Comments: In God's Name

They are only doing what Christ commands of all Christians to be, namely salt and light.

Posted by Robert ian Williams at Monday, 26 May 2008 at 8:28pm BST

I thought that the programme was instructive but not entirely accurate.

Dorries was probably using Williams for a specific issue - I do think that there are those outside the far right fringe who agree with a reduction in the abortion limit. I don't agree with them but I don't think its only fringe extremists with that view.

However, on almost all the other issues, the LCF and Co. etc have failed in their aims. Sure, they have some pet Tory (mostly) MP's to do their bidding but outside the abortion issue, I don't think their appeal is very wide. There is no appetite to re-open the gay debates, for example - the Tories have made that clear enough, and you may have noted that all the Tory front benchers made it clear that they were not opposed to lesbian parenthood per se in the recent debate.

Also, the way they portray themselves really doesn't do their cause any favours. Most British people are very suspicious about religion influencing the secular state. And they really don't like religious extremism of any sort.

Trying to compare with America isn't accurate. There, you have a much larger base of religious conservatives and also a less centralised state, meaning that it is relatively easy to disrupt progressive change.

You don't need to exaggerate the lunacy of fundamentalist evangelicals, just show them as they are. The programme did that very well - they just fail to understand how they come over.

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 26 May 2008 at 8:41pm BST

'It is basic Christian theology that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, was crucified to forgive us our sins, was dead and buried, rose again on the third day, and ascended into heaven. And it is simple logic that if Islam denies all that, which it does, that Islam is a false religion and that its deity is antichrist.......
(Modell) never managed to understand what any of us were about, or display any reaction above the knee-jerk 'dangerous Christians' level.' (Stephen Green)

...No Mr Green; the programme may not have been entirely accurate, but on Christian Voice, he was dead right.

Posted by Graham Ward at Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at 12:30am BST

Great Britain, welcome to our world.....

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at 12:41am BST

Comment on the Guardian site too: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/sunny_hundal/2008/05/fundamentally_flawed.html

Posted by Graham Ward at Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at 10:10am BST

All we need to know about David Modell is:

(1) I have seen him filming from a distance people who did not know they were being filmed.

(2) Besides the lack of consent of these people, he filmed people for the programme who had no idea they were going to be on it. Some faces were fuzzed out, but others were very surprised to see themselves on the programme - they had no idea they were prospective tv stars.

(3) In my one experience with him, he went up to me camera already rolling as though he was just having a chat. One might not notice the camera till it was too late.

(4) He thinks Stephen Green being blessed by a bird from above is major news. That tells you all you need to know about the level he is operating at. Had one of his own people when similarly blessed, I wonder whether that would also have been included. Wonder no more, Chris.

(5) Was that a black flag at the end? Nazi/blackshirt overtones? Again: he selects whatever fits with his already-existing (and rather basic/naive/uneducated) preconceptions.

(6) The public meeting at Westminster Central Hall was for speakers - not even any time for questions. Those who called out from the floor were therefore ruining the meeting's very essence. This point could have been made clear. Was it? You guess.

(7) David was not even seen in the film. He was always in power. He asked all the questions. He never had to provide answers for his own incoherent position. 100% questioning, 0% answering. Wouldn't we all like that? He had the power of selection and taking out of context.

The basic issue is the disproportionate power of the unelected/uninformed media. Whereas the 'fundamentalists' (a crude, unnuanced term) have no power at all. There are many people who honestly arrive at a traditional Christian view on many topics - but not many of them are activist. If they were I would meet them. This is also shown by the small size of the rallies presided over by SG and AMW, which gave the lie to the 'fundies are coming' message.

I think Andrea MW is doing an absolutely fantastic job on many different fronts. Her 4000 year statement was utterly nuts - surely she realises that.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at 1:21pm BST

Can't stand fundamentalists. Can anyone?

Posted by BIGDAN at Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at 2:21pm BST

These hard, strong conservative Christian ideas derive and propagate inevitably from right wing USA believers, who are fairly and accurately described as literalists in their readings of the scriptures, dominionists in their economic and political systems and beliefs, and reconstructionist in their public policy initiatives.

The great founding prophet of all these roots is R.J. Rushdoony whose massive Recon-Dom work (The Institutes of Biblical Law) preaches just about everything that is currently promulgated as solid gold godliness in these and other change efforts.

Behind/beside Rushdoony stands Cornelius Van Til, a leading presuppositionalist exponent. The presuppositionalist choice is grand and stark: evil vs good, God vs Satan, and there is simply no real ground nor middling continuuums in between, just as there actually is no real human autonomy - one either is following God or follow Satan. Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing in life is neutral and capable of benefitting from empirical inquiry. Of course, most Recon-Dom believers moderate these extremes, since if taken to their logical conclusions, all empirical work would simply have to grind to a complete halt until/unless commanded by God directly in a literal persuppositionalist reading of the scriptures.

These extreme folks would be most welcome to join the public conversation, and the fray of lobbying, except that their stated aims are to lock the very doors and windows of democracy tight shut, through which they will have hoped to come to such overwhelming power that their brand of godliness will exclusively prevail in all things.

The Chalcedon Institute is still alive and well, and anybody can take a look at:
http://www.chalcedon.edu

Note the dote edu part, since CI operates under educational status ... rather like one of the faith schools teaching creationism as noted in the documentary. But calling this education, as if it occupied a point on a continuum with the rest of modern education (say, John Dewey and the Chicago schools?) is misleading - it is the end of education, by those other lights.

Posted by drdanfee at Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at 3:58pm BST

"But another thing strikes me while listening to Mr Solomon's depiction of Islam as a dangerous fundamentalist belief: he could be describing the beliefs of the Christian fundamentalists I've met."

Precisely! And then there's:
"Ms Williams doesn't see the irony."

Any of us here could have told him that. What is most frightening about all this is that these people are the most prominent image out there of Christianity. There are large swaths of society for whom THIS closed minded, hypocritical nonsense is the Gospel!

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at 4:18pm BST

"The basic issue is the disproportionate power of the unelected/uninformed media. Whereas the 'fundamentalists' (a crude, unnuanced term) have no power at all."

Give them time. This is how it started in the US.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at 5:53pm BST

"Can't stand fundamentalists. Can anyone?"
observed BigDan.

Wel,, actually, yes, I can. They are just flawed, sinful vessels like me.

It's fundamentalism I can't stand, which has so beguiled them into idolatry.

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at 6:46pm BST

"Whereas the 'fundamentalists' (a crude, unnuanced term) have no power at all."

Christopher, the leader of the most powerful nation on the face of the Earth has breakfast every week with Fundamentalist preachers. Their milleniallist ideas inform his Middle East foreign policy. The above quote is simply untrue. They have influential access to the ear of the most powerful man on Earth.

"There are many people who honestly arrive at a traditional Christian view on many topics - but not many of them are activist."

Surely you're not suggesting that the extreme ideas held by many such fundamentalists are traditional Christian views! I am hard pressed to find any traditional Christian views in fundamentalist Christianity, from the nature of authority, of redemption, of atonement, of sacraments, of matter, of the human relationship to the Divine, and on and on. Where is the tradition in any of it? Where is the transformative redeeming Gospel? Where is the new life of the Kingdom? It's all about self abasement, grovelling in fear, and obedience to Law, none of which are traditional Christian beliefs. They hold conservative views of sex and the family. That's it. Their ideas may coincide with Christian teaching, but I think you'll find they are informed with some very heterodox ideas.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at 6:52pm BST

Christopher Shell wrote:

All we need to know about David Modell is:...

This sounds like if you don't like the message shoot the messenger.

The problem is the credibility of those who condemn themselves with their own actions or words:

* a school *science* test with the question 'How many days did it take God to create the earth? (5/6/7.

* Someone who declares that Allah is satan.

* Someone who hasn't reconciled the creation narratives with the fossil record.

As pointed out earlier, this is the impression that people have of the Christian life and beliefs.

Thank God for the likes of Jim Wallis, heard on 5Live this afternoon discussing his new book.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/linklaunch.shtml?/radio/aod/fivelive_aod.shtml?fivelive/mayo_tue

and go forward about 1h35m.

Kennedy

Posted by Kennedy at Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at 7:25pm BST

The reason Christopher doesn't like the programme is that it showed fundamentalists in all their....well add the word you think appropriate. The staring, slightly hysterical fanaticism. The violence of those lovely Christian men as they bundled and manhandled the women's rights campaigners out of the hall.
It was Green himself who kept changing his mind about being interviewed and claimed the bird droppings were a sign from God. I'd have him on ten minutes per day - he is such a great advertisement for the liberal cause!

What have the fundies got to hide? They don't want people to see them as they really are - a group of fanatical, deluded, dangerous fringe extremists peddling a harmful religion which, thankfully, few in this country have any time for.

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at 9:23pm BST

Christopher Shell wrote
I think Andrea MW is doing an absolutely fantastic job on many different fronts. Her 4000 year statement was utterly nuts - surely she realises that.

Surely the point, Christopher, is that she doesn't. And you have no evidence for thinking so except a wish to keep her in the ranks of the just-about-not-barking, which I understand, but can't allow to go unquestioned.

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at 10:02pm BST

I regret the exposure of the religious campaigners' vulnerabilities; and their exploitation. I don't think they necessarily knew what they were doing, in the sense of media savy-ness, or knowing how to take care of themselves.

I wouldnt want to be exposed on national tv like that, nor to see those I love thus exposed.

They are really no threat. The program makers' main thesis that fundamentalism may be an increasing threat, just wasnt proven. I did, however, notice the neat cutting & editing however in support of a groundless thesis.*

* No evidence was produced. It was alarmist in tone.

Posted by L Roberts at Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at 11:08pm BST

Well of course any final weighing of the real threat of this sort of conservative religion depends on the projections one does from its dominant themes and trends. Plus, maybe, the comparisons one makes of UK to other locations like USA or Sydney or Fort Worth or San Joaquin where some or many or almost all of its hard tenets have been embraced, then put into some sort of intentional practice.

Such comparisons have a touch of apples vs oranges to them, just to the extent that no single place on the planet is exactly like any other single place. One may still look over a range of manifestations of this sort of conservative religion, across all the places where it manages some sort of less fettered or unfettered embrace and expression, both in general cultural life and in church life. Then those examples offer us the start of a sort of test and weighing of its real substance and direction.

Before we speedily conclude that it must just be peachy-keen being, say, a professional woman in Fort Worth, we might want to have a good, real conversation with Katie Sherrod and other women to whom she could introduce us.

Whatever those dimensions and projections may be, it does seem clear to the rest of us that this trend is alarming in at least two very familiar respects: Such conservative religious believers regularly mistake their version of the map for the whole of the real world territory, along with so consistently repeating false witness of various sorts against their favorite casts of targets that anybody listening very closely might feel concerned. Feel sympathy for such believers and sorry for their plight all you wish, but be sure not to turn your back if you could at all be construed as being a real live member of one of their favorite target groups of awful sinners, or even of being suspected of associating too kindly with a targeted real live person.

Reconstructionist and Dominionist believers mean business. Their uses of force and meanness and false witness are singularly justified by their special and especially holy or righteous ends in all significant domains of daily life. They preach that God has ordained them to rule as Jesus' regents on earth, and they really, really, really mean it even when they are not loudly talking about it at any given moment.

Posted by drdanfee at Wednesday, 28 May 2008 at 1:09am BST

What an interesting little doco. I find it interesting that these people seem unable to answer a direct question - like the school head master who prevaricated about the age of the earth until it was mentioned that a book in the school said 6,000-10,000 years old. Or Andrea's switching off the microphone at the end when being asked to repeat some pretty uncompromising views on the nature of Islam that she'd already stated bluntly earlier in the program.

Frankly, they all looked like cranks. And all worried sick about Islam. I found Christopher Shell's comment about the allusions of a black flag being waved at the end interesting. All this concern and hostility, with presages of civil war, about Islam would appear to have overtones of lebensraum about it.

Posted by kieran crichton at Wednesday, 28 May 2008 at 1:39am BST

"They are really no threat."

Don't you believe that for a minute, L Roberts, these people are very deluded, and very driven. That sort of thing sounds like Chamberlain whistling in the wind....

If anything, perhaps the economic collapse currently starting in the USA will cause their downfall, however, the deliberate de-funding of public education here is precisely what they've bargained for and achieving the results of a dumbed-down populace that will mop up their sick version Christianity.

Tonight on NPR (National Public Radio-US) there was a program that the interviewees were video taping all the cars and their occupants who were stopping at an adult bookstore located out on some truck stop in Indiana, then posting such on the web.

Go talk to the Kansas State Board of Education. Go talk to Scholastic Books about the times when they started to introduce the Harry Potter Books in the USA. Go talk to any Planned Parenthood chapter over here.

Thank goodness for TV Channel 4 over there.
These nutcases mean business.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Wednesday, 28 May 2008 at 3:07am BST

I think, though, that the UK and the US are very diufferent places. We are, frankly, much more secular. Nost Brits think the proper place for religion is at funerals and christenings, and certainly not the extreme variety.

Indeed, i think its their very tactics which haven't helped their cause.

Abortion is, I think, a separate issue - views are rather more nuanced. For example, Roy Hattersley, a definite atheist, has always been anti-abortion.

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 28 May 2008 at 12:28pm BST

"The staring, slightly hysterical fanaticism."


Slightly?!?!?!

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 28 May 2008 at 1:00pm BST

I think Merseymike is right that the US is very different from Britain here. The fundamentalists have much power in the US and none here. In many ways Britain mimics the US a few years down the line, but I am reserving judgment over whether it will do so in this instance - I rather suspect it may not. We shall see.

Where I think Merseymike is wrong is in hnis crude lumping together of vastly different groups and individuals (who have little in common apart from disagreeing with him and following -either in intent or in actuality - biblical Christianity) as 'fundamentalists'. Whenever I hear that unthinking catch-all term I tend to think that the person has not done much thinking, categorisation or taxonomy.

The programme quoted a figure of 2million, which probably roughly corresponds to the number of evangelical and pentecostal Christians in England or in Britain. It implied (totally unthinkingly - or more probably calculatedly and deliberately) that all of these thought exactly the same as one another. The world is 4000 years old; same views on nature of Allah; they're all Nazis I tell you!! My impression is that most would agree with and support AMW in what she is doing; a substantial number would support SG's beliefs and actions but fewer his way of expressing himself. That is not a statistically-based impression, however.

The fundies are not coming. Evangelicals and pentecostals (who include, in any case, many very educated people) are possibly growing or at least treading water - but fewer are activist. In my impression a lot of pentecostals, who certainly are growing (Old Kent Road alone has innumerable churches) have very little interest in politics. They know little and care less about the individuals in Westminster who seem to inhabit another planet. The idea that they are under their authority would be laughable; they are under the authority of Christ (and to a smaller extent their church leadership).

And that is why if you had a Festival of Light in Trafalgar Square today, as in 1970 or was it 1971 (Mary Whitehouse programme tonight should enlighten us) a fraction would turn up. Probably less than 10% given the recent turn-out for similar events. The battles have not been won, still less the arguments been lost, but apathy has increased in proportion to capitalism and consumerism. In that sense, the fundies (or, as I would say, the active Christians) are in retreat. Which is bad, because rational and statistical argument so often support our position. Still, as they say, who wants to be right when by being powerful and wealthy you can silence by a 'No Comment' the little people who rely on mere right-and-wrong and mere logic?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 28 May 2008 at 1:13pm BST

Christopher Shell, please watch for the 400 word limit. I allowed you this one.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 28 May 2008 at 2:03pm BST

But, Christopher, all the groups covered in the TV programme happily described themselves as fundamentalist. Williams, the head of the school, and Green all happily agreed to the use of that term.

Evangelicals may number 2 million but include open evangelicals whose views are much more nuanced. Also, there are many who attend evangelical churches who have gay friends and so on, and their views may be far less hardline - and so would not get involved in a campaign such as this. I know a fair few of them! And I agree about many Pentecostals being essentially apolitical and focused on other matters. I also think there are others who may have similar views but accept that in a pluralist society, they have to accept that which they do disagree with as legitimate in secular society. Joel Edwards may be a good example. He wouldn't have agreed to being on the EHRC unless he was prepared to accept the law as it now stands re: gay rights, for example, as his role will be to ensure that the current law works effectively.

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 28 May 2008 at 4:54pm BST

The issue that seems to have been missed is the extent to which the programme failed to understand fundamentalism at all. David Modell's film was based on the premise that UK Christian fundamentalism is: an extreme and dangerous religious movement; growing at an alarming rate; and has designs on Parliament and the courts to enforce its fundamentalist will on the population. He's essentially wrong on all three points: another case of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

Posted by Richard Wallis at Wednesday, 28 May 2008 at 5:29pm BST

I had a positive view of the programme overall but I think there *is* a danger in exaggerating the impact of this movement (which may be better delineated as being 'religious right' as opposed to religious leaders who never really got into that or are trying to take things in a more enlightened direction (like Wallis and Joel Edwards).

We do need to be wise to the tactics of the *religious right* (especially when they use front organisations to throw you off the scent and especially the shady role of LCF) but it is possible to lump all things into one and exaggerate.

However, what is important to notice is the tactics we have not heard the last of - notably the portrayal of christians as 'victims' because of anti-discrimination laws as well as a rather viscious form of homophobia.

The scenes from the school were just frightening.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Wednesday, 28 May 2008 at 6:08pm BST

No, I actually thought that David Modell got two of those points absolutely right

I think there is plenty of evidence that the beliefs held by UK fundamentalists are both dangerous and extreme, although clearly that will be contested by those who believe them. However, in my experience, they tend to be oblivious to how they come over to those outside the belief system

They certainly do have designs on both parliament and the courts - or why mount major campaigns to convince MP's to reject legislative reform on, say, gay and lesbian equality? Or why contest decisions in court? The LCF and the Christian Institute, not to mention Christian Voice, do all of those things. And clearly they do wish to impose their will on the population - even those of us who explicitly reject their religion. Or they would just accept the fact that legal reform has gone against their wishes.

However, you are right to note that they are not growing in terms of total numbers. Indeed, without immigration, they would be decreasing if anything. They tend to have a very high throughput and a lot of people have been part of these churches and then leave for other pastures.

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 28 May 2008 at 11:38pm BST

A fundy is a fundy, be they Christian or Muslim or any other religious affiliation.

What scares me is that these people can't respect other's rights to believe differently.

As our priest recently stated they're are a little over 6 billion people on this earth and 2/3's are not Christians. We've got to learn to live and let live something these people can't seem to do.

just as a side note, We have two of those English evangelicals in our diocese here and one is the assistant bishop,,,, ughhh!!! Can we send him back???

Posted by Bob In PA at Thursday, 29 May 2008 at 2:11am BST

"biblical Christianity"

"fundies (or, as I would say, the active Christians)"

I am nothing if not predictable. What is this "biblical Christianity"? Christianity based on, taking it's authority from, or in some other way making the Bible its supreme authority? You have to explain why this radical innovation in the Church's understanding of Herself and Her God is in any way preferable to traditional Christianity, and, given that the faith was originally a Tradition elucidated by its Scriptures, why is it now preferable to ignore the Tradition and give to Scripture an authority it was never meant to have? Surely an interpretation that ignores the Tradition must, as a matter of course, misunderstand and omit parts of that Tradition, no? Given how completely different fundamentalist Christianity is from anything that has come down to us from the Apostles, I'd suggest this is precisely what has happened. Fundamentalists have totally changed the Christian message. God does not love mankind. His wrath is so hot against us, He had to kill Himself/His Son just to appease Himself. That is hardly traditional Christianity, and that's just one area. Just swinging the pendulum too far in one direction because you think the "liberals" have swung it too far the other way is not appropriate. Also, if there is such a thing as "bible based Christianity", there must be a Christianity that ISN'T bible based. Who are these Christiants, and what is their faith based on? As to the second quote, this sounds to me like the customary fundamentalist dismissal of all non-fundamentalists as not Christian. Would you care to explain how non-fundamentalists are inactive? Is it just because, after you take out the charity work, the social justice work, and all the rest of it, we are not promoting our moral superiority with the same vigor as the fundies?

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 29 May 2008 at 1:04pm BST

Simon: sorry about the verbiage - I will be more careful.

Ford: Wherever there is tradition, then the earliest parts of that tradition are on average more likely to be *accurately* handing down whatever there is to be handed down. Simply by being closer to the events. Where there are first-generation and eyewitness people involved, then this is still more the case. It is therefore a contradiction in terms to champion tradition at the expense of the very best-quality elements of that tradition. Should later traditions contradict the earlier, one always wants to know why. Has there been misunderstanding? In that case, we have the means of correcting it. Or is it a matter of predictable bias and self-interest, such as Bishop Ignatius emphasising episcopal authority, and numerous later Christians over-emphasising their own though-cultures and national cultures at the expense of others? In that case, identify it and quash it.

Merseymike- We know that SG and AMW accepted the term 'fundamentalist', but it was (predictably) the only option offered to them. Very likely, each could produce a more detailed and precise description of themselves.

Re: Richad Wallis vs Merseymike: To call fundamentalism an extreme and dangerous movement is a circular argument, since one is free to classify as fundamentalist only precisely those whom one already sees as dangerous and extreme. It all depends on how one defines 'fundamentalist'. The programme-maker, like a lot of uninformed people, defined it extremely widely.

'Fundamentalism' is a strange word as negative words go. One would have thought that it was of the essence of a Christian to believe Christian fundamentals while being less dogmatic on non-fundamentals. Just as it is of the essence of a secularist or Marxist to do the same mutatis mutandis. Of course, the term has its own historical raison d'etre in 1920s America.


Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 30 May 2008 at 12:49pm BST

For 'though-cultures' read 'thought-cultures'.

Merseymike- JEdwards would otherwise not be allowed on the EHRC - that's neither free-thinking nor democratic.
Having gay friends is irrelevant - RU admitting that our views are affected by who our friends are? It's logically possible for all someone's friends to be gay and for them still to have examined evidence and concluded against homosexual practice. That's what I've always said: our 'views' are affected more by whom we know than by what we know. That's intolerable for any academic. Such 'views' don't qualify as 'views' but merely as in-house conformity and/or fear of deviance.

RWallis/Merseymike debate: (1) Whether fundamentalists are extreme and dangerous depends *entirely* on how one has already defined 'fundamentalist'. (2) Are 'they' growing alarmingly? No. Even the programme itself showed only small clusters. (3) Do they have designs on parliament? I certainly hope so. Every adult/enfranchised individual in the country ought to be passionate enough about at least some things to have designs on affecting parliament - esp. when it appears that parliament overall has less knowledge of the relevant statistics. The only alternative is: not caring very much about what one believes in. No-one is seriously advocating that, are they? It's practically a contradiction in terms. To believe in something strongly overlaps with being passionate about it.

Christian Institute are suing Google for not accepting their ad 'news and views on abortion'. Simultaneously Google accepts ads for cheating on spouses, dogging, witchcraft, etc.. The Chirstian Institute in this is not extremist but commonsensical.

Merseymike, re Westminster Central Hall: (1) I was there, and eyewitness evidence is better (more contextualised) than non-eyewitness. (2) I mentioned that the people involved were persistently interrupting speakers at a speaker-meeting. (3) They were not dismissed for quite a while. (4) Some handcuffed themselves to seats. (5) Were bundlers all Christians as opposed to security staff?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 30 May 2008 at 1:16pm BST

"Wherever there is tradition, then the earliest parts of that tradition are on average more likely to be *accurately* handing down whatever there is to be handed down."

Absolutely. And it is from the earliest days of our faith that we get the idea of the centrality of the Eucharist in worship and the idea that the Spirit leads us into all truth and that this will at times appear to be in contradiction to Scripture. The concept of the Christian life being manifested in the Church's celebration of the sacraments comes from then, as does the three fold order of ministry. I find the above statement astounding coming from you, since most of the things that come to us from the early days of the Tradition are usually dismissed by Evangelicals as "traditions of men", not to be followed in favour of Scripture. Indeed, if one compares Evangelicalism and the new so called "orthodoxy" with the tradition handed down to us, the two do not look very much alike at all. Not necessarily claiming that "liberalism" if there even is such a thing in the Church, gets it right in all respects, but modern Evamgelicalism seems way off the mark. Not saying it's wrong, necessarily, just that it is a radical reinterpretation of the Gospel that bears little resemblance to the Tradition. New things must of course be examined carefully to determine if the discernment is accurate, but just because something comes into the Tradition now doesn't make it wrong. Even the Trinity was a concept that took us centuries to understand in its entirety, if we can be said to have such understanding now. And in the earliest days, Christians didn't even have a book. As Dix has said, they found the Gospel in their weekly celebrations of the Eucharist. In Evangelicalism, though, preaching is far more central to their experience of the Gospel than sacraments, which seem for the most part to be of lesser importance and are stripped of all their mystical significance. The degree to which this occurs depends on how far the Evangelical group is from the Tradition.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 30 May 2008 at 5:23pm BST

Christopher: do try to deal with the points raised.

They did not disagree with the term fundamentalist. Use sophistry to explain that if you must.
The tern fundamentalist was exactly as defined by one of the participants - the Headmaster of the fundamentalist school. Personally, I think Barr's definition is reasonable.

You clearly do not realise what the role of the EHRC is if you think its Commissioners do not have to accept the premise of the law. It is not there to make law but to ensure that it is applied. Any personal prejudices cannot be part of a Commissioners' role. Edwards will realise this and I think many conservative Christians are going to be dismayed when he fails to meet their inflated expectations.

It is logical to affirm one's friends in terms of something as important in their lives as their relationships, not reduce them to the level of 'behaviour' or 'practice' Until you grasp that, you will never understand why your arguments have been so unsuccessful. Of course, many people do change their mind because of personal contact - recognising that outdated dogmas require revision in the light of personal experience.

No excuse for bundling and rough-housing people, Christopher, but then Christians are well known for doing this. I guess they are not used to being interrupted in their temples of bigotry!


Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 30 May 2008 at 5:32pm BST

Hi Ford-
The NT never mentions any 'the Eucharist'. A word from the word-group is used in a Lord's Supper related context in 1Cor. 10, tho'not to describe the worship-sequence as a whole. The Didache is thought by *some* to be the first possible instance: Vdebatable.
3fold ministry is certainly not in NT. NT has Christ's high priesthood; priesthood of all believers; 2complementary types of sets of ministry-titles (one more hierarchical and one more gift/anointing-oriented). Bishops are mentioned, ie overseers, but it is not clear whether or not they are precisely the same as (a) elders and/or (b) pastors - Alistair Campbell has written on this. (No - not that one!) They certainly don't precisely correspond to today's overseers, since Philippi alone has more than one. Deacons are mentioned - but not today's deacons who are often just probationary priests. Priests are certainly not mentioned: their sacrificial ministry is done away with (Hebrews). The issue is, however, complicated by the fact that 'priest' is (I think?) etymologically related to the word 'presbyter' meaning 'elder'.
Earliest Christians did have a book (the OT) &also various Christian writings circulating. Much of their worship was certainly not book-based, I agree.
The 'sacrament' concept also arrived later: a Vulgate-caused confusion (Greek word is 'mysterion').
Dix is highly controversial, also well worth reading.

Hi Merseymike-
I am not sure that even I would disown 'fundamentalist' (tho' they'd disown me!), since one's initial instinct (probably misguided) is to take it as referring to the central (fundamental, less disputable) points of Christianity. I find that all these words (fundamentalist, evangelical, pentecostal, catholic, thinking) are good with a small initial letter, bad with a big.
To assent to the word is not to say that it would be one's first or even 99th choice. There must be at least 99 positive or partly-positive ways Christians can be classified.

Re EHRC:Laws are highly culture-specific and susceptible to the wind. To believe otherwise is to believe in laws as a holy/infallible book. Legal fundamentalism.

I don't remotely want my arguments to be 'successful' (well, I do, but not primarily or essentially): only that they be true, logical and right.
One will be tempted to affirm and agree with friends even where this involves compromising reason/logic.
'Outdated' - you cannot still believe that truth is essentially chronology-dependent. I have laboured over you in vain. :o)

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 30 May 2008 at 6:46pm BST

Coming from a 'Fundamentalist' background myself, I think it is easy to make generalisations and demonise 'fundamentalists' inadvisedly. I fall into this too, at times, when paranoid or just worried. I think F. can be problematic for individuals concerned, more so than 'society'.

Insofar as religion treats of the inwardness of the individual, we should tread carefully, as with people's sex-lives, loves and relationships --which are no concern of ours (or tv researchers etc).

It is a call to some kind of love and truth I guess, that we find (hidden or not) in most forms of Christianity. So maybe our sensibilites need to be more attuned to the feelings, needs and vulnerablities of others. A tall order but we (I) must try it.

I do enjoy books by recovering fundamentalists. And feel the need to reflect. I still return to Father & Son (E. Gosse)from time to time. (I also enjoy Quaker David ...........'s account of his Brethren upbringing; and *HA Williams accounts in Some Day I'll Find You.

I would urge those who have never been fundamentalists (if any) to develop a sense of how it words from within, by reading some of these accounts sympathetically.

Its no good writing it off or good people off.

*HAW brings tears and laughter in (almsot) equal measure, I find.

Posted by L Roberts at Friday, 30 May 2008 at 8:09pm BST

Christopher, the error in your argument is the assumption that the NT in some sense gives us a handbook for how to do Church. It does not. The NT was written for people who already were Christians, with assumptions as to what that faith meant. They had received something, and the NT was written to explain that thing they had received. It is not possible to connect the Church as She emerged from the catacombs in the 4th century with the Upper Room, to borrow an analogy. The fact is that there were many varieties of Christian in those early three centuries, many of them unrecognizable to us today. They all came out of the catacombs together. Why did God choose one of those groups, the one with all the things I mentioned, to be the one to get official Imperial toleration? Why was that particular tradition the one to survive? Solely politics and oppression, as is the argument in some Evangelical, not to mention New Age, circles, or was it the hand of God? If the former, as some Evangelicals claim, then God let the Gospel die for 1500 years, and I find that unbelievable. Besides, if you want to look to the NT as a source for how to do Church, you still have a lot of explaining to do. A simple example: there is very little description of actual Christian worship in the NT. Yet, in his vision on Patmos, John reports seeing the worship of Heaven. Everyone knew what Christians did in their worship, and in his vision, he just took that kind of worship as actually BEING worship. He saw beings worshipping God, and that worship looked just like what he was used to. How could he have recognized it as worship otherwise? Now what does that worship look like? Prostrations, group statements made in unison at specific times, incense, it looks a lot more like a High Tat anglocatholic Mass, and even more like an Orthodox Liturgy than anything you'll find in an Evangelical Church.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 30 May 2008 at 8:46pm BST

Christopher: I don't believe in 'religious truth' at all. Its a myth.

As for the EHRC, the current commissioners are there to work within the current law - and it isn't their role to alter it.

Posted by Merseymike at Saturday, 31 May 2008 at 12:30am BST

Now I remember.

The book I alluded to above (yesterday), was by David Boulton -- Godless for God's Sake.

Posted by L Roberts at Saturday, 31 May 2008 at 2:09pm BST

Hi Ford-
The heavenly worship in Revelation corresponds to the temple worship. John saw himself as a true Jew who would not necessarily have owned to the designation 'Christian' (if he had heard of it). Like 'Prime Minister', 'Christian' started off as a bit of a smear term - or at least one originated by 'outsiders'.

One would in fact need to be in the temple to conduct that kind of worship (not in a synagogue, least of all in a house such as the early Christians often met in). The NT is full of the message that the temple worship is not (being) abrogated because the new temple is the believers (ie the church) with Christ as chief cornerstone.

I would justly require more evidence that one strand of the church as she was in Constantine's time (the strand that ended up 'winning') preserved intact first-century patterns. Our primary documents are good in this instance, and they point in a different direction.

Hi Merseymike-
No I don't believe in 'religious truth' either. What is meant by the phrase anyway? There is only one kind of truth: the true kind. (A footnote: truth is a property of statements, and reality/existence is a property of real things. I think what we may be talking about is not truth at all but reality - which is a better translation of the biblical 'aletheia'.) 'Religious truth' sounds like an category appealed to by people who *want* to claim their untrue ideologies are true. As though our wants had anything to do with anything.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 31 May 2008 at 2:11pm BST

"I would justly require more evidence that one strand of the church as she was in Constantine's time (the strand that ended up 'winning') preserved intact first-century patterns."

Unless of course, one sees the hand of God in it. One has to ask, why did all the other strands of Christianity fall by the wayside? If it was not God, if indeed, one or more of those strands preserved the Truth, why did God not side with one of them but just let them wither away for over a millennium and a half? To say that He did is to say the world did not have the Gospel for 1500+ years after the descent of the Spirit, and that just doesn't seem right. To suggest that people could not have worshipped like this in private homes, or seen it as the model for worship at the very least, does not seem logical to me. Of course it was typical of Temple worship. But the Temple was where the sacrifices were offered. The earliest Christians every Sunday joined in the ultimate, once and for all sacrifice. It seems reasonable to assume that they would have considered it fitting that the rituals and dignity surrounding the Temple sacrifice should in some form be associated with their sacrifice, which they and we understand as replacing the sacrifices demanded by the Law and conducted in the Temple.

Posted by Ford Elms at Saturday, 31 May 2008 at 4:32pm BST

Tobias Haller recently reminded us of the orthodox Chalcedonian teaching that, at the incarnation, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity derived his full and complete human nature from a woman, the BVM. How can we then say that women cannot represent the fullness of Christ in the priestly/sacerdotal ministry?

Karl Rahner, SJ (at the time of the Vatican II) taught that there were no good theological reasons to oppose women's ordination. Judaism circumcised only males by way of a rite of initiation. Pauline Christianity rejected circumcision as a boundary marker, saying, in effect, that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free. From earliest times the Church baptized males and females in order to share in the Priesthood of Christ. Even in Catholic teaching, the ordained ministry is but an extension of the Priesthood of All Believers. That is why a person's Holy Orders would be null and void if unbaptized. Since the Church has baptized women, why not ordain them?

If a woman's humanity were 'defective', why did God the Son, at the incarnation, assume the human nature of a woman, the BVM?

Posted by John Henry at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 1:48am BST

"There is only one kind of truth: the true kind. "

You haven't dealt with many people under a great deal of stress, have you? One of the things that struck me working in Emergency departments is that, in a crisis situation, the number of "true" versions you get of the situation, from eyewitnesses, is equal to the number of eye witnesses, plus one. And it isn't minor details, either. This realization was one of the things that drove me back to faith. The fact that this seems to be the situation in the various Resurrection accounts is to me good evidence that something DID actually happen, BTW, that people witnessed something that so freaked them out that they all remembered different things. That's the way eyewitnesses remember things. There is, no doubt, an underlying reality, but to translate that into truth, and to suggest it equates with a single truth, is to deny human nature. There is truth, of course, God's truth, but we, despite the revelation given to us by the Incarnation, can only see it "through a glass darkly". This is obviously one of the sources of your misunderstanding of science and the scientific method. You can't tell the difference between what science is trying to do and what religion is trying to do. You're right, though, in pointing out that reality and truth are different things. Let me put it this way. Science will tell us about, say, why people betray one another to further their own interests. It will be couched in terms of evolution, hardwiring of our brains, etc., and all these things will be "true". Christianity tells us that what leads us to that kind of selfish behaviour is the Fall. This is also true, but science can no more come up with that truth than religion can define the neural pathways and connections that make up our behaviour. I believe this is the greatest flaw in Fundamentalist thinking, that there has to be a concrete truth that we can apprehend and codify and, naturally, force everybody else to agree with. Truth is a destination to which we are slowly feeling our way. Fundies would have us believe we have already arrived.

Posted by Ford Elms at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 9:00pm BST

"Tobias Haller recently reminded us of the orthodox Chalcedonian teaching that, at the incarnation, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity derived his full and complete human nature from a woman, the BVM. How can we then say that women cannot represent the fullness of Christ in the priestly/sacerdotal ministry?"

Thanks for this, I hadn't heard this before, though in thought I knew what Chalcedon was about. Why hasn't someone reminded Constantinople of this, since they are all clearly Chalcedonian Churches, or have they made a response to this argument? If so, do you know what it might be? I'm curious.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 1:55pm BST

Ford, when I referred to Tobias Haller's comments and Chalcedonian teaching about the incarnation, I had the teaching of the Council of Chalcedon in mind. The Council of Constantinople in AD 381 settled Trinitarian teaching, but opened again Christologial questions, which were settled at the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451.

Posted by John Henry at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 3:44pm BST

John Henry, I knew what you were talking about. I don't know the position of the "non-Chalcedonian" Churches on the issue, but what I have read in recent years from the Ethiopians suggests that their understanding is that the "Chalcedonian Schism" is largely a result of a misunderstanding of terminology between the Greeks and the Semites at that Council.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 7:17pm BST

Hi Ford-
I agree with you that different eyewitnesses very often claim to have witnessed different things. I have to agree, since it has happened so many times after I have finished a sermon that people have told me I said things which I didn't in fact say. (Of course I guess my precision standards and expectations are a bit high which doesn't help.) It does suggest that one main reason they make different reports is that some correctly understood while others misunderstood.

Again, in the case of dreams, people will manipulate the fairly nonsensical dreams they actually dreamed into something sensical. It takes a Socrates to admit he does *not* see any coherent story or pattern there. In general, we are all inclined to select with a view to seeing patterns that are not there.

In any case, simply having different eyewitness reports does not mean that all of them are true, or that it is not the case that only one of them is true. The one speaking the truth is the one who conveys what a video-camera on the scene picked up. (Of course, video-cameras do not show everything at once - but if they did....) Some people have trained themselves to be more precise than others, and less inclined to impose non-existent patterns onto events. And another proviso: no-one ever notices everything that happens. It remains the case that a video camera can conclusively confirm or deny eyewitness reports in plenty of cases.

But none of that has anything to do with the point I was making. It is that there is only one kind of truth: the true kind. To say something is 'true' in some so-called 'religious' sense is a cop-out, inviting the response, 'You are only forced to say that because it is not true in the normal way.' It's as bad as those people who say 'In a very real sense, this is true.' The meaningless words 'in a very real sense' would not be needed of the thing were actually true. Anyway who decides what is 'religiously true' (whatever that means)? Is it our own preferences and ideologies that make the decision? Very dangerous. Very self-centred. Very anti-academic.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 3 June 2008 at 2:04pm BST

"Very anti-academic."

Christopher, speaking as a physician whose return to faith was at least partly fuelled by dissatisfaction with the inadequacies of science to address significant areas of human life, and seeing religion as asking different questions than science, I am quite pleased to be called "anti-academic" when it comes to religion. As to religious truth, let's ask this question: do you believe God made the Universe? I suspect the answer is yes. Do you believe it happened as described in Genesis? I suspect no. We've been here before, and I still don't get it. Either you have to say that Genesis is false, which leaves you with some very important unanswered questions, not least of which is the nature of the Fall and Original Sin, or you have to say that it is true in some way that is not historical. Likewise with the Exodus. This is very important for Christians, since the Exodus is a type of the Resurrection, it is the traditional model for our meditations on the Resurrection at Easter, and, especially if you peruse the Orthodox Easter Liturgies, you see types of other aspects of Christianity in the Exodus story. Now, there is increasing archaeological evidence that there never was an efflux of Semtic type peoples from Egypt, nor an influx into the area of Israel. Does it mean that the most significant event in Jewish history, and the prefiguring of what Christians believe is the most important event in the history of the Universe, is a lie? Or is the story true in some other fashion that "historical" truth? You speak of video cameras, but even that is no guarantee the truth is being recorded. I am far more comfortable with healthy doubt than I am with absolute definitions of the Truth. In this, I am much closer to our Orthodox brethren. I get the feeling you are the exact opposite, you NEED concrete truth. But even science is not about this kind of truth. Modern cosmology looks a lot like theology when you come to think about it, and the Uncertainty Principle has much more effect than simply stating that you can't know the speed and position of a particle at the same time.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 3 June 2008 at 7:33pm BST

Hi Ford-
I very much doubt that you personally are anti-academic. The spurious category 'religious truth' is, however, anti-academic. People may want to avoid the evidence imperative, but there is no way round it. Truth must be evidence-based.

To say 'you need concrete truth' is once again to psychologise the whole thing. Truth has nothing to do with our psychological wants and needs. In fact, they are the one thing that most stands in the way of our attaining truth, and therefore can be counted the greatest enemy of truth (together with our local cultural presuppositions). I have said a hundred times that a high proportion of people often act as though truth is or should be based round their wants and needs when actually it is totally independent of them. We don't always like that, but that's 'tough', as they say.

Most of Genesis and Exodus is aetiology and legend. An aetiology is a story (whose origins may be lost in the midst of time and which is therefore handed down as authoritative) which sets out to explain (or perhaps considers itself instinctively to discover) why things - especially peculiar or remarkable things - are the way they now are. A legend is generally based on some fact[s] but develops in the telling down the generations. There are factors of bias at work: thus (for example) inhabitants of Timbuktu will usually preserve legends that put themselves in a good light. The fact that Israel had plenty of the opposite kind reflects well on Israel's truthfulness.

We should (a) seek and preserve the maximum amount of concrete factual and/or historical truth we can, and be realistic (neither ideologically optimistic nor ideologically pessimistic) about how much of it there is; (b) be realistic and truthful about how multi-dimensional reality really is, while not debasing the currency of the words 'truth' and 'fact'.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 4 June 2008 at 1:58pm BST

"I very much doubt that you personally are anti-academic."

In matters of science, you would be correct. In matters of faith you are dead wrong. I do not have much faith in the attempts one sees by fundamentalists, whether the consetvative type or the "Spongian" type, to enmesh science and religion, or to use one to discredit the other. They are not about the same things at all. To put one over against the other makes about as much sense as a bunch of artists telling people they shouldn't watch baseball because baseball isn't art.


"I have said a hundred times that a high proportion of people often act as though truth is or should be based round their wants and needs when actually it is totally independent of them."

Which applies very clearly to you as well, Christopher, as has been very evident here. To take another part of Scripture, the histories. What would you say is the truth of the David story? Is it as it is written, or does the truth lie elsewhere?

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 4 June 2008 at 5:03pm BST

"In any case, simply having different eyewitness reports does not mean that all of them are true, or that it is not the case that only one of them is true. The one speaking the truth is the one who conveys what a video-camera on the scene picked up. (Of course, video-cameras do not show everything at once - but if they did....) Some people have trained themselves to be more precise than others, and less inclined to impose non-existent patterns onto events. And another proviso: no-one ever notices everything that happens. It remains the case that a video camera can conclusively confirm or deny eyewitness reports in plenty of cases."

A video-camera controlled by a human being is subject to that human being's biases as to what is important in the scene. Even a fixed camera (such as a bank surveillance system) is subject to the biases of the people who installed it (what parts of the building are most likely to need watching, as example). Quite frankly, there is no such thing as an objective point of view in anything. We all come to the scene with our personal histories and apply them to what we see and how we remember it.

Even the idea of "not applying patterns" is a bias...sometimes the patterns are there, and to ignore them is a bias in itself.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Wednesday, 4 June 2008 at 5:50pm BST

Hi Ford-
Why are you saying I cater truth to my wants and needs when I am such a vocal opponent of such a practice, and an advocate of getting proper statistical evidence which may well not correspond to our wishes?

Hi Pat-
The point is that some things are mopre objective than others, and some people are more capable of being more objective than others. A video camera will not show the *whole* truth, but it will generally speaking rule out numerous interpretations of the data as impossible.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 6 June 2008 at 2:14pm BST

Because your need to believe gay people are somehow morally and physically "sick" leads you to defend the indefensible. I have repeatedly shown you how Paul Cameron's work is not science. I have indicated to you where, online, you can find dozens of reasons, given by far better scientific minds than mine, how his work is methodologically unsound and unreliable. You have remained unswayed, and have made the ridiculous claim that his work represents the best approximation we have of the truth, which it does not. You reject any discrediting of his work by people, not myself, whose lives are dedicated to scientific investigation, despite their clearly laid out reasons for doing so. You repeatedly demonstrate in your statements that you do not understand the scientific method and have no idea how to critically read a scientific study. You don't understand the nature of a scientific theory. Yet you will not admit that you are wrong in accepting Cameron's work, so great is your need to believe the things you believe about gay people. It's as though you actually believe that the people who have spent their lives in scientific pursuits are somehow in cahoots to suppress the truth being valiantly proclaimed by this man, because you, with your lack of scientific background are better qualified to judge the quality of another scientist's work than they are. Sorry, Christopher, you can claim anything you want publically, but that is just mouth speech. You behaviour shows otherwise.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 6 June 2008 at 8:11pm BST

Hi Ford-

If you can find any comment where I imply that the evidence cannot do without Cameron's contribution, then you are doing well. Your impression that I am fixated specifically with Cameron is not based on anything I have actually said. In any investigation I would never even think of relying on the findings of one researcher, however good (or bad). I would see which way the wind was blowing in termse of the research as a whole. The findings of numerous different researchers are collected by Nicolosi and by Gagnon, as you know - but I am not concerned with the identity of the collector, and should there be collectors of equally comprehensive collections of evidence from those who currently hold a different perspective, it's all the same to me - please direct me to them. They would only be referring to many of the same papers anyway, I imagine. (I'm not looking for negative critiques of other researchers -Cameron or whoever- but for first-hand research. Topics: life expectancy; STD rates; promiscuity rates; rates of involvement in child abuse.) My only wish is to be faithful to research findings, which is obviously the best (and the only) option open to us. For, in an area where 90%+ are swayed by ideology, it is imperative that we not be. The only people one can trust are those who have no 'preferred finding' but will always be happy to change their view on the basis of statistical research, should the research point that way.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 7 June 2008 at 1:03pm BST

": life expectancy; STD rates; promiscuity rates; rates of involvement in child abuse.) My only wish is to be faithful to research findings,"

But your question already betrays a bias in how you will interpret the information you've given.
STD rates have nothing to do with sexual practice per se, but with the level of protection employed.

Promiscuity may be more prevalent among homosexuals, but cannot be used as evidence for anything unless a level playing field is created that allows homosexuals to have the same relationships and the same support for their relationships that heterosexuals enjoy.
It certainly is a completely irrelevant argument against those of us here who ask that our faithful relationships should be recognised.

Life expectancy, again, depends on lifestyle, not on sexual orientation.

From your past contributions here it has become clear that you consistently chose to ignore all this and instead make connections where there simply aren't any.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 7 June 2008 at 1:49pm BST

"In any investigation I would never even think of relying on the findings of one researcher, however good (or bad)."

Christopher, I will not enter again with you into the debate of conservative anti-homosexual "science". Erika's comments mirror my own. Your continual refusal to accept the great majority of science in this area and instead promote the "work" of a very few, some of whom have an obvious agenda, proves my point. If you are right, the scientific community has an agenda(and I can't help but think some, perhaps even you, consider this a part of a larger left wing politically correct agenda)to give credence and acceptability to something that is actually detrimental to society and promotes disease and early death, or you are wrong. Now, scientists have unjustly suppressed people's work in the past, it is rare, but it does happen. But in this case there is clear scientific inadequacy. The idea that the scientific community is deliberately, or even perhaps misguidedly, suppressing data, misreporting fact, or otherwise misrepresenting reality in this is simply unbelievable. Yet it is completely believable for you. This says something about both of us. Given the choice between accepting the word of the scientific community on this issue, or that of a preacher who, whatever his theological capabilities, has proven himself not to understand some of the basic principles underlying the scientific method, I know who I am going to believe. You need to present yourself as objective and scientific, yet your lack of understanding is evident in much of what you say, and not only in the area of homosexuality. You prove my point frequently. All the same, I do agree with much of what you say about family life, its importance, and the effect that modern social behaviours have on developing children. I spoke of this a while ago in relation to things I had seen while in England this Spring. We have radically different ideas on how to deal with these issues, however. For one thing, I believe we have to get rid of the heterosexual imperative: that anyone who is heterosexual should be allowed to reproduce. You need to have training and a license to drive a car or shoot a gun, but anyone with barely enough intelligence to get their clothes half off can have a child, screw said child up through complete lack of parenting skills, and then blame it on "Social Services" for letting the child "fall through the cracks". But that's another diatribe.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 9 June 2008 at 2:59pm BST

Hi Ford-
There may be a heterosexual imperative in some quarters but not in mine since it's fairly plain to me that the lesson of history is that sex and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. Only relatively responsible people, by and large, get married. The reamining piece in the jigsaw is to reject any climate that sees extramarital sex as ok - a lie that plenty of societies have rejected already. Once that is done, the rest is possible. If it is not done, the rest becomes impossible.

I am glad that you are an enemy of the unscientific as am I. Statistical data that fairly clearly points one way I use as bedrock in trying to attain the correct theory on anything.

You are quite incorrect if you imply that Gagnon and Nicolosi are solely or even mainly primary sources. They are secondary sources, ie they aim to gather together the primary research of others. It is that primary research on which anyone has to base their position. It is utterly irrelevant who the secondary author is who gathers it together. It could be Mickey Mouse, for all you or I care. One has always to take a synoptic view of the primary evidence, and not focus on one or two findings or papers but try and be aware of as many as possible, and of the big picture, if any, to which they point.

Hi Erika-
Life expectancy depends on lifestyle - yes. So how come being homosexual goes together with a worse lifestyle (ie less congenial to life and health)? Are you claiming that this has no connection with anything intrinsic about homosexuality itself? I struggle to see how it can be. We all know that married men live on average considerably longer and healthier lives than unmarried. There is something intrinsic about being married that promotes life and health. Other options cannot therefore be viewed as equally good - unless we want to lie.

Again, are you implying that homosexuals are on average more likely to take risks with contraception? If so, what would that say intrinsically about homosexuals?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at 1:47pm BST

Christopher
"Life expectancy depends on lifestyle - yes. So how come being homosexual goes together with a worse lifestyle (ie less congenial to life and health)? Are you claiming that this has no connection with anything intrinsic about homosexuality itself?"

You see - your question already betrays how you will interpret any facts given to you. I am not "claiming" anything, as though whatever I say is automatically likely to be wrong. I'm stating that you are making links where there aren't any.

Now, a scientific approach would be to say, here we have our data. Now let's take an objective look at interpreting them. Or better - let's ask the experts, sociologists and others who have studied making this kind of correlation, to propose sensible theories that are not merely based on our prejudice or faulty logic.

You see, we also know that married women live on average less long than unmarried ones. It's hard to believe that marriage should be at fault, or that it's to do with an intrinsic sinfulness of married women. It's more likely that the reasons have to do with the social realities people find themselves in.

Of course... if we assume, just for a second, that homosexuality is not intrinsically dangerous to life and limb, could we not also assume that allowing gay people to marry would give them the added benefits to health and longevity that marriage gives heterosexual men?

As for contraception... I hate to disappoint you, but gay people don't generally need it.
What they do need is protection against STDs.

And finally... even if homosexuals WERE all those things you are claiming. So what?
Why should that stop the church or anyone else to encourage stable, faithful and loving relationships like mine? Or can you scientifically show me why my raising my 2 children with my partner makes me intrinsically more likely to cause damage to my life and health, to that of my children, and to society around me?
No personal views please, just science.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at 4:26pm BST

"Only relatively responsible people, by and large, get married."

You can't possibly believe this.

"You are quite incorrect if you imply that Gagnon and Nicolosi are solely or even mainly primary sources."

But who do they reference? And again, what is behind the rejection of them by the larger scientific community?

"It is utterly irrelevant who the secondary author is who gathers it together."

Just because people reference scientific studies doesn't mean they don't have an agenda, Christopher. Selective referencing of studies, especially if some of those studies are not scientifically sound, is not irrelevant.

"Are you claiming that this has no connection with anything intrinsic about homosexuality itself?"

Yes. This is one area where your need to see something sick or damaged in homosexuals is colouring your understanding of the facts. You make the claim that homosexuals lead a "worse lifestyle", then look for "science", no matter how unreliable it is, to support the premise. There are as many homosexual lifestyles as there are homosexuals, and in most instances such lifestyles don't vary much from heterosexual ones. Given things you have said about abortion, family disintegration, etc., you know straight people are as "bad" as gay people.

"We all know that married men live on average considerably longer and healthier lives than unmarried."

And yet you would deny the right to marriage to 10% of the male population, then claim there is something in their lifestyle that makes them die younger.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at 5:22pm BST

It is only a smallish minority of self-styled homosexuals who want to 'marry' in the first place. Most want to keep their 'freedom'. There is in the case of homosexuals no compelling reason why two (as opposed to three, four, one, or any other number) should shack up together. Unlike in the case of heterosexuals where it takes two - one of each gender - to produce babies. These babies having a lot to do with the reasons for the formation of the institution of marriage in the first place - hence homosexuals would have less claim on any such institution. Of course, all these points are obvious, but then again maybe the whole question is more obvious than we sometimes think.

Erika's point about contraception I am not sure about, since I never mentioned contraception.

On her final point: if the only two options are allowing something across the board and forbidding it across the board (ie if all interim options are deemed impossible and unegalitarian) then it becomes a matter of seeing which of these two options produces more good and/or less harm. There are plenty of cases in life (not that this is necessarily one of them) where the gain of a few has to be sacrificed because the overall result is going to be a deficit. For example, a deficit in how people see the sanctity of sexual relationships. On channels 4 and 5 there are open claims that it is through homosexual activism that promiscuity even among heterosexuals is now (why?) less frowned on, and this is openly considered to be a good thing.

Doctors, psychologists, sociologists - all are trained to adjudicate what is normal & natural. The only trouble is that plenty of crimes and bad things are perfectly normal and natural for human beings - they happen all the time and always have. Hence the question 'is it normal/natural?' is relatively irrelevant. In the case of smoking doctors rightly saw that it was normal but (more important) it was also harmful. And it was also one of the group of harmful things that people start experimenting with (in some societies) in their irresponsible teens. A society where such things are frowned upon sees people give them up. It's far, far harder to give them up where they are smiled on.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 2:13pm BST

Hi Erika-
I am sure unmarried women may live longer than married, but I would be very surprised if there were more than 2 or 3 years in it. And both of the two groups have very good life expectancies anyway. With unmarried men, both the drop from the average married expectancy and the absolute average age are worrying.

It stands to reason that the more stable one's life and lifestyle the better one's life chances and longevity chances will be. So: stable-relationship homosexuals will be better off than non-stable. But allowing the former means also allowing the latter. If there are more of the latter than of the former, then the best available option is to allow neither, since otherwise there will inevitably be a drop in average wellbeing. There being nothing essential within homosexuality itself (or within the modern climate) to encourage stable relationships, or even relationships of two people rather than any other number, or even relationships of a different type than the friendships of which most of us have multiple examples already, which need no formalising, then this drop in average wellbeing (tied to a rise in acceptability of promiscuity with all that that entails) may not be likely to be reversed. I don't think there is a sufficient appreciation of what an awful thing the dilution of the sacred marriage bond is.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 2:23pm BST

"Most want to keep their 'freedom'."

And you know this how? I know many who do not wish to get married because they have spent their lives in a world where marriage was never something they thought they could have, and having lived their lives without it, in committed relationships, they see no need to pursue it now. I am one of those and would appreciate you not assuming I am tart who wants to be allowed to boff anything that moves.

"These babies having a lot to do with the reasons for the formation of the institution of marriage...There being nothing essential within homosexuality...to encourage stable relationships"

Are you saying that the stability of your happy marriage is contingent on your having children? Are you seriously saying that love, respect, commitment, none of these contribute to the stability of a marriage? That since gay people don't produce their own children their relationships can't be stable? If the only thing stabilizing your marriage is your children, I pity both them and your poor wife.

"There are plenty of cases in life...the overall result is going to be a deficit."

So, we allow the current situation to continue, where gay people around the world are daily cast out of homes, jobs, churches, families, are beaten, jailed, and killed, but the "sanctity" of the "marriage bond" is preserved. Or, we can marry gay people, allow them positions of authority, permit them to live in safety without shame and the likelihood is that all the things I mentioned will decrease in frequency and intensity. People's lives and safety versus an institution St. Paul considered a poor second to celebacy. Hmm. Not much of a choice if we're seeking to have the most benefit for the most people, I'd say. As to promiscuity across the board being linked to acceptance of gay people, that says more about your motivations, far more, than anything else.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 17 June 2008 at 7:37pm BST

"If there are more of the latter than of the former, then the best available option is to allow neither, since otherwise there will inevitably be a drop in average wellbeing."

Major logical flaw here, Christopher. It is an underlying assumption. Can you identify it? I ask because we have argued previously about your issues with the scientific method. Well, part of it lies in being able to pick up flawed underlying assumptions like you display here. I await your clear scientific critique of this statement.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 17 June 2008 at 8:25pm BST

Modern acceptance of homosexual practice coincided with a general rise in promiscuity: both are accepted as major facets of the 'sexual revolution'. The 2 go together, not by direct 'A causes B' causation, but within an inextricable causative network. Obviously promiscuity is a bad thing; and equally obviously it's related to the other (homosexual) trend.

Yes, there could be a logical flaw in my statement supposing (hypothetically) that the gains of the faithful minority were far stronger than the losses of the more promiscuous majority. Not sure how one would measure that.

You speak of the sanctity of marriage in inverted commas. Talk about cynicism - I and others are well out of it. There is genuine sanctity in sex &in marriage - of the type that catholics call sacramental. The miracle consists in two becoming one. The way babies come into it is that they're the living embodiment, proof &reminder of those two (one male; one female) becoming one. It is clearly not written into the nature of two men or of two women, or of three or four of whatever gender, to be capable of oneness on that scientifically and observationally demonstrable level. But these are among the most basic human biological realities.

Re keeping freedom: the large-scale stats for the last 40 years (& also common sense) show quite overwhelmingly that males (also females) will pursue a more free-and-easy sexual lifestyle if there are fewer social constraints.

Biology cannot tell 2same-gendered people that they're one -so it's less open to them to be convinced that they actually are. Just as with people who've had previous sexual relationships -it's less possible for them to be [convinced that they are] truly one in any unique sense with their 'partner'. Hence breakups are more common because the bond is essentially and inevitably weaker than among the monogamous.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 6:48pm BST

"Obviously promiscuity is a bad thing; and equally obviously it's related to the other (homosexual) trend."

Not at all obvious, another logical flaw on your part. Both are related to a general relaxing of restrictions on sexual behaviour, or at least a greater freedom to be honest about it. Both are associated with changes in older, Victorian, attitudes about sex. As to your comments on children and complimentarity, you need to address Tobias Haller's pieces on this issue, he puts it very well.

"the large-scale stats for the last 40 years ...a more free-and-easy sexual lifestyle if there are fewer social constraints."

Why are gay people asking for marriage if they want to be "sexually free"? Are they to be prevented from making a concrete declaration of their monogamy because some others don't value it? Marrying them would put a greater social constraint on them, and, by your argument, would decrease promiscuity among those so married.

"There is genuine sanctity in sex &in marriage"

St. Paul certainly didn't give it much shrift.

"or of three or four of whatever gender"

Who is even talking about this? And you still do not address my first comment about people never thinking marriage was an option. You assume that that a "homosexual lifestyle", a convenient fiction for conservatives to condemn but not reflective of reality, is "worse", then make judgements based on that, seeking whatever "statistics" you can find, no matter how unreliable, to bolster your preconceived notions. This is not science, whatever the impresion you want to give. It is the major logical flaw I cited in an earlier post. You also seem to think that by "not allowing" something, it will cease. Even if we ignore that this is extremely naive, do you seriously think we have the right to "allow" or refuse to "allow" the rest of society to do anything?

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 7:43pm BST

"Obviously promiscuity is a bad thing; and equally obviously it's related to the other (homosexual) trend."

Not at all obvious, another logical flaw on your part. Both are related to a general relaxing of restrictions on sexual behaviour, or at least a greater freedom to be honest about it. Both are associated with changes in older, Victorian, attitudes about sex. As to your comments on children and complimentarity, you need to address Tobias Haller's pieces on this issue, he puts it very well.

"the large-scale stats for the last 40 years ...a more free-and-easy sexual lifestyle if there are fewer social constraints."

Why are gay people asking for marriage if they want to be "sexually free"? Are they to be prevented from making a concrete declaration of their monogamy because some others don't value it? Marrying them would put a greater social constraint on them, and, by your argument, would decrease promiscuity among those so married.

"There is genuine sanctity in sex &in marriage"

St. Paul certainly didn't give it much shrift.

"or of three or four of whatever gender"

Who is even talking about this? And you still do not address my first comment about people never thinking marriage was an option. You assume that that a "homosexual lifestyle", a convenient fiction for conservatives to condemn but not reflective of reality, is "worse", then make judgements based on that, seeking whatever "statistics" you can find, no matter how unreliable, to bolster your preconceived notions. This is not science, whatever the impresion you want to give. It is the major logical flaw I cited in an earlier post. You also seem to think that by "not allowing" something, it will cease. Even if we ignore that this is extremely naive, do you seriously think we have the right to "allow" or refuse to "allow" the rest of society to do anything?

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 8:05pm BST

Christopher

Now please show me that you are capable of true scientific thinking, not just wishful conjecture.
“but within an inextricable causative network” – how? What is inextricable about it?

“and equally obviously it's related to the other (homosexual) trend.” – again, that’s a total non-sequitur which, most of all, doesn’t address my personal concern of wanting my faithful and stable relationship to be recognised.

“The miracle consists in two becoming one.” You really should read Tobias Haller on this. Check out his blog.

There’s much more to two becoming one than simply putting one piece of anatomy into another, even if they end up making a baby purely because one sperm successfully hits an ovum.
Now I’ve had previous relationships. And I can truthfully say that I have never felt as much “one”, body, soul, mind, spirit, faith – oh, faith!! – than in my current, same sex relationship. You do not have to understand this. But it is true, nevertheless. As to the bond being “essentially and inevitably weaker than among the monogamous”.... I started out monogamous once. We all do. There’s nothing intrinsically perfect about any relationship. They stand or fail on their own.

But they're more likely to fail if all of society insists that they are inferior, if it criticeses rather than supports them, and if it has the nerve to call them un-Christian and immoral without knowing ANYTHING about them, to the point that it has to make up facts to fit the prejudice.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 9:14pm BST