Making a Brokeback Mountain out of a molehill

Christians: God is love. (It says so right there in 1 John 4:8: “God is love.”)

As Christians, we love God.

Thus do we love love. And we would love love even if we weren’t Christian. All people love love.

Christians do not love love, though, when it’s between two people of the same gender. Or not when the expression of that love becomes sexual, anyway. Many Christians just hate it when that happens.

Man platonically loving his best friend? Good.

Man going Brokeback Mountain with his best friend? Bad.

Christians don’t at all mind love between two men; Christians really mind sexual love between two men.

All of which points to a question: What if two men love each other, and want to spend their lives living and being together — but also agree to remain celibate? What if they agree to remain like church and state is supposed to be: together, but separate. Would that be okay with us?

Is it the love itself that Christians condemn? Or is it strictly the physical expression of that love that so profoundly distresses them?

I figure it’s got to be the latter — or Christians would be be anti-brotherly love, which of course they’re not. (YMCA, anyone?) And, God knows, they’re always encouraging gay men to choose celibacy, in the hopes that before long they’ll straighten up and fly right.

So on what grounds could any Christian possibly object to two men in love living together, as long as they remain celibate?

But then that gets weird, doesn’t it? Because how in the world would anyone judge when acceptable brotherly affection between two men living together crosses the line into unacceptable sexual relations between them? The only way to do that would be to set up some kind of actual, clearly defined, behaviorally specific no-no criteria.

Take, for instance, looking at each other. A Gay Detecting rating system for that simple act would have to look something like:

Looking At One Another

A. Looking at each other quickly, and then softly smiling and averting the eyes? Acceptable.

B. Gazing at one another for three seconds? Questionable.

C. Gazing at one another for five seconds? Really pushing it.

D. Gazing deep into each others’ eyes? Beeeeeeeeeeeep!

E. Holding hands? Someone get a garden hose.

Forget it. It’s a fail. There’s just no applicable system of assessment, no way of clearly determining when acceptable, wholesome platonic love becomes unacceptable man-on-man action.

Well, okay, man-on-man action we might recognize as such. But there sure is a lot of gray area between that and, you know: giving someone a bite of your croissant.

Proffering a Food Bite

A. Saying “Wanna bite”? Acceptable.

B. Placing a bite of your food onto your friend’s plate while saying, “You absolutely have to try this”? Questionable.

C. Holding a forkful of your food up before your friend’s face, and saying, “Mmmm. Try.”? Really pushing it.

D. Feeding a bite of your food to your friend with your fingers? Beeeeeeeeeeeep!

E. Pushing a bite of food into your friends mouth with your tongue? Disgusting. And wrong.

I’m no theologian. I’m just a regular, everyday Christian who, like any Christian, seeks only to better understand and more wholly affiliate myself with the glorious love of God. Which is a process that sometimes naturally raises a question or two. But sometimes asking tough questions is necessary in order to stay the right course, to properly adjust, to radically change, even, if that’s what a fuller understanding of God’s love demands.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Grace

    Very nice post! Throughout my life I’ve struggled with questions a lot like these. But in the end the main question is always “WWJD?” :/

    Thanks for great posts, John!

    • monte

      Nice one John. Of course your example is one that would never work in the real world. Hypothetically Christians would not object to platonic roommates. However – real world here – if they knew the men had same sex attractions they would all ASSUME that they were having sex because homophobes don’t really believe there is a difference between the sinner and the sin. (They say that silly thing about ‘love the sinner hate the sin’ to give themselves a quick pass on Jesus’ commandment to love thy neighbor. Remember those “no homo” youtube vidoes; the Christians pull the same stunt. It’s like saying, “Filthy homos – no bigot!”).

      Real world – most straight people see gays and immediately think gay sex. Maybe its because they have never had a reason to seperate their own sexuality from their own sex life. Regardless of the reason, that is what puts the lie to the people who claim that gays are not discriminated against since they are free to get married (to members of the opposite sex). Same for those who want to make gay people straight. Very few of them would want a “formerly” gay man to marry their daughter because that connection between sexuality and labels means they always see a gay person as a gay sex person.

  • http://www.facebook.com/PembertonD David Pemberton

    Again John… wonderful work! Just what I was contemplating myself! :)

  • http://aomin.org Eddie McKee

    It sounds similar to the situation I find myself in from time to time. As a married man there are women that I find attractive not only physically but their personalities as well. Thoughts come to mind that this woman has this, that, or the other that my wife doesn’t have. Maybe I would be happier with her. How I act on these desires can lead to something very destructive. I need to think about what’s right and overcome those feelings & do the right thing. As a Christian I filter the feelings by God’s Word. Same when I feel like doing ill to a co-worker because he/she rubs me the wrong way. Feelings can be difficult to deal with. “Lord help me to truly love my fellow man/woman by denying myself and seeking their eternal good.” As far as two guys that love each other living together. I would say, “What does God’s Word say and love the other enough to do what is right. Just as situations with another woman could lead to adultery, I need to love her (as well as God, and my wife) enough to do what’s right.”

    I found your article helpful in causing me to think about the subject matter.

    • DR

      But in this analogy, you compare apples to oranges from my perspective. While married, you can certainly love other women as John has describes. But the love that has a sexual component -while married – will lead to an actual betrayal, a lack of faithfulness to your wife. Your partner. There is no adultery, no betrayal in the gay and/or lesbian scenario here that you attempt to parallel.

      • Don Whitt

        @DR – ding ding ding ding ding! Exactly. This is about discrimination, not sexual or other impulses. It’s about values that fly in the face of bigger values. 50 years ago we were worried as a culture about African Americans voting. Now we’re sorting through our cultural attitudes towards people who are different in other ways – who and how they love.

        • DR

          That’s what I believe as well. While there was no explicit Scriptural references regarding blacks and whites “mixing” together (with exception of LDS noting some explicit passages that justified racism), there was plenty of it that was used to keep black people out of white churches. “Separate but equal” was a very christian belief and it was justified via Scripture. I believe that this is exactly that. But the Leviticus passage is going to cause us to move much slower to that realization.

          • Don Whitt

            It is WE who make these choices to change our culture. There is no Bible commandment that says “Let your consumption be moderate and replace all that you consume so that future generations may prosper”, but we are now making that decision out of necessity. When the (figurative) gun is pointed at our heads, we change. Otherwise, we clench and fight change. The fact that people are born being other than heterosexual should have sunk in by now, but there’s no survival imperative to force us to accept that fact. Unless, of course you’re homosexual or love someone who is.

          • StraightGrandmother

            Don,

            YOU da man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            Keep posting Don, keep posting.

  • http://www.messyspirituality.org Jason Elam

    Thought provoking post, John.

    I’d venture to say that many Christians would recommend that a heterosexual couple who were committed to celebacy not live together in order to avoid “temptation” and “the appearance of evil”. They’d probably advise two men who deal with same-sex attraction to do the same.

    • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

      I am one half of a celebate heterosexual couple. We’ve been living together for five years. Neither of us is interested in “going all the way” as it were – we’re pretty happy in the sharing of each others’ minds.

      When I decided to move-in with my guy… I asked the pastor of the church I went to at the time (back when I went to church) and he gave me that “avoid temptation” advice, even though he *knew* that I was in a very, very bad family situation (forced at the time to live with my psychotic and unpredictable brother). The pastor didn’t offer me any alternative, any way out – my fiance’ did. So, I said a mental “Pheh!” to my pastor and made the decision that, in all likelyhood, save dmy life.

      Five years later and my poor, weak female will hasn’t “succumed to temptation” yet!

      But, I know not everyone can do what we do. Having a low to no sex-drive by nature is a big help in “not living in sin.”

      I’m sure people make assumptions though, and we do kiss and hold hands – which is something people would have fits over if we were same sex.

      • Tim

        Hi Shadsie

        Believe me, there are plenty of Christians that would have fits opposite OR same sex. And I don’t even think it has much to do with the issue of temptation. I think it would probably have more to do with the issue of not avoiding the appearance of impropriety.

        This would apply to a greater degree if you were part of a church community, which I realize you aren’t. But…and there is always a but…anyone in your sphere of influence that is a Christian, may take your example of living celibate together, as an unspoken encouragement or permission to do the same. However, they may not have the same low sex drive conditions to keep them from burning with desire for one another. If that be the case, you have unwittingly contributed to the calamity of a weaker brother or sister in faith.

        In my earliest stage of faith, I volunteered as a keyboardist in a worship group that led worship for a large church. Lots of people saw me up on the stage, and like it or not, I was seen as someone in a leadership role. One day while having lunch with a friend at at outdoor restaurant, I ordered a beer with my lunch. It didn’t even enter my mind that there was anything wrong with that…until I made eye contact with someone who sat in the front row at my church. He caught me mid-swig, and waved to me. I put down the beer and waved back. A few minutes later, I saw the waitress bring him a longneck and as I left, I passed by his table, asked how he was doing, gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder. He lifted his brew in a cheering gesture and I walked off with a sinking feeling that I had just given a brother in faith, permission to imbibe. I didn’t have a problem with alcohol, but I have no way of knowing whether my brother in Jesus did. For that reason alone, I have to be careful to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Not for what it does to me, but more importantly, what it could do to my weaker brother or sister in faith.

        Thank God that Jesus covers it all. But I still strive for that mark. GBY, Shadsie.

        • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

          Listen:

          I am someone who needs to be taken care of and I have NO ONE ELSE willing or able to take care of me right now. Strangely enough, I’m told that my fiance’ is a less-depressed person himself for having me around.

          Also, if I had stayed in the situation that I was in that he got me out of, I WOULD HAVE DIED. I seriously FEARED FOR MY LIFE.

          So, honestly, my “weaker brothers” can SHOVE IT in this case. If people are so judgemental that they care more about “temptation” than the saving of a life, they can shove it so far up where the sun don’t shine they taste it.

          • Ace

            As a Christian, Sadsie, I agree with you.

            Propriety is nice and all, but its importance is greatly overblown.

            People need to take care of themselves and they need to take care of those around them. Refusing out of fear it might not “look right” or upset the neighbors is a horrible thing.

            Okay, you obviously don’t want to hand an open bottle of Jack Daniels to a recovering alcoholic, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Propriety can never be more important than compassion.

          • Allen

            Thumbing through my BIble looking for all those calls to Propriety and making others comfortable by my actions. Coming up with nothing. One of the big differences between Jesus Christ and Christianity as we know it. There’s a horrible undercurrent of judgement of others in anything we call “propriety” — it seldom has an element of grace in it. Ace nailed it: “Propriety can never be more important that compassion.”

            Tim, glad you’re aware that your actions affect others, but go ahead and have a beer at lunch every once in a while (or some similar minor self-reward), or you’ll explode and/or become bitter one day and wonder why.

        • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

          By the way, this is the kind of excruciating minutate judgementalness that keeps me fearful of returning to church.

          The beer thing? Nah… I don’t think you should worry about it at all UNLESS the church member you were supposedly “tempting” (probably ordered the beer at the same time you did, anyway) was a KNOWN ALCOHOLIC. I don’t think it is wise to drink in front of a known alcoholic, otherise, cheers. Not that I drink at all, mind you… the alcoholism that runs in my family keeps me wary of it, but that’s MY DECISION.

          You never know what’s going to consitute “sin” and “permission to sin” for some people. Someone might think wearing the color blue is a sin for some reason, does that mean you never wear blue again? I’ve known Christians who follow the Old Testament prohibition on pork, but I still eat bacon and ham and will continue to order bacon on things in restuarnts.

          If you worry about it all too much…. think about this… coming across as judgemental is keeping some of us wary of ever darkening a door of a church again. I’ve been wanting to overcome some of my personal issues and try it again… but every time I run into a “judgement” person, it’s one step backwards to my desire.

        • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

          Oh, and another thing! (Yes, I’m angry, very angry right now)

          My guy and I WOULD be married IF WE COULD FREAKING AFFORD IT! We don’t need anything fancy, just a justice of the peace thing would do fine for me, but the reasons we are like we are? We have debts. He has debts left over from taking care of his parents when they were dying – he worried about me being a part of these debts and/or inheriting them if he were to die.

          Also, even on Unemployment, he technically “makes too much” to get on state help for things, such as the health insurance that I can get as long as I’m “single.” I need this in order to get the pills I need that keep me (somewhat) balanced and non-suicidal and not hurting of others. Trust me, I’ve got a story about the latter that would make you “charley church” types just consider me irredemable trash – something I did in a psychotic fit before I got the treatment I needed.

          So, there are a lot of issues here. I am not unmarried because I want to be “freewheeling” or any of that crap. I’D LOVE TO BE MARRIED, I’m just not due to financial issues.

          If you’re rich and want to come down like superman to solve our problems – perhaps give my guy a really, really good job, DO IT. PLEASE. Then, maybe we can BE ABLE TO LIVE in a way that YOU personally approve of.

          …..

          I think the situations I’ve been in in life have been part of the reason why I’ve changed my attitudes toward gay people — I mean…. the way Christians look down on them, and “pull the trigger in ignorance” on so many isssues…. my “straight hardships” have given me a sensitivity for the gay hardships, I guess.

          • Don Rappe

            This (debt) situation reminds me of my brother and his second wife. My mother was worried so they told her they had been married by a Rabbi in Mexico. She’s an ex-nun whose first language is Spanish and has Jewish ancestors so I don’t think it was meant to offend anyone, but it satisfied my Lutheran mother. There is a difference between marriage and legal process. Why not just get each other rings?

        • Argy-bargy

          Are you /kidding me, Tim? First the ego of thinking you are somehow influencing another person to such an extent? You’re really that influential and a beacon of righteousness to others? Maybe you are and I’m being unfair. I suspect I’m right, but whatever.

          So you can partake of alcohol (because it’s in a self-approved fashion) but you might have condoned a couple beers going into another believer?

          What will be a possibly indelible influence on others, as Shadsie quite correctly point out, is a judgmental prig who is away from the church. It, along with other similar issues, drove me away from mine.

          Please, stay behind your safe little church walls and serve as a wonderfully sanctimonious example to those in your church who might have to stand you.

          Wow.

          • Diana A.

            “Are you /kidding me, Tim? First the ego of thinking you are somehow influencing another person to such an extent? You’re really that influential and a beacon of righteousness to others? Maybe you are and I’m being unfair. I suspect I’m right, but whatever.”

            See, I don’t think his comment is about ego. This is one of those “clubs” that’s held over the heads of fundamentalist Christians–that they have to be extra careful about sinning or even the appearance of sin because some weak Christian might be influenced to follow in that person’s footsteps. And, it is biblical.

            I think it was inappropriate for him to hold the same club over Shadsie’s head–but understandable given the club’s influence over him. Still, it’s a viewpoint that definitely needs to be questioned and I’m glad we are questioning it.

        • StraightGrandmother

          Are U kidding me? Having a beer with lunch is now something that you “think first” about lest your example of actually enjoying a nice cold one lead other (implication, – weak ones) astray? Tim I know we are supposed to stay nice and have polite conversations here, but honestly, might you have a little bit of an inflated ego? Go out and have a beer anytime you want. Heck even go to the local tavern if you want. Having a cocktail or two does not condemn you to hell. Well if you want to stay totally biblical then have wine instead of beer. You can be an example of the proper place a cold one has in the life of a good Christian. A couple glasses of wine (or beer) is nothing to overthink. If you are worried about being an example, fine, then just don’t get drunk is all. Heck Jesus loved his alcohol.

          • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

            One of my good friends – my fiance’s adult nephew… is decidedly non-religious, agnostic – and has never let a drop of alcohol (outside of cold medicine) touch his lips. It’s just a personal vow with him. He’s known people who drink whom he doesn’t want to be like.

            My fiance, himself, is a teetotaler. It seems to be an “old fashioned family vow” with them.

            Me? Occasional beer or fruffy la-la drink with a nice dinner when its affordable, but I haven’t had any booze at all in over a year. I have been drunk before and it didn’t appeal to me – and, considering the history of my family, it’s not worth the risk.

            Back when I went to a Baptist church, the church was really big into “don’t do anything to let your brother slip and NO ALCOHOL.” I saw members of my church at the convience store buying beer every once in a while. Never said anything or thought much about it. Certainly wasn’t tempted by it.

          • Ace

            There are some behavioral standard to which I hold myself that I would NEVER EVER dare try to impose on another person.

            Why? Because I am human. I am not God. I do not have all the wisdom, knowlege and power necessary to make those choices for anyone but myself, and my choices even there may turn out to be foolishness. I can say “Well I do XYZ and not ABC and here are the reasons why” but I will never look at somebody and tell them “You are a horrible, evil person because you do ABC and not XYZ” and I don’t think I have a right to.

            Outside of critical community matters (murder, rape, theft, etc), a lot of “moral” issues like consumption of alcohol, the gender of your mate, whether or not you engage in consensual sex with another adult, and so forth, are not parts of people’s private lives that I feel should be up for public debate.

            Human beings are just way too danged nosey.

          • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

            I think humans have a natural need to feel “superior” to others, if you ask me. And it’s not exclusive to Christians by any means. I was just randomly remembering a little row I had with one of the anti-thiest people on Huffington Post in comments on an article a while back, of course, they may have been just a troll, the way they attacked me out of the blue…

            The main article was about how the Bible has some dark passages in it that a lot of people forget about. I gave an example of a time when I was in a Christian writer’s club and one of the people reviewing a fantasy novel I wrote (which I have since shelved on the grounds of being mediocre) being appalled at a passage I had in it describing warfare, a brutal act of war. And I talked of how I told this apalled person “Hey, I was inspired by one of the Psalms.”

            On Huff, someone came along and said “I find your Bible and YOU immoral!!!!”

            I replied describing AGAIN, how I had used a bit of Biblical inspiration to WRITE FOR A VILLAIN comitting an act that was described in my story as NOT GOOD and QUITE EVIL.

            This person shot back “You’re still immoral, how could you write something violent like that, what if children read it?!”

            I then asked if she thought Stephen King should be arrested for murder beause he writes brutal things. (If I recall correctly, one of the two books of his I’ve read had him killing off 99 percent of all humanity).

            I got a reply “Meltdown?” Don’t know what Idiot-Brain meant, probably accusing me of having a mental meltdown because you know, probably in his/her mind, that’s all theists are capable of doing. Or maybe they were hoping to continue fighting with me for the hell of it and I just didn’t respond after that.

            It boggled my mind – I believe it is the first and only time I’ve ever gotten a ‘THINK OF THE CHIDRUNNN!” response from an anti-thiest. (Those on the board, notice I’m saying “anti-thiest”, not “athiest” here).

            I think someitmes people just get high on their own “morality” whether it’s from a religious source or not, and will judge people according to their own predjudices.

          • Argy-bargy

            I think you’re absolutely right, Shadsie. When people become highly judgmental, they are not promoting a higher moral value but promoting their own ability to be the judge and applier of it. I’ve been guilty of the same, I’m sure. I usually get stopped in my tracks when I realize (or have it brought to my attention) that I’ve become quite proud of my actions. And that’s when I have to remember: It’s not about me, it’s about God.

          • Diana A.

            “I think sometimes people just get high on their own ‘morality’ whether it’s from a religious source or not, and will judge people according to their own prejudices.”

            This is so true and I consider this to be a primary reason why Jesus said “Judge not that you not be judged.”

        • Don Rappe

          I’m alcoholic and if you have a drink it won’t affect my recovery. When I was drinking, you could turn over as many glasses as you liked saying “No thanks. I’m temperance!” each time without having the least effect on my drinking. It wasn’t about you, it was about me. If you have a member who is alcoholic pray for him and if he seems receptive you might suggest AA.

  • http://megaloi.blogspot.com Redlefty

    Dude, you seriously just stole my blog post for tonight! You must have ESPN.

  • Martin

    I’ve always wanted to ask this of people (including my family who object to my relationship with my husband). Do you only object to us when we are having sex? Or are we also an abomination when we are washing the dishes and vacuuming? And let’s face it, like most couples after 10 years together, we aren’t “doing it” as much as we’d like (being guys it is probably impossible to do it as much as we’d like) but I’d say we aren’t “sinning” nearly as much as our condemners fantasize.

    • Robert Meek

      Oy vey! I can see the apoplexy now, Martin! Veins popping out of foreheads, faces turning all shades of purple, people gurgling and choking on their own words screaming and bellowing, because you asked that question of your family!

      I didn’t have to ask. Mine was livid about me and my other half 24/7, except for birthdays (father’s mother’s, sister’s, and mine), Christmas, and Thanksgiving Dinner. Those were times of automatic truce.

      Odd how it all panned out. First father died, and mother became dependent on me to take her everywhere. Exhausted and staggering, my other half ordered me to bed, and to her one day against her will – everywhere. “Everywhere” consisted of a weekly trip to the bank, library, and grocery store.

      After her initial shock, she learned that as a PERSON she LIKED him, and CONSIDERED him a FRIEND. I’d have her in the store, and she’d say things like “Maybe I should buy some orange juice. Carl likes orange juice. I should have some there when he visits.”

      And I about fainted.

      Mind you, it WAS peppered with LESS INTENSE hellfire & brim stone. She couldn’t resist.

      I had to concede: she only did it because she was truly terrified for her son, out of love. As hateful as it seemed, I had to concede the intent was not really hateful.

      I also refused to argue with her as she aged. I wanted my last memories of her to not be us fighting about it.

      I’m 53 now. I’ve been single for 9 years. Mama’s been gone for 12 years.

      I’m glad I made that decision, so my later memories of her weren’t of the hateful raging fights we used to have.

      And yes, I miss her, as well as father, and sister.

      Every single day.

      • Robert Meek

        TYPO error: “and to her one day against her will”

        SHOULD READ: “and TOOK her one day against her will”

        Sorry.

      • Ace

        I’m glad you and your mother made peace with each other. I hear so many people talk about how they’ve had some kind of falling out with their parents/family and everyone is too stubborn to drop it and suddenly they’re just gone and you can’t do anything about it.

        It’s kind of amazing the dumb things human beings do to each other, especially the people they “love”. *kof*

        :

        I think I’m gonna go call my mom on the phone….

      • StraightGrandmother

        I’m sorry you are single, I hope sincerely you find somebody. See mom & dad, when it comes down to the end, it is not about sexual orientation at all, it is simply about lcaring and ove. Gay people (AND their partners/husbands/wives) can take care of you just the same as hetrosexual people can. Loose the judgements! I am so happy you hve this peace.

  • Don Whitt

    By the way, I love you John Shore. That doesn’t make me gay, does it??

    • Ace

      Oh just call it a ‘bromance” :B

      • Allen

        I love you too, John, and I AM gay. And you’re kinda cute. In fact, I love a lot of people of both genders, and have sex with almost none of them. Don, I think we can both love John without him needing to get nervous about affecting his sexual orientation. Rest easy, my friend — loving John Shore doesn’t make you gay, only God can do that! :.)

  • http://risenphoenix.wordpress.com risenphoenix

    Judge not, lest ye be judged!

    • Tim

      That won’t stop too many Christians in their tracks. Matthew 7:1 should serve as a sobering warning, but too many believers feel confident that their judgment of sin is accurate and not made prejudicially. That doesn’t mean that it is accurate, but the confidence with which so many do judge, shows that they have too much time on their hands. Couple Matthew 7:1 with John 8:7 and you may cause a few of those who are quick to judge, to cool their jets. When we judge within the confines of our mind, the damage is contained to some extent. When we express that judgment aloud, we have inflicted punishment inasmuch that the judged experience a sting from the judge and those who look condescendingly because they agree with the judgement. Dangerous stuff. Better to keep the mouth shut and be considered a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.

      Of course we discriminate all of the time. It’s almost impossible to go through a day with discriminating to some measure. The wise thing however, is to always be introspective enough to consider whether such discrimination is based upon fact, or just impressions or feelings. However, I gotta say, I’ve had some gut feelings about some people that proved accurate. The Bible calls that discernment. But discernment, without love, will rarely work out well.

      Damn, why do I get so freaking wordy?

  • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

    Hmm. Dangerous argument, Mr. Shore. And I certainly hope you are only making it for some weird rhetorical point. Maybe you can argue that if love is okay, then so must be romance, and then sex should be acceptable also. But is the original “sex is sin” position really as cast-iron a starting point as you paint it? And if so, let me repeat my ghostly cry: Why?

  • Robert Meek

    I am bothered by the “Matching outfits: dangerous territory” observation under the photo.

    All I can say is you perhaps haven’t talked to a lot of YOUNG gay couples, John. Especially ones that live in Greenwich Village of NYC, Castro street of SF, or West Hollywood, I would presume.

    Mind you, neither have I. My adult life, as a gay man, has been sorely limited to living in NC, then SC, and a vacation to ATL. But I have seen over the years many young gay “matching” couples and seen and heard of no significant problems.

    • Allen

      I think, Robert, John was directing his faux advice in the voice of “mainstream America” Christianity. You are right that in San Francisco and Greenwich Village wearing matching outfits is not such a big deal. I need to point out that it’s not a situation where a couple dresses like each other in particular, more that there’s a generally accepted cultural uniform (flashing on the summer when every man I saw was wearing Cargo Shorts, a disturbing memory). Two men dressed as depicted would not turn a head here in San Francisco (nor would they necessarily be assumed to be a couple), but I’m betting they would stand out at a typical Cracker Barrel restaurant in South Carolina, with all sorts of assumptions. For what it’s worth, we here in SF quickly notice tourists from other parts of the US by the strange way they dress .

  • Robert Meek

    PS – I HATED “Brokeback Mountain,” the movie. As far as I was concerned, “Brokeback Mountain” was BROKEN. (And I’m gay!)

    • Ace

      LOL, you aren’t the only one who thought that was a dumb movie (and boring).

      (And I’m not gay!)

      • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

        It was one in a series of short stories meant to examine how important geography influences how we live our lives, how the high pasture in this particular story for all its climate constraints and dangers and difficulties also grants us freedom from the social constraints, social dangers, and social difficulties of the more populous world, and how the effects of geography of one place do not translate into effects in another. The movie doesn’t really do this theme proper justice.

      • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

        I am queer and I love that movie. But I also love The Ice Storm by Ang Lee, and Ride With The Devil, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and Sense and Sensibility, even though none of the others have any queer themes. The man just knows how to depict humans with painful honesty without superficial judgements. But the I also liked his version of the Hulk, and that probably marks me as an incurable pervert. ;)

        As for Brokeback Mountain, that isn’t a film about queer cowboys. It’s a film about a man who couldn’t allow himself to love – until it is too late – and who thus lives a life unworthy of being lived. I am certain there is enough hets, both male and female, who do the same, even though they may have less of an objective reason to do so.

        Actually, now that I think about it, I think it is the perfect film to mention in this context, because if you really do watch the film, you see how NOT loving (even queer love) is disrespectful of God, because it wastes the good things He has given you in life.

        • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

          Nice comment. I like the ones that make me mull!

          When pain and suffering are unnecessary, it seems to me to be a tragedy. And denying one’s self honest love is doubly so because we often do it for all the wrong important reasons – like cowardice – even if we have otherwise compelling practical reasons not to do so.

          I always find tragedies of the heart particularly sad.

    • StraightGrandmother

      Well I liked it! It is the romantic in me.

  • Murf

    The LAST thing one should do when handling sexual temptation is move in with the person to whom one is attracted. This is true whether one is gay or straight. So the answer to your question is “Don’t be stupid. Live with someone else. Resist temptation.” Or as Paul put it: “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” (1 Cor 6:18 ESV)

    • Mindy

      So, Murf, you are of the “gay people should remain celibate” club?

      Because that is unbelievably cruel.

      • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

        …stands next to Mindy, one arm around her shoulder (even though he really isn’t attracted to her particular set of chomosomes), and nods solemnly to her wise words.

      • Tim

        Hi Mindy

        Is it also unbelievably cruel to suggest to a straight believer, who doesn’t want to marry, to remain celibate? After all, any sex outside of marriage is biblically categorized as immoral.

        As far as non-Christian gays go, I wouldn’t suggest anything outside of my belief that God loves them just as they are.

        • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

          What constitutes Biblical marriage, however? I seem to remember with Adam and Eve, it was just being together and comitted to one another. In the Old Testament, it was typically arranged by parents. For kings, apparently, it was buying as many wives and concubines as they want.

          In the New Testament, if you want to be a preacher, you “should” only have one wife, presumably so your attentions aren’t too divided between home and duty.

          In modern times, it’s mostly a financial contract and somethng to make certain people think you’re “moral.” But mostly, it’s about money in the legal sense.

          In modern day America, in most states, even the financial contract marriage certificate is off-limits to same sex couples in most states.

          That begs the question: is a homosexual couple who is commited to one another in a marriage-like state “married,” or do they need a contract fromm the state saying they are to share finanical assets and debts?

          • Don Rappe

            I don’t think the adjective “biblical” ever really adds much to the word marriage. I think the writers take it’s cultural meaning in whichever culture it appeared over biblical history. The marriage of Esther seems to be praised even though she had to worry about being executed if she showed up from the harem into her husbands presence without being called for.

          • Tim

            Sorry I made you angry yesterday. That wasn’t my intention. My words didn’t express what I meant to say. My tenor was too personal and not hypothetical. I make the mistake of using words like “you” and “us”, when I should just keep it to how I believe and what I would do…being careful not to seem insistent that any other course is wrong.

            As for the post above, I didn’t mean to qualify what was or wasn’t “biblical marriage”. I was suggesting that outside of marriage (no qualification), it is biblically considered immoral or impure to have sex.

        • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

          I think it’s perverse if it isn’t held freely.

        • Mindy

          Hi Tim – yes, I don’t think celibacy, unless it is self-imposed with no outside pressure, makes sense. I’m also all for monogamy, but since I have no plan to marry again, and would prefer not to remain celibate for the rest of my life, thankyouverymuch, then I’d have to say it is an archaic order. I’m not advocating promiscuity, but I do not believe marriage is a requirement for sexual activity for anyone.

          • Tim

            I see your point, Mindy. If a believer submits themselves to the authority of Scripture, as they see it, then it is still technically self-imposed. It WOULD be unbelievably cruel to authoritatively impose celibacy on anyone. Such imposition would be counter to grace, mercy and living based on the spirit of the law, as opposed to the letter of the law. Thanks for helping me clarify that.

    • StraightGrandmother

      I know, I know, be nice. Inhale, exhale. But do you not see how denying GLBT people the instituition of marriage you are then saying, “Tough it out stay celibate your whole life, cuz we ain’t gonna ever let you get marries where sex suddenly becomes okay” and they never ever get to have a life partner they become one with, like hetrosexual people get? What kind of answer is that? “No you can’t get married, stay celibate your whole life?” How about you? No life partner for you, stay celibate your whole life? Doesn’t sound so good any more does it?

      • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

        Why do you think it is, SG, that so many people seem unable or unwilling to grasp this central point you make? Or are they simply avoiding arriving at this conclusion of in order to continue to support the premise that gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry because it’s a sin?

        • Don Rappe

          Yup, I think that’s it. Sex must be a sin unless we can find some other redeeming value because it just feels so damned good.

          • Allen

            I’ll go ahead and mention the staggering divorce rate among straight married couples, in cultures where divorce is legal. Marriage in and of itself is apparently not a Blessed Condition, regardless of whether there was a clergy-conducted wedding. I’m looking forward to there being a large enough sample of legally married same-sex couples to see whether we are in fact more stable or less stable in our relationships. My guess is we might be slightly better at it, in my generation anyway, since it’s a more precious accomplishment for us.

  • http://strelitziamusings.blogspot.com Birdie

    I would encourage those who struggle with this to ask themselves why they select this subject out of all the biblical directives to uphold. We easily ignore the admonitions against certain foods, blending fabrics, stoning adulterers and blasphemers, remarrying former spouses, divorce, etc. We have learned over the centuries to adjust our attitudes and behavior because we learn new information and our culture has changed. Why is this one subject such a hot button?

    I believe this is a cultural bias, born centuries ago, against the idea of a man taking the “role” of a woman. This bias lives on today and people pluck the biblical passages out as “proof” that it’s wrong. If you don’t share those feelings, it must be unnatural. For someone whom God has made gay, feelings for the opposite sex are unnatural.

    No one has ever been able to show me concrete harm that comes from embracing the love that LGBT people have for each other. They point to nebulous “ruin” and “moral downfall” that has no shape. I can, however, point to the very harmful result of exclusion and judgmental attitudes: just last September NINE children (that we know of) killed themselves due to bullying because they were perceived to be gay. Not all were gay, but it doesn’t matter. The idea that they were different was enough to warrant persecution to their tormentors, and the admonition against homosexuality feeds the feeling that they are doing the right thing.

    We have the power to stop this, and it’s long overdue. Thank you, John, for an excellent and level-headed essay on the subject. The God I know and love would have me love everyone, no matter what, as God made them to be, in gratitude for the astonishing grace He has given me.

    • Ace

      I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it: I truly think a lot of homophobia (which is aimed at both lesbians and gay men but seems to be more violently aimed at gay men at least in the USA) is rooted directly in misogyny.

      As you said: A lot of self-proclaiming “red-blooded” (heterosexual) men hate nothing more than seeing other men acting “feminine” or in any way that could be construed as something a woman would do. A lot of fathers make sure their boys are taught to hate the color pink on principle, never play with dolls, don’t ever cry for any reason (your dog died? too bad! HA HA HA), blah blah blah.

      It’s B.S. anyway.

      There’s a rather toxic macho version of what is called “masculinity” that still sticks around in our culture. The feminist movement has done a lot to bust apart female gender roles and allow women more choices in terms of choosing a profession outside the home, more flexible clothing choices, not to mention voting, property & divorce rights, but for whatever reason a lot of American men don’t seem to feel the need to knock down the ridiculous stereotypes that constrict their own lives (gay, bi, straight, or anything else). A lot don’t even recognize the chains. But there you have it.

      http://thehathorlegacy.com/the-cult-of-masculinity/ is an interesting read, for anyone who cares about such things.

      • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

        I just had a flashback to my being sort-of a part of this…. but out of concern for someone.

        I remember being with my sister’s kids and her youngest – her boy – was crying over something. I forget what, but it was some little thing. I told him, gently, that he shouldn’t cry over little things like that, that he’s a boy, and ” a boy needs to be tough!”

        I said this becasue, while I am a female, I was picked on mercilessly for being oversensitive – crying a lot. Once I showed “weakness” I was prey. I couldn’t help but think that my little nephew, unless he “gets over this sensitivity of his” would have things ten times worse than I did *because* he’s a male.

        While I think it’s perfectly alright to cry if you’re sad or hurt, no matter what your sex, I know that the world doesn’t share my feelings. Hope I wasn’t wrong in my sentiment of wanting to protect my nephew from the Hell I went through.

        • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

          *have things ten times worse than I did once he started school, I meant*

        • Ace

          I understand you wanting to protect your nephew. I probably would have said something to him if it were me, but I don’t know if I would have worded it the same way.

          Probably more along the lines of “No need to cry over spilled milk, save your tears for something that matters” than that gender-specific “boys don’t cry” sort of thing (because honestly even girls who turn on the waterworks over every dumb little thing are liable to get dirty looks, especially after the age of 5 or so).

          It’s hard to deal with that sort of thing, because while on the one hand you don’t want to reinforce those tired old stereotypes with children, as an adult you KNOW that these stereotypes are still alive and well and out there and will affect those children no matter what you say to them.

          • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

            It’s been years since I even lived near my sister’s family…

            I think what I said to him was that if he didn’t learn to be tough, to not cry all the time, that people at school would be horrible to him, an that his aunt knows because it happened to her – and that it will be worse for him being a boy.

            I worry about him, though. He’s been diagnosed early on with some mental issues, ADD, I think. I suffered from “I don’t know what’s wrong with me but there’s something wrong with me” until becoming an adult – was diagnosed bipolar four years ago. The world is HORRIBLE to sensitive, off-kilter indiviudals.

          • Ace

            ” The world is HORRIBLE to sensitive, off-kilter indiviudals.”

            How true that is. Society does its level best to destroy us I think. Some children seem to almost instinctively attack the weakest individuals in their midst, sometimes with a singlemindedness that is truly frightening, and if pressed, they often don’t even know why the do it, other than “little johnny’s a weirdo, I don’t like him, he should go away”

          • http://farfromthisshore.wordpress.com Don Whitt

            Fisher King. One of my all-time favorite movies…”the botched and the bungled…”

          • Ace

            Haven’t heard of that one, sorry. :

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Brilliant film! ^_^

      • http://farfromthisshore.wordpress.com Don Whitt

        Ace- re. homophobia as rooted in misogyny (you’ll not be surprised that) – I disagree.

        It’s actually rooted in misandry and how we EXPECT a certain level of machismo from men, regardless of how liberated we think we might be. There is also an old-school fear of homosexuality, that comes from general ignorance of homosexuality, that looks at gay men as somewhat sinister, perverted and threatening. It’s very common to assume pedophiles are homosexuals whereas most are not. That also has a lot to do with our culture’s issues recognizing men as nurturing beings. Coaches and handymen, sure, nurturing fathers, nope.

        But I understand where you’re coming from in terms of the women’s movement and how misogyny can cascade into anti-feminism which can become anti-feminine. But I think that’s a long, long stretch. You and I have had a side-bar about this before, and I don’t really want to fight in front of the kids, but I’m a guy who took his infant son to my local “Mother’s Club” and actually knows what P.E.O. stands for.

        In the west, we likes our men manly and ready to protects our wimmin folk. And if they don’t, then they’re pretty much useless in this culture. And that especially applies to men who like men.

        • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

          Lol. There you go and get me all riled up in one thread, I’m almost ready to kick yer shins, and here you have me givin you standing ovations. Right on, mate! ^_^

        • monte

          I think you’re off-target Don. The leap from misogyny to anti-feminine does not need to progress through anti-feminism.

          The criticism I always faced growing up was to not be too girly. You yourself state that “we like our men manly” and that applies to gay people too.

          I know a few bisexual or “down-low” men like that. They don’t have a problem with gay sex, they just don’t want to be seen as being womanly. The question is what in the heck is wrong with being seen as womanly?

          It’s not a far leap at all to realizing that this position is very closely allied to a view of women as weak, emotional, incompetent, devious, etc.

          If we look south of the border, the culture of machismo in Mexico is such that men must avoid any appearance of femininity. I have travelled there numerous times and have been struck by the great numbers of men who approached me in train stations, plazas, grocery stores, etc. Clearly no shortage of gay men there, however, there is very little of visible gay culture outside of the tourist meccas. Machismo is itself a clear statement of misogyny. This is a well-established critique in the social sciences.

          I’m not going to say that misogyny is the only factor at work in homophobia here or anywhere else, but it is clearly (to me anyway) at the heart of homophobia. Again I ask – how else could people object to men on the grounds that they are acting feminine?

          They must believe that acting feminine is somehow a negative thing. If you believe that you can’t really respect women. Period.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Can I applaud you, too, or does that make me a hypocrite. I don’t know which of you is right, and I’m not even sure your positions are that different. But for once someone is saying something about homophobia that makes sense and begins to actually explain why peeps behave and feel the way they do. ^_^

          • Don Whitt

            Monty,

            Isn’t that a lot about pre-established roles? Girls are perfectly okay to be girly. If they aren’t, they’re considered “Tom Boys” and too butch for girls. Same goes for boy who are too girly. I’m not convinced that’s about the gender attributes themselves so much as what’s “appropriate and expected” of the respective sexes. Damn those expectations. Making women play a specific role is misogyny. Making men do the same is misandry. That’s my point.

          • Ace

            THIS.

            Thank you. Call it misogyny, call it misandry, call it sexism, call it WHATEVER.

            At the end of the day, we have a culture with very rigid, strict gender roles that are not exactly 100% healthy for anybody.

          • Ace

            (my point is, misandry and misogyny are basically the same thing – whacking the shit out of anyone who doesn’t fit the stereotypes that culture dictates. Male OR female!)

          • Ace

            “They must believe that acting feminine is somehow a negative thing. If you believe that you can’t really respect women. ”

            This is a hard thing for a lot of people to grasp, and thank you for stating it so clearly.

        • Ace

          You seem to believe that misogyny and misandry are somehow seprate, disjointed, unrelated concepts.

          They are not. They are two side of the exact same coin, trust me.

          • Don Whitt

            I agree – it’s all misanthropy, just gender-specific versions. But i think people sometimes look at them as mutually exclusive – e.g., that a culture that is unfair to women must be overly fair to men. In my opinion we all get the short end of the stick due to what you so aptly described as, “a culture with very rigid, strict gender roles “. And it’s telling and fascinating HOW the culture tries to enforce those roles and who does the enforcing and when.

          • Ace

            “But i think people sometimes look at them as mutually exclusive – e.g., that a culture that is unfair to women must be overly fair to men”

            Most societies are unfair, period. They are in many cases more unfair to women as a group, at least in some respects, but that doesn’t make them anything you could possibly describe as “fair” to men as a whole group.

            Generally it is that rare wealthy elite male who benefits greatly from these cultural systems, and anyone who is not sitting on top of that power pyramid has to put up with said power structure standing on their neck in some way or another, both male and female.

            Those who are poor, those who are minorities, those who are not heterosexual & cis-gendered, those who are in some way disabled – they tend to bear the greatest weight. Women typically face more barriers to gain access to the highest levels of that pyramind as well (i.e. top positions in corporations, & governments which even in the USA today with its much-vaunted “liberty” are disproportionately male).

            Life is changing, and a lot of work has been and is being done to bust down barriers for all stripes of people but it ain’t there yet, for any of us.

            To be perfectly blunt, as much as humans like to place themselves above the animal kingdom, our societies are not that much different than your average harem-breeding-strategy social animal such as lions, zebras or chimpanzees. Only a few elite males who can bully their way to the top get first pick of mates, food access and territory. The females and infants are stuck with whatever abuse they get and the smaller males get shoved out to the periphery of the group (or killed, as the case may be).

            I’d like to think that we as human beings are capable to rise above such base animal brutality but until the tribe realizes that as a whole it is indeed stronger than the chief, and excercises that power as a whole (instead of most of the tribe still propping up the system that is holding it down) we are stuck here.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            “Generally it is that rare wealthy elite male who benefits greatly from these cultural systems…” You mean the group with the highest risk to die of heart attacks? Yeah, they benefit from it financially, but at what cost? Do you want to be a plutocrat? “we all get the short end of the stick” I’m with Don on this. Everybody who has to cut off part of their own soul – their animus or anima – suffers needlessly in the end. The systems distorts all of us.

            Anyway, Ace & Don, I wanted to hug both of you – chastely if necessary. ;)

            For ages this has bothered me so much. You might not have unravelled all of it, but for once you are telling me stuff that helps understand this. You have no idea how much relief it is to me. Thanks! (And, please, continue…!) ^_^

          • Ace

            I doubt anybody could unravel ALL of it, it’s a convoluted mess that philosophers, wisemen and sociologists/psychologists will be banging away at probably for the rest of human existence.

            I suppose I should have said it is that rare elite male who gets exactly what he wants.

            The “plutocrats” of course pay a personal price for their power, indeed they often pay for it with their very souls (I believe personally), but a lot of them either don’t really see that cost, or else they believe it’s entirely worth it, for whatever reason.

            I don’t want any wishy-washy, namby-pamby “christian side-hugs” though. Bear hug or nothin’! ;)

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Bear hug AND big smooch it is. ^_^

            (You got stubbels on your chin? Love the feeling of stubbles under my lips!) :P

          • Ace

            Sorry, no stubbles. If I did start getting stubbles, I’d be running to the endocrinologist, methinks (Ace is a girl, but not one that likes pink dresses).

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Alas. Still. Bear hugs and smooches for the girl! I’m so tolerant. ;)

          • Ace

            (Basically what I’m saying is, a system that still has a lot of its roots in that primordial “Might Makes Right” way of things, that encourages “tough” men and “soft” women and disallows legitimacy for anyone else, skews the system in favor of said “tough” men, automatically disqualifying a large portion of the human populace from the “game” before it’s even started, because if you have been bashed into the unnatural role of “tough man” or “soft woman” if you aren’t that naturally good at it, well too darn bad, and if you refuse to play that game at all, you are fairly well shit outta luck.

            When the playing field is more level and less exclusive, well you see a much greater variety of personalities and varieties of people in leadership positions with a greater variety of ideas and viewpoints, but my gosh isn’t that just a sign of the breakdown of society and the end of the world?)

          • Don Whitt

            I wonder if anyone’s “good” at the game naturally or are most of us just pliable and adaptive?

    • Allen

      Amen, Birdie!! Sometimes I think Christianity as a whole is acting like I do as an individual sometimes: I have a big,important project that needs my energy and attention and heart, but I’m not sure I’m up for it so I wash dishes, perhaps with some resentment that other people in the house don’t rinse their dishes after eating which is just wrong. I can make that activity last quite a while, after which I need a break, during which I notice I haven’t cleaned out my email inbox in a while, and so on.

      And my real work sits there waiting to be done.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com/ Ric Booth

    Acceptable PDA for Men are pretty simple, I think:

    The handshake.

    The Fist pump/bump.

    The elbow (must use the same arm, preferably the right arm).

    The crest-bump (only while watching manly sports. No, cricket is not a manly sport)

    The one arm, 45 degree angle side-hug (may add the double back-pat if both men are married. Under no circumstances should there be any hand movement on the bro’s back.)

    A single peck-style kiss on the cheek (face) is permitted if at least one man is European and the other one is dying.

    I think this is a liberal interpretation of Levitical Law practiced by staunch conservatives.

    • C. Caine

      You forgot drunk blubbering public professions of adoration at one’s bachelor party, “I love you guys!”

      Oh, and perhaps you’ve seen the campaign in some churches to avoid/discourage frontal hugs by the unmarried crowd, teenage or otherwise. I think they call it a Christian side hug: http://www.nowpublic.com/culture/christian-rappers-promote-christian-side-hug-video-2521244.html

      • Ace

        Oh yes! I remember that stupid video. A friend of mine e-mailed me a link to that video on youtube a year or two a go and I remember busting out laughing for real. It’s so ridiculous.

        I’m not convinced the silly thing is not staged though. It’s so insane.

        And honestly? American society is in turns both overly sexualized and ridiculously prudish, especially when it comes to showing any kind of affection, even for our own children (I’m convinced the two are related). I’ve read umpteen studies demonstrating that children who are not hugged, cuddled or touched by their parents are apt to be underdeveloped both physically and emotionally. It’s no wonder as adults we are all so neurotic.

      • Freda

        That whole side-hug thing is ridiculously paranoid.

    • Mindy

      Bwaaahahaa! Excellent, Ric. And yes, the blubbery, “I love you, man” is permitted when inebriated, except good Christians don’t get inebriated, so that’s a moot point, really.

  • Freda

    These are questions that even hetero couples ask themselves. It applies to all, not just homosexuals.

  • Tim

    Hi John. Good provocative post. You do know how to stir it up, not just on the blog, but in our hearts and minds. Like my comments betray, I believe that avoiding the appearance of biblical impropriety is applicable to believers. I let the non-believers do what non-believers do. My only call to them is that Jesus loves them just as they are. Of course some believers are insufferable, but that is also true outside the church. Parts is parts.

  • Tim

    I don’t think ego has anything to do with this. This has to do with not using my freedom in a way that may cause a weaker brother or sister to get tripped up (1Cor.8:9). Emphasis on the word “MAY”. The one who saw me drink the beer, once told me that the worship music was more important to him than the message. I don’t really think I was being egotistical to think that my example MAY have more of an influence than it should. We all influence someone. Is it considered priggish, judgmental, or sanctimonious to consider how my public example may effect someone else? I think that judgment of me is unfair…but like you said, whatever.

    People will never be at a loss for excuses to condemn the church. But there’s no greater environment to learn forgiveness than being in a place where you are forced to practice it regularly.

    • Tim

      Not sure how this wound up here, it was a response up the thread to Argy-bargy—”Are you/kidding me, Tim?”

    • Argy-bargy

      “Is it considered priggish, judgmental, or sanctimonious to consider how my public example may effect someone else?”

      Not that you may have an effect on someone else, just that your moral standards are what they should be living by. And that is priggish, judgmental, and sanctimonious. Especially, if your “public” example is to extol the virtues of your own behavior.

      • Tim

        I suggested to Shadsie that her choice to live with a guy she’s not married to could hypothetically influence someone who respects and looks up to her, to do the same. Shadsie and her guy successfully maintain a celibate relationship. Someone else may not have that success and get into trouble. The point of contention seems to be whether or not role models hypothetically bear any responsibility for what they model to those who might be influenced to do the same thing. Sorry if I came off as priggish, judgmental…etc. That really wasn’t my intent.

    • Argy-bargy

      “People will never be at a loss for excuses to condemn the church. But there’s no greater environment to learn forgiveness than being in a place where you are forced to practice it regularly.”

      Whose forgiveness, yours or theirs? If you want my forgiveness, you have it freely. I find a far greater environment to learn forgiveness is out in a world that demands it of me.

      If you are seeking to forgive me, please explain how I have sinned against you.

      Just be prepared that I may have a very different conception of what the “sin” is that I may have committed.

      • Tim

        I was saying that the church is full of asshole’s. I can be one now and again. The forgiveness I spoke of wasn’t mine, theirs, or yours. Its simply the concept that any of us have more opportunities to practice forgiveness when we put ourselves in a place where offenses occur most often.

        • Argy-bargy

          Agree with you completely, here. Thanks.

          • Tim

            Alright.

            And I also admit that yesterday, I was wrongly placing my template of action over Shadsie. I intended for the whole thing to be presented in a hypothetical tenor, but I failed. It did come over wrong. And I hope she sees my apology.

    • textjunkie

      I was just wondering how having a beer with lunch was a problem. You saw a congregant in the bar, you were having a drink, he was having a drink, all’s comradely. It seemed odd, the way you described it, to assume when he had a drink that something was wrong. Did you have some reason to think alcohol was a millstone around his neck or something? Was seeing you having lunch giving him permission to be a glutton? It’s an odd reaction.

      • Tim

        Try and understand, if I sense that someone looks up to me, I take that to mean that anything I do could influence them to follow my lead. This guy at the restaurant was not simply a comrade or fellow congregant at a bar. He is someone I have a responsibility to as a brother in faith. I have no problem with alcohol. I can have one beer or one glass of wine and stop. I have alcoholics in my family, and I know from experience that they don’t have the ability to stop at one, two, or three…for that reason, I never have a drink in front of them. I don’t think it’s very loving to flaunt my liberty to drink in the face of their bondage to drink. I suppose some people see this as an odd reaction, but this is a Christian blog, and my reasoning is based on Jesus’ teachings.

        • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

          I hear you Tim and I get where you are coming from because I’m familiar with the train of thought: being responsible for the walk of fellow believers. I agree to a point about setting good examples but disagree on the extent to which it is often carried out. You are in charge of you. What is right for you may or may not be right for someone else. That’s for someone else to decide since only they are in charge of them.

          I think what might be a point worth illuminating is that you seemed fine with having a beer until someone you knew saw you having a beer. Then it seemed to become a moral dilemma for you. Either it’s ok for a non-alcoholic person to have a beer in the right place at the right time, or it’s not. I doubt you will find anyone here who will disagree that drinking in front of a person who struggles with alcoholism is not a wise or compassionate choice. So let’s set that aside.

          If we use your logic that it’s not ok to drink in front of someone who might not have as much self control as you do because you should set a good example, then where does that train of thought end?

          Are you only an example to people who know you or who go to your church? What about the people who know you who were there that saw you but you didn’t happen to see them? Would it be ok to drink only in the privacy of your own home so as not to unduly influence anyone? What about the fact that you were in an establishment that serves alcohol? The church of my youth used the same logic of avoiding all appearance of impropriety to such an extent that parishioners were discouraged from patronizing any establishment that served alcohol because the establishment could be contributing to the poor choices of others to drink more than they should and after-all, just because no one saw you order an alcoholic beverage, doesn’t mean you didn’t order an alcoholic beverage and they just didn’t see it. Soooo, in case someone *might* think you ordered an alcoholic beverage even without evidence this may be a stumbling block to your brother and therefore all restaurants that serve alcohol should be avoided. I am being completely serious.

          See how it’s ridiculous to speculate what someone else *might* be thinking about our behavior and how they *might* interpret it. If we follow that logic it will make us neurotic.

          For example: A guy was sick on a Sunday, so he stayed home from church, but he needed cold medicine so he walked to the corner drug store where he also bought milk and a newspaper. All anybody else saw was that he wasn’t at church and was taking a stroll on a Sunday morning. So anyone at the drugstore, the neighbors in the houses on his route, and all the people driving by in their cars might think, “Wow, maybe he’s not the devout Christian I thought he was.” So we should never do this because it *might* be a stumbling block to a believer or an unbeliever. See?

          Be a good example, yes. And then let it go, understanding that none of us has any control over what other people think or how they behave. To suppose that others are standing in judgement or awe of our behavior is a greater reflection on us than it is on them. It is ego based and reflects a natural occurrence in our human psychology that we assume other people are doing what we ourselves are thinking. We project our psychology onto them.

          Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Let your walk match your talk and your talk match your walk. And do unto others as you would have them do unto you and you will be a good role model of Christian behavior.

          • Tim

            Hi Christy

            I didn’t mention it in any previous post, but I actually don’t have alcohol in a public setting anymore because of the possibility that someone I don’t see that might interpret my liberty to drink as their permission to do likewise. Since I can’t read minds, I have no way of knowing who could be influenced by my decision to drink publicly. And you’re right. This is probably a projection of my psychology/ego, because the mindset I identify with is the example of Christ. Whether or not I accurately or effectively reflect that identity is a matter of human endeavor. IOW, I try. If I’m not supposed to do this, what is the sense in identifying with Christ and being a Christian?

            You are also right about there being a fine line between my decision being motivated by love and compassion, or possibly being motivated by pharisaical legalism. I strive to be motivated by the former, but I suppose it’s all in how someone else chooses to interpret my actions. While I insist that I’m following the spirit of the law, others could insist I’m following the letter of the law. That’s an assumption they are free to make, yet that assumption isn’t fair since they cannot read the intent of my mind or heart.

            One last thought that I haven’t previously addressed. I am a minister, licensed by my church, to perform some of the functions of a pastor. In respect to that calling, a pastor is a shepherd. Maybe not all, but a good number of Christians, see their pastors or ministers as someone they voluntarily submit to as an arbiter of spiritual authority. If I take that responsibility lightly or indifferently, I am nothing more than a hireling. A hireling has no loyalty to the sheep. If the flock comes under attack, the true shepherd will lay his life down for the sheep. A hireling will run away from the flock and protect his own assets. So I respectfully disagree that I am only in charge of me. As a minister, I do have charge over those who may look up to or submits to my authority in what they see as spiritual or moral dilemma.

          • Argy-bargy

            It helps to give us that information. I understand that you feel and have perhaps a greater responsibility to model godly behavior. From my perspective as NOT a minister, however, I found myself drawn more to and more open to ministers and lay leaders who were and appeared to be real people, who did real things, and lived in real life situations. That’s where we all are and to see a minister who (unless your church frowns upon any drinking) occasionally has a beer in public makes me feel like “that guy’s a real person, who understands us ‘regular’ people…he must face and deal and maybe even struggle with the same problems we all do.”

            THAT’s a person I would be much more willing to listen to and be guided by. Plus, I think people are better at detecting fakes than we give them credit for. I am NOT saying you’re a fake, just that your public behavior should simply be a mirror of your private behavior. You don’t only drink privately at home. You indulge occasionally in public. You do so without over-indulging, and in a dignified fashion. People see that and I think respond positively.

            Jesus went to weddings–he seemed to have loved them. As far as I can recall, he drank wine at those occasions and others. He brought Himself down to OUR level, and lived like we did. He did so and showed us we don’t have to give in to temptations that surround us in our daily lives.

            Just a thought.

          • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

            Tim,

            Yes, that would have been germane to the discussion. As Argy Bargy points out, perhaps one might view responsible drinking behavior in public as setting a good example. We have wine tastings with our minister. Anything can become abused or an addiction. But I understand your aversion to it now that you reveal your role in the church.

            I might add, for me though, I would find it far more exemplary to see my minister leading by example in what he/she is doing rather than in what he/she is not doing. I assume they aren’t doing the top ten no-nos. I take that as a given. What I think will be a far greater witness is for the parishioners and the world at large to see the minister leading by example in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner, welcoming the stranger, housing the homeless, caring for the sick, guiding the parentless and aligning themselves with the least of these. I think in that context whether your parishioners know you responsibly drink alcohol or not becomes less of an issue.

            Hearing the gospel and the example of Christ preached through the lens of his compassion rather than his sinlessness has made a huge difference in my life and goes a long way toward combating that legalism you mentioned and with which I am painfully familiar. If your goal is to keep your parishioners from sin, teach them the greatest commandment. When we overcome ego, compassion is set free. When we realize that forgiveness is the gift we give ourselves and let go of the concept of conditional love, embracing unconditional love is the kind of miracle that allows us turn the other cheek and can turn the world upside down for good.

            Blessings in your ministry and on your own journey.

          • Don Whitt

            Tim, Christy,

            Some of what I read above indicates you think alcoholism is a self-control issue. Last time I checked it was considered a disease.

            Do you not eat around people you consider obese?

            Your having a drink in front of an alcoholic or not is moot – they’re going to drink when they feel they have to whether you drink or not.

          • Christy

            Don,
            I have a medical degree and worked for a time at an inpatient addiction recovery hospital. I am familiar with addiction medicine and addictionology.

            What I said was, “I doubt you will find anyone here who will disagree that drinking in front of a person who struggles with alcoholism is not a wise or compassionate choice. So let’s set that aside.”

            It may be moot to drink in front of people who might be alcoholics whom you do not know in open public places or to alter one’s behavior because there *might* be an alcoholic in the bar. It is not moot to knowingly drink with or in front of a recovering alcoholic with whom you are familiar. Just as it would not be compassionate to smoke in front of someone who is trying to quit smoking nor do crack in front of someone who is trying to quit drugs nor take your buddy who’s in recovery from gambling to the race track nor a shopaholic to the mall nor encourage a bulimic to gorge nor offer to sleep with the sex addict.

            Part of the recovery process is to avoid places and people with whom one used one’s substance of choice or opportunities to use. Cravings are an issue. Yes it is a disease and the treatment approach is to understand the disease, create a system of avoidance and a network of support to stop using. Avoiding exposure to the drug of choice is part of the process. If one’s support group is not willing to stop using the drug of choice, the addicted may need a different support group to reach and maintain sobriety. This is not true for all people. Some can be around their drug of choice without being tempted to use, though it is not recommended. By and large my point was the compassion of the acquaintance.

            I can’t speak for Tim.

            Blessings, Christy

  • Martin L.

    Research indicates that the average male homosexual has hundreds of sex partners in his lifetime:

    · The Dutch study of partnered homosexuals, which was published in the journal AIDS, found that men with a steady partner had an average of eight sexual partners per year.[12]

    · Bell and Weinberg, in their classic study of male and female homosexuality, found that 43 percent of white male homosexuals had sex with 500 or more partners, with 28 percent having one thousand or more sex partners.[13]

    · In their study of the sexual profiles of 2,583 older homosexuals published in the Journal of Sex Research, Paul Van de Ven et al. found that “the modal range for number of sexual partners ever [of homosexuals] was 101-500.” In addition, 10.2 percent to 15.7 percent had between 501 and 1,000 partners. A further 10.2 percent to 15.7 percent reported having had more than one thousand lifetime sexual partners.[14]

    · A survey conducted by the homosexual magazine Genre found that 24 percent of the respondents said they had had more than one hundred sexual partners in their lifetime. The magazine noted that several respondents suggested including a category of those who had more than one thousand sexual partners.[15]

    Telling people who are engaged in sinful conduct that what they are doing is not sinful is NOT showing them love. It’s like telling an alcoholic that drinking constantly is perfectly normal and healthy.

    • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

      I’ve had exchange of body fluids with 6 men in my life – and 2 women, one of whom was giving me CPR at the time. I recon that the bloke I call my man now will remain THE man for the rest of my life. Nobody knows the future and to say never or forever is to beg God to teach one humility, since He alone owns eternity, but even if my Beloved died 2morrow, I cannot imagine going back to anything less than such an abundance of love and loyalty as he has shown me again.

      My extremely heterosexual brother, who beat me up when I was not yet 10 when he found me jerking off to pictures of Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law in A.I., is a true fuck-and-run artist and must have nailed dozens of girls. Actually, most str8 blokes I know have had a lot more sex than me.

      Maybe God frowns on promiscuity… he also sometimes ecourages having many wifes or fucking your servant girl to produce an heir – which you can then discard, once you got a non- bastard… but that is promiscuity. Not queerness.

    • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

      And where exactly were these surverys made? In an Amsterdam gay swinger bar in 1975?

      http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-august-5-2010/californigaytion

    • Ace

      To be perfectly blunt, like FreeFox, I doubt the veracity of those numbers. What was their sample size? How did they find them?

      And even if homosexual men are statisticually more commonly promiscuous, I rather suspect the fact that monogamous, permanent relations (I.E. MARRIAGE) is nearly impossible for homosexual people because society demands they hide their sexuality from public view, at the very least, is a factor in that. Kind of hard to carry on a steady relationship with somebody if you risk losing your job or home or even getting the shit beat out of you if you get seen together too often and people start asking questions.

      In any case, promiscuity is plenty common among heterosexuals as well. I know people hate hearing “Correlation does not equal causation” but you clearly don’t understand that concept.

      • Allen

        Thanks, Ace, for mentioning that this argument about “promiscuity” ties directly into how we’re allowed to behave in public. When I was closeted, relationships were extremely difficult to maintain, since we couldn’t go out on a “date” — certainly not be seen twice together at the same restaurant (much less have a “favorite place”), attending a non-action film together, etc. All the things John skewers in his blog here are thoughts I remember very clearly from those days. We were always on guard. And since we were afraid someone would find out about us, the relationships never had a chance. The sustainable behavior in this situation is sex outside the context of a deeper relationship, “letting off steam” so one can get on with everyday life.

        I’ll also point out that infidelity, or the suspicion of it, is a major plot device in just about every piece of heterosexual fiction I’ve ever read or seen on the screen that was aimed at adults or teenagers. Much more angst around this in American fiction that other parts of the world, but it’s fairly universal. It happens without comment in the Bible several times, with a very light slap on the wrist if there’s any punishment at all (You shouldn’t have slept with Bathsheba and sent her husband to die on the front lines, I’m very disappointed in you. Now go ahead and be the greatest King of Israel. ?!) It’s a major hang-up in the straight world.

        If I were a Biblical Literalist, I’d think married straight men were expected to sleep around, and women shouldn’t ask questions. (This of course is mostly from the Hebrew Scriptures, not much mention of sexual relations in the New Testament, they had more important things on their minds?) If I were a straight female Biblical Literalist, I might channel some of my fuming resentment at gays, since they are only occasionally mentioned and usually in very cryptic passages: “How come they get to have so much fun? Er, I meant to say, why are they so sinful?”

        If we’re going to swap statistics, I’ll close with the interesting fact that it’s legal to marry a first cousin of the opposite gender in more states than it is to marry an unrelated person of the same gender.

    • http://strelitziamusings.blogspot.com Birdie

      Martin L.:

      The target population of that Dutch study were HIV+ men under the age of 30. No one else was surveyed, as they were interested in how HIV was being transmitted. They did not survey celibate, partnered or HIV- men.

      The Bell and Weinberg study was conducted in San Francisco in 1969-70. The sample population was not random, as 46% of the respondents were from sex clubs, bars, bathhouses and cruising areas. (It would be interesting to see the results of the heterosexual population at the same time and from similar sources.) The study can only claim to describe the local population at that specific time, NOT the general gay male population, and the authors say so.

      A magazine survey depends entirely upon respondents and cannot possibly be considered scientific in its results.

      These studies do NOT lend themselves to the conclusions you’ve stated, probably courtesy of Dr. Paul Cameron, whose methodology has been shown to be less than accurate.

      You’re quoting “statistics” to support your bias that homosexual acts are sinful. We can fling stats and Bible passages back and forth for all of eternity. I just have one question for all Christians who see homosexuality as a sin: where’s the grace that Jesus commands of us?

      • http://strelitziamusings.blogspot.com Birdie

        Typo: the last sentence of the first paragraph should read “celibate or partnered HIV- men.”

      • Apple23

        There are no verses that indicate homosexual acts are not a sin. Basic biology shows that God never intended for men to have sex with other men. And grace has nothing to do with whether or not something is a sin. If we were talking about the sin of racism would you be asking that question or would you suddenly become “judgemental” and “intolerant”?

        • DR

          There aren’t any verses in the Bible that refer to the Trinity in any explicit way either. Yet it is one of the foundational theologies across each and every christian denomination.

          Tricky!

        • http://strelitziamusings.blogspot.com/ Birdie

          Apple23, do you really claim to know what God intends for men, based solely on what little we know of biology? Such certainty. What if you’re wrong? We are imperfect in our understanding and we change our opinions throughout our lifetimes and across millennia. What if God intended for all of us to find meaningful and loving relationships, whatever that might look like? Do you know for certain that God intended me to have the marriage I have? Who are you to say so? I’m just asking you to consider thoughtfully the cultural bias that backs up the intolerance that mostly men have against mostly men on this subject.

          We’re back to being selective in what verses we find meaningful. ALL Christians are selective, because we choose to pay attention to those verses which reflect our understanding of the nature of God. Unless you stone adulterers and blasphemers, you do too. So it comes down to this: what is the nature of God? My understanding is one of unconditional love and all-inclusive grace. What you or anybody else does in the bedroom—or wherever—does not affect me or my relationship with God.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Q5UCG73X674GMEQX7MGXLCFRYI Mindy

          Yikes, I hit the “like” button instead of the reply! Didn’t mean to. REALLY didn’t mean to.

          If you base your bias against homosexuality on biology, then you are not giving love very much credit at all. Sad for you.

    • DR

      Martin, would you please provide a source and citations for this research you are referencing? Thank you.

    • melanie

      I’m a 30 year old lesbian. I have kissed three men in my lifetime. That’s as far as it went, and even that was too much. Not how I was wired. I have held hands with two women, kissed and had sex with only one, that one being my partner of almost four years. She will be the only one until after the Lord separates us by death. I’m a person, not a statistic. Perhaps you could try to see us as such.

      PS- I’d love to see how many sexual partners straight men have had. You make no mention of that.

    • Drew

      OK, Martin and Apple23

      Provide me with some options. I’m 50, gay and Christian. I’m lonely. Like 99% of the planet I need to have my destiny, my ups and downs, highs and lows, celebrations and struggles tied to those of another person or persons in order to really thrive or for life to be full.

      Please don’t tell me that God is enough. Ultimately yes, but in the here and now, that’s not what he’s set up. He said it himself. “It is not good for man to be alone.”

      Please don’t tell me that good friends, as wonderful as they can be, fit the bill. Do you share your finances, your home, or a lifetime of other commitments with your friends?

      So, guys, what have you got for me other than “no” and “grit your teeth and wait for heaven.”?

  • http://williamely.name/ William Ely

    Great post John. I actually met a church leader here in my town who is discussing many of the same points about the gay vs Christian issues. I am glad to see the evolution of this line of thinking. I have a feeling that by the time my parents’ generation dies out (what a terrible generation it is too, good riddance) then the Christians generally will have gotten over their anti-gay kick.

    • Ace

      I doubt it. I’m 26 years old and many of my peers are rather conservative, sometimes even more than their hippy or baby-boomer parents. Many of them are very anti-gay. The teens & college students coming up directly behind don’t seem much different in their attitudes. Society & culture seem to be backsliding somewhat lately, I’m not sure of the precise set of circumstances that have led to this (though I suspect a great deal of it is 9/11, the ensuing endless warfare and the economic meltdown that have defined the first decade of this century and don’t seem inclined to go away any time soon as we slide into the second) and I really pray it’s nothing more than growing pains, but who knows what the future will bring? My magic 8-ball just says “sorry, try again”. *kof*

      • Don Whitt

        @William,

        I’m trying to think of an entire generation of people I’d like to see dead. Nope, can’t think of a one.

        What is it your mommy and daddy did to you that makes you want them dead?

    • http://strelitziamusings.blogspot.com Birdie

      Sweeping generalizations can get you into trouble, William. I’m probably in your parents’ generation, and I’m working hard as an advocate. It’s causing conflict at home and work, but I can’t NOT do it. It isn’t age that is the problem here; it’s ignorance. Instead of waiting for us to die, work to teach those who don’t understand.

      • Sara

        If my 85+ Uber-conservative Republican voting Ultra straight-laced mother can learn to love and accept my gay friends – there is hope for this world.

        Oh and btw, I’m 55 and have been active in the GLBT community for over 15 years. I was married to an ultra-conservative pastor when I became aware of the inequities and injustices and made up my mind to join the fight.

        Trust me, age does NOT make the difference. Attitude does.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1210634743 Mindy Brown Carney

      How old are your parents, William? I have a feeling I should be offended . . .

  • Mindy

    A new study out today states that gay and lesbian parents are far more likely to raise gay and lesbian children. One of the statements in the study is that the rate is highest for lesbians because so many of them maintain a deep-seated hatred of men.

    http://www.aolnews.com/science/article/study-gay-parents-more-likely-to-have-gay-kids/19668089?icid=main|main|dl1|sec1_lnk3|178321

    My feeling is simply this – most humans have some level of bisexuality in them. In heterosexuals, it is less prevalent, obviously, but I do believe it is there. When a phenomenon is welcomed by those who matter to you most, you are open to it. You are willing to consider it as part of your own identity, because it has been normalized rather than stigmatized. I see it in my teenager and her friends – their GLBTQ friends are so normal to them that I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see any of them “try on” that label to see if it fits. That doesn’t mean it will, but were they not growing up in an accepting environment, exploring that aspect of the sexuality might never feel like a valid option.

    So, in a sense, if this study is true, it makes all the fundamentalist worries valid – yes, it might impact family life. Yes, it might impact our society noticeably.

    My question then is, so? More happy people loving each other. That just doesn’t seem like a bad thing.


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