Comments: opinions at Advent 4

In Diarmaid MacCulloch's magisterial book on The Reformation he says (page 705) when talking about the outcome of the Reformation in relationship to homosexuality 'Despite much well-intentioned theological fancy footwork to the contrary, it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity, let alone having any conception of homosexual identity. The only alternatives are either to try to cleave to patterns of life and assumptions set out in the Bible, or to say that in this, as in much else, the Bible is simply wrong.

In my view, liberating ourselves from Bibliolatry frees us into new life, gay or straight.

(Simon, you haven't yet included the excellent article by Steve Bates in today's Guardian which includes your own wise words. I hope this isn't false modesty?)

Posted by Richard Ashby at Saturday, 19 December 2009 at 2:41pm GMT

Richard
That's because it doesn't, as far as I can tell, appear on the Guardian website. If anyone can find it there, do let me know.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 19 December 2009 at 5:37pm GMT

"The only alternatives are either to try to cleave to patterns of life and assumptions set out in the Bible, or to say that in this, as in much else, the Bible is simply wrong."

As it is if you try to travel according to a flat earth with the sun and stars and planets revolving around it. As it is if you decide that slavery is God-sanctioned. As it is if you try to reconcile the biblical age of the earth with geology, half lives of radioactive isotopes.

What's the problem?

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Saturday, 19 December 2009 at 5:52pm GMT

"Yes, the Bible condemns homosexual behaviour, as a threat to moral order. But the New Testament condemns something else as well: holy moralism. It announces an anti-legalistic revolution. It tells us we have to keep our moral thinking mobile, open-ended. The Bible sows the seed of the deconstruction of its own sexual moralism."
- Theo Hobson -

This is the kernel of Theo Hobson's 'Telegraph' contribution. Moral thinking has, indeed, to be considered provisional. As the Creator allows us to discover new 'Truth' about our common human nature, we must learn to live into the reality - as best we can understand it.

The only problem with Theo's article is that he assumes (a quite common assumption among those who are determinedly heterosexual) that there is no truth in the assertion that homosexuality is a pre-determined condition, which many of us have recognised from early childhood. There is no way that an intrinisically-ordered 'gay' can be any other sort of sexual partner - than with his or her own gender. This, I would presume, is understood only by those of us who have had to live with the reality of this. Other people's understandings can only be, at the very best, partial - not based on their own experience.

"I am who I am, I can be no other!" Deo Gratias!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 19 December 2009 at 6:30pm GMT

Quite.
It's not a problem for me but it clearly is for those people who believe that the Bible is inerrant. My problem is saying 'This is the word of the Lord' after each un-edifying Old Testament reading of murder and mayhem, adultery, vengeance and God's wrath. I much prefer the New Zealand(?) practice of responding 'Hear the word of the Lord'. I can afirm that.

Simon, I can't find it either while other major articles from today are there. Copyright reasons perhaps?

Posted by Richard Ashby at Saturday, 19 December 2009 at 8:25pm GMT

"..countries like Uganda propose introducing life imprisonment and the death penalty for gay people. Schism and heresy are nothing in comparison with somebody using the Good Book as such a terrifying weapon against us. That is the greatest blasphemy against God."
- Davis Mac-Iyalla -

How well put by Davis Mac-Iyalla! Bibliolatry is using the 'words about God' against the People of God. This surely is using a tool of faith against the Incarnate reality of The Word of God, which is even more blasphemous. Who ever exalts words about God above *The Word*, who "became flesh and dwelt among us", is perpetuating the sad myth of the inerrancy of the Scriptures.

Attempts to reconcile all aspects of Law and Grace in the Scriptures has Saint Paul to contend with. "Hear what the Spirit is saying to The Church". "Even so, come Lord Jesus, come!"

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 19 December 2009 at 8:36pm GMT

Ron
"There is no way that an intrinisically-ordered 'gay' can be any other sort of sexual partner - than with his or her own gender."

We've been talking about this all evening, and I do accept there is an issue. Even Gene Robinson was married and fathered children - being gay rarely means being physically unable to sustain a heterosexual relationship. For women, it never means that. And that's leaving aside my contention that many many people are bisexual but are pressed into identifying as either straight or gay because that's where society's discussion is at the moment.

I think it has much more to do with how we have defined marriage over the last, shall we say century?
When it used to be largely a political or economic arrangement, it didn't much matter how you felt about your spouse.
But now we believe in love in marriage, in being soulmates, best friends, in providing sexual fulfilment for each other.
And that's when it becomes apparent that some of us just cannot do that in a heterosexual relationship.

And in that context it is that we cry out "no! not me! I cannot identify with an opposite gender spouse as my soulmate! As my most fulfilling sexual partner. As my best friend!"
And it is in that context that what we now call sexual identity is born.

It doesn't mean that "homosexuals" did not exist before, that's where Theo Hobson is wrong, but it does mean that what defines marriage relationships today did not always exist. And as "outside marriage" expressions of sexuality and friendship become increasingly frowned upon, all of us are having to define our identities in an increasingly narrow pattern - and suddenly, differences that have always been there but have now always been recognised are becoming apparent.


Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 20 December 2009 at 12:34am GMT

Fr. Ron writes: "The only problem with Theo's article is that he assumes (a quite common assumption among those who are determinedly heterosexual) that there is no truth in the assertion that homosexuality is a pre-determined condition, which many of us have recognised from early childhood. There is no way that an intrinisically-ordered 'gay' can be any other sort of sexual partner - than with his or her own gender. This, I would presume, is understood only by those of us who have had to live with the reality of this. Other people's understandings can only be, at the very best, partial - not based on their own experience."

Actually, I think those of us who are heterosexual (from birth) should be able to understand with perfect clarity, based on our own experience, that sexual orientation is inborn and that in our erotic inclinations, as in every other area of life, we each can be only what we are, and no other. I know perfectly well that I cannot change or control my own sexual orientation, so I understand that you can’t either.

Experience can connect people as well as separate us. When I see a gay or lesbian couple gazing lovingly at each other, I see the same love I have known as a woman with a man, not some alien phenomenon. The wiring may be different, but experience has shown me that the love is the same. Having a family member or close friend of a different sexual orientation is often what makes this awareness possible. For me all it took was a momentary glance out the car window at my beloved uncle gazing into the eyes of another man as they said their goodbyes after a visit. Their tenderness went straight through my heart like a holy flame and burned away forever any sense of otherness I might have felt toward same-sex love. I was flooded with gratitude that he had that tenderness in his life and ever since then have felt outraged that anyone would want to deny it to a fellow human being-- especially on moral or religious grounds!

Posted by Mary Clara at Sunday, 20 December 2009 at 3:22am GMT

I'm returning to the thread about responding to Scripture readings - When we used to say "Here endeth the Epistle" or "Here endeth the Second Lesson" I could be quite thankful that the reader had stopped without commiting myself to approve what I'd heard.
Columba Gilliss

Posted by Columba Gillliss at Sunday, 20 December 2009 at 1:28pm GMT

Stephen Bates' piece is up now: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/20/southwark-cathedral-christmas

Posted by Andrew Brown at Sunday, 20 December 2009 at 3:06pm GMT

Bravo Columba Giles!!! Yes, and it's amazing that the 1662 BCP has more gender-neutral pronouns than any version later than... just goes to show...

You can be a traditionalist and very liberation theologically-minded.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Sunday, 20 December 2009 at 6:40pm GMT

" When we used to say "Here endeth the Epistle" or "Here endeth the Second Lesson" I could be quite thankful that the reader had stopped without commiting myself to approve what I'd heard. - Columba Gilliss -

Columba, may I say that, when we have concluded our Readings in the course of any service from the N.Z. Prayer Book, we are invited to say the following words: "Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church". I believe that we can honestly answer this in the prescribed form by saying: *Thanks be to God* - If only to acknowledge that God allows us to interpet 'What WE have heard'

Mary Clare; bless you for your entirely good and acceptable explanation of what it might be for a heterosexual person to actually understand the love responses of a homosexual person. I think you have provided an inspired and generous response to my dilemma. Happy Christmass!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 20 December 2009 at 11:30pm GMT

" being gay rarely means being physically unable to sustain a heterosexual relationship. For women, it never means that." - Erika, on Sunday -

Erika. May I re-phrase my statement you quoted, by saying that; although an intrinsically homo-sexual person may be perfectly capable of having a physical relation with someone of the other gender, it may not be psychologically possible, which is slightly different from what I said.

As for a perfectly satisfactory love relationship with someone of the other gender - monogamous, even - this is indeed a possbility, but, as in some existing marriages, this can be without any explicit sexual contact.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 21 December 2009 at 9:14am GMT

Ron
"As for a perfectly satisfactory love relationship with someone of the other gender - monogamous, even - this is indeed a possbility, but, as in some existing marriages, this can be without any explicit sexual contact."

Yes, love without sex is indeed possible. But the kind of deep romantic love that combines all aspects of sharing body, soul and mind, is not possible.
What I'm really trying to get away from is this notion that homosexuality has only to do with sex. Sex and sexual attraction are only one part of it.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 21 December 2009 at 2:44pm GMT

The mysterious origins of homosexual orientations persist, along with the newly elevated empirical mysterious origins of heterosexual orientations. Neither is well understood in any detailed, predictive, empirical sense. Our most dominant research model at the moment involves Nature x Nurture, not either one set of factors alone.

We are still slowly emerging from Embodiment Dark Ages in which sexuality was taken for granted; the main religious tasks being morally sorting particular sex behaviors that could be observed or reported, along with control through valorization or negative sanctions, and along with fine tuning the justifications and uses of force in particular human cases, willy nilly as possible.

Trying to read modern sexual science from the scriptures is as daft as any other attempt to read empirical science from the scriptures. You speed backwards right into the middle of many false conundrums. Can dinosaurs exist if the Bible never mentions them? If dinosaurs did exist, and the age of earth is read literally from our Bible, then humans and dinosaurs must have lived together in some not too distant past era?

In typical old-Anglican fashion, the answer to the question must be, Yes the Bible is antigay while preaching the seeds of transformation across conflicting views. Just a quibble, why do we always hear one of the Old Testament creation stories as the controlling preachment, as if multiple creation stories did not exist clearly in the text? (Gray Temple's book discusses this issue even-handedly, and tons of critical scholarship surface and explore all the stories.)

A sloppy, irresponsible, partisan business, then? Especially when this poor habit of citing scripture is frequently combined with a pat, neat reading to elevate male/female sex as uniform with gender identity and gender role - all of which we know empirically is dramatically just NOT the factual case.

Believers and preachers have lots to answer for, and often too much involves ignorance. Alas, we still struggle mightily with the Copernicus-Galileo-Bruno lesson.

Posted by drdanfee at Monday, 21 December 2009 at 8:18pm GMT

"What I'm really trying to get away from is this notion that homosexuality has only to do with sex. Sex and sexual attraction are only one part of it." - Erika Baker, on Monday -

Erika. Me too! What mostly heterosexual males do not understand is that homosexuals, whether male or female are often looking for more than 'just sex'. What is most often longed for is that one person who can identify exclusively with one's-self as the perfect life-partner - who can share griefs and joys, sorrow and happiness, life and death situations. This has little to do with transient one-night stands, but rather very much like the expectations of a mature heterosexual partnership. Sexual activity can, and at it's best, perhaps should, be part of all that - but not the whole.

We need to get rid of the misunderstanding that being 'gay' - or bi-sexual - is all about sex.
There is so much more to a mature homosexual relationship - things like love and tenderness; trust and devotion, healing and strength - in other words: Eros and Agape. Just like a very good marriage, in fact!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 22 December 2009 at 5:55am GMT

I am celibate. No sexual activity. I'm still a homosexual.

No. It isn't all about sex.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 22 December 2009 at 10:30am GMT

Mark, thank you for your honesty! Perhaps now the Church might really be more open to what once were called (often in a derogatory way - and certainly by the R.C. Church) Special Friendships.

Religious Orders have mostly been the sad venue of such misguided and sometimes counter-spiritual shibboleth. I do remember a very wise Provincial Minister advising one of the new aspirants to his community - when the aspirant admitted that he was an instrinsic homosexual, and wondered aloud whether 'Special Friendshps' were still in vogue -"Our religious community must always cherish such relationships, but the important thing to remember is that the Community is not a brothel!"

This was a sure indication that members of a Religious Orders are expected to remain celibate, though not necessarily with the coldness that such a situation might be expected to nourish.

I believe that Religious Communities are composed of homesexual, bisexual and heterosexual sisters and brothers. To pretend otherwise would cast doubt on God's love for every human being.

This is why, for me, the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew have a particular resonance for the issue of sexuality and abstinence:

"It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born that way from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs made so by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can!" (Matthew 19:11,12)

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 22 December 2009 at 11:21pm GMT

Well, let me maintain honesty, and - in case anyone misunderstood - state I am not a member of a religious order. My celibacy is voluntary and embraced, but not out of shame or enforcement by societal standards, but because I realize my limitations as a human being, and a deeply-wounded one! That's nothing to do with my sexuality, but with me, in the same way that so many heterosexuals need to realize that societal acceptance is not license.

Many people I know, of which heterosexuals are the majority, need to be foregoing partnering and sexual expression until they figure out themselves and their own disorders.

I think that that is why I have such disdain for those arguing that homosexual relationships "cheapen" sexual expression. What cheapens it is the mere animal, selfish drive which, frankly, is far more evidenced in heterosexual relationships *because* the perception of them as normal gives license to couple without any self-understanding.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 23 December 2009 at 5:37am GMT

Thank you, Mark. Very well said. Happy Christmas!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 23 December 2009 at 10:29am GMT

Happy Christmas, Fr. Ron!

And to everyone!

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 23 December 2009 at 11:10am GMT
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