June 15, 2007 / Volume CXXXIV, Number 12
Luke Timothy Johnson
Is the present crisis in Christian denominations over homosexuality really about sex? I don’t think so. If it were, there would be no particular reason why homosexuals should be singled out for attention; there is more than enough sexual disorder among heterosexuals to fuel moral outrage. The church could devote its energies to resisting the widespread commodification of sex in our culture, the manipulation of sexual attraction in order to sell products. It could fight the exploitation of women and children caught in a vast web of international prostitution and pornography. It could correct the perceptions that enabled pedophilia to be practiced and protected among clergy. It could name the many ways that straight males enable such distorted and diseased forms of sexuality.
Instead, the relatively small set of same-sex unions gets singled out for moral condemnation, while the vast pandemic of sexual disorder goes ignored. In my view, this scapegoating of homosexuality has less to do with sex than with perceived threats to the authority of Scripture and the teaching authority of the church. For those opposed to the ordination of women priests and bishops, or of married people, deviation from the uniform and steady practice of the church (glossing over the fact that it has rarely been steady or uniform) means starting down the slippery slope toward rejecting church authority altogether. And accepting covenanted love between persons of the same sex represents the same downward spiral with regard to Scripture, since the Bible nowhere speaks positively or even neutrally about same-sex love (glossing over the relationship of Jonathan and David, see 1 Samuel 18- 2 Samuel 1). For those who think this way, the world is becoming dangerously depraved; a line must be drawn in the sand somewhere, and homosexuality seems clearly to be the place.
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