Comments: Rowan Williams and identity politics

I'm always a little suspicious when a white straight man tells me that obsession with race, gender and homosexuality threatens society.

Get those issues sorted, start treating everyone as equal, and then we can turn to all those important issues together.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 1 April 2012 at 4:40pm BST

"I heard some voices raised, I think very importantly, against what people now often call ‘identity politics’: this is who I am, these are my rights, I demand that you recognise me."

Life in Lambeth Palace would have been so much easier if only those confounded women and gays had contented themselves with being priests.

Posted by Jeremy at Sunday, 1 April 2012 at 7:40pm BST

It is Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, who not only threatens the Anglican Communion/beyond (and the Church of England) with a failed ¨covenant decoy¨ fragmentation but also offers nothing, not even a timid ¨I´m sorry¨ in return.

What a mess he has made throughout the Anglican Communion.

Oh, well, off he goes now to a round of going away parties and more opportunities to observe more ¨fragmentation¨ and general cultural wreckage and speak about what ought be or what should have been (maybe)...equality is a very tricky thing.

No sense actually *doing* something for equality like honoring ALL Anglicans as real people and full fledged living/breathing members of the Body of to isolate, ignore, threaten and pretend reality isn´t!

It´s been such an untidy/fragmented ten years...verdad?


Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Sunday, 1 April 2012 at 8:01pm BST

What Erika wrote. I'm suspicious when people rejoice in the pendulum swinging back. That way lies renewed oppression. And with no apologies, straight white men are not oppressed, notwithstanding the TV comedies and the adverts that picture them as oppressed by women. They still hold the upper hand. Let go of a little of the power, please.

Posted by Lois Keen at Sunday, 1 April 2012 at 8:37pm BST

Peter Tatchell was the kindest commentator -- probably because Rowan listened to him the day he burst into an assembly of bishops -- which goes to show the healing and calming effects of dialogue.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Sunday, 1 April 2012 at 8:43pm BST

The gay identity is created and sustained by a legacy of discrimination which, for the most part has only recently passed or is in the process of passing, the Church, or the most part (a few very honourable exeptions aside) has a large part in.

Without current discriminations (may one speak here of Jeffrey John, of the furore after the consecration of Gene Robinson, the refusal to allow Civil Partnerships (or even the consideration of Civil Partnerships) in Church, the furore over even civil marriage, let alone the possibility of religious marriage or may one speak of the role of Anglican Churches around the world supporting or acquiescing in the criminalisation of homosexuality?).

Let us not be too contemporary about this - the criminalisation of homosexuality started early in the history of Christendom.

So, who created the gay identity? Who can now help attenuate it by finally getting rid of these discrimintions?

We'll be a long time waiting on current form. The history, terrible as it is, is a given, capable of being forgottten or at least whitewashed away.

Sad to say, though, the Church of Engalnd and its affiliates worldwide (TEC and Church of Canada excepted) are still committed to the gay identity as something to be stigmatised and therefore generated and fortified. Am I being too harsh?

Of course similar remarks can, mutatis mutandis, be made in respect of race and gender as well.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Sunday, 1 April 2012 at 9:11pm BST

As usual Peter Tatchell has most closely read his man.

People from inside a religion have the deepest insights into the worse aspects of identity politics - we can speak from the most bitter of experiences. The long and bitter civil war in Ireland just a bloody recent experience ....

When my Scots Roman Catholic father met my Welsh Calvinist mother with the news her fiancé (and his best buddy) was KIA two mighty worlds collided. My father had been baptised Catholic gone to RC school and social clubs, played only with Catholics, shopped only in Catholic shops and only ever eaten RC fish and chips the only times they met Protestants was when Celtic met Rangers and the abuse, hate and violence that was a biannual consequence of this derby was as much a part of religious life as the rosary.

Equally my mother's family was ruled by the Sedd Fawr, she shunned who was cast out and befriended only those with whom she worshiped. Every aspect of her life was regulated by Holy Scripture as mediated by the Minister and deacons. The chaos of war that first threw her sweetheart together with my father now united them first in grief and then in love.

Deep echoes of this explosive romance and its consequences to both families are still felt here 71 years later.

Christians did identity politics BIG TIME and then some!

Rowan can sometimes be smack on the nail. For the lurking hatred of Moslems and the "crusaders" and jihadists we harbour - this message is a reminder of the pain and hatred they sow and division they thrive on.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Sunday, 1 April 2012 at 9:54pm BST

If only the Church would recognise that we are all human beings - each one of us made in the Image and Likeness of a Loving Creator God, there would be little need for what the archbishop deems to call 'identity politics'. We would all all be respected for who we actually are - without having to apologise to anyone for the reality of our own racial, gender or sexual-identity.

The Church has so often been the arbiter of just who is permitted to be accepted as 'normal' - forgetting that God is the Creator and not the Church. What the hierarchy of the Church needs right now is a little 'reality therapy', not further statements about who is 'in' and who is 'out'. We are all 'in' and some of us are 'out' - simply because we choose to be. Get over it!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 1 April 2012 at 11:39pm BST

For a very polite Canadian view, check this out.Rave reviews all around.It simply gushes.However, if you would like to comment, best do it on this site, The Anglican Journal has become very careful to screen its comments these days ... mustn't be impolite you know, we're Canadians.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 12:02am BST

The goal of Christian social engagement is justice.

Justice is not served when the dignity of every human being is not respected by the society at large.

Justice is not served when the dominant voices in society decide to treat specific persons or groups differently because the dominant voices decide they need, for whatever reason, to differentiate themselves from those groups or individuals.

The ABC is a smart man. Why does he not recognize how the tyranny of the majority works to deny common decency and respect for some people's right to dignity because they belong to a group that the majority decides to differentiate itself from?

Women, racial minorities, and gay folk should demand their rights until the majority voices in society acknowledge that we are all human beings, and all are worthy and deserving of respect.

The comfort level of the majority is never a valid justification for denying to the minority the common decency of respect and dignity.

Posted by jnwall at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 12:03am BST

The communities that bleat most loudly about their need for special treatment in the UK today are the faith communities. And boy are they good at arguing for special treatment for those who hold a particular narrow identity rather than just obeying laws that are otherwise held to be "good for all of us". Nobody else gets an exemption from the laws preventing discrimination of the grounds of gender and sexual orientation, for example.

If the Archbishop wants to open this particular debate, I for one would welcome that.

Posted by Gerry Lynch at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 12:21am BST

Rowan uses this canard of identity politics to avoid dealing with very real divisions within the Anglican communion on very major issues. He wishes to gloss it all over by painting it with the broad brush insult of identity politics, thereby avoiding dealing with these real issues, issues much bigger than the idea of identity politics in the first place. He is either clueless or disingenuous. Either way, he is soon gone.

Posted by Roger at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 3:59am BST

I find it very strange that Rowan Williams comments on identity politics having served its purpose and that "we" have to put it all together again. It seems that he comments from a vantage point above the fray, with a stake only in some version of unity. This point of view seems characteristic of Williams' tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury.

At Dromantine, when Rowan was a Primate, several Primates representing Churches in developing nations (GAFCON) joined together to demand the exclusion of the Episcopal Church (USA) from the Communion because TEC and other Churches were moving towards full inclusion of sexual minorities at all levels of the Church. Rowan had nothing negative to say about Dromantine, as far as I know. Not so concerned about togetherness at that time.

At Dar Es Salaam, these same conservative Primates, who by then were advocating legislation in their countries that jailed sexual minorities in blatant attacks on human rights, presented a demand for an Anglican Covenant that would create a second class status in the Communion for those Churches who differed from their extreme views. Rowan took up their demand and set about having such a Covenant drafted.He had nothing to say publicly against the views of the demanding Primates, until he was challenged by the murder of a gay Ugandan human rights worker and the effort by the Church of Uganda to turn his funeral into a homophobic circus. Rowan supported the Covenant as a mean of creating "unity", although it was little more than a dressed up attempt to silence and exclude sexual minorities and those Churches which stand with them. Not much togetherness.

At Lambeth, Rowan excluded Bishop Gene Robinson from the gathering, silencing him and those he speaks for in the councils of the Communion. Not so much togetherness there.

When TEC elected and consecrated a second gay bishop, Rowan removed two representatives of TEC from Communion bodies, because they represented a Church which differed from "Communion teaching." Not so much togetherness.

Shortly thereafter, Rowan presented the "final draft" of this Covenant, with its shift of authority to the bishops and Primates of the Communion Churches, and its punitive section which provided for the silencing of those Churches who did not sign up to it. He called this "an Instrument of Unity" and did not seem too troubled by lack of togetherness.

Now that the Covenant has been rejected by his own Church, Rowan wants to quiet the voices of "identity politics" in favor of some form of "putting things back together."
Pardon me, but trust is earned, not blithely given. Women in the Churches and sexual minorities are wary of Rowan for very good reason.

Posted by karen macqueen+_ at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 4:52am BST

" A fixation with gay rights, feminism and separate racial identities is threatening to “fragment” British society " ?? Is it not fragmented above and beyond...already ? Thats right , blame it on the Gays...

Posted by David Ross Lyon at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 7:41am BST

I think karen macqueen+ might look at the so called Dromantine Anathema as Rowan's part of the push-me pull-you game that encompassed these two events.
Though I think Rowan had decided before the Dromantine that he could not hold out for the gays and fracture the communion ..... they were small enough to be sacrificed (for NOW - in his mind I'm sure). Let's look at the section in point:
"we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people. The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship."

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 9:05am BST

The formative years of the members of the bench of bishops date to a period when gays were, if one was charitably inclined, "more to be pitied than scorned". This shows, and how it shows. Last week Bishop Alan Wilson observed all too accurately that "the Church in its own bubble has become, at best the guardian of the value system of the nation’s grandparents, and at worst a den of religious anoraks defined by defensiveness, esoteric logic and discrimination".

Posted by Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 9:50am BST

I'm especially suspicious of whites who think that their identification with another minority exempts them from suspicion.

After centuries of slavery, after decades of covert white solidarity that, across the political divide, lacks the backbone to stand up to their own enough to overturn the segregation of racial opportunity (whether housing, jobs, educational), while demanding equality elsewhere, I remain suspicious.

After years of an advocacy that tries to manage our disenfranchisement from above, rather than forming an enduring brotherly alliance of service, I can echo Karen McQueen's statement: 'trust is earned, not blithely given'.

Perhaps, when I, once again, see the rare instance of a black man leading whites in a civil rights campaign; perhaps, then, I'll think differently.

Posted by David Shepherd at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 10:45am BST

It is not surprising that the issue of identity rapidly leads to political reflection. However, there is a strand of theological understanding of identity as gift in baptism which gets rapidly left behind in such conversations. What does it mean to receive and cherish such a gift?

And another question, posed by Jesus this Holy Week, is what and who our identity is principally for, and the extent to which it is proper for us to see our identity formed "against another".

Posted by Mark Bennet at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 10:55am BST

As usual, I largely agree with Peter Tatchell (who would have thought that the man who once odiously 'outed' Anglican priests would become a considered and moderate voice on sexuality and religion?).

I generally agree with RW too, though an Anglican archbishop is not necessarily the best person to critique 'identity politics'. In his defence, I think the archbishop is pretty critical of religiously-motivated identity-politics of the George Carey kind, too. I'm a bit disconcerted by his remarks on welfare, though - again, not so much by what he says (which is largely true), but by the fact that he feels the need to say it at all. If I didn't have such complete trust in the Archbishop's disinterestedness and sincerity, I'd suggest he was trying to build bridges with the government.

Posted by rjb at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 11:16am BST

I agree with Craig. I never had a gay identity until the church told me there was so much I couldn't do or be because of it.

I'd absolutely love it if we didn't have to play identity games any longer.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 12:13pm BST

I'm sure it would be nice to say we've all worked out who we are and what labels we bring to the party, now let's get on with it - but we're far from having achieved the first half of it yet.

Posted by Tim at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 12:18pm BST

The point is, can one possibly imagine Jesus asking people to put their vocations on hold, or abandoning them because they upset others? Did he do this when Mary sat at his feet?

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 1:50pm BST

"I agree with Craig. I never had a gay identity until the church told me there was so much I couldn't do or be because of it."

I would never have had one either. I was assigned one.

I wonder if people who remain convinced that homosexuality is a choice really do believe that people would actually choose a life of marginalization and disadvantage under the constant threat of violence?

Minorities are the creations of majorities. The word "homosexual" was the creation of German psychologists in the 19th century as part of an effort to single out, marginalize, and criminalize same sex attraction by the German Imperial government. The German government issued Paragraph 175 criminalizing homosexual acts and homosexuals in 1871 and was not repealed by the West German government until 1969.
The Nazi regime used the law to round up an estimated 8,000 to 15,000 people suspected of homosexuality a year. Most of them perished in concentration camps.
Paragraph 175 caused Allied and Soviet occupation governments after World War II to re-imprison homosexual survivors (what few there were) of the camps. Some were not finally released until the 1960s.

In Britain and in the United States, there were similar laws that criminalized and pathologized same sex attraction leading to court ordered confinement in mental hospitals and forced drug and hormonal "treatments" and even castration. Perhaps the most famous victim of these laws was Alan Turing who cracked the Enigma Code and probably did as much to save the British bacon as Churchill himself. For his vital service to the nation, he was imprisoned, forcibly "treated" for his homosexuality, and driven to suicide.

Alan Turing was a loyal Englishman who was singled out and destroyed for one aspect of his essential nature that society at the time considered to be alien and abnormal.

There was a time when left handed people were burned at the stake for being the devil's spawn.

Whoever is in the majority and has the the most money and guns gets to decide what is "normal" and what is "deviant." They get to create the cultural references which shape the world in which everyone lives. The winners get to write the laws and to write history.

I think every complaint about "political correctness" and "Balkanization" should be required to present its credentials.

Posted by Counterlight at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 1:52pm BST

How is what is being called 'identity' related to the core Christian claims that:

'my life is hid with God in Christ'

'we are a new creation, the old has passed away'

'your life is not your own, you were bought with a price'

'put on Christ and make no provision for the flesh'

Posted by c.r.seitz at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 3:06pm BST

My view:

Posted by Pluralist at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 4:05pm BST

In the end, when the dust has settled and Rowan is comfortably in his new teaching position, I wonder if we will see a great deal of "Revisionism" on Rowan's part? Will he attack or defend his previous positions? He has to "own" his words and actions so we will see just how sincere and honest he deals with his very divisive tenure as ABC. Many people are deeply disappointed that he chose the exclusionary route for the glbt communities and for women.

Posted by Chris Smith at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 4:52pm BST

As c.r.seitz so succinctly puts it.

Why? Oh, why are so many Christians arguing for a different faith where we are excluded?

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 6:57pm BST

Good quotes, Dr Seitz.
Those who insist on discriminating against particular groups of people based on their perceived different identity would do well to read them carefully.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 8:07pm BST

Gerry Lynch says: "The communities that bleat most loudly about their need for special treatment in the UK today are the faith communities."

Quite right Gerry, but I had assumed this fact had not passed Rowan's notice - and that they were strongly in his mind!

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 9:54pm BST

I am no longer remotely interested in the opinions of Rowan Williams, past, present or to come. They are unreliable. That is, he is not to be trusted.

His behaviour has been reprehensible and his arrogance suffocating. He has far surpassed George Carey.

But is his behaviour and arrogance, any worse than that of the callous Church of England hierarchy itself ? It is hard to see how this denomination can preach Christ, when its leadership abuse their power as they do.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 10:15pm BST

I asked a very genuine question about central NT texts. I am curious what these texts mean. For me they mean, who I am in essential 'identity' is part of handing myself over to Christ and allowing him to dictate the terms of my identity in Him. It means in Baptism I ceased having an identity of the old Adam, who I am in the flesh, and became a new creation. The new Adam is building me into his new creation. This is the message of Colossians, but also of so much of the NT witness. I simply wonder what this means in the context of RDW's remarks and responses to them here.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 11:16pm BST

I concur, cr seitz, but I think I'd want to add that we should always have enough faith and charity willingly to perceive - however dimly - that transformation and that new identity in our fellow Christians too. Something that I for one often fail to do. Kyrie eleison!

Surely Paul's final word on what we call 'identity' is Gal 3:28. Of course it still matters to slaves that they're not free or to women that they lack the freedoms of men - difference does not immediately disappear. But Paul has an urgent sense that such differences are not of primary importance because those who are 'in Christ' are joined in something entirely different. Perhaps this should stand as a warning to those who perceive religious or theological differences as matters of essential 'identity'. That way is going backwards.

Posted by rjb at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 11:42pm BST

"The formative years of the members of the bench of bishops date to a period . . . "

When is that period supposed to have ended?
Or, rather, how recently did it end?
Or, perhaps, after what date would someone have had to have been born in order NOT to have had formative years in that period?

What ages bound the "formative years" for this purpose?
My own guess would be early twenties, giving all the bishops formative years no earlier than 1962

Year of birth - Diocesan (inc Europe & Sodor & Man)

1942-45 7
1946-50 17
1951-55 9
1956-60 11

Total 44

Year of birth - Suffragan/Area/PEV

1942-45 2
1946-50 17
1951-55 27
1956-60 9
1961-65 8
1966-70 2

Total 65

From the listing in Wikipedia (it was easier to deal with than Crockford)

I have great difficulty with +Alan Wilson's "grandparents" reference. At 67, am I one of the nation's grandchildren or part of the grandparent generation?

Posted by John Roch at Monday, 2 April 2012 at 11:50pm BST

"At 67." You and me both, John. Appreciate your pulling together those statistics to prove the point. What about Alan Wilson's comment don't you get?

Posted by Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 1:14am BST

The parable of the Good Samaritan probably exposes the hypocrisy of identity politics more than any other biblical illustration. We hear ourselves echoing the lawyer's question, 'And who is my neighbour?', anxious as we are for affirmation and exoneration.

Against the common foe of barbaric imperialist Rome and the dangerous impact of hellenism on cultural and religious thought throughout Asia Minor, some Jews might have considered themselves to be exemplary moral guardians: a bulwark shoring up resistance against a full-scale descent into idolatrous syncretism.

Although the Samaritan was already considered to have compromised his God-given identity, by extending immediate, practical, restorative care where needed, across the cultural divide, he proved his true God-given identity. His actions are presented in stark contrast to the behaviour of those Jews who merely participated in the victim's identity, without identifying with his immediate plight.

Paul shared and understood Christ's identity in Him. In suffering and in the hope of complete restoration in the likeness of the risen Christ: 'I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death' (Philippians 3:10). Yet, the apostles were treated as the 'offscouring of the world', enduring the loss of all earthly respect and recognition: 'as unknown, yet well known'.

A common Christian identity established through the rite of infant baptism doesn't mean you'll extend restorative care towards me when I suffer, nor will your confirmation ritual force you to exercise restraint in dealing with your avowed enemies. Only, divine insight and self-critical reflection accomplish that. It's just so much easier to follow the world in hoping for revenge, only to revel in vindication over a sworn enemy's just deserts.

Of course, you may, at the same time, feel completely entitled to bang on about the injustice of widespread health care privatisation, the lack of resources to supply the State-funded provision and, of course, the poor, the excluded, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 2:14am BST

Interesting observation "Identity politics, whether it’s the politics of feminism, whether it’s the politics of ethnic minorities, or the politics of sexual minorities, has been a very important part of the last ten or twenty years...."

One might also add to the list, the politics of well educated upper class bishops, no?

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 4:25am BST

Nice quotes, Mr. Seitz.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 4:47am BST

Dr Seitz,
I would say that while people clearly have identities - gender, nationality, race, sexuality, their work, their identity as husbands or wives, as parents etc...

these identities must not become a defining characteristic of their lives. That would be to turn the focus of our lives onto ourselves rather than on Christ.

It follows that we must not define others on the basis or one or several of their identities either, far less restrict them on that basis.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 8:20am BST

My last comment lost to junk folder, or was it despatched elsewhere?

ED: Found, along with one of 2 days ago on another thread, also now published.

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 8:29am BST

Yes, the question is:'Well we let the fact our fellow Christians just happen to be gay/slaves/women/whatever stand in the way of their fulfilling the Christ-given call to them to be priests/Bishops/full members of the laity, or will we accept that in the Christ who calls them these differences matter not a jot?' Remove the obstacles, and you remove (as so many above have said) the tendency to 'identity politics' but leave the injustice and you create the need to work for justice.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 8:45am BST

The bishop of Liverpool made an interesting foray into this area this morning on Radio 4's Thought for the Day. This time it was class .........

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 9:51am BST

"Identity politics" is the new buzz-word to make it sound as if there were a legitimate argument behind sheer prejudice. Yeah, not a technocrat at ALL, that Rowan Williams!

What did The Hives sing?

"I do believe I told you so . . .

And it's all out that you knew!"

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 10:24am BST

I believe my last comment was "Nice quotes, Ms. Seitz." Perhaps it was edited?

My point being, of course, that identity doesn't matter until someone gets it wrong.

I guess my point has already been proven!

ED: Sorry I did edit that, having failed to get the intended joke :-(

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 12:19pm BST

Is being allowed to address most fellow posters familiarly, but being expected to address some by their academic titles, a form of identity politics?

Posted by Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 12:40pm BST

rjb -- frankly I would have thought the late modern application of Gal 3:28 would take the form of 'in Christ neither Gay nor Straight' but a new creation. That is, whoever we judge ourselves to be according to the flesh/Old Adam, we are no longer in Christ.
Mr Mortimer. My request was obvious I thought. I do not sign my first name and do not call people I do not know by theirs. If you wish to call me by my professional title, that is up to you!

Posted by c.r.seitz at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 2:13pm BST

"The goal of Christian social engagement is justice."

I hope I'm not nitpicking, but surely the goal of Christian social engagement - like that of Christian *anything* - is to bring people to Christ, and Christ to people. The idea that "justice" is at the heart of Christian action disheartens me. Christ certainly doesn't seem to base his actions on justice, but on love. Mere justice is such a narrow little field of action, probably necessary in the short run but not what we're ultimately all about. Thank God.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 4:36pm BST

When I hear talk of subsuming our selves in Christ's New Creation, I hear the sound of brooms frantically sweeping things under rugs.

I wonder if "... according to the flesh/Old Adam" includes male Christian hierarchs, and the very idea of hierarchy.

Posted by Counterlight at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 4:42pm BST

I don't hand myself over to Christ and allow him to dictate the terms of my identity in Him. What's that about? My identity is as it has grown. As for my deep forebears, it isn't in any Adam, whenever he was distinct from his ancestor, but in the slime from which we all come. There is no old or new creation, only how we have evolved. What matters, ethically, is what comes about when a strong recognition of consciousness joins the ability to use precision language.

Posted by Pluralist at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 5:01pm BST

"It means in Baptism I ceased having an identity of the old Adam, who I am in the flesh, and became a new creation."

Except that's not how it works. Ever. You *are* still male, aren't you, Dr. Seitz?

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 5:21pm BST

The force of Paul's comment is that 'maleness' is no longer the chief index of my identity, and neither 'femaleness' for females, but a new primary identity in Christ. In its wake, this changes what it means to be 'male' and 'female' and differentiates Christian life from the non-Christian. Paul certainly means minimally that. The question that one would need to ask is whether 'Gay' is analogous to 'male' in this context. I do not think so.

But if it should be argued that it is analagous, the force of Paul's comment would remain: in Christ, it has now a altered state. No longer 'Gay' or 'straight' but in Christ a new creation.

But is 'Gayness' a created state on strict analogy with 'maleness' or 'femaleness'? How so?

Posted by c.r.seitz at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 8:10pm BST

John Roch: "From the listing in Wikipedia (it was easier to deal with than Crockford)" – You're welcome; glad you found it useful! :D

Posted by Dan BD at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 8:13pm BST


What part of 'who I am in the flesh' doesn't admit of the male gender? The issue is whether that gender limits the person that I have the potential to become in imitation of Christ.

First and foremost, who do I represent? Is it the Christ Crucified, who's only hope is in divine intervention, or Christ Caricatured into Barabbas, the anti-imperialist?

The incensed mob still cries, 'We want Barabbas!'


'Will we let the fact our fellow Christians just happen to be gay/slaves/women/whatever stand in the way of their fulfilling the Christ-given call to them to be priests/Bishops/full members of the laity,..?'

Perhaps, they could remain slaves, if born to that life. Like the other characteristics that you mention, it must be interpreted as part of their God-given identity. So, maybe we shouldn't tamper with that.

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 8:25pm BST

@ c.r.seitz - if we're going to trade prooftexts, what about "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus"? Except there does seem to be a male and female when it comes to the question of whether the love my partner and I have for one another is acceptable in the eyes of the church or not and whether we should have full legal equality.

When straight men from privileged positions stop using the church as a vehicle for putting themselves on pedestals above the rest of us, I might see the Archbishop's point.

Posted by Gerry Lynch at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 9:04pm BST

Well, sadly, David, for centuries the church just left it like that. I take a little comfort from the fact they called one of their highest ministries 'deacons' and Pliny read that in the usual sense of 'slaves' and so tortured two deaconesses to find out the truth of Christian meetings - torture was required for interrogating slaves, but not for free people. But looking at Paul's passage, yes, he means precisely that - people are called in various unchangeable estates, and in the world outside they stay in them. Only in the church are they free. We know it outraged pagans that free women exchanged the kiss of peace with slaves.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 10:29pm BST

I have often observed that people often are most concerned about other people's identities. So society insists it know if one is male or female: note the anxiety comically portrayed in SNL's "Pat" sketches. This is where identity actually becomes political -- when the _polis_ demands that one retreat from the Christ-like mode of New Adam into the "male" or "female" or "French" or "Welsh" for that matter.

I gave a talk a few weeks ago on the marriage canons of the Episcopal Church and their evolution, and one gentleman in the audience was adamant that "marriage" not be used for same-sex couples, not on the grounds that it is an innovation or an inaccuracy, but on the grounds that when someone told him he or she was married, he would have to ask if they were married to a person of the same or different sex. It is this mans _need to know_ that makes the identity of the other significant.

So long as people push their own needs on others, a degree of "identity politics" will remain in place. If all people were simply treated as people -- New Adams all -- much of this would disappear.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 10:43pm BST

"But if it should be argued that it is analagous, the force of Paul's comment would remain: in Christ, it has now a altered state. No longer 'Gay' or 'straight' but in Christ a new creation.

But is 'Gayness' a created state on strict analogy with 'maleness' or 'femaleness'? How so?" c.r.seitz

Dear seitz
In the first statement, you are undoubtedly correct - no argument there.

The second is curious, and itself raises two points. Firstly, some would argue that indeed gayness is a created state, analogous with maleness or right-handedness - I don't know, but I find it preferable to any other stance to view gay people of my acquaintance as though it is so. But secondly, you surely are not suggesting that Jewishness, or slavery are created states analagous with maleness?

That brings us back to your first sentence. What Paul (I wonder if he objected to being referred to by his Christian name)was saying is that whatever the cause of these categorisations, our essential identity is a new creations in Christ. That doesn't stop the male being male, the Jew being Jewish, or the gay being gay, but all of them deserve to be regarded primarily as new creations.

Posted by Edward Prebble at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 11:01pm BST

"Firstly, some would argue that indeed gayness is a created state, analogous with maleness or right-handedness" -- naturally, people argue lots of things.

At issue is whether 'gayness' is like being male or female or indeed right-handed.

Are you saying it is? If so, how so?

(Jewishness and slavery are not analogous).

Posted by c.r.seitz at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 12:43am BST

"But if it should be argued that it is analagous, the force of Paul's comment would remain: in Christ, it has now a altered state. No longer 'Gay' or 'straight' but in Christ a new creation."
- cseitz -

And also, of course, by extension, no longer male nor female. In fact the gender of a person, 'en Christo' may just be irrelevant, completely. So where is your argument, cseitz?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 1:27am BST

chris seitz seems to be straining at gnats and swallowing camels !

Are you really inviting us to share our testimonies chris ?


Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 3:42am BST

it must be interpreted as part of their God-given identity. So, maybe we shouldn't tamper with that.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Tuesday, 3 April 2012.

Lovely words supporting (if it needed it) gayness

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 3:46am BST

That this argument is happening at all is just depressing.

It kind of invalidates Easter altogether.

I mean, what's the point? Really? When we can argue that, if God created something, does that make it somehow "on the same level" as other things He created. This is garbage, and the fact that Rowan opened *this* can of worms is another thing he'll be standing to answer for when Jesus comes. What an absolutely diseased legacy he's leaving.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 4:39am BST

"It is this mans _need to know_ that makes the identity of the other significant."

I first experienced this in Germany several decades ago when convention switched from calling women Fräulein or Frau to simply Frau.
So many really struggled because they would no longer be able to tell whether a woman was married or not - not something that had ever concerned anyone about men before.

The good news is that, once convention has changed, most people adapt very quickly and look back on their previous "need to know" as rather quaint.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 5:31am BST

Dr Seitz

"But is 'Gayness' a created state on strict analogy with 'maleness' or 'femaleness'? How so?"

That really rather depends on the purpose of the question.
In this thread, the question arose from Rowan Williams' plea that we turn away from identity politics.

In that context, gayness is the same as maleness and femaleness because the terms are used to describe people, group them and then accord them an identity according to their group.

I repeat what I said earlier - I never did have a gay identity until the church told me there were so many things I could not do or be because of it.

On this forum people who oppose lgbt equality have argued that there IS a gay identity and that it contravenes God’s moral laws and that gay people must therefore not be treated equal.
And there have been others who have argued that there is NO gay identity and that gayness is therefore not an obvious state like maleness and femaleness and that therefore anti-discrimination considerations do not apply.

Whereas pro lgbt equality view is that there either is a gay identity - in which case it is to be respected as much as a male and a female identity, or there is no gay identity, then we ought to stop discriminating against people because of it.

This is real problem with all these bible verses that we keep using. They can all be used to support our own pre-established viewpoint. And the conversations eventually do nothing more than go round and round in circles.

And they will continue to do so as long as we use theological concepts and wield them as political tools against each other.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 5:45am BST


'people are called in various unchangeable estates, and in the world outside they stay in them. Only in the church are they free.'

Well no. Paul does not demand, but he does urge Philemon to change and rise above the cultural tide in respect of Onesimus.

Again he says, '"Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that." (1 Cor. 7:21). The gospel can and does expose injustice, but it does demand internal change. Genuine change is not achieved by means of legal redress aimed at convincing men to abandon injustice and be reconciled to God.

Concerning the point that you made about deacons: 'In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food...Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them.' (Acts 6)

'men from among you?' Today, this would be considered discriminatory and patronising. Why men, not women? Why Gentiles, not the whole church? That's how identity politics works.

Today, the remedy would not be to appoint Grecian Jews to oversee the Gentile widows' provision, but to launch a high-profile prosecution that seeks added exemplary damages and sends a clear message to those Hebrew bigots that discrimination will not be tolerated. Church exemptions aside, perhaps, the DPP would prosecute them under the Equality Act that 'prohibits unfair treatment in the workplace, when providing goods, facilities and services, when exercising public functions, in the disposal and management of premises, in education and by associations (such as private clubs).'

This expresses the clear distinction between how Christians have, in times past, achieved a practical compromise aimed at the actual problem and the resort to punitive legal redress that is so loved by identity politicians.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 7:42am BST


Are you advocating that we don't tamper with slavery.

Oh, sorry, I should realise that gayness is afforded a special pleading, since it's fashionable to tamper with gender and marriage, as if they were slavery.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 8:47am BST

Last reply to Rosemary lost again.

ED: And found.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 10:11am BST

Before David Shepherd throws in the canard of competitive suffering, I should point out that other people like him with similar historical experiences who have come to sharply different conclusions about the rights and dignity of gay people.

For example, the late Coretta Scott King.

And there are many others.

One anti-gay organization in this country very cynically sought to pit races against each other in order to further its political aims, as revealed in internal memos made public by court order.

One longtime African American leader has something to say about these tactics, and about gays and lesbians as fellow travelers and comrades.

Posted by Counterlight at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 12:44pm BST

People have lots of identities. My great-grandmother was an African slave. My great-grandfather was Native American (Creek). Yet the Irish and English ancestors on my father's side have largely determined my physical appearance. I have pale skin, blue eyes, and mousy brown hair, and am regarded as white. My mother, a nurse and WWII veteran, who served under fire in Europe, was denied veterans benefits because her service was regarded as not terribly important and besides she didn't need benefits because a fine big man was going to marry her and take care of her... I have been in a faithful, monogamous relationship with another woman for 25 years.

The strands of history as found in individual lives are extremely twisted. In the U.S. at least, identity politics has been the only way for African Americans, indigenous peoples, women, and workers to get anything done to improve the basic conditions of their lives. I gather that life and history are less complicated for some posting on this site, and so their casual dismissal of identity politics.

Posted by Susan at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 2:04pm BST

I do not think Paul in Galatians was claiming that social status, nationality, or sex disappeared when one became a Christian, but that they cease to be significant. Part of what it means to be "clothed" in Christ is that we put on the "uniform" so to speak, and whatever our underlying differences Christians are called to treat each other as absolutely equal.

That Christians fail to do this is the sad truth. Some here appear to be caught up in the argument about how "real" the differences are, which only serves to heighten their power over us.

So much of this, after all, is social. Under the prevailing view in the era, chattel slavery was in fact considered to be objective, and inherited. Children of slaves were slaves; Jewish law (Lev 25:44-46, bGittin 38b) forbade their emancipation. Later Christian theologians justified slavery on the basis of "natural law" and a divine mandate. That we would now find these arguments unpersuasive in no way gainsays the power they wielded over human souls for generations.

Thus, liberationist "Identity Politics" is often a response to oppressive "identity politics." And to wax Hegelian after the fashion of a certain Archbishop, that may from time to time be necessary. If there were no oppression, there would be no need for reaction.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 3:50pm BST

“Identity is a very slippery word, as everybody has brought out. I heard some voices raised, I think very importantly, against what people now often call ‘identity politics’: this is who I am, these are my rights, I demand that you recognise me.”

This is just what Forward and Faith sounds like.

Posted by Grumpy High Church Woman at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 4:51pm BST

"But is 'Gayness' a created state on strict analogy with 'maleness' or 'femaleness'? How so?" (C. Seitz)

Leaving aside the question of whether gender is "created" (the bio-psychological factors that comprise gender are so much more complex than Eucharistic Prayer 1 would have it!) - certainly in the sense that sexual orientation, like gender identity, is typically a given and not subject to the will, they are analogous. In that light, who is preoccupied with "identity"? Those gay Christians who will to conform themselves to the same standards of family life as everyone else? Or those heterosexuals who insist that only those who share their "identity" can possibly hope to do so? Like the old saw about Chinese food, gay couples don't generally see themselves as "gay-married," but as just married. "Identity" politics only emerge when others make the "identity" an issue. Racial justice is necessary only because whiteness is the benchmark; gender equity would not be a concern if manhood were not defined as the normative human existence.

Posted by Geoff at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 5:19pm BST

I was simply asking what people thought these key texts meant. Maleness and Jewishness would seem to many to be of a different order altogether than 'gayness.' That needn't be taken negatively. It just shows how tricky the business of identity is. One doesn't claim to be male; it is a claim made about one, written into their created form, preceding them. The people in Canada who didn't want to identify the gender of their child were roundly condemned by liberals and conservatives alike. It would cause terrible damage, it was argued on both sides, because it messed with a given, as much psycho-social and crudely physical. That many want to say that 'gayness' is like this is to raise difficult questions, not taking away whatever may be thought to be at least roughly analogous. But when Paul says, neither male nor female, he is pointing to a different kind of identity that is greater than sexual difference deeply imprinted into us. So if 'gayness' is something roughly analogous, does that mean it should give way to a greater identity as well? (I accept that someone like Pluralist simply views biblical texts as nonsense or meaningless, so I am not addressing his comment).

Posted by c.r.seitz at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 6:17pm BST

"Are you advocating that we don't tamper with slavery."

Well, if he was, David, he was in good company (although mistaken) - that was pretty much St. Paul's attitude, wasn't it? Get your freedom if it's convenient, but otherwise don't sweat it. So to speak.

Of course, he didn't mean that.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 7:01pm BST

Why stop at human 'rights'? Some activists might even might say, 'if we were no longer considered human, animal rights would cease to be an issue.'

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 9:12pm BST

Graeco-Romano slaves did very frequently become free, Christian or not. Paul's point, I think,is that Christian slaves are no more bound to stay slaves than others. The usual routes of escape, buying freedom, earning it by faithful service, being freed by the death of a master of his approaching death, were open to them. There is nothing especially Christian about this.

You may or may not especially like it, but there is no reasonable doubt that it was female deacons Pliny had tortured. Somehow women had achieved that office by then.

I think the suggestion that 'identity politics' in the church works by prosecution is manifestly false. Yes there is pressure for female bishops - no there has been no attempt at any legal case.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 11:13pm BST


It was a rhetorical question that exposed his inconsistency, but thanks for the literal answer.

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 5 April 2012 at 12:11am BST

ED: More lost replies?


'Paul's point, I think,is that Christian slaves are no more bound to stay slaves than others.'

This is a far cry from 'people are called in various unchangeable estates, and in the world outside they stay in them. Only in the church are they free'.

You now underscore my previous point that we are not bound by these aspects of our identity, however they are shaped and including sexuality. You can't pick and choose the parts of identity that are immutable. None should be immune from the demand for moral change, given the transforming power available through the resurrection in the gospel.

'I think the suggestion that 'identity politics' in the church works by prosecution is manifestly false.'

However, I didn't claim that, in the church, it works by prosecution. Clearly, the religious exemption in the Equality Act 2010 has made this approach futile:
'A person (A) does not contravene a provision mentioned in sub-paragraph (2) by applying in relation to employment a requirement to which sub-paragraph (4) applies if A shows that— (a)the employment is for the purposes of an organised religion'. Still, it doesn't stop some from trying: .

I did claim that identity politics in society, as a whole, is litigious and that its influence on those aggrieved in the church, as in Jeffrey John's case, is to seek punitive legal redress.

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 5 April 2012 at 9:42am BST


It is called the flesh of the old man.

Posted by DAvid WIlson at Thursday, 5 April 2012 at 12:23pm BST

We find the fullness of our identity in God. We also discover that identity is not about individualism. We find our identity in families, or in teams of colleagues, in groups of friends, in community with one another.

We find our identity - and the becoming more of who we are - in sharing.

We are 'called' - again and again - into our identity in Christ. But we don't find our identity all at once. We grow into who we are.

The danger is if identity becomes a separator - and both minority groups and majority groups need to guard against that.

Like the Holy Trinity, who live in eternal community, we are called to community, with one another and with God.

If we separate ourselves off from someone on grounds of their identity, we risk fracturing communion. If we separate ourselves off from others on grounds of our own identity, we risk doing the same.

We find our full identity in the Love of God.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 6 April 2012 at 3:04am BST

Could one of the mathematicians here work out the formula that describes the phenomenon whereby the number of comments on a thread increases in inverse proportion to the number of threads started above it, irrespective of the importance of the original post?

Posted by Laurence C at Friday, 6 April 2012 at 8:22am BST

Dr Seitz
I am beginning to find it very hard to engage with your questions because I do not understand their purpose.
Is this simply a theoretical exploration of the concept of identity in the light of the verses you quoted?
Or are there some practical consequences to be drawn out of the conclusion?

Rowan Williams criticised our obsession with identity and the resulting individualism which means people elevate their own identity concerns above the good of the community they live in.
In that context, we are talking about any group of people that believes that they cannot fully function in society while they are not being given exactly the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else - in law or in practice.

I do not fully understand how our theological debate about identity in Christ can relate to the actual practical concerns groups of citizens have in our society and in our churches.

Whether we declare that gayness is an identity or not will not make the slightest bit of difference to the observable fact that gay people are not being treated as equal. And regardless of the Archbishop's wishes, the only way to stop gay people from concentrating on equality is to give them equality.
The only way to stop disabled people (another identity question?) from lobbying for themselves in society is to treat them as fully equal and respected members of it. Not by telling them that they should go to the back of the queue for the greater good of society.

I share the Archbishop's concern about fragmentation. But I do believe the solution to that is genuine integration and giving everyone an equal stake in society and the church. It is not to sustain inequality in the name of the greater good.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 7 April 2012 at 9:44am BST

Un, David? My answer was snark designed to show *your* inconsistent approach to Paul. But thanks for taking it literally. ;-)

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Saturday, 7 April 2012 at 1:21pm BST

'Snark?' Well, on this great day of the Messiah's rise on our behald to immortality, perhaps I can pay it forward and lay aside every other identity.

To Bill, Erika, Mark, JCF, Tobias and anyone else I've missed.. Happy Easter to you and yours! x

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 8 April 2012 at 12:20pm BST

Ms Baker -- I was reading this statement from von Balthasar and it struck me as likely controversial at a place like TA. You write, for example,

"But I do believe the solution to that is genuine integration and giving everyone an equal stake in society and the church."

He writes,

"Whoever removes the Cross and its interpretation by the New Testament from the center, in order to replace it, for example, with the social commitment of Jesus to the oppressed as a new center, no longer stands in continuity with the apostolic faith."

When Paul speaks of a new identity it is because of his understanding of the radical character of the Cross and the New Creation it effects in its wake.

I suspect the reason my questions don't make sense to you is that I am trying to understand a claim to a created state (a Gay identity), and how in turn that is transformed by the Cross and Empty Tomb.

Blessed Easter Sunday.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Sunday, 8 April 2012 at 1:42pm BST

Dr. Seitz

that assumes that the social commitment of Jesus Christ can be divided from the Cross and its interpretation by the New Testament.

We know God through Jesus' life on earth as much as through his death and resurrection.
His death and resurrection validate everything he did and said.

Neither one must replace the other. Only together do they make a credible whole.

A Blessed Easter Sunday to you too.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 8 April 2012 at 2:11pm BST

Dr Seitz

as for your question on how gay identity might be transformed by the Cross and the Empty Tomb - just like straight one.

Whether sexuality is identity giving or not, the question of transformation always applies to straight as well as gay.

If, whether identity giving or not, being straight does not raise the question of how it might be transformed, then being gay doesn't either. If transformation is required then that also applies to straight and gay equally.

If you let go for a minute of the belief that gay is inferior and try to entertain at least the possibility that it is as morally neutral as straight, no better no worse, just a state of being - then the same transformation processes apply to all of us.

The same faith redeems us all, we live by the same commandments with the same rights and responsibilities.

It is not the question of identity that's at the heart of this debate but the underlying assumption that one identity or way of living is inherently inferior and immoral to another one.

THAT's what needs to be challenged. Or justified.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 8 April 2012 at 2:29pm BST

Jesus' social commitment to the oppressed didn't treat all who worked for the oppressive Roman authorities as an unvarying monolith of evil. Even tax collectors and centurions experienced His generosity in forbearance.

Therein lies the difference that the Cross makes to Christian social commitment. Without the Cross, identity politics lacks the disarming grace that is Christ's hallmark.

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 8 April 2012 at 9:50pm BST

Happy Easter to you, too, David (and everyone else)!

Erika, I think you nail it on the head with "It is not the question of identity that's at the heart of this debate but the underlying assumption that one identity or way of living is inherently inferior and immoral to another one." It's an assumption that, in this context, I believe only exists in the sort of vacuum resulting from not actually knowing a variety of gay people well. As long one doesn't know gay people except as intellectual constructs, or as long as one's contact with us is limited to, say, the confessional, it must be a fairly easy assumption to maintain.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Monday, 9 April 2012 at 1:27am BST

Ms Baker, in Christ we are no longer 'Gay' or 'straight' (terms invented in the last years of the last century). We are Christians. This is what made Isherwood know that Auden was a 'New Man' in Christ and so different than him. Yes indeed, the 'straights' of the old world need to be transformed by the work of the Cross of Christ Jesus. They should leave behind labels like 'straight' -- even when given them by those who do not so identify.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Monday, 9 April 2012 at 2:09am BST

Dr Seitz,

then it seems that, in theory, we do agree.
What, however, does it mean in practice for how we treat our lgbt brothers and sisters?

Or our disabled brothers and sisters?
I'm deliberately throwing disability into the conversation here because I have been greatly upset this Easter weekend when a dear autistic friend was finally too weighted down under the treatment she receives in many churches where her autism is seen as a punishment from God for wickedness and where people tell her clearly that they would rather she didn't disturb their worship.
As she writes: "there is nowhere left in my heart for the pain to go".

You see, all this identity talk only gets us so far.
In the end, it comes down to how we treat other people, whether we perceive particular characteristics to be identity giving or not.

And I'm afraid, on that front we fail far too often.

And I'm afraid that I interpret Rowan Williams's comments on the need to leave identity politics behind as an attempt by someone whose identities do not cause him problems to silence those whose identities do cause them problems.

Unless - of course! - he should mean precisely what is really my core point: if we treat people as individuals without preconceived ideas of what they are like merely because of one or several identifiers we know of them - then we might actually end up in a genuinely listening relationship where we no longer discriminate based on spurious externalities.

That way of leaving identity politics behind would be a true Godsent.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 9 April 2012 at 9:37am BST

Dr Seitz,

ultimately, for me, the question is always: who is a particular statement or commandment aimed at?
Too often in our Christian debate I see people wielding Jesus’ words against others when I believe we should always read them as aimed at ourselves.

The same holds true for this identity debate. Giving up identity politics should not mean that we turn round and demand of others that they give up their battles for recognition.
Rather, it should mean that we each examine in our own hearts where we play identity politics with others, where we need to adjust our treatment of them in the light of the awareness that identity politics are wrong.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 9 April 2012 at 11:38am BST

Thank you, Christopher, for your last posting!
Christ is, indeed, risen. Alleluia!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 9 April 2012 at 11:44am BST

I think if Our Lord really had His way, we would leave behind the label "Christian." He wasn't one. In His mortal life, He was a Jew. He who created all humanity and loves us all still isn't one. I don't recall that He qualified any of the Beatitudes with sectarian prerequisites.

I suppose the old hymn "Just as I am without one plea" is going to be scrapped?

Posted by Counterlight at Monday, 9 April 2012 at 12:28pm BST

I think Bill and Erika both hit the nail on the head. This argument comes down to the irreconcilable nub and the heart of all of these arguments. Is same sex attraction a natural variation and therefore part of God's infinite bounty? Or is it willful criminality or at best pathology? One side argues from experience, the other from doctrine.

Friedrich Gauss said that experience teaches us that there could be any number of planets out there. Friedrich Hegel at the same time said that philosophically there could only be 7 planets. So who turned out to be right?

Posted by Counterlight at Monday, 9 April 2012 at 12:59pm BST

@David - it is not possible (in the ancient world) for people to change their gender. Male and female are givens. It is possible to change between slave and free, but it may not be possible for the individual at that time to make the change - the slave may not have the money to buy freedom, and the owner not be prepared to grant it whatever is offered. The point is that In Christ, in the Church, these things no longer count. They do count in the world. It is a very particular thing to be male or female, slave or free, in Paul's world. The fact that under certain circumstances the change MAY be made for some of the categories does NOT mean that GENERALLY those called as Christians can expect to change their state. In other words, the freedom experienced in Christ does not easily or simply translate to similar freedom in the world. Which was my point.
In the church there is and there should be a freedom to exercise out gifts for the good of Christ, regardless of our male/female etc etc.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Monday, 9 April 2012 at 6:04pm BST

My brother is dying. We got that news this weekend. He will lay aside all identity when he is in the grave, until then he is brother, father, friend, enemy, so on.

To live in this world is to have an identity, or to have one thrust on you. Talk of "identity politics" - especially from people who cling so desperately to an identity as oppressed Christians, demanding their rights and privileges and using it to thrust their identity in opposition to an identity they have cooperated in creating to be their scape goat and bogeyman - is a hollow thing, a lie, a jaded political manipulation of the most unholy kind, most of all because it isn't done consciously, but is a manipulation of pure instinct.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 5:21am BST

While enmity over my position may overshadow this, Mark, I'm sorry about Jeff.

@Rosemary: 'the freedom experienced in Christ does not easily or simply translate to similar freedom in the world.'

Agreed, the translation is not easy, nor simple. So it boils down to whether the change, however difficult, in a particular category is possible and whether that change is consonant with the true freedom as described by Christ in John 8:34 - 36. The majority here would say that their 'lived reality' means 'no', change here is neither possible, nor necessary.

However persuasive the arguments in either direction, it is the generosity in forbearance that distinguishes the Christian in dialogue. In this, I think you have distinguished yourself from many more vocal commenters.

We have shared an interest and agreement on a broader range of Christian issues than simply same-sex marriage. We have shared our concerns over the Diocese of Chichester paedophile case while many others turned a blind eye. Our exchanges are patient and resolute, yet rarely irascible, or sullen.

We recognise and trust that the other person can make a valid point, even if we then indicate to each other that the central issue might be more nuanced.

You particularly appear to have taken to heart Christ's saying, 'Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world', rather than resorting to irate exasperation. You are clearly capable of self-critical reflection.

I don't expect you to change, but that manner augurs better for the listening process than those of the TA flame-throwers who hope, as a quick fix, to immolate all contrary arguments to ashes before one issue within the entire liberal cause.

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 10:50am BST

Well David, I don't imagine anybody expects me to change from female and straight - I think I would find it impossible to be a man and very hard not to find men attractive. Nor do I wish (or wish anybody else) to be a slave. But the fact of the matter is that many, perhaps most of the slaves to whom Paul wrote could in theory have changed to free, but in practise were condemned to live and die as slaves. The statement is not about whether or not a condition is God-given. It is about whether we whatever our status are given the opportunity to be free in the church.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 7:01pm BST

Very sorry to hear of your brother Mark,such a tough call-- thoughts and prayers,


Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 12:55am BST

It's never been enmity, David.

It's sorrow. Grief. Despair.

I'm sorry about you.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 5:26am BST
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