Astronomer vs. the Abominations

Aaa, it burns that most of my readers probably don’t speak Finnish. Because if you did, this column in the Turun Sanomat newspaper on the gay brouhaha of the Finnish Lutheran Church would be so sweet and right I’d send you over there wholesale.

(Google Translate is fractionally better than nothing. Also, here’s a Yle news article, in English, about the general thing; the count of those that have left is now at 28 000+.)

It is not entirely surprising the column is written by Esko Valtaoja, a professor of astronomy, who happens to be one of my idols. He’s something like Carl Sagan meets Phil Plait meets Neil deGrasse Tyson… but Finnish; a skeptic-scientist-atheist public intellectual who’s a beautiful union of all those and more. And he has a magnificent beard, which is never an achievement to be scoffed at. (My own attempt can still be classified only as “scraggly”; his is like a shovel of hair on his chin.)

(I would mention his popular-philosophical science books, too, but they’re all in Finnish.)

Because translating the whole column would be a dubious exercise and would probably do great violence to it, I just quote and mangle as I best can a few paragraphs that almost made me jump up and shout; almost, except that I am a Finn and such external expression of emotions is entirely alien to me. But within, the imp of reason did indeed jump and cavort and scream.

Tuoreessa kirjeenvaihdossamme olin nimittänyt ”iljetyksiksi” juuri homoillassa kuultujen kaltaisia ihmisiä. Juha paheksui tätä ja sanoi, että jos leimaamme jonkun iljetykseksi, ei enää ole mahdollista keskustella hänen kanssaan. Olin eri mieltä ja sanoin, että johonkin täytyy vetää raja. Vaikka kuinka kannatan keskustelua ja sillanrakennusta, on pahuutta, jota ei tarvitse sietää eikä edes yrittää ymmärtää.

Hätääntyneet kirkon edustajat ovat vedonneet siihen, että puheenjohtaja Päivi Räsänen ja piispa Matti Repo eivät edusta koko kirkkoa, ja että parhaiten homojen asemaa parannetaan vaikuttamalla kirkon sisällä. On tietysti totta, että kristillisdemokraattien suhde kristillisyyteen on suunnilleen sama kuin kansandemokraattien suhde demokratiaan. Totta on sekin, että kirkon sisältä löytyy runsaasti myös homomyönteistä suhtautumista, piispoja myöten.

Mutta kyse ei olekaan siitä. Kyse on siitä, kuinka kukaan ajatteleva ihminen voi enää samaistua yhteisöön, joka väittää olevansa rakkauden asialla ja samalla sallii pahuuden lietsonnan omassa piirissään.

That’s more or less this; the word I translate as “slimeball” could be “an abomination”, too:

In my recent exchange of letters [with bishop Juha Pihkala, on science and faith, now out in hardcover!] I called the people of the kind that exhibited their opinion on the matter at the TV show “slimeballs”. Juha resented this particular word-choice, and said that if we “slimeballed” someone, it would no longer be possible to engage in a conversation with him. I disagreed and said that there had to be limits. No matter how I myself support discussion and the building of bridges, there still is evil that we don’t need to tolerate or even try to understand.

Distressed church leaders have reminded us that Päivi Räsänen [leader of the Christian Democrat party] and bishop Matti Repo do not represent the whole church, and the situation of homosexuals can be best improved by working inside the church. It is of course true that the relation of the Christian Democrats to Christianity is right about the same as that of a People’s Democracy [of the former Communist bloc countries] to democracy. It is also true that there’s a lot of pro-gay opinion within the church, even at the level of bishops.

But that’s not the problem here. The problem is how any thinking human being can still sympathize with a community that claims to be motivated by love, and at the same time allows such evil to be agitated within its confines.

After which he went on to deliver some very good lines on how this is not the time to discuss homosexuality, “‘respecting and listening’ to people like Päivi Räsänen”; that discussion is over and decided already, “at least on the part of all thinking people who love their fellow human beings”. He then finished by suggesting the church could be divided into two: one part motivated by compassion and love in the vein of the double-love commandment of Matt. 22:34-40, and the other by the whole overly legalistic, mostly literalistic reading of the rest of the Bible.

And the stinger? Itse asiassa tällainen jako on jo tapahtumassa, päätellen siitä, kuinka suuri määrä kristittyjä kuluneella viikollakin on kirkosta eronnut; or “As a matter of fact this division is taking place already, seeing how many Christians have left the Church during this very week.”

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