Another excellent article by John Stevens. Find it here.
Archive for the 'Social Justice' Category
Same-sex marriage is high on the cultural agenda these days. As Christians, it is important that our thinking on this issue is biblically informed and guided and not simply visceral. It is also important that we are able to present our understanding as clearly as possible both to other Christians and to non-Christians. Below are some links that will help to educate us on the issues. I do not necessarily agree with all that they say but they present a good launching pad for reflection. It is also worth reading the comments on some as they often present the opposing case inviting us to clearer engagement.
Let me say, it is absolutely clear to me same-sex marriage has no biblical support and for a Christian it is completely forbidden. It is clear to me too that churches which promote or condone same-sex marriage among their members are apostate in nature and should be avoided. Bible teachers who so teach should be disciplined by the church as false teachers. The harder question to answer for me is how far Christians should oppose same-sex marriage being made legal by society.
The bigger question here of course is the role that God expects of his people in society. Or, to frame this question in contemporary jargon – what is the mission of the church? Some questions in the mix include: is the church called to be a moral policeman in society; is the church mission to ‘redeem culture’; if we have an obligation to oppose society’s evils then where do we start and where do we stop; where do we find this moral imperative upon the church to attempt to change culture in Scripture?
On the other side many will ask, when faced with injustice and the ability to do something about it, should Christians pass by on the other side?
On another blog I got involved in a discussion about homosexuality. It was a discussion among professing Christians. The initial blog was querying whether Christians should oppose homosexual marriage in the Public Square, however, soon the comments were raising other issues. Below is a slightly adapted version of my response to the initial query and some other points raised, including whether I really cared about homosexuality. I have not provided many texts to back up my ‘beliefs’, however, I thought the ‘beliefs’ themselves worth posting.
1. I believe all sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage to be sinful and harmful. This includes homosexuality.
2. I believe homosexual behaviour to be a particularly obvious example of a reversal of the natural order that results in a self-destructive lifestyle for those who pursue it (Roms 1).
3. I believe that no practising homosexual can enter the Kingdom of God, just as I believe that the sexually promiscuous, serial adulterers, thieves, swindlers, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, and hypocrites equally have no place in the Kingdom (1 Cor 6). Any who repent of such sins will be accepted gladly, but sin repented must be forsaken.
3. Just as strongly as I believe that a homosexual lifestyle is sinful, destructive, and damning, I believe people who in their sexuality are homosexual should be treated, as all people should, with dignity, respect, acceptance and love. I would wish to teach children to respect the humanity of all while discriminating whether human behaviour is right or wrong.
4. Despite it being a belief that has fallen on hard times, I believe it is possible to love the sinner and hate the sin. This is our functional response to all flawed people i.e everyone (including oneself). If I may refer to the most demonized group in society without being thought to make them socially equivalent to homosexuals, it should be our response to paedophiles too.
5. I believe that all our behaviour as human beings affects other people to a greater or lesser extent. No behaviour is socially isolated or socially without consequence. As a result, socially there can be no such thing as absolute personal freedom. Governments must decide if certain behaviour is so detrimental to society that it should be curtailed by legislation. The freedoms of the one must be balanced against the good of the many.
6. I do not know how far, if at all, a ‘Christian ethic’ should be imposed on society. In general I am chary of this. However, in a pluralistic democratic society every individual has the right (some may say duty) to argue for what they believe to be for the common good. The hope is that as arguments are presented the democratic judgement of the people will be wise and good and just laws will result. However, I am realistic enough to recognise that wisdom is not always heeded and as I believe that true wisdom is biblical wisdom I believe the more post-Christian a society becomes the less likely it is for biblical wisdom to have a fair hearing far less prevail.
6. I believe that the way forward where differences exist is to present reasoned arguments as gently and courteously as possible (I am flawed in this far too often). Reasoning and seeking to do so dispassionately, should not be misunderstood as not caring, rather the opposite.
7. I believe that far more important and far more effective than any social engineering by law or education is the preaching of the gospel. The call of the Church is to preach the gospel not impose a law. The Church should stay clear of politics. How individual Christians act politically as citizens is a matter of private conscience.
Finally, I care about homosexuality and what it means.
I care that people embrace a lifestyle that is destructive and will bring upon them God’s wrath. I care that we may so sanitize and normalize homosexuality that some who may have otherwise suppressed these desires and found ways to live with them apart from yielding to them will by our neutralizing embrace them. I care that by so doing these same folks may be that bit further trapped in sin and that it may be that bit harder for them to turn to Christ. I care that through legislation re civil gay marriage the institution of marriage is being eroded and the stabilising mores of society are being dismantled. I care about how this will adversely affect the next generation.
I care that the Church does not speak with a single voice re the sin of homosexuality. I care that in the church as in society efforts are being made to turn black into white and declare the clear, unclear.
I care above all that in all of this God’s glory is diminished. I care that his image is being deformed. I care that his will is being defied. I care that his grace and mercy are being disdained. I care that his church is being disloyal and dishonest.
Over at Storied Theology is a post that has some helpful discussion on the merits and justice, or otherwise, of imposing a ‘Christian ethic’ on society. I did not find the post itself particularly illuminating (in this occasion) but did find some of the comments instructive, particularly some opposing gay marriage ( I confess my own comments were by far the weakest). Below is a comment by ‘Alastair’ that I found very helpful. He has a number of others well worth reading.
I raised the case of abortion for two reasons. First, it is a case where it seems quite clear that ethics, grounded in large measure upon Christian convictions about life, are being imposed upon people in society. Second, it is an example of a case where a zoom lens view can be quite misleading. We need to expand our vision to include within it parties that are habitually excluded. For instance, in the case of abortion we need to look at the effect that it has on unborn children, on our concept of children more generally, on fathers and partners, on past and future generations, on communities and society more generally.
It is precisely such a ‘wide-angle lens’ approach that leads me to believe that gay marriage is oppressive and that an approach that sees it purely in terms of not getting in the way of individuals who wish to marry the person of their choice is hopelessly and dangerously myopic.
The institution of marriage is about far more than the granting of social approval and recognition to committed sexual partnerships. The institution of marriage protects and marks out a realm where we negotiate and experience some of the deepest realities of our human nature – sexual difference, procreation, kinship and blood relations, and the movement between the generations.
The institution of marriage protects the interests of children, their right to a lineage and a stable home, the norm and ideal of a relationship with one’s biological parents. By restricting sex to something to be undertaken within the lifelong commitment of the bonds of matrimony, the institution of marriage provides for the interests of children, presenting sex as a responsible act that needs to be open to potential consequences. This openness to the gift of children stands opposed to the sterile ideal represented by gay marriage, where sex is detached from consequences, where no child is unwanted or unchosen, where no child can make uninvited demands upon our lives.
Marriage expresses the value and importance of relationships that traverse the realm of sexual difference, bringing the two halves of humanity together in a union that transcends, negotiates, and creates a loving compromise of sexual differences. It recognizes the distinct phenomenology of human bodies, whereby male and female sexed bodies bear a natural relationship to each other, and the bodies of children bear a natural relationship to those of their parents.
Marriage protects the interests of society more generally and of past and future generations in the passing on of the social capital, which is a further reason why the openness of marriage to procreation and protecting the norm of biological kinship is important to it.
Marriage has traditionally functioned as a norm to which relationships are expected to conform, and as a participation in a larger transgenerational social project. Its norms and ideals are not merely placed upon married couples, but on society more generally (the expectation that people will be sexually abstinent outside of it, for instance). Gay marriage is merely another step in reorienting marriage to primarily serve the interests of individual couples and their bespoke lifestyle choices. The reduction of marriage from a norm to a lifestyle choice (is the argument for gay marriage really about expecting the gay community to conform to the norms of marriage or about validating a lifestyle choice?) has large social effects, most especially among the poorest.
GC comments on the effect that the change in the functional definition of marriage will have on Christians. Although this is a valid concern, I believe that the social dangers are far greater than this, reinforcing trends that have been ongoing for some time.
As for your claim about equality, you are just begging the question. ‘Equality’ is an empty word, unless it can be demonstrated that, relative to a particular standard, people are in fact equal. No one argues for the equality of blind and sighted drivers.
The issue here is whether, relative to the ends served by the institution of marriage and its grammar, committed gay partnerships (not, note, gay persons) are equal to heterosexual ones. This has to be demonstrated, not merely assumed.
I would argue that gay marriage is profoundly inequitable. Gay marriages would receive the privilege and status enjoyed by heterosexual marriages, while being incapable of serving or being open to the same ends. This isn’t justice at all.
In response to Anne Rice’s recent public renunciation of Christianity (though not, she says, Christ) Mike Wittner has written a helpful blog.
Rice seems a classic example of someone whose faith capitulates to the values of secularism. She seems more convinced by these than Scripture. Although she aims her criticisms at the Church (and her experience of Church is principally Roman Catholic though she has read much wider) and seeks to drive a wedge between the Church and Christ, in fact the pressure points are in the main if not entirely express a conflict is not simply with the Church but with Scripture. She wants a Christ that is different from the Church, in some issues this is possible, unfortunately the issues she cites reveal she wants a Christ different from the Bible. In this respect she represents many today.
If you are aware of Anne Rice and her writings take some time to read the blog.
Here is a link to the last of Kevin de Young’s blogs on social justice. It is an excellent conclusion to an excellent series of blogs. Please take time to read it and them.