Sunday 6 January 2013

A chink in the walls of Kafka’s Castle?

Headlines scream that the Church of England has “lifted its moratorium on appointing bishops in civil partnerships.”

One can only speculate about the intentions of those who did this deed, but they do not appear to have expected  a vigorous media response. It may be that they were quite unaware that they were doing anything of great significance.

They weren’t.

Whoever the framer of this tweak was, he almost certainly thought it a minor administrative tidy-up, bringing policy for bishops and clergy into line.

It could, perhaps, be intended to protect the institution from legal challenge. It could even, who knows, impart a shred of alignment into official opposition to equal marriage. This has seen bishops trumpeting a strange, new-found, enthusiasm for civil partnerships that they never certainly never showed when they were voting like cattle (only +Richard Harries didn’t) for an amendment to wreck the original legislation.

No individual is willing put their signature on the new policy, so there can no personal animus in those who say they look like confused and anxious landlubbers trying not to rock the boat so hard they almost capsize it. They'd be better off to conquer their fear of the unknown gay forces of nature enough to hoist the sails like every other boat on the river has done in the past thirty years.

This change leaves intact all fictions and fantasies of a new and unique approch — “Do ask, Do tell — but only if you're gay.” This has been honoured more in the breach, mostly because it is impracticable, tacky and discriminatory.

All that has changed is a grudging recognition of civil partnerships for celibates. The headlines have, however, stimulated vigorous kicking and screaming by people. Lynette Burrows on yesterdays PM programme (18 minutes in) shared with the nation her “instinct that people like me have which is revulsion” about gay people. The role of the Church, she implies, is to validate her instinctive disgust, which she imagines is shared by everybody.

I almost crashed the car as I heard her speak. Usually people with such views are careful to preface homophobic or racist comments by saying they are not being homophobic or racist. Years ago, somebody told me they were not, of course, being racist then explained that black people were "deteriating" her community by being black, and who would not feel sorry for the children of racially mixed marriages? By this diseased scale, there was a magnificent honesty about Lynette Burrows’ views, however revolting.

At least she was expressing what this argument is actually all about. Dread of a notional gay tsunami is driven at a level way beneath that at which rational discussion is possible. Fear, disgust and revulsion have indeed characterised societal responses to gay people, right up to the late twentieth century. The Church can, and must do better than that, or it simply debases itself into a bunker for bigots, where they can feel comfortable about their abnormal revulsions.

Corrupting the Church into a vehicle for disgust against any group of people on the grounds of how they are created is unspeakably wrong-headed. The witness of the Bible and history is that the Church’s purpose is the precise opposite — to embrace all people in a redeemed humanity that embraces every particularity God has created.

As to the chances of a bishop in a civil partnership, Kafka fans may see this announcement as an anonymous note to the surveyor at the inn, K. (or shall we call him J.?) removing another notional barrier to his invitation to dine in the Count’s Castle. Experience of what happens next, as well as the mystifactious manner of its delivery, will not cause anyone's heart to flutter too wildly.

But here, below the fold as it were, is a plot summary of The Castle that resonates with people journeying towards a church that practices what it preaches about equality. It is richly reflected in this, and other recent anonymous announcements bearing the "Church of England” moniker: I dream of the day it won’t be. For now, Enjoy!
The Council Chairman informs J. that, through a mix up in communication between the castle and the village, he was erroneously requested but, trying to accommodate J., the Council Chairman offers him a position in the service of the school teacher as a caretaker. Meanwhile, J., unfamiliar with the customs, bureaucracy and processes of the village, continues to attempt to reach the official Klamm, which is considered a strong taboo to the villagers.
The villagers hold the officials and the castle in the highest regard... Even though they do attempt to appear to know what the officials do, the actions of the officials are never explained; they simply defend it as being absurd any other way.
A number of assumptions and justifications about the functions of the officials and their dealings are enumerated through lengthy monologues by villagers. Everyone appears to have an explanation for the officials' actions that appear to be founded on assumptions and gossip. The descriptions given by the townspeople often contradict themselves by having very different features and routines within a single person's description, but they do not try to hide the ambiguity; instead, they praise it as any other action or feature of an official should be praised.
One of the more obvious contradictions between the "official word" and the village conception is the dissertation by the secretary Erlanger on Frieda's required return to service as a barmaid. J. is the only villager that knows that the request is being forced by the castle (even though Frieda may be the genesis with no consideration of the inhabitants of the village.
The castle is the ultimate bureaucracy with copious paperwork that the bureaucracy maintains is "flawless". This flawlessness is, of course, a lie; it is a flaw in the paperwork that has brought J. to the village in the first place.
Other system failures are occasionally referred to. J. witnesses a flagrant misprocessing after his nighttime interrogation by Erlanger as a servant destroys paperwork when he cannot determine who the recipient should be.
The castle's occupants appear to be all adult men and there is little reference to the castle other than to its bureaucratic functions. Particular functions of the officials are never specified. The officials that are discussed have one or more secretaries that do their work in their village. Although the officials come to the village, they do not interact with the villagers unless they need female companionship...
“Etcetera, Etcetera,” as the King of Siam used to say. How long, O Lord?


Nick said...

Sadly the media seems more interested in the extreme views of Lynnette Burrows and Giles Fraser (who it seems is equally bigoted - only in a more socially acceptable form) than of people who are willing to engage in reasoned and open dialogue.

Andrew Grey said...

Thank goodness some leaders in the Anglican church are strict on such blatant prejudice, Bishop Alan.

I imagine there would (quite rightly) be outrage if someone had announced on radio that they felt revulsion towards black people, or Asian people, including from bishops. I'm glad to see that people like yourself and Giles Fraser, at least, are willing to explicitly object to such prejudice.

Anonymous said...

Bishop Alan, I can associate with your level of feeling - at the time I was negotiating a roundabout on the Shrewsbury bypass - my wife told me to 'calm down, and slow down' whilst her own blood-pressure rose. This was astonishing radio more often heard on shock-jock style shows rather than Radio 4. Maybe it might help if people like Lynette Burrows actually say what they are thinking - odious though that might be it at least enables an open and robust challenge - which is exactly what Giles Fraser did.
Adrian C in North Wales

Debbles said...

In one paragraph you define your presupposition, stating twice that homosexuals are created, by God, that way. This is a vast oversimplification; the psychosocialsexual factors as to whether one becomes homosexual or heterosexual are not known exhaustively. God no more creates homosexuals than he creates geniuses. Deborah Pitt (Dr.)

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Well, Debbles, the existence of a small minority of homosexually inclined people in every human population, whatever you threaten them with, along with parallel phenomena in over 200 species of animals must make you wonder how this fits into the purpose of creation. You seem to presuppose that homosexual identity is a chosen path in a way that is simply unprovable, adn against which there is an immense amount of evidence. I would agree there is a scale of these things and sexual orientation has various factors behind it, whether homosexual or heterosexual.

Anonymous said...

In the comment above, Bishop Wilson says that there is no evidence that homosexuality is a chosen behaviour.
That is the exact opposite of the truth. In fact there is no evidence that homosexuality is caused by a gene or by physical malformation, therefore it must be regarded as a voluntary form of behaviour. I suggest that the Bishop learns a little bit about science before making public statements on this subject which he is just not competent to make.
To claim that the percentage of people practicing it is constant in all populations is another inaccurate assertion.
You have been fed a lot of pseudo-science by the LGBT brigade. It is tosh.
Here is a link to an article that you need to read to start educating yourself on this subject:-

Erika Baker said...

And anyway, whatever "creates" homosexuals is quite irrelevant, as is the fact that 100% gay people are a small minority.

The only question is whether there is anything objectively immoral or unhealthy about being gay or about living the same lives that straight people live.
And there just isn't. You create outcasts by treating people as outcasts and the same moral framework that helps straight people to make their way through life helps gays.

This really is a no brainer.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Indeed, Erika. Whoever my anonymous commenter may be, I'm not surprised they won't give their name as pretty much every statement they make above is demonstrably false.

Julia Gasper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I received a comment from anonymous, as above, which, having reflected on it, I have deleted. This is my blog and I don't mind ignorance, but I won't publish racism, slander or defamation. The author had suggested that gay people were responsible for killing 34 million people by causing AIDS, and something snapped. I would not allow someone to defecate on the dinner table without clearing it up at a meal in my house, and I will not publish such slanderous, ignorant and childish twaddle.

Julia Gasper said...

Gay is Not the New Black. Ask a black person:-

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Another toy whizzes past my ear from Anonymous. The point is, there is a limit to the kind of abuse I will tolerate on my blog. In the Budapest in which my mother grew up in the 1930's it was quite socially acceptable to say Jewish people were lice and spread disease. Now, of course, it is not. You may see that as a triumph of political correctness, or whatever you want. I find your views as disgusting and abhorrent and would invite you to reflect on the inner realities your words reveal.

Julia, I find that there are many different attitudes to this issue among black people, as among anyone else. I do find the parallels between the arguments being used now and those used to reinforce racism in Britain in the 1960's unnervingly similar. Legitimising discrimination against people on the grounds of characteristics over which they have no control is never morally acceptable.

Unknown said...

Extraordinary that someone who identifies himself as a Christian, like Bishop Alan is ignorant of the most basic truth in the Bible. An what is that?
It is that none of chose to be sinners. We were born sinners; we are programmed to be sinners, from the day we entered this world. This has resulted in people who from an early age were addicted to lying, cheating, lusting, murder, slander. What does it say Bishop Allan, in 1 Corinthians 6: 9 "Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

Homosexuality is just one manifestation of the fall; which is clearly something else that the good Bishop does not believe in.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thank you, David. The word "arsenokoites" does not mean "men who have had sex with men" in any simple sense, though there are a small number of instances of it that do involve same sex activity. This word was coined here by St Paul, and there are even instances of it being used for heterosexual acts. It is usually found in lists of economic sins, meaning something like a "rent boy" in modern English. There are well over a dozen words in Hellenistic Greek that popularly referred to homosexual activity and none of them occurs in the NT. I do, of course, believe in the fall.

Mark Bennet said...

I think that a 'hermeneutic of disgust' is evidence of the fall ...

Laughing Hyena said...

This bishop objects to discriminating against people for "characteristics over which they have no control". So entering into a civil partnership is something you cannot control?
Ha ha!
And what about being a killer or rapist? We mustn't discriminate against those peope. They cannot help their testosterone levels. Or a thief, or someone with Turettes? Why not let such people become bishops? There is more evidence that all of those things are genetic than homosexuality is.
Stupidity is not something people can control - therefore even the stupidest person must be allowed to become a bishop.

Andrew Grey said...

Laughing Hyena, "characteristics over which they have no control" clearly refers to the attraction, and Bishop Alan's objection is in that instance clearly to flagrant homophobia.

I'm sorry that you felt the need to resort to ad hominem attacks at the end of your comment. An opinion should hold on the merits of the argument itself, not rely on unwarranted and unsupported name-calling. I'm frankly alarmed and deeply disappointed that you feel that disagreement with someone over one ethical issue justifies such abject rudeness to a Bishop. How very Christian.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks you, Andrew. I have only once before had to censor comments on this blog in over five years, and that's why I dithered about taking the anonymous comment out. The decision wasn't about anger, indeed having worked in a prison I have heard with equanimity all kinds of obscene and outrageous views expressed; very few, however, as morally disgusting as mindlessly blaming, on the basis of bigotry, any group of people for murdering 34 million others and expecting to to be respected for it. I am not surprised the originator has not the guts or character to use their name. I wouldn't for such an obscene point of view. I realise the person concerned may not realise how far beyond the pale of decency what is going on in their head is, but I won't publish such material, any more than I would pornography, or any other form of crime against humanity. I am perfectly serious about the historical analogy with the things that were said to my mother about Jews in Hungary in the thirties- tolerating that obscentity bore bitter fruit, and I can only hope that the person concerned reflects on the changes they need to ake in their attitude to life before it will be fit to be named in a civilised society.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I realise that, sadly, this anonymous bigot probably has a religious motivation. This week someone has been given life imprisonment in Cardiff after beating their seven year child to death for failing to memorise the Quran. I am sure their motives were sincere and religious, but that cannot justify their behaviour. Motives may be religious, but any religion that is a "get out of jail free" cover story for maliciousness needs to be called out for what it is.

Unknown said...

The city of Sodom is always associated with the sin of sodomy, period. If you really believe that there is a distinct word for describing loving homosexual relationships as opposed to temple prostitution or paedophilia, please produce it.
In the following description, we can assume that Lot is tormented not just by promiscuity but by sodomy. In the same way that Bakewell is famous for Bakewell tarts, so Sodom was famous for sodomy.
Listen to Peter’s description of Sodom in 2 Peter
“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. ………. 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority. …….. 12 But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.
13 They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, revelling in their pleasures while they feast with you. 14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! 15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer…….17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”
There is no mention of temple prostitution here.

When next you bump into Colin Coward, you might quote these verses to him.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I've no idea of how we got from gay people who were celibate to Sodom! But as a seasoned campaigner in these matters, David, you will be aware of the various interpretations of the story in Genesis. The key to it is the refusal of hospitality, and the intransigence of the people of the city, which is what they were famous for in Jewish thought, not homosexuality. It is not even absolutely certain that yd' does refer to sexual intimacy, as that is only the case in around 1% of its occurrences in the Hebrew scriptures. There isn't a distinct word for describing any of the things we are talking about, so we are all night flying here. What word would you use to describe an intimate relationship between two of the same sex? The OT says "The love that bound them together was greater than the love of women" and expresses no disapproval, but there's no single word for it nor, if we take seriously James Barr's analysis in "The Semantics of Biblical Languages" would anyone expect there to be. There isn't, for example, a root in Biblical Hebrew for "Marry" either. The first instances of your "Bakewell tart" association date from the fourteenth century, in English. Taking the narrative in the most minatory and literalistic way, the sin is having sex with Angels. The government has no proposals to promote sex with Angels. People need to read the Bible more carefully as it is, not read their presuppositions into it then back out again.

Laughing Hyena said...

Andrew: The one who is being rude here and name-calling is the bishop. He calls anyone who upholds true Christian morality a "bigot" and rushes to compare their principles to the vicious behaviour of a woman who beat her son to death for not learning the Koran. How insulting is that?
The best that can be said for this bishop is that his intellectual faculties are not very clear.

Unknown said...

Dear Alan, I am not aware of the diverse interpretations of the story of Sodom apart from the one proposed by the gay lobby. What are these others? Beside which, God had told Abraham that he was going to destroy Sodom because of its exceeding wickedness , not because of Angels at or inhospitality. Plus, returning to 2 Peter, what distressed Lot was not inhospitality but “the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard). ……This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh.”
Sound like sex to me, not inhospitality .Further on it describes more clearly what this behaviour was:
“Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, revelling in their pleasures while they feast with you. 14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable”
Yet again it says, “8 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”
There is no mention of inhospitality here.
Jeremiah 23 also speaks of Sodom’s sin as sexual: adultery, i.e., any relationship outside of the one man, one woman, one flesh relationship, called marriage.
On the other hand how are passages relating to Sodom and Gibeah translated by all the Bibles of the world? All, apart from the “ Queen James Version”, written for the land of GayTranselvania , describe the sins of Sodom as sexual. Jude in the French Bibles says, “Sodome et Gomorrhe et les villes voisines, qui se livrèrent comme eux à la débauche et à des vices contre nature, sont données en exemple, subissant la peine d’un feu éternel. ‘’
I also believe it is significant that in Leviticus 18, homosexuality is closely linked to both abortion and bestiality: Verse 21 “‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord; 22 “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable; and 23 “‘Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.”
Homosexuals encourage abortion because it destroys in men and women the natural, paternal and maternal instincts and thus the categories of fatherhood and motherhood. Sex with animals makes sex an activity unrelated to any human relationship.

Unknown said...

There is no gay gene and there are no homosexuals. When we use the word homosexual and heterosexual we are not talking about separate entities but the relationship that exists between them. A homo relationship is complete, stable, unified and all of a piece- homogenous! All of the components, though not identical are of the same kind. My arms, legs, head and ears are all different and yet of the same kind – homogenous, unified, consistent and pure, uniform, stable , balanced , complementary, comparable, invariable of a piece, of the same kind, as in man- kind. A woman was formed from the man. She a structural component of the one flesh described in Genesis.
A hetero relationship is not just different, in the same way that an arm is related differently from a foot, or a man from woman; it means strange, impure , unnatural, abnormal , conglomerate and motley. For over a hundred years we have been led to using the wrong words! My relationship with my wife is homosexual, whilst the gays’ relationships are heterosexuals.
The Greek word Hetero is used only once in respect to sex in the Bible and here in Jude it means strange ( flesh), but not angelic because angels do not have fleshly bodies.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

David, I have no idea how we got into this text from discussion of a proposal that people who, by definition aren't having gay sex should be allowed to be bishops. The sin of Sodom is mentioned several times in the Bible but never in contexts that have anything to do with homosexuality. neither is there any mention of the subject in the parallel story contained in Judges 19. One problem with your interpretation, on the most basic level, is that if the men of Sodom had in fact been perceived by the men in the house to be raging homosexuals (the whole concept is anachronistic, but let's imagine it for a moment) their immediate response would not have been to offer them women instead to slake their lust. The NT context is cities refusing hospitality to disciples. Strangely enough one of the first texts to suggest this has anything to do with gayness at all is the Qur'an. To make sense of them we simply have to study these texts as they are, not import later cultural assumptions into them.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I've just picked up your latest comment, David. Of course there is no gay gene, and anyone who understood genetics would not expect there to be. The most likely explanations for the phenomenon of people who are born gay seem to be to do with hormones in the womb, and are, at most epigenetic, like left handedness. The Jude passage about sex with angels is very obscure but obviously refers to Genesis 6 (Lot's guests in Genesis 19 were also described as Angels).

Unknown said...

And then there is another thing. We are all fallen, and it may well be that there are aspects of our temperament, or chemical make-up that make some more susceptable to certain addictions than others. There some for whom alchohol presents no problem, whereas there are others who became addicted almost from the first day that they tasted it. Be that is it may, we do not therefore justify alcoholism, bad temper, lying,or any other trait that seems to be part and part of our characters. Indeed Jesus Christ came so that we might be changed and conform to his likeness and his character.

Being left- handed is, if I may say, a complete red herring. When the Rev. Sharon Ferguson, says that for years as a child, she was made to right with her right hand,and this is comparable to making a lesbian become straight, what she fails to notice is that whether she rights with her left, or right hand, with her foot or with a pen clenched in her teeth, she writes from left to right. She conforms to the writing convention in the west. For a left handed person, writing from right to left, as with Arabic, would be a far more natural way of writing. Sharon does conform without complaining.

So whether one has a fancy for people of the same sex,one's near relatives, pavements, oneself or sheep,this does not stop one being married in the conventional sense- to someone of the opposite sex, so as to have children and raise them in the fear of God. Both Oscar Wilde and King James had a wivee and children- as did Bishop Gene Robinson.

Not only that; people are capable of change. Jesus Christ came to change us from what we were as it sayis in 1 Corinthians KJV:

"9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."

JB Phillips says "9-11 Have you forgotten that the kingdom of God will never belong to the wicked? Don’t be under any illusion—neither the impure, the idolater or the adulterer; neither the effeminate, the pervert or the thief; neither the swindler, the drunkard, the foul-mouthed or the rapacious shall have any share in the kingdom of God. And such men, remember, were some of you! But you have cleansed yourselves from all that, you have been made whole in spirit, you have been justified before God in the name of the Lord Jesus and in his very Spirit.

Indeed as you rightly say, there is no such thing as a homosexual. What we have are emotional disorders, that become personality disorders and which, when puberty kicks in become sexual and then indelibly imprinted.

There is girl in Portugal, Isabela Quaresma, who from an early age was raised in a chicken coop with chickens. It is almost impossible, so I understand, to get her stop behaving like a chicken!

We all have our funny ways, which like Paul, are like a thorn in the flesh, but we don't flaunt these disabilities, least of all celebrate them..

Just supposing one day that Jeffrey John, no longer wants to be "gay" and finds himself being attracted to wards women- and such examples abound. If people can change from being straight to gay, why should there not be traffic going the other way. But no, the gaystapo will not allow this. But just supposing one day, Jeffrey John changes, how will his genteel, silver- haired, middle England communicants at St Albans react? Will there be rejoicing and cucumber sandwiches all round? I doubt it.

Unknown said...

Dear Alan, there seems to be some confusion here. Although it is agreed that there is no such thing as a gay gene( in spite of some folk like Richard Dawkins giving three possible explanations for this-enjoy: seem to think that some kind of platonic,sexless, gay love, should be recognised with civil partnership. So what about all the other platonic, sexless loves involving siblings, near relatives,or even that between a man and a woman. Would you allow a Bishop to have a civil partnership with any woman,several women, or even another man's wife, just so long as sex was not involved? What are the rules of engagement in such a dualistic world?

Erika Baker said...

This is the most bizarre comment thread I've followed in a long time.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Let's try and tidy up this thread: Sodom - - shows the range of interpretation. The idea this is about homosexual orgies is late medieval fantasy with some root in the Qur'an. Traditional Jewish understandings of this part of the Hebrew Scriptures are infinitely more likely to account for it. The cities of the plain became bywords for refusal to repent. Bisexuality is a concept first defined in the 1950's, I believe, and cannot provide any credible basis for interpreting this bronze age text. That's enough Sodom, thank you. It has nothing at all to do with civil partnerships and bishops. The whole language of "a gay gene" is simplistic and misleading. The best popular account I know of what actually goes on when babies are formed in the womb is Jan Roughgarden's in "Evolution's Rainbow." It's plain transmission and and incidence is very similar to left-handedness or 2D/4D ratio, and the Russians experimented with this notion (unethically) in the last century making it plain that there is a large hormonal component. It may be that the latest epigenetic explanations establish themselves further, and they are consistent with this picture. What is absolutely certain is that the acquired aspect of most forms of gayness is very low indeed. Finally, David, I find your question interesting very pertinent and applies to all attempts to enforce celibacy from the outside, including in the RC church where the effects have sometimes been noble, but often ludicrous or scandalous. Far better to trust people to make their own moral decisions. Because civil partnerships don't involve sex, I don't see why anyone shouldn't enter them if we're going to have them. The problem for me about them is that forms of "marriage lite" are less socially cohesive and morally rich than the full commitments to stability and fidelity inherent in marriage itself. It's one of the moral reasons I think all who choose to live in a married state should be recognised as doing so, not stigmatised on the basis of who they are.

Unknown said...

Dear Bishop Alan, surely the best, as far as you are concerned, apologist for an evolutionary explanation of gayness,must come from the Dawkins himself.

or should we call him, Dr Tommy Rot?

May I also say that you seem to have ignored my critique, above,which I am not prepared to repeat,of the "lovely" Rev.Sharon Ferguson with the wind filling her sails,holding forth, on left- handedness. This is worth watching. Enjoy

Anonymous said...

It is a total insult to compare left handed people to homosexuals.
I notice that the bishop suppresses any comments that reveal his own errors ( in biblical interpretation and on other matters).
I challenge him to produce evidence that homosexuality is caused by hormones in the womb. Is he a scientist? I think not.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

There is a considerable scientific literature on this subject, will give you a basic introduction to the field. is a popular science mag treatment, pointing onto the latest eigenetic work, but this theory has been around for several years now and is standing up very well to scrutiny, and certainly much better than the notion that everybody is, in fact straight.

Now lookeee here, it is only insulting to compare gay people to left handed people if you believe gay people are inferior. I hope one day you do discover that gays are simply people like you, with all the glory, fallibility, dignity and status you claim for yourself.

I have a very opne policy on what I publish, but do not publish all comments. I don't do racism, or other hate speech. Some offered recently have been outrageously stupid — for example, someone suggesting that the root meaning of the Hebrew yd' was "buggery." I will not publish such complete twaddle, nor will I allow this space to become a spamming area for people's youtube offerings, unless they are relevant.

Unknown said...

I have just come back from standing four square with french Catholics, as they held a small manifestion outside the French Embassy in London. Marvellous.

Now about the news that scientists have discovered what causes homosexuality. If that is the case then surely they can find a cure for it; or even maybe, if they are able to identify early on that an embryo or feutus is gay,allow the mother to abort it.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

It is slightly early to say scientists have "discovered the cause" of homosexuality, though the general picture is emerging very clearly indeed. As epigenetic aspects are further studied we may expect more clarity still. What is obvious is that it is not essentially behavioural or socially constructed, though both of those aspects come into play in minor ways as people's lives unfold.
The Russians, in the dying days of Communism, did indeed spot the hormonal aspect of the matter empirically, and conducted experiments with babies in the womb that seemed to indicate you could prevent gay babies being born by manipulating hormonal — more compassionate than what you proposed. The main drawback was that the precise timing was hard to estimate.

Your idea does indicate, however, the serious moral consequences of deciding gay people are abnormal. It's a serious argument for equality, for anyone who takes the sanctity of human life seriously, anyway.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

I am shaking my head because every time Sodom gets brought up in these conversations, no one ever seems to get around to the "alternative offer of hospitality" that Lot proposed, namely, "Hey, I know you want these guys here, but how about my prepubescent daughters instead?"

It's just not a very good story to claim any victories in moral character on the part of heterosexual behavior.

We tend to forget, as much as we rely on the Bible, and as seriously as we might take it, it was not written with us in mind. It was written with the people of that day in mind. So for us to think it represents an absolute moral code for us now, would be, I believe, a mistake. Instead, I choose to use it as how I understand salvation history in the context of the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, and what I am supposed to do as a result of that. I accept that things get lost in translation because these books were not written with me in mind. Yet, I remain grateful they were written and grateful that salvation history includes me.

Anonymous said...

So homosexuality is so wrong,it is more wrong that killing a baby for no other reason than their sexual preference? Earlier you were suggesting that through Christ people can change - now apparently you don't want to give them the chance! Consider in your arrogance and heartlessness that many Christians draw on the bible in their argument against abortion - are they wrong or you, David?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I think I have to say I have found some of the comments on this thread unpublishable. Others I have published whilst holding my nose, but found pretty gruesome, whilst indicative of what really motivates the people concerned — simple hatred of and disgust about people different from themselves whom they don't understand and, worse, don't want to understand. God then gets dragooned into the show by a process of reading their prejudices into texts in a schoolboy fashion that, as someone who has studied the scriptures daily in original languages for almost 40 years, is laughable. It's all very depressing, really, but there you are. The "better dead than gay" final comment really is something of a last straw. I hope and pray for a day when such comments are as unacceptable as the racist slander that used to be commonplace in the East End in the 1960's and 70's. I can only be deeply ashamed that it is offered in the name of the Church. If this is what their theology is about it won't get very far, for it conflicts with primary moral laws. The creation is being redeemed into a glorious freedom for all the children of God, in which such morally disgusting sentiments will seem like a bad dream, even to the people who made them.

Unknown said...

I was wondering Alan whether you were not in fact the Bishop of Barking?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Yes, David. A ho-ho Philippic by a junior English don and film critic. For a scientific review of the former professor of Biology at Stanford's (1971-2011) book by someone who's actually got a biology degree, you could try or Wikioedia. Why resort to name-calling rather than engage with the argument rationally? I would think because people cannot argue with a sneer.

Pozycjowanie Poznan said...

@Nick I agree with you. Open dialogue is imoportant.

Anonymous said...

Why have you got "Liberte Guidant Le Peuple" on your site, you hypocrite? You have no right to associate yourself with the people's struggle for freedom from religious tyranny, you feudal oppressor. Resign your orders and join the people under the red flag before you dare to appropriate it.
Don't you realise that they're coming for such as you, prelates living on the money wrung from the faces of the poor over hundreds of years.

Tom Paine

Anonymous said...

Not published, you coward?

"Rise like lions after slumber, in unvanquishable number; Ye are many, they are few, ye are many, they are few".

Tom Paine

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Dear Mr Paine, you unreconstructed customs officer, you (real names welcome on this site) — I've been off in India Feudal Oppressing the poor by helping develop their education system in rural Andhra Pradesh. I can see you've been mainlining on Les Mis!

Craig Nelson said...

Yes, Lynette Burrows, comments on your blog have been very instructive. When one is an Anglican one is exposed to a very attenuated form of homophobia. It's actually quite refreshing, one might say bracing in a way, to get some genuine hatred - at least we know what we're dealing with.

One of the big no no's of the recent debate is we mustn't call opponents bigots or homophobes - that, if such a thing were possible, is even worse that the govt's bill. But one struggles to know what one should call some of the people in the opposition camp if not hateful, homophbic and bigoted (I tend to avoid using these terms in debate and discussion because they're not effective but some people kind of describe themselves by their words and demeanor).

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