‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007

Monday, 20 August 2012

Conservative Christian Bashing

Following on from the last blog entry, and recent comments by Dean Jeffrey John, there is clearly a need for a calm, loving discussion surrounding gay issues. Evidence suggests that Christian conservatives are misrepresented by the gay lobby, one commentator, Rev. Mel White, goes so far as to suggest the conservative position is akin to Holy Terrorism and recently a security guard at the Family Research Council in America has been shot and wounded in an incident that may have been linked to such bitter rhetoric.

Here in the UK Dean Jeffrey John has told gays not to listen to conservative Anglicans and asserted that the official position of the Church, held for centuries, is 'morally contemptible.'

Of course on the other side Christians have not always shown the love of Christ as it should and perhaps made gays feel unwelcome in the Church, which is a shame also. But there does need to be honesty and integrity in debate here. John accuses the Church of not showing integrity, but to deliberately misrepresent the traditionalist position so that gays are led to believe they are unwelcome in conservative churches does not show integrity. Instead, whether you agree with the conservative position or not, it represents a reasoned and long held position that is based upon the presence of the transforming grace and love of Christ in the world.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Jeffrey John Attacks the Church of England for Upholding Traditional Values

Jeffrey John writing in the Guardian Comment is Free section in effect slanders the Church of which he is a Canon and displays little love and grace towards his brethren who have legitimate concerns about Church and State policy. There is perhaps an indecent haste in the way pressure for change in marriage law is being pursued with bitter accusations against traditionalists. Under Rowan Williams, the church has failed gay people

What I find unhelpful about this piece is the way in which it is assumed automatically that anyone who seeks to uphold traditional conservative values towards marriage is homophobic. John writes that the policy of the Anglican Church ‘is morally contemptible.’ However, Rowan Williams has at least struggled to maintain unity within a Church that holds a wide diversity of views, and has respected the views of Anglicans across the world where modern western secular approaches to ethics are unknown.

John is however critical of African Christians commenting that “About half the world's Anglicans are African, and the majority of them are in violently homophobic countries whose churches back harsh punishments against homosexuals, right up to the death penalty.” John here omits to say that the call for the death penalty for homosexual acts in Uganda for instance is limited to repeated acts of sexual abuse towards children and those under care. Abuse of children, admittedly mainly sexual abuse by men against girls (and also child sacrifice), in African countries is a major problem that needs to be dealt with firmly, and Christians are right to try and address the problems. However, harsh penalties for consenting sexual acts are regrettable. Even for those who consider it to be morally wrong justice does need to be proportionate, and there may be many things that are immoral that are not illegal. But John’s diatribe against African Christians, that is Christian people with black skin, is deeply unhelpful and could be seen as western liberal elitism, if not liberal racism. It certainly doesn’t help African Christians extend loving Christian values across Africa. There is an assumption in this piece by John that the views of African Christians who hold to a more conservative ethical foundation are to be ignored. It would seem that for liberals democracy only goes so far. This might seem like western cultural imperialism by a liberal elite.

In terms of equality John taps into what I would call Humean rights as opposed to human rights. That is rights are given to people and groups on the basis of subjective sentiment and not according to a person’s intrinsic value, nor according to rational debate, nor with consideration of corresponding duties. The problem for liberalism is that ultimately ethics become relative. For Christian liberals the practice of reinterpreting scripture to suit one’s own views effectively destroys the basis for objectivity in ethical standards; in effect they cut off the branch on which they sit. We are left in a potentially dangerous place where human sentiment may turn against upholding the value of all human beings; an example being Nazi Germany where Jews, gays and others were persecuted and some put to death. Let us also have a rational and calm debate about the cause of gay sentiment; is it really a given at birth or is it something that arises through upbringing, or environment or something else? Is it nature or nurture; is it intrinsic or extrinsic to who we are as human beings? Admittedly for some it is strongly felt, although for others the recent growth in the gay community suggests it is partly a passing fashion. Also through history, as the Old Testament relates, the community of faith has ebbed and flowed between periods of liberalism and periods of conservatism. However these questions matter when we are dealing with questions of rights and equality so let us at least have a fair and honest debate. Instead of attacking African Christians and fellow Anglicans John needs to work with his fellow believers to help bring an end to sexual and other abuse of children, and to develop and campaign for a proportionate system of justice because these are Christian values that we can all accept and desire to see extended.