Homosexuality in Western culture: a cultural/theological perspective (Part 1 of 2)

 

I know, I know. I said last time that I was finished publishing on here. However, this series is for my critics. Enjoy!

 

PART ONE:

The Cultural Perspective

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In general I try to keep my articles much shorter than this, however because this topic is so convoluted it required much more. In one sense this article is a result of a personal journey through my study of homosexuality within our culture. The article is divided as such:

Part One: The Cultural Perspective

This section aims at understanding homosexuality from a historical perspective in light of the claim that this way of life is not a choice and is an aspect of human nature.

Part Two: The Theological Perspective

This section aims at considering the religious/theological objections to homosexuality and determining if the common understanding of these conclusions are accurate.

Therefore, it is my hope that understanding both parts together will provide one with a better understanding of the cultural situation while at the same time providing an appropriate religious attitude toward this subculture.
It is my goal to provide a fair evaluation of this topic in a way that is respectful and promotes dialogue between Christians and the LGBT community. I am not interested in simply regurgitating arguments from either side, but would like to consider the topic in a rational logical manner.

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There is no issue in today’s culture which provokes more debate than homosexuality. There are several reasons for this, which we will discuss later, but suffice it to say it’s complicated. The topic becomes increasingly convoluted when you add emotion, personal anecdotes and misunderstanding.

When you have two extreme positions that dominate the various forms of media it can be difficult to have a robust dialogue regarding the topic. As is almost always the case both extreme positions are wrong. But extreme positions are not without utility. They can oftentimes serve as a foil in order to bring about a more moderate (and accurate) solution to a problem.

Understanding the historical situation.

There are many misconceptions regarding “homosexuality” within history. First, the term itself was coined by 19th century psychologist Karoly Maria Benkert and was meant to refer to “same sex attraction”. Even though the term is a part of modern history, the idea of same-sex attraction is one that dates back to Old Testament times.
Homosexuality and the bible

However, the situation the west currently finds itself in, IS unique and is NOT a part of the historical conversation. For example, it is true that the “act” of homosexuality is historically rooted, but homosexuality as a particular “lifestyle” is a modern phenomenon.

Historical homosexuality is deeply rooted in the culture to which it belongs. In each of these societies the act of homosexuality was understood as extramarital and therefore was not associated with marriage, but as pleasure. It was also more common among those of upper-class status than those who were “pheasants”. (See Bruce Thornton’s research to learn more) In addition, it was not practice among women as it was men. It was a much rarer phenomenon among women as they were expected to exercise restraint and exude class as a representative of the family unit.

Ancient Roman and Greek documents confirm these facts as we see laws pertaining to aspects of this like “age of consent” (ex. if a man wanted to have sexual relations with a boy who was considered under age, then he would have to receive the parent’s permission). An example of one of these laws is referred to as Lex Scantinia.

 

The false perception of the biological sciences.

In today’s culture, it is largely assumed that homosexuality is the result of ones biology. That is, some people have a predisposition to homosexual behavior and are thus acting naturally. Therefore, because it is natural, the individual has no choice who they are attracted to. One reason for this claim is due to the historical nature of homosexuality (and thus the reason for the previous section).

This does present us with a puzzling question: is the homosexuality practiced historically a result of an individual’s nature or proclivity?

I’m not sure we can answer this question, but we can postulate a few things; first, technically, individuals in history were practicing bisexuality, not homosexuality. It’s certainly possible that these individuals were simply catering to the cultural axioms of their day by denying their homosexual urges. However, these societies were very liberal regarding morality. Moreover, it seems that if there were to be some sort of social norm created that those societies would be ideal (even more so than our own) to do so. So, it doesn’t seem that fear of castigation is a sound reason. Therefore, the positive evidence (evidence apart from inferences) suggests that the homosexual act was a result of one’s particular sexual proclivity (we might say fetish) rather than something natural.

Second, we have no evidence to suggest that “a loving commitment” was a part of the behavior; thus reinforcing the aforementioned conclusion. This is an important point that we will discuss in greater detail later.

However, greater than the historical assumption, is that homosexuality is biological. Operating partly off the thesis that the historical argument is sound, biologist have attempted to understand the genes that are associated with homosexual behavior. Although this research has turned up positive results (in the affirmative toward homosexuality as being natural); it is far from reaching anything definitive.

Even the American Psychological Association states:

“There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation.”

Knowing this, I am puzzled as to why the majority within our culture assumes that science affirms homosexuality as natural thus denying the possibility of choice.

 

The evolutionary contradiction.

Some time back, I posited that, if we look strictly at the logical processes contained within evolutionary theory, in conjunction with the so called biological/historical evidence that is presented, then we have a significant contradiction. Whether it’s survival of the fittest (more broadly) or natural selection (more specifically), basic evolutionary theory should prohibit homosexuality as a natural occurrence within all male/female type species.

In general, if a species is unable to contribute to the overall success of that species propagation, then it would be eliminated as the weaker of the two types of species (ones who can create offspring as opposed to ones that cannot). More specifically, a species that cannot reproduce or adapt to its genetic change (or mutation) has no way of surviving as a species.

It seems almost obvious then (assuming evolutionary theory to be true), that if nature has made our species male/female; and only those two types can propagate a species together (with the exception of a few species that reproduce asexually, but even in these cases the entire species reproduces that way, so there is not competition among species), then heterosexuality is the only natural form of sexuality that exists.

Moreover, it’s not in any species best interests (especially the highest functioning ones such as humans) for nature to evolve that species sexually from heterosexuality to homosexuality without also either, changing the entire species, or evolving a new form of reproduction to accommodate the change.

Therefore, since we know in at least the case of the human species that we are only able to reproduce through heterosexuality, then it must be the case that either, evolutionary theory is untrue (or at least a significant part of it), or homosexuality is not “natural”.

READ PART TWO HERE >>

Please only comment if you have taken the time to read the post along with Part Two. Thank you.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Tamist

    Doesn’t your first point about how people with homosexual inclinations across history tended to get married to people of the opposite gender (and then have extra-marital relations with people of the same gender) disprove your point about how either evolution is false or homosexuality is not “natural”? If homosexuals were “pretending” (for lack of a better word) to be straight for all of history and having sex with the opposite gender, then they would continue the trait exactly because of evolution. So really your first point ADDS to the proof behind evolution and discredits your second point.

    Also, I object to your use of the word “natural.” I think “biological” would be a better term. There are plenty of things that are natural but aren’t necessarily biological traits passed down through generations and you seem to be discussing whether or not this characteristic is biological.

    Lastly, whether or not homosexuality is natural or biological is irrelevant since plenty of natural things are bad (like pedophilia or alcoholism) and plenty of unnatural things are good (like modern medicine or artificial limbs). The meaningful question is whether or not it is harmful to societies and individuals. Let’s start discussing THAT aspect of this debate.

    • B.J.D

      Lastly, whether or not homosexuality is natural or biological is irrelevant since plenty of natural things are bad (like pedophilia or alcoholism) and plenty of unnatural things are good (like modern medicine or artificial limbs). The meaningful question is whether or not it is harmful to societies and individuals. Let’s start discussing THAT aspect of this debate.

      Very well said.

      • Gregory Peterson

        Comparing law abiding adult minority people with people who sexually abuse children is defamation.

        You can safely operate heavy machinery while under the influence of Gay.

        • B.J.D

          Go play the bigot card on someone else. I dont really care.

          • Guest

            You are an intellectual whore.

  • ahermit

    You’re demonstrating a weak understanding of natural selection here I think; it is not simply reproductive behaviour that contributes to the overall “fitness” of a species. Attributes like co-operation and even altruism on the part of individuals can contribute to the survival of the species and homosexuality in a few individuals wouldn’t inhibit the suvivability of a population. One could even imagine circumstances such as imbalance in the population between male and female where the homosexual inclinations of a subset of individuals might be advantageous by reducing the competition for mates.

    Since homosexual behaviour is observable in many non-human species it would seem to be perfectly natural for some individuals.

    Also, it may not be the case that homosexual attraction is “hardwired” in any individual, but is likely some combination of biological and environmental factors, as most human behaviour is.

    And even if it were simply a matter of choice, so what? So is one’s religion and we have no problem letting people choose their religion and disallowing discrimination or unequal treatment becasue of it.

    • Nick Gotts

      “Weak understanding” is an understatment! This numpty doesn’t even know what a species is, let alone understand the theory of evolution by natural selection.

  • Gregory Peterson

    “Exact reasons” doesn’t mean “no reasons.” We don’t have “exact reasons” for why some people are left-handed” either. I suspect that there are similar genetic mechanisms for both strong same-sex sexual orientations and left handedness.

    Humans are very social creatures. I suspect that a strong same-sex orientation is a variant of what makes us very social creatures.

    As for the sex lives of ancient peasants, the outdoors have handy places for sexual expressions,

    Sexist times have strong double standards. Wives were often married mainly to produce “legitimate” male heirs for the free man’s position on the social ladder. Love was not a prerequisite for marriage as it more or less is now. If your wife wasn’t your soul mate, a free man could search elsewhere for a soul mate, though the wife couldn’t.

  • cest_moi

    for an insightful look at homosexuality historically and biologically look elsewhere but some good points regarding the political efforts of some christians are made

    i would think, though, that there has never been a time when christians were a minority in the USA … culturally, politically or in respect to treatment of “undesirables”

  • BT

    One quibble (also stated by ahermit below) – the evolutionary argument you make here is simply wrong. There are behaviors such as altruism that confer no advantage on the individual but are beneficial for the species. It’s possible that the homosexual behavior seen in some primates that seems to be used for conflict resolution, hierarchy-setting, etc has a correlary in human development and as such was both inheritable and beneficial for the species.

    As a Christian, that idea doesn’t bother me at all.

    As for the history, gay people marrying in antiquity really is not indicative of any sort of malleability in orientation. It could simply reflect the historic pattern of expectations – marriage and sex was far less about pleasure through most of history, so gay people would marry like everyone else but seek intimacy elsewhere.

    No different than what we’ve seen in older gay generations here.

    • Nemo

      It is also possible that same sex attraction is more complex than a single gene, but involves multiple genes. A study of twins, for example, found that where one twin was homosexual, if the other twin was heterosexual, they also tended to be more promiscuous. Then there’s the birth order effect that others have noted.

      • BT

        True. I see people making that mistake all the time.

  • radiofreerome

    Making good breeding stock the only criterion for making a positive contribution to society eliminates Christ as a role model.

    • $104110035

      That’s damnable nonsense.

  • radiofreerome

    Reapectful? Fuck you.

  • Gary Calderone

    This article has so much inaccurate information in it, I would have to write an entire article in response. As far as nature goes, you could start here:

    http://www.amazon.com/Biological-Exuberance-Homosexuality-Diversity-Stonewall/dp/031225377X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395759931&sr=8-1&keywords=homosexuality+in+the+animal+kingdom

    Despite the biological evidence, we were born gay because we SAID we were! When did you choose to be heterosexual? And why would one choose to be gay in a world full of hateful ignorant and sometimes murderous bigots? Would you choose to be gay today in Uganda, or Russia? And the other highly offensive (and STUPID) comment was that in the “ancient world” there was no evidence of ‘loving relationships’ between gay people, only sex. You are joking?!!!!! There is also proof that the early Christian church did in fact marry gay couples, including art work with Christ presiding over the 2 men getting married.

    • $104110035

      Hell’s flames are licking higher. Beware.