Luke Tryl is an Oxford-educated young Tory-on-the-move. He was President of the Oxford Union in 2007; stood as a Conservative candidate for Lambeth Council in 2010 , a useful Tory precursor for a subsequent shot at Parliament; was appointed Head of Education at Stonewall after experience at various policy think-tanks ; and was elected chairman of Dulwich & West Norwood Conservative Association in March this year .
Still only in his late 20s, last month he was appointed Special Adviser to Nicky Morgan, the new Education Secretary. I wish him well personally as he continues his climb up politics’ greasy pole.
But Luke self-identifies as gay and Christian, and in an autobiographical piece for the Faith and Sexuality Project he promotes the idea that because Christ never mentioned it directly, “Jesus… never condemned homosexuality.”
This is naïve and simplistic. The same for instance could be said about child brides. And incest. And FGM. And zoophilia. And cannibalism. And animal cruelty. And deforestation. And spitting on other people’s food. And a host of other activities, ills and evils.
Furthermore it’s a self-serving and untrue conclusion that cheapens the radical demands which Jesus lays on all his followers.
Luke has a personal agenda of course but regrettably he is not alone in his views. Soaking wet liberal clergy similarly misrepresent the issue. And last Christmas the tabloid news site HuffPost mockingly displayed a blank-paged Bible in response to its own headline, “What Jesus says about homosexuality” .
Further, with the doctrinal authority that accompanies celebrity, Elton John informs us that “if Jesus was alive today” (oops, fallen at the first fence; Elton clearly is not too strong on the most basic tenet of his religion) the Lord would be in favour of gay marriage for priests as “he was all about love and compassion and forgiveness and trying to bring people together”. And fairies, Father Christmas and cuddly bunnies too, no doubt.
So, leaving aside the candy floss of pink theology we can turn instead to the challenges of reality and truth:
During his three-year ministry Jesus engaged almost entirely with Jews in the land of Israel whose religious and cultural background was the Hebrew scriptures – what Christians today call the ‘Old Testament’. As is well known, the ‘Law of Moses’ found in these scriptures is formidably firm about much sexual morality: for instance it specifically prohibits incest (Leviticus 18:6f), adultery (20:10) and bestiality (20:15) as well as homosexuality (18:22).
Did Jesus try to alter or amend this Law? Absolutely not; he told his followers specifically that he did not come to change even “a jot or tittle” of the Law.
Not only that, he raised the bar significantly and told us we are judged on our thoughts and attitudes as much as our outward actions. “You have heard that it was said (that is, in the Mosaic Law) ‘Do not commit adultery’, but I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he said in his Sermon on the Mount.
Time and again, using specific examples to illustrate the general principle, Jesus moves from the outward action proscribed by Mosaic Law to the deeper attitude of heart he requires of his followers. ‘Do not commit murder’ (outward) becomes ‘Do not even be angry’ (inward). ‘Take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ (outward) becomes ‘Do not even resist an evil person’ (inward).
So, although Jesus doesn’t mention incest, it is self-evident that if you are a follower of Christ you cannot copulate with your close family or even look at them sexually.
Similarly, although Jesus doesn’t mention bestiality, the man who proudly claims to have enjoyed “interspecies intercourse” with a dolphin and a dog cannot – and hopefully does not – claim to be a committed Christian.
Therein lies the rub. Luke wants to have his cake and eat it. He wants both to follow Christ and to have sex with men.
Of course as a free citizen he is able to go to bed with whoever he chooses within the law. But if he joins the army he cannot fight for the enemy. If he signs for the local football club he cannot kick a rugby ball on the pitch. If he chooses to cycle to Birmingham he cannot travel via the motorways.
And if he decides to follow Christ he cannot bed another man.
Christians sin and do wrong, Luke and yours truly included, and certainly Jesus’ commands are radical and demanding. But it is disloyal, unChristian even, for us actively to promote a morality that is flat against his teaching.
(It is significant that singer-theologian Vicky Beeching, in an interview with gay activist Patrick Strudwick that inevitably includes a hefty dose of his agenda-driven vitriol about the church, avoided any reference to the Faith’s founder when she came out as lesbian this week.)
So what would Jesus say to Luke? Probably the same as he said to the woman caught in the act of adultery: “I don’t condemn you, but go and sin no more.”