Tired of queer bashing

Aug 1st, 2008 | By | Category: Church of Ireland Comment

The Archbishop of Uganda has launched a scathing attack on the Archbishop of Canterbury in today’s edition of The Times. Tolerance of homosexuals is, for the Ugandan Archbishop, a defiance of Biblical authority. But then so have other things been in the past.

Saying the world went around the sun was a defiance of Biblical authority, as poor Galileo found out in the 17th Century (though the Roman Catholic Church did have the grace to apologise in 1992, better late than never).

Believing in evolutionary science was a defiance of Biblical authority, indeed still is for people from some parts of the world. A Nigerian priest in our diocese told the people in my church not to believe scientists, for the world was made in six days. This did cause the professor of geology, who is a tenor voice in the church choir, to raise his eyebrows

Right from the outset of the church in the First Century, people have asserted changes to be in defiance of Biblical authority. We should not have gays. We should not have women. We should not have science. We should not have vernacular services. We should not allow people to read for themselves. We should not disobey the authority of the Pope. We should not allow Gentiles. The history of the Church has been a history littered with perceived defiance of Biblical authority.

The Archbishop of Uganda would presumably have sympathy with his co-religionists in Nigeria who support the laws making homosexuality illegal, so which direction do we go? Backwards or forwards?

The question came to mind listening to RTE Lyric Radio’s Art Zone programme while driving along the coast this evening. It wasn’t a religious programme, it was about code breakers. Inevitably, a feature on code breakers included the heroic work of Alan Turing at Bletchley Park during World War II.

Turing was prosecuted for homosexual acts in 1952 (as the Nigerian church today would presumably think proper) and the scandal drove him to suicide in 1954 – through eating an apple laced with cyanide.

The RTE presenter added a fascinating postscript. Turing’s mathematical genius, and his work on developing mathematical machines, gained him posthumous recognition as the father of computer science. The presenter suggested that the symbol of Apple computers, the apple with a bite out of it, is a tribute to the genius who contributed so much to the winning of the war and to the advancement of human knowledge.

Turing’s story presents two alternatives: to go back to pre-modern thought, to become Biblical literalists, to deny science and embrace fundamentalism; or to move forward in the way the church has done for generations.

As a colleague remarked to me last week, this is not about gays; this is about whether we hold on to the Enlightenment or we move back to medieval times.

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  1. Perhaps the good bishop should pay attention to a couple of Leviticus’ laws and refuse to plant two kinds of seed in a field (Leviticus 19:19), or wear mixed fabrics!(Leviticus 19:26)

  2. If men and women are that way inclined and are attracted to the same sex there is nothing anyone can do to change them. Should they be denied the ability to love and have a sexual relationship? I say NO everyone to their own way of life. My view from a heterosexual.

  3. Baino,

    I think there is stuff about shellfish as well! The argument is that those are not “moral” laws, but even “moral” laws have changed over the centuries.


    I can never understand why the church gets so worked up about what consenting adults do in their spare time, especially when it remains silent about matters like corruption.

  4. There’s plenty of other rules in Leviticus that with the benefit of 21st-century hindsight are now no longer interpreted as being ‘moral’ laws:

    “A person who curses his father or mother must be put to death; having cursed his father or his mother, his blood is on him.” (Leviticus 20:9)
    Let’s kill people who are rude about their mothers. Well, one way of solving the over-population crisis I suppose.

    “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, that is, with the wife of a fellow countryman, both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.” (Leviticus 20:10)
    If we did this the House of Commons would be rather emptier, one thinks.

    “If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he must be put to death, and you are to kill the animal.” (20:15)
    Oh I can just see the animal rights people enjoying this one.

    “If a man goes to bed with a woman in her menstrual period and has sexual relations with her, he has exposed the source of her blood, and she has exposed the source of her blood; both of them are to be cut off from their people.” (Leviticus 20:18)
    And how exactly was this one supposed to be policed?!

    “The daughter of a cohen who profanes herself by prostitution profanes her father; she is to be put to death by fire.” (Leviticus 21:9)
    Obviously common-sense, that one.

    “Tell Aharon, ‘None of your descendants who has a defect may approach to offer the bread of his God. No one with a defect may approach – no one blind, lame, with a mutilated face or a limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.'” (Leviticus 21:17-10)
    I’m sure I’ve seen one or two priests wearing glasses, so this one is clearly optional.

    “Take the man who cursed outside the camp, have everyone who heard him lay their hands on his head, and have the entire community stone him.” (24:14)
    B****y f*** s*** w*** Ouch, that hurts.

    We could go on, but there’s little point: clearly the majority of “laws” in Leviticus are now totally ignored. So why this particular emotional/psychological (‘moral’?) attachment to a handful of verses that deal with homosexuality? Is it the result of fear of the unknown, a lack of ease about sexual issues generally, sexual naivité (celibacy and hanging around almost exclusively with other men is not a good approach for making a chap rock-solid in his own sexuality – you only have to look at what happens in prisons to see that), and a lack of moral courage to question one’s own convictions?

  5. I’ve been bowdlerised! Tut, tut.

  6. Julian,

    Even Australians are not allowed to curse on this blog. It’s part of my reaction against the vulgarisation of the English language in this country.

    I think you have probably been over this ground before, but thanks for stopping by anyway.

  7. Were I Australian, and had I posted similar comments before, I might see your point.

    As it is, and given your reaction to my (I thought) supportive comments, I’m not sure what the point of allowing comments on your blog post is if you’re not actually interested in hearing any opinion that diverges from your own. “Thanks for stopping by” – yes, well, I’m so glad I wasted my time doing so, you patronising twonk.

  8. My response was intended to be cordial, I apologize if you found it patronizing.

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