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Friday, June 22, 2007

Crossan and Tutu on gay issues

Looking through the archives of questions asked at On Faith, I came across one that asked ... What does your faith lead you to believe about gay unions and gay clergy? ... and I thought I'd post the answers given by two of the many people asked - Desmond Tutu and John Dominic Crossan.


Here below is Desmond Tutu's answer .....

Blessed are the persecuted

"On race my faith told me that each of us is of inestimable worth since each is created in the image of God.

Thus this worth is intrinsic and not dependent on such irrelevancies as skin color or ethnicity. Thus it was totally unacceptable, just as a matter of justice, to penalize people about something they could nothing, a given, their ethnicity, their race.

Equally my faith convinced me that it was fundamentally unjust to penalize individuals for their gender and so sexism was as unacceptable as racism ever was.

It is being consistent to assert that I cannot condone penalizing someone for something about which she or he can do nothing. It would be bizarre in the extreme for a person to choose to be gay or lesbian in a set-up that is so homophobic.

I believe that sexual orientation is as much a given as ethnicity or gender. Thus the same principle would apply that ruled out racism and sexism as unjust.

In every instance that we have in the Gospels, Jesus sides with those who are discriminated against, who are persecuted. It seems a bizarre hermeneutics that would assert that in this one case, that of gay and lesbian persons, Jesus would join those who persecute, denigrate and oppress an already persecuted minority. That would be a Jesus I could not worship.

I would aver that the same standards of behaviour should be expected of gay and lesbian persons as apply to those who are sexually heterogeneous -- no promiscuity, fidelity to one partner in the relationship, that is all.

Why are we generating so much heat over this issue at a time when the world is groaning under the burden of dehumanizing poverty, when disease -- especially HIV/Aids -- is devastating whole communities, when conflicts are sowing mayhem and carnage?

God must be weeping."


And here is what JD Crossan answered .....

Against Nature?

"Decisions on what is natural and unnatural define our humanity, but those determinations, unfortunately, are also and always conditioned by time and place, society and religion.

An example. The Greek philosopher Aristotle judged slavery to be a natural situation. But the Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, judged it to be an unnatural status—“a thing absolutely and wholly contrary to nature, for nature has created all men free, but the injustice and covetousness of some men who prefer inequality, that cause of evil, having subdued some, has given to the more powerful authority over those who are weaker."

Another example. My own personal and moral judgment is that capital punishment is a cruel, unusual, and unnatural penalty. But, quite clearly, many others in our country find it quite natural.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul made a rather sweeping accusation against non-Jews. “Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural,” he wrote in 1:26-27, “and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”

That judgment on homosexuality as against nature (physis) is also echoed in most other contemporary Jewish writings on that subject.

Earlier, in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul also invoked “nature" in discussing the length of female and male hair. “Does not nature (physis) itself teach you,” he asked them rhetorically in 11:14-15, “ that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.”

Most of us might well agree that gendered hair-length is not about human nature and human un-nature but about social custom and social habit.

My point is not that our judgments about what is natural and unnatural are irrelevant or absolutely relative, but that we must always carefully assess what is nature (avoid eating people) and what is tradition (avoid eating pets).

If being gay is as intrinsic for some people as being straight is for others--that is, both are God-given options--then gay unions, ordinations, and consecrations must be treated equally with straight ones.

On homosexuality, many ancients judged sexual nature in terms of biology and organs but many moderns—myself included—judge sexual nature in terms of chemistry and hormones.

In other words, Paul was wrong on hair and equally wrong on homosexuality. And, by the way, can you imagine how unnatural Paul would have considered a heart-transplant?"



Anonymous Mike L said...

I do not have a problem with religions saying that homosexual acts are wrong. Some religions say dancing is wrong, other say polygamy is right. So. However, I do object when religious forces try to make dancing illegal, or polygamy mandatory, or homosexual (or heterosexual) acts illegal. It seems to me that religions have every right to preach rightness or wrongness, but non to insist that EVERYONE follow their beliefs.

Second, marriage is a funny thing. It seems to be a private, public, and in some cases a spiritual contract between two people. I see no problem to the state allowing, or not allowing, certain civil benefits or restrictions to any two people. And that is all I see the state as being able to do. That the Church adds an additional benefit of sacramental grace to certain of those couples is something that the Church does, not the state.

I still think that live and let live is one of the best policies to follow causing the least problems.

Mike L

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Mike L said...

How is Kermit doing?

Mike L

12:34 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Mike,

thanks for asking about Kermit. Today is the 14th day without pills and although she spends all her time hiding in the pink cat furniture, she seems to be doing ok - eating by herslef, no more throwing up or diarrhea, not urinating too much. I'm very happy :-)

I agree with you - live and let live in cases where there's no harm to others seems a good policy.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...


That's an interesting take by Crossan. He essentially had the same paragraph in his new book about God & Empire. What he writes is never boring, that's for sure.

Glad to hear that Kermit is doing a little better.

2:49 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Jeff,

yes, Kermit definitely seems better ... she looked out the window for a while today and jumped on my bed this morning, which she hasn't done for months :-)

5:11 PM  

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