God, What's The Use?

Merrick, 13th March 2000ce

The Church Of England condemns homosexuality; it's against the principles of biblical teaching. What should we do? Well, I think there's four crucial questions here; Yeah? And? So? What?

The bible's stuff about homosexuality is all in the Old Testament (except one brief mention in a broad-ranging bigoted rant by Paul - the man who says god wants us to 'accept all governments as God-given' - in his letters to the Romans). The main one that people go on about is in Leviticus where homosexuality is called 'an abomination'. The same book also instructs limited interaction with menstruating women, and demands that on the eighth day after bleeding the women bring two doves to the temple to prove themselves cleansed. I don't know about you, but I've not seen that happen in a church recently.

There is the occasional puritan who rails about homosexuality being evil because God's plan for sex is to use it for procreation, and not 'self-gratification'. They seem unable to grasp that there are other possible uses for sex - mutual gratification, the expression of intense positive feelings, the exchange of spiritual warmth and intimacy, the cementing and deepening of that personal intimacy. All of these things are surely positive for the individuals and society, yet have nothing to do with making babies. Indeed, I'd bet that well over 95% of positive sex has gone wrong if a baby is the result.

The fact is that all these rules are to do with breeding - the people who wrote these rules were a vulnerable people living on the edge of a desert in times of high rates of disease and infant mortality, so there had to be a lot of procreation to ensure survival. Hence not only bans on gay and menstrual sex, but also on 'wasting of seed', ie masturbation. The C of E is just pandering to prudishness and homophobia; if it's all to do with following biblical laws, why haven't they made serious pronouncements condemning masturbation, which surely affects more people than homosexuality.

In fact, in the bible Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, but he did say that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into Heaven. And he told a rich man that he couldn't follow him until he'd sold all his possessions and given the money to the poor. The one time the bible records Jesus getting furious is when money-changers were ripping people off. It seems that homosexuality wasn't that big an issue to Jesus, but unequal distribution of wealth was a real biggy. The bible also bans participating in money deals that involve charging interest, but I don't see the church campaigning against banking and investments.

But at the end of the day, the real question is one of relevance. Not just the relevance of C of E judgements, but of all the Holy Text religions. The original Jews were desert nomads, the early Muslims lived in similar conditions. In the Old Testament, god calls himself 'the god of the desert'. So of course they made attitudes that are harsh to their enemies; if someone comes to take over the barely-sufficient piece of land that sustains you, you can't move on, cos there's only desert. So you have to kill them before they kill you. The bible is chock-full of this master-race mentality, 'the chosen people', 'the one true way', cos this level of conviction in their supreme right above others to food and life was often all that stopped these tiny tribes from dying out. Unfortunately, when these tribes extended into more fertile places, they continued with the arrogant and brutal mindset, and killed off the nice folks (and sometimes each other), and continued to spread. This is how come Christians took over Europe, Australia, the Americas and big chunks of everywhere else, while gentle, tolerant folk like Jains are a tiny minority even in their place of origin.

The bible is a fascinating study of several ancient Middle Eastern tribes, and there's lots of good reasons for many of the rules they had. For them, at that time. The Kosher laws about not mixing meat and dairy products, and draining blood from meat and not eating it, (and quarantining anyone who does eat it), make sense in a hot climate with no refrigeration. But for us to apply those rules to our lives is just plain daft - it would make just as much sense to live by the rules of 9th Century Vikings, 14th Century Sioux Indians, or some other tribe who lived in totally different times and circumstances. What good is a god of the desert if you live in Leeds?

"Women priests; I think that's fine, so what, now we've got priests of both sexes I don't listen to. Fuck, I don't care, have one with three balls and eight titties, I don't fucking care, you know. Have a hermaphrodite one, I don't care. Have one with gills and a trunk; I might go to that service. I don't give a fuck, OK? While I appreciate your quaint traditions and superstitions, I, on the other hand, am an evolved being who deals solely with the source of light which exists in all of us, in our own minds, no middlemen required."
- Bill Hicks