Gay marriage legislation and an Anglican problem.

jesusglue-hi

It was after dinner this evening when my mother announced, offhandedly, “Oh by the way, you know tonight will be the first time a gay couple are going to get married?”
My heart sank.
I murmured, “Oh, right,” in what I hoped was a neutral-sounding-but-not-too-approving tone.

To deny my views when asked for them would be tantamount to denying Christ, but if not asked, I don’t need to stick my head above the parapet for something in which there is no profit. My justifications are Scriptural and Scripture means nothing to these people. Salvation comes through faith, and Scripture’s authority is known and felt by those who have faith. Why cast my pearls…? You’ve probably gathered that I’m an eager evangelist. Some evangelicals might stop at a comment like that – there is a widespread impression that for evangelicals, all that matters is getting more names on the roll. Let everything else go to the dogs, go to seed, bite the dust: just as long as we have more bottoms on seats and a better worship band next Sunday – and better PR. All so that more people might decide to commit to Christ. It’s a parody, I know – but it’s a parody coming from a believer whose frustration at the ‘marketing’ strategies of the church is founded on her belief that it is God who chooses the convert, and not the convert, God. For sake of conformism with the popular morality of our ‘Christian’ culture, in which only 5% of the contingent that describes itself as Anglican is actually god-fearing [1], I’ve seen the god-fearing church make shocking compromises with the world.

Gay marriage in the church as one aspect of the wider picture of the cultural climate
What’s happening in the church grieves me. It grieves me, and it makes me die a little inside. Not because I hate gays, as media sources tell me I must do if I oppose gay marriage. This is about something much broader than gay marriage. I do feel very sad for the individual people whose intimate sexual existences have suddenly been embroiled in the politics of the ‘issue’. But what I’m about to launch into isn’t really about that. It’s about the spiritual direction of the Church, in the sense of what forces it allows its governing powers to take their lead from, of which the way in which the gay marriage campaign has unfolded is one symptom. I grieve because although this state legislation has nothing to do with church doctrine, given the state of the church presently, I can see that there are few barriers to prevent Biblically uninformed people, and people in the church who care little for God and his words, from just going along with the changes without a second thought and bringing the tide of church culture with them. ‘Marriage is marriage is marriage’ – some would say, pushing conservatives into a corner of marginalization and binning them off as extremists. ‘We live in a Christian country: the Queen is the head of the Church. If gay marriage is acceptable enough for her to make it legal, it’s acceptable enough for me to believe God smiles on it.’ More significantly than the LGBT issue itself however, the gay marriage controversy in the church is important to me because of the broader issues about the future of the church’s beliefs and aims into which it feeds. The road of growth in knowledge of Christ and his Word is now littered with more stumbling blocks (namely, ‘what right do you have to say that gays can’t marry if the law of the land says they can’), and debates about rights and political discourses displace the space that Christ himself ought to occupy.  The thought of conservative evangelical churches that are more of a solidarity group against gay marriage than a spiritual body of believers seeking to exalt Christ in all that they do and make him known in the world for what he is, is a dreadful one. I loathe the day when vigilance to defend ourselves before secular eyes might push the Cross away from church discourse. Our minds are so lazy and weak, that if anything in Christendom can threaten Christ’s place in our priorities and make the aim of church a quest for power and ideological influence, it will, unless we actively fight against it. Time will tell whether the conservative evangelical wing of the Church falls prey to this or not.

graspforcross

Some of us are ever-grasping for influence in the Church, when what we should be grasping for is the Cross.

My grief at present is mainly bound up, however, with the liberal end of Church of England, and its vulnerability to the tide of public morality and popular feeling, which has already been evinced by its demonstration of full affirmation of the gay marriage law. My concern about this is that the legitimacy of gay marriage in the eyes of God appears to be being treated as a ‘no-brainer’ by many people in the church, whilst anyone who has actually researched the issue from a Biblical angle should find that it is foolhardy or insincere to display this sort of confidence, as there is much more in the Bible that can be taken as straight evidence against the premise that homosexual activity is is legitimate, than against female bishops or even abortion (a better overview than I can personally give of some of the main sources of evidence is here: http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/let-marriage-be-held-in-honor-thinking-biblically-about-so-called-same-sex-marriage, or still, although it’s a little more concentrated and less sensitive, here: http://www.str.org/articles/romans-1-on-homosexuality#.UzanH_l_toQ ). Before I go ahead, I must urge you not to feel personally attacked if you are a liberal Christian, or someone who supports same-sex marriage or who is in a same-sex marriage (but as I’ve said, this isn’t primarily about same-sex marriage per se; it’s more about the forces that have instituted it). I called myself ‘littlecloudsong’ for a reason – to sing my song from the rooftops – and if you’re singing from the same hymn sheet as me, then we’ll be brothers and sisters in arms. If not, no ill feeling meant to your person; we’ll just have to disagree. I’m not argument-phobic.

It makes me sad that so many of the liberal church’s distinctives constitute what is seen to be good by people outside of the faith, rather than being squarely based on that bastion of the church’s own identity that is the Bible, and following lines of thinking that are borne out of that, even if they are offensive to public sensibilities. In what appears to be their belief that the Bible is not ‘good enough’  on certain points, either fundamentally, or when ‘uninterpreted’ – these points being precisely those which clash with the liberal feminist and LGBT agenda – it is hard to understand how the liberal church cannot be selling out to the world. Caring for the poor and the marginalized is indeed very Biblical, but what liberal Christians have to fear is that behind the liberal political agenda as it is secularly expressed, is not largely the poor and the marginalized themselves, but a cultural elite of media, politics and academia who are trained in the stealthy art of swaying opinion and silencing opposition through the media influences that saturate our existence, so that people’s very intuitions and instincts become swayed by the culture shift. I know this because I started to realize it in the course of my MA studies, and I was pleasantly comforted to discover that this secular liberal also found the “sweeping concensus” on LGBT issues “terrifying” by its speed, and noted its lack of healthy signs that characterized all of the other 20th century ‘liberation’ struggles: http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/breathtaking_conformity. There was relatively little of the ‘struggle’ that characterized the women’s rights and black rights, on which LGBT activists often model themselves, in the ‘fight’ for gay rights. Popular sentiment is convincing by force of numbers, force of numbers is greatly bolstered by social network ‘like’ and ‘share’ culture, and this ‘peer pressure’ is all the more enhanced by the democratic spirit of the age – a spirit that may have a heritage of Christianity, but a heritage that has been marked by sin and corruption since Christ still walked the earth. Of course, in a democratic country, where there is consensus there is power, and consensus is not a hard thing to achieve if you know about how language and text influence ideology. Indeed, the whole of the Foucauldian school of discourse analysis and social critical theory is based on the premise that reality is something created of language and text, and is established by other people swallowing it. What people don’t realise is that humanities research in this area has this theoretical technology to exploit precisely what it is that drives and prompts popular sentiment – to borrow an image from the classic French novelist Stendhal, it can play on the violin strings of the human heart any tune it likes, and make that tune sound beautiful, because it knows and studies the emotional cosmetics of linguistic art, and understands the way in which it can be used to move hearts and shame dissenters. What people also don’t realise is that it is the academic institutions and their graduate converts trained up with BAs and MAs in these fields of humanities research that largely front the LGBT agenda and are at the creative helm of our main media outlets. Just some of the techniques that I was taught about on my own MA course include:

  • Social framing and posturing (i.e. strategically making yourself out to be the poor oppressed one and the other to be the evil oppressor – or using whatever set of stereotypically recognised roles suits your purposes)
  • Deliberately using and consolidating specific narratives of events and suppressing others (the gay marriage law can be a landmark in the ongoing narrative of the progression of human rights towards its triumphal goal of total equality, or it can be a sign of the godlessness of the age that was promised in the Scriptures and will one day herald the coming of the Messiah. Secular media sources suppress or discredit the latter narrative and champion the former, either by repeating it or alluding to it more subtly, with the goal that the narrative of social progress should achieve a hegemonic influence over the beliefs and mindset of all media-consumers)
  • Emphasising or erasing verb agency (i.e. using passive sentences to describe unflattering things your side has done, and active sentences to describe things the other side has done. This is the difference between ‘mistakes were made’ vs. ‘they slaughtered us’.)
  • Use of terms of address, slurs and slanderous descriptors (e.g. ‘the homophobes’, ‘the Bible-bashers’, ‘the gay-haters’)
  • Use of loaded vocabulary (e.g ‘disgusting’, ‘repulsive’, ‘homophobic’, ‘slaughtered’, ‘desecrated’, ‘butchered’, ‘fracas’, ‘chaos’)
  • Judicial appropriation of semantic fields (i.e. using words that all have meaningful connections with a particular field of activity or a concept to evocative effect, e.g. using words that evoke combat or struggle to stir up party feeling, such as ‘battle’, ‘victory’, ‘weapon’, ‘attack’, ‘truce’, etc. – or words that evoke physical violence, such as ‘beaten’, ‘bruised’, ‘battered’, ‘blow’, ‘hit’; or words that evoke victimhood, such as ‘targeted’, ‘silenced’, ‘vulnerable’, ‘oppressed’, ‘suppressed’, ‘suffered’)
  • Allusion to collective historical memory (such as self-identification with the black liberation movement, or painting opponents as ‘Nazi’ – for obvious reasons)
  • Use of illocutionary force to ‘accuse’ or shame anyone who disagrees with what is being said. (e.g. ‘The passing of the gay marriage law is a the greatest milestone of social progress that Britain has ever seen – or at least, it is for those with a heart’)
  • Selective use of multimedia (images, videos etc.) and text layout to make a stronger affective impression on the reader.

The list of features goes on and on. As a demonstrative exercise, the next time you find yourself in front of an article from a newspaper or a web mag, rifle through it with a highlighter for some of these features. You may be surprised at how prevalent and surreptitious they are, especially in web-based literature. Note carefully what sorts of associations are being tagged onto whom, and what stereotypical ‘roles’ the journalist is making the representative each side of the debate play out, and what the reader is being made to feel ‘obliged’ to think on pain of appearing heartless, immoral, a bad citizen or an enemy of humanity. Research that media source, and if possible, the author. What are its/their political and ideological commitments? Think about what ways in which the author seems to be trying to encourage his/her reader to think or believe, and what that has to do with their commitments. I’m convinced that the more we think in this way about the media messages we consume, the less vulnerable we are to swallowing their way of painting people, faith and ‘right’ morality.

What some in the liberal wing of the church seem to be unable to appreciate is that it is the Word of God – the spirit of it and not the letter – that makes all the difference between the church being the body and ambassador of Christ, or some pious NGO (as Pope Francis put it) – and nor will some grant that this is an important distinction. If we do not align ourselves to God’s Word and be transformed through it by the renewal of our minds before we allow ourselves to trust those “Surely not!” feelings we sometimes get, then we are essentially handing our critical faculties over to the world on a plate, and we just make the Bible justify the intuitions that we’ve fed by our cultural media diet. Let me make it clear that to those who don’t share my appetite for the broader picture and prefer to hone in on the gay marriage controversy itself, that for me, negotiating the gay marriage issue has not been about hating or not hating gays; nor has it been  about satisfying theories of power relations or democracy, or liberation movements. It might be an unfamiliar way of thinking to you, but social and political theories and common ‘mores’ and popular moral sentiment are not the ultimate framework I use to work out how to regard and treat people as I should. For me, this is about being prepared to seek out the honest truth of what the Word of God says about homosexual relations even if it goes against the grain of everything that the spirit of the age has persuaded us that we should think or feel about the matter, and, as people who love God and his Word, to work out how to be true to what that word says in our lives and convictions, in the context of everything else the Word of God says about how we should regard and treat our neighbour. My own specific views are similar to those expressed in the article linked at footnote number three at the bottom of this article. I don’t currently have anything new or interesting to contribute on that score, which is why I don’t want to enter the meta-debate right now. It is a long and exhausting debate, and usually only amounts to a rehearsal of worn-out arguments. What’s more important, I think, is how and with what commitments we come to the conclusions we come to. Gay marriage is just one of many potential instances in which the influences of the cultural elite might prevail over plain word of Scripture. My bone of contention is not, at heart, with any one potential issue of this kind, but with the whole cultural shift in general that seems to be giving rise to them. I love those homosexuals whom I know. I cannot affirm that what they do is right, just as I cannot affirm that having multiple sexual partners is right. But I imagine that no heartbroken parent will say that they stopped loving their child just because that child went off the rails – say, turned to hard drugs and gang crime. That’s what this kind of love is about – caring, brokenheartedly for individuals as people. But that is not my present line of enquiry. I’m not talking about individuals here. I’m talking about the far dryer matter of cultural shift and the undergirdings of church doctrine.

Analysis of a press release on the Church of England’s ‘reaction’ to gay marriage
On the stage of current affairs, the interaction of gay marriage in the world and its reception in the Church of England is best observed, at least until it gains more of a foothold among the people-in-the-culture, in the field of journalism, and through the mouths of the Church’s leading spokesmen. It’s hard to find much of an official statement from the Archbishop Justin Welby about the new legislation, but the source quoted by most other online media sources is Andrew Brown’s online article in The Guardian, headlined: ‘Archbishop of Canterbury signals end of C of E’s resistance to gay marriage'[2]. Of course, we have to remember that The Guardian is a stronghold of secularist liberal media that allies itself strongly with the agenda of LGBT activism which has no regard for the Bible, and that this headline might reflect little more than wishful thinking, or a sort of patriotic proclamation of victory ad nauseamThe Guardian, very much the domain of atheist left-wing postmoderns, intellectuals whose guerilla culture-changing business it is to alter word meanings to prejudice the people’s language in their direction for the benefit of the meta-debate, and to construct and inculcate popular narratives of historical and political events that flatter their own side of the story, has a precedent of this sort of journalism. But this particular Guardian columnist, Andrew Brown, seems to be particularly invested – and this is all the more important since it is his article from which many other media sources seem to have drawn their stories. A year ago when Rev. Vaughan Roberts of St Ebbe’s Church, a man whom I have seen support the orthodox Biblical definition of marriage more unwaveringly than any other UK preacher I have known, admitted in an interview with Evangelicals Now [3] that he had exclusive and unwanted same-sex attraction and was content to remain celibate, Brown showed none of the gentleness and understanding that Roberts himself showed in his treatment of the subject of homosexuality in his much-shared interview. Rather, Brown, under the auspices of The Guardian, only used Roberts’ intimate and vulnerable admission as a platform to set up a series of straw men (“The message of evangelical churches is often that gay people are repulsive and the things they do disgusting”) and then proclaim triumphantly, “The sexuality wars are coming to an end, and the liberals have won” [4]. It is a bit cheap to call everything you disagree with ‘propaganda,’ and nor do I attempt to draw the line between this and ideologically slanted journalism – I am much under-qualified to do so. But having known and loved Vaughan Roberts, having been in his church while at university, I can tell any curious reader that we do not believe that gay people are any more repulsive than straight people, and that same-sex sex falls much into the same category for us as any kind of sex that takes place outside marriage as it is Biblically defined. Nor does any other evangelical church in which I have found myself think differently.

I digress, however, and I’m feeling myself start to get defensive, so I’ll try and cool down. To return now to the article, all we get from the Archbishop out of Brown’s 356-word article is the following carefully-worded sentence:”I think the church has reacted by fully accepting that it’s the law, and should react on Saturday by continuing to demonstrate in word and action, the love of Christ for every human being.” For the uninformed secular liberal this can be seen to amount to an admission of defeat if framed in the right kind of journalism. But as a conservative evangelical, I can see that all Welby himself has done in this statement is allow what is Caesar’s to be rendered to Caesar. Welby is saying that the Church accepts that the law is the law. He affirms Christ’s mandate to love both neighbour and enemy. There is nothing new or shocking about this. Any Biblical case that people with same-sex attraction can be made exempt from ‘love your neighbour’ or even ‘love your enemy’, would have to be very far-fetched. But what many don’t realise is that ‘love’ is not synonymous with ‘affirming that gay marriage is right in the eyes of God’. This ‘many’ includes, alas, much of the Church of England that isn’t ‘god-fearing’ or else godless-but-traditional (the latter of these are, in my eyes, in as undesirable a situation as the former – what’s important to me is not whether a party affirm gays marriage or not, but whether a conscientious desire to find out and uphold Christ’s commandment is what motivates them). Clever-tongued and diplomatic as the Archbishop was, he is not doing his doctrinally illiterate and Scripture-starved people, who would not understand this distinction, any favours.

Broader concerns for the spiritual health of the Church of England
It pains me. ‘Redefining marriage’ at a state level might not carry any doctrinal consequences within the Church of England directly, and for this I am thankful. I am thankful for Cameron’s ‘quadruple lock’, banning same-sex marriage from being performed in the Church of England, because for a while it protects us. Faced with this clause, the Archbishop would have struggled to find a legitimate excuse not to settle and accept that ‘the law is the law’. But as religious affairs editor Damian Thompson points out in The Telegraph, it will not be long until this quadruple lock is ‘unpicked’ as a change of the cultural and moral landscape that will take place once gay marriage becomes integrated into the culture, seeps into the church at an even greater speed of knots [5]. The marriage of Father Andrew Cain and Stephen Foreshew, as discussed in The Huffington Post, may very much be viewed as a milsetone towards this. Cain made the following comment, which typifies the main argument of those of his party as well as demonstrating an awareness and approval of the power of the trajectory cultural shift to trump and determine doctrine: “This is the state church. It is deeply out of step with the culture in which it lives. … These attitudes will fade away, in 20 years time it’ll be in the people who are now aged 20-50 who will dominate. My generation is much more liberal on these issues” [6]. “This is the state church” amounts to saying that “if it is good enough for the Queen (and her Christless subjects), it is good enough for me”. No mention of any desire to be in obedience to the will or intentions of Christ is made anywhere in the article, and this is a concerning sign about what and whom this branch of the Church seems to think it is about.

The changing of the cultural tide is, of course, the intended goal of the culture-changing effect of guerilla activism in social narrative consolidation and artificial language change. It is my belief that the ‘quadruple lock’ against gay marriage in the Church of England was a very poor source of provision: those who put it in place did so knowing that in a democratic country that suckles unquestioningly on ideologically slanted media influences, public consensus, especially that which is artificially generated by social engineering, stands above the rule of the law by possessing the power to determine it. What determines the beliefs and convictions that exist at large in a church that spurns ‘authoritarianism’ and ‘vertical power structures’ and takes the moral sentiment of the day as its benchmark, is not the official doctrine, but public lore and feeling, and arguably, for a state-headed church in a constitutional monarchy in which the left wing has the loudest media voice, it can only be that way. Cain hit the nail on the head: “This is the state church.” The state-governed church, if nothing else, is gravitationally drawn to the culture in which it operates, either because it exercises power over the state as its governor, or because the state exercises power over it as its head. The days of the Bible-heralding Reformation martyrs are gone: they had their window of prominence and influence under the auspices of the King, and it is a window that exists no more. These days the Church of England only rarely ‘does’ doctrine to the extent of drawing up doctrinal boundaries unless it’s in aid of agendas whose core interested parties belong outside of the Kingdom of God, and I can’t recall a single excommunication on doctrinal grounds. I fearfully predict this may mean that unless something is tightened up somewhere, the shared term for the two concepts of ‘marriage’ and the state headship of the church, implicate that marriage in its Biblical sense may only coexist with heresy in future, as the cultural tide comes into its fullest and those who object to gay marriage in the Church of England are so marginalized that a democratic system of government can no longer protect them. That said, I think that the problem could seriously be lessened if the Church of England were disestablished – or – to bypass the prevailing tide of established culture that would go on for years after disestablishment – if the Church of England had never been established as the monarch’s church in the first place, and if it remained both nominally and actually the Church of the Kingdom of God, and not the Church of England.

The state cannot be stopped from doing as it wills with its own language, but the entitlement that some unbelieving individuals feel they have to ride roughshod over the church’s raison d’être, and to produce justifications for mingling its ideological interests with those of the predominating godless masses would be quenched if their tax-funded Head of State were not the governor of it, and if the House of Lords were not occupied by so many Anglican Bishops. And what this is about, make no mistake, is raison d’être. Is Christ our Lord, and is his Word our guiding light and authority – and is the obedience to this word not our business as a church? If it isn’t, there is no reason not to affirm gay marriage in the Church of England – why not go along with the leading secular ideology? As it is, however, 5% of those who claim to be Anglicans fit the Word-obeying description, and this 5%, if they do so for the sake of Christ, are the spiritual core of the Church by Christ’s own say-so, rather than by any claim to a special political or demographic status. What the rest are in the Church of England for I can only fathom in part, but there is in all ideological institutions a capacity to consolidate and influence the feelings of the masses, if this capacity is harnessed. Or, where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather. The question of whether the church is accountable to the state for its beliefs or whether the state is accountable to the church for its beliefs is arguably only a matter of who has the most power, money and social influence, and the Church of England isn’t up there in the power stakes (and nor should any church be). The way things appear today, woe betide us if we do tighten up our doctrine to exclude the ‘new definition’ of marriage, and woe betide us equally if we don’t! On the one hand we stand judged my the media, and on the other, we stand judged by God. Behold, what happens when as soldiers of Christ we meddle in civilian affairs!

One of the greatest vulnerabilities of the church in its present state is that the Kingdom of God is being attacked through the institution, from the inside the institution, which is itself supposed to stand for the Kingdom of God. The grip of popular ideology, the grip of the secular state, of people hungry for power to the glory of the godless, makes me grieve – more than that, it makes me feel that the church is enslaved, and the ‘redefinition’ of marriage is only one example of that. I’m sure Justin Welby is doing his best, poor man. Unless he’s storing up his PR to blow it all on something more important than gay marriage, I wish he’d just allow himself to be shot down for speaking unequivocally. People might complain about the prominence of the Church of England, its cushy benefits, its so-called representatives in seats of power, its drain on public resources. But for these worthless things, beyond politics, beyond the force and connivance of man, and the bonds of state jurisdiction, we are dealing with the cosmic powers over this present darkness, the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. While every carnal man and woman is looking to take a slice of the pie of public influence, the church is being held captive by the spirit of the age like a slave and raped, while those spiritual beings within her cry out in pain and indignity before a world whose eyes are blind to their plight.

Old Testament prophecy and contemporary tourism as vehicles of vision for the plight of the Church
My claims might seem far-fetched to some, but they are the product of how I feel, as well as how I think. A lot of people disregard sentiment as unimportant, but I am convinced that feeling has to stand for something in this. God is constantly anthropomorphized in the Old Testament and he expresses his feelings very loudly and very clearly indeed. If my feelings fall in line with God’s feelings, they have to be worth something. The same would go for my thoughts.

My feeling is that, except where there has been a marked resistance, the Church of England has flirted with the thinking of outsiders to such an extent that for all of her ‘outsider-friendliness’, she has now become ideologically colonised by her former lovers. The Church of England risks, and has risked for a while, becoming a spectacle that foreigners to the Kingdom of God shape, poke fun at, and pronounce dominion over; it risks becoming much what the Old Testament nations were in this regard when God dealt with them according to their faithlessness, and led them into defeat. These nations and cultures were left as a spectacle to be mocked and hissed at, to be morbidly stared at, something at which people clap their hands and wag their heads; a byword among the nations. I would like to extend this figurative connection further in connection to the Church of England. I cannot help but think this way. In the present day, a sure sign of the cultural or ideological defeat of a people’s treasure, or the conquering of a formerly magnificent monument that stood for an entire world, an entire cosmological vision, is when it is becomes a tourist attraction or a spectacle – and I feel that that is all the Church of England is to many, including those who spend the better part of their days tearing it down. The church’s ideological leakiness and lack of recourse to the principles of God’s Word as a source of ultimate truth and authority are hard things to perceive with an eye untrained in discourse analysis, but I see the charade played out in a more tangible and concrete figure: that of the church’s relationship with the tourism industry. Not that I take issue with tourism itself, but it is a figure of the politico-ideological situation. I see that China’s Forbidden City, the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, the whole British monarchy – once glorious bastions of something – are now reduced to the selling-fodder of authorities and opportunists from different Kingdoms, rules and cosmologies. And many of our historic churches have become this too. Perhaps they have become this in fairly innocuous ways, and the tourism within them is more-or-less innocuous in themselves. But for our purposes, the metaphor stands.

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The sort of curio I’ve seen on sale in church ‘shops’.

In these houses where the Kingdom of God ought to gather, the line between pilgrimage and tourism is all too thin. When I sit in a church to pray, and see that the life and soul of the church is held in the camera flashes, the tour guides, the little stalls with religious curios and tacky pious souvenirs, the people pointing and murmuring in not-too-quiet voices about how decadent the architecture is or how well-executed the music is and prodding at the stone pillars, it makes me sad, because in the ideological sense, the Church of England is dominated by those who exploit it for political ends too. There is a parallel, for me, between that kind of tourism and the way the majority of the public witness of the church consists in scandals, bits of juicy gossip, and controversial doctrine in the media. The parallel between them is this: that the primary purpose is to entertain, to titillate and to ‘dominate’ or ’empower’ by knowing, and by constructing what is counted as knowledge by popularizing narratives that flatter the dominator’s cause and sympathies. If it were not for the scandal, the outrage, the tacky souvenirs, the music show, the architecture, the entertainment, these churches might have no life in them at all. These people feeding their diet for consumption on the churches – snapping the pictures and buying the curios and feeling ‘cultured’, are they the ones leering at the church, and hating it, and mocking it – only to feel more ‘cultured’? Do not many atheists say, “I love visiting churches but hate what they stand for?” Assyria happily humoured Israel’s panderings to it and admired her beauty when she whored after its commerce – and then her ‘lover’ bled her dry! As a Christian, and sometimes perhaps the only human being in one of those touristic sites to whom that monument and the Christ it exists to magnify cosmically belongs, I feel enslaved in a sense. Is this what we reduce our domains of sacredness to – something to sell out to profiteers on all fronts? Can I be justified in my anger and sadness when I see a house of prayer be reduced to a den of thieves by irreverent foreigners to our Kingdom who make a circus of worship and an empire of falsehood at the expense of God’s name?  What difference is there between tourism and sensational press, but that one deals with realia, and the other deals with politics and ideology? They make us put on a show for them, play our little role for them, applaud us, despise all that we stand for, and rake in the profits at our expense.

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
How shall we sing the Lord‘s song in a strange land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy. Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.
O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

Psalm 137, KJV

Endnotes
[1] According to a 2013 survey conducted by Professor Linda Woodhead for Church Times, of which a summary may be found here: http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2013/profile-of-anglicans-and-other-news/ [Last accessed: 28th March 2014]

[2] Brown, Andrew (2014) ‘Archbishop signals end of C of E’s resistance to gay marriage’ in The Guardian, published on Thursday 27th March 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/mar/27/archbishop-of-canterbury-signal-end-c-of-e-resistance-gay-marriage [Last accessed: 28th March 2014]

[3] Hardyman, Julian (2012) ‘A Battle I Face: An interview with Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St. Ebbes Church, Oxford, by Julian Hardyman, Senior Pastor of Eden Baptist Church, Cambridge, about same-sex attraction’ in Evangelicals Now, published in October 2012. http://www.e-n.org.uk/p-6028-A-battle-I-face.htm [Last accessed: 28th March 2014]

[4] Brown, Andrew (2012) ‘The church’s wars over sexuality are coming to an end’ in The Guardian, published on Sunday 30th September 2012. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2012/sep/30/church-england-homosexuality-liberals-won [Last accessed: 28th March 2014]

[5] Thompson, Damian (2014) ‘Gay marriage will change the Church of England forever’ in The Telegraph, published on Saturday 29th February 2014. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100265463/gay-marriage-will-change-the-church-of-england-forever/ [Last accessed Sunday 30th February 2014]

[6] Eglot, Jessica (2014) ‘Gay Marriage will be accepted by the next generation of Christians, says Father Andrew Cain’ in The Huffington Post, published on Friday 28th February 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/03/26/religious-gay-marriage_n_5035692.html?1395995509&utm_hp_ref=uk [Last accessed Sunday 30th February 2014]

Image credits
Jesus Glue, image in the public domain.

The Cross and the Hand belongs to user njaj on http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Religion_g302-The_Cross_And_The_Hand_p80661.html

Wooden Statue belongs to Patrick Franzis, photo credit: patrickfranzis via photopin cc

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2 Comments

Filed under Christian

2 responses to “Gay marriage legislation and an Anglican problem.

  1. I enjoyed reading that.
    As someone under 30 who shock horror doesn’t support gay marriage I often feel like I’m the only one in the UK not drawing a pension who feels that way.

    Some people say “why do Christians always focus on sexual morality” but as far as I can tell its other people who keep bringing the topic up.

    • I’m glad you found some solidarity in it. I find it good to know that there are others who care too – thanks for your encouragement. And I know exactly what you mean by ‘shock horror’. I think that we risk weakening the reach of Christ by making same-sex marriage our primary agenda as a church, and as you’ve said, others bring it up so much that it’s hard not to. Let’s just hold on tight and see what God does in this situation…

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