Australia has recently experienced another situation where the conservative church’s approach to gender identity has seen it much criticised by the public and the media. In response, many christians complained of having their freedoms taken away.
Was this all avoidable? Who was right?
And most importantly, what lessons can we learn?
I am aware that some LGBTQI people may find this topic distressing, and may feel that straight people like me shouldn’t be making judgments about gender identity issues. If you feel this way, please feel free to not read this post. But I think straight people need to talk about these things if change is going to come, but of course we must be informed by, and sensitive to, our LGBTQI friends.
Footballers and business …..
For non-Aussies, here’s a quick rundown.
Yes, it was another football-related incident, though a different code of football than the one I reported over three years ago (Homophobia, Biblical truth and Israel Folau). Australians play four quite different codes of football, and this one concerned the Australian Football club, Essendon in Melbourne.
The club has been going through some difficulties recently. These apparently started in 2015 when a popular and successful coach quit over a drugs scandal. The side hasn’t played well since then. This year, after the resignation of the President, CEO and several Board members, and the sacking of the current coach, a comprehensive review of the club’s culture was undertaken.
One of the members of the review team was an Essendon supporter and former banking executive, Andrew Thorburn, and he was subsequently announced as the new CEO. The club felt his experience would ensure the club would flourish as a business enterprise. With a new President, Board, CEO and coach, the club looked forward to better days.
But the good vibes only lasted a day.
….. and homophobia and christians
As soon as the appointment was announced, commenators questioned the club’s judgment. Football clubs in all codes have become very sensitive to the need to be inclusive in today’s culture – taking stands against racism, sexism, domestic abuse and homophobia. But it hasn’t been without its problems.
In the different football code of Rugby League, there is a “Pride Round” each season where clubs wear special LGBTQI themed jerseys, to show solidarity with LGBTQI people and to promote inclusion. But this year 7 Pasifika players from the Manly club refused to wear the jersey because they said it was against their religion. They were much criticised for their stand but their coach accepted their decision. Whatever the reason, the club didn’t win another game, and the coach was sacked at the end of the season.
So Essendon too has an inclusion policy which it would naturally hope would be beneficial.
But Andrew Thorburn was also the chairperson of a conservative church in Melbourne with a defined stand against same sex marriage and abortion. Some remarks in a decade-old online sermon by the senior pastor particularly incensed critics.
Most prominent were comments by Premier Daniel Andrews (the head of the Victorian state government). Andrews said he had “no sympathy” for Mr Thorburn’s position because of “rampant homophobia” and the high suicide rate within the young LGBTIQA+ community. He described the church’s views as “intolerance”, “hatred” and “bigotry”.
Thorburn was widely accused of homophobia, and critics said his employment sent wrong messages because the church’s views were contrary to Essendon’s inclusion policy. He distanced himself from the pastor’s words (they were spoken long before he was a spokesperson for the church, though they were still on the website), but within a day he had resigned.
Predictably, some commentators such as journalist Peter Fitzsimons, hailed the outcome, but others felt the reaction was extreme.
The christian response
Thorburn later said he was troubled that a person’s employment could be threatened “due simply to faith” and suggested that the uproar over his appointment was “a dangerous idea, one that will only reduce tolerance for others and diversity of thought”.
Other christians took a similar line. Some of course are conservative christians who, under the influence of right wing politicians and commentators who use scare tactics to promote their cause, believe freedom of religion is under attack.
But even christian bloggers who I respect saw this incident as an attack on religion and freedom of speech, and likely to be detrimental to businesses and society. The church’s pastor allowed himself to be interviewed on morning TV and, I thought, quite blatantly ignored the questions he was asked, to try to present a better image. Christian and newspaper columnist Anthony Saegert claimed a “growing intolerance” towards religious people, and thought the TV interviewer didn’t allow the pastor to explain himself.
The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne and an Essendon supporter said he would look for another club to support, implicitly criticising the Premier, a fellow Catholic.
Sowing and reaping
My feeling is that conservative christians and churches are reaping what they have sown. If they listen carefully to the criticisms they may learn some lessons in communication.
Firstly, it is surely important to consider if the church’s long-standing objection to same sex relations is fair and necessary. Understandably, many christians are reluctant to give ground to “the world”, but sometimes the world prods the church in ways that are necessary, and this may be one. It would be foolish not to at least think and pray about it.
I have considered ways the church and individual christians might move forward on this in Christians and gender.
My following comments relate specifically to those christans who feel unable to change their stance on same sex relationships. I believe there are more loving and sensitive ways they could respond to this issue and better ways to communicate.
1. Apologise for past mistakes
LGBTQI people have been treated badly by the church, and in many cases this continues. Christians and churches have often been insensitive, have excluded, have demonised and not welcomed queer people. Coming out of the closet has been traumatising for many, while staying closeted hasn’t been any better. Some have suicided because of how they felt the church treated them.
Admitting the awful truth and apologising publicly is surely a necessary first step.
2. Recognise the difference between orientation and behaviour
It is generally accepted that LGBTQI identity is mostly an innate orientation and not a choice. Many christians have known this for decades, but some still don’t. No-one should be discriminated against because of something over which they have no choice. (In fact we should be very careful about discriminating against anyone for any reason, but that’s a story for another day.)
3. Morality is personal unless it is a matter of law
Most of us live in pluralist societies where all sorts of different ethical views can exist side by side. If something is clearly harmful to others, it should be constrained by law. But otherwise, live and let live must be the rule. It is hard to see how most LGBTQI behaviours could be seen as harmful to others, so christians shouldn’t try to impose their views (whatever they may be) on others.
Christians in Australia have sadly missed this point. Several years ago the government conducted a survey to find the public’s view on making same sex marriage legal, and Australians voted strongly in favour. But conservative christians opposed the move. But on what grounds? Did they have demonstrable grounds to think same sex marriage would harm society? Or did they think it was right to impose their form of christian morality on the rest of our population?
This opposition may not have been homophobic as critics claimed, but it sometimes looked like it. And it made non-believers more critical of the church’s motives and care for others. A neutral and less public response to the same sex survey would have made issues like Andrew Thorburn’s appointment easier to discuss.
4. Recognise that being criticised isn’t necessarily an attack on free speech
Many christians paint this as an attack on free speech. But the church is free to express its views, just as others are entitled to criticise them. The issue here (as with Israel Folau) isn’t freedom of speech but commercial realities.
Football clubs are business enterprises supported by commercial sponsorships. Investors believe that the general public won’t support businesses and clubs which they see as not being inclusive. And so those representing the clubs need to be “on board” with the inclusive message if they want to be paid.
An example is a current Rexona Not Done Yet ad campaign, which aims to inspire people with disabilities or facing other societal barriers “to push beyond their self-doubts”. The campaign includes the story of a Aussie gay professional footballer (different code again!). Rexona presumably thinks this inclusiveness will benefit their brand as well as these segments of society.
Most jobs don’t have these public relations requirements, but some do, and sponsored professional sport is one of them. And Essendon club presumably believes it is hard to be a spokesperson for two organisations with quite different views. Andrew Thorburn was asked to give up one of the positions, and he resigned from the club position.
5. Learning how to communicate better
If conservative christians really are accepting of LGBTQI people as people, even if they disagree with their choices, they need to make this clearer by their actions and in their statements.
- Talk less about gender and sexuality, and focus more on other ethical questions such as wealth inequality, fair treatments of first nations people and refugees, and greater care for women in vulnerable situations.
- Especially stop telling peope outside the church (and inside it too) how to live their lives.
- Actively welcome LGBTQI people into churches and leadership if they want to be there.
- Listen to LGBTQI communities and be sensitive to their experiences and to the language we use.
If conservative christians did these things, they would be in a better position to explain their view, something along the lines of “we love, respect and welcome you and everyone else, but we have chosen to follow what we see as a christian ethic”. Live and let live.
Who is the victim here?
In many ways, Andrew Thorburn was a victim. He didn’t necessarily have homophobic views (apparently while in the banking industry he introduced inclusive policies). He was the target of a campaign that demonised him, perhaps unfairly, and he had little opportunity to defend himself.
But the church he represented held views that were not inclusive and were seen as homophobic. Had those views been reconsidered, and if not changed, at least expressed better (as above), more clearly and more sensitively, this situation may not have arisen. And if it did arise, Thorburn might have been in a better position to respond.
But as it is, Essendon football club may have lost an excellent manager plus some credibility, the christian faith has been dragged through the mud again, and LGBTQI people have been hurt again. Perhaps these are the real victims? But with some care this situation could possibly have had a better ending.
Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay
Kinda sounds like character assassination, guilt by association and intrusion into private life. Thorburn sounds like the only victim here of a woke mob. It ain’t that he did wrong himself, he just has links to the wrong people.
Ain’t religious but it’s pretty scary to see how LGBT agenda groups terrorize people into submission and the media and politicians just enable their antics. Jack Phillips in Colorado been getting legally harassed by them for years now. There should be more protection from intimidation from lobby groups.
Hi Jake, interested in your comment. Do you think that both sides of the gender question, and other social questions too, “terrorise” people into submission?
According to this article, Christians would only be justified in voting against homosexual marriage if it could be proved that such marriages were harmful to society. Let’s ask the important question: is this how God sees things? There is no reason to think so. Since homosexuality is sinful, God would not want there to be a society in which two people of the same sex can marry. Therefore it is the duty of Christians to vote against homosexual marriage. There is really only one objection to this, which is that homosexuality is not sinful. But that is an issue which each Christian must decide for himself or herself. I am convinced that homosexuality is sinful; therefore it is right for me to vote against homosexual marriage.
The only other consideration is a practical one. There may be cases where God wants the world to be a certain way but it is beyond our power to bring that state about. However, that does not apply in the present case. We already know that it is possible for societies to exist in which two people of the same sex do not marry.
So how about it? Does God want us to vote for or against homosexual marriage? If you think He wants us to vote in favour then why not make that case?
If you are unwilling to make the case or even consider the question, it makes you look bad. You have criticised those Christians who oppose homosexual marriage. Surely it is incumbent on you to show that their position is incompatible with their faith. After all, this is supposed to be a Christian blog. However, if you are not interested in addressing these issues in Christian terms then that is very revealing.
Again, my apologies for these comments not appearing before. I don’t know how that happened.
“Christians would only be justified in voting against homosexual marriage if it could be proved that such marriages were harmful to society. Let’s ask the important question: is this how God sees things? There is no reason to think so”
This is one place we disagree. I think we have good reason to consider that God may not wish us to make what we believe to be sins illegal. Consider if we applied your argument here to some other things. For example, most christians would consider jealousy, greed or sex outside of marriage a sin, and we would think that God would prefer a society devoid of jealousy, greed and ex-marital sex. But I don’t think many would think that we should make them illegal.
Would you think so?
I think we need to distinguish sins from crimes. Sins are personal, between us and God. People are free to choose whether they commit those sins or not – they are not against the law necessarily. But crimes are against the law because they harm other people or property or the natural world.
“Does God want us to vote for or against homosexual marriage?”
I don’t think he wants us to vote against, for the reasons I have just given. Neither do I think God wants us to vote against greed, jealousy or ex-marital sex. Do you think he does want us to vote against them?
Thanks for the reply, unkleE.
I don’t think that analogy works. There are limits to the extent to which the law can regulate behaviour. The law cannot prohibit greed or jealousy, as you point out. However, there is a difference between using the law to prohibit immoral behaviour and giving legally recognised status to immoral behaviour.
Marriage is an institution that exists because the law says that it exists. It is entirely appropriate to decide that some kinds of relationship should have that legal status and other kinds of relationship should not have that status. After all, this is what societies have done throughout their history. Is is entirely practical to restrict marriage to heterosexual relationships, as history has demonstrated. On the other hand, it has not been demonstrated that laws can effectively prohibit greed or jealousy.
Furthermore, if homosexuality is immoral then we may expect God to take a dim view of societies in which homosexual relationships are given legal status. Presumably, such societies will be judged more harshly than those in which homosexuality is only a matter of personal sin. Of course, it might be argued that homosexuality is not sinful, but that is hardly a view that Christians can take for granted.
Hi David, thanks for reply. I guess I’m not surprised we don’t agree. But I haven’t used an analogy. Rather, I have taken the principles that you have suggested apply to same sex relationships, and applied them to other ethical questions. We should apply the same principles unless we have reasons to apply different ones.
Your argument for there being a difference comes down to this: “there is a difference between using the law to prohibit immoral behaviour and giving legally recognised status to immoral behaviour.”
I don’t see this as being a relevant distinction. We live in a pluralist society.What you regard as moral, others don’t. So why should your definition of moral be imposed on others? And if another definition of morality becomes predominant, what is to stop that form of morality being enshrined in law? We see that, for example, in some Islamic countries where rules on clothing, who woman can talk to, etc, are made into law. I don’t agree with it there, so why should I agree with it where I live?
So are you saying that your understanding of christian morality ought to be imposed on people who don’t agree with it, by preventing same sex couples from marrying?
While the lifestyles of others should be respected, I think it’s valid to point out that some lifestyles pose a greater health risk to the community than others.
This has been proven in the case of AIDS and monkey pox which are more prevalent in the LGBTI community than in the general community.
Should churches or others be demonised for pointing this out ? When people do point out medical facts they are often accused of villification or “homophobia”.
I think we should allow reasonable debate on the pros and cons of “alternative” lifestyles and not pretend that it’s all gravy in those communities or gloss over the problems.
I don’t think you have got to grips with my comment at all, unkleE. You asked whether we should have laws against greed and jealousy and I gave my answer: it would be utterly impractical. There are limits to how far the law can regulate behaviour. That should be obvious. On the other hand, it is entirely practical to decide who can marry and who can’t.
You now raise another objection. Different people have different standards of morality; so why should we impose our standards on others? I will remind you of the comment that I have already made. What does God want us to do? As Christians we have a good idea of the answer. Apparently, your response is that we can’t do that because we wouldn’t like if, for example, Muslims did the same. But what kind of objection is that? In effect this is what you are saying. I have good reasons to believe that God does not want a society in which two people of the same sex can marry but I will set that belief aside because Christian beliefs are just one set of beliefs in competition with each other.
You can do that if you want but you have no right to criticise those Christians who vote according to their principles.
“I think we should allow reasonable debate on the pros and cons of “alternative” lifestyles and not pretend that it’s all gravy in those communities or gloss over the problems.”
Within some reasonably broad limits of politeness and accurcay, I agree. Ithink we always should encourage thoughtful debate and discussion.
“Should churches or others be demonised for pointing this out ? When people do point out medical facts they are often accused of villification or “homophobia”.”
I agree there is a problem here, but the churches have partly brought it on themselves by their language and actions in the past. If christians had been careful and loving in their response to LGBTQI people, their responses now could be seen as more neutral. But as it is, there will be the suspicion that debate is harmful and motivated by dogma and intolerance.
We all need to learn to be polite, honest and fair in our comments, and perhaps saying less and listening more, whether we are talking about LGBRQI issues, or other social relationships and matters. So if we assess LGBTQI people as you have done here, we need to be sure that (1) we have evidence to connect cause and effect, or not, and (2) we consider other lifestyles and choices (gambling, alcohol, fossil fuel usage, divorce, easy sex, excessive wealth and inequality, mobile phone dependence and over-use of screens, fast fashion, etc) in the same way. I don’t think we are ready for that.
I agree there is a problem here, but the churches have partly brought it on themselves by their language and actions in the past. If christians had been careful and loving in their response to LGBTQI people, their responses now could be seen as more neutral. But as it is, there will be the suspicion that debate is harmful and motivated by dogma and intolerance.
Fair point, agreed.
So if we assess LGBTQI people as you have done here,
I think we need to distinguish between behaviour which is voluntary and identity which is inherent.
So, no criticism of people for being gay, but if certain behaviour leads to greater risks it’s reasonable to point that out as many medical professionals have done.
we consider other lifestyles and choices (gambling, alcohol, fossil fuel usage, divorce, easy sex, excessive wealth and inequality, mobile phone dependence and over-use of screens, fast fashion, etc) in the same way. I don’t think we are ready for that.
These are all behaviours that can be modified and some are destructive, so why shouldn’t they be examined ? They don’t demonise any particular group because they occur all through society. Andrew Wilkie and Tim Costello have been pointing out the problems of excessive gambling for years, should they not do that ?
You said that my previous comments had been accidentally sent to the spam folder. It now looks as if that was untrue. Here is some advice. Don’t pretend that you are interested in dialogue when that is not the case. If you invite someone to reply but then end the conversation, at least put up a message explaining that you have decided not to publish the reply.
I’m sorry you think that David, but I spoke exactly the truth. (Actually, it was the Trash folder, not the Spam folder – WordPress has both.) I’m not sure why you would think I would lie about this. And I’m not sure why you would say “it now looks …” when I don’t know anything that has changed. So I don’t understand why you would make such a baseless allegation.
I am happy to continue discussing if you want to, but only if we can move beyond this sort of comment thanks.
One of my comments slipped through the net too, but it’s your site so if you you decide not to publish it that’s fine by me.
Again, I’m sorry. It’s not my doing.
Everyday this blog, like all others, receives numerous spam comments, many of them pornographic, others of them selling all sorts of stuff from meds to crypto, and more. They would overwhelm the blog if left unaddressed. So I use a WordPress anti-spam plugin named Akismet, and it is generally smart enough to detect almost all spam because it is on so many websites.
Somehow recently, and I don’t know why, it has taken to putting some legitimate comments, like yours and David’s, into Trash. I try to check on this to rescue the comments, but it isn’t always easy to see them among all the nasty comments. I’m also trying to figure out how to prevent this in the first place, but so far unsuccessfully. None of these comments seem to trigger any of Akismet’s settings, like dodgy words or excessive number of links, etc, so I can’t figure it out.
So I’m sorry it’s happening, I just can’t seem to sort it out. But I’ll redouble my efforts. Thanks for your patience.
“Andrew Wilkie and Tim Costello have been pointing out the problems of excessive gambling for years, should they not do that ?”
Of course they should, if they feel that is important. But the harm done is quite significant, especially to innocent victims (e.g. spouses & children). To me it is a matter of what is opposed and how it is opposed. Alcohol does enormous harm if abused, but prohibition hasn’t proven effective. Moderation and some control are a better approach. Many say the same is true of addiction to harder drugs – harm minimisation may be a better option than criminal enforcement. So the same would be true, I think, of gambling – no-one thinks it practical or good to outlaw all gambling (what about the stock market?), but some controls and a healthy tax rate may be an effective policy.
So I feel it is the same with same sex marriage. LGBTQI sexual relationships are going to happen, and the extra health risks aren’t as great as the problems with alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc. Prohibition of same sex marriage seems to be an unworkable, unhelpful and freedom-denying step. Anti-queer attitudes cause suicides and anxieties. So again, it is better to educate about any dangers (e.g. during the AIDS epidemic) and take away the discrimination and stigma.
And I think there are particular difficulties for christians, because they have mixed motives – both health concerns and ethical/theological views. I think it is easy for them/us to be less than clear and honest about our concerns, and easy for others to misunderstand christian motives. So we need to be very clear what we believe and why, and very clearly communicate it.
Hi David, again, my apologies for the comments going astray. Again, I can only say that it isn’t my choice and I’m trying to resolve the matter. Please see my comment to “westofhtebluemountains” above.
“it is entirely practical to decide who can marry and who can’t.”
Yes it is, though it is entirely impractical to control who can form marriage-like relationships and who can have sex. So all a same-sex marriage ban would do would be to create emotional and legal problems because the relationships are not so clearly defined legally.
But this isn’t the point, I believe. It would be entirely possible to gaol every person who drives exceeeding the limit, but it wouldn’t be an appropriate response to a relatively minor matter. But we don’t make decisions on what to ban and what to allow legally only on the basis of what is practical. It is also a matter of freedom vs societal harm. In the case of same sex marriage, I see little societal harm and greater freedom in allowing it, and greater societal harm and unnecessary loss of freedom by opposing it.
“In effect this is what you are saying. I have good reasons to believe that God does not want a society in which two people of the same sex can marry but I will set that belief aside because Christian beliefs are just one set of beliefs in competition with each other.”
Firstly, I personally don’t know what God thinks about a society where same sex couples can marry, and I’m doubtful anyone else does either. The matter isn’t addressed in the Bible. Neither Jesus nor his apostles said what should be made law, they only spoke about personal sexual morality, and what they said is very brief.
But secondly, if a christian believes that is what God thinks, I still think they shouldn’t push their view into law unless they can show significant societal harm that justifies the loss of freedom. We don’t live in a theocracy, and God leaves each person free to make their own moral and apiritual choices.
Can I ask you, then, do you believe God wants a society where no-one kills another innocent person with a gun? If so, would you support laws against any gun ownership, on the same principle?
Hi David & “West”,
I think I have solved the problem.
I should have realised it before. Because we are discussing same-sex marriage, WordPress sees the trigger word “sex” and puts the comment in the trash along with all the porn spam. I’m sorry I didn’t figure this out before.
So I have removed the word “sex” from the ban list and it should be OK now. Thanks for your patience.
Some very reasonable thoughts there, I think you are right on all points.
Since we were in the middle of a conversation and you were already aware of previous issues with my comments I was surprised that another one failed to appear. However, I accept your explanation and apologise.
I agree that determining what sort of sexual relationships there should is impractical. That is why I don’t think homosexual relationships should actually be illegal. However, it is entirely possible for society as a whole to disapprove of something without making it a crime. That is still the case to some extent with adultery. It also used to be the case with homosexuality. That has now changed. These days society generally accepts homosexuality and condemns homophobia. That change in attitude was a necessary prelude to the establishing of homosexual marriage. Marriage is the seal of approval that society places on a relationship. Homosexual marriage could not have become a reality until people generally stopped thinking that it was sinful.
For those Christians who hold to the traditional view of the subject, the change in attitude and the culmination of that change – i.e. homosexual marriage – is regrettable. You say that you see little societal harm in homosexual marriage, so I presume that you don’t hold to the traditional view. You could hardly welcome the changes that have occurred if you thought that homosexuality was sinful.
“Firstly, I personally don’t know what God thinks about a society where same sex couples can marry, and I’m doubtful anyone else does either.”
That is a strange comment. If homosexuality is sinful then we have a very good idea what God thinks. A society which is so far from recognising the sinfulness of homosexuality that it allows two people of the same sex to marry is not likely to meet with God’s approval.
“Neither Jesus nor his apostles said what should be made law, they only spoke about personal sexual morality, and what they said is very brief.”
I also find that comment strange. Jesus was steeped in the Law and according to the Law, homosexuality was an abomination. Of course, the situation changed when Gentiles started to become followers of Christ and the application of the Law to Gentiles became a matter of discussion. But if we want to understand that situation we need to look to Paul in particular and his views on homosexuality are clear.
I forgot to address your last point. In my part of the world guns are banned and I am perfectly happy with that.
Hi David, thanks for your reply, and the apology.
“Marriage is the seal of approval that society places on a relationship.”
That is an interesting way of viewing marriage, but I don’t agree. I think society can regulate or recognise many different things without approving them (or disapproving them). For example, industrial pollution is recognised and regulated (and hopefully limited) but we don’t approve of it. Legalising same sex marriage is simply allowing people freedom to make their own choices. It is the freedom we approve, not necessarily the choice.
” You say that you see little societal harm in homosexual marriage, so I presume that you don’t hold to the traditional view. You could hardly welcome the changes that have occurred if you thought that homosexuality was sinful.”
I was making no assumption either way about the christian morality of LGBTQI relationships. I simply don’t see any societal harm in legalising, and some harm in not legalising. Can you suggest what harm is done?
“A society which is so far from recognising the sinfulness of homosexuality that it allows two people of the same sex to marry is not likely to meet with God’s approval.”
I think that is an assumption, and I think there is good reason to doubt it is true. Think about this. God created a world where people are free to choose their behaviour, which leaves them free to sin, and he apparently thought it was good to give us that freedom. Not because he wants us to sin, but because he apparently wants us to have that freedom. So I think it is best that our society give people the same freedom as long as it isn’t harming others, and I think God may well approve of that too. Why do you think God would give us freedom then want us to take other people’s freedom away?
“Jesus was steeped in the Law and according to the Law, homosexuality was an abomination.”
I was talking about societal law, not Jewish Law.
So it seems that where we disagree is this – I think our democratic societies should give people freedoms to do what they choose provided it doesn’t harm others, because I think God gives us that freedom, whereas you seem to think that christians should try to take away that freedom if it is leading to sin. Is that a fair understanding of your view?
As I have said, I think people should have freedom in the sense that there is no law against homosexual relationships but I make a distinction between that freedom and the freedom to have the same legal recognition that is given to heterosexual relationships. I have already explained my reasons for making that distinction, so I will leave people to make up their own minds about that.
At no point in this discussion have you affirmed that homosexuality is sinful. So you are a Christian blogger who is unwilling to call out sin in an area where society has gone badly astray. I regard that as a serious failing. I don’t think I have anything to add to that.
“I was talking about societal law, not Jewish Law.”
The Mosaic Law was intended to be societal law. In Jesus’ time Jews did not have complete freedom to implement their own laws but that does not alter the original purpose of the Law. And if Jews had achieved self-determination, there is no suggestion that they would have regarded the Mosaic Law as something separate from “societal” law.
“I make a distinction between that freedom and the freedom to have the same legal recognition that is given to heterosexual relationships.”
I don’t see that there is any justification for this, nor does it achieve much apart from looking bad. And if christians were restricted if secular or other religion views became dominant, I think you would think it wrong. But like you, I think we can leave the matter there.
“At no point in this discussion have you affirmed that homosexuality is sinful.”
That was quite deliberate – I didn’t want to divert from the matters we were discussing. But I have expressed my views elsewhere – see Christians and gender.
“The Mosaic Law was intended to be societal law. In Jesus’ time Jews did not have complete freedom to implement their own laws but that does not alter the original purpose of the Law.”
That is true for Israel, but certainly not for the Roman Empire. Out situation today is similar to the Roman Empire, nit to Israel.
Well, I guess we can stop here if you wish. Thanks for the opportunity to discuss.
In the New Testament in Acts it reads:
New International Version
Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
The Council’s Letter to Gentile Believers
Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch,(H) Syria and Cilicia:
We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
What should we do with this scripture as Christians living today, Should be abstain from eating rare meat at a friends bbq? And always make sure our steaks are well done?
Kind regards, Ryan
Hi Ryan, it’s an interesting time in the life of the early church and raises an interesting question. I have two thoughts ….
(1) I think that letter was a compromise between Paul, who believed all such rules were no longer applicable for christians (as his discussion in 1 Corinthians 8 & Galatians 2:11-21 shows), and James, who wanted to retain them. I personally think it was the wrong choice, but it is the choice they made and so it is recorded in Acts. I don’t think we should see it all as commands to us. Rather passages like the ones above, plus Hebrews 8:13, 2 Corinthians 3:6 & Romans 7:6, show that the OT law doesn’t apply to us, we are in a new covenant.
(2) But there are other reasons to reconsider such commands. Jesus says loving (God and neighbour) sums up the whole law (Matthew 22:37-40). Paul says that loving others fulfils the law (Romans 13:8-10). And so, he says on issues like this (he specifically mentions eating meat) we should make our own judgment based on faith – for if it isn’t done in faith it is sin (Romans 14:23) – and not judge others if they decide differently (Romans 14).
So I believe we can sleep easy without following those rules. But if you think otherwise, then you should do as you feel is right.
Thanks for your thoughtful response.
Kind regards, Ryan 🙂
I don’t know if that comment was intended for me but I will offer my view. As a matter of fact, the rule on blood never became established in the Gentile churches. Was that a mistake that has been with us for the last 2000 years? If it was then it would be difficult to put it right now. Paul was directly commissioned by the Risen Christ to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. He had a relaxed attitude to food. He did not have a relaxed attitude to sexual morality and on that score he was in agreement with the conservatives in Jerusalem.
It would be a poor argument to say that because the decree of the Jerusalem Council was not fully implemented, we should abandon the rule on sexual morality.
Hi Ryan, I think the general principle is that the OT laws don’t apply to christians (or to Jews who follow Jesus), and I applied that principle to your question about food. But I agree with David that that doesn’t mean that sexual immorality is OK. Of course we still have to determine what exactly is covered by that term, and I suppose some things relating to sexuality in the OT no longer apply, just as I don’t think the food laws do. But the NT shows that God isn’t happy with sexual profligacy, and, it seems to me, the Holy Spirit isn’t leading God’s people to any other view.
In regards to men and women, how are we as Christians to understand these passages:
1 Corinthians 11 (NIV):
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
On Covering the Head in Worship
I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies(J) with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.
Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.
Yet the O.T says also:
Numbers 6:5 (NIV):
“‘During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long.
I think Samson also had long hair.
1 Corinthians 14:34-40 (NIV):
Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
1 Timothy 2:11-15 (NIV):
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
How are we to understand what Paul shares in our time period?
Kind regards, Ryan
It seems churches can sometimes have more of a focus on what happens within the secular community, and in other churches, than within their own internal church community.
Some churches seem to place alot of emphasis on how other people have relationships outside the church, and place emphasis on secular laws against people who have these different relationships, and at times refer to scripture to make their arguments to enforce their views on secular communities.
I dont really hear as much emphasis from churches regarding what Paul shares about long hair, head coverings and women’s behaviour in church. And these are more internal examinations from within churches,
instead of being critical of beyond church walls.
I think the answer to these questions can be resolved with another letter from Paul.
1 Corinthians 13:1–13
The Way of Love
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, bso as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but lrejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
So what I conclude from this that any teaching from the NT that is not done in love, is being misinterpreted or misunderstood.
Love is patient, love is kind.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13
God is love.
1 John 4:7-12
I believe these two verses are important in our understanding of other verses that we may be seeking clarity on. Through Jesus. Through His Holy Spirit.
Kind regards, Ryan
I agree sexual immorality is not loving, and is therefore I confess is sinful.
Is sexual immorality also based on how we treat people unkindly? Does sexual immorality also involve just as much a lack of value and love of another person. Couldn’t sexual immorality also be the mistreatment or abuse in a marriage between a man and women?
Thanks for both your thoughts and conversation.
Hope you both have a good rest of the week.
Kind regards, Ryan 🙂
Hi Ryan, I think your examples make the points:
(1) that following OT laws rigorously isn’t right or even possible today, and
(2) that we don’t consistently apply even NT laws.
Most christians (In my experience) find ways to explain why one text is still in force today and another isn’t, but I feel that process is often self serving. I believe the Bible teaches that allowing the Spirit to Guide us collectively is a safer and better process.
I think the only problem with following the way of love is that we sometimes over-sentimentalise “love” so it means something less forceful than what the NT means by “love”. But I agree with the principle.
Thanks for your thoughts
Thanks for taking the time to read and respond 🙂
I have a question: What is the sort of “tough” love are we talking about, because it is not described in the biblical description of what love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13
(Love is patient, love is kind.)
Is this not the biblical definition of love. Is this not a biblical description of what love is?
What “tough” love goes beyond this description, and if it goes beyond or contradicts this biblical description of love, can this “tougher” love really be called love?
(I’m thinking when someone does something controlling, unkind or manipulative and then says “it’s because I love you that I do this”)
In Corinthians we are told what love is very clearly, and what it is not. This is outlined in Corinthians. In the bible. In the N.T.
Just some thoughts I had
Kind regards, Ryan 🙂
1 Corinthians also very clearly outlines and describes specifically what love is not.
Kind regards, Ryan
So a real love, that has tangible force is like when:
Someone donates a kidney to save the life of another person.
Or someone who travels a great distance to collect medicine to heal someone who cannot get it on their own.
In contrast, a sentimental notion is like someone who:
Gives another person who’s greatly suffering a pat on the back, and says “there, there…you poor thing” without considering what the other person may be actually feeling.
Or someone who says something flattering to another person, but will never address someone with encouragement to consider an area where a person may be harming themselves or not valuing themselves or others.
If this is this case, then I agree. We need love with force, with a realness,
We dont need a sentimentality which cares more about going through our own emotions, and focusing solely on our own feelings as we live life beside other people, while also not caring about the wellbeing of these very people.
All the best, Ryan 🙂
“I have a question: What is the sort of “tough” love are we talking about, because it is not described in the biblical description of what love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13”
I think you have already partly answered your own question with your examples about kidney donation, etc. To that I would add three more points:
(1) The 1 Corinthains list contains “it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always perseveres. Love never fails.” I think all of them are tough or enduring.
(2) Sometimes the long term benefit requires some short term pain or discipline. A football coach will drive his or her team to get fit and to develop skills, that one day they will be glad about. But it wasn’t pleasant at the time. A parent disciplining a child may be in a similar situation. Maybe God is sometimes also.
(3) We believe a God of love created this world, even though it is full of misery and nastiness as well as love and beauty. Somehow God thought this was the best world possible for his purposes. So we know that sometimes God’s best for us may appear harsh even though he is loving.
All of those are what I mean by “tough love”.
I agree, as long as discipline is done with the qualities of love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13
Have a great weekend 🙂
Hi again unkleE.
Just wondering what you and others think of proposals to allow religious organisations to discriminate against people they believe don’t conform to their standards, not just LGBTI but single mothers or those who don’t believe Creation theory etc.
I’m pretty sure that you believe that the Church should be welcoming to everyone, and I agree but if some churches don’t get that point and still try to sack gays or single mothers on the grounds of a difference in beliefs should they have that right ?
The churches may argue that parents send their children to religious churches to uphold certain standards and it is undermining to them that they have to compromise their standards. Is this view valid in your opinion ?
I think these are really tough questions, and I wouldn’t pretend to have clear answers. Here’s a few thoughts (interested in your comments and ideas) …..
1. There’s a difference between what the law should allow/prevent and what the church should do. The church & christians should avoid trying to make their ethics into law unless they can show how the issue is damaging to society.
2. When it is just the church wanting to hold to certain behaviours themselves, I think there must be a spectrum of issues – some where churches should be allowed to disallow some things, others where they should not be allowed, and many in between that need to be assessed on their merits. (The same is true for what individuals, companies or organisations are allowed to do, or not.)
3. Ideally, a baker should be allowed to choose who they bake for, a school allowed to choose what beliefs they require of their teachers or even their students, etc, for freedom is an important value. That isn’t necessarily discriminatory in a bad way (IMO), any more than choosing someone who is cleverer than other applicants is discriminatory.
But of course there are other principles that have to be considered too. For example, if a majority group (as christians used to be in the US) so controls things that no-one who thinks differently can get employment in the school sector, then something needs to be done. Or since we know that LGBTQI teens are at greater risk of depression and suicide, we need to decide how much extra duty of care we owe them. And so on. So a balance is often needed.
4. Many cases of alleged discrimination against religious people (e.g. Israel Folau, Andrew Thorburn) are in my opinion actually business decisions – had either espoused what the sponsors or organisations thought were extreme anti-religious views (e.g. anti Semitism) or extreme political views (e.g. white supremacy) they would have been treated similarly.
We should notice it used to work the other way in the past – e.g in the old WC&IC, Masons controlled things and Catholics struggled to get on. It would still be hard for an avowed atheist to be elected to US president.
5. All of this is law, and I would prefer the law to be pointed towards freedom as much as possible, but with protections for minorities. But where I think churches are at fault (often) is in behaviour that isn’t a matter of law. Churches and religious people have often treated LGBTQI people badly rather than lovingly, in relationships and in the way they speak about them. And also by being very reluctant to reconsider their cherished views. But having said that, I attend a conservative church that welcomed an openly gay guy onto the youth team (as one of dozens of volunteers) and the very conservative school our kids attended appeared to have no problems with openly gay students, so it isn’t all bad.
6. I think there will always be difficul;t situations to judge where personal harm and individual freedom compete, and there will always be disagreements. If christians were always loving towards those we disagree with, it would make resolving those matters easier.
Long answer, sorry.
No need to apologise for the long answer, your thoughts were most interesting. I have heard rumours about domination of Masons in certain areas but my experience is not wide enough to make a valid comment about that.
I think you are right that that these questions are difficult. I think the most simple answer for me anyway is that if religions (not just Christian), want to be a private club then they should not receive public money which is contributed by people of all faiths or no faith. Indeed there is an argument for reducing public funding to private schools anyway and making the State schools better. It’s not just schools though, church run hospitals also have a religious philosophy that they apply to some of the services they provide.
That retains the churches freedom to do as they wish, but cutting off public funds to private schools would virtually guarantee they go out of business or become highly exclusive, I don’t think they would be willing to take that risk.
Is that answer overly simplistic ?
“if religions (not just Christian), want to be a private club then they should not receive public money “
Another tricky question. In much of life, we allow and support both public and private – transport, hospitals, schools, media, legal advice, housing, etc. I support this mixture – I am neither a full socialist nor a full capitalist. The question is, how much should the government (= taxpayers) support the private? As a general principle, I think it is reasonable for the government to support activities that (1) are beneficial to society, (2) cost the government less than doing it themselves and (3) are done to at least the same standard as the government would do.
On these grounds, I think it is good for government to sponsor church social welfare activities and schools provided they meet the above three criteria. Other activities shouldn’t be tax exempt or subsidised, except if they are part of some community grants scheme and are assessed fairly.
I think the government needs private schools, or education costs would be far higher, but I also think the funding models are broken and biased.
PS Did you get notification of my latest post in the last 24 hours? It seems that something else is broken and these emails aren’t going out.
Thanks for the response, good thoughts. I presume “the same standards” includes non discrimination on religious or any other grounds.
No I have not received any emails from this site. I will subscribe again in the hope !
There’s no need to re-subscribe, you are on the list. There’s a problem this end. I don’t know what’s happening, but the subscriptions aren’t being sent out, even though they are working on my other blog which uses the same software. I’m trying to figure it out.
“I presume “the same standards” includes non discrimination on religious or any other grounds.”
I wasn’t assuming that (though it is a fair point), I meant in terms of services provided. But of course if the service is denied to someone then that may be an issue. Many people would say the service (say a school enrolment or social welfare assistance) must be available for all, but while the sentiment is good, it may not be practical. Some people are reluctant to go to some providers – for example a Muslim woman may not feel free to go to a secular doctor for gynecological help. It would make sense for the government to support an Islamic medical centre if the service provided was good, otherwise the woman may miss out.
So again, I think it isn’t good to make blanket rules, but rather consider cases on merits.
Hi again unkleE,
On the subject of LGBTQI, what consenting adults choose to enter into is their own business, but I’m interested in the thoughts of yourself and others on having children in these relationships. Is it fair on children to bring them up in an ‘unnatural’ environment ?
Some may say love is the only thing that counts, but is it ? As a Christian, do you think that if God had intended gay couples to have children then they would have the ability to do so naturally instead of resorting to surrogates or IVF clinics. ?
It seems to me that without a mother and father something is missing. Of course there are a lot of single parents who do an excellent job of raising children but a lot of them (maybe most) would prefer a partner to share the load.
Hi, very interesting questions. I’d be interested to hear what you think about them.
I think ideally every child would have a loving mother and a loving father who cared for them and nurtured them. But that’s an ideal rarely achieved to the highest level. Every parent has faults. So the question becomes what amount less than the ideal should we allow parents to keep their children? Obviously children should be removed from some violent, murderous or negelectful parents, but we have learnt from Aboriginal stolen generations that we have to be very careful how we judge neglect, etc. My view is that most same sex parents are not as far short of the ideal as some heterosexual parents that we wouldn’t remove children from.
I don’t buy that argument. Some people (e.g. christian scientists) believe we shouldn’t intervene medically at all and leave it all up to God, but I think they are wrong. God gave us brains (via evolution) and that enables us to make clothes, tools, fire, etc right up to medical care, IVF, etc. I see no reason not to use those abilities. I guess there would be some limits somewhere, but I don’t know where.
What do you think?
I don’t think IVF should be available to anyone, gay or straight. I’m not making judgements about who deserves to have children and who does not, but having a parent that comes from a bottle I don’t think is ideal for any child.
I don’t know how the whole IVF process was allowed to operate in the first place, no thought seems to have been given to the rights of children who have to go on a long journey find out who their fathers are. To me it’s a money making operation that preys on vulnerable people.
Anyway, a bit off topic for this thread, but thanks for the reply.
Yes, I think there are issues there, though I don’t draw the same conclusion from them as you do.