With same-sex marriage firmly in place since 2005, Canadians look to the goings-on in the U.S. and shake their heads. Time to get over homophobia.
We'd be mistaken, however, to have unbridled optimism for society's moral progress, whether with Canada or the U.S. Case in point, one of those "Christian universities" here in Canada: Trinity Western University (TWU) in Langley B.C.
Like the rest of religiously-saturated institutions in North America, TWU considers itself to the ideal place to teach courses in the sciences and the humanities to their Christian youth. They describe their approach as "faith-based" -- their code for "fundamentalist Christian."
Institutions like these fancy themselves, among other virtues, to be a moral beacon for society. As it turns out, however, with second-rate scholarship on moral matters, they are more of a drag on society's moral progress than a force for it.
To the present point, law students and associations across Canada have a bone to pick with TWU's aspirations to be Canada's first Christian law school. Given that it's controversial and it involves conservative Christians, no surprise it's also about sex. Still less surprise, it's about same-sex.
In an article in the National Post, various law professors and lawyers lay out their concern:
"Like all TWU faculty, staff and students, law students attending TWU would be required to sign a Community Covenant Agreement. That Covenant includes the stipulation that 'in keeping with Biblical and TWU ideals,' all TWU community members will abstain from same-sex sexual intimacy. Any student violating the TWU Covenant risks disciplinary measures including expulsion."
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Lunch time? Leviticus 11:7-8 reads: And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.
Thinking of getting the Superman insignia on your bicep? Leviticus 19:28 states: Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
Off to the barber? Leviticus 19:27 states: Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
It's bad enough if you're a man who has had his private parts injured -- or heaven forbid cut off -- but to add insult to injury, Deuteronomy 23:1 states: He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.
Have you ever had your palm read? Or maybe you've consulted your horoscope for a little guidance? Leviticus 19:31 reads: Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God. Photo by zopdeep on Flickr.com
Heard some juicy news about Harold in the accounting department? Can't wait to tell your BFF that you just read that Snooki is pregnant? Leviticus 19:16 states: Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour; I am the LORD. Photo by JoeInSouthernCA on Flickr.com
Gentlemen -- if you ever get in a fight and you get the feeling your lady might jump in and lend you a hand by squeezing your opponent's... ahem... "secrets," you'd better stop her. Deuteronomy 25:11-12 states: When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.
Kids these days -- you never know what's going to come out of their mouths! But hopefully your child doesn't curse you because Exodus 21:17 states: "And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death."
When it comes to the Bible, this is a big no-no (unless your spouse was cheating on you): Mark 10:11-12 states: Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.
In our fast-paced society, does anyone really work Monday to Friday from 9-5? Exodus 31:14-15 states: "Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
Headed to church, ladies? 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 states: Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
Craving a big bowl of popcorn shrimp? Leviticus 10-11 states: And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you: They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination. Photo by jeffreyw on Flickr.com
Today it might be harder to find a bride who is a virgin rather than the other way around. But Deuteronomy 22:20-21 states: But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you
The rest of us are right to be concerned. How would we feel if Jehovah's Witnesses wanted to open a medical school, teaching their students that blood transfusions are an affront to Jehovah and those who have them have no chance at a future life? I would hope Canada's medical associations and physicians would voice their concerns -- not because of its theology but because of its medical advice.
In any case, I'll let the law professors argue their legal points against TWU. My points are perhaps more rudimentary.
Whenever someone is arguing for something, it's fair and often quite enlightening to look for his or her basic operating assumption. The conservative Christian obsession with homosexuality is no secret, but what exactly is its basis? It's an inquiry seldom asked of them, and it deserves investigation.
In the case of same-sex marriage, all the typical arguments by Christians about it being a redefinition of marriage, leading to polygamy and then bestiality, and so forth, are really only secondary to their real source of scandal.
Their real furor over homosexuality comes from a book written by various authors, in parts and pieces, over two thousand years ago -- The Bible. But even then, their hostility is founded on a smattering of sentences. Just the kind of research we want our accredited Canadian universities to be teaching students. Soon-to-be lawyers, grade school teachers, and other graduates -- many of whom have aspirations to spend time after graduation working with Members of Parliament in Ottawa.
With a few scattered verses serving as proof text, those at TWU, like some other conservative Christians, consider homosexuality to be a grievous and heinous act. It's an "abomination." Further, those who participate in homosexuality have eternal damnation as their future reward. Again, all from their interpretation of the Bible.
But that's not what you typically hear from them when they are out in public. Instead, they'll recite arguments about "traditional marriage," polygamy, bestiality and the like. On the face of it, the rest of us find it hard to understand the force of these arguments. That's because they have little logical force. The real basis for their opposition to homosexuality is really more basic (albeit not any more rational).
To bring the point homo -- I mean home -- one thing you've got to admit about the Westboro Baptist Church (the infamous "God hates fags" group), when they get out and demonstrate against homosexuality, you don't have to guess what they are really thinking. "The Bible Condemns Sodomites." That's the core of what they think the Bible says. Westboro is only being a little more honest about what they really believe deep down.
Given that this is the central operating assumption, again, why doesn't TWU just come out and say so? Coming out, they should realize, is not just a cliché. It is good for the soul.
The reason for TWU's reluctance is clear: the rest of society has moved on from frontier preaching times. Today, language of this sort brings a resounding shock from the rest of society. "Secular" morality, it appears, has tempered their language.
Why hasn't it tempered it down to the core? They may realize that being politically correct is sometimes wise to practice. But in moral argument, transparency, honesty and openness are equal demands. And TWU doesn't meet them.
The second point is to the nature of the university. TWU has said that, "a faith-based community still has the religious freedom in Canada to maintain its beliefs and participate fully in society."
The trouble is that TWU wants to teach beliefs that lack rigorous scholarship. True, there is religious freedom in Canada. But like any freedoms, none are absolute. What would we say if they were teaching that the Bible doesn't allow for mixed-race marriage? What would we think if they were teaching that the Bible doesn't condemn slavery, so it's permissible? It hasn't been that long ago that these beliefs were supported by mainstream conservative Christianity.
Trouble is, the Christian attack on homosexuality is still quite in vogue, not quite reaching the level of cultural repugnance of these other, former, "Christian values."
Perhaps the most damning argument against TWU and their discrimination against homosexuality, and by extension same-sex marriage, is that it can't be found in the Bible. How could it be so?
We used to believe lots of things from the Bible we tortured others to accept. We got over the Earth not being the centre of our solar system; we've (mostly) gotten over the universe being older than 6,000 years; we've become tired of religious wars; we know there's no qualitative difference between races and genders. Hopefully we'll soon get over homosexuality.