Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “Christian ethics”

It’s cool to be Christian again

I’ve seen various comments along the lines of “It’s cool to be Christian again”, pointing to recent statements by the Roman Pope and retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

There seemed to be something missing there, however, because the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury made some statements that were just as newsworthy, and just as widely reported, it seems, but were not, apparently, seen to be cool by the current arbiters of “cool”.

Here, for the record, are some of the blog posts and comments on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statements.

I suppose it depends on how you define “cool”.

The morality of the assassination of Osama bin Laden

An Anglican bishop’s thoughts on the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

Bishop Alan’s Blog: Moral relativism is not enough…:

It follows from this basic theology from page 1 of the Bible, that if I commit an act, like a lynching, that denies the image of God in another human being I not only act out my own fallen nature (thus losing the moral high ground), but I also behave in a way that compromises my own humanity — thank God he gave it as an absolute that no human being can take away, not even me.

The moral relativism of some journalists about this (“Normally, of course, we should respect life, but he didn’t so we don’t have to”) is a real slippery slope, morally. It betokens not Conservatism, but Pelagianism — one of the oldest heresies in the book. They must not be surprised if bishops, including the Archbishop, do not collude with their Pelagian views.

I’m not sure how Bishop Alan concludes that it is Pelagian, and I find it difficult to connect the dots. But the moral relativism he ascribes to the jounalists (“Normally, of course, we should respect life, but he didn’t so we don’t have to”) is the same slippery slope on which Western theologians who argue for a “just war” are to be found. Western legalism subscribes to the notion of “justifiable homicide”. There is almost an obsession with justification. Whether we kill people by war, assassination, or abortion, there is the need to justify it.

The main consequence of this is that we can kill people and feel righteous about it, and see no need to repent, because our act was “justified”.

But there can be no peace without repentance, as Doestoevsky showed in his novel Crime and punishment.

PamBG’s Blog: Christian Economic Life – Post 1: Foundation

Pam BC has just started an interesting series of posts on Christianity and economics. I’ve read the first two, and it looks very promising indeed. PamBG’s Blog: Christian Economic Life – Post 1: Foundation:

I’m going to try a thought-experiment here. I want to think about what an economy run on Christian principles might look like. And this is quite literally a ‘thought experiment’. At the moment, I have no idea of what I intend to write in the future, but I want simply to think out loud, building on ideas step by step.

So here are some initial thoughts for a foundation:

1) Christian thinking on economics should begin with Christian and biblical principles, not with economic principles.

2) That being said, it seems to me that a good principle for a Christian thought experiment on our economic life would be: honor God and love your neighbor. (There are actually a number of principles that the bible expresses on economic life that a lot of us might not like; forbidding the giving or receiving of debt is one of these.)

3) As I think and write, I will try to separate ‘What works’ from ‘What should be’. I will recognize that ‘What should be’ doesn’t always work well. In separating the two principles, I intend to avoid what seems to me to be a usual problem in Christian economic thinking: ‘That operational method doesn’t work, therefore it is unjust’.

That is a very good start, and I recommend that people who are interested in the topic read the whole series.

If one is really going to discuss such things properly, however, blog comments are rather inadequate. It is the kind of thing worth discussing in the Christianity and society forum.

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And you can see my take on it at Notes from underground: The Invisible Hand.

Are you homophobic?

I came across this quiz about “Are you homophobic?”

“Homophobic” is not a word I like very much, partly because I’m a language pedant, and believe it should mean “fear of the same”, and therefore be partly the opposite of “xenophobic”, which means fearing strangers.

Another reason that I don’t like it is that it is often used as an insult or accusation — it is used by bigots to accuse other people of bigotry.

But I accept that the way the word is generally used nowadays, it means to regard homosexuals with fear and loathing.

So I took the test, partly to see what the result would be, but also partly to see what the test would be. Some of these tests are themselves a manifestation of bigotry, as I mentioned above.

Here’s the result:

And you’re not homophobic in the least 🙂


You Are 18% Homophobic


You’re open minded, tolerant, and accepting.

Before reading any further, I suggest that you take the test — first to see what the test thinks of you, and secondly to see what you think of the test.

I think that the test is fairly accurate, and measures “homophobia” as it is generally defined today, that is, the degree to which people regard homosexual people with fear and loathing.

So what do I mean when I say that the word “homophobic” is sometimes used by bigots to accuse other people of bigotry?

This is also related to being a language pedant, but it is about things that are rather more important than the etymology of “homophobic”.

People sometimes ask “Is homosexuality a sin?”

And my answer is “No”.

Homosexuality is a sexual orientation, as people say nowadays. Sexual orientation means what people find sexually attractive. People are homosexual if they find people of the same sex sexually attractive. From the point of view of Christian morality, finding people sexually attractive, whether they are of the same or the opposite sex, is not a sin. What is a sin is to allow that to develop into lust, and possibly sexual activity with another person. What is sinful is not homosexuality, but fornication and adultery.

And as a Christian, I believe that if I perform such acts, or even dwell on lustful thoughts, whether about people of the opposite sex or the same sex, those are sins that I must confess.

There are lots of people who fornicate or commit adultery, with people of the same sex or the opposite sex. Should I shun such people and avoid them socially? Should I refuse to work with such people because they are sinners? No, because I am a sinner too.

And why should we regard it as necessary to shun someone who commits adultery with someone of the same sex, but not those who commit adultery with someone of the opposite sex?

If I am to shun and avoid anyone for being a sinner, then I must first of all shun and avoid myself. Orthodox Christians pray frequently during Lent, “Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother.”

We are not to engage in the relatively undemanding activity of confessing other people’s sins. Nor are we to excuse our own sins as minor, and regard those of others as much more serious. Again, as Orthodox Christians we pray before receiving the holy communion, “I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first“.

Jesus did not shun notorious sinners, and was criticised for failing to do so. He met socially with social outcasts like Zacchaeus, and if he, who was sinless, could do that, how can I, who am the first of sinners, refuse to do so on account of my supposed moral superiority?

One of the questions in the quiz concerned same-sex marriage. I believe that such a thing is ontologically impossible, but I won’t go into that here. I’ve dealt with that in some detail in another blog post on the theology of Christian marriage.

But I will say that that concerns same-sex marriage, or homosexual marriage. People often talk loosely of “gay marriage”, but that is not the same thing at all. There is nothing that I know to prevent gay people from marrying, and some have. It might even be possible for two gay people to marry each other. They might need to think about it carefully, and consider the difficulties that there might be in such a relationship. As a limerick puts it:

There was a young queer of Khartoum
who took a lesbian up to his room
they argued all night
over who had the right
to do what, and with what, and to whom.

But marriage is never plain sailing all the time, and even marriages when both parties are heterosexual often end in divorce.

Another question about words and meanings is raised by the term “gay lifestyle” which some people bandy about.

It’s a strange term, because I doubt very much that there is such a thing as a “gay lifestyle” any more than there is such a thing as a “heterosexual lifestyle”. Gay people can have as wide a variety of interests and engage in as wide a range of activities as heterosexual people. Some gay people are promiscious, and some are not, just as some heterosexual people are promiscuous and some are not. Some gay people are celibate and some are not, just as some heterosexual people are celibate and some are not.

There is, however, one exception to this.

There are gay subcultures, and among these subcultures, there is something that could be called a “gay lifestyle”, but it is important to realise that only a small minority of gay people identify with such subcultures or participate in their activities.

There was a time when homosexual activity was illegal in South Africa, as it was in many other countries. And in those days there was a gay subculture, which had the rather romantic aura of a persecuted minority. It had its own argot, and even the word “gay” was not known to people outside the subculture, probably not even to homosexual people outside the subculture. What drew them together was not just the fact of being gay but the fact of being persecuted, and they had that in common with the communist and liberal and black nationalist subcultures of those days.

Some (not all) members of the gay subcultures were actvists, and they wanted the laws against homosexual activity repealed. And under our democratic constitution those laws have been repealed, and it is illegal to discriminate against people on the grounds of sexual orientation, though I’m not sure that that provision of the constitution is as fully observed as it might be, nevertheless, it is there and can be appealed to.

One of the main arguments for the repeal of the laws against homosexual activity was that the law should not concern itself with what was done by consenting adults in the privacy of their bedrooms, and eventually those laws were repealed, as they have been in many other countries.

But some “gay activists” went further.

There was an Anglican bishop of Johannesburg, Timothy Bavin, who after some years left and became Bishop of Portsmouth. He was unmarried, and a group of gay activists decided that he was gay, and began a campaign of actively persecuting him and demanding that he “come out”.

I have no idea whether he was gay or not, but from what I do know of him, he believed that he was called by God to celibacy, and he was abused by a group of “gay activists” who were little more than fascist bullies.

And it seems to be somewhat dishonest to say on the one hand that one’s sexual orientation is one’s own business and that what one does in one’s own bedroom is not the concern of the law and anyone else, and then to go flaunting one’s sexual orientation in “gay pride” parades, and demand that other people flaunt theirs by “coming out”, and persecuting them if they do not. There is homophobic bigotry, and there is gay activist bigotry, but the so-called “gay lifestyle” is characteristic of only a small minority of gay people. It is the bigots and fascist bullies, on both sides, who make the most noise.

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Synchroblog

This post has been linked to the Synchroblog for October 2010: Same-sex marriage synchroblog | Khanya. Click on the link to see the other posts in the synchroblog.

Postscript

After the US Supreme court approved of homosexual marriage, there was another wave of bigoted comments from both those who approved and those who disapproved. Here’s what someone else posted on that For He is Good and Loves Mankind: The Church, the Culture, Tolerance, Repentance and Love. Wisdom! Let us attend.

Weasel words: "homophobic"

Julie Bindel: A Christian group’s campaign to protect the ‘freedom’ to be homophobic is grossly hypocritical:

I am all for freedom of speech, as long as it does not favour one person or group over the other. If it is deemed acceptable for Christians to say that homosexuality is a sin, for example, but not a person interviewing you for a job in a local authority, then that is unfair and hypocritical. So why on earth was a so-called ‘free speech protection’ clause added to the new offence of ‘incitement to homophobic hatred’ last May? It was to pander to Christian and other religious folk, and reads: ‘… the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.’

Julie Bindel’s article shows precisely why such a protection clause is needed, because her article is grossly Christianophobic, and is calculated to stir up hatred against Christians. If it is unfair to favour one group or person over another, why should the law favour Christianophobes?

Christians have generally believed that fornication and adultery are sins, and documents such as the New Testament urge people to abstain from them. Julie Bindel appears to believe that this should be “taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred”.

A person interviewing someone for a job in a local authority, however, has no business asking people about their sexual practices or conduct if these are not illegal, even if the interviewer is a Christian or a member of any other group that happens to believe that fornication and adultery are sinful.

This applies whether the fornication or adultery is committed with someone of the same sex or the opposite sex. A person interviewing someone for a job with a local authority should be concerned primarily with the interviewee’s qualifications and ability to do the job. Unless their sexual conduct is likely to interfere with that (such as a record of sexual harassment of fellow-workers, clients or customers), their sexual conduct should not concern the interviewer.

In Christian ethics hating other people is as much a sin as fornication or adultery, as is inciting hatred against other people. That doesn’t prevent Christians from hating other people, any more than it prevents them from committing fornication and adultery. Urging people to refrain from or modify such conduct is not itself an act of hatred or incitement to hatred, no matter how much people like Julie Bindel may misrepresent it. And the very fact that people miosrepresent it as such is itself an incitement to hatred and shows that such protection is needed.

The use of such arguments shows that the word “homophobic” can itself be used to incite hatred, and has become a weasel word that means nothing.

Time to curb the ‘asset strippers and robbers’ who ruin the financial markets, say archbishops -Times Online

For more than thirty years the ideology of neoliberalism has spread throughout the world. It was enthusiastically propagated in the Reagan-Thatcher years and led to the mania for privatisation, which continues in South Africa and has led to the deterioration of our roads, the quality of our water, and many other things.

Church leaders have been slow to speak out about these things. It takes a well-publicised financial crisis to get people like the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury to start using words like “idolatry” when referring to it in public.

Time to curb the ‘asset strippers and robbers’ who ruin the financial markets, say archbishops -Times Online:

Leaders of the Church of England launched fierce attacks on the world’s stock market traders last night, condemning them as bank robbers and asset strippers and calling for a judicial review into Britain’s financial services.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York demanded stronger regulation and an end to speculation and living on debt.

Dr Rowan Williams spoke out in defence of Karl Marx, defending key aspects of his critique of capitalism and gave a warning that society was running the risk of idolatry in its relationship with wealth.

(Hat-tip to Fr David MacGregor)

The hidden and unintended consequences of the privatisation mania are now beginning to appear. Mutual building societies and insurance cooperatives went commercial, bribing thier members with “windfall” shares (actually, it was only part of their investment received in advance — they were mortgaging their future value to external shareholders). Some of them, like the Old Mutual, continue to use the word “mutual” in their names, to deceive the public. The Old Mutual should actually be called the “New Commercial”. One result of this can be seen in the collapse of Northern Rock in Britain.

Another unintended and unforeseen consequence of the privatisation mania can be seen in the deterioration of the quality of South Africa’s water.

News – Environment: SA water quality is fast deteriorating:

South Africa’s water quality is fast deteriorating but the shrinking scientific and engineering capacity to counter this is emerging as the ‘real crisis’ to strike the country.

This is according to Dr Anthony Turton, a senior water researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), who maintains that up to 50 percent of municipalities ‘do not even have one qualified engineer’ on their staff…

“The original work for that was done in the 1980s in massive programmes based at the CSIR,” says Turton. “Those programmes generated many PhD graduates, but also did the primary science on which future management will be based.

“Those programmes are no longer in existence and this is a national crisis of note. We need to recover the bits and pieces we can and then develop new national capacity,” says Turton…

“Nowhere else in the world is this happening so we cannot turn to other countries and say: ‘Please help us’. We as a nation will be required to solve this problem as a nation. This is where national science councils come in. They are national assets, but the current funding models are so restrictive that their potential is being reduced and the capacity they have is being privatised.”

The privatisation of national resources like the CSIR was begun under the National Party government in the 1980s, and has continued under the Thatcherist policies of the ANC. One of the reasons that our water supply has deteriorated under privatisation is that nobody stands to make a lot of money out of water research.

And only when it is actually staring them in the face do Christian leaders publicly speak out, and then mostly against the symptoms, not about the causes of the disease, which has been growing unchecked in the Western world since the 1980s, and metastatising throughout the world through globalisation.

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