Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Is God Homophobic? @ The CU Lunch Bar on Tuesday

It was a shock to many in the room.  Up to that point, the speaker, Krish Kandiah, had spent 30 minutes treading a fairly safe line in apologism for the Church's abuse towards gay people.  However he made it clear in the last five minutes of his talk that "practicing" homosexuality was a sin and that homosexuals should suppress their sexuality.

The meandering route by which he came to this conclusion stumbled through a number of logical failures.  He criticised the moral relativism of atheists, illustrating his point by claiming that William Wilberforce, who banned slavery in the British Empire, was only able to do so with the moral absolutism of his Christian values.  This completely ignores the many many Christians who were complicit in the slave trade and justified it to themselves by feeling that they were carrying out God's plan by buying and using slaves.
"We are machines built by DNA whose purpose is to make more copies of the same DNA. ... This is exactly what we are for. We are machines for propagating DNA, and the propagation of DNA is a self-sustaining process. It is every living object's sole reason for living."
- Richard Dawkins, Royal Institution Christmas Lecture, 'The Ultraviolet Garden', (No. 4, 1991)
Kandiah used this extract from Dawkins' RI lecture to say that atheists can place no value on human or animal life and that God is therefore necessary.  This is, of course, preposterous.  If Kandiah had watched the lecture in full then he would have seen Dawkins' develop from the purely biological sphere to address that of consciousness too:
"For millions of years, 3,000 million years, life-forms grew up on this planet which looked designed themselves.  Finally, one species, ours grew up, which was capable of having purposes. Purpose itself has arisen in the Universe recently.  But purpose itself now that it has risen in Human brains has the potential to be another one of those software innovatons that is capable of taking off into a progressive, self-feeding spiral, especially when teams of humans share the same purpose."
- Richard Dawkins, Royal Institution Christmas Lecture, 'The Ultraviolet Garden', (No. 4, 1991)
Having addressed these salient issues, he spent some time apologising for the Church; how it should have treated gay people better and how it can better engage with homosexuals.  When it came to the last five minutes, though, he was very clear - homosexual intimacy is a sin against God.  He had earlier compared sinning against God to punching your mother in the face; it was unpleasant but she would ultimately forgive you.  When challenged by an audience member on this comparison to homosexual sex Kandiah quickly backtracked.

The Q&A session was only 5 minutes, but many there, including liberal Christians, were strongly critical of Kandiah's position.  A member of the audience was concerned that the CU had invited this speaker, had not balanced him with a more liberal one and that the speaker did not represent all Christian positions.

Chris Evans ("Theology Chris" as he is affectionately known by members of the Bristol Atheist, Agnostic and Secular Society) added to this voice by claiming that Kandiah had chosen only passages which support his position and had not taken a holistic approach to Biblical interpretation.  The existence of intersex and transgender people challenges notions of "maleness" and "femaleness" and to deny people intimacy with whomsoever they should desire in a consenting relationship was folly in this context.  This is a view supported in the recent paper by Susannah Cornwall on "Intersex and Ontology".

Finally, an angry member of the audience recalled a story where he had been accused of being a paedophile by his local congregation because he was gay.  Being gay is not a choice and Kandiah's assertion that he had choice in whether to "practise" gay sex trivialised his homosexuality and ability to express himself fully sexually.  He criticised the speaker's apologism too, stating that only those who had done wrong against him could apologise for their action and Kandiah couldn't speak for them.

The end of the lunch break came and I was quite sad to hear supposedly moderate Christians still adhering to these sorts of views.  I doubt he persuaded many people though, and the robust criticism he received in the Q&A was a good counter-balancing voice, though frustratingly foreshortened by time constraints.  Engaging reactionary voices in this way is the best way to challenge them and let them know that they do not represent an acceptable position.

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