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Wednesday, June 25, 2003

On Love and Homophobia


For those of you not up on the latest in the Anglican Communion, there's rather a bit of brouhaha because, in New Hampshire, an actively homosexual man, Gene Robinson, has been elected bishop and lied through his teeth while taking the oath to maintain the traditional doctrines and practices of the church. He left his wife, to whom he had sworn to be true his whole life, for a man; had he left his wife for another woman, also breaking his word given before God and country, the condemnation would have been seen as fuddy-duddy and prudish, but now it's seen as repressive and evil and fearful. Fearful? what? Apparently, saying that a bishop, a leader of the church, ought to live his life setting a good example of the morals tradition (and, according to that tradition, God) dictates should be the rule of the church, and ought to be a man of his word, equals fear.

On a slightly different topic, Archbishop David Hope, Bishop of York, pretty much second-in-command of the Anglican Communion, is under attack. He most likely feels himself more attracted to men than to women (although he has never said it in so many words), but he acknowledges that that is not in accord with the teachings of the religion he has pledged himself to and sworn to uphold in its entirety, and therefore says that he seeks to live in celibacy. Those who work close to him trumpet quite exuberantly that he has not been entirely successful in that attempt. Nobody leads a sinless life, however, and, like all others who do things they believe to be sinful and are not hypocrites, he does not argue that what his holy book frequently and explicitly says is wrong must be right. (I'm not making an argument about homosexuality here -- your holy book says it's fine, or you don't have a holy book, fine by me. I'm taking this post from the perspective of traditional Anglican Christianity.)

Rev. Hope, I hear, has come under attack from British group OutRage! because his actions are apparently hypocritical and homophobic. Come now, be sensible. Doctrinally, the Church treats homosexuality as it treats alcoholism. One may or may not have a genetic predisposition towards it, but one is not dragged kicking and screaming and forced to act upon said predisposition. It is something that is a perversion or an excess of a behavior deemed by God to be acceptable (heterosexual sex within marriage, or measured consumption of alcohol (no matter what the Baptists say -- Jesus' first miracle was to change water into wine; it's obvious which one he preferred!)), it carries with it an increased likelihood of physical damage (heterosexual anal sex does too, by the way), it damages and destroys nuclear family life, and so forth.

You find an alcoholic who does his best never to drink anymore, who believes alcoholism to be wrong, whether or not he proclaim the fact of his alcoholic behavior or tendencies, and who argues that open and unrepentant alcoholics ought not to be raised up as moral and spiritual leaders of the people, are you going to say that he is oppressing and persecuting alcoholics, is a hypocrite, and truly just fears alcoholics? (Perhaps he does fear alcoholism, as he believes it to be wrong and believes it could destroy him, physically and spiritually.) On the contrary! You find someone who says open and unrepentant drunks, who say drinking to excess is a grand and God-given thing, should be promoted and celebrated, and you'll quite rightly call him an enabler.

The argument is not substantively different for homosexual behavior, with a Church and, as far as I can tell (although I do not know the Bishop well enough to tell for sure), a man who both believe alcoholism and homosexuality equally to be undesirable tendencies (genetic or not) that are best not acted upon and never to be celebrated. It is not hypocrisy to say that what you believe is wrong ought not to be considered right, whether or not you want to do it or occasionally do do it. It is loving, not persecutory, to refuse to enable people you believe to be caught in destructive and unacceptable behavior. Loving someone does not mean agreeing with everything they say and praising everything they do, no matter what the "modern" anti-discipline parenting books say.

As someone once said, "If a man sins and falls down again and again and comes to me again and again in repentance, I will forgive him each time, but the one thing I will never let him do is say that it is not a sin."

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