Trying a via media

I posted this comment on Thinking Anglicans, a site I frequently visit, in a thread on the Windsor Continuation Group. I have been waiting for the right opportunity to mention the SWS survey conducted sometime back, and I think it should be worth considering by all concerned:

“I am not very impressed, to be honest, with the activist ranting on this site. The Americans think the battle has been joined but to be honest, in the country of one of their partner churches, the ECP, it will be very difficult to get the so-called “gospel of inclusivity” across.

Why? A recent survey found that, across all religious groups, whether Christian or otherwise, same-sex relations are always wrong. I’ll quote the pertinent passage here:

‘In 1998, another huge 84 percent of Filipinos called sexual relations between two adults of the same sex “always wrong.” This was the average of 83 among Catholics, 88 among other Christians, and 88 among non-Christians—hardly any difference by religion.

On the other hand, in 1998 those calling same-sex relations “always wrong” were minorities of 46 percent in the CW and 30 percent in the NCW. I have no idea why Catholicism makes some difference in Western Christian countries, but no difference in the Philippines. What I want to point out is that, in such areas, attitudes towards practicing homosexuals were much less intolerant than in the Philippines.

Incidentally, Filipino disapproval of same-sex relations has dropped by a few points, to 79 percent in 2008.’

The full article is here:

Four out of five Filipinos consider homosexual behavior to be wrong. While attitudes are changing, as they should, I am really sure that any effort, as people will perceive, to impose values that threaten the heterosexual, familial, and (I hate to say this) patriarchial basis of our society, will be met with fierce resistance.

It’s a good thing the ECP is not breaking ties with TEC on this, but it’s a bad thing that they haven’t spoken the truth in love.”

I expected to be attacked for this by some American posters because I admit my language was strong at the beginning. Anyway, one Swede replied, saying that culture is ultimately what matters in the homosexuality debate and yes, to some extent he is right. You can imagine that for every person who is pissed at Danton Remoto for advocating gay rights, another one is commending him for the courage of his convictions.

Another American, who happens to be a lesbian, reacted quite violently, and I was quite offended that I decided to actually reply. I am posting it here in full:

“Erika, you said:
      ‘Why does the view of people in the Philippines matter, but the view of Americans does not?
      Why is it important what Nigerians think, but not relevant what liberal members of the CoE believe?’

Because, in the end, the center of Christianity is shifting from the North to the South. (Remember the average Anglican comment?) We in this country are definitely part of it. And the South, let’s face it, is working pretty hard to preserve the things people in North America take for granted, like the heterosexual family.

Filipinos will not deny people like you the right to say all they want about protecting gays and lesbians. We are tolerant of that. As far as I know, my former professor in university, who is openly gay and is an activist for LGBT issues, has not been threatened with death for what he has said or done.

We wouldn’t want to kill off gays and lesbians as in Nigeria, but you have to understand that a large number of people in the Global South—not only the Philippines—feel betrayed that you are abandoning the values your forebears taught us. How, for instance, marriage is a life-long relationship between man and woman. And how a family is founded upon these things.

But I find this rhetorical flourish to be exactly what I mentioned in the beginning. If you don’t care about us, then you don’t care for the growing number of Americans who can trace their roots to my country. I apologize if my initial statements came off as offensive, so I understand if (as I perceive it) you snapped back.”

My point is this: I think Filipinos are more liberal than the surveys betray, but what makes us different, and what has prevented society from collapsing into civil war, is the role of the family and the heterosexual relation of marriage on which it is founded. I will not force it upon other cultures or societies, but the tragedy is that—if you think about it—human survival is predicated upon that very institution. Some societies may have unique familial arrangements, and the Philippine family, which is often the extended one (with friends, godparents, etc.) rather than the nuclear ones of the industrial West, is a throwback to the agrarian and tribal roots of Philippine society. But what societies have in common is that there is a network of nurturing relationships we call family, and it has historically been one which is founded upon heterosexual relations.

I do hope, though, that Filipinos also understand that lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals deserve respect rather than ridicule for who they are. There is growing evidence that this is not unnatural and can be cured by “therapy.” If there is a genetic basis, I fear that eugenics might flourish anew with conservative/reactionary support because of the LGBT question. This is where I am sympathetic with the position the “noisy activists” take. And more importantly, I hope Filipinos don’t emulate the Nigerians in calling for the jailing of gays and lesbians. (I suspect that the arts and culture sector will collapse if that happens, among other sectors.)

However, as the saying goes, one can choose one’s friends, but one cannot choose one’s family. And as Aristotle said at the beginning of his Ethics, sometimes the truth is more important than one’s friends. At the same time, I have friends who are gay and lesbian, and I will, for the moment, keep quiet and listen to the joys and sorrows they feel. After all, I think the 2008 Lambeth Conference was meant to be a place for listening and sharing, and I would rather keep that spirit, for now.


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