On Christians, homosexuals and B&Bs: It is not for the believer to impose his morality upon the non-believer
His Grace is deeply shocked, appalled and profoundly upset.
In the last 24 hours, he has been accused of ‘doing the Government’s work’, of spouting ‘the rhetoric of Robert Mugabe’, and even – horror of horrors – of being Melanie Phillips.
It is always interesting to observe the ad hominem when the issues are incontrovertible and the logic impeccable.
His Grace would, however, like to make something clear.
And what he is about to write may offend some Christian sensibilities (so read no further), and will undoubtedly offend those who seek to denigrate, insult and oppose him at every turn (with whom there is no reasoning).
Both Peter & Hazelmary Bull and Susanne & Francis Wilkinson are wrong to discriminate against homosexuals in the provision of B&B services.
Indeed, they are not only wrong: they are, in His Grace’s opinion, manifesting a profoundly un-Christian attitude, devoid of all charity and contrary to the scriptural command to love one’s neighbour.
The Jesus of the New Testament was inordinately hospitable to the oppressed and outcast: he welcomed tax-collectors and ate with prostitutes. In an era of Roman occupation and zealous pharisaical morality, in which the act of eating together was a communion of divine agape, Jesus was seen not only to be sleeping with the enemy, but condoning (even blessing) all manner of licentiousness. He purposely disregarded accepted rules and conventions and went out of his way to be hospitable to the alien, the outcast and the sinner.
And it is worth noting that his tolerance of and generosity towards those engaged in sexual sin preceded all judgment and any rebuke. He did not turn prostitutes from his dining table, quote the Torah to their face, or say ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone’ but only if the whore repents.
The exhortation to ‘sin no more’ was always preceded by acceptance, healing and love.
By focusing on the sexuality of Martyn Hall & Steven Preddy and Michael Black & John Morgan, the Bulls and the Wilkinsons show themselves to be preoccupied with the sexual obsessions of the age: they have exchanged Mammon for Eros.
Would they welcome Muslim guests to their B&Bs?
Or Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs?
If so, would they seek to prevent them praying to their gods, chanting in their karma or reciting their sacred scriptures? Would they object to a Muslim laying out his prayer mat, a Buddhist turning his prayer wheel or a Hindu setting up a little shrine to his murtis and doing puja to Hanuman?
For the Bible is quite clear that the root cause of sexual sin is idolatry:
…Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,Because they worshipped idols, God gave them up: the women to the use of their bodies which is ‘against nature’, and men ‘burned in their lust one toward another’.
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet…(Rom 1:22ff).
His Grace is not going to proceed with an exegesis of Romans, for scholars differ on the enduring hermeneutical significance of St Paul’s argument that homosexual acts are ‘contrary to nature’. The main riposte is that his words are not applicable to persons of homosexual orientation (for that may be natural), but apply to heterosexual people unnaturally ‘exchanging’ heterosexual relations for homosexual ones. Thus the Greek 'para phusin' may mean ‘contrary to their nature’, with the sense of ‘unusual, or different from what would occur in the 'normal' order of thing.
Suzanne Wilkinson allegedly told Mr Black and Mr Morgan: 'It is against my convictions for two men to share a bed', adding 'this is my private home'.
Is it against her convictions for her guests to worship false gods and pray to idols?
Hazelmary Bull allegedly told Mr Hall and Mr Preddy that they permit no unmarried couples to share a bed, asserting their business was also their home.
Is it against her convictions for her guests to worship false gods and pray to idols?
The question is perfectly serious, and begs an answer.
There is a clear ethical issue in how best to apply millennia-old biblical teachings to modern society. On the one hand, there is a danger of making the biblical teaching irrelevant by emphasising the change in and uniqueness of contemporary society, and on the other, the danger of insisting that the Old Testament or New Testament speak to every circumstance, ignoring or refusing to acknowledge societal change. If the passing of two thousand years is sufficient justification for re-visiting a teaching and seeking modification, it is a hollow victory to get rid of the problem of time if in its place we have a problem of change which is every bit as insurmountable.
The New Testament prioritises witness over any moral imposition designed for the social perfecting of society. While the church is to be a ‘new society’, upholding biblical principles, witnessing to the world the kind of society God wills for man, this is ultimately so that people may come to know Christ. St Paul manifestly had a relaxed attitude to some ethical issues: he prioritised mission. Only when society is deeply permeated with a vital church can significant social change occur: prioritising the amelioration of secular society, or pursuing an agenda of moral imposition upon the unregenerate, even in one’s own home, is a violation of New Testament theology.
The centre of Christianity is Christ, not the Bible. Unlike some religions, we do not worship a book but the living presence of the Spirit. Of course, Scripture and exegesis are important, but the Bible is more a series of signposts set up to guide the believer to a destination than a book of intractable law with which to beat the non-believer around the head. Both the Old Testament (Deut 10:12-19) and the New (Eph 5:1f) speak of ‘walking in God’s way’: the discerning of God’s character may be gleaned not only from Scripture, but also Christian thought, tradition, and experience throughout the ages, including the present. To pursue God’s values by grace means first of all that Christians are not to impose God’s standards upon non-believers. This is in contrast to Old Testament model, in which the Law was necessarily imposed upon all because of Israel’s spiritual weakness. Today, God does not call non-believers to keep the Law; he calls them first to know him. This is why we see in the New Testament believers refusing to impose Christian ethics on non-believers (1Cor 5:12f). A man can be compelled to abstain from work on the Sabbath; but he cannot be compelled to love God with all his heart. The secret of the good life lies in a change of heart, an inward transformation, the corollary to which is an outward reformation of behaviour.
Throughout the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ rebukes his children for idolatry over and above all other sin. Marriage in the Old Testament was endogamous, prohibiting ‘marrying the daughter of a foreign god’ (Ezra 9:11), which would lead them into idolatry (cf 1Kg 11:4). When believers cease to retain a knowledge of God, He gives them over to a reprobate mind (Rom 1:28). And when He has abandoned them, they engage in ‘unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful…’ (vv29ff).
If homosexual guests call at your B&B, there is little point passively sticking a Gideon’s Bible in their bedside table, leaving ‘Jesus loves you’ tracts dotted about the breakfast table, or sermonising at check-in.
The only just action is to show them love, patience, kindness, goodness, humility…
But that costs.
And it hurts.
For it means welcoming those with whom we may profoundly disagree, and that involves considerable self-sacrifice.
To those homosexual couples who are turned away by Christian B&B owners, His Grace would say be patient, tolerant, generous and understanding: do not waste your lives seeking redress in a court of law, but show the Christians a better way.
Do as the Lord exhorted: simply wipe your shoes politely upon their doormat, shake their dust from your feet, and seek an inn which will bid you welcome.