Comments: Scapegoating the gay community

This is really too much. Why are conservatives so OBSESSED with homosexuality? This question is a patent means of directing the discourse away from the real questions (What acts are licit? What behaviors are normal? Are there other ramifications of abnormality?) and toward the questioner. Your reaction is to observe that a publication "has an obsession with homosexuality which seems unusual." Unusual. We know what that means. They're repressed; they're fascinated with deviance; they're perverts themselves.

As if conservatives were the ones pushing the subject of homosexuality into public policy and public discourse. Thirty years ago, the prevailing claim, at least in discussions like these, was that homosexuals want "only to be left alone"; but if this ever was the plan (which seems unlikely), it has been long since abandoned. Conservatives today do not initiate discussion of homosexuality; they simply respond to a barrage. One cannot read the paper or turn on the television for any length of time without being confronted by advocacy for the total normalization of homosexual behavior. Legalisation of homosexual behavior, allowance of same-sex marriage, revision of adoption laws to allow adoptions by homosexuals, advocacy of "inclusivity" in sex education--be for them or against them, but don't pretend that conservatives do not face an aggressive pro-homosexualist revolution in our culture and laws, to which their responses have so far been unavailing.

And it gets worse: "Do you have a need for 'dominance'? a fear of being raped?" Conservatives' views about these issues are thus dismissed by the hypothesis that they must be all messed up inside. Honestly, we can do better than this.

Posted by DGus at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 5:35pm BST

At risk of being accused of being a closet Christian Voice supporter, or a wife-beater, the answer to all of this long argument is that for Evangelicals (and other traditions as well) the very foundational bedrock of society as God has ordained it is Christian marriage, exclusive of all others, between a man and a woman, for life. Marriage is intended to be the means of procreation and rearing of children within God-fearing households.

Those who are so stridently pursuing an agenda of gay equality have ensured a response from the Evangelical community, which does not want to see Christian marriage diminished or devalued or rendered less than unique among the God-given options which God has put before the human race, both in Creation and in the Christian tradition, based on scripture.

Quoting Genesis 19 is just silly: this is an argument which embraces far more than the notional Fundy in Tom Ambrose's imaginary sights.
The authority of scripture is a much more complex issue and debate, but briefly, the gay agenda challenges the biblical basis on which church life is built in most of modern christendom: not a dead tradition, but a living Tradition and community, based on theological arguments and concepts rather than secular assertions founded upon sexual libertarianism.

Christian Voice may be a noisy manifestation of those who are speaking up for morality in a world abandoned by church leaders of the 1960s generation, but what it is saying is no more than what the great bulk of modern Christianity believes and teaches about the authority of the Word of God, and its implications for personal sexuality.

Posted by vscoles at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 7:20pm BST

Let me get this straight, DGus. I'm not sure that I understand you. You mean that this barrage that conservatives must defend themselves against is instituted solely by homosexuals and it is all their fault that they want the right to live full lives, to have all the things that the conservatives claim for their own pleasure such as loving relationships, families, freedom from persecution and all that? So, if they would just be good little homosexuals, choose to be heterosexual and shut up and leave y'all alone, despite their own misery and the unfairness of their lives, life would just be grand for all the conservatives who hate them? So hate mongering against them is merely self defense? Wouldn't it be simply awful if God made them that way intentionally and thus hating them could be a sin and by hate mongering the conservatives who just want to go on with their lives in a perfectly heterosexual world without being bothered are in reality subjecting themselves to judgement and death? Poor, poor conservatives! Life is so hard when others want the same things for themselves! Love, family, acceptance, a good job ...

What ever happened to the second commandment? I keep seeing it in MY Bible.

Posted by Annie at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 7:23pm BST

Well, actually, there is something perverted in hating people as much Christian Voice does. I have Stephen Green's little book on homosexuality somewhere, "The Sexual Dead End", and it's nt the product of a particularly healthy or balanced mind.

Posted by Andrew Brown at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 7:29pm BST

Dear Annie: Well, I had THREE points, neither of which is fairly characterized in your post:

1. The discussion isn't helped by exploring (i.e., speculating about) the deep inner motives of, and the probable pathologies of, the other guy. Rather, we should discuss the issues--like, say, how a police officer's sexual behavior does or doesn't affect his fitness for and effectiveness at the job.

2. It's laughably unfair to complain that outspoken opponents of homosexual behavior reflect an "obsession", since in fact this issue is virtually thrown in one's face at every turn. One stifles oneself NOT to respond.

3. However reassuring it might be to (some) pro-homosexualists, it's ridiculous to pretend that those who believe homosexual acts to be sinful have that belief because they fear being raped (or some other pathology).

Posted by DGus at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 7:59pm BST

But, vscoles, why is marriage threatened more by gays that by adulterers?

Given that genesis is a myth in the sense that it never happened, I don't see how you can argue with some confidence from it. There are problems -- well known ones -- in deriving "ought" from "is"; but deriving "ought" from "wasn't" is even more precarious.

Posted by Andrew Brown at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 8:27pm BST

>> At risk of being accused of being a closet Christian Voice supporter, or a wife-beater, the answer to all of this long argument is that for Evangelicals (and other traditions as well) the very foundational bedrock of society as God has ordained it is Christian marriage, exclusive of all others, between a man and a woman, for life. Marriage is intended to be the means of procreation and rearing of children within God-fearing households. <<

OK, so then where *is* the equivalent level of evangelical outspokenness and opposition and outrage when it comes to (heterosexual) divorce or adultery among Christians and within society overall? Why are all their guns seemingly aimed *only* at same-sex issues?

Personally, I'm still studying and considering Scripture's application to the relatively new category of self-identified "gay" people. But I *am* deeply troubled by what seem to be profound inconsistencies in emphasis by those who maintain the traditionalist view. ++Rowan's recent statement regarding the existence of bias seems to have hit the nail on the head.

Posted by Scotus at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 8:36pm BST

DGus

1. We should discuss the issues--like, say, how a police officer's sexual behavior does or doesn't affect his fitness for and effectiveness at the job.

Oh? Well, we'll have to examine this without prejudice from both angles, as say, myself, a woman, and how I've been treated by heterosexual male policemen? Can we do that, then? And make certain that all offenses by both heterosexuals and homosexuals are given equal voice and equal value? Yes, perhaps it would be good to always consider exactly how everyone conducts themselves according to their sexual proclivity. EVERY infraction being equally prosecutable.

2. It's laughably unfair to complain that outspoken opponents of homosexual behavior reflect an "obsession", since in fact this issue is virtually thrown in one's face at every turn. One stifles oneself NOT to respond.

Well, if they would just live and let live, life would be better for all of us then. Homosexuals shouldn't have any reason to keep bothering y'all about it if y'all would mind your own business. That's the way I see it. I see no logical reason or way in which my homosexual neighbors would effect my life.

3. However reassuring it might be to (some) pro-homosexualists, it's ridiculous to pretend that those who believe homosexual acts to be sinful have that belief because they fear being raped (or some other pathology).

The fear of being raped is a prejudicial and false teaching as rape is a matter of force and is perpetrated by heterosexuals, too--it is not associated with sexual preference, attraction, etc., it is a power statement. As a woman, am I justified in hating all men because it is very likely that I could be raped? 1 in 4 women will be raped. Yes, most of these rapes will be committed by HETEROSEXUALS.

It is even more regrettable that by justifying hatred in the name of God all these homophobic people are in fact living in a sinful state, that of breaking of the first and second commandments. "If you say you love God but that you hate your brother, you are a liar! How can you say that you love God, whom you have not seen if you say you hate your brother whom you have seen." Though there is a debate about whether it is a sin for men to lay with other men according to scripture, there should never be any question about what we are to do. Do you hate people who commit adultery, get divorced or break copyrights? ??? No, hate is not justified by scripture. It is never listed among good fruits of the Spirit. As a Christian, I feel it is my Christian duty to spare you this sin and guide you in the ways of righteousness.

A.

Posted by Annie at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 9:28pm BST

"OK, so then where *is* the equivalent level of evangelical outspokenness and opposition and outrage when it comes to (heterosexual) divorce or adultery among Christians and within society overall?"

1. I am not aware of any campaign to grant moral approval to divorce or adultery.

2. If there were to be such a campaign then it would be resisted by Evangelicals and many others.

3. New Labour will no doubt soon make it a criminal offence to express disapproval of any form of sexual activity currently engaged in by members of the Cabinet.

Posted by vscoles at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 9:36pm BST

I've never understood why heterosexuals are excessively interested in the intimate activities of GLBT people?

I don't believe GLBT folk spend much time (any) torturing and/or entertaining themselves by thinking about what heterosexuals are "doing" sexually or trying to monitor *them* as agents/warriors/sorters for GOD.

I'm told there are a couple of "Gay" programs on T.V. these days (which I've never seen) that are a little overly "colorful" and revealing about GLBT people...they are offensive to some conservatives I understand (as posted above).

How similar *they* must be to the NON-STOP creepy/sinful/dirty/virtueless sexual stories/sagas and behavior of HETEROSEXUALS which have been shown/exposed to everyone/everychild-of-God on films/T.V endlessly since I was young.

I wonder if such dispicable/sneaky/dishonorable/crude/violent/adulterous/dangerous heterosexual REAL and/or imagined behavior shown on Films/T.V. made me Gay?

Did the ugly sexual behavior of heterosexuals twist my thinking and clobber/destroy my "normal" sexuality or was it the "cheating" on all of those "straight" wives that proved such a disgusting example of your form of "mating" to me?

Isn't time for heterosexual *persons* to focus on their OWN personal/individual character and stop nosing-around/speculating/imagining sexual garbage and vile-filty-sexual extravaganzas in the intimate lives of GLBT people?

Discrimination, hate mongering against GLBT is evil and immoral and YOU have no *right* speculating about me or my morals or excluding me from full fellowship/participation/service in MY CHURCH...I think it will be better if I do my own holy and rigorous self-searching and try very hard to improve MY "morals" in the sight of God and in MY community...who knows, maybe I can become a Saint.

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 9:36pm BST

"But I *am* deeply troubled by what seem to be profound inconsistencies in emphasis by those who maintain the traditionalist view"

Most of what I read in the public media is actually a misrepresentation of what Evangelicals believe. And because of the popular notion that just because one side is mounting a massive pro-gay campaign, so the other side is mounting an opposite and equal reaction: therefore it is easy to portray the "traditional" side as running a campaign of equal size, funding and ferocity.

The media like conflict: therefore it suits them to over-emphasise and to distort in order to discredit traditional Christians, who would much prefer to be running a campaign FOR Jesus, rather than against anyone or anything.

The Evangelical case is set out very carefully and thoroughly in Robert A Gagnon's book, "The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics". There really is nothing I can add to it except to say that I have seen literally nothing from the pro-gay side which offers an equally careful and convincing argument for changing the traditional hermeutics.

Posted by vscoles at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 9:52pm BST

Andrew Brown said: "But, vscoles, why is marriage threatened more by gays that by adulterers?

Given that genesis is a myth in the sense that it never happened...."

It's your question, not one that Evangelicals would recognise.

The debate here (and the bizarre assertion about "scapegoating") is about "gays" and the Evangelical response to the liberal Western campaign to render homosexuality entirely legally and morally equivalent to Christian marriage.

If you want to ask about adultery, then the same principle applies: all forms of sexual activity outside Christian marriage fall short of the intentions of God for mankind as expressed in holy scripture.

You are not a theologian, or you would know that "myth" in a religious context is a complex concept in which numerous levels of meaning, narrative and hermeneutic are possible, contributing to a world view and a faith which depend on some or all of the possibilities. The validity of Genesis as Christian teaching does not depend on acceptance of a modern and therefore anachronistic literal interpretation - or simplistic rejection such as yours.

The Tradition is composed of many strands and elements, but the root of the tree is Scripture, and the test of whether the fruit two millennia later is good for us is whether it conforms to the original, or if someone has attempted crudely to bolt on something from another plant altogether.

Posted by vscoles at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 10:11pm BST

vscoles writes "the very foundational bedrock of society as God has ordained it is Christian marriage"

Adam and Eve weren't Christians. Many of the Old Testament leaders had concubines as well as a wife; sometimes more than one wife. Jesus Christ wasn't married and suggested that he had come to break up families, not to make them. St Paul wasn't married: nor is the Pope or any Catholic priest or Orthodox bishop. Marriage is great, but it's not the only way, and to say that marriage between one man and one woman is "the very foundational bedrock of society as God has ordained it" is to back project modern evangelical America into the whole of human history.

These generalised, repetitive anti-gay rants based upon mere assertion are off the topic of the post, which is about Christian Voice, the decision of the Co-op Bank, double standards, and a warning by the Archbishop of Canterbury against scapegoating. They do nothing either to advance a conservative argument or to dispel the impression of unhealthy and unChristian obsession with condemning a specific sin of others to which the writer is not, by merest chance, tempted, and on which he is not particularly well qualified to comment.

Posted by jak at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 10:30pm BST

It’s a staple of conservative rhetoric that allowing same-sex couples to marry will Destroy Marriage. It’s a key talking point.

Ontario has had same-sex marriage since 2003 – most Canadian provinces do. It’s clearly here to stay.

We went to get a marriage license, at Toronto’s city hall last fall. The lineup in the office was a bit like the lineup for Noah’s Ark, if Noah hadn’t been all that concerned about breeding pairs: boys and boys, girls and girls, boys and girls, all manners, sorts and conditions of people. It was kind of fun – there was a little rainbow flag on the desk, IIRC. The application form had two halves, headed ‘Applicant’ and ‘Co-Applicant’, where there had clearly been sections for the bride and groom to fill out before the court decision.

So: now it’s Pride Week: just this afternoon, I got an e-mailed police press release with a subject line [TPS] - The 2005 Toronto Dyke March, Saturday, June 25, 2005, Parade route and road closures. Which we wouldn’t have seen even three or four years ago.

Now, I have no problem with any of this, but then again I’m too straight to be homophobic.

Could somebody, somewhere, clearly explain why they think this hurts our marriage? Now, ten years from now, ever? Should we move to Utah, and if so, why? It’s a serious question.

Posted by Gigantic Hound at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 10:31pm BST

Here's the deal, vscoles: do whatever you like in your own Church and in your own life. Nobody will try to stop you, believe me; it's entirely your own business. That's what "freedom of religion" is about. If we don't like your views, we'll find (or found) a different Church; it's happened hundreds of times before, after all.

But marriage is a civil instrument, whether you like that fact or not. The problem we are having these days is that many religionists can't seem to separate the two issues, and think that their religious views should prevail in the political sphere.

Well, sorry. You don't get that privilege. You're going to have to learn to live with the fact that people don't agree with you.

And DGus? If conservatives would stop referring to gay people as merely the perpetrators of a series of "homosexual acts," I think people would stop assuming you're obsessed with sex. We're human beings, you know, with lives, loves, hopes, and dreams, like all others. We even have jobs and can be good neighbors and friends.

I wonder, BTW, how you'd like your own marriage referred to as merely "behavior" or "heterosexual acts"?

Posted by bls at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 10:32pm BST

jak said: "Adam and Eve weren't Christians. Many of the Old Testament leaders had concubines as well as a wife; sometimes more than one wife. Jesus Christ wasn't married and suggested that he had come to break up families, not to make them. St Paul wasn't married: nor is the Pope or any Catholic priest or Orthodox bishop. Marriage is great, but it's not the only way, and to say that marriage between one man and one woman is "the very foundational bedrock of society as God has ordained it" is to back project modern evangelical America into the whole of human history."

A remarkable number of issues here needing a response:

1. To say "Adam and Eve weren't Christians" does not mean that Christians have nothing to learn from the Genesis account of God's plan for human beings. The Church has been reflecting on the original scriptures for two thousand years and that reflection forms part of its understanding of marriage and human sexuality.

2. The polygamic practices of the Old Testament are not compatible either with the direct teaching of Jesus about marriage being between one man and one woman, for life; or with the Pauline teaching about the fundamental equality of men and women in salvation history. No one is asking you to apply OT traditions either literally or selectively in the modern world.

3. Actually we don't know for sure whether Jesus was married or not. And what he said about introducing division was not about disrupting marriage as a godly way of life.

4. St Paul probably wasn't married either, but St Peter was, and numerous bishops and priests were in the west before the Fourth Lateran Council (unfortunately IMHO) imposed priestly celibacy in 1215. A number of Churches in communion with Rome continue to permit their clergy to marry. Their Cardinals helped elect the present pope.

5. I am not American but the significance of Christian marriage for Evangelical Christianity as the fundamental unit of society should not be underestimated, either there or in Europe. It is also RC and Orthodox teaching, worldwide, that marriage IS the only way.

6. You are free of course to dissent from what is undoubtedly both the contemporary mainstream teaching of Christianity, and the historical pattern of Christian moral teaching. The Church is equally free to respond to challenges to its understanding of God's Word on this subject and to maintain the integrity of its own practice in determining what may be regarded as Christian marriage.

Posted by vscoles at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 11:17pm BST

When gay and lesbian people have full social and legal equality, then we will stop pressing for change.

I'm afraid the crumbs of being institutionally discriminated against but allowed to exist as long as we are nice, quiet little poofs and sit on our hands at the requisite moments just doesn't wash anymore.

Thats why we're not going to shut up, and the more the outside society - as is happening in the UK - finds gay rights issues uncontroversial and unremarkable - the more we shall concentrate on working for change within an institutionally homophobic Church.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 11:28pm BST

bls said: "Here's the deal, vscoles: do whatever you like in your own Church and in your own life. Nobody will try to stop you, believe me; it's entirely your own business. That's what "freedom of religion" is about. If we don't like your views, we'll find (or found) a different Church; it's happened hundreds of times before, after all.

But marriage is a civil instrument, whether you like that fact or not. The problem we are having these days is that many religionists can't seem to separate the two issues, and think that their religious views should prevail in the political sphere."

Rather cruder than jak, but here goes:

1. Actually people are trying to tell me and other Christians like me, not only what to do in our own church, but what to believe, and to have our thoughts policed, and to remove, prosecute or even jail those of us who do not conform, while at the same time accusing us of somehow starting a fight, or "scapegoating" people. It's all rather Mugabe-esque.

2. Yes, please do as you propose: DO found or join a church which is in conformity with your own views. They do already exist. I will be pleased to provide a link here if you need one.

3. Civil society provides a civil alternative to Christian marriage. It offers a defined civil and legal status, but it does not purport to be a religious transaction, Christian, Islamic, Hindu or any other kind of religion.

Many of the difficulties in the current debate are caused by the false assumption that civil marriage and religious marriage are precisely the same thing, with the exception of a little ritual at the ceremony. When this assumption is made, it quickly follows that a campaign builds up to force religious bodies to solemnise relationships which are not compatible with their understanding of marriage as a sacramental bond between a man and a woman for life.

Civil society is perfectly free to legislate for any kind of legal rights it thinks fit.

Christians are free to teach their own alternative understanding of human sexuality.

It seems to me THAT'S the deal.

Posted by vscoles at Friday, 24 June 2005 at 11:34pm BST

vscoles ; thing is, though you may wish it different, its my Church just as much as yours.

Posted by Merseymike at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 2:08am BST

I've already found such a Church, vscoles, and won't need your links, thanks. It's called The Episcopal Church in the United States of America. You know: the one that has discerned holiness in same-sex unions, and believes that same-sex partnered clergy may lead Christ's flock?

There are increasing numbers of people elswhere - this is your major problem, of course - who agree with ECUSA about this, as well. Perhaps, then, it's actually you who ought to find a place where you'll be safe? I can provide you some links, if you'd like.

And please don't play the martyr. I haven't told you what to believe, or "policed your thoughts." In fact, I've encouraged you to believe anything you like - but also noted that those "beliefs" have little to do with living in a pluralistic society. You'll just have to adjust to that fact.

Civil society does not "provide an alternative to Christian marriage," BTW. In the United States, civil society is busy trying to erase gay people from the face of the earth. So I'm afraid your problem is actually with your fellow Evangelicals: the more they try to destroy us, the louder we'll fight back. So, this argument will be around to offend you all for quite some time, I expect. The instant you guys quit fighting us, though, it will be over.

As Mike says, we're just not going anywhere. Sorry.

Posted by bls at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 2:48am BST

BTW, here are some of Jesus' thoughts on marriage and family:

Matthew 8:21-22: "Another of the disciples said to Jesus, Sovereign, let me first go and bury my father. But Jesus said to him, Follow me; and let the dead bury the dead."

Matthew 10:34-39 34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man's foes will be those of his own household.

Matthew 19:29: "Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or farms for my name's sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life."

Mark 3:31-35: 31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ 33And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’

Luke 14:26-27:</b. If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.


But I guess probably these sayings don't get much play in "Evangelical" circles....

Posted by bls at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 3:00am BST

"barrage," "thrown in one's face," etc. etc. ad nauseam: why do simple requests for equality---which is the RIGHT to be "let alone"---get violently mischaracterized?

a *twisted fear of rape*: Tom Ambrose is right on!

[But why? Why, oh Lord, why?]

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 4:34am BST

bls,

I am afraid that the indications this week are that ECUSA is in a small minority within the Anglican Communion, and even within ECUSA the debate continues, so that the views expressed by its current establishment may not continue to be held by future generations. Many are also leaving ECUSA for new churches or existing denominations which do not accept its current stance. I predict that 20 years from now there will be a very different Anglican Communion Church in the USA.

You still insist that people conform to your views, although you say people are free to believe anything they like. Actually, freedom of speech, expression, or belief must mean that the debate has not been terminated by one point of view. There must be freedom of debate, ideally without resorting to verbal abuse.

In the UK the government is currently attempting to pass a law worthy of postwar Stalin, which will render it impossible to have freedom of thought or speech in religious matters, and yes, imprisonment will be one of the penalties for opponents of the government's world view.

I am sure we are all well aware here of the biblical quotations you have provided. But you have selected them in a literalistic, even fundamentalist fashion, out of context, depriving them of their meaning.

BTW even in the United States it is possible to enter into a legal union of civil marriage, in a secular building, without the involvement of a minister or priest. The rights or privileges conferred are by definition secular. This is not the same as sacramental marriage entered into by Christians, in a religious ceremony, with the blessing of the Church.

I would have thought you would have known that.

Posted by vscoles at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 10:03am BST

Fear, J.C. Simple as that.

Posted by Merseymike at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 10:50am BST

You'd think that some of this post and debate would consider the question of whether it's correct for the Co-Op to choose its customers according to their views on homosexuality (or anything else).

Instead it's all about whether CV are good eggs or not. You can agree or diasgree with them, but what does the Co-Ops 'diversity' mean when people are penalised for what they think ?

I keep reading posts about Chritian unity and getting on with each other when mainstream Anglicans are dismayed by homosexual bishops, but I get a distinct sense of 'cast themn into the darkness' where CV are concerned. Unity seems to be a bit of a one-way street.

Not that it'll make any difference in the long run. The sooner the CoE splits the better, then it might become relevant again.

Posted by Laban Tall at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 11:58am BST

You would like people to think so, to judge from your insistence on fear, merseymike. But you need to insist on it in order to justify the sort of claims made in Ambrose's article, and indeed to provide some basis for that rather weak term, homophobia.

Why insist upon a bogus psychological explanation for people who disagree with you? That's what the old Soviet Union used to do to people when it couldn't win arguments by rational methods. They were 'diagnosed' and then sent to the Gulags.

Do you fear people who disagree with you on issues other than this one? Or even on this one?

Posted by vscoles at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 12:34pm BST

VSCOLES, answering Andrew Brown, said
> The debate here (and the bizarre assertion about "scapegoating")
> is about "gays" and the Evangelical response to the liberal Western campaign
> to render homosexuality entirely legally and morally equivalent
> to Christian marriage.

Clearly, you don’t understand the Archbishop of Canterbury’s reference, which requires a thorough study of Rene Girard. He mentioned the name on purpose.

VSCOLES also told Andrew Brown
> You are not a theologian,
> or you would know that "myth" in a religious context.....

Andrew Brown has written books containing very well argued theology – Don’t dismiss him like that.

Next, if you HAVE read Girard, you will see that a
rguing from the myth is not the best way to proceed. Scripture brings a totally new approach to understanding our relationship with God who acts through history, rather than fairy tales.
Sorry to put it so bluntly : )

Posted by Tom Ambrose at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 12:52pm BST

vscoles is quite right. In 20 years there will be a very different Anglican Communion Church in the USA. One without right-wing, "evangelical" fundamentalists! Can you say "Amen!"?

Posted by Kurt at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 1:58pm BST

"Verbal abuse"? You mean, "argument"? Sorry - I thought that's what the boards are for. BTW, I thought you guys had contempt for people who object to "verbal abuse," didn't you? Isn't that exactly your point in all the posts above?

And "small minority"? You mean, a "vote" of 30-to-28? Yeah: that's certainly a giant landslide. And Oh, joy! Another "vote" in the Anglican Communion on the status of gay people! What a wonderful way to do things, eh? In any case, I'm not worried about people who are already IN the Anglican Communion; I'm worried about people who are OUTSIDE the Anglican Communion and might want to join. There are lots and lots of those, in the West, and more every day. I think it's time we thought about them for a change, and wondered what it is about modern Christianity that doesn't speak to them. There are, after all, plenty of "orthodox" and "evangelical" churches around, yet the ranks of the "unchurched" continue to swell.

Anyway, vscoles: I haven't insisted that anyone "conform to my views." Hold any views you like; knock yourself out. I don't have any quarrel with the flat-earth society, either.

But stop trying to make gay people (who cannot get married in the United States, as if that needed to be said) into second-class citizens in the public square. And stop insisting that all religious people believe the same things you do; we don't.

THIS, BTW, is hilarious:

"I am sure we are all well aware here of the biblical quotations you have provided. But you have selected them in a literalistic, even fundamentalist fashion, out of context, depriving them of their meaning."

Particularly in this context!

Posted by bls at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 2:21pm BST

"As Mike says, we're just not going anywhere. Sorry."

Nope! We ain't gunna haul anchor vscoles.

Gracias a Dios

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 2:37pm BST

vscoles:
Is homosexuality really such a big threat to Christian marriage?

Not in my parish or diocese. The big threat is heterosexual couples living together without the benefit of marriage.

At least two-thirds of my baptisms are bastards. My parish register even includes the baptism of the bastard grandchild of one of my predecessors. Of roughly 20 marriages over the past 3 years, only one couple had not lived together before marriage (and that groom was a 70-year-old widower who belongs to the fundamentalist church down the road). The joke around here is that couples wait to get married until their children are old enough to be flower girl or ring bearer.

And yet our retired bishop, who went to last week's Essentials gathering in Toronto, never mentions this state of affairs. Nor do any of the other "traditionalists" in the diocese. They can go on and on about homosexuals, but never a word about the sexual sins of heterosexuals.

I used to be a traditionalist, but I got sick of the hypocrisy and homophobia.

Posted by Jim Pratt at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 2:50pm BST

(I would like to hear, though, just once, what "evangelicals" and "orthodox" have to say about Jesus' statements on family, as given above.

By all means, please fill in the meaning. I've never heard anyone from the "family values" side discuss this question - not a big surprise there - so please. I'm all ears.)

Posted by bls at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 2:50pm BST

If Andrew Brown does understand theology then he ought to use language more carefully.

As should Tom Ambrose: dismissing the scriptures as "fairy tales" and with them the great weight of 2,000 years of Christian doctrinal and moral formulation, indicates as well as anything I have seen that the bible no longer really has any significance for those who are pursuing secular rights in this way. It will be made to conform to their agenda.

The evidence of recent history suggests that the Bible is right about marriage. The growing disorder in western societies which have discarded the biblical model, exchanging marital fidelity and family life, for (un)safe sex and transient relationships, indicates that the Maker's instructions are not being heeded, to the detriment of very many.

This, not the illusion advanced by Ambrose of people "fearing" gay rape, is why Evangelicals can not consent to the Brave New World which is on offer from ECUSA et al.

Posted by vscoles at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 2:58pm BST

You argue that transient relationships and unsafe sex are destroying society, vscoles - yet you actively work to deny the stability of marriage to homosexual people and their families.

Hmmm. There's a contradiction everywhere you look, isn't there? An indication that the arguments are based on false premises.

And I'm still interested in DGus' point about "acts," wherein lies still ANOTHER contradiction. He seems to argue that "acts" themselves are by definition either good or evil. IOW, a rape by a man of a woman is justified - since the heterosexual "act" is defined as the standard of good. (And in fact, the Bible weighs in on the issue, too! According to Deuteronomy, a virgin who is raped must marry her rapist.)

Yet I doubt he will argue this - which indicates that he can indeed make distinctions between good and evil based on some criteria other than "acts" per se. Let's try to work from there, shall we?

Posted by bls at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 3:49pm BST

Dear BLS: You say, "If conservatives would stop referring to gay people as merely the perpetrators of a series of 'homosexual acts,' I think people would stop assuming you're obsessed with sex. We're human beings, you know, with lives, loves, hopes, and dreams, like all others...."

In the first place, I can't believe that anyone really thinks, in his heart, that conservative critics of homosexuality are "obsessed with sex", in any statistically important sense; rather, this is a cynical attempt at distraction. One used to hear, from the opposite direction, that conservatives hate sex, hate the body, etc.; but this criticism has fallen aside because (a) it's manifestly untrue, and conservatives' discussions about (marital) sex are healthy and robust, and (b) those polls, whether by Redbook or the CDC, keep showing that the more conservative the denomination, the more its female adherents report sexual fulfillment. (Note to single men: Find your wife among the Pentecostals.) So now more often we hear the "obsessed with sex" thing. Baloney, as everyone surely knows. Thanks for eschewing the ad hominem and sticking to the issues.

There are two reasons that we address homosexual "acts" or "behavior"--and I think you understand full well at least the first, and--isn't this true?--would rail on us if we did otherwise:

1. An illicit desire or "orientation" is not a sin. We therefore do not criticize people for their desires or urges. Only acts or behaviors are under discussion.

2. It would be a sin against Charity AND Hope to identify someone by reference to his sins. Because we are fallen, our sins do have roots deep within ourselves; our sins are "of deepest dye", and we often can't conceive of extricating them from our personalities. But if one believes that a given act is sinful, then one must consider it alien to the authentic created human nature that God intends to restore. Anyone who loves me will see me apart from my sin, and will hope for my redemption from it. So if lying, for example, is my besetting sin, someone who loves me will resist keeping the label "Liar" on my soul; and if he heard me saying that "lying is what I do; it's just the way I am", he would object to my despair and would insist on a higher view of me than I was entertaining for myself. Thus, the reason that I tend not to discuss "homosexual persons" or "gays" is that I think this label often involves a despair that is against my faith and my conscience.

You say, "I wonder, BTW, how you'd like your own marriage referred to as merely 'behavior' or 'heterosexual acts'?" It would, in fact, be entirely appropriate for someone to consider the licitness of sexual acts between married people, and if he did make such a consideration, he would discuss the acts. Especially if he found some of the acts illicit (say, sex with birth control, of which he disapproved), it would be most charitable and hopeful for him to confine himself to the acts and NOT to paint with a broad brush across the relationship or the persons. Let me be quick to confess that, if you subjected my life and my marriage to any scrutiny, you would find plenty of "acts" you could fairly label as sin. But if you did train your critical faculties on my sin, I hope you would try to maintain a distinction between my faults and myself.

When two homosexuals are in a relationship with each other, I can approve of much that is between them--their love for each other, their affection, their courtesy, their honesty, their loyalty, their generosity, their care, their good humor, their patience. Of course I have no criticism of these things. I reserve my criticism for illicit acts and behaviors (as I would hope others would in their treatment of my and my sins).

I realize it would be easier for the pro-homosexualists if their opponents would simply all scream (like that wacko preacher) that "God hates f*gs"; and so sometimes you argue in a manner that (it seems to me) assumes that our position can be reduced to basically that. It isn't so. Please grant us a measure of nuance. We criticize homosexual "acts" and "behavior" precisely because we know that God loves the people who commit them.

Posted by DGus at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 4:06pm BST

Dear Annie: Your post includes some statements I agree with, but in a few instances I feel I can't tell what your point is, so I won't try to reply. I do want, however, to respond to the closing paragraph of your comment:

"It is even more regrettable that by justifying hatred in the name of God all these homophobic people are in fact living in a sinful state, that of breaking of the first and second commandments.... Do you hate people who commit adultery, get divorced or break copyrights? ??? No, hate is not justified by scripture. It is never listed among good fruits of the Spirit. As a Christian, I feel it is my Christian duty to spare you this sin and guide you in the ways of righteousness."

I couldn't agree with you more that hate is a sin, and that it is an inappropriate response to others' sins, whatever those sins may be. But apart from the wacko "God hates f*gs" fringe, I don't know of anyone in this discussion who (to use your phrase) "justif[ies] hatred in the name of God". You seem to assume that anyone who believes that homosexual acts are sinful is guilty of "homophobia", which seems to mean hatred. It's not true. --David

Posted by DGus at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 4:28pm BST

Occasionally I visit this site to 'take the temperature' of Episcopalianiam/Anglicanism. It seems to me the patient is now very ill. Some of you seem very bitter that Ecusa and the Canadians have been slammed by the rest of the Communion. Don't you believe in the catholicity of Anglicanism and mutual accountability and submission within the Body of Christ? Or is it just another Protestant sect that will split if one part doesn't get its way? Some of you talk about 'MY' church as if it was your own possession. Don't you believe it belongs to Christ and Him alone?

Posted by Martin Hambrook at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 4:32pm BST

Some of you talk about 'MY' church as if it was your own possession. Don't you believe it belongs to Christ and Him alone.

I'm a member of the "Body of Christ" and no amount of feardriven discrimination or exclusion from "communion" by hate mongers is going to change that fact...thanks be to God!

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 6:32pm BST

"In the first place, I can't believe that anyone really thinks, in his heart, that conservative critics of homosexuality are "obsessed with sex", in any statistically important sense; rather, this is a cynical attempt at distraction."

I think if we had seen anything LIKE this sort of reaction when ECUSA ordained women, for instance, we might agree with you. I don't think it's a distraction; I actually think it's true - although I think it's mostly based in simple prejudice against gay people, and distaste for homosexual sex, rather than "hatred of the body." To me, this is really about the "tyranny of the majority" - simply because heterosexuals don't like the idea of homosexual sex and on that basis they assume it's wrong. (Which it probably would be, in their case, since it would never involve love.)

In any case, and for the millionth time, sex takes up very little of a normal human being's time during any given week. The rest, in marriage, is about mutual care, support of one another and of family, communication, work, and love.


"I reserve my criticism for illicit acts and behaviors (as I would hope others would in their treatment of my and my sins)."

But we don't agree on this point. What you claim to be "illicit" we experience as holy and God-given; we are expressing our love for people we love. You continue to claim that homosexual sex is always and everywhere illicit. But even the Bible doesn't do this; there's no condemnation of lesbianism, for instance. (Before you quote Romans 1: both Augustine and Clement of Alexandria believed the reference there to be to heterosexual "acts." And of course it's clear that Leviticus is not addressed to women.) And for another example, there are more instances where the Bible condemns the charging of interest on loans - a commonplace today - than there are passages that involve homosexual sex.

But as I wrote above, it's quite obvious that you DO distinguish between "licit" and "illicit" on the basis of something besides "acts." Heterosexual love expressed in sex is licit; that expressed in greed or violence is illicit. That doesn't seem very difficult, to me.

Please acknowledge, for once, that the prohibition of "homosexual acts" is irrational, meaningless, and in reality simply based in the personal taste of the majority, who are heterosexual. It's cruel, in fact, if there are people who are by nature homosexual; nobody else in the world is expected to be celibate for life, no exceptions made.

Many gay people know they're gay by the time they're 10 or 12 years old. Are you really suggesting that we should never fall in love - or even hope to? What kind of a life is that, simply in order to comply with a completely irrational rule? And one that in my case, as a woman, doesn't even apply to me? Come on, really.

What you're really doing is telling normal, healthy people that they can't be Christians - except by repressing ourselves for a lifetime. If that's the goal, well: you'll succeed in driving us all out of the Church.

Posted by bls at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 7:11pm BST

Dear BLS: You say that I "seem[] to argue that 'acts' themselves are by definition either good or evil. IOW, a rape by a man of a woman is justified - since the heterosexual 'act' is defined as the standard of good. (And in fact, the Bible weighs in on the issue, too! According to Deuteronomy, a virgin who is raped must marry her rapist.) Yet I doubt he will argue this - which indicates that he can indeed make distinctions between good and evil based on some criteria other than "acts" per se. Let's try to work from there, shall we?"

You'll have to tell me if I miss the point. Yes, of course, the rightness of an "act" is contingent on lots of things. Cutting someone with a knife could be a violent assault or a much-needed surgery. Taking money from a bank could be a theft or a withdrawal. Sexual intercourse could be the act of marriage, or it could be an adultery, or it could be a rape. With any of these acts, we would need to know more in order to know if it is licit.

I can think of two related and overlapping ways for saying why homosexual acts are wrong: First, that God has revealed in His Word that these are wrong. Second, that these acts are not oriented toward the ends for which the sexual faculties were created. If one is satisfied with the validity of those reasons, then he will categorically state that all homosexual acts are wrong. In order to make that general judgment, he will not need to know other facts (violent vs. consensual, committed vs. promiscuous), though of course these additional facts are very important and may greatly condition the gravity, nature, and number of the wrongs committed. The same is true, of course, for extra-marital heterosexual acts.

All we can attempt to do, of course, is to determine the objective right- or wrong-ness of human behaviors. Only God can actually judge individuals in their subjective circumstances. He only knows what internal or experiential factors may condition, mitigate, or aggravate our individual culpability. Even if one's judgments about the objective illicitness of homosexual acts are correct, this gives him no basis for supposing he knows how any other sinner looks in God's eyes--and certainly gives him no reason to think that, in God's eyes, he himself is better than anyone else.

Posted by DGus at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 7:24pm BST

Martin Hambrook, the Truth is not determined in "votes" by men (apparently only half the human race is allowed a voice) in purple shirts.

The Church is a human institution, as can easily be seen by the many errors and persecutions of its past. It has caused suffering and death to many innocent people it deemed "unworthy"; John Paul II finally got around to an apology to Jews only a few years ago. St. John of the Cross - now a saint - was beaten and starved by his fellow "Christians."

If the "unity" of the Anglican Communion depends on mutally-agreed-to prejudice against a small minority who only want to live psychologically healthy lives free of coercion, then IMO it's not worth preserving.

You might try listening to what we're saying, at some point.

Posted by bls at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 7:24pm BST

I find it faintly amusing the way conservatives talk about God as some sort of headmaster in the sky,with views and opinions.

Honestly, when are you going to get to grips with the fact that science has shown Christian orthodoxy to be a fairy tale?

Posted by Merseymike at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 9:25pm BST

Come on Bls, JCF et al. You're writing as if homosexuality were the only consensual sexuality that is banned by the bible and christian tradition... What about incest, polyamoury, bisexualism, transexualism etc etc ? Am I "oppressing and hating" people when I state that I uphold christian teaching on those too ?

Neither you nor I are the centre of the universe; not even of our own universes. We must become transformed into His glorious Likeness. Dying to self, becoming a new person. Our calling is to express Him in everything we do, as well as how we do it.

He is "I AM WHO I AM", not me, not you.

You cannot insist I AM homosexual.

And anyway in heaven none of us will have a sexuality, 'cos as Jesus tells us, "When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven"


Posted by Dave at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 9:49pm BST

One of the late Archbishops of Canterbury, A Michael Ramsey, used to say that "grace is always refracted by human matter." How do we know that scriptural prohibitions of homosexual relations in Leviticus, Romans 1, and 1 Corinthians 6 were really inspired by God? The biblical writers, as human beings, were very much people of their own times and cultures, which they often saw as divinely ordained.

We are all called, as was St. Paul in his days, to live empowered by the resurrection: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). The "real Jesus" for Paul is the one who lives within the community NOW. What behavior meets this norm? "Bear one another's burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Gal.6:2).

The 1998 Lambeth resolution 1.10 calls upon the entire Anglican Communion to engage in non-judgmental dialogue with Gays and Lesbians and listen to their stories as brothers and sisters in Christ. It is in this sharing the story that the community, the Church, discerns the will of Christ beyond the words of scripture. I have seen the transformed lives of men and women who say they are homosexuals. Who has transformed their lives? If I am faithful to St. Paul's witness in Galatians, I must say: Christ, the risen Lord.

Who am I to judge, then? If they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, as affirmed by the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10, what would justify barring them from certain ministries in the Church, all ministries being baptized ministries? The 1998 Lambeth Resolution seems inconsistent in that it bars them from the ordained ministry.

Posted by John Henry at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 11:18pm BST

David aka DGus,

You said: I don't know of anyone in this discussion who (to use your phrase) "justif[ies] hatred in the name of God". You seem to assume that anyone who believes that homosexual acts are sinful is guilty of "homophobia", which seems to mean hatred. It's not true. --David

With all due respect, I was under the impression that we were speaking of the right of Christian Voice to publish their prejudicial slant as was discussed in the blog entry. Therefore, I assumed that you were in agreement with Christian Voice and everything I have seen you post has continued to support that belief. Usually comments following a blog entry are to discuss that blog entry.

I am not against discussions of sin or not sin as in loving people honestly thinking of what is best for their brothers and sisters in Christ. I am against lies and justifications and prejudicial teachings that go against the second commandment. There is, in fact, no scripture pertaining to homosexuals in loving committed relationships. Read in context, I always see reference to a breaking of the first commandment, as in pagan worship practices, or the habitual practice of those who have come from pagan backgrounds as being at the heart of the scriptural discussions when read in context of chapter and paragraph. It seems utterly ridiculous to me to divide a church when there is not one solid paragraph devoted to the subject and certainly no chapter. There are certainly, however, whole chapters devoted to unity and how we are to treat one another, as followers of Christ. I am personally of the opinion that if we all prayerfully and lovingly turned our attention to solution, all would be well. Therefore, I call people to follow the first and second commandments always, as in: if you understand this, you are not far from the kingdom of God. If your faith is indeed stronger than mine, then you will not bring disaster on me for whom Christ died (since he died for ALL.) [Romans 14-16] Paul said, "If you have a clear conviction, apply it to yourself in the sight of God." Then, if I love my brother, I prayerfully allow him to do so.

fHs,
Annie

Posted by Annie at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 11:21pm BST

DGus:

"When two homosexuals are in a relationship with each other, I can approve of much that is between them--their love for each other, their affection, their courtesy, their honesty, their loyalty, their generosity, their care, their good humor, their patience. Of course I have no criticism of these things."

Then why would these good things *evaporate* if they LOVINGLY TOUCH one another??? This makes NO sense! (and it ain't in the Bible)

Dave:

"Come on Bls, JCF et al. You're writing as if homosexuality were the only consensual sexuality that is banned by the bible and christian tradition... What about incest, polyamoury, bisexualism, transexualism etc etc?

Non sequitur. The Bible says NOTHING about any "sexuality"---in the sense of sexual (or gender-)orientation.

Incest: the record is rather spotty! (Condemnations in one Biblical text, rationalizations in another). In any case, it is NOT an "orientation" (no one is oriented solely to a parent, child or sibling). Thus, a discussion of incest has no place in a discussion of persons w/ differing orientations in the life of the Church.

"Polyamoury": this is *obviously* anachronistic. The OT has no problem w/ polygyny whatsoever (but whether there's much "amour" involved is pretty much irrelevant). I, for one, am not afraid to listen to a *case* for polyamoury . . . BUT IT'S NOT *MY* CASE (or that of LGBT Anglicans). It's not an orientation.

Bisexuality: a genuine sexual orientation, about which the Bible says nothing. Bisexual Anglicans simply want the same right to marry, if they should happen to fall in love w/ someone of the same gender, as they would if they happened to fall in love w/ someone of the opposite gender (the notion that "bisexuals are inherently promiscuous" is a SMEAR)

transexualism: the Bible says no more about gender-dysphoria, than it does about homosexuality----Zilch. God, in God's Wisdom, has made some persons whose gender-identity doesn't match the one they were assigned at birth. In my opinion, such persons are specially BLESSED, and have much to teach the rest of the Church. They are neither "mistakes" by God (nor are the intersexed), nor are they "mistaken" in their sense of themselves. As I believe *healthcare is a human right*, so should be the appropriate medical care that *they* need (which may include hormones and/or surgery).

Glad to clear that up for ya, Dave. ;-)

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Saturday, 25 June 2005 at 11:54pm BST

A nugget from bls:

"THIS, BTW, is hilarious:
"I am sure we are all well aware here of the biblical quotations you have provided. But you have selected them in a literalistic, even fundamentalist fashion, out of context, depriving them of their meaning." Particularly in this context!"

Precisely the problem with much of the Ambrose article and that of his supporters here is that they either imagine, rather than understand Evangelical theology; or worse they seek to caricature it, as a prelude to rubbishing their own caricature.

Fortunately it's not that simple. You need to shake off the unexamined prejudices and bogeymen of an ageing liberal generation, if you want to take on the orthodox Evangelical movement in contemporary Anglicanism, in which ECUSA and the Church of England are now a tiny minority.

Simply shouting ripostes or slogans reveals a failure of argument and ensures that no one will hear. Assuming that everyone who disagrees with you is a benighted fundamentalist will guarantee that you lose the argument. Adopting the despised methodology of fundamentalism oneself - as bls does above - as an argument against Evangelical theology is perhaps the ultimate reductio ad absurdum.

Posted by vscoles at Sunday, 26 June 2005 at 12:49am BST

Dear Merseymike: You say, "I find it faintly amusing the way conservatives talk about God as some sort of headmaster in the sky, with views and opinions. Honestly, when are you going to get to grips with the fact that science has shown Christian orthodoxy to be a fairy tale?"

Aren't you droll--"faintly amusing", indeed! You don't know the half of it. We actually believe that this one man could walk on water, even though science has proved this impossible--a fact that those stupid ancients who wrote the Bible missed out on, being pre-scientific. (So what's OUR excuse?) We also think he made bread and fish multiply, healed the sick, and even resuscitated the dead. More important, we think he himself rose from the dead into an immortal life, and that he is the Son of the Headmaster-God. He's called Jesus Christ; and we're called "Christians". We'd love to have you join us.

Dear BLS: Of course I sense your exasperation when you say, "for the millionth time, sex takes up very little of a normal human being's time during any given week. The rest, in marriage, is about mutual care, support of one another and of family, communication, work, and love."

If you feel like no one's listening when you say this, it may be because they feel it's beside the point. In the first place, actual sexual activity takes up very little time in ANY relationship, including circumstances that you would agree are execrable (PLEASE assure me you'd agree)--whether incest or bestiality or pedophilia. You wouldn't bless these relationships, nor even pooh-pooh their horror, just because the actual sex involved took barely 15 minutes a week. Imagine a father who told you of his rich and complex relationship with his 10-year-old daughter, characterized by mutual care, support, love, communication, etc., and asked you not to oversimplify it by focusing unduly on the once-a-month instances when he had sex with her. You'd say he was mad. So how about once a calendar quarter, then? Makes no difference.

Another reason we set aside this "very little time" point is that you virtually contradict it yourself. On the one hand, you try to say that the sexual aspect to the homosexual union is no big deal, taking very little time during any given week. But in the other hand, you protest very feelingly that the sex is crucial: "What kind of life" would that be without it? you ask. The deprivation of it would be "cruel"; it would drive you out of the Church. I genuinely hope that proves not to be true, but I know you are speaking sincerely when you say that. It doesn't matter--to me OR to you--that it's only a few minutes a week.

You ask, "Are you really suggesting that we [homosexuals] should never fall in love - or even hope to?" I grieve with you for the difficulty to which God is calling you, and I pray it will have its consolations. I know and assure you that it will have its eternal rewards. I hope it may be encouraging to realize you are not alone. Not only celibate heterosexuals but even some married heterosexuals are called to make profound sexual sacrifices of this sort--say, when a spouse is paralyzed or incompetent. And of course, there are other sacrifices just as profound, that have nothing to do with sex, that God uses to sanctify his children. It's mortification.

Homosexuals are not alone in having authentic urges that must be denied. I consider myself very fortunate in a happy marriage, so shed no tears for me, but I know what it's like to urgently want this thing I must not have. Consider the troubling example of a dear friend of mine who is currently in prison for molesting a girl; people say pedophiles are never cured; they'd predict that my friend (a broken, repentant Christian) will always have this keen desire that, as a Christian, he knows he must not fulfill. I know you would encourage him to take up his cross and follow Jesus. You'd hear his complaints and his despair; you'd offer him whatever consolations you could; and you'd pray for his success in becoming--if not in this life then in the next--the whole, healthy, redeemed man that God wants him to become.

And let's be quite clear: Monogamous, committed, life-long homosexual unions are NOT the final sexual frontier that the Church will face. If the ECUSA were to include, in the BCP, public rites blessing such unions, does anyone suppose that that would be the end, and we'd live happily ever after? On the contrary, before the revised BCP was even in the pews, people would be scoffing at its bourgeois assumptions--that sex is good only if confined to one mate for life, and that sex is good only if it is holy, sacred, spooky. Adult incest would have its poignant advocates. Ephebophilia would be touting its historical Greco-Roman antecedents, and would be stressing its differences from pedophilia. The pedophiles would be asking only to be left alone (for now, anyway). Today's arguments against traditional morality will have instructed these perverts how to deconstruct the Bible, how to press their cases as "civil rights" issues, how to accuse their opponents of "hate". These other causes would be logically irresistible to the compromised ECUSA, and they would in fact be resisted (if at all) only by politics and social pressures, if any, and not by principle.

We just have to do our best to do right, by God's grace, no matter the cost. --David

Posted by DGus at Sunday, 26 June 2005 at 4:50am BST

DGus: wise and compassionate words. Faithfulness to Christ means living within His Word and dying to ourselves. Those who seek to normalize the many paraphilias the human race is heir to (under the banner of 'diversity') are inspired by politics and not by faith in Christ. Merseymike's fatuous comments make that clear.

Posted by Martin Hambrook at Sunday, 26 June 2005 at 8:44am BST

JCF wrote: "I, for one, am not afraid to listen to a *case* for polyamoury . . . BUT IT'S NOT *MY* CASE (or that of LGBT Anglicans)"

DGus wrote: "..let's be quite clear: Monogamous, committed, life-long homosexual unions are NOT the final sexual frontier that the Church will face. If the ECUSA were to include, in the BCP, public rites blessing such unions, does anyone suppose that that would be the end.."

David, Quite! You make the point very well.. I thought the ECUSA presentation at ACC-13, when they said that this is just about life-long homosexual partnerships, was extremely dishonest. ECUSA has many folk who would certainly not want to draw a line there!

But even the arguement about the blessing of homosexual partnerships is not really about that one issue, it's about HOW we decide what is moral. Hence JCF's repeated *assertion* that "the bible says nothing about" whichever defined sexuality is under discussion - despite the fact that the bible writers prohibit the associated behaviours.

I have no doubt that the "liberal's" theology ends up with "everyone can do whatever they want, as long as it's consensual". If I were them I would be worrying that this coincides exactly with the "spirit of the age".

Posted by Dave at Sunday, 26 June 2005 at 12:01pm BST

Hi DGus
Re: what you say about incest, ephebophilia etc.:
I so agree. And there's one we've forgotten: under the current presuppositions, people will be able to feel justified in pressing for their rights to have 'threesome' (or 'foursome' or 'anysome') relationships recognised, as well as for three or more people to be officially recognised as 'parents' of the same child.

But hey, this is the bright new postmodern world where there's no such thing as a fact.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Sunday, 26 June 2005 at 12:21pm BST

Hi

There are several possible answers to your question. The first is that homosexuals are, unfortunately, being singled out because this particular issue is topical - and it was not the Christians who made it so. People naturally talk more about topical issues than about non-topical ones. That much is undeniable.

The second point is that some people are pressing for social change on this issue (and indeed much social change has already taken place) and, so far as many can see, this has taken place by various means that have not always prioritised proper debate and attention to the issues. The issues are therefore continuing to be flagged up until the debate takes place in a proper way.

And the third point is that many naturally 'find' it counter-intuitive (and many things actually are counter-intuitive whether ppl 'find' them to be so or not) that a community whose voluntary practices lead to various things should be accounted perfectly ok. What are these various things?
(1) Higher average susceptibility to STDs
(2) Higher average promiscuity rates
(3) Lower life expectancy
(4) Disregard of the point, obvious to many, that homosexual practice has less claim to be biologically authentic for two separate reasons: non-productivity; and non-compatibility of two male or two female bodies. (Anal intercourse is even regarded dubiously between a man and a woman - with unhygienic possibilities and an increase in the risk of disease. But a.i. is the staple of male homosexuals - 90% of them as I gather. If it is gory to speak of such things, then it stands to reason that it must be more gory to enact them.)

Do you know, people will do anything rather than address these issues directly. They will make generalisations about ideology. They will make jokes. They will mouth platitudes that are the presuppositions of their own relativistic society, whose record on Christian allegiance and effectiveness is put to shame by most of the third world. But mostly they wont address the issues. That is the one and only things they need to do.

I am not stupid - I have 2 Firsts from Oxford and a PhD, also 7 Oxbridge university prizes, and so on and so forth. And because of my academic background, what I want (as everyone should want) is proper argument, and proper statistics. On one occasion you were about to withdraw my posting rights because I mentioned that a given homosexual was more likely to be a paedophile (note my precise wording) than a given heterosexual. After much debate, mostly with Andrew Conway, it turned out that my stats were (comfortably) right. But it seems that stats dont matter to many - only ideologies matter.

So truth doesnt matter?

What would be so much to the point would be even-handed investigation of my four points above, without any ideology or jumping to conclusions.

Thanks!

Posted by Christopher Shell at Sunday, 26 June 2005 at 3:14pm BST

To clarify: The issue Im seeking to highlight is facts versus feelings. If the Co-op has found factual errors in what CV has written or said, (and they may have) then they are quite right to act as they have done. What they would not be right to do is to boycott or impose sanctions on the basis of the way people are being made to feel / the way they might be offended, regardless of truth or factuality.

Because it's so clear that offensiveness and factuality are two quite separate issues. Plenty of things are (unfortunately) both true and offensive: everyobody agrees on that.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Sunday, 26 June 2005 at 3:55pm BST

DGus wrote:
"Only God can actually judge individuals in their subjective circumstances. He only knows what internal or experiential factors may condition, mitigate, or aggravate our individual culpability."

Amen. Now, if only I could only be *really* convinced that the vociferous "conservatives" actually believe this in their heart of hearts, then we might have a common point for conversation - or at least be good neighbors.

But alas, everything I hear from that quarter leads me to believe that, at best, this is only given lip-service.

It's a real shame, and one of the primary reasons I think it's time for a split. At the point we find ourselves now, the only workable principle is that "good fences make good neighbors."

Posted by Simeon at Sunday, 26 June 2005 at 4:42pm BST

Dear J.C. Fisher: You ask, "Then why would these good things [love, loyalty, honesty, etc.] *evaporate* if they [homosexuals] LOVINGLY TOUCH one another???"

The goods do not evaporate in the disordered context, but the disorder remains. This is by no means an analysis reserved for homosexual persons. We all think this way all the time. Choose a context in which you believe the relationship disordered--say, two thieves who have a common criminal enterprise. Is it good for them to be honest with each other, loyal, kind? Of course. But they're still a criminal enterprise. We don't deny the goodness of their goods, and we acknowledge that we can't perfectly understand their subjective situations, but we have to condemn their theft as objectively sinful, refuse to condone it, and let God the Judge sort it all out.

Dear Annie: You observe, "There is, in fact, no scripture pertaining to homosexuals in loving committed relationships."

There is no scripture (so far as I know) explicitly addressing the "loving committed" homosexual relationship; but whether the Bible's unqualified prohibitions of homosexual sex "pertain" to such a relationship is the very question at issue (which question you beg). Your argument proves far too much to be useful to anyone who really wants to know what the Bible says and means (as opposed to someone simply desiring mechanisms for setting the Bible aside). By way of counter-example: So far as I know, there are no Scriptures addressing incest in loving committed relationships--precisely because the love and commitment would be beside the point: Incest is forbidden no matter what the subjective emotional context is. Likewise, there are no Scriptures addressing bestiality in loving committed relationships, and the perversion is forbidden no matter the subjective emotional context.

You describe your own tolerant approach this way: "Paul said, 'If you have a clear conviction, apply it to yourself in the sight of God.' Then, if I love my brother, I prayerfully allow him to do so." Am I misunderstanding you?--You seem to be saying that if your brother has a conviction that something is OK (here, homosexuality), then you are obliged to tolerate it. (Am I garbling this?)

I can't tell if this is a principle you reserve for the special case of homosexuality and, if it is, where the heck it comes from. I know you cite Paul, and Paul did conceive a category of non-essential issues to which he addressed the comments you cite. (See Romans 14.) On the other hand, Paul also conceived of a category of essentials to which he gave a very different treatment: Incest (for example) would NOT be tolerated in the Christian Church, and after due process the unrepentant sinner would have to be expelled from the Church (with the hope of prompting his repentance and restoration; see 1 Cor. 5:1-5). Paul taught that the Christians were "not to keep company with anyone named a brother [i.e., a professing Christian] who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner" (1 Cor. 5:11). If any of these sinners claimed to have a clear conviction that his sinful behavior was OK, his clear conviction was immaterial: His behavior was objectively sinful and wouldn't be tolerated. I know you don't mean for the Church to tolerate everyone who insists that his sin is not sin--slave traders, child molesters, drug dealers. Surely not.

Dear Simeon: You quoted my statement--"Only God can actually judge individuals in their subjective circumstances. He only knows what internal or experiential factors may condition, mitigate, or aggravate our individual culpability"--and then you added: "Amen. Now, if only I could only be *really* convinced that the vociferous 'conservatives' actually believe this in their heart of hearts, then we might have a common point for conversation - or at least be good neighbors."

I truly do "believe this in [my] heart of hearts". We can at most opine on the objective rightness or wrongness of acts; we can't know how God views a given sinner. Someone who is untaught and/or who is personally predisposed to a given sin and/or who is subject to extraordinary provocation or temptation is much less culpable than someone who has been taught the truth but defiantly seeks out occasions of sin. The kid who grew up as an orphan on the streets of in Calcutta, was adopted by missionaries, and stole my wallet in Junior High (true story) had everything stacked against him--and God knows it, and surely judges him mercifully. It doesn't make his theft anything other than sin, but it does condition and mitigate his personal culpability. He may in fact be LESS culpable in God's eyes than I am, who did not steal outright but who by my selfishness deprived others of goods that God intended for them to have.

Of course, because theft is objectively sinful, the unrepentant extortioner (see 1 Cor. 5:11) must, in a temporal sense, be judged by the Church in accordance with the procedures that Jesus Himself gave in Matthew 18:15-20. Likewise the sexually immoral. But even in exercising this judgment about the objective sin, the Church does not presume to know how God will ultimately view this sinner. Someone else's sin is supposed to be an occasion for me to "First, remove the beam from [my] own eye." (Matt. 7:5.) And beams there are. --David

Posted by DGus at Monday, 27 June 2005 at 12:02am BST

"If you feel like no one's listening when you say this, it may be because they feel it's beside the point. In the first place, actual sexual activity takes up very little time in ANY relationship, including circumstances that you would agree are execrable (PLEASE assure me you'd agree)--whether incest or bestiality or pedophilia. You wouldn't bless these relationships, nor even pooh-pooh their horror, just because the actual sex involved took barely 15 minutes a week."

That's correct - but we weren't talking about these relationships. We were talking about gay love, which has literally NOTHING in common with "incest or bestiality or pedophilia."

It's very, very easy to show what's wrong in each of these cases: they do DAMAGE of some sort, or do not involve "unitivity." Gay love, on the other hand, and supportive gay partnerships, are a positive good to those involved, and do no harm whatsoever to others. In fact, the damage is being done by the Church and society in this case: the Church is HARMING people by expecting us to remain partnerless and loveless for our entire lives - or, worse, to leave partners we're already involved with! It's absurd. No heterosexual in his right mind would agree to this.

I keep suggesting that straight folks ought to start a celibacy movement of their own, just so we gay folks can have positive role models to inspire us. I'd think this would be a great way for heterosexuals who feel really, really strongly about this to put a point on it. How 'bout it, DGus? How 'bout it, vscoles? You guys willing? Sign right up, then.

(Probably not, huh?)

Anyway, I never said that sex was "crucial." But as everyone agrees, the marital relationship is different from all others. It is a promise to care for a loved one for life - to take on another's burdens and cares, come what may. Friends don't do this; only spouses and blood relatives do. Marriage creates a family unrelated by blood. Sex is (usually) part of marriage; exclusive physical intimacy is another way marriage is different from other relationships. Sex is "unitive"; it bonds marriage partners together, and even the Catholic Church acknowledges this. (Anyway, sex isn't just "the act," you know. It's hugging and kissing and being physically close, also. And of course, sex is a tiny part of the whole relationship.)

I've already proposed on this board that I'd be quite satisfied if marriage were available to gay people, and we were all left to decide for ourselves what's "licit" within our own marriages.

But DGus, the "slippery slope argument" just isn't good enough. You can't ask gay people to sacrifice our lives - and/OR our partners - just because of what somebody ELSE might do.

The Church really needs to get clear on what makes for a holy relationship. Forbidding certain "acts" - which I presume are legal when heterosexuals do them? - is really just behavior modification of a particularly mindless sort. If the Church can't tell the difference between healthy and supportive gay partnerships, and incest, then there's really something wrong, IMO.

But I promised myself I wouldn't argue about this issue anymore. It makes me crazy, and it never seems to do much good, so I'll bow out now. It was actually nice talking to you, I have to say; it's rare to meet someone who's actually civil about the whole thing! So thanks for that.

Posted by bls at Monday, 27 June 2005 at 3:37am BST

Every time I hear a conservative make a "rational argument of analogy", it's always to compare a LOVING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TWO CONSENSUAL ADULTS to . . . thievery? Incest/pedophilia/bestiality? Even murder?

I'm sorry, guys: this doesn't pass the smell test. You are comparing things that are emphatically NOT alike (whereas the comparison of a same-sex relationship to an opposite-sex relationship is analogous in *every* way except the *possible potential* for biological procreation {And I expect even that hurdle to be bridged between two women, in my lifetime})

As a follower of Gandhi, I accept and even *embrace* the concept of "struggle". As I strive for a nonviolence of not merely of action, but of heart as well, know that I am committed to remain *engaged in this struggle* w/ my Anglican brothers and sisters "till the Earth shall be filled with the Glory of God as the waters cover the sea."

Shalom!

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Monday, 27 June 2005 at 5:52am BST

"I keep suggesting that straight folks ought to start a celibacy movement of their own, just so we gay folks can have positive role models to inspire us."

Here's one:

www.osb.org/

There are many more.

Posted by vscoles at Monday, 27 June 2005 at 8:51am BST

Is that movement advocating celibacy for ALL heterosexuals, then, vsc?

Thought not.

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 27 June 2005 at 11:55am BST

No, it's a way of life in which love is understood in its proper sense, and in which people are not defined either by themselves or anyone else in terms of sexual "fulfilment".

BTW, Evangelical Christians of the kind whom you would label "heterosexual" believe that they are called to chastity before marriage and, if they find that they are called to marriage, to exercise faithfulness within it.

Those whom I know who have opted formally for a permanent celibate life tell me how liberating it is to have been set free from all such considerations.

Posted by vscoles at Monday, 27 June 2005 at 12:28pm BST

I think I'm supposed to be the fuddy-duddy here, so how come I'm the only one who admits connections to pedophiles, or adults in consensual incest? These people are with us, today. God loves them, even as He hates their sin. The pro-homosexualists (it seems to me) shriek with prudish horror when these instances are brought up, as if they can't conceive of such things bring brought seriously into the conversation. They express insult at the questions being asked, label the issue as "slippery slope" argument, and move on.

The grown-ups, on the other hand, are having to try to determine what the Church can really coherently say to these other people. Do you want to engage in that effort, or do you admit that you have no idea what to say once you have gotten a favorable resolution on your issue? Or do you simply not care about these perverts? You could admit that you have no real notion of chastity, that you have no fear for the souls of sexual perverts, and that you just want approval for what you want to do--or else you could seriously engage with these questions. Surely there are some of you out there with the seriousness and patience to address these issues. Or maybe not.

Dear J.C. Fisher: You say, "Every time I hear a conservative make a 'rational argument of analogy', it's always to compare a LOVING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TWO CONSENSUAL ADULTS to . . . thievery? Incest/pedophilia/bestiality? Even murder? I'm sorry, guys: this doesn't pass the smell test...."

I think you misunderstand the use of these "analogies". I chose theft, for example, in my earlier post, precisely because I needed an instance that had nothing to do with sex and that everyone would consider sinful. But even so--

Are you implying that two biologically related adults could never feel that they have a loving consensual sexual relationship? I suggest that this is a completely unexamined assumption, and a total failure of imagination. You will find relationships among siblings and half-siblings and even parent-child where love and consent are alleged. And you will hear that contraception eliminates the concerns underlying the old taboo (i.e., increased likelihood of genetic problems). So we have to know how to regard and teach and treat these people.

(You say, "As a follower of Gandhi, I accept and even *embrace* the concept of 'struggle'...." I guess you're a SELECTIVE follower of Gandhi. He had a remarkably ascetic sexual ethic--almost Gnostic, by Christian standards--that saw sex as proper only when procreation was intended. I'm no Gandhi expert, but I have seen quoted an early article in which he explicitly criticized homosexual sex as an unnatural vice, and his later teaching criticized even marital sex if contraception was involved. Following Gandhi would mean making babies, and cold showers the other days.)

Dear BLS: You say you're going to "bow out now". If you sneak a peek back here nonetheless and see this, I hope you will reconsider and stay in the discussion. I know it's exasperating, but this is the process that Lambeth 98 and the Windsor Report recommended (although we're obviously on a very low level here, presumably well off their radar).

Like JC, you say that "gay love ... has literally NOTHING in common with 'incest or bestiality or pedophilia.' [which] do DAMAGE of some sort, or do not involve "unitivity." As I said above, as to incest, this shows a real failure of imagination, since defenders of incestuous relationships will argue against both those propositions very feelingly. Once emboldened, they will characterize your statements as hateful. How dare you compare our holy incestuous unions with pedophilia! Etc. (Even the pedophiles make their own repulsive versions of these same arguments.)

But the more pressing problem with your position is another assumption you make: Debating with the fuddy-duddies here, you can easily talk about relationships being "unitive" and immediately have us on your wavelength. But ours is the viewpoint you are rejecting and leaving behind. In your Brave New World, what will you say to the very different person (whether heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, ephebophile, pedophile, whatever) who asks,

"Why must sex be 'unitive'? Because 'the Bible tells me so'? Because you think 'Natural Law' requires it? Because celibate medieval theologians thought so? I don't think so! Sex is obviously for pleasure (in addition to whatever else it MAY incidentally be for, in some instances, such as procreation or 'union'), so someone who merely gives and receives pleasure in sex is accomplishing God's will. Restricting sex to instances in which it will be life-long or "committed", or in which it can be called 'holy', is a bourgeois hang-up. Why should sexual pleasure be denied to people who are not oriented toward life-long relationships? You call it 'promiscuity'; I call it freedom."

How shall we respond? Well? [Sound of crickets chirping.]

You protest, "If the Church can't tell the difference between healthy and supportive gay partnerships, and incest, then there's really something wrong, IMO." But I'm asking YOU to tell that difference, and so far the only differences you propose would require that your hearer, in advance, already agree with you about the differences.

In the current debate, you are of course on the side of liberation and rejection of old taboos, so that is the direction you are habituated to arguing. Because of that, I shouldn't be surprised, but--let me be frank--you seem to be pretty lousy in making arguments AGAINST any form of claimed sexual liberation. The ephebophiles will make mince-meat of you.

These questions I keep pressing, which you characterize as a "slippery slope argument", are NOT just my way of (as you put it) "ask[ing] gay people to sacrifice our lives - and/OR our partners - just because of what somebody ELSE might do." Rather, they are questions designed to get at the real underlying principles (if any) that define chaste sex in your scheme. Yes, I know, you say those principles are love, commitment, etc.--but I am probing to try to determine whether your principles can actually create a coherent sexual ethic, or whether instead (as I confess I believe) your supposed principles must collapse when they meet, from these other perversions, the very same arguments you have mustered to justify homosexuality. In the face of such a collapse, we'd say that you lack a real, coherent ethic; you just have a preconceived ad hoc determination (i.e., that homosexuality must be approved) for which you contrive arguments.

You say: "I keep suggesting that straight folks ought to start a celibacy movement of their own, just so we gay folks can have positive role models to inspire us. I'd think this would be a great way for heterosexuals who feel really, really strongly about this to put a point on it. How 'bout it, DGus?"

GREAT idea, BLS! Sadly, I myself am currently barred from this excellent approach by 1 Cor. 7:1-5. The little wife, ya know. But for everybody else, have at it! (Or, DON'T have at it, depending on how you phrase it.)

Anyway, it HAS been nice to have this discussion with a civil and attentive person, so I hope to see you again. --David

Posted by DGus at Monday, 27 June 2005 at 4:06pm BST

Which is being advocated to those with that calling, irrespective of their sexual orientation.

I know a number of people who are celibate, but they don't prescribe it as compulsory for an entire group of people because of their sexual orientation.

Celibacy is fine, as is a personal call to celibacy, irrespectiveof an individuals sexual orientation. Telling others that they must be celibate because their sexual orientation doesn't enable them to have a loving relationship isn't.

Its discriminatory, and thats why we shall continue to campaign against it.

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 27 June 2005 at 4:53pm BST

Dear J.C: You comment on "transsexualism" as follows: "God, in God's Wisdom, has made some persons whose gender-identity doesn't match the one they were assigned at birth. In my opinion, such persons are specially BLESSED, and have much to teach the rest of the Church. They are neither 'mistakes' by God (nor are the intersexed), nor are they 'mistaken' in their sense of themselves. As I believe *healthcare is a human right*, so should be the appropriate medical care that *they* need (which may include hormones and/or surgery)."

Your argument seems to be: Since they exist as transsexuals, God made them that way; since God made them, it can't be considered a mistake but must be a blessing.

But we are a fallen race, living in a fallen world. I can't tell if you don't believe in the Fall of humanity, or simply haven't considered its implications. Children are born with birth defects every day. People are born deaf, born blind, born missing limbs. We believe in a merciful Providence whose loving plans are not thwarted by these tragedies, and who in His mercy will use these deformities to the ultimate good of those involved. But no one would deny that the deformities are deformities. You probably know that mutations in the sex chromosomes give rise to a number of problematic genetics (XXY, XYY, and even more elaborate difficulties). These are deformities, even though they exist.

Ergo, if it's true that transsexuals exist, this fact alone doesn't prove that God intended them that way, in any sense important to this debate. If you have other proofs, please present them. Otherwise, you haven't made your point.

And then please explain why, if transsexuals are "blessed" by a divinely ordained nature, they would need "medical care" ("hormones and/or surgery") to correct themselves. You'd have the ostensibly male transsexual amputate the organ that Providence issued him, and contrive simulated feminine traits? Why? Sounds like that's fixing a mistake.

For the individual--for instance, a male--who feels that his interior sexuality doesn't correspond to the sexual identity that he was born with, I think we should offer sympathy for his confusion and mercy for his missteps. But we must entertain in ourselves, and call him to, a respect for the objective reality of his created nature (rather than denying it and mutiliating it), and we should encourage him to live up to his calling as a man, which by God's grace he can do. --David

Posted by DGus at Monday, 27 June 2005 at 5:43pm BST

I think we should help people come to their own decision, about what I know from acquaintances is not something done hurriedly, rather than tell others what they must do with their lives.

The Church, particularly its conservative wing, would do well to try minding their own business.

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 27 June 2005 at 7:15pm BST

Dear Merseymike: You say, "I think we should help people come to their own decision, rather than tell others what they must do with their lives. The Church, particularly its conservative wing, would do well to try minding their own business."

I can't tell who you mean by "we" and "they". From your prior message--mocking the notion of the "headmaster" God, calling the Bible "fairy tales"--I don't know whether you count yourself among the Christians, or simply scoff at us from the outside. When outsiders scoff, we try to accept it cheerfully. (On the other hand, when professing Christians scoff at the notion of a personal God or at the truth and authority of the Bible, we are required to take a somewhat different approach.)

I also can't tell what you think is the Church's "business", which you think it should try to "mind". In one of the stories in which we believe ("fairy tales" to you), Jesus told the Church that its business is to make disciples of all nations (so that our business reaches to all humanity), and told us that this business involves "teaching them to observe ALL THE THINGS that I have commanded you" (so that our teaching business is as broad as the ministry of Jesus).

What "things" did Jesus teach? Jesus taught a Genesis-based, male-female anthropology and sexuality (see Matt 19:1-12). Jesus taught a rigorous standard of internal and external sexual purity (see Matt 5:27-30). Jesus taught that we are to continue to respect the Hebrew Scriptures (Matt 5:18-19), and even gave His implied concurrence with the divine judgment imposed on Sodom and Gomorrah for their sexual sins (Matt 10:15, 11:23-24).

So, if you are not a Christian, I have to warn you that you should expect to hear the Christians keep on including sexual morality in what we preach and teach, since we follow Jesus in this regard. But the Good News is that this message is one of divine forgiveness and healing. To call illicit sexual acts "sin", which in honesty we must do, involves the happy consequence that they can be forgiven, for any who will repent.

If you profess to be a Christian, then I commend your reflection on James 3:17-18.

Posted by DGus at Monday, 27 June 2005 at 10:09pm BST

Merseymike wrote: "I think we should help people come to their own decision, about what I know from acquaintances is not something done hurriedly, rather than tell others what they must do with their lives. The Church, particularly its conservative wing, would do well to try minding their own business."

Mike, what right have you to tell the church what it should do ?

Jesus said; "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

We're (trying to) obey and teach obedience to Christ and the Apostles. What about you ?

Posted by Dave at Monday, 27 June 2005 at 10:50pm BST

Merseymike: what a petit bourgeois opinion, especially from one who is very free and dogmatic about his own views of what is right (his own, of course). But since you have dismissed orthodox Christianity as 'a fairy tale', one wonders why you bother with that sorry mess called the Church, unless your motives are more properly secular-political (the social acceptance of homosexuality) than spiritual (discerning what true fidelity to Jesus Christ means). What 'theology' I can discern in your ripostes is decidedly thin and unitarian (and utilitarian), lacking any real connection to the catholic faith of the Anglican Communion. So why you contribute to a site called 'Thinking Anglicans' escapes me. DGus makes the irrefutable point that there are indeed all kinds of paraphilia in the world, most of which do not involve rape or violence; yet the mere presence of consent does not make an action or condition right. Group sex and prostitution are usually wholly consensual - and increasingly legal in the world - but scarcely an option for Christians. Righteousness does not consist in following our desire but God's. That's Christianity 101, Merseymike. DGus has also clearly expounded the absurdity of arguing that trans-sexualism is somehow 'God's will' and thereby exposed the Achilles' heel of the pro-homosexuality movement: for if one paraphilia is wrong in God's eyes, why not another? I can't add anything to his lapidary words except to make two suggestions: to encourage Merseymike and J. C. Fisher to read the article on trans-sexual surgery in a recent First Things (available online); and to ask if bisexualism is 'God's will' for a person ('because He made me that way'), doesn't that mean a menage a trois (at least) is 'God's will' as well? Seriously I would like an answer to this!

Posted by Martin Hambrook at Monday, 27 June 2005 at 11:06pm BST

No, Dave, you are simply telling me your opinion, which I have already told you I don't agree with.

I think I can tell the Church, or any other human institution, if I wish to agree with what it says or not.

The Church can tell me what 'it' thinks ( or the many different views within it - I choose to follow the interpretation of ECUSA and affirming liberal theology) . I am quite capable of telling it to go stuff itself should I decide that what it claims isn't right. Its called using your brain and coming to your own conclusion. Which is what I have done with regard to conservative Christianity, when I actively rejected it 20 years ago.

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 27 June 2005 at 11:09pm BST

What a confused and mixed-up post, Martin. Are youone of the people who have been advised to come and post here on Anglican Extreme?

Now...
1. I am a communicant member of the Church of England, which may explain my presence here. Given that this is a liberal site, I would suggest that I have at least as much reason to be here as you.

2. What do group sex and prostitution have to do with faithful or monogamous relationships?

3. Transexuality is not about sexual orientation at all, but gender identity. Not being transsexual, my personal knowledge is second hand, but it has nothing to do with someone's sexuality.

4. If someone is bisexual, then it is possible that their life partner may be male or female, but other than that, I don't understand what you mean, as I don't think I have ever called for acceptance in a christian sense of anything other than committed and permament relationships.

I sometimes wish you would read what I do say rather than what you would have liked me to say, Martin.

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 27 June 2005 at 11:54pm BST

Hi Mike-

Suppose you knew the exact stats for what proportion of homosexual relationships were 'stable, faithful and monogamous', would you feel like publicising them?
Extramarital relationships have always been many times less stable and faithful than marital - and where two men are involved (men being men) this only increases.
Granted we are talking averages here -but what can one do but talk of averages if one wants to see the big picture?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 28 June 2005 at 10:58am BST

Merseymike, I suspect the confusion does not lie in my prose but in your reading, but let me respond to your points.
1. Earlier you said that orthodox Christianity is 'a fairy tale'. If that is so, I cannot understand why you perjure yourself week by week, affirming words you don't believe. Please be honest to yourself.
2. My reference to group sex and prostitution was to behavior that is consensual and often legal, but not righteous in God's eyes. Do I take it thgat you condemn these behaviors as against God's will and drawing His condemnation? I bet you don't - but prove me wrong! (Do I need to spell out the enthymeme in my syllogism?)
3. You wrote: 'Transexuality is not about sexual orientation at all, but gender identity.' Actually ALL discussion about 'sexual orientation' is really about gender identity, and the exrtent to which we are able to identify with our maleness or femaleness. Surely you understand this vfrom your study? Trans-sexualism is a psychosexual disorder - yes, they do exist, although the lgbt coalistion wants to deny this. Try reading the First Things article, Mike - it's by a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins.
4. You wrote: 'If someone is bisexual, then it is possible that their life partner may be male or female, but other than that, I don't understand what you mean'. Really, Mike, this isn't rocket science! If someone is 'bisexual', that means he/she is attracted to both sexes (as 70% of homosexuals are); but how then could he/she have ONE sexual partner? Wouldn't he/she have to have one of each sex for a 'committed relationship', as the twee modern parlance puts it?

Posted by Martin Hambrooks at Tuesday, 28 June 2005 at 11:29am BST

Martin

1. Liberal Christianity has been part of Anglicanism since liberal Christianity developed. I realise you were rather it werenot so, but until you choose to throw me out, then I shall remain.

2. Yes, I would not agree with group sex, and whilst I don't think prostitution is likely to be abolished, its far from any sort of ideal

3. No, Martin, it isn't. Try reading some less biased literature - the fact its been published in First Things says it all! You are quoting material which has virtually no support within contemporary mainstream psychology.

4. No. A committed relationship is with one person. Thus, a bisexual may have a committed partnership with either a man or a woman. Not hard to understand?

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 28 June 2005 at 12:50pm BST

Mike: Sigh. One more attempt to explain.
1. I'm not going to throw anyone out of the Anglican Communion, and have no power to do so even if I desired to (which I don't). The Lord knows who are His and who are not.
2. Prostitution isn't just 'far from an ideal', it's actually sinful. But the Lord, and not I, judges peoples' hearts.
3. You plainly have never heard of Professor Paul McHugh, University Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, one of the premier medical institutes in the world - pretty 'mainstream', I would have thought. Here's the link to the article on trans-sexualism that you are loath to read:

http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0411/articles/mchugh.htm

4. Who says 'a committed relationship' is with one person? Why not two or three or more? And you seem strangely unable to understand my question, so let me spell it out: A 'bisexual' man (mutatis mutandis: woman) claims to be equally attracted to men and women. In order to be 'fulfilled' and true to his (her) 'nature', wouldn't he (she) have to have relations with a member of both sexes? [Now what part of that question didn't you understand?]

Posted by Martin Hambrook at Tuesday, 28 June 2005 at 10:00pm BST

Martin. I read your explanation the first time.

1. Good. Then accept that liberals are part of the CofE. I don't think the Communion has much of a long-term future in its current structure.

2. I know. I didn't say anything other, but I don't think its very helpful to criticise without looking at reality.

3. I read the piece before. Nothing new, and there are mavericks in the best of institutions. He is one of them. Its just not the dominant view now, and I disagree with it, as do many others. He needs to do some basic sociology - then perhaps he would understand the difference between sex and gender. Rather important for someone who claims to be any sort of 'expert'. In addition, he is confusing two different issues. The case of enforced gender choice made by others for intersex children is entirely unrelated to gender dysphoria in adults. I would strongly oppose the former, whicb is often done to ease the discomfort of those who wish to immediately classify as male or female from birth. The latter is a decision reached by adults and I found the article unnecessarily dismissive, and certainly not reflective of the perspective of the transgendered people I know.

4. I understood it perfectly, and the answer is no. My understanding is that a committed relationship also means monogamous. Bisexual people don't all have multiple relationships with both genders, it simply means that their one committed relationship can be with either gender - and after all, relationships aren't simply about sexual satisfaction, which is what you appear to be suggesting. Of course, that may be the case for you, and I'm sure there are sources of help you could seek for that problem.

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 28 June 2005 at 11:02pm BST

DGus,

In answer to your responses to my last post:

You answered: Am I misunderstanding you?--You seem to be saying that if your brother has a conviction that something is OK (here, homosexuality), then you are obliged to tolerate it. (Am I garbling this?)

That is a quote from Romans 14:22-23. Here we have not one person, but many, who feel inspired to consider a committed relationship between two people of the same sex to not be a sin. St. Paul wrote these passages based on his own good hard experience in the disagreement that followed the revelation from the Holy Spirit that the Gospel should be taken to the Gentiles (thus his use of food as a metaphor) and later, again, when he was lead to believe that circumcision would not be required of Gentiles. Neither one of these new things were scriptural at the time, nor had ever been allowed, breaking both dietary and cleanliness laws from the Torah. I am certain he knew exactly what he meant by this passage. Certainly, if people do have a conviction, and many do, then others have no right to interfere. We aren't speaking of one sinner, but of an acceptance of the nature of people and a parameter set that in no way undermines previous teaching. A loving, committed relationship between two consenting adults that parallels marriage in every way, even causing them to come under the commandment against adultery.

I have a question for you: Faith is a gift of God according to both Jesus and Paul. Is it not? And "by their fruits you shall know them." So, if a person is called to faith in the first place, we must accept that God has called this person to faith. There are many homosexuals in committed relationships who are dedicated Christians, people of faith, priests and deacons, musicians and all other ministries that exhibit the good fruit of the Spirit. Explain how you get around this obvious evidence of God's grace?

You said: I know you don't mean for the Church to tolerate everyone who insists that his sin is not sin--slave traders, child molesters, drug dealers. Surely not.

Surely not as in all of these there is an obvious victim or many! Most sins, in case you have not noticed, are a cause of harm to oneself or to another. In loving committed relationships there is no victim, no more so than in marriage. I consider this sort of accusation--as though these evil acts are equivablent-- to be fear mongoring and the worst kind of effort at building an environment of hate. I will reiterate that hate is never a good fruit. Other than your own fears there is nothing in the safe and happy, loving relationship between two people which will cause any harm to you.

Jesus himself claimed that he came to save sinners--the righteous didn't need him. He associated with tax gatherers and sinners--those on the fringes of society. And, in the Beatitudes, if you will recall, he tells us to free the oppressed. And we are told to be like Christ. Paul was speaking to people from Corinth, previously pagan worshippers who continued habitual practices. If you cared, you would study up on the Greek of the period in question.

Annie

Posted by Annie at Wednesday, 29 June 2005 at 7:15am BST

Mike: Professor McHugh did not confuse intersex children with adults with gender dysphoria. He discussed them both in parallel and called gender dysphoria a mental illness. You will recall his reference to 'autogynephilia', denoting homosexual men ill at ease with their sexual identity as men. The distinction you draw between 'sex' and 'gender' is of course a staple of modern sociology, and McHugh, a prolific writer, is well aware of it. You will not be surprised of course to know that most scientists have very little time for sociology (the horror! the horror!), finding it is very far from the canons of science and much more like philosophy or politics - in other words, not hard knowledge but ideology. And you never explained why a 'committed relationship' has to be one-on-one. Why not a threesome? They do exist.

Posted by Martin Hambrook at Wednesday, 29 June 2005 at 8:51am BST

Yes, he did confuse them, because they are totally different phenomena. Being born with an intersex condition ( which could be one of many different syndromes)and having gender dysphoria are unrelated. They are connected only by his hostility to any sort of gender reassignment.

You do realise how out on a limb these sort of views are - I mean, gay men have no problem, in the main, with being male. Its not about gender identity, but simply who you fancy!

I'm sure you don't believe, as a conservative, that only natural-scientific explanation is enough!

As for threesomes, its a red herring, since I have never advocated them. You seem to have decided in advance that I have extremely radical views on sex and relationships, without bothering to ask me first.

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 29 June 2005 at 10:33am BST

Mike: my last comment before I leave this thread as you decline to answer my questions - which is your right of course. 1). I repeat that McHugh did not confuse the two but discussed them in parallel - and anyone reading carefully can pick out his point that the male fetal brain is 'sexualized' by testosterone even if the genitalia are deformed - as in cloacal exstrophy. This is the basis of his opposition to 'gender reassignment' - cutting off the genitals etc of 'autogynephiliac' men who fancy themselves as women. It is clear as a bell that this is mental confusion - which even a non-scientist like yourself must accept since you call it 'dysphoria'. 2). Homosexual men do have a high degree of ambivalence (gender identification) about their own maleness, as do lesbians to their femaleness. This isn't a slander - it's what Dean Hamer himself repeatedly says. You will know from Elizabeth Moberly et al that this belongs to one of the classic theories of psychosexual development. 3) You never answered my question why a consensual threesome is wrong. I never said you advocated them - only that on your libertarian individualistic terms (rather than the Scriptures of the Anglican Church which direct my thinking) you can't dismiss such an arrangement. I must, because I am a Christian bound to Christ. I have to follow His word and not my imagination. If you love your desires and thoughts better than Christ, so be it.

Posted by Martin Hambrook at Wednesday, 29 June 2005 at 4:25pm BST

Dear Annie, Thank you for engaging me on this.

Your attempted reliance on Romans 14 is misplaced. The principle Paul announced there could never mean what you say (in effect, that I must always yield to my brother’s professed conviction that his conduct is permissible), since it would undo any and every moral principle in favor of local option. Paul himself certainly recognized no such principle, insisting instead (for example) that the Church should shun any professing brother who is "a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner" (1 Cor. 5:11). Paul's particular criticism of the Corinthian Church was that they tolerated an incestuous relationship. The way you describe the current ECUSA situation is ironic--"Here we have not one person, but many, who feel inspired to consider a committed relationship between two people ... to not be a sin"--since that was exactly the situation that Paul decried in Corinth: The Church had decided to treat immorality (there, incest) as if it were not sin: "And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?" (1 Cor 5:2.)

You want the Church to approve a "loving, committed relationship between two consenting adults that parallels marriage in every way, even causing them to come under the commandment against adultery"; but you cannot explain how the other parallels and strictures of marriage will actually remain enforceable against the homosexual couple (or even against married heterosexuals) once your principles have been adopted. Won't you always have to yield to your brother's claimed "conviction" that the previously forbidden activity or relationship is not sin? Your approach is good old-fashioned antinomianism.

You say, "if a person is called to faith in the first place, we must accept that God has called this person to faith." Yes and no. Faith is certainly a gift of God. And we could not definitively deny anyone's claim that he believes the Faith. But we do have to keep in mind two things: (1) At the Last Day, Jesus will say to some who profess to call Him Lord, "Depart from me; I never knew you." Of course this is His judgment to make, not ours; but we do have to warn ourselves and others that not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom. (2) Some who are genuinely Christian believers are nonetheless "carnal" (1 Cor 3:1-4) or "overtaken in a fault" (Gal 6:1). God is very patient, and someone in whom His saving grace is at work may still be very far from God's will.

You say, "There are many homosexuals in committed relationships who are dedicated Christians, people of faith, priests and deacons, musicians and all other ministries that exhibit the good fruit of the Spirit. Explain how you get around this obvious evidence of God's grace?" This is a good question. One reason it's good is that it reflects a proper assumption that Paul's epistles are authoritative (since the "fruit of the Spirit" is taught in chapter 5 of his epistle to the Galatians). Another good thing about the question is that it reflects the truth that a credible Christian profession will be borne out in the living of a Christian life. Here's my answer:

All Christians bear only imperfectly the fruit of the Spirit ("love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control"). Someone who trusts in Christ but lapses into sexual immorality may be bearing some of this fruit, but he seems to be lacking in "self-control". This doesn't validate his immorality; rather, it reflects his imperfection and shows the patience of God. You must know some gifted ministers who have failings of other kinds (pride, impatience, dishonesty, pornography, whatever). This doesn't mean their failures are virtues.

Moreover, keep in mind that Paul contrasts the "fruit of the Spirit" (5:22-23) with "the works of the flesh" (5:19-21). This tawdry counter-list includes "sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery .... I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Christians do sin; but they repent, and God forgives them. (1 John 1:8 - 2:1.) Someone who does NOT repent, however, but who instead persists in sin, calls it good, self-identifies with it, and makes it a feature of his life is giving evidence that he is simply not a Christian (1 John 2:3-6, 3:6-10), and he is putting his soul in peril of Hell.

You are quite right that "Jesus himself claimed that he came to save sinners ... [and] associated with tax gatherers and sinners". His kindly word to them included, "Sin no more". (John 8:11.) That is the Church's word to homosexuals: Come as you are; join us forgiven sinners; and sin no more. --David

Posted by DGus at Wednesday, 29 June 2005 at 4:30pm BST

You mean I don't give the replies you want, martin?

1.McHugh should not discuss things in parallel which are not comparable. You should note that his view is not one widely held amongst those who work in his field. It isn't mental confusion : I'd suggest you do some reading outside the conservative mavericks you publicise here.
Start with www.pfc.org.uk

2. No, they don't. Again, you appear to be influenced by the material released by organisations like NARTH who are not recognised as valid by their disciplinary peers. I would suggest that you look at the work produced by those within the psychological mainstream, not those like Moberly whose work is not recognised or taken seriously outside its own conservative laager

3. I don't speak from a libertarian , individualistic position, Martin. If I did, then I wouldn't be promoting the values of love, commitment, monogamy and faithfulness, which is what I do as a gay man and a Christian. Again, you comment on what you think I might say, rather than what I have said.

Perhaps, as you leave this thread, you may choose to read the material accepted by the disciplines you promote, which come to very different conclusions than the propagandists you cite.

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 29 June 2005 at 6:44pm BST

DGus,

Paragraph 1: The principle Paul announced there could never mean what you say

It could not mean anything else. You remain focused on homosexuals in all contexts while denying completely that there is no scripture pertaining to committed, loving relationships. A conviction arises through the believed leading of the Holy Spirit--and who knows the will of God? Obviously, Peter and Paul both faced moments when the Holy Spirit challenged them to go against previously held beliefs and the beliefs of others who were not given the same guidance. [1 Cor 2:8-16]

"Paul's particular criticism of the Corinthian Church was that they tolerated an incestuous relationship."

A relationship that could victimize and could produce victims. Which, by the way, I notice is the one point that I made that you avoided in your extensive answer to my previous post.

"The way you describe the current ECUSA situation is ironic--[snip]"And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?" (1 Cor 5:2.)"

You will note, again, that this is the case on an individual, alone, one person--no claim of any spiritual guidance, no claim of any belief in the will of God in the act, no denial, in fact, that it was a sin, but that they tolerated the sin.

"but you cannot explain how the other parallels and strictures of marriage will actually remain enforceable against the homosexual couple"

Others have answered this one better than I could. I could reiterate that procreation is obviously not the foundation of marriage as it is so often not possible and there is no dissolution of marriage based on failure to reproduce--we do not set aside a spouse who is not capable or no longer able to reproduce. That is one example.

"But we do have to keep in mind two things: (1) At the Last Day, Jesus will say to some who profess to call Him Lord, "Depart from me; I never knew you." Of course this is His judgment to make, not ours; but we do have to warn ourselves and others that not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom."

How is this an argument as it could apply to yourself and the very act of not discerning God's will or not attending to what might well be God's will. It could apply to me, as well. But both of us must, as Paul says, "Work out our own salvation with fear and trembling." In the final analysis, it is only by the grace of God that we can overcome our sinful nature. Certainly, to ask the question through faith, is to give the opportunity to our brothers and sisters to learn the will of God. This we would do in the keeping of the first two commandments relinquishing our selves to his will.

"Some who are genuinely Christian believers are nonetheless "carnal" (1 Cor 3:1-4) or "overtaken in a fault" (Gal 6:1). God is very patient, and someone in whom His saving grace is at work may still be very far from God's will."

Indeed! I could use both quotes quite differently than you do! I think neither one serves your purpose very well. I find it amusing when I compare what you are now doing with Gal 6:3. And right in the midst of your Cor 3:1-4 is 3. Why bother your brothers and sisters who are doing their best to discern the will of God?

Your answer to my question: Explain how you get around this obvious evidence of God's grace?

That was a very long windy effort at exclusion. We are all sinners. We all fall short. You should know the answer to all of this, it should be written on your heart. Neither one of us will achieve the kingdom of God by what we do ...

This tawdry counter-list includes "sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery .... I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."

But you have been through the purifying waters; you have been dedicated to God and justified through the name of the Lord Jesus and the Spirit of our God.

You cannot by your words deny the work of Christ on the cross to others without denying the work of Christ on the cross to yourself.

"His kindly word to them included, "Sin no more". (John 8:11.)"

More specifically, to the men who were prepared to stone her, he said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." To her, after all the men had left and the two were alone, he said, "Nor do I condemn you. You may go; do not sin again." And this is what he does to this very day. He works with you on your sin and he works with me on mine. He does not send me to judge and stone you.

"That is the Church's word to homosexuals: Come as you are; join us forgiven sinners; and sin no more."

It is God's will that I care about. You are very selective in your use of scripture ... now, will you open your heart in prayer and ask the living God?

Annie

Posted by Annie at Thursday, 30 June 2005 at 6:07am BST

Hi Annie-

There are 2 separate reasons why one can't interpret Romans 14 like that:
(1) First of all, Paul is talking about questions which it is ok for Christians to dispute, among which (as the very same letter to the Romans shows) this question is not included.

(2) Second, he is not talking about different beliefs or doctrines at all. He is talking about praxis. However, the principle of conscience which you would want to invoke is something you share with him. As Im mentioned under (1), the issue in question is one which he explicitly did not classify as an issue of conscience.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Thursday, 30 June 2005 at 4:24pm BST

Christopher,

In response to your two points:

(1) First of all, Paul is talking about questions which it is ok for Christians to dispute, among which (as the very same letter to the Romans shows) this question is not included.

Oh, you are referring to Romans 1 where y'all take it out of context, completely ignorning the part about worship of idols (birds and beasts and things like that) and, as a result of the breaking of the FIRST commandment, turn away from God, smack dab at the beginning of your paragraph--the first sentence of a paragraph can give us a pretty good idea what it pertains to! And thus he gives them over to sin. A proof of faith not a proof that homosexual acts are a sin! Also, please note the business of turning away from woman. I think that is the problem for homosexuals--they aren't turning away from women! I've never quite understood this ability to ignore all the rules of composition and jerk two sentences out of an entire argument and use them sans original meaning and intent to further your own arguments. It truly frightens me when a person who claims the education that you do considers it de rigueur to take scripture out of context. I am afraid that I have never yet personally met a pagan homosexual although I am sure there are a few. Note that Paul did not write Romans and insert verse numbers so we could chop up his teachings. We did that in 1555.

(2) Second, he is not talking about different beliefs or doctrines at all. He is talking about praxis. However, the principle of conscience which you would want to invoke is something you share with him. As Im mentioned under (1), the issue in question is one which he explicitly did not classify as an issue of conscience.

This is simply your own view. I find it particularly interesting that some heterosexuals are so adamantly against considering fairly the evidence why this may not be a sin so that they can dismiss scripture as basic as Romans 14 and 15. It is so discouraging to see people who behave as though the ends justify the means--no law seems to pertain to them just so long as they succeed in this one particular effort. I think it is a sin to misquote scripture, to take it out of context and then use it as an excuse to persecute the children of God. This is precluded in the second commandment, if in no other way. The problem is that I hear no love in your words. If it was done lovingly, I would feel more Christ in it. Also, referring to Romans 1 in context, keep reading because Paul goes on to say something about judging. I love Romans and it is one of the most beautiful books in all of scripture. I don't like the way y'all take words out of it to condemn and to try to deny the kingdom of God to others. If you would use it for your own edification and improvement, I think that would be more in keeping with its purpose.

Annie

A.

Posted by Annie at Thursday, 30 June 2005 at 7:44pm BST

Annie-
Sorry about the lack of love you feel. I hope that was not really the case. I am, however, well aware that totally unloving ppl can sometimes way true things, and totally loving ppl can sometimes say untrue things. A loving manner won't make something true if it is not already true, nor will an unloving manner make it false.

On your point (1):

I feel that this is a red herring - bringing in issue B rather than properly dealing with issue A first.

Context is not all. Meaning is partly contextual and partly intrinsic.

In whatever context they appeared, Paul's words on homosexuals would still evidence the same attitude to homosexuality.

On your argument it is not clear why he introduces the topic of homosexuality at all. Why do you think he does?

The passage is not about just idolatry, just homosexuality, just the creation order etc.. It is about all of these, and more. It's both/and.

I don't 'claim' any education. I have whatever education I have whether I like it or not, just as you do, and we all do.

On your point (2):

Paul could never have said: 'Let those with strong faith hold doctrine A, while those with weaker faith can hold doctrine B'. One can see that this is appreciably different from what he actually said. That's one reason why it's clear to me he's talking about praxis, not doctrine.

Hope this is clear.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 1 July 2005 at 10:42am BST

Christopher,
I'd very much enjoy going on and on with this, but you and I will have to find a decent stopping point soon.

Your point 1: I don't see where I've introduced anything new to the conversation. I have seen you flash your credentials in every discussion, Christopher. Although I have some reservations that they are quite so lofty. That you can claim that this very brief mention of men laying with other men is grounds for denying homosexuals committed, loving relationships when the scriptural reference intends no such thing and then you claim that we can apply scripture out of context as a defense, as though scripture can be manipulated to serve our ends. We don't do this with any other book. Taking two or three sentences out of context and bending them to our use despite the thesis of the argument completely ignores the context of this entire debate which especially revolves around the fact that GLBT folk do have faith and have not worshipped idols or graven images. We need only to look at the debauchery and decadence of Rome at the time to understand that he is not speaking of homosexuals but of heterosexuals. The real meaning of this chapter is beautiful and important and focusing on individual parts loses it for our understanding. It is not I who frees myself from sin, it is God in me. Without God, the fruit of my life is without goodness.

It is significant that there is not one whole chapter in all of scripture that deals with men laying with other men or one where that is the thesis or central thought of the discussion. I believe that you walk on dangerous ground by doing so. You claim to believe in truth and then you bend the truth to your purpose, splintering it to your own ends. If you truly love God and truth, it seems you would not dare to do this. What is then so difficult about faith if we can break scripture apart to support what we want to believe? What is harder, in my opinion, is to overcome our prejudices and our judgement of others and to do the good we are required to do; to love the least among us; to be just in our dealings with others. I would be far more impressed if you were homosexual arguing the case to apply to your self. Which brings me to point 2: You said, "Paul could never have said: 'Let those with strong faith hold doctrine A, while those with weaker faith can hold doctrine B'. One can see that this is appreciably different from what he actually said. That's one reason why it's clear to me he's talking about praxis, not doctrine.

Hope this is clear."

What is supposed to be clear? What proof have you offerred to support your denial of this interpretation? Indeed, this is what I see. Paul, with wonderful humour, basically says that those with stronger faith should not force their better understanding, i.e., that they can eat meat, on those with weaker faith, i.e., who can't eat meat. And don't we all have stronger faith? "In my unhumble opinion ..." And so, he does most certainly say that if you have a conviction apply it to your self in the sight of God. He is very rigid about this, however. We must have a clear conviction with no doubt whatsoever. So, Christopher, the bad news is that you cannot have male-to-male relations no matter how much you desire to because the traditional understanding of truth precludes it and the Holy Spirit has not brought you to a different undrstanding of scripture. I reiterate, it requires guidance of the Holy Spirit for assurance.

Praxis or doctrine? Peter had a dream and a sheet came down filled with all the forbidden foods and God said to him, "It is not for you to call profane what God counts clean." As I said, Romans 14-15 exemplifies what Peter and Paul experienced as they were brought to understand that the Gospel should be taken to the gentiles while other Apostles did disagree with them and argue against their leading by the Holy Spirit. So my understanding is upheld by Paul's real experience as recorded in scripture. In other places Paul speaks of jealousy and strife in the body of Christ as in 1Cor 3, Gal 6 (and, considering your understanding, gently ...) and Titus 3. Obviously, from the very beginnings of our faith, there have been debates and differences of opinion and Paul didn't just speak to the Romans about it. Now, if you wanted your denial that this is not what these chapters say, you will have to base an argument on those scriptures so that I can see what it says to you that is confutes my understanding. What we seek is truth whether it is praxis or doctrine. You know that Jesus teaches against the doctrines of men and tradition misapplied.

A.

Posted by Annie at Friday, 1 July 2005 at 5:06pm BST

Hi Annie

(1) I get puzzled when people want to cease debating at an early, polarised point in the debate. From experience, debates get less polarised as they proceed, & if people stop early then they can scarcely be lovers of truth. Truth is not easily won, but requires logical rigour, looking at different angles, listening and seeking understanding. At an early point in a debate, people may still be at the stereotyping stage.

(2) The point about credentials I don't understand. An accredited car mechanic is to be especially listened to in a discussion on car mechanics. An accredited NT scholar (of whom there are many) is the sort of person to be especially listened to in a discussion about the NT. You're not seriously saying that everyone's opinion is of equal weight in a discussion on car mechanics (or the NT), are you?

(3) Can you find first-century evidence that any distinction was then made between (good) committed homosexual relationships and (bad) uncommitted ones?

(4) Where is your evidence that Paul is speaking of uncommitted ones? He doesnt mention the commitment issue at all, as far as I can see.

(5) Where is your evidence that Paul thought so differently to the OT law on this point? Does he normally think differently to the OT law on matters of sexual conduct?

(6) Can you name just one of the many commentators on Romans or 1 Corinthians who agrees with you?

(7) There are not all that many topics that occupy one whole chapter in scripture. Why does that mean we should disregard what scripture has to say about every such topic, even if it is mentioned around ten times, and all those ten times are uniform (uniformly positive or uniformly negative)?

(8) Many things are 'brief'. 'God is love' is a lot briefer than the passage in Romans. It is therefore even more untrue.

(9) I like your point 'I would be far more impressed if you were a homosexual 'arguing this case].' Of course, there's nothing I can do about that, so I can't feel guilty that I am not.
But I have often criticised (as well as praised) aspects of my own workplace; of my own family's workplaces; of Christianity; of myself. Like you, I feel that this is a good test of objectivity and love of truth.

(10) Like you, I doubt that many modern LBGs worship graven images - though there are plenty of available idols other than graven images. Paul is speaking of the endemic 'cultural' homosexuality rife in the Hellenistic world. On your own presupposition of up to 10% homosexual population, that would mean that such practices were forced on (or at least expected of) plenty of ppl who were not in fact 'homosexual'.
Or you could, alternatively, see this as an argument in favour of my own view that the variety one finds in homosexual practice from location to location and from historical period to historical period tends to demonstrate that homosexuality is (at any given date and location) to some extent a social construct.

(11) I agree that NT doctrine is different from OT doctrine: this is because Christ made a big difference. It is a separate question whether Romans 14 is speaking of doctrinal issues, and this is something that would need to be demonstrated from Romans 14. I like the link you make between Romans 14 and Acts 10 on dietary matters. The link is not a straightforward one, as Romans 14 is dealing with vegetarianism vs meat-eating, whereas Acts 10 is dealing with teh separate issue of OT-forbidden foods.

Re the ethics of debate:
I don't know whether you are a sports fan - but imagine the image of a tough-fought game after which the opponents are the best of friends. The game is tough-fought because they believe in giving their all, not because they hate each other. (The opponents may in fact be good friends.) Likewise with scholarship. Many scholars argue in an extremely precise, accurate, seemingly demanding way. They do so not because they hate each other - they are not in the slightest focussed on personalities, and may for all we know be the best of friends. They do so because they value truth and integrity. Something that everyone must value.

We can't hate people. We can hate sloppy thinking. We can hate lies that people are being taken in by and harmed by, and societies are being changed for the worse by. The very reason we hate these things is because they harm the people whom we love.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Sunday, 3 July 2005 at 12:39pm BST

(1) That's simple. Thinking Anglicans is for me an embarrassing place to discuss these things at the great length that you seem to enjoy. And, being pragmatic about the whole thing, I don't believe that either one of us will change our general attitude on this subject anytime soon. Then, in the end, I believe that neither your opinion nor my own are worth two cents, that time spent debating this further is wasted. If you will pardon me for saying so. I always did wish that everybody would simply shut up and listen for God's will. I got into this discussion because of things that Dave was saying, threesomes and child molesting are only one step away from the homosexuals-in-committed-relationship's debate which is just using scare tactics that have no basis in fact. Even religious homosexuals shudder at the thought.

(2) Maybe you don't want to understand. :) Jesus' only credentials were that he came in his father's name.

(3) I can find first-century evidence elsewhere that proves that homosexuality was more tolerated by various societies at the time. You yourself mentioned the Greek practice of pairing older men with boys, or young men, did you not? Not first century at all, but there is that story of King David ... On another note: I can find lots of first century support for slavery and that does not make slavery either acceptable or a condition that would necessarily be God's own preferred plan for mankind. I see first Century prejudice against women, but I don't see any teachings in the Gospels against women or anybody. Some denominations do seem to be confused in teaching as though that society was the epitome of God's hopes and dreams for mankind for all time rather than believing as I do that perhaps Jesus came when the world most needed him, when society was a mess that needed reformation and there was a great deal of injustice and human suffering.

(4) My point exactly! It isn't mentioned. Most of the single verses deal with pagan worship practices or with those who are converts to Christianity. The context in which all mentions are made have their heterosexual counterpart being equally evil as in fornication or worship of other gods or graven images/pagan practices. Heterosexuals can't have sexual relationships outside of committed relationships either without sinning. And that is just a statement of fact. You must admit, I'm sure, that if there were one way in which homosexual relations could be acceptable in the sight of God, it must be in a committed, loving relationship. The fact that relationships are not mentioned in the positive sense as being acceptable in the sight of God, does not preclude that possibility for all time.

(5) The OT Law includes such things as not allowing those who are blind or maimed or sick to come to the Lord's table ... it also prescribes stoning adulterers and homosexuals to death ... and the main law, the one most often quoted from Leviticus is actually a type of uncleanliness. In 1 Cor where I see Paul mention cleanliness I shudder. Jesus said that it isn't by what goes into our mouths, but what comes out of our mouths that we are defiled. I pointed out that Romans 1 is about the worship of other gods, for example, and how we are abandoned to sin if we turn away from God. This has many other implications for our lives and our faith if applied correctly, if we study it in context, if we understand by what means we are blessed by the grace of God through faith. In understanding this, I can look at the fruit of your life and see evidence of your faith. Of course, Jesus tells us this too.

(6) Martin Luther and even more so (considering it is more in depth) William Barclay. I still don't see that you have distilled what you believe Romans 14 & 15 should mean and how it differs from my own view, unless you really think that it applies only to dietary restrictions. It depends which part of 1 Cor you are referring to. Above, I see where there seems to be some debate about who is more in authority, Jesus or Paul. Paul tells us to root out the evildoer from the congregation and Jesus tells us that he came to save sinners and I don't see where he ever tells us to turn anybody away. I believe through faith all can be made clean. The murderer can be forgiven for his murder ... I would even be willing to go so far as to say that I believe by allowing within the body of Christ those in committed relationships, time will shake out the truth and settle the debate as those with faith are brought 'round by grace. Of course, I believe that I have already seen the proof of that.

(7) I have never seen it taught anywhere that it is appropriate to teach things out of context of the whole. Are we suddenly changing our views in order to win the battle? In other words, all my life I have never known any Christian to profess that verses can be used out of context--wouldn't it be unorthodox to begin to declare that context is meaningless now? Who teaches this and where is the oldest reference to its acceptablity? Is there a book within reach that isn't the Bible? If so, please open it to page 123 and read the 5th sentence on that page. I think what you are trying to justify is a very dangerous thing where Christians can be and are mislead and can't see the forest for the trees.

(8) 'God is love,' does not stand alone, but alone it does remain in context. There are times when this works. It is significant, in my mind, that it is so pivotal as a point of contention to divide the entire church, so important to some and yet does not warrant an entire paragraph or chapter in all of scripture. What is frightening is when I speak to those who haven't even figured out what the debate is about, they just want to use scripture as an excuse to hate homosexuals and I must say I have concern for their salvation! If there could be good fruit from this debate, it should be that homosexuals are children of God and deserving of our love and compassion--we're just undecided about the rights they have for committed relationships.

(9) Hopefully we all try to maintain a humble attitude as we ascertain what the truth really is. We should not seek to drive the church in our own direction--which is another argument I have against division. It is God's will that we should seek and that is the only truth that matters. And, I will reiterate that Romans 14 &15 pertain to this and no human commentator is necessary for interpretation.

(10) Actually, the fact that even in societies where there is gross persecution of homosexuals, even stoning or hanging them to death, that they have existed in all societies at all periods of history is evidence to me that it is a natural sexual orientation. Not to mention that homosexual behavior is witnessed in the animal world as well, even though I have seen many conservatives deny this fact. The number of teenage suicides by homosexual teens from Christian backgrounds is another proof that I would cite that oppression has deadly results and is another point of worry for me that those who spout prejudicial teachings such as "God hates fags," might well be jeapordizing their own salvation. If sexual orientation were a choice, this would never happen. If God did make homosexuals for a reason, and evidence supports the fact that they are loved, then being natural, a loving relationship makes a great deal of sense.

(11) Are you a literalist? Dietary restrictions are and have always been practiced by people of various faiths so it is a good one to choose as a metaphor. How else could Paul teach this lesson in such a way that it would cover any unforseen contingency in the future. Paul uses metaphor often. Dietary laws were doctrinal for the Jew and still are. So, pretending that this does not pertain to doctrinal issue is bending the truth to fit your own argument.

Re the ethics of debate:
I agree.

We can't hate people. We can hate sloppy thinking. We can hate lies that people are being taken in by and harmed by, and societies are being changed for the worse by. The very reason we hate these things is because they harm the people whom we love.

True. It is especially important to accept that both sides are arguing from deeply held convictions, that all that you said above applies to both sides in the issue and to remember always to have respect for the sincerety of faith and conviction of those who oppose us. And, then, as Paul says, as we are both under judgement, we should not be judging each other (this is also in Romans 14). I've named some of the ways that the conservative viewpoint might also make some among you justify some dangerous behavior as I've answered other questions above. We can endanger ourselves as well by what we do and some are forgetful of this fact. I see those we call liberal do it too, at times, so I'm not just digging at the conservative faction. Above all, we are all followers of Christ and all share the hope of eternal life.

Annie

Posted by Annie at Monday, 4 July 2005 at 5:45pm BST

Hi Annie-
Some points:

(2) By your argument a commentary on Romans by an illiterate 5-year-old child, or by a Mongolian peasant, would be equally *exegetically* accurate to that by an NT professor. Now, you already know that that is not true. The issue here is not whether people are Christians. Not whether they are holy. But whether they are in a position to interpret NT passages accurately.
You may, of course, speak in support of spiritual interpretation. And rightly. One should have the right spiritual orientation, as a prerequisite. But I have even known professors with the wrong spiritual orientation give a more accurate *exegetical* interpretation of a passage than a holy wo/man can give. Exegesis is a technical matter, a skill which is not especially connected to holiness.
For example, who do you think would be the most likely person to solve the synoptic problem (the problem of which order the gospels were written in)? Someone trained in holiness? Or someone trained in literature, logic etc.? Would the holiest person be the likeliest to solve this quasi-mathematical problem? For that matter, why aren't all branches of study dominated by holy people? Both of us know that they aren't.

(3) I think you are right that the gospel perspective on women and on slavery is different from that of the surrounding first-century cultures. Likewise with homosexuality. Im not too up on the OT - which was the (homosexual) King David story you referred to?

(4) If there were one context in which homosexual relationships could be acceptable it would be the context of faithfulness. But this is jumping the gun: we need first to ascertain that there is any such 'acceptable' context. What is the evidence that there is any such?

(5) We're not talking about whether Paul was right or wrong, but simply trying to work out what he is likely to have said. It does seem to be the case that he sticks to OT sexual ethics, and this is a useful key in trying to interpret him. The key question which I feel has not been tackled is why homosexuality as opposed to heterosexuality is highlighted in Romans 1 at all. What is its precise relevance, and how does it fit into the argument as a whole? It seems to me that it is used as a 'clincher': a paradigmatic and extremne example that demonstrates how humanity has turned away from the creation image. But if you havew a better theory that could accurately predict and explain the specific use of *homosexuality* in Paul's Romans 1 argument, let's hear it.

(6) Oh - sorry - I was referring to Romans 1 and 1 Cor. 6 not to Romans 13-14. Glad you are a Barclay fan.

(7) When did I say it is appropriate to teach out of context? Of course, unless one teaches everything at once, it is inevitable that we do so. Everything we teach has a wider context, and that context in turn has a wider context etc.. It never ends. But we have to focus in, if we are ever to teach anything.
There is no chance that in one context Paul would have one attitude to homosexuality, and in another context another attitude. I repeat that this is falling prey to the 'context is everything' fallacy. For context to be context at all, it has to be the context of something else that is not the context. And that thing has its own integrity. So both context and intrinsic meaning play a part.

(8) The 'God is love' example can be cited again with reference to (7). 'God is love' has intrinsic meaning, which is unalterable between different contexts. But the context illuminates it. And the same applies to most sentences, phrases etc. that one could name. There is not a phrase / sentence in the world that has no intrinsic meaning at all. They all appear in the dictionary.
By your argument dictionaries should not exist. All they do is give intrinsic meanings, never contextual.
If every mere single word has an intrinsic meaning (for they are all there in the dictionary), how much more do sentences have intrinsic meanings?
Should we abandon all dictionaries, would people's ability to understand each other, learn foreign languages etc be increased or decreased?

(10) You are saying that if anything has existed in all societies it must therefore be natural.
I agree. Natural as opposed to right.
After all, everything that happens is natural by virtue of happening at all. The number of things that are 'natural' is therefore so vast it cannot be numbered.
Where did the idea that there was any connection between 'natural' and 'right/good' come from?
Prostitution, murder, rape, unkindness, untruthfulness have existed in all societies. They are therefore natural. Correct. They are therefore good? Spot the faulty argument.

(11) I've never read an exegesis of Acts 10 which did not agree that the passage was speaking both about food laws and about gentiles. In other words, both a literal and a spiritual meaning. Your stance, that the literal meaning can be completely submerged by the spiritual, is one I have rarely come across. It sounds eccentric that we 'should' believe that passages often do not mean what they say, and this would certainly make communication very difficult. But it also misunderstands the nature of the relationship between the literal and the spiritual. For the precise spiritual sense can only be determined on the basis of the prior literal sense anyway.
Shouldnt we apply both/and here? Both literal and spiritual? If we removed the literal (e.g. said that Peter's Acts vision did not literally happen - not that you would say that), there would be nothing left to get any spiritual meaning from. On what then would the 'spiritual meaning' be based?
And remember that however much we claim that our proposed spiritual meanings are infall;ible and directly from the throne of God, people's proposed spiritual meanings do differ. What do we do then? Once again the importance of exegisis can be seen, since exegesis can at least rule out certain spiritual meanings as impossible.

I agere with you that the line between doctrine and praxis is not always a straightforward one. But one cannot argue that Paul 'would have' (how does one honestly know this?) included homosexuality as an example in Romans 14, when this is clearly contradicted by chapter 1 of the very same letter.

I do so strongly suspect that when people come to such conclusions, apparently unjustified by the text, there is some connection to the fact that these are the 'conclusions' they *want* to come to.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 5 July 2005 at 11:00am BST
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