St. Hilda's Collegiate School, taken with my phone after a recent meeting. This picture has nothing whatsoever to do with what follows, but I like the interplay of shapes and particularly the shadow on the wall.
We sometimes got heated but never came to blows, and there were some basic family ground rules, originating with our parents, about acceptable opinions. In politics we were left (naturally) and we were, I now realise, fairly progressive on things like race relations and women's rights. And on matters of sexual orientation. I can't remember as a family actually having any gay friends and acquaintances but we accepted "that's the way some people are" and we had a family abhorrence of disadvantaging anyone for something outside of their control. Actually, the question of whether or not it was outside of their control probably occupied us for a few hours when roast mutton and boiled spuds were being passed around.
When I was old enough to be under the sway of the testosterone washing round my body, I knew which way my own orientation lay; I didn't make any choices about that, any more I suspect than anyone else does. I knew that I was a raging heterosexual. I cannot remember even once being even remotely attracted to a man, so it was all quite simple for me; homosexuality was something other people did, so what business was it of mine to ever get steamed up - in any way - about it?
After my conversion to Christianity in 1973 I attended churches where social and theological views were decidedly conservative, but on this matter I simply couldn't find the energy to muster the required amount of indignation. I've had the Biblical case for regarding homosexual behaviour as sinful presented to me many times, but somehow it just doesn't wash, any more than the Biblical case for the sinfulness of eating pork or that for preventing women from speaking in church.
So why do I hold the views I do? I would have thought that by now the answer to that question would be pretty obvious. Because that's the way I was raised, that's why. It's not just that for all the formative years of my life I had a pretty thorough apprenticeship in liberal humanism, but also that my personality type, my life experience, my ways of ingesting and processing information all predispose me to think the things I think and believe the things I believe.
It is my opinion that this is true for what most of us think, about most things, most of the time. Of course we pretend this isn't the case. We, all of us, talk and think as though we are blank slates and that out of all the various options on any subject we have chosen (how wise of us!) the stance that is most obviously right and correct. Of course we have some free will as to our opinions, but I think it operates in fairly constrained limits.
I am a convinced Christian but if I had been born in Saudi Arabia instead of New Zealand I would doubtlessly be a mullah instead of a priest, or a Buddhist monk if I had been born in Tibet or Thailand. And if I had been born into a different family or had a brain wired in a marginally different way or for reasons far outside of my control had a different experience of life I would in all likelihood be a theological and social conservative. And of course in each of these conditions I would believe in the rightness of my position and argue vigorously for it, backing my opinions with sound arguments and irrefutable scriptural authority.
My opinions are largely not chosen, they are circumstantial. But then again, so are everyone else's. So here we go in the church ripping ourselves apart over an issue in which we all are more or less predisposed to hold the views we do. Which is not what the Holy Spirit calls us to. Christ calls me into discipleship; that is, into closer and closer union with God. This does NOT mean that I must conform myself more and more closely to the one righteous Godly position on any given subject (even if I fondly like to believe that the righteous position is the one I already hold). It means rather, that God leads me, everyday, to understand more and more fully what I think and how I react. But more importantly, God painstakingly and patiently leads me to understand why I think and react the way I do. This place of understanding is the place of real freedom. It's only here that I have real choices about how I believe and how I act on those beliefs.