Biblical Sexuality, John Lewis, and the Religion of Rights

This blog post is in response to three stories that have come my way in recent days, all of which I have shared on my Facebook page and have attracted varying responses, as well as a subject that has long been close to my heart, that of culture wars. In one sense these are unrelated and in addressing now these merit separate responses. However, these do relate and with a little help from me and discernment on the part of the reader, I hope people will see there is a relationship, and not just that – what is being reported and commented on has profound implications for our culture.

In the first article, titled: “150 Christian leaders sign statement on biblical sexuality”, we read: “Over 150 Christian leaders have signed a statement clarifying the biblical view of sexuality, including on marriage, gender identity and sexual orientation. The Nashville Statement, released this week, contains 14 articles which affirm God’s pattern for sexuality, and the saving power of the gospel to redeem from all sin”.

In the second article, titled: “No more Boys and Girls at John Lewis”, we read: “John Lewis has become the first UK retailer to remove gender labels from its children’s clothing’ … The department store chain has taken ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ labels from its clothes.  John Lewis has also removed separate sections in all its stores. Caroline Bettis, the head of childrenswear at John Lewis, said: ‘We do not want to reinforce gender stereotypes within our John Lewis collections and instead want to provide greater choice and variety to our customers, so that the parent or child can choose what they would like to wear.’”

In the third article, titled: “The Religion of Rights”, we read: “”European society”, says Sir Roger Scruton, “is rapidly jettisoning its Christian heritage and has found nothing to put in its place save the religion of human rights”. But, he argues, this new “religion” delivers one-sided solutions since rights favour the person who can claim them – whatever the moral reasons for opposing them. He says Europe needs to rediscover its Christian roots”. What follows is a ten minute radio broadcast of Scruton arguing his case.

Regarding the first article, I discover that of the leaders named who I was previously aware off, these were those who I basically agreed with theologically, so I was unsurprised at what followed, which I thought was a comprehensive coverage of a traditional, conservative position on biblical sexuality. Some who commented suggested that these were not representative of the entire spectrum of Christian viewpoints (which is true) and the “biblical” position is not the only correct one, (which is not true – imo). Some expressed a fear it could stir up homophobic hatred, although I never got that sense reading the Statement, but rather it was a necessary corrective to the confusion that abounds among Christians on this subject. If I have a criticism, the statement could have been more conciliatory to LBGT folk. Fear and hate needs to be replaced by love and friendship.

Regarding the second article, the writer sees the John Lewis action as the thin end of the wedge toward creating gender confusion. Some who responded to my Facebook post see this as a positive move toward removing gender stereotypes, a revolution that has been underway already for several years. I have in my other blogs more recently addressed the issue of sexual identity, especially regarding removal of gender distinction, in much the same way prior to that I considered the subject of sexual orientation. I view the John Lewis move with some concern. While I agree there is a need to remove certain gender stereotypes, to push for all distinctions between the sexes to be removed e.g. regarding certain clothing items, especially following puberty, is (imo) veering toward child abuse and bowing to the tide of cultural change, more to do with political correctness than truth, is not in the child’s best interest.

Regarding the third article, the writer makes a valid but unpopular point that the traditional fabric of European society has been built on notions like loving God and one’s neighbour, along with those of repentance, forgiveness and natural law (that which pertains to those obligations intrinsic to a free and self governing life) and is what distinguishes European civilization from those before it, which is above all about the sanctity of the individual, and is firmly Christian based. As far as Scruton is concerned, while European institutions loosely subscribe to this ideals, they are quite prepared to sacrifice them when it comes to human rights, especially those espoused by feminist and LBGT lobbies, and promote other ideals, such as equality.  He sees that once religion has been ditched, only to be replaced by another to fill the void: i.e. that of human rights, because there is not a firm basis for establishing what rights should be maintained, it then becomes a matter of opinion, e.g. on the definition of marriage and who has the right to marry, and a more thorny subject – that of discrimination. He worries that while the indigenous population is not allowed to discriminate, that does not apply to immigrants. He also sees orthodoxy trumping truth. He worries too that we are moving to a problematic paradigm when rights are elevated and duties scorned. All this is arbitrated over particularly by those groups that are in the ascendancy. In short he has little time for the new religion, which he argues needs to be ditched, and in truth, neither do I.

One of the things that each of the three articles have in common is that each story illustrates we are in a culture war and for those like me who believe there is a right way for the culture to go, the trends that are on display are taking the culture in the wrong direction. While I concede I have no more right to insist my vision for the culture be adopted above any other, my concerns are at least two-fold. For those who reject orthodox Christianity, linked to values based on absolute truth, I see too little rationale why the alternatives should be adopted other than personal opinion based upon nothing that is substantial, and who is to say which personal opinion is the right one to be adopted?  I believe the precepts laid down by the Almighty, e.g. as revealed in the Bible, are for our own good and any other put forward is harmful or at least less good.

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