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Posted By Subaltern Queer

American Evangelicals and Their Abuse of the LGBTQ+ Community

Pray the Gay Away
 

In the previous post, we saw how the Nazis 'dealt' with male homosexuals. They used the strategies of containment, conversion, castration, and (forced) celibacy. While I do not know of any American Evangelicals who have used castration, I would not be in the slightest surprised if such acts either have been or continue to be perpetrated in the name of Jesus. I will pass over the weird stuff Jesus says about people who have "made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:12), at least for now.

The Evangelical Community is grounded on fear and its most usual tool is abuse. Let me make myself clear. I am not saying that Evangelicals sometimes use abuse; I am saying that it is their chief tool. Let me put that in even more certain terms: Evangelicalism is fundamentally about abuse. With that in mind, I can add that Evangelicals abuse everyone. But some Evangelicals receive considerably more abuse than others.

To argue that one can either turn to Jesus or be damned is the most fundamental abuse of the Evangelical world, indeed of the Christian church in general. When Jesus talks about separating the 'sheep' from the 'goats' in Matthew 25, the only measure he uses is one of kindness. Evangelicals will argue that the Bible is the basis for this belief about damnation of all those who are not Christians. But, like all positions regarding what the Bible says, such a view is only one possible hermeneutical option. If one is importunate enough to ask 'why', the response will be that this is what a 'high view of Scripture' entails. However, the phrase 'a high view of Scripture' means simply whatever we, the Evangelical hierarchy, decree to be the case. The phrase is completely vacuous. The reality is--and always, always, always, has been--that every 'Christian' group or sect or denomination picks and chooses which scriptures it takes literally and which ones are interpreted as metaphorical or simply unimportant. There is no exception to this rule. As long as people know that this is what they are doing, then the problem is not so great. However, just as there are stupid people who think they are able to perform Mozart just as the 'great' composer wanted, so there are people who claim that they truly 'know' what these ancient religious texts obviously mean. When people start making such claims, it's best to ignore them.

Let me provide two examples. In I Corinthians 11:14, Paul appeals to 'nature' to justify women covering their heads when praying. The vast majority of Evangelicals  simply ignore this prescription, even though 'nature' is a heavy-duty sort of argument. A different example: Jesus breaks the bread at the 'last supper', saying "this is my body." But virtually no Evangelicals think that the word 'is' actually means 'is'. Instead, they say that Jesus means that the bread symbolises his body or that, when we break bread together, we should remember Jesus--somehow.

So much for arguments about what either the Hebrew or Christian Bibles say about homosexuality. At most, they don't say very much at all. But I have already established that people read sacred scriptures as they see fit. Everyone who reads them does this, including the people who say they are just interpreting them 'literally'.

Enter Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse. That might sound like a comedy team--and, in one sense, it is. Their goal in Ex-Gays? is to suggest that gays really can change their sexual orientation. Before we go any further, I need to point out that this language of sexual 'orientation' is itself relatively new. In an admission that could give ammunition to Jones and Yarhouse, let me say that I'm not convinced that the term fully captures the actual sexual reality of anyone. Jones and Yarhouse write: "This is the first culture throughout history in which a substantial number of individuals have said of themselves 'I am gay' (p. 34)." A most remarkable statement! How in the world would Jones and Yarhouse 'know' about all cultures in order to be sure this is the 'first' culture? I guess there is one sense in which that is true: if one has to use the English word 'gay' to make that statement, probably no other English-speaking culture has ever spoken in this way. But human history has gone on for many thousands of years. Who knows what people of other ages and culture have thought? I certainly don't. But let's leave that point aside.

In their book, they provide a 'case study' (what they really provide is junk science) to 'show' that homosexuals 'can' change. But here's the first ugly bit of that account of 'conversion' that needs to be stated as forcefully as possible. The people in this study were already abused by the Evangelical church into thinking that there was something wrong with them. Our culture is rippled with stories of physical sexual abuse. It used to be thought that this was simply a 'Catholic' problem. But it's not.

While attention to actual physical abuse of a sexual nature is truly important, the troubling reality is that psychological sexual abuse is much more widespread and goes very deep. Further, while arguing whether physical or psychological abuse is 'worse' is a bad use of time, the reality is that psychological sexual abuse by Evangelicals is so basic to Evangelicalism that all Evangelicals have been sexually abused in a psychological sense. There is not a single person who has escaped unscathed. Evangelicals are, we might even say by definition, riddled with worries about what one does while naked. That affects everyone, wherever they are on the Kinsey scale.

The crux of the argument of Jones and Yarhouse is that, if we can find even just one person who is able to change from gay to straight, then the whole idea that people are either gay or straight from birth falls apart. Once that falls apart, then sexual orientation change is--well--obviously possible. Since they are already committed to the idea that being LGBTQ+ is 'bad', then it's clear what needs to happen. You are probably thinking: are they really as simplistic as that? The answer is, unfortunately, yes.

One of the most disturbing aspects of American Evangelicalism is that it is almost always cloaks itself in the garb of "Christianity has always taught that." When Jones and Yarhouse 'interpret' the Bible, they speak as if all of Christianity has been of one mind. Now, let me add an important caveat. Both Jones and Yarhouse are theologically challenged. I'm not saying they're stupid; I am simply saying that they are highly ignorant. Neither has any theological education at all. One might say that they are self-taught savants, without the savant part. Oddly enough, during the time Jones was Provost at Wheaton College, he was the chief person who 'decided' whether the views of the faculty were truly 'orthodox'. All of the people who taught in the Bible and Theology department were expected to defer to his 'judgment' whether their views were truly 'ok'. The fact that they had PhDs in theology or biblical interpretation was irrelevant. Indeed, I discovered that the fact that I specialised in postmodern thought was irrelevant. What mattered was what Jones thought about Derrida or any other philosophers on whom I was actually the expert.

The people in the 'study' were people who were already convinced that they were bad people. By definition, people who have homosexual desires are bad people. The best way to stop being bad was to get rid of those desires. Key to understanding the need to change is the 'brokenness' of the human situation. All people are sinful, but homosexuality is a particularly odious sin.

But Jones and Yarhouse provide an alternative to the gay 'lifestyle' (why is it always a lifestyle? Does anyone talk about the 'heterosexual lifestyle'? That sounds like something for swingers to me :-)) They cite Homosexuals Anonymous, Courage, some independent 'ministries', and Exodus International. We all know what happened with Exodus International. It had its own 'exodus' when it got out of the exodus business. Alan Chambers, the head of the 'ministry', announced in 2012 that conversion therapy didn't work. Indeed, he said that 99.9% of such conversions were failures. Chambers apologised for the harm that he and others had caused.

But Jones and Yarhouse claim that 15% of the persons they studied 'successfully' changed from faggot to heterosexual. Mirabile dictu!

 

 

 
Posted By Subaltern Queer

Gay Aryan National Socialist
Nazis, German Homosexuals, and Conversion Therapy

Not that long ago (2018), the right-wing, quasi-Evangelical sychophant Dinesh D'Souza made the claim in a film that the Nazis were pro-gay. There is an actual fact that one might invoke in any such discussion--namely, that Ernst Röhm, Hitler's second in command for a time, was gay--and very openly so. That is completely and utterly true. However, during the Night of the Long Knives (1934), Hitler ordered him to be killed. So much for being pro-gay.

The reality is that Heinrich Himmler--the man who brought to us millions of orchestrated deaths--had long been against Röhm personally and against gays in general. Any possible pretext to arrest homosexuals was permitted--a longing glance could land you in a concentration camp. Or simply a rumour from a neighbour would suffice. The traditional German 'treatment' for homosexuals was being drowned in bogs. Himmler wanted something a bit more elaborate.

In a speech of 1937, Himmler listed homosexuality, along with suicide, the flight from the country to the cities, and the deline of the birthrate, as the four chief ills facing German society. What's important to understand here is that homosexuality was a threat to Aryan purity that came from within. In that sense, it was much more worrying than being Jewish--which was genetically defined and could not be altered. In contrast, a German solider could always be tempted by gay sex (and, in reality, many were out there on the cold Russian front). So there could be no security against this internal threat. As we noted before, homosexuals do not come pre-packed with labels on their foreheads. So any German man might be a homosexual 'threat' to Aryanism.

That fear of internal impurity explains why homosexuals were among the first to be rounded up. Like Jews, homosexual Germans were seen as 'polution' that was 'unnatural'. Unlike Jews, however, they contributed to the overall loss of German semen and so would not be able to carry on the Master Race.

Consider this statement by Himmler concerning German homosexuals: "We must exterminate these people root and branch. Just think how many children will not be born because of this, and how a people can be broken in nerve and spirit when such a plague gets hold of it. When someone in the Security Services, in the SS, or in the government has homosexual tendencies, he abandons the natural order of things for the perverted world of the homosexual. We can't permit such danger to the country; the homosexual must be entirely eliminated." 

Whereas Jews (like many unwanted immigrants) might be told "go back where you came from," there was no natural habitat for homosexuals. So a habitat needed to be created.

The first Nazi strategy was containment. Chemically, a ‘concentration’ is defined by the ratio of one element to the space as a whole; a ‘solution’ is a mixture of ingredients. What the Nazis called ‘the final solution’ was the removal of polluting elements. Concentration camps had a function remarkably analogous to landfills—removal and burying of pollution. Of course, many gay men did not need any physical containment. They internalized the hatred of society directed toward them and took care of their own problem by way of suicide.

The second strategy was conversion therapy. For the Nazis, this was attempted in two ways. The first was strenuous labor designed to make homosexuals into 'real' men. One of the reasons that Röhm had been tolerated was that, despite being gay, he advocated a hyper masculinity. His military idols included Napoleon, Prince Eugene of Saxony, and King Karl II of Sweden. Turns out all three were either gay or bi. 

So the Nazis put homosexuals in the camps with the hope of making them 'normal'. They were given the most brutal tasks. At Sachsenhausen, they were told: "You are a biological mistake of the Creator. That's why you must be bent straight." Gays were forced to make cement and were required to run to their workstations in the morning in groups of five with gunfire to spur them on. The ones who made it to the workstations were covered in blood from the ones who didn't. It may come as a great surprise, but such attempts at conversion were completely unsuccessful as conversion techniques. They were, however, extremely effective in eliminating many homosexuals.

The other way of achieving 'conversion' was bringing in prostitutes. Himmler decided that homosexuals might be able to 'change' if they were forced to have sex with women. In Flossenbürg, gays were required to have weekly 'visits' at a brothel set up with Jewish and Roma women. Those visits were monitored by SS men peeping through holes in the wall. Depending on exactly how things went, some homosexuals were declared ‘cured’.

Then, in 1943, Himmler provided a different sort of 'cure' or 'therapy'. Any homosexuals who were willing to be castrated were promised that they would be subsequently released from the camp. We don't know exactly how many thousands of homosexuals were castrated both in the camps and outside of them, but we do know that many 'respectable' doctors took part in this collective deed. Moreover, we also know that many men who were actually not homosexuals were castrated simply on the 'suspicion' of being gay. As hard as it is to believe, the psychotherapists at the Göring Institute insisted that castration was indeed a cure for homosexuality. 

The final strategy was asexuality (what is often termed ‘celibacy’). The Nazis used Article 175 to prohibit any same-sex acts—touch of any kind could be seen as ‘unnatural’. One could be a homosexual in what we would today term ‘orientation’, but one could not act upon it in any way whatsoever. However, this prohibition brought with it a different kind of unnatural distortion. While one might favour celebacy as a choice made for religious reasons, the prohibition of gay sex--enforced celebacy, decided by the government--in effect simply exchanged one ‘unnatural’ thing (homosexuality) for another (asexuality).
 
Having laid out the Nazi strategy for dealing with homosexuals, I will turn in my next post to the way in which the contemporary Christian world--particularly the world of American Evangelicals--deals with gays. Most cases of using the epithet 'Nazi' to describe something turn out to be quite spurious. In this case, the similarities between the Nazis and American Evangelicals are eerily similar.
 
Posted By Subaltern Queer

Evangelical Conversion
What Is Conversion?

I've been thinking a good deal about conversion therapy and the Nazis recently. I promise I'll get to that. But, for the moment, I want to consider the notion of conversion. What does it mean to 'convert' to something? We usually think of conversion as something 'religious', but there is no reason why it needs to be religious in nature. One could easily have a political conversion (become a Trump supporter), economic conversion (give up Keynesianism economics for Milton Friedmanism), or philosophical conversion (become analytic).

In both ancient Greek thought and the New Testament, we have the idea of metanoia. While this is usually translated as 'repentance', it means a radical change of 'mind' (nous), though we often speak of a change of 'heart'. It is a reorientation of oneself. While we most associate this idea with Christianity, it was also prevalent in other 'competing' philosophies of the time (as Pierre Hadot makes clear in Philosophy as a Way of Life).

The OED gives a rather surprising definition of conversion that goes as follows: "the action of (illegally) converting or applying something to one's own use." The example given is: "a person is guilty of a conversion who takes the property of one person by assignment from another, who has not any authority to dispose of it." I have never thought of conversion in this sense before. In effect, one takes that which does not belong to one and makes it one's own--on the supposed authority of someone who actually has no authority to permit such 'conversino'. Hold on to that thought for a moment. We'll get back to it.

The definition labeled 'theology' is: "the turning of sinners to God; a spiritual change from sinfulness, ungodliness, or worldliness to love of God and pursuit of holiness." The editors of the OED insist that their job is purely descriptive--they are merely describing how people use words, not how they should use them. But do you see the black-and-white choice portrayed here? You can stay in sinfulness and worldliness. Or you can turn to loving God. Those are your two options.

I've included the cartoon not merely because I find it humorous but also because it makes clear that a central issue in conversion is marketing. The people at the door have a product to sell. You might respond: "but the grace of God is a free gift!" It may be a gift; but it requires your soul. Christianity drives a hard bargain.

On the other hand, the competing story of Faust has many versions. One is that Johann Faust lost interest in divine things and lusted after worldly knowledge. The version told by Goethe has Mephistopheles offer Faust true happiness in exchange for his soul (Faust is only saved at the last minute by the Virgin Mary). Thomas Mann's version has the composer Adrian Leverkühn bargain for twenty-four years of brilliant composing and acclaim, followed by an agonizing death from syphilis in 1940--a metaphor for the death of the German soul.

The Christian story is about giving up sinfulness and turning to God; the Faustian story is the same story but told in reverse. Are we condemned to just two stories? I don't think so. While the world in which the bad people all wear black hats is comforting (and, alas, racist), these stories are told precisely because actual life is so much more complex. We like stories in which the good people triumph. But reality is very mixed up. It is interesting to me that, when Jesus' disciples complain to him that there are people casting out demons in his name, his nonchalant response is that they cannot be both against and for him at the same time. In other words, "don't worry about them." That kind of response evidences nuance and complexity.

In contrast, let me provide an account of simplistic thinking that well captures the problem. Richard Dawkins writes: "If you feel trapped in the religion of your upbringing, it would be worth asking yourself how this came about. The answer is usually some form of childhood indoctrination. If you are religious at all it is overwhelmingly probable that your religion is that of your parents. If you were born in Arkansas and you think Christianity is true and Islam false, knowing full well that you would think the opposite if you had been born in Afghanistan, you are the victim of childhood indoctrination."

Oh, Dicky Dawkins, what are we to do with such nonsense? First, picking on people from Arkansas is such a cheap shot, against Arkansians, the American south, and the US in general. You are doing what some Brits do so well: bully people. Do they offer some sort of Oxbridge course on bullying? I do admit that people like yourself are really superior when it comes to bullying; I doff my cap to you, Sir. Second, your bit about 'childhood indoctrination' is not quite as simple as you make it out to be. Would it not be possible that someone might be born to Oxonian fundamentalists? What about being the child of Arkansian atheists? The difficulty here is that child are 'taught' various things. There is no possible world in which children can be raised without teaching them things. We can call this 'indoctrination'--if we don't like what they are being taught. But is it 'indoctrination' to teach a child about climate change? Because raising a child to be either a climate-change denier or a climate-change affirmer sounds like indoctrination on your view.

Those of you in the front row who are now raising your hands know what's coming next. Dicky is engaging in what philosophers call the 'genetic fallacy', in which something is discredited precisely because of its origin rather than its truth value. And the really smart kids in the class also realize the next point: that the genetic thesis may itself have been taught to us by our parents, which would discredit the whole thing. 

It's difficult to know what to do with supposedly smart people who engage in simplistic thinking. One would think they would be able to see through such shallowness. Alas, we are often unable to see our own limitations.

Let's go back to the definition of conversion as taking something and making it one's own on the basis of a false authority. With some fear and trembling, I must say that I find so many 'versions' of religion to be exactly this: making something one's own by twisting ideas while thinking that one has been 'authorized' to do this in the name of God. The worst abuse that I have suffered has always been in the name of Jesus. The Provost of Wheaton College, Stanton Jones, began the meetings of his witchhunt against fags like me with a prayer about how much we care for our brother Bruce. My lawyer, who had attended St Olaf College and thought he understood 'Christian' colleges, remarked that, of all his dealings with people in the business world, the treatment that I received from Wheaton College was far and away the worst he had ever seen. But, as I pointed out to him, if you have twisted religious belief into a form that can be used as a cudgel against the people you deem to be 'sinners', you are free to do anything. Everything is not just permitted but required if you are doing God's will. 

Let me close with a quotation from that CIA 'homo' memo: "The homosexual is a complex, intelligent, interesting, and mixed-up individual." If you think about the training of CIA agents, it is pretty black and white in nature. There are the good guys (Americans), the somewhat OK guys (Brits, maybe some French and Germans), and then the commies, socialists, and feminists. There's not much complexity there. See why gays are bad? They're 'complex'. They're also 'mixed-up'. But I wonder if being complex ends up seeming like being mixed-up to people who can only view the world in narrow categories.

 

 
Posted By Subaltern Queer

Could Any of These Men Be Gay?

The CIA Can Help You Spot the Queer Ones!
Could Any of These Men Be Gay?
 

You might think "this has got to be some kind of joke" when I say that, in 1980, the CIA put out a memo to its agents titled "Homosexual Investigations," which gave instructions on how to identity a homosexual perp (that's police talk for 'perpetrator'). But it's quite real: here is the link to the official cia.gov page: https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP78-04007A000700110005-8.pdf.

What were the motivations for such investigations? While some partial motivations will emerge as we go along, it is hard not to think that it had something to do with the 1980 Democratic Party officially supporting the gay and lesbian communities.

While you may want to peruse the actual CIA document for yourself, what follows are some choice quotations along with a bit of commentary.

1. Let's start with the basics: "One of the most common mistakes made by the average person is the conviction that he can recognize a homosexual on sight. This is similar to recognizing a Communist. The subject has a mental or emotional problem rather than a physical one. There is no way to spot a homosexual." As you can see from the exclusivistic language, homosexual men are the subject of this treatise, rather than the LGBTQ+ community at large (which, to be fair to the CIA, did not exist as such at the time). The reason is, I think, rather clear. Male homosexuals were viewed by the CIA as threats to the established order in the same way that the Nazis saw male homosexuals as a threat to the Third Reich (more on this in another post). Did you notice that the comparison term is 'communist' (again, this is 1980--nine years before the fall of the USSR). The implication is clear: both male homosexuals and communists are threats to the American way of life. But the CIA is clearly right about gays and communists in one respect. Neither come pre-packaged with 'gay' or 'communist' on their foreheads. The CIA notes that "very few employees come to work wearing eye makeup or 'My Sin'." Glad we cleared that up!

2. "The homosexual has a problem. He may not consider himself 'queer', he may accept his psychological deviation from the normal, but he recognizes that society frowns on him." The document goes on to say that a homosexual "often uses the word 'problem' in discussing his own homosexuality or that of one of his friends." But I think this is, again, the CIA putting words in other people's mouths. Let's be quite clear about one thing: the 'problem'  that a homosexual poses is a clear and very real threat to white patriarchy. As a gay man, I do not 'fit' the stereotype of the true 'masculine' man and so the entire order--in which women and people of colour are subjugated--is put into question. A gay man is, in one important sense, as much as a threat as a communist to the American white patriarchal order.

3. "The homosexual is usually regarded as an above-average employee. His work habits are good, he is punctual, responsive to authority, cooperative, friendly, a credit to the organization." You can see the problem right away. Gays work hard, get along with others, and make the organization look good. No wonder their fellow employees hate them! When I taught at Wheaton College, I was clearly the most popular philosophy department member and I also published more than all of my philosophy colleagues combined. I simply had to be eliminated. No good deed goes unpunished.

4. "But our subject leads a Jekyll-Hyde existence . . . . He frequently uses a Post Office Box . . . . His telephone number is often unlisted . . . . His car (preferably foreign) is often reserved for weekends." One could simply note that homosexuals were far ahead of the curve. Most smart people got unlisted phone numbers ages ago. 1980 was the nadir of the American auto--they were junk back then. But notice the subtle CIA inference: gays drive foreign cars because they're unAmerican. In any case, this may explain why my first car was a BMW and, since then, I've driven VWs. There are a lot of gays in Germany--maybe driving a German car makes you gay. It could also have something to do with the fact that I always drive stick.

5. "Our subject is intimately acquainted with a life totally unknown to society in general. He has his own language, his own social customs and mores." I have to say that I wonder what this "life totally unknown" might be. It sounds so exciting--please, Dorothy, take me there with you and Toto! Alas, I think this other life may be the product of CIA hallucination. But the CIA has some very helpful instructions for the 'secret' language of the homosexual. We're told that 'gay' "is the most common term in the deviate's vocabulary." What could 'gay' possibly mean? Fortunately, the CIA clears up any confusion: '"gay' means homosexual." Oh, how interesting! 'Gay' is "used to describe people, places, (favorite hangouts), parties, and groups." So it's a multi-purpose term. Now, here's where things get more complicated. 'Bi' means "interested equally in homosexual and heterosexual activities." 'Straight' is "the opposite of gay." The CIA agent, though, knows exactly how to use these terms in investigative research. We're told: "The question 'Are you gay, straight, or bi?' has been used with marked success in interviews of suspected homosexuals." How someone responds to the question will indicate if the person is a deviate. Really? That question doesn't sound all that promising.

6. Here's another sure-fire way to find out if someone is a homosexual: "One of the recently popular introductory remarks is 'Aren't you Jack from the North?' "The other party is supposed to answer 'No, I'm Joe (or any other name) from the North." So that explains why I'm gay: I'm Canadian! Does that mean I only actually became gay when I was living in Germany (!) and took the oath of allegiance to Canada? After all, I did pledge my allegiance to the Queen. Maybe I got mixed up regarding which queen that was supposed to be. Of course, the CIA document goes on to make things considerably more complicated: because it tells us that one can substitute any name for Joe and any direction for North. "The word 'North' (or South, East, West Coast, etc.) is the code word. It means homosexual." Here I think the average CIA agent might get confused. If I say, 'no, I'm Bruce from Scotland' rather than 'no, I'm Bruce from the North' will the agent still 'get it'?

7. Homosexuals "are abnormal mentally and emotionally; their behavior patterns are, therefore, completely abnormal and unpredictable." To 'illustrate', the CIA tell us that homosexuals do not "fall into distinct categories of male and female. . . . Many homosexuals fall into both categories. It is not uncommon for two extremely effeminate (or extremely masculine) homosexuals to participate in sex relations with each other." Perhaps we need to get Judith Butler in to give a talk to the CIA, but their examination of the categories of male and female need some work.

8. "Landlords often encourage rentals to homosexuals since they are neat, generally quiet, interested in keeping their apartments in good condition, and dependable when it comes to finances." What's interesting about this sentence is that it appears in a paragraph about why it is difficult to 'detect' and 'prosecute' homosexuals. Why would the CIA be investigating people who they describe as neat, quiet, tidy, and financially stable? Again, this is 1980. Pennsylvania banned sexual orientation in public sector employment in 1975; Wisconsin became the first state to ban sexual orientation discrimination in both public and private sectors in 1982. Today, only twenty-three (23) of the fifty (50) states ban such discrimination. Illinois is one of those states, which is why Wheaton needed to acuse me of not being able to sign the doctrinal statement rather than the real reason of my homosexuality. In those twenty-seven states, you can openly and explicitly fire someone for 'acting' gay or even 'suspecting' someone of being gay.

9. The CIA likes Socrates! "To detect [the homosexual] it is vital that the investigator be inquisitive." Such questions include: "Are all of his references women?" and "Does a male reference have the same address as the employee?" Talk about really shrewd and cunning questions! You can see why the CIA is so good at its job.

 

 
Posted By Subaltern Queer

A few days ago, I received the following provocative email:

Dear List members

Apologies for cross posting, please find below details on a major international conference happening at St Patrick’s College Maynooth on the Future of Christian thinking.

Today, perhaps more than ever before, Christian thought faces unprecedented challenges; ranging from a denial of metaphysics, to previously unforeseen ethico-moral questions arising from contemporary science and ever-advancing technologies, to a full-blown economizing of the political, to name just some of the most obvious. Couple this with the fact that amongst Christian thinkers there is no real consensus on the meaning, definition and end of Christian thinking and the future of Christian thinking looks hazy, unclear and tenuous.

The theme of this conference seeks to think from out of these unprecedented challenges while, simultaneously, straining to look into a nebulous and unforeseen future. In order to do this, a vast array of many of the foremost thinkers engaged with Christian thought and beyond have been invited to speak on these issues. These thinkers are representative of many different schools, approaches and styles of Christian thought, across confessional divides. The vast array of thinkers invited is itself a testimony of the polyphonic vitality of Christian thought today and, together, the ever-pressing question of the future of Christian thinking will be pondered from within an intellectually polyphonic and ecumenical conversation and perspective.

Speakers include: Rowan Williams, David Bently Hart, Eleonore Stump, Robert George, Cyril O’Regan and more.

For more details including how to register please follow the link: https://maynoothcollege.ie/the-future-of-christian-thinking-international-conference-28th-apr-1st-may-2021

No one can deny that Christianity "faces unprecedented challenges." I was thrilled by the idea of a conference that includes "a vast array of many of the foremost thinkers engaged with Christian thought and beyond" who are "representative of many different schools, approaches and styles of Christian thought, across confessional divides."

So I decided to click on that link, which led me to the following poster:

The Future of Christian Thinking
 

Imagine my dismay when I discovered that the people who were to speak at the conference actually didn't constitute a 'vast array' and that they clearly did not 'represent many different schools, approaches and styles of Christian thought, across confessional divides'. Instead​, this sounded like a very insular gathering.

So I decided to contact Gaven Kerr, who had sent the email, and provide my 'candid' appraisal of the upcoming event:

Dear Professor Kerr,

As I look at the list of speakers invited for your conference listed on your website, it becomes crystal clear why the future of Christianity is so dim and unpromising. A number of these people are friends of mine! Yet you speak of a ‘vast array of thinkers’ who have been invited. To me this simply looks like the usual suspects, most of whom hold pretty similar views about many things. Who will be simply talking to themselves. And no one else will care.

They do not represent ‘many different schools, approaches and styles of Christian thought’. But I do get the point that the conversation will be polyphonic. However, in this case, polyphonic simply means “as long as you ‘blend’ in with what everyone else is saying then we’ll accept you into our little club.”

The future of Christianity is that many millions of people in the west no longer have any interest in that club and have long felt that no one in the club was interested in hearing their voices since they don’t blend into the ‘approved’ polyphony. Your conference only confirms that they’re right. One might say that your conference performs the future of Christianity.

But have a lovely club meeting. Perhaps you can come up with a secret handshake that signifies both solidarity and exclusivity. You can also rearrange the deck chairs as the club sinks.

Sincerely,
Bruce Ellis Benson

 

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