Thursday, May 03, 2007
A Gay Cruise
I decided to start my column for the paper again - this is saturday's piece for the religion page - thought blogland might want a preview. i know i will receive hate mail again, but I believe in this stuff
this is us, we, you and me together....one day we'll be home
ps, i had no image to put to these thoughts, so I pinched this from the great 'Banksy' - rest easy you all on this bank holiday weekend
‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’
Yesterday a cruise ship docked out in the bay. Nothing new about that I guess, but this ship is causing quite a commotion. To be accurate it’s not the ship but the people on it – all two thousand of them. Why? Well, for those who have been living on Mars recently they are all gay men.
And so once more it starts. I for one am tired with this debate; at least 40,000 people starve to death everyday, within much of the West, the poverty rate is on the increase, especially among children, and we have now begun to describe our societies as post-Christian. Yet it seems that most of the church are still preoccupied with an issue that Jesus doesn’t speak of in direct terms once – this issue though is not going away – so we must embrace it with the kind of sensitivity and compassion Jesus constantly showed to those who found themselves under Pharisaic judgement.
The biblical exegesis and moral theology that refer to homosexual behaviour has in fact caused a great deal of confusion (the story of Sodom has little to contribute to the argument - Jude says one thing, Ezekiel says something very different. Romans 1, is still, I admit, for many the most obvious defence of those against the rite of blessing for same-sex couples. Though I am now convinced that 1 Corinthians 6 refers to Temple prostitution, and 1 Timothy 1:9 has little to say about any loving commitment between two people). I have now come to question even more how far the contemporary expression of homosexual love in a committed relationship corresponds at all with the patterns of behaviour rejected in Leviticus and condemned by Paul.
I believe there are deep personal questions about integrity, honesty and justice which are barely being addressed by many in the evangelical community (of which I was a part for many years – I still think there is ‘good news’ to give). Homosexuality is not only, or even primarily, about sexuality. It is not even an ‘issue’. We are talking about people! When some Christians require others, as a test of orthodoxy, to make public statements about God’s law and to call all homosexual people to repentance, it feels to me like a high road to legalism.
Contrary to what some may think, I believe very much in the fundamentals of the Christian faith – ‘that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind’ and that, ‘we should love our neighbour as ourselves’. Jesus actually states that on these two commandments hang ALL the law and the prophets. He also says that, ‘whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me’. In other words, what was at the forefront of the mind and action of Christ was to serve the poor, help the widow and orphan, visit those in hospital and prison, work for peace and make known the good news of the gospel - sadly our unending debate on homosexuality does very little to alleviate the predicament of the poor.
With the current two opposing opinions there is bound to be some theological tension. In truth the two boats who departed the same harbour together a long time ago have veered away from each other – in other words they are sailing (and have been for some time) in different directions. Canon Gene Robinson once said that there have been gay priests and bishops for as long as any of us can remember – he at least is ‘just being honest about it.’ I realise that people are ‘desperate’ to be faithful to biblical text, but I can’t help but feel that there are too many stones flying around – and we do after all reside in glass houses!
Recently I heard someone a little more to the right of centre than I am say that the Bible called homosexuality an abomination (Lev 18:22). I have a few questions for people who think this to be true. I am interested in selling my daughter into slavery (Exodus 21:7), I wonder what a good price would be? Let me ask another. A friend of mine is a doctor and insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says this person should be put to death. Touching the skin of a dead pig renders one unclean (Lev 11:7) – if they wear gloves can the rugby world cup still go ahead this year? And do whole communities have to come together to stone those who plant different crops side by side? I will end my point with this. Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing clothes made from two different threads?
So before you reach for the Christian platitudes, let’s dare to sift our own souls. Is there much there that is unhealed, unspoken, unforgiven? Faith in Jesus does not exempt us from traversing the deeper chasms of the psyche. Nor does it automatically protect us from the little deaths which rehearse us for the grand one. There can be no easy conclusion to this debate – I suspect that if we don’t weep as well as laugh, there will have been a failure somewhere.
Times of transition pass so quickly – they just seem to last a lifetime. It would appear, regarding homosexuality that we live in neurotic avoidance of its proximity. And yet without that ultimate transition, life becomes as trivial as a glossy magazine. Until we face our own demise, we lack real conviction and, more significantly, the capacity for love. As Australian biker Minister John Smith says, “At the end of the day, sometimes it’s more important to love than to be right.”
As long as people, on either side of the sexuality debate, continue to call down judgement on one another whilst ignoring ‘the least among us’, we will be calling down judgement upon ourselves. Or as my gran used to say…“stop chucking stones in’ glass ‘ouse” I hope the guys have a great cruise, and that the hospitality we show them will make a carpenter from Nazareth proud.