Thursday, April 15, 2010

the same thing?

The Times is going to start charging for use of its website shortly; so I took the decision to go elsewhere for my web news. The Telegraph site (I'm sorry, I know it's desperately pro-Tory) is pretty good - lots of comment stuff, very artsy, reasonably good sports, surprising amount of faith news. And today there is an article, and a link to a letter, that at first seems totally reasonable - and then just wrong to me.

It's here. have a read & come back to me. The letter, if you click that link, is a way down that page & headed "jobs bar for Christians".

The idea is this: various people have either gone or been taken to court to uphold their right to their beliefs in the workplace. One was sacked for wearing a crucifix. One for offering to pray for a sick student. There is a couple in trouble for not wanting gays in their home - which is a B&B. A registrar wouldn't conduct civil partnership ceremonies. A relationship counsellor has his day before the appeals today because he won't give counselling to a homosexual couple.

OK. Here's my opinion for all its non-legal value.

No-one should get into trouble anywhere for wearing a cross. Or a crescent. Or any religious symbol - unless they are doing so simply and obviously to antagonise somebody else. But things of value are to be valued in an open society, even if we have different values. Likewise, offering to pray is not a threat but a kindness; at most, if someone has been offended, the teacher's job was not compromised or halted, and a quite word about making sure appropriate things were offered in appropriate places should have been all the repremand required.

The B&B. Is it a home or a business? And in the hospitality trade, should a Christian go into business with an attitude that some people are worth welcoming into your home and others should be judged and left at the door? Jesus welcomed approaches from prostitutes - not cos he wanted their trade coming his way, but cos he valued them as people. I feel something of this is missing in this tale.

I'm afraid I have no sympathy with the registrar at all. I'm a wedding registrar, and if people satisfy all the rules, I have to marry them. I do get folk coming my way that I think are probably unsuitable - and it really doesn't matter. It's not "Marcus Green" marrying them, it's the Vicar of St Catherine's. It's me in my professional role. The registrar who won't conduct civil ceremonies is confusing themselves with their job and ought to do their job or get a different one - and it's nothing to do with their faith.

Besides which, not liking gay partnerships and wearing a cross or praying for people are different issues. A cross is essential in Christian belief, if inessential in apparel. Prayer for others is commanded of us. Discrimmination against people because of their sexual practice is a modern fad which I hope the church gets over, the quicker the better. People are people. Allowing this kind of stuff to go past as distinctive Christian behaviour without stopping and going, "hang on a minute - " is about as ungodly as we get.

And I feel pretty similar about the relationship counsellor. If there are people in need and you are paid to help them, you do your best for the person in front of you no matter what your personal feelings are. They need help. It's your job. If you can help, help. If not - well, if you don't know what to do, suggest someone else. But don't say "God hates you so I'm not going to help". That's untrue, ungodly and the worst kind of lazy ethical thinking which we are suddenly not only allowing but it seems sanctifying in the church.

These things are not the same. It's time we weren't caught up in the moment but rather stopped it. Now.

Any opinions?

10 comments:

Markio said...

In legal terms what we see in the courts of this country (and Europe) is a bias.

It is a bias that seeks to protect minorities.

It is a bias that seeks to enshrine legal values which cannot be subverted, by anyone (no mater how powerful), for any reason (no matter how devoutly held).


When we look at the instances of persecution of Christians in the work place, we actually come very short of that mark. Contrary to his Grace Lord Cary's opions. The nurse in question was suspended, and then reinstated, an error, caused by the confusion of professional and personal conduct. As you rightly point out.

Let us consider B & Bs: it is rather ancient English law that Innkeepers, Hoteliers, and other such folk are not allowed to refuse lodging.

You even have to lodge someone's dog if they bring it with them.

Preventing homosexual couples from enjoying the full protection of English law strikes me as something very unChristian.

Marcus Green said...

Preventing anyone from enjoying the full protection of the law is unChristian... rightly said.

The argument being made here is that the law prefers gays to Christians, and so Christians need special protection. But the case studies are inconsistant and to my eye do not argue the same cause.

Plus - please, let's get over this gays v Christians thing. We are all people. People. For God so loved the world. All of us. If we want enemies, we'll find them - and if we want friends, we'll find them too. I know which I'd rather have.

Ricky Carvel said...

I love the fact that you felt the need to explain why you were reading the Telegraph there... ;o)

Anyway, I'm sure you can guess my opinions on all this. Its one of those places where the word 'Christian' means different things to the different groups of people in dispute.

What passes for "Good Christian Values" these days are nothing of the sort - they're not the values of Christ - what they are is opinions which are partially rooted in some selective parts of the Bible, bolstered by centuries of prejudice and a fair dose of ignorance.

The actual values of Christ are to love your enemies (y'know, the folk who don't operate by the same rule book as you) and be the servant of all. So yes, the way for a Christian registrar to serve a gay couple is to officiate over their civil partnership, bless their union and bring as much grace into their lives as you can.

Oh, and if you're being the servant of all, you need to take off jewelry if required, again with good grace and blessing.

Marcus Green said...

Love your enemies.

The thing is, imagine this kind of world: as Christians we see minorities and think - "we really disagree with these people, but goodness, how terrible to be oppressed and be a minority - we should be on their side. Like Jesus stood with the poor. And the tax collector. And the foreigner." Imagine how many firends we would have made...

And then when the law comes and stings us (like we have any right to be above the law - which sadly, actually some Christians think they do) we'd have so many friends running round to our aid, shouting out for us, protesting on our behalf that we'd never have to fight another battle.

Of course, back in the real world, we've just alienated everyone. Made enemies, and then forgotten how to love them.

Here's today's follow up article in my new favourite paper: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/7593952/Civil-unrest-warning-over-un-Christian-rulings.html
I'm really sorry, but the whole premise is bunkum. The law isn't preferring homosexuals over Christians. It's preferring a minority over bigots claiming religious reasons for their bigotry. The law is not saying "you can't believe in Jesus", it's saying "you can't say these people are worth less than you". And so it damn well should. That anyone taking the name of Christ should even think of such a sentiment is biblically horrific. A travesty of scripture.

And yet it's all the rage. We'll get over it.

Geoff Thompson said...

Maybe I’m reading this from the wrong perspective but it does come across as that you don’t believe homosexual acts are sinful, are upset that other Christians do, can’t justify it scripturally and think that those who do think it’s sinful need to get over themselves and get with the Zeitgeist?



I think most Christian’s cringe when the “God hates fags” stereotypes are rolled out by the media, but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t uncomfortable and a little worried when overzealous courts/councils rule that they have to, in effect, promote activity they think is sinful and increasingly can’t hold the opinion that certain acts are actually sinful.



-------
Quote
I'm a wedding registrar, and if people satisfy all the rules, I have to marry them.
------




My understanding was that parishes that while anyone who satisfy all the rules is entitled to get married in “your” church that the incumbent cannot be forced to conduct the service and that they are protected under the 1965 marriage act?



-------
Quote
I'm afraid I have no sympathy with the registrar at all…
and ought to do their job or get a different one
------




Surely a little unfair seeing as it wasn’t part of their job when they started the role and no-one really believed it ever would be?



If and when legislation comes in that allowed/forced clergy to perform gay marriages would you be in favour of telling those clergy who couldn’t do so in good conscious that they get another job?



How about if it became a “right” for all divorcees to marry in a church despite the circumstances? Again, should clergy who can’t/won’t either on general principle or specific circumstance just have to get another job?



How about polygamous marriage? It’s something that African churches have had to consider their position on. Again, should clergy (or even a civil register) be forced to perform that ceremony or get a new job?



Last one on this point: Fixed term marriage. It actually does get raised occasionally, obviously not a great deal by Christians, and it’s not unheard of (Nikāḥ al-Mut‘ah). Again, would you really have a problem with some clergy objecting to marrying people for a fixed term?



Or is that fact that the person is civil registrar the pertinent consideration?



-------
Quote
And I feel pretty similar about the relationship counsellor. If there are people in need and you are paid to help them, you do your best for the person in front of you no matter what your personal feelings are.
------




Again, really? If a (straight) couple came to him for sex advise and they were married to other people then he should get sued/fired for not wanting to handle the case?



How about if one or both of their respective spouses knew and were ok with the relationship? Does he have to give the advise then?



Although, if he’s willing to give sex advise to unmarried straight people then he looses all credibility really.



-------
Quote
Discrimmination against people because of their sexual practice is a modern fad
------




As you well know not true at all!



-------
Quote
Let us consider B & Bs: it is rather ancient English law that Innkeepers, Hoteliers, and other such folk are not allowed to refuse lodging.

You even have to lodge someone's dog if they bring it with them.
------




It may be a bit unkind of me to say so, but it’s also an ancient law that you can kill a Welshman with a bow and arrow on the walls of Chester at 2am. If anyone were to do so it doesn’t matter that there is a law allowing it, you’ll still get convicted of murder.



Likewise, unless it is a guide dog then b&b’s, hotels etc can and do bar dogs and would be protected by the courts



Geoff

Marcus Green said...

Geoff - many thanks for entering the fray. I appreciate your comments. And actually I think you hit some central stuff here. There is a massive difference between holding a strong opinion that a certain behaviour is sinful and then stopping the practice of your profession because somebody else is engaged in said behaviour. And Geoff, it's an opinion: I am as committed to the Scriptures as anybody else out there, but I feel that the very few texts on homosexuality in the Scriptures are sadly used as proof texts and not as genuinely observed scriptures within the whole counsel of God's word. We evangelicals run the risk of being fundamentalists on this issue - with disagreement basically meaning one gets banned from the club. I have no interest in the Zeitgeist, but every interest in the God who loves the world and gave his son for that world.

The problem with identifying Christian behaviour as being against sinful acts is that it is a nicety that simply isn't read anywhere else. All that gets heard is that we are against people. And I am not because Jesus is not - not against the sinner, the tax collector, the prostitute, the foreigner, the leper, the poor and the outcast.

As for the marriage registrar situation, there is a difference between "allow" and "force". Where teh law requires I do something, I have to do it. where it allows for something to happen, I have the choice - you are in danger of losing your point by overstating it. As your are by bringing in polygamy (something the Bible has few problems with in most of its pages - from Jacob to David and beyond) and fixed term marriages. Nice try!

Thanks for allowing that anyone who gives relationship advice to unmarried straight people about sex has little to complain about when asked to speak to gay people. But here again we hit a big issue: one rule for straights, another for gays. I'm sorry, but I find that appalling NOT because I am surrendering to a Zeitgeist, but because justice is justice, there should be no partiality (a sound OT principle) and people are equal before God and deserve the same treatment.

Yes, if you don't like a situation personally, that will always affect you. It does me, regularly. But I have to be pretty sure that putting my morals onto someone who doesn't know Christ will be the best solution before doing so. My understanding of salvation is that it is coming to Jesus that saves a person, not sorting yourself out first and THEN coming to Jesus. Repentance is a thing between God and people - I may lead someone that way, but woe betide me if I think I know the heart of another person and the ways in which they need to repent before meeting Christ. That would be severe presumption.

My point is - the identifying of Christianity with an anti-anything position (today it's anti-gay; this changes) is simply BAD. And it's not teh same as those who struggled at work because they wore a cross or prayed. We need to be careful about such confusions. And we ought to make friends, not enemies. I think Jesus felt strongly about loving people.

Markio said...

Quote
Let us consider B & Bs: it is rather ancient English law that Innkeepers, Hoteliers, and other such folk are not allowed to refuse lodging.

You even have to lodge someone's dog if they bring it with them.
------




It may be a bit unkind of me to say so, but it’s also an ancient law that you can kill a Welshman with a bow and arrow on the walls of Chester at 2am. If anyone were to do so it doesn’t matter that there is a law allowing it, you’ll still get convicted of murder."

-- I don't mean to be pedantic, but could you provide chapter and verse for your Shooting a Welshman law? Could you tell me which statutory provision allows for the lift of the presuption that the common law places on any murder... Because I hear this all the time, but in 4 years of legal education, I've never tracked it down.


I also hate to be pedantic, but the nature of implied recision would remove such a statement even if you could provide the relevant assize...

after all, the Assize of Clarendon (or it may be the constitution of Clarendon) Prohibits "saracens and Jews" from being seen in public during Holy Week. I can give you chapter and verse for that; but it isn't stll in force, why?

Lex Injusta Non Est Lex... very applicable here. You see in this country, and as Christians, we believe in Natural Law. And one of the most fundamental issues of law is that an "unjust law, is not law".

A law that allows you to kill a welshman, or to refuse lodgings to homosexuals, or anything else is an unjust law. It needs to be stripped of its place in the statute books.

Marcus Green said...

And thanks to Mark for the law student's view.

The "lex iniusta" argument is actually, of course, what the complainants in the Telegraph article are pulling up. It's wrong for Christians to have their beliefs overridden by unjust laws that make their beliefs less than someone else's.

My problem remains - we have to be careful. A rich and tolerant society should value the things that are of value to all its members, not dismiss them from the public space. So I disagree with Ricky - we don't hide the cross, but rather cherish it and invite others to cherish their symbols as well. That's called loving your neighbour. If our symbols, and the faith they represent, are truly of ultimate value, we have no problem putting them next to anyone else's, or of listening to anyone else. We will not come out badly from that process.

Likewise, prayer, an essential in any faith, is a kindness when offered for another. Not a threat to someone else's freedoms. It cannot be removed from life, and laws that would attempt to do so are "iniusta" and frankly plain ridiculous, and need to be shown up for what they are.

BUT - honestly, I think the way we evangelicals use the Bible about homosexuals is terrible, ungodly and inaccurate. To then make this a prime tenet of modern Christianity on a par with the cross or prayer as a Christian distinctive is unacceptable (even if you disagree with me about what the Bible says here). And it reduces the very good arguments on other scores to the level of shooting Welshmen and hiding Jews. It makes the whole Christian cause a joke and risks removing it from the public space - because we are the ones arguing that some people are worth less than others.

"Do unto others" says Jesus. If this is what we do, this is what we get. Rightly.

Ricky Carvel said...

Marcus, I didn't say anything about hiding the cross, I said that if your employer requires you to remove jewelry, then you should. Wearing a cross is not essential for anything. You can still demonstrate the cross through your life and action. Yes, by loving and serving those you disagree with.

And I'm with you on the Zeitgeist thing. Current 'Christian' morality elevates certain sins (generally sexual ones) above all others. If the B&B owner refuses to let a homosexual couple stay, for biblical reasons, then he should also turn away unmarried heterosexual couples, liars, cheats, those who covet, those who dishonour their parents, all non-Christians (they're breaking the first and greatest commandment, after all), etc, etc. Indeed I doubt that such a B&B could operate as they would have no clients at all.

In fact, maybe it was this kind of B&B owner who turned away Mary and Joseph on that first Christmas - "I'm not having an unwed and pregnant couple in my inn, thank you very much..."

Hmmm. I'm reminded of these verses:
"'...I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'"

Marcus Green said...

Thanks Ricky. Good points, well made.
This is how we should be debating this issue as evangelicals - broadening the topic away from proof texts to general biblical principles and seeing how they fit. It may get messy & uncomfortable, but it makes us think more biblically.