Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Christian Sex Therapists

For me, the strangest thing about the case of Gary McFarlane isn't the fact that he lost his appeal at the Employment Appeal Tribunal. According to 'Church Times'...

'Mr McFarlane, a solicitor based in Bristol, used to work for the Avon branch of Relate, the relationship-counselling service. In September 2007, Mr McFarlane asked to be exempted from working with same-sex couples where sexual issues were involved, such as offering cognitive sexual-technique coun­selling, as he believes that the Bible teaches him that same-sex practice is sinful.'

Of course, were it a Heavenly court, Mr McFarlane would get his job back, since, indeed the practice of homosexuality is a grave sin and he's under no obligation as far as God is concerned to co-operate in the sin of another.

It is unjust that he lost his job on grounds of discrimination and that he was unable to practise his religion and his work as a relationship counsellor (though, were he giving sex advice to unmarried couples, would that too not be against central tenets of Christianity?) by being discriminated against so harshly.

Like doctors who don't like killing babies, there should be an exemption for people whose religious faith means they cannot, in conscience, assist in the sexual life of practising homosexuals, since while all Christians are called to bear witness to the dignity of each human being, Christians (or indeed Muslims/Jews and other people of faith) shouldn't be forced acquiesce in the sin of another, if, indeed, they do not want to. A Christian relationship adviser on meeting a homosexual couple, would, surely, advise chastity.

However, as a total aside, how on earth is a man who we presume is a heterosexual to be expected to give 'cognitive sexual technique counselling' to homosexuals?  If 'good sex' is what this therapy was about, then how's a straight guy, of any faith or none, going to help a couple of gay guys achieve it? Gay sex is still something of a minority sport, so to speak. Would he have even had 'training' in this? Aside from the moral issues involved for him on a personal basis, man on man action is hardly going to be his speciality. Likewise, how would a woman relationship counsellor react to being asked how to 'pep up' the bed life of two homosexual men? I don't know. It all seems quite bizarre.

In fact, it is a bit much to ask any heterosexual man to give advice on homosexual sex and how to do it well, since homosexual sex is, still, something of a sexual sub-culture in the UK, even though the media often like to portray that 50% of the population of the UK is doing it. Sorry to sound crude, but, basically, isn't it a little insulting (and rather pointless) to ask a heterosexual man how to, say, give good 'head' to another man?

Indeed, if a 'straight' couple wanted advice on how to engage in S&M practices, how would a relationship counsellor advice them? Surely, this homosexual couple should have asked someone with either a history of working with gay couples, or indeed, another homosexual for this kind of sex therapy?

Instead, they got put with the heterosexual Christian guy who probably thinks that the couple are already bound for eternal damnation, thirty seconds after having set his eyes on them...What homosexual couple really think that a straight, Christian man is really going to be able to help them 'sort out' their ailing sex life? It all makes me think that Mr McFarlane was stitched up good and proper.

Just a thought.


Magdalena said...

OK, I promise, 100% that this will be my final post. I largely agree these laws are ridiculous, but surely this was Mr. McFarlane's own fault. Why did he feel the need to mention it? As you say, how many gay couples are going to come to him, and could he not just tactfully and respectfully ask them if they would not prefer a counsellor more experienced in matters affecting their own lifestyle?

Why though should this mean that the law ought to offer him protection for his views? Why would this not apply to a racist asking the council 'please don't make me work with non-whites, I can't stand them'? Perhaps you would limit this provision to religions. But then what about a Wahhabi who refuses to work with women who do not cover themselves? Or Protestants who refuse to talk to Catholics? Surely the only workable solution is the one his employers pursued

The Bones said...

I will exercise my right to discriminate and will refuse to answer your questions because, frankly, I don't have to.

I am exercising my religious freedom in as much as I don't have to engage in conversation with a rabid heretic who hates the Church and is massively pro-choice.

My personal opinion, I have already stated, and I don't need to state it again.

Anonymous said...

I do not 'hate' the cult, I mean church; I am intrigued by its capacity to attract lonely and repressed homosexual men like yourself and to push them into ever more fantastically bizarre points of view. But I do believe your mask has slipped revealing the true face of your faith. Discrimination. Blind, irrational prejudice directed against others out there who do not repress their secret burning desires. Tell you what, you say a prayer for me, and I will keep my fingers crossed that one day you can accept yourself (to quote the Smiths)

The Bones said...

Nice...I am not so ashamed of my identity that I have to 'go anonymous'.

The Bones said...

Come on! Whoever you are! Come out!

The Bones said...

I mean, if you don't like this blog, why not read something which suits your tastes. The Guardian, perhaps, where Comment Isn't Free.

You can say what you like 'old friend' but here your view can be expressed. Try practising Christianity in the World and in your workplace, mate, and see how you get on then!

Anonymous said...

Yeah it must be a real bind for you having to shoulder this terribly unpopular belief system which only 2 billion other people also fully accept. I admit I will never know the difficulties you experience as a cash in hand private gardener of faith, but I can only imagine the prejudice you encounter while winding wire supports around a rose or pruning back a privet hedge.

I like the way you instantly assume I read the Guardian (which I don't) because I pointed out, quite reasonably, what stance you would have this man's employers take. 'You don't like gays? Why didn't you say so, just go and give Rita a hand with the filing. What? She is living in sin. Oh crumbs, well can you give Tom a call about not turning up? What's that? Tom didn't come in because he doesn't want to be next to a Protestant and you aren't going to call him because his views are an offence to your freedom of conscience. Alright, can you just go and send that email to head office. Oh.... you don't agree with it.'

The Bones said...

I haven't always been a gardener you know.

Tolerance and forgiveness in the workplace is what makes the World go round.

My point is this: As a Christian the guy is going against his conscience if he is to encourage the practise of homosexuality. So, what's the poor man to do?

He knows he answers to God and doesn't want to acquiesce/give encouragement to others to commit a grave and mortal sin.

Sure, he might work with others in the office and if any of them are gay and practising, then that is their affair.

Can't you see that he is being drawn into their lifestyle and being asked to give it his personal blessing, which he can't because it would be to go against his conscience?

And look at what happened to him when he followed his conscience. He got the sack! Okay, you can say, it should have been done more wisely, but the end result is still the same.

As I say, he could have advised them to be chaste but I am not sure how that would have gone down either. You seem to be one of those types who assumes that just because a man is gay, he must be living the gay lifestyle or in a gay relationship.

It is you who seem unable to accept the diversity of human relationships. There are active gay men, who you think are great. And then there are chaste gay men, some of whom are Catholic and agree with Church teaching and these you don't like.

The Bones said...

I apologise Magdalena for being uncharitable to you.

Mag said...

No, I was asking for it! Look, my simple confusion here is that if this chap is 'one of them' who doesn't like gays, presumably he has some pretty 'orthodox' values on sex more generally. Given that situation, I doubt working as a sex therapist is the ideal role for him.
Anyway, if he does have these problems, he must be quite simply unable to walk to the shops, let alone do his job properly. I am not so much having a go at him, I can see why he would not want to do it. But your post was attacking the government, as if they had any other option. If they allow him 'freedom of conscience' on a matter like this, where would it stop? Tis all I meant to say (and you know I'm bloody right!)

The Bones said...

Relate, I think, is a charity, not linked to the Govt. The Govt made the Equalities law and it doesn't afford equality to practising Christians.

People should be able to say 'no', if they feel they are being asked to be complicit in another's sin.

If he were really Christian he'd ask to work only with married couples. Marriage Care would suit him better, I think.

The Bones said...

I've always found the idea of 'sex therapy' a little creepy.

Magdalena said...

"People should be able to say 'no', if they feel they are being asked to be complicit in another's sin."

But unless we are living under a Catholic theocracy then why would we expect the govt' to limit this freedom of conscience to a specifically Catholic notion such as sin? Why not say "people should be able to say no if they don't like gays', or 'if they don't like straights', or 'if they don't like non-whites'? Imagine the furore if a gay worker refused to counsel a straight married couple! Yet it would seem to follow from your definition. Why not just say, as I do, that the employment law is not there to protect individual prejudices. This was clearly a prejudice anyway, it had nothing to do with conscience, the guy just didn't want to talk to a gay couple.

"Can't you see that he is being drawn into their lifestyle and being asked to give it his personal blessing, which he can't because it would be to go against his conscience?"

He is not being asked to 'give it his blessing' - a blessing is a symbolic act conferring sanctity on a union. He was not asked to perform such a ceremony. I fully support the law which states the Church does NOT have to appoint gay priests, since this would be a blessing (they would be sanctifying a life style in the name of God). But simply doing your job without complaining is not a sacred or symbolic act, it was my understanding as a Catholic that not every action was imbued with sacridity or significance, only symbolic acts were (such as confession, communion, mass). As such, there is no theological defence for this man's actions either, he was just being, as Gordon Brown would say, a bigot

"You seem to be one of those types who assumes that just because a man is gay, he must be living the gay lifestyle or in a gay relationship."

'Being gay' implies a disposition toward an act, which was not part of the Catholic understanding of sin. There was no such thing as 'being gay' prior to the late nineteenth century, since this implies a sinful disposition continuous with personality. One was either a sodomite or not (that is, a person who had committed a sinful act, as a discreet act of vice to which all humans are disposed by virtue of original sin). It is clear that those who were caught doing these acts and were not killed were not labelled 'gay' or treated any differently, there was no conceptual model of gayness (I can clarify this point if it is opaque but I don;t want to write too much).

It seems though that you accept one may be perpetually disposed toward sin but can choose to ignore that disposition. This does not seem to be a position the Church would have supported until very recently, when popular understandings of character types (i.e. homosexuals) emerged

Magdalena said...

Btw is that you playing 'Accept Yourself'? Greta performance if so. Unfortunately I am old enough to remember the Smiths when they were just becoming popular, but that song still thrills me each time I hear it so many years later

The Bones said...

But is this not an atheist theocracy? You can't have it both ways. You implicitly support the theocracy that suits your view.

If people are getting sacked for saying no on the basis of their conscience then it is hardly a pluracy of views.

If he aids them in their sex life then he is complicit. It is his conscience, and his conscience should be respected.

It is not against a gay man's conscience to work with straight couples on their sex/relationship life.

No, not me playing that song.

The Bones said...

The Church has always considered sodomy to be a grave and mortal sin, Magdalena.

The Church states that homosexual disposition is an 'objective moral disorder', but that is not offensive to a Church inhabited by sinners.

Everyone in the Church has an objective moral disorder. Were that not so, there would be no need for Confessions.

Magdalena said...

My point is that one cannot be predisposed toward a particular type of vice under traditional Catholic thinking, since all vice was a sign of human weakness. The sodomite of (for example) the 16th century was merely a 'normal' individual who listened to the devil. But the idea of a 'pathological' individual who was constantly disposed to such acts, by virtue of a 'character trait', is a very modern notion indeed. Hence, by saying a 'homosexual' is a man with the constant predilection to sin, who is good or bad solely by virtue of his ability to withstand this predisposition, is to confuse an 'old' tradition (vice is a discreet act that any individual may, in theory, fall prey to) and a 'new' idea (there are certain individuals more likely to consider such practices as part of their world). This seems to be an indisputable Truth; there were no Saints, or Church Fathers who even contemplated the possibility of a 'type of person' predisposed to vice. The predisposition to (a particular) vice was not a 'type' of person, but just the person in general. We were all vice-like beings. I am merely suggesting that, by accepting 'character types', but by insisting on the idea that sin comes from discreet acts, you are blurring two traditions: the one which insists upon the unique and discreet nature of sin, and the other which insist upon the continuity of predispositions to certain types of actions. The way I see it, there is room for manoeuvre here, since you can accept predisposition as a burden, as a sign that God is demonstrating your humility. In the same way, the laity who marry accept that they are unable to renounce concupiscence, and are unable to fulfil the sacrament of the priesthood. Yet they do not take this to be a sign of 'failure', as much as a sign that the general run of humanity is feeble. So be it, we are all weak and fallible. I do not see why homosexual men ought to incur any greater wrath than the heterosexual sinners we live amongst

The Bones said...

We all have a 'prediliction to sin'.

The condition of homosexuality is an objective moral disorder. That is what it is - a condition. Pederasty or an attraction to hcildren is an objective moral disorder. Bestiality, an attraction to animals is an objective moral disorder. An attraction to masturbation is a moral disorder in that the habit constantly refuses the creation of a human life and is a misuse of human sexuality.

The Church teaches that human sexuality is to be expressed through the Sacrament of Marriage for the bonding of the couple and hopefully the creation of new life. Sexual activity outside of the married state contravenes the purpose for which it was given us.

However,the Church preaches repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all.

The Church does not call the homosexually-orientated person a greater sinner than the heterosexually orientated person.

It is called an 'instrinsic moral disorder' because the homosexual condition means the individual is attracted to his own sex rather than woman.

That said the homosexual may have a state or condition, but in the Church we deal with sin and salvation. The forgiveness of sins.

The Church urges the homosexual towards chastity and to live his vocation joyfully in union with Christ.

Brotherly love, the Church rejoices in, chaste love, yes, and the Church condemns not homosexual persons, since there is no sin in merely being yourself, but homosexual acts, yes are gravely sinful.

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