Our story begins this past Saturday when I published an article called “Why do conservative Christians think everything is getting worse?” In the article I pointed out that the data is, at best, ambiguous and that much of it indicates broad societal improvement over the last two centuries and more. Alan Kurschner took issue with this claim, and part of his argument consisted of asking a simple question:
“is Canada more or less tolerant of sodomy today than it was in 1800? I’d like an answer from you.”
My initial answer was “wow”. There is a popular stereotype that conservative Christians are disproportionately concerned with sexual ethics over-against other important ethical issues. And now Alan was confirming that stereotype by suggesting that an assessment of the moral status of Canadian society c. 2000 over-against Canadian society c. 1800 could be settled simply by considering the legislation and social mores in each period on the issue of “sodomy”.
I wondered at the time whether Alan was aware that one of the stars in the conservative Reformed firmament, Mark Driscoll, provides a spirited defense of anal intercourse between husband and wife in his book Real Marriage (p. 187 ff.). This is significant. You see, according to the English Buggery Act of 1533, buggery or sodomy included anal intercourse between a man and a woman. And since Canadian laws against sodomy were based on this act, had Mark Driscoll published his racy marital guide in 1800 in Canada he could have faced prison … or worse.
I didn’t bother to pursue that point since I took Alan to be using the term “sodomy” more or less equivalent to “homosexuality”. (Though one can surely pause to marvel at the irony here.) So I provided a reply to him in “Sodomy and the Kingdom of God” in which I asked him whether he thought homosexuals should be killed in accord with Canadian law c. 1800. Neither he nor Steve Hays (to whom I also posed the question) had the courage to provide a reply. This, in itself, is extremely disturbing. What is one to think when the question “Should this person be killed for their actions?” is met with silence?
I closed that essay by asking Alan a series of questions in an attempt to identify the indefensible narrow scope of his moral vision:
“If you do think homosexuals should be killed, then what should be done with the fornicators? And what about the remarried divorcees that fill our church pews and are, by the very words of our Lord, committing adultery? And what would you like done to the banker that forcloses on a widow for failing to pay her mortgage? Or the CEO that approves dumping toxic waste in a river where children swim? Or the music pastor that fails to pay his CCLI license for the songs the congregation sings every Sunday?”
Not surprisingly, these questions were also met with silence. Why? I presume because it is easier to judge the actions of others at a distance rather than the sins that are going on in your midst.
In a subsequent discussion with Steve Hays I then pointed out that Alan was crassly attributing to me statements I never made. I wrote:
“By the way Alan Kurschner wrote an article titled “Randal Rauser Asserts Premillennialism is Pessimistic, Therefore, it is Against Social Justice and the Environment”. I never said any such thing. I trust that you’ll set Alan straight.”
Here was Steve’s reply:
“I have no doubt that Alan is straight. You’re the one who’s defending sodomites.”
Note what Steve does here. In response to my point that Alan has attributed blatantly false claims to me, Steve replies by making a play on words to suggest that I am homosexual. And then he charges me with “defending sodomites.”
Count me guilty on that one. I’ll defend homosexuals against religious hypocrites any day of the week. After all, if there is one group Jesus did single out for special moral censure, it was religious hypocrites.
So then I asked Steve:
“Steve, we all know you hate homosexuals. But the real question is: what should be done with the remarried divorcees that fill the pews of churches, the very ones Jesus called adulterers? Why don’t you field that question since Alan refused to?”
“Randal, we all know you hate Yahweh.”
Huh? Ignoring that strange non sequitur, I persisted:
“Please answer the direct question. What should be done with the remarried divorcees that fill the pews of churches, the very ones Jesus called adulterers?”
Not surprisingly, Steve refused to answer. Like his friend Alan, he prefers to focus his moral outrage on the sins of a select group rather than focus on the moral failings in his midst, even when the issue is one Jesus specifically addressed.
Of course Jesus didn’t just address divorce. In the Sermon on the Mount he drops an atom bomb on the “sinner vs. the rest of us” mentality. Jesus offers us a moral universe that is breathtakingly egalitarian: we’re all sinners, we’re all in need of redemption. It’s a world in which we recognize ourselves as the chief of all sinners and in which there’s no hatred left for others because it is all directed at stamping out the sin nature in our own decaying souls. Nobody sang it better than Lost Dogs: