Anglican bishops have declared that, since sex outside marriage is a sin, couples living in civil partnerships (heterosexual or otherwise) should remain celibate.
To paraphrase, the Church simply said that Christians should observe all ten Commandments, not just those they find painless.
For it to say that the nuptial bed is the only acceptable arena for sex is no different from reminding us that murder and theft are sins. Thus the Anglican bishops were simply doing their job, for once.
However, our pundits would rather the Church shied away from its core job and instead did the job of other institutions, such as social services, the entertainment industry or amusement parks.
This preference has come across in numerous comments in the press, and Amanda Platell’s rivals any for sheer ignorance. Since Miss Platell calls herself “a paid up Christian”, her ignorance of basic doctrine is as lamentable as it is, alas, widespread.
“Bejesus,” she writes, “where does that leave me, a woman who isn’t married… but one who, whisper it, occasionally shares her bed?”
Then, in the very next sentence, she answers her own question: “In one sense the Church is right: the Bible is clear that sex outside marriage is a sin.”
What other senses are there for bishops? Their latitude in commenting on this issue is narrower than that of, say, lifestyle columnists. But do let Miss Platell continue:
“Yet half of all couples with children are not married. Are the bishops condemning them all to the fires of Hell? Doesn’t sound very Christian to me.”
Since Miss Platell is a self-admitted regular churchgoer, either she hasn’t asked her vicar to clarify what is and what isn’t Christian or, which is possible, the vicar wasn’t up to the task. If so, I hereby appoint myself to take up the slack.
Miss Platell’s demographic statistics are both correct and catastrophic, accompanied as they are by another related datum: almost a quarter of British families with dependent children are made up of single mothers.
Miss Platell evidently believes this situation is just part of nature, like the rain. And, since the Church wouldn’t comment on the elements, neither should it bemoan the aforementioned social and cultural disaster.
She isn’t good at discerning causative relationships. Otherwise she’d realise that the general debauchment of marriage is a direct consequence of the Church being too feeble, rather than too forceful, in resisting the more objectionable aspects of modernity.
Bishops should have been screaming the message that so vexes Miss Platell every day for decades, rather than debating the delights of civil unions and same-sex marriages.
Here Miss Platell commits a rhetorical fallacy known as argumentum ad populum: because many people do it, it has to be right.
If any Christian institution functioned according to that logic, one would wonder what it’s for. After all, many people don’t just have a bit of how’s your father out of wedlock. They are equally cavalier about the other commandments too: they kill, steal, bear false witness and so on.
Shouldn’t the Church remind them every once in a while that such behaviour is wrong? Not according to Miss Platell.
Since she grudgingly accepts that the Bible regards sex outside marriage as a sin, perhaps she should remind herself that the second part of that book is even stricter on that subject: “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
Before you get red in the face and cast a furtive look at your wife, let’s ponder what was really said there.
If any adult male with a palpable pulse, regardless of his religious convictions, looks into his own heart, he’ll find that during his daily ride to work he commits that brand of adultery every time a good-looking woman gets on the train.
And given the easy availability of flattering clothes, cosmetics, healthy diets and exercise regimens, most women whose locomotion isn’t boosted by a Zimmer frame can look good enough to consign our commuter to an eternity in hell.
Since no one could possibly observe that Commandment as rendered by Jesus, then no one will be saved; everybody is a blasphemous law-breaker to be consumed by the fire of hell (I know I am). At least that’s what Miss Platell thinks.
But Jesus clearly thought otherwise, for such blanket cruelty would go against God’s loving essence. What we are witnessing here is a veiled reference to the Christian dialectic of yes-no-yes.
Jesus was saying that by all means, do try to observe the law (the ‘yes’ thesis). But without God’s help you’ll never succeed (the ‘no’ antithesis). Therefore you can’t be saved by your own efforts only. You must seek God’s help, which means putting God first (the ‘yes’ synthesis) – exactly the message of the first and most important Commandment.
Miss Platell’s take on this is so ignorant and vulgar that one wonders exactly what makes her a Christian. For Christians aren’t just supposed to believe; they must also understand what they believe, and why.
To traditional theology, hell isn’t a giant frying pan on which Miss Platell could be cooked to the desired degree of rareness. In fact, that utensil isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Bible. Hell means being left to one’s own devices, imprisoned in one’s own conscience outside God.
A church isn’t a court of justice meting out punishment, nor is a sin a regular crime to be punished. Christianity treats sin as a wound that can fester into separation from God. Hence a church isn’t a prosecutor, but a doctor – someone who offers a cure for a disease.
Miss Platell further demonstrates her deafness to causative relationships by observing that most Anglican churches are quite empty. That’s true. But does she think that’s because the Church is too Christian or not Christian enough?
Evidently the former. For otherwise she’d mitigate her indignation, if not necessarily her behaviour. But at least she’d be able to put her occasional tendency to “share her bed” in a proper Christian context.