Played

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It is time to play.

You are never more beautiful than when you are playing, spontaneously, unselfconsciously. You are the play of emotions in you, responding in the moment to all that is around you. When you play, you see more clearly: the poem that is you dances your truth for anyone who is fully alive to see. You emerge from your stiff, formal clothes into light and colour. Those clothes make you less than you can be.

You play me: my heart strings sing at your touch, my skin yearns for you, all my sensations are stronger than I can bear at that moment, breaking me out of time and convention and pretence, flying me out of the cave and into the Sun.

Now is your power, and strength, and fire, and now is your calm stillness. Whether movement or words flow in you, I am carried along in fearful delight.

The challenge was to Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What’s the first word that jumps off the page? Use this word as your springboard for inspiration… write the post in the form of a letter. Without that challenge I would not have found that painting.

Bracketing

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Here is Laura K, who wants to tell the gay man that God loves him, rather than that God condemns his sexual activity as sin. He will then convert to Christianity, and she will be able to explain to him what God has to say about his sexuality.

Mmm. I think this is better than making the first message that God finds homosexuality sinful. While moral philosophers have evolved many reasons why something might be thought good or bad, people who believe the Bible is self-consistent, inerrant and inspired can only say something is good or bad because a capricious God says so; and gay marriage is a case in point. What on Earth reasons could there be for finding it immoral, apart from that The Bible, Koran or whatever, condemns it?

The trouble with this is that I have grown and matured in the Church all my life, always self-identifying as Christian, and I disagree about the content of morality and the effect of the Bible verses. I am uncomfortable with Laura K appointing herself my teacher about sexual morality.

I contacted her through facebook, and she asked me to email her. I would love to hear your faith story, and how you came to know Jesus. I appreciate it when others share their honest walk- including struggles and victories. I am not sure I want to. Certainly not by email, which may be misunderstood so easily.

What I want to do first is build animal trust between us. Holding off on the things we disagree about, which are important to both of us, I want us to take communion together. I remember the sentiment from the Church of England Eucharist, but it is 1 Cor 10:17: Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

I would like us to take it very slowly, and explore our areas of agreement over months sharing a church. These will be many, even if our disagreements are very important. If we could do something together, perhaps serving the coffee after worship together one Sunday, that would be good too.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fd/Jan_Bruegel_d._%C3%84._009.jpg/640px-Jan_Bruegel_d._%C3%84._009.jpgThen we might approach our areas of disagreement from a position of trust, respect and friendship. We might, after so long disagreeing, accept that we might continue to disagree after these discussions, but that there would be enough good each could perceive in the other to make continued fellowship worthwhile.

If we can make that leap of trust, and take on faith that there is that sufficient good in each other, then the dialogue on points of disagreement might start earlier.

One of the curses of Christians is that we hate disagreeing. It seems that if we disagree, at least one of us must be wrong, and we ascribe dreadful consequences to that wrong, perhaps even as dreadful as damnation. We used to burn each other at the stake so that the heretic could not pervert others to his evil falsehoods, imperilling their souls. If we become like little children we are less desperate for agreement on everything.

Evidence

Brueghel Jan - Heilige Familie in einem Blumen und FrĂĽchtekranzThe American Medical Association has declared that

the conclusions by the leading associations of experts in this area reflect a consensus that children raised by lesbian or gay parents do not differ in any important respects from those raised by heterosexual parents.

I found that here. Debate over. Thank God, we can be left in peace, and possibly even permitted to marry like normal folks. However, here is a claim that “a study reveals that kids fare worse in same-sex households”, here is a claim that “a study suggests that traditional marriage promotes child welfare” and here is an assertion that the AMA’s claim “cannot be supported scientifically”, based on this article by Loren Marks. Oh, and here is a woman who has gay friends, but who when she wants to pluck from the air an example of sin, just happens to pick on homosexuality.

What should be compared? A straight couple who stay together throughout their child’s adolescence may produce better outcomes for the child than a gay couple adopting a child, but the true comparison is a straight couple adopting a child. And a gay woman having a child and having a partner should be compared to a lone parent who finds a new partner. So Loren Marks’ criticism of comparing with lone parent families is unjustified. They are the proper comparator. The “Marriage-based intact family” is increasingly rare.

Possibly a marriage-based intact family is the best environment for a child. This does not mean that public shaming should be used against other groups, or that parents who “stay together for the sake of the children” do not screw up their kids worse than loving gay couples. And my AMA quote does not refer to marriage based intact families, only to “heterosexual parents”.

Then, studies before 2000 generally used educated, high-earning lesbian couples as the homosexual parents. This is because they were the gay couples who could parent children. Also, there are no longitudinal studies of children brought up by gay parents, compared to equivalent straight couples, dealing with adolescent issues, educational attainment and salary at age 30. That is because it has been extremely difficult to live in a loving gay relationship in the 1970s, let alone bring up a child: 1% of couples in the 2000 US census were gay. As Loren Marks states, Southern California is not typical of the US. Well, go find a sample from rural Alabama, then. She criticises the small sample sizes. Qualitative research generally has small samples.

Then she describes a study by Sarantakos, from 1996 where children were assessed by teachers. 54 children of married couples, 54 of cohabiting couples, and 54 of gay couples were assessed, and the gay couples’ children came bottom in eight of nine categories. The APA has reasons to discount this study, and I am not aware of all of the reasons. Sarantakos published a book in 2000 on Same Sex Couples, stating:

children of homosexual parents report deviance in higher proportions than children of (married or cohabiting) heterosexual couples.

Brueghel Jan - Der GesichtsinnI would be interested to know the incidence of bullying of those children. This is my fall-back position: how would the children of gay couples fare in a society without prejudice? We cannot know.

Loren Marks refers to childrearing outcomes of concern to society:

intergenerational poverty, collegiate education and/or labor force contribution, serious criminality, incarceration, early childbearing, drug/alcohol abuse, or suicide

whereas the studies of gay couples’ children have considered such matters as emotional functioning, which generally affects these outcomes, or sexual orientation, necessary to refute a Scare story of the oppressors.

Her main criticism is that the studies are not large enough positively to support the statement that there is certainly no difference, rather than the much weaker statement that no difference has actually been found. Loren Marks gives a counsel of perfection. Yes, a larger longitudinal study considering outcomes would be of value. However, it would be difficult to find a representative sample, and costly. She asks:

 Did any published same-sex parenting study cited by the 2005 APA Brief (pp. 23–45) track the societally significant long-term outcomes into adulthood? No. Is it possible that “the major impact” of same-sex parenting might “not occur during childhood or adolescence…[but that it will rise] in adulthood?

This is mere scaremongering. It is no argument for the societal prejudice against gay couples, and their legal restrictions, which are the problem and not the solution.

Here is Loren Marks’ conclusion:

Are we witnessing the emergence of a new family form that provides a context for children that is equivalent to the traditional marriage-based family? Even after an extensive reading of the same-sex parenting literature, the author cannot offer a high confidence, data-based “yes” or “no” response to this question.

She does not know. And so where that Catholic priest claims the APA statement has been “debunked”, Loren Marks’ article does not support his claim.

Of course I have an interest here. We do not know how children would fare, brought up by gay couples in a land without prejudice. That is an argument for eliminating prejudice, not for restricting child-rearing.

Being no more qualified than that priest to read scientific literature, and not having the time to read the studies themselves, I am reduced to the argument from authority. However, I think the support of the AMA and two APAs make a very strong argument from authority.

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Slavery

Should a good, Bible-believing Christian be in favour of slavery?

There are many relevant passages. In Genesis chapter 9, Noah got completely stocious, and collapsed in his tent with his manhood showing. His son Ham thought this hilarious, and told his brothers; but Shem and Japheth, showing respect, went to their father with a cloak to cover him up, and approached him backwards so that they would not see him. Because of this Noah cursed Ham’s son Canaan, who would be slave of Shem and Japheth. Again, not the kind of Bible story you hear in Sunday school. The journal of John Woolman recounts that this story was used as a Biblical argument in favour of enslaving Africans, the alleged descendents of Ham, when he was campaigning against it among Quakers in the 18th century.

The slave Onesimus ran away from his master Philemon, and the Apostle Paul got to know him during his imprisonment. Paul, at verse 12, calls Onesimus “my own heart”, a surprisingly intimate image which bears a great deal more resemblance to the loving, monogamous homosexual relationships which equal marriage would recognise than the gang rape and orgies which the Bible condemns. Probably, within a Christian community an escaped slave could make a living as a free man: the State would disapprove, but there would be no way of knowing. However, Paul sends the slave back to his master. This condones slavery.

That is consistent with other sayings about slavery in the epistles. 1 Timothy 6: 1-2:

1 All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. 2 Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves. These are the things you are to teach and insist on.

The verse structure of the texts only dates back to the 16th century. The NIV places that last sentence of verse 2 in the following section, but Robert Estienne and his followers applied it to the words on slavery. Note that the slave owner is not asked to free his slave, and the slave is told to serve his master, whether Christian or not. Consider 1 Corinthians 7:21:

21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so.

Is this merely a political, pragmatic stance, since Christians would be persecuted far more fiercely if they opposed slavery? No, because Christian masters kept Christian slaves. See also Ephesians 6:5-9:

5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. 9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

And slavery is supported when the Israelites ruled themselves. This is not a pragmatic submission to the mores of society, but the legislation of a free people, in Leviticus 25:44:

Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.

The answer to my initial question is, of course, no. Good Bible-believing Christians should oppose slavery in all its forms wherever they may find it. However, it is difficult for them to argue that this is a Biblical way of proceeding, when slavery is so enthusiastically supported in the Bible. In the same way, good Bible-believing Christians should enthusiastically welcome equal marriage, given that it celebrates unions as loving and creative as that of Paul with Onesimus. Or, when they condemn gay Christians for showing that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality as much as they pretend, they should realise that they too are reading the Bible to find their own prejudices, rather than reading it to find what it says.