, the investigations shifted to include more and more research interest in attitudinal and other factors which might be preventing people from being affected by the increasingly confirmed facts. Investigators increasingly tried to find out how - a hardening of beliefs, attitudes, judgments, behaviors - persisted despite all the evidence which disconfirmed so many of the fears, alleged negatives, and other alleged foundations of trash talk and mistreatment.

In psychotherapy and psychiatry, then, the research slowly shifted from investigating why gays did not change very much in their positions on the Kinsey Scale adapted for orientation variance, to investigating why certain doctors so dearly wished to change non-straight sexual orientations against all empirical odds, and why those same doctors blamed the patients who so often failed to meet those doctors increasingly odd traditionalistic change goals for them.

Until/unless the church catches up with this sea change in empirical data and hypothesis testing, it will continue to be backward-minded and unable to comprehend the daily life goods of its own queer believers, not to mention any neighbors outside church life who are also queer citizens in various places around the planet. Clinging to flat earth views in this domain may seem like it is ever so faithful - for after all, this domain's topography is supposedly read plainly from scripture, so God says it is all flat - but in the long run, we are simply replaying yet again another chapter in the long and continuing story of how the Ptolemaic Cosmos model fails us.

That Anglicans should be in the lead to pledge blindness, deafness, and dumbness in these matters, well many will continue to find such pledges odd and curious. And of course we will ask: Who else will traditionalistic believers decide to target unfairly, once the empirical facts sink in even deeper, among even more people who work with queer folks are their teams?

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 22 July 2008 at 2:37pm BST

"homosexual orientation and homosexual practice are not the same thing"

Try telling that to a gay person in Nigeria or the Sudan. Try telling such a person that you love him, you just hate his sin, as you stand by and watch them carry him off for five years in jail or stand approvingly by the cloaks of those who stone him to death. What about false accusations and propagandistic pseudoscience meant to portray us as sick and dangerous? The thing is, if this is simply based on the idea that we as human beings are no different from everyone else, and that we are merely called to be celebate, why is all the other rhetoric , falsehood, misinformation, and, frankly, hatespeech, necessary? If all they want is for me to be celebate, why is the Right so lukewarm on defending my basic human rights? Yeah, right, there's a whole lot of difference between the two in most conservative's eyes. Pull the other one.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 23 July 2008 at 3:35pm BST
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