A well done video from Australia:
From a blog post by Linda Robertson, who prayed to not have a gay son. And, as she writes, their family got their wish, but just not in the way they thought. Her and her husband’s talking about their experiences and their late son is very moving.
In the years after Ryan came out to us, we often made decisions that caused him to feel distant and alone – alienated from the people that were supposed to know and love him best. Yes, sometimes parents of teenagers have to make those kind of decisions, and some that we made were, indeed, necessary and wise. But others served no purpose other than to control Ryan out of our own fear, and they resulted in painful division and strife between us.
Several years ago my friend Jodie said this, “I wonder if it has become easier to oppose ideologies than to actually love people.” There is a great deal of wisdom in that statement. For many Christian parents of LGBTQ adult children, I think it might be easier to “take a stance for the truth” and avoid attending their weddings, inviting their partners over for dinner, or including the person they are dating to the family Christmas gathering. It is harder, actually, to lean in and be a bit uncomfortable; it is more challenging to make myself vulnerable to being in an unfamiliar situation where I might not know how to act. I might feel out of place or unwanted. And sometimes I have felt out of place and unwanted. But from our experience, each time we take those kind of risks, when we intentionally get out of our comfort zones and follow God into the lives of others, He teaches us – through them – so many, many things we couldn’t have learned otherwise.
Read Linda’s piece in the Huffington Post, here.
I came across this article in “The American Conservative” website. To be honest, I’m unfamiliar with the website or what I presume is the print magazine. This article, “Sex After Christianity: Gay marriage is not just a social revolution but a cosmological one,” by Rod Dreher brings up some interesting thoughts.
I find in the author’s analysis a lack of consideration that gay marriage may actually add to and encourage the same kind of communal commitments that are not individualistic. Marriage necessitates a giving up of a completely centered self. The equating of homosexuality and the desire for gay marriage with the relinquishing of a cultural propensity for the common good is wrong, I think.
I agree that the sexual revolution of the 1960’s changed nearly everything related to ideas of marriage and sexual ethics. I do think that the sexual revolution open more widely the doors of possibility for acceptance of same-sex relationships. Yet, heterosexual marriage was even more impacted by the sexual-revolution than were notions of acceptance of same-sex relationships.
I think same-sex marriage is a conservative position, as well as a progressive one. I have yet to find sociological studies of any substance (within technical definitions) that show that promiscuity, infidelity, hyper-individualism within sexual expression, etc., benefits the individuals involved or the common society. Yet, that is separate from same-sex relationships in and of themselves and whether same-sex marriage is a help or hindrance for the common good.
Anyway, here are a few paragraphs commenting on sociologist Philip Rieff’s ideas that I think should be considered on matter one’s position on same-sex marriage.
Though he might not have put it quite that way, the eminent sociologist Philip Rieff would probably have said yes. Rieff’s landmark 1966 book The Triumph Of the Therapeutic analyzes what he calls the “deconversion” of the West from Christianity. Nearly everyone recognizes that this process has been underway since the Enlightenment, but Rieff showed that it had reached a more advanced stage than most people—least of all Christians—recognized.
Rieff, who died in 2006, was an unbeliever, but he understood that religion is the key to understanding any culture. For Rieff, the essence of any and every culture can be identified by what it forbids. Each imposes a series of moral demands on its members, for the sake of serving communal purposes, and helps them cope with these demands. A culture requires a cultus—a sense of sacred order, a cosmology that roots these moral demands within a metaphysical framework.
You don’t behave this way and not that way because it’s good for you; you do so because this moral vision is encoded in the nature of reality. This is the basis of natural-law theory, which has been at the heart of contemporary secular arguments against same-sex marriage (and which have persuaded no one).
Rieff, writing in the 1960s, identified the sexual revolution—though he did not use that term—as a leading indicator of Christianity’s death as a culturally determinative force. In classical Christian culture, he wrote, “the rejection of sexual individualism” was “very near the center of the symbolic that has not held.” He meant that renouncing the sexual autonomy and sensuality of pagan culture was at the core of Christian culture—a culture that, crucially, did not merely renounce but redirected the erotic instinct. That the West was rapidly re-paganizing around sensuality and sexual liberation was a powerful sign of Christianity’s demise.
It is nearly impossible for contemporary Americans to grasp why sex was a central concern of early Christianity. Sarah Ruden, the Yale-trained classics translator, explains the culture into which Christianity appeared in her 2010 book Paul Among The People. Ruden contends that it’s profoundly ignorant to think of the Apostle Paul as a dour proto-Puritan descending upon happy-go-lucky pagan hippies, ordering them to stop having fun.
In fact, Paul’s teachings on sexual purity and marriage were adopted as liberating in the pornographic, sexually exploitive Greco-Roman culture of the time—exploitive especially of slaves and women, whose value to pagan males lay chiefly in their ability to produce children and provide sexual pleasure. Christianity, as articulated by Paul, worked a cultural revolution, restraining and channeling male eros, elevating the status of both women and of the human body, and infusing marriage—and marital sexuality—with love.
Christian marriage, Ruden writes, was “as different from anything before or since as the command to turn the other cheek.” The point is not that Christianity was only, or primarily, about redefining and revaluing sexuality, but that within a Christian anthropology sex takes on a new and different meaning, one that mandated a radical change of behavior and cultural norms. In Christianity, what people do with their sexuality cannot be separated from what the human person is.
It would be absurd to claim that Christian civilization ever achieved a golden age of social harmony and sexual bliss. It is easy to find eras in Christian history when church authorities were obsessed with sexual purity. But as Rieff recognizes, Christianity did establish a way to harness the sexual instinct, embed it within a community, and direct it in positive ways.
What makes our own era different from the past, says Rieff, is that we have ceased to believe in the Christian cultural framework, yet we have made it impossible to believe in any other that does what culture must do: restrain individual passions and channel them creatively toward communal purposes.
Rather, in the modern era, we have inverted the role of culture. Instead of teaching us what we must deprive ourselves of to be civilized, we have a society that tells us we find meaning and purpose in releasing ourselves from the old prohibitions.
How this came to be is a complicated story involving the rise of humanism, the advent of the Enlightenment, and the coming of modernity. As philosopher Charles Taylor writes in his magisterial religious and cultural history A Secular Age, “The entire ethical stance of moderns supposes and follows on from the death of God (and of course, of the meaningful cosmos).” To be modern is to believe in one’s individual desires as the locus of authority and self-definition.
Gradually the West lost the sense that Christianity had much to do with civilizational order, Taylor writes. In the 20th century, casting off restrictive Christian ideals about sexuality became increasingly identified with health. By the 1960s, the conviction that sexual expression was healthy and good—the more of it, the better—and that sexual desire was intrinsic to one’s personal identity culminated in the sexual revolution, the animating spirit of which held that freedom and authenticity were to be found not in sexual withholding (the Christian view) but in sexual expression and assertion. That is how the modern American claims his freedom.
To Rieff, ours is a particular kind of “revolutionary epoch” because the revolution cannot by its nature be institutionalized. Because it denies the possibility of communal knowledge of binding truths transcending the individual, the revolution cannot establish a stable social order. As Rieff characterizes it, “The answer to all questions of ‘what for’ is ‘more’.”
Our post-Christian culture, then, is an “anti-culture.” We are compelled by the logic of modernity and the myth of individual freedom to continue tearing away the last vestiges of the old order, convinced that true happiness and harmony will be ours once all limits have been nullified.
Dan Pearce writes this piece on his blog, “sdl.” It is worth reading! It is about, after all is said and done, how we live out the calling of Jesus Christ – how we are and are not living up to the example and commands of Jesus. Here are a couple paragraphs to give you a taste.
“Why is it that sometimes the most Christlike people are they who have no religion at all?
“I have known a lot of people in my life, and I can tell you this… Some of the ones who understood love better than anyone else were those who the rest of the world had long before measured as lost or gone. Some of the people who were able to look at the dirtiest, the poorest, the gays, the straights, the drug users, those in recovery, the basest of sinners, and those who were just… plain… different…
“They were able to look at them all and only see strength. Beauty. Potential. Hope.
“And if we boil it down, isn’t that what love actually is?
“Don’t get me wrong. I know a lot of incredible Christians, too. I know some incredible Buddhists and Muslims and Hindus and Jews. I know a lot of amazing people, devout in their various religions, who truly love the people around them.
“I also know some atheist, agnostic, or religionless people who are absolutely hateful of believers. They loathe their religious counterparts. They love only those who believe (or don’t believe) the same things they do.
“In truth, having a religion doesn’t make a person love or not love others. It doesn’t make a person accept or not accept others. It doesn’t make a person befriend or not befriend others.
“Being without a religion doesn’t make somebody do or be any of that either.
“No, what makes somebody love, accept, and befriend their fellow man is letting go of a need to be better than others.
“I know there are many here who believe that living a homosexual life is a sin.
“But, what does that have to do with love?
“I repeat… what does that have to do with love?
“Come on. Don’t we understand? Don’t we get it? To put our arm around
someone who is gay, someone who has an addiction, somebody who lives a
different lifestyle, someone who is not what we think they
should be… doing that has nothing to do with enabling them or accepting
what they do as okay by us. It has nothing to do with encouraging them
in their practice of what you or I might feel or believe is wrong vs
“It has everything to do with being a good human being. A good person. A good friend.
“My request today is simple. Today. Tomorrow. Next week. Find
somebody, anybody, that’s different than you. Somebody that has made you
feel ill-will or even [gulp…] hateful. Somebody whose life decisions
have made you uncomfortable. Somebody who practices a different religion
than you do. Somebody who has been lost to addiction. Somebody with a
criminal past. Somebody who dresses “below” you. Somebody with
disabilities. Somebody who lives an alternative lifestyle. Somebody
without a home.
“Somebody that you, until now, would always avoid, always look down on, and always be disgusted by.
“Reach your arm out and put it around them.
“And then, tell them they’re all right. Tell them they have a friend. Tell them you love them.
“If you or I wanna make a change in this world, that’s where we’re gonna be able to do it. That’s where we’ll start.
“Every. Single. Time.
“Because what you’ll find, and I promise you this, is that the more
you put your arm around those that you might naturally look down on, the
more you will love yourself. And the more you love yourself, the less need you’ll ever have to find fault or be better than others. And the less we all find fault or have a need to be better than others, the quicker this world becomes a far better place to live.
“And don’t we all want to live in a better world? Don’t we all want our kids to grow up in a better, less hateful, more beautiful “world?
“I know I do.”
Think on such things – try to come into the idea that the Way of Jesus Christ is so contrary to this American culture of ours! It matters not how much the left or right or liberal or conservative or Roman Catholic or Evangelical or Anglican or Protestant or Independent wants us all to believe that THEY (their group, their belief system, their denomination, their church) have it all exactly right and so lovingly warn everyone else that if they don’t get on board they are going straight to the Lake of Burning Fire for all eternity -crispy critters.
We are blind. Why? Because we are fallible, because we see in part, because we know in part, and because we will not know fully until we get on to the other side. Why, then do we have to pretend that we or I or s/he or us are exactly right?
The Christian Science Monitor published an opinion piece online March 24th, 2011. The piece is by Jonathan Merritt and entitled,”Evangelical shift on gays: Why ‘clobber scriptures’ are losing ground.”
I’ve been watching this shift over the last 20 odd years. I’m still amazed at the length certain anti-homosexual groups go to attempt to reinforce their positions, even while the arguments they use are constantly changing over time because their arguments of justification loose their persuasive force as the blanket exaggerations or misinformation of gay people become all too clear. It does them no good nor their argument when what they say no longer seems to line up with what more and more people are experiencing in their day-to-day lives.
They’ve lost the emerging generations, already. In Barna Group‘s research project that resulted in the book “unChristian,” one of their primary findings suggests that emerging young people find Christianity in the U.S. to be profoundly anti-homosexual, and it doesn’t jib well with their own beliefs or experiences.
(Now, I will say that much depends on how one defines “homosexual” or how one believes homosexuals think or act in the aggregate. The primarily Religious Right anti-homosexual groups try to persuade people that most all homosexuals are sex-crazed alcoholics who will just as soon molest your young son as have a coke at the corner dinner. Spreading this kind of misinformation is simply baring false-witness against a whole class of people, whether one believes those people need saving, healing, or death or not. As a Christian, I will say that much of what is presented as normative in the urban gay subculture by certain gay interests – hedonism – isn’t the kind of life that is conducive to our own personal best interests. But, the gay people involved in living their lives in such a way are no different than what I witnessed in my 20-years working in higher education with students who happen to be in the straight Greek system – unabashed hedonists.)
Back to the issue at hand and speaking of “clobber passages”… I’ve particularly noticed how Bible publishers have been dealing with the issue. As might be known, the term “homosexual” never appeared in an English Bible until the mid-to-late 1950’s – that’s approximate 450 years without such a term in English Bibles. Over the years, as their arguments against all forms of homosexual relationships continue to gain less traction, the anti-homosexual groups attempt to reinforce their position by becoming even more specific and detailed in their demand of and translation of Scripture to attempt to bolster their failing arguments.
For example, the length that the English Standard Bible goes to attempt to make specifically clear that the obscure Greek words found in I Corinthians 6:9 are absolutely about homosexuals, but not just homosexuals, but about men, and not just men, but in the footnote pertaining the to two Greek words, men who are the passive AND the active partners AND both giving consent. The ESV translates the Greek words, “nor men who practice homosexuality,” with the footnote clarifying the mean with, “The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts.”
The King James version translates the words this way, “…nor effeminate, or abusers of themselves with mankind.” The New International Version translates the words this way, “…nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders.” The New American Standard Version translates the words this way, “…nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,” with the footnote specifying, “I.e., effeminate by perversion.” (How is one “effeminate by perversion?”)The New Revised Standard Version translates the words this way, “males prostitutes, sodomites…”
The truth is, whether it supports a socio-political position or agenda or not (conservative or liberal), we simply do not know what Paul meant. Yet, in order to tow the anti-homosexual line, Bible publishers cave into the demand by anti-gay Religious Right organizations to take a anti-gay stand in the translation of these words. (I Tim. 1:10, is another example) I’ve witnessed big campaigns that demand the Bible publishers publish the translation even more specific, as we witness in the EVS.
After all, we have to make the Bible absolutely specific in order to keep ignorant people from being deceived by Satan (through the liberal Bible “scholars”) trying to make homosexuality not a sin, make in normal and celebrated in the public mind, when we know that the end of this will be death and the end of Western Civilization by the punishing judgement of God. Right? You see why the anti-gay zealots have to exert a great deal of pressure on the Bible publishers to be absolutely specific that God condemns in no uncertain terms everything homosexual, whether we know the Greek words used by Paul actually mean “homosexuals” or not.
The problem, as the opinion piece details, these kinds of arguments are no longer persuading the emerging generations. It isn’t that the fags are winning in the deceiving of young, impressionable minds (although there is some truth in the assertion that the pro-gay message has more traction than the anti-gay message), but that the justifications and “proofs” for the anti-gay arguments are being shown to be fallacious.
I want to be clear, as a Christian and as a priest in this Church, our role and goal is not simply to affirm different groups of people, including homosexual people. Our goal is always and for everyone – everyone – the cause of Christ for salvation, reconciliation, and restoration calling us into such a life that we become free of so much within our world that binds us, deadens us, enslaves us, deceives us, and causes our lives to be separated from God and estranged form one another. This means that I call homosexual people as another other people into the reconciling relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This will transform us and cause us to be different – not tied up in knots by giving ourselves to the hedonistic culture. This does not mean, however, that homosexuals stop being homosexual. Gay or straight, we are called to be with God according to God’s ways and not simply according to the dictates of the prevailing culture or our own proclivities.
The anti-gay Religious Right will not win in their quest and crusade, because their positions cannot be sustained according to the truth that we know. Yet, they will become even more demanding and stringent as they lose influence, as their arguments fail. Unless, of course, as we are witnessing, people change their positions. This has already happened for the majority of younger people.
An interesting interview in Der Spiegel Online (in English) with Roman Catholic theologian David Berger concerning his recent book (only in German at this point) covering his life as a conservative theologian in the Church as a gay person.
Every now and then I catch up on what is going on with the controversies within the Anglican Communion among the bloggers who are most prolific. Mark Harris (Preludium), a priest in Delaware and member of the Episcopal Church (TEC) Executive Council and Kendall Harmon (Titusonenine), the Canon Theologian for the Diocese of South Carolina, are two of these. Over the past couple of years, and despite my respect for much of what he has written in the past, Harris has become more typically Baby Boomer-ish (those who believe they are given an unique charge to remake the world in their own image and bring in the age of Aquarius by the dismantling all that came before them) and particularly stereotypically American (those who expect their will to be done around the world simply because we are Americans, so smart, so progressive, and so right). After all, we just want what is best for the world and its people, and we know exactly how everyone needs to act and what they need to believe.
All these machinations we are hearing from the leadership of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. concerning steps being taken by the Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC) and the governing structures of the Anglican Communion because we snub our nose and refuse to abide by a couple requests made of us by those bodies, increasingly smacks of people who are used to getting their way, but no longer can.
Now, honestly, I have to admit that abiding by these two requests will impact my life, but only minimally. What I have to acknowledge is that I don’t always get my way, I don’t have a “right” to anything within the Church or the Body of Christ, and that I consider myself to be part of a Church that is Catholic – all of these things cause me to recognize, acknowledge, and abide by things I don’t like, think is fair, or consider to be right. It isn’t all about me or my group. By saying that, I do not even consider that I stop advocating for myself, my group, what I think to be God’s will, what I believe to be right for the good order, safety, and benefit of all, and an advocate for those who are terribly abused by other Anglicans around the world and demand that they stop their abuse.
Soon, “imperialist” America will have to deal with the rest of the world standing up to us. How will we as a people and as a nation act when this really starts to happen in earnest? Will we join the rest of the world as equal partners or… will we continue to act like imperialists and attempt to force our will on the world or… will we retreat into isolationism?
The Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church are a foreshadowing of all this and how Americans will probably act.
So many of our reactions in TEC (at least among many of its leadership) smacks of an “imperialist” Episcopal Church that generally got its way within Anglicanism (because we were Americans and we had the money), but now has to deal with foreign people standing up to us and saying, “our views count and we aren’t going to let you get away with this anymore.”
Now, we may absolutely disagree with them and actually may be absolutely right – but we are still being stood up to. We don’t like it, so we laughingly do things like accuse the ABC of acting like a colonial authority when he, completely within his right, “interferes” in TEC, which claims to be an Anglican province by definition in communion with him. We just can’t stand being stood up to.
How are we going to act, now?
Are we going to join the rest of the Communion as equal partners and recognize that all (but a few) have requested that we don’t do a couple things and that as equal partners sometimes we have to give a little (while still being ardent advocates of our position) or… are we going to attempt to force our will one very one else (something like Spong’s attack on African bishops) or… will we simply retreat into isolationism and claim we don’t need the rest of the Communion and gloriously declare that we are our own sect?
I keep hearing all the above from our leadership, except, really, that we see ourselves as equal members of the Communion and that sometimes we don’t get our way. Send no more money to them… we can do just as well on our own and who needs them – these are the attitudes I hear and read the most.
A lot has been written and the comments continue concerning the overturning of California’s ballot initiative, Proposition 8, overturning the legislature’s establishing equality in marriage for same-sex couples. A couple points I would like to make concerning what I’ve read and the opinions that are being expressed:
1. The U.S. is NOT a Direct Democracy. We are a Republic! “The people” do not have the final say except through their elected officials within our system of checks and balances. The courts mitigate the “tyranny of the majority” that can result when the majority seeks to deny equal consideration, access, and protection under the law to whole groups of people. The legislatures mitigate an equal tendency among the courts to engage in the “tyranny of the minority.”
2. I am astounded that the Religious Right, anti-gay forces use the “will of the people” as their primary argument when fighting against state sanctioned same-sex marriage. How short-sighted can they be? They will not uphold this position and the right of the “will of the people” to rule when they are disadvantaged. We will not find them accepting the “will of the people” if a state referendum passes that demands all crosses be removed from public view. They show themselves to be political hypocrites in taking on this tactic.
What are they going to do when the “will of the people” shifts in favor of same-sex marriage? It is shifting! It is reckless for any group to base the success of and justification for their social or political agendas on the “will of the people.” “The people” are fickle!
3. The courts are not siding with the anti-gay marraige forces. The courts are reflecting the changing attitudes of the American public regarding homosexuality and same-sex marriage – like they did during the Civil Rights era. So, the Religious Right has to turn people, the voters, against their enemy the courts in order to maintain their victories. This is so terribly short-sighted. When the winds of public opinion change to reflect a strong bias and prejudice against Christians, which will happen, the courts will be the only recourse we have. If the public believes the courts cannot be trusted (which is different than the belief that the judges are corrupt), the Republic as we know it is done for.
4. The anti-same-sex marriage folks are just mean spirited, because their political and social agenda drives them and not the love of Christ, which they claim. Here is an example from the American Family Association responce to Judge Walker’s decision to overturn Proposition 8:
The American Family Association (AFA) has called for
Judge Walker’s impeachment. Under the Constitution, judges may be
impeached if they violate a standard of “good Behaviour.” According to
the AFA, Walker violated this standard in two ways…
Second, the AFA said, “Judge Walker is an open
homosexual, and should have recused himself from this case due to his
obvious conflict of interest.” AFA’s Bryan Fischer further said, “[Walker] is Exhibit A as to why
homosexuals should be disqualified from public office … A man who
ignores time-honored standards of sexual behavior simply cannot be
trusted with the power of public office.” [emphasis mine] (Source)
So, homosexuals should not be allowed to hold public offices? What if homosexuals are elected to public office by the “will of the people”?
“What Matters More” by Derek Webb… considering the controversy surrounding Jennifer Knapp and her coming out. I understand why some consider this song “controversial,” but again it simply comes out of the camp that gives no quarter to anyone who disagrees with them on their interpretation of Scripture, God’s will, and homosexuality. Good song, me thinks.
Bishop Whalon, of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, has written an excellent and I think very important opinion piece on Anglicans Online.
It is entitled, “What We Think We Are Doing,” by The Rt Revd Pierre W. Whalon, D.D.
Basically, he says in very strong terms that this Church of ours has gotten the cart before the horse when dealing with the issue of the full-inclusion of gay and lesbian people. Because there has not been a clear and faithfully formulated theology supporting the relationships of gay people leading to their full-inclusion, we are acting unjustly and unfaithfully as a Church when we ordain partnered clergy and bless unions.
We have acted politically, not theologically, and we have done all this before we are able to make a cogent and thorough theological defense – particularly since we are changing the universal Church’s understanding from the beginning.
Here are the two final paragraphs:
Finally, I am quite aware that changing a part of the church’s teaching may be in error, and that those leaders who lead others astray will fall under God’s judgment. I do not expect to get handed one day a millstone with my initials on it fitted to my neck size, so to speak, but those are the stakes, and we need to own up to it. Moreover, as a matter of justice, not to mention love, it is simply wrong, that is, unjust and unloving, to continue as a church to live into a new teaching without giving clear reasonsâ€”carefully argued and officially accepted by our own churchâ€”for doing so. While justice delayed is justice denied, the global scope of our actions is in fact hindering the acceptance of gay and lesbian people elsewhere.
Some have said that the moratoria will end when we act to end them. Such an action, undefended, would only perpetuate the present anomie, and raise a real question about a â€œGeneral-Convention fundamentalismâ€â€”â€œthe majority voted it, therefore God said it, and that settles it.â€ Rather, we need to continue to keep “gracious restraint” until we have done the necessary work in order to end it. We do not have to wait for the rest of the Communion to approve our arguments, of course. But it is terrible that we as a church have continued to avoid that work, and all therefore continue to pay a heavy price, both within and without The Episcopal Church. If we go on blessing same-sex unions and consecrating people in those partnered relationships, and yet continue to refuse to do that work, will that mean that we cannot justify our actions? And if we cannot, then what â€” in God’s name â€” do we think we’re doing?
I highly recommend the article.