Church and State
I’ve held off on blogging on some recent news stories partly because I’ve been far too busy the backend of last week and this weekend and partly because I’ve been reflecting on the strange coherence of seemingly disparate events of the last seven days or so. Looking back over reports since I last blogged properly (putting up some essays on sexuality), a number of stories that have clear similar patterns have emerged.
Cranmer blogged a few days ago about how the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster is now planning to take on the Government over its refusal to allow Roman Catholic Adoption Agencies to refuse to consider same-sex couples as prospective parents for the childern in its care:
Today, it is reported that he is to defy the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which is music to Cranmer’s ears and food for his soul. Having recently derided the Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales who have caved in on this, it is heartening that the spirit of Sir Thomas More lives on in the Cardinal. And this battle is a righteous one which will have the support of Anglican bishops and archbishops
Cranmer shall be praying for the case to come to the courts, and for this proud and arrogant anti-Christian Government to be humiliated. It must be remembered that the Sexual Orientation Regulations were forced and rushed through Parliament after a bitter Cabinet battle and in the face of fierce opposition from religious leaders. And it must also be observed that some prominent homosexuals also oppose this legislation, believing, as they do, that it transgresses the bounds of liberty and conscience.
The actions of Cardinal Murphy-O’Conner are commendable and indicate that for the Roman Catholic Church at least, they understand that Christian witness may involve considerable sacrifice. He recognises that we are reaching a point where legislation in this country from an increasingly ungodly Government will begin to impinge upon the freedom of Christians to practice what the Scriptures demand of them.
Take for example the case of Iris Robinson, the Democratic Unionist MP, who dared to simply repeat what the Bible clearly says in Leviticus, that homosexual acts are abominable. What has followed is a "witch hunt" because she challenged the accepted public orthodoxy that same-sex attraction is something you are born with and that it can’t change. Of course, I would beg to differ and the fact of the matter is that there is no evidence that shows that same-sex attraction is either exclusively genetic or biological or that it is always immutable.
Iris Robinson has said the following in response to criticism of her words:
"I am defending the word of God. I think at the moment there is a witch hunt to kerb or actually stop or prevent Christians speaking out and I make no apology for what I said because it’s the word of God. But at the same time I was very careful in saying that I have nothing against any homosexual. I love them; that is what the Lord tells me, to love the sinner and not the sin. And just as a murderer can be redeemed by the blood of Christ so can a homosexual."
Here at "An Exercise" we heartily agree, but we know that there are some, like the following politician, who disagree:
Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson said the anti-gay comments called Mrs Robinsons’ position as chairman of the Assembly’s Health Committee into question.
"I think that such an outrageous comment from Mrs Robinson calls into question her suitability as chair of the Assembly health committee," she said.
This is the problem that is now facing Christians. If we continue to hold to our antiquated views, we will increasingly hear calls for us to be pushed to the margins of society. The so called liberality of modern society is anything but and almost any viewpoint is accepted in the name of pluralism apart from the Christian one. The government seems to have a view of faith that thinks its all about being nice and good and pleasant to your neighbour. Listen to Tony Blair’s speech launching his new faith foundation or Gordon Brown speaking to Scottish Presbyterians and you would think that the Golden Rule was the only thing that counted for Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Adherents of the Repeated Meme.
The truth is utterly different. Religious faith is not just about praxis but also about doctrinal belief. You cannot compartmentalise how you behave and why you choose to behave in a certain way, as though ethical practice had no source or foundation. Christianity, like all major world religions, has a basis of doctrine that cannot be compromised and societal changes will not in any way permit a variation in what is understood as truth.
This was the reason that so many of the early Christians went to their death, because they understood that the claim that "Jesus is Lord" was not worth compromising. However, that is the very claim that the Government is slowly beginning to wittle away at, for to claim that Jesus is Lord is to intrinsically demand that certain facts are objectively true, despite whatever society may think. Along with the claim that Jesus is Lord comes along a number of clear teachings from Scripture, including that on human sexuality.
A truly pluralistic society is one that permits a variety of opinion and healthy debate around conflicting viewpoints. However, we seem to be living in a society which, despite its claims of pluralism, is anything but, for when Christians simply express their viewpoint they are chastised and demonised. Despite the claims of the Home Secretary that we live in a "secular democracy", she forgets that the Church of England is still the State Church and that the official doctrine of the Church of England on matters of human sexuality is still, despite the loud shouting of the revisionists, that sex belongs inside marriage of a man and a woman and all other sexual activity is sinful and that sinners need to repent and find forgiveness and healing. So when an MP simply reiterates this viewpoint, what is the problem?
The problem ultimately of course is that the world hates Jesus. That’s why we have a government that pushes forward equality legislation as a natural justice issue, despite the complete lack of proof that those with same-sex attraction are born that way. The reason for this is clear – once you have rejected the author of truth himself, reality has no real relation to what you consider to be true. We live in a society that has rejected God and created its own truth to follow its own desires, and more than that will legislate vociferously to defend itself. The Roman Catholic Church may yet discover what damage the anti-Jesus zeitgeist will inflict upon those who stand in its way. How many of us are truly ready to stand with them?
"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.
just a few quick responses. At the risk of arrogance, I am aware to a degree that Abeo’s position is held by other organisations, like NARTH. You say such organisations “understand
that people can only change if they want to”, but what of the stories of ‘former ex-gays’ who testify to having desperately wanted to change, committed to it and made costly efforts to do so, but experienced no change?
You go on to say that, “The position statement straddles the individualâ€™s personal stance and their rights under the law. the position statement looks to me as affirming a personâ€™s right under the law to choose whatever it is they think is right for them.Â A good therapist understands that
coercion is out of the question in therapy”. I think you’re largely right in the way you describe their statement, but again at the risk of arrogance, this doesn’t address the argument I gave above. In straddling “the individualâ€™s personal stance and their rights under the law”, it seems to me that Abeo ducks the question of truth, and is not consistent with its own logic. I’m not arguing for coercion, or suggesting people don’t have “the right under the law to choose whatever it is they think is right for them”. But I am saying that if Abeo, really,Â believes that ‘gay-affirming therapies’ are not offering what is best for men and cannot lead them to fullness of masculinity, surely it should say so and seek to persuade men who areÂ ‘content to be gay’ that they are missing out on their fulfilment.Â If I choose something that I think’s right for me, sure, I have the right to do so – but if friends or others who care about me see it’s not leading to my flourishing, they would likely challenge my choice. To act on its beliefs, shouldn’t Abeo do the same? (…and yes there’s a strong risk of hypocrisy for me here – I don’t always act on what I say I believe, yet here I am demanding it of others…)
You thenÂ turn toÂ “secular treatments” – but I would like to ask youÂ whereÂ this comes from to be honest. It seems to me it’s very hard to think of an ‘ex-gay’ ministry or ‘therapist’ who actually is secular. I don’t think Abeo can be said to be so,Â given Dr Paul Miller’s background (eg former links to Exodus, training under Richard Cohen). NARTH’s Joseph Nicolosi was touted as a secular therapist by Anglican Mainstream when he came to the UK to address a conference last year – but again, I don’t think that is the case (from his writings he seems to start from something close to the ‘official’ Catholic view, and would a secularist name his clinic after St Thomas Aquinas?). You added that, “There has been a long British tradition of secular treatment for unwanted homosexuality” – but I’d like to ask you, where is this tradition and who are its ‘leading lights’?
in friendship, Blair
Blair – In referring to Paul Miller, you said he was onceÂ linked to Exodus. Can you explain further?
Hi Warren (and all),
sorry – that was a mistake. I misread an entry on Ex-gay Watch – the ‘former links to Exodus’ bit was referring to Richard Cohen, not Paul Miller. Admittedly that does slightly undercut the point I was making above, too.
in friendship, Blair