Gay as Post-Orthodox? Who do they think they are kidding!
To the dismay of many, we are now seeing a reaction against progressive expressions of Christianity that seek to be inclusive. New alliances are building up in many church traditions including Anglicanism. Last week Bishop Nazar Ali, the Anglican Bishop of Rochester of the Church of England, (A leading figure in the new ‘Federation of Confessing Anglicans called FOCA – I kid you not! – Yes FOCA) publicly called for all Gay people to repent and for all gay leaders of the church, to be removed from their posts. Further, an article on the website of another Anglican Church of England anti-gay group called ‘Anglican Mainsteam’ (another amusing not quite accurate claim as there is nothing mainstream about them) in a leading article implied that Greenbelt’s support of gay people having a voice was just as tasteful to giving a platform to the British National Party, an extreme racist political organisation. This sort of language is unacceptable, and just shows the extreme views of some in the Church of England.
In this final article, support of gay people, and a Christian understanding of homosexuality and same sex relationships was said to be ‘post-orthodox’. I think this is very revealing. It says that many people in the church just do not understand and feel threatened by our contemporary culture which is post-secular, post-modern and post-Christendom. It is a reaction of fear that perceives contemporary culture to be threatening, and fundamentally evil and against the purposes of God.
This is often born of a dangerous and unhelpful false romantic story, that countries like the UK and USA were once lovely Christian societies where everyone were in nice heterosexual families, and all went to church, (a little bit like Little House on the Prairie). The narrative continues, that society has slowly slipped away from this, into decay, and what is needed now, is for men to men, woman to be woman, support of the nuclear family against the threat of liberalism (symbolically meaning almost as much as nasty communism) and for the Church to get back to being a power in society and a model for morality and social norms. This type of thinking is at best, reductionist fundamentalism. If you look back at history, this argument has been used to justify oppression of minority groups that have always included gay people, and a foundational belief to movements such as facism and the Third Reich in the Second World War. Yes, we need to stand up to this, but as Christ would have done, in loving resistance.
The mistake they make, is the inability to question the social reality or social construction of their understanding of human sexuality from theology. The truth then, is that those who hold this view, cannot imagine socially, same sex relationship ever being authentic. This is not post-orthodox, this is post-‘conservative-social-construct’. Post-Orthodox traditionally means, a heretical interpretation of the Ecumenical Creeds, such as the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed. The truth here then, is that none of these ancient creeds have anything to say about homosexuality or same sex relationships. They are constructed as summaries to express the truths about Jesus and the Trinity. They miss the point that many Gay Christians like me, spent many years exploring what the bible says about human sexuality, homosexuality and same sex relationships. They miss the point that many of us find no evidence in the Bible at all for the social construct of their views. What we found was that God seemed unconcerned with sexual identity, and more concerned about sexual behaviour. There are many texts that expect monogamous covenanted relationships, so many of us are seeking to follow what we perceive as God’s will, living in or seeking for long term committed and God-centred and Christian same sex relationships. So how is this being post-orthodox?
It seems that such forms of church continue to want to use the power of exclusion of groups they do not like. So what would Jesus do? I suggest a re-reading of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan Woman at the well in the Gospel of John. The story has much to say to Conservative forms of church that dislike letting go of the power of Christendom. The only times Jesus shouts at the Pharisees and Sadducees is about the abuse of power, and the practices of religious exclusion. I think Jesus would be shouting now at FOCA and the so called ‘Anglican Main Stream’. I still can’t quite believe that Anglican Mainstream were encouraging people to stand up against ‘inclusion’, as a form of positive action (this is what was said in the Anglican Main Stream article). They are obviously not reading the same Bible as me, and why all this hate and anger? I just don’t get how you can hold this in tension with the Christ of the Gospels and the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount.
A quote by Dave Tomlinson in his new book “Re-Enchanting Christianity”, for me he says it all:
One of the main courses of disenchantment with Christianity is the attitude of insularity found in many churches where Christian faith exists in a bubble, virtually uninfluenced by the insights, wisdom and sensibilities of the emerging culture of the twenty-first century. For faith to flourish it must engage in a vigorous conversation both with its own past and with contemporary culture. It is about looking both backwards and forwards. Christian faith must neither amount to a simple repetition of past doctrinal formulations, nor to a mere echoing of present attitudes, but be a dialetic between the two. (D Tomlinson, 2009, X).
And as David Tacey says:
How ironic if the ball of Western civilization is now back in the religious court, but the court of religion does not know about it, or has stopped playing ball with the world. What if it ignores the present challenges or does not care enough to take up a dialogue with the world? The yearning for sacredness, spiritual meaning, security, and personal engagement with the spirit are the primary needs and longings of the contemporary world. What is happening if the institutions of faith are so bound up with themselves and resistant to change that they cannot make some contribution to these needs? Our contemporary situation is full of ironies and paradoxes. Chief among these is that our secular society has given birth to a sense of the sacred, and yet our sacred traditions are failing to recognize the spiritual potential. ( D Tacey, 2004, 20).
So what this language of ‘post-orthodox’ reveals, is that Conservative Christians are unable to critique their social values from biblical theology, and seek to project these set values onto everyone as if they are absolute truths. Not only that, but if you do not agree with their very patriarchical view of society and social norms, then they say we are no longer Christian. They don’t see it, but this is the projection of a whole load of things onto God, which has little to do with Christianity, and says that a whole load of us are lost, and beyond God unless we repent and seek healing to be proper heterosexuals. I think I remember Jesus drawing in the sand as such a situation as this, and challenged everyone to see, that the woman who was to be stoned, was no more sinful than her male accusers.
People who hold these views do not see, that there is no such thing as the ‘doctrine of limited grace’. So what does post-orthodox mean when held in tension with the love of God for people who are gay and Christian who are desperately seeking to be true to God, true to themselves and true to others? Well, some parts of the church need to realise that being different and even to disagree about social interpretation of biblical texts, has nothing to do with being post-orthodox. Not only is this offensive, but further, it clearly shows how ignorant people are who use this power and excluding language, and the constant danger of religion being combined with hate and social power. I think it may be time that some Conservative Christians re-read the Beatitudes. Our God is a God of Love…. Whether they like it or not.
Gay bloke involved in the Emerging Church in the UK who strongly believes in a covenant theology of sexuality. This perspective holds that the Biblical position on sexuality is about behaviour and very little about sexual identity. So, by implications, all Christians whether gay or straight are called to live healthy and covenanted lives around loving God, loving your neighbour, commitment in relationships and responsbility for the planet and social justice.