Evangelical world today? II

On the biblical/ethical front, Simon’s article perpetuates one of the most commonly-heard fallacies here, that of the ‘but-Jesus-never-spoke-about-homosexuality’ view. Well, Jesus never spoke about all sorts of behaviours – take incest for instance.  Would it then become morally acceptable if our society became incest-friendly? Moreover, as New Testament scholar, John Nolland, argues, porneia – which Jesus specifically judges – would include same-sex sex as well as all other sorts of sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage. In fact, Jesus’ sexual ethics are very high indeed; far from relaxing rigid, ‘inhibiting’ moral codes he insists on higher, more stringent ones. Jesus loves and cares for all but that does not mean that he approves of our sexual behaviours, even if we believe them to be what comes ‘naturally’.

What is happening in the evangelical world today?  Part II
In Part I, I gave a lengthy quotation from Simon Barrow’s analysis of the sea change now occuring within evangelicalism.  He posted one version of his article up on the site of Ekklesia (where he is its co-director) while another went up on the Guardian.  I quoted it at length because Simon is making some  important points which need to be heard and answered. But more on that in a moment.
I appreciate Simon’s willingness to draw attention to this issue!  He realizes that there is a definite and significant shift here. Leading Christian figures are silently changing their views but many still remain mute. Given the present gay-affirmative milieu – Gordon Brown has just celebrated February as gay history month, for instance – I imagine it is only a matter of time before they begin to speak publicly of how they too have had a ‘change of heart’.  In a limited sense this is ‘progress’. We need honest discussion of where we are really at, and not a fuzzy, limbo-land where people are uncomfortably silent and pretend nothing has changed.
However, I would encourage even more strongly those with theological, moral and social concerns with homosexuality as well as all the other sexual ‘orientations’ to engage in honest, gloves-off debate. These silent conservatives appear almost more intimidated and uncomfortable than their still silent but no longer ‘anti-gay’ sisters and brothers and shy away from discussion as if it were the plague. However, as Simon notes, gay and lesbian issues – which he presents in reassuringly conventional, marriage-like, binary  terms – will not be going away.
But here I would ask Simon whether the nature of these mutually loving, supportive partnerships is sexually exclusive (one sexual partner until death or divorce) or not?  In gay world, ‘faithfulness’ means different things. Heterosexual marriage still carries with it the cultural assumption and expectation of sexual exclusivity, but gay unions do not. No vows of sexual faithfulness are made in civil partnership: each couple decides for themselves.
The premier Anglican LGBT organization, Changing Attitude, posts a very interesting document on their site. It is called ‘Sexual Ethics’ and is the most detailed analysis of the topic on their site. It challenges the whole concept of sexual exclusivity and affirms that ‘brief and loving sexual engagement’ with other people can be ‘occasions of grace’.  Our sexual lives may in fact be enriched by having sex with more than one person.  This concept is not at all uncommon as one reads the literature and goes on the sites, but it is well articulated here: http://changingattitude.org.uk/publications/PDF/booklets/Sexual-Ethics.pdf
Moreover, what is the response to sexually active bisexuals? Bisexuals are individuals whose ’orientation’ means they are attracted to members of both sexes, sometimes sequentially, sometimes simultaneously. For many their pattern of attraction is a fluid entity and they find themselves gravitating from one sex to the another. But I am interested here in those who have sexual relationships with both simultaneously.  For them, two is fine but three is better. Will Simon feel able to validate committed loving trios?  A good friend of mine has been an active bisexual over the years, with husband (or male partner) on one hand and a girlfriend on the other.  How would Simon respond to her? Or how would he reply to bisexual ‘poster girl’ Jenny Block, whose book, Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage, has made significant headway? Jenny loves her husband, Christopher, and she loves her girlfriend, Jemma, and she has a sexual relationship with both.
Just last week (26/2) Woman’s Hour interviewed a heterosexual polyamorist practitioner and advocate who did a great job promoting to her UK audience the cause of polyamory (which can be monosexual — gay, lesbian or heterosexual — or bisexual in nature), but which is post-binary (the rule of 2).  Polyamory literally means ‘plural loves’  and advocates plural ‘committed’ sexual relationships.  Listen here.
Finally, what of the less conventional, even more ‘edgy’ sexual minority communities now in existence?  Just because people are not au fait with these minorities (and thus tend to dismiss such discussion as extreme and fanatic) means nothing to these groups. In fact, they are pleased that they have managed to grow, develop and become firmly established under the radar, as it were.  When they finally ‘come out’ people’s sensibilities will have been so modified that they will not have the usual problems associated with what has previously been seen as ‘unnatural’ sex.
On the biblical/ethical front, Simon’s article perpetuates one of the most commonly-heard fallacies here, that of the ‘Jesus-never-spoke-about-homosexuality’ view. Well, Jesus never spoke about all sorts of behaviours – take incest for instance.  Would it then become morally acceptable if our society became incest-friendly? Moreover, as New Testament scholar, John Nolland, argues, porneia – which Jesus specifically judges – would include same-sex sex as well as all other sorts of sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage. In fact, Jesus’ sexual ethics are very high indeed; far from relaxing rigid, ‘inhibiting’ moral codes he insists on higher, more stringent ones. Jesus loves and cares for all but that does not mean that he approves of our sexual behaviours, even if we believe them to be what comes ‘naturally’.
Part III concludes the series.
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