Around this time last year, the Presbyterian Church of Wales made national news after paying out a record sum to a gay employee who had endured ‘grotesquely’ discriminatory conduct and sexual harassment. You might reasonably assume, then, that they’d watch their step when it comes to the ever-so-touchy subject of homosexuality. You would, of course, be wrong to make such an assumption.
I wholeheartedly recognise the great good amongst the great not-so-good when it comes to the thorny subject of religion. I am and always have been a champion of all faiths and no faith alike (despite my troublesome sense of humour). It, therefore, both surprised and slightly tickled me to see an editorial in the church’s monthly magazine accusing gay Christians of “attacking” the church.
The editorial, by Rev Jonathan Hodgins, cites three “troubling positions” held by gay religious campaigners. See below for extracts.
First, there is the low view of the Bible. If you’ve ever argued with a person about homosexuality by saying ‘the Bible says it’s wrong’ you know that what will come back is a list of Levitical laws about seafood and fabrics, finishing with the devastating riposte, “I hope you don’t eat prawns!” Leviticus and the Old Testament is the great battering ram for the pro-homosexual group.
Ignoring the fact that there is plenty of material explaining very clearly why these different verses must be handled in different ways, what troubles me here is the glee with which the Bible is held up for ridicule.
Whether or not they mean to, they give the impression that the Bible is not relevant to the discussion. An impression summed up by Rev Lindsay Biddle, Chaplain of Affirmation Scotland who declared recently “If you don’t like homosexuals, then get on with it—but don’t use the Bible to justify opinions.”
By extension the second worrying thing for me is that these folk have a low view of the Church. Their analysis of the historical church gives the impression that vagabonds and scoundrels led it. After a few minutes of reading I wonder if I would have less flak admitting I was a member of the BNP. Racist, sexist exploitative and thick, the church from its earliest days is condemned.
But let’s not forget that the Church is a group of sinners, and in its 2000-year history it would be surprising if groups within the worldwide Church had never made mistakes. Much more importantly, let’s remember that the Church is the Bride of Christ. For all its faults, Jesus loves it and we should love it too.
Finally there is the low view of Love. The most persuasive argument in the pro-homosexual arsenal seems to be that they are loving. They recognise the need of a person to follow his heart, and love whoever he is attracted to regardless of gender. By contrast those who promote heterosexual marriage as the only God honouring expression of sexuality are seen as repressive. Put like this, the orthodox position looks horrible. But let me present things differently.
At this point I might mention my one year old son. He loves the toaster. His desire is to spend all his time with the toaster. When I sit him up on the worktop with me to butter him a sandwich he never turns to his left to play with the radio. It does not interest him. He only wants to turn to his right and put his hands in the toaster. What should I do? According to the logic of the pro- homosexual group I should let him carry on after all he is following his heart.
In fact tolerance isn’t enough. I should encourage him to see this is a valid choice- that is the loving way. Of course when he burns his hands I will quite rightly find Social Services intervening and punishing me for my stupidity, because I was not loving but negligent. I knew that what he was doing was wrong and dangerous. The loving act was to point out clearly to my son the inevitable consequences and prevent him doing what he wanted to do. Pro-homosexual Christians will not do that and that is troubling.
Yes. You did just read that. So; where to begin…
With the average age of those attending regular worship in Wales (and throughout the UK for that matter) being somewhere in the late seventies, you might expect a more enlightened opinion from the Presbyterian Church of Wales’ youngest minister. To compare the expression of mutual, human love with a child’s interest in a toaster might suggest how much credence to give to the author’s argument. Aren’t we all a bit tired of Christians who pick and choose which parts of the Bible to keep and which to bin? He does, after all, contradict his own literal translation of the Bible.
Maybe he should check his facts, unless his comments are tongue in cheek and he’d like me to check them for him… The first point I’ll make being that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah doesn’t refer to consensual sex between two adults. It is, in fact, a story about rape; and the rape of angels for that matter.
He might also be interested to know that the Old Testament and St Paul’s subsequent views within the New Testament (if they are even his) are in keeping with the Jewish Purity Laws, as with the mixing of two fibres along with having a bite to eat with Gentiles.
This viewpoint takes for granted an assumed subordinate role of women, and the homosexual male is seen as taking on this role, too. Need I say any more here?
Now, unlike the editorial above, I feel it’s as much a minister’s business to ask who I sleep with as it is for me to ask if he sleeps with his menstruating wife (yet another no-no for all you people who take the Bible literally). I can truly say that I couldn’t care less. But then it begs the question why does the anti-homosexual Christian lobby care so much?
The saying ‘you can’t educate pork, only cure it’ springs to mind. Don’t you fundamental Christians start salivating at that last sentence, mind you, since a Christian who takes the Bible literally can’t even eat pork.
It’s time Jesus was used as more of an example if you ask me, and his fulfilment of the Old Laws can be summarised with only the one; to love. Not enough tables have been pushed over it seems.
I’m with Lindsay Biddle on this one. I’ll continue plodding along my own path and let people like this keep on talking; all the while praying for more Biblical literacy. After all, only those who spout their bigoted opinions really seem to care these days. The few old dears that are left in the chapel pews are probably unable to hear anyway.
Anyone for a prawn sandwich?