Skillelinjene mellom liberale og tradisjonelle kristne dreier seg mest om seksualmoral

I artikkelen av Mary Eberstadt, om lettversjonene av kristendommen, som jeg nevnte tidligere i dag, skriver hun at det faktisk er først og fremst seksualmoral som skiller den ‘lette’ formen for kristendom fra den mer ‘solide’:

… … As of now—and as has been true for some time—those churches have increasingly defined themselves as dissenting on one issue above all others: They have jettisoned one or another or all of the teachings of traditional Christian sexual morality.

Certainly ordinary parishioners see things this way. Ask any contemporary Mainline Protestant what most distinguishes his or her version of Christianity from that of Roman Catholicism, and you will likely get some version of this response: Catholics are still hung up on sex, and we’re not. They prohibit things like divorce and birth control and abortion and homosexuality, and we don’t. Moreover, this rendition of the facts would be essentially correct. At this particular moment in Christian history, it is sex—not Mary or the saints or predestination or purgatory or papal infallibility or good works—that is the Rubicon no one can really imagine these particular Protestants crossing again.

Problemene med seksualmoralen begynte, skriver hun, først med synet på skilsmisse, dernest med synet på kunstig prevensjon. Spørsmålet om prevensjon har tradisjonelt sett ikke blitt diskutert mye i Norge; blant lutheranere (og andre protestanter) ble det bare gradvis godtatt i mellomkrigsåra, uten at jeg kjenner til noen diskusjon rundt det. Også blant katolikker i Norge forblir dette spørsmålet oftest forbigått i stillhet. Derfor er det ganske nytt (og sjokkerende) når Eberstadt argumenter svært så sterkt for at; å tillate kunstig prevensjon var det første steget som førte til en rasering av hele den kristne seksualmoralet, og oftest førte til at man fornektet også sentrale kristne dogmer. Jeg tar med en del av hennes argumenter her:

… another example of the historical attempt to disentangle a thread of moral teaching out of the whole: the dissent about artificial contraception. Here, too, Anglicans took the historical lead. Throughout most of its history, all of Christianity—even divided Christianity—upheld the teaching that artificial contraception was wrong. Not until the Lambeth Conference of 1930 was that unity shattered by the subsequently famous Resolution 15, in which the Anglicans called for exceptions to the rule in certain difficult, carefully delineated marital (and only marital) circumstances.

Exactly as had happened with divorce, the Anglican okaying of contraception was born largely of compassion for human frailty and dedicated to the idea that such cases would be mere exceptions to the theological rule. Thus Resolution 15 itself—for all that it was a radical break with two millennia of Christian teaching—abounded with careful language about the limited character of its reform, including “strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.”

And also as had happened with divorce, the effort to hold the line at such carefully drawn borders soon proved futile. In short order, not only was birth control theologically approved in certain difficult circumstances but, soon thereafter, it was regarded as the norm. Nor was that all. In a third turn of the reformist wheel that no one attending Lambeth in 1930 could have seen coming, artificial contraception went on to be sanctioned by some prominent members of the Anglican Communion not only as an option but in fact as the better moral choice. By the time of Episcopal Bishop James Pike, only a quarter century or so later, it was possible for a leading Christian to declare (as he did) that parents who should not be having a child were not only permitted to use contraception but were, in fact, under a moral obligation to use the most effective forms of contraception obtainable.

… … Now consider a third example of the same historical pattern holding in another area: dissent over traditional Christian teachings against homosexuality.

Although homosexuality may be the most explosive current example of the effort to reshape Christianity into a religion more congenial to modern sexual practice, it is actually new to that party. As many on both sides of the divide have had occasion to remark, homosexual behavior has been proscribed throughout history, by Judaism as well as Christianity, until very, very recently—including in the churches of Christianity Lite. (Henry VIII, to name one prominent example, invoked the alleged homosexuality of the monks as part of his justification for appropriating the monasteries.)

Yet “extraordinarily enough,” as William Murchison puts it in his book Mortal Follies: Episcopalians and the Crisis of Mainline Christianity (2009), “a question barely at the boundary of general consciousness thirty years ago has assumed central importance to the present life and future of the Episcopal Church.” Why this remarkable transformation? In part, because the reformers at Lambeth and elsewhere did not foresee something else that in retrospect appears obvious: The chain of logic leading from the occasional acceptance of contraception to the open celebration of homosexuality would prove surprisingly sound.

Deretter viser hun med eksempler at anglikanske ledere eksplisitt bruker tillatelsen av prevensjon til å forsvare at man også må tillate homofilt samliv:

… … the change in doctrine over contraception has been used repeatedly by Anglican leaders to justify proposed changes in religious attitudes toward homosexuality. Robert Runcie, for example, former archbishop of Canterbury, explained his own personal decision to ordain practicing homosexuals on exactly those grounds. In a BBC radio interview in 1996, he cited the Lambeth Conference of 1930, observing that “once the Church signalled . . . that sexual activity was for human delight and a blessing even if it was divorced from any idea of procreation . . . once you’ve said that sexual activity is . . . pleasing to God in itself, then what about people who are engaged in same-sex expression and who are incapable of heterosexual expression?”

Similarly, archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has also retrospectively connected the dots between approving purposely sterile sex for heterosexuals on the one hand and extending the same theological courtesy to homosexuals on the other. As he observed in a lecture in 1989, three years before he became bishop, “In a church which accepts the legitimacy of contraception, the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts or on a problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures.”

Endelig viser hun med eksempler at mange teologer begynner med forandringer i seksualmoralen, og ender opp med fornektelse av viktige dogmatiske spørsmål:

… …. Rewriting the rules about sex does not, historically speaking, end with sex. Time and again, that rewriting has coincided with departures from traditional teaching in other areas too.

Consider, for example, the aforementioned Episcopal bishop James Pike, whose religious career is one of many that could be cited to illustrate the point. As noted, his views on contraception perfectly fit the cycle of Christianity Lite. He not only approved of the use of artificial birth control but sometimes insisted on it and even became chairman of the clergymen’s national advisory committee of the Planned Parenthood Federation.

Yet Pike’s dissent from traditional Christian teaching, far from being confined to matters of sexual morality, only widened over the years. By the 1960s, this pioneer of sexual ethics had also come to question other longstanding Christian beliefs—the virgin birth, the Incarnation, the Trinity, and original sin among them.

……. …. Bishop John Shelby Spong of Newark. Time magazine called his Living in Sin: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality (1988) “probably the most radical pronouncement on sex ever issued by a bishop.” It advocated the by-now familiar list of sexual selections from the contemporary cafeteria menu—from blessing homosexual unions to all the rest of “freeing the Bible from literalistic imprisonment.”

Yet Bishop Spong’s radicalism, though obviously jumpstarted by sex, did not end there any more than Bishop Pike’s or Reverend Fletcher’s did. It, too, has broadened to include wide-ranging dissent over practically everything else. Spong says he believes in God but is not a theist, for example, and he also denies that Jesus either performed miracles or rose from the dead.

Til slutt (i min oppsummering) viser hun at denne debatten om prevensjon (og de videre konsekvensene av om tillate dette) også var viktig for lutheranere, selv om jeg ikke kjenner til noen slik debatt i Norge:

In 1930, for example, the initial reaction among America’s Lutherans to Lambeth’s Resolution 15 was disbelief bordering on hostility. Margaret Sanger was denounced in an official Lutheran newspaper as a “she devil,” and numerous pastors took to the pulpits and op-ed pages with blistering complaints about the Anglicans’ theological capitulation. Nonethless, by 1954, the Lutherans, too, were encouraging contraception in order to make sure that any child born would be valued “both for itself and in relation to the time of its birth.” By 1991, the Evangelical Lutheran Church was not only okaying contraception but also officially urging widespread instruction in “sex education” and pregnancy prevention for youngsters.

In all, it has been an about-face that certainly would have shocked the Lutherans of yesteryear—beginning with Martin Luther himself, who once called contraception “far more atrocious than incest or adultery.”

Also like the Anglicans, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has proven that one thread could not be teased out of the moral garment without pulling others out too. In 1991, a Social Statement found that abortion—regarded as murder almost universally throughout Christian history—could be a morally responsible choice in certain circumstances. That same year, the Churchwide Assembly (CWA), the leading legislative body of the church, affirmed that “gay and lesbian people . . . are welcome to participate fully in the life of the congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.” Less than two decades later, in 2009, official tolerance for individuals with homosexual tendencies had transposed into something else: official approval of the sexual practice of homosexuality, enshrined in the decision to allow noncelibate homosexuals to serve as pastors.

This leads to a third pattern arising from the experiment of Christianity Lite: the ongoing and inarguable institutional decline of the churches that have tried it. Today, the ELCA—the largest and most liberal of the Lutheran bodies of America—faces the same fate as the Anglican Communion: threats of schism, departing parishes, diminishing funds, and the rest of the institutional woes that have gone hand in hand with the abandonment of dogma.

2 hendelser på “Skillelinjene mellom liberale og tradisjonelle kristne dreier seg mest om seksualmoral”

  1. «Spørsmålet om prevensjon har tradisjonelt sett ikke blitt diskutert mye i Norge; blant lutheranere (og andre protestanter) ble det bare gradvis godtatt i mellomkrigsåra, uten at jeg kjenner til noen diskusjon rundt det. Også blant katolikker i Norge forblir dette spørsmålet oftest forbigått i stillhet. Derfor er det ganske nytt (og sjokkerende) når Eberstadt argumenter svært så sterkt for at; å tillate kunstig prevensjon var det første steget som førte til en rasering av hele den kristne seksualmoralet, og oftest førte til at man fornektet også sentrale kristne dogmer.»

    Jeg må innrømme at jeg ikke er sjokkert over dette, og heller ikke er det helt nytt for meg. Det å kunstig skille seksuallivet fra sine mål og sin indre natur i sin legitime og moralsk gode form av ekteskapsakten vil nødvendigvis ha vidtrekkende konsekvenser. Jeg tror katolikker bør så absolutt prøve å forstå at morallæren ikke er et tilfeldig sett med regler slik at vi ikke lenger trenger «bridle and bit», men kan leve vårt liv som et uttrykk av autentisk kjærlighet.

    For meg som konvertitt er det sjokkerende at noen katolikker bare velger å se bort ifra Kirkens lære om prevensjon. En av de tingene jeg alltid visste var da at den Katolske Kirken lærte at dette var en alvorlig synd, selv om jeg ikke visste eller forstod grunnene til dette. Det er en fantastisk arroganse som kan få et av Kirkens barn til å bare bestemme seg for at ens (manglende) forståelse skal stå over Kirken istedenfor å faktisk rette seg etter hennes autoritet og visdom og søke forståelse. Av og til tror jeg ikke en gang Gud gir forståelse om man bare velger å sette seg selv som egenoppnevnt autoritet, og jeg synes at det nesten er selvfølgelig at dette oftest får vidtrekkende følger for teologien ellers. Vi må strebe å komme til en forståelse av hvordan den moralske læren er bundet opp i resten, og hvordan autentisk kjærlighet ikke kan eksistere når den er skilt fra sannheten. Forsøk på slik kjærlighet, med ulik grad av ærlighet, kan nok eksistere, men ikke den egentlige kjærligheten, om det er nestekjærlighet eller romantisk kjærlighet man snakker om.

    Jeg tenkte at jeg skulle spørre, forresten, om det at katolikker forbigår dette i stillhet betyr at det er mange katolikker i Norge som ikke godtar og lever denne læren, eller at vi bare som gruppe ikke snakker noe særlig om det med ikke-katolikker?

  2. Jeg burde påpeke at med «alvorlig synd» mener jeg «grave matter». Jeg går hverken ut i fra det ene eller det andre når det gjelder skyldsspørsmålet til alle individer som bruker prevensjon. Det er bare det at jeg, til min skam, ikke er helt sikker på norsk katolsk terminologi. Jeg håper dette endrer seg med tid og stunder, og burde jo prøve å slå opp slikt, men har ikke all verden tid akkurat i dag.

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