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#VoteWithUs Brighid and Paddy

On the 22 May, there is a referendum on marriage equality in the Republic of Ireland. Although Faith and Pride is not active in the Republic, we hope that the people vote for same-sex marriage. The words of this couple say it all.

It could happen that sometime in the future that your son or daughter, grandchild or great grandchild, will tell you they are gay. And when they ask you how you voted in this referendum, or whether you bothered to vote at all, what will you tell them? — Paddy

I know the ever-loving God that we believe in will say we did the right thing, and the Christian thing, in voting “yes” for marriage equality. — Brighid

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All One in Christ

My grandmother came from Glasgow. She moved, with her husband and children, to Belfast in the late 1930s. During World War Two, she was in Glasgow to visit her family. There was a barrage balloon, and during her visit my grandmother decided she wanted to see it. She went to the site of the balloon and couldnʼt find it anywhere. Eventually she asked a passer by where it was. He looked at her, somewhat confused, and said: “Youʼre staring right at it.”

The barrage balloon was enormous, and my grandmother was expecting something much smaller. It was so big she couldnʼt see it, until it was pointed out to her.

If you are looking for evidence that the Bible supports gay people, evidence that you can follow Christ and have a same-sex partner, then you can have a similar experience. You look for something small, maybe a brief aside in one of the shorter letters, or a reference to a gay couple somewhere in the Old Testament. In reality, there is a great big affirming barrage balloon floating in the middle of the New Testament. It is so big, so huge, so affirming that you can easily miss it. That affirmation comes from Paulʼs letter to the Galatians, chapter 3, verse 28.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female.

Looking at the first paring, what does “Neither Jew nor Gentile” mean? At first sight you might think that Paul was arguing that Christians should be racially and culturally homogenous, yet elsewhere, in 1st Corinthians chapter 7, Paul says “Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.” He goes on to say “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping Godʼs commands is what counts. Each of you should remain in the situation you were in when God called you.” If  Paul was really arguing for cultural and racial homogeneity in Galatians, he wouldnʼt have said that in 1st Corinthians.

In the early church, including the church at Galatia, there was a division along the Jewish/Gentile lines. That was wrong, and Paul said that it should not be: neither Jew nor Gentile, you are all one in Christ. Yes, people were of different cultural and racial backgrounds, but those differences should not be divisions.

Lets consider a practical example. Suppose two couples approached a church to get married. In the first couple, both people are from the same cultural and racial background. No church would object to their relationship on those grounds. The second couple is mixed race. Would it be right for the church to object to their relationship? No, because as soon as you do that you go against what Galatians says. You say that in Christ there is Jew and there is Gentile, and we are not all one in Christ.

What about the second pairing: neither slave nor free? Once again, you might think that Paul is arguing for homogeneity here, but he isnʼt. Early Christians did come from different social backgrounds, but those social backgrounds were not to be a source of division and judgement within the church. In the words of James chapter 2, verses 1 to 4:

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor person in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special atention to the one wearing fine clothes and say, “Hereʼs a good seat for you,” but say to the one who is poor, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Consider this practical example. Once again, two couples approach a church. In the first couple, both people are from the same social background. No church would object to their relationship on those grounds. The second couple is different. One party comes from a comfortably-off background, grew up in a house with six bathrooms, and so on. The other party has lived all their life in a council house. Could any church object to their relationship? No, because as soon as you do that you go against what Galatians says. You say that in Christ there is slave and there is free, and we are not all one in Christ.

And so we come to the final pairing: neither male nor female. Suppose an opposite sex couple approaches the church to get married. Would anyone object on those grounds? Of course not. It happens all the time. But could the church – could a Christian – object to a same-sex couple? If you object to a same-sex couple, surely you are saying that there is male and there is female, and we are not all one in Christ?

To judge a relationship on racial or cultural grounds is racism, and that is forbidden by Galatians. To judge a relationship on the grounds of class or social background is snobbery, and that is forbidden by Galatians.

And to judge a relationship because it is a same-sex relationship is also forbidden by Galatians.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Those words are the great barrage balloon of affirmation, the great barrage balloon of defence. The race, class and gender of someoneʼs partner do not determine how a Christian should feel about their relationship.

This is the text of the meditation given at 15 minutes with Christ on Thursday 2 August 2012.

Did David and Jonathan Have Sex?

My talk, Jonathan Loved David, has been discussed over on Stafford Carson’s blog. Some of the commenters are concerned about whether or not David and Jonathan actually had sex, or perhaps I should say that some of the commenters are concerned about whether or not I think they had sex. The simple fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter, and it’s none of our business anyway.

Sex is almost always an immensely private part of a relationship, but for most people it isn’t a defining part of a relationship. Two people can form a couple – a romantic couple, a married couple, etc. – with or without a sexual component to their relationship. If you want proof that David and Jonathan had sex before you acknowledge them as a couple then you should ask yourself if you want proof that David and Michal had sex before you acknowledge them as a couple as well. If not, why not?

All too often, people (both Christian and non-Christian) speak about opposite-sex relationships in terms of love, affection, and commitment, but they speak about same-sex relationships in terms of sex. In another blog post, Stafford talks about the importance of conversation and discussion between gay people and orthodox Christians. I agree that is important, and for that dialog to happen orthodox Christians have got to start acknowledging that, aside from the genders of the people involved, same-sex relationships are the same as opposite-sex relationships. The basic emotions that Stafford feels when he looks at his wife Patricia are the same basic emotions that I feel when I look at my husband Michael.

“Jonathan Loved David”: Andrew McFarland

As promised at our inaugural event on Sunday 24 July 2011 which was very well attended, here is the text of Andrew McFarland’s talk, Jonathan Loved David.

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