Duke University, which prides itself on being an elite and cosmopolitan institution of higher learning, has suddenly reminded the world—and probably many of its own astonished students—that it has a religious affiliation with the United Methodist Church.
Duke’s president, Vincent E. Price, joined the presidents of 92 other schools also claiming Methodist ties in voting unanimously on January 4 to endorse a statement that calls on the church to jettison a 1984 provision in its Book of Discipline (its rules for church governance) that bars “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from its ministry and forbids its clergy to perform same-sex weddings. It was a statement timed to precede—and influence—a special session of the UMC’s General Conference devoted exclusively to the church’s teachings on sex, scheduled for February 23–26 in St. Louis. The statement, from the National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church, urges the UMC to honor “the past and current practices of inclusion by amending their policies and practices to affirm full inclusion in the life and ministry of the United Methodist Church of all persons regardless of their race, ethnicity, creed, national origin, gender, gender identity/expression or sexual orientation.”
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My dear Wormwood,
Even under Slubgob you must have learned at college the routine
technique of sexual temptation, and since, for us spirits, this
whole subject is one of considerable tedium (though necessary as
part of our training) I will pass it over. But on the larger issues
involved I think you have a good deal to learn.
The Enemy’s demand on humans takes the form of a dilemma; either complete
abstinence or unmitigated monogamy. Ever since our Father’s first great victory, we
have rendered the former very difficult to them. The latter, for the last few centuries,
we have been closing up as a way of escape. We have done this through the poets and
novelists by persuading the humans that a curious, and usually short-lived, experience
which they call “being in love” is the only respectable ground for marriage; that
marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement permanent; and that a marriage
which does not do so is no longer binding. This idea is our parody of an idea that came
from the Enemy.
The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not
another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. My good is my good and
your good is yours. What one gains another loses. Even an inanimate object is what it
is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by
thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them. A self does the same. With beasts
the absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom
out of a weaker self into a stronger. “To be” means “to be in competition”.
Now the Enemy’s philosophy is nothing more nor less than one continued attempt
to evade this very obvious truth. He aims at a contradiction. Things are to be many,
yet somehow also one. The good of one self is to be the good of another. This impossibility
He calls love, and this same monotonous panacea can be detected under all He
does and even all He is — or claims to be. Thus He is not content, even Himself, to
be a sheer arithmetical unity; He claims to be three as well as one, in order that this
nonsense about Love may find a foothold in His own nature. At the other end of the
scale, He introduces into matter that obscene invention the organism, in which the
parts are perverted from their natural destiny of competition and made to co-operate.
His real motive for fixing on sex as the method of reproduction among humans
is only too apparent from the use He has made of it. Sex might have been, from our
point of view, quite innocent. It might have been merely one more mode in which a
stronger self preyed upon a weaker — as it is, indeed, among the spiders where the
bride concludes her nuptials by eating her groom. But in the humans the Enemy has
gratuitously associated affection between the parties with sexual desire. He has also
made the offspring dependent on the parents and given the parents an impulse to support
it — thus producing the Family, which is like the organism, only worse; for the
members are more distinct, yet also united in a more conscious and responsible way.
The whole thing, in fact, turns out to be simply one more device for dragging in Love.
Now comes the joke. The Enemy described a married couple as “one flesh”. He did
not say “a happily married couple” or “a couple who married because they were in love”,
but you can make the humans ignore that. You can also make them forget that the man
they call Paul did not confine it to married couples. Mere copulation, for him, makes
“one flesh”. You can thus get the humans to accept as rhetorical eulogies of “being in
love” what were in fact plain descriptions of the real significance of sexual intercourse.
The truth is that wherever a man lies with a woman, there, whether they like it or not, a
transcendental relation is set up between them which must be eternally enjoyed or eternally
endured. From the true statement that this transcendental relation was intended
to produce, and, if obediently entered into, too often will produce, affection and the
family, humans can be made to infer the false belief that the blend of affection, fear, and
desire which they call “being in love” is the only thing that makes marriage either happy
or holy. The error is easy to produce because “being in love” does very often, in Western
Europe, precede marriages which are made in obedience to the Enemy’s designs,
that is, with the intention of fidelity, fertility and good will; just as religious emotion
very often, but not always, attends conversion. In other words, the humans are to be
encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly-coloured and distorted version
of something the Enemy really promises as its result. Two advantages follow. In the
first place, humans who have not the gift of continence can be deterred from seeking
marriage as a solution because they do not find themselves “in love”, and, thanks to us,
the idea of marrying with any other motive seems to them low and cynical. Yes, they
think that. They regard the intention of loyalty to a partnership for mutual help, for
the preservation of chastity, and for the transmission of life, as something lower than
a storm of emotion. (Don’t neglect to make your man think the marriage-service very
offensive.) In the second place any sexual infatuation whatever, so long as it intends
marriage, will be regarded as “love”, and “love” will be held to excuse a man from all
the guilt, and to protect him from all the consequences, of marrying a heathen, a fool,
or a wanton. But more of this in my next,
Your affectionate uncle
The world is rightly talking about Michael Curry’s wedding sermon. It was a ‘tour-de-force’. He is very good at preaching. But it also offers us all an insight into the dramatic difference between the two kind of Christianity that are at odds with each other in the Anglican Communion.
We will call them for the moment, ‘Christianity-max’, and ‘Christianity-lite’.
Credit where it is due. ‘Christianity-lite’ can be very appealing. It reaches out to where people are hurting and it encourages them. It reaches out to where they are longing for good change, and it promises them that change can come.
It speaks continuously of love and hope. Everyone likes to hear of love and hope.
But it has three serious flaws. It doesn’t define love, and it never delivers on the hope. It isn’t what Jesus preached.
It was of course wonderful to hear a celebration of love in the…
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The alt-right is anti-Christian. Not by implication or insinuation, but by confession. Its leading thinkers flaunt their rejection of Christianity and their desire to convert believers away from it. Greg Johnson, an influential theorist with a doctorate in philosophy from Catholic University of America, argues that “Christianity is one of the main causes of white decline” and a “necessary condition of white racial suicide.” Johnson edits a website that publishes footnoted essays on topics that range from H. P. Lovecraft to Martin Heidegger, where a common feature is its subject’s criticisms of Christian doctrine. “Like acid, Christianity burns through ties of kinship and blood,” writesGregory Hood, one of the website’s most talented essayists. It is “the essential religious step in paving the way for decadent modernity and its toxic creeds.”
The temptation to dismiss the alt-right should be resisted. Like Christians in late antiquity, we ought to see ourselves through the eyes of our pagan critics and their growing ranks of online popularizers. They distort many truths, through both malice and ignorance, and lead young men into espousing views and defending authors they scarcely understand. Yet we can learn from their distortions, and in doing so show how Christian theology, whose failings have contributed to the movement’s rise, might also be its remedy.
The alt-right’s understanding of human identity is reductive, and its rejection of Christian solidarity premature. “Christianity provides an identity that is above or before racial and ethnic identity,” Richard Spencer complains. “It’s not like other religions that come out of a folk spirit.” Spencer is right that the baptismal covenant transcends our local loyalties and identities. It does not, however, eradicate them.
Astonishingly, despite being copied four centuries after the last reference to his Gospel commentary, this manuscript seemed to preserve the original form of Fortunatianus’ groundbreaking work.
Such a discovery is of considerable significance to our understanding of the development of Latin biblical interpretation, which went on to play such an important part in the development of Western thought and literature. In this substantial commentary, Fortunatianus is reliant on even earlier writings which formed the link between Greek and Latin Christianity.