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19 October 2003  


"Shut up," he explained. I was able to guess from the title of A.N. Wilson's editorial in the Telegraph today, "I'd be sad to see my Church sundered by so small a thing", what it was about and its take on the Anglican situation…what I couldn't guess was that bacon sandwiches would be involved.

Before getting around to the sandwiches, the piece repeats some scurrilous gossip about Paul VI having a longtime (male) lover, and expresses a devout wish that the gossip is true. Apologize! Apologize! A.N. Wilson must apologize or be fired! Whoops, I got confused and thought I was a member of an Approved Oppressed Group there. Sorry.

Anyhow, back to the bacon-laced graf in question:

There are certain things you try not to do, if you are religious, because they are forbidden rather than because you believe them to be morally wrong. No Jew thinks it is sinful to eat a bacon sandwich, though many Jews believe it is forbidden by covenant. It is sinful to commit a murder or to grind the faces of the poor. Sexual conduct is surely on the same level of seriousness as eating a bacon sandwich, and we might have hoped that nowadays, given the diversity of human life, the Church would have chosen to shut up about sex. It looks as if their failure to do so is about to be their undoing. But it would be foolish to think that this is a uniquely Anglican phenomenon.

So sex means next to nothing, and the Church should just "shut up about" it. (I loved the way he threw in the word "surely", too, just to quash any doubts we might have had about the statement being self-evidently true.) Hmmph. I liked Eve Tushnet's rejoinder to this line of argument on her blog:

Treating sex casually trivializes it. It drains the meaning from one of the most meaningful areas of life. We want sex because it's important—it gets all tangled up with our emotions, hopes, and best desires. But in order to get all the sex we want, "free love" types must pretend sex is unimportant. It's just something you do; why should you save it for the one you love? In many ways, it was rejecting that view of sex-as-candy that led me to investigate the Catholic faith. And I rejected the "free love" view partly because of literature—can anybody really be an English major and still believe sex is just a human activity with no deeper meaning?—and partly because my whole life, my fears, alienation, desires, ideals, made no sense if sex was just play.

Just so. What this writer is curious to know is whether the calls for Christianity to "shut up" about sex—and worse, the viciousness directed at "dinosaurs" like the Pope who articulate a different view—is just an example of the Left's typical intolerance of those who dare to think differently, or whether something deeper lies behind it.

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