Let us consider a scenario:
The [fictitious] British Association of Nihilists have disclosed that in a recent poll it conducted of its membership, more than thirty per cent hold a “deep and passionate belief” in the existence of God. Prominent theists have demanded that nihilist organisations now officially welcome God-fearin’ folks into their ranks, with a view to them “singing lots of ‘dem old-time hymns”. One hairy-faced Christian sobbed, “It is time that nihilism becomes more accepting of God. All my life I’ve been made to feel crazy and absurd by nihilists. I want to be one”.
A ridiculous scenario, for to not believe in God is a sine qua non of being a nihilist. But turn to the real world, change the names, and this is an absurdity currently being played out. The campaigns being waged by gay-rights activists against the Anglican Church, demanding that it both adopts ‘marriage equality’ and ends its “discrimination” against gay people by permitting them to be ordained, are the living manifestations of those would-be Christian-nihilists depicted above. They are campaigns directed against that which Anglicanism has always taught. They demand that Anglicanism ceases to be essentially Anglican so that those who don’t live as Anglicans can be Anglican. Said campaigners no doubt self-identify as ‘liberals’, but could there be anything less liberal than attempting to alter the moral systems that others adhere to in their personal lives? It is beyond imperialistic.
I do not believe in God. Neither do I believe homosexuality to be a sin or wrong. For these reasons, among others, I am not a Christian, Anglican or otherwise. I have chosen not to become an adherent of a belief-system that I don’t believe in, one based upon texts that exhibit what might be described as a ‘muscular’ revulsion of homosexuality. Words such as “abomination”, “detestable”, “degrading” spring out. In The Bible, homosexuality is all but an antonym for sanctity. And 45 per cent of Anglicans agree with same-sex marriage. Here, we have the real-life version of those nihilists with God in their hearts, rebelling against that which their church has always been.
Campaigners think that this adherence by the church, however half-hearted, to all of those horrible, old words in the Bible is unacceptable. Peter Tatchell accused the Archbishop of York of “victimising, intimidating and bullying” a gay man who had been refused a licence to take up a chaplaincy post on the grounds of his sexuality, and the gay-rights campaign group Outrage has previously disrupted a sermon by Dr George Carey, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, in protest at his opposition to the equalising of the age of consent. “It is wrong for Dr Carey to oppose an equal age of consent!” they did screameth from the pulpit at the assembled elderly ladies.
To use a personal example to illustrate the absurdity: My daughter is mixed race. The British National Front (NF) believe that “non-whites” should be repatriated. Until recently they demanded that mixed-race relationships be made illegal. Because of the above, I find myself curiously bereft of a burning desire to become a member of the NF. By all means, if I felt strongly enough, I might set up a counter organisation, protest outside their miniscule meetings and distribute leaflets against them. Convince people not to join them. But to passionately demand that people of my creed be admitted to their ranks? Why would I in anyway want to prolong the existence of an organisation that I so passionately disagreed with? And why should they admit me when I would undermine that which they wish to achieve? I suggest that those who despise Anglican/Christian teaching on homosexuality simply live their lives in some capacity external to that corner of modern society occupied by The Church.
‘Ah, but religion is different to politics’, I hear people shout. ‘You cannot compare your rejection of the NF to our desire to be embraced by The Church. We are, after all, brought up to equate the church and its teachings with goodness. To a great extent, it is imposed upon us that we derive our feelings of self-worth through our relationship with Christ’. Well, if you disagree with the Established Church’s interpretation of the words contained in The Bible, then, to be tautological, you clearly have a different interpretation of those words.
So start your own church.
There is a long and noble tradition of schism. When Calvin disagreed with the schismatic Lutherans on whether Christ was literally present in the Sacrament, he formed his own schism with the schismatics. In 1843, evangelicals in Scotland had had enough of less-than-evangelical Church of Scotland ministers being foisted upon them by fiat of local landowners, so they broke away to form the Free Church of Scotland. What those schismatics did not do was to leave their original churches, only to descend cuckoo-like upon other pre-existing churches and then demand that these third-party churches accommodate their alien interpretations of the Gospels.
‘But’, you may shout, ‘Tatchell and Co aren’t talking about any old church. They’re talking about the Established Church. They’re talking about the one that’s inextricably linked to the State. When the CofE says that homosexuality is wrong, it’s like the State saying that it’s wrong’.
Then argue for disestablishment, not for the scriptures to be redacted.
Indeed, there are existing branches of Christianity that are accepting of homosexual lifestyles. Both the Metropolitan Community Church and Quakerism have campaigned for same-sex marriage. To simplify it: we have two types of church. One that espouses a Christianity that our campaigner for gay rights can believe in, and another that doesn’t. But rather than simply join the accommodating church, our campaigner would join the unaccommodating church and then demand that that church change to his liking.
Because what we all know is that this is not about spirituality. It is about power. It is about claiming every last square inch of territory for a socially liberal point of view. It is to deny anybody who holds contrary views a harbour. And if, one day, the Church of England is entirely gay friendly and performing gay marriages by the hundreds, and some of its more recalcitrant members should decide to cleave themselves from that Church and form their own new denomination, well, it too will eventually be visited by angry campaigners who will, in turn, demand that it also accept them and their ‘interpretations’. It shall be a long pink march through the institutions.
We are seeing the destructiveness of zealotry here, the attempt to truncate a panoply of sensibilities. We do not see religious people joining the National Secular Society (NSS) to demand that it accept and reflect the views of theists. Only those who desire the complete domination of all discourse would wish to do such a thing to the NSS. There is no NSS equivalent in Saudi Arabia or Iran. People with Christian sensibilities realise that the NSS does not exist for them. It is for other people. No matter how offensive they might find it, they live at a distance from it.
The Church of England should stand firm and not ordain gay clergy. I would, paradoxically, both love it for that, and not like it for that. But it doesn’t matter what I think. The Church, Anglican or otherwise, is not there for people with my views. There is a whole universe of non-Anglicany choices out there for people like me. The CofE should persevere with that which it has always been. But it won’t. It will surrender to the liberal tsunami as all else does.