Of beams and splinters: Homosexuality and Christian activism.

World Vision has caved under pressure. I don’t necessarily count this as weakness on their part.  As an explicitly Christian charity, the kinds and amounts of pressure that can be brought to bear against them are unfathomable. Which leads me to my first point: the Gospel is under attack, but not from outside. Rachel Held Evans summarised this so eloquently.

I have been working myself up to this point for a while, thinking about complicity and bigotry and where I stand in the strange maelstrom of where all these things intersect with theology. To those who know the shape of our souls silence does not mean assent, but to the world at large silence is yes. This is true of social organisations too. To outsiders an absent no means you agree. Always.

This is how systemic evil stays alive: when good men stay silent. If nobody speaks out, everyone stays isolated and impotent in their dissent. It’s in the absence of communication that relationships break down, societies calcify, progress is hamstrung.

And I want no part in it.

This is what I believe. I lay it out in public, because that’s where it may be a small crack in the monstrous monolith that outsiders perceive Christianity to be.

The roots of Christianity are set in the hearts of the oppressed. It’s in the history of the Jewish people; it’s in the oppression of the early church. In the Bible we find, over and over again that God is the God of the oppressed, of those on the underside of power, no matter who they happen to be. The gospel is the story of a God who comes down to the powerless and broken, and offers them healing. I believe that it’s our sacred duty as Christians to speak out against oppression, especially when it originates within the church, because silence is complicity.

Jesus calls us to love. Wherever we support, even implicitly, the systematic oppression of others, we have moved away from God and His good news.

Homosexuality isn’t even close to the issue that it is made to be, even if you believe in its inherent sinfulness. In the Bible, homosexuality is outshone by things like greed, hate and oppression to such a degree that we can almost round its score off to zero. That’s the problem here: it’s become a political issue, not a theological one. It’s a hot-button topic used by lazy preachers to create a fictitious enemy that the church can unite against.

But the church doesn’t need to. The gospel is so much more than a set of rules to protect with force. The only people Jesus ever used force against were religious people. Everyone else received an invitation. So the question comes up for each of us: if Jesus were here, would he weave a whip for me?

Creating laws to kill and imprison people for their sexuality is deeply wrong. We cannot legislate our specific morality: down that road lies fascism and all the many inventive evils that flow from it. Jesus didn’t call us to patrol the actions of others, especially not those of people who hold different beliefs. Not even God does that. If the most high respects free will enough to allow me my faults, who the hell are we to withhold our love in some misguided attempt at social engineering? We’re to bring good news, love and healing.

Withholding homosexuals the right to work alongside fellow Christians for the betterment of the world is more than sad, then. It’s misguided, loveless and evil. As long as the church keeps pushing this stupid homosexuality agenda (in all its forms), it will be an empire of oppression. It will be part of the problem that our religion was started to solve.

The stance taken by most Christians on this topic is so disgustingly toxic that it beggars belief. It is so ‘far-sighted’ that it needs glasses to see its own sin. As long as we remain sinners, we have no right to even pick up stones, no less cast them. I am staggered by the amount of damage done by the rejection of homosexuals. It is possible only because the Christians doing so reduce these people to a single characteristic. These are people who love, fear, feel, cry, dream, and laugh. They are flesh and blood, with lives like ours, full of beauty and complexity. Just like us.

We are meant to be a force of love in the world. The body of Christ. Christ who loved and accepted whores and killers and you and me. We are in good company, no?

Personally, I don’t believe homosexuality is a sin, but “allowing it” (if we assume that it’s sinful) will never be able to live up to the destruction that is being sown all over the world by those who oppose it. Don’t we ‘allow’ so many other sins too, anyway? Isn’t that the point of forgiveness, of tolerance and love?

Christians must start speaking up against wrongs. If we don’t, nobody’s going to change it for us. So this is my start. I denounce Uganda’s gay bill, Russia’s legislation, every Christian’s clamour against a charity allowing homosexuals into its ranks. We must speak out against anybody who treads on those who are different from them.

This madness needs to stop. It’s small-minded and unworthy of people who claim that God is love.

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6 thoughts on “Of beams and splinters: Homosexuality and Christian activism.

  1. Well written, thank you. I agree with most of it, but if I may play devil (or Jesus’) advocate… I have been thinking about this for a while now, so your post is an occasion to voice my concerns and read your thoughts.

    People often remark on the relative infrequency of texts against homosexuality (only 7) in the Bible compared with other sins. But these people never seem to want to talk about the other sins. Should there be a future post on fat people and gluttony, of proportional length and passion? Or on those who drink too much? Or on those who gossip? What about those who become angry? Our those who celebrate pride? Or those who cultivate lust? Or those who use smartphones with minerals mined in the Congo, or drink coffee farmed by peasants exploited by big business? Living in the 1st world oppresses a much larger proportion of the world than the gay 2%. You are one of the most conscientious people I know concerning these things. I just find the general fuss made about gay people out of proportion with bigger social justice issues. The number of Christians persecuted for their faith make the gay issue seem like a callous joke, but I have yet to find a gay activist write on that.

    Then, the tide of public opinion on the gay issue is shifting in the West. We always see ourselves on the side of Jesus, not the oppressors. And yet we are becoming the self-righteously morally indignant pharisees, proclaiming loudly that “we are not like those uncouth sinners in Russia and Uganda, thank God”. We are the ones writing against those who have different morals to us (regardless of sincerity). But the morals I see in myself reflect western liberalism more than they do those of Jesus. When do we become the ones of whom it is said “You have dressed the wounds of my people lightly. You say ‘peace, peace!’ but there is no peace.”? It is something I’ve been struggling with. At what stage to do let go of love in the name of “tolerance”? People often note that the gospels never record Jesus’ view on homosexuality. True. But he never said anything about tolerance either…

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    • I don’t speak out about gluttony or gossip because nobody’s being systematically and officially discriminated against because of those things. Yes, there is discrimination, but that is on the individual level, not on a legislative level. What we do legislatively reflects the sober workings of our minds. And that kind of official statement is something one can react to, since it’s public. Does a stranger have the right to tell me what’s wrong in my life? Hell no. Loved ones earn that right. But if I make something public that explicitly impacts others, I give others the right to engage with it.

      I think it’s important to be able to speak out against what is wrong within the organisations that you form part of. It keeps it healthier. When it becomes a “I’m so glad I’m so much better than the Russians” we have a problem again. The point is that we’re all uncouth sinners and are not allowed to legislate one sin against the other for no reason other than overblown cultural pressures.

      Once again- I’m not trying to legislate morality. I’m pointing to what I perceive to be a failure of morality. That is something everyone is allowed to do.

      I have no idea what you mean by letting love go in the name of tolerance. It seems like you’re saying that tolerance isn’t a good thing, while saying we should not be pharisees by writing against people with different morals from us, which sounds a lot like tolerance. But I’m probably missing the point.

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      • Once again, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, and I am truly glad you are saying it. Thank you for entertaining my thoughts. But I think this is a helpful intellectual exercise.

        My point about Jesus and tolerance is just that we should not take his silence about certain topics in the gospels as approval.

        You observe rightly that what we legislate affects our sober judgment, but this cuts both ways.

        Even though I may agree with the legalisation of gay unions, there are a number of pitfalls here. There is no morally neutral ground on this. Legislating more things does not imply greater tolerance. Tolerance is not the lack of moral judgement, but the exercise of it. You weigh alternatives, and decide that one thing (usually suppression) is less evil than another. J. Budziszewski was most helpful on this during his Harvard lecture when he identified the fallacious thinking that more tolerance means tolerating more things, being sceptical about moral truth, or not acting on firmly held convictions: http://veritas.org/talks/toleration-and-moral-truth/?view=presenters&speaker_id=2231&sort=date

        Do strangers have the right to tell you what is wrong in your life? Hell yes! It all depends on what you’re doing (rape comes to mind). What you’re saying is that homosexuality is less harmful socially than suppressing it would be, and should therefore not be legislated the way, say, certain drugs are illegal. Allowing all practices would not be tolerant, but obsequious (every virtue has two opposing vices, not one). We don’t discriminate against rapists. By speaking out about the legislation of morality, you are exercising moral judgement and attempting to legislate morality. You are saying the law should go one way, not the other. Of course we can and should do this. But assuming the moral high ground on the basis of “tolerance” is incorrect, I think.

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      • I don’t think silence means approval, it just seems to. That made up a big part of this post, after all. What we can, however, infer from Jesus’ silence is that He had bigger fish to fry, and maybe we should too.

        I never said tolerance = relativism. There is always moral judgement implied. The problem is that we tend to tolerate some sins, while demonising others with a complete disregard for the impact of those specific sins. It’s our own inconsistency that I have tried to point to, which brings us to your final point.

        You will notice that you had to go to a sin which involves and impacts another deeply, namely rape. This is an argument that is often posited, but I think it misses the point. I think sins can be broadly grouped according to who is impacted. Rape destroys someone else, which leads to damage to society in general as well. Homosexuality is consensual between adults. All the same moral limitations inherent in heterosexuality apply. For instance: is homosexual rape more wrong than heterosexual rape?

        When the sins involve only the person committing them, we tend to tolerate. When the destruction inherent in the act goes further than that, we tend to legislate. This is paradoxical, I agree, but only from a very reductionist view of ethics (Morality is almost never clear cut). I am only standing on the same moral high ground that anybody who employs liars does. Or people who swear, lust, act in rage, gossip, snub. We make this distinction every day, but somehow we exempt homosexuality from this list of things we tolerate. It’s inconsistent.

        I never advocated allowing all practices. The very foundation of this post is built on that.

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