The Cost of Liberation
by Paul Walker
The last 200 years have seen a series of liberations. For all
its bloodiness, the French Revolution liberated ordinary working people.
The nineteenth century brought liberation of black slaves. Later, a series
of legal and social changes have brought a growing liberation to women and
But of course each liberation came at a cost. Some argued that to allow
freedom to certain people was dangerous. Society would be undermined and
this would lead to chaos and anarchy. There were always some on hand to
provide moral justification for this position. Many of them were
So it should not surprise us today that many Christians also oppose the
ordination of gay people. Just as society is beginning to recognise yet
another group who need freedom, some Christians react with bigotry and
At present this debate is tearing the Church of England apart. I find
it hard to stand by and watch the institution I love, which bases its
theology on balancing the Bible, the Church and human reason, to be taken
over by those who wish it to be a club for fundamentalists. I want it to
be the open and tolerant institution I grew up to know.
The debate matters to us all, wherever we are. First, it matters
because many non-churchgoers think of themselves as "Church of England".
Young people will not wish to associate themselves with a bigoted
Second, who comes next? Divorcees? Or will the Church of England remain
an institution open to the entire population?
Many will agree with what I�m saying. But there will also be those who
feel I'm attacking the authority of the Bible. I�m not. It's a book I
love. But it is an ancient book written for ancient and alien people. Many
of its moral codes no longer work.
The best illustration I can give of this is a letter which appeared on
the internet. It purports to be written to "Dr Laura", who is a well-known
Christian agony aunt in the United States. It goes like this:
"Dear Dr. Laura,
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I
have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that
knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the
homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus
18.22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific
laws and how to best follow them.
a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a
pleasing odour for the Lord (Leviticus 1.9). The problem is my neighbours.
They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in
Exodus 21.7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price
c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her
period of menstrual uncleanness (Leviticus 15.19-24). The problem is, how
do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.
d) Leviticus 25.44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male
and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A
friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians.
Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
e) I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus
35.2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obliged to
kill him myself?
f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an
abomination (Leviticus 11.10), it is a lesser abomination than
homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?
g) Leviticus 21.20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I
have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses.
Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you
can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and
Your devoted disciple and adoring fan."
When I hear that the Church of England is now contemplating action
against gay and lesbian people I fear for it.
As a man proud to be a priest in the Church of England, I feel that
God�s love and justice extend to all humanity regardless of race, gender,
age, sexuality or disability.