Category Archives: Sexuality

The Demands of Primary Human Welfare


Another word from Clayton Chrusch:

A further note about Rowan Williams and the gay issue.

“The one adversarial situation that does not impoverish both sides is the conflict between the demands of primary human welfare on the one hand and a paranoid clinging to arbitrary power on the other. Naturally, this black-and-white situation is often very hard to find in the complexities of revolutions and power struggles, but it is there, and nothing in any revolutionary situation is of any importance except preserving it.”

There is a class of people who discuss theological issues including homosexuality at a very high level. These are people of liberal and conservative and moderate persuasions, but they have enough in common that they can speak to each other at conferences, in academic institutions, and on the internet ad infinitem. Rowan Williams is their high priest. These are generally people who hate the brutishness of popular homophobia, but nor do they accept the popular progressive call to immediate change. They are plagued by a tentativeness that sends them back into discussion, back to scripture, back into theological studies of all kinds. The prose they produce is elegant, reasoned, intelligent, clear. Their expressions of concern for gay people and for the various sides of the debate are clearly sincerely felt. To them, the gay issue is an issue affecting real flesh and blood people, and they make a point of never forgetting that, and yet they also know that sincerity is in bed with self-deception, and so there are no easy answers and the discussion must continue, and no one should do anything disrespectful of anyone else, most certainly should not cast the issue in black and white terms or generally be loud, brash, or make a nuisance of themselves. They are the height of the intellectual world. They have every spiritual and cultural attainment except truth and obedience.

What I love so much about Frye is that he also operates at the very highest intellectual level (and spiritual level), and yet he has a conscience and guts and is not afraid to cut through all the cowardly, sissified, hand-wringing bullshit that happens there:

More on Homophobia and The Anglican Communion


Matthew Griffin writes:

It worries me, Joe, but I think that’s one of the better analogies of the position of the Anglican Communion that I’ve encountered–and worse, I find it accurately captures my own anxiety for the Communion’s future.

While this blog focuses its gaze upon Frye and his work, the Anglican Communion and the issues Clayton mentions offer a parallel to some of the conversations we’ve had, particularly around the line of criticism Joe condemns in his post. One of the reasons for the lack of condemnation of the current attack on homosexuals in Uganda seems to me to stem from a facile use of post-colonial thought: because of past bad acts, many areas and leaders of the Church fail to speak out against what is and should be condemned.

Thanks for sharing those bits of Rowan’s new book, Joe; my copy is sitting on a shelf, waiting for me to scratch out some time for it. I should bump it up on my to-read list.

Clayton Chrusch writes:

Matthew, as you know, it’s not just post-colonial thought but also thought about homosexuality itself that ties the hands of the Anglican hierarchy. Homosexual relationships are incompatible with scripture according to the official doctrine of the Anglican Communion. Rowan Williams himself reiterates this on occasion, not so much to agree with it, but to make the point that it is the progressives and not the conservatives who are moving away from the church. (I for one think that what Rowan Williams believes in his heart of hearts is of no interest–either to me, to gays in general, or to God. His actions are what matter. I remember about 8 years ago when some gays were insisting that George W. Bush was not personally a homophobe.)

Joe Adamson writes:

Yes, that is exactly how Frye sees it: belief has nothing to do with what you say you believe, but what your actions reveal you believe.

In response to a question about belief an interview with Don Harron, Frye responds:

“I would be less interested in what people say they believe than in how people behave. I think a genuine belief is an axiom of behavior. If you want to know what a man believes you watch him, you see what he does. What he really believes will be what his actions show that he believes.” (Interviews, 393)

A House Divided: In Response to Clayton Chrusch


In response to Clayton Chrusch on Rowan Williams:

I certainly don’t accept the whole of what he says, if that is his position concerning gays, Clayton. I certainly liked what he had to say in his preface to his Dostoevsky book. I thought it was quite impressive, and therefore I am looking forward to reading the book further. Having checked his bio out on wikipedia I can also see that he has more than just that position I don’t necessarily agree with.

What you have to say reminds me, as a student of American literature, of the increasingly untenable and morally disgusting compromises on the issue of slavery that were made by the Northern States with the slave power in the South in order to avoid “schism.” Any compromise was seen as preferable to the sundering of the Union, and it was all to no avail in the end anyway. The Union had to be broken.

Primary Concerns, Gay Rights, and the Anglican Communion


Clayton Chrusch, in response to Frye, Alter, and Rowan Williams:

I have no doubt that Rowan Williams is one of the smartest people on the planet and a prayerful and spiritual man. And yet he is a homophobe. He chooses the unity of the Anglican communion over the blessing of same-sex couples, secondary concerns over primary concerns. He has a very sophisticated and compelling theory of the body of Christ that justifies all this. I’m not saying that he is obviously wrong. He is smarter than I am. But to accept the whole of what Rowan Williams says is to deny Frye the primacy of primary concern.

Rowan Williams reminds me of Frye when he says the the crucifixion of Christ is not only something that “bad” people are responsible for, but is the considered conclusion that we all come to because it is expedient for one man to die for the people. Of course he turns this around and says that it is schism, and not the destruction of human beings that is the real analogy to the crucifixion of Christ. Two kinds of Christians. It is expedient that gays should be executed in Uganda as long as the church remains unbroken.