This is fun!
From the great state of South Carolina, we were diverted some months ago by the fascinating tale of how one can now go "hiking the Appalachian trail" in Argentina. Now, in quick succession, it appears that there are two more emerging stories of interest: Mike Rogers reports that rumours about the sexual orientation of a certain Lieutenant - Governor, which have been doing the rounds long enough that even I, on this side of the Atlantic have heard them before, have been "confirmed" (but instead of evidence, Rogers simply points to his "100% track record" on previous outings). Also, from FitsNews.com ("unfair; unbalanced". the site proudly proclaims), we have:
"S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford may be an amateur Romeo, but it looks like he’s got nothing on his appointment to the S.C. State Board of Education.Kristin Maguire, an Upstate evangelical and one of South Carolina’s most respected social conservatives, has been one of the governor’s closest education policy advisors for years. She’s also Sanford’s appointment to the S.C. Board of Education, which last year elected her its Chairwoman.What else is she?The prolific author of hardcore erotic fiction on the Internet, according to documents provided to the governor’s office earlier this summer and later obtained by FITS.Maguire, a professed Christian who home-schools her four children, declined to comment for our story but did not deny that she had previously frequented websites that feature such X-rated material."
Ah, that grand tradition of "defending traditional family values", as espoused so fervently by Larry Craig, Congressmen Vitter & Foley, preacher Ted Haggert ...and all the others whose names I have forgotten and am too lazy right now to look up. You know them better than I do.
In any case, pointing out the hypocrisy is too easy. There are two other points behind this that deserve closer attention, because they are less frequently pointed out.
Outing the Church
First, I applaud Mike Rogers for his commendable work on outing the political hypocrites. (For the record, I am a "fierce defender" of any individual's rigut to privacy. While I strongly endorse the personal and community value of coming out wherever possible, that final qualification is crucial: sometimes it is just not possible). BUT: when some closeted queer goes on the attack aginst the community, all rights to sympathy are waived. This is a position which I believe is fairly widely shared. So when are the professional ecclesiastical journalists, in the Vatican or around the world, going to start to follow suit?
It is widely reported that a large and growing proportion of priests, at all levels in the hierarchy, are gay. Others are heterosexual, but non-celibate. Professional Vatican watchers, it is said, know not only who many of these people are, but also their partners and preferred sexual practices. As with politicians, I would prefer that they should have the courage to come out publicly, difficult as this would be, but where they choose not to, we must respect their privacy. But as with politicians, where they actively connive in the church's demonization of "homosexuals" and other sexual minorities, they should lose that right to provacy. There have been plenty of reports of gay bishops and cardinals emerging after their deaths, or after nasty blackmail scandals - so why not when they are alive?
It is also often said that tthe pope's balls are one of the three most useless things in the world. So.........come on, you professional clerical journalists: are yourcojones any more useful than His Holiness's ?
"Traditional family": a modern invention
Raymond and I had a wonderful day today enjoying the English landscape, driving around Jane Austen's beloved Hampshire. I got to see Jane 's house where she spent the last ten years of her life, as well as the nearby Gilbert White's House. Jane Austen is well known as the most popular English novelist, totally respectable and a model of gentility and propriety. Gilbert White is less well known, but equally respectable. He was a clergyman, renowned as a naturalist for his careful observations and detailed notes on natural history and gardening. Guess what? Neither of these models of English respectablity lived in "traditional" family structures. During her years at Chawton, Jane and her similarly unmarried sister Clarissa lived with their widowed mother - and a friend, who lived with them, but occupied a bedroom a little apart. Jane's brother Thomas had earlier left the family - because he had the good fortune to have been "adopted" by a wealthy childless couple, the Knights, who felt in need of an heir to take charge of their large estate. The Rev White was unmarried - but does not appear to have lived alone in his large, rambling house and extensive garden.
Nor did many people at this time (late 18th and early 19th centuries), or earlier, live in "traditional" family structures. If you were rich enough, you might get to live with your family in a grand country house - but also with the extensive staff required to run it. Tradesmen and working professionals shared their homes with apprentices and servants. Conversely, if you were not rich enough, you probably left your family to live with your employer (if you had one), as an apprentice, in domestic service, or as a farm labourer, or travelled the country as an itinerant tradesman. And if a man was lucky enough to live with his woman and children, perhaps in a farm cottage - it was entirely possible that they were not married at all: marriage was largely a legal matter of settling property, of little practical value or religious importance if there was no property to settle. (Marriage was not required, nor treated as a sacrament by the church, for many centuries),
After returning home, I began reading the introduction to Bernadette Brooten's "Love Between Women". Just in theopening chapter, I came acros numerous references to same-sex marriages in the classical period - in Rome, in Sparta, in Canaan, in Egypt and elsewhere. It is well known that family structures of the Hebrew Bible hardly conformed to the "traditional" family we keep hearing about, with all-powerful men holding absolute power over the women, children and slaves of the household, with multiple wives and concubines, arranged marriages and extended families living together. In the Christian New Testament, I can't off the top of my head think of a single instance of a "traditional" family unit. Certainly not Christ's own biological family, nor His later family of choice, nor the household of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, nor those of the apostles, who were urged to leave their families behind, nor the Roman centurion and his "paidion" (or male slave, commonly used for sexual purposes).
No, wait: there is one, if you ignore the palace staff. The family of Herod, Herodias and Salome lived together as Daddy, Mummy and daughter.
So which of these do you suppose is referred to by "traditional family" values?
(Cross-posted from "Queering the Church")