Thursday, 17 July 2008

Sin, Sexuality and Relationships

I have been dismayed and, yes, disgusted, by some of the correspondence in The Friend in recent weeks on "same sex relationships", following the report on the Woodbrooke conference on committed partnerships and same sex marriage on 13th June. Fifteen years ago I left the Church of England, and I though I had put this sort of stuff behind me when I joined Quakers. Then the big issue was the role of women in the church in general, and ordination of women in particular. No problem there for Quakers, but homosexuality seems to be stirring up a hornet's nest.

Why is it that otherwise open-minded, liberal, intelligent people who actively profess to "seek that of God in everyone" get stuck here? What is the nature of that place deep in people's soul/psyche that they cannot come to terms with same-sex relationships?

There was even a letter in The Friend saying we should 'love the sinner, not the sin'. This was a common rallying cry from my evangelical Christian days, and I used it myself - to get round the problem that I am required to love my enemies, but I still want to be able to keep my prejudices. 'Love the sinner, hate the sin' is the last refuge of the bigot.

After a comment made in our meeting for reflection last Sunday, I realised that the problem arises when we define people by their sexuality. We have quite rightly stopped defining people by their race or disability or intelligence or class, but there seems to be a sticking point with sexuality. 2000 years ago Paul spelt it out: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). However, like us all, Paul was an ordinary human being with failings and prejudices and did not carry this profound insight into everything he said. We can hunt around the bible for anything to support our views, but this one is utterly simple and to the point. There is indeed that of God in everyone, and woe betides anyone who tries to find wriggle room.

Race, disability, intelligence, class and sexuality are political issues - we have fought hard over the centuries to create an equal society, at least in law, and the final hurdles are before us. There are no doubt political groups within Quakers who seek their agenda, and who can blame them - I have no idea what it is like to be in a marginalised group, but I bet frustration figures high in their emotions, and if it was me, I reckon I would be banging the drum for political action as well.

But we are a religious society, and religion/spirituality are above and beyond politics. For when the political battles have been won, we still have to live with one another. The only sound basis for living together is Paul's resounding comment: absolute mutuality and equality. Sins are forgiven instantly. Differences are celebrated. What loving couples do in the privacy of their own bedrooms is utterly irrelevant.

4 comments:

Heather said...

You have summed up the situation exactly. Why are we still arguing about this? Aren't we beyond this yet?? It really saddens me that sexuality is still such a live topic....

Sharon Langridge said...

Hear, hear.
On a related note, today's BBC Radio 4 'Thought for the Day' ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/programmes/thought/index.shtml) was John Bell talking about the need for tolerance/acceptance of the diversity of human sexuality. I recommend 'listening again' to it.

Ray said...

Very nice post Gordon. Sad that it still needs to be said. Disappointing that it is required within Quaker circles.

Elbow Dislocation said...

Why they have to get married?? I think that is a bad idea...