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Nov 15 2012

Why the Church is wrong

A few years ago, my home state amended its constitution specifically to prevent gay couples from being allowed to marry. They called it “defending” marriage, but of course what they really meant was “denying marriage to anyone who does not fall in love the same way we do.” I stewed about that for quite some time, and then decided that I was going to start a blog about religion (“better to light a candle” and so on).

For a while, the fight against homophobia was both depressing and infuriating, as state after state joined the mad rush to stomp on teh gey. But now it looks like public opinion may be swinging against this sort of bigotry at last. That is to say, the tide is turning in most arenas except one: religious conservatism. And that, to me, does a beautiful job of exposing what’s fundamentally wrong with the Church.

For thousands of years, the Church (and the synagogue, and Temple, and Tabernacle) have been pointing the finger at gays and calling homosexual love a terrible, perverted evil, even an abomination. And why? Homosexuals happen to fall in love differently than heterosexuals do, but other than that, they only want the same sort of things that heterosexual couples want in love. They do no harm to themselves or to anyone else. Despite the very strongest of condemnations and penalties allegedly from God, there’s nothing inherently bad about homosexuality to warrant such abuse from Him and His followers. Clearly this whole anti-gay polemic is just wrong.

Most people are finally beginning to see that, but the Church cannot. Not just “doesn’t,” as though they might be persuaded some day. Can’t. The whole authority of the Church is based on the assumption that its doctrines come straight from a God who cannot ever be wrong. It’s an absolutist, authoritarian position. It has the advantage of giving the Church the ultimate authority on earth, but it has the obvious disadvantage of being an all-or-nothing proposition. If the Church’s “divinely revealed” doctrines are ever wrong about anything, they are no longer a genuine authority regarding anything. Upset the foundation, and the whole cathedral crashes down.

That means the Church can never really learn from its mistakes, or correct them. The best it can do is try and rationalize to itself the idea that somehow it has never really made any mistakes in the first place. It’s gotten away with this gambit many times in the past, but I don’t know if they can really pull it off in the case of gay marriage. They’re flatly, obviously, morally wrong about homosexuality being bad, but they can neither admit it nor deny it. So what will they do?

It will be interesting to watch how this plays out. Will the Church finally be marginalized in America as it has been in Europe? Will the pendulum swing back again, and unleash a new wave of homophobic bigotry? God alone knows, and even He doesn’t seem to sure of Himself these days.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    Didaktylos

    Well they can admit they are wrong (well … sort of) – but they have to jump through a few hoops and talk very fast. What they basically have to do is to decide that at some point in the not-too-distant past, they wandered away from the original pure and clean doctrine.

  2. 2
    sailor1031

    What I don’t quite understand, not being a sophisticated theologian, is why if doG is so against LGBT folks does he make so many of them? Almost makes you think he might be some kind of fucked up character invented by priests before the discovery of logical thought.

    1. 2.1
      baal

      Christians find this to be an easy one. /engage channeling God gives each of us a wicked sinful nature and but for his grace, we’re all nothing more than evil lust bags looking for bad acts (double bagging?). As such, god was no worse to the LGBT folks than the non-LGBT folks as we are all royal mistakes and all totally equal in our mistakeness. The question then falls to why is god such a jerk but the xtians don’t deal with that one as directly (no no no you have it wrong, god is love).

  3. 3
    dustinarand

    I don’t know. I think they’re dead wrong about this issue too, hut I also think it leaves more room for disagreement than, say, the question whether the Earth goes round the sun, or vice versa, and the Church survived being wrong about that one.

    1. 3.1
      ivo

      The Catholic Church did survive, but only by losing its authority on factual things of this world: they gradually had to abandon biblical literalism on all things and retreat to the realm of the “moral” and the “spiritual”.

      Hopefully, soon they will only be left with the “spiritual”.

  4. 4
    BecomingJulie

    Sooner or later, gay marriage will be accepted. That is inevitable.

    It is my prediction that the Church, sometime after they have stopped fuming — which is also inevitable — will claim that marriage equality and an end to discrimination against gays were their idea all along.

  5. 5
    busterggi

    “That means the Church can never really learn from its mistakes, or correct them.”

    Hence Protestantism recapitulates the worse tendencies of the RCC which they rebelled against. All Luther accomplished was to change the dirsection of the money.

  6. 6
    Peter Hurford

    What do we make of the churches that have changed their tune, say that the Bible was just misinterpreted all along, and that gays are totally fine? (Or, slight alternate view: gays are sinful, but anyone who masturbates is sinful, so we’re all sinners and what’s the big deal?)

  7. 7
    baal

    “That means the Church can never really learn from its mistakes, or correct them.”

    Why is why science is the best game going. Science holds pretty much everything provisionally. You show up with evidence that you’re right and science will update.

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