N.T. Wright on Sexuality Debate in the Church (1 of 3)

Here is a wonderful little video from Bishop N.T. Wright on the debate about homosexuality - addressing how we debate and what some of the major components of that debate should be more than coming to any conclusions on the thorny issue itself.  We know that there are folks who call themselves Christians who are all over the place on this issue, from the bitter vitriol against people who feel same-sex attraction coming out of of the (so-called) Westboro Baptist Church to the unqualified embrace of the homosexual lifestyle as good and holy by liberal groups in some parts of North America (and Europe).  The great vast majority of all Christians and churches are somewhere in between, striving to love everyone involved (since God does) and remain true to what seems clearly revealed in Scripture.

That we are so divided on this logically demostrates that at least some of us (perhaps all of us) are failing to think - and to listen - clearly on this issue.  What Wright says at the beginning of the video, about learning to reason together, working from premises to conclusions and logically analyzing the whole process is very important, especially for United Methodists since, like Anglicans, we explicitly claim to use logical reasoning to help us interpret Scripture. Some have asserted we live in a post-modern and even post-rational age, and as a society (and church) we simply do not know how to reason well; it may be that my generation has received more intellectual formation from watching Jerry Springer than from reading Aristotle's rules of logical reasoning.  I believe our collective inability to practice sound reasoning is demonstrated more clearly in our national political discourse with each passing year, distorting this and other debates.

In the video, Wright clearly hits on some of the major points of contention among Christians that we all need to think through much more carefully:

How can we know what our real and God-given nature actually is if it is true that, as Christians believe, our wills and desires are corrupted by our falleness and sinfulness?
By what authority do some people presume to dismiss certain parts of the Bible?
By other parts of the Bible? Then how -by what authority or principle - can one choose between the two?  And what is the basis for such a principle?
Or, does one use certain interpretations of some parts to dismiss other parts? If so, what rules of interpretation are being employed - and are they legitimate?
Have we even examined our rules of interpretation or even considered what might constitute healthy verses unhealthy ways of interpretation?

Can we articulate thoughtful responses to these questions?

These are all questions lurking beneath the surface of the sexuality debate that are not brought out or worked through clearly when it comes time to have a 4-minute "debate" at Conference, and this lack of depth disturbs me, especially since some are talking of splitting the churches over this issue. 

The related issue is that we Western Churches have to find better ways to dialogue and debate than what is afforded to us by our governing conventions and conferences in which Roberts Rules are used to prevent the debate from "going too long." The assumption seems to be "everyone already knows what they are going to vote on this (and voting is the point, right?), so lets just get it over with." But what if "holy conferencing" were about more than voting on policy but actually exploring deep issues of theology and ethics?  What about new opportunities to listen (as an act of love) and maybe even to learn something new from "the other side" (whomever we conceive that to be)?
This is the first of three posts discussing issues in the debate about sexuality. Coming up Next Time: The Sexuality Debate in the Culture

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home