Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Confessional

I've been sort of umming an ahing about just how far to post today following the Pope's comments in which I took a satirical look. However, following seeing what young Alistair Wood has had to say I felt that the time is probably right for one of the most heart on a sleeve blog posts seen here on my journal. Some of the stuff you will see below has been hinted at in part though the history of the blog, but this as it were is sort of the lid of the jigsaw box as it were. So the Pope has a thing about two men kissing or getting jiggy between the sheets so where does that leave us. Does it really make things as bad for mankind as losing the forests.

Alistair laid out some key biblical quotes and I'm going to do the same. First of we need a key definition what does it take to be a Christian. Well Paul says the following in Romans 10:9-10

"If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God
raised him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes,
resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in

Now I don't know about you but that is one of the clearest definitions of what it takes to be saved and therefore is a definition of what a Christian is. Indeed that is exactly what I did when I was only 9 years old.

Unlike the Pope there is no mention of any particular sin excluding anyone. Indeed Paul goes further in Ephesians 2:8-9 to say:

"For by grace you have been saved though faith; and that not of yourself, it is
the grace of God; not as a result of works so that no one should boast."

Now I think I'd been the ideal example for the whole nature versus nurture debate. I mean born again at 9, in Northern Ireland one of the most religious areas of the UK, son of a Church elder who was also the Boys Brigade (BB) Captain. Well versed in the bible so much so that at Uni one of my fellow Christian Union (CU) committee member wrote:

"Your Love of God and your dedication is a real joy to see. It is encouraging for me
to find someone who finds so much help from the Bible ad from other. You are a
good guy - and a real Son of God."

Now these comments were meant to be anonymous but I knew the handwriting and this future President of Kingston's CU had also confessed to be a little envious of my knowledge of the bible in our first term.

This dedication from me after two years on the CU committee moved into mission, upon return to leading the Church youth group, then when I returned home teaching in the Bible Class and being an officer in the BB. So clearly the Pope up to this point of my life would not see me as a problem case, after all I fell into line long before I was sexually mature enough to contemplate sex. Incidentally you now chronologically have me in my early 30s.

There's just the one issue that since my late teens despite all the outward signs I've been struggling with a tough issue I'm attracted to other guys not to girls. My fantasy life when it develops is based on guys even in my sleep states. Now where did I get that nurtured into me. I think the experts would all say that is nature at work. As I've hinted before I took the same stance as Iris Robinson and believed it could be prayed out of me.

Now I had quite a unique Christian experience for a Northern Irish lad in his early twenties. I was firmly grounded in the Word but after about one year of Uni I needed more than that I needed a faith that was as real today as in the book of Acts. So I found the more charismatic end of things, even being given leadership of teams in some of the lease keep your hands by the side teams for Summer or Easter with Operation Mobilisation who I also did one year of mission with

Now I still and on three occasions including once during that year of actually serving in that

way someone in the congregation had a word of wisdom that could only relate to me. Especially on two of those occasions the person ended up praying for me and ht even more specific nails squarely on the head. However, you know what Iris and everyone else it didn't change who I was no matter how much I wanted it to.

Now here's where I will diverge from Alistair. He did an exposition that set about showing that being homosexual isn't a sin. You see I don't care whether it is or it isn't because the bible also says "we are all sinners saved by grace". Indeed it is Paul again who when talking about rewards in heaven says:

"If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward.
If any man's work is burned u, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be
saved, yet so as through fire." 1 Corinthians 3:15

Now to me as I've said above the act of personal salvation is there in the past. The bible says that nothing can take that gift away. No whether Alistair is right with his interpretation of me acting on who I am and experiencing full emotional and physical love with someone of the same gender being covered by exclusion, or exception of other OT abominations in the NT, or whether it is still literal. There is comfort in the fact that as with the adulteress brought before Jesus in John 8 there is no one out there without sin. Therefor at the back escaping as if from he fire there will be many who other's may not have expected to be there, my guess they won't be for one type of sin either.

But they would have one thing in common.

Redemption through grace alone. No matter what the state of the rain forests or the sexual ambiguities of their times. If being a sinner makes any one a worse candidate for inclusion in the church, then there is no church, no Bishoprics and no Pope.


Caron said...

Very thoughtful post, Stephen. Thanks.

It's clearly been a difficult road for you, and I feel quite angry on your behalf that you were put through such indignities as people praying that your true self should in some way be changed. Did you ever suggest to them that you pray for them to be delivered from being judgemental and prejudicial? I bet not.

There seems to be an obsession by many religious leaders about what they see as sexual sin when there is plenty of other kinds in the world - the types that lead to war, famine and most of the bad things that go on in the world.

KelvinKid said...

I hold no brief for a man I call Beppo because of his clown-like qualities. However, I have been trying to make sense of what he was saying on this issue. The best explanantion seems to be by Paul Vallely here:

The hapless pontiff has been reported around the globe as saying that saving humanity from homosexual or trans-sexual behaviour is as important as saving the rainforest. That is not what he said at all...

What it does attack, rather opaquely, is gender theory – the idea that gender is not something entirely to do with what we inherit from nature, but something which is also socially constructed. Or, as the philosopher Simone de Beauvoir put it: "One is not born a woman, one becomes one."

This the Pope sees as part of a wider malaise in which human beings want to control every aspect of life, sometimes paying no respect to the natural God-given order of things... What he is resisting is the sense that all manner of advances must be pursued for the glory of science without regard to whether or not they are a good idea ethically.

It's also, inevitably, about abortion...

So the Pope wasn't being homophobic, just anti-science and misogynistic. Oh well, that's all right then Caron...

mhuntbach said...


"There seems to be an obsession by many religious leaders about what they see as sexual sin"

er, is that so, or is the obsession with others who chose to pick out one sentence from a rather rambling speech (just one of many speeches made by the person) put their own interpretation on that sentence, and make out the speech was about nothing else?

The Pope has indeed said a great deal on the types of sin "that lead to war, famine and most of the bad things that go on in the world", but of course these go without anyone mentioning them.

As I've said in Liberal Democrat Voice, I recommend Andrew Brown's reflection in the Guardian's "Comment is Free" on the one part in this speech which has received all the attention. While I don't suppose the thinking underneath is something most liberals would warm to, neither is it the outright attack on homosexuality and homsexuals which one would suppose it is on reading what various LibDem bloggers are saying about it.

Stephen, I know where you theology comes from, and it's good to see someone with that theology who make a stand for homoexuality as you do, as we are so often led by certain loud-mouths in the evangelical movement to believe it's the line of your type that "homosexuals will burn in hell".

I would hold against this theology, however, Biblical passages such as Matthew 25:31-46, which do suggest judgement by works. You do seem to be ignoring Jesus in favour of Paul, and my take on the evangelical take on Pauline is that it's misreading what was meant to be an argument as to why Christians were not bound by Jewish ritual law. The Letter of James is, of course, a necessary riposte to this misreading, which is why Luther hated it so much.

Jesus says little about sexual sin of any sort, and as Andrew Brown notes, the Pope's words even here were not intended primarily to be an attack on homosexuality.

It is not the position of the Pope or the RC Church that being a sinner excludes one from being a Christian. Indeed, the position of the RC Church is that everyone is a sinner. So when you write "unlike the Pope there is no mention of any particular sin excluding anyone", you are wrong. The Pope didn't say that, either here or anywhere else.

Stephen Glenn said...

mhuntbach far be it for me to ignore the gospels for Pauline teaching. I think I was going to included the adultress whom Jesus told the pharisees that whoever was without sin could go ahead and carry out Levitican justice but not one stone was thrown.

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