The Sexualisation of Heresy

An absolutely superb piece by Melanie Phillips this morning on her blog.

The Equality Bill currently going through Parliament is the latest and potentially most oppressive attempt to impose politically acceptable attitudes and drive out any that fall foul of these criteria. Since the attitudes being imposed constitute an ideological agenda to destroy Britain’s foundational ethical principles and replace them by a nihilistic values and lifestyle free-for-all, they represent a direct onslaught on the Judeo-Christian morality underpinning British society.

The most neuralgic of these issues is gay rights. This is because the tolerance of homosexuality that a liberal society should properly show has long been hijacked by an agenda which aims at destroying the very idea of normative sexuality altogether – and does so by smearing it as prejudice. The true liberal position, that it is right and just to tolerate behaviour that deviates from the norm as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, is deemed to be rank prejudice on the grounds that homosexuality is not ‘deviancy’ but normal. ‘Normality’ is thus rendered incoherent and absurd and accordingly destroyed altogether.  The agenda is therefore not liberal tolerance but illiberal coercion against mainstream moral values, on the basis that the very idea of having normative moral principles at all is an expression of bigotry. So anyone who speaks out against gay rights is immediately vilified as a ‘homophobe’ and treated as a social and professional pariah.

One of the key tenets – possibly the key tenet – of a liberal society is that it grants religious groups the freedom to practise their religious faith and live by its precepts. Preventing them from doing so is profoundly illiberal and oppressive – and it is not made any less so by the fact that ‘progressive’ voices inside the church themselves deem such precepts to be ‘homophobic’. This is merely the sexualisation of heresy. And what follows from heresy, whether religious or secular, is persecution.

Persecution needs an enforcer. And such a tool of oppression has been duly created in the form of the Orwellian-styled Equality & Human Rights Commission, whose role is to stamp out all such heresy. Accordingly Stonewall, the gay rights pressure group whose de-normalising agenda has been enacted virtually in its entirety by this Labour government, has not one but two commissioners on the E&HRC. And yet despite this blatant loading of the regulatory dice, gay activists have kicked up a stink over the appointment of one token evangelical Christian on the Commission, Joel Edwards — even though by all accounts he is meek and conformist in his approach – so much so that at the same Faith, Homophobia, Transphobia, & Human Rights conference addressed by Maria Eagle the Commission’s head, Trevor Phillips, actually expressed contrition over Edwards’s appointment:

Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Equality & Human Rights Commission, spoke candidly about his position in the face of the controversies over the appointment of the Rev Joel Edwards, former General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance, to a Commissioner role for faith issues. Responding to tough questioning, he told the conference that had he known at the time of the appointment what he knew now, how deeply people had been hurt and alienated over this, maybe there would have been a different outcome.

Truly, as the joke goes, what was once prohibited has now become compulsory. Once, homosexual practice was outlawed. Now, it appears that Christian practice is to be afforded the same fate. This is a matter of fundamental civil rights. So where are the upholders of progressive values on this? Where are the human rights lawyers? Where is the voice of Liberty, Britain’s powerful human rights NGO? And where are the supposed defenders of core British and western values? Where (don’t laugh) is the Conservative Party?

Marching in the ranks of the secular inquisition, every one of them.

If any of my readers think that the banning of criticism of sexual practices is acceptable (for that is what Clause 61 in the Coroners and Justice Bill which removes the Waddington Amendment from the CJA seeks to do), please could you outline below why?

Update – For reference, here is the relevant details of the proposed legal changes:

The offence of ‘inciting hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation’ is part of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (‘CJI Act’). Lord Waddington successfully inserted a free speech clause into that Act, which clause 61 (formerly clause 58) of the Coroners and Justice Bill now seeks to remove. Clause 61 has been passed by the Commons. It reads as follows:

61 Hatred against persons on grounds of sexual orientation

In Part 3A of the Public Order Act 1986 (c. 64) (hatred against persons on grounds of sexual orientation etc), omit section 29JA (protection for discussion or criticism of sexual conduct etc).

Section 29JA (which clause 61 seeks to omit) reads as follows:

29JA Protection of freedom of expression (sexual orientation)

In this Part, for the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.

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116 Comments on “The Sexualisation of Heresy

  1. Hey everyone,

    I moved house today, and the stuff surrounding that has made it hard to find time to chip in here. But I hope to be able to do so soon :-)

    Gerv

  2. Wow. Lots to read. I doubt I’ll make it all the way back to where I left off… I’ll try and make sure I address the right comments to the right people this time :-)

    On the polygamy question: I have no problem seeing God regulating things that are less than ideal. Divorce is one example which explicitly is called out as such in the NT.

    I also think that whoever said that you can’t have it both ways on “David and Jonathan were gay” and “the Bible knows nothing of committed homosexual relationships, so the prohibitions aren’t total” made a very good point. Unless you think we are capable of seeing things in the Old Testament which were hidden to Paul. At the moment, it seems that Carolyn is arguing the former and Sue the latter – so are the two of you implicitly disagreeing with each other?

    Carolyn: if you are saying that the Bible does not condemn slavery, then why do you not reach the conclusion that (some forms of) slavery are OK to God? There’s only two possible answers to that question: “Because I don’t like it” (in which case, who are you to put yourself above God?) or “because the Bible actually does condemn slavery”, in which case your initial premise is contradicted.

    Sue said: “but a deep respect and commitment to another through thick and thin. LGBT people are as capable as this depth of love as are heterosexual people.” Are you talking about particular individuals or as a class? Because I’m fairly sure that, taking LGB people as a class vs. heterosexuals as a class, statistics do not back you up.

    Sue: I think you have misunderstood the conservative “open the floodgates” argument. Conservatives are concerned that conceding the principles underlying the arguments for homosexual practice means that the same principles can be used to argue for the acceptance of other non-heterosexual-marital practices. It is not a concern about the “frightening pace of social change”. Even if you do not wish to use those principles to argue for those practices, others do. And if you are to meet that objection, you need to show how the principles you are asking us to accept do not, in fact, logically lead to the acceptance of those other practices.

    Carolyn: actually, the above also speaks to your point about conservatives caricaturing liberals as “anything goes”. I agree such a caricature is wrong, but the caricature is only one (mis)step from the argument that while _you_ may not be “anything goes”, the principles you are asking the church to accept logically lead there. And you also need to show why that’s not so.

    Lastly, I would politely suggest to Philip that your standard style can read as a bit patronising. :-)

    • Hi Gervase, I hope the house move went well?

      I’ll keep this as brief as possible( spending too much time on here!)and only address points arising from my posts.

      1. David and Jonathon. If you are able to find it, I contributed to a thread on Ruth and Naomi and said that to me there seems insufficient evidence one way or another to “prove” whether David and Jonathon’s friendship was sexual or not, though it was clearly very intense. I think, given that Paul would not have been alert to loving homoeroticism in the way we are now, it wouldn’t have occurred to him.

      2. When I say LGBT people are as capable of love and commitment as heterosexuals, I mean both as individuals and – potentially – as a group in society. LGBT people are as human as anyone else. LGBT people are as capable of love, hatred, folly, wisdom, morality, immorality, selfishness, self giving, tolerance and prejudice as all other human beings. Gay and bisexual people are NOT innately morally “inferior.”

      Aspects of gay culture( largely male gay culture) can be highly promiscuous. I think there are cultural and historical reasons for this and refer you to my post on June 15 09 at 5.25pm.

      3. “Opening the floodgates.” I just listened on the radio to a conservative in Iran saying – “if we allow people to hold hands in the street, all sorts of immorality will follow.” Does he have a point? He probably does but I don’t see it as a justification for opression in Iran anymore than I see your concerns as an argument for a continuation of the oppression of gay people in society. So I do not agree with you that I “need to show that thte principles I am asking you to accept do not, logically, lead to the acceptance of other practices.” You might as well say – “before women get the vote, you need to show it will not lead to the acceptance of other practices” or “before you introduce education for all, you need to show it will not lead to social and class chaos” – although of course, people like you did say this…
      Please understand me, I want to live in a just and balanced society – finding that “balance” is difficult and what is “balance” to one person isn’t to another. You never get utopia ( I wish we could!) and the human inability to create that utopia, and the pitfalls when we try, is a complex issue explored in much literature and philosophy throughout the ages!

    • Hi Gervase,

      I’m having trouble posting to this thread (wrote a long response to Philip that I can’t get to post – frustrating!), but I thought I’d try again with a correction to your question about the Bible and slavery.

      My argument about slavery is that the Bible never explicitly condemns slavery – which it doesn’t. Instead, it seems to uphold it in various ways.

      However, if you look at the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus, it is very difficult to reconcile them with slavery and the horrible outcomes it has in people’s lives. So – one looks at the cultural context within which the Bible was written in order to understand its apparent acceptance of slavery.

      So – I believe the Bible does condemn slavery, but only implicitly – and to get there, one has to look at over-arching Biblical principles (love one another/do no harm) and the negative impact slavery has on people.

      Which is, I submit, very similar to the same-sex relationships. The Bible condemns, in two places, cultic manifestations of same-sex eroticism. It does not however, explicitly address committed, loving same-sex partnerships.

      So – what do we do? Are the Biblical condemnations cultural and specific to a given situation (and there is ample evidence that this is the case), or are we justified in extrapolating out from these two specific condemnations to a blanket condemnation of all times of homoeroticism?

      Keep in mind here – your ‘condemnation’ of homosexual activity has much less explicit Biblical support than slavery had.

      In order to make that determination, I’d suggest we have to do what we do with the slavery issue – we look at the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus (his over-arching ‘love one another’ principle)and the effects of our Scriptural interpretations on other people (are we loving and not harming them).

      When you do that, it makes much more sense to read the 2 ostensibly ‘anti-gay’ passages as being what they appear to be – condemnations of homoerotic expression is specific cultic circumstances, and not applicable to committed, loving same-sex partnerships (which again – the Bible never addresses directly).

      Peter wants an explicit affirmation of same-sex partnerships in Scripture before he would accept that God affirms these partnerships – despite the fact that these kinds of partnerships were not part of Paul’s cultural landscape.

      YET – Peter tries to argue that God condemns slavery, despite clear acceptance of slavery in Scripture (and slavery was clearly part of Paul’s cultural landscape, so he actually had a reason to address it directly!), based on tangential interpretations of Philemon.

      Why the reluctance to appeal to Jesus’ ‘Law of Love’ in order to condemn slavery? I suspect it has to do with the fact that if you acknowledge that Jesus’ law of love condemns slavery (based on slavery’s negative impact in people’s lives), it then becomes very hard to argue against using the ‘law of love’ to affirm same-sex relationships.

      The standard of Biblical evidence appears to vary, depending on which position we are attempting to support Biblically. Which suggests to me that it might be the POSITION which is important to us, rather than the Biblical evidence for that position. A trap we can all fall into, of course.

  3. Hello all,

    my oh my, what a leviathan this thread has grown into! Have found it somewhat overwhelming (sometimes infuriating) sitting under the deluge of all the points we’ve made. Rather hypocritically I’m going to add a couple to those points – maybe at a slight tangent… ;)

    1) Gervase and / or Philip, I’d like to put something to you. It seems to me there’s a ‘point of fragility’ in your position: if your argument and biblical interpretation are right, and all sex outside of heterosexual marriage is sinful and ‘same-sex attractions’ are a temptation like any other sin – if so, then it’s impossible for any self-sacrificial love to be discerned in a same-sex sexual relationship, and it’s impossible for gay people truly to love without in some measure struggling against being gay. The ‘faultline’ appears, it seems to me, when these are seen not to be impossible – for example the (in)famous 1991 C of E document, ‘Issues in human sexuality’, noted that there are same-sex couples “whose partnerships are a blessing to the world around them, and who achieve great, even heroic sacrifice and devotion” (quoted in Jeffrey John’s ‘Permanent, faithful, stable’, p26). If the things I listed above are not impossible, it seems to me that’s a problem for the position you hold.

    Am wondering if you think this is valid and how you’d respond?

    2) Romans 1. Ages ago I said I’d come back to this and didn’t. Am tired now but will add this for the moment: isn’t there a basic problem in reading this as applicable to gay Christians? If it’s the case that Paul is writing to Jewish converts at this point and is drawing on ‘standard’ anti-Gentile rhetoric (the Book of Wisdom 12:23 – 13:10, and 14:9-31 is markedly similar to Rom 1 in places), why is this taken as directly applicable to gay Christians, unless it’s being implied that same-sex desire is a mark of idolatry so gay Christians are idolators? Isn’t that begging the question?

    Also, the point I rather failed to make way back in this thread, was (stealing from and possibly mangling/betraying James Alison and Rowan Williams) that Paul’s argument quotes anti-Gentile rhetoric to his Jewish readers to build them up for the ‘sting’ of chapter 2 verse 1 – that nobody is in a position to judge anyone else. If so using Romans 1 to judge gay people is a misuse of the text. Now in and of itself that doesn’t show that same-sex isn’t sinful – but it does show that simply quoting Romans 1 won’t do, and that Romans 1 isn’t such a solid plank in a conservative argument as it doesn’t do the work usually asked of it. I realise none of this is a knockdown argument but I think it’s an important part of an argument that the ‘standard traditional’ position doesn’t hold.

    Not sure that all the above makes sense but am sure someone will tell me :)

    in friendship, blair

    • Hi Blair,

      I’m not Gerv or Philip, but it’s my blog so hey….

      1) I think the issue is around sexual behaviour and exclusive loving. The fact that two people can exhibit signs of grace and love isn’t in question, regardless of their sex or sexuality. The issue comes down to how God has intended us to express love and why that is so. This links back into my understanding of Ephesians 5 and how husband and wife signify Christ and the Church.

      Self-sacrificial love is great, but let’s be absolutely honest – we can all do self-sacrificial love out of the environment of an intimate relationship. We can all try and do it *in* an intimate relationship, but which are the intimate relationships that God has called us to live, and why?

      So I’m perfectly happy to accept that some gay couples are capable of self-sacrificing love and care – not in question – but is that the environment that they should demonstrate it in? On what basis do we make such decisions? Human experience or the Word of God?

      2) The answer to this follows the one above. If God has called us into specific intimate relationships to signify him, and we choose to enter into relationships forbidden by him, they we signify with our bodies and lives something different then that which is true about God.

      Peter+

      • Blair

        I totally agree that this thread is now a leviathan, and I think that as a result some points have been missed in both liberal and conservative arguments. To err is human …

        Peter has responded pretty much as I would, and its his blog!

        I would only add that I don’t accept that ‘gay’ is a biblical identity (my original point two way back on my first contribution. Indeed I don’t believe ‘gay’ is any meaningful way to describe identity at all really given that sexual orientation changes for most people by at least 1 Kinsey scale point during a lifetime.

        I believe many of the conservative points being made on this blog start from a position that sees ‘gay’ as describing a person who is experiencing same-sex attraction (SSA). While SSA is undoubtedly complex and rooted in many different factors, like all temptations it can be overcome by the grace of God and the indwelling Holy Spirit. And if it isn’t, faithful Christians are still called to lead celibate lives in accordance with God’s word.

        • Hi Philip,

          to be a little cheeky I don’t think this answers the questions I raised… But anyhow, a couple of thoughts.

          When you say, “Indeed I don’t believe ‘gay’ is any meaningful way to describe identity at all really given that sexual orientation changes for most people by at least 1 Kinsey scale point during a lifetime”, are you speaking for yourself? (I’m aware you’re not gay and that you’ve said you’re married – just asking if you’ve seen orientation change in yourself). If, as for me, sexual orientation doesn’t change, does that then mean that ‘gay’ would be a meaningful way to describe identity?

          As a slight aside at this point: am just wondering if your problem with ‘gay’ is that you see it as ideological somehow – as bound up with a particular ideology, one that’s opposed to Christianity? Is that in any way fair? I’m asking this partly because, as I’ve probably said before, I don’t really see why ‘gay’ not being a biblical identity is taken to be such a strong argument. Lots of us may well identify ourselves, at least in part, by denomination – but I don’t suppose any of the Christian denominations count as biblical identities either, and that doesn’t seem to be a problem.

          Re your second paragraph: have to say it is easier to take being told to be celibate from someone who actually is living this, rather than from someone who’s married. As previously you describe ‘same-sex attraction’ as a temptation – which is partly why I asked the question under (1) above. If ‘same-sex attraction’ is correctly characterised as a temptation then it would have to be impossible for it to be observed that people who accept their SSA isn’t just temptation, but can grow in a relationship to a point that sacrificial love is possible, can truly love. One of the reasons I keep banging this drum is that it seems to me that any argument about the ‘gay issue’ has to be partly supported by what can be observed. So, do you believe that any same-sex relationship is inherently unloving and that observations to the contrary (like the one I quoted from ‘Issues in human sexuality’) are untrue?

          in friendship, Blair

          • Blair, you clever guy, you’ve found me out! Yes, I do have a fundamental problem with ‘gay’ that is both ideological and ontological (it is not an identity).

            Most of your questions relate to my personal experience so, in best evangelical tradition, let me give you my testimony. (Thank you to that guy at the back shouting ‘Hallelujah’!)

            I come from an unchurched background and only really got exposed to evangelical Christianity at university. I read economics in the early ’80s at University College London, a fairly radical/liberal campus. I was already politically active in the old Liberal party and had come in contact with gays in the party.

            I would place my early adult sexual orientation as ‘mildly bisexual’. My first sexual experience was same-sex (SS) and through teenage and early twenties I experienced occasional same-sex attraction (SSA). At the same time I had girlfriends and most of my sexual experience was opposite sex.

            I got saved at the end of my first year in Uni through the Anglicans, for whom I retain an abiding affection. Two things swung my conversion really. Firstly, I studied Christianity with a Christian friend and became convinced of the truth of its claims. Secondly, as someone who was very politically active I became dismayed with the viciousness of student politics between people who were supposedly ‘progressive’. It stould in stark contrast with the love I could see operating between the Christian friends that I was beginning to make.

            Soon after I got saved I came in contact with the charismatic renewal and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I am intensely grateful that I met the Holy Spirit while I was a ‘baby Christian’. I remain charismatic as well as evangelical to this day. (I can pray up a storm in tongues with the best of ’em!)

            In my mid 20s a relationship with a long-term girlfriend that I had expected was heading for marriage ended in spectacular fashion. In the aftermath of this break-up, my SSA renewed very strongly. I had begun work with a Christian counsellor after this break-up and I also began reading much Christian material on family and relational hurts, on soul-ties and on inner healing. I came in contact with the writings of Leanne Payne (‘The Broken Image’, ‘Crisis in Masculinity’) and John and Paula Sandford(‘Transformation of the Inner Man’, ‘Healing of the Wounded Spirit’).

            On and off over the period 1988-1993, with the help of loving, professional and Spirit filled Christian counsellors I recieved progressive healing of inner hurts and memories. I am aware that to some Christians inner healing is controversial, and I am also aware of some of the abuses that have happened. My testimony however is that I recieved significant healing in many areas of my life, as well as my sexuality. I have not experienced SSA since this period (now approaching 20 years)

            I identify strongly with the experience that Peter shares on this site. In addressing hurts in my sexuality three main things helped.

            1) Recognising that the main issue was a Truth issue, ie what does God say about my identity in Christ. I praise God that by the time I experienced SSA mostly strongly I had recieved sufficient good biblical teaching that I was clear that ‘gay’ was not a biblical identity and was not a true description of my struggles! God says that I am a dearly loved child of his and that I can overcome all things in Christ Jesus!

            2) I was directed to loving, professional, Spirit-filled Christian counsellors (I stress all three!) who stressed that SSA was not a sin and was not abnormal. I was especially blessed! They were able to help me in a very practical, loving way.

            3) I married my wife in the middle of this period, 1990, and we quickly discovered that we both shared a history of sexual hurt. We were able to share our struggles and to help each other greatly at times that the other was down.

            Blair, on reflection, I think I’ll leave this post now. I’m aware it doesn’t answer all your points, but a testimony doesn’t really fit with ‘point-making’ does it? I’m also very aware of the dangers of extrapolating from experience, and that human sexuality is complex. I would not presume to say that my experience should apply to you, or indeed anyone on this board. I just felt it was time to share a little more personally!

            God bless you

            • Philip – I’m honoured. Thank you for such a reply. I am not going to say anything at length now (please note time!), but thank you.

              God bless, in friendship, Blair

              • Thanks for your grace, Blair. To be honest I felt pretty vulnerable sharing my testimony. I emphasise again, I have no desire to extrapolate my experience to anyone else, and certainly not to be a ‘poster boy’ (or anything else) for the Christian right.

                God bless

      • Peter – if I wore a hat I’d take it off to you, as it seems to me it’s brave and honest of you to answer as you have. (Is there an electronic way to hit someone if they sound patronising…? – tho i don’t mean to).

        And having said that perhaps it’s churlish of me to add that I think there’s a hitch or two with what you said.

        “So I’m perfectly happy to accept that some gay couples are capable of self-sacrificing love and care – not in question – but is that the environment that they should demonstrate it in? On what basis do we make such decisions? Human experience or the Word of God?”

        If you accept that gay couples are capable of self-sacrificing love, how can it be that their ‘SSA’ needs healing, in the sense(s) which you’ve advocated? It also looks difficult to say that homosexuality is in itself disordered / immature, it seems to me. Moreover, if self-sacrificing love can be discerned in some gay couples, why should God (in effect) command that they leave that ‘environment’ for a different one (given that God calls us to such love, from a look at the cross and John 15:12-13) – doesn’t that leave God’s command only to show such love within certain relationships looking arbitrary, baseless even?

        I realise there’s a risk of treading paths we’ve been round before – but i’m not sure that what you say in your comment above ‘hangs together’ very well with other approaches you advocate.

        in friendship, Blair

        • I think the quick answer to your come back at me is that I don’t argue that SSA needs healing. SSA is a complicated mixture of nature and nurture. When we run healing courses we don’t say that we’ll cure people of SSA – what we say is that we’ll help people explore their areas of brokenness and help them let God bring his healing. If that leads to a reduction in SSA, then so be it. If not, we still know how we are meant to live.

          All of us are broken lovers. Sometimes we love well, sometimes we “love” in a very wounded way. It is perfectly possible to enter a relationship that one shouldn’t, for reasons of brokenness, but within that relationship to be able to exhibit more noble actions. Those noble actions don’t in any way make the relationship right (if God has said it’s wrong) but they do demonstrate that we are all made in the image of God.

          I’ll see your John 15:12-13 and raise you a John 14:15.

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