4/21/2008

We rise to play a greater part

Most of my friends find it curious and just a bit appalling that Anglicans are spending so much time in solemn and serious infighting concerning moral (read sexual) issues. They wonder for our sanity. They mostly do not pay much attention to the details of the arguments.

I do pay attention. I have tried to listen to the voices that say again and again that sex between persons of the same sex is evil and I have heard their argument from scriptural restrictions. I am and remain unconvinced.

I was recently asked just exactly where I stand regarding the morality of homosexual sex, aka "homosexual behavior." So here is a response. No surprise, I am sure.

At the last, after all the arguments to the contrary, I still believe that sexual expression between persons of the same sex is no more evil or good than is sexual expression between men and women. And the Church's statement from General Convention 1990 that "
physical sexual expression is appropriate only within the lifelong monogamous union of husband and wife" is totally inadequate. Sexual intercourse encompasses such a wide variety of "physical sexual expression" that no opinion about the moral value of such intercourse or expression, based on the anatomical characteristics of the participants or the purpose of sex as procreative, can hold as sufficient.

As to marriage, I am convinced that holiness of marriage is not in marriage, but in God's blessing on people committed to life long companionship. I see no reason to suppose that God does not, or can not, bless such commitments when they are other than between a man and a woman. The Church ought do no less.

More, I have come to believe that we Christians, who at our best are filled with gratitude and grateful hearts for all God's gifts and bound by the call to do good to and for one another, are often disabled in moral decision making concerning sexuality. The source of that disability is the idolatry attached to our use of words, and in particular to statements from Scripture which are the product of incrustation of translation, interpretation and manipulation. We are disabled by the idolatrous use of the biblical material.
None of us escape the consequences.

I believe Christians are ill equipped to condemn persons of the same sex who are in love with one another for acting on that love in physical ways or for seeking ways to establish and maintain commitment to one another and for seeking blessing from God and the community. Moreover, given the realities of past Christian willingness to condone a wide variety of moral behavior that we would now consider reprehensible and the tendency to resist change from that behavior, the Church carries a beam in its own eye and has no business demanding that others remove the speck (if there is one) in their own.

We have every reason to hold ourselves and all we can convince to boundaries of physical sexual expression that make for free consent and maintain respect for the other. We can make a claim to understand that the committed relations carry the weight of the relation between Christ and the Church - a mutuality of sacrificial giving. We can hope that such relationships abound and that life long commitments are made, maintained and celebrated.

We have no reason to base the whole of our understanding of sexual relations between persons on Scriptures alone. That is an abuse of the Word of God and a travesty of the life of faith. Faithful people work their way in fear and trembling through the pathways of companionship, and even more so when sexual desire and need are present. We will be informed by whatever means possible in order to deal with the realities of our lives.

The Word of God is our constant companion. That Word is a comfort, always with us, but is also uncomfortable in its provocative call to live not for ourselves but for others. But that Word is not the writings on the page itself, rather the Scripture is a gateway into the Word.

I have been sitting with something Matt Kennedy wrote in a sermon he preached this last Sunday, "Homosexual behavior is considered so offensive to God that those who engage in it and do not repent will not enter his kingdom."

There is nothing to say to Matt on this. He preached it and believes it and those who heard and believe will have to share with him the consequences. But I believe he is wrong, so wrong that I am reduced to sadness for him and dismay for church people who are moved by his argument and witness.

Searching for words that might express something of my hope as well as my dismay with Kennedy's statement, I came upon a song by Leonard Cohen, "Villanelle for our Time." The words are by Frank Scott, a former teacher of his. Here they are:

From bitter searching of the heart,
Quickened with passion and with pain
We rise to play a greater part.

This is the faith from which we start:
Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.

We loved the easy and the smart,
But now, with keener hand and brain,
We rise to play a greater part.

The lesser loyalties depart,
And neither race nor creed remain
From bitter searching of the heart.

Not steering by the venal chart
That tricked the mass for private gain,
We rise to play a greater part.

Reshaping narrow law and art
Whose symbols are the millions slain,
From bitter searching of the heart
We rise to play a greater part.

My sense is we Christians might do better in assessing the moral worth of the behavior of our homosexual sisters and brothers, and "from bitter searching of the heart, ... rise to play a greater part." It is time to move on.

In an age of great venality and greed, in a time in which governing begins by inducing fear, in a country that has tamed the Lord Jesus and domesticated the Scriptures and bought the silence of the churches, I see no virtue or even moral efficacy in the condemnation of committed relationships in which there is some comfort, companionship, joy and sexual delight, simply because those relationships are between two persons of the same sex. Indeed making something of relationships, let us call it making love, is the only adequate response to an age that attempts to reduce everything to owning, grasping, greed, power and war.

The Episcopal Church, bumbling as it sometimes is, might still be able to stand and play a greater part and walk a better way.

There it is.

91 comments:

  1. Apparently Matt Kennedy has forgotten his Greek and/or his Hebrew; nowhere, in any passage, does the Bible say that "Homosexual behavior is considered so offensive to God that those who engage in it and do not repent will not enter his kingdom."

    They should, at a minimum, be accurate.

    ReplyDelete
  2. (He also ought to read this article for a deeper understanding - or some understanding - of Romans 1 and how it's been understood by far greater theologians than (ahem) Robert Gagnon.

    But, as you say: it's a lost cause. Matt Kennedy et al. will believe what they want to believe no matter what evidence or argument they are presented with. And actually that pretty much says it all, doesn't it?)

    ReplyDelete
  3. F.R. Scott - himself a Canadian Anglican and, if memory serves, a child of the rectory. Poet, political thinker and constitutional scholar.

    ReplyDelete
  4. And having read the sermon, I might've thought it was by a Southern Baptist in Lower Alabama (rather than an Episcopal priest) based on the left-and-right proof-texting (which some of my friends call "trampolining through the Bible) and the spiritual violence done in his words.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow! I guess all the poor and hungry and sick and lonely and depressed and prisoners and strangers are being taken care of in Fr. Matt's neighborhood.

    Yikes! I'll bet Fr. Matt is glad God never strikes anyone while in the pulpit!!!
    Nasty stuff.

    I am so glad that God isn't the nasty, mean, death-dealing guy so many people thing God is!

    ReplyDelete
  6. As a frequent lurker and occassional poster to this site I take you at your word about your sincere beliefs. I don't agree with you and have already left the church of my birth (58 years) for the AMiA.
    But I do have a question, not one I ask as a smart ass, but out of some confusion.
    Is there any place that you do draw the line.
    For example, recently there has been wide publicity on the issue of polygamy. If it is OK and acceptable in your argument for committed couples, either same-sex or not, to live together in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. What is your position on a polygamous relationship?
    These folks say they are committed to one another. So what is society's interest in interfering with the marriage relationships of polygamous people. (And to knock down the straw man before it gets set up, I'm not talking about child abuse or underage sexual relations, I think we can all agree that is wrong). Or maybe not?
    So will you accept polygamy in the church? Just truly interested in if, or where, you would draw the line.

    Jim of Michigan

    ReplyDelete
  7. Jim of Michigan, this is JCF, also of Michigan: can I respond to your question w/ a question?

    What---in the Name of All that is Holy---in Mark's post would prompt you to react in this way, w/ your question about polygamy? Why in the world does the topic "affirmation and blessing of same-sex couples" then lead you to segue into polygamy?

    [NB: I also do not ask as a smart ass, but out of GREAT confusion!]

    ReplyDelete
  8. Well done Mark!

    Jim, I think that the Anglican Church in Nigeria has already allowed for ploygamy in their Church. I have always wondered why AMiA is willing to ignore this "pastoral abnormality". Even though many Biblical references can be offered to support this position, and Lambeth has decided to turn a blind eye towards this practice, I do not think it is in keeping with the teaching of Jesus Christ.

    padre hamish

    ReplyDelete
  9. Beautifully said Fr. Mark.

    Sexuality is such a mystery. I wonder why God created it. If it is merely the mechanics of biological reproduction, it is terribly inefficient and needlessly messy and risky. There are far more efficient and reliable methods of reproduction out in nature; pulling a chromosomal zipper and splitting into 2 identical new cells is one way, sprouting a bud that eventually falls off and forms a new hydroid is another. Parthenogenesis seems to be the norm among the simplest life forms.

    The ancient Classical poets thought that love and desire were a great monkey-wrench thrown into the orderly workings of the cosmos. It was a madness from which no one, not even Jupiter, was exempt. It diverted heroes from their destiny, brought sorrow to the gods, and catastrophe to mortals. And yet, Eros is sometimes described as the Builder of Cities.
    Or as WB Yeats put it:

    "Those masterful images because complete
    Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
    A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
    Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
    Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
    Who keeps the till.  Now that my ladder’s gone
    I must lie down where all ladders start,
    In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart."

    Love brings us so much sorrow, and yet there is no life without it.

    ReplyDelete
  10. How is polygamy comparable to a monogamous same-sex partnership? It's exactly the opposite thing, in fact; one is a faithful partnership with one other person (exactly like heterosexual marriage); the other is by definition a non-monogamous partnership with an unrestricted number of others. Where is the point of comparison?

    It's easy to make a compelling religious argument for both heterosexual and homosexual monogamous partnerships; the key factor in common is faithfulness, modeled on faithful love of the One God. "Faithfulness," actually, is the only really consistent theme in Scripture, running from beginning to end; the sexual morality is, in fact, all over the place. (You could easily make a case for polygamy using Scripture, anyway.)

    In society, it's apparent that polygamy causes lots of problems. And in any case, in arguing for polygamy and against gay partnership you're allowing greed among heterosexuals and forbidding love among homosexuals. Heterosexuals can already get married; why should they be allowed to get married over and over again while gay people can't even marry one person? Where's the logic in that, not even to say the compassion?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Will people stop making the erroneous leap of logic that if one accepts same-gender relationships that one also accepts polygamy? It makes my blood boil because it is such faulty and frankly, stupid, reasoning.

    ReplyDelete
  12. A certain fundamentalist offshoot of Mormonism (much in the news lately) apparently reads the Bible very very literally. Indeed, there is plenty of Scriptural sanction for polygamy (the many wives of David and Solomon, Abraham's 2 wives, among many others).
    You can find a proof text for just about anything if you look hard enough. I remember the story of the Curse of Ham from Genesis being quoted at me by Good Christian People repeatedly in my younger years to justify segregation of the races.

    Feh!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Jim of Michigan22/4/08 11:55 PM

    Wow, I ask a question and get smeared, but that's OK.
    I'm talking about a group of people who claim that polygamy is in their religious DNA, that it is in their history and if you take them at their word, they are committed to one another.
    The Nigerian church does not allow its clergy to be in polygamous relationships and has publicly come out against polygamy. Does it exist in their society, yes. But they don't honor it by making polygamous priests, bishops. So we don't support polygamy.
    The question was a simple one. Where do you draw the line? I guess you draw it at polygamy. That's a good thing. That's the question I asked. Where do you draw the line?
    A simple question, but apparently I touched a nerve. Sorry.
    In your world anyway who professes love for one another, in or out of marriage can be blessed by the church. We just disagree on that. Marriage, a blessed sacrament, should be the minimum requirement for clergy or a bishop. But that's just me.
    I'll leave now and go back to my lurking.

    Jim of Michigan

    ReplyDelete
  14. Sir, the question is why and with what justification do you reject the 1990 statement and Lambeth 1.10?

    Pls share a few verses in the bible which show you are right and Lambeth 1.10 is wrong in supporting the "traditional" understanding of the bible on these issues.

    Pls show, that like eating bacon following Peter's dream, the OT restictions no longer apply

    Pls show the positive case (from the bible) for what you beieve is right....i.e. that what you support is in fact good, holy and right (in the eyes of God)

    ReplyDelete
  15. What disturbs me about Mr. Anonymous is not only his lack of knowledge of Biblical Greek, but his (apparent) not bothering to consult any modern scientific texts, particularly in the area of anthropology. Had he knowledge of either Greek or anthropology, he might discover that Paul's comments on "homosexuals" have no reference whatever to the modern notion of homosexuality. Further, he might also know that Paul's curious term "arsenokitai" is a term of his own invention that appears nowhere else in either the literature of the times or in the NT. If he knew any Hebrew, he would also know that nothing in the OT describes homosexuality as we know it today, either. Furthermore, had he done any anthropological research, as have I, he would know that monogamy is a relative newcomer to the world of marriage and that polygamy was, in fact, one of the main issues discussed at Lambeth over the course of approximately 3 decades and that many of the African churches, despite the censure of Lambeth, continued practicing polygamy--even, sometimes, among the clergy--until well into the 20th century. Finally, I agree with bls that likening same-sex blessings to polygamy is something of a stretch of logic. But then, it has been my experience that people who follow a certain line of "thinking," if I can call it that at all, do have a tendency to stretch points by discarding context altogether.

    Having said the above, I believe that it is well past time for those of us in the legitimate church to start playing hardball. While it would be, perhaps, better to act ethically, those of the "other side" have made it perfectly clear that ethical behavior isn't one of the tools in their arsenal.

    There... I feel soooo much better.

    ReplyDelete
  16. "Pls show the positive case (from the bible) for what you beieve is right....i.e. that what you support is in fact good, holy and right (in the eyes of God)"

    I know people (more than you think) who think racial segregation is holy and right and can cite numerous proof texts to support their position.
    I've even met a few people in my time who believe slavery is holy and right and can also cite lots of proof texts.

    Feh!

    ReplyDelete
  17. If you read what Jesus said in Matthew 19: 4-6 it is clear that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

    Matthew 19: 4-6 (KJV) “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

    If you read the line, not above or below it, you see that Jesus refers back to creation. He adds no stipulation for a “modern homosexual” relationship. It is just not there.

    Now if Jesus is God and therefore omniscient, could he not have included the “modern homosexual” relationship as part of the marriage covenant?

    ReplyDelete
  18. I think that the term "polygamy" is somewhat inflammatory, conjuring up images of the current legal troubles involving the F.L.D.S., and implying sexual abuse of minors. However, "polyamory" is really something else altogether, and the various "tris," "quads," and "quints" that I've become acquainted with over the years are nothing like the bonneted women living in the wilds of Texas that we've all seen on television lately. They would be appalled to hear that others would say that they're not faithful to one another.

    Thus, when Fr Harris says,

    We have no reason to base the whole of our understanding of sexual relations between persons on Scriptures alone. That is an abuse of the Word of God and a travesty of the life of faith. Faithful people work their way in fear and trembling through the pathways of companionship, and even more so when sexual desire and need are present. We will be informed by whatever means possible in order to deal with the realities of our lives.

    I'm not sure that there's something in there that would permit a condemnation of the relationships that I've mentioned above. But I'd like to hear his take on the matter.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Sharon:

    You'll find Lambeth Resolutions that counsel against interracial relationships and against the remarriage of an innocent party of adultery in the church. We have Lambeth Resolutions that forbid the use of birth control, which are overturned by other Lambeth Resolutions which say birth control is acceptable. Lambeth Resolutions historically were never meant to be settled doctrine, but express the mind of the conference at the time and they have never been binding on any Anglican church.

    Regarding, a positive case in the Bible, there is none, but Anglican theology has never depended on making a positive case in the Bible for accepting moral and ecclesiastical acts. For example, we accept birth control, which has no positive case (and much negative in scripture and tradition)and charging interest on a loan and making a profit, which has no positive case (and much negative in both scripture and tradition). No church formulates morality based on the Bible making a positive case for it.

    Romans 13 says that as long as we are not doing harm to someone we are following the law. How does being in a monogamous gay relationship do harm to neighbour?

    8Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

    Finally, regarding the whole polygamy red herring, I leave it to the literalists to explain why polygamy is sinful when the Bible never declares it to be so. (Only bishops are forbidden to be in those relationships.) Same with slavery. The rest of us who think through why things are the way they are instead of approaching the Bible as a western law text, which it isn't, it seems pretty clear that emotional and physical focus is lost in a polygamous relationship. These slippery slope arguments do little to convince anyone who isn't already convinced.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I agree with everything you wrote, Mark; you said what I believe better than I could have myself.

    I have replied on my blog to the request for scriptural warrants. Way too long to post here. They are my reply, not yours, just in case someone tries to tar you with the same brush as that with which I may be tarred.

    And of course I have no expectation that they will convince. I wrote what I did for those who are thirsting for God to love them just as they are, which God does, and yes indeed I know the implications of what I have just written.

    Lois Keen

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thank you Mark.
    As one who sits outside the door of the Episcopal Church, reading your post gives me great hope that I may one day be welcomed into the christian church.
    Reading the comments however, keeps me firmly planted outside.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hmmmm----

    It does seem that so much of this argument is based upon how we read the bible.

    This may be an obtuse observation, but the 1928 BCP had at least one good feature --when it was referring to Our Lord, the word "Word" was always capitalized; when it was referring to holy scriptures the word "word" was not capitalized.... Our ancestors in faith knew this at least: that comparing holy scriptures to the living Word among us was absurd. And comparing the Word to a book of law was/is equally absurd. It is fundamentalism and literalism, both products of modernism that is so sad in a faith based both in real stuff (incarnation) and stuff you cannot see but only experience(resurrection) --a place of in-between-ness that is so uncomfortable for so many who want faith hard and fast one way.

    And Sharon, I do believe it is in the Gospel of John that our Lord says, --there is so much more, but you cannot bear it. And in another place, there is so much more, it would take all the books in the world to write it down.... Certainly that implies that what is written down is not the end all be all....

    margaret

    ReplyDelete
  23. Just for perspective, some background from www.religioustolerance.org on the strong convictions of some Christians as once regarded interracial marriage:

    "In a most ironically named case 'Loving v. Virginia' an inter-racial married couple was convicted of a felony under Virginia's law in 1958. They could have received a 5 year prison term; instead, they were 'merely' exiled from their home state for 25 years. Part of the judge's ruling was:

    'Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races show that he did not intend for the races to mix.'"

    1958 mind you - not very long ago. No doubt the judge in question was as convinced of the absolute righteousness of his views as Matt Kennedy is with regard to his views on his GLBT brethren.

    christopher+

    ReplyDelete
  24. Here are some other questions for "reasserters":

    What is it that you feel is essential for Christian marriage to be what it is?

    Procreation? Does this mean that from now on marriage will be refused to heterosexual men and women in their 70s and 80s? Does it mean that Anglicans will forbid birth control, as the Catholic Church does? If not, why not? Why won't you follow your reasoning to its ultimate conclusions?

    Why do you oppose polygamy? It's not forbidden in Scripture; in fact, there are laws in the Hebrew Bible that seem clearly to allow it, since certain aspects of it are regulated. Further, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a polygamist Big Shot in the Hebrew Bible; none are ever rebuked by God for this.

    So why do you oppose polygamy and support monogamy? What, exactly, is the reason?

    IOW: what, exactly, makes Christian marriage what it is, in your estimation, and why?

    ReplyDelete
  25. Mark,
    You said: "But that Word is not the writings on the page itself, rather the Scripture is a gateway into the Word."

    How do you reconcile that with your vow that you believed "the Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God...?" (BCP p. 538, 526)

    You did not vow that Holy Scripture "contained" or pointed to or was a gateway to the Word of God, but that it is the Word of God.

    I would have a lot more respect for the progressives in the Church if they just made the same declaration that Luke Timothy Johnson did. That Holy Scripture speaks against homosexual sex, but it doesn't matter that Holy Scripture speaks against it.

    To base your understanding on a new disputation of the meaning of one or two words in one verse of Holy Scripture (where the same author is very clear elsewhere in Scripture) seems a bit tenuous to me.

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

    ReplyDelete
  26. Sharon: what "OT restrictions" are you talking about?

    There's nothing about homosexuality in the Hebrew Bible; that should be totally obvious, since the things you obviously believe speak to homosexuality are addressed only to males. Maimonides, the greatest Jewish scholar in history, acknowledges that punishment of lesbianism is "neither Biblical nor rabbinic." There's no such Scripture, IOW; Jewish courts have upheld this. So: which "restrictions" are you talking about?

    And of course, in Leviticus, adultery is punishable by death. Children who curse their parents are likewise stoned to death. So tell us, Sharon: why do these OT restrictions no longer apply in these cases?

    ReplyDelete
  27. Sharon wrote: "Sir, the question is why and with what justification do you reject the 1990 statement and Lambeth 1.10?"

    Because from the beginning, Lambeth was not meant to legislate for the entire communion. In act, the Archbishop of Canterbury who called the conference was specific about it:

    "It should be distinctly understood," said Archbishop Longley, "that at this meeting no declaration of faith shall be made, and no decision come to which shall affect generally the interests of the Church, but that we shall meet together for brotherly counsel and encouragement.... I should refuse to convene any assembly which pretended to enact any canons, or affected to make any decisions binding on the Church.”

    Moreover, whatever comes out of the Lambeth Conference is the "mind of the BISHOPS" at that time, not of the whole church. AND opinions of the bishops have changed over the years, which you can see just by going to the Lambeth Conference web site and looking at the archive of resolutions.

    Jeffri

    ReplyDelete
  28. Mark - thank you, this was exceptionally well done

    ReplyDelete
  29. Counterlight, sexual reproduction is needed to provide sufficient genetic variability for evolution of more complex forms of life. Even yeast do it (though I don't think they have a line in the Cole Porter song).

    The Nigerian polygamy decision was pragmatic, to allow for conversion while also preventing the convert from abandoning one or more of his wives in order to be eligible to convert. This has serious economic consequences for the ex-wife(ves) and children. It was meant to be transitional, in that people raised in the faith would never be allowed polygamy under church law.

    Jim of Mich., maybe some are touchy here because there is a standard litany of sexual conditions that are equated with homosexuality by many people who consider all homosexuality as sin. Those conditions include polygamy, pedophilia, prostitution, promiscuity, and others. Substitute "second marriage" for "homosexuality" in the equation, and you will understand the offense of comparing freely chosen commitment between two adults to situations where one person exerts unjust power over another.

    NancyP

    ReplyDelete
  30. In fact, a previous Lambeth has dealt with the issue of polygamy - and concluded that the African Churches (who had raised the issue) should develop a position and response which is appropriate to their cultural context.

    (The issue had to do with polygamists who convert to Christianity. Previously, such men were required to "put away" all but their first wife, which left the other wives and their children destitute. The African response has been to permit converting polygamists to retain the wives they have, but to take no more. A sensible solution from where I'm looking.)

    Sharon, where did you get this perverse idea that Lambeth resolutions are binding? Particularly ironic since several unrecinded Lambeth resolutions specifically reject the idea.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Fr. Mark,
    I too am curious about your theological take on sex. Are you saying that your beliefs are Apostolic in nature or Gnostic( which would include prophetic (revelation) in this day and age.)

    ReplyDelete
  32. bluemoonalto23/4/08 1:47 PM

    Said Anonymous: "If you read what Jesus said in Matthew 19: 4-6 it is clear that marriage should be between one man and one woman."

    You know, I never claimed to be very good at playing the proof texting game, but I can handle this one with ease. If you read Matthew 19: 3 it is clear that Jesus was answering a question about divorce, posed specifically about men and women:

    "The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?"

    So apparently, you are in good company with these Pharisees, picking and choosing from the written word in order to argue your case. Funny how nobody is threatening to break up the communion because of divorced bishops or the remarriage of divorced people, hmmm?

    ReplyDelete
  33. Sharon, as Peter himself came to understand, his vision wasn't about eating bacon, but judging others: "God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean." He broke the Jewish law about associating with Gentiles on account of this vision.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hi Phil--regarding your comment about oath taking....

    The Catechism (BCP 853) asks, "Why do we call the Holy Scriptures the Word of God?" --and the answer is, "We call them the Word of God because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us through the Bible."

    And the creeds only mention Scripture in its prophetic voice proclaiming the advent of our Lord (which was most certainly a revolutionary interpretation), not in the manner in which you seem to employ or imply.

    The understanding that the Bible is to be heard in only one way and that it is the mouthpiece of everything God has said and done for all time and all creation is thoroughly modern.

    I wonder what the first 300 years of Christians priests vowed --because there was no Bible!

    Now --please, don't fume. I absolutely love Holy Scripture, and my world view--my whole life is opened up by Holy Scripture. God does indeed speak to the Church through Holy Scripture.... but it is the Church which formed Holy Scripture, not Holy Scripture which formed the Church.

    --margaret

    ReplyDelete
  35. Bluemoonalto,

    Yes he was asked a question about divorce.

    Jesus reaffirms what God established in Gen 2:24 in verses 4-6 as marriage between one man and one woman.

    He doesn't answer the question until verse 8 after the Pharisees ask it a second time. Verses 8-9 deal with the question of divorce.

    Maybe actually reading the entire section and seeing how Jesus responds will help you understand in the future.

    I still haven't seen a verse allowing same-sex marriage at all. Can you show me one?

    ReplyDelete
  36. "I still haven't seen a verse allowing same-sex marriage at all. Can you show me one?"

    Try 1 Corinthians 13. Or Galatians 5:22-23.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Mary Clara23/4/08 6:08 PM

    Mark, this is a great post; I am copying out the poem to keep beside me on my desk to lift my spirit.

    ReplyDelete
  38. With regards to Jesus's comments on homosexuality (for or against) I may be a bit naive but was it even on the agenda back then?

    I mean how do you talk about something that is most likely never talked about? Do we really expect someone in some public discourse to ask Jesus about homosexuality?

    And what do we know about Jesus's thoughts in more intimate private discussions with his disciples?

    I guess the point I'm driving at is did anybody even care about homosexuality back then?

    I think we care about a lot more things these days and we have to think them through using Jesus's principles not just his words.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Matt Kennedy could read to his benefit, Charles Cosgrove's Appealing to Scripture in Moral Debate: Five Hermeneutical Rules, before he launches with such confidence into proof-texting.
    PCC

    ReplyDelete
  40. bluemoonalto23/4/08 7:41 PM

    "Maybe actually reading the entire section and seeing how Jesus responds will help you understand in the future."

    Why, thank you for your condescension, Anonymous.

    I hardly think that Christ's answer to the Pharisees' trick question was meant to be an exclusionary and exhaustive definition of marriage, any more than it is a command that a married couple must never live in the same house with a man's parents. ("For this cause shall a man leave father and mother....") And hey--perhaps our Lord and Savior was announcing to the world that a man must not live outside his parents' house until the day he gets married! How literal an interpretation do you want?

    Back to reality. The passage has nothing to do with same-sex relationships. Jesus was asked by the most conservative, hide-bound legalists of his day whether a MAN can divorce his WIFE. He answered the question. Out of love and fairness I can extrapolate His words to also mean that a lesbian should not divorce her spouse, and that a gay man should not divorce his spouse. But I do not see in these words a command from Christ that loving, faithful same-sex couples should not be together in the first place.

    But I'm not going to convince you, and you're not going to convince me. That's the problem with proof-texting, don't you think?

    ReplyDelete
  41. Mark -

    Beautiful words. Thank you.

    I am of course of the same mind, and have the same sadness you feel for the Fr. Kennedy's of this world.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Try 1 Corinthians 13. Or Galatians 5:22-23.

    bls,

    1 Corinthians 13 is definately a beautiful passage but from what I can tell through my study of the many commentaries available, it really has nothing to do with same-sex marriage.

    Galations 5: 22-23

    It is interesting that you stopped at verse 23 from this passage especially when verse 24 reads (NIV)"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passion and desires."

    ReplyDelete
  43. Friend of Luke23/4/08 8:47 PM

    Thanks for publishing this wonderful insight. I'm trappeed in the Sydney Archdiocese where homosexuals are especially unwelcome. As I approach my [adult] confirmation I struggle with the hatred I find. You have given the gift of love [and intelligence] and I hope that God blesses you in return. It's people like you who are helping me heal a lot of damage done by the church in the name of God.

    ReplyDelete
  44. I don't think you've read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested the Scriptures I did post, though, Anonymous. If the "fruits of the Spirit" are in evidence, then where, pray tell, does the "sinful nature" come into it? Bit of a contradiction, there, I'm afraid.

    But as I said above, I realize it's a lost cause in many cases - that some people will never listen, no matter what argument or evidence is presented.

    It doesn't matter anymore, though, really. Gay people will be Christian whether you and Matt Kennedy want us to be or not; you won't be able to change this fact no matter how hard you try.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Thank you for posting your thoughts, which I endorse totally. Not that anyone cares, but my own family. . . I needed to read this today, as I wrote in a very small fashion about my frustration with several people in a small group about their anti-gay stance. When Grandmere Mimi pointed me here, I found your post so much more eloquent that I linked it to mine. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I have no idea where my comment went, but I'll try again.

    Thank you for this. Your eloquent words are what I wished I'd written about a little incident at a church today. So I linked you to that post. Hope that's okay. Thank you for writing.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Tobias
    The point is that Peter and Paul and the Lord himself were explicit in taking on traditional understandings of certain OT teaching.....but they did not make the innovations that CA and Integrity want - did they?

    If it were not for the scriptures (OT and NT), I would have no objection to what Gene Robinson et al want....but, however kind the intentions, I cannot accept the rejection of scriptures unless it is clearly consistent with the Holy Spirit inspired word (so, I can have a bacon sandwich but I am still not allowed to steal...)

    ReplyDelete
  48. The logic of bls' citation of 1 Corinthians 13 and Galatians 5:22-23 goes beyond the acceptance of homosexuality. Indeed, if played out with consistency, it requires that (a) if we have consenting adults, and (b) others claim to see the signs of the Spirit in the relationships, then (c) there's no good reason to refrain from accepting and blessing polyamory and incest within the Church.

    If that's not the case, then on what grounds would polyamory and incest be excluded while homosexuality is included?

    ReplyDelete
  49. bls - I Cor 13 is about agape not eros. It does show us how we are to treat people with besetting sins, but does not, in any way, say that anythying is not sin.

    If you want to talk about the fruits of the spirit, let's look at all of Gal 5. First is the discussion of freedom and circumcision. Paul says that we are free, but "do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flish, but through love be servants of one another." And "You shall agapao (verb form of agape your neighbor as yourself." Next we have the list of works of the flesh: "fornication (porneia which is all sex outside of marriage), impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like." After this, the fruits of the spirit are listed: "love (agape, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control."

    From what I can see, the topic of blessing same sex relationships has brought a lot of the fruits of the fless (particularly enmity, strife, and party spirit) and little of the fruits of the Spirit. I especially find patience, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control lacking on "both" sides of the debate.
    If this innovation were a movement of The Holy Spirit, I would expect to see more of the fruits of the Spirit in the Church and less of the fruits of the flesh. Since I see more of the flesh in this "new thing" then I must conclude it is not of the Holy Spirit.

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

    ReplyDelete
  50. "If that's not the case, then on what grounds would polyamory and incest be excluded while homosexuality is included?"

    On the same grounds that are excluded now, of course. I don't really understand why anybody would ask this question.

    Nobody needs to get married dozens of times; likewise, nobody needs to marry their sister or brother. (Incest, clearly, is a threat to the family, and not only that; there are obvious biological reasons not to allow it as well.)

    IOW, one marriage is enough for anybody - let's not get greedy here - and please: not to a close relative, for several good reasons. Gay marriage doesn't violate either of these strictures.

    "It is not good for the man to be alone"; that's just about the first thing God has to say after creating human beings, matter of fact. So why are "reasserters" teaching exactly the opposite thing?

    I could also add this, BTW: since heterosexuals are asked to be faithful to one another, so should gay couples be, if only to help strengthen and support the practice of fidelity. (There are other good reasons for it, but here's one I just thought of yesterday.) It's very important that parents of children be steady and sure; sexual infidelity puts that steadiness at risk.

    ReplyDelete
  51. "bls - I Cor 13 is about agape not eros. It does show us how we are to treat people with besetting sins, but does not, in any way, say that anythying is not sin."

    Yes, I am aware of this. I don't think you are really aware of it, though, or of how it applies in this case. I don't think that you - and others - understand that gay people are human beings, like all others, and not just sex fiends. I know many, many gay couples who've been together for decades and who do evidence the "fruits of the Spirit" in their partnerships and in their lives. (And can I presume from your statement that your marriage by definition does not and cannot evidence these things? After all, it's about agape, not eros. Right?)

    But as I said: it doesn't really matter. The next generation is perfectly aware that gay people are human beings like all others. And gay people will be Christians whether the current generation likes it or not; if segregation is the answer, then that's what will happen, just as it has happened numerous times before.

    It certainly seems true that "reappraisers" were not at all prepared for Gene Robinson and the discussion on same-sex blessings, I will agree, and from that fact has arisen great stress and enmity. The question, though, is: "Why weren't you?" This issue has been on the table for almost 40 years now; why hasn't it been taken seriously? And I'd remind you that no "reappraisers" - or, at least, very, very few - have worked to get those we disagree with removed from the church; all that sort of strife is coming from the "reasserter" side. Nobody's trying to kick people out; they are leaving of their own accord, rather than settling down to talk about something that has been on the table for decades now.

    ReplyDelete
  52. (BTW, Phil: I see lots of "fruits of the Spirit" as a result of all this. But that's because I know lots of gay folks, as you probably don't.

    Gay people today, because we are not being hounded and tormented and arrested and "treated" as we have been in the past, are living happy and purposeful lives today. We no longer drink ourselves to death at an early age, or become addicted to deadly drugs, or commit suicide in our thirties. We are able to live openly, and be good friends and neighbors, and contribute to society - and, thank God, to have real and meaningful religious lives as well.

    Sorry you can't see this, but as other gay people on this board will attest, it's true. These are "fruits of the Spirit," and very powerful and dramatic ones, in fact.)

    ReplyDelete
  53. bluemoonalto24/4/08 12:23 PM

    Phil wrote: "If this innovation were a movement of The Holy Spirit, I would expect to see more of the fruits of the Spirit in the Church and less of the fruits of the flesh. Since I see more of the flesh in this "new thing" then I must conclude it is not of the Holy Spirit."

    The Civil Rights movement caused a lot of anger and upheaval both in the church and in society at large. So did the abolition movement a hundred years earlier. Perhaps the best fruits of the Spirit are seen when we embrace justice with courage, even if the transition causes some people (usually the ones in positions of power and privilege) to cling to "the way it's always been."

    And on a more personal level, the fruits of the spirit can be seen in the loving, faithful, long-lasting same-sex relationships that you so casually write off as "sex outside of marriage," as if a 25 year partnership is no better than a one-night stand with a total stranger.

    ReplyDelete
  54. bls said: "Nobody needs to get married dozens of times; likewise, nobody needs to marry their sister or brother. (Incest, clearly, is a threat to the family, and not only that; there are obvious biological reasons not to allow it as well.)"

    That may all be true. But your response begs the question I'm raising: what is the specific moral principle or principles you are invoking to include homosexual relationships while simultaneously drawing the line at polyamory and incest in cases where (a) the relationships involve mutually consenting adults and (b) others see the fruits of the Spirit in those relationships? Where (a) and (b) exist, your own logic requires you to draw the conclusion (c) that such relationships should be embraced and even blessed by the Church.

    I'm not after merely pragmatic reasons for excluding polyamorous and incestuous relationshps (e.g., "nobody needs to do this because it's not a good idea," or "it will make life difficult," or "because it's biologically dangerous," or "it's a threat to the family," etc.). I'm after moral principles. And in addition, I want to know what gives those principles their authority? Scripture? Tradition? Reason? Individual preferences? Something else?

    Failure to adequately address these questions makes the exclusion of polyamorous and incestuous relationships while including homosexual relationships morally arbitrary and prejudicial.

    ReplyDelete
  55. In reading a really good paper, "The Kingdom of God and the Witness of Gay Marriage: An Analysis" by Otis Gaddis III, Esq. (2007) I was struck by his assertion which I quote from page 15:

    "It is on the level of personal psychology and social anxiety that conservatism's power resides. In psychological terms, opponents of the full social and spiritual recognition of gay people are being asked to abandon a hierarchical structure that has given them a sense of privilege over others and an identity of moral superiority. In social terms, they anticipate social chaos if people are permitted to embody their sexualities with greater dignity. They fear that such a dignified embodiment will disrupt the social hierarchies which they believe is the most effective way of maintaining social order."

    So, --perhaps it is truly about power and hierarchy and all that stuff.... which brings us smack-dab back to our baptismal vows to respect the dignity of every human being. (sacrament, not scripture)

    This really is a good read.
    --blessings, margaret

    ReplyDelete
  56. bls,
    I do not doubt that there are gay couples whose lives reflect the fruit of the Holy Spirit. But that is not proof of God's blessing on homosexual sex. I know several alcoholics whose lives evidenced the fruits of the Spirit. Several thieves, several adulterors, several gluttons, etc.

    What I see on the reappraiser side is what I call "reverse Donatism." Donatism, if you will recall, claimed that those who had not sinned could celebrate the sacraments and be means of God's grace. Here is what I think is happening.

    1. We see God’s grace evident in the lives of people involved in homosexual unions.
    2. Homosexual sex, therefore, is no bar to God’s grace
    3. God’s grace is not given to unrepentant sinners (this is the false statement)
    4. Therefore, homosexual sex cannot be sinful.

    I have yet to see an objective reasoning (one that appeals to Scripture or Tradition) that concludes that homosexual sex is not sinful and I see several reasons in Scripture to say it is.

    Having said that, homosexual sex is not the worst of all sins. It’s not even close. However it is still a sin and there is no sin that will not keep us from the joy of Heaven if we insist on keeping it and not surrendering it to God.

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

    ReplyDelete
  57. bls said: "Nobody needs to get married dozens of times; likewise, nobody needs to marry their sister or brother. (Incest, clearly, is a threat to the family, and not only that; there are obvious biological reasons not to allow it as well.)"

    That may all be true. But your response begs the question I'm raising: what is the specific moral principle or principles you are invoking to include homosexual relationships while simultaneously drawing the line at polyamory and incest in cases where (a) the relationships involve mutually consenting adults and (b) others see the fruits of the Spirit in those relationships? Where (a) and (b) exist, your own logic requires you to draw the conclusion (c) that such relationships should be embraced and even blessed by the Church.

    I'm not after merely pragmatic or biological reasons for excluding polyamorous and incestuous relationshps (e.g., "nobody needs to do this because it's not a good idea," or "it will make life difficult," or "because it's biologically dangerous," or "it's a threat to the family," etc.). I'm after moral principles. And in addition, I want to know what gives those principles their authority? Scripture? Tradition? Reason? Individual preferences? Something else?

    Failure to adequately address these questions makes the exclusion of polyamorous and incestuous relationships while including homosexual relationships morally arbitrary and prejudicial.

    ReplyDelete
  58. It's interesting that when BLS addresses the morality of monogamous gay relationships, her debaters deflect that conversation away from the topic and onto other things using these slippery slope arguments.

    Of course, the logical fallacy of these slippery slope arguments is that they don't actually consider the subject at hand based on its own merits, but attempt to force the conversation onto the merits of other things that no one is seriously debating.

    Gay relationships advocated here are borne out of already accepted societal norms of monogamy and out of established understandings regarding sexual orientation, which after hundreds of years of spiritual healing, medical intervention and psychological analysis remain as fixed as ever.

    Polygamy and incest are purely social arrangements which people freely enter into and leave at different points in their lives. Both have obvious societal problems - children with genetic defects or innately unbalanced relationships where one man is the focus of several women or vice versa.

    While anyone who considers both can see that they are apples and oranges, it's amusing the stretch people make to equate the two.

    And its a ruse designed to hijack a conversation. Instead of discussing the merits of blessing gay relationships themselves, which is the point of this thread, the conversation has once again been diverted to something altogether different. This line of argumentation is pretty transparent and I hope people don't fall for it (as I have a few times.)

    Perhaps only generational change will lead to clarity on these matters and to the end of these silly smokescreens. They seem borne out of a desperate attempt to avoid considering the very real people involved.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Tourjoursdan,
    You said: "Gay relationships advocated here are borne out of already accepted societal norms of monogamy and out of established understandings regarding sexual orientation, which after hundreds of years of spiritual healing, medical intervention and psychological analysis remain as fixed as ever."

    I noticed you made no mention of Scripture, Tradition, or the Taching of the church in your defense. You bring up secular ways of knowing (medical intervention, psychological analysis) which, as we all know, are changing all the time.

    So, can you show me (from accepted theological sources such as Scripture, Tradition, or the Teaching of the Church) where homosexual sex is blessed by God?

    I do not want to use the slippery slope argument, but just to avoid such an argument, please avoid chains of reasoning that cannot be applied to other actions the Church considers sin.

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

    ReplyDelete
  60. On the attempt to have a discussion of the moral principles used to include certain sexual relationships to the exclusion of others, toujoursdan says: " ... its a ruse designed to hijack a conversation."

    Unless, apparently, we talk about these matters on the pre-established terms set by the Left - in which case, one must accept the morality in question in order to even begin a "conversation."

    This, too, is a ruse designed to hijack a conversation - specifically, a conversation on how the moral principles implicitly or explicitly invoked to accept homosexual relationships entail the acceptance of much more than that. Unless one specifies what the limits of acceptance and inclusion are by citing the authority of specific moral principles, this line of reasoning collapses into contradiction.

    I note that the so-called "revisionists" on this thread are unwilling to have a conversation about the logic of their reasoning. In that regard, my experience on other blogs is the same as on this one.

    The last sentence offered by toujoursdan demonstrates what typically happens: we are driven from the path into an ad hominem ditch.

    ReplyDelete
  61. Anonymous, I've already told you what the principle is. "It is not good for the man to be alone."

    Again: this is God's first word on having created Adam; the human being is not meant to be alone and needs a "helpmeet." That's the principle. You guys teach exactly the opposite thing; isn't it really for you to say why, when it comes that question? I notice you haven't responded to this; how come? The principle is "human flourishing" - "it is not good for the man to be alone" - and your position is highly destructive to that.

    There is no other group asked to be celibate for life; none. Think about what that means for, say, a gay teenager: no dating, at all, ever. No holding hands, no kissing, no marriage, no partner; for life. No intimate love of the kind that all human beings hope for (and which is available to all others; people don't have to marry multiple times, or wed their siblings, in order to find a "helpmeet"). You are also asking gay people to break up their families - to leave their partners and break any promises made to them - if they want to join the church.

    Most gay people, fortunately, will pay absolutely no attention to this; I find it monstrous, in fact. If you don't, then I suggest you (and others who support this) go ahead and be celibate for life - and that means, divorcing your wife or husband and leaving him or her, since this is what you ask of us. And that way, gay people have role models - you! - to look to for help and strength in our own "death to our sexual selves" (a phrase that Phil introduced me to). Don't argue that you're not "called" to that sort of life; neither are most of us.

    What's your moral principle, BTW, that all this seems OK to you?

    Phil, we don't agree that homosexual sex is a sin; that's what's at issue now. We say it's not, you say it is. You need to give reasons for your position, not simply repeat the same statement; it doesn't have any effect when you do that. And we can't really prove a negative, BTW; you must offer a reasonable case for why something that, when it occurs between lifelong partners, is harmful to no one and (hopefully) very meaningful to the people involved, is sinful. We, who know quite a bit more about this than you likely do, don't believe that it is. You're going to have to do some real work to convince us.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Phil, can you show us (from accepted theological sources such as Scripture, Tradition, or the Teaching of the Church) where liver transplants are blessed by God?

    How about in vitro fertilization? Re-marriage after divorce?

    How about usury? Here's what C.S. Lewis has to say about that subject, BTW (I've posted this a million times, and may have already done so on this blog; apologies, if so):

    "Now another point. There is one bit of advice given to us by the ancient heathen Greeks, and by the Jews in the Old Testament, and by the great Christian teachers of the Middle Ages, which the modern economic system has completely disobeyed. All these people told us not to lend money at interest: and lending money at interest--what we call investment--is the basis of our whole system. Now it may not absolutely follow that we are wrong. Some people say that when Moses and Aristotle and the Christians agreed in forbidding interest (or 'usury' as they called it), they could not foresee the joint stock company, and were only thinking of the private moneylender, and that, therefore, we need not bother about what they said. That is a question I cannot decide on. I am not an economist and I simply do not know whether the investment system is responsible for the state we are in or not. This is where we want the Christian economist. But I should not have been honest if I had not told you that three great civilisations had agreed (or so it seems at first sight) in condemning the very thing on which we have based our whole life."

    Where's the "anti-usury" movement in modern Anglicanism, I wonder? Where are the schisms in the church over this issue?

    (Interesting, isn't it?)

    ReplyDelete
  63. bls asks what is necessary for Christian Marriage and why polygamy is not acceptable.

    1. What is necessary for Christian Marriage? One man and one woman who are not married. When God said it is not good for the man to be alone, he did not create another man, he created woman. He did not create women, he created woman.

    2. Why is polygamy wrong? First, because Jesus said the two will become one flesh. Not the 3 or 4 or more, but two. Second, see number 1 above.

    God's design for sexual relationship seems to be one man, one woman, for life. That is what the Church has always taught and teaches today. Can you show a time or a scripture or a writing from the Apostolic Fathers that says otherwise?

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

    ReplyDelete
  64. bls writes: "Anonymous, I've already told you what the principle is. 'It is not good for the man to be alone.'"

    Taken by itself, this principle can be used to justify all kinds of behavior. Including polyamory and incest.

    ReplyDelete
  65. "This, too, is a ruse designed to hijack a conversation - specifically, a conversation on how the moral principles implicitly or explicitly invoked to accept homosexual relationships entail the acceptance of much more than that. Unless one specifies what the limits of acceptance and inclusion are by citing the authority of specific moral principles, this line of reasoning collapses into contradiction."

    I think it's time you answered the questions I asked. Namely: why do you think it's OK to demand from gay people something not demanded from anybody else on earth - that is, unchosen celibacy for life? Why do you refuse the very thing - the companionship of another human being - that God recognized was missing at the beginning of Creation?

    Why does this sort of thing seem normal to you? Don't you realize that your "logic" must be lacking something, when this is the result? "Logic" must be judged against the results of its application in the real lives of real people; human beings are fallible, after all. You might actually have made a mistake in your "logic," you know.

    Same-sex marriage does not, in fact, imply "accepting so much more." We've already told you why it doesn't; you're simply not listening. That's your choice, of course - but please don't blame it on anybody else.

    ReplyDelete
  66. "bls asks what is necessary for Christian Marriage and why polygamy is not acceptable.

    1. What is necessary for Christian Marriage? One man and one woman who are not married. When God said it is not good for the man to be alone, he did not create another man, he created woman. He did not create women, he created woman.

    2. Why is polygamy wrong? First, because Jesus said the two will become one flesh. Not the 3 or 4 or more, but two. Second, see number 1 above.
    "


    1. What, in that case, makes "Christian marriage" any different from a marriage between atheists down at City Hall in which one man marries one woman (when neither are married)?

    Also, since you obviously believe that men ought to marry only women and vice-versa, can I then assume that you would be happy for your daughter to marry a gay man or your son a lesbian? If not, why not?

    2. Jesus was answering a question about "a man divorcing his wife" in that passage; he wasn't addressing the question of polygamy or the question of gay marriage.

    And see #1.

    ReplyDelete
  67. bls,

    Nice attempted distraction.

    You will also note that Lewis said that the issue should be answered by Christian economists and bankers. You will note that the Church does not have a liturgy for charging interest on a loan nor does it say that charging interest is blessed.


    Can you show me Lewis' position on the issue of blessing homosexual relationships?

    "Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, 'Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinance.' Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it is now, has gone wrong." ... "But perversions of the sex instinct are numerous, hard to cure, and frightful. ... [Y]ou and I, for the last twenty years, have been fed all day long on good solid lies about sex." (Mere Christianity p. 91, 92, 93)

    So, it would seem that Lewis is on the traditional end of this issue.

    After we've tackled this issue (sexual morality) we can tackle your proposed issue of usury and how to best set the economy to do away with the consumerism that plagues our societies.

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

    ReplyDelete
  68. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly these discussions disintegrate into zingers.

    Person 1: Don't you realize that if you allow for gay relationships you're opening the door to polygamy, bestiality, and incest? (Zing!)

    Person 2: Don't you realize that if you don't allow for the blessing of gay relationships then you also have to condemn the marriages of elderly people and people with biological problems having children? (Zap!)

    These are both such tired cliches. Yet, in a way, I think that they keep coming up because they both speak to the worldviews they represent.

    The polygamy et al question keeps getting asked because so many of the people who encourage the blessing of same sex unions seem to have a low regard for sacramental discipline. Not everyone, of course, but it's not hard to see where this idea comes from. Frankly, my initial reaction in reading Mark's post was to cringe. Not because I disagree with his defense of the holiness of committed, monogamous gay and lesbian unions. But it does appear that marriage is taken with a certain sense of insignificance. "As to marriage," Fr. Mark says, "I am convinced that holiness of marriage is not in marriage, but in God's blessing on people committed to life long companionship." So marriage is not holy in and of itself, only God's blessing on life long relationships. Yet God's blessing on life long relationships is precisely what the Church understands a marriage to be.

    There's a certain cavalierness in this kind of reasoning. It assumes that love and joy are things that can be subjectively apprehended but not concretely displayed. "We can make a claim to understand that the committed relations carry the weight of the relation between Christ and the Church - a mutuality of sacrificial giving." A heterosexual couple, under this reasoning, might remain unmarried for life and be absolutely no different in the eyes of God than a married couple because what matters is not the marriage, not what God has wrought in their lives, but some sort of unquantifiable sense of loving commitment. Given this fuzziness, is it any wonder that the polygamy question gets asked ad nauseum?

    On the other hand, those who condemn same sex relationships as absolutely devoid of grace on biblical and traditional theological grounds have to face the fact that their reasoning is also problematic. If the procreative character of a sexual encounter is an absolute necessity, as is claimed, then sex outside of this realm should be forbidden. This understanding reduces sex to something mechanistic, even though it is oft repeated that the goal of sex is to be both procreative and unitive. Not only that, but it reduces marriage itself to the physical act of lovemaking, which begs the question whether a marriage in which intercourse is for whatever reason impossible is any marriage at all. Granted, the procreative and unitive are intertwined, but if they are really inseparable, then perhaps as many as half of the marriages in this country are illegitimate. Is it any wonder then that the question of the married elderly keeps popping up?

    What strikes me again and again in this ongoing discussion is this: There are many people among both supporters of same sex relationships and those who condemn them who have an overly subjective and materialist view of the world. In this way, perhaps we are not as far away from one another as we would like to believe.

    ReplyDelete
  69. bls wrote: "I think it's time you answered the questions I asked. Namely: why do you think it's OK to demand from gay people something not demanded from anybody else on earth - that is, unchosen celibacy for life?"

    In my comments, I've never said that this is what I think should be demanded from gay people. I've only raised questions about the logic of your citation of 1 Corinthians and Galatians as justification for accepting and/or blessing gay relationships, and how the logic of such a citation may open the door to embracing more than one may have bargained for.

    Instead of responding to my argument, you're assuming that I hold views which I may or may not actually hold. That strikes me as at least a borderline ad hominem response.

    ReplyDelete
  70. J-Tron,

    My problem with homosexual sex is not that it is not procreative. Nor is my problem that it is "dirty" or wrong per se or even "icky."

    My issue is that it is short of what God desires for us and designed us for. I don't know if you are familiar the Greek word for "sin" (hamartia). It means to "miss the mark" and is an archery term as well as a theological term. To sin is to fail to hit the target set by God. How do we know the target set by God? Well, we know it by God's revelation. We bless all sorts of things. I like to think that of offering God's blessing (as a deacon/lay person) or pronouncing it (as a priest) is the Church's way of helping us hit the target. However, the Church lacks the authority to help us miss a target or to aim a the wrong target. We can bless animals because they are part of God's creation and caring for them is part of our God given task. We bless fields and buildings and all manner of things to help us use them correctly and for God's greater glory. We cannot bless what is sinful - what is wide of the target.

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

    ReplyDelete
  71. Taken by itself, this principle can be used to justify all kinds of behavior. Including polyamory and incest.

    But it wasn't taken by itself! I've talked about "faithfulness," and about how this is the one constant throughout Scripture (sexual morality certainly isn't); I've spoken about how faithfulness to one person models faithfulness to God; I've talked about the fact that gay people are the only group asked to be celibate for life; I've talked about what the treatment of and attitudes towards gay people has done to us as human beings; I've said that there are good reasons for forbidding incest and polygamy (the two things that get continually brought up at this point - neither of which is in reality comparable to same-sex partnerships). You aren't listening.

    You're imagining that there has, in all cases, to be one single overarching "moral principle" for doing anything. But it doesn't work that way - not even in the cases we're talking about here. I would bet $50 that nobody posting on this board could recite, without looking at the book, what Leviticus has to say about incest. I would further bet that nobody knows what the various state laws in the United States have to say about it, either - but they are not the same. Some say that first cousins can't marry; some allow it.

    Has the world fallen apart as a result? I really don't think so. Further, do you really think there are going to mass movements to permit incest now that gay relationships have begun to be more accepted generally? Why? Do you think people need to argue a priori for things that they now understand empirically? People are opposed to incest because they recognize that it has deleterious effects on the family and on children born to incestuous unions and for no other reasons, as far as I can tell.

    And BTW, taken by itself, the argument that Christian marriage is defined by "the union of one man and one woman" also allows for incest. So please don't simply ignore everything else that's been said to make an argument; it works two ways.

    I've asked you now, three times, what "moral principle" you can name that is a defense of forcing human beings to be celibate for life - and you haven't bothered to respond. You haven't answered any of my questions, in fact. I really don't see why I should continue to pretend this is a "discussion"; it isn't.

    ReplyDelete
  72. It is intersting to me that an honest discussion of the reality of homosexuality brings so many people out of the woodwork to voice their views. Why are there so many hits on a topic of this nature?

    I have long ago given up on the idea of reasoning with those who disagree when someone says that God is bigger than all this, and that God actually does appreciate and also loves people who may be homosexual, and who are just a part of humanity. Wow, what a concept, that God is bigger than all our petty cultural prejudices.

    "Your God is too small," (a statement made earlier by a theologian or someone with more prestige than I have), if you are unable to comprehend an inclusive love for all people who turn to him/her.

    I have tried to understand, and now accept, that there are a number of people who are entrenched in an idea about rules and laws set in the Bible and for all times.

    I do not think in those terms. I believe the Bible is the Word of God as understood and formularted by PEOPLE in different times and different cultures. We must all continue to seek God and strive to understand the Bible in our times and in our culture. I live in faith. I love God.

    ReplyDelete
  73. (Dan)
    BLS
    Why do you think that those of us on the other side of the issue "are not listening?" Most of us understand the arguments you make. We have heard them over and over and over. Why do you equate our disagreeing with a refusal to listen? The arguments are unconvincing.

    Beryl
    Your last remark also assumes some things about us that are wide of the mark. We don't believe in a God who does not love gays, lesbians, gisexual, transgendered, etc., folks. We believe fervently in a God who loved and loves them (and us) enough to have provided a Way - actually, THE WAY. While we were sinners, God sent His Son for us. Our disagreement is about what it means to turn to Him and how we are to respond to His call to be a holy people. I am trying to learn not to be guided by the "ick" factor and to take my questions to God. Nothing I have seen or heard convicnes me that the answers to those questions rest in the novel interpretations of Scripture that I have seen and heard to support what you appear to support.

    ReplyDelete
  74. I give up, Anonymous. You won't respond to any of the questions I've asked here - including the ones I've posted on another blog. You've disappeared from that discussion as well.

    I'm going to quote you directly: "[W]hat is the specific moral principle or principles you are invoking to include homosexual relationships while simultaneously drawing the line at polyamory and incest in cases where (a) the relationships involve mutually consenting adults and (b) others see the fruits of the Spirit in those relationships?"

    You might think that "including homosexual relationships" is a simple proposition in logic. Well, it's not; you're talking about human beings here. If we do look at it logically, though, its opposite is "disincluding homosexual relationships." That's what I'm taking a look at, plain and simple.

    And when it comes to the church (and life in general for that matter), "disincluding homosexual relationships" directly implies, whether you like it or not, unchosen celibacy for life. It doesn't matter whether or not you personally hold this opinion; it's the direct consequence of what you're arguing here. You demand a watertight a priori argument about why "homosexual relationships" should be "included"; I'm telling you that it doesn't work like this in any other case - and that in any case, the logic ends up binding gay people in an unconscionable way. I'm telling you that you have to look at the consequences of what you argue and recognize that the logic doesn't work. There's something wrong with the premises.

    I am attempting, IOW, to do what you asked me to do, and then you withdraw, claiming I'm making "borderline ad hominem responses."

    So I give up. It seems to me you don't like the logical consequences of what you're arguing - but that's what they are. Sorry.

    ReplyDelete
  75. Phil, I also wrote a response to you last night, which I guess was lost in the ether.

    I don't really understand your last response; my post had nothing to do with C.S. Lewis. I simply quoted something he said about historical conditions because it was concise and direct. Also, "usury" is not at all the same thing as a "consumerist society," so that seems nonresponsive as well. I can't argue about things that I haven't said or meant.

    And it seems clear that you are really unable to listen to what the people directly involved in this situation have to say, preferring your own views. There's really nothing more to say at that point, I don't think.

    ReplyDelete
  76. bls,

    You keep harping on the discussion of polygamy or incest. You will note that I didn't bring up either one of those and you haven't answered my questions. I know it is easier to argue against the logical fallacy of the slippery slope, but beware that in beating that strawman you think you have answered the arugments against blessing SSUs.

    I believe that the whole question can be summed up in how we determine what God desires for us and how God designed us. The progressives I've talked with seem to believe that they come to know God's will primarily through experience - thus the arguments that they see God's grace in the lives of homosexual couples.

    The conservatives (such as my self) believe that we are fallen creatures who's judgement is faulty, so we need some external touchpoint to know God's will and design for human beings. We believe that God revealed His will and design in Holy Scripture. For us, the primacy in determining God's will is Holy Scripture and for progressives is seems to be experience. Thus, I get frustrated when I ask for scriptural support for blessing same sex unions and you cannot offer any. Equally, you get frustrated that I will not listen to your experience or the experience of others concerning same sex unions.

    I submit that all our experience is darkened by sin. Sin is "unreal" living and the more we sin, the less contact we have the Reality. I just came back from prison and many of the men there are so twisted by their past decisions and lives that murder is good and right and justified while mercy is wrong and weak and marks you as a victim for the strong. That is the result of unreal living. Our lives can turn to that unless we turn to God as He Is, not as we desire Him to be.

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

    ReplyDelete
  77. What bothers me most about people who claim to be Christian yet disallow normal committed human relationships among LGBTs is their apparent rejection of God's ability thru the Holy Spirit to teach us "new" things about this one issue and only this issue.

    ReplyDelete
  78. The most vivid imagery in the Church is the imagery of marriage between a man and woman, husband and wife. The Church is the Bride of Christ and Jesus Christ is the Bridegroom. We await the great day, the marriage feast which we are reminded of at every gathering of the Eucharist. I don't know what more to say than that.

    bb

    ReplyDelete
  79. I live in faith. I love God" Beryl Simkin

    Me too and furthermore I trust God and not any little whiny/idealized goodnight story like the one I just read from the blue baby ongoing complaint department.

    Leonardo Ricardo

    ReplyDelete
  80. bls,

    Let's stay on one topic at a time. I believe that the topic before us is blessing of same sex unions. We can debate usary at another time.

    Let me be blunt about the question. What is your primary source for knowing God's will? Is there any way that you will change what you think about God or His will? Is there any argument that can be made to get you to change your believe that homosexual sex is blessed?

    I believe that I may be wrong and that homosexual sex is blessed by God. To change my mind, I need to be shown arguments from Holy Scripture and/or the Teaching of the universal Church.

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

    ReplyDelete
  81. Outstanding, Fr. Mark! You are right on so much of this, but I particularly appreciate this:
    The Word of God is our constant companion. That Word is a comfort, always with us, but is also uncomfortable in its provocative call to live not for ourselves but for others. But that Word is not the writings on the page itself, rather the Scripture is a gateway into the Word.
    I'll take my time...and hold my breath...as I attempt to look at Matt Kennedy's sermon. Such attacks via Scripture on those of us who are "queer" and Christian have done tremendous damage, and serve only to keep the noise level so hot and high that it keeps "queer" people from hearing the call of God to come home. Far too often (sadly) people mistake the person in the pulpit for God. Not true, not true, not true!
    The invite to eternal life is for everyone, and God doesn't care what label you, or society, has put on you.
    Wonderful piece. And thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  82. So many of the "conservative" side keep arguing from the point of law, while some of us on the "liberal" side simply are not going to read Scripture literally, as though each passage of text is the end of of God's messages to us. It is not so easy to believe along these lines (of the "liberals"). It requires a lot of faith, trust in God, respresented to us in the Son, Jesus Christ, knowing that we do not, as mere humans, understand everything yet, even in this day, nor will we, in our lifetimes. So, since the Bible was formulated, (not written, because that wasn't being done in the days of Jesus Christ, or in the days represented in the Old Testament), and was spoken, told in stories, carried to others, stories that arose out of cultures in earlier times, I would not expect those people, (though inspired by God, they were just human); I would not expect them to have all the knowledge we have today. That does not lessen their inspired lives and stories. That does not mean the Bible is not the inspired Word of God. I believe it is. But the early fathers in church history loved God and spoke for Him and of Him in their day and being human, they had limitations.

    The journey continues. We have to continue to learn and to seek God. We must use all our logic and reason and new information that we have to discern our understanding of God's call to us in our day and in our time.

    There are important themes in the Bible that I believe do address the issue of how we respond to Gays and Lesbians in our society, however. Judge not, that ye be not judged. There are two great commandments. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind. The second is like unto it, love your neighbor as self. On these two commandments, hang ALL THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS. That's a lot for me.

    Now I well know, that there are some who will not like or appreciate my point of view. However, I come to this in good faith and in love of God and neighbor. Some of you see life and God from a different perspective. Your world view is completely different from mine. Do we need to argue who is right when all of us are about the Lord's work? There is room for many voices in the Episcopal Church.

    ReplyDelete
  83. Bluemoonalto26/4/08 10:33 PM

    "Let me be blunt about the question. What is your primary source for knowing God's will? Is there any way that you will change what you think about God or His will? Is there any argument that can be made to get you to change your believe that homosexual sex is blessed?"

    Phil, I'm not skilled in arguing from scripture. Many others here have done better than I could ever hope to do. But I ask you to consider this: your interpretation of God's will has the advantage (to you) of Happily Ever After. And your interpretation of God's will has the disadvantage (to me) of Lonely Ever After. We may all be sinners, equal in God's eyes, but by your measurement some of us are clearly more equal than others.

    And I just don't think God works that way.

    ReplyDelete
  84. I believe that I may be wrong and that homosexual sex is blessed by God. To change my mind, I need to be shown arguments from Holy Scripture and/or the Teaching of the universal Church.

    Waitaminnit, Phil: I've addressed this before. To show that spousal intimacy in a committed same-sex couple is blessed by God, I said to open your Bible to Genesis 1:1, and continue on to Revelation 22:21 (don't skip the Apocrypha! ;-/).

    Or perhaps you meant demonstrate, by way of proof-texting from Scripture?

    As Mark indicated in this entry (re Matt Kennedy), that's just not the Anglican way. In what Christian tradition are you a deacon, again?

    *****

    Re "the Teaching of the universal Church": what does that MEAN, to you Phil? Rome? Every Christian tradition BUT Rome? Some magick number, which equals consensus ("universal")? For me, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church provides such teaching . . . for up to 3 years! (Then subject to the review of the next GC)

    I suspect that's not "universal" enough for you, Phil. I again ask you: to what Christian body did you make your ordination vows? If you cannot, in good conscience, keep them---ought you not make a change?

    God bless you in your discernment, Phil. I hope you will pray for discernment for the rest of us in TEC, also. More Light, O Christ: grant us More Light!

    ReplyDelete
  85. "We can make a claim to understand that the committed relations carry the weight of the relation between Christ and the Church - a mutuality of sacrificial giving. We can hope that such relationships abound and that life long commitments are made, maintained and celebrated."

    Fr Harris, we're still waiting for an answer to this question: how does your above-quoted statement exclude bigamous, polygamous, polyamorist and incestuous relationships?

    Since your sole criterion for blessing of relationships is that there be mutual love and commitment, and the people involved in these alternate lifestyles are adamant that they are both loving and devoted, you *must* bless them also -- or else come up with a new argument.

    ReplyDelete
  86. anonymous...so who are "we" who want my reply, and for that matter, who are you?

    ReplyDelete
  87. JCF,

    I've read scripture from cover to cover and I read nothing about blessing same sex unions. I do read that God consideres homoerotic relationship to be disordered at best and terribly wrong at worst. Perhaps you can point out a place where I missed where God said that the sexual relationship between David and Jonathon was blessed or that God was happy with the centurion's master/slave homoerotic relationship. Perhaps there is something in the Apocrypha that I'm missing or maybe in the 21 chapter of Mark or something. Please, could you be more specific so that this ignorant and uneducated deacon can find he has not found in his years of studying scriptures and reading the Apostolic Fathers?

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

    ReplyDelete
  88. this ignorant and uneducated deacon

    Come now, Phil: this sarcasm is beneath you. The problem isn't with your (obviously well-schooled) head, it's with your (unmoved) heart. To wit...

    I've read scripture from cover to cover and I read nothing about

    You've lost the plot, Phil. The Bible doesn't exist, after all these thousands of years, as a collection "about" something. Scripture lives as a love letter: from God to Phil (and God to JCF, and God to Mark Harris, etc, etc, ad infinitum!)

    So---as I indicated before---I'm not going to give you prooftexts, where you can read "about" something (because "about something" is really no different than the "about nothing" you've already found---IF your heart remains unmoved!)

    I'm just going to re-direct you to ***The Plot***:

    Dearest Phil,

    I LOVE you, you silly goose!

    Phil, you remain,
    Eternally Mine,
    GOD

    ReplyDelete
  89. Phil - I get the feeling there is no credible, biblical justification for dumping Lambeth 1.10 and the teaching of the church in the last 2000 years....this is why you get "random" answers or no answer when asking for substantial justifications for the innovations some want to make.

    Rom 6:1

    ReplyDelete
  90. "anonymous...so who are "we" who want my reply, and for that matter, who are you?"

    Why didn't you answer my question?

    ReplyDelete

OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.