The family is under serious threat today and we need to address this.

The biblical teaching

The Bible is quite clear in its teaching about the family:

God created humanity male and female

 “God created man in his own image … male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Our society often focuses on people with a homosexual or bi-sexual orientation but, according to Scripture, these orientations are divergences from God’s intention. Obviously, we are called to love our homosexual or bi-sexual neighbour as much as our heterosexual neighbour. There is no excuse for doing otherwise, whatever emotional reactions we may experience. We must show compassion. But loving our neighbour does not mean accepting his/her sexual orientation as normal or approving of his/her behaviour. The Bible clearly teaches that God intended humanity to be male and female and the Genesis passages teach:

  1. It is not ideal for a man to be solitary.
  2. The best companion is a woman.
  3. Woman can also be his sexual partner with whom he can form a new family unit and, if possible, reproduce.

 God intended heterosexual marriage

 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). The term ‘marriage, is not used at this early stage but it is clear that God intended the couple to form a new, stable family unit. Jesus quotes this in Matt 19:4-6. Nowhere does the Bible (Old Testament or New Testament) contemplate an approval of homosexual behaviour or marriage. Some people try to argue that the Bible only condemns homosexual promiscuity etc., but would accept a loving, faithful homosexual (sexually active) relationship. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/homosexualityandthechurch.pdf pages 5, 7 on my website which shows this is not the case.

The reasons God intended heterosexual marriage include the following:

A heterosexual marriage brings the benefit of sexual complementarity

 Genesis uses metaphorical descriptions but they are conveying important principles (just as Jesus did in his parables). Having created a male human, God says: “It is not good for man to be alone.” Man in isolation is not ideal. Genesis goes on to indicate that the only adequate partner for a man is a woman, not another man. (The same can be said for a woman. Woman in isolation is not ideal. Genesis indicates that the only adequate partner for a woman is a man, not another woman.). Obviously, same-sex companionship can be a deep relationship. But Genesis speaks of a search being made for a complementary partner and the only adequate partner is someone of the opposite sex. (Obviously someone with a homosexual orientation will not find fulfilment with a person of the opposite sex, which is a serious problem for them. However, although we must be compassionate, we have to face the fact that everyone has to practice self-control and self-denial in the area of sex, e.g. before finding the right partner in marriage or for couples where health problems make sexual relationships impossible. And, of course, significant numbers of heterosexuals remain single).

We might legitimately add that children need the benefits of sexual complementarity in their parents. One aspect of the family is educating children and they need to be educated in the differences between male and female. For this they need both a male and a female role model. Many single parents (divorced or otherwise) do an excellent job of providing parenthood but this does not alter the fact that children are missing out on the benefits of complementarity in parents. The current sexual revolution has not yet lasted long enough for psychological studies on the effects on children and grandchildren to show up all the damage contemporary society is inflicting on the young.

  1. A heterosexual marriage provides for reproduction

Having created male and female humans, “God blessed them and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen 1:28).  God intends reproduction to be very important, where physically possible, in marriage because it guarantees the survival and growth of the human race. Same-sex couples may have children (by adoption, genetic donation, etc.,) but these children miss out on the benefits of sexual complementarity in parents.

God intended marriage to be regulated by society

The Old Testament law regulates marriage and divorce. The law restricts whom a man can have sexual relations with or marry (Lev 18:6-18; 20:11-12, 14, 17:19-21; Deut 22:30) and to whom he can will his property (Deut 21:15-17). If a man falsely accuses his wife of sexual immorality he is not allowed ever to divorce her (Deut 22:13-19). Adultery is forbidden (Ex 20:14). If a man commits adultery he must be punished (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22). If a man marries a second wife he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights (Ex 21:10).  When a man dies his brother in law must marry his widow and this responsibility is governed by the elders of the town (Deut 25:5-10).

Jesus places restrictions on divorce, as does St Paul (Mt 5:32; 19:3-9; 1 Cor 7:10-15). So clearly God intended marriage to be regulated by society and not to be a purely private decision.

  1. God intended children to be brought up in the family

 This is clear throughout Scripture but is particularly so in the 5th commandment: “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex 20:12). This is not to say that the nuclear family of two parents and children is the only pattern in the Old Testament. Often there was an extended family. There was also polygamy in the Old Testament but this was disapproved of in New Testament times. Always, however, the family was based on heterosexual marriage.

The universality of the family

It is easy to speak of the family being a universal norm but it is not quite as simple as that, especially nowadays. As we mentioned there are extended families as well as nuclear families. There are other variations in certain cultures. Then, of course, there are single-parent and, more recently, same sex households.

Professor G P Murdock surveyed the family in 250 different cultures in 1949 and concluded that the nuclear (or extended) family was definitely universal. He defined the family as “A social group characterised by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship and one or more children, own or adopted, of the socially cohabiting adults.”[1]

However some dispute Murdock’s view, referring, for example, to the Israeli kibbutz movement. A kibbutz is “a voluntary democratic community where people live and work together on a non-competitive basis.”[2] Others point out that, whereas the kibbutz has taken over some family roles e.g. education, the family still functions, protecting the children in the early stages of socialisation. Another exception is said to be the Nayar people in Kerala, India. They had extended families (based on the female line) which are run by the oldest male. Some have doubted the accuracy of this historical information.

Others point out that the typical family before the modern era was not the intimate, caring family many have imagined. Before the industrial revolution children in poorer families joined in the family trade. After the industrial revolution children as young as 6 or 7 worked in factories or coal mines. But this doesn’t alter the fact that the nuclear (or extended) family was the norm.

In fact some claim that the industrial revolution encouraged the nuclear family. As work became available in cities parents moved, leaving behind the wider family.

Since the 1970s the nuclear family has reduced by one third and other family models (such as single parent families) have increased threefold. Nevertheless the nuclear family is still very significantly present in British society.

The functions of the family

It is the context for procreation

It is obvious from Scripture, physiology and common sense that God intended marriage to be heterosexual in order to create the family. Arguments to the contrary, however popular, are special pleading.

The nuclear family provides the context for a stable, committed and permanent heterosexual relationship between an individual couple. If individuals are involved in temporary sexual relationships these relationships are inevitably comparatively shallow emotionally. Hence the depth of a loving commitment possible in heterosexual marriage is important for the production and raising of children.

It is a “cradle of love.”

The Roman Catholic Church has stated: “The human being is made for love and cannot live without love.”[3] This requires a small circle of intimate associates. Only the family can provide this love, the wider community would be unable to do so. It means that “Each person is recognized, accepted and respected.”[4]

It provides male and female role models

It is important that children experience these roles in the intimate setting of the family. The father-child relationship differs from the mother-child relationship. They complement one another and are important for the children to experience.

Ecologist Edward Goldsmith wrote[5]: “There are a number of different family bonds, such as those that hold together a father with his daughter, a mother with her son, a mother with her daughter, a man with his younger brother, a girl with her younger sister, a brother with his sister. These bonds are all different and also asymmetrical. The relationship of a father to his daughter, for instance, is very different from that of a daughter to her father.[6] The relationship of a father to his children differs even more noticeably from the mother’s relationship with her children.

It is important that children experience these complementary roles and learn from them. It will ensure they are better adjusted to life in the community. G.P. Murdock commented that adults gain fulfilment both from these heterosexual relationships and as a result of the strong emotional bonds with their children which are sustained most easily in the nuclear family. These strong emotional bonds are conducive to the efficient socialisation of the children.[7]

The Roman Catholic Church comments: “Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the good of marriage and the flourishing of family life.”[8] It adds that in homosexual relationships there is an “absence of the conditions for that interpersonal complementarity between male and female willed by the Creator at both the physical-biological and the eminently psychological levels. It is only in the union of two sexually different persons that the individual can achieve perfection in a synthesis of unity and mutual psychophysical completion”[9]

Linda J. Waite (Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago) writes that children raised by their own married biological parents experience less poverty, less drug and alcohol use and less crime and delinquency; they gain more education; they are more likely to marry; and they have better mental health compared with children from other family arrangements. They provide the best environment for raising children.[10]

It provides security

This is not just physical provision and security (food, clothing, shelter) but psychological security. This allows children to develop their personalities in safety. The family is also an economic unit which ensures that the members are protected financially.

It forms the basis of society

Edward Goldsmith wrote: “The family … is the universal basis of all human societies and social structures.”[11] Anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski wrote that the typical family, a group consisting of mother, father and their progeny is found in all communities.

The Roman Catholic Church stated: “The first and fundamental structure for ‘human ecology’ is the family, in which man receives his first formative ideas about truth and goodness, and learns what it means to love and to be loved, and thus what it actually means to be a person.”[12]

Reasons why the family is the basis of society

It is the basic unit of social behaviour

It trains children in social attitudes, avoiding excessive individualism. As the Roman Catholic Church puts it, the family is “the first and irreplaceable school of social life, and example and stimulus for the broader community relationships marked by respect, justice, dialogue and love.”[13]

It is the prime teacher of moral, spiritual and social values

As the Catholic Church puts it, “The family, in fact, constitutes ‘a community of love and solidarity, which is uniquely suited to teach and transmit cultural, ethical, social, spiritual and religious values, essential for the development and well-being of its own members and of society’. By exercising its mission to educate, the family contributes to the common good and constitutes the first school of social virtue, which all societies need. In the family, persons are helped to grow in freedom and responsibility, indispensable prerequisites for any function in society. With education, certain fundamental values are communicated and assimilated … As well as being a source, the parents’ love is also the animating principle and therefore the norm inspiring and guiding all concrete educational activity, enriching it with the values of kindness, constancy, goodness, service, disinterestedness and self-sacrifice that are the most precious fruit of love”[14] The child learns about love, cooperation, toleration, sacrifice, obedience and discipline in the family. These qualities enable him to grow into a good citizen.

It has to be acknowledged that many married couples fall short of providing a good example to children. But the failures of or within marriage do not invalidate the basic principle.

Professor Talcott Parsons (who was Professor of Sociology at Harvard) wrote of ‘basic and irreducible functions’ of the family:

  1. The ‘primary socialization of children’

This takes place largely in the family in early childhood. It involves ‘the internalization of society’s culture’ i.e. social values being absorbed and accepted by the child and ‘the structuring of the personality’ i.e. the culture of society becoming part of the child’s personality.  He added that ‘if culture were not internalized – that is, absorbed and

accepted – society would cease to exist, since without shared norms and values social life would not be possible.’

  1. The ‘secondary socialization of children’

This takes place when the child is older and the family is less involved. There is increasing influence from the child’s school and peer group.

  • The ‘stabilization of the adult personalities of the population of the society’.

When the primary and secondary socialization of children has taken place in the family, it needs to be kept stable in adult life. The emphasis is on the marriage relationship and the emotional security this can provide. So, again, the family is crucial. Parsons added: “This function is particularly important in Western industrial society, since the nuclear family is largely isolated from kin. It does not have the security once provided by the close-knit extended family. Thus the married couple increasingly look to each other for emotional support.”

Conclusion

The family, based on heterosexual marriage, is fundamentally important.  This is clearly taught in Scripture but it is also confirmed by logical examination. It regulates procreation, avoiding the chaos and damage of ‘free love.’ It provides a stable, loving secure environment for children (and also for adults). It affords children male and female role models. It is crucial to society as the primary context in which children can learn moral, social and spiritual values.

However, there is today an increasing attack on (heterosexual) marriage and the family which needs to be seen as leading to a very serious undermining of society and which will do enormous damage if left unchecked. I examine this in my next paper “Attack on marriage and the family.”

Tony Higton

 

[1] G.P.Murdock, Social Structure (1949), New York: Free Press.

[2] http://kibbutzprogramcenter.org/about-kibbutz/

[3] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 223

[4] Ibid 221

[5] http://www.edwardgoldsmith.org/30/the-family-basis-of-social-structure/?show=all

[6] George Peter Murdock, Social Structure, The Free Press, New York 1965, quoted by Goldsmith.

[7] G.P. Murdock, Functionalism and the Family

[8] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 224

[9] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 504

[10] Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially (2000).

[11] The Ecologist, Vol. 6 No. 1 and Vol. 6 No. 2, 1976.

[12] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 467.

[13] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 493

[14] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 238-239

We live in an age when attitudes towards sex are changing radically with unprecedented speed. It is easy for Christians to become so taken up with what we see as sexual immorality or even depravity that we don’t discern the more serious effects of this revolution. The most serious effect is the destruction of the family in its biblical sense of a heterosexual couple committed for life, normally having children and bringing them up in their own home.  And this will lead to the undermining of society which will have very serious consequences.

The Bible makes it clear that the heterosexual family is fundamental to the welfare of society. Whatever symbolism is used in the Genesis account, the principle of marriage is clear. “It is not good for man to be alone” – he needs a suitable partner – a woman (Gen 2:18). There is an essential complementarity in the marriage relationship. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Obviously heterosexual marriage is fundamental to reproduction. It provides complementary role models for children (and they can learn from both parents, of opposite sexes). Parents must not act unreasonably towards their children but “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21). Children are urged to honour their parents (Ex 20:12; Eph 6:1-3; Col 3:20). Jesus confirms this understanding of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6 as does Paul in Ephesians 5:25-33.

The fact that there are examples of polygamy in the Old Testament does not undermine the principle of heterosexual marriage, nor does it alter the fact that the fundamental biblical idea of marriage is of a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman, as Genesis makes clear.

It is so obvious that heterosexuality is the norm since only 1.5-3% of the population is homosexual. (It could be lower if young people were not encouraged to think they might be homosexual). Only those who have been brainwashed by homosexual equality propaganda could think otherwise. It’s an “emperor’s new clothes” situation. Having said that, homosexuals as people are equal to heterosexuals and should be treated with respect. But that is quite different from saying that homosexual behaviour is equal to heterosexual behaviour within (heterosexual) marriage.

 

The biblical vision is that well-functioning heterosexual marriages and their associated families will add to and maintain communities, will stabilise and strengthen those communities and will train children to be good citizens.

Some people are deliberately aiming to destroy the heterosexual family. Others have different aims but will have the effect of furthering this destruction.

Those campaigning for the destruction of the family

MARXISTS

Many, but not all, socialists in the 19th and 20th centuries rejected the family in favour of “free love” – unrestricted sexual relationships based purely on mutual love. Marx and particularly Engels criticised the family. Marx argued that in early human history sexual promiscuity was the order of the day. There was complete sexual freedom including incest. He and Engels argued that the family brought about the idea of private property, inheritance of property together with the oppression of women and children. They held that the abolition of private property (in socialism) and the abolition of inheritance would lead to the dissolution of the family.  The absence of private property would mean everyone would benefit from the economic opportunities in society. There would be no need for the financial support provided by the family. Instead of (‘slave’) labour in the family, women would work in factories and there would be communal child care which would remove the fear of unwanted children. Thus women would be liberated.

Engels wrote in Principles of Communism that communism “will make the relations between the sexes a purely private affair, which concerns only the two persons involved; a relationship which is in no way the concern of society. This attitude is made possible because private property will have been abolished and the children will be educated communally.”

Charles Fourier, a 19th century socialist philosopher believed monogamy was contrary to human nature and consequently an impediment to human happiness. He also believed that children should be raised, not in family units, but communally. His vision was of society being one big happy family.

In the 1920s Leonid Sabsovich, the leading Soviet urban planner under Lenin and Stalin advocated that children should be the property of the state, not the family. Children should be moved to specially designed children’s towns at a distance from the family.

Other communists have said that a preference for one’s spouse and authority over one’s children violates the principle of equality, which proclaims that we must treat everyone exactly the same.

RADICAL FEMINISTS

In the pre-industrial era men and women tended to work together in farming, etc., (accompanied by their children) but after the industrial revolution women were expected to stay at home doing domestic jobs and looking after children, whilst men went out to work. This gave men more power and created a much more patriarchal society. Many radical feminists advise women to avoid heterosexual relationships because they involve patriarchal (male) dominance. They see family as facilitating power relationships very much in favour of men. They also object to the large amount of unpaid labour which stay-at-home wives undertake.

Some feminists are influenced by Marxism and believe the family supports capitalism. For example Margaret Benston wrote that “As an economic unit, the nuclear family is a valuable stabilizing force in capitalist society. Since the husband–father’s earnings pay for the production which is done in the home, his ability to withhold labour from the market is much reduced.”[1] Also, within the family, children learn to conform and to submit to authority. The foundation is therefore laid for the obedient and submissive workforce required by capitalism.

Germaine Greer is a radical feminist who believes that “it is men who need marriage more. Married men score much higher on all measures of psychological well-being than unmarried men, whereas single women tend to be more content than married women.” She believes the only answer is segregation – women doing without male partners. She has been criticised for not taking seriously the progress made by women in recent times.

Michèlle Barrett and Mary McIntosh (1982) were influenced by Marxist feminism. They believe the family undermines life in the community – “the family ideal makes everything else seem pale and unsatisfactory”. Family members are so taken up by their family relationships that they neglect other social contacts. For example, they claim that the family encourages people to view life in other institutions (such as children’s homes, old people’s homes and students’ residences) as shallow and lacking in meaning.

GAY LIBERATIONISTS

In 1971 the Gay Liberation Front published its Manifesto. Peter Tatchell, the well-known gay campaigner said in 2013 that this manifesto was almost “the LGBT equivalent of the Communist Manifesto.” It envisaged an alternative society. The LGBT struggle was “part of the broader anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist movement, striving for the emancipation of all humankind. It critiques homophobia, sexism, marriage, the nuclear family, monogamy, the cults of youth and beauty, patriarchy, the gay ghetto and rigid male and female gender roles.” “Erotic shame and guilt would be banished. There would be sexual freedom and human rights for everyone.” “What’s required is a revolution in culture, to overturn centuries of male heterosexual domination and the limitations of traditional gender roles.”

The Gay Liberation Front’s Manifesto stated: “The oppression of gay people starts in the most basic unit of society, the family, consisting of the man in charge, a slave as his wife, and their children on whom they force themselves as the ideal models. The very form of the family works against homosexuality.” “Our entire society is built around the patriarchal family and its enshrinement of these masculine and feminine roles. … It is because of the patriarchal family that reforms are not enough. Freedom for gay people will never be permanently won until everyone is freed from sexist role-playing and the straightjacket of sexist rules about our sexuality. And we will not be freed from these so long as each succeeding generation is brought up in the same old sexist way in the Patriarchal family.”

However, whereas lesbian and gay organisations in the 1970s were often very anti-family, since the 1980s the opposite has been the case and there has been the move towards same sex marriage.

Speaking of same sex marriage, Judith Stacey, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and Sociology at New York University admits: “If we define the current ongoing effort to remake contemporary family life as the post-modern family … the term post-modern signals the end of a familiar pattern of activity and emergence of new areas of endeavour whose activities are unclear and whose meanings and implications are not yet well understood. Thus, the post-modern is characterized by uncertainty, insecurity, and doubt.”[2]

She claims that by the late 1980s, 6–14 million children were being brought up in gay and lesbian families. She says that research indicates that gay and lesbian relationships are at least as suitable for raising children as heterosexual marriages, that there is virtually no difference in the psychological well-being and social development of children with gay or lesbian carers and those with heterosexual carers. She added: ‘The rare small differences reported tend to favour gay parents, portraying them as somewhat more nurturant and tolerant, and their children in turn, more tolerant and empathetic, and less aggressive than those raised by non-gay parents.’

She believes children raised in gay and lesbian families are more likely to try homosexual relationships for themselves. But she does not believe the development of the postmodern family has no disadvantages. She acknowledges that it creates a certain degree of unsettling instability.

However, same sex marriage is not just a different form of marriage (and family). It contradicts fundamental aspects of family. It undermines marital complementarity and the fact that children are intended to have both a mother and father. It undermines the obvious fact that marriage is heterosexual because it is intended to lead to procreation. In other words, it serious undermines the divine intention about marriage. It involves homosexual social values being absorbed and accepted by children. And, as Judith Stacey says, it encourages children to try homosexual relationships.

The Church’s failure

The way things are going, it is only a matter of time before much of the western church will accept (and celebrate) same sex marriage. Already some denominations have.

The Church of Scotland recently discussed a report which advocated allowing ministers to celebrate same sex marriage. It has been committed to the church’s Legal Questions Committee to check the practicalities of a move to allow same-sex marriage in church. The Episcopal Church of Scotland has just approved (by only a one vote majority) same sex marriages taking place in church. It was reported that several prominent evangelical pastors in the US back same sex marriage.

The Church of England is maintaining a conservative position but, to a significant extent, is giving the impression that it will eventually change. I firmly agree that we should treat homosexuals as people with respect and apologise when we don’t. But the church has so overdone the apologising that it has given the impression that it is insecure in its position over same sex marriage. We seem to be intimidated by gay propaganda, especially being called ‘homophobic.’ Homophobia literally means ‘fear of man’ or ‘fear of the same’ but recently it has come to mean ‘fear of homosexuals.’ The Christian disapproval of homosexual behaviour has nothing to do with the fear of homosexuals but ‘homophobic’ has become an effective ‘put-down’ word. It often makes the church weaken the biblical position on homosexual behaviour.

Gay propaganda

The media can, of course, be a power for good. But it also has the power to change public opinion in unbiblical ways ways. Ever since the 1960s society has been transformed in its view of sexuality. Heterosexual couples living together, childbirth outside marriage, sex before marriage have all become widely acceptable and one of the main influences has been indoctrination by the media. To question these practices nowadays would seem archaic. And the same thing has happened, especially in the last 25 years, with homosexual behaviour. Same sex marriage is not so established in public opinion but it will be.

Then there is sex education in schools. Inevitably this has changed in line with public opinion.  This year’s annual conference of the National Union of Teachers called for compulsory teaching of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues “throughout all phases of state education”, including in nurseries.

Peter Tatchell comments: “The right to love a person of either sex, to engage in any mutually consensual sexual act, and to enjoy a happy, healthy sex life, is a fundamental human right. This right to sexual self-determination should be promoted in every school, to create a culture of sexual rights where every young person understands and asserts their right to determine what they, and others, do with their body. This ethos of ‘it’s my body, I’m in charge’ is the best possible protection against people who try to manipulate and pressure youngsters into having sex.” He says schools should not promote any particular sexual orientation and he advocates schools teaching children about the whole range of sexual activities.

Allen Young, a member of New York’s Gay Liberation Front says: “Only because our capitalist values and nuclear family structure coerce children into sex roles do they become limited in their sexuality.”

The danger is already present of young teenagers who formerly would have known little about homosexual practice, now experimenting or even asking for gender changes, who, but for modern propaganda, would have grown up to form a heterosexual relationship.

The way things are going it is inevitable that marriage and the family are going to be increasingly undermined by a society indoctrinated by the sort of view Tatchell is advocating.

Other undermining of marriage and the family

Single parenthood

I am aware that many are lone parents as a result of divorce or unplanned pregnancies and many of them make every effort to be good parents, caring for their children. However the British Social Attitudes Surveys also show an increase in the acceptance of parenthood outside marriage. In 1989, 70% agreed that ‘people who want children ought to get married.’ In 2000 it was 54%. In 1961 2% of the population lived in homes with children and a single parent. In 2005 it was 12%.[3] In 1972 7% of children lived in single parent families. In 2002 it was 23%.[4]

Sarah McLanahan and Karen Booth of the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1991)refer to various American studies claiming that children are harmed by single parenthood. They say that such children have lower earnings and experience more poverty as adults; that are more likely to become lone parents themselves; and that they are more likely to become delinquent and engage in drug abuse.

Sara Arber, Professor of Sociology at the University of Surrey found that the children of single parents suffered more ill-health than other children unless their parent was fully employed.

Sociologist David Morgan says the evidence suggests the children of single parents fare less well than those from two-parent households. In addition, many such children will experience the confusion and insecurity of their mothers forming successive relationships with different men.

Divorce

Divorce rates have been rising and this has obvious ill effects on both parents and children. However the remarriage rate is also high.

Conclusion

The rate of marriage in the UK is still quite high but marriage is declining as an institution. Cohabitation outside of marriage is widespread and single parenthood is growing. Also the divorce rate has grown considerably. Then there is the issue of same-sex marriage which, however popular, undermines the nature of marriage and the family.

Ecologist Edward Goldsmith wrote: “The institution of the family has decayed in modern times, so converting society into an alienated agglomeration of disconnected individuals, susceptible to arbitrary, remote and authoritarian governance.”[5]

We need to recognise and watch these trends because ultimately they will cause enormous damage to individuals, families and society. Marriage and the family are under serious threat and so is society.

Tony Higton

[1] Margaret Benston, “The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation”, Monthly Review, 21 (4), September 1969.

[2] J. Stacey, Brave New Families. New York: Basic Books, 1990.

[3] HMSO, 2002a; Social Trends 2006.

[4] Social Trends 1998, 2006.

[5] http://www.edwardgoldsmith.org/30/the-family-basis-of-social-structure/?show=all

The Sexual Revolution – a grave danger to society

 

We live in a time of sexual revolution but we seem to be largely unaware of its very serious implications. The main impact will be the undermining of (heterosexual) marriage and the family which the Bible teaches is fundamental to human society. Gender theory supports people (including children) choosing to identify as male, female, both or neither, whatever their biological gender. There are moves to undermine the idea of fidelity in marriage. Same sex marriage will undermine the complementarity of male and female which has undergirded the family. It implies that children do not need both a father and a mother. And all this is in addition to longer term problems such as the emotional effect (particularly on children) of widespread divorce.

 

One question is: what effect will this have on children in the long term? Pope Francis said recently that gender theory is part of “a global war out to destroy marriage.” This threat to marriage and the family has been around for 100 years but has accelerated remarkably in the last 20 years or so.

 

The Marxist attack on marriage and the family

 

The pope’s comment is appropriate to the aims of the neo-Marxist Frankfurt School, now the Institute for Social Research, which emerged from the Russian Revolution. It became clear to Lenin after World War I that there would not be a communist revolution in the West and so a different approach was required. He encouraged the undermining of the family as a means of undermining capitalist societies. Lenin is credited with saying: “Destroy the family and you destroy society.” Whether or not this is an actual quotation, it does sum up Lenin’s opinion that undermining the family would undermine Western culture and pave the way for alternative views of society. 

 

The Marxists saw the family as supporting capitalism and encouraging children to accept the authority of their parents unquestioningly. It promoted the idea of private property and so could be open to the pressure to “Keep up with the Joneses,” becoming even more capitalist. It facilitated passing on private property to descendants rather than sharing it with the wider community. Engels wrote in favour of the care and education of children being “a public affair”. That way children could be educated in communism rather than in religion and traditional family structure.

 

He also spoke in favour of “the gradual growth of unconstrained sexual intercourse and with it a more tolerant public opinion in regard to a maiden’s honour and a woman’s shame.” Instead of private relationships everyone should belong to everyone. So premarital and extramarital sex and adultery would cease to have the same meaning. In 1919 sex education for school children was introduced in Hungary, with the clear aim of undermining the traditional family and morality by destroying children’s innocence. The first Director of the Frankfurt School, Georg Lukacs, promoted sex education for young children (encouraging sexual experimentation), pornography, free love, easier divorce and access to contraception. Now all those things are widely accepted in our society.

 

Homosexuality was first decriminalized in the Soviet Union in 1922. No-fault divorce was introduced for the first time in the Soviet Union in 1918 and abortion was decriminalized for the first time by Lenin, in 1920.

 

Marxists clearly intended that sexual anarchy and social disorder would lead to demands for ‘strong’ government and the loss of democratic freedom.

 

What other factors are behind the modern sexual revolution?

 

There are, no doubt, many individuals who support gay liberation who have no ulterior motives. They simply want to see homosexuals treated with respect, like heterosexuals. I believe that homosexuals, as people, should be treated with the same respect as heterosexuals. But we would be very naïve to believe this is the whole story. The modern sexual revolution is bigger than both gay liberation and Marxism. As Christians we should recognise a demonic strategy which will do enormous damage to society and will open the way to oppressive political rule. The relevance of this to biblical prophecies about the End Times is clear.

 

It is instructive to examine the Gay Liberation Front Manifesto published in 1971 and revised in 1978.[i] It is very similar to the Marxist aim of undermining the family and, in the Marxist case, subsequently society, preparing the way for political oppression.

 

It states: “The oppression of gay people starts in the most basic unit of society, the family, consisting of the man in charge, a slave as his wife, and their children on whom they force themselves as the ideal models. The very form of the family works against homosexuality.” It criticises schools which, at that time, reflected the pro-family, anti-homosexual values of society. It also criticises the church “whose archaic and irrational teachings support the family and marriage as the only permitted condition for sex.” It adds “The press, radio, television and advertising are used as reinforcements against us, and make possible the control of people’s thoughts on an unprecedented scale. Entering everyone’s home, affecting everyone’s life, the media controllers, all representatives of the rich, male-controlled world, can exaggerate or suppress whatever information suits them.”

 

The Manifesto then goes on to say: “Gay liberation does not just mean reforms. It means a revolutionary change in our whole society.” It describes society (in the 1970s) as sexist and built around the patriarchal family “in which one’s biological sex determines almost all of what one does and how one does it … we will not be freed … so long as each succeeding generation is brought up in the same old sexist way in the Patriarchal family.”

 

It finally states its aim: “The long-term goal of Gay Liberation, which inevitably brings us into conflict with the institutionalised sexism of this society, is to rid society of the gender-role system which is at the root of our oppression. This can only be achieved by eliminating the social pressures on men and women to conform to narrowly defined gender roles. It is particularly important that children and young people be encouraged to develop their own talents and interests and to express their own individuality rather than act out stereotyped parts alien to their nature.”

 

Current events

Sex education

One of the most disturbing factors is sex education in schools. Children as young as 4 are to be given compulsory sex education in school about safe and healthy relationships. There are moves to require all pupils to “learn the importance of respect, tolerance and commitment in all types of healthy relationships.” This covers any kind of sexual relationship so long as there is no coercion. Tory MPs are pushing for all schools, including primary schools, to be compelled to endorse same sex marriage.

 

Children as young as 5 have been alleged to have carried out sexual offences at school. The youngest victims were 5 years old. The number of allegations of sex crimes in schools rose from 719 in 2011-12 to 1955 in 2014-5.

 

The Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC TV reported that since 2015 three pre-school children have been referred to the Gender Identity Development Service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. They are among 167 children under 10. The Tavistock Clinic is a gender identity clinic for under 18s. In 2009 there were 96 referrals (40 girls and 56 boys). In 2014 there were 697 and in 2015 1398 (913 girls and 485 boys). Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Bernadette Wren commented: “It’s not really for us to approve or disapprove. … in the end, we maybe have to see through this social revolution and see how it transpires.” In 2016 a Church of England primary school in Hartfield, Sussex held a ‘transgender day’ event to “empower lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans young people.” The head commented: “As part of the national curriculum, we spend time talking to the children about British values of tolerance, respect and celebrating differences.”  Schools have begun to introduce “gender neutral” uniform rules.

Other examples

Over 50% of teachers have become aware of incidents of children sexting (sending sexually explicit messages) at school, some of them as young as 7.

 

Nearly all Europeans accept premarital sex. Countries vary as to the percentage believing that adultery is morally wrong: US 84%, Greece 79%, UK 76%, Spain & Italy 64%, Germany 60%, France 47%.

 

In Italy the Senate and it Judiciary Committee have voted to remove the word “fidelity” from marriage contracts as faithfulness in marriage is seen as “outdated and obsolete.”

 

A recent survey by Grazia and Onepoll found that a quarter of heterosexual women have had sexual experience with another woman. The press commented: “young women are increasingly having more fluid attitudes towards gender and sexuality … women are increasingly breaking away from traditional attitudes about gender, sexuality, marriage and family life.”

 

Conclusion

 

It may take a generation before the very serious effects of the sexual revolution are recognised by society. But it is very instructive to look back at how things have changed in the last 20 years or so. Some early 20th century attitudes to sexual morality, namely that sexual intercourse should be confined to heterosexual marriage, are now are seen as antediluvian. The media have, of course, been a major factor – effectively brainwashing the population into a radically different approach to sexuality.
The sexual revolution is not the most important challenge facing us. The fact that most people ignore or marginalise God is more important. But the sexual revolution is a catalyst guaranteed to transform society in a way contrary to the teaching of God’s Word and the church.
The only hope for our society is another Revival on a level with that which happened in the time of the Wesleys.

 

OTHER ISSUES

 

Abortion

 

British MPs have voted by 172 to 142 in favour of totally decriminalising abortion up to 24 weeks. They were backed by the Royal College of Midwives and the British Pregnancy Advisory service. Cathy Warwick, head of the Royal College of Midwives stated that abortion was never wrong but is a mother’s choice. In 2015 Fiona Bruce MP tried to make sex-selective abortion illegal but MPs rejected that by 292 to 201 votes.

 

The Global Life Campaign has researched over 100 nations, territories and regions up to 2015. They discovered that one billion babies have been aborted since the Soviet Union legalised abortion in 1920. It says that “current worldwide reported abortions are about 12.5 million per year”. One factor is the availability of on-line abortion pills.

 

The Evangelical Alliance commented: “Decriminalisation grants the unborn protection only in so far as it’s the property of its mother. Now, women holding the power of life or death over their children is framed as a victory for equality.”

 

Euthanasia

 

There have been moves to legalise euthanasia in the UK. It already is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg. The number of Dutch people killed by medical euthanasia has more than doubled in the 10 years since it was legalised, rising 13% to 4,188 in 2016.

 

Dr. Robert G Twycross, emeritus Clinical Reader in Palliative Medicine at the University of Oxford commented: “Dutch journalist Gerbert van Loenen shows in his book ‘Do You Call This a Life? Blurred Boundaries in the Netherlands’ Right-to-Die Laws’ that, although euthanasia activism begins with the wish to help suffering people of sound mind to achieve control in ending their torment, it never stops there. In both the Netherlands and neighbouring Belgium, once the barrier of legislation is passed, medically assisted dying takes on a dynamic of its own and extends beyond the original intent, despite earlier explicit assurances that this would not happen. As a disillusioned former member of a Dutch regional euthanasia review board has said: ‘Don’t go there!’”

 

Racism

 

Events such as Brexit and the rise of leaders like Donald Trump have raised the issue of national independence and control of immigration. Sadly, though, this has also encouraged racism. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance recorded a sharp rise in Islamophobic, anti-semitic and xenophobic assaults in 2016 including in Britain. It condemned David Cameron for describing asylum seekers hoping to reach the UK as a “swarm.” Some of the British media, especially tabloid newspapers were condemned for “offensive, discriminatory and provocative terminology.” An article in The Sun likened refugees to “cockroaches.”

 

In the US Rick Tyler, standing as a candidate for Congress, designed a billboard stating “Make America white again.” He wanted America to be like it was (according to him) in the 1960s: “It was an America where you didn’t have to lock your doors. You didn’t have to worry about carjacking and home invasions. You didn’t have to worry about Muslim sleeper cells down the street. You didn’t have to worry about Islamic mosques radicalising people. It was an America that was far superior to the America that we live in today, and – not coincidentally – it was an America whose demographic was 85 per cent plus Caucasian.”

 

Lack of concern for Poverty and Human Rights

 

When the Archbishop of Canterbury last Christmas asked people to pray for the poor, hungry and homeless, Nigel Farage responded: “Merry Christmas! Ignore all negative messages from the Archbishop of Canterbury and have a great day!”

 

UK government to cut sickness and disability benefits were condemned by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission which said the cuts will “exacerbate, rather than reduce, existing inequalities” as well as disproportionately affecting disabled people.

 

The UK has come in for criticism for its positive relationship with countries like Saudi Arabia which have a poor human rights record. S Arabia bombed various hospitals run by Médecins Sans Frontières in Yemen. They also destroyed schools. The UN criticised S Arabia for contributing to a humanitarian disaster in Yemen. A few days after the EU voted for an arms trade embargo on S Arabia, David Cameron praised British companies that have traded with that country. The UK government says it raises human rights issues with countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain privately but that means it is not possible to assess if that approach is adequate. In 2015 the most senior Foreign Office civil servant told MPs that human rights was “not one of our top priorities” and that the “prosperity agenda is further up the list.”

 

 

Christians need to wake up to the radical and very damaging changes taking place in our society and to pray for the Lord to bring a powerful revival of the Christian faith.

 

[i] http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/pwh/glf-london.asp

The dangers in controlling extremists

 

One of the great dangers facing us in a free society is that seeking to control extremists will lead to control of those who are not extremists. This is a current issue in Britain today. In February Conservative MP Michael Fabricant said that some of the views of conservative Anglicans “differ little from ISIL” (or ISIS). The Archbishop of Canterbury commented that some modern politicians can’t see “the difference between an extremist Muslim group like the Muslim Brotherhood and a sort of conservative evangelical group in a Church of England church”.

 

Fabricant’s profoundly ignorant and offensive comment illustrates the danger very well. The implication seems to be we must control ISIS so we should control conservative Anglicans too! He added that the Church of England risked becoming “out of step with 21st century Western liberal values.” My response is that it should be out of step with some 21st century Western liberal values and long may that continue. Fabricant is so ignorant of the Christian Faith that he imagines the church must change its views to suit society. To be fair though, some church leaders seem to agree with him!

 

Sadly, Fabricant is not alone in his ignorance of Christianity. The government’s counter extremism policy suffers from the same weakness and theological illiteracy. Of course, we must respect people of other faiths but that does not mean we should accept or support their beliefs or avoid reasonable criticism of them. The government’s official definition is: “Extremism is the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.” This could mean that Christians may be penalised for expressing opposition to beliefs or practice we disagree with.

 

The Archbishop also reported a conversation with a ‘very senior politician’ who asked: “Are you seriously going to tell me that I don’t call someone an extremist if they say that their faith is more important than the rule of law?” The Archbishop responded: “Well, you’ve got a real problem here because for me personally my faith is more important than the rule of law so you’ve got an extremist sitting in here with you … We do not believe as Christians that the rule of law outweighs everything else, we believe that the kingdom of God outweighs everything else.”

 

Speaking to the House of Lords in February 2016 he said: “It is widely agreed that all statements that tend towards causing hatred, contempt, violence, for other faiths should not be permitted. Nevertheless, it is not extremist in any way, and should be encouraged, that there are statements that are frank and categorical assertions of faith, or no faith, and that there is no right not to be offended, or to be hurt, by such statements.”

 

David Anderson QC said it was “dangerous” to introduce measures to silence people simply because they oppose certain Government-approved values. He added “the police are going to feel they have to investigate all sorts of people who are miles away from being terrorists but may just practise religion in a conservative way or may have eccentric political views … Silence coerced by law is a very dangerous business particularly when you’re looking at something as vague as extremism”.

 

The prime minister, speaking in the House of Commons in November 2016 stated that the ability to “speak freely, respectfully and responsibly about one’s religion should be a jealously guarded principle” She added: “I am sure we would all want to ensure that people at work do feel able to speak about their faith.” However, the way the government’s anti-extremism policy is being interpreted threatens freedom of speech about one’s faith.

 

The indoctrination of children

 

We should be particularly concerned that children are a main target of the theologically illiterate counter-extremism activists. If they have their way these activists will gradually undermine Christianity much more seriously than it is undermined in current society.

 

In a particularly sinister development, despite earlier reports of it deciding not to do so, the government plans to register church groups and Sunday schools which involve children for a total of six hours a week and to make them open to OFSTED inspections. True, many church groups won’t qualify but not to see this as the thin end of the wedge of government interference in all church groups is naïve. The government arrogantly assumes that it is capable of defining mandatory “British values” whilst not informed about, respecting or understanding the centuries of Christian history in this country.

 

Simon McCrossan, Evangelical Alliance head of public policy, accused the government of treating religious freedom as “an after-thought at best” and added: “These plans could lead the way to a register of Sunday schools, and making the government the arbiter of what doctrine is or isn’t desirable.” Stephen Timms MP, former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, accused the government of seeing religious faith as “a problem.” Sir Gerald Howarth MP said, “regulating groups such as Sunday schools is clearly absurd. It would place a huge administrative burden on such groups, would severely damage volunteering and would be a serious infringement of personal liberty and freedom of association.”

 

UN condemns compulsory school assemblies

 

A recent report by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child says that the fact that pupils are legally required to attend assemblies which are “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character” violates their human rights. They recommend that the UK government “repeal legal provisions for compulsory attendance at collective worship”. Parents can already withdraw their children from assemblies but the committee wants to give children the right to act independently of their parents.

 

Parents fear children will be rejected if they express faith

 

A recent ComRes survey commissioned by the Theos think tank found that 23% of parents didn’t pass on their faith to their children for fear the children would be alienated at school. 18% of parents said it was not their responsibility to pass on their beliefs to their children. Only 40% of parents said they had spoken to their children about their faith.

 

Moves towards enforcing support for gay marriage

 

UK Communities Secretary Sajid Javid wrote in the Sunday Times in December 2016 that people in public life should accept basic British values: “I’m talking about tolerating the views of others, even if you disagree with them. About believing in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from abuse. I’m talking about a belief in equality, democracy and the democratic process. And about respect for the law, even if you think the law is an ass. Because if you do disagree, you can change it. That’s what freedom and democracy are all about.”

 

This all sounds good but it all depends on how it is worked out. Of course, all human beings are equal, but equality is sometimes referring to equality, not of people but of behaviour. This is particularly the case with the whole gay marriage issue. The danger is illustrated by the comments of Dame Louise Casey who works for the British government and conducted a review into integration and opportunity in isolated and deprived communities, published in December 2016. She supports an “equality oath.” Shortly after her review was published she called church schools who supported traditional marriage “homophobic” and accused them of using “religious conservatism as a veil for anti-equality views.” And this is despite the official line that schools do not have to support and endorse same-sex marriage. On being criticised she backed off. The Department for Communities and Local Government stated: “Dame Louise is a supporter of the right to gay marriage now enshrined in law, however she does respect and understand the Catholic Church’s long-held view that marriage is between a man and a woman, even if that is not her own view.

She is not threatening the right of the Church or individuals of faith to hold that view, or to include it in teaching it as a fundamental tenet of faith. That is indeed an important aspect of a shared British value of freedom of religious expression.” But the dangerous trend continues.

 

In November a school in St. Austell issued an apology to a teaching assistant whom they had disciplined for saying to a pupil who asked her about the matter that she did not support gay marriage.

 

Former MP Ann Widdecombe wrote about the case of the Ashers Bakery Co (a Christian bakery prosecuted for refusing to make a cake with a slogan promoting gay marriage). She said that historically being forced to affirm beliefs contrary to conscience was “rightly recognised as the hallmark of totalitarianism itself.” She added: “In the Ashers case, the principle of not being allowed to express a view has been extended to being forced to affirm one – an infringement of individual liberty that would have been unthinkable not so very long ago.” She warned Christians not to “sleepwalk through this”, or they would risk seeing more of their civil liberties gradually removed.

 

Even Peter Tatchell, a long-term campaigner for gay rights, strongly disapproves of the judgment against the Ashers:

“Although I strongly disagree with Ashers’ opposition to marriage equality, in a free society neither they nor anyone else should be compelled to facilitate a political idea they oppose. Ashers did not discriminate against the customer, Gareth Lee, because he was gay. They objected to the message he wanted on the cake: “Support gay marriage.”

Discrimination against LGBT people is wrong and is rightly unlawful. But in a democratic society, people should be able to discriminate against ideas they disagree with. I am saddened that the court did not reach the same conclusion.

This judgment opens a can of worms. It means that a Muslim printer could be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed and a Jewish printer could be required to publish a book that propagates Holocaust denial. It could also encourage far-right extremists to demand that bakers and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim opinions. What the court has decided sets a dangerous, authoritarian precedent that is open to serious abuse. Discrimination against people should be illegal but not discrimination against ideas and opinions.”

 

Queen’s chaplain urged to resign over defending Jesus as divine

 

The Rev Gavin Ashenden was clearly pressed to resign as a Queen’s chaplain after he opposed a reading from the Koran in Glasgow Cathedral which denied the deity of Jesus. The reading was about the birth of Jesus but denied that he is the Son of God and says he should not be worshipped. This is a very serious error and if the cathedral authorities were aware that this was going to be read they should resign. If they weren’t they should profoundly apologise. Here we have another ‘equality’ confusion. People of different faiths (or no faith) are equal as human beings and we must regard them as such. But we are not required to regard different religious beliefs as equally valid. So I will respect our Muslim friends but I regard their beliefs as seriously wrong, and have the right to say so publicly. Christian leaders who allow public contradiction of basic creedal beliefs in church services are incompetent and seriously failing in their duties. Gavin Ashenden said: “After a conversation instigated by officials at Buckingham Palace, I decided the most honourable course of action was to resign.” In other words he was pressed to resign.

 

It is obvious that the trend in society is moving towards serious oppression of Christians and we need to be alert to this without falling into paranoid overreaction. We need to pray and, where possible, act to oppose this trend.

Church growth and decline

 

Churches with a conservative view of Scripture who treat the Bible as the Word of God grow faster than those with a liberal view, according to a new report. The report, “Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy,” was based on five years of research amongst churchmembers and clergy in Ontario.

 

It discovered that only 50% of clergy from declining churches agreed it was “very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians,” compared to 100% of clergy from growing churches. I’m tempted to ask what planet those clergy from declining churches are living on. But it is more serious than that. I would not like to be them on the Day of Judgment.

 

The report also discovered that:

  • 93% of clergy and 83% of churchmembers in growing churches believed in the bodily resurrection of Christ compared with only 56% of clergy and 67% of worshippers in declining churches.
  • 71% of clergy from growing churches read the Bible daily compared with 19% from declining churches.

 

However, it is not true that all conservative churches are growing. If they don’t have a strong corporate prayer life, an openness to and experience of the Holy Spirit’s power and a practical commitment to evangelism they won’t grow.

 

There are, of course, other factors. A UK report entitled “Going Deeper: Church attendance statistics and clergy deployment” published in January 2016 states: “An increase in clergy is associated with the likelihood of growth in attendance, while a decrease in clergy is associated, on average, to a decline in attendance.” However, at present rates the number of stipendiary clergy will decline from 7,400 in 2016 to 6,300 in 2035 (it was 8,300 in 2012). 25% of clergy are over 60.

 

There has been an 11% decrease in attendance in the Church of England over the past decade with an average decline of just over 1% a year. 100,000 worshippers have been lost in that period. J John recently pointed out that in 7 out of the 43 dioceses 40% of worshippers are over 70. He added that attendance is declining in 37% of parishes but is growing in 10%.

 

The church and homosexual practice

 

It is important to keep the issue of homosexual practice in proportion. In October 2016 The UK Office for National Statistics published its official figures that only 1.7 per cent of the UK population are lesbian, gay or bisexual.

 

Obviously, every individual and every minority is important. But we need to relate this very small percentage against the enormous effect it is having on society and on the church. This effect is out of all proportion to the numerical size of the problem.

 

So why is it happening? Although there are important non-sexual evils in society, it is clear that there are spiritual forces using sexual sin – heterosexual and homosexual (including promiscuity, adultery, easy divorce, etc) to undermine the family which is the fundamental unit of society. Enormous damage is being done to individuals, including children (quite apart from child abuse) and that has and will have huge negative effects on society.

 

Professor Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University, wrote about rapid cultural change. She said: “American culture has become more individualistic and more focused on the self and on equality.  For society to become more focused on self is very damaging. She added that from 1973 to 1990, the percentage of adults who approved of same-sex relationships rose from 11% to 13%. But in the last 25 years, the figure has risen to almost half of all adults.

 

Damage is also being done to the church and there is discrimination against individual Christians. One example is the case of Barry Trayhorn who was chaplain at Littlehey prison. He was disciplined for quoting 1 Cor 6 which condemns various sins including homosexual practice in a sermon. He explained that he wanted to assure the inmates – many of whom have committed horrific sex abuse crimes – that God could bring forgiveness. The prison authorities said he had broken equality laws by quoting a ‘homophobic’ passage.

 

In recent times the following events have happened which show an increasing acceptance of homosexual practice by the church:

  • The vicar of St. Peter’s, Brighton, an evangelical church planted by Holy Trinity, Brompton said he was very supportive of a gay pride march. He added that many of his churchmembers would take part. They had a lot of LGBT people in the congregation and were very supportive of them.
  • The Anglican Church in Canada approved of gay marriage and the Diocese of Toronto elected an “openly gay, partnered bishop.”
  • The evangelical Bishop of Liverpool said the insistence that homosexuals must be celibate to practise their faith should be dropped and that he had “learned to respect the experiences of people who want to celebrate and express their sexuality, and be within the church.”
  • GAFCON (the Global Anglican Future Conference) published a list of clergy who have entered into same-sex marriages and remained in office. One of those clergy, a member of General Synod commented on the recent ‘conversations’ between synod members who have different views on homosexual practice. He said: “I came away with the strong sense that Synod is ready for change … what I experienced and heard was a recognition that the current stance of the Church is untenable.”

On the other hand, the Church of England Evangelical Council stated:  “The blessing of same-sex relationships would be a de facto change of Church of England doctrine.” Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden and a member of the CEEC, said “The House of Bishops are still engaged in conversations about the nature and shape of pastoral provision in this area. Many evangelical Anglicans would agree with the analysis and the concerns expressed in the CEEC document that any move towards further liberalisation would bring to a head the divisions in the Church of England and might well cause a split. My role – and that of my colleagues in the House is to do all that I can to prevent a split and to hold people in the Church of England – though that will not be easy, given what is at stake.”

 

 

How should we respond to all this?

 

We should welcome gay people to church

We should welcome all sinners – heterosexual or homosexual – to come along to church to hear the gospel and to experience the reality of the presence of God. In fact, we can only welcome sinners to church because they are the only people available! We’re all sinners. But the New Testament says that those who persist in serious sin should not be regarded as members. In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul gives the example of a person in an illegitimate sexual relationship. (We should note, though, that he also says those persist in greed, idolatry, slander, a drunkenness or swindling should not be regarded as members 1 Cor 5:11).

 

Andrew Brown, a secular journalist, points out a serious inconsistency in the Church of England: “In effect, there is one standard for the laity – which is to conform to the liberal norms of society – and a double standard for the clergy who are supposed to be celibate, even when they live with same sex partners, if not heterosexually married. It is perfectly in order for clergy and even bishops to be civilly partnered.”

 

However the Church of England (like other churches) is making fundamental mistakes in its approach to the homosexual issue. It has not yet changed its basic position that homosexual practice is incompatible with the teaching of Scripture but it is gradually weakening its position in the following ways:

 

We want to be seen as nice

It is trying too hard to be seen as kind and relevant to society. It needs to re-read James stark warning “Don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” In following Christ and his word we have to be willing to be unpopular and deemed irrelevant and outdated. Whereas we should take trends and opinions in society seriously we should not allow them to dictate what we believe and preach. We should try to communicate as effectively as possible with our secular society but we should stick to our guns on what we believe.

 

We apologise too much

Of course we need to avoid any negativity towards homosexuals as people. We should love our homosexual neighbour as much as our heterosexual neighbour. But loving our neighbour doesn’t mean we have to love their behaviour.  Clearly there have been Christians who despise homosexuals as people – and that is wrong. It is true that there could have been comments and discussions in the church which have been unloving towards homosexuals as people. But the church has now become obsessive about apologising to them. Time after time we have church leaders apologising. It wasn’t helpful that the Archbishop of Canterbury said he was “constantly consumed with horror” at the way the Church treated gay people and that he lay awake thinking about the issue. In their naivety church leaders don’t realise how this excessive apologising comes over to society. It gives the impression we are uncertain of our basic position and we are apologising for it. By all means apologise, but don’t keep on doing it.

 

We give the impression that the moral issue is simply a matter of opinion

I have been involved in a great deal of dialogue with homosexuals and it helps develop inter-personal understanding. But the Church of England General Synod may not be aware of the impression it has given to society by its recent “conversations.” The impression is that both opinions are equally legitimate – those who approve homosexual practice and those who don’t. The further impression given is that, in a true Church of England way, we’ll eventually decide that both sides have won and both shall have prizes. The message that should be conveyed is that, whereas discussion is valuable, the official position of the church, as decided by a 98% majority of the General Synod in 1987, is that, like fornication and adultery “that homosexual genital acts … are … to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion” and those who disagree are mistaken. Also the 1998 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops agreed “This conference, in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage.”

 

We think we might be able to bless sin

We are considering the possibility of blessing gay relationships. If such relationships are not sexually active there is no problem. But if they are sexually active we should not bless them. The weakness in the position that we can bless sexually active homosexual relationships is that God will have no part in it – and he is the one being asked to provide the blessing.

 

So we contribute to the moral decline in society which is doing enormous harm to adults and children. May God forgive us.

 

Conclusion

The church needs to return to the clear teaching of Scripture in the power of the Spirit and we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to bring revival in the church and society

 

So, yet another report of the dramatic decline of Christianity in the UK has emerged in May 2016. It was based on British Social Attitude surveys from the last 30 years and showed that in 2014 48.5% of the population claim they have no religion (compared with 25% in 2011). On the other hand 43.5% claimed to be Christians. Stephen Bullivant, senior lecturer in theology and ethics at St Mary’s Catholic University, said that 40% of people raised as Anglicans have abandoned their faith. Another report by ScotCen Social Research said that 52% of Scottish people claimed to have no religion compared with 40% in 1999.

 

A YouGov report in March 2016 said that only 41% of British people who claim to be Christians say they definitely believe in a Creator and 18% said they didn’t. Also 44% of British “Christians” believe in heaven but only 27% believe in Hell. In 2015 YouGov found that only 55% of people claiming to be Christian believe in God.

 

One thing is clear from these figures. Many British people claiming to be Christian are not really Christians. Part of what is happening is that fewer British people are claiming to be Christian when they aren’t. Many people who were not involved in the church superficially regarded themselves as “C of E” but that rather irrelevant practice is now dying out. This is hardly a decline in Christianity but more a facing up to reality.

 

A recent editorial in The Guardian stated: “This decline in self-identification probably has very little to do with belief. The people in the pews have always been heretics with only the vaguest notion of what official doctrines are, and still less of an allegiance to them. The difference is now that they are outside the pews, even if they still hold the same vague convictions about a life spirit or a benevolent purpose to the universe.” There is some truth in that.

 

In its Statistics for Mission 2014 the Research and Statistics Department of the Archbishops’ Council reported that in 2014, the worshipping community of the Church of England was 1.1 million people, of whom 20% were aged under 18 and 29% over 70.  It also said: “Most measures of attendance show a similar trend: a steady decline of 10-15% over the past decade, although adult weekly attendance is down by 7% since 2004. However, I would urge caution when considering trends. Some questions, such as the usual Sunday attendance, have been asked in almost the same way for many years. Others have changed, to reflect changes in church activity or the evolving interests of those using the data; these changes potentially make it difficult to compare figures from year to year.”

 

In his recently published book “The Invisible Church” Dr Steve Aisthorpe, a mission development worker for the Church of Scotland, writes: “Changes in wider society and in the practices of Christian people mean attendance at Sunday morning worship can no longer be seen as a reliable indicator of the health and scale of Christian faith. There is decline in Christian faith in Britain, but it is considerably smaller than previously assumed.”

 

It was interesting to read in the same Guardian editorial comments about the effects of the serious decline of Christianity in the UK: “Such an enormous change is bound to have implications for the rest of us. A post-Christian Europe will of course have a morality but it won’t be Christian morality. It will likely be less universalist. The idea that people have some rights just because they are human, and entirely irrespective of merit, certainly isn’t derived from observation of the world. It arose out of Christianity, no matter how much Christians have in practice resisted it. Although human rights have become embedded in our institutions at the same time as religious observance has been in decline, they could become vulnerable in an entirely post-Christian environment where the collective memory slips from the old moorings inherited from Christian ethics.”

 

It is important to keep a sense of perspective on the decline of church attendance in the UK etc. Canon Giles Fraser wrote recently in response to the recent statistics: “In 1900 … there were 8 million Christians in Africa. Now there are 335 million. And the growth rate continues to accelerate. God wasn’t dead. God was reborn. Indeed, far from being the century in which religion went away, … the 20th century was numerically the most successful century since Christ was crucified … By 2010, there were 2.2 billion Christians in the world …, 31% … of the world population … The secularisation hypothesis is a European myth, a piece of myopic parochialism that shows how narrow our worldview continues to be.”  He adds that projections from the Pew Research Center show that by 2050 the number of Christians will have grown to near 2.9 billion.

 

Fraser puts the decline in church membership down largely to Western individualism “we in the west are less and less a society of joiners. And religion begins not with the metaphysics but with the taking part – belonging preceding believing. Which is why the communitarian spirit of religion is declining in places where liberal individualism thrives.”[1]

 

The Church and Sexual Behaviour

 

Speaking on sexual morality is by no means the most important subject on the church’s agenda. But it has become an issue which will do more damage to the church than most others, not least because it is so important in society. The main damage is caused by the church compromising biblical teaching. However, on the other hand, in so far as the church reaffirms biblical sexual morality, it will make itself unpopular in society and create barriers to its witness.

 

The above-mentioned Guardian editorial commented on the report that there are now more irreligious people than Christians in England: “Over the last 50 years ‘religion’ has come to stand for the opposite of freedom and fairness. This is partly an outcome of the sexual revolution and of the long and ultimately futile resistance to it mounted by mainstream denominations. ‘The religious’ now appear to young people as obscurantist bigots whose main purpose is to police sexuality, especially female sexuality, in the service of incomprehensible doctrines. Institutional resistance to the rights of women and of gay people was an exceptionally stupid strategy for institutions that depends on the labour of both. But the Church of England was so much a part of the old imperial state that life in post-imperial Britain was never going to be easy.”

 

We Christians have to take that comment seriously. That is how many people see us. The devil has used the liberalisation of sexual behaviour to marginalise the church. Should we therefore keep quiet about sexual immorality or even give way to modern liberal views? Not at all, although it should not be the most important subject the church addresses.

 

The snare of seeking popularity

 

All too many Christians think we are meant to be popular and that this is the way to win people to faith. But Jesus said: “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:22). He adds: “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. ‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23). He goes on: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me” (John 15:18-21). So, being hated and rejected is meant to be an on-going experience of committed Christians (although we should not, of course, fan such hatred by insensitive or unwise words and actions). We do not belong to the world, says Jesus, because he has chosen us out of the world. Therefore the world hates us.

 

Jesus also says this rejection and hatred will be a sign of the End Times: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt 24:9-13).

 

Obviously, we shouldn’t go out of our way to be unpopular or do unnecessary or wrong things which cause people to reject us. We should (prayerfully) choose our battles. However, we are not to compromise on important matters, in order to try to win unbelievers. Even if we succeeded in being popular with unbelievers we would find they still regarded us as irrelevant.

 

Yet the church is doing this. The Church of Scotland has just decided that local churches can appoint a Minister who is a partner in same sex marriage. That, of course, is completely contrary to God’s Word. But the context is that Church of Scotland Ministers are not allowed to take same sex weddings. This adds ludicrous hypocrisy to the situation.

 

The Principal Clerk to the General Assembly, the Very Rev John Chalmers said the church was not changing the theological definition of marriage (which, of course, says same sex marriage is wrong) but allowing congregations to opt out if they want a minister who is in a same sex marriage. In other words, he is saying we are still calling sin sin but we are officially allowing congregations to sin if they want to! This makes the church a laughing stock.

 

In April 2016 archbishops of most of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion met in Zambia for the Anglican Consultative Council. Only Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda were unrepresented. The Archbishop of Canterbury had to use all his diplomatic skills because the ACC was facing the possibility of a major split over the US Episcopal Church approving same sex marriage. He said that the Episcopal Church had changed the “basic understanding of doctrine, ahead of the rest of the Communion and without consultation.” Again this statement can give the impression that eventually the whole of the Anglican Communion will eventually accept same sex marriage – the current problem being that the Episcopal Church hadn’t waited for all the others to catch up and agree with them.

 

In the end a major split was avoided by the Episcopal Church only being allowed a limited role in the ACC for the next three years. The Archbishop said: “We are not sanctioning them. We do not have the power to do so. We simply said, if any province, on a major issue of how the Church is run or what it believes, is out of line, there will be consequences in their full participation in the life of the Communion.” The agreement stated: “It is our unanimous desire to walk together. However given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.”

 

It is reported that eight of the 38 provinces are open to accepting same-sex unions: the US, Canada, Scotland, Wales, New Zealand, South India, South Africa and Brazil.

 

Misleading compassion

 

It is wrong to reject homosexuals as people and if we have done so we need to apologise. The church has been doing this or rather over-doing it. I fully support an apology where necessary but not such repeated apology that it gives the impression the church has unofficially changed its mind on homosexual behaviour. The latest unhelpful example is from the Church in Wales. It apologised unreservedly for the church’s prejudice towards gay and lesbian people. Fine. But then the Archbishop of Wales adds: “We are not ready, as a church, to take the step of authorising same sex marriage.” This comment conveys to society “We won’t get away with authorising same sex marriage at the moment but just wait and we will.” Other churches have conveyed the same message and society clearly believes the majority of the church privately accepts not only homosexual behaviour but also same sex marriage, but will take some time to find the courage to say so.  This is hugely damaging to both the church and society. The church must accept serious responsibility for encouraging the radical liberalisation of sexual morality in society. And we will answer to God for it.

 

Little wonder that a January 2016 YouGov poll found that 45% of those claiming to be Church of England approve of same sex marriage and only 37% believe it is wrong. Three years earlier the figures were 38% and 47% respectively. 56% of the general public favour same sex marriage and 27% oppose it.

 

The church has to decide which of two signs of the End Times it will be: an obedient church hated by many in society or a compromising church which is departing from the faith or deceiving people by false teaching (Matt 24:9-13).

 

[1] Giles Fraser, The world is getting more religious, because the poor go for God, The Guardian 26 May 2016.

 

I haven’t normally agreed with Peter Tatchell, the pro-homosexual campaigner, over the years since we appeared together in various TV discussions. But credit where credit is due. Peter has recently written in The Guardian that he has changed his mind about the prosecution of the Christian-run Ashers Bakery in Belfast over its refusal to produce a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan for a gay customer. He commented: “Much as I wish to defend the gay community, I also want to defend freedom of conscience, expression and religion … on reflection the court was wrong to penalise Ashers and I was wrong to endorse its decision.”

He asked: “Should Muslim printers be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed? Or Jewish ones publish the words of a Holocaust denier? Or gay bakers accept orders for cakes with homophobic slurs? If the Ashers verdict stands it could, for example, encourage far-right extremists to demand that bakeries and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-migrant and anti-Muslim opinions.”

He concluded: “In my view, it is an infringement of freedom to require businesses to aid the promotion of ideas to which they conscientiously object. Discrimination against people should be unlawful, but not against ideas.”

I agree. The law is an ass for making this decision. But will the legal ‘experts’ and their political colleagues correct it? I’m not holding my breath.