Friday 18 January 2013

The Appalling Response of Martin Kuhrt

Here we go again. Steve Chalke says one thing and evangelicals, like Martin Kuhrt, resist. The Christian world is thus buzzing itself with the question of whether or not Steve Chalke, the Baptist minister, is an evangelical or not. He's rejected bloody substitutionary atonement and now he blesses gay couples after a Civil Partnership. Personally I care little whether Steve Chalke has gone down this well-travelled path from evangelical towards liberal; what concerns me is that under a previous Labour administration and since a broad secular country has him and others like him through their agencies running some of our schools.

Perhaps that is it: that the need to institutionally conform with national standards of general inclusion have contrained the ideological needs of these agencies and altered the outlook of its principal individuals.

Whatever the motives, we have a battle of the Bible. Steve Chalke's extended essay is how the Bible can be understood, selectively, to allow for gay inclusion. Chalke says that Paul isn't referring to stable and committed homosexual relationships. In this matter, as others, one doesn't follow the mistakes of the Bible in detail anyway (like its scientific errors) when set against newly acquired knowledge, and given that the Bible is tougher against women's inclusion in authority than some evangelicals like to make out the Bible itself fails to provide final answers and therefore these answers are often post-biblical. Thus it should be with homosexuality. It's how it was with slavery.

The Bible itself is diverse, humanly constructed, but in its conversation from God there is a trajectory from Old to New Testaments of greater liberty, and of course, as always, the Jesus issue is used as the trump card, when so interpreted. So Jesus was comparatively inclusive, though fully revealing. This strikes me as a little odd - as he is not completely inclusive and indeed far from it, so he is only fully revealing if he is projected forward too.

So via Jesus one goes beyond the New Testament to answer ethical questions. The principle applies to homosexual relationships.

It is the principle of progressive revelation, or the notion that the Bible was never completed. Its themes continue to be written, continue to be scriptural, and sometimes believers mention the Holy Spirit (the paraclete). These are liberal Christian principles. The late Unitarian Christian Arthur Long used to promote acceptance of progressive revelation as a distinctive liberal Christian trait.

Then there is the pastoral need Chalke faces, where he is challenged by what most of his tribe think scripture says and what he thinks scripture says. Naturally he does what liberals do, and acts according to what he thinks is the case. His silence previously has been so as not to upset evangelical relationships.

Against him we now have Martin Kuhrt writing in defence of scripture closing the book on the last page of the New Testament, so that, unlike for women, there are no accepting tracts for gay relationships as there are statements for women in authority set against women not being permissable in authority.

Kuhrt wishes to be limited by the book, and of course the notion that the book might have got something completely wrong doesn't feature. It doesn't because, for all his biblical sifting, he gives the game away later on:

He [Chalke] says it is ‘anti-gay stigma’ that causes most of the health problems for gay people, rather than anything unhealthy to do with homosexual practices.

In other words, Kuhrt is on the side of a sexual practice (undefined here) being unhealthy under a classification of 'homosexual practices'. Now I know of a whole range of sexual practices, and a great many of them are shared by people of all sorts of sexualities. I wasn't aware that some of them are intrinsically unhealthy by classification and yet some, the same, are comparatively healthy, by classification.

So if a man sucks off and masturbates another man, this can be unhealthy, but if a woman sucks off and masturbates a man, this is healthy? If a man penetrates a woman in her anus unprotected this is healthy, but if a man does this it is unhealthy? If a man has sexual intimacy with a man stroking his body, this is unhealthy, but if he strokes a woman's body this is healthy? If a woman seeks out a man's apparent G spot by pushing her fingers in her anus, it is healthy, but it a man does this to a man, it is unhealthy?

Kuhrt tells us has "known and liked several gay people", including those where he has had a pastoral relationship (he says "responsibility" - there's hierarchy for you), and some through "mature Christian understanding" do not label themselves as gay at all. But, principally, regarding gay people, he wants to "love them".

If I was a gay person, at this point I'd be telling him to get lost. He is categorising practices and indeed end the people themselves. Because, as regarding the Bible, and Steve Chalke, Martin Kuhrt says:

Chalke doesn’t engage at all with the view that disciples of Christ cannot defiantly and unrepentantly persist in identifying themselves as belonging to a class or people who are defined by behaviour which is sinful.

So it is about a class of people, a class of people defined by sin who become invisible as a class of people through mature Christian understanding. This is very important - it is the very logic of no rights to an identified class of people.

Well a little while back I was kicked off Fulcrum because, in repetitive fashion, I started short-cutting arguments and giving brief answers. I wasn't engaging with their point of view, and indeed I was not. Quite so. I find these evangelical arguments reprehensible. Society allows religious liberty and rightly so, but I'm suggesting that these evangelicals are allowed to exhibit themselves in their corners and hopefully contribute less and less to the public good. If the book is wrong, the book is wrong; and the argument of Kuhrt is itself evil in consequence.

1 comment:

Suem said...

It is all very predictable and depressing. It also bores me rigid. I've been to a few "gay bible studies" (no, they weren't officially called that) and I am completely and utterly uninterested in whether Paul was talking about temple prostitution or whether David and Jonathan had a love affair. I'm more interested in the folks who live down the road and the fact that the church treats them in ways that are nasty and unwelcoming than I am in what David and Jonathan got up to!

I am very uninterested in the specifics of what the bible said, which are clearly barbaric and appalling in some instances and much more interested in the broader principles of loving God and neighbour as self.