[warning: I discuss homophobia, homophobic bullying, self-harm and suicide in this post]
My good friend also blogs, and quite thought-provokingly too over at http://charlieswhispers.wordpress.com/ and yesterday she posted her thoughts on “Why she won’t be signing the ‘Coalition for Marriage’ Petition”. She’s the first blogger that I follow who has ventured thoughts on the subject, and I think she is very brave, because her thoughts seem to be contrary to most of her Christian peers. Her position and blog post have sparked much discussion both at the blog and in other virtual spaces. During those discussions I have seen a perennial line of thought expressed, one that is not only applicable to same-sex marriage but is part of a wider discussion on how Christians should interact with the world around them. It is to this general line of thought, as opposed to specific views about same-sex marriage that I dedicate this post, because there are a number of critiques that need to be made. But first, some basic starting points.
1) I speak entirely for myself,
2) My views are not necessarily the views of my Church
3) This is not meant as a personal attack on particular person or people
4) This is not just about same-sex marriage but a wider world-view, although it shall be considered through this lens.
5) There are better forums than the comments of this blog for us to thrash out Christian perspectives on human sexuality.
6) the following discussion is mainly constructed in the hypothetical and don’t represent my views on human sexuality.
So, a number of Christians, in a variety of situations have suggested that Christians should petition the government because “The bible provides guidelines for the best way for society to live, irrespective of a member’s religious convictions”. A less controversial version of this might be “the bible says “do not murder”, not murdering is good for society, so Christians should make sure this biblical principle is upheld in society”. A slightly more lilkely appeal (given EVERYONE dislikes murder) could go along the lines of “God commands a Sabbath be kept, a day of rest is good for everyone, Christians should lobby for keeping a day free” (we did, to some extent we lost, but I’m OK with that), and a current manifestation is “The bible says same-sex relationships are bad. They are not part of God’s ideal society, so it is right that Christians speak out against them”.
I shall leave my whining about the utter arrogance of enforcing our moral standards onto someone, without their say so, “for their own good” asside for now; it won’t get us anywhere.
I will start with an assumption. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, these people are right and that God doesn’t think same-sex relationships have a place in society, let’s assume they’re sinful and that we should resist them. At this point we run into big, big issues.
It is, to some extent, OK to expect Christians to accept this, and to “resist their sinful urges”. If you genuinely believe that a same-sex relationship or anything else for that matter is harmful then by all means pray that you are not tempted by it, or that the evil act doesn’t happen; pray that murderers stop, the sabbath is respected and homosexual and bisexual urges cease. [NB: personally I find people praying that gay/bi people “turn straight” to be repugnant, but we’re engaging in a little hypothetical construct, bear with me]. A Christian may well expect the Holy Spirit to assist them as the seek for righteousness, just as they’d expect divine assistance in an attempt to stop gossiping or lying etc. That’s great, it might even work, but here comes the snag.
How do we expect non-Christians to be transformed into morally-acceptable citizens? They are unlikely to ask the Holy Spirit for help! And so we set a standard for them “because it is best” or “for their own good” which in many ways they are never going to be able to achieve. Unless we believe the Holy Spirit is going to drag them away from their sexuality / sinfulness kicking and screaming. If so, I think we need to reconsider our view of God. So we are left with an almost unachievable goal, but what of reality?
This for me is the really convincing bit, as much as such people would love to live in their entirelty hetero eutopia, in the mean time members of the LGB (the stats I have do not deal with transphobia) community are going through a living hell.
- Stats from 2007 say that that majority (65%) of LGB young people experience homophobic bullying.
- 17% of those young people have received death threats.
LET ME SAY THAT AGAIN BEFORE CONTINUING. 17% OF THE VICTIMS ON HOMOPHOBIC BULLYING HAVE RECEIVED DEATH THREATS
- Statistically gays and lesbian pupils are more likely to be bullied than their hetero counterparts.
- 13% of young victims of homophobic are threatened with a weapon
- 30% of young victims of homophobic bullying have their property vandalised or stolen
- 41% of young victims of homophobic bullying experience physical assault
- over 70% of young people are verbally insulted about their sexuality of a frequent basis, for example being called a “poof”, “queer”, “bender” or “rugmuncher”
- 30% of lesbian and gay pupils report that adults have been responsible for incidents of homophobic bullying
- 50% of LGB adults who had been bullied at school considered self-harm or suicide according to 2000 data
- 30% of LGB adults who had been bulled at school tried to take their life on more than one occasion
[Stats taken from the Stonewall report, summarised here: http://www.stonewall.org.uk/education_for_all/research/1731.asp]
LGB young people are enduring horrific abuse whilst some Christians dream of the perfect moral society, which these young people have no place in. Surely there is something wrong here, something woefully wrong which I believe the Church to be complicit in. The stats are harrowing, but I suppose not enough, if we warp my hypothetical situation enough, we could say IF all the LGB people changed sexual orientation in line with God’s will then homophobic bullying would cease. twisted brutal logic, but logically sound never the less.
But this draws me back to my biggest issue with this line of thought. Enforcing Christian morality on non-Christians is doomed. Christians may respond earnestly to the call for sanctification; the call to keep purifying their lives by the work of the Holy Spirit. I fail to see how the same standard can be reasonably expected on non-believers. This for me is the greatest problem with applying Christian ethics across the board.
So it started with a quiet word; Charlie’s whispering, and now this is my battle-cry, let’s put a stop to this. Ultimately let’s stop with this “God’s rules are for everyone and for the good of society” because they’re just going to hurt people. Secondly let’s see if we can’t get some of the numbers in those stats a bit lower. If you like petitions, sign the counter-petition at c4em.org.uk, if you don’t be inspired by this: