Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jesus still weeps

Bigotry and hatred too often join hands with religion.

Jesus reserved his fiercest rage for the proud religious and his most generous (and scandalous) compassion for those they considered socially unacceptable. It makes me ache with frustration and despair when that same Jesus is used today as a figurehead for prejudice.

I say 'that same Jesus'. In reality, of course, it's not the same Jesus at all. It's just the same five letters, J, E, S, U, and another S, used to rubber stamp fear and loathing.

The shortest verse in the Bible is 'Jesus wept'. I think he still does.

Of all prejudices, homophobia particularly gets my goat, perhaps because it is still viewed as somehow acceptable in some religious circles. People who would throw up their hands in horror at racism, for instance, find it acceptable to talk ignorant rubbish about gay people - and feel a warm glow of orthodox righteousness as they do so.
"Woe to you! Hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in."
(That was Jesus, by the way, with his goat got.)

Tenderness_by_andreydubininLet's explore this. Faithfulness, tenderness, loyalty, self-giving - these are good things. They are Jesus-like qualities. Agreed? Yet some religious people would consign the faithfulness, tenderness, loyalty, sacrifice shown by a gay person to another to a bin labelled 'SIN'.

Because it happens to be Adam and Steve we're talking about, rather than Adam and Eve, their
faithfulness, tenderness, loyalty and self-giving is rendered null and void. Worse, these virtues are given names like 'sodomy' and 'sin'.

I've even heard some religious people express the execrable view that heterosexual sex that is promiscuous or even exploitative is better than homosexual sex that is
faithful, tender, loyal and self-giving - simply because the gender of the participants is the same.

This seems to me to be self-evidently ridiculous (and unutterable tragic). But it is held as orthodoxy in some quarters.

Let me be quite clear. I'm not advocating sexual moral chaos. This isn't about 'free love' (which in fact, comes with a very big 'buy now, pay later' label hidden in the packaging and is in any case nothing to do with love). Sexual morality matters. And f
aithfulness, tenderness, loyalty and self-giving matter. Promiscuous, exploitative, or even just plain selfish sex is a twisting of God's design. It is, in fact, sin - and brings all the pain, fragmentation and separation that sin always brings.

Human sexuality is too complex to be reduced to soundbites or formulae. But of this we can be sure: it is better saturated with
the qualities of God's own nature - of love, in fact - than it is without them. Much, much better. So much better as to be a different thing altogether.

So I felt I had to sign a petition the other day to oppose the horrific anti-gay bill proposed in Uganda (see avaaz.org).

Human sexuality may be complex. Questions surrounding human sexuality may be difficult. But when we're faced with such flagrant abuse of humanity as is represented by such a bill, when the screeching calls for morality become this immoral, when hatred threatens to be enshrined in law - I for one have to speak out. I have to say no.

In the name of Jesus - no.


Colin said...

Well said

Chunty said...

Hmmm but surely as Christian you have to say being a practising/active homosexual is wrong. Even I with my limited biblical knowledge know that bible is littered (perhaps the wrong word) with this from start to finish.

Being Gay doesn't mean you can't be saved or that you should not be part of your church and we should accept all people, but in much the same way that its not your fault (maybe) that you're addicted to drugs, it's not your fault that you are attracted to someone of the same sex but the "act" is still fundamentally wrong and still something that we as Christians must stand against regardless of the levels of faithfulness, tenderness, loyalty. I guess the big issue/dividing line is that its the important fact is its the behaviour not the person that we stand against and in much the same way as with drugs we have to call people to leave their old Satan influence lives behind and if they don't we can love them but if they won't then somehow you have to do something (don't ask me what) but the bride of Christ can't be allowed to say (by inference) to the world that this is OK behaviour...?

Marie Ledger said...

Hi James.
I have to agree with a lot of what you are saying here and I am really glad that you have taken the time to highlight the issue.

The homophobic attitude taken towards many gay people is completely unfair. And not of Jesus' heart. Discriminating or judging any group of people because of their actions or life style choices is wrong as God is the only one who can judge (Matthew 7 v1). Instead we are exhorted to show love to everyone (Matthew 22 v37-40)!

I also believe that no one is perfect. We know that as humans we will all sin. So God does not see sins 'graded' (as you said that some Christians may believe that heterosexual promiscuous sex is 'better' than homosexual loving sex').

However I don't think that it is necessarily right to believe that homosexual relationships are OK so long as they show faithfulness, tenderness, loyalty, sacrifice. Yes these ARE qualities that Jesus show. Throughout the world there is evidence of God's own heart because he made us that way, he made us in his own image (Gen 1 v27). However just because qualities of Jesus' heart can be represented in same sex relationships it is still a distorted view of God's perfect design.

I am sure that both non-Christians and Christians know about the parts in the old testament that 'judge' homosexuality. Sodom and Gomorrah, man shall not lie with man etc.
However we know that Jesus brought about a new covenant when he died for us that meant we were no longer bound by a lot of the rules and rituals put forward in the old testament.

Yet there are still examples in the new testament that tackle the issue of homosexuality,
In Romans 1 v24-27 it clearly states that it is unnatural.

Instead God states His intended design for human relationships in Ephesians 5 v21-33. As husband and wife, man and woman. That their relationship should represent Christ's love for the church. This is the place where God intended sexual relations to take place, within married heterosexual relationships (1 Corinthians 7).

I believe that homophobia is wrong. And the instigation of an anti-gay bill is a frightening display of prejudice.

However as Christians we should not be scared to be clear about God's intention for us. Not coming from a place of discrimination/judgement but from one of love.

Anonymous said...

So do you support civil partnerships in your church?

normal said...

Colin - thanks.

Chunty – where do I start? You're my friend, but we clearly disagree here! Certainly, 'littered' is the wrong word for the frequency of the Bible's teaching on homosexuality: there are a mere handful of references, one which refers to gang rape (which I'm certainly not defending), one which is in the tricksy context of the Mosaic Law (which also includes bans on mixing fabrics in our clothing and other laws we break without a second thought), and three in Paul which refer largely to specific cultural conditions in his day and cannot (easily) be applied to 21st century homosexual partnerships. Then there's what Jesus said about homosexuality:

Yes, that's right. Precisely nothing.

Marie - I truly respect and share your desire for fidelity to scripture. But I can't help pointing out that if we took the same “cultural cut-and-paste” approach to everything Paul wrote, you would in fact be not allowed to discuss this at all, and certainly not in church, but only at home with your husband. Suffice to say that we have the difficult work before us of applying the whole of what we read in the scripture to life in the 21st century.

Anonymous – this blog post was not written as a statement of policy from my church, but we would certainly support just legislation that removes inequalities in society.

Chunty said...

Once again my Bible knowledge lets me down, and perhaps even referencing the Bible was actually irrelevant (there's another hot topic you) because lets face it in 3 years Jesus is gonna have had way more conversations than have actually made it into the Bible and realistically so much of today's culture is never mentioned because it didn't exist.

I would add - if for no other reason than to avoid being branded a biggot (not I'm think you would) the ugandan bill was monstrous equally something a Christian should stand against - so well done!

Anonymous said...

Interesting piece, if only Christians had the same Passion for tackling injustice as they do for oppressing gays then maybe they will be taken more seriously by non Christians

normal said...

Anon, I think you're right.

Anonymous said...

James, i really enjoyed reading this. Its something iv been confused about ever since iv been a Christian. Iv always thought i should hold some kind of 'righteous grudge' over homosexuality being a Christian, but its something iv never been able to do! I now realise this is not the case at all! You really inspire me so, thankyou

Anonymous said...

Would you personally feel any difficulty in marrying a homosexual couple in your church? Also I think it is true what you say about how we must be careful about what we strip out directly from scripture out of context, but surely judging the other way and presuming that things said were just for the time and bare no relevance on our lives now is a little risky?

normal said...

Human sexuality, including sexual orientation, is a complex issue and as I say in the post, it is too complex to be reduced to easy soundbites or formulae. I fear I may have been guilty of falling into such over-simplification in my swift and brief responses to comments here.

Lest the main point I was making be lost, let me reaffirm that I feel I must protest in the strongest possible terms against homophobia and prejudice, particularly when it comes in the form of horrific violations of human rights like the Ugandan anti-homosexual bill.