Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “sin”

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.

Jacob Zuma found not guilty of rape

Jacob Zuma has been found not guilty of rape.

  • Zuma poised for a comeback
  • Outcome a setback for women, say activists
  • Daughter’s testimony saves the day
  • President Mbeki, political parties accept verdict
  • Supporters celebrate as Zuma is acquitted
  • 1000 celebrate with him at his Forest Town home
  • Acquittal doesn’t mean the battle is over yet
  • Drama of the Zuma camp versus the Mbeki camp has not been fully played out

So read the headlines.

And the editorial and op-ed pages:

  • Judge did a fine job in Zuma trial
  • Not guilty, but not fit to lead

No, he wasn’t guilty of rape. But he was guilty of adultery.

I’ve skipped reading most of the press reporting of the trial, which has often meant starting the newspaper on page 5. The bits I did see didn’t seem very edifying. When the accusation first appeared, it seemed like a put-up job, coming soon after the decision to prosecute him as a spin-off of the Shaik trial.

So he wasn’t guilty of rape. But neither was Profumo, who died recently. Neither was John Prescott, whose behaviour was similar, and led to similar consequences. Should Prescott and Profumo have been reinstated since they were not found guilty of rape?

Zuma was guilty of adultery, but Jesus said of a woman caught in adultery, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Many still condemn Zuma, even though he was found not guilty of rape. But how many people can truthfully claim to be absolutely blameless of any sexual misconduct?

Judge Willem van der Merwe confined his moralising to a Kiplingesque comment, “If you can control your body and your sexual urges, then you’re a man, my son.”

But it might be worth going back a bit earlier in Kipling’s poem, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…”

The fact is that we live in a society in which controlling sexual urges is, with a few exceptions, seen as unfashionable, and many seem to argue that it is cruel even to think such a thing. Among the exceptions are those who say that the outcome is a “setback for women”. This seems tantamount to saying that any woman who makes false accusations should be believed.

We live in a society in which sexual morality has become increasingly contradictory, with increasinly harsh penalties demanded for an ever-narrowing range of offences. If you can control your sexual urges when all about you are losing all control, and urge that you do too… you’ll be a freak.

And Jacob Zuma headed up the Moral Regeneration Movement. So what is moral regeneration? Committing adultery and saying that that’s cool, as long as it’s consensual and you have a shower afterwards to prevent Aids?

We may not all be able to control our sexual urges all the time. But the biggest failure is not having a sense of failure when we do fail to control them. Moral regeneration surely starts with repentance — confessing our failure and recognising that it is a failure.

An image of repentance

Yesterday the news media were reporting the death of John Profumo at the age of 91. For those under the age of 50 or so, who probably won’t remember it, John Profumo was the British Minister of War who was forced to resign in 1963 after a the biggest political sex scandal of the 20th century. He was sleeping with a prostitute who was also sleeping with a Russian spy, and that was a big no-no in the days of the Cold War.

I remember some of the jokes that went around at the time, when rumours of the scandal first started circulating, and Profumo was denying them. “Nil combustibus Profumo — there’s no smoke without fire” was one of the wittier ones.

Unlike the present day, politicians who resigned in those days could not easily return to a political career through the back door. Profumo did not return to politics, but spent the next 40 years working among the poor in the East End of London, supported by his wife, who was willing to forgive his adultery.

In reporting his death, the news media dwelt mainly on the juicier aspects of the scandal that led to his downfall, and mentioned his good works only in passing. As Shakespeare said, “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.”

Nevertheless, Profumo’s later life was an image of repentance, and an example that some of our present-day politicians would do well to follow. Perhaps our own ex-Deputy President, Jacob Zuma, could profit by the example, considering that the media are making as big a fuss over his sex life as they did over Profumo’s.

For those who might like to know more about the more important part of his life, his work at Toynbee Hall can truly be said to be an image of repentance.

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