Author Archives: Andrew McFarland Campbell
Christian consciences have been a concern since the days of the New Testament. A long time ago, a wise man called Paul the Apostle gave advice to the Christians in Corinth about how to handle their consciences.
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral … But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral… Do not even eat with such people.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-11).
In Paul’s view, your conscience regarding ‘sexually immoral’ people did not stop you interacting with them as normal. It was only when a fellow Christian was sexually immoral that you were supposed to invoke Paul’s conscience clause: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” (Verse 12)
Consider an Evangelical photographer. He is free to believe that same-sex relationships are always immoral. Refusing to photograph a civil partnership ceremony for a non-Evangelical couple on grounds of ‘conscience’ is an act of judgement, and an act of judgement for someone outside the photographer’s church. Paul the Apostle says this is wrong.
Much more recently, another man called Paul has come up with a new idea. This Paul, an MLA not an Apostle, suggests that Christians should judge those outside the church, to the extent of refusing to do business with them if their moral standards are found wanting.
However well-meaning Mr Givan and his DUP colleagues are, it strikes me that no Christian would ever exercise the conscience clause he seeks to give them, as doing so would go against the clear teaching of Christian Scripture.
DUP MLA Paul Givan has proposed a Private Member’s Bill for the Northern Ireland Assembly. This bill, which proposes introducing a conscience clause to the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI), will allow people to use religious belief to discriminate legally against people based on sexual orientation. Faith and Pride will be responding to the consultation, and is running its own consultation beforehand.
Although I have only lived in Gibraltar for a short time, I have been much struck by the diversity and tolerance shown here. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Bahá’í, people of other faiths, and people of no faith all live together in mutual respect. Gibraltar enjoys religious freedom to an extent that most of the world can only dream about.
This freedom does not come freely, and everyone who lives here must protect and promote this freedom that we all share. Supporting religious freedom means that we should support same-sex marriage. People from all parts of the religious spectrum support same-sex marriage, and there are churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples that would gladly perform same-sex weddings.
When we say that the law only recognises opposite-sex marriage, we are saying that the religious views of people like M. Bear (Letters, 21st November 2014) are more important than the religious views of people like me. This is a limitation to religious freedom that I believe is shocking to the so-called ‘silent majority’. If you support freedom of religion, you must support same-sex marriage.
Andrew McFarland Campbell
Faith and Pride
I take the Bible just as seriously as any other Christian from Northern Ireland. If there were really a single sound-bite verse that could prove that you cannot be gay and Christian, as Good News Messenger seems to think (Writeback, November 17), then I would listen to what it said, and close my organisation Faith and Pride.
As proof that you can’t be gay and Christian, Good News Messenger quoted the 2011 NIV translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. On the face of it, that translation does seem to be convincing, but only on the face of it. There are two Greek words (malakos and arsenokoites) that are translated together to become “men who have sex with men”. In other translations they become things like “effeminate”, “self-indulgent”, and “sexual perverts”. It seems that translators are not in agreement about what is meant.
People in the 1st Century Graeco-Roman world often wrote about all sorts of sexual relationships between men, in both positive and negative terms. Malakos and arsenokoites are not used in those discussions. This is a very strong indication that in the 1st century those words did not mean “men who have sex with men”. The arguments for that translation are based on a mixture of modern prejudice and a misunderstanding of how etymology is related to meaning.
It is perhaps foolish to depend on one translation of one verse for guidance. It is far better to look at what Christ himself said about the topic, in a passage where there is no significant dispute about the meaning: Matthew 25:31-46.
ANDREW McFARLAND CAMPBELL
Faith and Pride
IT seems that much of the coverage of the gay marriage cake affair has portrayed it as Christians on one side and gay people on the other. It is too easy for people to forget that some of us are both.
There are gay people who are Christians and there are Christians who support same-sex marriage. Indeed, there is a long Christian tradition of fully supporting same-sex relationships.
While this tradition has, arguably, always been in the minority, being in the minority does not mean that you are not Christian.
I am lucky enough to know the “gay activist” who ordered the cake in question. I am perplexed by that label. I think he is better described as a “community worker”. He is a man who goes out of his way to help people, particularly those at the edges of our society.
While I don’t want to judge anyone in this case, it seems to me that kindness, particularly kindness to those at the edges of our society, is a key Christian virtue; after all, Christ himself said loving your neighbour is like unto loving God (Matthew 22: 36-40).
ANDREW McFARLAND CAMPBELL
Faith and Pride
The adage “love the sinner but hate the sin” is often used in discussions of Christianity and same-sex relationships, usually in a context where someone is saying “I love you, but I hate your sinful relationship”. This is problematic for two reasons, a secondary reason, and a fundamental reason.
The secondary reason is that it isn’t very loving, or if it is, it is using a definition of love that is so far removed from normal experience it is meaningless. My relationship with my husband is based on strong mutual love. If you are telling me that that love is something that should be hated, then that tells me your definition of love is nothing like my own.
You might say that you love your dog, even though it keeps you up all night with its barking. That might even be true. But when you say you ‘love’ me but you ‘hate’ my loving relationship, then you are saying that you love me despite the fact that I also love. That simply doesn’t make any sense. How is it that the love you express is Godly, but the love I express is sinful? The only way that you can do that is if you say the love I express is opposite to the love you express. The love my husband and I share is beautiful and enriching. The opposite of that sort of love is hate. If you ‘love’ me but ‘hate’ my loving relationship, then you are expressing a hateful form of love, which is no love at all.
Of course, that is only a secondary problem with loving the sinner but hating the sin. The fundamental problem for Christians is that Christ told us to do no such thing. He told us to do something quite different, and completely incompatible with loving the sinner but hating the sin.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:3-5, NIV
When you ‘love the sinner but hate the sin’ you are ignoring the plank in your own eye and, instead of hating it, you are (perhaps lovingly) trying to remove the mote from someone else’s eye. Loving the sinner and hating the sin is nothing more than finger pointing of the sort that Christ himself told us to avoid.
James Alison will be addressing how best we engage with those who are opposed to the full inclusion of LGBT people in Church life. The event is running in Belfast South Methodist Church, Lisburn Road, Belfast at 8pm on Wednesday 12 November. The Church is near the junction with Adelaide Park: look out for the “Agape Centre” sign outside. Coffee will be available from about 7.30.
The speaker is a Catholic theologian and author, with books including Knowing Jesus and Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay. His most recent project is Jesus the Forgiving Victim—an introductory course on Christianity for adults which is grounded in our humanity. Having formerly lived with the Dominican Order, he now works as a preacher, lecturer and retreat giver across Europe and South America.
He speaks of faith as ‘relaxing into God’s embrace’. A key strand of his work has been the givenness of sexual orientation—shaped by his own experience—and the future of the Church’s debate, about which he is optimistic. Described as ‘one of the most lucid and exciting theologians writing to-day’, he’s renowned for bringing fresh insight to familiar themes.
On Saturday 18 October, Changing Attitude Ireland is holding a public talk, “Choosing a Same-Sex Partner” at 1.45pm in St George’s Church, High Street, Belfast. The speaker is Malcolm Macourt, the author of a series of essays, Toward a Theology of Gay Liberation, that had a significant impact in the quest for inclusion in the 1970s. Malcolm returns to his native Belfast to speak about developments in faith and sexuality since. He will talk about choice in sexuality and the blessing of same-sex relationships.
The event is expected to last about 45 minutes and coffee will be served afterwards, followed by a short communion service. Changing Attitude members then retire for their AGM.
Just a quick post to wish everyone good luck for Belfast Pride tomorrow. Sorry we couldn’t be there. You will all be in our thoughts and prayers.
Regular readers will have noticed this blog hasn’t been updated for a while. This is because Michael and I have moved to Gibraltar. Faith and Pride hasn’t been forgotten, and normal service will be resumed once we have our lives a little more organised.