We have had much discussion here lately about the tensions between the ideas of God as Love and eternal damnation. It has been a good, well-mannered discussion which I hope has helped those of us reading it; it has helped me. Disagreement is a fact of Christian (as of other) life, and how we express that disagreement is a matter of great importance. How we disagree is also a witness to the faith that is within us.
With that in mind, and after biting my tongue and bridling my internet pen for a day of so, I want simply to say that the statement recently issued by the Anglican primate of Nigeria on “gays” is one of the most digraceful and shameful I have read from a Christian leader. Lest you think this is Jess getting all hyperbolic, let me quote:
A Gay is a Gay, they cannot be rightly described otherwise. In the same vein, we cannot describe people as ‘Christian Murderer’, ‘Christian Adulterer’ and ‘Christian terrorist’; neither should we even have ‘Gay Christian’ or ‘Gay Anglican’. “Without Holiness, no man shall see God” (Hebrews 12 :14).
It might be that the Archbishop might ponder that quotation from Hebrews next time he looks into a mirror. To imply that to be “gay” is to be in the same category as a murderer or a terrorist is simply disgraceful. But, in case that does not quite insult “gays” (really, does anyone still use that language?), he gets his JCB digger and goes deeper:
The deadly ‘virus’ of homosexuality has infiltrated ACNA. This is likened to a Yeast that should be urgently and radically expunged and excised lest it affects the whole dough (Luke 13:20-21; Gal. 5:9).
I make bread every third day at the moment, or did before I got ill again, and it maybe this is a woman/man thing, but I am charitably assuming that the Archbishop does not know that without yeast bread will not rise? But, how DARE the man liken other human beings to a “virus”! Chalcedon, historian that he is, always warns against likening anything to the unique evil of the Nazis, but here the parallel is striking:
“Today,” Hitler proclaimed in 1943, “international Jewry is the ferment of decomposition of peoples and states, just as it was in antiquity. It will remain that way as long as peoples do not find the strength to get rid of the virus.” Both the death camps (the gas chambers of which were modeled on delousing chambers) and the Einsatzgruppen (paramilitary death squads that roamed across Eastern Europe followed in the wake of the advancing German army) were responses to what the Nazis perceived to be a lethal pestilence.‘Less Than Human’: The Psychology Of Cruelty
Given the recent history of ISIS-inspired atrocities against Christians in Nigeria, one might have expected better of the Archbishop. When you live in a gunpowder arsenal, lighting naked matches seems, to put it mildly, unwise.
Same-sex attraction, same-sex marriages, sexuality in general remain hot issues in the Church, despite Our Lord saying rather little about them, and it is understandable that they do, but however strongly one feels, I cannot for the life of me see the justification for writing about other human beings in such terms. The “gays” love someone of their own gender, that is neither “murder” nor is it “terrorism”, and quite often it isn’t “adultery” either. We can, and do, disagree, but this is a prime example of how not to do it. Is anyone going to feel as though this sort of thing is going to change anyone’s mind? Of course not, it is a power-play, designed to say “I am in charge and this is how it ought to be”.
I will pray for the Archbishop as I am told to pray for those who “hate”, but more than that, I shall pray for all those whose “crime” is to love someone of their own gender. When an Archbishop equates love with crime in inflammable and hateful language, one does not have to enquire about the form of witness given. One can only pray for him and those who think that way – and pray for comfort for faithful Christians wounded by such words.
There have been calls for Archbishop Justin to disinvite the Archbishop from the Lambeth conference. That would be a bad way of responding. He should come, and should be open to a dialogue where he can explain how he thought he was helping the Church, and perhaps listen to those who think he was shooting himself in both feet.