Stephen Green Exposed

Stephen Green Exposed

Not that we want to commend the Daily Mail as a paragon of impartial journalistic integrity, but well done today for exposing the monster that is Stephen Green.

Caroline Green was often punished by her husband Stephen for failing to be a dutiful, compliant wife, but his final act of violence against her — the one that prompted her long-overdue decision to divorce him — was all the more chilling because it was coldly premeditated.

Stephen Green wrote a list of his wife’s ­failings then described the weapon he would make to beat her with.

‘He told me he’d make a piece of wood into a sort of witch’s broom and hit me with it, which he did,’ she recalls, her voice tentative and quiet. ‘He hit me until I bled. I was terrified. I can still remember the pain.

‘Stephen listed my misdemeanours: I was disrespectful and disobedient; I wasn’t loving or submissive enough and I was undermining him. He also said I wasn’t giving him his ­conjugal rights.

‘He even framed our marriage vows — he always put particular emphasis on my promise to obey him — and hung them over our bed. He believed there was no such thing as marital rape and for years I’d been reluctant to have sex with him, but he said it was my duty and was angry if I refused him.

‘But the beating was the last straw. It ­convinced me I had to divorce him.’

With my pastoral hat on, here’s what Green needs to do. Repent.

Repent Stephen. Confess your sin to an Almighty and forgiving God and throw yourself on his mercy. It doesn’t matter one bit if you are spot on when you talk about homosexuality (and for the sake of clarity, I do not believe Stephen Green is correct), if you have not love you are just a resounding gong. Repent and then take a very long sabbatical to reflect on what God is calling you to do next. If you humble yourself in front of him he WILL restore you and use you, but it has to be on his terms, not yours.

Update

Botherer has some brilliant comment on the relationship between the Daily Mail and Stephen Green.

But most interesting is the Mail’s relationship with the man. Their latest story describes Green as a “monster”, a “fundamentalist.” The article goes on to note,

“Stephen was immersed in Christian Voice, which allowed him the autonomy and freedom to express his increasingly bizarre views unchallenged. As its founder and director, he was answerable to no one.”

And just who was it who was letting Green’s views go unchallenged?

Well, take for example this article about student stunt marriages that appeared in a newspaper just fifteen days ago:

“The students’ wedding was condemned by Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, an organisation that represents Christians.”

The story then goes on to quote Green at length, without editorial comment. And which paper is it who let this extremist monster go unchallenged? That would be the Daily Mail.

Two weeks ago he was a man who “represents Christians”. The same paper that today explains that his views were already becoming extreme and unrepresentative in 1992. But their relationship goes back much further.

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152 Comments on “Stephen Green Exposed

  1. Crucified, without defence, judge or jury. Do we know that this is all true? Are there not a few questions which need to be asked? Why has the former Mrs Green waited until now to tell her story? Did this earn her lots of money?

    I am deeply uncomfortable with this kind of expose, especially when it sounds sensationalist, as this does. In fact I think it is rather revolting. How do we know she is not a bitter and vindictive woman who is making it all up, or hugely exaggerating? Her children are the ones who will suffer most from this article. As a mother I would not put my children through this.

    Having said all that, let us hope that this will discourage the BBC from using Stephen Green every time it wants a rentagob to put forward a Christian viewpoint, and who they know will put Christianity in the worst possible light.

    (Before some clown starts jumping on me for supporting wife-beaters, no, I am not, and if this is all true then Mr Green must indeed do as Peter says.)

    • Jill,

      Probably like a number of victimsed women, it took her time to build up the courage to share her story. Yes, she probably benefited financially from this, but I don't think that invalidates her testimony in any way. And these reports fit in with other things I have heard about how Green has treated people over the past few years.

      By all mean, Stephen Green should sue for libel if these claims are untrue, but if they aren't then he has some serious thinking to do.

    • ‘My eldest son was hit with a broomstick and kicked on the back of his legs. He still has scars on his shins. On one occasion Stephen beat him so hard with a piece of wood that we thought he might have broken his arm. When we took him to hospital, my son pretended he’d fallen because he didn’t want to incur his father’s anger.’

      If you read all of it, if it is true, Greeen inflicted incomparably more damage on his children than could ever be caused by this revelation. Hopefully they will speak out as well. Her only error was not to leave and expose him earlier – but that is hard when you live in terror and your esteem is broken down, not to mention when you are pressurised by those who think it is not appropriate for wives and mothers to stand up for their rights and dignities.

  2. I know you can't believe everything you read on the net, but a quick google suggests Green supported the Ugandan Death Penalty for homosexuality bill, Christian Voice wants to abolish the crime of marital rape, and after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005 and killed more than 1,600 people, Green claimed it was a result of God’s wrath and had purified the city.

    Spot on on homosexuality? Spot on on anything?

    Like many of his ilk, Green has deep rooted psychological issues which manifest themselves in his need to judge and control others through verbal, spiritual (and now physical) abuse and violence.

  3. There may be exaggeration on the part of an embittered ex-wife as Jill puts it, or there may not be. But one thing is certain, Green has seen no objection to marrying again after his divorce. No chance the marriage wasn't consummated since there are 4 children. Wasn't divorce forbidden by Jesus?

    • Wasn't divorce forbidden by Jesus?

      No. Jesus forbade divorce for any other reason apart from adultery or abandonement/abuse. If I was Mrs Green's pastor and she came to me with the situation as reported, I would challenge Mr Green to repent and be re-united with his wife, and if he didn't I would have advises his wife to leave him.

      Divorce is NOT an unforgiveable sin, but neither is it anything but a last resort for Christians.

      • What about remarriage after divorce, Peter? I know what the Catholic Church teaches but what would someone of Stephen Green's biblical literalist views believe? Or perhaps more to the point, what did he tell other people to do?

        • I have no idea what Stephen Green's position on it is. I personally will listen to the circumstances of anybody who wants to be remarried and treat each case on an individual basis. Somethings are a definite no – for example when adultery broke up a previous marriage and the adulterer wants to get married to the person he had an affair with.

          I have married one couple where one of the spouses was divorced after a previous abusive marriage.

  4. When the BBC so often used Stephen Green for comment it may have been on the principle of give enough rope. People may not remember that he sued the BBC and lost over Jerry Springer the Opera. He was invited on Question Time shortly after and it seemed to me his vanity let him think they really wanted to hear what he had to say and didn't cause him to think before accepting, so it was hardly surprising that the co-guest, the BBC's revenger, rottweiler Janet Street-Porter was invited on precisely to make him look ridiculous, which she did. He was said to be bankrupted after his case against the BBC execs. In the new year the BBC put him up to comment on Elton John's new baby. Why? Nobody knows and the BBC has not given a satisfactory explanation except "balance" on what was after all only a news story. Was it to cause offence to gay people, comfort to those who disapproved of IVF, gay men having children etc., or was it just paying out more rope? If one wanted balance I'd have thought the BBC could have found someone more likely to provide that (like Peter here) than Stephen Green. I wonder if they will invite him again after this exposé in the Mail. They may consider it "job done".

  5. Well, you my not be far out in your first sentence, Tom. He was wheeled out at every available opportunity to stoke up the fury of the anti-Christian bigots with their preconceptions of what every Christian is like. This is the BBC's idea of 'balance'.

    Sorry, Sue, but if I and/or my children were in the unfortunate position of being abused by my husband, I think I would turn to the social services for help, rather than sell my story to the Daily Mail.

    • I'd rather starve myself than take a penny from the Daily Mail, Jill. But I can't see why she shouldn't go public generally, and hopefully she did this with her children's knowledge and support.

      • "I'd rather starve myself than take a penny from the Daily Mail"

        "Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: 'God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this Daily Mail reader."

        • Oh…oh… are you judging me for judging the Daily Mail? That proves we're both sinners then aren't we?

          But…I forgive you your judgements of me :)

  6. I cannot remember seeing or hearing this man. Since the Catholic Church was mentioned by Tom (and without getting into any arguments about the interpretation of Matthew on divorce) may I say that this "marriage" would be – given that the accusations are true of course – would be a case for anullment. In cases like this, divorce is an unavoidabke necessaity, and as a Catholic priest I would certainly encourage civil divirce in such cases for the physical and mental safety of the wife and children. Legal separation is always the first course, but where it seems there is no real marriage (with secure grounds for an anullment) divorce has to come first. many people do not understand the Catholic Church's teaching on these matters, so I hope that clears up any misunderstanding.
    Another point I would like to make is with regard to the BBC. That the producers could call on this man – knowing how extreme he is – as a spokesperson for Christian rather gives the game away. Time again they say they are not biased, but this proves that they are either biased or careless to the point of criminal stupidity.
    Finally, although there are many Catholics and Orthodox who disagree with the Pope and their Patriarchs and bishops, there is a need for an authoritative voice in the Church. Christians that act like loose canons do great damage. Unless there is someone to reign them in in some way – or at least to say, "this is not Christian teaching" – there is no way to stop such dangerous odd-bods from damaging the cause of the Gospel. As we have seen with regard to Islam, where there is no "authority" so much is up for grabs. It's no use claiming that Scripture speaks for itself. Looking at the wide – ridiculously wide – interpretations of Scripture that run through the Episcopalian and Anglican communities (Nigeria in agreement with ECUSA?) and the many different takes amongst the free Evangelicals in America (some of them bordering on the laughable) ther must be some genuine and relaible spokespeople that can be called upon by the Media. producers may well ask, "who should we ask?" Who is going to answer that one?

    • Fr John, I found a very informative document which may throw some light on what you say about a possible cause for annulment in the case of Caroline's marriage to Stephen Green from the Catholic perspective (because in some ways lay Catholics may find this surprising).
      http://www.kofc.org/un/en/resources/cis/cis301.pd… See pages 13 -14.

      Is this what you mean – the fact that the Stephen Green Caroline met and married did not at the time reveal the psychological problems that were later revealed in his oppressive treatment of her and the children? But what about in sickness and in health? Would the marriage tribunal have to be satisfied that this apparent change in Green's character (as Caroline notes) was in fact a pre-existing condition though hidden or a permanent but unobserved personality defect of some kind which would mean that the 'innocent' (for want of a better term) party could not give proper consent, so making the marriage null? If she knew about his mood swings, unbalanced religiosity and so on ahead of the wedding but married him anyway then wouldn't she be giving consent? If, though, it could be shown that Green underwnt a personality change following some brain malfunction that clearly occurred after the marriage (such as a blow on the head) then wouldn't this come under "in sickness or in health" and oblige the tribunal to deem the marriage valid from the beginning (on the basis that the assumption is always made that the marriage is valid unless proved otherwise, as the pamphlet indicates)?

      • I understand from the Daily Mail article that the marriage took place in a Protestant church even though Caroline was brought up as a Roman Catholic and was therefore presumably baptised. If this was done without a dispensation, then from the point of Roman Catholic canon law the marriage was invalid and there should be no difficulty about getting it annulled.

      • Sorry Tom, I just saw your post now. The matter is simple in fact. No matter what the bride's intentions may be – even if she saw some signs of psychosis or personality disorder and "accepted" them, the case would hang on whether or not the groom had sufficient maturity to sustain the marriage relationship with all that that entails. If he did not, then clearly no real marriage exists. If his problems come from some physical accident then there may well have been a marriage at the time of consent – in that case it does come under "in sickness and health" because the sacrament was valid at the time – and remains so, being "indissoluble"

    • Fr.John,
      Regretfully, Stephen Green is actually very close to the 'orthodox' (!) evangelicalism ( or at least evangementalism) peddled by The 'Christian' Institute amongst others (and I've certainly seen the C.I.'s Mike Judge on BBC programmes). To be honest, some-one who flat out says that Britain should go back to the pre1980/1967 days when homosexuality is at least more honest than one who pines for the good old days but refused to give specifics. Green, like Akinola, at least stands up for what he believes in, and is more honest than the weaselly PR-spivs sometimes deployed by the 'Christian' Institute and the like. I've noticed that some conservatives are a bit overfond of decrying as Strawmen the more objectionable parts of their ideology.
      Most liberals I know would say that the CI is just as extreme as Stephen Green – and one can forgive the BBC for being drawn to organisations with 'Christian' and 'voice' in their name in looking to make good tv! And, as I said elsewhere, the last time I saw Stephen Green on TV, he was having theological rings argued round him by a charming lesbian priest on the BBC's sunday morning breakfast show. So I'm not sure that the BBC deliberately picked Green to make Christendom look bad (tangentially, I gather from reading Damian Thompson than the English Catholic Church is almost as marxist as the Beeb – hopefully not entirely true!)

      • Cerebusboy,
        I don't know that much about the Christian Institute since I don't have a television and thus don't see what goes on there, I only know them by their website. However, I have found the material they present informative. Without their work, we would be a lot less informed about these cases of gay activists targeting various Christians. Each case of course needs to be evaluated on its own merits, but I am thankful that at least one Christian source is interested in reporting on these, and representing the Christians involved who feel that they are being mistreated.

        The Christian Institute is an "activist" organization – regarding homosexuality, it usually is responding to various forms of gay activism, or actions taken inspired by gay activism, which it views as inapporpriate.

        It doesn't surprise me that many liberals of the "knee-jerk" variety would find CI to be more or less the same thing as Stephen Green – just as I once knew some Christians who were likely to label all sorts of things as "communist." In both cases, I ask: what are the grounds here, for this label? How healthy is this? In this case: what distinguishes the CI from Stephen Green? Most of what I've read at the CI tends to use rather objective language, which isn't the case with Stephen Green, to the degree with which I'm acquainted with him. It may not be what you'd like to hear about gay U.K. – but I haven't yet read anything there really awful. Could it be that you are simply deeply uncomfortable when presented with viewpoints which differ from your own?

        • Not remotely, James. In point of fact, 'liberals' love the likes of Green and Akinola as they so often give the game away (whilst also loving them in the usual sense of Our Lord calling us to love everyone of course) . You'll recall that I made a point of mentioning that the 'Christian' Institute has (last time I checked) 3 stories on the Scottish Episcopal Church 2 of which contain flat-out lies. So, by any 'objective' standard, that the negates the CI's claims to being usefully 'informative'. And their usual methodology very much is the stuff of sensationalist gutter journalism, consisting of
          1) x has happened that we disagree with (but dont' say so as this is dressed up as a neutral news story)
          2) y – a cherry-picked 'expert' says it is wrong (usually argumentum ad verecundium nonsense)
          3) dog-whistling, re-emphasis of CI's position

          Is using 'objective' language to make a statement of opinion (homosexuality is wrong) seem like fact really a virtue? The point about CI is that it offers theological opinions but dresses them up (albeit often ludicrously) as 'news' stories.

          If I have time later, I'll do a cut n paste compare and contrast from the CI's and Christian Voice's websites/documents (suspect that Section 28 will be a good place to start)

          Yours in respectful dialogue,

          ryan

          • Thanks, ryan. If in another comment you've outlined these issues with CI, do let me know. Re. "objective language" – in general, I have found it to be objective. Short articles tend to have some bits of opinion admixed, it being impossible to provide rational ground for everything – but I do find that the tendency to lace things with insinuations & derogatory language is avoided by CI in a way that a few other sources – both Christianity and gay – don't.

  7. One of the privileges (for want of a better word) of working as a social worker – as I once did – is that you become wary of people who are swift to condemn others and happy to cite others as the ‘cause’ of social ills. I have come across a good number of people who have put a good deal of effort into maintaining a righteous and upright exterior, but then found the interior to be far from wholesome. If clearing a house of an elderly man going into care you happen to come across a stash of religious tracts, you knew you’d probably come across a large stash of porn a few minutes later – and I often did. Similarly, the number of couples who present ‘the prefect’ marriage on first meeting become good examples of how deceptive first impressions can be.

    Whatever, most of us with even a pinch of maturity, generally accept the principal that those who spend a good deal of their time getting disproportionately hot under the collar about the behaviour of others often have something to hide. While I agree with Jill, that care is needed not to judge someone until we know the full story, it is hard to feel sympathy with a man who holds the views he holds on so many divisive issues.

    The question that really needs to be asked, is does a man like this really act as ‘salt and light’ in the world? Condemning this and condemning that! A quick flick through the New Testament reveals there is little of the ‘hang ‘em and flog ‘em’ mentality in the accounts of successful preaching and ministry. Even Paul refused to pass judgement of those outside the Church (What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? 1Cor 5:12). I warm to preachers of the Gospel who are more likely to challenge our acquisitive society, our capacity for hypocrisy and our failure to care for others. But (to start on my usual subject) wittering on about homosexuality is such ‘easy’ morality that it is beneath contempt and – (QED probably…) a likely symptom of inward strife and a poor understanding of the Gospel. To put so much emphasis on one aspect of human behaviour and one that has an associated history of prejudice, rather cheapens the Gospel, rather than upholds it.

  8. There is a strange fashion, on display among certain commenters here, to suggest that those with moral objections to homosexual practice are often themselves homosexually attracted, and are repressing their true sexual inclination.

    This has always struck me as odd. My first objection is the obvious one that it has no bearing on the irrelevant to the moral issue at hand. For example, my standard response to people who question my right to an opinion on abortion because I am a man is to say that, if I am wrong about abortion, it’s not because I have a Y chromosome. Similarly, if e.g. Ted Haggard was wrong about gay sex being sinful (I say “was” because it’s no longer clear whether he still holds the traditional Christian position), then it’s not because of the disconnection between his preaching and his private life. The personalising of ethical debate in this way quickly leads to a sterile and tedious trading of insults.

    My second is that it doesn't make sense. The argument is something along the lines of:

    – Rather than being the outcome of a process of ethical reflection based on logic and reason, opposition to homosexual behaviour is a form of psychological pathology resulting from repressed homoerotic desire.

    But this is clearly weak and muddled, in the sense that it as a speculative, unverifiable claim, based on a half-baked Freudian confusion between the particular and the general, which requires me to ignore a lot of data that contradicts it. There are probably a small number of cases where repressed homoerotic desire is the main motor for an individual’s moral disapproval of homosexual sex. But it is the purest anti-empirical nonsense to suggest that all such objections stem from that source, a clear attempt to change the subject from the central question (which revisionists spend so much time and energy trying to avoid): are sexual relationships between persons of the same sex ever permissible?

    I have lived a bit, and have a wide experience of different Christian congregations, and I am not sure I have ever met one of these supposedly numerous sex-obsessed Christian conservatives who are really only projecting their own worries or insecurities, or whatever the latest trendy cod-psychoanalytic explanation might be.

    And if we are to seek psychological, rather than rational, explanations for moral beliefs, then why must we only apply this analysis to conservatives?

    In my experience, there are plenty ofliberal Christians whose revisionist views on sexuality are ultimately shaped by their sexual desires and the wish not to feel guilt about their behaviour, rather than by any rational process of reflection, prayer or discernment.

    • Wicked, there seems to be some empirical research that lends qualified support for the idea: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/ass… or you can download a pdf file of the paper in question at http://www.oogachaga.com-a.googlepages.com/homophobia_an... arousal.pdf

      I gather this study only involved men. I don't know if anything similar has been done with women. I did a quick search and found quite a few other studies in reputable peer-reviewed journals. But they are only open to subscribers on the whole. e.g.

      Internalized homophobia and health issues affecting lesbians and gay men http://her.oxfordjournals.org/content/15/1/97.abs

      Self-esteem, social support, internalized homophobia and the coping strategies of HIV+ gay men https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/28445

      Of course homosexuality is an easy target for people who see things in terms of 'sin'. As Alathia has said, Levitical condemnations offer a cost-free moral position for those who want to condemn someone or something to which they are not personally ever going to be tempted by. It is the obsessive nature of this condemnation that is significant about Stephen Green; he seems obsessed with homosexuality above all other sexual sins. The same goes for the CI. You only have to look at their websites to see. Such fanatical fascination does give rational people cause to wonder why some people get so steamed up about it. They will try to bring all sorts of quasi-medical objections which have nothing to do with the religious case because they realise the case argued from the biblical texts alone is actually extremely weak.

      • "the case argued from the biblical texts alone is actually extremely weak." – What's your evidence? What does Robert Gagnon say about this particular argument, or is it one he hasn't yet addressed?

        Re. the CI: their mission is to address contemporary Christian issues – not present a systematic theology or commentary on the whole of Scripture. Muslims could also say that C.I. is "obsessing" about Muslims. But then again, conservatives say liberals are "obsessing" about gays and Muslims … while there are also secularist counterparts to the CI denouncing various forms of homophobia and islamophobia. Don't you think this "obsession" argument cuts both ways?

        When are gays sent by Stonewall to engage in litigation against Christian targets, do you think Christians should be silent? And if they are not, are they thereby being "obsessive"?

        • Is that the same Robert Gagnon who quotes from Paul "kicked out the APA for research abuse" Cameron's gay-men-only-live-to-40/lesbians-200-times-more-likely-to-die-in-car-crashes-than-straight-women statistical nonsense? That is indeed the sort of 'evidence' that the CI cite, on reason why they shouldn't be taken seriously. If memory serves, Peter (presumably using his statistician as well as theological hats) conceded that Cameron's statistics – despite being, to this day, the 'best' anti-homosexuality 'scientific' 'nonsense' – are utter nonsense, when I asked a question on that topic for the 'Ask Peter' feature on this blog.

          • Don't make the mistake of deducting that since Gagnon's use of Cameron's flawed research is in error that that automatically discounts his excellent exegesis of the key passages.

            Do you think we should resurrect the "Ask Peter" thing?

            • Indeed, but it remains true that anyone founding a polemic on the evils of homosexual practise and citing Cameron as proof is offering a ludicrously flawed argument, which is what I said above.You can hardly blame liberals for the fact that many conservatives keep invoking, boogey-man style, Cameron's discredited statistics.
              And perhaps there's an argument that if particular theological opinions require one to believe unscientific nonsense then the former might be wrong? But I don't mind keeping the two separate. But if conservatives are going to cite Cameron to support their readings of Romans then it's legitimate to point out the flaws in Gagnon. To be honest, sometimes I wonder if the emphasis on the alleged physical dangers of some forms of allegedly ungodly behaviour is a flip side of prosperity gospel type heresies, emphasising temporal pleasures and rewards in a bid to attract those in a world that only thinks in limited terms…. To me, there's something fundamentally wrong-headed and self-aggrandising about (for example) a Christian who, if you asked him why he didn't engage in fornication, replied 'because I don't want herpes or HIV'. And, again, it's not liberals fault that so many anti-gay arguments bang on about the intrinsic evils of 'homosexual practise'.

              • ryan – thanks for your reply, but you're spinning your wheels. "it remains true that anyone founding a polemic on the evils of homosexual practise and citing Cameron as proof is offering a ludicrously flawed argument" – no, it depends on how they are citing Cameron, in which context – and one flawed argument does not make the rest of his work worthless. You continue to treat Cameron as if he were some sort of untouchable disease, and not simply a person who offers (albeit interpretively flawed) statistics. Nor do I ignore you because of your one flawed argument here, nor do I disavow the APA or other gay advocacy organizations for their reference to an article which was much more flawed than Cameron's research.

                I am most certainly open to hear about Gagnon's flaws, I've never insinuated that pointing out flaws in his work is illegitimate. The notion that his opinions would require one to give credence does sound rather ridiculous, but again I would need to see a citation of where Gagnon says this, and would be inclined to think it might be rather something you read which an activist is imputing to Gagnon rather than what he himself says.

                Please note that you are the one who continues to bring up the Cameron-type associations between homosexual practice and health, I haven't been mentioning these. If Gagnon brings them up in a way that concerns you – well, this isn't what he's known for. We don't have to "take his word," we can simply look at his arguments. Let's try to rely on reason and not authority.

                The gay community tends to rely too much on ad hominems and not on reason. "He referred to Cameron, he's flawed" – no context given. Can you see why relatively few scientists are willing to do studies on issues related to homosexuality? Spitzer comes to mind – how he was pressured into making a video clarification of his work.

                We are all flawed.

                • James, I suppose that theoretically one might cite Cameron for all sorts of interesting reasons, but I'm referring to how he's been used and for what. Would you agree that someone doing something along the lines of :

                  homosexual practice is intrinsically dangerous. For example,

                  and then cites some evidence of Cameron's that *has* been discredited *is* offering a weak argument? Scientists might of course oppose the 'gay agenda' and come up with statistics but, as you know, Cameron was thrown out the APA for research abuses. I do not call his 'research' worthless because it runs contrary to the presumed gay agenda. Are you saying that we should …what…question whether or not Cameron was deservedly kicked out the APA and the making of grand conclusion on the basis of his research just because it runs contrary to the gay lobby who *theoretically* could silence robustly scientific anti-homosexualist research?

                  • ryan – you are correct that what matters here is how he's used and for what. I don't know how Gagnon cites him – he may very well cite him in an inappropriate manner. Nonetheless, Gagnon is not a sociologist, a psychologist, or medical scientist; his reputation is being a biblical scholar. I was not referring to Gagnon's excursions into other fields, but his interpretation of scripture.

                    I haven't reviewed the reasons for Cameron's removal from the APA; I'd need to do that to comment intelligently on that matter; I don't doubt that he made major mistakes in his research, but I'm not sure why this is relevant if I'm merely asking Tom to stipulate *why* he thinks that scripture permits same-sex intercourse, and whether he's encountered Gagnon's treatment of that matter (unless Tom has a very new argument which Gagnon hasn't yet seen). This has nothing to do with Cameron.

              • But then there would be others like myself who agree with Gagnon's exegesis but wouldn't begin to use Cameron's statistics. I don't think anyway that Gagnon's position rests in any sense on Cameron's flawed research. It sems to me you keep coming back to Gagnon's ill advised use of Cameron in order to avoid engaging with the main part of Gagnon's critique which is exegetical.

                • Not at all, I accept that *you* don't' make this error, but are you really denying that it's very common hear evangelical arguments along the lines of "Paul here is talking about the intrinsically destructive nature of homosexuality, which is evidenced in scientific measurable levels of harms such as…" ? I have a copy of the John McCarthur study Bible which,despite it's obvious Sola Scriptura priorities, point blank cites AIDS in one of the exegetical note for Romans. Assuming that Gagnon cites Cameron as scientifically measurable levels of harm in same-sex activity 'supports' (i.e. is not a/the proof of) his exegis hardly does Gagnon a disservice, as the logical alternative explanation is that Gagnon cites Cameron in a bid to throw as much anti-gay mud as possible in the hope that some of it sticks. The latter explanation would be consistent with denouncing Gagnon as a mere homophobe; the former, which I offer, is not.

            • Bringing back Ask Peter might be cool – you could kick off with a week-long special on vestment-related questions! ;-)

          • ryan,
            Gagnon is more or less universally regarded as an expert on interpretation of Scripture regarding homosexuality, and not sociology or medical issues. I have seen him criticized for having mentioned Paul Cameron's research before. The status of Cameron's research as evidence is difficult to explain shortly. There were some major issues with the way Cameron's study was conducted. Nonetheless, it does offer some information about the statistics of those who were polled. Critics are correct that the statistics from the study can't be widely used to generalize about the gay community. However, there is a dearth of good statistical information about many aspects of homosexuality and society. In many areas, Paul Cameron's research still provides the best indication that we have, as flawed as it is. This may be the reason for Gagnon's quoting.

            The gay community has gone to great lengths to make Cameron's research seem utterly preposterous. However, the article most frequently referred to by the APA and many gay advocacy organizations in order to generalize therapy for persons with unwanted same-sex attractions as "potentially harmful" is a good deal more flawed than Cameron's research. See the chapter on science in the book on homosexuality and the Anglican Communion published by SPCK for the Lambeth 2008 conference. The problem is, there is very little good research out there. This article quoted by the APA still has scientific value, it simply needs to be interpreted correctly, and limited in the conclusions one attempts to draw from it. The same could be said for Cameron's research – when offers statistical information (limited of course to its study group and its procedural flaws) which no other, better sources have studied – this information still has its own, limited value as evidence. Too often, quoting Cameron makes one seem like Dr. Mengele or something similar to the gay community. Were this the case, we would also need to ban GLAAD, the HRC, and other gay advocacy organizations for quoting this study on same-sex attraction therapy. I am happy that Cameron's research has been criticized and debunked – but positively demonizing it is utterly un-scientific. This is also one of the reasons we have so little good statistical research on homosexuality and society – scientists don't want to have their careers ended for a procedural flaw in their study if it ends up angering the gay community. Something of this spirit of demonization will need to diminish before we have a healthy, scientifically-grounded idea of many aspects of homosexuality and its relation to society.

            Even if Gagnon was utterly contemptible for quoting Cameron's research – if his arguments about interpretation from scripture are sound, they stand. I know that ad hominem arguments are very, very popular in the gay community. But this is not so in the academic community.

            • Just to add to this, the *best* (in terms of statistically robust) research on the harmful effects or otherwise of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) is the ongoing "Ex-Gay Longitudinal Study" by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse. In a paper presented to, and accepted by, the APA, they show there is little hard evidence of such harm.

            • James,
              But two wrongs don't make a right of course! (reminds me of the famous quotation that "Richard Nixon's motto was : if two wrongs don't make a right, try three" ;-)). There is a reason for the Mengele reaction. Cameronian (with apologies to Dave!) Claims on gays *on average* having hundreds of sex partners and dying at 40 are entirely analogous to antisemitic or racist cliches, in the sense that they are so over-the-top and contrary to reality that someone would have to be either pretty gullible or bigoted to accept them. A genuine 'anti-conservative' analogy to Cameron's 'research' would be something like "Most sola scriptura Christians are wifebeaters!"; i.e. a pernicious untruth that is so self-evidently absurd that you have to question the agendas of anyone who would (even seek to) take it seriously.

        • Hi James,

          "When are gays sent by Stonewall to engage in litigation against Christian targets" – asking your own question, what is your evidence for this? And if the CI's "mission is to address contemporary Christian issues", why do they only address such a small range of concerns? (e.g. are there regular articles on economic matters, or about peace and war and arms trading, to pick a couple of things?).

          I'm aware you see RobertGagnon as a kind of 'gold standard' but his arguments are not impregnable – 'scuse the egotism a moment, but some time back on Fulcrum, when Dr Gagnon himself was posting in the forum, I posted a list of questions / problems with some of his arguments. Neither he nor anyone agreeing with him, answered them. That doesn't mean they can't be answered, I realise; but I hope it does mean that the mere mention of Dr Gagnon's name silences all possible counter-argument.

          in friendship, Blair

          • Oops… carried away by my own argumentativeness… that should read, "I hope it does *not* mean that the mere mention of Dr Gagnon's name silences all possible counter-argument".

            Blair

          • Blair,
            Thanks for your reply.

            Re. para 1: this is a bit of speculation actually, and I should probably have made clearer that this was speculation. The Christian B&B owners in Cornwall had been contacted by Stonewall a few weeks before the gay couple arrived – a journalist who is a churchgoer, but not particularly like the Bulls in religious expression was rather surprised at how rather "un-PC" the joint was, with little scripture bits hanging here and there – big Bibles prominent in the rooms – Christian fishy on the website etc. etc.. – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religi
            I have never seen a B&B like this myself, but then again I've never looked for one. It seems to me quite odd that this couple would have booked from their website given the Christian fishy, and on the contact form the notice: "Here at Chymorvah we have few rules, but please note, that out of a deep regard for marriage we prefer to let double accommodation to heterosexual married couples only – thank you" – if one uses archive.org to look at how it was back in 2008. I haven't heard of any other B&B owners contacted by Stonewall, so it seems to me very unlikely that the two events are unconnected.

            Re. CI – it tends to address issues where the Christian message is rather unique. In many ways I think you'll find a good number of columnists doing an excellent job of covering issues of peace & arms and economics in a manner that a Christian perspective would differ little. It is probably CI's perspective that these are issues where the Christian perspective is significantly unique enough to merit some writing.

            I most certainly don't wish to imply that merely mentioning Dr. Gagnon should silence counter-argument. But when discussing issues of Biblical interpretation and homosexuality, it always helps to have a look at his site. I've been through malokoi / Paul / septuagint / etc. etc.., Paidon / centurion, Countryman / purity code stuff a couple of times with people, and thought in the end it might have made more sense simply to refer the good people to what Dr. Gagnon has written with much more expertise, and in much greater detail, than I could formulate. A lot of people seem to look at wikipedia and then start citing all these "facts" which, upon examination, don't quite hold up as facts.

            • Hi James,

              thanks for your reply, and for clarifying that the bit about Stonewall 'sending' a gay couple was speculation. The only other thing I'd add to what you said, is that I think it was the case that the couple booked over the phone with Mrs Bull, so wouldn't have seen the message on the website. She didn't explain the policy to them because either she or her husband was ill at the time, so it was overlooked. (Can't remember where I saw that though…).

              Am still disagreeing with you about the CI, though; not sure that the Christian message on the topics it typically campaigns on, is all that unique among religions. I imagine (not based on much knowledge, I admit) that many a Muslim, or religious Jew, would agree to some extent.

              On Robert Gagnon: I'm not sure that "helps" is always the word I'd use…. granted that his arguments need to be engaged with. But could I give a couple of examples to illustrate how his arguments are not as watertight as they seem to some?
              (1) Dr Gagnon argues in not a few places, that there is in Scripture a "two-sexes prerequisite" for sexual unions to be valid, and that Scripture's witness to this is universal. But that is not the case – if it were, sex between women would be prohibited in Torah and mentioned at 1 Cor 6:9 and in 1 Timothy.
              (2) Dr Gagnon draws a parallel between incest and same-sex sex, saying that Scripture prohibits both "on grounds of too much formal or structural sameness". One problem with this argument is that a corollary would be that same-sex incest should be deemed worse than other-sex, because following the argument, it would be too much sameness twice over, and thus a compounding of the error. But the Bible (in Leviticus 18) makes no distinction between same-sex and other-sex incest – which raises the question whether Dr Gagnon's analogy, and exegesis he links to it, will work.

              in friendship, Blair

              • Thanks for your reply, Blair.

                re. the Bulls: thanks for this extra bit of information – no, if they phoned, they wouldn't have seen the fishy on the site and the warning. I still think it's more than likely that there is a Stonewall connection, given the closeness of the warning sent by Stonewall and the booking. It would be helpful if Stonewall were to reveal which B&B's it included in these warnings, or if other Christian B&B's which received similar warnings were to report this. None of the articles I've read has reported such.

                On Gagnon point #1: This may sound like splitting hairs, but may nonetheless be significant. We have here the word "sexual unions to be valid" – and that Scripture on this is universal. All sexual unions in Scripture which are in some manner blessed are between a man and a woman; and never between two women. The Torah and Paul may have considered mentioning woman-woman sex acts as overkill given their cultural context, and granted the lack of any examples in Scripture, just as e.g. necrophillia is (I believe) not covered. If one reads Scripture asking, "what is God's will for me?" instead of: "what here is not strictly, literally forbidden?" one arises at a different type of answer.
                #2: Sounds like a rather weak argument – if incest is wrong, it is wrong for same-sex and other-sex incest; adding extra distinctions doesn't always make a text better. There are, e.g., many examples given regarding different cases in which an ox gores a person, describing responsibility and punishment – but I think a good bit of this isn't simply for literal application regarding an ox goring a person in all these various examples, but to provide an example of consideration of responsibility in meting out justice. So it might not only apply to when an ox gores one's neighbour, but when one's elephant steps on a neighbour, etc. etc.. Other types of malfeasance aren't dealt with in nearly as much detail as this passage regarding the ox goring one's neighbor – I think the example also makes it rather obvious that the good bit of text on the subject is to provide a reference, rather than for the Israelites needing to be particularly concerned about oxes and goring and neighbors. It would be more the place of a rabbi or the Talmud to go into further detail about such matters as "which one is worse."

                • Hi James,

                  just to respond to your comments on two of my 'reasonable doubts' about Dr Gagnon's arguments:

                  (1) I'm aware that the only blessed sexual unions shown in Scripture are between a man and a woman… but then no other sexual unions are shown! And it wasn't meant simply as a case of 'what is strictly, literally forbidden here', but rather, if Dr Gagnon's argument is as solid as he and others would claim, then there would be clear prohibitions on sex between women. Dr Gagnon is arguing that it's the sameness of gender that's the problem in same-sex relationships, isn't he – and if Biblical texts were as concerned with sameness as he says, then one would expect there to be prohibitions on sex between women as well as between men. That there aren't such clear proscriptions – certainly not in Torah – suggests among other things that Dr Gagnon's case is overstated here.

                  (2) Again, I take it you mean the "rather weak argument" is mine….? I fully accept that "adding extra distinctions doesn't always make a text better". But my point is that if Dr Gagnon's argument were right (that the Biblical texts' rationale for prohibiting same-sex sex and incest is essentially that both involve too much structural sameness) then extra distinctions would surely be in the text, because it follows from his argument that same-sex incest would have to be deemed worse than other-sex since in that case there'd be a 'doubling' of that sameness. I'm suggesting that if you test this argument by looking at the text (Leviticus 18:6ff), it starts to crack a little, given that Leviticus makes no such distinction. (Are you aware of any rabbinical or Talmudic text that does? I wouldn't know). But if this method is valid it suggests again that Dr Gagnon's case is not as well-founded as it might look.

                  I agree with your argument that "a good bit of this isn't simply for literal application regarding an ox goring a person in all these various examples, but to provide an example of consideration of responsibility in meting out justice" – but am not sure that it counters my argument…

                  in friendship, Blair

    • W.C.

      Yes, I can quite see your point, though it is interesting, is it not, that there aren’t ‘liberal’ voices advocating some theological reassessment of theft, false witness, adultery, murder etc., which is odd don’t you think? (Tho’ it is also odd that there aren’t as many ‘conservative’ Christian website devoted to these subjects as there are to the subject of homosexuality, which itself speaks volumes…). It is clear, for those of us who wore the badge of Christian orthodoxy for many years, that sexuality is a different issue. Indeed some of us – and there are many more besides myself – spent decades in ‘reflection, prayer or discernment’ before changing our stance on homosexuality, from conservative to liberal.

      Just to shed some unsavoury light on my own character; I spent many years (indeed a few decades) in ‘reflection, prayer or discernment’ wanting to hold onto my conservative acceptance of Scripture – praying, rationalising and having more hands laid on me that a Magistrate’s Bible. Friends and colleagues remarked on what a rather nasty, opinionated little sh*t I was at the time. Then, after more reflection, prayer or discernment, at the tender age of 40 I decided to settle down with my same-sex partner and friends and colleagues (and among my close friends are several (and even one well known) Evangelical Christians) noted the change in me: no longer the Mr Nasty, but renowned as Mr Nice-Guy – and also a far more productive member of society to boot!

      To step away from the subjective – tho’ the above does rather weaken your suggestion that someone arriving at a liberal position on homosexuality hasn’t bothered with ‘reflection, prayer or discernment’ – I can assure you many have. As +Desmond Tutu so wisely states, who in their right minds would WANT to be on the outside, the victim of persecution, bigotry, opprobrium and censure? Even in liberal societies, homosexuality, in mainstream culture, does not have equal standing with the majority. No, I don’t think ‘your experience’ of those advocating rethinking conservative attitudes to homosexuality is quite as simple as ‘homosexuals changing the rules to suit their own ends…’.

      I also think you are over simplifying what people in the above comments are saying. My comment that people who disproportionately go one about one ‘sin’ or are overly concerned with the morality of others – particularly with a subject like homosexuality which by its very nature only affects a tiny proportion of the population – one has to ask if there may be other reasons at heart for this interest in other people’s morality.

      Yes, I agree with you that it is overly simplistic, just to say that someone who has strong views about something is obviously hiding something. However there is a trend – borne out in the gospels – e.g. Jesus’ comment on how good we are at noticing the speck in our brother’s eye while missing the log in our own (cf. Matt 7: 5 & Luke 6:41) that when people are overly interested in the behaviour of others, particularly when their means are divisive, offensive and pander to age old prejudices, then perhaps something else is going on.

      • "it is interesting, is it not, that there aren’t ‘liberal’ voices advocating some theological reassessment of theft, false witness, adultery, murder etc."

        This isn't the case. There are gay Christian voices advocating adultery – saying that it is wrong for gay couples to adopt heterosexual patterns of monogamy, and insisting that some sexual expression outside of a committed relationship is necessary for that relationship to work in a healthy way.

        For the other ethical stipulations – these aren't currently being challenged in western culture, thus there's little impetus to derive theological reassessments of these matters.

        "(Tho’ it is also odd that there aren’t as many ‘conservative’ Christian website devoted to these subjects as there are to the subject of homosexuality, which itself speaks volumes…)"

        Likewise – homosexuality is sort of "the topic" these days. There are moments that it seems like advocates of changing Christian ethics on sexuality sometimes try to silence opposition by claiming that they are sex-obsessed, or being unfair in dealing so much with the topic – simply when they are responding to questions posed by others on the topic of sexuality. There are Christians who find that gay sex can't be condoned by scripture who are dealing with the topic in an unhealthy manner – but I haven't found the response of Christians supporting the notion that gay sex should be condoned within the Christian community to be uniformly healthy either. In the United States, it isn't uncommon for TEC clergy to make rather outrageous claims about the churches which left TEC, saying e.g. that they don't want to worship with gay people, or that they hate gay people. I've seen cases in which a TEC clergy person says something very nasty about another "conservative" TEC clergy person … someone in the comments section then challenges that point of view … and another TEC "liberal" person in the comments then angrily comments that this person questioning the attack is "throwing stones" at the attacker. It's like there's a double standard going on – one can be as nasty as one likes to persons who uphold the scriptural position, and even questioning such nastiness can be interpreted as "throwing stones." It's quite pathetic.

        I have had moments when I was criticizing problems with the Christology of TEC leadership, or the TEC lawsuit policies, when suddenly I was accused of homophobia and arguing about sex, when not a word had been mentioned regarding sex or gay people. I hope this helps you understand that a lot of the provocation to address issues of sexuality comes from places other than a simple obsession with sexuality on the part of persons who uphold the scriptural view of human sexuality.

        I think that if both sides are being honest, we can find ample instances of both sides engaging in mote-picking when there are more compelling issues at hand.

        I do refer to this as "the scriptural view of human sexuality" – I see in a comment above someone thinks that Scripture is less than clear on the matter. I have been following this issue since the late '90's and have read dozens of articles on it. I initially thought that Scripture was a lot more vague on the matter than it proved to be after looking at the various arguments of those who e.g. find arsenkonotai to mean temple prostitution, etc. etc.. Actually, I sort of wanted to find a good Scriptural justification for same-gender sex acts, simply because it would be so easy and lovely to wrap up this whole discussion as simply a matter of misinterpretation and historic prejudice. This I did not find; all the proffered arguments were very weak. Of course, the "standard" these days tends to be Robert Gagnon – I'd invite anyone who believes a significant argument to exist that Scripture advocates or permits same-gender sexual intercourse to read Gagnon's response on that particular argument, and post reflections on that here.

        For me the most troubling issue here is how gay Christians are often tempted to adopt the bad Christology of the leadership of TEC and thereby completely miss out on Christ's most important message. It is much better to live in sexual sin but to know who Jesus is, than to live a legalistically pure sexual life while denying the Risen Christ. Because we see more of TEC's type of theology entering the Church of England where it is weakest in faith – and we are a church much weaker in faith than most churches – I tend to counsel gay people to stay away from all things Anglican and to avoid this Anglican debate altogether. One is likely to be wounded spiritually, and there is some very very bad stuff flying around.

        • James

          Thanks for this and I think you are right that sometimes things need to be seen on context. As part of my PhD research I have been doing participative research in two Evangelical organisations – one famous and infamous! And I have been pleasantly surprised that the topic of homosexuality has never been mentioned. Similarly I have have also been doing some teaching/tutorial work with under grads (from several degree routes (theology, sociology of religion etc.) doing one particular module) and I have been surprised (and rather pleased) homosexuality has never really been something that has been a topic for discussion.

          I personally have not come across any liberals associated with wanting liberalisation of adultary, theft etc. But then I tend to steer clear of both overt liberals and overt conservatives (I was born to be an Anglican…). It is the pro or anti women bishops' argument that I tend to get my ears bashed with!

          Thanks again

        • Haven't Akinola and others from the Global South refused , on multiple occasions, to take communion with the hardly-liberal AB of C because they think he's insufficiently punitive when it comes to disciplining TEC? That sounds a lot like hostility and personal feelings being allowed to distort Christian imperatives. And of course, 'Orthodox' African Anglicans, not american liberals, have often been at the forefront of 'creatively' reassessing adultery (and no liberal is advocating murder).

          Personally I have spent a lot of time in evangelical churches and amongst pro-gay liberals, and there is far, far, far more overt hostility amongst the former for the latter than the other way around. I have heard lots of people flat out say that 'gays' (NB : *NOT* 'those who engage in extramarital sex' which I of course accept is the historical orthodox position ) shouldn't be allowed to be priests or take communion, but no liberal I know has challenged the rights of anti-gay evangementalist Churches to exist and prosper.

            • Read "Rowan's Rule" in the summer and can recall at least one reference to GAFCON primates refusing to take communion with ++Rowan. Shall try and dig out the reference later (of course, I concede that the author may well have been wrong about this). I quite deliberately mentioned ++Rowan, not +Katherine, as I knew that the latter may well present the kind of theological problems James identifies above. But ++Rowan is surely an entirely different case (c.f. Jeffrey John etc). Unless someone wanted to argue (as I suppose might be possible) that they'd refuse to take communion with e.g. a bishop who was insufficiently punitive with those who engaged in 'heretical' beliefs in behaviour? I don't know any evangelical who would refuse to (e.g.) recognise +Richard C's authority because he wasn't harsh enough in disciplining the fellow who did the PBS gay marriage service a few years back, and, if the account in 'Rowans Rule' of the behaviour of the GAFCON primates is accurate, then I maintain my description of it above.

            • Looked up Rowan's Rule. There are two separate Akinola-refusing-communion references I picked up thus far, one indeed relating to +Katherine. This is the other one:

              " On the last day, Rowan asked his peers to join him for a valedictory Eucharist. At least fourteen failed to come, on the grounds that Frank Griswold was taking part in the service as well. Gene Robinson later identified this as a watershed:
              I would like him to have insisted that everyone stay at the table…I think that to absent oneself from the communion table because of the presence of other perceived sinners is blasphemy against the sacrament"

              ["Rowan's Rule", Rupert Shorrt, 2008 p. 312)

              Merely refusing to take communion with Griswald would surely be offering a "invite him and I wont' come" ultimatum (which Akinola has hardly shied away from in other areas), so I think this is indeed an example of refusing to take communion with ++Rowan. Guessing you'll accuse +Gene of (characteristic!) heresy in his bit above, but am curious to the theology behind refusing to take communion on the basis of others' presence. For example,how could you possible guarantee, Peter, that a Eucharist you celebrated would be free of unrepentant sinners?

              • So we've established that it was a refusal to be in Communion with Griswold, not Rowan.

                As to your last question, it really isn't a question at all. If I don't know if there is an unrepentant sinner, I don't know. But if I do know, that's an entirely different matter isn't it? And Griswold was an unrepentant sinner. By his actions he had rejected God's Word and he had no intention of repenting.

                • But the net effect is the same! Whatever reason Akinola cited he was still invited to communion with Rowan and refused to come. Isn't Akinola technically refusing communion with Griswold *and* ++Rowan?

                  But how does attending communion alongside a publicly unrepentant sinner affect the sacrament (if it even does?) Does Akinola have grounds for thinking that a Eucharist that involves an publically unrepentant sinner is somehow sacrilegious ? And if he does think this, and Rowan invited Griswold and plans on being the celebrant, then surely Akinola's a rejection of Rowan too?

                  • ryan – it entails rejecting the whole, but does not entail rejecting Rowan personally – it entails rejecting the project he proposed in this joint communion.

                    Paul tells us we bring down condemnation upon ourselves if we are to take eucharist for bad reasons – we tend to interpret this as taking it in a state of unrepentant sin. This is why priests refuse eucharist on some occasions – it's really an issue of individual insight regarding their congregation and individual parishoners in this kind of judgment call – whether to refuse eucharist or not, in cases where the priest knows a person is in unrepentant sin. This can be a powerful motivation for a person to re-think their involvement in sin. But of course it can work both ways and wound that person as well. Persons who are refused eucharist should receive good pastoral care; refusing eucharist certainly doesn't mean "excommunication."

                    John (in 2 John) tells us that we are never to have persons who teach a different gospel (within the church) at our table; in Titus (iirc – may be another epistle) Paul tells us we should have nothing to do with them. These are for the very tough cases where good counsel and discipline haven't worked; it is still a matter of love – in such cases, they are probably more likely to repent than if the church continues to pretend "all is ok." Notice: no NT mentions of "witch hunts" or burning at the stake, as some fundamentalist liberals tend to write whenever the spectre of church discipline is brought up.

                    In the last decades (I'm not sure how far back this practice goes), we tend to bring these two together with the notion of simply refusing eucharist with parties that are involved in those things which the NT tells us are the most atrocious – we tend to overlook John and Titus, still discussing things with such persons from time to time, but the "symbol" of the broken relationship is in refusing eucharist.

                    I'm sure Rowan didn't take this personally. It's like if I offered a charity ball for both President Obama and some nasty racist character, and some people chose not to show up – I'd understand why. Not to compare Griswold with nasty racism – if he truly can be charged with bringing another gospel into the church, this, for the church, is a sin much worse than racism. And I don't want to make that judgment call with regards to Griswold, though I understand Akinola's motivation.

                  • ryan, to add here –

                    I can't say for sure that were I a Primate in 2003-06 that I'd refuse eucharist, though I think it likely. The situation now is lightyears beyond the 2006 situation with +Jefferts-Schori as Presiding Bishop and the problem of Christology. I believe that a liberally-minded approach insisting on a robust theology and not simply a narrow slice of concerns compels any non-fundamentalist liberal Christian to conclude that eucharist with +Jefferts-Schori should be seen as a grave sin. This is a matter of upholding the bare essentials of our faith in Christ, especially our faith in grace. It is especially "liberal" in the way it creates a kind of theological buffer-zone between faith in Christ and ethical compulsions. The +KJS faith is a rather "knee-jerk" type faith which immediately amounts to ethical compulsions without first turning to Christ and meditating on Christ. Instead, Christ Himself is simply a kind of mascot for various things the church wants us to go do – its moral law. This is in fact a very icy form of conservatism, even though it tends to espouse "progressive" causes. A liberally-minded faith makes room for a robust notion of grace – which helps us appreciate that we are all broken, and that the world isn't simply divvied up between the "good guys" (who follow the church's dictates) and the "bad guys." Even if in American politics we vastly prefer the Democrats to the Republicans – we can not stand behind this ethical vision which in the end amounts to a rather simplistic battle between the white hats and the black hats.

                    The bodily resurrection of Christ is not something "for conservatives" – it is something for everyone. If liberal Christians go much further in our reputation for not acknowledging Christ in who He is in His full glory and full identity – we risk losing many great and wonderful things in the church which tend to be associated with that which is "liberal" – good scholarship, good theological education amongst the parishoners, a hermeneutic which isn't simplistic, good liturgy, and challenging worship music. I would go so far as to say that +KJS and co in the end are doing a lot more to indirectly cause fundamentalism than they are effectively combatting it – and making world Christianity quite wary of anything vaguely associated with things "liberal." This is NOT the way of creating a liberally-minded vision for Christians.

                    I don't know what I would have done had I been a Primate in 2003-2006 – part of what made this complicated wasn't only the fact that TEC was conducting same-sex blessings and had consecrated an actively gay bishop – it was that TEC had agreed through its own Primate at an emergency Primates' Meeting that were Gene Robinson to be consecrated, that this would constitute a schism ("tearing the fabric"). Then, the same Primate who had agreed to this went and consecrated Robinson himself, a few days later. Other things were agreed upon by the TEC Primate and then ignored. Excuses given were "procedural" – but in which case, the Primate should have never agreed to the documents agreed upon. So there was a good case for refusing communion even if one passionately believes in the blessedness of gay sex – that the church was wrong in taking this action due to the schism and deception, and the general principle of ecumenism.

                    That of course has changed in 2006 with +KJS as a Primate with her denials of the resurrection and the divinity of Christ.

          • ryan,
            I wouldn't partake in eucharist with the TEC PB either, neither should any Trinitarian Christian in my opinion. What she teaches about Jesus more or less makes him out to be a kind of ethical / moral example and no more – the resurrection, the divinity of Christ and the rest all basically metaphors for ethical imperatives. The New Testament condemns in very uncertain terms the exchange of Christ's gospel for a different one within the church, and it is clear to me that this is a gospel which denies essential aspects of Christ's identity. It also makes clear that when some in the church insist on continuing to commend to belief that which is contrary to Christ's message, we should not sit at table with them, or even have anything to do with them.

            For all clarity: I believe sexual ethics to be totally and utterly trivial compared to the basic teachings about Christ. So it wouldn't bother me very much if TEC's top leaders began teaching us to have sex with [ insert here something / one you think we shouldn't have sex with ]. I don't weigh in on sex issues very often, as I have in this thread. I find it a terrible, terrible shame that the Communion is still going on and on and on about sex issues when we have this utterly horrid problem with Christology in TEC, and those clergy of weak faith within the Church of England are tempted by this stuff – and they are, I hear about them.

            If there is one good reason to avoid the Anglican Christian groups advocating gay sex, it's this: they are often either rather unsure about the identity of Christ, though in the Church of England generally supportive of the creeds – or in some cases even, have become enamoured of the Bishop Spong / Marcus Borg / +KJS way of seeing Jesus – basically a social ethic which means "God is on our side, and not on yours," and little more than that.

            I hope that you find a way of living fully into the joy of God's intent in creation with regards to sexuality, but really – I care about this very, very little compared to my desire for you to learn to turn to Christ in prayer and repentance and to fully know His love in recognizing Him for who He is, in the fullness of who He is – our Risen Lord.

            The Communion realized sometime in the 80's that there was a serious problem with TEC, and more or less decided that the issue it would focus on in encouraging its adherence to Scripture would be sexuality. I will not criticize this decision, but I think we have seen a disasterous outcome of this decision, with gay and lesbian people often feeling that they are the reason for the Communion splitting, and feeling the brunt of the great tension between parties. (If we had decided to argue about Christology, it is possible that the outcome for world Christianity and ecumenism would have been even worse). The greatest passion of disagreement is about the Christology. Gay and lesbian people are not responsible for the awful war going on in the Communion now – you can simply blame the whole Communion, we are all to blame. If you are a gay or lesbian person I would ask you to seriously consider joining another church where you will not have to confront the sex debate as it is carried out amongst ourselves. It is an awful thing.

          • I should add – I'm sorry you have heard unfortunate things from persons in evangelical churches. Realize that they may feel their church is under pressure from activists to change its teachings on sexual ethics. This is enough for many to become anxious and engage in unfortunate remarks.

            Re. gay priests – the mind of the Communion is that gay sex is incompatible with Scripture – thus priests who are gay but are celibate, and committed to the Anglican teaching, should be able to become priests. Those who are engaged in same-sex sexual relationships shouldn't seek ordination. This is also a matter of love for homosexual persons: it is sad when homosexual persons are taught, at one moment, that gay sex is compatible with Scripture; and then later research the issue themselves, and find that the arguments taught them regarding the compatiblity of gay sex and scripture are terribly flimsy and flawed. Especially if they began to act on that belief – it can become much more difficult to ease out of the same-sex attractions. Sexual behavior has a profound impact on one's sexual experience – including attractions.

            At the very least, I'd wish for "pro-gay liberal" congregations to "teach the debate" – i.e., make available for their gay parishoners a robust, two-sided approach which also fully addresses the problems with the main arguments which are used in advocating the position that scripture is compatible with same-sex intercourse. In this way, at least they are fully informed in making their decisions. However I don't know of any parishes that do this. And I shudder at the thought of how disillusioned gay people are likely to be when doing this research on their own, after having engaged in same-sex relationships and finding themselves sexually in an entirely different situation from where they were before they trusted their church regarding the issue of sex and scripture. I have one gay friend who is primarily fellowshipping with Anglicans who teach that gay sex is compatible with Scripture. He has changed quite a bit since he started. He's become quite an "activist" arguing for things to become more "inclusive," and seems to have lost his passion for God, and anything having to do with the church other than this "it must be inclusive" meme. Has he done the research? I haven't discussed this with him, but I'm quite sure he hasn't. I don't have the moral authority with him to deal with such a weighty issue in his life, so I don't bring it up. But it's almost as if "the gay agenda in the church" for him has replaced God.

      • "there aren’t ‘liberal’ voices advocating some theological reassessment of theft, false witness, adultery, murder etc."

        Debatable.

        Significant sections of liberal Anglicanism advocate a "theological reassessment" of abortion, which is a form of homicide and a direct contravention of the Sixth Commandment (or Fifth if you're a horrid papist like me).

  9. Thanks, folks, for your replies.

    I would like to stress that I am not suggesting that “someone arriving at a liberal position on homosexuality hasn’t bothered with reflection, prayer or discernment”. Such a claim would be offensive and – more importantly (for the truth, Alathia, is often offensive and divisive, as Jesus Himself noted) – false. My claim is rather that there seem to be a not insignificant number of people who hold the revisionist viewpoint on sexuality for reasons other than “this is what it is pleasing to God” – not necessarily because they want to rationalise their own behaviour, but also perhaps because they fear or know that adherence to traditional Christian ethics will cost them friends, livelihoods, worldly position etc., or because they have had bad experiences of conservative Christians. This does not of course automatically invalidate their arguments , just as the fact that some conservatives are overly preoccupied with matters sexual invalidates theirs. My point is that invoking psychological explanations for your opponents’ beliefs is a double-edged sword. Sauce, goose, gander and all that. If it is unfair, inaccurate and irrelevant of me to speculate that revisionists are letting their bodies dominate their minds, then it is unfair, inaccurate and irrelevant of revisionists to speculate that Christians conservatives are obsessed or repressed.

    The reason why Christian conservatives spend a lot of time talking about sex is very simple. Sex is hugely important, and various aspects and outworkings of sexual morality are one of the main fronts of attack on Christianity in Britain in 2011. So of course people who wish to defend Christianity spend a lot of time talking about sex! In the fourth and fifth centuries Christians spent a lot of time talking about the Trinity and the nature of the Christ; in the sixteenth the nature of grace and salvation; in the eighteenth and nineteenth the authority of the Bible. Were they “obsessed”? Perhaps they were – and I’m glad they were, because these things were and are important. I’m equally glad that RAF Fighter Command was “obsessed” with the defence of south-east England in summer 1940.

    It’s always amused me that modern society accuses the Church of being obsessed with sex. It’s rather like an arsonist complaining that the fire brigade are obsessed with putting out fires.

    In his incisive and prescient work Orthodoxy, GK Chesterton suggested that “the modern critics of religious authority are like men who should attack the police without ever having heard of burglars” (p.20). I think this comparison is similarly apt when it comes to the critics of religious doctrines on sex. The strictures of, say, the Catholic Church, are often discussed as if they have been plucked out of thin air in a fit of spiteful Puritanism, a massive over-reaction to a relatively unimportant facet of human existence. It as if the church had developed a vast edifice of dogma on how believers ought to tie their shoelaces, or whether they ought to prefer tennis to football.

    But here’s the thing: sex is not remotely analogous to shoe-tying or sporting preferences. It is patently very important indeed to a great number of human beings. How could any religion worth its salt not be interested in sex? To quote Chesterton again:

    “All healthy men, ancient and modern, Western and Eastern, hold that there is in sex a fury that we cannot afford to inflame; and that a certain mystery must attach to the instinct if it is to continue delicate and sane”.

    Sex is awesome. Sex hurts. Sex unites and divides. Sex creates human beings. Few things are more deeply wounding than sexual infidelity. What is one of the worst kinds of child abuse? Sex abuse. What causes more sadness, insecurity, confusion and loneliness? What causes more joy and wonder and happiness and contentment? To say that sex is an important facet of human existence is a mere platitude. It is barely more controversial to say that any ethical system that fails to provide some meaningful account of sexual desire and sexual acts is gravely deficient.

  10. I would be the first to admit that conservative Christians often fail to deal well with the pastoral issues around sexuality. This is because there are really two separate but linked questions in the current debate.

    (1) What is the truth about sexuality?
    (2) What is the appropriate pastoral response to people who experience same-sex attraction?

    Evangelicals and other traditionalists who get (1) right often make a total pig’s ear of (2). That is because (2) is a much more difficult question to answer. And this failure is used to discredit their answer to (1), even though logically of course it doesn’t. But this doesn’t mean they need to change their answer to (1). It means they need to change their answer to (2). After all, what could be more pastorally inappropriate than enabling something you believe to be deadly sin?

    That Tutu quote bothers me. Like a lot of Tutu-isms dealing with moral theology, it’s setting up a false dichotomy; EITHER you accept sexually revisionist theology OR you’re on the side of the anti-gay thugs, the fascists, the playground bullies. Do you honestly believe that those are the only available options? That if you don’t support gay marriage in church, you might as well be sewing pink triangles onto concentration camp uniforms? That seems to me a monstrous accusation against moral conservatives.

    I am pretty sure, for instance, that my mother – a conservative traditional Christian – would be described as a homophobe in modern parlance. Yet she has been a nurse for over forty years, treating every kind of person under the sun regardless of sexuality or any other characteristic, and spent three months volunteering in an African AIDS hospice last year. Many of the people in that hospice will have contracted AIDS through sexual behaviour which my mother believes to be immoral. Will that affect the way she treats them? Not one jot.

    The same false dichotomy is seen in the blanket dismissal of all forms of conservative Christian pastoral care for gay people. Just because one particular model – that of “turning” people so that they pursue straight relationships – doesn’t seem to work, all ministries that don’t validate or affirm homoerotic behaviour are tarred with the same brush.

    • Very well said, Wicked.

      I think another problem we sometimes see is when we mistaken questions #1 and #2. E.g., someone asks, "Should Christians see homosexual intercourse as a sin?" and someone gives a response – a comment, a blog article, etc. etc.. But then the charge comes up: "This seems mean to homosexual persons – there are a lot of things that Christians need to remember when speaking to homosexual persons that they forget, and this article isn't addressing the problems of hatred etc."

      This is a case of confusing the question, "Should Christians see homosexual intercourse as a sin?" with the question: "What is the appropriate response to people with same-sex attractions?" Yes, it is perhaps better when dealing with the issue of homosexual intercourse, to also make pointed statements denouncing irrational bigotry toward gay people. However …

      It's also sometimes the case that people dealing with the issue of homosexuality, are accused of having a patronizing, pastoral attitude toward gay people. I.e., "Don't assume we need or want your charity or warm feelings, just the facts please … don't insult our intelligence" – this when a person may be responding to a gay person who complains that he felt unloved or was not offered appropriate pastoral care. But then we are being patronizing and pastoral.

      It's important to recognize what the question is that's being answered, or what a person is responding to. Often it's all too easy to say, "Well you give no response to x-y-z," it's important to realize what one is responding to, and avoid the "shotgun" approach to argumentation where we are discussing a gazillion different tiny things and never finish discussing any one of them with the sense that we've had a decent, adequate discussion.

      Those who are opposed to a non-scriptural sexual ethic are sometimes also guilty of the shotgun approach – when likely to be proven wrong, instead of staying on the same topic move on to: "but what about …"? Very frustrating.

      • James

        Thanks for this… This is wandering a long way off the original post, but I have to ask this question. A few years ago, during the Jeffrey John affair, I listened (via the internet) to a long and impassioned sermon by the Rector of St Helen’s Bishop’s Gate about the evils of gay sex – such phrases as ‘even medical opinion say it is dangerous’ (or words to that effect). I thought this all rather laughable. The question this raised in my mind, was why there was such a fixation on the bum area? And why, in that sermon so much devoted to sexual ethics, was there not one mention of what is permissible between a man and a woman in the bedroom – for surely at St H’s there would be few people needing scriptural advice on same sex intercourse. For whom was the sermon preached?

        I ask this not to be facetious, but to raise an important point – and that is a good deal of what passes for preaching on the subject, is actually falling on stony ground simply because it is doubtful your same sex affirming Christian is just not going to be there. I will also add that I have actually, in my many years of listening to preaching, only ever heard two or three sermons on the subject, but I have never heard a sermon on what is permissible in the bedroom between a man and woman. Yet the fact Evangelicals are willing to discuss same sex sexual relations when it is probable there are few in the congregation who aren’t going to tow the line, then one has to ask, if this is a case of preaching to the converted, so that the converted feel better about themselves? To related this back to the original post, the Mr Green’s of this world seem to do the same kind of thing.

        Just a thought.

        • Great point Alathia. I remember being at an evangementalist church circa the repeal of Section 28 (or Clause 2A in Scotland) saying we had to keep the clause to protect our children from 'anal buggery'. As opposed to what other kind?! More seriously, this kind of 'do you know what those people *do*?' rhetoric is intrinsically dehumanising, prejudiced and very much comparable to (e.g.) the kind of antisemitism the Christian Church has , thankfully, largely repented of.
          That said, I think advocating permissable activites for married straight couples is fraught with dangers too – c.f. zoomers like Mark Driscoll's ''exegis'' of Song of Songs. How did Christian couples ever manage to consummate happily before we had proof-texters 'revealing' that SoS gives two thumbs up oral sex and mutual masturbation?

          • ryan – I definitely hear you on this one, and the way Christians speak can sometimes be demeaning. Though you might want to watch your own use of "evangementalist" here if you are concerned about demeaning speech – I find that the use of demeaning speech by one party sometimes prompts more use of it by the other.

            This also makes me think, though: is it ok for Christians to talk about what is involved in same-gender sex acts, or must they completely refrain from such discourse – even if it's done in a way that's intended to be respectful? E.g., also being willing to describe what happens between sex between a man and woman, and refraining from language that demeans the persons, though some may believe that the act itself is demeaning. In the comparison to antisemitism: it is utterly necessary in times of ethnic tension to discuss those things which we find objectionable about groups with whom we're in tension, simply to get straight what it is we find objectionable, and make sure we're not deluding ourselves or exaggerating. If some Europeans were more candid and honest in speaking about the Jews, instead of relying on gossip, we may have been spared much grief; if such speech is "forbidden," it tends to be spoken anyways, but in private and in secrecy, with more conditions present for the spreading of gossip. You are very free here to describe what you find objectionable about "evangementalists" and compare their behavior to that of antisemites. But shouldn't the evangementalists also be allowed to talk about what they find objectionable, granted they do it in a manner as loving and respectful as they can when describing an act which they find sinful?

            I didn't know that stuff about Mark Driscoll and heterosex; I'd guess you know more about the topic of evangementalists and heterosex than I – though I'd expect I know a bit more than yourself about scripture and gay sex simply because of previous research related to that area and this crisis the Communion has been in the past 30-50 years, depending on how you look at it.

            • Thanks James. I certainly agree in the importance of avoiding needlessly demeaning language – evangementalist seems to me a useful way to avoid typing evangelicalism and fundamentalism all the time to refer to a particular ideology! Driscoll is appaling. Evangelicals praising his frat-boy-expounding-on-p*ssy style rhetoric because it appeals to da kids is depressingly worldly.

              • Thanks, ryan.
                I can understand your intent here. I'd suggest you'd get more mileage out of the term "some conservative evangelicals" – it's less likely to rile feathers, which I think you'd probably like to avoid for the sake of good discussion. There are some who use the term "fundigelical" and that is used in a very derisive manner.

                Sorry to hear that about Driscoll, it sounds rather yobbish. I really should keep up more with those evangementalists. I mean, conservative evangelicals. It's amazing sometimes what some Christians will do to try to be "relevant." Look at what the "relevant, contemporary" church music scene has done to us. A lot of churches look like wacko cults with a lot of homophonic singing of tunes that sound like the Carpenters, but then unskillfully sung. I suppose amongst some there is this anxiety: "We are losing it … the big bad world out there doesn't see us as real and relevant …" – that anxiety leads to some weird attempts at appearing modern & "with-it." The Lord says: "Be still, and know that I am God."

        • Thank you, Alathia.

          "To related this back to the original post, the Mr Green’s of this world seem to do the same kind of thing."

          Totally, completely, utterly resounding agreement on this point.

          What you describe here is sometimes called "Preaching to the choir" (the metaphor assuming that the choir are rather holy persons who don't need any preaching), and it can be a very ugly habit. It happens a lot – both in conservative and liberal pulpits. People like to feel better about themselves. The preacher preaches a sermon which they don't really need – but is effective in rallying the troops, so they all want to stand up and say, "here, here!!" In conservative pulpits it can be about the evil of one sin or another … in liberal pulpits it's likely to be about the evil of fundamentalism, or the horrors of the Israeli occupation.

          Anglicans in particular have this habit – we tend to be smug and enjoy a feeling of being self-satisfied.

          The rector at St. Helen's Bishop's Gate may have felt his sermon was called for due to questioning amongst Christians given the recent news of Jeffrey Johns. Or perhaps it was just preaching to the choir. I can't know, not knowing the man or the congregation; but from your description I'm likely to think it was a good textbook case of preaching to the choir.

          There are many instances when we can be wonderfully edified by sermons dealing with things that we already believe in quite fervently. God's Gospel is the same, every day, though we experience it differently. But we minister to one another by presenting it in its many aspects again anew, so the Holy Spirit can speak to our dry hearts afresh.

          That said, the phenomenon of "preaching to the choir" is different from this, and is not edifying in this manner. It's difficult, though, for me to provide a good distinction between the one and the other – though I think you'll understand the difference.

          A good minister knows what his congregation needs; and what they need to hear; and this will not always be popular. A populist minister knows what his congregation wants to hear; and that is frequently preaching to the choir.

          • James

            Thanks – and it was nice to see you also use the phrase 'people like to think better about themselves…' – a favourite of mine. A former vicar of mine (and one time boss) – now a suffragan bishop – once preached on 'Little Jack Horner…' where he noted that we are all, to a greater or lesser degree, Little Jack Horners at times. 'Oh what a good boy am I!' I think the issue of sexuality is a case in point, just because you’re not troubled by same-sex attraction (outwardly at least…) there is a temptation to pat yourself on the back (cf. Lk 18: 10&11). Or breaking the 11th Commandment – ‘Thou Shalt Not Get Found Out…’ is often an occasion to crow over the failings of another (both pro- and anti- religious do this: e.g. the case of Mr Green being a case in point, it is the anti-religious then tend to feel, just a tinge of self-congratulation (I know I do!)).

            Theologically speaking, we’re all immoral, since no one can fulfil The Law, nor can anyone ‘earn’ their way to heaven – we are all reliant on God’s mercy.

            The following is from a letter I wrote to a friend of mine the other week – here I am talking about the problem of some Christians thinking they’re ‘special’:

            “… [This is our problem:] we spend far too much time and effort thinking about things we feel we ought to be doing (usually things that make us feel better about ourselves) than the actual nitty-gritty of living. There is the temptation to do ‘great things’ – and some of us indeed do great things, but the really great thing, is to do such things without becoming overly concerned with emotional reward. Perhaps I am being too negative when I say that the really great things we do are often the things we don’t even know about! As I’ve said elsewhere with regard to humility, we can’t know we are being humble, it is one of those virtues, perhaps like all virtues, we live out without a sense of gratification (otherwise we become proud of our humility; a sort of moral oxymoron!). I have come to the conclusion that Christian life is caught in the dreadful reality of this paradox – it is the paradox of the Crucifixion.”

            For it is the Cross, that is unique to Christianity and the trend of some within Christianity, particularly since Constantine, of wanting ‘respectability’, seems to fly in the face of the prophetic nature of Christian life. ‘Wanting to feel better about ourselves’ has its place, but when achieving this is reliant on hierarchies of righteousness and focusing on the sins of others (particularly when they are not ‘sins’ that afflict the vast majority of hearers) then you really have to worry about what is being preached and practiced. Which brings us nicely back to Mr Green… Whatever the truth about his behaviour with his wife, the manner in which he has ‘preached’ over the years is enough to sound alarm bells to anyone with an ounce of self-knowledge…

            Must get to bed!!

            Thanks again for this, it was helpful.

            A.

  11. I'd like to thank the people on this thread. Discussion remains polite and respectful. This frequently isn't the case when discussing sexual ethics. Special thanks to ryan, Alathia, Blair, and Tom.

  12. James, Ryan, Alathia and Blair

    I have been away from the computer for a while so wasn't able to answer James's last response to me but Peter last night graciously accepted that this thread would remain open a little longer.

    I went on Robert Gagnon's own website and I recommend anyone to do this who hasn't see the sheer output of the man and also his single-minded concern. To his credit he posts not only the golden testimonials to his major opus but also his critics. (Not all the links still work but many do.) Not every scholar is satisfied that Gagnon really has given a definitive exegesis of the six or seven biblical texts that seem to be concerned with same-sex sex. (I'm trying to avoid the anachronism 'homosexuality' though I am disappointed to see Gagnon does not.) If those texts are such clear arguments against what we know as modern homosexuality then I wonder why it takes Gagnon 500 pages or so of close argumentation, and what's more, screeds and screeds of rebuttals?

    As for James's point that academics do not use ad hominem arguments, well Gagnon is not afraid to call one of his reviewers a 'homosexualist' and others 'revisionist'.

    Robert Gagnon is associate professor of New Testament Studies, so I couldn't help thinking his job description does not really allude to his publication record. You see where this is leading? Is his interest in 'homosexuality' in the Bible really as narrowly exegetical as people are supposed to believe or has he got a bigger agenda? Many of his critics seem to think so, and looking at the index of topics in those 500 pages you see that he also goes down the avenue of medical, social, historical, and cultural arguments away from pure exegesis. Someone is sure to say 'but that's what exegesis is' but I'm none too convinced that all the post AIDS medical arguments can be applied as moral proofs (and if I have understood Peter aright, nor does he.)

    Walter Wink who accepts that scripture is negative toward same sex activity says this:

    "Gagnon exegetes every biblical text even remotely relevant to the theme [of homosexual practice]. This section is filled with exegetical insights. I have long insisted that . . . efforts to twist the text to mean what it clearly does not say are deplorable. Simply put, the Bible is negative toward same-sex behavior, and there is no getting around it. . . . Gagnon imagines a request from the Corinthians to Paul for advice [about how they should respond to a man in a loving and committed union with another man], based on 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. “. . . . When you mentioned that arsenokoitai would be excluded from the coming kingdom of God, you were not including somebody like this man, were you?” . . . No, Paul wouldn’t accept that relationship for a minute."

    But Walter Wink opens his review of The Bible and Homosexual Practice with this devastating sentence:
    "It was inevitable that the antihomosexual lobby would develop something equivalent to a neutron bomb designed to wipe out the homosexual lobby without (it is hoped) altogether destroying the church."

    The trouble is a neutron bomb is a "dirty bomb" and the fall-out won't in the end help. Another critic has said Gagnon argues his case, moralistically and legally but without much sense of the grace of the Gospel – I forget who, but it is there in his reviews section.

    Gagnon has also posted "How to make a valid secular case against cultural endorsement of homosexual behavior."
    http://www.robgagnon.net/SecularCase.htm

    This gives 1) The nature argument, 2) Negative side effects, 3) Increase of homosexuality,4) The intolerance of the homosexual agenda, 5) The destruction of marriage and 6) The normalization of all consensual sexual relationships, irrespective of number and degree of blood relatedness.

    No wonder his critics think this is a sign of a little obsessive preoccupation in someone whose day job is professor of New Testament (with so much else going on there!).

    That's why I said, James, that the biblical texts are the weakest arguments; they need this barrage of support, and in the end Gagnon's neutron bomb – and still no one really believes them.

    Please excuse typos and the rest but I have to rush out now.

    • A pretty comprehensive commment Tom – thanks for sharing.

      If I could make one comment (apart from saying, yes, you are spot on about me not being convinced that medical arguments should form part of a Christian argument on same-sex behaviour) it is that the last few bits of your critique verge sligtly into the area of ad hominem. You write, "No wonder his critics think this is a sign of a little obsessive preoccupation in someone whose day job is professor of New Testament (with so much else going on there!)", but I think there needs to be space for some Theology Professors to have areas of specialist interest. Or clergy for that matter. :-)

      What do others think?

    • Tom,
      I'm afraid you read the Walter Wink quote on the "neutron bomb" and that got you all emotional.

      Please *think* about this quote, and think also about what you are saying here. Don't necessarily conclude that this is a good metaphor, or that the quote is true – i.e., that it was "inevitable" that these terrible awful evil men would create this terrible nuclear device and annihilate all those people with it. N.b., a neutron bomb is not a dirty bomb, it is the "cleanest" of all nuclear devices, and is specifically intended to kill only, leaving buildings intact and allowing the area to be occupied shortly after, so Walter Wink is getting this metaphor wrong as well, but we will forgive him and honor his intention.

      Perhaps the same could be said of "young earth creationism" – or some other theory which one might believe is entirely refutable. Some soul comes along, and does all the hard, nasty work of writing refutations of the various arguments, and the counter-arguments which come up from the refutations, etc. etc. etc.. This takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of dead trees. Certainly, the people in this movement would "feel" the same were being done to them.

      But what they would need to do is not: write it all off, because there are SO many pages, it REQUIRES all this argument etc. etc. to refute us … and look, this man is trying to KILL US with A NUCLEAR BOMB!!! What they need to do is: address the arguments.

      This is why, very much to the contrary, the argument from Scripture is fairly conclusive, as Walter Wink admits. Walter Wink simply believes that we must therefore go tinkering with the authority of Scripture.

      I have seen this Walter Wink "neutron bomb" quote over and over again. Please think about how charitable it is. It almost seems as if there's an unconscious desire to make it clear that Robert Gagnon's life is being made so utterly unpleasant – LOOK HE KILLS GAYS WITH AN ATOMIC BOMB – that all scholars are being warned off from this field unless they are willing to assert that Scripture does support same-gender sex acts.

      This is simply fundamentalist manipulation and it's very ugly indeed.

      How many people do you think would be willing to kill Robert Gagnon if they could get away with it, given the prevalence of this Walter Wink quote and people getting all dizzy over how they believe that he's winging around this gay-killing neutron bomb? Who here is being persecuted? If gay people want to live in peace and freedom from persecution, why do they go so horridly far in inspiring utterly virulent hatred?

      I think you may need to take a bit of distance from "the cause" – it will help you think. You may need to feel a wee bit of disillusionment with it – just as some Christians become disillusioned with some "Christian" causes which have some good in them, but are sometimes exercised in unfortunate ways.

      • Neutron bomb, dirty bomb – don't let's get hung up on what was metaphor, a bit of rhetoric, James. I agree with you and Walter Wink* that the 6 or 7 biblical texts are negative towards same-sex love expressed sexually. But they are weak in reason because they provide no other argumentation except, in the case of Leviticus 'toevah', or Paul's mysterious 'malakoi-arsenocoitoi' stuff and that's why Gagnon has made it his business to defend them over 500 pages or more with all sorts of other material apart from the purely exegetical. At the risk of boring you by rerunning my argument, they simply won't do in the light that enough people on the planet since time immemorial and in all cultures as far as we can tell experience or have experienced a love for their own sex 'surpassing the love' of the other. A law does not come out of anywhere – it needs a context – and in the case of the levitical laws, a pre-text. I have already said that the ancients do not know about the role of the egg – it was too small to see – and enough Israelites must have been getting all Canaanite on each other for the authors and redactors of Leviticus to think it necessary to frame a 'toevah'. You and I do not agree about the status of scripture, I am sure. For me it is entirely a human construction so capable of being wrong, but for you…….? For me YWHH, Elohim, are characters in a narrative. If there is a God why should it be interested in making 'chosen races' in the first place and doing all the wicked things like drowning the whole population – including children and the unborn – of the earth except for Mr and Mrs Noah and family? So, sorry James, we will not agree that because the Bible tell me so it is necessarily right. This is why the texts need more substantiation as Gagnon fully realises. It is not just that they say horrible things that is shocking but that Gagnon thinks they say horrible things and that is okay – that's what is shocking.

        As for me getting emotional, dear chap, aren't you getting a little hot under the collar about those who might wish to kill Gagnon. Surely not? Aren't people of his passionate intensity the best argument for not only the secularist gay lobby but also the atheists like Dawkins to point to religion as a force for division, persecution and hatred that needs to be tamed? But then again, who has actually heard of Robert Gagnon outside of Evangelical religious circles and gay Christians? I tried his name on some married Catholic friends and they looked blankly back.

        Another thing Gagnon's own website lead me to was a review of Rabbi Jacob Milgrom's commentaries on Leviticus (Anchor Bible Commentaries). Apparently the work – several volumes of it – is regarded as exceptional but Gagnon had one point where he disagreed with Milgrom's magisterial analysis and, you've guessed it – Milgrom says the toevah prohibition, including the one about same sex only applies to the Jews and not the gentiles. So you can take you pick and go with the Milgrom who as a Jew ought to know his Old Testament since he actually keeps all the other proscriptions of toevah, or with Gagnon.

        *BTW have you actually read Walter Wink's review "To Hell With Gays: Sex and the Bible". You can find it on Gagnon or get it directly here: http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?ti

        or his book HOMOSEXUALITY AND CHRISTIAN FAITH
        Questions of Conscience for the Churches? Both a good, intelligent and thought-provoking read – though maybe your mind is made up?

        I read the article on Michael Spencer "In The Gay Ol' Summertime – Gay America has left the closet, and they won't be going back" and was thinking how good and even-handed it was until I got to this: "While I know some VERY angry gay activists who hate Christians, my overall impression of homosexuals is forever colored not by those angry activists, but by the unhappiness and misery I have seen in many of those I have counseled. Of course, gay advocates say such misery is a result of society's intolerance, and I do not doubt that some of that analysis is true. But the misery goes deeper. It is a deep-seated wrongness with the basic template of human nature, family and sexuality. No matter how much or how many human beings find ways to embrace their sinful condition, there is always a certain moral revulsion and discomfort that cannot be subdued. While this reaction can be numbed and abused into submission, I have come to believe that most of those who are truly homosexual in inclination know a kind of wretchedness and self-loathing that is particularly terrible." My comment on the whole essay – not bad until he mars it with that flawed, patronising and self-serving idea which is so self evidently false for anybody who knows any real gay people who are not flagellating themselves over what God is supposed to think.

        • Tom,

          Gagnon and I don't believe that you necessarily need to believe that same-gender sex acts are "bad" – but unlike yourself, we believe in the inspiration and the authority of Scripture, and that Scripture tends to describe same-gender sex acts as "sin." Re. the need for "more reason" – Scripture does not provide ANY reason, other than that this is not pleasing to God. The Torah is not a reasoned system of ethics, although it can inform an ethical perspective for those who accept it as inspired by God.

          We can thus be in agreement that the Torah does not provide the type of reasoning which would be required by a secular ethic.

          If I get "hot under the collar" regarding Wink – no, I'm not worrying about people killing Gagnon – I am simply pointing out that it is rather scandalous that he could go so far in hate speech without being called out by his own community. It's not being bothered as much as sadness and pity for Wink, and hoping that you will not fall prey to whatever it is which has consumed him. Yes, I have read the entire bit, a while ago; I may read it again. Note please: I do not uphold Gagnon as some wonderful moral exemplar; I am primarily speaking about his argumentation regarding Scripture. But the two of us agree that Scripture does not bless same-gender attractions, so in a sense the whole issue around Gagnon is rather moot, no?

          I agree that we must be charitable toward gay people who have been oppressed.

          This however is not an open license for the use of hate speech by those who identify with "gay activisits." I condemn hate speech in my church where I find it, on both sides, and it's the promotion of hate speech gets my goat. But as I mentioned, I'm sure that you will see that this way of framing things by Wink was quite regrettable for all involved – most of all, for Walter Wink.

          • James, I can't see where Wink has used hate speech towards any one. Do you mean "This is where Gagnon’s position reveals itself for what it is: "a cruel abuse of religious power"."? That's not hate speech just a rather robust statement of what he thinks all this is.

            • Tom – "neutron bomb to wipe out …" – Wink knowing that some will latch upon this sentence to make it seem like Gagnon is some kind of ultimate evil somehow created by "the Christian right." Not smart use of language, likely to induce paranoia. Evil "religious right" wielding "Gagnon" as WMD. Likely to make conversation invoking Gagnon's arguments devolve into questioning if one intends genocide of the gay community. Yes, he was more specific in his language and didn't say "gay people" but rather "gay movement," but … in gay blogs, people are getting very very upset at a place called "Just Cookies" that didn't sell gay cupcakes, without even questioning the "Just Cookies" title of the business … like, maybe "Just Cookies" means they might not sell cupcakes?

              When it comes to "hot-button" issues like this, we need to exercise much more care than Wink did here.

          • James, when you say that "Gagnon and I don't believe that you necessarily need to believe that same-gender sex acts are "bad" -" are you saying you that if the Bible didn't say it you would be happy about gay sex, i.e. you are not homophobic or bigoted but take your moral objection from the Bible (and maybe Christian tradition) alone? That tells me you are basically a sane and reasonable man but (yes there is a but) you are letting your better judgment be clouded by ancient texts that may or may not be an indication of what God wants. Why do these texts still hold when those on slavery do not? What do you make of God's instructions to kill people – the Flood to name but one? What do you make of 'Faithful' Abraham's willingness to kill his son? What do you make of a God that plays such mind-games if he didn't really want a human sacrifice? And then what of a God who condemns people to infinite punishment for finite crimes (sometime only misdemeanours if Milgrom is right about the toevah of same-sex sex)?

            I think of what Christopher Hitchens said when he claimed that good people do good things, bad people do bad things; only religion can make good people do bad things. Maybe you think that is a cheap crack but if what you say about you and Gagnon not necessarily believing that same-gender acts are bad, then can't you at least consider that Walter Wink MAY have chosen the better, saner course?

            James, may I ask a personal question? Are you in Holy Orders? I ask it because you seem absorbed in this question in a pastoral capacity the way Peter is.

            • 1. Supposing I thought that masturbation was sinful, for non-scriptural reasons – or that "69" was wrong, for non-scriptural reasons (perhaps silly reasons) – would this make me a bigoted?

              2. Suppose someone believes it's rationally wrong to believe in God. Is this person bigoted or Christianphobic?

              I simply think here your bar for "homophobia" is too low. You would be making out many people to be somehow "phobic" where I see no phobia – though I may disagree with them. I believe we need to act more on behavior and actual hate speech, rather than thought.

              Re. inspiration of the Old Testament: this is a BIG issue and can't be addressed in a simple blog comment. You ask so many questions, I could go into pages on any single one.

              Of course I can consider the position that same-gender sex acts are not "sinful." Notice, I use the word "sinful" and not "bad." "Sinful" provides a specific religious context. "Bad" is much more general. It's important to consider the religious context here. In some sense, yes, all sin is "bad." But many things have good sides to them which are also "sinful." Not everyone should feel compelled to avoid everything that is sinful – not if they aren't intent upon serving God. A person intent upon seeking many sexual partners, obviously, in order to fulfill this goal, should do his best to have many sexual partners. This may sound trivial, but it's important. It's not my job to go pontificating to anyone and everyone about the larger issues in life. I don't help a person intent upon seeking many sexual partners by expounding upon my own views of sexuality, if that person has not specifically asked me about such, and grants me enough moral authority to engage in a reasonable conversation on the topic.

              No, I'm not in Holy Orders (nor in secular orders either … though I guess the distinction is now a bit outdated – didn't "Holy Orders" originally mean, part of a monastery sort of thing, as opposed to secular (parish) priests?)

      • Tom, in addition to this, I would say:
        Avoid TEC sources when looking at the "gay issue." For a number of various reasons, the debate within TEC has grown rather "triumphalist" and "toxic" – I would caution the same regarding some of the more "fundamentalist" sites. In reading some of their sources, one would grow to assume that people in the ACNA or the Diocese of Sydney are on a kind of hunt-and-destroy mission, aiming at expelling all gay people from the church. From sources I've read written by Sydney Anglicans, and from my many friends in the ACNA, I know that this is far from the case – and one person in particular comes to mind in selfless, non-judgmental giving of time in helping out gay people with their various difficulties and challenges in life, who is with an ACNA church, and it seems to me that this attitude is common enough within the ACNA. They just don't go raising this up as a flag or boasting about it much. So when TEC clergy claim that they're all a bunch of gay haters, there's little opposition.

        With regards to Walter Wink and Gagnon – one can also find him "cherry picking" and taking things out of context. This is particularly noteworthy in his quoting of Augustine – "Love, and do what you will" – and stating that Gagnon would disagree with this. See http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?ti… for the source, to which Gagnon simply notes that he's citing the passage to say the opposite of what it originally intended. Gagnon does not reveal what a "whopper" of a cherry-pick this is, as the example which Augustine cites is specifically related to male-male intimacy – http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/170207.htm paragraph number 8 – though it could surely be argued here that this has to do with pedophilia, which some believe "by definition" means non-gay since gays are never pedophiles, and all pedophiles must fall under a different classification. Nonetheless – it's fairly telling that Wink would resort to "cherry picking" which, when the original quote is consulted, leads to a passage highly critical of male-male intimacy.

        There are many other good sources to turn to regarding the issue of homosexuality, for the "pro-same-sex" perspective without consulting the TEC sources – and what I have seen amongst the TEC sources tends to be more emotional anyways. It's that emotional part that can be dangerous – it relies on fostering highly negative attitudes towards people in order to be compelling. This will hinder your ability to engage in good, rational discourse. The same applies, of course, to conservatives who tend to read primarily emotional appeals in support of the notion that Scripture does not bless same-gender sex acts, or other such arguments.

  13. I don't see why a Professor of the New Testament shouldn't devote his time, energy and talent to providing a comprehensive biblical understanding of one of the most complex, contentious and important salvation issues of the day. Would we criticise a political economist for ignoring numerous contemporary political problems, because he spent a lifetime investigating the worldwide effects of an important issue like the privatisation of public utilities?

    "Another critic has said Gagnon argues his case, moralistically and legally but without much sense of the grace of the Gospel".

    I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean, or why it's relevant to the question of whether he's right about what the Bible says. It sounds to me like the response of a person who can't refute Gagnon's arguments, but still wants to go on saying that "the Bible isn't clear", and so portrays robust defence of a theological position as somehow unkind and unchristian, in the hope that that painting Gagnon as a "mean old conservative" will discredit him, and save revisionists the trouble of actually getting to grips with his scholarship. In other words, an ad hominem, a distraction from the issue at hand, just like all the sound and fury about his citation of Cameron.

    Gagnon argues systematically, learnedly and thoroughly; that is not the same as arguing legalistically or moralistically.

    In the Christian theological understanding, "grace" doesn't mean being nice to people and never offending them, or ignoring uncomfortable facts. The vocation of the theologian is to explore, discover and communicate Truth; in this context that means answering the question "what is the view of the Bible on whether homosexual behaviour is holy and pleasing to God?"

    Helping people to live their lives in accordance with that Truth is a different question entirely (see my posts above).

    • Wicked Conservative (with that title,don't suppose you're Simon Heffer? very much your enjoyed your biography of Enoch Powell if so! ;-))

      Gagnon himself cites Cameron as part of an anti-gay case. Critics responding to this *data* and its implications are hardly engaging in ad-hom. For the record, I take Gagnon at his word (what all the alternatives?) when he says that he is motivated by love and a desire to save people from eternal destruction. And Gagnon's *secular* arguments against homosexuality very much are the stuff of days before homosexuality was decriminalised. I don't deny that religious objection to particular behaviours need not entail actual persecution but would you deny, looking dispassionately at the historical record, that it usually *has* when it comes to homosexuals? So those who are wary about the implications of certain rhetoric are hardly engaging in alarmism or mindless ad hom. Depressingly, when Sarah Palin used the term 'blood libel' recently to describe her critics lately, it struck me that she probably, like some in conservative US evangelicalism, either didn't know what it meant or what the big deal is anyway.

      Gagnon himself compares consenting homosexuality to incest and (IIRC, so apologies if this is wrong) paedophilia, both of which are criminalised. So critics can rightly say that his ideology, irrespective of its relationship to biblical scholarship, very much is the stuff that lead gays to be persecuted ( pretty sure that Gagnon, at one point, even said that engaging in homosexuality might well be legitimate grounds for dismissal, as it gross immortality and so misconduct).

      • ryan,

        People dealing with sexual ethics are not free to avoid discussing incest, pedophilia, and rape – and when they do, they are inevitably smeared as "comparing homosexuality with these things" as if homosexuality weren't sexuality at all.

        If there is indeed a new "ideology" being formulated here, I would be interested in having a general sketch of the framework pointed out.

        Nonetheless, I find Marx very interesting and quote him, though in general I also disagree with his ideology.

        It seems that the latest trend in avoiding Gagnon's arguments is to paint him as a virulent ideologue, the very mention of which should discredit one – much the same tactic of trying to smear anyone who mentions Cameron.

        Can't you see how this is not helpful to reason? People involved in reasoned conversation may not always be saying things which are fit for a classroom of third graders, yes, people who are overly sensitive can get hurt.

        But ryan, please avoid becoming one of these oversensitive types – you are too smart, and too fun to talk with. The "gay fundies" are … rather boring and violent. This is beginning to remind me of tiny, isolated, hyper-conservative Christian circles where people get all uncomfortable when one mentions Karl Marx or Charles Darwin.

        Wasn't Karl Marx really terribly obsessed, always going on and on about the proletariat? After all, he barely ever had anything to say about literature, botany, or sail boats. And he wrote these REALLY LONG letters, and what he said about capitalists, well … just so shameful!

    • Hello WC. I think it is the apparent *limitation* of interest that worries people. He has appeared on YouTube and also accepts speaking engagements but always with the same theme. There is a lot more to the New Testament than homosexuality and nothing in the Gospels (unless you count the Centurion and his servant?). It seems that many evangelicals prefer Paul's writings to the Gospels even if liturgically (at least in the Catholic Church) the Gospels take precedence.

      This comment in a spat between Gagnon and Marin over Marin's book *Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community* caught my eye, not for the original (ad hominem?) accusation that it contained but for the verbal fall-out:

      "Observe what happens (pages 22-26) when “John from Arizona (a born-again Christian and a brother in Christ)” sends him an email of a mere 48 words insinuating Gagnon is a closet homosexual. Gagnon responds with over 400. John replies again with 500 words and Gagnon in turn sends him a staggering 1,600 words. A university professor who invests so much time and energy into responding to what at the end of the day is internet bickering is not in a secure place."

      You can read the rest and judge for yourself. (I am the mere messenger who should not be whipped with wire or stewed in brine.)

      "Marin Dismisses Criticisms, Irks Anti-Gay Scholar Gagnon"
      http://www.exgaywatch.com/wp/tag/robert-gagnon/

      • As someone who is frequently wordy myself, I can certainly understand providing ample writing in response to what appears to be a simple question. The ways we tend to think about things are often surrounded by prejudices which need to be undermined.

        This article looks again more like "Gagnon isn't a nice guy … he must be repressed, he's writing so much in response to people who claim he's a repressed gay." Yet another instance of a very, very, very sketchy character assassination. Do they bring up what he said as a response? No. Yes, I can imagine that if one wants to attack the issue of "being a repressed gay," that one might use a lot of words in doing so.

        The article then also brings up one Gagnon quote as a "BIG RED FLAG" where he complains that a book regarding the gay stuff doesn't cite a single one of his articles. I would probably have said the same – that in ignoring Gagnon, it's ignoring the figure known to have done the best and most exhaustive work on this subject, and therefore hardly worth reading. Of course, when Gagnon says it, it sounds more "suspicious" and "juicy."

        Note also that it's on a "watchdog" site which is monitoring ex-gay people. Shouldn't this alone be a bit of a RED FLAG of a site that's not going to provide a "charitable reading," and rather one which will attempt character assassinations?

        Even if we establish very clearly: "Robert Gagnon is a flamingly repressed closeted gay dude with utterly hateful opinions who is totally driving himself nuts by writing all these arguments …" – those arguments, if they are viable, are viable. There is nothing wrong with quoting the Marquis de Sade when he has a unique argument for something that is pertinent; the same applies for Adolph Hitler. Though saying something about our not generally commending the source might be in order.

  14. I admit to not having read all the posts on this thread, as I am finding it too confusing, being a simple soul, so forgive me if I am repeating anybody. I don't think I agree with you, Peter, that medical arguments should not influence arguments on same-sex behaviour. After all, God designed the human body, and if it is put to misuse, as in smoking, anal sex, etc, there are usually unfortunate repercussions. If God had intended these things to take place he would have designed us differently and we wouldn't become ill.

    • Then with all due respect, perhaps yourself or Carl can explain why males have vastly superior orgasms via prostate stimulation, which is not achieved in old fashioned vaginal penetration (obviously) but *is* through passive anal sex? Negates the argument-from-design argument somewhat! (for males. I suppose someone could argue that women have gspots and not prostates so anal sex is against God's design for them. But then feminists famously pointed out that positions that best lead to female orgasms – clitoral stimulation etc – are hardly synonymous with the 'normal' ones (missionary etc) that were a feature of patriarchal societies for centuries.

      • The suffering of millions and millions of men should tell us that the argument-from-design falls flat on its face when you consider the situation of the prostate around the urethra. What an idiot bit of designing that is!

        And, ryan, the clitoris is the only human organ that is designed for pleasure and nothing else. It has nothing to do with reproduction.

        • I think that there's something quite spiritually profound that the clitoris is, as you suggest, the only human organ that purely exists for pleasure. I would love to begin exploring how it's presence in the female (and no such equivalent existing in the male) is part of how husband and wife in their sexual union demonstrate aspects of the union of Christ and the Church, but I fear to advance into such territory would cause some in another place to go absolutely apoplectic.

          • That would be a fascinating discussion but the fact that developmentally the cells that make the clitoris in the female become the glans in the male which is plumbed for both ejaculation and voiding makes me less convinced of the 'complementarity' arguments. I heard or read, can't quite remember where, on a discussion about female genital mutilation, aka female circumcision, that one of the reasons for the radical clitoridectomy in some cultures was that men were uncomfortable with the fact that the clitoris looks like the glans and they don't want to put their penis against a lookey-likey one. I don't know if the clitoris really causes such angst in some men. I wrote on another thread in answer to you, Peter, that I thought Paul's Christ Bridegroom/Church Bride trope depended on the lucky accident that ekklesia in Greek is a feminine noun. But is actually goes beyond that to the evolution of the sexes which I think is entirely a matter of evolution.

            Jill, you said something above about our bodies were designed by God for specific purposes that certain activity abused. I am sorry I should have posted my response to you there but forgive me as it fits in with what I am saying here. I want to say No, our bodies were not "designed" by anyone, not God, least of all Jehovah of the Bible – and neither was the complementarity of the sexes, so Paul's argument has no final moral definition. It is just a nice analogue.

            By the way, the argument about intelligent design has been completely blown out of the water even though Michael Behe and William Dembski soldier on. Even the Vatican accepts that evolution is true. Anyone who doubts it should read Neil Shubin's *Your Fish Within* or Jerry Coyne's *Why Evolution Is True*. (I don't want to go off-topic too much, though.)

    • Technically, didn't God also (originally!) design us so we wouldn't get ill? We live in a fallen world. And few conservative evangelicals would today say that the physical trials that women undergo during pregnancy are a literal manifestation of the course of Eve – let alone start talking about whether people who get cancer through poor choices deserve their fate – so it's curious (and puzzling) that same-sex sexuality is privledged in this way. Again – not to be vulgar – I'm pretty sure that a women who gave blowjobs to all and sundry might get some nasty STDs, but that hardly means that the act of fellatio itself is intrinsically disordered, with in-built punishments for those who defy God's design.

    • Jill, is smoking immoral, like anal sex? The Bible doesn't condemn it because the writers didn't know anything about tobacco. But if they had would they have objected (on medical grounds)? I don't think any of the Bible's condemnations are based on medical grounds though I have heard modernJews justify not eating pork, or not mixing meat and milk, and circumcision on such grounds. I think this is an anachronistic fallacy.

      • A confession:

        James is a wicked smoker.

        At times, this helps me identify with some of the things gay people experience in the church. In some quarters, there is quite a lot of animus against smokers. Though I must admit in many ways, perhaps most, it is really a "class apart" in the way the church deals with sin and those it suspects to be dealing with sin.

        No, Scripture doesn't condemn smoking, and I'm not sure it would even if Jews had a lot of beautiful, luscious tobacco plants growing all over the place. But this is also somewhat contrived – whether "it conceivably would be" or not – it isn't, and that's what for me here is important.

        It is surprising how many of Scripture's prohibitions do indeed have "medical" or rather "health" grounds, especially the dietary ones – pork (trichonosis), shellfish (unhealthy except in cold weather). I don't find this anachronistic at all. However, it's important to point out: many don't have anything to do with protection or health. They're rather things God asked of His people – period.

  15. Incidently, Peter, I'm wondering if the fact you closed the "A Consversation" thread on 69 comments to subtly proclaim the primacy of *safer* sex positions over back door joys…. ;-)

    • In one word, no.

      It was mainly because we seemed to be going over the same ground again.

      And seeing that I've put up an entry form for "Ask Peter" and that you encouraged it, don't you think that you ought to? Ask, that is.

      • Well, I did suggest resurrecting Ask Peter because it was , objectively speaking, a good feature for the blog and other people – not to be an attention hog! However, appreciate point, so will post a question today.

  16. I'm beginning to think I must lead a very sheltered life, Cerebusboy! I can't answer your question, I'm afraid, never having been a male.

    I always thought male and female were designed for reproduction, to perpetuate the species, not so that they could get the maximum jollies from superior orgasms! Silly me! (Of course, He had to make sex enjoyable, otherwise nobody would bother.)

    • But if 'the' purpose of sex is reproduction, then surely the fact that most heterosexual encounters don't end in babies means that the straights, not the gays, ought to be singled out for defying God's purpose ! I know that people talk of a single 'Orthodox' view of sexuality, but it seems to me that the Roman Catholic view and the evangelical one (evidenced in e.g. Mark Driscoll's eisegis of Song of Songs) are quite distinct (plus, evangelicals are down with masturbation whereas the Catholic view necessarily prohibits it). I'm sure I actually read something once where the guy said that the Lambeth Conference accepting the legitimacy of birth control pills was the first step on the slippery slope that lead to churches blessing homoshenanigans.

      • I agree, ryan, once they did that they lost the argument then before it really began – and that is why the pope won't relent on birth-control (condoms) for straight couples but was prepared to allow it in the case of a gay male HIV+ prostitute. It has occurred to me that a serio-discordant straight couple might employ the rhythm method to ascertain when they could use a condom with the pope's blessing. He hasn't spelled it out so far, though.

        • Indeed. Although I always thought that an objective look at the facts suggested that masturbation is acceptable; the human male, afterall, produces far more sperm than he can ever hope to spaff up a spouse! And doubtless it could be argued that the idea that a wife should be ready, willing and able to relieve a husband's sexual tension whenever it, er, arises is problematically misogynist or at least anti-feminist? In fairness, I have read some evangelical sites which , trying to create a system as logical as the Catholic version when it comes to sexuality, say that masturbation is ok for married guys because they can think of their wives and so are not 'lusting' in the biblical sense. But, human male sexuality being what it is, surely a husband can still (albeit perhaps unconsciously) think of his wife in an objectifying (and so selfish/lustful) way?

          • I find it odd that some Evangelicals think married men can masturbate but not single teenagers. What would the wives say? Dan Savage though, says that wives who don't want sex shouldn't be forced to as Stephen Green wishes he could, but should graciously help her husband to masturbate beside her if his sex demands are greater than hers.

            The Catholic Church used the story of Onan wrongly as a disincentive to the mortal sin of masturbation. I think it still is viewed as mortal but I expect they've dropped calling it onanism. Isn't the stuff about non-vaginal sex being frowned on in ancient cultures about wasting the precious seed? One of the explanations of the Levitical prohibition was said to be precisely that. (Another was "That's what the Canaanites do and we don't want to be like THEM". Another case of le Vice Anglais?) The Ancient Greeks believed that the male sperm contained all that was necessary to make a human being. The mother was the seed-bed only, an old-world surrogate really. I think the Ancient Israelites had the same idea. In a tribe fighting to maintain its numbers in the face of neo-natal deaths and all the rest of the horrors of warfare and sickness taking off the young it was every man to the pump and no room for the luxury of non-productive sex on the side. If that is indeed how is was those times have gone and so has the justification for maintaining the Levitical proscriptions, along with wool-linen mixes and shrimps.

            • The problem with masturbation isn't really the pysical processes involved. As you quite rightly point out, the semen has to go somewhere. The problem often comes with the fantasy life that goes with masturbation. It's this fantasy life that leads to the feelings of guilt and the development of a sexuality that is inward focussed centred around self gratification rather that gratification of the other. That then makes it a spiritual issue connected with the "Christ/Church" model of "correct" sexual activity.

              Refraining from masturbation is often an interesting spiritual exercise because it is connected with the general notion of the surrender of the self to God.

              • How common is this pathological or at least theologically problematic fantasy life? It's easy to laugh at those who say (as I remember reading on an evangelical page) that masturbation is ok as long as you don't think about sex, but it does represent a brave and necessary attempt to distinguish an act from the psychic acts that accompany it (in contrast to the wanking-turns-you-blind! victorian nonsense). James Dobson (IIRC) got some stick for saying that it's ok for adolescent boys to masturbate, but rather than criticising that position as an example of antigay hypocricy, it seemed laudably commonsensical to me. How can conservatives expect to raise heterosexual kids if the boys aren't allowed to acknowledge and act on natural and so necessarily heterosexual urges (of course, it would be a strawman to claim this logic could be used to justify fornication; which is explicitly condemned in scripture in a way masturbation is not). The evidence – (c.f. personality disorders, especially the schizoid and schizotypal ones) might suggest that avoiding masturbation is more likely to screw a kid up than indulging in moderation?
                Some masturbator-condemners cite Our Lord's words on adultery in the heart to show the sinful nature of masturbation. But I'd argue that most bible-believing evangelical churches hardly live with a focus on the full implications of that quote's logic. For example: marriage, biblically, is upheld as an ideal. So heterosexual dating is important. But, human physiology being what it is, surely a straight guy hanging out with hot evangelical women (even if he doesn't engage in full-blown fornication) is liable to get aroused, no? How is that fleeing from lust? The odds are that the *first* woman from a guy dates is not going to end up as his wife (amusingly, I know of a guy who spend over 12 years making his way through every single woman in the congregation, and is now back where he started and getting married . Bit like Cinderella ;-)). So it's not like he can justify lust on the grounds that he's 'lusting' after a women who will probably become his wife (thereby retroactively sanctifying such urges) . Is the idea that dating women might well increase the *temptation* to engage in fornication, but it offers the promise of being able to have sex in a way acceptable to God (marriage), so is a risk worth taking? I think you'd agree that guys can lust after anything, and it does seem strange to me that some guys will go about with their eyes on the ground for fear of seeing attractive woman, and make a point of avoiding TV and movies that might have sex in them, but still go headlong into the (albeit Christian) dating scene. Typing this, it strikes me that there might be something almost insulting in implying that Real Life Christian Women are somehow supposed to be less erection-conducive than mere images on TV or billboards!
                And, if the sin of masturbation relates to fantasy, what about the fact that a guy who has a kind of preemptive one of the wrist, but otherwise doesn't think about sexual matters, might have an overall 'cleaner' consciousness than the guy who *doesn't* indulge but spends 24 hours a day thinking about sex? Is that just the kind of justification that say an alcoholic would use, saying that crippling hangovers mean he perceives the quiddity of alcohol better than a social drinkers who has suffered no ill-effects? I realise that Jesus had lustful thoughts and overcame them, but obviously the uniqueness of Christ means that it's dangerous to make too much of "WWJD?" arguments. Is a guy who thinks of sex but doesn't indulge guilty of idolatry? ( his thoughts showing where his 'treasure' is?) And is saying 'dont' think about sex' even useful advice? Sounds a bit like the famous trick (perhaps of Tolstoy, I forget) of saying 'Don't think of a white bear' (ensuring that one of course thinks of a white bear. But men don't need any outside influence to have lots of sex-focussed thoughts!)

                • I suppose a lot of this is the question, "How do we avoid unwanted thoughts about sex, and other lustful thoughts?"

                  It most certainly isn't the "don't think of a white bear" advice.

                  I've had periods of life which have been characterized by lots of thinking about sex, looking at women in the wrong way, and flogging the dolphin. I've also had periods of life characterized by relatively little of the above.

                  It would be difficult for me to respond in the space of a single comment how to achieve freedom from unwanted lustful thoughts and accompanying behavior.

                  One point of exegesis that needs to be added to what you say here is: Christ told us that when we look upon a woman *in order to lust* – that we are engaging in "adultery of the heart." This is quite different from the odd lustful thought that every once in a while crosses our minds. It's when we act on that lustful thought in pursuing more things to arouse more lust that we are in trouble.

                  For the guy wishing to date the nice girl – if the main reason he meets her is to indulge in lust, then yes, Christ's words apply to him – and if the girl is smart, she will notice this and decline his next invitation. If the guy is simply very happy to see her – it's rather normal for him to feel stimulated in some way. But this doesn't need to include mentally undressing her or imagining he's having sex with her. If he's in this place, he needs some help from friends.

                  No, we don't always have to act on urges. You should read Foucault's preface "We Other Victorians" in his first volume of the History of Sexuality. You are, as is still very common, operating from within the Victorian "repressive theory" that tends to see all refraining from acting-out as some kind of repression which makes the problem worse. Granted – there are types of ideation and behavior which do have this effect. But I'd guess that one of the most powerful forms of ideation which encourages such actual repression and making-the-problem-worse is the belief, "oh look and now I am repressing it! oh no I am repressing a natural urge, oh no what's gonna happen to me!" Here, we lose faith in our very freedom of self-control and thereby are likely to lose our ability to control ourselves as well … with our subconscious playing all sorts of nasty tricks on us. I don't believe that we had pictures of the sexually repressed individual before the 19th century.

                  Dealing with lust isn't simple, so I won't attempt to deal with it here. But it would surprise me if your pastor doesn't have a good way of discussing such and praying with your fellow parishoners regarding lust.

                  Re. what we teach kids about masturbation & fantasizing – it's important in the first place that they realize that we will love them no matter what they do; and that God forgives – and that His forgiveness is more profound than we usually realize. If they are able to find a good Christian friend with whom they can talk about what happens, who can pray with them – the very fact that they are confessing what they do before another will help a great deal, and they will be much more likely to eventually feel relatively free of lustful thoughts, fantasies, and masturbation.

                  It is NOT natural to always follow one's urges. The sexual urge is not always more prominent than other urges – one can also fantasize about anger or one's sense of being hurt, which are also very unhelpful. As long as we tell ourselves, "it's only natural that I feel like a victim …" etc. etc. and do nothing to avoid this form of thinking, completely ignoring our own part in this mind game … we won't succeed in becoming something other than a victim.

                  • James

                    Interesting stuff – and certainly masturbation and lust is often a sticky subject for many Christians.

                    An Orthodox priest friend of mine once complained to me that he hates hearing confessions of young men because they tend to go on and on about masturbation. Once the subject has been mentioned my friend usually tells the young man to move on and talk about other aspects of his spiritual life, rather than getting bogged down in sexual issues.

                    I think there is something specifically galling for the ‘devout’ soul, or those coveting ‘wholeness’ and the silencing of emotions and desires which tend to reveal s/he is not quite as ‘holy’ as s/he would like to be – and moreover that it seems sexuality in particular is rather inconvenient in that it can’t be ‘willed’ into silence. I agree with you that it is not always ‘natural’ to follow one’s urges. I have stopped myself from thinking about certain things simply because I think they can be the slippery slope nastier and selfish expressions of sexuality.

                    Yet for some, I think problems with sexual desire can be indicative of a temptation deep at the heart of religious belief. That is the temptation to want to worship at the idol of the self. Here I don’t mean in sexual sense, but rather the desire to strive to create a ‘perfect’ self, where inconvenient emotions and desires are stilled and we can become the person we want to become. Alas this isn’t necessarily ‘Christian’ – one of the problems I have with much that passes for ‘spiritual’ advice and direction (particularly evident in the religious ‘penny-dreadfuls’ that line the shelves of many a Christian bookshop) is that the template for wholeness has few discernable differences with the ‘happy’ and ‘whole’ successful individual that is the goal of much middle-class life in Western, Capitalist societies. The fact that much of the emphasis is concerned with gaining equilibrium between the inner self and its environment smacks more of psychology than Christianity.

                    Patristic and ascetical theology suggest a tension between the inner self and its environment is natural and that in some ways this our taste of the ‘groaning of the Kingdom’. Eschatological theology cannot condone the desire for inner tranquillity. Hence temptation and how it is dealt with are part and parcel of the life of Christian. The problems come when we make ‘idols’ out of certain ‘sins’ and happily ignore others. I have known celibates who may win a prize in the ‘I’m not giving into temptation below the belt’ stakes and yet are very poor examples of loving their neighbour.

                    As regards homosexuality, I do rather bore of the issue of sex and particularly bum sex. My same-sex partner and I have been together for seven years and as with many couples sex plays and increasingly smaller and smaller part of our relationship. For me, celibacy was not the problem, it was loneliness – and until churches can really provide fellowship and support for celibates – and celebrate them instead of marginalise them – loneliness more than sexual problems (as the latter is often a symptom of the former) is the real issue.

                    What I am trying to say in this rambling reply is that sexual problems are often the pus from a much deeper sore. But as for masturbation, almost all of us do it and I would go as far as to say I think it is only a sexual problem if you do get wrapped up in guilt and shame. To return to my first point, the real issue is why we feel guilt and shame? If the answer is because we can’t be the person we want to be, then perhaps there is either some misconception of what it means to be human or a misunderstanding as to what it means to be a Christian – tho’ surely these are the same?

                    Just one final point, I would advise caution when it comes to Foucault. Although I use many of his ideas in my own academic work, and recommend them to students, I question his historical accuracy and therefore what he infers from situations that may not have happened quite as he says – this is particularly true in History of Sexuality Vol 1

                    • Alathia,

                      Thanks for your response.

                      Much agreed on Foucault's inaccuracies and his tendencies to embroider reality. I can't vouch for any of the facts in "We Other Victorians." I should advise people when reading this to realize that the most interesting facts may be … a bit fictive. Nonetheless, it's a powerful antidote to "the repressive theory." The various "facts" he brings up are not important – it's rather recognition of the prominence of "the repressive theory" in discourse, and how we still act-out upon it, despite the actual sexual freedom which we have. I do believe that debunking the repressive theory itself can go a long way toward freedom from excessive lust, in those cases of persons who are still caught up in it. And in my experience, most still are.

                      The repressive theory may also be one of the things which causes a lot of gay self-hatred. I.e., "this is what I *am* – and it is natural, thus I can do nothing about that – and I am forced to choose between repression and acting out." And the means society offers for dealing with repression – purgation through denouncing the sexual repression of others – is rather empty and unsatisfying, with no long-term results.

                      What may have prevented many from having fully understood the implications of this chapter is failure to see how profoundly our consciousness is shaped by culture – that we tend to be whatever we have imbibed from culture. This is one of the reasons the repressive theory is able to kick around for so long while being so illogical and contradictory – how we think has a lot more to do with how people around us think, than it does coherence or rationality.

                      The fact of the matter is – you or I may do more or less whatever we want sexually with another adult (provided it is consensual), and no one is likely to make a fuss about it – unless of course we have taken on relations with a church or other organization which has guidelines regarding sexual activity. We are in no way "repressed." Nonetheless, we still feel that we somehow have to exorcize that "repression" demon by acting out, or else denouncing how others are so repressed, in order to convince ourselves and convince others that we are truly sexually liberated and free. And of course, this usually ends up being a rather empty gesture, convincing us for a moment, but usually requiring repetition to stave off the fear that we might actually be repressed, and not sexually free. Thus it ends up becoming a kind of compulsive behavior, not unlike that of the sexual addict. And, if one thinks about it, it's those who are most tied up with denouncing the sexual repression in others who are themselves the most steeped in battle with these demons of internal sexual repression.

                      * * * * *

                      I agree with you that in many, dealing with the problems of guilt – and how they deal with guilt – is probably the first thing to be dealt with, rather than directly speaking of lust & masturbation. We need to engender habits of thankfulness to God and of praise. These I think are the most powerful in helping people avoid acting upon lustful impulses. It's not a matter of saying, "don't think of the white bear" – it's a matter of finding things to thank God for, and remembering that we are created in His image. This is especially necessary when we begin in self-flagellating type behavior – and burying ourselves in guilt for whatever reason. Masturbation, especially when it is compulsive, is frequently self-flagellatory behavior. That, combined with a chemical stimulant which can temporarily provide a sense of peace and satisfaction. The chemical stimulant produced in the brain can become addictive, and encourage various sorts of associations. It's a matter then of also finding ways of breaking those associations.

                      Peter, if you still haven't, you should read "We Other Victorians" in the first volume of the History of Sexuality by Foucault. This book is often cited as the most important philosophical work in its influence on the gay movement. I think, however, as one who doesn't believe the church should bless same-gender sex acts, that it can be powerful reading for all "camps," and that the introduction especially is worth considering for someone who helps others struggle with lust.

                    • One of the evidences I suppose we can bring with this is the question: "Who is repressing our sexuality? Who is attempting to foster guilt for various sex acts? Is it 'the church'? And if it is 'the church,' then – where, how, some quotes please?"

                      I haven't experienced very much attempted generation of guilt from within the church. I hear some discourses on struggling with guilt, yes. I do hear about guilt with regards to adultery, but that is more about unfaithfulness than it is about sex.

                      Society still needs "the church" in order to prop up this myth of the repressive theory, in order to justify society's long sermons and heavy exhortations about how awful we are for tolerating all of this sexual repression – in order to ensure that the jokes we make about sexual repression are still funny, in order to keep everyone in line of agreement that sexually, the one thing we really need is more freedom and removing the (fictive) evil forces of sexual repression. This is, in many ways, or dominant paradigm regarding sexuality.

                      But this comes at great cost. This also works together with the tendency of seeing sexuality as "identity" and it causes some who have unwanted feelings of lust, to feel: "this is what I am – and if I do not do this, I am somehow repressing myself and creating within myself a nasty monster which is likely to spout fundamentalism during the daytime, and commit violent sexual deeds at night."

                      This is such a false, ugly, and when we come down to it – silly picture. It's a Hollywood sort of archetype that works well in movies, but for which we have rather few genuine exemplars in life – who, when they exist, are probably also in their own ways, slaves to "the repressive theory." They probably actually believe that somehow not acting out is repressive – and end up feeling terribly repressed because of this notion. It's the idea which is largely responsible for guilt, inner turmoil, and the actual fact of repression.

                      This is not to say, "repression never happens without the repressive theory" – but simply that repression doesn't fit this picture, of occurring by simply failing to act out on urges. There are no voices shouting out at us in the streets that what we do and are is sexually loathesome, whether we like men or like women – but if we believe ourselves to be repressed (as Hollywood often suggests – and is enough of a popular meme), then we are likely to be engaged in some rather sorry struggles with things we don't understand, which may well end up in hidden thoughts and behaviors – i.e., repressed ones.

  17. There seems to be medical evidence that those men who masturbate regularly as less prone to prostate cancer. Neither Buddhist monks nor Catholic ones are supposed to masturbate so I think this is another chink in the idea that religion has got it right all the time, or for that matter that, the 'designer' arranged the mechanism and then forbad its use.

    • Tom, smoking helps soothe the nerves – but has other side effects. We're never promised that living according to God's commandments will make us healthier and happier immediately, in every possible way. E.g. here – we have a single health issue – prostate cancer – which a study claims is reduced in men who masturbate regularly. But perhaps men who masturbate regularly then tend to experience more incidences of testicular cancer? This is simply how "organisms" work. More pressure in one area, will have beneficial effects for some things, but then negative effects for other things. Smokers don't get colds as often as non-smokers.

      I rarely speak with guys about masturbation, but I do find that reducing masturbation can help reduce lust impulses. I don't find Scripture on Onan adequate to put masturbation in my list of "high ranking priorities" for Christian life – I feel that Scripture would have been clearer about this if it were something we needed to prioritize more.

      FYI, I'm not sure that guys from all cultures have the same issues with masturbation that we westerners do. A Chinese friend of mine considers masturbation very strange and quite revolting, and he seems to be convinced that very few men actually engage in it. I think he really believes this, too, and it's not some kind of "repressed response" or show. But then again, sexual discourse is not as prominent in China, where he was born and spent young adulthood. And discourse (plus behavior) tends to shape who we are sexually. Sexual desire is largely mimetic.

      I realize that a similar argument could be made regarding lesbianism in Scripture – that "it's not all that clear." However, I think the intent of Scripture is clear enough. Women who are not stimulated by culture to engage in actual same-sex intimacies are, I believe, much less likely to do so than men. Men in general have more difficulty containing sexual urges and are more likely, e.g., to act out sexually with other men when confined in prison. It was also assumed that Scripture would primarily be read by men – as those educated to read were in general men. This is a trait in many languages – note how we refer to a "mailman" etc., or sentence constructions like, "If someone wants a sandwich, he should go to .." – with the assumption that this also applies to women.

      This makes it difficult for women today because lesbianism is not "literally" condemned in the same "black-and-white" manner in the Old and New Testaments. However, Jewish readers were not such "literalists" as we tend to be today. They were more likely to make connections – and less likely to say, "well, it isn't STRICTLY forbidden, so it must be okay!" Rather they were concerned at determining God's will. There wasn't even a notion of a "formula" or "formulaic readings" – all readings involved a much richer understanding of semantics than we today tend to have, in our drive toward ever more specific and technical vocabulary. So when they read, "Men who lie together in a bed" (knowing this means sex) – they probably would have rather immediately understood this also to apply to women engaging in sexual intimacy. Language doesn't always "mean" what its "literal parts" are taken to be – so very likely, this odd word "men who lie together in beds" really "meant" (in how people experienced the meaning of this word) to mean – the "underground railroad" during the civil war was not a kind of subway.

  18. Some general remarks on this thread –

    It would help to get a better hold on the general notion of "teleology" or "ends" and final causes as classically laid out in Aristotle's Metaphysics – Alistair MacIntyre's book "After Virtue" I believe also does a good job of explaining this. It's more than just Aristotle or MacIntyre – really, it's a general way of thinking about things that is rather universal to consciousness and thought – only we tend to lose track of teleology when we develop finely honed technical arguments for things in a "foundationalist" ("bottom-up, deductive") manner. It's a way of saying sometimes we miss the forest for the trees.

    Reproduction is certainly a part of the general telos of sexuality. The question is, what should follow from this thought? The Catholic Church answers by more or less saying that nothing should be done to consciously prevent reproduction when we engage in sex acts. However, this doesn't prevent the "rhythm method" and "natural" means of avoiding reproduction based on refraining from sex at times of fertility, since such is not actively preventing reproduction while engaging in sex. I'm not Catholic, I'm just trying to explain the Catholic position.

    Saying that reproduction is part of the general telos of sexuality doesn't exclude other things from being a part of this general end, like enjoyment, or enhancing one's sense of connection and loyalty to one's partner.

    We are sometimes – forgive the word here – in danger of getting rather "anally retentive" in hashing out all the various possible consequences of things, without having fully evaluated what needs to be in place in the whole picture.

    We see this sometimes going on in this thread … e.g., "Catholics say sex is for reproduction, but then …" – when – well, yes, they do say it's for reproduction, but this is not the WHOLE picture of what Catholics say it's for – and it does not mean, e.g., that Catholics don't think one experiences enjoyment while having sex.

    I'm also thinking now of Tom's words regarding Gagnon, climaxing with the Walter Wink quote about the "Christian right" creating a "neutron bomb" for the purposes of annihilation. It would seem to me that, all pieces of the puzzle in place, this type of rhetoric would be much more apt regarding gay activists who seem to be attempting legislation regarding … what almost amounts to thought control … where any argument about interpretation of Scripture and sex ethics which doesn't rigidly adhere to the gay activist view, somehow automatically becomes a pernicious hate crime – meaning such a person should at least lose their job, and possibly be jailed, simply to prevent such views from being expressed in society. That said – I would never speak of the "Gay activists" wielding a "neutron bomb" for the purposes of annihilation – and if I did use these terms, I would fully expect Pete, Jill, and Wicked Conservative to call me out on this, and implore me to re-consider, retract, and apologize. Nota bene: I appreciate Tom's contributions, and know that he is much too intelligent not to see how this is problematic – I'll chalk this up to "impassioned discourse" and the blindness it occasionally engenders.

    There are things which can make a great deal of sense when removed from the larger context in "atomic reasoning." This is like Fundamentalist "cherry-picking" of Scripture. But it tends to be blind – and we find that such conclusions can't be drawn when it becomes clear that the "atoms" we use as arguments are actually taken out of context and can not be reasonably interpreted in such a manner. We often need to think more in terms of the whole end – and remember that this is a part of God's glorious creation, and His will for us. I do not mean by this to "pre-judge" what God's will is in the one way or another – but simply, that we do the best we can to understand its fullness, and not think of it in terms of a lot of very little "though shalt this and not that." The Bible does contain a lot of "though shalt" language, but it is not intended in the "modern" sense – like a law text – to thoroughly stipulate every possibility and block out every possible "loophole." We must read it as informing a greater picture of God's will for us, and not as a kind of series of instructions for synthesizing a chemical compound. In short, we must refrain from projecting too much of our highly technical modernist reading tendency upon Biblical texts.

    • Tom, I'm thinking it wasn't a good idea of me above to "call out" this one quote of yours re. Walter Wink. When a big scholar like Wink makes a statement, one tends to assume it's legit enough, especially when many go repeating it; and one doesn't tend to dissect it critically. You certainly aren't the only one who have been taken by this Wink statement and quoted it regarding Gagnon, and I do know that you are a smart and informed commenter. I suppose I'm using this here as an example of how our discourse sometimes goes when we single in on certain things without considering the larger picture.

    • "….gay activists who seem to be attempting legislation regarding … what almost amounts to thought control … where any argument about interpretation of Scripture and sex ethics which doesn't rigidly adhere to the gay activist view, somehow automatically becomes a pernicious hate crime – meaning such a person should at least lose their job, and possibly be jailed, simply to prevent such views from being expressed in society".

      Really James, I am rather shocked that you can say this. Don't you think gay people in the end just want to be treated decently and the same as everyone else? They don't want people with a grudge concealing it under the protective cloak of religion or, worst of all, encouraging someone else to commit a violent crime because their freedom somehow give licence to consider gay people in some way deserving of getting beaten up. The old adage about sticks and stones simply is not true. There are gay activists of course, no one denies, just as there are Christian activists, but there is no such thing as one overriding Daily-Mailesque gay lobby out there. People allow themselves to get paranoid because of the massagings of the facts by the Christian Institute or Christian Concern For Our Nation. It's counterproductive; nothing turns ordinary non-church goers being Christian more than the outpourings of these activists and their Daily Mail supporters, I'd say.

      • Sorry you're shocked, Tom. I do think gay people in the end just want to be treated decently and the same as everyone else – but I suppose part of the question here is, e.g., if both you and I hold the position that Scripture does not condone homosexuality, should we thereby be prevented from being able to take part in certain careers, such as teaching?

        With hate speech like Walter Wink's condoned as completely acceptable and repeated, and giving the current firings / 5% of the maths curriculum being devoted to gay issues etc. etc., I wonder where we will be in a decade if we continue on this course.

        I have seen quite a few instances – some not reported by CI – of persons (usually Christians) being severely mistreated due to assumptions about them. They usually remain quiet about it. Those doing the mistreating usually realize, I think, that no one will try to put in a word to help correct the course of things – just as we aren't seeing any of Walter Wink's colleagues say, "neutron bomb … wipe out …? dude, chill a bit, maybe offer a few words of re-think on that one."

        My main concern in the church is with Christology, and it's quite rare that I say something regarding sexual ethics – but even in these discussions, I have prompted some to so harass the ministry work I was doing that I cut off contact with everyone for a few weeks, and discontinued that ministry altogether (though there were other reasons for quitting – but I probably would not have quit if it hadn't been for the harassment and my resulting depression). The words "homophobic" came up as part of the inspiration of the attack, the reasons given being utterly irrational, and not a word had been said about sexuality in general or homosexuality in particular. In the two years I spent in it, I had never once brought up sexual ethics publicly or with anyone I was helping out in prayer and discipleship – gay or straight – and many, many hours had also been spent helping gay people (without a word on sex ethics). I once also found myself in a position where a gay person was put under what I thought was unfair criticism (while conducting activism, trying to change a church's position on sexual ethics) and I defended him, to the point that the one criticizing simply left.

        I would suggest that incidents like this involving Christians occur more frequently than one would guess from reading CI, and that most things like this never end up being reported. It tends to be assumed – and I can understand this – that if someone is accused of "homophobia" or "gay-bashing," that asking for the claim to be investigated itself is somehow a "repressed" homophobia. I have seen people thinking they were simply, good-naturedly supporting gay rights say utterly hateful things about various groups – ALL in those groups, not only perpetrators of various forms of discrimination or hate speech – and no one bothers to point out the prejudice. Most Christians do NOT want their cases published in CI or to draw more criticism. Look for example at the case of the Christian B&B owners: numerous nasty phone calls and emails – the hospital where the guy was staying for treatment had to come up with a specific code to protect him from various persons trying to bother him by phoning him up while he was staying in hospital. They actually went to the trouble of finding out the phone number of the hospital to pester him (btw., the article I read on this was not from CI or any such "Christian" site). Christians tend to realize that if they complain about inappropriate accusations of homophobia and associated attacks, that they will end up as pariahs, and it's better to just knuckle down and weather it out. Have you known any gay couple to be bombarded by phone calls and emails, going so far as to target someone in a hospital? Have any gay organizations called upon the gay community to stop this behavior, or is it all good and legitimate gay activism?

        Think about the fact that there is an "exgaywatch" site – and how an eagle eye is kept on all people who have changed orientation, with various things published about them – go take a leak in a bar, find out later it's a gay bar – your name is out in exgaywatch.com. You can pretty much forget on any career that involves facing the public, you'd do much better in factory work. An ex-gay friend of mine who is in ministry says nothing about this – he once did, then a newspaper interviewed him, misquoted him, and made him out to be some kind of freak-show attraction.

        I do think that for Christians and gay people to live together peacefully, we will not only need to quit thinking that gay people are somehow deserving of getting beaten up – but that we will also need to revise our notion of "homophobia," and quit thinking that Christians deserve getting beaten up. There are many sectors of society where your belief, and my belief – that Scripture does not bless same-gender sex acts – could be interpreted as "homophobia" and result in one's losing one's job and livelihood. You wouldn't lose your job, since you're gay, so people would surely understand you weren't likely to do anything inappropriate – I however could. "What might such an awful homophobic person do?" It's a similar prejudice about gay teachers: "What might they do to the students?" Gay teachers who come on to under-age students shouldn't be teachers, period. Same goes for heterosexual teachers. Christians who pick on gays shouldn't be teachers either. Same goes for atheists. But having a belief in itself about sexual ethics, or a sexual inclination in itself, should not disqualify.

        I don't doubt that in some areas of the U.K., gay people are still taunted from time to time. But I am very happy with the way that in the internet world, this tends to be dealt with – that there is very little toleration of such. I'd guess that in the U.K., taunting and crimes inspired by orientation still occur – but not significantly more than for race, religion, sports team affiliation, class, etc. etc.. I am glad that there are special protections available for gay people, above and beyond some of these other things – but they also need to be approached reasonably. When such measures are used unthoughtfully, sometimes gay advocacy organizations publish things about "a triumph for gay rights" etc. etc.. – and in a way, yes, gay rights have triumphed – but we also need to be cognizant of the potential damage to the fabric of society, and to the rights of everyone.

        I don't think this will change for another five years, or maybe another decade. Gay groups and secularists don't seem to have the ethic of self-criticism that Christian groups do. When one Christian group is involved in something unseemly – it isn't uncommon for another Christian group to call them out. Gay advocacy groups need to develop a greater sense of charitable discussion.

        This is important for the very future of the UK as a multi-cultural country. In a few years, some metropolitan areas will be predominantly Muslim. Without better coordination and understanding with Christian groups, who will soon become a religious minority, we will have situations in these cities with Muslims vs. rather radical secularists who are virtually incapable of understanding religion, tout court. Christian groups, which could have provided some "buffer region" and models for living charitably in disagreement, will have been either repressed or discredited – either largely going underground (if laws require female and gay clergy for all Christian groups, and secularists succeed in making all Christian groups behave more or less as TEC, sort of like vaguely religious civil rights advocacy groups), or living publicly, but with the public fully aware that their teachings are more or less controlled by the state. Neither will be a credible enough party to mediate. Muslim voices are likely also to become more radical, feeling themselves to be the only major religion left in the U.K.. With a credible Christian presence in the U.K., you will at least have a mediating party which is able to ask both sides to calm down a bit in providing some middle ground.

        "They don't want people with a grudge concealing it under the protective cloak of religion or, worst of all, encouraging someone else to commit a violent crime" – I think that part of this is the problem with the "grudge." Yes, people have grudges, and it's best they remain private. We don't need the police trying to figure out which persons, or which groups, we may have grudges against, as long as we are capable of acting civilly and charitably. Many gay men have rather well-grounded grudges against Christians, especially given the behavior of certain Christians in previous decades. Obviously, from the public statements of many gay people, such grudges are tolerated, if not even actually encouraged. It can feel like a sort of internalized poetic justice – or throwing off the yoke of the oppressor. I most certainly see this. But on the other hand – if we consider views on Scripture and on religion regarding sexual behavior as grudges which the State must somehow investigate, and require one to be punished or silenced, even when discussed charitably and politely – we are moving into the area of "thought policing" and something which can't be dealt with adequately by law.

        So, no, if your thought on the matter requires rigid thought-policing of the work by the State, I must disagree with you. But I don't think that you actually do. But being on the "opposite end of the stick" as it were on issue of what the church should teach regarding sexuality – you are more sensitive than I am to the plight of gay people in the UK, but also less sensitive than I am to what some Christians are experiencing. I'd guess that if you saw more of it, you would probably agree that some self-regulation of gay rights organizations could be helpful.

        Given the radicality of some secularists, I also wonder where this is headed – are we likely to begin stigmatizing all churches who hold to the bodily resurrection and divinity of Christ as "dangerous fundamentalists?" Since such persons are much more likely to consult scripture for informing their ethics, and seem to be more similar to Christians who were once implicated in the Crusades, the inquisitions etc. etc.. than the "nice" Christians who believe that God is more or less a metaphor for civil rights campaigns? This may seem to you like a lot of neurotic prognostication … but I am noticing an increased lack of specificity and nuance in the general argumentation we tend to make in public about religion – and religion news coverage tends to be rather abyssmal when it comes to actually understanding faith and religious phenomena. Religion is also a prime source for the kind of scare-mongering which sells newpapers. Those so marginalized are then likely to regularly provide newspapers with tasty bits when they end up in freak-out type situations, with some very nasty quotes to legitimate their marginalization – just as newspapers like bringing in Fred Phelps and co at every available opportunity (while being very careful about avoiding quotes from gay people which could cast the gay community in a negative light, though simply looking at gay sites shows an abundance of such quotes as possible material – which, I must add, I am glad they don't quote, since I do not favor exposing gay people to discrimination – but I would also prefer that a similar standard be applied to Christians when they are in situations of possible discrimination).

        • Just a quick comment, James since I haven't time to address all the points you raise. Holy Orders are what Peter is in, aka priest, vicar, parson or clergyman. Technically, in the Catholic Church at least and I think this is mirrored in the Anglican and Episcopalian, the orders are, deacon, priest and bishop. That was my question – sorry I didn't want to say "Are you a Rev.?" That use of Rev drives me mad but the rot has crept in from the States.

          My many questions you felt you could not answer (re Abraham, Noah, Hell) and the rest really presuppose one general question about whether the God of the Bible can be good or not. My answer is no, he is far too selective in who he champions, far too arbitrary in what he calls 'sin', far too supportive of things like slavery, treating women as a husband's property, and things that are just plain wicked such as the Flood, or commanding the various genocides committed by the Israelites. Did the atrocities YHWH commanded really happen? No I don't think scholars think they did, but it reveals that the God of the OT was originally a war-god so why would he be a source for anything moral?

          Sorry, must break off now.

          • Thanks for your opinions on the Old Testament. But as I said, this is much too broad of a subject for me to do justice in a mere blog comment. Each of the issues you raise is legitimate food for thought, and would need to be dealt with separately, I can imagine each essay comprising 20 pages or more. I must caution that many of the treatments you have read very likely did not do these issues justice. One thing we must remember with the law given the Israelites under Moses is: it is law for transforming them into God's people – much of it civil law, for organizing a state. As such, much of that law is more for addressing the situation in which they found themselves, than it is "eternal" law reflecting that which is good in all times and all places. E.g. re. slavery: this is nothing like slavery as we typically know it from textbooks on American history. It was a way of dealing with persons which the state could not grant the freedom of ordinary citizens. In some societies, it encompassed a large portion of the population – say, similar to our own "wage earners" and typical employees. With the absence of contract law, for certain types of employment, one needed to live on the premises as a servant, bound to that service until such a time as one could pay for one's release. In other cases, slaves were like prisoners of war – when two states had gone to war, and members of the losing state were granted life, but the state did not wish to grant them the rights of full citizenship. In many (if not most) cases, slaves could own property – they could even become quite rich, much more wealthy than some "free" citizens. "Free" citizens were merchants who were capable of doing business, with the labor being done by the slaves. This was nothing like the horrors of slavery in the United States. So some such slaves were much better off than many employees in the United States and the U.K..

            Hannah Arendt's book "The Human Condition" is very good for describing slavery in some ancient societies – I believe primarily Greek and Roman. She categorizes "labour" together with slavery, and "work" with the occupation of free men and women – pointing out how we still tend to disparage "labour" even though it is necessary, and the similarity of slavery to our own labouring classes. Here in Belgium we even have separate laws governing the classes of labourers and clerical workers – all employees are one or the other.

            In providing a law for the Israelites, that law needed to be applicable and acceptable to the people. I suppose, if one is imaginitive, one could imagine a situation in which persons who were prisoners of war, in a state of drastic debt, or other such state could be afforded some other legal status which was a distinct word from the slavery of surrounding nations (peoples). But in such case, we would probably translate that word also simply as "slavery."

            Our distaste for slavery comes from: 1) the abominable institution as we know it from the United States, and some other modern places; 2) projecting contemporary needs, desires, and values upon ancient societies.

            It is very likely that without slavery, many would have either been killed, or unable to live where they wished to live. There simply would have been no legal construct to make this feasible.

            So: is slavery always bad? Answer: no, certainly not from an ancient perspective.

            God was in the process of calling His people to Him. The laws He ordained for them – at that time – could also not be utterly strange, abhorrent, and incomprehensible to them. So a man who rapes a woman – what is he to do? He pays her father a sum, and then is forced to marry her. Some would interpret this as the woman being his "property." But could he sell her then like a slave, was there a trade in women? No. Furthermore, men were required to make sure their women were properly "taken care of" (including sexual enjoyment). So were they property? No.

            It's important also that we do justice to the Israelites (and to God) when describing them and their laws.

      • "Don't you think gay people in the end just want to be treated decently and the same as everyone else?"

        Broadly speaking, yes, although like Peter I have reservations about the concept of a "a gay person". But there are a small number of politically influential gay activists who are setting out to punish, humiliate and marginalise traditionalist Christians.

        And – everyone – could we please, please stop with the Daily Mail-bashing. It's extremely tedious. Yes, the Daily Mail is a newspaper that disagrees with you on certain issues. Get over it. We all realise that you are morally superior to those dreary bourgeois suburbanites who don't read nice liberal newspapers. You don't need to go on about it.

        • The Daily Mail is criticised because it is the lowest form of gutter journalism that, crucially, poses as something else. C.f. the story about Stephen Gately that coined a new low in homophobic ad hom, claiming that sudden death from cardiac problems is a proof of the inherently destructive nature of gay relationships (!). Irrespective of one's politics, The Guardian's Poly Toynbee and The Daily Telegraph's argue for their convictions honestly and in a manner conducive to productive and serious discourse. The Daily Heil, like, say, Sarah Palin is lambasted (and, pointedly, *not* just be liberals) because it is moronic and poisonous.
          (I'm aware that Heffer was once with the Daily Mail but so, now, is Martin Samuel, who I concede is, after Simon Barnes, the best regular sports journalist around. Hemingway wrote for Sports Illustrated)

          On another note, the idea that conservatives are persecuted is largely silly. Whenever I've asked for specifics I've usually been cited Christian Institute type scare stories, to which the sensible response is to note that the Christian Institute tends to get their cases thrown out of court for a reason. Currently, there is concern over LGBT youth suicide and it's possible connection to anti-gay rhetoric. Irrespective of one's opinions on the rights and wrongs (nearly typed 'ins and outs' ;-)) of 'homosexual practise' the literal death of human beings is a serious matter worth urgent examination and a just response. The 'persecution ' of conservative Christians – which usually amounts to hurt feelings at no longer being able to denounce homosexuality in polite company with quite the medieval grandeur of a few decades ago – is, frankly, now. I'd reiterate that although *conceptually* there need not be a link between anti-homosexual practise religious beliefs and persecution of LGBT people, historically there very much has been. So the burden of proof is surely on conservatives to recognise this and alleviate legitimate fears, instead of assuming that all their critics are trafficking in scare-mongering or straw man alarmism.

          • how about this case, ryan: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religi… – I must admit however, many of the stories of gay persecution seem after the fact to be more hang ups about procedure – e.g., we still have all these Matthew Shepherd vigils, relics, remembrances, etc. etc., but it seems his killer was bi and probably did what he did to get Matthew Shepherd's meth. I can't tell you how many moronic stories I've read in the gay media about martyrs (or about nasty, nasty, nasty Christians) that turn out to be something quite different than what's presented. It seems to me that a lot of gay writers, when out Crusading for The Cause, get so charmed with their own manifestations of snark that … where there's a bit of artfulness, that can be admired, and you gotta give it to their defense of their community, but much of the rest is mostly dripping-with-hatred martyrdom stories to rally the troops to the cause. I do not doubt that bigotry against gay people is real … only I think probably most of the "real" cases never get reported, and the stories that come out are mostly these sitcom affairs dressed up in vituperation.

            Gay media is really a hoot. All these nice rainbows and "can't we just tolerate EVERYONE" … you know, we gay people just want some love like everyone does, we want the world to be a better place for all … and a few extra-juicy lines in the article to motivate the cavalry … and then the nice sweet gay commenters are all going for the jugular. You do a bit of background research … story wasn't at all as portrayed … those few juicy lines turned out to be "speculation" (and not the naive type – i.e., had the writer read the original article from top to bottom, would know that speculation is patently false), and you realize: these people just love to stew in self-aggrandizing hate and martyrdom in the comments. I tend to think that "ordinary gay people" simply stay away from "the gay media" and the commenters are rather exceptional persons. But if you see all the hate phonecalls and hatemail the B&B owners got – including at the hospital when the guy was in for surgery – I guess you realize: a sizeable possee of real gung-ho gay soldiers on a crusade can accomplish a thing or two.

            You read a few of the articles, you find similar things that the regular readers of the site surely must know: a lot of this stuff is simply exaggerated beyond what really happened. But nonetheless, love commenting they do – all moral outrage, all the shock.

            But then again, doesn't the gay media bring this martyrdom feeling on? All the Fred Phelps stories with commenters referring to things "Phelpsian" etc … the Phelpses would hardly even exist if it weren't for the media's wind in its sails. Gay media loves talking about them … mainstream media figures its a fine gay thing to talk about the Phelpses a lot, they follow suit … result is: the Phelpses are "really something" – probably the best-known church in the world. Everyone knows about Westboro Baptist.

            Does the Christian media tend to make a heyday of … NAMBLA, a much larger organization than the 50-or-so Phelps clan? Or the Folsom Street Fair with guys dangling their dinguses in front of kids, when they aren't fellating each other? Christian media is rather "fair" or even "preferential" of its treatment of gays, compared to other-way-around. The groups of gays that really shouldn't be in the limelight … don't get it. Though with the Phelpses traipsed around at every opportunity, the gay media doesn't let up on the message: "Remember, my sons: YOU ARE MARTYRS!!!" When really, everybody knows that everybody hates the Phelpses, and it's just 50 or so members that are nearly all part of the same sicko family.

            A couple of years back … I'm at some kind of Christian meeting open to seekers, inquirers, etc. etc.. Gay dude shows up, talking about how he's been rejected at a lot of other Christian gatherings … didn't feel welcome, etc. etc.. A lot of people so sad, this poor lad got rejected, he didn't feel welcome, poor guy, we love ya, ya know. You're welcome here. His confidence up a bit, he starts slamming various groups of Christians, then he brings up some sex topics, we start talking about them. People are like, "yeah, ya know, you wanna only have sex in a situation of respect, when you respect one another." This dude is like, "oh yeah, I'm ALWAYS respectful of my toy boys … well, at least at the moment I'm playing with them! Ha ha ha!" Somehow that just didn't go down so well, there was … a little bit of a silence, nobody affirmed him right at that moment. And then the nice Christian people just started talking about something else. Gay dude ended up going away. I wonder if he told the next Christian group he took part in how we had rejected him, made him feel unwelcome, etc. etc., or told his gay friends how terribly nasty and unaccepting us Christians were. If he was so "persecuted" and afraid of "rejection," why talk about the little respect he had for his sexual toy boys? Must we also condone explicitly depraved sexuality with such low standards of respect, in order to be non-homophobic?

            The thing with "gay persecution" is: sometimes it is very, very real. And sometimes … it's just because he asks you in public to masturbate so he can watch but you decide not to. You can never tell. Ok – he didn't complain of persecution. But if he was afraid of persecution, why ask me in public if I'd jack off in front of him? N.b., my refusal was very polite, "sorry, I don't think so" type thing. No indignance. His sexuality, not mine.

            I'm very concerned about how gay people are treated. But I don't want to go around hanging my head down low simply because some activists think they can get people whipped up into a fervor over something when it turns out the story is really about garden variety rudeness cloaked as some awful war-crimes like apocalyptic denial of humanity. Yes, I've read the stories over the years about gay youth suicide. It seems our statisticians have a problem with that. Breathtaking numbers are reported … but then a reasonable adjustment is shown, and it seems like it's not such a big deal … then some other study is done – new panic – media awareness – but then later, when the story's no longer hot – oops, those suicide figures weren't quite what they seemed. Is gay teen suicide a problem? Is it related to anti-gay slurs they hear when growing up? I must say: I really don't know! I don't think anybody knows! It's such a politically hot potato, you can barely do the statistics on it without some activist trying to get you to do it this particular way … you know, it will really raise awareness, etc. etc..! And if you don't … you're condemned like Spitzer, someone finds a minute point of contention in something you wrote and there's a huge gay monkey pile of commenters on how intrinsically evil you are and anyone who reads you.

            Most gay people I know are just ordinary guys, many who are quite down on the gay scene, the gay media, the gay martyrdom complex, the gay whatever. If I were gay, I would be pretty upset at what the gay organizations are doing – I wouldn't be your "out and proud" type, I'd be your "closeted type" since the gay movement makes me sick. I love the gay people, but the movement disgusts me.

            Why don't any gay organizations address the problem of vituperation in the gay media and, e.g., this hate campaign against these B&B owners? Is it because they deserve it? I can't begin to think of how miserable the lives of these commeters is, or those of their immediate vicinity. If I were gay and suicidal, it would probably be the gay movement itself that brought me to that.

            My words to the gay community would be: I don't think most of this stuff comes because of some kind of theoretical gay self-loathing or because people are being mean to you. I think there is basically something unhealthy going on in "the gay movement" – unhealthy enough I'd encourage any gay man to stay in the closet. And if you want to do something about gay teen suicide: transform the movement so it's more realistic, less going off into tantrums over nit-picking issues, and encourage charity amongst your own instead of inculcating martyrdom complexes where so many feel like they are privileged and can go ask a guy in the street to jack off for them or go to Christian groups and describe how little respect they have for their boy toys. People in general will be less inclined to be angry at gay people. This will do *wonders* for how gay people in general are treated. And gay teen suicide will go down.

            • Nambla isn't cited, even by sensible conservative Christian websites , because they recognise it for the strawman it is. Seriously, does anyone really think that Attitude, or Pink News, or Gay Times, or Stonewall, is supportive of Nambla? And if they acted in a way *comparable* to the Phelpsian (boycotting and harrasing people at funerals in a way that results in a whole change in the law to prevent future occurances, As for Shepherd : witnesses in the trial supported the homophobic hate crime version of events, whereas the met stories was (unsuccessfully) concocted by the actual murderers. It's depressing that opponents of the 'gay lobby' would take such people seriously for ideological reasons. Of course B&B owners don't deserve abusive phonecalls. Citing such phonecalls as proof of the evils of the 'gay lobby' is inane (as, of course, would be citing homophobic abuse by *individual* conservatives as indicative of the evils of all of them). Your own example is a strawman. Of course people shouldn't be asking other people to jerk them off in the street. The right to do so very much is not (for example) one of Stonewall's goals, nor is there some kinda Protocols of the Elders of Zion *private* list of the Goals of the Gay Lobby that gives the game away. The very idea of the 'Gay Lobby' is contrary to reality. Also, IIRC, I think you used the terms 'academic community' and 'gay community' in a thread here as if they were opposites, which I found amusing. Does an academic coming out automatically move from the former, fair and rational position to the latter, ideologically distorted one? Pretty sure that any dispassionate account of recent intellectual history (at least in the arts and humanities) would have far more gay figures than (e.g.) conservative Christian ones. Is the 'gay lobby' or 'community' comprised of gays who want (e.g.) marriage equality and straights who support it? Or is it simply all gay people? If this, then why *would* you demand it to consist wholly of people who do and say only good things, when nobody would expect this of any other 'community'? The gay scene (bars, clubs etc) might be horrendous, degrading and all about drinking and promiscuity; is the friday or Saturday night 'straight' scene really any different? It's perfectly possible – indeed common – for gays to go to gay bars and object to casual sex etc. But you can hardly blame a man for going to a bar where, at the very least, he knows he wont' be taunted or kicked out for same-sex hand holding.

              As for the B &B : a heterosexual director of the National Secular Society stayed there a few years ago, and *at no time* was he asked if he and his partner were married. This was a common experience. The B & B were not refusing to give beds to those who engaged in heterosexual fornication (which would be a legitimate conservative Christian position), and very much were point blank discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. Of course many gays, some of whom are libertarians, would support the B & Bs right to discriminate against whoever it chooses. The idea that "some gays do objectionable X, therefore the gay lobby is intrinsically evil' is a nonsense logic that would not be applied to any other community ('some Catholic priests rape children, *therefore* Catholicism is evil' 'Some muslims are terrorists, *therefore* all muslims are evil)

              • ryan – the point I'm making about the Phelpses and … some type of gay org that Christians tend to intensely dislike which is in some way deserving of such dislike is … Christian media does not portray the gay community in a profoundly negative light, by doing a lot of reporting on a very nasty subgroup of that community … such as NAMBLA or the Folsom Street Fair.

                The Phelpses are in some ways almost like a gay icon, almost even a gay construction – if the gay media were to stop reporting about them, and the gay community request the press to please stop reporting, or avoid more exposure than they're worth … there would be no more wind in their sails and almost cease to exist (at least in the sense of people being aware of them, or the number of gay people actually "hurt" by them).

                The Phelpses are helpful to the gay community since they represent this evil of horrid homophobia, sort of like evil incarnate. The more gay people remind the world of the Phelpses, the badder Christians tend to look by inappropriate generalization. Just as if, e.g., the press continued to publish stories about the NAMBLA.

                Re. the NAMBLA – yes you are right, Stonewall et al don't support them at all. But who then supports the Phelpses? Your point really is my point.

                I tend to think "the gay movement" is more interested in gay activism than it is the lot of real gay people. It's mostly banner-waving, martyrdom, "look homophobia is still a huge problem, look at these Phelpses here (i.e., our shadow puppet)."

                As for your "heteros do it too" – well, I suppose they might. My point is rather: if gays are worried about persecution, homophobia, etc. etc., why does a gay dude go to church groups complaining about homophobia and persecution, and then talk about disrespectful sex with "boy toys"? Or why does a gay dude walk up to me in public and ask me if I'll jack off for him to watch?

                My point then moving on to this, ryan –

                You say that it's more or less ridiculous to say that "conservatives" are persecuted. Regarding gay persecution – in some way it's real, in some way it's a myth – it is wrapped in layer upon layer upon layer of mythology. It would be nice to be able to take it seriously. But one won't be taking it seriously if one reads the gay media about it, or joins the gay movement, or does the things the gay movement says one must.

                There is a moment here where your reasoning is particularly problematic, and maybe this is why gay people still tend to believe that Matthew Shepherd was killed because he was gay, similarly to why Muslims believe that Americans blew up the twin towers: "ideology." I quote: "It's depressing that opponents of the 'gay lobby' would take such people seriously for ideological reasons." I'd say, just try to put aside the gay lobby "ideology" for a moment and read the wikipedia article on Matthew Shepherd – read some of the other sources on it. No, it wasn't "concocted" – the problem was that the defendants lawyers engaged in the "gay panic" defense. Which of course is absurd and sad. But this is quite another thing from: "Matthew Shepherd was killed because he was gay."

                The sad thing about the logic here is: we're saying someone can't believe something "for ideological reasons." This is simply all too common in the whole gay debate, including when gays go on hate campaigns phoning B&B owners in hospital. There is a point where you need to try to drop the ideology and look at the facts.

                It's like when the gay community gets a straw of evidence for a legit enough story that one should complain about, but not yell about … that's not enough … it's not enough when someone is rude to a gay person and calls him the f word at a bar. Somehow it needs to become a national tragedy in which that person was utterly crushed and maimed and killed and hated and right wing vultures plotted some kind of coup to devour the precious, innocent little homosexuals and set off a nuclear device. It becomes a whole freaking opera. No, Matthew Shephard's defendants lawyers should NOT have used the gay panic defense. But this does not mean he was killed because he was gay. I suppose you really, truly believes he was killed because he was gay. But then I'd say: you've got the gay goggles on. Wake up and smell the coffee. Stay away from all this gay activist doo doo it will simply mar your soul and make you feel like a victim, and give you a misplaced feeling that you need to protect an already highly privileged community with vituperation and some rather sleazy logic.

                Once the gay community begins treating others with the same respect with which it is treated – e.g., what it could do by stopping all this Fred Phelps media spree, and apologizing, and not getting into hissy fits about things which are "anti-gay" when it has been so profoundly anti-Christian – I will be interested in "gay rights" on a national and world level. As things go, I only help out perceptions and attitudes in the small way I can, and the whole "movement" thing leaves me quite cold and sick. It's as fake as a drag queen's titties.

                OK, this has been a big long screed.

                But what could the gay community do to stop unhealthy self-victimization, self-martyrdom, and crippling feelings of hate in the community which may or may not be based on reality?

                – set up a campaign to try to call off all these people pestering the B&B owners. Apologize to the media for the behavior of these people, request that they stop
                – exercise responsible journalism; ask big gay sites to moderate comments a bit, asking people whose comments are hateful to re-write them or delete them
                – stop publishing on the Phelpses and tell the media it's "not a cool gay thing" to publish on the Phelpses, for a similar way that it's not cool to publish articles on the NAMBLA or about guys fellating in front of kids at the Folsom Street Fair

                These are the things that I think the gay community needs, more than it needs to be feeling like a dagger went through its heart when a gay couple arrives at a very overtly Christian B&B in all of its tacky glory and the ma and paps owners have a specific request (or demand) about gay dudes in double rooms.

                I suppose one reason I get hot under the collar about this is because I'm someone who has lived in a number of different countries. I have an idea of how cultures interact, and what promotes peace and understanding between them. This gay thing is NOT going to help gays (or anyone else). It is going to tempt my gay friends and millions of others into becoming spiteful, nasty persons calling people "bigots" at the drop of a hat, and going on mini-inquisitions about what and why one believes about various gay things to see if one is a bigot or not. It encourages gays (and straights even) to put on the gay goggles and see the world as a mean, homophobic place when I simply don't see this homophobia, and in fact I see a lot of coddling – I think, misguided attempts at "making good the past." But this does not help gays in the present, it turns them into the kind of nasty commenters one sees at Queerty and Pink News, or the kind of people who go on hate campaigns against these B&B owners, or the kind of people who can't put 2 and 2 together about the evolution of this situation into something where gays are encouraged to feel like martyrs which – of course, ain't good for gays.

                • Strangely, the evidence that came up after the Shepard trial has now been removed from the Wikipedia page. There are a lot of gay activists on Wikipedia, and this is likely the reason. Basically: Shepard's lawyers had the idea that they use the "gay panic" defense. This was why the defendants testified the way that they did. The question is, why all the awful violence? Given that the main perpetrator was bi and not afraid of engaging in 2-man 1-woman sex, it's highly unlikely that he was filled with such hatred of gay people in general that this awful degree of violence was used. The crime also doesn't fit the profile of a hate crime – one doesn't rob someone, and then decide "oh yes and I hate you so I will now be very violent with you." The violence was likely because of desperation plus intense meth use (the main perp had been on a week long meth bender) – and not believing Shepard that he only had $30 – since Shepard was rich and usually had a lot of meth.

                  After the trial, one defendant's girlfriend said that the defendant had not been particularly "anti-gay," and revealed that she thought he was bi. She said that the defendant's lawyers had thought it a good idea to use "gay panic" defense, and instructed the defendants to testify in a manner so as to back up this case. It is the lawyers then, who engaged in anti-gay behavior, accepted also of course by the defendants when they accepted this line of defense. But it was a case more of the trial being anti-gay, than the act itself being anti-gay.

                  The additional information came out in 2004 via an investigation done by the television show 20/20 – http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=277685&pa

                  One can think of many "ideological" reasons to dismiss various persons or say their testimony must under no circumstances be taken into account. Nonetheless – we still can take such evidence into account, as long as we are honest regarding the source and reasonable about the possibility of lying. The perps' friends did not seem to have much to gain by revealing what they did to 20/20, it's also not a particularly "sensationalist" story either – it's all very grim and ugly, the world in which Matthew Shepard lived as a heavy meth user.

          • Cerebusboy, you have just made my point for me about the whipped-up hysteria. The Jan Moir comment was perfectly reasonable to most people. I showed it to my husband, who has no opinion one way or the other about such matters, and he said 'what's wrong with that?' But it didn't stop thousands upon thousands twittering and flying into a rage. If a seemingly healthy young man dies in suspicious circumstances it is not out of bounds to question why. If it had been a straight couple she would probably have made the same remarks, and no-one would have batted an eyelid. Wanting to be treated the same? Try behaving the same.

            • Rubbish. If that were the case, why did the Moir article attract so many (possibly a record?) amount of responses to the Press Complaints Commission? Assuming that the responses of you and your husband (!) are somehow more representative than mine is the stuff of solipsism, not dispassionate neutrality. And are you really claiming that the Daily Mail would make a link between *heterosexual* relationships and sudden death from cardiac problems? See here for an indepth filleting of the Moir article:
              http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/
              Wanna be believed? Try not lying.

              • It attracted all the attention because the twittering Stephen Fry told the useful idiots to do so! Ordinary people were totally bemused by it.

                • Really? Prove. Unless you're using 'ordinary people' to mean 'people who agree with me'. You dont' have to use Twitter (!), like Stephen Fry (!!) or be gay (!!!) to think the idea that sudden death from heart failure indicates the unnatural nature of gay relationships is utter,pernicious, nonsense. If memory serves, even the likes of The Sun (read by lots of 'normal people', no?) criticised the Jan Moir piece.

                  • Oh and when it comes to Stephen Fry you are , as usual, wrong. Fry in fact showed up much *later* after a variety of tweeters (including 'normal' ones, if by that you mean 'heteroexual') saying that he didn't understand why people are surprised that a paper that no decent person would read would publish a piece like the Gately one. Let's hope that Stephen Fry ever tells his followers to jump off a bridge, eh? ;)
                    Amusing that your comment above is contrasted with the one, below, where you assume that the Daily Mail must have temporarily abandoned its journalistic standards(!) as it published a piece on Stephen Green that makes him look bad! And it's mean to be the gays who allowed an ideological agenda to distort the facts lol!

                    • Ryan, from the Guardian article: "So it would undoubtedly be delighted if, having read this, you paid a visit to the Press Complaints Commission website (www.pcc.org.uk) to lodge a complaint about Moir's article on the basis that it breaches sections 1, 5 and 12 of its code of practice."

                      I've never seen this before – not only calling on people to complain, but providing exactly the right numbers of codes of practice (one of the more daunting aspects of that complaints form – probably intended to up the threshold a bit to insure that complaints are serious – e.g., the person's carefully read the article in question – which it appears here even the Guardian writer has not).

                      I'm sure you'll agree – with this very exceptional call to complain with the link and procedure so easily provided – the phenomenon of the high number of complaints is readily explained. We needn't thus worry about Stephen Fry.

                      I've read a lot of "hoots" regarding Christian organizations and Christians, much more egregious in insinuation and intentional inspiration of strongly negative attitudes toward groups of Christians – yet never have I seen a Christian org do anything even close to this. What's particularly telling is the citing of the code numbers so people can more or less write 1,5,12 in the "which articles of our code do you reference" box without reading it – and simply launch into a screed on homophobia – and the complaint is still counted.

                      What's also somewhat surprising is that even with this prominent link, that you find the number of complaints to be significant when the process is so "rigged." I'm guessing that you had forgotten about that link.

                    • The rent-a-mob are so transparent! Well, so they don't get paid, but someone (usually famous celeb) only has to click their fingers and tell them there is an article in the Mail/Telegraph/Sun or wherever, which is not 100 per cent gay affirming, and they immediately rush over and start heaping complaints. I read some of the comments on the Jan Moir article, and it was obvious that most of them had never even read it! And they were so ludicrous! You would think the poor woman had called for execution of all gays by the over-reaction. It would have been laughable if it wasn't so frightening.

                    • 'Rent a mob' implies people who support a cause because they get paid to do so, which would negate rather your other point that it was a genuine reaction to someone criticising gays. So which is it? And, again: what possible evidence do you have that people on twitter aren't normal? (doesn't Peter O, like damn near everyone else, use it?). What evidence do you have that the reactions of you and your husband are somehow more representative than those who complained about it? Do you concede that most people who complained about the article were 'normal' (in the sense of 'not necessarily gay', since, madly, you seem to use 'gay' and 'normal' as if they're opposites)? I see that your no longer citing Stephen Fry, which I suppose is at least something, but are now invoking 'celebrities'? (which? are you really claiming that people, what, are only *pretending* to be offended by the idea that sudden death from cardiac problems is related to the intrinsic nature of gay relationships because a celebrity told them to? (!) ) . And now you're saying the responses to the article are an *over*reaction (i.e. something was said that makes some kind of response understandable), whereas initially you said there was nothing in the article that warranted a strong response (because you and your hubby liked the article so 'normal people' must think the same way. And they say Stephen Fry's arrogant…..) I suppose that's a necessary seque into your last line's invocation of the frightening gay-lobby boogeyman though.

                    • The Brooker article was a *response to* the Twitter buzz, not something created to whip it up. And you must be joking about Christians never do anything similar. The 'Christian' Institute is full of stories about bad (i.e. featuring sex, or displaying gays as human beings) TV shows and suggestions on how to complain (which , needless to say, invariably attract far less responses than the Moir article).

              • ryan, the very article you quote sort of opens up like a corset ripper, high Victorian sentiment here: "I'm still struggling to absorb the sheer scope of its hateful idiocy. It's like gazing through a horrid little window into an awesome universe of pure blockheaded spite. Spiralling galaxies of ignorance roll majestically against a backdrop of what looks like dark prejudice, dotted hither and thither with winking stars of snide innuendo." And then the article frames its subject: this is GAY BASHING !!! But the author brings in a number of things that could easily have contributed to the death: use of drugs; apparent promiscuity. There is then a wee bit of insuation, yes: "Gay activists are always calling for tolerance and understanding about same-sex relationships, arguing that they are just the same as heterosexual marriages. Not everyone, they say, is like George Michael. Of course, in many cases this may be true. Yet the recent death of Kevin McGee, the former husband of Little Britain star Matt Lucas, and now the dubious events of Gately's last night raise troubling questions about what happened." But this is simply pointing out the prominent promiscuity in the gay community – she makes very very very clear: NOT ALL GAYS ARE PROMISCUOUS. But: this is a big problem with the gay community. I know from my gay friends. I know from reading up on "monogamy" and its interpretations in the gay community. It tends to mean things like, "our bed is just for you and me – if I sleep with another guy, I'll do that elsewhere." No, there aren't many statistics available on this – but most gay therapists admit that this is how things are with men that have sex with men in general when it comes to "monogamy". The author doesn't even say – straight out – that promiscuity may be a problem in the gay community. The gay community itself is in great need of recognizing this fact. The incidents of AIDS are horrifically high in the gay community, as are other forms of STD's. How do people get STD's? By having many different partners and having unprotected sex. Do the math. Care about gay people? Don't do your best to shield the gay community from criticism that it might be able to do better in the promiscuity department – for its own good – and for public health in general. When gays have been adequately warned and are actually trying to keep it zipped … then you will be perfectly in order if people claim that gays tend to be promiscuous, simply because it will be a lie.

                Re. that little bit of insinuation – it infitessimally small compared to some rather immense insinuation one sometimes reads in the gay media. I'd say: if ya want tolerance – well, I think there's already a whole lot of tolerance out there for gays – but if you want even more (which I'd agree is a good thing) – then learn to show some yourselves. Quit indirectly funding the Phelps family to prop up your community's sense of martyrdom.

                If anything here is suggested, it is suggested that the dude kicked the bucket because of promiscuity – and not "because he was gay," as the author of your Guardian article says. I would call the Guardian article more problematic in the bigotry department than the original – especially since the author, after having thorougly misrepresents the original article and stamps it as "Gay bashing," then goes out to punish the author with the rather unusual practice of providing a direct link to a complaint form.

                Try reading both articles again, without wearing the gay goggles.

                Next year we may see: "HUGE SPIKE in hate crimes against gay people!" Because all these thousands of people clicked on the link and typed in some words about not liking this article. And then the police will need to get more active in trying to smoke out possible perpetrators, like as already occurs: asking them point blank what they think about gay sex, and if they give the wrong answer, arresting them (fortunately, some brave gay individuals DID complain about this last event).

                This is the form of "gay persecution" which we tend to get all riled up about. I'd say: just chill out a bit, get used to the fact that it's not only gays who read gay sites and articles by gay men, for gay men. Anglicans especially are supposed to do so – it's the whole "listening process" thing initiated by the Windsor report. I'm sure that gay persecution does happen – but what one tends to read in the press, is frequently hysteria – which is frequently hysteria swathed in yet more hysteria.

                • gay goggles? I'm partial to some shades in the sunshine, but then so is many an evangelical ;-).

                  To be frank, I don't recall explicitly positioning myself as part of the 'gay community', nor is it entirely relevant. And I really don't think yourself or Jill do yourself any favours by defending the Moir article, just because it is written by someone in opposition to the 'gay agenda'. Brooker is a comedic writer. So a fiery style is somewhat par for the course but that hardly negates his points (in much the same way as Gagnon citing Cameron does not negate his scriptural exegis).

                  Gately did not die because of factors arising from the 'gay lifestyle'. Hence the reaction to Moir's article. I'm not sure why you can't concede this and feel the need to bring in Phelps, AIDS etc etc ad infinitum (not least as even if I agreed 100% about your points on the Phelps and AIDS it would in no way negate Brookner's criticisms of Moir's article.). I'm not sure why you seem to think I or anyone else must be some sort of defenders of all aspects of the 'gay community' or the 'gay lifestyle', whatever they are. It's strange that you seem to have a more infantilising view of the gay community than its presumed defenders; promiscuity is indeed bad for you, and STDs are nasty. Who would dispute that? The 'barebacking' movement has about as much 'legitimacy' in the gay community as the NAMBLA one. And it's perfectly possible for someone to believe BOTH 'the Moir article offensively – in a 'no reputable paper should expect such nonsense to be taken seriously' sense, not a 'nobody should be allowed to criticise homosexual practise' one – invoked ludicrous stereotypes' AND 'homosexual practise is always wrong' so I don't see what it served by you coming out swinging for the figure most in accord with your ideological team, irrespective of the actual facts.

                  And insinuition is exactly that. It's perfectly popular (indeed common) to use weaselly tactics like 'of course, one wouldn't say that all x do y, BUT' , which is what Moir is trafficking in. The fact that, to you, the gay community misrepresents reality in a way far worse than Moir in that article in now way absolves her from the original 'charge'.

                  • Ryan,

                    Agreed here the article is weaselly, insinuating gutter journalism, though gutter journalists in general tend to bring an element of comedy in as well. You may still address the points I made above if you feel like it. My point regarding AIDS is simply – if Moir is insinuating the gay community has a problem with promiscuity, she does have a point. However, this is a very stupid, demeaning, awful way to make that point – it needs to be made with care and charity, which we don't have much of here. I believe this is the only comment I've made here bringing up the problem of AIDS and promiscuity, which I don't tend to mention because it's sensitive, even though I wish it were dealt with more frequently, as millions of lives worldwide could be saved. And then that's people being able to continue to live – for 20, 40, 60 years – which is more important in my book than someone feeling snubbed because he's asked to take a single room in a B&B, or because someone made an insinuating remark about a type of behavior he engages in.

                    Please be clear: I don't wish to defend the Moir article. I'm simply pointing out that the reaction to it seems to me rather hysterical. It sort of smacks of, "touch a gay icon, and we'll pile up on you." I remember e.g. Bishop Spong's obituary of John Stott. It was horrid. But it didn't generate a lot of commentary. Christians in general aren't nearly as touchy as some make them out to be.

                    • As regards AIDS: it is legitimate to distinquish between AIDS and the 'AIDS Crisis'. The latter was justifiably used when bodies were piling up, memorial quilts were being endlessly spun, and the gay community was entirely justified in shouting 'We Die, They Do Nothing' about the government's response. I think that conservatives would be one of the first groups to point out that, in a world of Government funded AIDS research and (in the UK) retrovirals available free on the NHS, and near-universal knowledge on the link between unsafe sex and HIV/AIDS, no gay group could now chant 'We Die, They Do Nothing' and expect to be taken seriously.

              • Ryan –
                I'm probably partially to blame here myself for opening up too many painful issues at once, which can tend to lower the general level of discourse – people get passionate and one sees more passion than reason. Ryanb, sorry for not being more careful. Your rather gratuitous slams ended up getting me going a bit too much too fast.

                Anyways – on the (implicit) allegation of Jill lying – I take it you are probably referring to her remark: "If a seemingly healthy young man dies in suspicious circumstances it is not out of bounds to question why. If it had been a straight couple she would probably have made the same remarks, and no-one would have batted an eyelid" from your own "are you really claiming …" remark.

                1.) I agree that this piece is shoddy gutterish journalism, and it is even lower than some gutterish journalism in its insinuation that Mr. Boys Band dude may have had a rather torrid sexual life since he was gay. Not smart, not kind. I however don't think it deserves the enormous monkeypile of criticisms which themselves are less precise, more vituperous, more insinuating, and more villifying than the original article. The Guardian is sometimes as much of a journalistic sinkhole of gutterpressisms as the Daily Mail, unfortuantely.

                2.) You were doing well with the "Are you really claiming … ?" sentence. Though you could have been more precise as well: pointing out that the fault was generalizing gay men into promiscuity. I'm sure this gutter journalist would have said the same thing if there were a whiff of promiscuity going on in a male celeb who died mysteriously with a backdrop of drug usage and other imaginable sordidness. Such is gutter journalism. So you could have done better, but you were still doing okay.

                3.) You hit return after that sentence, were impressed with it, and then went further with your insinuation that Jill is lying. This is simply ridiculous and I'm sure that you will see this once you think about it for a moment.

                4.) You are a nice guy and I hope that you don't generalize my remarks about some gay activists to include yourself. If you are angry with me, I don't blame you ;)

                5.) Now be a good boy & kiss & make up with Jill.

                • """your insinuation that Jill is lying. This is simply ridiculous and I'm sure that you will see this once you think about it for a moment.

                  It was clearly a parody of Jill's closing line that If 'I' *(albeit being used as representative of The Gays) want to be treated the same I ought to act the same. Such rhetoric deserves parody, not because I disagree with it, but because it is intrinsically contrary to any sensible discussion involving mutual respect and a regard for the facts. However I agree that *but he did it first!* is a very poor (and wholly unChristian) 'defence' so : apologies, Jill, for any offence caused.

                  • Thanks, I knew I was misreading you somehow. I sometimes also try to be "ironic" at times and have … hurt, don't always come off as I wanted to. Something to keep in mind when writing on hot topics.

    • I have got too far behind in this conversation to catch up on all the points, but I certainly agree about the hysteria from the gay lobby over the tiniest little slight – even in the abstract, and not directed at any person in particular. One only has to read the Pink News comments! If a doctor happens to say that she thinks children have the best chance with a mother and a father (re adoption), she is immediately a 'cretin' or a 'retard' (and worse) and they wish her to die horribly, and soon, and think she should be sacked and not be allowed near another human being ever again having such poisonous views. If you don't believe me, try reading them!

      Just imagine Telegraph readers trying to post comment like that against a gay person. They wouldn't last five minutes, and quite rightly so.

      • I'm pretty sure that Daily Mail comments can be vituperative too. Or even the higher class, but conservative Daily Telegraph. Remember when religious blogger (and conservative, orthodox, Catholic Christian) Damian Thompson, hosted by telegraph.co.uk, had to start giving donations to Jewish charities, in a bid to combat all the antisemitic trolls who haunt his blog and post comments? Is it only the 'gay lobby' that's to be judged and damned on the basis of nasty comments on articles? If so, why?

        • Not in the same league, Ryan, I assure you!!

          What these people (anti-Christian Pink News readers and their friends mostly) don't seem to understand is that it is Christianity that stands between them and militant Islam. Please do read the James Delingpole article I posted earlier – which actually refers to another article by Peter Whittle in the Spectator which demonstrates only too clearly that gay activists are so hell-bent on persecuting blameless little B&B owners and journalists who make off-the-cuff remarks that they are completely oblivious to the huge elephant in the room. Destroy Christianity, or drive it underground, which seems to be their aim, and they are face to face to people only too ready to step into the vacuum. And I can tell you, they won't like it.
          http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole

  19. I think this thread is now going round and round. Say what you have to say and then I'll close comments later this afternoon. Your task now is to go to my Ask Peter video and tell me how wrong I am!

  20. Apology accepted, Ryan. I certainly was not meaning YOU personally, but remember I read Pink News comments sometimes, and it was them I had in mind – I am sorry if you took it personally.

    I actually know next to nothing about Jan Moir – nor had I heard of Stephen Gately until the fateful incident (yes, I know, I know!) but I imagine she is some sort of gossip columnist, and that is actually what they do – gossip! If the couple had not been gay there would not have been this absurd over-reaction.

    Before the twitterati get hold of Peter's blog and start gunning for me, do read this brilliant piece by the Telegraph's James Delingpole, who very nearly met with the same fate as Jan Moir but managed to sidestep it at the same time as pointing out the REAL danger to gay people – and I can assure you that it is not the likes of me, Jan Moir or James Delingpole.
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole

  21. btw, Ryan, particularly happy to see you make up with Jill because I think she kinda digs ya (nudge nudge, wink wink). I do too. And I know I don't always express that properly either. You are a fun (and occasionally exasperating) conversational partner. And I know that I can get pretty exasperating, too.

  22. No worries James (and, also, thanks Jill).

    As regards Matthew Shephard, I came across an article where Andrew Sullivan says that one can accept that the case is more complex than first appeared and that bigotry was still a factor. Which I'd agree with. Certainly the culturally iconic value of the case may have outstripped its 'merits' as an individual case, but there's nothing suspicious or inherently troubling about that. Meth user or not, the idea of anyone being murdered for their sexuality (or any other 'reason') is intrinsically tragic (including, needless to say, for the conservative Christian, both for the reason that all human life is sacred but also because Shephard died without repenting of his sins and accepting Christ). And I'd note that the abc report itself says that new facts came to light *after* the initial trial, which would suggest there was nothing untoward in the case being reported in the way it was initially. Truthfully, I do find something a bit..unpalatable…in taking the murderers of Shephard at their word because their testimony runs contrary to the presuppositions of the 'gay agenda'. Why is conservatives endevouring to make unhappy,crime-involved meth user Matthew representative of the *unhappy* nature of homosexuality *per se* any less abstract and ideological than gay liberals making him a St.Stephen style martyr, icon of young gay men who get murdered because of anti-gay rhetoric? Aren't both sides in that instance similarly culpable of unfair extrapolation?

    As for the Phelps: a lot of their 'appeal' comes from their Freak Show nature, with teenage boys rubbernecking at their antics. Their cultural significance is closer to (say) a Anna Nicol Smith cultural car crash than it is as 'unfair straw-man posterboys for those ideologically opposed to the further acceptance of homosexual practice'. Filmaker Kevin Smith (of Jay & Silent Bob fame) has cast Phelps-resembling characters in his new *horror* film, and I think I'm justified in saying that, if the Phelps stopped focusing on the evils of sodomy, and if gay media decided to know them, the Phelps would still retain their Hannibal Lecter-esque levels of gutter fame.Truthfully, the 'gay community' is far more likely to criticise e.g. Pope Benedict XVI as an iconically anti-gay figure than they are to invoke the Phelps (to it really *help* the gay agenda to imply that anti-gay sentiment is the stuff of God Hates Fags billboards, rather than a subtler collection of cultural attitudes?). Conservatives responding to this might be conducive to fruitful dialogue (e.g. " The present pontiff's teaching on homosexuality is entirely consistent with the deposit of Faith that the Successor of Peter has maintained and *faithfully* developed over two milllennia; assuming that he could change it radically – which he can't – why should the Vicar of Christ and the Holy Roman Catholic Church have to follow the leads of particular sexual perversions arising from people's worst and most unregenerate impulses?"). But your call for the gay community to repudiate the Phelps – even if I conceded that it was necessarily relevant to the Jan Moir article, which it very much is not – is not one I see as justified or accurate.

    • Ryan,
      I think I'm simply saying that extremely fundamentalist publications are fond of bringing up the NAMBLA since it casts homosexuals in a bad light; choosing members of a particular group who are extremely distasteful for media coverage is an extremely effective means of generally casting aspersion on the whole group, even if the articles make clear: "Most homosexuals … all but a small minority … do not hold the views of the NAMBLA" type thing.

      It's really the media that put wind in the sails of Phelps and co. Were there no media attention, they would probably eventually run out of money for all those plane trips, and feel that they weren't meeting their goals anyways. Their money comes from the unfortunate who feel they must sue – a large number of the Phelpses are attorneys – they initiate counter-suits, and collect both the damages and the attorney fees. Many, even when warned that the case is bad and that the Phelpses will probably win, still feel they must sue "out of principle." Were gay organizations to stop gay media coverage of the Phelpses and request mainstream media to do the same, the whole phenomenon would probably vanish – yes, they would remain "in memory," just as the NAMBLA does – but they wouldn't be there as a kind of constant reminder "There are Christians who really hate us!" just as Christian media's regular showcasing of the NAMBLA would surely provoke unsavory sentiments in many Christians against gays. You can see both as a kind of "implicit hate rhetoric." The case of the Phelpses probably also makes worse cases of low self-esteem amongst gay people worse – being reminded so frequently that there are people out there with such attitudes toward homosexuals. It amplifies the "victim" mentality – this is good for rallying the troops to the cause – but it is also profoundly damaging to those gay people who are susceptible to it.

      In this case, since LGBT people are a minority, it's probably viewed as a succesful tactic which ideological organizations wouldn't want to give up – as a rhetorical weapon it is quite strong. Nonetheless, I think it also shows the intent of these organizations to continue to inculcate the "victim / martyr" mentality amongst gay people, and I think belies more their self-interest than it does of the true interests of the gay community – living in relative peace, with respect, and free of self-hatred.

      Anyways, it might be time for a group of enlightened LGBT people to put together a new kind of organization that calls for a more rational approach to LGBT issues and cultivation of relationships between LGBT people and those most likely to have issues with LGBT people – including Muslim groups. If this begins sooner rather than later – there is probably a greater chance for peace within the UK. I think the leadership of most LGBT organizations until now have somewhat shown that they belong to the previous generation, and new vision is required; and most forward-thinking people who are critical of culture I would suppose would probably agree.

      You asked in a comment above if only gay activists are to be criticized and judged on the basis of their comments. I think you probably know my answer: "of course not." However, comparing the comments of Queerty or PinkNews to other sites – and the heavy rhetoric of "bigot / moron / depraved" etc. etc.. for things which are regrettable, but hardly a big deal (and only become a big deal with rather silly comments like, "Well just imagine if EVERYONE who had a hotel or a B&B refused to let gay couples have double rooms! and if they did, then maybe people would start having slaves again!" type thing), I think it's clear that we have come to a rather unfruitful way for LGBT people and supporters of "the gay agenda" to be interfacing with the rest of the public. It sometimes appears that, were we to draw some rather logical conclusions, almost all Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims in the world are depraved bigots – as are nearly all persons from non-Western countries – that not being a depraved bigot essentially means being a member of a highly reified subgroup of white anglo-saxon protestantism (including agnostics and atheists, of course; they also generally belong to the WASP class), plus some from other backgrounds who also identify with this class. And of course, this is far from being "tolerant."

      A more tolerant, culture-aware, enlightened leadership for LGBT people could go a long way in maintaining peace and a robust, healthy secular society in the UK.

  23. Glad to see we are all on good terms again and pulling out of the circular-getting-nowhere arguing Peter noted. I think the Delingpole article is rather good, Jill. I had only seen him on TV getting into a spat on global warming with Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society recently (where he was less good IMO).
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/j

    Peter, how is your baby boy doing?

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