Thursday, May 22, 2008

What does it mean to be Christian in the UK?

This post was partly inspired by Phil's comments on the recent debates on embryology and abortion in parliament this week - see here for more info.

It got me thinking - I always feel really uncomfortable by much of the Christian response at times like this - especially the alienating, strident and above all, apocalyptic tone adopted by Churches and Christian pressure groups - something is always the 'thin end of the wedge'.

I have to be honest, I cannot help but think that these issues are more nuanced and subtle than we give them credit for. I am naturally a non-scientific person. I distrust the grand claims of science to solve the ills of the world, and also for it to be free from moral control as if it were beyond morality (think Hitler). However, I do find myself out of step with the loudest Christian voices on many issues:


Abortion is always a terrible thing. In most cases it is an absolute wrong with no grey areas (there may be some exceptions to this). However, we do not live in a world where everyone will think like this. The experience of women who were forced by familial pressure (or their own desperation) to seek an illegal abortion is enough to persuade me we want to avoid that. So - I guess I do support limited early termination - not because it is right at all - it is very wrong - but as a very unsatisfactory sticking plaster to prevent two evils being commit ed instead of one. This really pains me - legislation the ending of a life is something I find repulsive, but it may be the lesser of all the evils.


Hmm - I am pretty sure the bible condemns homosexual practice - the greek word is pretty specific but I blush to describe it here!. It does not condemn homosexual orientation (whatever that is), homosexual feelings, or being in a loving (non-sexual) life-long same-sex relationship. As far as I can see. However, the Church should have the right to hold this position. It does not have the right to dictate how the rest of society behave, and nor should it. It this country decides to allow gay marriage then that is up to that society. Why is Gay marriage making a country that has done so much harm to so many people during the last two centuries LESS Christian? Also, is a life-long gay relationship really as sinful as a serially monogamous heterosexual one? Is it not hypocritical to allow married divorcees full membership in the church and not those in a gay partnership? I'm not sure but I do wonder.


This is an emotive issue - and I do worry that we have a situational ethical approach here - "anything is ok if it can one day help someone" sort of thing. That frees science from moral accountability which leads to what C S Lewis called 'scientism' where the scientist becomes the dictator of behaviours within society. However, research on embryos that are only a few days old is a moral, but not a practical, wrong. The ten day old embryo has no nervous system, cannot feel pain, is not suffering. In that sense it is very different from mid to late term abortion. But if we accept life already exists then it is a moral wrong. BUT - it is not in the same league as mid-to-late-term abortion, where there is real suffering, and we weaken the argument on that by equating them

Anyway - my rant over - I am just trying to sort through these issues.

1 comment:

  1. I came over from Ship of Fools and saw this post. If the word that makes you blush is "arsenokoitai" in 1 Corinthians 6:9: even if the word condemns what you think it comdemns, the Bible wasn't written in a vacuum - apart from textual or cultural context.

    St. Paul was writing to a fledgling congregation in Corinth Greece, which was a notorious seaport known for prostitution. Sailors from all over the Mediterranean come to this court for rest and recreation.

    Also, the type of homosexuality found in the ancient Greek culture he lived in was between man and young boys, not between adult men in the form of a monogamous relationship. Ancient Greek men were expected to act as mentors to boys and raise them in exchange for a sexual relationship, then these boys were expected to get married and repeat this relationship with another young boy.

    Secondly, you'd also have to look at the textual context. Paul's sin list reads:

    "Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor malakoi, nor arsenokoitai, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers shall inherit the Kingdom of God"

    "Malakoi" literally means "soft" but in this case is probably slang for young boy prostitutes. So the words malakoi and arsenokoitai may be juxtaposed for a reaon. Arsenokoitai may be the clients of these boys. Many older Biblical interpretations (like Martin Luther's translation of the NT) interpret it this way. It would make the most sense given the time and cultural milieu Paul wrote in.

    Furthermore, if this is a reference to male prostitution it would make more sense given that Paul says that the Corinthians essentially left their former lives in verse 11, and then makes another reference to prostitution in verse 15, though heterosexual prostitution isn't specifically mentioned in the sin list.

    So like any Biblical interpretation it is a mistake here to look at a word in a vacuum.

    Just a thought.


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