Volume 92, Issue 76

Thursday, February 11, 1999


Don't believe everything you hear

Fight night in the hell-bent kitchen

Who has the final say

Aussie rules complaining

Who has the final say

Re: Homosexuality debate

To the Editor:

Do Christians claim to have the last word on homosexuality? Not infrequently the main adversaries of those who speak for gays and lesbians on campus appear to be Christians. And the main final word they might seem to have concerning homosexuality is "no."

First of all, this a fair question. Many Anglicans, agreeing with their church head the Archbishop of Canterbury, take sexuality to be properly expressed in heterosexual gender-complimentary relationships for life. This would exclude gay and lesbian sexual relations. Many Roman Catholics take seriously the Catholic teachings in support of the same view. People such as myself who take the teachings of the Christian Reformed Church to heart are committed to the same understanding of sexuality.

Members of other evangelical Christian bodies such as most Baptist, Pentecostal and a variety of "independent" churches do as well. (My understanding is that the billion or more Muslims in the world would take a similar view. There may be other religions and philosophies worth noting here.)

One influential source for this view of sexuality is a certain interpretation of the Christian Bible. It has proven to be a fairly resilient interpretation even in the 20th century when gay and lesbian advocacy groups, among others, have challenged it repeatedly. So it is fair to ask if Christians claim the final word regarding matters homosexual and if that word is simply "no."

It is a fair question for a second important reason. A "no" given in a certain way can lead to harassment and discrimination. Examples of such behaviour are not difficult to uncover or for some of us, to remember. It is possible to give a "no" which holds in contempt those who disagree. But it is also possible to give a "no" which respects that others may object and live in accordance with their own commitments. This I think gets close to the heart of authentic diversity and pluralism.

The question raised here is a fair question. But it may be the wrong question. I think a better one would be, "Can those who disagree deeply on sexuality issues nevertheless agree to speak to each other while acknowledging and accepting those fundamental differences?" I'm aware of the premise that the discussion would be between Christians on one side and gays and lesbians on the other is simplistic. I assume the premise mainly as a way of getting started.

I observe that a number of Christian university students are interested in discussions with gays and lesbians, not because they want to condescend to them or back them into a corner with hard-nosed argument. Many of them, while committed to the view of sexuality I outlined above, are sympathetic to the challenges facing gays and lesbians.

Evangelical Christians are willing to help end discriminatory practices and work for civic rights (such as the right to pensions) for those who, on the basis of their sexuality, have been denied those. Canadian theologian, Ron Sider, who spoke at the Veritas Forum last semester, identified himself as an evangelical Christian who works for civic rights for gays. In other words, even though both Christians and gays have some tough questions to ask of each other, there is potential to undermine the adversarial relations between the two groups.

Every year at Western discussions (usually in The Gazette) between Christians who are opposed and those who speak in favour of gay and lesbian perspectives can become quite intense. My observation is that this doesn't help matters much. It creates polarization resulting in the two "sides" staying apart. Perhaps we can commit to a more positive climate where, even though great differences remain, open discussion can take place both in private and public.

Michael Veenema
UWO Chaplain

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Copyright The Gazette 1999