As Jess knows, I have had other distractions this past week, and will have this coming one, so my contributions are somewhat limited. But catching up yesterday I could not but be struck by the exchanges on the subject of ‘gay marriage’. My own position on that was made plain nearly a year ago here and has not changed. I am unpersuaded by the attempts at exegesis, not least since they are amongst the clearest example of eisegesis one could hope to find; until someone needed to read into them that meaning, no one had, because that meaning cannot be read out of them. At best they are a wrong-headed attempt to define away sin from something which is sinful; at worst they are an attempt to preach a new gospel – we know what Paul says on that score. Should this come from an angel, I am bound not to receive it.
But reading Jessica’s questions, it was plain to me that she is in the same position as many Christians; never having given any thought to the subject, she has been offered the usual arguments and, because they are persuasive, sought answers. I have directed her to my own post and others from Geoffrey on that topic. The argument that God is not interested in our sexual behaviour is so clearly wrong that only an age which insists that it can do what it likes in that arena could assert it as loudly as it does.
All of that said, there is the question of what we do in this society when confronted with the sort of dilemma Jessica described. As I am not likely to be confronted with it, as none of my close friends is gay, I could talk only theoretically, but my conscience would, I think, lead me to decline an invitation to attend such a ceremony. But I can understand how Jessica, and others, might feel that an opportunity t bear witness was being offered, and how they might take the hard road of trying to do it; I wish her all possible success, and as she knows this woman well, I can only rely on her instincts But if there is any chance that she might be brought to ponder what it means to love someone but to think that what they doing is wrong, then I hope that it will happen; it leaves open a chance, and that, sometimes, is enough.
Jessica raises, however, a wider issue about bearing witness. To say to someone that they are going to hell because they are not a Roman Catholic is to say what even the Church will not say. We cannot be sure of being saved in any other place, any more than we can be sure of being saved in the Catholic Church; so we can adjure those we love to think again and to see that they are taking risks which are needless. It may well be that telling someone they are hell-bound when they think they are a good Christian works, and if our friend QV can show us the success this method of evangelisation has enjoyed, then that would be enough for me to adopt it. But in my own experience, hearing many Orthodox Christians tell me that the Catholic Church was the spawn of Satan and that its members were hell-bound had on me an effect similar to the ravings of old Bosco. I wondered why there was so much venom there? After all, I knew many Catholics, and none of them said that sort of thing about the Orthodox Church. The Catholic Pope sought to reach out, the Orthodox seemed not to; again, when I was Orthodox, that impressed me – but not in the way my Orthodox mentors had expected.
Like, I suspect many, I am underwhelmed by the language of vitriol, and agree with Geoffrey when he says that far from proving the sanctity of the saints who used such methods, it proves only that God can make saints of even the least promising material. I have a great admiration for St Cyril of Alexandria, as those of you who have read my posts on him here and here and here will be aware, but it is impossible not to conclude that the language which he and Nestorius used about each other was self-defeating. They shouted past each other, and whilst Cyril won, the price he paid was, as he began to realise, enormous. Although he helped heal the schism for a while, it poisoned the wells, and helped to explain why Dioscoros went down to defeat at Chalcedon, where he was treated as Cyril had treated Nestorius. The split is with us to this day. That’s a huge price to pay for speaking your mind without care.
I have a Twitter account, and have been profoundly depressed at the low level of the comments by protagonists on both side of the ‘gay marriage’ issue. I doubt anyone changed anyone’s mind by abuse. We witness best when we follow the example of the Lord Jesus. If there are moneychangers in the Temple, let us drive them out, but if there are sinners to be reached, let us reach them.