Comments: opinions for All Saints

"'perverted sexual practices' of 'sodomites' spread disease and […] caused 'the downfall of every empire'." – Pauline Howe, quoted by Symon Hill
Thank you, Mr. Hill, for your column. You make some great points.
You note that some GLBT activists decried the police investigation, supported Ms. Howe's freedom of speech, and condemned her prejudice. You wonder why conservative Christian groups likewise didn't condemn the prejudice. The sad fact, if you already don't know, is that some conservative Christian groups not only do not condemn such thinking, they employ it themselves. I can't count the number of Christian speakers I've heard, including pastors, who routinely equate the destruction of Sodom and the downfall of every world empire with the alleged unique sinfulness of every GLBT person. Even in modern times, two prominent American conservative Christian leaders blamed the 9/11 attacks in the USA on gay people, pro-choice (abortion-rights) supporters, feminists, and liberals. No mention of the Saudi hijackers. Fred Phelps and his hateful picketing of funerals of soldiers killed in action and people who died of AIDS is only the most extreme personification. A lot more preachers safely preach a very similar message from the comfort of their pulpits or the anonymity of radio station studios.
Words have consequences. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can be used to kill me.

Posted by peterpi at Saturday, 31 October 2009 at 2:55pm GMT

It is worth reiterating that outbursts like that of Pauline Howe and their defence by the so called 'Christian' Institute do give a respectability to the more violent manifestations of homophobia, even if these people actually wash their hands of the violence which ensues. Has there been any statement from Christian leaders about the two serious attacks in the past couple of weeks which left one man dead and another fighting for his life? Were there any Christian leaders at the demonstration in Trafalgar Square against increasing homophobic violence? No? What a surprise.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Saturday, 31 October 2009 at 4:47pm GMT

Does Giles Fraser have a child w/ Downs Syndrome? [I'm going to go out on a limb, and assume he was never pregnant with one]

His preachy judgmentalism on this subject is unpersuasive (and frankly, I expected better of him).

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 31 October 2009 at 8:01pm GMT

I do have a son with Down's Syndrome. Not only do I love him as my son, but I like him as a person. He is one of my best friends. Any suggestion that the world, that he, or I would have been better off if he hadn't been born I find completely impossible to understand. I also find it rather sad.
I did not find Giles Fraser preachy, but feel that, with a Down's Syndrome child of his own or not, he comes across as having a great understanding. Thank you Giles.

Posted by lapsang at Saturday, 31 October 2009 at 10:45pm GMT

"The whole people of God, including the clergy, are part of a living Church present in communities throughout the world, striving to bring about God's commonwealth of peace, justice and love. - Savi Hensman - Ekklesia article -

Once again, Savi Hensman, in her community work, is able to enunciate what really is at stake in the Church of today - in the way it treats every single human being, all bearing the Imago Dei - especially those on the margins of our society.

In support of her thesis, she quotes the recent statement of Bishop Peter Selby who, after telling the story of how a gay couple was given a special place at the Eucharist in their local parish church, had this to say:

"I tell the story because, even as hierarchs struggle to maintain rigidities in place, even as persons are hurt and their ministries denied, something else is going on, namely, the emergence of God's people, a choreography of promise - a recognition which the official Church will surely have to take seriously" - Bishop Peter Selby -

The same must surely be true - of the need to do more than just 'accommodate' the ministry of godly women amongst us, who have been called by God and the Church to be priests and bishops.

What the Church says and does about both gays and women will surely need to take note of the ground-swell of acceptance by the faithful laity. This has been taken to heart by the Church of Sweden,
which has just made a determination in it General Synod to offer Blessings of Same Sex Partnerships
in the Church. despite the fact that half of its bishops were afraid that this may injure the unity of the Church. (Unity before Justice?)

INTERESTINGLY, THE CHURCH OF SWEDEN DOES NOT ALLOW THE BISHOPS A VOTE! It was the Clergy and Faithful Laity who made that 'Justice & Peace' decision. Deo Gratias!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 31 October 2009 at 11:45pm GMT

"Any suggestion that the world, that he, or I would have been better off if he hadn't been born I find completely impossible to understand."

I certainly hope you didn't take my critique of Rev Fraser's piece as such a suggestion, lapsang. I would find such a misunderstanding extremely sad.

Here's what I find "completely impossible to understand": that so many who are anti-reproductive choice, seem to *project* their own experiences---project their own children, even!---onto someone else (onto some other woman's pregnancy, for example). It's as if to terminate ANY pregnancy---regardless of its particular tragic situation---is to terminate EVERY pregnancy (even if that pregnancy was in the past; even if that pregnancy was abundantly desired).

I don't get it. :-/

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 31 October 2009 at 11:56pm GMT

I didn't think that Canon Fraser was being preachily judgmental, either. I thought his points were well-made. What I did not find convincing was an out-of-hand dismissal of his column.

Posted by BillyD at Sunday, 1 November 2009 at 12:17am GMT

JCF - I suppose the point is less to do with 'reproductive choice' than to do with human dignity and being equal before God. Giles was, after all, talking about a choice between different aspects of being human, rather than with a choice on whether to reproduce or not. At present, because of the available tests, one has a choice about having a child with Down's Syndrome (and, by the by, I think this is a rather horrid choice which parents are presented with). What about choosing by sex? This does, of course, happen. The basis behind this usually being that is is better to be male than female. What if tests were available for, say, being straight/gay, ginger haired, a conservative evangelical? What would it say (and does already say when the choices are being made about gender and disability) about our view of our equality before God if we make these choices? Are we saying that women and the disabled are somehow less, and if we could make the choice that being gay or straight or ginger (one of my other children is ginger by the way) or conservative evangelical could also be seen as being less before God?
Mind you, that last one.... Sorry, just joking.

Posted by lapsang at Sunday, 1 November 2009 at 12:47am GMT

"... I can't count the number of Christian speakers I've heard, including pastors, who routinely equate the destruction of Sodom and the downfall of every world empire with the alleged unique sinfulness of every GLBT person."

To equate something outwardly (Society/Empire, in this case) with something inwardly (the properties of a Person) is Gnosticism.

But I fear no one has told them ;=)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Sunday, 1 November 2009 at 8:02am GMT

Sherwin Bailey demolished the myth of the sin of Sodom being Homosexuality some fifty years ago. Yet it is still being trotted out by those who use the Bible to condem others.

The following was posted to my Facebook page by an American friend. Now we are worse than suicide bombers. I despair.

http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2009/10/phoboquotable-anthony-apuron.html

Posted by Richard Ashby at Sunday, 1 November 2009 at 9:59am GMT

Hmmm... It doesn't seem to me, JCF, that Giles Fraser was doing what you find completely impossible to understand. He argues that Choice has, of necessity, moral elements -- doubt anyone would disagree with that. The rest of his argument is utilitarian -- larger numbers of women are delaying pregnancy, there are thus larger numbers of Down's Syndrome kids, and therefore more abortions. His implied solution is for women to get pregnant earlier, thus reducing the numbers of abortions. Can't get a deontological argument (an argument, for instance, that on moral principles, not any pregnancy should be terminated) from his utilitarian numbers argument. Yes, it's strongly stated and polemical. I didn't find it off-putting myself, probably because (as the song goes) "I second that emotion."

Personally, I believe the solution lies in fully supporting women in the workplace so that early pregnancy does not damage their creative lives. And the key is men assuming their full roles, individually and institutionally, as parents and nurturers. This is clearly happening where I work and live, but until the full arrival of a better world, I expect we'll continue to have to muddle through.

Posted by Peter of Westminster at Sunday, 1 November 2009 at 9:59am GMT

Well, the evo position really does fit together very nicely, doesn't it? Defend Pauline's Howe's statements, refuse to condemn the vicious new Ugandan laws, and, of course, fight for the expulsion of TEC from the Anglican Communion and the recognition of ACNA in its place. Just yesterday another ACNA bishop was consecrated, and we read (artlcle quoted on TitusOneNine:

"St. James became one of three conservative Southern California parishes that placed themselves under the jurisdiction of an Anglican Ugandan bishop after the Episcopal Church consecrated a gay bishop in 2003. Other Episcopal bishops began sanctioning gay marriages about the same time. [Not true, but who cares? -- ed.]"

I get the message, at any rate. Uganda is, in the evo view, not only the church but the society of the future. Your C of E evos are working for the day when the Ugandan laws will be adopted in Great Britain, too. But strangely, most would think them bigoted if they said so aloud! So they have adopted an indirect strategy.

Over on Fulcrum they keep saying they are not yet ready to make a statement on the Ugandan laws; they need time to do more research. And anyway the laws won't take effect until some time in the future, so they don't have to worry about them yet. As someone else pointed out, they were ready within a day of GC 2009 to condemn the US Episcopal Church, simply because the US church's resolution left it open that at some future point another openly gay person might be chosen as an Episcopal bishop.

However the evos try to disguise it, isn't their real position sufficiently clear?

Posted by Charlotte at Sunday, 1 November 2009 at 1:50pm GMT

The mad archbishop in Guam has issued a quasi-apology. You can express your consternation by writing to the archdiocesan website:

http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/diocese/dagan.html

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Sunday, 1 November 2009 at 2:20pm GMT

As the consecration of +Gene Robinson became cause for breaking apart the Anglican Communion and for considering the expulsion or demotion of one of its founding churches, perhaps we should make response to the Ugandan legislation a similar litmus test. Do we really want to remain associated with anyone who gives even implicit consent to this draconian (and potentially murderous) legislation? What would that say about us if we did not disassociate ourselves from such consent?

I'm tempted to agree with Charlotte that the folks who remain publicly silent on this matter would love to see similar legislation in their own countries.

So which is the worse moral scandal; consecrating a bishop in a relationship with a man, or the criminalization, imprisonment, and possible extermination of an entire class of people? For me the answer to that question is easy and obvious. I doubt that I could trust anyone who had to think about it.

Posted by Counterlight at Sunday, 1 November 2009 at 6:22pm GMT

JCF,
I'm on two minds about abortion. On the one hand, I can see numerous situations where bringing a life into the world would mean devastation for both the child and the mother. In those instances, I can see it, though a human being still dies, however you look at it. That causes me a great deal of turmoil. But an Incarnational faith calls me to see all human life as valuable simply because it is human life. So, I was pretty shocked by your argument. It's one thing to feel an abortion to be the lesser of two evils because without it two human lives would be damaged instead of one. It is quite another to support abortion on the grounds that some humans are so unlike the rest of us/deformed/unproductive or whatever as to be disposable. Why does Down's Syndrome come to your mind as a disposable class of human being? How many other such classes would you identify?

Posted by Ford Elms at Sunday, 1 November 2009 at 11:01pm GMT

"It is quite another to support abortion on the grounds that some humans are so unlike the rest of us/deformed/unproductive or whatever as to be disposable. Why does Down's Syndrome come to your mind as a disposable class of human being? How many other such classes would you identify?" - Posted by Ford Elms

WTF?!?!

How can you possibly TWIST my words into your warped accusation above?

{Sigh}

I guess I should know better, than to try to make a rational (and compassionate) comment/have a compassionate (and rational) conversation, on *this subject*---even at Thinking Anglicans.

Lord have mercy!

God bless all those w/ Downs Syndrome, and their families.
God bless all women who find their pregnancy---for WHATEVER reason---unbearable.
Holy Spirit, Teacher of All Truth, send us ALL More Light! Amen.

Posted by JCF at Monday, 2 November 2009 at 8:18pm GMT

JCF, I think you are misunderstanding what I and Ford Elms are getting at. You say you can't have a rational conversation about *this subject*, by which I assume you mean abortion. However, I (and I think Ford Elms) were not talking about abortion and reproductive choice per se, but about how all humans are of equal value before God. Also, I am not trying to comment in any way on the difficult decisions that many pregnant women do have to take. However, there is a great deal of pressure (I am talking from experience here) to have the tests for Down's Syndrome and then to abort the child if these tests are positive. What does this say about society's attitude to disablity in general and Down's Syndrome in particular? I belong to Inclusive Church, Affirmimg Catholicism and Changing Attitude because I am convinced that we are all equal before God and this MUST include the disabled.
God bless
Lapsang

Posted by lapsang at Monday, 2 November 2009 at 10:49pm GMT

"How can you possibly TWIST my words into your warped accusation above?"

You were the one who suggested that Giles' opinion that the abortion of children with Down's Syndrome presents a significant moral issue might be based on his never having had such a child, and that he is "preachy" in pointing out the moral quandry. I don't think it's too much of a leap to assume you think that aborting a Down's Syndrome child is appropriate in and of itsself. I don't see that as particularly compassionate to people with Down's Syndrome. Supposing someone suggested your life might be so much of a burden to someone else, or the State, it was OK to kill you? If that isn't what you mean, fine, I apologize. But I still don't see it, and your profuse blessings don't do much to remove that uncertainty. I find it interesting that you bless women who find their pregnancy "unbearable FOR ANY REASON (could you please stop yelling). Any reason? I do not say the rosary at people in front of abortion clinics. I don't vote for politicians who make abortion an election issue, since for me that's an indicator of some other nasty conservative attitudes I wouldn't wish to support, I vote more left wing than that, and I don't support attempts to reverse the law. But make no mistake about it, I believe that a human being dies in an abortion, so every abortion is a tragedy, though sometimes a necessary one. I'm in favour of a woman's right to reproductive freedom, and I realize birth control sometimes fails. I have even, in my clinical days, arranged for women to go to the Morganthaler clinic when we had no local one. So don't go getting all righteous with me. I wonder what criteria you have for taking another human life is all. So far, Down's Syndrome is one, it seems. I'm not even suggesting you can't justify that attitude. I do wonder how you can justify giving people, based solely on their gender, the right to take another human life "for any reason". Some reasons, maybe, but any reason?

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 3 November 2009 at 12:10am GMT

"What does this say about society's attitude to disablity in general and Down's Syndrome in particular? I belong to Inclusive Church, Affirmimg Catholicism and Changing Attitude because I am convinced that we are all equal before God and this MUST include the disabled."

Amen! JCF referred to "compassion". There are situations where killing someone is compassionate. I have argued in the past in favour of euthanasia in some circumstances. It is I think different to mercifully end a life when the medical facts show that death is inevitable anyway and the person whose life we are ending agrees that sooner rather than later is merciful. That is simply shortening the period of suffering that preceeds death, and it MUST be done with the consent of the person whose life is ending, and even then, there has to be proof that the person is not deciding to end his/her life as a result of the dispair that comes from depression or the fear of suffering when that suffering can be alleviated without death. How ending someone's life before they have even experienced it, much less giving them a say in the matter, is "compassionate" is beyond me. For clarification, I see some situations where it may well be the lesser of two evils to abort a Down's Syndrome child. I am not an opponent of abortion per se. But to cite Down's Syndrome as a reason for abortion with no clarification of the restrictions which must, for the sake of simple humanity, apply to such a decision belies, I think, a thought process concerning this issue that I find deeply troubling. That is compounded when I read that it is considered acceptable for a woman to end a pregnancy "for any reason". As I said, to imply that one's gender somehow gives one the right to decide which human lives are valuable and which aren't is extremely troubling. Now, if I am reading too much into JCF's post, I apologize again, but I do not see how a reading of the original post suggests otherwise.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 3 November 2009 at 4:39am GMT

"So which is the worse moral scandal; consecrating a bishop in a relationship with a man, or the criminalization, imprisonment, and possible extermination of an entire class of people? For me the answer to that question is easy and obvious. I doubt that I could trust anyone who had to think about it."
- Counterlight -

This argument, to me, sounds pretty convincing, but will it, as Charlotte has suggested, be enough to challenge the ACC (or the Primates of the Anglican Communion) to take action against Uganda - and all other Churches which agree with the criminalisation of LGBTs - to the point of exclusion from any form of Anglican Covenant?

It seems to me that the culture of abetting the criminalisation of homosexuals - with approval of imprisonment and possible execution - is not an adiaphorous equivalent of gay ordination. This is patently a basic human justice issue. Therefore, Propvinces of the Church which obey the explicit injunction of Lambeth 1:10 (respect for the LGBT Community) could legitimately distance themselves from the actions of Uganda, Nigeria, and other Anglican Provinces which encourage the prosecution of LGBT persons. BUT WILL THEY?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 3 November 2009 at 8:00am GMT

"I don't think it's too much of a leap to assume you think that aborting a Down's Syndrome child is appropriate in and of itsself."

I read JCF's post as an affirmation of abortion on demand for any reason, not as specifically singling out Down's Syndrome.

JCF, if they identified the gay gene tomorrow, and women started aborting fetuses based on whether or not they carried the gene, would that be okay with you? The increased use of prenatal screening to weed out "undesirables," whether using ultrasound to cull female fetuses in India or amniocentesis to identify and destroy Downs Syndrome fetuses elsewhere, strikes me as a serious moral problem. I'm for keeping abortion legal, but the idea that all abortions are carried out because the mother finds the pregnancy "unbearable," in your words, seems like wishful thinking.

Posted by BillyD at Tuesday, 3 November 2009 at 12:56pm GMT

However the evos try to disguise it, isn't their real position sufficiently clear?

Posted by: Charlotte on Sunday, 1 November 2009 at 1:50pm GMT

Well, they don't actually have faith in G-d. Like so much of official and other church structures -- you have have to walk the streets and markets and £ shops of say, east London, to see faith day by day -- and see the heroic way people live creatively in sometimes adverse personal circumstances

to see faith

not just beliefs ...

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Tuesday, 3 November 2009 at 11:46pm GMT

"they don't actually have faith in G-d"

Well, it certainly looks like their faith in law and obedience are a good deal stronger than any faith they have in God, I'll give you that. The public image they give of God is of a treacherous, vindictive, and untrustworthy entity who is just ready to torture people for infractions of the law that He Himself has told us we are outside of. The way they portray God to the world, He's pretty abusive. I wonder how many of them have that kind of experience with an earthly parent, so that's all they know. If you remember the old songs we used to sing, there was one called "Free From the Law, Oh happy Condition". It has always amused me that the people who sang that with the most gusto were the very ones who insisted we all return to slavery to the Law. It used to wonder if they thought it just meant they ought to be glad not to be Jewish or something:-)

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 4 November 2009 at 2:24pm GMT
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