worship: all of the above

If the options are:
a) “Worship needs to be more theologically sound!”
b) “Worship needs to be more bodily participative!”
or c) “Worship needs to be more emotionally authentic!”
Then I choose
d) “Yes.”

Kirsten Guidero critiques James K.A. Smith’s push (summarized here) for ’embodied’ forms of worship.  Both her and Smith (count me in too) are in pursuit of ways, patterns, habits and yes ‘forms’ of worship that are ‘formational’.  Smith’s beef (and it’s delicious!) is that we are always being formed by the embodied practices that we are always practicing – even in ‘cultural liturgies’ like the sports stadium, the shopping mall, the university, etc.  Even small or ‘thin’ practices, when habitual, become ‘thick’ shapers of our lives.  Smith’s view is that the gospel offers an alternative story to the many stories of culture, and that this gospel story needs to be bodily embodied (that was deliberate) at worship, which it a central way that we are re-formed week by week.  Guidero is a ‘liturgical Christian’, and endorses Smith’s main points, but wants to push back against what she sees as an over-emphasis in Smith on the body.  She argues that:

if one’s mind is not involved—as far as possible—in one’s liturgical participation, liturgy becomes only an empty shell, similar to the Christian propositions devoid of application that Smith so decries.

It seems clear to me that worship needs to engage the whole person in order for the whole person to be swept up in the gospel’s redemptive subversion of the world and cultures we inhabit.  And if human persons engage in a) thoughtful and rational reasoning and believing, b) visible and embodied postures and gestures, and c) passionate and affective feeling and emoting, then worship needs to explore the space of all three; put roughly – mind, body & emotions.  I’ll describe them briefly, using titles that are normally used pejoratively, to signal that each emphasis really is negative when divorced from the other two.  I also acknowledge stereotypes for each one, which of course always are there for some reason, but also always need to be critiqued.

‘Rationalistic’ worship perhaps finds a stereotype in the ‘new reformed’ movement. Whatever emotions or bodily postures that accompany this stream of worship, the obvious priority is on the rational affirmation of propositions, truths and doctrines.

‘Ritualistic’ worship perhaps finds a stereotype in the ‘liturgical’ tradition.  Whatever theologies or emotional states that accompany this stream of worship, the visible priority is on the formational practice of postures, gestures, and historic rites.

‘Emotionalistic’ worship perhaps finds a stereotype in the ‘pentecostal’ tradition.  Doctrinal allegiances and visible gestures will be present, but front and centre is a palpable, impossible to ignore focus on an authentic passion and heart for God.

You may have already observed that various combinations of these exist.  Some ‘pentecostal’ churches may have a ‘reformed’ vibe for example.  But arguably a nice blend of all three may be quite rare.  It makes me wonder if lurking behind our worship ‘preferences’ may be the reality that there are parts of us that we are more willing to be transformed than others.

Lord, I am passionate for your holy truth, and I will show it by unashamedly sitting and standing for you in church.
Lord, look on my beautiful liturgy and orthodox creedal confession, but please ignore my heart which is a private matter.
Lord, I have award-winning passion and high hand-lifting, but please don’t make me describe what I’m passionate about with any degree of specificity.

What might an integrated vision of worship look like in practice?
Well… I reckon something like:

  • Large amounts of scripture (Bible readings and biblical preaching) and regular usage of affirmations of faith and/or Creeds.
  • Delicious moments (within a clear overarching structure) of emotion and intimacy, through such things as singing and prayer.
  • A rich ‘sacramental’ practice, most of all Baptism and Eucharist, practiced to link with wider church history and tradition.

uncomfortable majority

Democracy’s main weakness is that it makes it possible for popular error to hold sway.  Conservative Christians, like me, would say that about this or that popular cultural value that doesn’t align with theirs, and a minority voice within a Christian denomination often says that about the majority denominational view which which they disagree.

There is a conversation happening in my denomination in which I am part of the majority, and it makes me uncomfortable.  I am uncomfortable primarily because I want the minority voice, the very voice I disagree with, to be heard, and heard in its best form.  And too often it is not heard.  And far too often it is not heard in its best form.  Along with all the multitude of biblical passages that I base my majority view upon, there are other passages that make me uncomfortable in the majority camp.

The Gospels (Matthew 18 and Luke 15) have Jesus giving us a principle of leaving the majority of the sheep (99) to seek out the minority (1).  In context this is a picture of God’s reach to those who are socially and spiritually ‘outside’, ‘lost’ and marginalised; but I can’t help but feel the principle also applies to interpretive disputes as well.

Acts 15 recounts the church dealing with a very difficult issue, and they neither appealed to the anointed authoritative leader (my Catholic brothers and sisters may disagree), nor did they ‘vote’ on it as my Baptist tradition would.  Instead they had ‘no small amount of discussion’ before some leaders drew things together into a consensus.  And what is beautiful is that the view that ended up being wrong (the view that Christians must be circumcised) was included in Luke’s account (though it was arguably not kindly represented in the council’s letter!).

Then there’s Philippians 2:3, within a letter which later instructs Euodia and Syntyche to ‘agree with one another’.  This verse is within a context about imitating the humility of Christ, who was divine but became not just a human, but a slave.  The instruction is to not be conceited, but to humbly ‘consider others better than yourself’.  I know this verse is not about aiming for heresy rather than orthodoxy in the name of humility, but could it maybe help the majority hold their majority with a bit less arrogance, over-certainty and impatience (which admittedly can be needed for the minority at times!)?

And 1 Corinthians 13:9 strikes a death blow to any perfected, complete, omniscient majority view.  In the same letter that uses language about having ‘the mind of Christ’ (in a context still about humility! chapter 2), we have Paul saying that ‘we know in part’.  This epistemological qualifier should give us plenty of hermeneutical humility.

And that is why I’m comfortable with being uncomfortable in the majority.

the psalm 8 balance

One of my favourite Psalms is the eighth. I’m using it – very briefly – for a baptism sermon this Sunday, which will have absolutely no room to even begin to extol the kind of technical beauties this gem has.

First of all, there’s the structure.  Check this out:

A Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth,

B who has set your splendor above the heavens;

C from mouths of babes you ordained strength, to stop the foe & avenger.

D When I consider the works of your hands the stars you’ve ordained,

E what is man that you think of him, or a son of man that you visit him?

E You made him a little lower than angels & crowned him w/ glory & honour

D gave him dominion over the works of your hands & put all under his feet

C all sheep and oxen, yes the beasts of field

B birds of the heavens, fish of sea, all that swim in paths of sea

A Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth!

That’s a bit of chiastic beauty right there.  The widest frame of God’s glory, and within that the contrasts of the heavenly and the earthly ‘works of your hands’; all leading up to and from the middle, the intersection of heaven and earth: humans. Someone once said that, when it comes to what we have capacity to measure, from the estimated ‘size’ of the known universe, to the ‘planck length’, humans are in the direct middle.  True or not, that’s a cool thought.

Like the two triangles in the star of David, this Psalm is about the profound tension of being human.  Long before any old or new atheist ever protested the idea of humans being the centre of the world, we have ‘the baffled king’ David, who is flabbergasted at the thought of God thinking about humans.  And yet.  How inspiring is the irony that humans alone (so far as we know!) have the combination of sapience and science to grasp and be grasped by their small size in relation to ‘the rest’?  Psalm 104, by the way, speaks of purpose in creation beyond the comfort of humans.  Rock badgers, the land, the trees, the sun and moon and others all benefit.  Had David known about bosons, black holes, quarks and dark energy, he’d have found a way to speak of their delight in the provision of the Creator.

Which leads to what I like to call the ‘Psalm 8 balance’.  If to be human is to be “under the creator, and over creation” (as I recall hearing N.T. Wright say), then (as  humans primarily sin when they either fail to live up to their calling of being ‘over’ the works of God’s hands, or when they fail to submit to being ‘a little lower than God. (My understanding is that ‘elohim’ here should, as elsewhere, be translated ‘God’, not ‘angels’)  As Mark Biddle writes in Missing the Mark (p. 75),

“Authentic human existence involves living in and for the image of God while fully aware that one comes from the dust.  When this polarity becomes imbalanced in either direction, one falls into sin.”

Or Bruggemann, on this Psalm, writes,

Human power is always bounded and surrounded by divine praise.  Doxology and dominion its context and legitimacy.

Apathy is the enemy of the wonder that simultaneously makes worship godly and makes our ‘dominion’ humane.  And that is tension indeed.

And finally, there’s the way this Psalm just patient sits and quietly asks to be picked up and used to speak about Christ. The one in whom heaven and earth met.  The ‘man from heaven’ Paul would say.  The one who dared utter the words ‘before Abraham was, I AM’.  The incomparable God-Man.  The Only Begotten son, called both the son of God and son of Man, who didn’t leave his glory ‘set’ above the heavens, or just to the Father and himself ‘before the world began’ (as in John’s gospel), but who took flesh and let that glory be seen.


Attending Catholic Mass, one will hear from time to time a prayer (below) that I think beautifully expresses what is called soteriological inclusivism, a view that I identify broadly within.  Inclusivism lies between exclusivism (which holds that being saved requires (except perhaps in infants or intellectually challenged persons) ‘conscious knowledge’ of Christ as Lord and Saviour) and universalism (which holds that God’s grace is so overwhelmingly powerful that it will win over against the wills and decisions of all people eventually, whether before death, or in some kind of post-mortem scenario).  Inclusivism expresses a hope, or perhaps a conviction, that whilst God will not ‘force’ his grace universally onto all people, it is nonetheless possible for some to, as C.S. Lewis put it somewhere, belong to Christ without themselves knowing it.

God alone may know the faith of some who don’t let others know it, or perhaps cannot even let themselves admit it.  A friend of mine once called this being “a believer who couldn’t believe”.  Here’s how it is expressed in the Catholic liturgy (as found in my copy of the 1982 version of The Sunday Missal; Eucharistic Prayer IV), when the priest offers prayers for the dead:

Remember those who have died in the peace of Christ
and all the dead whose faith is known to you alone.

epiclesis at a free church communion table

After taking bread, and before breaking and giving it to the disciples, Jesus blessed it.  We are given no text for his prayer of blessing, but this simple act is the genesis of what is called ‘epiclesis’; where a priest, minister, pastor (or in some traditions anyone) ‘calls down’ the Holy Spirit on the bread (and also the cup) in preparation for receiving Holy Communion (or ‘Eucharist’ or the ‘Lord’s Supper’).

The Roman Catholic liturgy goes (roughly) like this:

PriestBlessed are you, Lord, God of all creation.
Through your goodness we have this bread to offer,
fruit of the earth and work of human hands.
It will become for us the bread of life.
:  Blessed be God for ever.

Priest Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation.
Through your goodness we have this wine to offer,
fruit of the vine and work of human hands.
It will become our spiritual drink.
Blessed be God for ever.

As a pastor in a Baptist (‘free church’) congregation, there are (at least!) two things that will make a ‘free church epiclesis’ look different.  First, we do not follow a ‘set’ liturgy out of a prayer book (Anglican) or ‘missal’ (Catholic), so Baptist prayer at the table will be less uniform and more extempore, even if (as I strongly prefer) it follows a tradition or pattern.  Second, we do not affirm transubstantiation, so the word ‘become’ will seem inappropriate, even if many Baptists have and do affirm a spiritual presence of Christ the Host, amongst the ‘body’ of people gathered, at the table, and even somehow ‘with’ or ‘through’ the elements.

So here’s how I think a ‘baptist epiclesis’ might look like.

Minister (raising the bread or portion of it):
Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation.
Through your goodness we have this bread to share,
fruit of the earth and work of human hands,
Through this sign, we eat your flesh.

(raising the cup, or a representative cup)
And through your goodness we have the Cup to share,
fruit of the vine and work of human hands.
Through this sign, we drink your blood.

mary – channel of salvation?

My recent time at Kopua Monastery and my reading this morning of ‘The Church of Mercy‘ (a lovely collection of addresses and ecclesiastical excerpts from Pope Francis) have me pondering the role and place of Mary in Christian faith.  Given that modern protestants say more about the role Mary does not have, than the role she does have, the question arises: What is the most largest role a Protestant could attribute to Mary?

Theologically, there is a bewildering and striking contrast concerning the role of Mary and God the Father in the Incarnation of God the Son.  It goes like this.  In that the Christ the Son was eternally begotten of the Father, he is fully divine; and in that Jesus of Nazareth was temporally begotten of Mary, he is fully human.  What a contrast this is!  The Incarnation of Jesus Christ, who is one person with two natures, fundamentally depends on both the willful fathering of his divine Father, and the willful mothering of his human mother.  Here we see up close and in focus the gentle omnipotence of God, who would not force Mary to comply; instead she cooperated with the announcement, saying “Let it be unto me according to Your word.”

So we have Mary’s human willingness as a necessary condition for the Incarnation.  That gives her a historical, past-tense, role in the faith.  Way back when, she was willing.  And so, indeed, she said, “Henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed.”  But what of an ongoing role in the faith?  And not just in the sense of ongoing acknowledgement of her “blessed” state (though could that acknowledgement be more – pardon the pun – pregnant than we Protestants have admitted?), but is there more to Mary?

Two Johannine scenes from Scripture, one from John’s gospel and the other from John’s apocalypse (or the ‘Revelation’), rise to the fore.  John’s gospel (19:26-27) has Jesus declaring a new state of relationship between his mother and the disciple he loved.  The disciple is the ‘son’ of Mary, and Mary is the ‘mother’ of the disciple.  There is an either-or concerning the interpretation of this declaration.  One sees this new state of relationship as restricted to these two humans; Jesus wants them to have support after he departs.  The other extends this to all disciples being ‘son’ (and daughters) of Mary, and Mary being the ‘mother’ of all disciples.  John’s apocalypse (12:17) speaks of her according to the latter interpretation, identifying “those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony of Jesus” as “the rest of her offspring”.  Are we therefore intended, biblically, from the lips of Jesus, to view Mary, “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Revelation 12:1), as our mother?

Consideration of Mary’s role as “co-redeemer”, “mediator” or “advocate” will have to wait, and I admit here my skeptical outlook to those considerations.  But for now, it seems, tentatively, that Protestants, theologically and biblically, can see Mary as not only the God-bearer (Theotokos), but also as ‘our mother’.  Thoughts from other Protestants (or Catholics/Orthodox)?

evangelical blessings and curses

David Bebbington described Evangelicalism (as opposed to Catholicism and/or Eastern Orthodoxy) as characterised by these four qualities: biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism.  In this post, I want to reflect on what may be some strengths and weaknesses in these distinctives, as expressed variously throughout Evangelicalism.

Biblicism is a posture that gives priority to Scripture as a guide for Christian faith and practice.  The other sources for theology (from the ‘Wesleyan Quadrilateral’) tend to be Reason, Tradition and Experience.  The central strength of this priority is that without the scriptural story forming our thinking and acting, we can create versions of faith that look suspiciously like us.  The content and themes of the Bible, climaxing in the person of Jesus and his Gospel of the Kingdom of God, keep us from being blown around by current fashions, interests and trends.  The weakness comes when the priority of the Bible is seen to be not only over but against things like Reason, Tradition and Experience.  Systematic theology, for example, uses reason to formulate statements of doctrine that are as logically coherent as possible.  Church tradition keeps us accountable to the insights, interpretations and experience of the past, not so we cannot change, but so that when we do, we are aware of how and how much and in what way we are doing so.  Experience likewise comes to the table, both to call our thinking and acting to be practical and practice-able, but also generates new questions for us to consider.  So the best kind of biblicism is a humble biblicism that is integrated with and draws from Tradition, Reason and Experience.  Evangelicalism can benefit from other traditions here.

Crucicentrism focuces on the Atoning work of Christ on the cross, dying in our place for our sins.  The strength of this is that it prevents Christ from being reduced to a mere moral example.  Luther also saw the cross as normative for all Christian thinking about God, seeing the suffering, forgiving Christ as the perfect revelation of God, as opposed to the high and lofty ‘theologies of glory’ that may be intuitive to reason and imagination, but nonetheless utterly reframed by the Cross.  The weakness comes when the Cross is not only central, but overshadows the birth (Incarnation), ministry, temptation, resurrection, ascension, Spirit and return of Christ.  Overly focusing on the Cross can reduce the gospel to being mainly or only about sin being forgiven, which leaves other themes panned out of frame, such as the cosmic redemption of all creation, Jesus’ identification with our trials and temptations, his wisdom, his victory over death, empowering presence and coming judgment.  So the best kind of crucicentrism will have a Cross that is integrated with the rest of the Gospel story.  Again, other traditions than Evangelicalism have strengths to offer.

Conversionism is characterised by a passion to see as many individuals as possible hear, respond to, and be transformed by the ‘good news’ of Christ.  The strength here is that conversionism guards against Christianity being reduced to effectively a social programme or soup kitchen.  Christians believe that the real way to change society is (as Miroslav Volf has said in sociological language) to create transformed social agents, or (as traditional Christian language would put it) to call people to repent of their sins and join Jesus’ kingdom project to transform the whole world.  The weakness here comes when efforts to convert individuals leads to the neglect of meeting other human needs.  If indeed the kingdom of God is about the healing of the whole creation, then this needs to be an essential part of Christian ‘evangelism’ or ‘mission’.  Once again, evangelicalism will do well to take cues from other traditions here.

Activism is characterised by a passion to bring Christian values and ethics to bear upon actual life.  The strength here is that it guards against Christianity being effectively a set of ideas and beliefs.  Christianity is an active, prophetic faith, that must be courageously acted out in all of life.  The weakness comes when our activism is either impatient or lazy.  Impatiently, we can ‘force’ our views and values upon people, rather than doing the hard intellectual and relational work for our words and actions to be heard or accepted.  Lazily, we can narrowly focus in on or take action about the same issues that we feel most confident or comfortable with.  Evangelicalism has in recent times known for damning, voting, rallying and otherwise acting ‘against’ a few (predictable?) things, and we need the wisdom, passion, breadth, and resources of other traditions to make our activism better.

warning is not blaming

My friends know I have a penchant for re-framing false “either-or”s as “both-and”s.  A couple of cases were in the news (TV) and news-feed (Facebook) this morning.  A tweet or Facebook comment (and my lack of ability to achieve brevity) makes a blog post a much better place to express my thoughts about them.

Scenario 1.
(Described as per my memory of news segment)  Car gets pulled over.  Cop(s) asks driver to get out of vehicle.  Driver doesn’t. Cop smashes driver window & tazers driver.  Yep.  Child in back seat phone-videoed the whole thing.  Media coverage (understandably!) focused on the actions of the cop, which were insanely O.T.T., violent and just wrong.  No question.  That cop in particular needs to be dealt with appropriately (massive lay-off, fine, firing, etc.).

But why are we not also able to see that the driver was also unwise (or stupid? they didn’t include what he might have said to the cop to tick him off) for not getting out of the car when a police officer asks you to (even if it’s obviously a less serious offense than the smashing/tazering of the officer).  And why is it thought that pointing this out is ‘victim blaming’?  Warning people to obey the (legal) instructions of police officers does not in any way support police brutality of any kind.  Responsibility on both sides.  Cop = 100% responsible for being more than a bit violent.  Driver = 100% responsible for being more than a tiny bit unwise.  Big difference between being violent and unwise; but the main thing here is that the driver’s actions were not neutral in this scenario.

Scenario 2.
Today there was a news story about 3 recent cases of rape by people with predatory motives preying upon people using the Tinder app to find a date (or very often a one-night-stand).  Unlike the above case of violent cop + unwise driver, the media focused on both the damnable actions of the rapist(s), and the need for caution when using an app like Tinder.  The NZ Herald posted this article on it’s Facebook page, which received comments such as “way to victim blame”.

Again, this is a case of dual responsibility.  Rapists are 100% responsible for their not only violent but evil and inhumane actions.  By contrast, the Tinder user is 100% responsible for their unwise actions.  The Tinder user who contacts and meets with a complete stranger in ‘x’ kind of location is not being violent, evil or inhumane, and neither are they ‘to blame’; however, what they are being is very naive and unwise (as many women on the Facebook thread pointed out in reference to the 3 rape cases).  It is not about ‘blaming’ the victims of rape (i.e. “Oh, it’s your own fault, what were you doing…?”), it’s about caring enough about human beings to warn them against not being naive and unwise.  Warning is not blaming, it can be loving.

* * *

Here’s another both-and.  Warning people to be wise in such situations, is both a proactive fence at the top of the cliff (warn them before it happens) and a reactive ambulance at the bottom of the cliff (a response to what has happened).

Better, and more long-term, work to counter rape culture is crucially needed.  And I suspect that if we really were interested in this, we would have to be prepared to work at lots of levels.  It won’t do to only demonise individual rapists.  Human nature is part of it, but nuture/culture is too.  And the latter (which I take to be within a framework of Common Grace) are God-given ways to change or at least preserve the former.

We need to ask the patient question about why their sexual desires and personal self-control has become so disordered.  Centrally, we need to ask about cultural values around sex.  This is not ‘culture blaming’ in the sense that the individual is no longer responsible because ‘culture made me do it’.  Again, both-and.  We each as individuals contribute to a culture that seems to deeply believe that sex is a fundamental human right.   And this sexualized culture, in turn, shapes the personal values, assumptions, congnitive-and-behavioural patterns of individuals.  No single lone example (abusive family context, sexualized advertisements, sexualized entertainment such as movies and music videos, sexualized fashion, pornography, etc., etc.) can be conveniently pointed at, named and shamed, and legislated against to ‘solve’ the rape culture problem.  But unless we are prepared to admit the link between rape culture and ‘sexual freedom’ culture, very little will change.

outsiders in

(Luke 11:29-32) 29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.”

It has been said that prophecy always ‘comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable’.  One of the stronger themes in Luke’s ‘prophetic’ gospel is the ‘afflicting’ of the comfortable and exclusive religious elite (Pharisees, Scribes, etc.), and the ‘comforting’ of the afflicted and excluded religious rejects (poor, blind, sinners, Gentiles, etc.).  In Luke, the excluders get excluded, and the excluded get included.

In theology, the doctrine of soteriology (salvation – soterian [salvation] + logos [word]) in particular, there are, broadly speaking, the following views that most Christians have held about how “the final judgment” will go for humanity:

  • Exclusivism: Because God’s love and grace through Christ are accessed and activated by “faith alone”, a person has to make a conscious decision to trust in Christ and be saved.
  • Inclusivism: Because God’s love and grace through Christ is enough for and is offered to all humans, God is able to save apart from a conscious decision to trust Christ.
  • (Christian) Universalism: God’s love and grace through Christ are and will be so overwhelmingly powerful that every human person will eventually accept and receive the saving Grace of Christ.

In the passage above, Jesus not only mentions “the judgment”, but clearly describes the contrasting fates of “this (wicked) generation”, who will be condemned, and the “Queen of the South (or Sheba)” and the “men of Nineveh”, who will do the condemning.  These are not ‘insiders’.

The Queen was so far from Jerusalem that she is described as traveling “from the ends of the earth” to listen to Solomon’s wisdom.  We have no record of her ever becoming a Torah-observant Jew, but simply giving a ‘blessing’ to Solomon’s God.  The Ninevites were Assyrians, who also did not become Torah-observant Jews, but they did “repent at the preaching of Jonah”, and in the book of Jonah are said to have “believed God”.

The key point is that, whilst all Christians affirm that Old Testament ‘insiders’ (Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Isaiah, etc.) will be saved, this passage has Jesus going a step further: even ‘outsiders’ whose hearts and actions show themselves to be oriented toward God will be saved.

It may be because I am an inclusivist, but this seems to me to be in huge support of of inclusivism.  (Other passages will be tagged for the other options of course)  Reading passages like this, I am led to believe that plenty of “non-Christians” will be ‘in’; and conversely, plenty that identify as Christian are in danger of being ‘out’ (Matthew 25).

hegemony, homosexuality & homophobia

(Leftovers from a great and long chat with a good man today.)

Almost 100 years ago, Antonio Gramsci proposed the idea of “cultural hegemony” where a powerful idea or culture carries immense and controlling force.  One key indicator that a hegemony is at work is when dissenting voices are kept silent out of fear.

A conservative ethic regarding homosexuality – and the homophobia (any level of social discomfort relating to homosexual people) that too often rides on its coattails – has been and can be often so strong in church (sub)cultures, that gay people feel suppressed and silenced out of fear of judgment.  A homophobic hegemony pushing gays into closets.

The irony is this: a liberal/accepting ethic regarding homosexuality – and the angry angst that too often rides on its coattails – has been and can be often so strong in many post-Christian ‘developed’ contexts and culture, that conservatives also feel suppressed and silenced out of fear of judgment.  A liberal hegemony pushing conservatives into cloisters.

Or in other words, for every action there is (often?) an equal-opposite reaction.

  • Action – some conservative Christians heaped shame on people attracted to the same sex.
  • Reaction – some liberal Westerners heaped shame on people who heaped shame on people attracted to the same sex.

As a Christian with a conservative ethic on homosexuality, rather than defensively fight for my ‘right to be conservative’, I’d rather go to the source, and oppose the homophobia which feeds the shaming and intimidation of people attracted to the same sex.