Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In Which I Agree with Tony Jones on Something

I don't agree with Tony Jones, the Emergent Church leader, about much of anything and I don't read him much any more. I happened to link to his blog while reading a post at Mere Orthodoxy on Jim Wallis and his little flap on homosexuality. (It looks like Sojourners is in the last stages of resistance to the spirit of the age.) Anyway, here is what I thought I could honestly quote and agree with from Jones:

But here’s the thing. I get questions like this a lot: “C’mon, you know him, what does Jim Wallis/Rob Bell/Shane Claiborne/fill-in-the-blank really think about gays?” The point is, a lot of people are making a lot of assumptions about leaders in the Protestant church who are progressive on other issues. And the questions those people ask me, I think, disguise a more fundamental question: Can someone who is theologically thoughtful and progressive on other biblical and social issues remain conservative on issues of human sexuality?

Jim Wallis, Shane Claiborne, and others have, to this point, answered yes to that question. I have my doubts about whether that position is tenable in the long run.

Later, in the Comments section, Jones says:

Annie, I agree that economic justice does not require a progressive hermeneutic, although there are many conservative Christians who find defenses of capitalism in the Bible. However, a progressive hermeneutic is necessary to argue for racial equality and gender equality from scripture. I say if you affirm inter-racial marriage and women preachers, then you’re an eyelash away from affirming gay ordination.

Setting aside the nonsensical jab about inter-racial marriage, (I'll bet Evangelical churches are far more racially diverse than Emergent ones), I have to agree with his linkage of women's ordination and approval of homosexuality. He is right that you need a "progressive hermeneutic" to get approval for women's ordination and you obviously need it for approval of homosexuality too.

Don't ask me what a "progressive hermeneutic" is: ask him. It seems to be any method of twisting Scripture into a pretzel so as to make it - amazingly! - line up with the current prejudices of the Western middle-classes in the late modern world. But whatever it is, you clearly need one to make the Bible sound like a 21st century political correctness seminar.

One after another, liberal Protestant denominations are capitulating to the sexual revolution. Today comes news that the Presbyterians have taken the leap too. It will be interesting to see which, if any, of the denominations that embraced women's ordination will have not embraced homosexuality 20 years later. It the answer turns out to be zero, will that have proven conclusively that women's ordination was a theological mistake? Or will it just be evidence for why we should all embrace our inner sexual nihilist?

I think Tony Jones is right to say that it is not really possible to remain conservative on sexual issues and to become "progressive" on social and economic issues. I tried for years to do it and I found that there are logical and historical links - not to mention dodgy hermeneutical moves - that join progressive thought on a wide range of issues. The Marxist critique of society is a total critique that seeks to overthrow the family, the state and private property and Marx and Engels were quite right to link them together.

A choice must be made and I made mine. I concluded that if support for abortion and the sexual revolution were logically entailed by a socialist approach to economics then socialism must necessarily be immoral. So I said farewell to socialism. The alternative is to become a liberal Protestant and I'd rather be a Christian.

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