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Austin Cline

Christianity and Homosexuality

By October 18, 2003

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Why do fundamentalist and evangelical Christians make such a big deal about homosexuality? Granted, they feel that it is condemned in the Bible - but so are a lot of other things. More importantly perhaps is the fact that Jesus didn't bother talking about it while he did talk about the sorts of things people should be doing. Aren't there, then, more important things for Christians to be worrying about?

In an extended rant that covers various attitudes towards homosexuality in ancient Greece, among the ancient Hebrews, and among Christians, Roz Kaveney writes:

So, fast forward to now, and what we have is an alliance of people who want to kill queers for Jesus, people who want to reinstate the idolatrous idea of the Bible as an unerrant compendium of literal truth dictated by God - a bad case of Koran envy - and people who just want a battle they can win. They've mostly lost on Darwin; they've mostly lost on women clergy; they lost on slavery - and some of them really mind that; people are voting with um, not exactly their feet on abortion, contraception, fornication and adultery. And, as I point out above, they have absolutely let themselves forget about usury.
This is not about saving souls, or saving bodies from disease, war and poverty. It is certainly not about living holy lives. It is about regaining the power.
As a result, we get some bedfellows so strange that they make any orgy I have ever been to sound positively staid. Let us look briefly at some of the people lining up in the same camp. We have people who believe that slavery was a good thing, justified in scripture, and African bishops obsessed with demonic possession and the Grand Inquisitor himself, Cardinal Ratzinger, and people who cannot cope with losing votes and people who want to be able to frighten people with hellfire and rich Republicans who want to turn back the clock in every possible way.
If the Anglican church suppresses the idea of gay clergy, after an immense struggle, will a single starving child be saved? A single soldier disarmed? A single rich man persuaded to renounce obscene wealth?
No, of course not.
On the other hand, you can make gay teenagers' lives hell. You can frighten people and divide families and stand outside funerals chanting abuse and stop people getting condoms that might save lives and make up a lot of sick stories about devils in people's arses.
And this has precisely what? to do with the Sermon on the Mount and with the injunction to love one's neighbor as oneself?

Kaveney makes some good points here. Fundamentalism is very often more about power and politics than simply religion. An important commonality in all forms of fundamentalism is that it arises as a reaction to the forces and trends of modernity; people see traditional values and practices fade away and feel that, as a consequence, their identity and social power and fading away as well. Fundamentalist religion provides as means for not only explaining why this is occurring (often in apocalyptic terms), but also what can be done to regain the lost power.

Kaveney doesn't argue that evangelicals and fundamentalists have to start liking or even approving of homosexuality - and that is appropriate because it isn't likely to happen. A more modest and realistic goal is to get them to stop considering homosexuality the most important issue facing Christian churches. Instead, get them to focus on things like war, poverty, and oppression. Even if they continue to not approve of homosexuality, they may be able to do good rather than do harm.

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