Dr Ian Paul on his ‘Psephizo’ blog reports on some interesting research by Christian social scientist Mark Regnerus in the States. Regnerus asked what pro-same-sex-marriage Christians believe about sexual behaviour in general. In other words, he wants to set the debate in a wider moral context. His findings can be found here http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2014/08/13667/
Ian also comments on the coming-out of Christian singer Vicky Beeching and the current fall-out in Christian circles of this. (Personally I have no idea who Vicky Beeching is but obviously she is well-known enough to have created some waves!)
What interested me most however is Ian’s own exploration of some of the issues raised:
“What is going on in this debate and the way it is being conducted? We cannot underestimate the impact of social media on the discussion. Although social media has done a lot of good (including allowing you to read this blog!) it also, as someone said to me recently, tends to blur the distinction between personal and public, personalise every issue, promote the idea that morality rests on sincerity and empathy and assert that the expression and experience of pain trumps any argument of principle. It can lead to the deconstruction (and relativisation) of any higher or external authority, centre discussion on self-promotion and self-defence, and wrap all this up with the need to collect allies, affirmation and public acclaim. Or (in the words of another friend) ‘experience is the new god’.
All this can lead to the closing down of discussion and mutual engagement. Because we all have ‘experiences’ and these experiences appear to be telling us different things, then there can end up with very little in terms of points of contact. If we are not allowed to critically reflect, with respect and responsibility, on the claims such experiences make, the conversation quickly ends. In fact, experience can never be absolute in itself—or at least, our account of experience cannot be absolute. Experience can never be a ‘given’, something that ‘just is’, since when we talk of our experience we are locating events and feelings in our lives in an interpretative framework, through which we make sense of who we are in the world. Our account of our experience, then, is as much an interpretative construct as is our reading of Scripture. When the two do not appear to correspond, or when they offer conflicting interpretations of who we understand ourselves to be, we need to re-read both ourselves as well as Scripture. It is not possible simply to dismiss or reinterpret Scripture or claim that it is irrelevant. As we attempt to read Scripture, we must also be committed to allowing Scripture to read us. This is, in fact, the common experience of all Christians as they read—there are times when each of us is reluctant to see ourselves as Scripture depicts us.”
I noted that somebody has said ‘experience is the new god.’ It was exactly the same in the 1960s when I was a teenager. Not so new, and still raising all these and many other moral questions.