Thursday, October 29, 2015

Finding God in a World of Distraction


I ask myself what the chief obstacle to Christian renewal is, and I come back to the same issue, avoidance.  We want to avoid dealing with what matters, and so—we indulge in distractions.  And the distraction helps us to avoid doing the basics, the things that matter.  Thus our parochial, religious, and secular life becomes consumed with busy-ness, a series of distractions so engrossing that we can avoid the reality of God.

Distraction as religion can take many forms.  It can involve sitting on boards, and going to meetings (a favorite for up-and-coming clergy.)  It can take on the mask of an “evangelism”, that is really nothing more than secular marketing dressed up to look Christian, whose sole purpose is to fill pews and increase a church’s income.  It can take the guise of social activism.  It can also take the form of a “defending the faith”, that is nothing more than rabble rousing and, often secular, politics—a confession: this is one of my favorite distractions. Or, it can take the form of Church Reform, constantly changing things to make them better (usually without having seriously tried the "old ways")—this is a favorite avoidance tactic of the Puritan, both of right and left, and by far the most destructive kind of avoidance and distraction.

Furthermore, our present society is well engineered to promote such distractions. There is first the morning commute and rush.  We throw on our clothes, get the kids off to school, grab a bite  on the way or at work, drive like maniacs, listen to news that is designed to get us stirred up against “them”, attend meetings or have a constant flow of people take up our day, grab a bite at lunch, more meetings, drive a stressful commute home, pick up the kids at daycare or after school activities, grab takeout, and collapse in front of the TV or computer, until we fall asleep, then drag ourselves of to bed and start over.  Clergy and people in professional ministry are as prone to this as everybody else.  And for all of us, it is a way of living in which there is practically no time set aside for rest, for peace, for reflection—for God.

How do we escape this?  How do we make time for God?  It seems to me first of all that we need to do all in our power so as to engineer and organize our lives so as to make room for what is most important.  Anything we can do to reduce our commute, make it easier to have time for God, make it easier to get to church, and make it easier to relax is going to be worth the effort.  If we want to pray regularly, then we need to make it a priority, and make time for it: the time will not make itself.  If we want to have that encounter with God in Scripture through a prayerful reading of the Bible, then we need to make time for it.  If we want to get to mass or common prayer during the week, then we need to make it easy to do so, and make time for it.  If we want to examine our conscience before God, so that we may overcome our vices and live a life more pleasing to him, then we need to make time for it.  Churches, if we want people to have an encounter with God, then we need to make sure there is accessible sacred space for prayer and reflection, and it would help to have Bibles and prayer books easily available.  And we need to make sure our services are sacred times and provide space for that encounter.  If we need more physical exercise, and practically all of us do, then we need to make it convenient for ourselves, and make time for it.  If we want to sit down and have a family meal, then we need to make time for it.

In short, if we wish to grow closer to God, then we must make an effort, and that often includes giving up things that are of secondary importance, especially our distractions and addictions.  And if we want God, we must trust that if we put him first, he will provide all we need, not all we need to keep up with the Joneses, not all we need to satisfy our earthly appetites, perhaps not all we need to survive in this world, for none of us gets out of it alive.  But he will give us all we need to find him, and with him, what more do we need.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Why, as a Christian, I like Hallowe'en.

Christopher Lee as Dracula

Many of my fellow Christians get worked up over the dangers of Hallowe'en.  I personally have always liked it, for the same reason that I really like old horror movies, that is, about 1970 or before.  (After that, with special effects, they often strike me as a delight in violence and blood that is deeply disturbing.) Let me explain why.

Part of the danger we face nowadays is that we avoid the evil of evil.  Sometimes we romanticize and play down evil, like, it seems to me, the Twilight series does.  Or we are paranoid about it thus giving it power over us, like some of my fellow Christians do by trying to ban Hallowe'en altogether.  Or we delight in it per se, as it seems to me the modern gore and violence movies do. 

Essential to the old horror movies (and to the universe of good story) are stories with real villains and real heroes.  Everyone knew that vampires were bad things, that you shouldn't let them in the door, and that they (like evil generally) were deceptive.  They were dangerous, they made a good story, but they also were an object of fun.  Who wasn't delighted when the sun burned Dracula up?

During the Jewish feast of Purim, Jews tell the story of God delivering his people as found in the book of Esther. They hiss whenever Haman is mentioned, dress up in costumes, celebrate their deliverance from Haman and other persecutors of God's people, and mock Haman and his ilk.  It seems to me that this is the way we should approach Hallowe'en.  It is both a celebration of our deliverance from death and evil in Christ, and also a way of mocking the evil one and his minions, from whose power Christ has delivered us.  We should delight as we do it, remembering as St. Thomas More said, that “The devil … that proud spirit … cannot endure to be mocked.” 

We should not, however, diminish the evils of the world, or their real danger to us.  Stories, and play, and dressing up, are not only ways of making fun, but also ways of helping us to face reality.  They are ways of reminding ourselves, and our children, that there are real perils in the world.  As C.S. Lewis said:

"… Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker. Nor do most of us find that violence and bloodshed, in a story, produce any haunting dread in the minds of children. As far as that goes, I side impenitently with the human race against the modern reformer. Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the book. …"


So, let there be vampires!  And let the story end with the hero pulling aside the curtain so that they can be vanquished by the sun.  

Friday, October 16, 2015

How Can We Renew Our Churches?



The chief concern of my fellow Christians these days seems to be survival, the survival of Christianity, the survival of our churches.  Indeed, I do not doubt that one of the chief concerns of those at the Synod of the family in Rome over admission of the divorced and remarried to communion is getting such persons back in the pews, and preventing the hemorrhaging of people off of the church roles (with the consequent loss of the church tax).  It is hard not to be a little cynical when one observes clergy, and others of us whose livelihood depends on the church, worried about these things.  And indeed, when one sees some of the tactics employed to get people into church, and contributing, the cynicism seems even more justified.  I would suggest that focussing on the problem, especially in this way, namely getting people back into the pews and contributing, is not only counterproductive, but will inevitably result making matters much worse.  If we really wish renewal it will involve looking both at the roots of the present problems and addressing them and also in re-engaging precisely those things which make for spiritual health and life.  Below I will outline what I think this should include. 

The chief cause of the collapse of Christianity that we are now undergoing is doubtless our failure to deal in a honest, rational, and scriptural way with human sexuality.  The things which burst upon us with the Sexual Revolution were undermining our churches long before.  Of the Sexual Revolution, I am reminded of Fr. Thomas Hopko's comment that there has not been  a Sexual Revolution, merely a "copulation explosion."  A Sexual Revolution, he said, would have us discovering anew our God-given sexuality, and entering more deeply into the mystery of it, and into an understanding of its role in God's plan for a redeemed humanity.  This is not what has happened. 

Any renewal of our churches must address the question of human sexuality, and it must do so in a new way, that is a significantly different way from how we have been doing things.  We cannot keep doing the things we have done in the past, and expect different results.  Right now we have two equally untenable positions duking it out with each other.   One uncritically asserts a series of moral prohibitions passed down from the previous generation, without examining their rationale or discerning their roots.  Nor can we adopt a laissez-faire attitude towards sexuality, blessing whatever comes along.  It must be a true sexual revolution.  In order to be a true sexual revolution it must be grounded in human nature and right reason, including the principle of natural justice or natural law.  It must also be well founded on Scripture and on the Christian vision of human life and the human body, as being created good, as being subject to the fall, as being redeemed, and as being destined for resurrection.  In order for it to be a true sexual revolution, there must be an unprecedented honesty about our present sexual state, including what went wrong both before and after the so-called Sexual Revolution.  And, most importantly, there must be an offering to God of our sexuality, and a prayerful invitation to Him to enter what is perhaps the most embarrassing part of our lives for us.  None of this will be easy.

Nor is this the whole story for spiritual renewal.  It is neither all that is required, nor can the addressing of our sexuality be done in a vacuum.  Church renewal must include a renewal in our spirituality and worship, and also a renewal in our approach to leading the moral life, and these two are related.  Probably the chief obstacle to our approaching God in worship is our inability to face our own sin.  Indeed we seem to go to great lengths to avoid this, and much of the activism in the life of our churches seems to me a way of avoiding examining our consciences, praying, and offering to God our repentance.  Perhaps, just as we believe that our sexuality is something too embarrassing to offer to God, so likewise we are so ashamed of our sins, and so unbelieving in the free gift of forgiveness and salvation prepared for us in the Atonemenment, in the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, in the fact that God does forgive, that we cannot face them.  So, instead of engaging in the disciplines of the Christian life—daily prayer and worship, reading of Scripture, Christian meditation, examination of conscience, and confession, including sacramental confession—we create programs, engage in social ministries, put on social events, or have teaching and classes on subjects other than basic Christian doctrine and ascetics—all good things, but not a substitute for the basics, which alone can make a real difference.

Spiritual renewal has to include a renewal of the basics of life, for us Anglicans, as these are set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.  Chief among these is renewal of our worship, worship as an occasion for a real encounter with God.  This used to be true of both "low" and "high" Anglican worship, but it seems like we are falling to much to the tendency to use even our worship to avoid God.  It tends to degenerate into either into a worship of ourselves and "community", or it becomes a matter of inducing an emotional high that is either sub-rational, or even anti-rational.  These are precisely trends which Christian worship, which is worship of the Logos, the divine rationality, must avoid.  Christian worship is not dry worship, but neither is it irrational.  A liturgy without doctrinal and rational content is not Christian worship, it is not the sobria ebrietas, the sober intoxication, which is characteristic of the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of the Logos, but it becomes rather a kind of dangerous surrender to irrational forces which can destroy us.  Nor is a turning towards ourselves as an object of worship anything but the creation of an idol, a god without substance, which only leaves us feeling empty and desperate.

Finally spiritual renewal must be a renewal in ascetics, in the disciplines of the Christian life.  Christianity is about being a disciple of Jesus, and as the word indicates, discipleship means discipline.  We cannot merit our salvation or God's forgiveness, but being on the path of salvation means that we must allow God's grace to work within us, to change us, and that is where ascesis, or Christian discipline, come in.  Chief among these in our time has to be the cultivation of silence, of attentiveness to God.  This is always true, but it is especially true for us because in our society "the greatest menace to our capacity for contemplation is the incessant fabrication of tawdry empty stimuli which kill the receptivity of the soul", as Josef Pieper says.  That is, we live in a society, which, having turned its back on God, is constantly in frenetic motion so as to avoid him, and which thus creates all kinds of noise so as to make silence impossible.  Our first great task then is to cultivate precisely those things which will make the soul more receptive, and to remove those things—including not least our own sins and vices, that is bad habits—that impede or kill off that receptivity.  This means among other things the creation and preservation of sacred times and spaces where the world of busy-ness, including the world of busy-ness in the name of religion, cannot intrude.

If there is renewal, God will do it.  We cannot do it for him.  But renewal cannot happen if we are unwilling to face ourselves as God created us, including our sexuality.  Renewal cannot happen if we do not make room for God in our souls by dealing with those things which close us off from God. Renewal most importantly cannot happen if we are unprepared, created as we are by God, to face him, who is ultimately lovely, and real, and good, and to fall down before Him as alone worthy of our worship, adoration, and praise.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Good things about being an Anglican (at least a High Church one)


I offer the following list, not as an example of how “we are better than you”, but as things we have for which I am grateful, and which I commend to others, including my fellow Anglicans, who may be tempted to forget what we have.

1. Actual worship of God: especially, following Jesus’ command, worshiping together on the Lord’s Days and Major Feasts, with Scripture being proclaimed, and the Eucharist being celebrated using the elements commanded by our Lord, namely bread and wine, and following our Lord’s example, sharing the sacrament of Christ’s Blood from a common cup with my fellow Christians, kneeling reverently before God’s altar.

2. Praying together with psalms and readings from the Bible twice daily, most often with others, using Daily Morning and Evening Prayer as appointed by the Prayer Book.

3. Having the essential services throughout the year all together in one book, the Book of Common Prayer (and if it is bound with the Bible, you have all you need!)

4. Having a version of my own language, English, which is also in a sacred register (in Rite I), like the liturgical language of Jewish Temple Worship, and the early Christian liturgies.

5. The tradition of having a church which is a sacred public space, open for prayer, and designed for an encounter with God.

6. Having doctrinal principles which serve as a corrective against the folly of those in power, including a misguided majority:  Scripture is understood as the Word of God written, and the essential test-stone of doctrine, understanding that both right reason and tradition are essential for a proper understanding of Scripture.  As a corollary, accepting that revealed truth is something accessible to every human intellect, and thus bound by no one Christian’s (ultimately subjective) infallibility, nor to the limited understanding and experience of a particular church.  Thus we can benefit from a true sense of catholicity, and the ability to read and learn from whatever is good in non-Anglican theology — Eastern Orthodox, Roman, Catholic, or Protestant — without the need to apologize for doing so.

7. A polity in which no one is supposed to have absolute authority, not the bishop, not the lay leadership, not the clergy, not General Convention (although all, especially the last, have tried to assert it.)  This is particularly  true, I think, for Episcopalians, whose traditions of American republicanism in the past served as a check on the abuse of power.  Thus we have a tradition of subsidiarity, something which also serves as a check on bureaucracy.  We can also be free from the temptation to worship those in top positions, i.e., no cult of personality surrounding our clergy or religious leadership. (Although we are sometimes tempted to worship the institution, which is itself a dangerous form of idolatry.)

8. Following ancient Judaism and the early Christians, an appreciation of art of all kinds, including depiction of the natural world and the human figure, including our Lord, as an aid to worship, which rightly understands idolatry as any human construct, including intellectual constructs, which takes the place of God, who, while known from his works, in his essence is incomprehensible.

9. A sense of Christian community — including hospitality, graciousness, charity, and mercy — which begins right after the Eucharist in coffee hour,  and extends to feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and all the other works of mercy in a remarkable way.

10. It might be objected that Anglicanism is a mess, to which I would respond that practically all of Christianity is a mess: there is no system of Church governance which relieves people from the need to be faithful faithful or good, or which can prevent them from sinning, including those in the highest positions.  What Anglicanism gives is the ability to actually ask the question, not about who is in authority and how his decisions are to be interpreted, but about what is actually true and right and the will of God, as well as a comprehensive ascetical and pastoral system, a system of prayer and discipleship, not just for religious or clergy, but for the ordinary Christian to live and witness to the Gospel.

With all these gifts, if we do not use them it is no one’s fault but our own.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

When "Christian Ethics" Go Terribly Wrong

A taboo is a prohibition which is absolute, absolute in a way that it cannot be discussed rationally.  So, for instance, some words become taboo.  It used to be that words discussing human sexuality were taboo.  Nowadays racial epithets are taboo, so taboo that we cannot use them even in a discussion of their origin, meaning, and why they are taboo.  (You will note that in order to avoid this taboo, I am not even mentioning an example of such a word.)  In our society taboos represent ideological absolutes.  That is, they represent ideological principles that must be accepted, and cannot be discussed or analyzed rationally.  In religious we call the embracing of such ideological absolutes fundamentalism.  Fundamentalism is problematic because it shortcuts human reason.  This attempt to bypass human reason is, as I have discussed in previous posts, usually destructive of our humanity, or the humanity of others.

There are two such taboos in our society into which I constantly run head on, one on the "right", and the other on the "left" of our political discourse.  On the right is the issue of homosexuality.  Those on the right not only assume that homosexuality is wrong, but are unable to discuss it rationally.  That is, they are unable to discuss or examine the origins of this moral prohibition, why it might be wrong, and what ancients texts prohibiting actually might mean in context.  It must be said in their favor that this difficulty is not helped by the great deal of poor scholarship attempting to question this prohibition.  However, the taboo is most unhelpful in trying to understand the question in accordance with right reason.

The second taboo, into which I run, on the "left", has to do with abortion.  I recently had a friend who just assumed that because of my Liberal stance on so many political issues that I must be behind "abortion rights".  The idea that I, in fact, was not, was not only a matter of great distress to her, but utterly incomprehensible.  She was unable to consider that a woman's autonomous "right to her own body" was not so broad as to include killing another human life within her.  Nor could she be drawn into a rational discussion of the issues and moral principles involved.  The notion of any restriction being placed on this autonomy was taboo.  This experience I had was, I have found, not unusual, not at all unusual.

I realize that I have by now lost most of my readers.  Most of us in live communities, and perhaps most importantly, religious communities, where at least one of these taboos is strongly enforced.  Many of us have internalized these taboos.  Thus there are those to whom any dissent from the premise that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered, and all homosexual activity a mortal sin, is so absolute that no further discussion of the issue is possible.  There are also those whose notion of a woman's absolute autonomy over her own body is so inflexible that the idea of any discussing of why abortion might be wrong is impermissible.  If you are of either camp, there is nothing further I can say to you.  If, however, you are in any way interested in promoting reasoning together how we might be able to address these issues in a rational way, please read on.  I think this can be a useful discussion, because, among other reasons, it seems to me that these two taboos are in fact related.

Let us talk a bit about homosexuality first.  I recently read James Neill's book, "The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies".  First I must say that this is not a great book. It does not contain significant original scholarship, and there are parts, such as where he discusses Scripture, where his sources are very poor scholarship.  Occasionally he makes significant mistakes, a few of which are rather amusing (such as "'homo' is Latin for 'same'").  Also, there are some lacunae, things omitted, such as dealing with the health effects of certain sexual behaviors. However, it is a useful book in that it is a decent summary of the state of scholarship, and where that scholarship is good, for example, in the biological and anthropological origins of homosexuality, then it is a good resource for understanding the matter.  In terms of Scripture, it also gives, while not good exegesis, nevertheless a decent basis for understanding the world in which the Bible was written, and therefore for understanding how Hebrew and Christian morality differed from that of the surrounding society.  Now I knew most of this, and indeed the essential points of the argument, before I read Neill's book.  However, his book provided a good summary, as well as a list of references, so I recommend it to you.

I am not an advocate of primitivism, or of Rousseau's notion of the noble savage. Human sin — theologically a failure to do that which is pleasing to God, philosophically a failure to act in accordance with right reason (cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologica Ia IIae q. 163) — is a constant factor in a fallen world.  Nonetheless, so called "primitive" societies can and do tell us something about how human nature works itself out, something that our cultural prejudices can blind us to when we examine only our own culture.

How then do animals, and primitive human societies, regulate reproduction in such a way as will contribute to the prospering of the species?  In particular, how do they regulate the very strong sex drive of males, especially younger males, and the concomitant high aggression, in a beneficial way?  How do human societies, in particular, where child rearing is a long process requiring a large degree of familial and societal cohesion, ensure stable family and social structures, which could easily be destroyed by unregulated libido and aggression?  In short, how do they avoid what are now social problems which plague us: unwanted pregnancies of people who are insufficiently ready or mature to have and raise children, violence and aggression among young men, and unstable family structures with absent fathers?  How do they deal with the violence that is the result of a lack of social cohesion and an inability to deal with male aggression, often an aggression consequent upon a failure to deal with male libido?

In most species males are separated out from family groups at puberty in such a way as to prevent their aggression and libido from being destructive to females and pre-pubescent offspring.  They often gather in male-only groups, where homosexual behavior serves as a sexual release, and also can serve as a form of group cohesion.  Only when males are able successfully to compete for a mate do they start heterosexual activity, and then often the homosexual activity does not stop.  The closer one gets to Homo Sapiens, the greater the frequency of homosexuality, and its importance for the good functioning of the species.  There are a number of reason why this is the case.  Male Homo sapiens have a relatively constant sex drive, unlike other species where the sex drive is more closely timed to seasons or times in life.  As a result, the human male reproductive system works best when there is frequent ejaculation (4–5 times per week on average).  Also the need for social cohesion between males is greater among social animals, of whom homo sapiens is the most social.

Anthropological and historical research show that the pattern found in other animals in fact occurs in homo sapiens.  The patterns in primitive human societies, when boys hit puberty, is that they are segregated from their mothers and families.  They engage in homosexual activities with their peers and often have a mentor and lover who instructs them in the skills required to be a man in their community.  When they are deemed mature enough, they are allowed to court and marry.  Often after marriage they will continue a sexual relationship with other men, as a means of relieving sexual tension, and also of avoiding adultery with other women.  In this way, human homosexuality serves the functions of regulating the libido, and thus of diminishing aggression.  Diminishing aggression and the emotional bonds formed with other men promotes social cohesion among men, and also diminishes conflict over women.  The sexual relationship with a mentor also serves an educational function to help each man become a good man in his society.

Anyone who has studied, for instance, Greek society will see the clear parallels between the primitive societies which were the subjects of anthropological research and Greek society.  Certain societies, for instance those where polygamy is practiced, and certain more advanced societies, such as Chinese society and Roman society, where slavery and other power structures become enmeshed with issues of sexual behavior, present particular problems.  However, one sees the same sets of concerns and issues being worked out.  Ancient Hebrew society appears not to have been significantly different from other ancient societies, except that certain sexual activities and sexual activities between persons related to each other in certain ways was prohibited.  These prohibitions do not appear to be significantly different from those found in some other ancient societies.  The writers of the New Testament assume the Hebraic prohibitions.

The earliest evidence for what we think of as being traditional Christian sexual morality occurs some time after the New Testament was written.  Because of this it is assumed that the New Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures (the Christian Old Testament) say certain things about sexual morality which in fact are not clear from the texts themselves.  One can often depend on subsequent tradition for determining the meaning of biblical texts, but in this case the tradition itself is conflicted, especially on the subject of homosexuality.  However, as one might expect, the legal sources, rabbinical and canonical, provide a clear picture of the strict meaning of biblical texts which is in conflict with a more popular understanding.  In particular, what is more popularly understood by later generations as a prohibition against all homosexual activity is in fact seen by these sources as a prohibition on anal sex (something Neil, sadly, does not discuss). 

What happened in Christianity is that there began to be in late antiquity a very restrictive understanding of permissible sexual activity, an understanding that prohibited all sexual activity as sinful which was not either deliberately procreative in nature or which was not at least possibly procreative.  Sexual activity in the latter category, namely sexual intercourse between married persons was allowed, but discouraged, as a means of sexual release to avoid sexual sin.  Desire for sexual activity per se was seen as being sinful.  This was certainly the consensus view in Western Christianity by the end of the Middle Ages, and remained so among both Protestants (many of whom who were suspicious of celibacy as being an occasion for sexual sin) and Roman Catholics.  These two were thus in essential agreement about what sexual morality consisted of at the time of the Reformation.  The notion, promoted by the likes of Christopher West, that sexual desire (except for the desire to beget children) was a good thing is in fact quite recent in modern Roman Catholicism. 

One of the things that happened in the way of enforcing this consensus on the Western Church was that homosexuality was especially stigmatized.  This appears first among vowed celibates, as it was probably a temptation to which they were more subject.  The demonization of homosexual desire and activity became prevalent about the 13th century, and was directed both against clerics, and also against the military nobility, the class who preserved ancient structure of homosexual behavior as it was originally found in human society.  The effects of this were however, not so much to promote the ideals of churchmen, but rather, by a kind of default, to promote heterosexual behavior.  Thus, for instance, towns in the Middle Ages are known to have founded or promoted brothels, so that young men would have a non-homosexual outlet.  Amongst royalty and nobility adultery, especially the keeping of mistresses, becomes much more common after the demonization of homosexuality.  Churchman often tolerated such things, as being preferable to homosexual behavior.  Here we begin to see how the way in which human societies naturally regulated libido in a socially beneficial way begins to fall apart. 

As Neill outlines, the contact of primitive societies with Westernized society in the 20th century provides a good example, with change occurring in decades as opposed to centuries, of what happens when the natural means of regulating human sexual behavior are overturned.  Many of these societies, upon coming into contact with a Modern society that strongly disapproved of homosexuality, were forced to abandon their traditional homosexual practices.  The consequence in these societies is unmistakable and clear.  There has been a great increase in pregnancies out of wedlock, in teen pregnancy, in adultery (meaning between a man and a woman not his wife, or vice versa) and in divorce and single parent families, all things which are not taking place in our own society.  There has also been, in an attempt to address some of these issues, the importation of contraceptives, some of which have very negative effects, and in abortions, things which were not hitherto required in those societies.  Thus we see how an attempt to introduce “Christian” ethics into these societies, has been quite destructive, and productive of effects which most devout Christians would deplore.   


In future posts I will attempt to explore further what I think is a better base for an ethics and morality based in natural law, and also a scripturally based ethics, would look like, as well as exploring some of the theological issues involved.  I will also examine why these things involve, not rational moral discourse, but taboos.  I recommend, if you have not done so, that you do read Neill’s work.