I am a married, heterosexual, middle-aged white woman. I am not highly educated, but I am smart. I have wonderful friends who are devoted Christians. I have wonderful friends who are born homosexuals. I support all my friends and all my neighbors in their constitutional right to be as wrong as they want to be about how they run their own lives.
Some of my Christian friends and neighbors call the teachings of Saint Paul, as found in the new testament, “the infallible word of God.” I support their choice to heed Paul’s words in their own lives by choosing not to participate in any homosexual or premarital sexual behaviors. In fact, Saint Paul discouraged sexual behavior of every manner. He had his reasons, I’m sure.
Now we could consider what Saint Paul said, in these same epistles, about women. Women, he taught, should in all ways obey their husbands and fathers, or any men-folk in authority over them. Women, he said, must never cut their hair nor show it in public. Women must not adorn themselves with jewelry or perfumes, because such female adornment was, Saint Paul felt, used for the purposes of enticing men to sin. Saint Paul had never whiffed an Avon product.
Well, today, nearly all women in America frequently cut and display their hair. They wear clashing fumes of Avon right into church and think nothing of it. Women disagree with men, all the time, and say “no” when they feel like it (if they can’t, we call them “victims”). Women can lead men publicly, in high office and in industry, if they dare to. All that is pretty much accepted as normal by most Christians in America today, who do not live in fear of what Saint Paul had to say about women or their hair. No one has had too much to say about that hair business since the fearless flappers cried through clenched teeth, “give me those damn scissors,” and bobbed their hair by the thousands in the 1920s. Women have been causing trouble ever since.
What’s really bugging me about all this is that some Christians seem to have no real concern with the infallibility of what Saint Paul said regarding social behavior unless it happens to be about sex. And that kind of strikes me as more than a little weird and creepy.
We know Jesus never mentioned homosexuality or hairstyles, or even Saint Paul. He more or less went on and on about not judging the behavior of others and loving the people around you and forgiveness and doing good to those who hurt you and helping those in prison and the sick and blah, blah, blah … lots of stuff like that. And it is every Christian’s right to decide which of Jesus’ words or Saint Paul’s words they choose to take seriously, and which they do not. They just can’t decide that for me, or for you.
For some reason I keep thinking of the spontaneous turmoil that happened one night after a recent earthquake in Los Angeles. The quake did little damage but knocked out every light in the city. Emergency phone numbers were deluged by life-long city-dwellers (calling on their cell-phones) to report that the earthquake must have been caused by the sudden, ominous appearance of millions and millions of brilliant stars that had just fallen and hovered in the skies above Los Angeles. Most callers were shocked to learn that the stars had nothing to do with the quake and had always been there, just obscured, all their lives, by the city’s lights. Every one of us has been, at some time, so sure about something, only to discover one day that we had been primitively ignorant of the obvious.
Some time ago I watched a scientific documentary on the Discovery channel. It showed some simple research on what happens when single-animal environments become unhealthily overpopulated with no room to grow. Nature takes over and homosexuals are born into the community as the species tries to save itself from disastrous over-breeding and looming famine. It’s not a sinful process; the orientation is neither good nor bad. It just is. And those of us who do believe that God has made nature must accept what we can now see, what has always been there.
I’m going to vote no on the referendum to overturn any lawful protection against discrimination. People don’t seek protection unless they need it.
Susan Guthrie lives in Belfast.