Saturday, April 08, 2006

Sexual Politics

Check out this story from the Lexington Herald Leader about a gay student being kicked out of a Baptist school. Not a big shock. But, interestingly, I'm not sure that this student even violated the misguided rules of the school. After all, their policy (if the article is accurate) pertains only to sexual behavior, not orientation or identity. So claiming to be gay on Myspace.com would not violate the policy unless that statement were also accompanied by some evidence that he had, as a student at the school, engaged in homosexual sexual acts.

In other words, this looks a lot more like fear and discrimination than strict adherence to a moral code, unless they claim that thinking about sex counts as sex. And, of course, if they do, then they'll have to kick out all of their students, and probably most of their faculty!

[note: I need to read more carefully. Their policy also forbids promoting forbidden sexual behavior. Evidently the school thinks that someone claiming to be gay promotes homosexual behavior. I wonder how that works. I'm certainly not more likely to engage in homosexual activity because I heard that a twenty-year-old college student thinks he's gay!]

6 comments:

Troy said...

Let me say all the faculty.

My own church, the Episcopal, is fragmenting over this issue; from the inside, I'd say it's worse than it looks in the media, where it certainly looks very bad. My own parish is wrestling right now as well. The truth is I'm too new to my faith and biblical study to have a sincere theological position on homosexuality.

But I know one thing, Jesus said to love our neighbor; he associated by example with the non-religious. I find this story tragic, even sickening. How is kicking the poor guy out going to help him spiritually? How is his presence there going to hurt anyone at the school?

At least they didn't burn him.

Whether we should have a gay bishop or not I don't know; the timing wasn't good, perhaps, because the issue is so far from settled in people's minds. But I do believe all should be welcome in the parish at every service. No one should be turned away.

Bigotry, fear, proof-text soul bashing.

Tom said...

Dude, I scooped you by three minutes!

Sandalstraps said...

Tom,

You scooped me by three minutes by providing no commentary whatsoever. I do find it interesting that we were reading the same thing at the same time, in different cities.

Identical twins: the same, but different.

Troy,

Thanks for your contribution. Yes, your church is fragmenting over this, and you're not alone in that. As a United Methodist I can say that we, an offspring of your denomination (John Wesley was an Anglican priest) too are fragmenting over this issue.

How the issue is phrased differs from denomination to denomination. It has always been that way. The Methodist Episcopal Church (which shares your Episcopal structure) split just before the Civil War over the issue of slavery. The issue was for them framed similarly to the issue now facing the Episcopal church: can a bishop (and particularly the presiding bishop of a General Conference) hold slaves?

Now the Episcopals ask if a bishop can be a self-avowed, practicing homosexual. I hope that you find the common ground that the Methodist Episcopal Church cannot find, though if I understand your situation that is not desired by either the left or the right.

Retired Bishop John Shelby Spong, for instance, said in his memoir Here I Stand (a bold and self-aggrandizing title for a bold and self-aggrandizing figure) that it would be the worst sort of idolatry to hold the church together in the face of this disagreement just in the name of "unity." For him, as well as, I gather, for many of the conservatives who oppose him and his ilk, at issue is the prophetic voice of the church. Alas both sides here that voice saying different things.

While homosexuality in general and the treatment of homosexuals in particular is a moral issue, you are right in saying that it is also a pastoral issue. You can read in my blog why I don't consider homosexual sexual acts to be any more inherantly sinful than heterosexual sexual acts (the defining moral factor is not homo- or heterosexuality). You may disagree with that. But even if we disagree on the inherant morality of the sexual actions involved, we can still agree that the church has a pastoral obligation to all people, including and especially sinners.

The German theologian Helmut Thielicke presents this view very strongly in his book The Ethics of Sex. If you can find it in a library I suggest that you read section IV. D, which specifically deals withthe problem of homosexuality. You might find a soul-mate on the subject.

Anyway, thanks for your insightful comment. And you're right about at least two things:

1. All of the faculty indeed!

2. At least the didn't burn him. That would be more funny if it didn't point to a very present reality.

crystal said...

Your churches are anguishing over this issue ... welcome to my (Catholic) world :-). There was much blogging done by Catholics after the release of that Vatican document that advised on the acceptance of gays in seminaries. There was a good article about it by Timothy Radcliffe at the Tablet. I agree with you - I don't consider homosexual acts inherently sinful.

Troy said...

S,

this is very good. If I were pressed to make a decision on this (say if I were a Bishop who had to vote one way or the other) I believe I'd vote spirit of the law and not letter. But I actually don't know. I haven't even read all of the NT yet.

I do know I am divorced and remarried and Jesus made a very strict statement regarding that; if the Episcopal church, which my girlfriend and I stumbled into because the building was pretty and we wanted them to do our wedding, if the E church had refused to marry us I wouldn't be in it. I might not even be a (re)converted Christian. Their grace to me and my then live-in girlfriend has been meaningful beyond description.

I will find the HT book. Thank you so much. I've been looking for resources like this blog.

And I'm thinking about the lepers in my life. Sometimes I think I treat myself like one.

t

Sandalstraps said...

Troy,

Thanks. Your story about the value of grace in and from the church is very moving. I hope that all of the moralists out there listen to your wisdom. The church is in the business of redeeming "sinners" not by condemning them and/or threatening them with hell, but by showing them the grace of God which frees us from our sinfulness.

We are all sinners, each and every one of us. Thank God for grace.

So often we want to make sexual sin some kind of special category of sin, worse than all of the others. I can't say that I know why we do this, though I did explore that a little bit in this post. As a pastor I always said that if ever there were a special category of sin, it would be "religious sin."

No time to get into exactly what I mean by that, but I imagine that you have some idea of what I'm talking about. It involves looking at the sins of others and ignoring your own sins; using the sins of others to justify your own sins. I say that this sort of mentality is the worst sort of sin (to the extent that you can say that one kind of sin is categorically "worse" or "better" than another) for at least two reasons:

1. It blinds you to your own sinfulness, and thus keeps your from growing in your faith and moving through the process of sanctification.

2. It places obstacles between others and God.

Anyway, thanks for your comment.