Bonjour Stephen, another gay day dawns
quote:Yes Stephen perhaps you have shown that, but you've also demonstrated what I was trying to say in my opening post to you, that given sufficient time, resources and energy (in this case centuries of revision, manipulation and interpretation of the texts) you can develop pretty much any argument or position about "spiritual conviction" from the pages of the bible.
Only you're not exactly arguing from the Bible, other than piecemeal, which tells me that the text is harder to manipulate than you think. If you're going to say what Paul believes about sex, you should take him globally. Not doing so, is what proof-texting means. And if you're going to bring up all the mountains of "revision, manipulation, and interpretation" (though I'll grant you there's a plethora of interpretation, while denying that all interpretations are therefore equal), you really should be more specific than such a sweeping allegation. The idea that the Biblical texts have been revised countless times, I don't believe to be a sustainable argument ... at least when one is willing to discuss particulars and details.
If you're willing for such an exploration, start another thread, and I'll join you.
I've already accepted that it's hard to interpret the Bible text in a way that is convincing and doesn't open up easy paths to challenge. People have spent lifetimes trying to do it, and of course the mainstream churches have, as I said before, spent centuries doing it. Yet even they shift their ground and mysteriously decide that theological interpretation can change to suit the needs of the day - women priests is one of the latest that springs to mind.
You've granted me the only thing I was asking for: " I'll grant you there's a plethora of interpretation". Yet despite shifts within your own church, and despite all the competing interpretations, you and the Bishop insist that yours is the correct one, on it seems to be little more foundation than the fact that your club has been around longer than anyone else's, is more powerful and has more members. All I'm asking for is a little humility, just the teeniest little acknowledgement that you might just be wrong about some things, same sex love being one of them.
quote:The current mainstream christian viewpoint (if there is such a thing) is no more really than selective "proof-texting" as you call it, collation and amalgamation over a long period of time arguably commencing with the First Council of Nicea and then progressing through a series of revisions sponsored by kings, executed by old men and fuelled by wars and murder. Ok, maybe that's inflammatory, but the fact is that what we see today as mainstream, is here purely by chance and vested interest.
Yes, a bit inflammatory, and absolutely wrong. I assert that the pronouncements of scripture on the subject of homosexuality (most notably the Pauline texts) predate the council of Nicea significantly. Could you explain what the council of Nicea has to do with the Biblical references to homosexuality, and explain in specifics?
And the deconstructionist observation that all writers of texts have agendas (giving rise to your reference to 'vested interest' of those who write differently than you), is an argument that is too strong, in that it cuts in all directions, not just those who disagree with you.
Misunderstanding here Stephen, I wasn't talking about homosexuality specifically, but merely a continuation of my effort to try and get you to acknowledge the essential man-made and man-changed nature of any theology and therefore it's fallibility.
quote:Gnosticism might have been adopted at Nicea, and any one of countless other "faiths" and interpretations of scripture since.
Gnosticism wasn't adopted at Nicea. Though what did happen at Nicea was a formalized Canonization of texts already universally circulated and accepted as authoritative among the early Christian Church. It was more of an acknowledgement and confirmation, than an arbitrary determination.
No it wasn't, but it could have been. Moreover, again, the various tenets that were adopted were decided by men, and by some accounts, by a very limited number of men. So from very early we already see the disenfranchisement of large elements of interested parties who disagreed with the interpretation sponsored by Constantine. That's not a criticism of what happened - I am not stupid enough to think that everyone could be pleased - it's simply a fact which means that there were and are other interpretations, and which logically means there must be some doubt about the infallibility of the one adopted.
quote:So why, given all these entirely chance happenings, variations, different interpretations and ongoing revisions, anyone in any religious communion should have the audacity to claim they, and they alone, are "right" about anything, let alone the rightness or wrongness of someone's sexuality, baffles me.
Obscurantism amounts to throwing many allegations out, wide, far reaching, condemning, none too specific. As far as all the "revision" of the Biblical texts, concerning homosexuality, can you specify?
I never heard the Bishop say that no one else was "right about anything", or even that he is always right. But aside from that, aren't you claiming that your treatment of homosexuals is more "right" than that of the Bishop?
Again, I wasn't talking about homosexuality specifically, but merely trying to point out again that claims to absolute rightness are difficult to sustain. As far as arguing specific points are concerned, having spent an entire evening listening to a debate between two supposedly competent theologians who were also both C of E clergy about homosexuality I wouldn't dream of trying to venture into specifics. A plethora of biblical references and arguments left me, and most other people I think, totally confused. All that was clear was that the protagonists vehemently disagreed about the rightness of homosexuality in God's sight and that they were both equally convincing.
So by all means Stephen argue back and forth within your own church club with the "tools" (biblical words) you have at your disposal and which you believe in, but don't seek to use those tools that most of the rest of use don't view as useful, or maybe even real, to persuade us of our sinfulness.
The Bishop is sometimes wrong? Is that what you're saying? If so that's one of the first times I've ever heard any serious Anglican (if that's what you are) say something like that. Very refreshing. In fact if Bishops would simply preface all their pronouncements with words to effect that what they were about to say was merely their interpretation of scripture which might be erroneous I would be halfway to being happy. The other half would be an admission that scripture itself might not be the only valid interpretation of our spiritual existence.
My "treatment of homosexuals"? More "right" than the Bishop? Are you being serious?
Ok, let's see:
The Bishop is saying that they are sinners and need to repent.
I am saying they are human beings (or members of the mammalian community of Earth if you prefer).
quote:I believe in the necessity of people understanding that they will be help accountable for their actions. The idea of "the person" somehow being absolved from any connection with "the action" is not an idea I am happy with. On the other hand I also believe that the person committing a crime on day 1 and being a sinful person who I don't respect, can also be the person saving a child from drowning on day 2 and be the angel who I do respect. We can be both bad and good and a mixture of both, and there is no need for this artificial device of separating deed and person.
You've all but restated the doctrine in different words. "Hate the sin, love the sinner" is (in simplest form) an affirmation that all human beings have virtue by being made in the image of God, and are not wholly ruined. That's hardly different that you saying that a person is a mixture of good and bad.
Separating deed and person, in this context, is in relation to love and respect, not always in relation to drawing boundaries. I may love and respect someone who loses their temper ... but I still draw lines and don't let their temper rule the day.
I think you need to explore the meaning of the phrase a bit more, before rejecting it out of hand. There are qualifications about the statement, and, as far as I see it, it is little different than what you try to describe as an alternative. You remind me a bit of Chesterton when he wrote about unwittingly rediscovering England.
Yes I am a little like Chesterton in his most pompous personification I think, but without his redeeming wit and intelligence regrettably
You are right of course in saying that the good and true import of the phrase "Hate the sin, love the sinner" is more or less as I stated, but the point I was trying to make was that the phrase, or more specifically the idea, can be used artificially in a kind of politically correct way. For instance it's not fashionable for people to fail at anything these days, so we no longer have winners and losers in school sports days but merely competitors competing to reach their own personal targets. Similarly it's out of the question to castigate an actual person for a crime, so this idea of separation is sometimes appropriated to avoid doing so. Anyway I'm drifting from the point which is that I find the idea of someone genuinely thinking that they can call a homosexual act committed by someone a sin without that person feeling personally hurt and personally denigrated rather far fetched.
quote:My rule book might say that bishops who are against homosexuality are not welcome in my personal club, but what it does not say is that is that my rule book has a valid universal application. Unlike his, apparently.
Your language and tone is not that of someone droning private club rules of small consequence, but that of someone morally offended. Don't pretend that you're not saying you are really right about this while the Bishop is really wrong, and so exuding the same assumption of universality. Even if debate is not to be always thought of in terms of "win/lose" (since I think all sides learn), to seriously court relativism removes you from reasonable debate altogether.
My tone it seems is what you would like it to be.
You are trying to compare apples with pears Stephen. I'm not the one with the detailed rule book claiming it has universal application. I'm not telling the Bishop he's a sinner and must repent for going to Communion each Sunday. I'm not even saying he is wrong in what he says necessarily. What I am saying however is that he is wrong to try and impose what he thinks on other people in a manner that may cause them hurt or harm when he cannot possibly be certain that he is right. There's no relativism here. I impose the same strictures on myself: I would be equally wrong to impose my views which are necessarily subjective and may, by some grand objective standard, be wrong on other people.
I'm going to leave it there because I know you will have lots to say about that last sentence. I'm ready for you .
quote:The Bishop might feel he is like a doctor who advises a patient that he must stop drinking alcohol because otherwise he can never climb Everest.
The difference is that the patient can see and feel deleterious effects of the alcohol on his body, and he sees and believes in Mount Everest.
The two men by contrast feel only love and affection and happiness in each other's company, and are being advised that they risk forgoing a god who they can neither see nor believe in.
I have never known a homosexual (and I've known a few) who didn't struggle with their homosexuality ... feelings of guilt, low self esteem, emotional turmoil. You would say this is only due to a larger non-acceptance of homosexuality as normal. I would say that at least some of it is due to nature of homosexuality. I'm not saying that a person may not persist in a chosen path despite difficulties. Aren't there people who commit adultery who are "fine with it", as well?
As I said, we're bound to interpret the data differently, as long as we disagree about whether such, in fact, involves sin.
Yes, I think we should leave it there.
I'm interested though to hear about your experience of homosexuals "struggling" with their sexuality. Given your obvious involvement with church that doesn't entirely surprise me. My friend from Durham I mentioned earlier because an Anglican minister and now works in an inner city environment, doing amongst lots of other kind things, counselling work with minority groups of all kinds. He made a similar comment to yours about gay people, but I pointed out to him that most of the gay people he comes into contact with are in contact with him precisely because they do have problems. His sample is therefore biassed. Moreover he himself will admit that when a gay person joins his church he makes no effort to condone the "sin" or accept it. So here we have a gay person who dearly wants to be a church member but is being made to feel like he or she is a sinner and therefore inadequate. Under those circumstances it's hardly surprising that such a person is going to "struggle" - the attitude of the church has created a deep and difficult conflict in that person.
Looking at the people I know who are atheist in their views, or at least neutral or disinterested in the church, the closest gay person I know is my sister. In her case the "struggle" was exactly the opposite of your suggestion. She struggled for many years trying to fit in with what was expected by society and parents, by entering a heterosexual marriage, having children etc etc. She was never truly happy, she had a deep friendship with her husband, but nothing more. Only in the last 5 years has she had the courage to change her life to something that conforms more closely to her deepest feelings. I have never seen her so happy or relaxed. The struggle it seems is over at last.
quote:What you vilify as pederasty now was at one time, and in some cultures, considered acceptable. I think you are on a hiding-to-nothing if you try to justify your christian beliefs today by appealing to what I may or may not consider morally right or wrong.
1) Do you not think that cultures, despite their many wonderful beauties, can be really wrong? Do you not think the Jew-exterminating culture of the Third Reich was wrong?
2) Are you really willing to suggest that child molestation is not abhorrently wrong?
1 Yes. Yes.
They all cause harm, and you bolster my point.
All I was trying to do was point out to you that you cannot assume that what you, Stephen, and the Anglian communion do and say today is necessarily right.
In two centuries Rochester's speech may be held up as an example of an arrogant institution imposing strictures that caused harm and misery. I repeat: I think you are on a hiding-to-nothing if you try to justify your christian beliefs today by appealing to what I (or you) may or may not consider morally right or wrong.
quote:It's quite simply that today, the general societal feeling, and I am with society on this, is that pederasty causes harm and should therefore not be encouraged.
Do you only believe so because of a general societal feeling?
I believe it because I believe it, society seems to agree with me.
quote:Why do we have to burden everything with the weight of some grand universal law according to God? Why not simply attribute it to the changing conditions in the world, our increasing comfort and knowledge of ourselves and accordingly more time and sensitivity to the needs and desires of others rather than simply to our own selfish desires and survival.
1) There is more to God than just law, and the simple answer is, We don't have to "burden everything".
2) Because if you attribute it simply to the changing conditions of the world, then it is nothing more than flux.
3) Whose comfort?
4) Is retaining sensitivity to the needs and desires of others a kind of overarching moral precept, or is it something that too may pass away with "changing conditions"?
1) If you say so.
2) The world is flux. Is that so bad?
3) Ours, yours, mine, humanity's generally. Or don't you think that, materially speaking, we have advanced from the cave?
4) It may change yes, as indeed it has. As it will in the future no doubt. And yes, if humanity is subjected to some event that brings personal survival to the point of criticality on a regular basis then it may well reduce. I don't think it will ever pass away entirely incidentally - but that's a long and complicated discussion.
quote:I am merely pointing out that the whole animal kingdom behaves in a perfectly consistent and logical way. It seeks orgasmic pleasure wherever and whenever it can, it eats (its own species if necessary) to live. Both are perfect "natural" by definition - they happen in nature - just as the act of male/female union is natural. You insist in picking out certain features of natural behaviour which don't accord with your club rules and then condemning them as universally bad and sinful.
And unless you're okay with your neighbor eating their own human children, then you too are picking out certain features of natural behavior that are appropriate to human morality.
The Christian view holds that nature is fallen but not totally ruined, somewhat a guide but not totally trustworthy ... providing a philosophy that is at least consistent with the picking and choosing we all do. It is hard for you to deny this view, while affirming and picking just as passionately yourself. A complimentary match of nature that produces children, cannot easily be tossed aside as little different than cannibalism or parasitism.
"... Then I dreamed that one day there was nothing but milk for them, and the jailer said as he put down the pipkin: "Our relations with the cow are not delicate -- as you can easily see if you imagine eating any of her other secretions." ...at these words something seemed to snap in [John's] head and he gave a great sigh and suddenly spoke out in a loud, clear voice: "Thank heaven! Now at last I know that you are talking nonsense... you are trying to pretend that unlike things are like. You are trying to make us think that milk is the same sort of thing as sweat or dung." "And pray, what difference is there except by custom?" "Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no difference between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?" (From 'The Pilgrim's Regress' by C.S. Lewis)
Mixing human morality and the behaviour of nature is always problematic as Lewis finds in that passage. And why do we have to mix or compare them? It's fallacious. Of course to some elements of nature, dung flies for instance, cow dung is food.
That is not to say that in what we consider to be our enlightened state we shouldn't seek to modify our own particular animal behaviour to make us feel better about ourselves. This concept of trying not to cause harm to others is part of that of course.
I say again that I only raised this whole issue of how nature behaves in the context of your contention that nature provided man and woman with body parts which fit, and therefore this is an overt indication of "god's will". Nature also provides that on occasion male pigeon mates with male pigeon and female with female so why isn't this god's will? And simply writing with ever increasing velocity, as Lewis and Chesterton tend to do, "that's foolish!!", isn't going to weight against the point.
Nobody's "tossing anything aside" either. I'm not saying that, in nature, cannibalism or parasitism is any more or less desirable than conception and birth - it just happens. For all you know the mouse may have a very good and, by mouse morals, acceptable reason for eating her young. I won't speculate too much, but who knows what weird and wonderful rituals the mouse ministers in the church of the great mouse might have dreamt up as being a moral compulsion for all good churchgoing mice. Or it may simply be that nature for some reason judges that in the long run the well being of mice generally is best served by the action.
I don't cite homosexuality in animals as something that we should copy or indeed cannibalism. I merely cite it as evidence that it is not some special corrupt moral peculiar to our species that compels humans to behave in such a way, we just do it because it's natural.
quote: It just seems likely to me that all animals will seek this pleasure from whatever source they can obtain it.
Should we always seek this pleasure from "whatever source we can obtain it"?
That's irrelevant. Whether we "should" or not is a purely moral question. You're mixing again.
quote:If you recall I was specifically answering your suggestion that there "is the shared belief that the physical makeup of men and women are complimentary by natural design ... and that this striking compatibility (including the miracle of conception as a by-product of heterosexual union) is a not-so-subtle clue to the divine will concerning sexuality". My contention is that this statement does not sit very well with the observed behaviour of the animal kingdom as a whole, and for a particular religion, sect, or bishop to decree that because the observed behaviour of the world doesn't fit its or his particular set of rules therefore that behaviour is sinful and wrong, strikes me as at the least arrogant and at worst potentially divisive and harmful.
And much of what you believe is morally acceptable in humans also "does not sit very well with the observed behavior of the animal kingdom as a whole". If a moral pronouncement strikes you as arrogant simply because it doesn't fit nature "as a whole", then you should apply the same standard whether the moral pronouncement comes from a religious tongue, or a non-religious tongue ... from a Parrish Priest, or a Pip pontiff like yourself. Quit being so arrogant, potentially divisive and harmful. Actually I would say none of those things about you, except that you happen to be mistaken about this one.
Ok let's calm down here! And step back a bit.
First off you didn't make a "moral pronouncement" - you took a physical attribute of men and women and said that because x therefore y; where x is the shape of genitals and y god's will. That's how I originally came to point out that what happens in nature isn't a good guide to your god's will if you are consistent in your approach.
Second, and separately, the bishop did make a moral pronouncement about the observed behaviour of the animal world (or maybe he means that homosexuality in humans is wrong but in animals it's ok?), which takes us right back to the problem noted in the section above about making moral pronouncements about the whole animal kingdom.
You say I am making such pronouncements?
You say I apply a different standard to religious people from that I apply to secular?
We certainly know that people are quite different in this regard, if we can deduce anything from what you've said about the behavior of the Bishop. Otherwise, why not just say its his very valid nature to do what he does?
It may be that the bishop can validly take refuge in the contention that he is merely expressing his animal nature, but as you say yourself morals aren't relevant where animals are concerned, an accordingly he would find it hard to invoke that defence while pronouncing "god's will" I think.
A pleasure as always to talk to you.