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Joseph

One problem the churches have with the subject of this post is that they tend to discuss it in the secular language of rights and inclusion. Once you do that, you jettison two thousand years’ worth of teaching and end up on the slippery slope we’ve seen so often; we, in effect, concede Christian attitude are incompatible with liberal modern morality and either change them, or, at best, stop defending them. This we did with fornication, and, effectively, adultery, so when we got to homosexuality, it looked odd and vindictive. Bad parallels are drawn with things such as the position of women and slavery, which were never treated as moral issues for most of the history of the church – unlike our use of our body. Here, there are, or were, types of behaviour which were always considered morally wrong.

No one should have any problem about revising attitudes in the light of modern knowledge – but we should take it in the context of what the Churches have always taught. Since there was no such word as ‘homosexuality’ for most of history, the Church never condemned such a thing – what it did, and what the RCC and Orthodox still do – is to condemn the sexual actions that same-sex attraction often leads to Just because something is ‘natural’ does not make it acceptable to a Christian. Because it is hard to get that across to the modern world by referring to fornication or adultery, we sometimes resort to mention pedophilia and incest, which gets homosexuals cross, because they don’t like the notion we’re comparing them; but we are doing so only insofar as all three come from sexual instincts misapplied. Because our society thinks of sex solely in terms of acts, we can only try to make them understand by reference to acts they find immoral. It seems not to be able to understand a sexual attraction which is not a fit action, so we can only get it across to them by referring to ones they will generally agree with us upon.

If you feel like entering into a sexual relationship outside marriage, the Churches used to teach a very simple mantra – don’t do it!. The homosexual issue is, though obsessive to those involved, at best a side-show – we sin when we look on a woman with lust to whom we are not married, but I can’t recall last time I heard a bishop go on about that. So, to that extent, the homosexual lobby is right to feel discriminated against – they are just the last set of sexual sinners the Churches felt able to point to. The bishops know that lay people don’t want to be told they are sinners, they want ‘mercy’ and cheap grace, they want to break the rules and be told that Jesus loves them; well he does, but he tells them to repent and sin no more – that’s the bit the bishops and too many pastors leave out. Perhaps they don’t want to be thought old-fashioned or ‘moralistic’.

I can’t recall when I last heard a sermon on a subject I used to preach on – which is how Christian teachings on the family are inspired by the Holy Family. Old Joseph, working away to provide a stable (pun intended) home for his foster-son and Mary – setting the tone and an example. Patriarchal, you bet? Maybe he really wanted to tune in and drop out, but he stayed there doing the day job – it was necessary, and a good example to the boy. And Mary, what of her? She’d done God’s will, she’d been willing to suffer reproach and even being set aside, and now she did that mother thing without which no child can prosper. Yes, maybe she’d rather have sat back and chewed the fat with the girls, but she didn’t. It’s a model which has served mankind well for millennia, and it’s not about sex, it’s about mutual service and love. Guess that’s now too hard for clever folks?

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