Bishop Orama's Courageous Biblical Christianity [Bishop Orama and Others Say he was Misquoted]

Probably by now you have heard that Bishop Orama of Oyo in Nigeria claimed

[9/14: As it turns out, Bishop Orama was--to the best of our knowledge--misquoted. While one might wish for better knowledge of just what happened, what was said, etc, it seems reasonable to conclude he did not make the following derogatory claims. Thus, so far as I can tell, he will not do as an example of a Reformed reconstructionist thinker, as I had earlier presumed when I originally wrote this post.

It seems what information has been gleaned and squeezed out is largely due to the laudable labor of bloggers on the conservative end of the Anglican spectrum who took it upon themselves to do whatever could be done to find out just what was said and done. Official, mainstream news agencies did relatively little by comparison to defuse this situation.

As the underlying question--what principled objection to Leviticus 20:13 is available to those reading Scripture primarily for its plain sense--remains significant IMO, I'll leave this up.]

Homosexuality and lesbianism are inhuman. Those who practice them are insane, satanic and are not fit to live because they are rebels to God's purpose for man...

Though one hopes Orama was completely misquoted, still, one might reasonably suspect that this opinion is authentic to Nigerian Anglicanism and the Global South faction; it might well be that strong, international criticism will serve not to change the opinion, but merely silence it, driving it underground where it can continue to operate unseen and unheard.

I. Curious Conservative Reactions
While some Western conservatives might disavow Orama's comments, one might be forgiven for wondering why they would bother.

[Update: Father Harmon says that I have interepreted him completely wrong; moreover, he is both stunned and displeased that his words could be so miscontrued. OK--fair enough: my apologies for the error. My mistaken interepretation about the nature of his objection read his content in a way that minimized the basis of what turned out to be his substantial disagreement.

But wait: this gets even more interesting. In these matters--understanding one another in times of intense passion--we lack omniscience, and what might seem like plain sense turns out--in reality--to be a betrayal of the message intended. My reading of +Harmon is a case in point: he sees my reading of his own words as a complete distortion of what he wanted to say.

The way to make sure the intended message gets through? The only way it seems to me is dialogue. If the necessary conditions for communication are broken, there would be no correction, no admission of a mistake on my part, and a considerably darker hardening of the heart.

Which is not at all to say hearts are tender; they are already quite hardened with scar tissue. It strikes me that this is at the very outer edge of dialogue, dialogue at second or third hand, tendons and such stretched to their snapping point. Is it worth at all it to stay engeged this way in such conditions?

One has to wonder whether some demonic intelligence might constitute a community like this by minimally embodied communication. The threat of exchanges devolving into vice more easily on account of abstraction from the flesh--for instance, me becoming disposed to read what so-and-so says in a negative way b/c I do not actually hear and see him, but get to project what I think he must sound and look like as he says such-and-such--gets magnified into a massive, metastasizing, invasive spiritual disease afflicting a great mass of people much quicker than if there were no internet at all.

I'm going to italicize my comments--which seem mistaken to me now--on +Harmon's post so that those disposed to see for themselves what I am talking about will be able to still take a look.]
Here's Father Kendall Harmon of T19:

These words are to be utterly repudiated by all of us--I hope and trust.

Well, why is that? He wrote (beackets added):

[1]We are all in the global village now, like it or not, and the world is indeed flat. So what we say needs to take seriously the resonances that it may bring out in contexts other than our own. There could hardly be a worse statement in a Western context than to say of ANYONE that he or she is "not fit to live." [2] It immediately brings to mind the Nazi language of Lebensunwertes Leben ("life unworthy of life") and in flood images and activities too horrendous and horrific for any of us to take in even at this historical distance from the events themselves.

According to [1], the problem is that others will hear--we live in a global village after all, and comments like this will gain a wide enough audience to most likely hurt the Separatist cause. Why? Part [2] gives Father Harmon's answer: it will remind hearers of Nazi language. And of course he is right about that. Bishop Orama is not a Nazi or fascist so far as I know, but he has no trouble employing their Eliminationist rhetoric. Some bishop.

But I am utterly stunned by Father Harmon's reasons for repudiating Bishop Orama's rhetoric. There is nothing specifically Christian--no laudable Biblical principle--invoked in Father Harmon's words. And there is nothing significantly moral either. The trouble with Bishop Orama's words is strictly instrumental: it will hurt the cause by bringing to mind Nazi depravity. I suppose such an instrumental reason could have a moral resonance for Father Harmon: the end--Separation--justifies the means perhaps. He did not say that Bishop Orama was in error, or that Bishop Orama's words were unscriptural or anti-Christian. The problem? Bishop Orama could hurt the cause.

Here is Greg Griffith of Stand Firm (I do not know if he is ordained like Father Harmon: no disrespect intended):

[1] About the horrible nature of the remark, the injury to the Christian witness it does, and yes, even the "rhetorical violence" it commits... I agree completely.

[2]Describing homosexuals as "unfit to live," or implying that that sentiment is in any way part of the Gospel message, is where I get off the bus. "Life not worthy of living" is the phrase Nazis used to describe Jews, dissenting Christian clergy, the physically handicapped, the mentally retarded, and anyone else who might spoil their vision of a pure Aryan world.

[3]If being homosexual makes one unfit to live, then being the kind of sinner Bishop Orama is makes him similarly unfit to live; and of course, that is not the Gospel of Jesus, not the Good News we have been entrusted by Christ to carry to the world.

I think it is pretty clear that Griffith does alot better than Father Harmon in stating his reasons for repudiating Bishop Orama's remarks. The remark has a "horrible nature" perhaps due to its "injury" to Christian mission and its "rhetorical violence." On the latter count, Griffith invokes comparisons with the Nazis in [2]. He goes further than Father Harmon, saying explicitly that the Nazi message of Elimination is not part of the Gospel message: thanks for that. Finally, in [3] there is some kind of half-baked argument that Bishop Orama deserves to die if homosexuals deserve to die--and that this is not the Gospel message.

While Griffith's response has unmistakable specific moral content, and even refers to the Goispel message, still it leaves one wondering. What exactly in the Gospel message contradicts Bishop Orama's message? It is odd--even comic--to see biblical conservatives in the tradition of Barth and Childs run to secular notions of moral good when push comes to shove. Guys, one does not need to hear the Good news of Christ to condemn Nazis, their Eliminationist rhetoric, and rhetorical violence: one can do that on purely secular moral grounds.

II. Throwing Down the Gauntlet
When push comes to shove, and Bishop Orama's remarks constitute a shove, does the Gospel vision of these--or any--Separatist, Anglican, biblical conservatives have the resources to issue a specifically Christian moral repudiation? Can they do better on this count than, to choose another extreme, Borg and Crossan?

Show me. I do not think you can do it, because any sound, specifically Christian moral argument that implies the events of GC2003 are permissible for Christians counts as an utter failure of the Separatist biblical vision. In other words, to make the argument condemning the bishop's remarks, you will end up conceding too much, and if you do not conceed too much, you will not be able to condemn the remarks.

Where is the crux of the problem? The problem is that Bishop Orama has the Bible--as construed by responsible Separatist interpretation--on his side. Leviticus is clear:

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

All Scripture is of a piece, and Christ did not come to obliterate any part of the Law--not a single iota! Bishop Orama respects the Bible enough not to claim to be a biblical Christian and just pretend. His Bible says homosexuals must die--what does Father Harmon's Bible say? Or Griffith's? After all, Scripture is clear in Leviticus. The difference might be simply that Bishop Orama has the courage to be consistent and lift up his vision of Scripture for all the world to see, whereas other self-styled conservatives insist on hiding this unsavory part--ashamed--under a bushel.

Careful: an appeal to Authority, like the authority of a great old interpreter, is a fallacy. You 'd have to extract the authority's argument and let the argument stand on its own merits, and you had better hope it stands.

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