Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Christians to be persecuted?

The Church of England Newspaper published an editorial last week which suggested the Equality Bill, which was published last month and had its second reading on Monday, was all part of an anti-Christian plot. The full text of this editorial is reproduced below the fold.

I will be reporting here on the progress of the Equality Bill through Parliament, with emphasis on those aspects which are of particular interest from a Church of England viewpoint, as I have reported on many previous items of anti-discrimination legislation.

Those who are looking for more material along the lines of this CEN editorial will find it at such places as the website of the Christian Institute and at the website of Christian Concern for our Nation.

CEN editorial 8 May 2009

Anti-Christian discrimination on the rise

The government had better start building more prison space — for Christians and moral conservatives generally. We are now used to hearing of such folk being sacked and losing their appeals for daring to air any view which criticises or disapproves of gay sex. The new Equality Bill issued by Harriet Harman last week lumps together groups needing special legal status to ensure them against discrimination including disabled people, women and homosexuals, for example. The Bill aims to permeate all society with the requirement that employers in all sectors show they have a percentage of such group in their workforces, in the various echelons of seniority, that their specific requirements are being provided for. The news media focused on the issue of women’s pay and the need to ensure it gains total equality with that of men, and that the figures be published accordingly. The homosexual component was kept very quiet, but is clearly there. The ‘Christian Institute’ website is worth consulting on this issue, at the very least for information on the legal facts.

The extraordinary success of the gay rights campaign in securing a special place for practitioners of gay sex in the legal framework is now moving ahead to suppress any who dissent from their agenda. It seems that the clause inserted into the recent Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill by Lord Waddington, guaranteeing freedom of speech to religious people who disagree with gay sex, has been over turned by a whipped vote in the Commons. So the steady build-up of the gay agenda is accompanied by the steady removal of dissent, even for religious groups. This has all been achieved by the success of making homosexuality a fixed ‘identity’, and removing the focus of discussion from activity. Homosexuals are defined into a legal distinct group, joining minorities similarly defined into existence by government diktat. It should be said that the Anglican Communion, according to its Lambeth Conference of 1998, disagrees with this pseudo-scientific labelling of people, and so do the more intelligent secular commentators, see for example Professor Weeks’ contribution to this secular seminar.

So Christians, and of course Muslims and others who just disagree with the Stonewall line, are being told to shut up and get into their closet — the gays are not tolerant of dissent and have got the state to crackdown. This agenda is also being pursued in schools. Section 28, banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools, has been totally inverted and children are to be educated in the moral neutrality, indeed the moral merit, of gay sex. The Times last week worryingly said that the right of parents to withdraw children, as young as 11, from such sex lessons, was to be stopped. Now churches and mosques up and down the land will not be happy with this, and parents are bound to want to withdraw their youngsters from lessons with a major component of the Stonewall ideology woven into them. A time of persecution is at hand.

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Categorised as: Opinion | equality legislation
Comments

This is very, very disturbing.

Posted by: Davis d'Ambly on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 at 4:29pm BST

"Oh heaven forfend! I will have to treat homosexuals the same way I treat 'normal' people! My children will be exposed to something I disagree with! Oh, the persecution!"

Meanwhile, gays continue to be threatened with firings, beatings, etc. The gall!

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 at 4:41pm BST

European (and for the sake of argument I include the UK in Europe) approaches to free speech are much more constricting than American ones, so if the Equality Bill really is forbidding people from expressing themselves about homosexuality then it is, indeed, disturbing for this American. If, on the other hand, the bill merely provides for the equal treatment of gay people in the public sector, I'm not so sure what the CEN's problem is. Surely firing someone from their job because they are gay is not the same as considered dissent, is it?

Posted by: BillyD on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 at 4:58pm BST

The CEN piece reads just like something from "The Sun" about 20 years ago. Is that really the niche in the market that we are now occupying?

It does seem increasingly as if the lunatic fringe in the Church of England has a completely free hand to wreck our public image, and no-one dare stand up to them.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 at 5:28pm BST

God loves all people, and specially sinners of all kinds. None of us is perfect. None of us can call ourselves 'good' in the sight of God. If you do not sin in one way, you certainly do in another. And yet God loves you as He does all people. Heterosexual sinners are treated as human beings bedfore the Law unless they break State Law. The same should be true for homosexual people whatever we think about them.
How is it that adulterers can get jobs in the Church of England and homosexuials cannot. How is it that you can beat your wife and be employed and you cannot live in love with a partner for 40 years and be ostracised by other Christians.

I am sad for homophobic people. I respect the views of my dissenting Christian brothers and sisters, but I do not htink they should have force before the Law. It is not you who are being persecuted. It is you who do not see how much God loves you, despite your sin. Una

Posted by: Una Kroll on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 at 6:32pm BST

Our New Overlords, the "practitioners of gay sex" versus the Wretched-of-the-Earth "religious people who disagree with gay sex"? How are possibly supposed to take this screed seriously?

The CEN really would be better served by shutting the (virtual) talking hole, if they can't stop *obsessing* about that other one... ;-X

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 at 7:28pm BST

Very sad to see this sort of fundamentalist bigotry in a CEN editorial. The presumption that there is only one "Christian" opinion on this, and that is one that "disapproves" of "gay sex" (and certainly not one that disapproves of discrimination). The favourable reference to Section 28 is almost laughable.

Posted by: Graham on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 at 7:30pm BST

You may have noticed that the Presbyterian Church of Scotland (on the Episcopal Church)are about to determine a case involving a gay minister at their General Assembly in Edinburgh next week. See http://tinyurl.com/dkzfzr

The opposition to the appointment has been led by Forward Together, an evangelical group within the CofS. One of their leading lights, Rev Ian Watson, preached a sermon on Sunday where he compared campaigners for gay rights to the forces of Nazism in WWII (some irony there!). See http://tinyurl.com/qjt4cm

Surely this language is straying very close to the situation that this law is trying to deal with.

btw, Forward Together had to issue an apology and pay Rev Rennie's legal costs when they stated that he had left his wife and child to set up home with his partner, when in fact his wife left him and he did not meet his partner until 2 years later. Some parallels with the lies told about +Gene Robinson.

Kennedy


As part of the campaign aga

Posted by: Kennedy Fraser on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 at 7:42pm BST

The Church of England Newspaper, if memory serves, is not the newspaper of The Church of England. The Church Times is, I believe, the COE newspaper.

Posted by: James Mackay on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 at 8:36pm BST

If by "of" you mean"official organ of" then neither of these is that. Indeed there is no such thing. Both CEN and CT are privately owned, commercial publications.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 at 10:30pm BST

"This has all been achieved by the success of making homosexuality a fixed ‘identity’, and removing the focus of discussion from activity."

Interesting quote in the light of previous comments here that the anti-gay-evangelical-fundamentalist lobby are obsessed by sexual activity. By emphasising issues of 'identity' have they been deprived of their sexual 'thrills'? How awful that they can't still revel vicarioulsy in the sexual activities of those they profess to 'love'. How dull life is going to be for them.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 at 10:35pm BST

The old adage tell us, Be careful what you pray for, you might just get it. In this sad, sad, sad instance - the sound bites have gone global, more or less. Welcome to the fray, UK. Did you think you would escape the culture wars?

Okay, so certain believers embrace entirely nasty and really terrible beliefs about queer folks.

How does that common sensically imply that they must have special, clear privileges to use law or public policy to act negatively towards those same queer folks? The missing link here is the utterly flat earth nature of most of the operative negative beliefs about gays. Nobody wants to be frank about that factor. Leave it out, and the sound bite campaigns rush us all to mistaken civic judgment.

The list of products or services which may be refused to queer folks is not yet finished. So far the unavaible items include: business products or business services, other public accommodations, and maybe sometimes, adoption or other social services, and even medicine.

See where this is going? Who is next on the religious privileges refusal lists?

I can think of a number of people who would flunk some specific religious doctrine test. Atheists, agnostics, followers of any other world religion besides the specific one being used in the test, and maybe also people who work in jobs or on days which a test religion may prohibit.

One easy spread is from the hard focus on gay couples who must get denied, to single gays, too. Surely the religion that preaches the nasty things about gay couples (especially committed ones, and even more, ones parenting children who bothered to get legally married?) preaches equally nasty things about single gay citizens?

What is being replaced here? Our existing civic guides? Fair, neutral behavior toward any number of other different citizens who do not pass a religious test? If our guides do not apply now, what specific religious test will need to be, The Test? Should not the refusals also apply to anybody who is a family member, a friend, a coworker of the gay people who are the first hard reason for this test? Do not forget to refuse the kids those gay couples are parenting, too?

Anybody related to such queer folks should probably be refused.

Look for Signs. Saying, please: No queer folks? Roman Catholics only? Evangelicals only? Whites only?

Posted by: drdanfee on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 at 10:42pm BST

Always lovely to hear your voice Una !

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 at 11:04pm BST

"So Christians, and of course Muslims and others who just disagree with the Stonewall line, are being told to shut up and get into their closet — the gays are not tolerant of dissent and have got the state to crackdown." - C.of E. Newspaper -

This sort of attack on the fundamental human rights of women and the LGBT community is just what one might expect of this conservative newspaper. What worries me is that the general public might think that the C.E.N. is the official voice of Anglicanism in the U.K.

Speaking of 'closets', the hypocrisy of those who are vehemntly opposed to women and gays, is what has forced such people into the closets that have been necessary in order to avoid violence - both physical and emotional (within the Church, as well as outside of it). What this bill advocates is precisely what is needed - in order to honestly and appropriately recognise the social and religious rights of everyone in the UK - regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or faith constituency.

Such legislation as is proposed should send a clear message to countries like Nigeria and the other countries subscribing to GAFCON's policy of separatism and social isolation on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation or belief system; that Christ prayed that Christian believers might be one in their acceptance of all people, without prejudice, into God's human family - a Gospel imperative.

Thank God for the Church Times, I say!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 at 11:54pm BST

"religious people who disagree with gay sex"

I had many undergraduate students who would enter dicussions about being gay by saying they 'disagreed with' homosexuality. I would say, not likely to any effect but my own satisfaction, "That's like saying you 'disagree with' the laws of gravity."

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 14 May 2009 at 12:32am BST

¨It is not you who are being persecuted. It is you who do not see how much God loves you, despite your sin.¨ Una

It is them that will notice the burden of fear and hate will be gradually relieved/lifted after the fearfilled self-deciving has no place left to hide.

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Thursday, 14 May 2009 at 2:07am BST

What is so offensive about this is the opposition of Christian and gay. How is it supposed to make people who are gay AND Christian feel?

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Thursday, 14 May 2009 at 11:32am BST

It is worth dissecting Una Kroll's comment as one can expect it to represent the more thinking end of her 'party' or 'wing'.

(1) Main shortcoming: Not distinguishing between (on the one hand) sinning and knowing it is wrong and (on the other hand) sinning and calling it right (especially when it happens to fit in with an already-preferred lifestyle). If we are sinners at all, and Una agrees that we all are, one of the ways in which we are certainly liable to sin is to try and make God's agenda fit in with our own desires' agenda.

(2) Wife-beating and adultery: so what solution is proposed? It is clear that already such people would not be first in line for a job. Una knows that two wrongs don't make a right, so her solution cannot be 'employ them all'. But she also agrees that discrimination between different types of *ongoing/unrepentant* sins is wrong. So the only solution available to her is: employ none of them.

(3) 'Dissenting' - dissenting from what? Assenting to biblical Christianity. Assenting to historical Christianity. Assenting to majority contemporary Christianity. Dissenting from a 1960s self-indulgent worldview.

(4) 'Homophobic' - It is quite clear that 2 people can come to identical conclusions, one of them for emotional ('-phobic') reasons and the other for rational evidence-supported reasons. Of these only the latter deserves the term 'conclusion'. Una implies that only the former even exists. This is a clear logical error.

(5) God loving us despite our sin is something firmly accepted by all Christians and something that fits very well into their overall scheme of thinking. As for the very different scenario of God loving us despite our determination to continue sinning...well, he loves us still but the relationship is broken, so much good may the love do us. Una's error here is not to distinguish between these 2 scenarii.

(2)

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 14 May 2009 at 12:25pm BST

"Dissenting from a 1960s self-indulgent worldview."

Ah, *that's* where your problem is, Mr. Shell. It's not the 1960s any more. It's the 21st century. That whole gay rights movement thingee turned out not to be a fad, after all.

Posted by: BillyD on Thursday, 14 May 2009 at 4:56pm BST

Laughable. Christians are not being 'persecuted', but some sure do like to make themselves into victims.

Anyway, I thought evangelicals loved the idea of persecution.

The only thing they have to do is not actively discriminate against gay and lesbian people and understand that, like racism, anti-gay discrimination is essentially unacceptable in civil society and this should not be applied. Their problem is they cannot understand that elements of their religion are inherently prejudiced and, so, unacceptable.

Thankfully, private prejudices are tolerated although not given official approval.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 14 May 2009 at 5:47pm BST

To which we can add various observations on the citation of 1 John 4 'God is love':
(A) 'God is love' is a quotation from the very apostolic writings which are in other respects being opposed. So why should one believe that 'God is love' is true if it comes from sources which are sometimes false? It is worthwhile here to remember that we can agree with [parts of] any writing in the world provided we pick the right bits out of it. But since it is the parts we already agreed with that we pick, it would be simpler not to consult any text at all but just stick with our already-existing opinions. The criterion is whether the scriptures & their insights fit in with us, not whether we ought to be fitting in with them.

(B) The kind of love that God is fits in with other aspects of God's nature: i.e. it is not anything resembling laissez-faire parenting or sugar-daddying. God's justice and anger are part of God's love, as is the case with any good parent.

It is useful to have so many of what I take to be the cliches of the inclusive movement clustered in one comment, since it helps us to focus on them and on the logical errors in them.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 14 May 2009 at 6:19pm BST

Christopher:

Once again, you argue from the idea that "either it's all true or none of it is." If that is the case, then either the Genesis account of creation is true or the entire Old Testament is a fairy tale.

The idea that "God is love" and the idea that homosexuality (both the inclination and the activity) is a perfectly natural part of the world--and therefore not a sin because God does not create sin--are ideas from two entirely different realms of understanding. The first is theological--our Christian understanding of the divine. The second is biological--a scientific understanding of how sexuality and gender truly operate in the natural world.

Paul got the first right; he got the second wrong...because a) he didn't have the science to understand the natural world as we do; and b) he was caught in a cultural climate that wouldn't have allowed him to understand it even if exposed to it.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 14 May 2009 at 8:09pm BST

Oh dear, Christopher Shell, you're always settig up these faux logical syllogisms and then proving them false. It's not a helpful approach to this sort of subject, one feels (and I've done Aquinas too!).

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 14 May 2009 at 8:16pm BST

"make God's agenda fit in with our own desires' agenda."

Something conservatives have shown themselves to be very good at.

"Assenting to biblical Christianity."

An innovative invention of the Reformation. For 1500 years there was no such thing.

"Assenting to historical Christianity."

Since this is something Evangelicals and you yourself do not do, I fail to see how you can accuse another of it.

"Assenting to majority contemporary Christianity."

Oh, you mean like Arianism or to iconoclasm? They were both the majority of contemporary Christianity once. But we didn't assent to them. Or assenting to the Imperialism of "Christendom" that led to massive cultural destruction, and involved the Church in Canada in the residential Schools scandal, of which you ought to inform yourself. That we did do, and look where it got us.

"Dissenting from a 1960s self-indulgent worldview."

In favour of a judgemental, hypocritical, and false 1950's world view?

"So why should one believe that 'God is love' is true if it comes from sources which are sometimes false?"

Because we always have. The realization that some things in the Bible are not true is not exactly a new one. Only those who are unable to understand that the Bible can be both the inspired word of God and not factual have problems with this. Insects have six legs after all, the earth is not flat, was not made in six days, and the sky is not a dome, to name but some. Yet the Truth of the Gospel still stands. Is this why you have such problems with evolution?

But I do agree with one point, we do not get to tell God what He thinks. It may seem that many of those hated liberals are just using God to back up their selfishness, but if you talk to those who you believe do this, you may be surprised to find out they do not. Conservatives now, that's another matter.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 14 May 2009 at 8:17pm BST

"It is useful to have so many of what I take to be the cliches of the inclusive movement clustered in one comment, since it helps us to focus on them and on the logical errors in them."
- Christopher Shjell -

Au contraire, Christopher. This site is for 'Thinking Anglicans'. Some of us think that you may just feel more at home with *Virtueonline* - which is mprobably more suited to your philosophical meanderings.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 14 May 2009 at 8:31pm BST

Mr. Shell's repeat juggling of negative religious categories sounds golden. We can neatly hear all the balls whirring round, conformed. Till we start having to mess with the real world facts.

Ancient cultures had no notion of sexual orientation, any more than the later west. (Old tribal cultures did occasionally have some positive notions, often these days tagged Two Spirit Views?) The sexual orientation idea gradually emerges in Europe, late nineteenth.

What ancient near eastern cultures did have was a clear acquaintance with three forms of same sex behavior:
(1) dominant male rape of conquered men, usually later tortured to death or killed outright or enslaved;
(2) ritualized religious prostitutes of both sexes;
(3) dominant males with power or status sexually using children or youth, often slaves, certainly subordinates.

Modern gay life? Hardly.

Can we fail to note how for Mr. S, one equals two, minus two sets of facts?

More? Innumerable common sense and ethical goods are factually present in many modern forms of gay life in western democracies? (Now including positive parenting and pairbonding?) These never, ever get factored into Mr. Ss categorical trash talking of gay folks.

Condemn by repeating these odd categories?

Shall our constant animus pivot and depend, on keeping two significant sets of facts at bay? Without facts, let our condemnation ring out loud and unconflicted. Sunny, self-satisfied.

Alas? Reluctant Bravos to this sad way of reading the scriptures and weighing our legacy traditions; which must show us something of how not to proceed as thinking or educated believers.

The denial or sidelining of the historical-cultural facts is as much a cause for some intellectual alarm, as is the denial or sidelining of modern life facts about the many goods of gay folks daily lives.

Chapter two of the modern facts must also involve paying attention to how many people know of just those modern gay goods - not only the gay folks themselves, but their family members including their children (ten million in USA per colage.org), their friends, their coworkers at the office or the lab, and even neighbors down the street or across town.

Mr. S doesn't have to bother with the facts or the many people who know them. His categories ignore the facts and the people. Neatly. Definitions juggled.

Yes, Mr. S shows us how to do it. How to condemn while cleverly speaking through our Very Big Religious Hats.

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 14 May 2009 at 8:47pm BST

perhaps, Mr Shell, we could turn our attention to the cliches of the exclusive movement and the many errors in that perspective?

Let's start with the basic one, the old chestnut about being gay somehow offending God. While it may appear that some mistranslated verses support your old exclusionist cliche, the evidence of faith, reason, and tradition (the threefold source of our Anglican identity) say otherwise.

It would seem to me that the cliches of the perspective of exclusion are the ones deserving (if not demanding) the hardest examination.

Posted by: Dennis on Thursday, 14 May 2009 at 10:12pm BST

Hi Dennis-
I thought the anglican triad was 'scripture, tradition, reason' not 'faith, tradition, reason'. Faith (or the content of faith: what is believed) being the end product of all 3 combined. It has often been pointed out that scripture (i.e. primary documents) are themselves a part of tradition, and cannot therefore be set in opposition to tradition. Indeed they are generally the most important part of tradition bar none, because the oldest.
You are making quite a big and sweeping generalisation about mistranslated verses. More importantly, it is a generalisation about as untrue as it is possible to be in the eyes of the most detailed commentaries. Does even one of the most thorough commentaries on Romans or 1 Corinthians agree with you? (For example: on Romans: Nygren, Barrett, Cranfield, Dunn, Moo, Fitzmyer, Wright, Jewett; on 1 Corinthians: Barrett, Fee, Collins, Thiselton, Fitzmyer.)

Hi drdanfee
Sexual orientation in our sense was known, for example, to the Greeks of the 5th-4th centuries, Aristophanes's and Plato's time (esp. Symposium) since it was perfectly common practice to mock someone for being intrinsically homosexually effeminate (as the perception was). This was distinguished from being involved in the ritual older-younger male lover thing, which was culturally acceptable, and was one of the things the Jews reacted against.

Hi Fr Ron-
Au contraire. There is hardly any chance of people advancing in understanding if they only flock with birds of a feather. You are not seriously suggesting that chatting only with people who confirm one's prejudices (a la Sun newspaper, a la South Bank, etc.) is superior to debate and dialogue. For it is not even equally good. Rather, it is clearly inferior.

Hi Pat-
Paul is not the source of 'God is love': John is.
Your post suggests you know for a fact (how?) that John got this right, and simultaneously know for a fact that Paul (someone a lot cleverer than either of us) was wrong. More likely your knowledge is much less than 100% in both cases.

Hi Ford-
Christianity before the Reformation was so very biblical that there were multiple complementary ways of interpreting the same text simultaneously. Let us not generalise, but why not go to a Library of Fathers, note down the frequency of biblical references and their centrality in the establishment of doctrines (which in the fourth to fifth centuries were front-page headlines) and come back to me.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 15 May 2009 at 12:36pm BST

'If that is the case, then either the Genesis account of creation is true or the entire Old Testament is a fairy tale.'

Quite - and then you have to decide which creation story is true, as Genesis generously gives us two of them.

Posted by: Sam Roberts on Friday, 15 May 2009 at 1:31pm BST

"...either the Genesis account of creation is true..."

Oh, dear.

*Of course* the account(s) of Creation in Genesis are true. I think the vast majority of Anglicans believe that. The question is "In what sense is Genesis true?" Answers vary.

Posted by: BillyD on Friday, 15 May 2009 at 3:06pm BST

Of course I meant "literally true," BillyD, as in the amount of time, the order of creation, etc.--not "allegorically true," as in providing us with a lesson regarding the world, man, his place in that world, and his relationship with his creator.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 15 May 2009 at 9:20pm BST

"Of course I meant "literally true,"..."

And of course I was making a point that "literally true in all its details" and "true" are not nearly the same thing at all.

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 16 May 2009 at 12:09am BST

"God loving us despite our sin is something firmly accepted by all Christians and something that fits very well into their overall scheme of thinking. As for the very different scenario of God loving us despite our determination to continue sinning...well, he loves us still but the relationship is broken, so much good may the love do us." - Christopher Shell -

This sounds a bit like the old chestnut that the sexual knowledge of Adam and Eve was what brought about the Fall, when we all (should) know that it was the decision to deliberately thwart God's considered plan for humanity. Purveyors of that particular ideology seem to think that sexual activity provides the most deadly avenue for sin.

For people who appear to be frozen into the mindset of a primitive view of the Biblical interpretation about sex, what you say here, Christopher, is seen by you and your friends at Virtue-on-line to be the Gospel - that's why I thought you might be more at home on that site. However, when one considers that Jesus told his diciples that when the Holy Spirit came (post-resurrection) he would lead them into 'all the Truth', about himself and, significantly to my mind, about 'SIN' and what sin really is, this belies the contemporary Fundamentalist understanding that revelation about our complex human nature was over with the publication of the King James Bible.

This being the case, don't you think that the human understanding of what 'SIN' is may still need to be progressed - together with the still evolving nature of humanity and the Cosmos - as the Holy Spirit leads us into all the Truth about what sin is?

Logic tells me that, if Jesus said that his disciples (and those of us following in the Tradition) needed to be taught further about what SIN really is, then more recent, modern and scientific understandings of the nature of human sexuality might just afford an entirely different prognosis from that which was outlined in the Old Testament and by Saint Paul in the New.

To say that homosexuality, per se (as compared with hetero-sexuality) is categorically sinful, is to fly in the face of new understandings of the importance of the place of human sexuality as a means of fulfilling God's commandment to Love.

Sexual behaviour, when lovingly and responsibly undertaken, with regard for the well-being of one's sexual partner, might be considered to be within God's provision for every single human being - especially within the parameters of a loving, committed, monogamous relationship.

Within this context, it must surely be remembered that noctournal emmissions were once 'proof' to school matrons of a growing boy's propensity for unwonted sexual expression. But we have surely moved beyond that sort of mentality, have we not?
Some of us grown-ups seem to want our young folks to be much more 'moral' (as we might see it) than we were ourselves. Sexuality is a gift from a loving God, allowing us to experiment and express our deepest relationship - not a snare for the unwary!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 16 May 2009 at 12:46am BST

no it is faith, reason and tradition, and from those three we read the scriptures. There is no uninterpreted thing called the scriptures - each and every one of us interpret and read through certain theoretical glasses. As Anglicans we read through faith, reason, and tradition, with each of the three of equal importance.

That is why when we as Christians apply our reason to the scriptures we can see that God loves gays and lesbians and blesses their relationships and that blessing same sex unions is as holy and right as blessing opposite sex unions. And that God can call partnered gays and lesbians to the Episcopate.

It takes reason to overlook and clear away the centuries of bias and bigotry that have clouded the scriptural witness of God's love.

As Episcopalians and Anglicans we aren't fundamentalists. We just aren't. There are other churches with that witness - but not this one. -Humans- wrote the scriptures, not God, and they are a record of great saints who listened to the voice of the Spirit. And those men (presumably) made mistakes. Yet we learn from the scriptures by reading them through the lens of faith, reason and tradition.

And we can see the mistranslations (please don't pretend that you are unaware of this) and how the scriptures have been wrongly used to uphold the bias in favor of privilege and power.

God spoke to all time through the Spirit, saints and scribes and redactors recorded and edited to address issues in their own time, humans in every age have applied and misapplied these human words recording the Word, and we can best apply in our age through the three-fold lens of faith, reason and tradition.

I'm so glad to see that you aren't a fundamentalist because at least you seem to also count the writings of prominent conservative scripture commentators as normative for the faith. It is a step, I suppose.

Posted by: Dennis on Saturday, 16 May 2009 at 1:54am BST

Hi Dennis-

'Conservative commentators': no. I was citing commentators not by the criterion of how conservative they are but by the criterion of how thorough their commentaries are.

You will need to be more specific if you are speaking about mistranslations. Which particular mistranslations do you have in mind? There are around 30 English Bible translations known to me, and some will be (deliberately) more literal than others. Getting from Hebrew/Greek to English is intrinsically an inexact science anyway. Would you be able to cite the mistranslations you are referring to? Thanks.

Since you admit I am not a fundamentalist, why is it relevant to diatribe against fundamantalists?

You must however admit that to one who knows the original languages there are going to be some passages which are not hard to interpret. Some will be hard and some will be easy.

Hi Fr Ron-
I don't think I know a single person at Virtue Online. So how can they be my friends?

Hi BillyD-
The sort of anglicans you are referring to have a fundamentalist unexamined belief that everything in the Bible is true in some sense - usually metaphorically. In my experience they often decide this before they even start. Why not consider the possibility that some things may be untrue?

Plus why on earth would anyone not determined to befuddle other people be using the same word 'true' twice in two unconnected senses in the same context? Why not use two different words? It would make more sense, be more understandable, be more honest, and be more academically repectable.

It sounds like an agenda of wanting to have one's cake and eat it: claiming the scriptures are true in toto without believing that they actually are true in any notable way. Such agendas are sometimes arrived at before the text is even examined.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 16 May 2009 at 1:20pm BST

Hi Fr Mark-
Any syllogisms you think are 'faux', point out and isolate the precise flaw. Otherwise it is a bit like Molesworth answering an exam question 'larfably easy' without actually giving the answer!


Hi Dennis-
'When we as Christians apply our reason to the scriptures' - this is massively untrue. The only time it has historically been true is within a society and age *already* amenable to it.

hi Fr Ron-
Surely you are not still sticking by the view that it is best for grumps to complain in the corner together rather than interact with and meet those of a different persuasion. I thought listening and dialogue were generally valued on this site.

Hi Pat-
The question is not whether or not the OT and NT potentially contain both truth and falsehood. Since each claimed truth must be individually examined, we cannot but start with the presupposition that any given statement may turn out to be either true or false.
Rather the question is why people (or some) tend to think the bits they like are true and the bits they don't like are false. In the real world this would never be so neatly the case. My explanation is wishful thinking. Is there a better explanation?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 16 May 2009 at 1:44pm BST

"Christianity before the Reformation was so very biblical"

Ah, but there is huge difference between this and what is usually meant by the term "Biblical Christianity" today, as you well know. That was a key point of the Reformation, getting rid of all the non-Biblical stuff, like invocation of the saints, veneration of icons, Maryology, veneration of the Sacrament, or, for even going so far as to insist that the Eucharist is nothing more than a pious memorial.

And what about your question

"why should one believe that 'God is love' is true if it comes from sources which are sometimes false?"

The Bible contains this statement, yet also contains things that are false, at least historically. So, we should not believe what is in the Bible? Or is it your contention that only SOME books contain false statements, and it is the individual books we should be considering, not the Bible as a whole? If so, does this mean that we should not accept any teachings from Biblical books that contain false statements? So we can write off most of the histories then?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Saturday, 16 May 2009 at 7:04pm BST

"The sort of anglicans you are referring to have a fundamentalist unexamined belief that everything in the Bible is true in some sense - usually metaphorically. "

I think you need to look up that word "fundamentalist." I do not believe that it means what you think it means.

Most Anglicans I know (indeed, most Christians I know) are aware that the Bible is neither a science text nor a history book. The details of the Genesis stories (how long did it take? what was the order of creation? what rib did God use?) are incidental to the purpose of the stories themselves.

Posted by: BillyD on Sunday, 17 May 2009 at 1:57am BST

"The question is not whether or not the OT and NT potentially contain both truth and falsehood. Since each claimed truth must be individually examined, we cannot but start with the presupposition that any given statement may turn out to be either true or false.
Rather the question is why people (or some) tend to think the bits they like are true and the bits they don't like are false. In the real world this would never be so neatly the case. My explanation is wishful thinking. Is there a better explanation?"

Yes--a comparison between the statement in the scripture and the scientific conclusions of the real world, viewed through the prism of our belief in a just and loving God.

I cannot believe that a just and loving God would create an entire class of human beings with an innate desire that they are forbidden to fulfill, even with other consenting adults and in loving, monogamous relationships. God does not create sin, nor the need to commit sin. If homosexuality is innate (either genetic or developed so early in infancy as to be considered an inborn part of the consciousness), then it is created by God. Since all the modern science is trending toward that being true (I say "trending" because in human sexuality/psychology it is impossible to declare anything indisputably proven), I cannot believe God thinks acting on those desires is sinful.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 17 May 2009 at 4:11am BST

"If homosexuality is innate (either genetic or developed so early in infancy as to be considered an inborn part of the consciousness), then it is created by God. ... I cannot believe God thinks acting on those desires is sinful."

Hold on, Pat. There are presumably all sorts of innate dispositions that are not as benign as you and I believe homosexual desire to be in the right context - do you think that God created them, as well? Is someone acting on those desires morally in the right, simply because they have those desires?

Posted by: BillyD on Sunday, 17 May 2009 at 2:34pm BST

BillyD:

Such as? If you're thinking pedophilia, my understanding of current psychological theory is that that is instilled much later, usually around puberty.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 17 May 2009 at 5:08pm BST

Not necessarily, Pat. I'm not even talking about sexual dispositions, necessarily. Surely there are other desires that are one is either genetically predisposed to or take root so early in life that the idea of someone choosing them is ruled out?

What you seem to be saying is that acting on desires that one has no choice in is the moral route, simply because the desires are innate. The idea that desires are good and to be indulged simply because they are unchosen seems like pretty shaky ground for Christian ethics to me.

Likewise, we learn to control a lot of our desires early on as a result of childhood training. Aggression and acquisitiveness seem to take route pretty early, and we are taught not to hit, not to take others' things. If someone were not so taught, would acting on their innate desires be the moral course?

Posted by: BillyD on Monday, 18 May 2009 at 12:38am BST

Hi Pat-

You can test the honesty of your answer for yourself by checking whether there are biblical teachings that you want to be true but believe to be false, and that you want to be false but believe to be true. Let me know the answer, particularly in the second category.

The way you found out about the just and loving God in the first place was not unrelated to the same source that teaches the teaching you don't like. So why accept the one and not the other? Pls consider it a possibility that wishful thinking may be the cause of this. Wishful thinking is anathema to all academic study.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 18 May 2009 at 9:16am BST

hi Ford-
As I mentioned to Pat, the point behind my question of what criterion is used to separate what is true in the scriptures from what is false is that the 'criterion' often seems to coincide with wishful thinking - which is clearly highly suspicious and inadmissible from an academic point of view. If you think I am saying 'either all the Bible is true or all of it is false' you misunderstand. Neither am I saying it nor do I believe it.

On biblical Christianity you are not grasping the nettle. Of course certain extra-biblical practices were put in question at the Reformation, since uncritical acceptance of them would be anti-academic. Some such practices may well have been muich later additions to the tradition, may have even contradicted the tradition, may have had their roots in unsavoury ulterior motives, etc.. But never was there rejection of what was actually in the Bible either by Catholics or by Protestants. The catholics may have added to it and the prots may have failed to do so, but neither generally did what people are now doing, saying that the NT scriptures are incorrect. (Though NB Luther on James etc..) Whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter, this is a clear distinction between reformation times and ours.

Posted by: CHirstopher Shell on Monday, 18 May 2009 at 9:23am BST

Christopher: "but neither generally did what people are now doing, saying that the NT scriptures are incorrect. (Though NB Luther on James etc..) Whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter, this is a clear distinction between reformation times and ours."

Oh Christopher, where does one start with your reasoning? Trying to make everything fit tidily into QEDs just doesn't work with the history of doctrine: it's so full of little byways and big lurches in dangerous directions. And that longing to be able to state "QED" so frequently reads to me like a longing to put both God and the Christian tradition into far too small and tidy a box.

Think outside the prism of "Reformation tidied things up." Eamonn Duffy's "Stripping of the Altars" was an eye-opener for me when I read it.

There are so many loose edges: Luther's (and wider Christianity's) anti-Semistism; witch-burning (very OT) and the shameful treatment of women generally by churches (very NT outside the gospels, that); and meantime baroque courts having a whale of a sense-exalting time with bosoms, bottoms and other bits popping out all over fresoed ceilings... the tradition is rich, full of wonderful variety, not something to box up and hit people with.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Monday, 18 May 2009 at 11:57am BST

"the 'criterion' often seems to coincide with wishful thinking"

My point is that this is a criticism that could be applied equally, some might say moreso, to conservatives.

"But never was there rejection of what was actually in the Bible either by Catholics or by Protestants."

Simply untrue.

"uncritical acceptance of them would be anti-academic."

But that "academic" attitude was based on the mistaken assumption that the Bible contains all there is about Christianity. This is a basic mistake underlying the concept of "Biblical" Christianity as it is commonly used today. "Extrabiblical" practices aren't necessarily wrong because they aren't in the Bible. It is NOT an academic position to base one's argument on a misunderstanding of the purpose of the documents one uses to support that position.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 18 May 2009 at 4:45pm BST

"Aggression and acquisitiveness seem to take route pretty early, and we are taught not to hit, not to take others' things. If someone were not so taught, would acting on their innate desires be the moral course?"

Of course not -- because those things, like pedophilia actually, require us to violate one of Christ's primary commandments: the Golden Rule. Acting on homosexual desires does not. Consensual sex, of any kind, between adults in a loving, monogamous relationship is not and cannot be -- IMO -- a sin. It is part of the life that God intends for us.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 18 May 2009 at 4:50pm BST

"The way you found out about the just and loving God in the first place was not unrelated to the same source that teaches the teaching you don't like. So why accept the one and not the other? Pls consider it a possibility that wishful thinking may be the cause of this. Wishful thinking is anathema to all academic study."

There are teachings and there are teachings, Christopher. The Gospel of John teaches us that the Jews are eternally responsible for Christ's death. Do you accept that?

Leviticus teaches us that we should not wear clothes of mixed fabrics. Do you accept that?

IMO, Paul's teaching regarding sexuality violates Christ's second great commandment...and thus is invalid. Why do I think so and why did Paul not see it that way? Because Paul was a man of his time and place, limited in his understanding of God's creation. We have a wider and deeper understanding of that creation today and that--and the Spirit--lead us to a new and more beneficent understanding of our gay brothers and sisters.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 18 May 2009 at 4:56pm BST

"Consensual sex, of any kind, between adults in a loving, monogamous relationship is not and cannot be -- IMO -- a sin. It is part of the life that God intends for us."

Just to continue playing the contrarian, how about people called to a life of celibacy? I'm not arguing necessarily that all gay people are so called - just trying to see if there are any exceptions in your scheme.

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 19 May 2009 at 3:03am BST

Hi Pat-
The Gospel of John does not teach that the Jews (as in all Jews of all times everywhere) are eternally responsible for Christ's death. (1) John says nothing about future generations of Jews; (2) of the relevant generation, he uses the term 'the Jews' in parallel with 'the Pharisees' in chapter 9, showing where his focus lay. On the other hand, he is correct to say that some Jewish people played a part in Christ's death, i.e. in handing him over to Pilate. That much is clear enough.

The New Testament itself and New Testament Christians distinguish, because of the work of Christ, between Old and New Testaments. That is why there are 2 testaments in the first place. NT teaches a certain way on homosexuality. By contrast, mixed fibres are not even in the NT, so how are they relevant?

Fr Mark-
Yes, I too like Eamon Duffy's scholarship. If you look back at what I have written you will see that I was supporting neither Catholic nor Protestant wholesale. Nor did I really mention whether or not the Reformation was a good thing. These 2 categories Cath and Prot are largely irrelevant except in a secondary historical sense.

Hi Ford-
No: I said that uncritical acceptance of catholic add-ons would be anti-accademic for one reason only: namely, that uncritical acceptance of *anything* in life is anti-academic. If the add-ons are justifiable, they must argue their case, just as everything else must argue its case.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 19 May 2009 at 9:24am BST

Christopher:

I note that you avoid commenting on the bulk of my last note, regarding how and why Paul--the only place in the NT that even mentions what we now call "homosexuality" (Paul wouldn't have understood the term at all)--is wrong.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 19 May 2009 at 11:15am BST

Hi Ford-
Wishful thinking is a bad (nay, an impossible) basis for reasoning whether that reasoning is done by so-called conservatives or by non-conservatives. You cannot surely be arguing that two wrongs make a right. But if 'two wrongs make a right' is not your point, what *is* your point?

Wouldn't you agree that if someone's doctrine coincided more than average with wishful thinking that would be something in need of examination? This is the cardinal point I encounter so often: people so often assume that God must be exactly as they would want God to be. If God is independent at all (and who is more so?) then this is extremely unlikely. And it raises the question of whether they are talking about some real independent being called God at all, as opposed to talking about their own wishes, projections, etc..

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 19 May 2009 at 12:11pm BST

"people so often assume that God must be exactly as they would want God to be."

My points:

1. The above applies at least as well to conservatives as liberals.

2. Christianity is based on the teaching of God Incarnate in Christ, to which the Bible is a guide. The Bible is NOT the total exposition of the Gospel. Thus, the concept of "Biblical Christianity" makes little sense.

3. The Reformation was a radical reinvention of Christianity, based on the mistaken assumption that Christianity is to be found in Scripture. It is quite funny, not to mention hypocritical, that those for whom the Reformation was nothing other than a restoration of the Truth would accuse others of "innovation" and rejecting "historical" or "traditional" Christianity. If they choose to ignore how this continued assertion makes them look, they make themselves fair game for mockery, and can't claim "oppression" as a result.

4. The majority does not rule. Arianism and iconoclasm were once majority opinions, but neither of them was finally accepted. What's more, given the behaviour of Christianity historically, the majority would seem to have supported some very bad things, contrary to the Gospel, and perhaps rejection of that majority opinion is not a bad thing, but something God is calling us to do. There are painful lessons to be learnt from 1700 years of compromise with the State. Conservatives further weaken their position by refusing to learn those lessons. Agan, they can't claim oppression when the world points this out to them.

5. The idea that anyone who is not a conservative is assenting to a "self-indulgent 1960s world view" is ignorant, disrespectful, and reveals very much about what motivates you and those like you. Based on my own experience, I assume that word 'conservative' to be roughly equivalent to "Evangelical" in the mouths of many conservatives, though not all conservatives are Evangelicals, nor are all Evos conservative. But I find it frustrating and amusing that those who use God to justify their own particular mores, fears, and prejudices can accuse others of being influenced by the world.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 19 May 2009 at 1:55pm BST

Hi Ford-
Reading back, you will see that, on the contrary, I never said that there are only two possible worldviews, conservative and 1960s? That would have been a ridiculous assertion. There are of course many possible worldviews. The particular people I was talking about have imbibed effortlessly from their surrounding culture some elements of the 1960s worldview to the extent that they cannot easily imagine life without it. But just because they have done so, that does not mean that *every* person, or every nonconservative person, has done so.

You still ahve not grasped the nettle about wishful thinking. Suposing that you are right that both conservatives and liberals (so-called) indulge in it. Two wrongs do not make a right,. If they both indulge in it, then they are both wrong, both indulging in faulty thinking.

You got the idea of God Incarnate in Christ from a biblical document (John 1.14) in the first place. If John 1.14 had never been written, would we now be talking about God incarnate in Christ?Yet how do you know that John 1.14 is true and not a theological construct?

Your words on the Refornmation are irrelevant to me since I hold no brief for the reformation, What I said about later add-ons having to prove their worth and authenticity remains true.

I have never said nor beleived that the nmajority is right. You already know that since otehrwise why would I be standing against majority media opinion? It is quite obvious that the majority is sometimes right and sometimes wrong,. Una's mistake was to class as dissenters those who are numerically mainstrem. But being dissenters no more makes a group right or wrong than being mainstream does. Right and wrong are not calculated by numbers.

Hi Pat-
Once again you say 'I note that you avoided commenting on such and such a point'. Looking back on this thread you will see that a very large number of points have been made for me to respond to. My failure to respond to every last one of these, the thinking goes, proves my dodginess for all time.
However, loving our neighbour as ourselves means wanting the best for them. How we conceive the best (probably on the basis of what does *us* good, and more importantly does society good) will determine what we place in that category. I would not want myself not any other human being to be as prone as the average member of the group Paul talks about to ill healtha nd early death, and obviously if I really loved them I would want good, not bad, things for them.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 20 May 2009 at 12:39pm BST

"I would not want myself not any other human being to be as prone as the average member of the group Paul talks about to ill health and early death, and obviously if I really loved them I would want good, not bad, things for them."

That ill health and early death largely (I'm tempted to say "completely") arises from the life we condemn them to by banning them from the kind of life-long, monogamous, loving relationships heterosexuals get to have in marriage.

Or are you not aware that unmarried, promiscuous straights ALSO have a higher incidence of disease and death?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 20 May 2009 at 5:38pm BST

"The particular people I was talking about have imbibed effortlessly from their surrounding culture"

Everyone at every age "imbibes effortlessly" from their surroounding culture to the extent that they cannot imagine living without it, Christopher. Why single out the 1960s? And at issue is your false accusation that liberals have abandoned the Gospel for the mores of the 1960s, not how many eras you think they had to pick from.

"If they both indulge in it, then they are both wrong, both indulging in faulty thinking."


Ergo, neither has the right to condemn the other for it.

"If John 1.14 had never been written"

Of course we would! The Spirit led us to that knowledge. I don't think the Spirit is limited to the pages of a book.

"true and not a theological construct"

In religious terms, what's the difference?
I assumed in your post of May 14 that you saw "assenting to majority Christianity" was a good thing. If not, I apologize. What DID you mean by that phrase, then?

As to your comments on gay people having ill health and early deaths, we have beaten this to death. You have not, despite repeated requests, been able to produce one shred of credible evidence for these claims. It is unbecoming of a Christian to lie about others. And AIDS stats do not support your claim. You should understand that.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 21 May 2009 at 12:04am BST

"Just to continue playing the contrarian, how about people called to a life of celibacy? I'm not arguing necessarily that all gay people are so called - just trying to see if there are any exceptions in your scheme." - BillyD on Tuesday -

BillyD. You have certainly hit on an important point here, and I guess one which will continue to challenge the Roman Catholic Church with its culture of required celibacy for its priests. Having myself experienced the 'celibate life', as a former Franciscan Brother (SSF), I can tell you that it is not the easiest of vocations - and certainly not necessarily the best calling for a non-practising homosexual. Nor is it, I would venture to say, the easiest calling for a non-pratising heterosexual person - male or female.

Again, it all depends on what you mean by the word 'celibacy'. In Matthew 19:12 & 19, Jesus refers to those "who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom". He then adds: "He who is able to receive this, let him receive it" -indicating that celibacy is a charism, which has to be 'received' by whomever weould exercise it.

Jesus never enjoined celibacy, per se, on any of his followers. And in fact we know that Saint Peter himself, as well as other leaders in the Early Church and later, were married. This counters any argument that the Early Church required celibacy - in fact Paul required that Bishops should have only one wife. One wonders why any part of the modern Church should require mandatory celibacy for its ministerial candidates.

Celibacy is pure gift - embarked upon by either men or women, it can be a gift to the Church and the world. However, it can also be the cause of untold hardship and sorrow for those who undertake it without due caution, and without a desire for 'total abandonment to the Divine Providence'. The Vow of Celibacy requires great faith in order to keep it solemnly and with a cheerful heart. Thanks be to God for those who actually want to consecrate the whole of their life to God in this particular way. I failed.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 21 May 2009 at 12:27am BST

Hi Ford-
Although the incarnation is some Chirstians' cornerstone (not necessarily wrongly) it would never have been able to become so without scriptural warrant. No number-one foundational doctrine in mainstream Christendom has ever been without scriptural warrant, not that I can think of.

Is the incarnation really the sort of thing that we could have intuited to be true in the absence of documentary evidence?

The majority is not always right nor always wrong. My point was the quite separate point that some people are mistaken about which group *constitutes* the majority.

On your last point: on the contrary, you have not adequately responded to the International Journal of Epidemiology article on Canadian gay men as a whole, infected and uninfected. All that would be necessary would be to disprove it or provide more up-to-date evidence that pointed in a different direction.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 22 May 2009 at 6:21pm BST

"On your last point: on the contrary, you have not adequately responded to the International Journal of Epidemiology article on Canadian gay men as a whole, infected and uninfected. All that would be necessary would be to disprove it or provide more up-to-date evidence that pointed in a different direction."

How about a word from the study's authors?


http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/30/6/1499

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 23 May 2009 at 1:37am BST

Hi BillyD-

I read that word from the study's authors 2 or 3 years ago.

Something that both of us can agree on is that this supplementary word is not founded on science or or statistics.

If it is not scientific nor statistical, what is it?

It is an ideological prescription, a command based on nothing but 'because I say so'.

It is to the effect that 'people ought not to take these findings as a basis for such and such a course of thought or action'.

In other words, it belongs in a journal of moral philosophy or ethics - or it would if any of the authors were qualified in those fields.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 23 May 2009 at 9:14am BST

Hi BillyD-

I read that word from the study's authors 2 or 3 years ago.

Something that both of us can agree on is that this supplementary word is not founded on science or or statistics.

If it is not scientific nor statistical, what is it?

It is an ideological prescription, a command based on nothing but 'because I say so'.

It is to the effect that 'people ought not to take these findings as a basis for such and such a course of thought or action'.

In other words, it belongs in a journal of moral philosophy or ethics - or it would if any of the authors were qualified in those fields.

The original study (pub.1997) will be seen to emanate from the same year (1997) as the signalling of a reduction in premature death rates. When one begins from such a high rate reduction is likely, but to what level compared with non-homosexuals? Compared with smokers? They don't say. They do say correctly that lifestyle is a key factor, but fail to draw the obvious conclusions for male-gay lifestyle on average. And the reduction is down to the contribution of medical science helping out homosexuals, as opposed to being caused by anything intrinsic to homosexuality itself. In other words, it happens *in spite of* the intrinsically medically-risky nature of central areas of homosexual practice.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 23 May 2009 at 9:26am BST

Christopher:

No, it IS based on statistics. I quote:

'It is essential to note that the life expectancy of any population is a descriptive and not a prescriptive mesaure.5 Death is a product of the way a person lives and what physical and environmental hazards he or she faces everyday. It cannot be attributed solely to their sexual orientation or any other ethnic or social factor. If estimates of an individual gay and bisexual man's risk of death is truly needed for legal or other purposes, then people making these estimates should use the same actuarial tables that are used for all other males in that population. Gay and bisexual men are included in the construction of official population-based tables and therefore these tables for all males are the appropriate ones to be used."

IOW, we did some research on a specific group and presented the data. However, that data is not best applied to such people on the whole, who do not really differ markedly from the general population.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 23 May 2009 at 11:48am BST

"I read that word from the study's authors 2 or 3 years ago."

Evidently you did not read it as closely as you thought you had, because you seem to be ignoring the author's observations that

In contrast, if we were to repeat this analysis today the life expectancy of gay and bisexual men would be greatly improved. Deaths from HIV infection have declined dramatically in this population since 1996. As we have previously reported there has been a threefold decrease in mortality in Vancouver as well as in other parts of British Columbia.

Facts on the ground have changed since the study was produced. Even when the study was produced in 1997, it was analyzing information from the 1980's and early 1990's. I think it may be time for you to let go of the idea that a thirteen year-old study analyzing twenty year-old data is the cutting edge and last word in scientific research.


Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 23 May 2009 at 1:47pm BST

"The aim of our research was ....to demonstrate to an international audience how the life expectancy of gay and bisexual men can be estimated from limited vital statistics data."

Christopher, you read the comment from the authors of this study, including the above. My issue with you is that you are A) using their study for purposes for which it was never intended, B) making statements that cannot be justified by their data, and C) refusing to acknowledge this. If, at the time, gay men were dying from an infectious disease in disproportionate numbers, and they were in those days, what does that mean? Well, we know what that means: at the time gay men were doing things that spread the infection. When gay men adopted behaviours that slowed the spread of the infection, the incidence of infection went down in gay men. It did not go down in groups that did not adopt these infection control measures. Two of those groups are heterosexual Africans and Western teenagers. Now, I'm sure you'd agree that the high incidence of AIDS in Africa is shortening the lives of heterosexual Africans, as a group. This is statistically factual. Would you say their lives are shortened because they are heterosexual, or because they are African? Or would you say their lives are shortened because they have not adopted practices that could control the spread of an infectious disease that is killing them? You can see, I hope, the fallacy in claiming they live shortened lives because they are heterosexual or African. It is equally a fallacy to claim this study shows gay people have inherently shortened lifespans.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 25 May 2009 at 3:40pm BST

There is only one possible approach: use the most recent large-scale data available to us. The very day that a similar differential to the 1997 study's '8-21 years' becomes available, I shall quote that one instead. Till then, we shall all, obviously, listen more to people who give actual figures than to people who don't.

In fact, if anyone has better or more up-to-date *actual* figures, let's have them. We are now in 2009, so it is certainly about time. Otherwise, these actual figures from nearly 20 years ago will be far better than vagueness, supposition, or playing for time.

On the relationship to AIDS: yes, of course. But obviously that is because there's something intrinsic about homosexual activity that makes a given homosexual massively more likely on average to be at risk of AIDS in the first place.

Hi Billy D-
I'm sure you'll agree that what is most relevant is the homosexual vs heterosexual differential as opposed to the 1990 homosexual vs 2000 homosexual
differential.

Hi Pat-
The supplement to the article, which does make some semi-precise statistical points, nevertheless has a central point which is a moral/ethical point: 'our figures *ought* not to be interpreted or used in such-and-such a way'. That is not usual in a scientific journal, nor are the authors qualified to write on ethics. Any statistics will contain certain implications within themselves, and we can't go around telling people, without cause, that they cannot draw those intrinsic lessons from our statistics. For example, if women cost the car-insurer less than men on average, they deserve to have better rates. If no figures are available to differentiate women from men in this matter, the answer is not to hide behind the absence of figures but to discover the true figures.
The authors are quite wrong (and must surely know it) to say that gay men belong only to the group 'men' and not to any sub-groups. As any child knows, they will belong to any number of subgroups, and the more statistical information is available on sub-groups, the better (not the worse) it will be for future planning.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 26 May 2009 at 1:32pm BST

This thread has drifted far from the topic of the original article.
No further comments unless they relate directly to the claims of the CEN concerning discrimination in Britain against Christians.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 26 May 2009 at 7:12pm BST

Anti-Christian persecution in this country is pretty small beer in international terms. But to deny it has increased (and, in many cases, in direct proportion to the increase of gay rights, which are often imagined to be the only subgroup of rights in situations where there are in truth any number of subgroups that do not get mentioned) is to hide one's face in the sand.

Ever since Nadia Eweida's spat with British Airways, these cases have been coming up at more than one a month. The Christian Legal Centre has had its case-load quadruple (I kid you not) within a matter of months. For example: I am willing to bet that many of us will attest that the people who have offered to pray for us have often been people of compassion and maturity. Now they are - if not jailbirds in waiting - the next worst thing.

I believe the ostrich agenda on this is a fundamentalistic prior mindset divorced from the facts. Mere examination of the statistics of how such cases have increased - honestly, what does that tell us? If such cases were arising before the last 2 years in like degree, where is the evidence for that?

Last year I was among those who campaigned (eventually successfully) against Google for allowing (nay, being funded by - as though they were short of a bit of cash) advertisements for (for example) husbands cheating on their wives and vice-versa, dogging, buying and selling babies.... - while at the same time denying a factually-based Christian Institute advert giving information on abortion. The CEO of Google admitted that this was all to do with the way he wants the world to be - without giving rational justification. There are powerful people to whom intellectual argument means nothing. They will just say 'We know there are strong feelings [what have feelings got to do with it?? - we are talking facts here] on all sides' and then go ahead and do whatever they want. Why should they bother with intellectual analysis, when they have the money and the power? It is this anti-intellectualism that is the thing to be opposed.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 27 May 2009 at 9:24am BST
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