GENERAL CONVENTION 2003


 

 

A NEW PURITANISM?
by Tom Woodward

I wish we could go back to the beginning of our discussions to talk about first principles. Reading the Living Church material, it seems to me that it really is an open question as to whether our sexual ethics are being changed. Where in all our history is a condemnation of the relationship between David and Jonathan? Norman Pittenger and others made it very clear that in speaking about relationships, our moral theology applies to both homosexual and heterosexual relationships.

We always get in trouble when we talk about body parts instead of sacramental relationships. Oddly enough, there is a very close connection between Hugh Hefner of Playboy fame and the Truro Statement, the Distant Primates and some of our more conservative bishops -- they focus on body parts and not relationships. That is not surprising because that is the overwhelming focus of our culture -- and in a way it has little to do with sex. In our culture, most of what passes about sex is not about persons, it isabout body parts. Harvey Cox, back in the mid-sixties, called this the "New Puritanism" and I am afraid he is right.

The problem with Playboy magazine, Baywatch, pornographic materials and male hunks, focusing on some mythical "gay life style" is not that they are too sexual, it is that they are really anti-sexual. They have little, if anything, to do with two people in relationship. Cox pointed out that in many ways we are the real Puritans because they are frightened to death of a sexual relationship between two people, so we talk about body parts and what juxtapositions of erogenous zones are appropriate or sinful.

How limiting it is to describe sexual intercourse as "making love." Sex is only one of hundreds of ways one human can love another. One of the terrible things drilled in the minds of so many men is that there is only one way to love, really love a woman. . .and that is sexually. One of the terrible things drilled into us, theologically, is that there is no way to love, really love someone of the same gender.

Again, we have a real vocation in what we discern . . . to widen and deepen the discussion rather than keep it on narrow and puritanical grounds.

Tom Woodward (ECR cl3)
July 24, 2003

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