35 Comments on “Tolerance

  1. Truth in that!

    “Tolerance” is way overused. In the church, conservatives refuse to tolerate lesbian and gay people who refuse to suppress their sexuality, and liberals aren’t so hot on clergy teaching that loving relationships are sinful. “Provision” for those who refuse to accept female clergy has made a nonsense of catholicity.

    It’d help if everyone was clearer about the limits of tolerance.

      • Suppression isn’t control. A married couple can express their sexuality in a controlled way.

        Would you be willing to allow individual congregations or diocese to decide what’s acceptable behavior for their clergy? That would be toleration.

          • They’re not going to die from abstinence, but outside a particular theological framework, the rule is needlessly cruel. I don’t see straight clergy lining up for celibate marriages, either.

              • I did: it’s not “essential” in the sense that you can survive it, but human wellbeing goes way beyond the essential. A person could survive alone in a cave eating bugs and wearing skins, but, hermits aside, it’d be a diminished existence.

                How about my question — if you’re arguing for tolerance, will you tolerate lesbian and gay clergy in relationships that you consider sinful?

                • Tolerating a homosexual relationship amounts to de facto approval. The church has cannot credibly condemn in one part what it actively permits in another part. Approval undermines the condemnation because the church cannot really believe homosexuality to be sin so long as it condones the behavior in its leadership. “Tolerance” under such a condition inverts the moral equation. It makes public the approval of homosexual behavior even as it privatizes the condemnation of homosexual behavior. It would also create irreversible facts on the ground. Eventually the “tolerance” would give way to compulsion. This is the path already well trodden by the campaign for women’s ordination.

                  So the answer to your question should be “No.” Homosexual relationships among clergy (or anyone else for that matter) cannot be tolerated.

                  carl

                  • The sad thing is, Carl, that the church has always tolerated gay relationships under the old ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ understanding. Most of us thought it was none of our business, and if same-sex attracted people were sexually active we preferred not to know about it – it was between themselves and God, and not for us to pass judgment.

                    Now, however, it is thrust in our faces and we are forced to choose between condoning such activity or condemning it – being judgmental. Which of course has turned into ‘homophobia’ and ‘hatred’ in their eyes, when of course it is nothing of the sort.

                    • Why are you forced to choose between condoning such activity or [sic – and?] condemning it? You say that formerly “Most of us thought it was none of our business”. I see no bar to your continuing to adopt that very wise and judicious attitude. And what do you mean by “thrust in our faces”? Have gay couples been having sex on your front lawn, or have they been sending you unsolicited photographs or videos of their sexual activity? Presumably not. Or do you just mean that they have been going around together and haven’t been hiding the fact that they are living together? How shocking, I’m sure.

                  • “Homosexual relationships among clergy (or anyone else for that matter) cannot be tolerated.”

                    Tolerated by whom or by what? I see no need to tolerate them myself. Only negative things need to be tolerated. I have no more trouble in accepting them than in accepting heterosexual relationships.

                  • If the church can have “two integrities” (one group refuse to accept that the other group are clergy), it can certainly take a neutral position on loving sexual relationships between lesbian and gay people.

                    Since it already tolerates them among the laity, that horse has long bolted.

                    Clergy should be free to argue their position, as they are on female ordination and sexuality, so I don’t see how the change I suggested privatizes condemnation.

                    • Quote from Women Bishops in the Church of England:

                      ‘5.2.48 In his article ‘Bishops, Presbyters and Women’ quoted above, Bray develops the argument about unity with specific reference to the fact that the Church of England has recognized that people can hold different positions with integrity over the matter of the ordination of women:

                      Those who favour women bishops are not opposed to having men, but those who do not will not accept women, which means that if the two integrities are to be held together, only men can be appointed as bishops. To appoint a woman bishop would be to split the church by denying the legitimacy of one of the integrities. The principle that this should be avoided has a precedent in the New Testament, in the circumcision of Timothy (Acts 16.3). This was imposed on him by the Apostle Paul, in spite of the latter’s well-known and frequently articulated opposition to circumcision as a theological necessity, in order to make Timothy more acceptable to Jewish Christians, who were the other integrity of their day. Timothy had to be acceptable without question by everyone, which was enough to mandate a practice which the apostle would never have justified on theological grounds.

                      Permitting the co-existence of two integrities is not the same as agreeing to disagree. It involves both camps conceding to clear and authoritatively agreed boundaries that address the fundamental concerns of those who are opposed and do not violate an explicit prohibition.

                      This is seen in the resolution of the circumcision issue in Acts 15. There is no explicit injunction demanding the circumcision of Gentiles, whereas there are pre-Judaic proscriptions about idolatrous sacrifices, consumption of blood and fornication. The Jerusalem council decided that while Gentiles are under no NT obligation to be ritually circumcised, they must abstain from behavioural violations of that vitiate the scruples of others.

                      This is a far cry from your laissez-faire view of two integrities.

                      The admission of women to the episcopate does not alter the behavioural standards of the church.

                      The current stance of the Church of England is already representative of the two integrities.

                    • Countless millions of people are no doubt living full lives without all kinds of things which countless other millions of people find enrich their lives greatly. One of those things that springs to my mind immediately is classical music. It has absolutely no survival. Rather, it is, to borrow C.S. Lewis’s words, one of those things that give value to survival. Certainly, my own life without it would be poorer, gloomier, less human, less divine. Yet for countless millions of people it does absolutely SFA and they are ecstatically happy without it. I would unhesitatingly put gay relationships in the same category. People may choose to do without these things. It is not for others to make such a choice for them.

                  • Since a loving sexual relationship is an overwhelming and enriching experience, “limited” is a fair term.

                    As the church doesn’t share the theology that forbids it, would you be willing to tolerate it? Not even affirm, just tolerate.

                    • So Jesus had a limited experience of true humanity?

                      Ultimately arguing that lack of sex (chosen or otherwise) limits our human experience is a Christological statement.

                    • We don’t know if Jesus ever had sex, so it’s impossible to say. If he didn’t, then the fullness of his experience depends on beliefs about the incarnation and its nature.

                      Is it fair to conclude that you’d be unwilling to tolerate lesbian and gay clergy having loving sexual relationships in any context? If you want your views imposed on those who disagree, what point are you making about toleration?

                    • You’ve got to come to a conclusion on this Christological issue. If humans have imperfect lives if they are denied sex then either Jesus must have had sex (there is no historic support for this position) or Jesus did not experience the fullness of human experience (an heretical position).

                      Alternatively you can take the position that not having sex does not diminish one’s humanity in any way, in which case the call to celibacy for all those unmarried is not an unreasonable request and neither (more importantly) does it prevent anyone loving others as completely as a human can.

                    • This has gotten off the point. For whatever reason (christology, biblical authority, both) you believe that sex is sinful outside (opposite-sex) marriage.*

                      If we’re talking tolerance, the question is how you respond to those who disagree with you.

                      * To answer the christology Q anyhow, incarnation would give Jesus insights everyone else lacks. He could have knowledge of sex without experiencing it directly; or he did in fact have sex. If we’re talking heresy, then rejecting the authority of the catholic and apostolic church would be a whopper, far bigger than speculation about Jesus’ sex life.

                    • There’s so many variables there that a yes/no answer isn’t possible. I’m not trying to be difficult, but can’t say otherwise.

                      Celibacy diminishes no one’s human worth; it does limit their experiences; whether it would’ve diminished the experience of Jesus of Nazareth would depend on your theology of the incarnation.

                      I really don’t see why the merits of toleration vary depending on my answer.

                    • From your perspective, it may be; not so from mine.

                      My answers depend on the variables I outlined. Celibacy wouldn’t diminish the human worth of Jesus or anyone else. If incarnation = omniscience, it wouldn’t diminish his experiences.

                      In any case, this has no bearing on the question toleration. D’you want the church to impose your opinions on everyone?

                    • I’m sure you’re not trying to be difficult, but I’m finding it a bit difficult to follow you. Are you saying:

                      a) sex is an important part of fully experiencing life and those who remain virgins all their life are repressing an important dimension of what they were created for?

                      b) Jesus may never have had sex, but because he was omniscient (and therefore knows what sex would be like to experience) he didn’t need to actually have it while in the body to fully experience the life that God has created us for?

                      c) Jesus wouldn’t want anybody else to follow him in celibacy – He was a special case because of his God-Man status?

                      We’re getting into some quite deep stuff here. Kind of glad you didn’t give a ‘yes/no’ answer.

                    • a) A loving sexual relationship is an important dimension of life. I’m not claiming that all lifelong virgins are suppressing: some people are asexual; others control their feelings without suppressing them.

                      b) As you say, if Jesus was omniscient, it likely wouldn’t matter (depending how omniscience functions in the Word incarnate, which frankly, is guesswork)

                      c) It’s a possibility. The gospels say vanishingly little about Jesus’ attitude to celibacy, and we’ve no idea if he was ever sexually active.

                      All of this gets away from my point: for whatever reason, people take different views on this. How far should the church go in toleration?

                    • If that’s so, and if he was celibate, then he didn’t experience the full range of human potential (just as he never experienced combat, the Apollo program, and many other things).

                      What bearing does this have on toleration in the church?

                    • Depends entirely what you mean by “humanity,” as I’ve said. No one’s worth is diminished by celibacy; their experience is diminished.

                      What point are you seeking to make about toleration by asking this question?

                    • It would be valuable and limited.

                      I guess I get where you’re going with this: if it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for lesbian and gay people.

                      Maybe, maybe not, it’s still beside my point. Many Christians disagree with you. For several reasons, they don’t believe that all sex outside (heterosexual) marriage is sinful. Would you tolerate them within the church?

  2. Some things are manifestly not matters about which one can merely disagree in a gentlemanly manner. Some things are and always will be criminal, immoral or offensive.

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