"Gay-friendly Christianity has become a self-righteous subculture"

A thought-provoking post from Theo Hobson at The Guardian:

For quite a while now, liberal Christianity has been strongly defined by the gay issue. It is unhelpful to say "let's move on", as if the issue can be magicked away, but there is a need to remember that liberal Christianity is bigger than any single issue. It is time to reassert the big picture, within which the gay issue fits.

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Otherwise, gay-friendly Christianity becomes a self-righteous subculture. It is natural for groups who feel discriminated against to become closely-knit, to create a space of safety. But, in the context of the church, it is also dangerous. When I receive email updates from a certain Christian gay-rights lobby group my heart sinks a little: why are you organising your own carol service, or Lent group or whatever? I want to ask. Why do you seek this cultish separatism? Do you not see that it does not help your cause?

...

So although I am in favour of the ordination of homosexuals, I am very wary of the righteous aura attaching to homosexuality in liberal Christian culture. What is so fascinating about the gay issue is that it has been the best of liberal Christian causes, and the worst. It has been the best of causes because it revives one of the most basic themes of liberal Protestantism: God calls us to move beyond moral rules, beyond "the law".

There is no code of Christian morality other than "Be perfect" – and we are all forced to decide for ourselves how to failingly pursue this. Even when the person issuing the moral rule is St Paul we must overlook it, for his larger message is that the gospel frees us from moralism. The gay issue separates the advocates of Christian freedom from the legalists. It is a crucial shibboleth. Those who appeal to holy rules against homosexuality should indeed be denounced as sub-Christian.

And yet it also has been the worst of liberal Christian causes – because it overlaps with secular humanism. It has led to the perpetuation of a rather flabby liberalism that speaks the language of self-help therapy and political correctness. Feminism has also contributed to this, of course. The gay rights (and feminist) narrative of "accepting who you are" is one that should not be mixed up with Christianity, which teaches that you should strive to be very much better than you are. It points Christianity in the direction of soft spirituality.

How can liberal Christianity move on? How can it develop a larger sense of purpose which can put the gay issue in its place? Simply by being more theologically ambitious. It must strive to articulate the entire liberal Christian vision, it must re-narrate all of modern politics and culture in terms of it. It must put away its little books about victimised minorities and read – and write – some meatier ones. It must man up.

Read the full piece here.

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6 years 8 months ago
Above all, we must ask ourselves whether we are using the media of communication in order to share the divine faith which the Holy Spirit has given to us. It is now twenty years since I was told by the Holy See to do everything in my power to alert Catholics in America that they must use the media to preserve and promote the one true faith. Otherwise, so Pope Paul VI told his emissary, the Catholic Church in the United States is in great danger of being not only weakened, but in some parts of our country, even wiped out.

These media include print and radio, television, and recording, the computer, and the whole science of electronics which the enemies of Catholicism are exploiting to destroy what God became man to establish by His death on the cross.
Juan Lino
6 years 8 months ago
I am friends with some Franciscans in London and from what they tell me they've experienced a palpable hostility when they walk around in their habits - so much for tolerence in a democracy.  And then I read things like this and it makes me think about what's going to happen here - think of the harassment of the Prop 8 people:

David Starkey, a renowned historian and UK media personality, was discussing the ruling on BBC television yesterday. Starkey said: “I am gay and I am atheist but I have profound doubts about this case. It seems to me that what we are doing is producing a tyrannous new morality that is every bit as oppressive as the old.”

Starkey described what he believes was harassment from police that he experienced while growing up as a homosexual.  He said, however, that, “I am very, very concerned that a new sort of liberal morality is coming in, which as I said, is as intolerant, is as oppressive, is as intrusive into family life.”

Starkey also raised the case of the British couple who owned a small hotel and were fined since they did not wish to accommodate a homosexual couple. Starkey said he was opposed to the fine, suggesting rather: “The way to do that is not to ban them, not to fine them. It is for them simply to put up what seems to me to be a quite proper notice in a small privately run hotel which says we are Christians and this is what we believe.”

“Otherwise, we are as I said, we are producing a new tyranny,” he added.

The harassment doesn't bother me as much as the intolerance toward those who do not hold my world-view.  This is dangerous.  I was taught that we must not accept erroneous ideas but we must always be respectful of the persons who hold them as much as possible.
Kang Dole
6 years 8 months ago
I don't think that it is a very good piece. I think that the author creates straw men and operates from stereotypes.

For example:

"Sexuality is more ambiguous. Gay rights is joined at the hip to cultural forces that are, from a Christian point of view, dubious. I mean sexual liberation, individualism, hedonism."

This operates from the assumption that a Christian who is gay is less capable than a Christian who is straight at reguating his or her life. This view is also delusional in that it rather breezily overlooks two things: 1) the supposed ideal of heterosexual monogamy gave way long ago to the "sexual liberation, individualism, hedonism" that the author wishes to posit as the speecia domain of gay culture, and 2) restricting gays from what are being lauded as regulating and uplifting institutions (eg. marriage, full religious engagement, etc.) on account of the hedonism supposedly inherent to homosexuality certainly won't do much to curtail "liberation" and "hedonism."

"The reality is that this thing called "homosexuality" is ambiguous. It does not just refer to stable committed same-sex partnerships. It also refers to a culture that detaches sex from commitment."

Well, of course it doesn't "just refer to stable committed same-sex partnerships" . Neither does heterosexuality. It never has. The author seems to know this. so why does he even trot this out?


"The gay rights (and feminist) narrative of "accepting who you are" is one that should not be mixed up with Christianity, which teaches that you should strive to be very much better than you are."

This simply puts him into the same camp as people who see homosexuality as a disorder, as something that is inferior to heterosexuality. I know that he is in plentiful company, but I wonder if it doesn't belie any claim he has to really speak for "liberal Christianity." He seems to be the one suffering from problems of ambiguity as much as homosexuality does.

Finally, when he complains of gays being "strident" in tone, it just seems to me that that's another way of saying that they are uppity.

That's all that I'm going to say on this, because I "lack the ethical standing" to give an opinion.




Juan Lino
6 years 8 months ago
Clarification: I am concerned about the inability of people to dialogue with people who do not hold their views and that fact that this is becoming acceptable.  Of course, no one is completely innocent on this point, especially me, but some don't even bother to try to be respectful because "their cause" is "the right cause." 
Liam Richardson
6 years 8 months ago
Gay theologians and believers long ago critiqued the limitations and internal contradictions of what might be called the "Up With People" Church Therapeutic, so let's not assume a monolithic front here.
Marie Rehbein
6 years 8 months ago
"How can liberal Christianity move on? How can it develop a larger sense of purpose which can put the gay issue in its place? Simply by being more theologically ambitious. It must strive to articulate the entire liberal Christian vision, it must re-narrate all of modern politics and culture in terms of it. It must put away its little books about victimised minorities and read – and write – some meatier ones. It must man up."

Actually, before it can "man up", "articulate", and "re-narrate", liberal Christianity has to become a person, I would think. 
Jim McCrea
6 years 8 months ago
“If a man leaves his wife because he decides he is gay, well, that is more ambiguous.”


Sorry, Theo:  one doesn’t decide one is gay, like one decides one is a Catholic or a Republican.  It’s not a choice that one makes today and then changes tomorrow.  One either IS or IS NOT gay/lesbian.  Being gay/lesbian is an emotive and psychological orientation toward someone of the same gender as opposed to the opposite gender.  What is ambiguous is the state of being in which one tries to be what one is not because someone else tells you that what you are is wrong, sinful, intrinsically disordered or any other bit of destructive psychological or theological pap.



You can run from the truth (and many do run into the social safety of marriage) but you cannot hide from the truth of what and who you are.
6 years 8 months ago
Any thing "exclusive", militant, and a tinge of arrogance always spell danger for me.  I feel very unsafe, challenged and sometimes, judged when faced with such a group.  It is not a nice feeling.  We should relearn the practice of civility and respect. 
Crystal Watson
6 years 8 months ago
I agree with Abe - this isn't a very good piece.  It tries to link liberal Christianity's inclusiveness with secular humanism over and against traditional Christian values.  But I think that's a false dichotomy.  As Anglican priest Giles Frasier wrote  about Anglican priest Steven Shakespeare's book "The Inclusive God:  Reclaiming Theology for an Inclusive Church" .......

 "inclusivity ... has nothing to do with being liberal.  It's not a churchy version of political correctness.  It's a gospel imperative, fundamental to the nature of God and at the very heart of the mission and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ"
6 years 8 months ago
Has it been established that Christianity, i.e. the Gospel preached by Jesus Christ and accepted by his followers was, in fact, about individuals making up their own morality apart from "the rules'?

If so, why can't two can play that game? On what grounds could "liberal Christianity" condemn capitalistic plutocrats not paying workers a fair wage if these capitalists decide that their intentions and actions are perfectly fine, thank you? With what rule or bible quote or holy text do you argue against their actions if they say that rules don't apply and besides, employment (and subsequent payment for labor) is voluntary, not mandatory so if you don't like the pay scale, don't work!?

On what grounds could a Liberal Christianity condemn anything for that matter as an offense against 'the rules' if rules don't matter? Or is there some super-rule that says 'freedom only applies to sex'?
Juan Lino
6 years 8 months ago
Juan (#10) - what is your last name?
Virginia Edman
6 years 8 months ago
I particularly liked this paragraph:

There is no code of Christian morality other than "Be perfect" - and we are all forced to decide for ourselves how to failingly pursue this.  Even when the person issuing the moral rule is St Paul we must overlook it, for his larger message is that the gospel frees us from moralism.  The gay issue separates the advocates of Christian freedom from the legalists.  It is a crucial shabboleth.  Those who appeal to holy rules against homosexuality should indeed be denounced as sub-Christian.

To look on marginalized gay people with condemnation, and to enlarge that to be called sin, is to go against the freedom that Jesus preached.  I agree with #11 that feminism does not belong here, unless he means discrimination against feminists.  Actually the two are often joined together for scorn by the same persons, and those persons are not Christ-like.
ofer barsadeh
6 years 8 months ago
i'm confused (not real name)
isn' all religion a self-righteous subculture by definition?
should not the sexual preferences of clergy be a non-subject if celibacy is called for?
what difference shouldit make if a clergical wannabe would hypothetically prefer maria or her son?
and if married clergy are ventually allowed, what difference should it matter if their family offspring are biological or adopted? they can be a model either way.  
6 years 8 months ago
So...feminists and gays can 'accept who they are' and presumably feel good about ANYTHING their sub-culture desires....but non-feminist women and heterosexual men are wrong, wrong, wrong, and should be ashamed of themselves....why?

Patriarchy is bad because.....?

Matriarchy would be fantastic because....?

Then there's the presuppositions.... to wit, that 'society' makes good and bad, so by changing society you change what's right or wrong (or is it just what's do-able?) That's a foreign concept to Christianity which holds certain things always wrong no matter who does it (king or pauper). Or that they're always victims, never aggressors because they're part of some special class or group of people who don't share some inherent evil of the oppressor class or something. That's not only crazy, if it was true, it would also mean there's no chance for universal human rights!

6 years 8 months ago
Juan Lion, as if my last name matters for my argument. But I suppose it helps avoid confusion with Juan Lino.
Jim McCrea
6 years 8 months ago
Tim:  either enforce the rules about full and real names, or don't play the game that you actually have said rule!

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