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Religious Freedom in Today’s Society

I have had a letter published in the Belfast Telegraph.

Religious freedom is a cornerstone of a free society. The law must not treat any one set of beliefs more favourably than another.

Imagine the outrage if the law said that, because some churches opposed inter-denominational marriages, then no church may perform one. This would (rightly) be seen as an infringement on religious freedom.

In Northern Ireland today, some churches oppose same-sex marriage. Others do not. Yet, curiously, the law only accommodates those churches opposing it.

If a Christian same-sex couple wants to get married in their church, and the church wants to perform that marriage, they cannot. The law dictates how the members of that church are allowed to practise their religion.

In recent months, there has been a huge upwelling of support for the freedom of conscience for the owners of Ashers Bakery. The freedom of conscience of people in places of worship must be at least as important as the freedom of conscience of people in places of work.

Until the law is changed and the churches that want to perform same-sex marriage are allowed to perform same-sex marriage, freedom of conscience in worship is severely restricted in Northern Ireland.

ANDREW McFARLAND CAMPBELL

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The Biblical view on being gay and a Christian

And another letter published in the Belfast Telegraph.

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

Remember, some of us are both gay and Christian

I have had another letter on same-sex marriage published in the Belfast Telegraph.

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

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