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Face to faith

by Theo Hobson  

[COMMENT:  This is a classic example of bad thinking on the Church and homosexuality.   See comments in text below.    E. Fox]

The Church of England's gay crisis makes clear that that liberal Anglicanism is finished, says Theo Hobson

Saturday January 19, 2008   The Guardian
This year Anglicanism will define itself with new clarity - the once-a-decade Lambeth conference will confirm the anti-liberal mood of the last five years. The humiliation of liberal Anglicanism will be complete. Its demand for equality for homosexuals has been thrown out in the most decisive possible way.

[COMMENT:  What is the meaning of 'liberal' here?  It used to refer to "liberating", "setting free" with truth.  But the current liberals have no use for truth, which they think to be subjective and "relative".  That is nonsense which no one can live by.   

The issue is not homosexual persons, but homosexual behavior.  Orthodox and conservative Anglicans do NOT condemn homosexual persons, only their behavior.  Their behavior is NOT their identity, which they wish us to believe.      E. Fox]

I think it's time to admit that the tradition of liberal Anglicanism is finished. Those Anglicans who carry on calling for an "inclusive church" are relics of a previous era. They should face the fact that the religious landscape has changed utterly. Liberal Anglicanism has become oxymoronic. For the first time this church has defined itself in opposition to liberalism, taking a decisively reactionary stance on a crucial moral issue.

[COMMENT:   And what is 'inclusive'?  What is honest pluralism?     E. Fox]

An institution that discriminates against homosexuals is without moral credibility - and moral credibility is rather important in religion. Furthermore, it contravenes the spirit of Jesus's teaching. His commandment "Judge not" could almost have been invented for the problem of homosexuality, which most straight people find challenging on some level, but must learn not to condemn. Tolerance seems the only moral response, and a rule against gay priests obviously falls short of tolerance. It institutionalises prejudice.

[COMMENT:  That is nonsense.  Discrimintion here is a loaded word, used to suggest irrational hatred or fear (homophobia, etc.).  The author does not entertain the thought that there might be rational fear and rejection of homosexuality -- which is provably a compulsive, lethal addiction.   E. Fox]

But surely, says the liberal Anglican, this can change. Surely the church can change its mind, reject its homophobic tendency, and regain its moral authority? I don't think so. The problem goes far deeper than the campaigners for an "inclusive church" seem to understand. In fact the gay issue highlights the authoritarianism intrinsic to the very concept of the church.

[COMMENT:  Hobson fails to distinguish (discriminate!) between authority and authoritarianism.  Science has an enormous "authority" which it gains rightly when it is  honestly doing its job of truth-seeking.  The Church likewise has a similar righteous authority when it is doing its job -- of truth-seeking in the religious arena.  The authority of the Church rests absolutely on its willingness to be truth-seekers and truth-speakers, at any cost to itself.  The first universities in the world were founded by Christians in the late Middle Ages precisely to pursue that vision of truth.  See Rodney Stark's book, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, & Western Success. 

Authoritarianism is the subversion of true authority -- which is rooted in freedom.  The Christian Church, not secular academics or philosophers, has consistently been the primary enemy of authoritarianism.  The Archbishop of Canterbury helped write the Magna Carta.   (Again, see Rodney Stark's book above, and many other books of his.)  E. Fox]

According to the liberal lobby, the church must return to its natural liberalism, derailed by the rise of homophobic theology in the 1990s. But this is naive. What actually happened in the 1990s is that the church's official teaching (no sex outside marriage) was tightened. So what the liberals actually want is a break with the entire tradition of the church in respect of its teaching on sexual morality. This amounts to a revolution, for churches have always issued moral rules about sex. To say the church should withdraw from sexual moralism is to jeopardise its entire claim to authority. However, the liberal Anglicans cannot admit that this is what is going on.

[COMMENT:   The natural liberalism of the Church is Jeffersonian liberalism, which keeps open the arena of public discussion -- honest pluralism.  The pseudo-liberalism of the homosexual agenda markets itself as reasonable, but is in fact a totalitarian movement based not on truth, but on "feeling good", which will always end up in power struggle and tyranny.  That is the point of "hate-crime" laws, which protect no one, and the point of which is to shut down open discussion of homosexuality.  The homosexual agenda will not survive open discussion so they must manipulate and deceive to get their way.     E. Fox]

The liberal Anglican priest (let's call him Father Giles) is bitterly critical of the church's collusion in homophobia. But he fully believes in the authority of the church, and his own authority. He affirms the right of the church to define orthodoxy: the doctrine of the Trinity, for example, is decided by the corporate mind of the church. Likewise a true sacrament is something authorised by the institution. He claims to have authority by virtue of having been ordained into the church. Christianity is not a subjective free-for-all, he insists: it is a communal, traditional thing, with rules.

Yet when the church claims authority to rule on sexual morality his tune changes. This aspect of its teaching is mistaken, he says, and amounts to a betrayal of the Gospel. The problem is that this tradition of sexual moralism is part of the traditional authority of the church, which Father Giles claims to affirm. In other words, he accepts the authority of the church when it suits him and rejects it when it does not.

In my opinion, the gay crisis shakes the foundations of ecclesiology. Organised religion has always been authoritarian, in calling certain moral rules God's will, in saying that moral and doctrinal orthodoxy must be upheld. As I see it, Christianity rejects this; it dispenses with the moral "law". It claims, scandalously, that God wills a new freedom - from "holy morality", from the bossy legalism inherent in religious institutionalism. Liberal Christians should be truly liberal, and see that the concept of an authoritative church has had its day - that God calls us to something new.

[COMMENT:  Organized religion has NOT always been authoritarian.  Christianity has been the sole (as in only) fountainhead of human freedom and, as Stark puts it, the victory of reason.  No other culture, philosophy, or religion can consistently maintain a spirit of freedom in academics, politics, or religion.  Yes, many Christians have done terrible things, but that is a betrayal of the Gospel, which is based on a freewill choice, not on compulsion.   A freewill choice requires honest discussion -- as God tells us in Isaiah 1:18, "Come, let us reason together..."  

Hobson seems to be pro-homosexual, yet is trying to call the shots honestly about the situation.  But he is badly mistaken about the nature of truth, of inclusiveness, reason, and the Church.   E. Fox]

Theo Hobson is the author of Anarchy, Church and Utopia: Rowan Williams on Church

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