Joe Boot responds to Michael Coren in the ongoing debate about Christianity, homosexuality and free speech.
If we cannot rightly identify sexual wrongdoing (or sin, to use the "archaic" term), how is it possible to identify, uphold, or defend marriage between a man and a woman – which Jesus Christ taught was the only proper context for a loving, and lawful sexual relationship? In his lecture on Europe's crisis of culture, April 1 2005, Pope Benedict XVI said,
The concept of discrimination is ever more extended, and so the prohibition of discrimination can be increasingly transformed into a limitation of the freedom of opinion and religious liberty. Very soon it will not be possible to state that homosexuality, as the Catholic Church teaches, is an objective disorder in the structuring of human existence.
Whilst I am not a Roman Catholic, I can agree completely with this statement, confirming the church's historic teaching drawn from Scripture, on the objective wrong of homosexual behavior. It appears my friend Michael Coren neither agrees with Scripture nor the Catholic Church in his "pluralistic world," where my recent naming of moral wrongdoing in biblical terms (in this case homosexual acts) was judged self-righteous, insulting and an exercise in plain stupidity.
According to Coren's opinion piece," most gay people do not choose their sexuality and we must appreciate the love and affection that exists between gay men and women." This is, according to Coren, the "most moral solution" in an often dark world. I beg to differ and suggest that God alone is able to tell us authoritatively what the most moral solutions are with regard to human life and sexuality. Notice that Michael does not see homosexuality as a disordering of reality, but somehow innate (accepting the idea of 'gay' as an identity) and therefore to be endorsed or appreciated by society, whilst stopping short of supporting the notion of 'gay marriage.' For my rejection of Michael's perspective I have been on the receiving end of the very limitation on freedom of opinion that Pope Benedict decried as destroying Western culture – I just didn't expect it to come from Coren.
Coren's commentary since the show has been heavy on rhetoric but light on substance. First, what of the charge that referring to male homosexual acts as 'sodomy' is unloving? I think Michael greatly misunderstands the Christian concept of love. In historic orthodox Christianity, love is not anti-law. The biblical definition of sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4) and sin is always portrayed in the Bible as wholly destructive of the human person; to promote and support sin is therefore to promote the ruin and destruction of your neighbor – the complete opposite of love. In fact St Paul tells us that “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:8-10). In the most famous passage on love in the Bible we read “love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13). Love is not simply feelings of warmth and affection toward others, it is obedience to God’s moral law with respect to others – so if I love my wife, I won't violate God's law and commit adultery. We cannot love God or our neighbor by ignoring his law and endorsing sin. To fail then to speak truthfully about sexual acts which God declares to be sinful and ruinous to people, by papering over them in the sanitized, progressivist language of tolerance, inclusion and love, is profoundly misguided.
Secondly, Michael fails to understand the nature of the cultural battle. The most quoted intellectual in the humanities today is probably Michel Foucault; he practiced homosexual sex and tragically died of AIDS in 1984. He advanced the idea that social norms (Christian marriage, family, normative sexuality) were merely 'social constructions,' words creating practices with no absolute basis in reality. Based on these ideas, words like 'gay' and 'queer' were strategically co-opted by those who wished to normalize sodomy, in the belief that words do not connect with ultimate reality (God's order) but rather socially construct reality. Thus, for these cultural elite, the norms of marriage, family, monogamy etc., merely perpetuated structures of 'oppression' from which they could be liberated by re-defining words and thereby people's perception of certain forms of behavior, reconstructing the social order.
For centuries in our culture the historic and legal definition of homosexual acts between men was sodomy or buggery – a criminal offense in Canada until it was decriminalized in 1969. Nonetheless, 70 of the world's 195 countries still regard the practice as criminal. The term 'sodomy' clearly carries moral connotations and conveys the biblical ideas of sin and perversion. The terms 'gay' and 'queer' however, having been abstracted from their original meanings of 'happy or carefree' and 'strange' or to 'thwart' have been used to describe a new identity – that is, something that is basic to their socially constructed nature. It was then critical for the LGBTQ advocates to adopt and re-imagine various terms that would obfuscate the immoral nature of their behavior, redefining the issue altogether in order for sodomy to be normalized in our culture. The term 'gay' now essentially associates the act of sodomy with joy, freedom and happiness, and the term 'queer' or the 'queering of culture' associates various forms of deviance with the thwarting of an oppressive norm; it is employed as a revolutionary term for the overturning of the old (Christian) order. The Christian worldview denies the idea of a linguistically constructed identity rooted in sexual immorality. Rather, all men and women are equally created in the image of God, called to reflect His character and nature.
The upshot of all of this means I refuse to use the terms 'gay' and 'queer' to describe precious human beings made in God's image; to do so is both demeaning and unloving. To employ these terms is to already accept, wittingly or not, the social reconstruction of reality! The point being, words matter. It is not just semantics. Christians and all those concerned with the state of our culture must return to calling human beings what they are (God's image-bearers) and sin what it is -ruinous lawlessness. For once you adopt the terms 'gay' and 'queer,' as descriptive of human life, you have already been thwarted, and truly loving your neighbor is made impossible.