Saturday, 20 April 2013

On homophobia

I am not a homophobe - at least I don't think so.

Nobody chooses to be gay - at least I don't think they do - so why should I hate them - or think any less of them - because of it?

Even if homosexuality was a choice, my faith teaches me I should love everyone, regardless of the choices they make or whether or not I agree with them. Lots of people - gay and straight - do all sorts of things I don't agree with (heck, I do things myself that I don't agree with!), and I quite easily manage to not hate them for it!

For the record, I do freely admit that the thought of gay sex makes me feel uncomfortable. I don't think there is any reason why I should feel bad about that. I am not happy about heterosexual sex outside of loving committed relationships either, but the thought of it doesn't affect me in quite the same way. This is because, as a red-blooded heterosexual male with certain, faith-informed perspectives, straight casual sex does feel very wrong to me, but is also potentially very tempting!  Gay sex just feels wrong - for me personally there is no temptation involved! This doesn't make gay sex a worse "sin" though, it is just to acknowledge that my own personal reactions to it are different.

I also most definitely do not support discrimination against gay people, but I may have different ideas from some - especially those campaigning for the legalisation of gay marriage - about what exactly discriminating against someone actually means.

Peter Tatchell has recently called on Archbishop Justin Welby to, "apologise on behalf of the Church of England for the centuries of homophobic persecution it inflicted on gay people", which Welby has said he will think about. Tatchell has also said that, "Large swathes of the Anglican global communion actively support the persecution of LGBT people, mostly without rebuke". My knowledge of Anglican collusion in the suppression or persecution of LGBT people is virtually null, but I don't find this difficult to believe, and I sincerely hope the Archbishop does issue an apology and takes a stand on this.

However, I disagree with Peter Tatchell on the issue of gay marriage.

Tatchell says that Welby is homophobic because, "Homophobia has come to mean more than an irrational fear for gay people. It includes support for anti-gay discrimination and the denial of equal rights to people who are LGBT".  In other words, Tatchell is saying that Welby is "homophobic" because he opposes gay marriage.

I do not agree with the way Tatchell uses the word "discrimination", but I particularly resent this definition of the word "homophobia". Homophobia is an ugly word that no caring, socially responsible person wants to be associated with and using it in this way seems to me to be a clever, deliberate, and also extremely unfair campaigning tactic. Fear of this word massively closes down the debate, because anyone who doesn't want to risk being branded with it is now forced - at the very least - to keep their opinions to themselves.

I am not comfortable with gay sexual relationships - for reasons I don't have room to explore here - but I don't think they should be legally prevented. It follows therefore that I am in some ways less comfortable (but also in some ways more - not room to explain here!) with gay civil partnerships, but again, I don't think they should be legally prevented.

I am however very uncomfortable with - and opposed to - the legal redefinition of the word "marriage". To my mind, this is not so much about giving gay people extra rights, as it is about changing a nation's understanding of a crucial and fundamental ideal.

"Discrimination" is not always a dirty word - we do it all the time. I "discriminate" between dogs and cats because they are different. What would we do if dogs started campaigning for example, for the "equal right" to be called "cats"? Dogs and cats are equal, but they are not the same. Equality does not equal uniformity.

"Marriage" has always been defined as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman. It has many benefits, which I obviously can't list all of here, but significantly these include the bringing together of 2 different sexes in a mystical union in which each complements the other for the benefit of the whole. This union does not just benefit the individuals concerned, it is also - at least potentially - the emotional and biological basis for a family. Apart from procreation - without which the human race would go extinct - it also creates an environment for the healthy nurture and development of new people. Both sexes play an important part in this as a child primarily bonds with first one and then the other during different stages of their psychological development.

Society's understanding of - and appreciation for - marriage, has eroded signficantly in the last few decades as individualism and the desire for self-fulfilment have become more prominent. High divorce rates and a significantly reduced level of faith in marriage have made this seem a much less attractive ideal, and therefore perhaps, one not so worth defending.

Personally though, I don't think society has ever needed marriage more than it does now, and redefining it in this way will only lead - harmfully I believe - to increased confusion as to its fundamental purpose and value.

I do not think this makes me a homophobe!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Things I don't understand about God

Usually, when writing posts on this blog, I do my best to sound wise and knowledgeable. If you're laughing as you read this, then I may not have succeeded! At the very least I generally try to sound like a Christian who thinks about stuff and has at least some idea what he's talking about.

Generally then, I don't tend to spend a lot of time talking about the things I know I don't understand. So I thought it might make a nice change if I did!

Like most Christians I have doubts. Sometimes I look at the world and I wonder: Is there really a God after all? Am I just fooling myself? Usually my conclusion is that there is and I'm not, but sometimes I feel firmer in that conviction than others and there are always some questions that remain unanswered. So here is one of them:

It seems to me that pretty much everything in nature - at least in the animal kingdom - is ultimately based on violence. Violence is used to determine leadership, territory and mating. If you're a carnivore then you have to be violent in order to survive. If you're a herbivore then you either need to be violent enough to resist your attackers, or have some other way of avoiding, escaping from or defending yourself against violence if you want to live for very long.

One of the central tenets of the Christian faith though, is that God is love. Indeed, this is one of my central reasons for believing in God. Love is the only thing that really gives meaning to life. Without love, life doesn't make sense. It makes sense to me therefore, that the creator of the Universe would have love as His very essence. It also makes sense to me that God would be personal - not just some sort of impersonal cosmic force - as love is personal by definition, not something that can exist on its own in some kind of cosmic vacuum.

So why would a God of love create a natural order that has violence so deeply written into it? I don't understand this. One popular explanation among some evangelical Christians is that this is a result of 'the fall' - meaning that when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, the whole of creation changed and that it wasn't like this before. But there are several problems with this.

It seems fairly clear to me that the world has been here for a few billion years, despite what the young earth creationists might have to say about it. The Biblical creation story doesn't read to me like an account that is intended to be taken entirely literally, and even if it was, it says very little about the state of nature before the fall. It makes sense to me that the relationship between humans and the world would have been negatively affected by the breakdown in relationship between man and God. It even makes sense to me for the world to have suffered as a result of this, in ways we don't fully understand. All the records we have though, suggest that violence has been very much a part of life on planet earth, for a long time before human beings appeared.

So this is a question I don't know the answer to - although it doesn't stop me from believing in God. I wonder what you think?