on 27 December 1999
The book explores the phenomenon of male same-sex relationships extensively, from a Christian (Church of England) viewpoint. In addition to a consideration of those few biblical passages that deal with same-sex relationships (mainly against, but at least one for), Vasey explores the history of attitudes to such relationships, and their wider significance. Things have not always been as they are, and religious celebration of such relationships appears not to be only a 20th century phenomenon!
As a Christian who has only recently opened the closet door, I have found it helpful. However, it is an intellectual book and not an easy read. You'll need your bible handy.
The overall tone is very supportive. The author gives a brief biography of himself, but doesn't reveal his own sexuality.
on 22 May 2013
Michael died of AIDS related illness in 1998 at the age of 52. He was an evangelical who trained ordinands at Durham and came out as gay - something evangelicals don't like unless the `confession' is followed by guilt and shame, rather than an out and proud attitude.
He was a liturgist at a time when this subject was being rescued by evangelicals from Anglo-Catholic dilettantes. My vicar, also a liturgist, invited him to preach shortly before his death. I was impressed and am glad that I spoke to him afterwards.
He dealt with the following issues in this book:
It was natural for men to sleep together - Lk 17;34 'two men in one bed'
Kissing and dancing are regarded as sexual in the West, not in other cultures and times.
French eat horses, Chinese eat dogs.
Deep kissing, contraception, oral sex have been thought unnatural in many societies.
Romans judged a sexual act by whether it offended social order (class) not by gender
Aquinas regarded bestiality, non-procreative sex, homosexuality and masturbation as against nature.
The Lambeth Conference took 28 years to debate and then allow contraception.
Loss of self-control was sign of human rebellion for Augustine.
The 17th Century Rake was lawless, assertively masculine, had sex with women and boys
Fops were effeminate, softly-dressed, preferred women's company and only had sex with females.
Beaus sought equal relationships with men and women, combining the dash of the rake with the softness of the fop
Sambians - youths ingest male seed. One sensitive and quiet who refused to have sex with men regarded as failed man, too womanly
Affectionate male friendship is a constant feature of Augustine's Confessions, recognised part of pre-modern culture.
Cultural assumption that sex with men or women interchangeable
Julius Caesar was despised for being passive with King of Bithynia.
Aelred and Bernard wrote about friendship and sex between men at a time when no embarrassment.
'It is not good for man to be alone' for Aelred is seen as affirming friendship
Friendship helped make bonds between groups in society - about affection, not erotic desire
Masters and male servants slept together and had sex in Tudor period.
'Brother' as used in the New Testament of Christians is a term used by David of Jonathan.
Freud sees sexuality at root. Bible sees thirst for God. Issues in art, worship, sex
To reduce desire to sex and say other expressions are sublimation is to concentrate too much on one aspect of humanity - reductionist. Shared table, worship, art all moments of human intimacy
CREATION OF GAY IDENTITY is a revolt against a sick society
17th Century Molly Houses subculture. Same time as rise in affective individualism and compassionate marriage and family as refuge from world of work. Some men protesting at masculine ideal of competitiveness where men compete at sport, business &c. Women become seen as passive, love, beauty, poetry relegated to margins of serious life with entertainment, religion and home.
Market and nation state dissolve all bonds other than home and commercial alliance.
Health and sickness apply to those who play the game or not. Non-conforming individuals important as witness to perspectives lost in modern idolatry of market and family.
FAMILY - a modern idol
'The essence of idolatry in scripture is not the worship of physical images; it is the tendency of human societies to create a reality, an image, to which they offer their service and from which they expect to receive the prosperity and happiness which their heart tells them are their true goals.'
Idols fail to deliver: unemployment, loss of creative enjoyment at work, financial insecurity, domestic violence, child abuse, imaginative stagnation
Church colluded with idolatry: C4 basilica worship or emperor cult? Medieval worship reinforced feudalism or was it imaginative? Reformation recovery of scripture or reinforcing Tudor monarchy? Modern family worship resisting family myth or reinforcing it?
Attempt to rescue women and children from factory created family as refuge from industrial society
Market has eroded bonds of loyalty and friendship so sexual attraction has become major basis for domestic life.
Men dress for power and competition, not art.
Limiting children - defend living standard against wider culture.
Jesus did not marry and said discipleship involved alimentation from family.
Family was part of present, sinful order characterised by rebellion against God
Biblical covenant copied in marriage but originally used also for political, same-sex affection too
'A social strategy that concentrates on conforming gay people to the current patterns of the culture colludes both with the alienated masculinity of the culture and the hostility to gay people to which this is closely related.'
'New Testament repentance is not about moral self-improvement nor about adopting a more socially acceptable identity; it is about turning from the emptiness of idolatry...not in contriving closer conformity with the accepted patterns of society, not about making oneself more acceptable to God, but in refusing to believe the condemnation of one's deepest intuitions....'
'Healing' gays - medical model of health. What about legal or economic health?
MISUSE OF BIBLE - like issue of SLAVERY
Jewish background - bible used to murder people.
'If the present course of the abolitionists is right, then the course of Christ and the apostles were wrong.' (Charles Hodge 1860)
Commandment against adultery does not condemn sex with unmarried, polygamy, having concubine.
When slave leaves service, must leave wife and children behind (Exodus 24; 4, 5)
Modern marriage involves consent. Didn't in Deut 22; 28, 29 where if rape must marry
Proverbs 5; 7 says foolish sexual behaviour endangers wealth, not society or safe transmission of male seed.
Appeal to Genesis one-flesh is anachronistic - originally applied to creation of new kinship group not two individuals linked.
Jesus appealed to Genesis to expose contempt for women in easy divorce but does not treat marriage as an ideal but commends renunciation of marriage and seeks to create affectionate community within which marriage is an irrelevance.
Old Testament law codes constantly breached in Israelite community so not as normative as people argue: David descended from Moabite so shouldn't worship in temple yet took throne
Specific texts said to condemn gays: Sodom - elsewhere in bible is about inhospitality (very thing the Church is guilty of towards gays)
Cult-prostitution of either sex against deification of sex not about gender of participants.
Romans condemning revolt of world against God's order - the sexuality referred to there is part of slavery, dominance, seeking novel forms of gratification.
I Corinthians malakoi; arsenokoitai - loose living, wanton
Jude 'strange flesh' sex with angels
God speaks outside bible and church 'Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice' (Proverbs 1; 20)
Exclusion from CHURCH
Gays similar to church: both accused of danger to children.
Jesus scandalised by people he mixed with. OT Purity laws excluded leper, disabled, prawn-eaters, eunuchs
Church of England canons explicitly allow ordination of bastards in revolt from Roman Catholic canons
Jesus's condemnation of pharisees who thought themselves correct could be applied to homophobic Christians
Gays left the church or been unwhole/divided within it.
If converted, 'will encounter simultaneously friendship and betrayal, the promise of intimacy and the threat of ostracism. The water of life will often come mixed with a much-prized local vintage which gives them little joy or nourishment but turns their friends in Christ against them. They might find themselves, like Jesus, suffering "outside the gate." (Heb 13; 12-13)
Does not expect perfection in areas like greed, anger, economic justice
NT sees church as 'household' - wider than family, includes outsiders, economic sharing. In courtly love tradition, attraction and beauty seen as stronger and more important bond than marriage - that was for raising children.
Bonds between gays post-AIDS and economic sharing closer to early church than churches manage
Straight Christians should read gay paper.
Ultimately, no marriage in heaven - relationships far more inclusive.
'The biblical and traditional images of heaven are so preoccupied with style and public celebration as to be almost camp. While relentlessly political, they have more in common with a Gay Pride event than with the sobriety of English political life or the leisurewear informality of evangelical Christian life....(and is)...rooted in a present experience of suffering, oppression and exclusion.'