Friday, December 30, 2005

Richard Kew's Critique and Response to Jack Taylor

One of the things that orthodox Christians often get accused of is insensitivity. Having just enjoyed the delight and privilege of giving away my own daughter in marriage, I can only imagine the sadness that results for a father not being able to share this pleasure with one of his children -- so I feel for those caught in such a dilemma.

However, the implication in what Jack Taylor says is that because there is a broadening of civil liberties going on in our country, and because many states allow for same-sex couples to purchase property together, and even accept the use of artificial insemination to have children, that these relationships should be sanctified by the Christian community. This, I believe, is to make the cardinal error of identifying the legislative activities of a secular state within the context of an altering culture with the values of the Kingdom that are enshrined in Scripture and the church's tradition.

If we accept the presuppositions of a relativistic secular society which sits loose to the ethical values that have shaped monotheistic culture for millennia, I suppose that it can be argued that same-sex couples should have a right to enter into something that they consider akin to marriage. But just because society might want to do this, we do not necessarily have to accept that this is either good for society or the individuals involved.

The church's responsibility is to be faithful, and that faithfulness begins not with human propensities, desires, or policies, but with God's self-revelation that is rooted in the person of Christ, and played out in Holy Scripture. If this is how we live out our faith, then however good-willed we might be, we do not have permission to follow the whims of the culture -- not matter how much our sentiments might desire it. Our responsibility is to take seriously the recognition that God created human beings in his own image as two genders that are complementary to one another. This is the message from Genesis 1 onward that sets apart humankind from every other creature that moves upon the face of the earth.

Jack Taylor argues his case from broadening our definition of marriage by pointing out that we have altered social patterns inherited from the past. I think that most of us would say that all sorts of past cultures acted in ways that might have been inappropriate, but there is a significant difference between the manner in which we organize society from generation to generation, to such a fundamental given of what it means to be a human being, created in God's image, and with a specific gender.

Just because we do not appreciate that certain of our forebears chose to organize society to include slavery, or that it was "the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate," and that this has changed, does not mean that Christians are free to redefine what it means to be a man or to be a woman, whatever the contemporary laws of the land might say. They might have been wrong in the past, we could very well be wrong today with the changes we wish to bring to the cultural forum.

Jack Taylor's misperception is to think that moves in wider society to provide certain privileges to same-sex relationships that have previously been reserved for heterosexual married couples, mean the Christians should follow suit. Like others who argue the same case, he uses certain texts (like Galatians 3:28) out of context, as tag lines to justify such actions, filtering his ideas through one particular understanding of what equality means.

Jack then ends with the usual jibe against those of us who do not believe this is right by implying that we are homophobes, scared of extending freedoms to gays and lesbians because they threaten us. For some this may be true, but for the vast majority this is not the case. We actually find ourselves bewildered by how to lovingly apply what we believe to be a divinely given ordering of humanity in a society that thinks that it has a better way of doing things.

This debate over marriage is extremely important, and it is vital that we engage it thoughtfully and sensitively.

1 comment:

Ned Hayes said...

Hi Rev. Kew --

I recently encountered your blog off of a listserv for the emergent church that I read. I've really enjoyed reading your blog, and I have greatly enjoyed your emphasis on Anglican identity.

However, as a Bible-believing Christian, I was saddened to find yet another wonderful Christian using the Bible and Scriptural authority to say that homosexuality is a "sin" and is not allowed for Christians.

I believe quite strongly that homosexuality is innate, and is in fact strongly endorsed by both the Holy Scriptures and by the acts of the apostles. Yes, Sodom and Gomorrah and St. Paul both condemn it, but both areas are questionable in context and in culture.

I won't belabor the point, as we obviously disagree here. Briefly though: in Greek "malefacto" is not the word for our modern conception of homosexual. In fact, it is a word for sexual perversity in general. Secondarily, the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 is clearly ritually unclean according to Jewish law. He is unclean and can NEVER be sexually clean (his genitals are mutilated). Therefore, any observant Jew would run the opposite direction.

And yet, he is baptized and welcomed into the church by Phillip. This is a "sexual freak" according to both modern conception, and according to Jewish law. He does not even exist before God, according to Torah law: yet he is allowed -- even encouraged -- to accept Christ and become a Christian.

Homosexuals are not consciously perverting Scripture by loving each other: we need to read closely before we begin pointing fingers, in my humble opinion. (p.s. I am not a homosexual "activist," but a Christian minister who's been married -- hetrosexually -- for about 10 years)

In Christ,

Ned Hayes, M.A., M.Div