Thursday, February 01, 2007

Progressive Christianity

One of the intentions of this blog is to generate some discussion about Progressive Christianity. There is a significant gap in our public discourse for people of Christian faith who believe that the Christian message is one of social and economic justice, tolerance, and compassion. While there has been a long history of Christian Social Justice campaigning (think about Michael Joseph Savage’s “Applied Christianity” of the Hikoi of Hope), the loudest Christian voices in public debate across the Western world tend to belong to those who want to exclude and judge anyone different, and ignore the poor.

Because Progressive Christians, in stark contrast to conservative Christians, have on the whole been ineffective at publicly enunciating what we stand for, I think that most people outside of the Church would struggle to identify just what Progressive Christianity is. If pushed I imagine that the term conjures up a fairly wishy-washy version of Christianity – nice accepting folk, living and dressing for the late 70s, and not really believing in much aside from being pleasant to one another.

This is unfortunate because there are clear and powerful principles underlying Progressive Christianity that have huge relevance for today's public discourse. What follows is not a manifesto, but a summary of some of the key points Progressive Christian principles that motivate me:

Moral Rights and Wrongs

The religious right like to contrast their unambiguous beliefs about a range of ‘moral’ issues with the more tolerant views of others, claiming essentially that this is evidence that they believe in clear moral rights and wrongs, and that contrarily, the rest of us are coasting on some post-modern acid trip on which anything goes.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Progressive Christianity is in fact all about the fact that we live in a world in which there are clear moral rights and wrongs, and choices to be made. We just disagree (sometimes) on what the rights and wrongs are. Brian Tamaki holds that two consenting men having sex is a moral wrong that Christians should mobilise against. I hold that 21% of our children living below the poverty line is a moral wrong, condemned by scripture repeatedly, and something upon which we must act.

Progressive Christians in my view actually need to drop some of the more namby-pamby rhetoric, and in the spirit of the great Christian social justice campaigners of the Nineteenth Century label some of the great injustices of our world for the moral crimes that they are – and then act to change things.

The Centrality of Scripture

While Progressive Christianity is accepting of the right of other faiths to draw inspiration from their traditions, this does not mean that we forget about our own traditions, and the centrality of the Bible in that tradition.

Jim Wallis is a Progressive Christian leader from the USA, who comes from the evangelical movement, and has a long history in the civil rights and social justice movements. In books such as Gods Politics – why the American right gets it wrong and the left doesn’t get it, he repeatedly returns to scripture as a source of inspiration, to uncover truths about the human condition and God, and to search for solutions to our problems.

He rightly points out that the biblical imperative to act to end poverty and bring about social justice is overwhelming. Old Testament prophets, Jesus, and the disciples raged about injustice, and our obligation to act. The Bible remains as central to the the faith for Progressive Christians as it does for other Christians.

Inclusive not Exclusive

There is an interesting passage in John 21-28 in which Jesus initially refuses to deal with a woman because she is a Canaanite and not a Jew. He compares her to a dog – nice. What happens next is the cool bit though. The woman challenges him, and he backs down. For good measure, he heals her daughter. The formally closed shop of Judaism is thus opened up by Jesus, who takes a message of unconditional love and acceptance out to the very gentiles who previously were excluded.

The New Testament message of love, and not judging others is impossible to ignore. If these principles are at the centre of your faith, then there is simply no question about excluding or condemning others because they have slightly different beliefs, sexual preferences, customs, or whatever. It just makes no sense.

Justice and Change

Jim Wallis powerfully talks about the call to social justice in the Bible, and the need for Christians to be a part of solutions. He notes that the bible talks about homosexuality twelve times over 1500 odd pages of small print, yet talks about the plight of widows, orphans, the sick, the homeless, and the socially isolated many hundreds of times.

Seeking justice by changing unjust social and economic systems therefore becomes a biblical imperative. Wallis was a leader of the Jubilee Debt Campaign – an inter-faith movement that led to the cancellation of billions of dollars of third world debt. The term ‘Jubilee’ came from a Biblical tradition of the Jubilee, a once in every 49 year event during which debts were forgiven, foreclosed houses returned, and slaves freed. Basically, unjust distribution of wealth was leveled out. Radical stuff.

While a new levelers movement is not about to be re-born in the middle-class Anglican parishes of Auckland, the Christian tradition is clear that we should actively attempt to bring about social and economic justice for all.

Different Strands

Of course, its nonsense to suggest that there is one Progressive Christian creed that is followed by everyone who will identify with the term. Just as the Catholic Church, the Buddhist tradition, or American Evangelicals all have different streams within them, so does the Progressive Christian movement.

Jim Wallis himself comes from the Evangelical movement. South American Catholic Liberation theology sits within the tradition, and in contemporary New Zealand, Christians across all denominations identify with Progressive Christian ideals.

Importantly too, there are people with very different personal theologies and conceptions of God who would identify as Progressive Christians. I’m with Richard Randerson and his agnosticism as to whether God exists in spirit form or as a guy with a beard – equally the obsessive interest of the fundamentalist right in Creationism is just something I couldn’t give a hoot about. As a Progressive Christian I am far more interested in discussing our tradition, drawing inspiration from it, and then acting to bring about justice and understanding in our country and world.


I am keen for discussion about Progressive Christianity to take place on this blog, so any comments are welcome (if you have made it this far). In the near future I intend to set up a list of Progressive Christian resources too – any suggested sites or blogs would be appreciated.


Conor Roberts said...

Michael, that was a very interesting post. I wonder if there is any chance that a traveling Jim Wallis might make it out to NZ.

You mentioned Richard Randerson. I was disappointed to hear today of his retirement. He will be a sane voice sorely missed and his take on the world, whether you agreed with it or not, always made you think.

And I guess that is the point. The problem as I see it is that reactionary religious right Christians are to ready to forget to think and (for want of a better term) to take decreed ideas as gospel.

Thank you for making a stand for progressive Christian thinkers. I'll enjoy reading your posts.

Tony Milne said...

Michael, both left and right and everywhere in between seen to use different things to justify their political views - sometimes it is contested statistics, sometimes different frames, and sometimes faith and the bible. I'd be interested in your thoughts on what comes first - the faith, or the political views - or are they tied up together. Can we ever really get a 'truth' from the bible - or do you think it is just about providing a balanced view?

Maria von Trapp said...

I don't think Richard's voice will be going away, in fact, we may hear from him more now that he won't be as busy.

His retirement has been on the cards for awhile though.

Nice post Michael :)

Oliver said...

Really awesome post, Michael (and good to see you're back blogging! :D). It's great to hear people talking about Progressive Christianity, and making people realise that Christianity really is nothing to do with encouraging capitalism, death penalties, homophobia and ignorance.

It was this that totally put me off identifying with Christianity until more recent years, when following reading up on the topics and talking with my grandfather in particularly about his own interpretation of Christianity (very heavily influenced by Barbara Thiering)

I am someone who would identify more within the Liberation Theology than with Christian Social Democracy traditionally in New Zealand, as I'd say it's always been a bit too 'soft' for my tastes politically (A Progressive Christians I know counts Lange amongst his ideological influences, which concerns me a hell of a lot).

Catholic Social Teaching is good stuff too, and people forget far too often about things like the Rerum Novarum and other Papal encyclicals that promoted non-socialist yet egalitarian and anti-capitalist ideas.

A. J. Chesswas said...

I was at the biggest Western Evangelical Christian event in the Southern Hemisphere last weekend, and the one message that pervaded Parachute Music Festival, throughout so many of the bands, and so much of what was talked about from the stage, was Social Justice. The World Vision tent had a totally moving "journey" in which people were exposed to the plight of people in the Third World, and encouraged to help. Life FM hosted a debate on Social Justice and Poverty that was well attended, and the Maxim Institute also hosted a political debate; the topic - Social Justice.

But of course there was another message echoing from the words of the artists, and from the preachers on the stage. And that was the message of the power of The Cross, and of the sovereignty and the ercy of God.

Now according to your definition of "Progressive" - "social and economic justice, tolerance, and compassion" - then the Evangelical Church body in New Zealand represented by Parachute Music Festival can certainly be called Progressive. We don't "ignore the poor", and we don't seek to exclude and judge people just because they're different.

Yet at the same time I certainly identify as a "Conservative" Christian, which for some reason you contrast as a polar opposite to "Progressive". I also identify as a member of the "Religious Right", who you also contrast against "Progressives".

So if we're so similar, why the ostracisation. What is so different about us right wing conservatives that makes you want to isolate yourself from us so strongly. It is very, very obvious ,that your problem with conservatives and with the religious right can be boiled down to just one thing; Homosexuality.

I care about social and economic justice, tolerance, and compassion. I care about the poor. I enjoy diversity and I am inclusive in the way I live my life. But I remain unwilling to reject the integral connection that exists between sexuality and the creation of new life. Like the Catholic Church, I share a great concern for the needs and welfare of others, but like the Catholic Church I also agree that to tamper the sanctity of human sexuality and reprodction is to taper with the sanctity of life itself. For it is the very sanctity of life that is the foundation for any and every moral or political ideal for social justice you can ever possess.

I totally agree that we need to act in the spirit of the great Evangelical Reformers of the 19th Century. I totally agree that The Bible is our authoritative canon of revelation. I totally agree that Jesus teaches to accept everybody no matter what race or custom. However your idea that judgment and exclusion are not features of the Christian faith are merely that - an idea.

Jesus made it very clear that a reprentant heart is a prerequisite for fellowship with him and with fellow Christians. He most certainly judged the Pharisees for their pride, their deceit, and their cheating, lying, thieving practices. He warned his followers that if their right eye caused them to lust, or their hand to an evil deed, they would be better to remove the guilty body part than to burn in the fires of Hell. He came to The Apostle John and told one of the Early Churches to cast "Jezzebel" from their parish for practicing sexual immorality and witchcraft. The same Apostle told the Early Church they were "no friend of the world", and his fellow Apostle Paul gave strict guidelines of the sins a man must be repentant of to enter into fellowship with Christ and the Church. No suprise that sexual immorality and homosexual practices were on this list.

Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Further, The Apostle Peter describes the church as a literal temple, constructed of living stones, in one spirit and in one mind. Paul tell us, "be not yoked together with the sexually immoral - for what fellowship has light with darkness?"

While does The Bible mention homosexuality only twelve times, yet talks about the plight of widows, orphans, the sick, the homeless, and the socially isolated many hundreds of times? Because God is quicker to tell us what we should do than what we shouldn't. Because God cares about the plight of widows, orphans, the sick, the homeless, and the socially isolated. He cares far less about that of the unrepentant sexual immolator.

True, the Jews were far better at keeping laws relating to purity than they were at observing laws relating to helping the poor and oppressed. And you're right, there are probably a huge number of churchgoers who today are just the same. But this is no reason to start acting as if sexual perversion was somehow acceptable.

You're right, Social Justice, tolerance and inclusion are at the heart of the Christian faith. But so is the sanctity of life and of our bodies. There are plenty of excluded poor people, ethnic people, mentally ill people, eccentric people, who would all be deeply blessed should we be willing to include them in our lives. Let us ensure we've done all we can for those who are truly different, and wrongfully excluded, before we stress out about one of the most affluent and well-educated sectors of our population.

Pamziewamzie said...

Good stuff :)

Oliver said...

Chesswass, I think part of the problem is that there really isn't any core Christian set of values, apart from an innate respect of Jesus Christ. Remember how (and when) the Bible was collated (it was definitely a few hundred years after Jesus' death when the Council of Nicea happened) and it sort of undermines any demand that total and literal acceptance of Biblical scripture is a must for Christians.

From my point of view, homosexuality doesn't even factor in to my disdain for the Christian Right. I don't care if anyone violates the 'rules' manufactured by fundamentalists any day. My disdain for the Christian Right entirely boils down to the radical free market economics that they seem to always espouse. I am a Labour Party member for whom social issues mean little, economics are far more important, and the Christian Right's utter faith in capitalism is the most radical threat to civilisation since Nazism.

Religion should be seperated from the state, and I support moves that enfranchise minorities just as Jesus did. Sure, maybe homosexuality was repugnant to Christians 2000 years ago. But it's not to me.

Maria von Trapp said...

AJ I think you've missed the point of the post.

Btw Social Justice + Maxim


Biggest oxymoron ever created.

Laughing out loud a lot.

A. J. Chesswas said...

OK Maria…

According to Wikipedia Social Justice is

“a society which gives individuals and groups fair treatment and a just share of the benefits of society”

The head banner on the Maxim Institute website says;

“Towards a more just, free and compassionate New Zealand”

Your turn.


“My disdain for the Christian Right entirely boils down to the radical free market economics that they seem to always espouse”

Check out “Christian Right” on Wikipedia if you think the term is about economics. It is more often used with reference to “social” issues such as abortion, prostitution and homosexuality. A person can hold these conservative, Christian, right-wing positions and effectively consider themselves “Christian Right” without supporting ACT or the LibertariaNZ.

I think you’ll find most of the “Christian Right” are not “radical freemarket” in their economics – i.e. don’t want to do away entirely with the welfare state. I’m sure a lot of Christians would be more attracted to Key’s more centrist policies than those of Brash, given the society in which we live. Sure, there are quite a few libertarians, but the Christian Right is more diverse than you allow with your definition.

Single Malt Social Democrat said...

AJ: You said that most "of the “Christian Right” are not “radical freemarket” in their economics – i.e. don’t want to do away entirely with the welfare state."

That may be true, but there are two problems with this. First, the Christian right often aligns itself with the economic right, who frankly do want to gut the welfare state. Secondly, saying that someone does not want to "entirely" do away with welfare is hardly a glowing endorsement of their commitment to social justice!

A. J. Chesswas said...

The thing is, a conservative Christian can vote to the right, and encourage people to be voluntarily benevolent, and still have a government that upholds law, order, and decency, properly punishing evil behaviour and properly rewarding good behaviour, and thereby affirming human moral agency. A conservative Christian can vote right and be assured justice if fully able to be dispensed within their society.

However if a conservative Christian votes left, while the material needs and political rights of the poor and oppressed may receive more visible attention, we run the risk of affirming a government that refuses to classify human behaviour of agency as good vs. evil, refuses to even comprehend punishment as a concept, measures virtue with little reference to the sanctity of life, and thereby reduces human moral agency.

In the tradition of the Apostles Paul and Peter, and their antecedents, conservative Christians reaffirm that the primary role of government is as the agent of God's wrath to all who do evil, and the commender of those who do good. We also affirm the call of the same tradition to care for the poor and the oppressed, but do not trust in the ability of the Socialist parties available to us to achieve this. We have been private benevolence work wonders in our own lives and the lives of those around us, and have also come to trust in God's providential hand towards those who seek him. We also trust that only God can deliver perfect justice, and that he will do so on Judgment Day.

Maria von Trapp said...

AJ: how is opposing the Civil Union Bill "just"???

Nice spin, rhetoric, language choice on Maxim's part (trust me, I work in comms). Their actions don't match the lingo.

A. J. Chesswas said...

The CUB gives a homosexual couple the same rights and priveleges as a heterosexual couple, but without the same responsibilities (i.e. procreation, integration with wider society).

A just world is a world where all are afforded equal rights, but are also expected to assume equal responsibilities.

A just world is similarly a world where life is considered sacred, and the creation of new life a miracle, as the sanctity of ALL life is the basis of any idea of social justice.

A world that considers a union that is unable to result in the miracle of life as equal to one that does cannot be seriously considered to be just.

Anonymous said...

The reason why we conservatives are so good at articulating our message is that we know what we believe in and we know it works. We aren't constantly trying to rewrite it or apologise for it or reinterpret it to fit the message of the day.

The "Progressives" spend so much time in self indulgent political correctness it's no wonder no one ever hears what they are saying about faith.

Anonymous said...

Oliver said, "My disdain for the Christian Right entirely boils down to the radical free market economics that they seem to always espouse. I am a Labour Party member for whom social issues mean little, economics are far more important, and the Christian Right's utter faith in capitalism is the most radical threat to civilisation since Nazism."

Well that's a very Labourite view of the world, is it not? Care to admit that you have a very narrow political outlook?

Conservative Christians believe in capitalism because we believe in freedom. Socialism is identified with oppression worldwide. Think of the tens of millions killed by Stalin and Mao in Communist Russia and China in the name of their socialism, apart from the reality of day to day living in a police state etc etc.

Capitalism gives me a totally free choice apart from what Labour wants, which is Government control over every aspect of my life, removing my freedom to choose, State monopoly in everything. And the reason they want this control is that they are total power freaks, and these policies give them more and more power over people.

So I believe the private sector and capitalism are essential components of a free society and have very valid roles to play in NZ.

Anonymous said...

SMSD writes
"First, the Christian right often aligns itself with the economic right, who frankly do want to gut the welfare state."

Let's face it, there are two kinds of welfare. That imposed by the government, which has its core aim of increasing the size of the welfare state and increasing government intervention in society. And that produced in community organisations which is actually about improving people's lives.

So welfare and the state can be separated. Labour and friends are all about State control of all kinds of things, including welfare. It's not necessary to have State welfare. The political Right want to remove the State monopoly on welfare, not welfare as a whole.

Craig Ranapia said...


I think there's a more fundamental question to be asked: Do people see (to paraphrase Von Clauswitz) faith as politics by other means. As an obervant Catholic with a sense of history, I'm increasingly disturbed that both the right and the left seem to think so. Having just returned from Australia, where Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbot have been engaged in a more than usually stupid bout of WWJT (What Would Jesus Tick) my distaste for the politics of the bully pulpit has just increased.

Michael Wood said...

Thanks all for your contributions. To avoid a comment that is longer than the original post, I am going to respond to 2 key points raised here:

1) Link between faith and politics.
Both Tony and Craig have raised this critical question. Like you Craig, I am disgusted by politicians who play the "God card" so cravenly. It is arrogant and insulting to all.
My view is that faith forms part of one's ethical base, from which a person can then develop a political ideology and identity. My ethical base includes my faith, the values instilled in me by my parents, and some core gut instincts about life. I think that everyone has a political base that if you will comes before ideology - mine happens to include a Progressive Christian faith. On the question of 'truth' in the Bible Tony, I believe that there are absolute truths, but that anyone who is arrogant enough to claim they have found them all is overestimating their own understanding of the universe.

2)Exclusive v. Inclusive
AJ, I think that your post was in part very pertinent. One of the fascinating things about the Wallis book is that he identifies an emerging trend in the evangelical community to take an interest in social justice and environmental issues. He beleives (as do I) that this is an opportunity for the Christian right and left to work together - to recognise a common interest instead of just the divides. I do however think that there is a critical question for the Christian right in reconciling their support for conservative political forces with the fact that these issues all require radical and structural changes in economy and society as opposed to the souless free-market ideology of the political right.

So, there's a bridge potentially! Obviously gay rights is a gaping chasm though. My point about inclusion wasn't just about this issue - it was as much about the role of women in church and society, an acceptance of the views of other faiths, and a general spirit of looking for God in the world rather than laying an exclusive claim to him. Gay rights however is a key touchstone issue. I can't really say much more however. When I apply my rational faculty and experience to understanding God I simply can't imagine that he would love a person less, or reject them, or give them less rights, because of their biological tendancy towards homosexuality. So why should I?

A. J. Chesswas said...

I agree with a lot of what “This is Christchurch” has said. Social justice, like any sort of justice, is surely about freedom from oppression as much as it is about anything else. Just as Jesus came to “proclaim good news to the poor and recovery of sight to those who are blind, to bind up the brokenhearted and to set at liberty those who are bruised.” The link between justice and liberty is clear. The difference between right and left is not an ethical difference – we both believe in Social Justice. It is rather a sociological difference – we (the right) do not trust in the ability of our government to distribute welfare, collect taxes or conduct spending in general in a manner that is just.

Michael, again I must take issue with your description of the political right. For me, being right-wing has nothing to do with soulless free-market ideology, and much more to do with simply being conservative. The term itself has its origins in the French Revolution, and since then has generally described those who prefer the status quo over increased National Socialism. I must emphasise that being right-wing, and conservative, is more about being averse to National Socialism than to purely “Socialist” values on their own. It does not mean we embrace a soulless, socially Darwinian ideology. Clearly there are right wing libertarians who do, but they don’t tend to be Christian. The Christian right is more about ensuring that government doesn’t become a soulless and impersonal system. And those words are exactly what some would use to describe the moral substance of our welfare, justice, education, health and other government systems.

In trying to understand the difference between “left” and “right” views of religion I’ve concluded that the left seems to be more phenomenological, and the right more theological. You categorise spiritual things in phenomenological terms – Christian, Moslem, Buddhist, homosexual etc. That is, you focus on the external, and on compartmental labels, and try to dialogue about them as identities and determine the appropriate relationship of government to those fundamental and absolute identities. Thus, when a Christian claims their understanding of God is superior to that of a Moslem, you think they are simply trying to achieve political power and status as a lobby group, rather than recognizing the discussion is not so much about “Christianity” as it is about “sin”, “judgment”, “grace”, “atonement” and “hope”. Such concepts tend to have at least some presence in other world faiths, and thus God can be found amidst those faiths. But this does not take away from the fact that many see the evangelical Christian understanding as the best way of making sense of life for everyone, no matter what religious background – whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free, Catholic or Moslem.

Right wing conservatives are less willing to compartmentalise people into easy-to-manage boxes. They are less interested in “lobby group” politics. They are more interested in everybody being treated equally, and in everybody submitting to the best and proper way of understanding and managing human society. They are less willing to split philosophy, ethics and morality into “religious” and “secular”. A right wing conservative holds that is something is true and/or ideal theologically, then it is also true politically. A right wing conservative desires to be authentic and consistent in their approach to all of life.

Finally, you again misrepresent the Christian right with your question, “why should I love a person less, or reject them, or give them less rights, because of their biological tendancy towards homosexuality if God does not?” As a right-wing Christian conservative I do not believe that God would love a person less, or give them less rights, if they had a biological tendancy towards homosexuality. Fundamental to Christian thought is a belief in God’s grace to all who repent, and this is founded in a belief in his unfailing love towards ALL. Even the worst of sinners, even murderers, even Adolf Hitler himself could find grace with God if he truly repented. And you know, there is a lot of theory floating around that even murderers are genetically predisposed towards their sins. But this does not mean God affirms or condones those sins. Similarly, a bipolar or schizophrenic may be just as much a victim of their mental condition as a homosexual is of their sexual condition. But we do not encourage those with mental illnesses to celebrate and practice their insanity. We instead do what we can to help rehabilitate them, and help them to live a normal life. We recognise that all of us are in bondage to a sinful nature that has been cursed and cut off from God since Adam & Eve ate the apple.

Now I’m not saying out-and-out here that homosexual practice is a sin in the same category as murder, or that it is a mental illness in the same category as bipolar or schizophrenia. We live in a unique time of exposure to the issue, and there are an unparalleled number of psychologists, social scientists, philosophers and theologians pouring time, energy, resource and intellect into the topic. The Anglican Church, of which I am part, is still committed to dialogue and to “listening” with regards to the topic. However there is by no means a consensus, or even a majority view, that homosexuality should be encouraged within our society. And, as I have shown above, biological determinism is not sufficient alone as a basis for accepting deviant behaviour.

For every person who has sold out to an identity as a homosexual, who you are appeasing by accepting their lifestyle, how many more are in a state of absolute confusion because you approve of their lifestyle while they remain in internal conflict over the matter? You think that you are liberating with this sort of policy and legislation, but are you actually absolving yourself of your responsibility to protect the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society? This is a question that only you can answer, from your own experience, and, as you say, your own rational faculty. I have had this argument countless times before, and remain convinced that the conservative view and rational faculty are very much friends on this topic.

The difference in views, I have observed, comes down to the experience people have had with those who consider themselves homosexual, and observation of how they try to cope with the problems that they face. I can understand how the overwhelming power of empathy, and the affectionate bonds of friendship could be enough to compel a person to accept the legitimacy of a homosexual identity. I can understand your fear that such a person may feel so trapped by their apparent sexuality, and so offended by a view that expects otherwise from them, that you would hurt their feelings and lose their friendship if you were to articulate what you think you believe. And I’m not saying that such an experience would mean your position lacks honesty or integrity, for empathy is surely a powerful medium via which we attain moral truth and understanding. I can imagine how it would be possible to have such an experience, but I haven’t. My experiences have lent me to the position I hold today, and the conviction that heterosexuality is a miracle and a wonder to be celebrated, next to which homosexuality clearly appears to be an aberration, even a perversion. But I believe this position makes me no less committed to Social Justice. For justice and truth are surely inextricably linked, and for me to condone homosexual acts and yet call myself just would be like encouraging schizophrenia and doing the same.

Sometimes the powers from which we must be liberated lie within us. This is a truth that fundamentally demarcates the right from the left.

Xavier said...

I really liked this post and I agree with a lot of what you have written. That's a lot coming from a militant atheist like me!

Lucyna said...

I enjoyed AJ's comments. Especially since no one could rebut them.

Anonymous said...

This is the first of my posts on this subject:

I'll post some more when I've had time to catch up with the rest of the comments in this thread. Must be off to church this morning (large evangelical congregation of movers and shakers in the mean streets of Christchurch) soon.

Span said...

AJ, since when is there a responsibility on married couples to procreate? I don't remember that being on the marriage licence...

A. J. Chesswas said...

It's in the Anglican prayerbook for the marriage ceremony.

Apparently there is a pish at the moment to revoke a marriage if a couple do not have children within three years. The push is coming from gay-rights activists who say if the procreation argument excludes them, then it should also exclude those who marry for sex and intimacy along but do all they can to avoid having children.

I share their sentiment, as I am opposed to contraception. If it can be proved a couple are still using contraception after 3 years then I suppose theirs is a valid position. But to base it on simple childlessness obviously throws up complications for those with fertility problems.

But I think it's terrible the way heterosexuals have made sex all about the pleasure, and so severely dislocated procreation from sexual activity. It is little wonder that people who claim homosexual dispositions feel so isolated from a society that praises the sensuous pleasures of sex yet doesn't accept their idea of sensuous pleasure.

A message floats around "sex just for fun is ok". Those who hold to this can have no coherent argument against homosexual practice.

Sex = pleasure, intimacy, commitment and procreation. We dissect this at our peril.

Span said...

And the Anglican prayerbook dictates to me how?

I actually partly agree with your last sentence AJ, sex can equal all of those things at different times for different people. But to think that it means all of them every time is not right, nor should it be.

Maybe I'm thick, but I just don't get why sex can't sometimes be about fun alone?

A. J. Chesswas said...

I wonder then, Span, if your acceptance of homosexual practice is a direct consequence of your "sex just for pleasure is ok" view.

Now I know that's an incredibly popular view, perpetuated even by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education. But what I'm saying is I guess you need to see the defiance of homosexual practice as simply part-and-parcel of the defiance against fornication, adultery, pornography, abortion, contracpetion and sexual immorality in general.

It is not simply hate-fuelled discrimination. It is not fear of difference or boring old fashioned stick-in-the-mudism. It is merely a clash of philosophical positions, one of which has theological groundings.

Span said...

Note to AJ:

Susannah said...

Thank God for your post! I was starting to think I was all by myself!

I am definitely a progressive Christian- where I live, homelessness is one of the biggies, as well as violence and undereducation. I'm an inner-city dweller. I actually don't see "poverty" as much, maybe because it's less visible, maybe because the area I live in is pretty giving. Around here, there is no good reason for ANYONE to go hungry. Now, I just wish there were no good reason for anyone to go without health care, or a bra, or a worthwhile job, or hope...

RationalRodge said...

Most religions seem hung up on God. But "God talk" turns a lot of people off, so much so that they reject spirituality along with rejecting God. Still, is it possible to have spirituality without God? Just what would that be like? I'm trying to get that discussion going (so far, without much success) on my blog,
And if you want to check out this idea in more detail, try my web site: