There are clearly many contributory factors to this question, why homosexuality, why now? The campaigns for homosexual equality which arose after the Second World War is but one of the reasons. When asked for my own thoughts, one answer I give, not entirely glibly, is that God is forcing Christians to face up to and deal with the reality and complexity of human sexuality with honesty for the first time in 2,000 years.
I don’t think the Christian view of sex and sexuality is very healthy – perhaps we who are Christian simply reflect a generic human neurosis about being sexual. Others I have questioned about this tell me I am wrong, conservative heterosexual Christians in particular. Their own relationship with their sexuality may indeed be very healthy – but then why the obsession with homosexuality? The traditional Christian teaching and ethos of sexuality is clearly not healthy – it is fatally flawed. A number of Christian teachers including Paul and Augustine bear some responsibility (this is a briefish blog and I expect to be shot at from all directions!).
The major western denominations are living through unprecedented traumas relating to human sexuality – homosexuality in the Anglican Communion and paedophile abuse in the Catholic Church.
One argument in defense of the church says the level of abuse by priests is no different from the level of abuse in society in general. If the church really had a healthy view of human sexuality, a Christian ethos of sexuality, surely abusive sexual activity would be negligible.
On Good Friday Pope Benedict XVI’s personal preacher likened criticism of the Church over the sex abuse scandal to “collective violence” suffered by the Jews. The Catholic Church reactions to reports about priests abusing children are turned round to become reports of abuse against the Church and the Pope, a strategy deeply offensive to Jews. Both the Church and the Pope are corporately responsible for maintaining a culture which breeds abusive persons and fails to deal with it appropriately.
The Anglican Communion’s various strategic reactions to the challenges homosexuality varies from Province to Province as well as their being a corporate strategy. Pro-gay advocates distrust the corporate strategy fearing the Anglican Covenant will be used as a further instrument of abuse by inhibiting progress towards the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Communion.
In England, dominant conservative bishops argue for exemption from equality legislation and for ‘Issues’ and Lambeth 1.10 to be imposed as church policy. Both documents impose abusive rules for LGBT people. Reactionary conservative evangelicals and catholics deny the presence of healthy, faithfully partnered lesbian and gay people in their midst while attempting to impose their prejudice and fear on the whole church. They also contribute to the abusive culture of the church.
In Africa the church reacts by supporting punitive, abusive legislation against LGBT people and constantly repeating lies and myths about us.
The church’s teaching on marriage and human sexuality is promoted within a general culture about human sexuality in the church which is in denial of reality, unhealthy and creates the breeding ground in which systemic abuse occurs.
I believe the edifice is crumbling, destroyed from within by 2,000 years of unhealthy teaching and attitudes towards sexual diversity, the status of women and the role of women in marriage among other strands, and destroyed from without by global social changes which are deconstructing unhealthy taboos (and at the same time grossly over-sexualise our culture – getting human sexuality into healthy balance isn’t easy!).
The church reacts defensively, the Catholic Church attacking it’s critics, the Anglican conservatives attacking LGBT people.
In his interview for BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week programme to be broadcast on Monday the Archbishop of Canterbury names the abuse in the Catholic Church. This is the only way our churches will begin to confront systemic abuse and ultimately create an environment in which healthier attitudes to human sexuality can flourish.
Rowan Williams says the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has lost all credibility over the way it has dealt with paedophile priests. This has, he says, been a “colossal trauma” for the Church which has affected the wider public. A report in The Telegraph today says that an abuse hotline set up by the Catholic Church in Germany melted down on its first day of operation as more than 4,000 victims of alleged paedophile and violent priests called in to seek counselling and advice. The Telegraph says they are ‘alleged’ victims (I have corrected this sentence – surely they mean that the allegations are made against priests who abused children, not that someone is alleging that victims were abused?).
I note the language being used by the Archbishop of Canterbury, “colossal trauma”, and by Pope Benedict’s personal preacher, “collective violence”, and Andreas Zimmer from Germany, “that kind of an onslaught” and “an escalating abuse scandal that threatens the papacy”. The language used reflects the sometimes shocking, abusive culture of sexuality in the Church.
The churches have over the centuries internalized abusive attitudes towards human sexuality. Celibate Roman Catholic priests act out this culture by abusing children and young people sexually and according to other reports, adults including lay women and nuns. Anglican churches act out their inability to integrate sexuality by projecting their fears onto LGBT people. Meanwhile, others, thank God, pursue a calm, rational, intellectual, theological exploration of human sexuality from an emotionally secure interior self.
Meanwhile, LGBT Anglicans are angered by the outrages perpetrated against us and against women, children and young people. And if this chaos is indeed instigated by God after 2,000 years, then I pray the Church will be further humiliated, shamed and traumatised until she is able to totally re-examine her attitudes to human sexuality and create a culture of deeply loving, tender, respectful, intimate relationships based on truth, freedom and fidelity.
you have seen my affliction
and unbound my eyes;
you have bereaved me of the burden
to which I used to cling;
you have woven my pain
into patterns of integrity;
the wounds that I cherished
you have turned into worships,
and the scars I kept hidden
into marks of truth.
You have touched me gently;
I have seen you face and I live.
Passiontide canticle from Out of the Silence…Prayer’s Daily Round by Jim Cotter