Homosexuals attract enemy radar

Recent developments such as those reported here and here, plus I must confess a healthy sense of mischief, have inspired me to finally enter the pointless yawnfest that is the ongoing debate about homosexuality in the church.

At the outset I guess I should declare that I am a raving liberal about a lot of these contentious issues. For instance, I don’t believe that the biblical argument against homosexuality holds much water, because if you’re clever, scholarly, or just plain weird, you can use the Bible to justify all sorts of beliefs – like the Earth is only 6,000 years old, slavery and misogyny are acceptable, and even that God hates figs. A book which was written thousands of years ago often long after the events they document, which was translated many times before we got to read it, and which very occasionally contradicts itself, cannot be seen as the inerrant, infallible and total word of God.

Anyway, what particularly amuses me about the homosexuality debate is that most of the fuss kicked up by the fundamentalists is specifically caused by gays being ordained as bishops. As far as I am aware there’s no mass hysteria about them being members, employees, or even preachers, and no attempts to expunge them from the pews, prayer groups and committees of churches. Only a problem about them being bishops. What the fundies appear to be saying, then, is that it’s fine to have gays in the church just as long as they aren’t in a position of authority or influence.

Why might this be? Two potential reasons spring to mind.

1. Simple prejudice, in that gays are alright when quiet and subservient in the church, but a worrying and dangerous influence when in a promoted position? Nope, it can’t be that – because not only would that be hypocritical and discriminatory (and the church would never be like that, would it?), but also we as Christians strive to love everyone equally just as Jesus did regardless of their background or character, and wish the church to be inclusive of all kinds of people.

2. Homosexuals’ “sinful nature”? No it can’t be that either, because if all sinners were barred from holding office in the church, there’d be no church left.

Instead, the only reason why the fundamentalists oppose homosexuals rising to be bishops appears to be that they think that homosexuals alongside the rest of us have a real role to play in the ministry and service of the church… but genuinely believe that due to their sexual orientation they are inherently ill-suited to positions of leadership and management.

How?? Are gays proven to be incapable of balancing budgets, chairing committees, providing spiritual leadership, managing teams of staff, or directing large-scale projects? Chris Morris’s brilliant spoof television documentary Brass Eye springs to mind. In one episode, a fictitious Royal Navy officer justifies the exclusions of gays from the military, arguing:

Homosexuals can’t swim, they attract enemy radar, they attract sharks, they nudge people when they’re trying to shoot, they always insist on sitting at “The Captain’s Table”… they muck about. Imagine… the fear… when you go to sleep with a gay man on board and think “Oh God, when I wake up, will everyone be dead?” You can’t run a ship like that.

As is often said, Jesus said nothing in the Bible about homosexuality – so I have no idea why we are tearing ourselves apart over something so frivilous, irrelevant and frankly very boring.

Surely we should follow his lead and find something important to argue about instead, such as how to spread the Good News, or how to resist war, poverty, injustice, bigotry and the singing of “Shine Jesus Shine” throughout the world.

With any luck my next post about Christianity will be on a subject that is faintly relevant and interesting. In the meantime, I shall brace myself for the fundamentalist onslaught…

14 thoughts on “Homosexuals attract enemy radar

  1. Since when has being gay been a worse sin than being a murderer, a gambler, an alcoholic, an adulterer etc, etc?

    If people are going to get their knickers in a knot about stuff like that, they should REALLY think long and hard about what they’re saying.

    Really and truly, I think the main thing the opposers get all stressed about is because they’re spending too much time thinking about how gay people “do it”, so they should just get their minds out of the gutter and start worring about their own lives and how they lead them…

    Thus endeth my rant for today {:->

  2. The Bible not infallible? The debate about homosexuality pointless? Is it really St Silas church you attend?!

    Anyway, I think the whole thing needs to be referred to the national watchdog of Anglican bishops: Off-Ertory.

    Sorry…

  3. “As is often said, Jesus said nothing in the Bible about homosexuality…”

    Well, first, when Jesus was speaking to folks and teaching he wasn’t thinking “Right, I’ve got to make this a good one cos it’s going to be recorded in the New Testament for all time, I’d better cram my best and most water-tight theology into this sentence.”

    Jesus — I’d argue — on the whole like us took each day as it came and responded to people as and when. He was attentive to where God the Father and the Holy Spirit were moving in situations and responded accordingly. (I’m sure from time to time he did have an agenda, but I could be fairly certain that it wasn’t planned to the most minute of details like the plot from a novel.)

    Second, we can’t be certain that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality at all just that it wasn’t recorded by any of the Gospel writers. It wasn’t an important enough part of their reasons for writing what they did.

    Another example: we don’t really know what Jesus thought of the Roman occupation of Israel — other than that they ought to pay their taxes to Caesar. I’m sure that Jesus did have an opinion on it, it’s just that it wasn’t recorded because it wasn’t important to the main thrust of the story. Our belief in the claims about Jesus does not depend on Jesus’s views on these isolated issues.

    If only we could find Q — by which I don’t mean the gadget boffin from James Bond, but the supposed common source that Matthew, Mark and Luke used when compiling their books — maybe it says something there. Although I doubt it.

  4. As far as I’m concerned bishops and other leaders should be commited christians who strive to live lives pleasing to God. While of course they will sin, they should pray for help to stop sinning and will try not to do anything which God doesn’t want. Therefore I would expect a leader, just as any other commited christian, to stop concious sinning e.g. murder, commiting adultery, writing lies etc.

    Practicing homosexuality is clearly outlawed in the bible, it is spoken about a large number of times throughout. You need look no further than Genesis 2: 24 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” which states the designed way for men to live sexually. Also Paul talks about in Romans (there are many more throughout). Practicing homosexuality is sinful and sin which one does conciously. Something which one has to think about before and during the event.

    Therefore a leader (and any believer), who claims to love and follow God, cannot also be a practicing homosexual. Just as a leader should not be commiting adultery. Someone who is a practicing homosexual is clearly and openly not doing God’s will, and makes that decisions not to obey him regularly, that is not something which a leader should do!

    With this in mind I cannot see how practicing homosexuals should lead in the Church. Of course homosexuality is not “worse” than any other sin., it is the same to God as lying or murder, but it is the act of defying God not that they are less loved or able than anyone else.

    We (as a church) should welcome EVERYONE: Homosexuals, drug dealers, proud scientist and even Labour voters as all are loved by God. But to put someone who openly defys God in charge is wrong.

  5. It seems to me that many religions’ oppression of homosexuality is the main reason for its existence. Imagine – if it wasn’t strongly discouraged then over the centuries all the homosexuals could have got together, been happy, but have been far less likely to reproduce. The gene/genes would have been selected out. However, by condemning it as wrong, homosexuals have been forced to deny their feelings, to society or even themselves, and have married and reproduced. The gene lives on.

    Of course, all this depends whether or not you believe homosexuality has a genetic basis, and whether such gene selection (aka evolution) is a reality or some crazy fabricated myth by “science”. And there we enter into a whole new territory of debate…

    But my point is: if the church wants to be rid of homosexuals, then they should just encourage it.

  6. Ah, finally something juicy to discuss. Canada has gone through a bit of this debate as the Anglican church has become split over this issue. But the realy hot topic over there has been same sex marriage.

    I would love to sit down over a pint with some of you to have a good hearty debate, but I don’t know who any of you are (yet). So in the meantime here is a Canadian spin on the topic compliments of a Canadian comedian Rick Mercer.

    http://www.cbc.ca/mercerreport/video_player.html?ricks_rant_january_31_2005

    http://www.cbc.ca/mercerreport/video_player.html?denmark

    http://www.cbc.ca/mercerreport/video_player.html?traditions

  7. Genesis 2 may tell us the way God intended the world to be, but it doesn’t tell what things are acceptable – most christians would agree that illness is not part of the way God intended the world to be, but few would argue that a person who is ill is therefore sinning.

    The passage in Romans 1 is part of an argument that Paul is presenting to the Roman christians – as they are making sweeping judgements on others (ch1) Paul tells them to hbe cautious about judging others, since they are judging themselves as they do all kinds of things they shouldn’t do either (2:1). I’m afraid my greek isn’t quite up to translating vv26 and 27, but there is at least an argument that these are talking about promiscuous behaviour or temple prostitution, and not monogamous consenting relationships.

    The bible is a very complicated book, which says very little about homosexuality, but does say a lot more about loving our neighbours, and not loving money. Jesus himself gave this topic some attention (Matthew 6:24) and the Old Testament seems to outlaw making money out of charging interest on loans. (Leviticus 25:35-37) Whoops there goes capitalism… Wouldn’t it be great if the church spent as much time challenging global inequality as it did debating homosexuality.

  8. Wading in.

    Have a (long) read of Robert Gagnon’s scholarly piece on this. It’s a rebuttal of a critique of his work, but covers all the ground.

    http://www.westernsem.edu/wtseminary/assets/Gagnon2%20Aut05.pdf

    I’m sorry, but one can only argue for same-sex practice from experience. It simply cannot be argued for with coherence from scripture. As Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of Church History at Oxford, has stated in an aside in his book on the European Reformation. “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 a homosexual identity” (Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided, 1490-1700, page 705). This means the only way to approve of same-sex behaviour is to discount Scripture and historic theology, and go forward with ‘new revelation’.

    I do agree that we need to work on other issues too. We can’t simply ignore this one, especially as it applies internally to what the church holds to be appropriate behaviour, and what is not.

  9. “We are in a war between dullness and astonishment.

    The most critical issue facing Christians is not abortion, pornography, the disintegration of the family, moral absolutes, MTV, drugs, racism, sexuality, or school prayer. The critical issue today is dullness. We have lost our astonishment. The Good News is no longer good news, it is okay news. Christianity is no longer life changing, it is life enhancing. Jesus doesn’t change people into wild-eyed radicals anymore; He changes them into “nice people.””

    Robert Farrar Capon, The Astonished Heart (p. 120).

    I like this quote, its not that I don’t think this particular issue is important, but Mr Varwell is so right – other issues are far more important…and the Gospel is most important of all… Christ alone convicts us, Christ alone changes our lives…

    (And whats wrong with Shine Jesus Shine?)

    Have a great Christmas…

  10. I find it saddens me that whenever I read something about it being ok for Christians to practice same sex, the writer usually begins the argument by denigrating the authority and veritas of the Bible.
    Christians are supposed to prove their argument from the Bible
    an example would be Stephen Acts 6:10. To me anyway it seems ludicrous for a Christian to base an argument for anything upon the word of God being unworthy of our faith and trust.
    “For this reason I was born,and for this I came into the world
    to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me”
    Jesus before Pilate.

  11. I’d argue that it takes as much ‘fancy footwork’ and mental acrobatics to maintain the view of an inerrant bible as it does just about any other.

    While I believe that the Bible is a collection of divinely inspired (in some meaningful sense), but humanly recorded books that are crucial and central to Christian life, I have sympathy for the view of George Fox.

    “They asked me whether the scripture was the word of God. I said God was the Word and the Scriptures were writings, and the Word was before writings were, which Word did fulfill them.”

    On the main topic, a few years ago I went to a launch event at Borders for a book by a CoS member called ‘Sexuality & Salvation’. There was a 3-way panel discussion between a baptist minister, a CoS youth worker and John Bell from the Iona community. One thing he said on this whole issue has stuck with me since.

    He said that when we reach the end of time, the sky rolls back and heaven is revealed, and we gaze into the perfect face of God, feeling his incredible love, we might smile at ourselves that we ever took this quite so seriously.

  12. I think the validity of homosexual unions can very much be argued from reason (and indeed Gagnon’s “embodied existence” arguments means that he is establishing reason as one of the main theological sources for his position). Much of Gagnon’s extra-biblical arguments are frankly silly; an appropriate response to his obsession with plumbing would be to note that the fact that the prostate is the male g-spot proves that God is all in favour of same-sex unions.

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