Thursday, 5 May 2016

A voluntary moratorium on churches making public comments about sex: a modest proposal

In my observation, one of two things normally happens when church leaders make a statement: on some public issue:

  • A church leader or a group of church leaders makes a well-researched, well-argued, nuanced, and compassionate statement on war and peace, poverty, indigenous people, refugees, asylum-seekers, immigration, the homeless, the unemployed, etc. … and the statement is ignored by most – if not all – media outlets. 
  • A church leader or a group of church leaders (including many of those involved in making the statement mentioned in my first example) gets hot under their collars over an issue related to sex, and fires off a media release taking the most conservative approach possible to the issue … and the coverage gets a huge amount of airtime and column inches.

The reason for this difference in coverage is easy. The first example doesn’t make for an entertaining news story, while the second does.

And, in my opinion, the reason the second example is considered so entertaining is that it reinforces the popular (and negative) fictional image that many of our neighbours have about those of us who inhabit the Christian churches in our communities, i.e. ultra-conservative, out-of-touch, hypocritical, and a bit dirty-minded.  (And while a few people in churches fit that stereotype - at least to some extent - most of us don't.)
This situation is even more critical when we add to it the long-running global public issue of child sexual abuse in religious, educational, and other institutional contexts. No church is untouched by this issue.  It threatens our moral credibility in all areas of each of our churches’ lives. 
As a result of this scandal, all faith communities - Christian and otherwise - need to realise that, collectively, our moral credibility with the wider community – and with much of our own membership - on issues of sex is now precisely nil, nada, zero, zilch, and zippidy-doo-dah; and that - as a result - we need to rebuild our credibility on these issues from the ground up. 
In response to this, I personally believe that (until the day in the future when every faith community – Christian and otherwise – across the world has fully dealt with issues of child sexual abuse in their own contexts) all faith communities need to establish a voluntary moratorium on any public comment on issues relating to sex (or, at least on any public comment taking a conservative stance on sex-related issues).
Yes, let’s talk about these issues within our own communities and among our diverse communities.  Yes, make a public comment if you can say something about sex that isn't ultra-conservative.  But, otherwise, let’s keep these conversations reasonably in-house until we’ve re-established our moral credibility on these issues.

(Following these thoughts about the relationship between religion and sex, you may wish to see some of my thoughts on the relationship between religion and politics.)



1 comment:

  1. Thank you for putting an effort to published this article. You've done a great job! Good bless!


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