What “Is homosexuality sinful?” is really asking

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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.

  • http://frenchizal.blogspot.com Jenni

    Thank you for clarifying all of that, and double thank-you for the Spock picture. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Reed-Boyer/1019995702 Reed Boyer via Facebook

    I’ll comment privately on this one, because my language will not be “Facebook-approved.”

  • Kara

    I pretty much adore this article. It’s so, well… Logical.

    My only thing is, when imagining how my conservative relatives would respond to questions 7 and 8 is that they wouldn’t say “homosexual sin is still sinful if the two people are married under God.” They’d say “homosexual sex is always sinful because to people of the same gender *cannot* be married under God, and therefore can only have sex outside of marriage.” And I don’t know how to get around that claim, as much as I believe it’s wrong.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Point them to the word “If” that opens question seven.

      • http://craighartonline.com Craig Hart

        “If” really doesn’t matter, though. It turns a discussion of logic into a mere hypothetical. Kara is right. To the hardliners, this process would be useless, because a gay couple would never actually be married in the eyes of God. To them, it would be like asking, “If a man married a cow, would their marital acts be sinful?” or “If God didn’t condemn murder, would it be okay?”

        So I guess the real question is: “Does God recognize gay marriage?”

        • m

          Agreed. Or, for the hard-liners I live amongst, the question is,

          Does God recognize “gay” at all?

    • Donald Rappe

      I might argue that two people can plight their troths to each other before God.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Reed-Boyer/1019995702 Reed Boyer via Facebook

    Oh, gosh. That’s not happening.

    • denitaP

      um, yea has happened. your comment/response in full view of blog..and to the point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    My blog, however, is Reed Boyer Ready.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Reed-Boyer/1019995702 Reed Boyer via Facebook

    OK, but you’ll probably want to remove it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.j.james Richard J James via Facebook

    Love is NEVER immoral.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mllocy Mark Locy via Facebook

    I enjoy the use of logic to define the question properly. I feel that, often, Religion is used as a substitution for Reason, which I think is generally lazy. And I’m sorta excited to see Reed Boyer’s comment that is sure to be deleted for inappropriate language and possibly rabid irrationality. (Sorry, Reed, I don’t really know that your response will be rabidly irrational. I just enjoy the confluence of those two words.)

  • http://facebook.com/richard.j.james Rick James

    Love is NEVER immoral.

  • Don M. Burrows via Facebook

    “Trying to determine whether it’s sinful for us to have coke-fueled sex on the counter of a men’s restroom in a strip club is quite another.” Dammit. I told you that story in confidence!

    • Mindy

      BWwwahahahaaa! I just spit diet Coke on my screen!!! You’re gonna owe me a laptop, Mr. Burrows!

      • http://www.donmburrows.com Don M. Burrows

        Ha! Just saw this … sorry ’bout that …

  • Reed

    Good article. Yep. “State of being.”

    Of course, that’ll cut no ice with the hard-liners. So I’d have to ask, “As a ‘homo-sex-you-all,’ am I OK if I just look at another guy and wonder what he’d look like naked? Or is that ‘lusting in the heart’ also gonna send me to Hell? Do we have to actually suck cock or butt-fuck? And if so, does the hole or the peg get greater punishment in the after-life? And what about them lezzies?”

    P.S. John – I TOLD you my response wasn’t gonna be “Facebook-approved” language. But . . . you DID boil things down the the essentials (“state of being” vs. “that thing them homos do” [presumably before the rape and human sacrifice portion of their Satanic masses]). H0mo-haters tend to go straight to “dirty filthy disgusting sweaty sex” so I’m just taking their route: straight down to the gutter. It’s a rather depressing form of reductio ad absurdum, but it keeps me passing the open windows.

    • Donald Rappe

      Couldn’t you just give each other dainty hand jobs?

  • http://www.facebook.com/mllocy Mark Locy via Facebook

    And no rabid irrationality. I retract my statement.

  • Mark Locy

    No rabid irrationality, I retract my statement.

  • http://facebook.com/richard.j.james Rick James

    Conservative religious people – by nothing more than mere religious culture – believe that marriage is the moral foundation for sexual activity.

    But the wife that negotiates sex with her husband to gain a diamond ring, or a new car is getting much closer to prostitution than she is love.

    The husband who uses his wife as convenient instrument of masturbation, not taking into consideration her wants, needs, or dislikes, is getting much closer to rape than love.

    If these things can (and do very often) happen from within the context of “holy matrimony” …marriage CANNOT be the moral foundation for sexual. There is only one moral foundation:

    LOVE and mutual regard.

    • Christy

      Important and valid point…..which continues to point back to the spirit of the law rather than the letter being the weight by which we should measure. A piece of paper is not what commits people to one another; it’s something inside, invisible in the literal sense, but visible in the lived out, experienced sense – so ineffable – so much like the Divine.

      But I get the logic John is using and why.

  • http://thethreews.wordpress.com Ken Leonard

    Alright, fine on everything but the original point …

    Is blue a color?

    “Blue” is a noun in this case. So is “a color.” It’s okay to ask if one noun is part of the other.

    Before someone tries to say “blue” is an adjective (despite the fact that it’s the subject of that sentence, and therefore self-evidently a noun) …

    Is “Star Wars” a movie?

    Anyway … carry on …

    • Erin D.

      I haven’t thought this through too hard, but I think John’s original point had to do with ‘states of being’ as opposed to true, concrete, I-can-hold-it-in-my-hand nouns. (I know, you can’t hold ‘blue’ in your hand, but hopefully you follow me here.) Maybe others can come up with a better explanation.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Good point, Ken. So I just cut out that part of my post, because you’re right there. Good call!

  • Erin D.

    Kara, wholeheartedly agree. My family would also throw out that other gem of an argument, the whole “procreation” thing. “So what you are saying is that a man and a woman who are infertile are also not allowed to be married or have sex?” I would ask. “No,” they would reply, “because they were still given the right equipment.” “So a woman who has had a hysterectomy is not allowed to be married or have sex anymore, since she does not have the equipment to have children. Okay, I get it now.” “No, it’s different because she is still a woman in her soul.” “Oh, I get it now. So people with male parts who feel like women in their souls can get married and have sex with men.” “Well, no.” “Why not?” “Because they are still physically men.” “But you just said one does not need to have all the ‘parts’ in order to be male or female. And you just said one does not need to be able to procreate to get married and have sex.” Then my family members spontaneously combust in an explosion of logic they can’t refute.

    • Bobbi

      Being of the transgender persuasion I love this line of logic.

      • Erin D.

        Aw, thanks. :)

    • erika

      brill.

    • Leigh

      This. THIS. OMG, YES, THIS. Would you mind if I copied and pasted this… I dunno, *everywhere*?

    • http://www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

      Beautiful!

    • Lynn

      This is excellent! As you say, “an explosion of logic they can’t refute”!

  • Bobbi

    Live long and prosper John. I love your logic and I enjoyed following your line of reasoning. Unfortunately when I read this it’s like my father would say “like preaching at the choir” I’m already behind you. The basic problem with it, as I see it, is that the folks that need to hear this do not act logically. As Terry Pratchett said “It could not be happening because this sort of thing did not happen. Any contradictory evidence could be safely ignored.”

    • Christelle

      Bobbi- His logic does not always fall on deaf ears nor fall merely to the choir’s ears… There are a few of us (or perhaps many) who have come to John’s site wanting to listen (read) and learn. Brainwashed by our upbringing- John and his commentors have helped open our eyes to those topics that we began to question. As a former ultra conservative right winger- John’s writing along with patient friends, as well as researching on my own, helped sway me from asking “is homosexuality a sin” to “hell no it’s not a sin!!!” … further, those of us who were brainwashed into believing that homosexuality is a sin were also brainwashed into believing that all Christians should be ultra right conservative lest we be on the fast track straight to hell… But, now, I’m only rambling… all this to say- John’s writings are educating and persuading some of us… Some of us stumble upon this site while on a path of questioning everything we were ever taught by the religous right- open and ready to learn/turn… Some of us, tho it seems trivial, simply need to be told that one can be a Christian while maintaining what is categorized as (religious and political) liberal beliefs. Finally, this page has given me the tools and logic to respond to those who do not agree with such a position… He’s fighting the good fight!

      • Christelle

        btw, I appreciate your comment… I hope mine did not sound overly defensive …

        • Bobbi

          No it didn’t sound defensive at all. I grew up in that environment too. I have just had one of those weeks where I have had encounters with the “I’m saved your destined for hell” crowd. It becomes frustrating that they profess to be good “Christians” while condeming me and at the same time ignoring facts contradicting what they say.

          It does make me feel better hearing what you said. Perhaps I have planted some seeds this week and am making a few people at least start to exercise their little grey cells, and stop their babbleing long enough to actualy listen to God.

          • Christelle

            We can hope :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/andie.norman Andrea Norman via Facebook

    I want to agree because “Is homosexuality sinful?” is a more elegant way of phrasing the question. But your example questions are not analogous. You complain that putting two nouns together makes no sense, but all the others pair an adjective with a noun: “nostalgic” and “building”, “depressed” and “mistake”, “hungry” and “embarrassment”. A noun can be another noun. A cat is a mammal. A square is a parallelogram. If you want those other questions to be comparable to the homosexuality question, it would have to be phrased “Is homosexual a sin?” or you would give examples like “Is hunger an embarrassment?” and “Is depression a mistake?”.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Andrea: Good point! I changed the article to reflect this astute observation of yours.

  • Jim Sorensen via Facebook

    But you should have a picture of the “new” Spock since he is the one who just ‘came out.’

    • http://www.barnmaven.com Mary @Barnmaven.com

      Plus he’s really, really nice to look t.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrewchow01 Andrew Chow via Facebook

    Your logic, sir, is flawless. “the fact that such expressions are happening within the context of a loving marriage makes the sex acts sinless.” I’d like to add, what is sin? One definition that I find succinct and useful, within the spirit of the Laws, is that sin separates us from God and from each other. In other words, they are violations of the two great commandments. You logic proves that denying gay marriage to two people in a long term loving relationship is a sin because it keeps them in perpetual state of unclean sex acts. Shame.

    • Soulmentor

      ******One definition that I find succinct and useful, within the spirit of the Laws, is that sin separates us from God and from each other.******

      By that definition, my unmarried (because we can’t get married in Wisconsin) sexual activity with my former same-sex partner was not a sin because I will contend by all that is holy that there were moments in our sexual activity when we became One and touched God. In other words, we experienced Ecstasy. And that was so amazingly incomprehensibly wonderful that I will shout to the world that if that was sinful, then give me that sin over comparatively boring conventional conservative str8 sex (which I also experienced in my str8 marriage). I feel so blessed to have experienced Ecstasy in my life and cannot conceive of calling it sinful. God alone could convince me otherwise….and He ain’t talkin.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sspencerwolff Scott Spencer-Wolff via Facebook

    Great Blog – added this to my “John Shore” folder. VERY well done!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kvinsel Ken Vinsel via Facebook

    There is much to be pondered in John’s article concerning the illogicality of the question “Is homosexuality a sin?.” I think it helps to clarify the discussion concerning this whole issue concerning Christianity and homosexuality.

    I strongly disagree with the following quotation from the article:

    “No Christian argues that the homosexual who never engages in homosexual sex is sinful; in fact, those Christians who proclaim that “homosexuality is a sin” praise to the highest degree the chaste and celibate homosexual. They rejoice in his resistance of the sin of homosexuality. No Christian would assert that a homosexual at home alone reading a book is guilty of the sin of homosexuality.”

    There are, however, many who would claim that “homosexuality” as an orientation is “objectively disordered” and even the result of a culpable moral choice on the part of the gay person to be homosexual.

    They would further assert a moral obligation to be “cured” or “delivered” (and yes, there are those who would tout the utility of Exorcism for this purpose). The growing scientific support for the idea that sexual orientation has a biological foundation is dismissed out of hand or by “refuting” this idea by the use of “studies” which rarely meet any criteria of scientific standards.

    This view –in varying ways– is the view of such organizations such as “Exodus International” (formerly having a connection to the Dobson ministries) or “Courage” (the Roman Catholic group which has been recently flirting with the notion of the possibility of of changing one’s orientation from gay to straight).

    Then there are the “dissident” psychiatrists who tout varying forms of “reparative therapy” which is usually very expensive and yet so very often curiously unsuccessful . The fail-safe excuse when such efforts are unsuccessful is that the “patient” didn’t try hard enough, pray enough or any number of other excuses to avoid looking at the reality that differing sexual orientations seem to be a “given” and not a choice.

    Ah maybe, even, according to Nature (secundum Naturam–NOT , as formerly believed, contra Naturam) and therefore according to the Will of Almighty God.

    Then there are those who have accepted some of the modern scientific ideas (and I well remember when the prevailing notions of “pathology” were well-nigh universal –see any of the literature from the 1960′s-70′s.)

    But, many of those people who agree that one’s orientation is not a choice, would still assert that the homosexual person is required to practice celibacy. Often this is asserted by heterosexual people who themselves do not live a celibate life and have no idea of what they are demanding . Further the fact that many heterosexual persons who make this demand are living in a way that is completely contrary to the New Testament makes their assertions about what constitutes Christian sexual morality seem thin indeed. Some of these indeed are kind of hypocrite who have divorced and remarried at least once and demand a different standard of behaviour from others.

    The plain fact is that so many who “praise to the highest degree the chaste and celibate homosexual” really do not trust them or respect them and their sacrifices to remain celibate and chaste–and they really do not want to be around them. They have no qualms trying to use them as a “debating point” to win a political, religious, or cultural argument is fine. As long as such gay persons behave as “good little gays” and wipe their feet before coming into the living
    room–they will be tolerated………..

    Because of the inequities of this treatment from fellow Christians , many of us are just a tad suspicious when there is any attempt to prescribe “rules” in order to make us acceptable to those who all too often will change them anyway when they want to hate us.

    • LSS

      i was going to comment that i am pretty sure a lot of people think that even just same-sex attraction (from just noticing someone “that way” all the way up to lust or even “i want to marry and adopt babies with that person”) are sins.

      but you did, like, the scholarly version.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Nirakia Karin Kloppers via Facebook

    Spock! Okay now I will go read it ;-)

  • David W. Reynolds via Facebook

    Everything is better and makes more sense with Spock.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nancy-Inotowok/1243427237 Nancy Inotowok via Facebook

    damn – i’m craving a french fry right about now ;)

    • Donald Rappe

      Catsup?

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Mary @Barnmaven.com

    The interesting thing about approaching any mater of faith, God, sin, love, etc with logic is that none of those things are truly logical. For instance, if I study everything scientific that I can about the nature of the universe and its beginnings and everything that we know of that exists within it, many things will logically point me toward the fact that God exists, but there isn’t yet any scientific evidence that PROVES God exists. So I take the illogical step and follow my deepest feelings with a leap of faith and decide that yes, I do believe God exists. Another person might take a different leap of faith and decide that even though there is some evidence of God’s existence that there is also no proof positive and therefore they are atheist. The state of being in love with another person is logical only to a certain extent. I have these feelings in my heart toward another person, therefore I love them and I act lovingly to them. Those feelings are mostly based on chemical and hormonal messages that my endocrine system is sending to my brain, but no one will deny that love is real and many times quite illogical.

    I state the obvious here because I think there are a certain segment of anti-gay Christians who are not reachable by logic. The very fact that they are Christians and unloving means they already suspended all use of logical thought and likely cannot be swayed by your very well-defined and punctuated argument.

    Still, though, its worth the continued try. As we see here more and more often, you are reaching people with your message and continuing to spread love and grace in a profound way.

    • Ric Alba

      Even loving people can be illogical, because of fear. They secretly want for their gay brethren to be free, but they believe what they’ve been told in church, and fear, without putting it to words, that to defy those teachings would put them on the outs with the huge, invisible being that created and therefore owns the universe and everyone in it.

      When that’s the case I implore them to be brave. If they believe that their creator is going to throw their gay loved ones into a lake of fire, let them stand in protest of that action, and let their loved one hear them say, “Yes I believe God might put you out of his kingdom for spousing up with someone of the same sex, but I say He’d better the heck NOT.”

      If believers truly believe that God is an actual being that actually exists and hears prayers, let them prove their faith by responding to God as such—and tell him boldly what they wish for—even when that wish is for him to change his mind on something.

      • Diana A.

        I really like the way you think!

      • LSS

        some years ago i would have been horrified with that idea (asking God to change His mind on something).

  • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    I remember some years ago, in some random disscussion of gay marriage, defending my then-belief that homosexual sex was a sin.

    Then a bisexual person on the board came along and asked me “What about holding hands? Holding hands can be very sensual.”

    And I was like “Buhhh…?”

    It was… a good way of shutting me up. Forced me to think.

    • http://www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

      Things that you know will lead you down the path of temptation should be avoided at all cost. Or at least that’s what the old me would have said in response to that question. The old me didn’t do much of anything mind you…

  • Jaime Donahue via Facebook

    I don’t particularly like this line of reasoning. Sex acts are not intrinsically sinful outside of the confines of marriage.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mikeairhart Michael Airhart via Facebook

    The sinfulness of most heterosexual sex within marriage does not stop heterosexuals from marrying anyway, so I don’t believe heterosexuals have any moral basis to deny marriage to gay couples regardless of how often homosexual sex might be deemed sinful by someone.

  • LVZ

    “No Christian would assert that a homosexual at home alone reading a book is guilty of the sin of homosexuality.”

    Well…

    Look at the outcry that resulted when author J. K. Rowling revealed that one of her most popular, heroic characters from the “Harry Potter” series was, in fact, gay. Rowling and her books were ruthlessly condemned by hordes of hysterical homophobes — even though the character’s orientation is never mentioned in the text. Ironically, the character was celibate for his entire life, and one Catholic reviewer commented that, according to her religion, that’s exactly what gay people are SUPPOSED to do. That reasoning didn’t stop the outcry. According to homophobes, that character’s orientation made him sinful regardless of his actions, and J. K. Rowling was a terrible person for portraying a gay character positively.

    Two hundred years ago people believed that people with dark skin were subhuman and left-handed people were mentally retarded. Today we understand that condemning entire groups of people as flawed, regardless of how virtuously they live their lives, is the definition of racism. People who think it’s okay to hate innocent people – because of their hair color, skin color, handedness or orientation — aren’t being reasonable. Therein lies the problem.

    As Voltaire once said, those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

    • LSS

      him being celibate his whole life is even controversial … i’m not *that* much of a potterhead but i know there were a lot of shippers rooting for different pairings of him with different other characters.

  • http://somaticstrength.wordpress.com somaticstrength

    I think Christians need to firmly establish what they mean by sin. Because I think somewhere along the way it was realized that just saying “this is sin because the Bible says so” stopped holding weight, so everything needed justification. It’s obvious, of course, things like “don’t murder” but then, things like premarital sex are less obvious, so churches started building up huge reasons as to why it is horrible and terrible and destructive. So the definition of sin isn’t really “the bible says so and the bible is God and we obey god without question” it’s “the bible says so because these things are obviously harmful.”

    But then, when you get outside your little bubble of conservative Christianity and start meeting people who engage in these “harmful” things you realize it’s not so cut and dry. Heck, me trying to be a Christian was actively harmful for me, did that make me being a Christian a sin? “Sin” has become a catch-all term for “I don’t like it therefore God doesn’t approve” with scripture hunting to back it up.

    I think the struggle exists because Christians are taking an ancient book out of it’s culture and context and trying to fit it into a society that it doesn’t work for and that it never was supposed to apply to anyway. I remember sermons on how television, internet, etc., were all idols and you were sinning because you put “another god before god” and thinking…I seriously doubt that’s what it means. I’m pretty sure god meant, “don’t be going and finding another ACTUAL GOD and worshiping it.” But scripture has become something that ends up applied to everything because if it’s not, then the literists have to realize that many things don’t work or apply any longer. Like, I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of American Christians are marrying more than one spouse, but i”m also pretty sure that there are preachers who will find some bogus metaphorical way to apply that scripture to say “you have done this…with your toaster” or some stupid thing.

    And I always wondered if Paul would think, “wtf, y’all, how dare you degrade the scriptures by thinking my letters were part of it!!” (cause he’d totally talk like that). idk. I do’nt really think that he was like, “dude, my stuff should be totally up there with THE GOSPELS on holiness” or whatever.

    Sorry for the typos and lack of logic I’m having a really really hard time right now and don’t have the mental clairty to write well.

    • LSS

      i wonder about Paul, too.

      • Justin

        Well, since the gospels were written AFTER Paul’s letters…. But what an excellent thread! Should the real question be…Does it matter if it is a sin? I mean really, what’s the point of classifying sins? I never understood that even with my fundamentalist upbringing.

        • Diana A.

          Justin! How can we possibly know who it’s okay to judge if we don’t classify sins?

          Oh wait! We aren’t supposed to be judging anybody, are we? Nevermind, carry on.

    • Dennis

      “Sin” has become a catch-all term for “I don’t like it therefore God doesn’t approve” with scripture hunting to back it up.

      Perfect description – couldn’t have said it better myself.

    • Donald Rappe

      I pretty much like the definition of evil which I found on your blog, which was “evil is ignoring the humanity of another person”. Then I would define “sin” as doing evil. So homosexual activity is sinful if it ignores the humanity of the other person and otherwise not.

      • Diana A.

        So simple and so hard for people to get.

      • Soulmentor

        Even that is open to individual interpretation. To make that argument begs a definition of “ignoring the humanity” of another person. Are gay men in a bathhouse sexual environment, for instance, ignoring each others’ humanity….or acknowledging it?

        Some would suggest that by offering themselves in that way, they are just crassly (and therefore immorally?) USING each other, but they are indeed offering and being accepted and how is that immorally “using” when married str8 couples are doing essentially the same thing but with social and religious sanction? People “use” each other all the time. In fact, “using” defines relationships in the strictest sense. The fact that it is consentual doesn’t make it any less so.

        So why is one consentual sexual “use” of another regarded as moral and another immoral?

        So much of our social discussions are difficult and turn to arguing because the terms used are too often not defined and/or not defined to everyone’s satisfaction. And we know that in some instances they never will be, but we need to keep trying and meantime, mind out own business if “they” are not doing harm.

        But even in that lies a social difficulty. Defining harm.

        • Diana A.

          “I used her, she used me but neither one cared.

          We were getting our share.

          Workin’ on the night moves….”–Bob Seger

          I’m not a big fan of using people myself. But if both parties mutually consent, it’s between them. Just so long as everybody knows the rules of the game. It’s bad when one person is playing for keeps while the other is looking for a good time.

  • Ric Alba

    In discussions, to expedite the process I start with, “Do you believe that two persons of the same gender in a spousal relationship are sinning when they have sex?” My purpose for that is to take the reader’s mind away from Romans and Corinthians, where homosexuality is described as part of a depraved, lawless, god-hating lifestyle. It’s because so often when “gay” is mentioned many people’s minds jump to nasty images of out-of-control hypersexuality, thus making it easy to say, “Of course gay sex is wrong.” It’s important to me that the people I’m in discussion with are clear that we are talking about a relationship identical to the most laudible of marriages—the one single difference between a gay one and a straight one being the gender of one of the two spouses.

    No such relationship is mentioned in the New Testament good or bad, so they can’t point to the New Testament and say that it’s condemned. Most people who I discuss this with already know better than to try the Levitican “abomination” thingy with me, unless they’re ready to give up (and outlaw) cotton-polyester, etc etc etc.

    Thus, it becomes more clear that in order to continue the belief that God prohbits same-sex spousing (and all that spouses do together), they have to GUESS that Paul’s rants about out-of-control sexuality in Romans and Corinthians IMPLY that he also means any pair of everyday spouses who happen to be of the same gender. A guess that if Paul were asked, he would have included that in his rant. It’s a stretch that I hope FEELS like a stretch even to the person making it as they type it out.

    By giving them a picture of normal, everyday folks of the same gender spousing up with one another no differently than countless straight people do, it’s harder for them to conclude that they ought to be thrown into a lake of fire for it—-or even in the least, banished from the table God sets for his children. If they think like me at all, even in the slightest, they’ll begin to have a harder time imagining a “supremely good being” having such a rule. Now add to that the absence of a clear scriptural command that they oppose gay spousing, and you have a complete meal of food for thought.

    They won’t process that meal right away. They won’t respond, “Oh. Yeah. I get it now, you’re right.” But in some long night, after life has placed them in a situation that requires them to re-think their position on this, they’ll run to the fridge to take out that meal and relish it. That’s how it happened for everyone I know who changed their position on it, myself included.

    • Christy

      This is lovely, Ric. Thank you.

  • Cutch McAtee

    Your best of many excellent posts. I often share your posts with my church (Disciples of Christ in Bible-Belt West Virginia) as I “fight the fight” from the pulpit and my Bible study classes. Thank you for your very-well-reasoned blog.

    • Mindy

      You’re fighting from the pulpit?

      clapclapclapclapclapclap!!!!!

      Here’s me, standing and applauding.

      • Don Whitt

        Huz-zah!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Allen-Foster/646988784 Allen Foster via Facebook

    @Jaime: I think John is trying to think like a conservative “Bible-Believing” Christian would, with the idea that any sex outside of marriage is sinful. That’s who I tend to have these discussions with.

    I loved the coke-fueled-on-the-counter example, by the way, John. As long as you’re wearing matching wedding rings, I think the hardline answer is that’s fine — not so good as the answer to “How did you two meet?” .

  • Russell Mark

    I am so absorbed and so moved by the intensity of thought and passion in all these responses. However, I cannot help but believe that by even asking the initial question we fall back into the trap of “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” The question is ultimately irrelevant, no matter how badly we want an answer. We are trying to answer a question for which there is no answer – except, “it depends.” It depends on context. It depends on intent. It depends on what is best for any one involved. Etc. Is killing always a sin? Is drinking alcohol a sin? Is dancing a sin? Is having sex a sin? Is thinking sexual thoughts a sin? It depends.

    The more primal question is “what is sin?” If we take the notion that sin is just a three- letter-word symbol that represents ANYTHING that separates us from being all that God dreamed us to be; all that we can be, we can move beyond “intent” or “evil” or “willfulness” and all those concepts that tie “sin” to “damnation.” That’s really what’s behind much of this isn’t it – if we don’t toe the line we’re damned. Of course, this august body has moved beyond that, thanks to John and other’s excellent apologetics.

    It took me a long time to realize – I mean really realize – that being gay is not a sin. Wanting to express my God-given passion with someone of the same gender in a mutually respectful, loving relationship is not a sin. Enjoying that shared passion is not a sin – even if we’re not married (which is a moot point since only recently has this been at all viable). What was sinful for me was not fully embracing what God created in me as a gay man. So sin for me is what I need to work on to be more open and awake to all that God has made and is making in me; more attuned to my true nature as a child of God’s light. Some of those things are really big and obvious. Some I have not begun to recognize yet – but I hope and pray I do. Can you decide what is sin for me or anyone? Of course not. Can I decide what is sin in your life? No. Understanding what the nature of sin is, is one thing – creating a list of sin (especially for others) is quite another. That’s what I was trying to say to Thomas yesterday.

    So, let’s reframe the argument. Let’s get away from trying to “decide what is and is not work on the Sabbath.” Take the fight to our turf. Tell our stories. Share our lives. It’s more powerful than any logic. And far less frightening. Just simply live – in the open and be ready for whereever the journey leads to our continued awakening.

    • Diana A.

      Beautiful!

  • Val P.

    Very logical and makes perfect sense. Which will matter not to the fundamentals. I have been told before that my husband and I are living in sin because we are remarrieds. “What God has joined together let no man put asunder” – so therefore our previous marriages are still in effect as far as God is concerned, till death us do part, and my husband and I are committing adultery by living together as a married couple. Those people are so invested in their belief system, they have nowhere to go. Some of them are mentally ill. A lot of rigid religious beliefs in mental hospitals. Some people are not concerned at all about God’s love, they’re all about righteous indignation, hell fire and brimstone. Pretty scary people.

    • Donald Rappe

      Fundamentalism is a self reinforcing form of mental illness. To live the Fundamental life involves being in denial of the structure of God’s creation, which he reveals to us through our senses and our logical processes. Fundamentalists must live together confined in their imaginary world. When air and light from outside come in, the structure of their imaginary world is shaken. Then they become afraid; they fear they may lose their “saving faith” which they identify with their denial of God’s real creation. But, it is the real creation upon which God looked and declared “It is good.”

  • Lymis

    “What “Is homosexuality a sin?” really means—what anyone asking that questions is really asking—is, “Are acts of homosexual sex sinful?” That’s the question to which the whole debate about homosexuality invariably and necessarily boils down.”

    I’m going to chime in to disagree a bit here. I suspect that you are quite accurate that, in your experience, the vast majority of people who raise this question with you are asking exactly that, and that your conversations and the debates you have take exactly that form.

    As a gay man who’s been dealing with (often hostile) Christians my entire life, though, in my experience, at least a sizeable portion of the people who ask that question are really asking “Am I justified in condemning homosexuals?” And that they pretty much always come down solidly on the side of “yes.”

    Given that, it has always seemed to me that there are often a couple of other questions that need to be asked before you can get down to the “is homosexual sexual activity sinful” question, if only to put it in a proper context to even have that discussion in a meaningful way.

    Because I’ve always felt that the most important question on the subject – for gay people – is “Finding myself to be homosexual, how do I reconcile it with my relationship with God?”, but the most important question for straight people is and has to be “here is my neighbor, who is homosexual. How am I supposed to treat this neighbor?”

    Jesus was adamantly clear that adultery was wrong, and yet, when He was confronted by a group who “knew what the question was, and what the answer was,” He made sure to put it in context for them.

    In my personal experience, far too many straight Christians essentially ask the question “would it be sinful for me, as a straight person, to engage in homosexual sex?” but never really stop to think about what asking that question in terms of a gay person’s experience might mean. And all too few ever bother to actually ASK a gay person.

    • Mindy

      Your last paragraph, Lymis, is brilliant. And illuminating. Especially that last sentence there. Shunning is sooo much easier than actually communicating.

    • Diana A.

      You raise good points. I especially agree with you on this: I’ve always felt that the most important question on the subject – for gay people – is “Finding myself to be homosexual, how do I reconcile it with my relationship with God?”, but the most important question for straight people is and has to be “here is my neighbor, who is homosexual. How am I supposed to treat this neighbor?”

      • Don Whitt

        There is no uniquely homosexual sex act. What defines those acts as homosexual is that they’re performed by people of the same sex. That’s the issue. It’s an issue of gender roles and what a culture, society and religion consider an appropriate gender role. That homosexuality is such a blatant deviation of what some might consider appropriate gender behavior is the real problem. And that extends to loving, monogamous homosexual relationships. Yes, the stereotyped acts of cocaine-fueled bathroom gymnastics are an easy go-to image of homosexual sex, but the root issue is that all of us, men, women, straight and gay, are expected to stay in our box. The more conservative hand-wringing regarding sodomy (regularly practiced by heaters) is a ruse by those who want to keep us in those boxes.

        • Don Whitt

          heteros, not heaters. My heaters tend to stay away fom each other.

          • Diana A.

            “Yes, the stereotyped acts of cocaine-fueled bathroom gymnastics are an easy go-to image of homosexual sex, but the root issue is that all of us, men, women, straight and gay, are expected to stay in our box. The more conservative hand-wringing regarding sodomy (regularly practiced by heaters) is a ruse by those who want to keep us in those boxes.”

            You’ve nailed it!

            And I’m glad your heaters tend to stay away from each other. Mine don’t and it’s embarassing to be in the same room with them ;-)

          • Don Whitt

            Auto-correction is not my friend. And you should tell your heaters to get or room!

          • Diana A.

            Ya know?

    • Soulmentor

      Your reference to adultery caught my attention. Adultery has relevance only to to married people. It has nothing to do with the issue of homosexuality so I’m wondering why you inserted it into this conversation. For instance, I am gay and unmarried and therefore cannot commit adultery with anyone, even a married man no matter how much sex I have. That married man it committing adultery with me, but I am not with him. Have you personally fallen for the religious conservative thoughtless false equation of adultery with all sexual impropriety…..including homosexuality?

      The only possible relevance would be if there is sexual cheating within a committed homosexual relationship and even then, there’s no LEGAL equivalence….yet…..in most states.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andie.norman Andrea Norman via Facebook

    making much more sense now!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    The comments to this post are fantastic. What a group. Sheer gold.

  • Val P.

    So my husband just made a good point. I was reading him some of the posts here, and he said in his humble opinion “most” straight people have no idea that gay people have and want monogamous and loving relationships. Up until recently gay people had to keep their sexual inclination to themselves, and so we did not know any gay people personally – even though we knew Bob down the street who lived alone. Bob seemed a little shy, but nice enough. Was not like Liberace or Freddie Mercury, so he couldn’t be gay.

    Those that you don’t know are easy to condemn. If you can reduce them to a caricature, they are no longer people just like us. And therefore they don’t have the same wants and needs as we do, don’t deserve the same treatment when it comes to love and marriage, families, etc.

    When you meet someone who is openly gay and they are kind, loving, funny, and consider you their friend, it’s really hard to not see them as they really are: People just like me. To not want them to have the same rights to marry or have families that we do, or to not welcome them in our churches is exactly the same as saying: “You are not as good as we are. You are not really a person like we are. God loves us best.”

    How shameful for people who profess to be followers of Christ to do these things. And I think they really know that, and so they spend a great deal of time trying to justify themselves by cherry picking scripture to wave like flags to prove their not really bigots! See, they’re the true Christians! The Bible told them so.

    But that old dog don’t hunt anymore.

    • Diana A.

      I think you’re absolutely right.

  • LSS

    just out of curiosity … do you consider commonlaw marriage the same under God as regular marriage? i don’t know if that works the same in every state (or even if this custom exists currently) but there was a rule in some places that if you lived together as spouses for a certain number of years then you were considered the same as legally married.

    if this does still exist and if you consider it the same as regular marriage, then shouldn’t same-sex committed couples who are not allowed to marry in their states be just as blameless as straight couples who are commonlaw married?

    also, should we think any differently, in your view, about *unbelieving* same-sex committed couples than we would about *christian* same-sex committed couples?

    i have an opinion about the first question (i think commitment is the main thing, not the ceremony of marriage … i think the legalization of a marriage is mainly important for things like insurance, taxes, immigration, etc) … i’m not sure what my opinion is on the later question… i think i would see them the same, again because of commitment.

    but i ask because i’m sort of curious to follow your logic on this.

    • Lynn

      See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common-law_marriage_in_the_United_States regarding the legal status of common-law marriage in the United States. In summary, common-law marriage can still be contracted in 11 states and the District of Columbia, can no longer be contracted in 26 states, and was never permitted in 13 states.

      • LSS

        i knew i should have just gone to wikipedia. thanks for checking. i believe it *was* legal in at least some of the states where my parents lived together… they were together almost 10yrs before finally getting married by one state or other, some months before i was born. (we moved a lot)

        • LSS

          (the state they would have been commonlaw married in, according to the article, would have been PA)

    • Donald Rappe

      I agree with your logic.

    • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

      With palimony laws, it’s kinda moot at this point…

      • LSS

        i don’t think so, when people are still using marriage legality and marriage definitions against each other to such an extent.

  • Dwayne G. Mason

    There is another question that I have never heard debated or answered. It is, simply, “What is marriage?” Not legal marriage, not common-law marriage, not church marriage. What is marriage in the eyes of God?

    Adam and Eve didn’t have a ceremony of vows (so far as we know.) Noah and his wife probably didn’t have a marriage certificate. Was Solomon married to his concubines? Are daughters “given,” or sold to men by their fathers really married? Are adult men who marry 12 or 13-year-olds really married? Are couples married by the act of exchanging rings or jumping over a broom? We clearly recognize completely secular marriages performed by justices or even notaries. So, if marriage doesn’t require a prayer, or a minister, or government sanction, or vows, or consent of both parties, or monogamy, then what constitutes marriage?

    It is by no means a simple question. I suspect that true marriage occurs when two sincere adults both commit sincerely to fully love and support each other and live as a family. I’d be very interested in hearing what others may think.

    • Diana A.

      I agree with your definition and it is yet another reason why I support the right of same gendered couples to marry both in the legal sense and in the religious sense (if doing so religiously has meaning for them.) Marriage equality is a good thing, in my opinion.

    • Donald Rappe

      I agree that people are married when they they have plighted their troth to one another. I think this is a pretty old idea among English speaking people.

    • Roger Smith

      Probably my favorite “wedding” description is in Gen 24.67, “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife …”, where “took” probably refers to taking her to bed. In other words: (1) Isaac and Rebekah go inside; (2) they go to bed; (3) presto! married!

      Now obviously, there’s a long story before that (of how this was an arranged union, with relatives far away from whom Rebekah was brought, by her agreement as well though), and probably there were customary celebrations, and for all we know maybe some more formal marriage ceremony or ritual of some kind — but still it’s significant to note that the scene simply depicts a previous agreement between these two people; they consummate their relationship, and as far as the people of that time were apparently concerned, that made them married, nothing more to it than that. Mutual agreement and commitment.

    • http://www.donmburrows.com Don M. Burrows

      Very good points, Dwayne. Another fun talking point of mine is to point out that the word “to marry” in the New Testament now in modern Greek is the equivalent of the F word. So to those who suggest words have definitional, static meaning and don’t change: um, yes they do.

      • LSS

        (*_*) … that’s kind of cool, actually.

    • Christy

      Yep. I’m in. This goes to the heart of the matter, which Jesus seemed to point to frequently: spirit of the law (commitment), not the letter of the law (paperwork).

    • LSS

      i think this is part of what i was asking in a previous comment about the commonlaw marriages, but you articulated it better.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sspencerwolff Scott Spencer-Wolff via Facebook

    New AND improved. Still great stuff….

  • robwayne

    Is wondering about our friends’ sex lives a sin? When I see two guys walking around the mall holding hands I assume that they are gay. When I see George W. Bush walking around the ranch holding hands with a Saudi prince, why don’t I make the same assumption? When I see two men dancing at a party I assume that they are gay. When I see two women dancing at a party I don’t make that same assumption. We often read things into behavior that are absolutely none of our business. My mother reprimanded me for going to see Animal House. She told me that it glorified sinful behavior. Her favorite movie was Dr. Zhivago. Why don’t we just worry about ourselves and our own behavior. Is obsessing over the behavior of others a sin? (BTW, coke fueled sex in a public bathroom sounds kind of cool. I think I will obsess for awhile why you came up with that one.)

    • LSS

      i always wanted to know if single friends were gay or straight, so if i got any matchmaking urges i would know which gender of person to search for them.

      on the other hand, i think if a person is your good enough friend, at a certain point it becomes appropriate for you to know, and hopefully they tell you… or else if you ask, hopefully it’s not with wrong timing. i think for it being such a significant part of people, it must be a relief to be able to tell your friends and them be ok with it… and with you.

      i know it feels that way for some other stuff, like neurological differences (in that case, sometimes people say stuff like: “oh, so THAT’s why you do that, such and such things totally make sense now”… and at least you feel like they know and understand you a little more).

    • Soulmentor

      In many cultures you will see men behaving more “intimate” publically than we Americans are accustomed to. When I was in the Air Force in Turkey (40+ years ago) I noticed men sitting on park benches with the arm of one over the shoulders of the other. In another instance, a group of us were traveling and stayed over nite at a Turkish Army base. Walking about the next day we noted two Turkish soldiers, in uniform, walking hand in hand in front of us. Others made the typical reactionary comments (discretely, but me being gay said nothing). Fact is, it is not necessarily a sexual expression in their culture.

      Two days ago I saw two elderly women waking thru the mall where I work hand in hand. It IS unusual enuf that it caught my attention (and maybe my being gay contributed to increased awareness), unusual enuf that, in our society it probably DID mean they were a long term lesbian couple.

      But we don’t really know, do we. Best if we just mind our own business. Still, I’d love to see two guys kiss at the mall like that str8 couple I saw kissing that same day.

      We just need to grow up as a society. And it’s happening.

      • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

        Koreans also hold hands with members of their same gender. Americans have a hyper-sexualized culture that assumes any physical act of affection is sexual in nature.

        • Diana A.

          Pretty much.

        • Christy

          True, true. I’ve had people stop my sister and me (young guys at the time, and when we were younger too) at a store and ask if we were lesbians….presumably because we were walking close and laughing together. I have dear straight female friends today who are aware enough of other people’s judgements that, even under the most obvious scenarios of comforting a friend who is grieving, have witheld public displays of affection…..and I find this very sad as well. Letting go of what other people think and being ok with ourselves – whether gay or straight – without fear of judgement is a necessary part of the path to freedom.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Baya-Clare/100000362629638 Baya Clare via Facebook

    FYI, There are plenty of Christians who think BEING homosexual is a sin if the person refuses to be ashamed of it or hide it. Celibacy does not appease these people.

  • Diana Avery via Facebook

    “FYI, There are plenty of Christians who think BEING homosexual is a sin if the person refuses to be ashamed of it or hide it. Celibacy does not appease these people.” Yeah. So not cool!

  • Joe Lang

    I agree. Live long and perspire.

  • mike moore

    John, I read this and am truly appreciate of your amazing deconstruction and parsing of the thought process here (for those who are thinking) … your job takes so much work, and you’re only an honorary homo, after all … but it’s late on Friday (oops, early on Saturday) and I just need to ask: is this as exhausting for you as it is for me/us/actual-same-sex-smooching mo’s?

    Remember the good ole days*? Remember when you knew it had to be a sin if it: 1) felt good, 2) was super fun, 3) would cause church-folk to frown, 4) could get you arrested, and/or 5) you couldn’t tell your parents about it?

    I would never have thought I would miss those simpler days. Being a slam-dunk, no-argument-about-it, scarlet-lettered sinner was just so easy …. now, because of you, I actually have to start thinking about this. I’ll get you for this (and your little dog, too.)

    (*Don’t actually miss those days, I love being married.)

    • Roger Smith

      Actually, John’s no ordinary homo at all. He’s a really lousy one. In fact, he’s so bad at it that he’s straight.

      • mike moore

        genius, love you.

    • LSS

      this was really funny

    • Soulmentor

      Ah Mike….you made my day with the Oz reference. I burst out with a hoot. I’ll bet you are a delightful person to know.

      • mike moore

        only when on my meds.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kvinsel Ken Vinsel via Facebook

    @ Baya and Diana: I agree with you. Further such people seem to argue that a gay person has a moral obligation to “change” his/her orientation–hence so-called “reparative therapy”, the ministries of Exodus International (formerly associated with the Dobson “Focus on the Family ” ministry in Colorado Springs, CO) and the Roman Catholic “Courage” which recently has been flirting with the idea that it is possible “to change”. Even with those who go to such lengths it is often the sad fact that many Christians will still reject them and treat them with suspicion.

    BTW I had written a longer note on this topic earlier today and it seems not to have remained .

  • Lynn

    This post is so relevant, and the replies so good!

    I was fortunate enough to be raised in a family that was largely irreligious and liberal/progressive, so never had to be cured of the affliction of churchy constraints (I say “churchy,” rather than “religious” because I find most of the problems based in church canon/tenets than in the actual, underlying religion). I also have many gay friends, many of whom have had to struggle with the dichotomy of their religious upbringings and/or beliefs or those of their families and friends. In addition, I have many straight friends who are or have been in long-term cohabiting relationships, and some of them, too, have had difficulty reconciling “living in sin” with their backgrounds.

    One of my gay friends has now been married twice (neither time with the sanction of the state), in synagogues, by rabbis. (He was widowed from his first husband.) His particular congregation is very gay-friendly; one of his stepdaughters is also gay and was also married in the church. These marriages were handled like any others, and were beautiful ceremonies. I also have two gay-couple friends who were married legally during the brief period of time their state permitted it. The difference: two couples have legal rights and the others do not.

    All of these people engaged in unmarried sex. Are they any less committed to each other by lack of a piece of paper? Most would say not and — as others have so ably stated — perhaps even more so. It is (theoretically, anyway) far easier to leave an “informal” relationship than a legal marriage; that unmarried people stay together for extended periods — whether “committed” to each other or not — speaks far louder than people staying together simply because they’re married, does it not?

    As for the “sinfulness” of homosexual acts, if the “Christian” conservatives believe that God made us all in his image (include women), and they accept that this includes persons of all races, shapes, sizes, intellects and abilities, why is it such a reach for them that that inclusiveness might extend to homosexuals and (even!) transgendered individuals? (And, as someone pointed out earlier, certain sexual behaviors that the conservatives consider “homosexual” are routinely practiced by straight people; what does that say? Are the straights then engaging in “gay” sex, or is it just possible that the gays are simply enjoying “sex” — not “gay” sex or “straight” sex? And, again, if we’re all created in God’s image, wouldn’t it follow that any sex would be acceptable to God?)

    • LSS

      this is what i was trying to ask about earlier, about commitment, but you said it with better examples. (^_^)

  • Roger Smith

    Sooner or later, more and more Christians (along with everyone else) will — I almost said, “will need to come out of their boxes”, but then I realized it’s more a case of finding that our usually self-designed boxes have walls that are about as substantive as tissue shreds or chalk lines drawn on the sidewalk. “Homosexuality” is only the tip of the berg, and for that reason also often serves as a sort of red herring: if you can turn ["H-word"] into a bogeyman, you can treat it as some unique, weird anomaly, like Sasquatch: either be in denial of it, or else see it as some alien monstrosity that, if only we could trap it, we could get rid of the menace to the community!

    Meanwhile, variations in sexual orientation (which is cumbersome, but more accurate than just “homosexuality”) occur in not just one variety, but all across the spectrum from purely gay, through all shades of bisexual, to purely straight (and statistically, only about 20% of you reading this are actually straight; some 75% are some degree of bisexual, even if only slightly, and even if you’re not comfortable acknowledging that, even to yourself; while roughly 4% are actually gay, having never had even a flicker of attraction to the opposite sex). Which also means that roughly 80% of all church members are either gay or bi, whether or not they’re open about that.

    But even all that’s only the start. Gender orientation is another factor of human nature that only vaguely figures in most people’s understanding — it’s the gender you are internally, regardless of what your body looks like. People who have gender-reassignment surgery typically do so to enable their bodies to reflect the gender that they are internally. And most Christians are in utter denial of that, supposing that one’s gender identity is automatically matched by one’s physiology. (However, across the rest of the animal world — in which variations in sexual orientation have also been documented with uniform regularity, not as “aberrations” but as normal features of biological life — variations in gender identity are also known, for example as when a female dog [or other animal] will attempt to mount another animal in the way a male would for mating, even though of course she doesn’t have the right anatomy to do that, nor presumably could have even the right instincts to “know” how to do that.)

    But wait, there’s more! All of that still doesn’t even are into consideration variation in physical gender: contrary to (some literalist Christians’) simplistic assumptions that because “God created them male and female” that, therefore, that’s all there is to gender, God regularly creates humans across a whole range of what are called intersex conditions (which used to be called “hermaphroditism”) — everything from purely genetic conditions, to various combinations of male and female features, to authentic hermaphroditism (very rare, where one person has fully-functioning, complete sets of both female and male genitalia), to completely non-gendered (where a person is literally asexual: with no reproductive system of any kind, otherwise androgynous physical features, and no sexual attraction to anyone at all). I myself am (or was) one form of intersex: at puberty I began developing female breasts (plus meanwhile, I was surprised to find that I was attracted to me as well as to women), although in gender orientation I identify as male; so finally, at age 30, I had that surgically altered to match who I am in gender identity (as well as otherwise physiologically). Meanwhile, some genetic intersex conditions include seemingly normal males who do NOT carry the usually male-identifying Y chromosome, and seemingly normal females who DO carry the Y (in their case, it is XXY). Which, incidentally, means that inevitably there are some male-female couples whose marriages might be legally invalid as “same-sex” (depending on where they lived), if they were to be examined solely at the genetic level. In short, “male and female” is a handy generalization, but when you look at the details, the distinction isn’t so clear-cut at all.

    And you want to talk gender-reassignment (sex change)? All who are born male (in the standard, pretty clearly-determined sense) have ALREADY undergone gender reassignment, because the default body plan for all mammals is female; it is a whole suite of conditions, from genetic (as in X-Y chromosomes, in humans) to environmental, that may trigger a series of changes that transform the embryonic female into a male (which is why all male mammals have nipples). (In other species, the conditions cam be even more wide-ranging: for example, in alligators, nest temperature determines whether the eggs will hatch as female or male; and in various fish species, including the clownfish of “Finding Nemo” fame, ALL of them hatch out as female [surprise, Nemo and Nemo's dad!], and various environmental conditions may trigger some of the population to change spontaneously into males. God seems to delight in changing things up a good deal.)

    And oh yeah! NONE of the above even begins to discuss what a “person” is. Standard pro-life views, for example, insist that human life begins fully (body, soul, spirit) right at conception (never mind that detectable brain activity, that we associate with consciousness and mind — whose ceasing we measure as the end of life, at “brain death” — is not medically detectable until about five months along, contrary to a long-held pro-life myth that such “brain waves” occur only a few weeks after conception; they do not); if that were the case, it would throw into confusion the definition of “a person” in cases of conjoined twins in which one twin is not conscious nor fully distinct from the other — nor in cases where one twin develops actually inside the body of the other, and so never has a chance of survival — nor especially in cases of chimerism, in which two separate, developing embryos fuse so completely that a single person is born with the genetic material of two individuals. (A fascinating Science Channel documentary some years ago described a legal case in which a woman’s own children were almost taken from her because the court found that she was not genetically related to them, but further testing showed that some tissues of her body had one genetic signature, while others had that of a completely different individual — which did indeed match that or her children. The show is called “I Am My Own Twin”.) So — where and when does human life even begin? Where does one individual leave off, and another start? Are you one person, or some genetic combination of “you and your twin”?

    So in other words — same-sex orientation or behavior (and why is it always us guys that people talk about, plus only gay and not bi, when they go on about “those gays”?) is only the beginning. In fact, hardly even the beginning. Because in the beginning, God created (and still creates) his living things across a whole, spectacular spectrum of variety, not only in species but in the otherwise seemingly easy-to-understand distinctions of “male and female” (and of who each of them is supposed to be attracted to or feel like), and even “individual”.

    And would any people suppose that there “aren’t enough of ‘those’ people [all the varieties I've talked about] to matter”? (I’ve actually run into some rightwing types who try to dismiss a huge swath of God’s creation that way.) I’d just ask them this: do you think that the God who tracks, and cares about, each sparrow as it flies or falls — and as Jesus said, values people far more than birds — doesn’t value each of his human creations just as much as the rest? So if he does, wouldn’t he expect them to matter just as much to you? “Love one another in just the same way that I have loved you”.

    This isn’t meant as if to dump some new, even more vast burden of “correctness” on anyone; although genuine love and consideration for others shouldn’t ever be seen as a “burden”, of course. Instead, it’s meant only to encourage people to broaden their minds more, deepen their understanding, and ask God for the perspective of not only humbly recognizing that his ways are far, FAR above our ways in understanding, but also of graciously accepting all people (along with the rest of creation) just as God creates them. As you should be loved and accepted, just as God has created you. Whoever and whatever you are.

    • Roger Smith

      Heh, I meant “attracted to MEN as well as to women”, not “attracted to me”. Talk about the ultimate in narcissism. ;-) Also, in talking about sex change in animals, I unthinkingly switched from talking about only mammals, to mentioning reptiles and fish. Last I checked, those aren’t mammals. Although we’re all related, far, far back in God’s creative genealogy.

      • Val P.

        Roger, that was truly awesome – made my head hurt a little bit, but that’s because I was trying to wrap my mind around so much information! The church I grew up in discouraged young people from watching TV, going to movies, etc. And I can now see why – who would believe the earth was flat if they have the Science Channel?

      • Diana A.

        Val P. said it better than I can. Thank you, Roger!

      • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

        Eh, heh, don’t worry about it. “Attracted to me!” reminds me of stuff that goes on in one of my videogame fandoms. In the canon (actual game) the protagonist literally fights his shadow. The shadow – is just a shadow in his shape… with a sword. Nothing more. Some fan fiction writers and fan artists have latched onto the shadow-character bigtime leaving me thinking “Wait a minute, isn’t making them a romantic couple in your cheesy fan art kind of like pairing the protagonist with a floor lamp?” Then, in one of my anime fandoms, there was the gag pair of “Protagonist x the Cat” and “Villain character x lamp post that isn’t even a part of canon.” In other words, if you are “attracted to me” I’ve seen weirder things done to pop intellectual property from creative people. I like writing gen-fic and doing gen-art (“gen” being non-romantic) myself. Fandom is weird.

        You have very good points, but I’d caution to stay away from dogs as an example. Yes, female dogs will mount things like male dogs do, but dogs? Dogs mount anything. It’s a dominance behavior. I don’t know how it goes with the psychosexuality of dogs, but I know it’s not just a mating behavior, but a (literal?) “Hey, you’re my bitch!” move. This is why it is not good for dogs to hump human legs – they are trying to dominate you when they do that (though with a male dog, if the “red crayon” comes out, it probably is something more). I’ve seen dogs hump cats, legs, chair legs… Other animals with a different kind of dominance behavior will display that, but with dogs, the mounting is a king of the mountain thing, not always “have my puppies.”

        I like to joke with science-minded left-handed friends about their “sinister” nature. I heard it theroized that left-handed people ATE THEIR TWINS when they were fetuses. As in, they were part of a twin-pair that developed with the “normal/default” right-hander, but that said right-hander was tissue too weak to survive, and so got absorbed by the developing lefty twin-fetus. So, yeah, there is all kinds of interesting science stuff that goes on in the womb that we’re discovering all the time.

        • Roger Smith

          Shadier, thanks, and yes I know the doggie example may have been a little weak; if I’d wanted to send readers right into a coma I could have gone on and on about how the distinction between “dominance” and “sexual instincts” may not be all that crisp, but … nuff said.

          And as it happens, I’m also left-handed, and yes my twin was delicious. Needed a little Tabasco, but otherwise okay. ;-)

          • Diana A.

            Oh, you’re sick! But funny!

            Speaking of eating one’s twin, have you read Stephen King’s “The Dark Half”? If so, what did you think? Not to completely change the subject or anything but just curious.

          • Roger Smith

            No sorry Diana, I haven’t ever read anything by Stephen King, nor seen any of his movies for that matter. Actually one problem I have with anything even generally in the horror/thriller (etc.) genre is that I’ll sit there mercilessly mocking it the whole way through, which probably accounts for why none of my friends want me to go with them to see movies like that.

          • Diana A.

            Oh well. I mentioned “Dark Half” because the premise of it is the whole “one twin absorbing the other in utero” thing.

          • Roger Smith

            Diana, I’ll check that story out because you recommended it, though if there’s no Tabasco involved I may be a little disappointed. ;-)

          • Mindy

            Ooh, can I go to a movie like that with you? I would enjoy your mocking almost as much as your comment above – most excellent!

            From other twin-eater . . .

          • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

            Tabasco! You rock!

          • Roger Smith

            The chipotle-flavor Tabasco, to be specific. Yum.

          • Roger Smith

            *SHADSIE* I should have typed, not “Shadier” — $%#!! autocorrect. Sorry.

      • http://www.donmburrows.com Don M. Burrows

        I didn’t get to read this till today Roger, but that you. I agree with the continuum model of human sexuality (and gender), which as you said should make “homosexuality” really only the tip of the iceberg.

        • Roger Smith

          Thank you Don — I didn’t even have place to mention (because it just wasn’t the topic actually) that uninformed views, or stereotypes, about GLBT people are contributed to about as much by the GLBT world as by anyone else, mainly because there are only “certain types” of individuals who tend either to be more noticed, or are more outspoken. If you scan a representative selection of shows on the Logo channel, you’ll see what I mean. I’d be willing to bet good money (because this lines up with all I’ve ever heard or seen) that the vast majority of people who could be descibed in any way as GLBT are virtually invisible to most of society — including to people close around them in workplace, community, maybe even family. And that may be for all sorts of reasons: from those who are only very slightly bisexual not even thinking much about it at all (and then usually keeping it to themselves when they do); to those who for one reason or another are “in the closet” (and of course there are plenty of serious or even dangerous reasons that people may have an incentive to keep themselves private); to those whose sexuality simply isn’t anything that occurs to them to “express” in one way or another, unless someone happens to see them with a sweetheart. For example in my case, I in no way relate to the vast majority of what’s thought of as the “gay [or GLBT] world”, any more than it would occur to me to consciously identify myself as part of a “left-handed community” or the “blue-eyed world”. Those all are just features of my human constitution, and none of them define who I am as a person; if people want a label for me, they can use “Roger”; that one works really well.

          There is, in fact, a huge and emerging subculture in the (male) GLBT demographic, of guys who don’t at all (or not for the most part, in some cases) relate to anything that most people think of as “gay”; they’re just guys, who have always been interested in guy things, like sports or working on their cars, and who are typically blue-collar workers (truckers, mechanics, construction, utilities, etc.), and a lot of whom are absolute frickin’ slobs instead of the neat or fashionable gents that many people associate with “gay men”. Their idea of feeding a house full of guests is “everything on the Taco Bell menu, times three, plus lots of beer.” You couldn’t pick them out from a crowd of any other guys at a football game — including sometimes from the players. (In fact, some of them ARE the players, including professionally.) And I’d guarantee that probably everyone reading this page knows at least some people like that, whether they realize it or not. One of my favorite social hangouts is an establishment owned by some friends of mine, specifically for guys like that — and at first glance, or maybe third or tenth glance either, you wouldn’t typically be able to tell it apart from any ordinary sports bar. And none of that is “putting on an act”, far less “acting straight” (as some people have strangely thought of it) — that’s just who these people are.

          So — tip of the iceberg, as you said — yes, in very many ways.

          • Roger Smith

            Oh: and those same guys I was describing usually absolutely hate dance or club music, and Lady Gaga, and Madonna, and Cher, and all the rest of “gay music” (as people usually think of it). And don’t even start about #$%! show tunes! It will be classic or hard rock, or metal, or in my case international and ethnic fusions of different kinds (but no club-mix stuff).

          • http://www.donmburrows.com Don M. Burrows

            Yes, this comes up often in my discipline, where (like in all disciplines) the essentialist vs. social constructionist debate is raging along. And of course, the paradigm for ancient sexuality is all wrapped up in this debate over sex and the Bible, since at least with respect to the New Testament and the later deutero-canonical works, we’re talking about the same people. So the debate feeds all sorts of people in various and strange ways, with good-intentioned pro-gay, seemingly essentialist scholars (Hubbard) in fact feeding anti-gay biblical scholars (Gagnon) with research. So what you have are some seemingly pro-gay scholars wishing to show (and I would say often succeeding in showing) a transhistorical same-sex “orientation” of sorts that stretches back to antiquity, which anti-gay scholars then use to say — you see! Paul knew about “gays” in our sense of the word, and that’s what he was disparaging! And it gets pretty heated even among otherwise pro-gay (in the sense that they do not condemn a specific sexuality as “abnormal”) scholars. In one review you can actually access online, the reviewer worries: “I am concerned that Halperin’s persistently negative and judgmental rhetoric implying exploitation and domination as the fundamental characteristics of pre-modern sexual models may participate (whether consciously or unconsciously) in a contemporary polemic whereby mainstream assimilationist gay apologists attempt to demonize and purge from the movement all those scary minorities within the minority (e.g. transgendered persons, S & M leathermen, barebackers, bathhouse-visitors, intergenerational or interracial lovers, and worst of all, the “child molesters”) who in their pre-modern lack of enlightenment fail to conform to the artificially sanitized public image of gays as an age-equal, income-equal, everything-else equal white professional Jim and John who live next door, go to the Episcopal Church, and are of course in a committed life-long monogamous relationship (at least publicly, but always use condoms when the other one is out of town).”

            http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2003/2003-09-22.html

            Yeah. Ouch.

          • Roger Smith

            Another real blond spot with regard to a lot of voices (and by that I mean articles, comments or research, pro or lay, on “either side” of the issues) is that cultural/historical comparisons are often maddeningly limited to just the American-European contexts, with “the ancient world” represented almost exclusively by the Greek world in classical-to-NT times. (Granted, there is just more literature available from that world than from other ancient cultures.)

            So any attempt to compare/contrast cultural assumptions that way is forced always to see through a polarized lens, darkly. Meanwhile, elsewhere around the world, some First Nations cultures in North America have historically always seen gay or bi people as specially gifted by God (“two-spirit people” is a common term for them, since they may seem to have some characteristics of both genders), and as more gifted spiritually; they are usually looked to as shamans or spiritual leaders in the community. The whole question of “is this moral or immoral” doesn’t appear even to occur to those peoples, and would probably baffle them, just as you’d be baffled if someone pointed to any other living thing simply behaving as God and nature designed it, and asked you, “Is that moral or immoral?” Also, in Samoan culture, gay men are usually looked up to as valued members of family and community, since in the culture of extended family and close-knit community, they often serve as added big brother or uncle roles for the children, and as babysitters for the young ones. So by no means have global cultures (past or present) had some universal dislike or discomfort with variations in sexual orientation.

            So before anyone ether tries to validate or invalidate same-sex relations or orientation by appealing only to perspectives from the classical eastern-Mediterranean world, they ought to broaden their perspectives. In any case, even in the classical Greek world, views were by no means monolithic: while it was expected (in many city-states) that a youth of about 15 would be taken in by an older mentor, to be taught fighting and other necessities of manhood — with whom it was also assumed he would have a physical/romantic relationship and bond — then, at around age 22, would come of age, leave his mentor, marry a woman and raise his own family — still, on the other hand, sexual relations between men of around the same age were regarded as disgraceful. And to some extent in the Greek world — and in various ways in other cultures (around the world, to this day), it wasn’t/ isn’t even considered a problem for a man to take the “top/active” role, but to take the “bottom/passive” role is often considered disgraceful, a man submitting himself to be treated sexually as a woman. (Which, of course, is a bit ludicrous in that such a view is apparently oblivious to how many ways there are for people to have intimate relations without *either* of those “roles”.) In such cultures, the “active” man isn’t considered what we’d call “gay” at all, just a normal guy acting out his urges, except not on the “usual” kind of partner. Only the “passive” man is the “pervert”, the “funny boy”. (Try using THAT as an explanation in the church or GOP world, and see how it flies.)

            So in other words, the church-era-historical perspective is only one of many complex, sometimes conflicted-seeming views (at least, “conflicted”, as it would seem to us, in our transcendent, enlightened, 21st-century view from the mountaintop). I think, if there is (or will be) any real advantage to views and research in our era, it will come frm having the advantage of being able to draw together from the whole of scientific, anthropological, cultural, and world-historical studies — to see that (1) variations in sexual orientation are utterly natural thorough the animal world (humans included, obviously), and most likely have been ever since there WERE sexually-reproducing living things; (2) varieties in relationships (not just “sexual behavior”) are always likewise just as varied — as varied as there are individuals and cultures; and (3) we can all just deal with it, accept it, and move on. Individual comfort levels with it will also always vary too, of course (and should be respected), but societies should not allow that to translate into how we treat one another: the golden rule is a social standard, no matter how we personally feel about one another.

          • Roger Smith

            *BLIND* spot, not “blond” spot! Good grief! (Curse you, autocorrect!) Apologies to all the blond-haired readers out there! :P

          • http://www.donmburrows.com Don M. Burrows

            Right on with respect to excessive focus on Mediterranean cultures.

            On the Greek examples, that pederastic model is only applicable during a seemingly short time in classical Athens; and this newer scholarship I’m talking about is what is explicitly calling into question heretofore assumptions about the sexuality of the ancients, such as “sexual relations between men of around the same age were regarded as disgraceful.” We actually have visual depictions of men/boys the same age, and some literary evidence as well, that calls this into question. The same (indeed, with the same evidence) is happening with the active/passive dichotomy, though I think, by and large, that does represent the general approach they took. And it’s true that passives were considered the outcasts (one was considered a cinaedus). But an even greater (perhaps) stigma was reserved for those who engaged in oral sex.

          • Roger Smith

            Those are interesting things to know, some of which I wasn’t aware of, thank you … it gets curiouser and curiouser … goodness knows what they would have thought about people who just stayed home and watched porn. ;-)

          • LSS

            i had a student that was a computer geek (professionally) and dressed just as you would expect a middle-aged IT guy to dress… and he was like 10+ years in a committed relationship with another guy and they were raising that 2nd guy’s biological daughter (iirc).

            another couple i met are the guys that fostered and then adopted a friend of mine’s little brother when the bio family deserted the 2 siblings. they seem like totally “typical southern guys”, as far as what subculture they present as … a couple of big old white guys that like boats and sports, etc.

          • Roger Smith

            Back in the late ’80s (I think 1989), some gay writer published an article referring to some big ol’ regular-guy guys, the burly-physique kind you’d call “a real bear of a guy”, who also happened to be same-sex oriented, and just called them by that epithet: bears. The name stuck, and by the late ’90s – early aughts, “bearish” gay guys were realizing that not even remotely all (probably not even most) gay guys fit into the long-stereotyped image of a “gay man” (and which is still the stock image in most peoples minds, including in much of the GLBT world — as witness my earlier reference to much of what you see on the Logo channel). Clubs, associations, and social networking sites geared toward “bears” emerged, and now the “bear community” or “bear brotherhood” (as many actually refer to it) is a flourishing subculture in its own right, a subset of the GLBT world. It even has its own take on the GLBT rainbow flag, a flag with stripes in shades of brown with a bear paw up in the corner: see http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c2/Bear_Brotherhood_flag.svg/595px-Bear_Brotherhood_flag.svg.png  (Things like that may seem perfectly ridiculous to some people — they do to me too, in a sense — but on the other hand they’re a natural expression of any community solidarity, which will always find some symbol or logo to represent itself by.)

            At any rate, these are the kinds of guys, generally, that I was referring to above — and of course not having to conform to some “bearish” image any more than to any “standard gay” image, either (as witnessed by your example of the computer geek type); but just guys of ANY type, is the point.

            (Although, “bear” guys tend overhwelmingly to be a lot more laid-back, easygoing, unpretentious types, who get along with just about anybody, and most of whom have slim to no tolerance for the selfish bitchiness that for some reason seems to be a common feature through much of the rest of the male gay world. Some friends of mine opened an establishment earlier this year, catering specifically to the bear community; on grand opening night, I happened to be standing near a couple of younger, “typical gay” guys, who were looking around in a genuine sort of delighted amazement. “What a great place,” one of them marveled; “nobody’s a bitch here.” I couldn’t help but chuckle, and when he saw me laughing he went on, “No, really — there’s the most positive energy here. We’ve never encountered that in any other gay bar.” “Gentlemen,” I said, gesturing around the room, “welcome to the bear world. We wash off the ‘bitch’ outside.” They both laughed and grinned even wider. And that, actually, illustrates a big distinction between the “bear” and much of the rest of the “gay” worlds, in a nutshell.)

            I wish Logo and similar GLBT groups would get that through their heads (about “guys of ANY type”, vs “standard gay image”): they’re perpetuating stereotypes that end up hurting themselves as well as others. (The same holds true, of course, for GLBT women, who by no means always fit the presumed “butch dyke” stereotype; interestingly, the corresponding “alt culture” that has arisen in the lesbian world, of very feminine women who just happen also to be attracted to other women, has earned the nickname “lipsticks”. Every subculture in a society gets its own nicknames, ID, and symbology, sooner or later.)

          • LSS

            i’d heard of all those subcultures but for some reason i thought bear guys had to have beards and look like sort of Paul Bunyan types.

    • LSS

      thank you for telling the scientific account as well as the personal account. that was really cool. i think it’s good if we can lose the tabus surrounding those topics and i think telling it the way you did is a big part of that.

      • LSS

        taboos? sorry, i was spelling in the wrong language.

      • Roger Smith

        Thanks LSS, if I helped you or anyone else to get a little more insight into those broad, complex, sometimes overlapping subjects, then I’m glad. And I take a very matter-of-fact approach to talking about all that, just for that reason as you said — to step or break through the tabus (taboos, kapu [Hawai'ian], any of those spellings is fine). I find that it, instead of being some scary, bogeyman kind of topic area, it helps turn it into something more like (a really unusual) Discovery Channel show, or something.

        (Like that “I Am My Own Twin” show, for that matter. I’ve also seen an ewually fascinating documentary on people with various sorts of intersex conditions — which, outside of my own physiological experience, was the first I’d seen or heard anything just honestly talked about regarding that. The program also included at least one individual who was authentically asexual, and was really tired of being referred to by EITHER “he” or “she”, I think they were okay with “they” or maybe even “it”, but in any case it was both fascinating — and deeply humbling — to plunge suddenly into the depths of my own ignorance on that subject, confronted with the dignity of a fellow human being, who yet did not fit into any of the neat categories of humans I’d been accustomed to thinking in terms of, my whole life. And it’s things like that — learning the sometimes jolting or mind-boggling new areas of life you had no idea even existed before — that can do such a good job broadening our minds and deepening our perspectives.)

    • Christie L.

      I love your comment so very much!

      I told my dad yesterday that it seems like so many people live in a world of black and white, using the Bible to figure out which is which.

      I am so thankful that God made this a world full of colors because it is most beautiful to see and appreciate all of God’s creation.

      Thanks for adding more color to my day.

      • Roger Smith

        Thanks Christie! One of the things I’ve learned to love from studying various areas of science is how, the closer you look at something, instead of finding neat boundaries, the more complex and fuzzy and amazing it really becomes.

        I’ve sometimes had my students (these are working adults, in university) go down to the seashore, and asked them to measure out a short stretch of the shore and measure, please, the EXACT shoreline: EXACTLY where water left off and land started, and vice versa. Of course there is no such thing; the sea is continuously sloshing back and forth, up and down the sand, living and fluid, so that even if you could find an “edge” it would constantly be in motion. But even then, the surf churns up the sand so that as the sea spreads over the beach, it makes a slurry of sand [land] suspended in water, so of course there’s no distinguishing line there at all: it’s simply a “zone” where water and earth are meeting and mingling, in constant motion.

        The same could be said for about anything else, say a forest: where’s the “edge” of the forest? Trees don’t grow with some neat, carpenter-cut, smooth edge facing outward from the rest of the woods; a tree is all rough bark and sprawling roots and stretching limbs that wave in the wind, each ending in myriad little leaves or needles — so which part of that is the “edge”? And what if there are shrubs around the base of the tree, is that still part of the “forest”? And so on.

        So, with people: “gay or straight”? It should be so easy. In fact, even “right-handed or left-handed”? I write and eat with my left hand, but in sports I favor my right hand (and foot too), but in tool use I can typically pick up about as easily with either hand. So is that right- or left-handed? (Or just the wrong question to begin with?)

        You’re right — God’s color and diversity in life is always more endless and fascinating than we can begin to fathom.

        • http://www.donmburrows.com Don M. Burrows

          Roger, do you have a website? On Twitter? Your thoughts would be well served out there on a blog if they aren’t already.

          What do you teach at university? Sorry, fellow academic, so I get excited whenever I see that!

          • Roger Smith

            Don, I’m not teaching at the moment, but back home in California I was teaching in the field of organizational leadership — which (in spite of how it sounds to some people) isn’t at all about “being in charge”, but of positively influencing, and really serving, any group of people you’re involved with. (We use “organization” in its broadest sense of any group of people organized around common goals or causes — which can be a family, a community, a faith community like a church, a business organization, a classroom or institution like a school, a club or team, a society or nation.)

            The core idea in OL (org. leadership) is “servant leadership” — which again isn’t meant as if to describe one variety of leadership; actually a better way to say it is that leadership is one kind of serving, not that serving is one “style” of leadership. We use examples of people like Christ, or Gandhi, or MLK, or Mother Teresa, as people who influenced vast numbers of others, not by “taking charge”, but by winning hearts and influencing lives. And in the process of winning hearts, of course, you need to understand people, listen to them, get to know them, on and on, so it involves a lot of communication skills, learning team dynamics, the pwoer of collaboration (far more powerful than “taking charge”), in other words pretty much all kinds of people skills you could imagine. (Sometimes those are referred to as “soft skills”, but only by people who have never genuinely tried to do them! They are the hardest things of all, because they can only be done if they’re changing YOU as a person first, they aren’t something you “do to” others.)

            I come and go on Twitter, but I’m there as @rogsanclemente; I’m on Facebook a lot more (usually going on about either religion or politics), as Roger.Smith.San.Clemente — please feel free to track me down either place. I have a blog that I don’t post to very often (yet — that’s going to change), at https://rogersshrubbery.wordpress.com/ , and I’m also an admin at The Christian Left (on Facebook — http://www.facebook.com/TheChristianLeft ), however there I post under their ID as all our admins do.

            Thanks for the very kind words!

          • http://www.donmburrows.com Don M. Burrows

            Awesome. Expect me tracking you down any minute now! You guys at The Christian Left do absolutely dynamite work. I love it, especially the provocative images. I use your work there when I wish to defend to my skeptical friends the positive force that religion can be.

          • Roger Smith

            Thanks Don — it takes a lot of contributions from many of our (now 27,000! wow!) members to make it all happen. I’d guess easily 1/4 of our posts are links we’ve reshared from members’ own posts, and we’re always scouring FB and the web for images that have some sharp, perceptive commentary too — though there are some minds among us who come up with some pretty good pix, too. I am fortunate, or blessed, enough to have come from 15 years in a church (back home in SoCal) that stood against the grain of the religious right and its often condemning, legalistic demeanor — so much so that after 30 years of its existence, our church got forced out of our (increasingly-conservative, over the same time period) denomination. (We only lasted that long as a thorn in their side because our founding pastor is the son of the denomination’s founding pastor.) But our church had long since become a kind of refuge for many who had been wounded by, or just disgusted with, standard evangelicalism as a whole. We aimed to let people know that Jesus himself is a “force for good” (not meaning, “so you’d better get your act in gear and be good!”) — a force for love, mercy, compassion — and to be the same thing ourselves, to others. Our pastor wasn’t much given to slogans, but occasionally he would quip something like, “The church is supposed to be like a hospital, where people come to get healed — not where they get beaten up.” And we all said, Amen.

        • Roger Smith

          Oh, I should have said, when I was talking about asking students to go measure the shoreline — that isn’t for a physics or other science class, but for courses in organizational studies, where people are learning that the tidy stuff they think is “management” has not much at all to do with the real world of complex humans, which is what businesses are really made up of, of course. When they learn the fascinating complexity of humans — both others, and then by reflection, more about themselves as well — a wonderful thing happens, you see them begin to treat one another (especially in their workplaces, especially if they’re the boss) with more genuine respect and love, realizing that no one fits into any definition we want to label them by.

          And THAT is what I hope and pray more people will see, as well, about these other varieties of human nature that we’re talking about on this page — to see it as a fascinating complexity that will inspire more respect, love, and appreciation, both for others and ourselves as well.

          • LSS

            oh!! i need this in my beginning spanish classes where i find part of the battle is getting them to realise that “mexicans are really people” or some variation thereof.

          • Roger Smith

            May God give them all wonderful jobs, working FOR Latino people. ;-) That would help, too.

          • LSS

            yes, it usually does!

    • Mindy

      Roger, this is so awesome. I just fear that if too many anti-gay folks try to read it, we will suddenly hear of a bizarre and sudden increase in deaths from spontaneous human combustion. I think you might have provided a leetle too much information for a closed mind to handle . . . .

      But what a phenomenal effort!

  • William

    Is regarding the Bible or any book written by man as more than one or more person’s opinion a sin? Is making a silly flawed book of ancient fables a yardstick of what is right and just with regards to how humans should treat other a sin? Other than “Love God. Love One Another.” is obeying a book of laws that says disrespectful children should be stoned to death (Deut 21:18-21) a sin?

    I appreciate that you are trying to have a meaningful discussion within the parameters of the belief system of those who use the Bible as a weapon. But that’s like arguing how many angel can dance on the head of a pin. There is no true answer.

    Their position is “The Bible says x” Your rebuttal is, “The Bible also says y and z.”

    That seems like a logical way to converse with someone who asserts that the Bible is their guide. Too bad its not their guide. They don’t read the Bible. It is spoon fed to them by charlatan preachers. Even if they read it, do they understand the history or the culture or the translation? No, and they don’t care! If they wanted to use the Bible as anything other than a weapon they would use it to make their own lives better not other people’s lives worse.

    I can’t count how many people have bragged to me that they live according to “God’s Ten Commandments” but are unable to recite two out of ten! Those same people are deer in the headlights dumbstruck when asked about Jesus’s “Two Greatest Commandments”

    So ultimately it’s like arguing with a pig. It’s frustrating and it only annoys the pig.

  • http://www.riveroflifealliance.com John The Baptist

    Your whole premise is faulty. Jesus, going back to the inspired text of the penteteuch says this (red letters here):

    4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

    It has been from the beginning that man and woman were made, that they were joined together by God in an act of marriage which is holy and intended by God primarily to bring glory to Himself but also for procreation. Homosexual ‘marriage’ is not marriage at all as intended by God. Homosexual sex (see SODOMY) is an unnatural expression which in and of itself is sinful and condemned by God.

    This being said, homosexuals, that is, those who have unnatural attractions are just as sinful as those who use sex outside of marriage (fornication) look with lust (Jesus said that was adultery) and participate in other perversions. All people who have sinned against God (even liars Revelation 21:8) need a Savior- and that Savior is Jesus Christ. Repent and trust in Christ alone for your salvation. The promise is that he will save you and make you a new person with new desires- a desire to please Him and do His will.

    • Elijah

      Yes, I’m sure the author have never, ever heard your argument…except that it’s the exact same argument that everyone makes. Can’t you get it? The author doesn’t seem to be a literalist – which means that his premise isn’t faulty, it just differs from your interpretation of scripture. And you sound like someone who has gone to church their whole life, maybe even taught a Sunday school class – but I would suggest re-examining exactly what you think the Bible is 100% inerrant (as I’m sure you do.). THAT’S the big difference between the two sides – and that’s why people like you will probably never get it, and people like me will just shake our heads in sadness and frustration when people take the most beautiful message in the world and use it to defend bigotry.

      • http://www.donmburrows.com Don M. Burrows

        Right on. That is the biggest difference between the two sides. They’re still battling against the academic discipline of Biblical studies (science, psychology, and so on and so on) to maintain their reading of text. As such, they’ll reject any piece of evidence that doesn’t coincide with it, even if it’s internal. So I have little doubt “John the Baptist” will say the verses I cite above can only be understood against the verses he cited, a brilliantly circular logic that refuses to travel counterclockwise (I could just as easily say his verses should be understood in light of mine). And so it goes.

      • Christelle

        I love that John the Baptist and Elijah are having a discussion on John’s blog… okay… continue on…

    • Val P.

      Cherry picked Bible verses, being waved as a flag to prove you’re really not a bigot.

      For ALL have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. Rom 3:23. For there is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not. Eccl. 7:20. Judge not that ye be judged. Matt. 7:1.

      See, we all can pick Bible verses. The hard part is to mind our own business when it comes to how other people live their lives.

    • http://www.donmburrows.com Don M. Burrows

      Hey, John the Baptist (no prophetic complex here, I see), that’s a fun and novel interpretation of Sodom and Gomorrah. What does Jude have to say about it?

      And what does Paul have to say about being “male and female?” (Galatians 3:28). And what does Jesus have to say about someone who chooses to be neither? (Matt. 19:12).

      Your church looks … interesting. Glad I don’t go there .. Double VOMIT. <–What you said about John's article.

      • http://www.riveroflifealliance.com John The Baptist

        Don, he says there is no male and female- however, in context, he is talking about salvation not gender. We are equal in our need of a Savior- because we have all fallen short. But Paul also says Romans 6:1 That we should not continue to sin so that grace may increase.

        • Christy

          JTheB: “We are equal in our need of a Savior”

          So, literal reading of the Leviticus code. Nuance for the verses applied to you. Got it.

          • Christy

            J The B: I’d be curious to hear your interpretation of the Sheep and Goats Parable in Matthew 25.

        • Val P.

          It is so much easier to point out other people’s sin than it is to look inward and acknowledge your own depravity.

          You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. Rom. 2:1

          • Val P.

            To clarify, by other people’s sin I mean their perception of other people’s sin. Just the act of doing so, they are condemning themselves.

        • http://www.donmburrows.com Don M. Burrows

          So you ask for special pleading for that verse via context, but not with respect to Romans 1? That is to say, I could equally say, “sure he says some stuff about males with males in Romans 1, but he’s talking about idolatry in that instance, not gender.”

          So does Jesus see male and female or not? If he doesn’t see it for something as important as Salvation, according to your view, why would he see it as something important with respect to earthly matters like marriage (which he elsewhere seems to dismiss as a secondary status)? And Jesus — at the end of the verse you quote — mentions that people make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom. Eunuchs are liminal — neither male nor female. So are these people afforded the special status Jesus says or not?

          Seems like you raise more questions than you provide answers.

        • http://www.donmburrows.com Don M. Burrows

          And you still haven’t answered: how does Jude see the story of Sodom and Gomorrah? As one of homosexuality?

          • Soulmentor

            The text in that Genesis story does not support the “homosexuality” interpretation. One can CHOOSE to interpret it that way, but the text itself does not make that clear so it remains an interpretive CHOICE. The cultural context of the story is that those were times when bandit gangs and others made travel risky if not outright dangerous and offering hospitality to travelers was an obligation that local populations were bound to honor but also that those hosts had a right to know the business of the visitors. The men of the city (we aren’t told but may suspect it did not mean ALL the men of the city but perhaps only a small delegation) demanded to “know” Lots visitors. It’s entirely plausible that they were merely insisting on their right to know the business of the visitors. That interpretation is just as valid, perhaps more so, than the “homosexual” one. Jesus himself indicated that the sin of Sodom was inhospitality. That, then, begs the question of why the interpreter makes the “homosexual” choice, and the only answer possible is that they make that choice because, for some reason, he/she WANTS to and the fact that it has been the traditional choice for centuries gives them cover for their choice. And also because they want to believe what they’ve been told rather than think for themselves and question if maybe it’s been an erroneous interpretation all along and questioning “God’s Word” is something too fearful to comtemplate. Of course, it doesn’t occur to them that they aren’t questing God’s Word, but only a human interpretation, unable to consider that THEIR interpretation might be just as good as whoever started that traditional one centuries ago and, given the advances in human knowledge, probably much more accurate.

            Meanwhile, they conveniently ignore the very obvious moral atrocity of Lot offering up his daughters for gang rape. They ignore the obvious while ranting on about what is not.

            Bottom line is that the “homosexual” interpretation of the Sodom and Gomorrah story is an interpretive CHOICE and each individual has an obligation to ask him/her self why they make THAT choice over the other.

            Probable answer? They are ignorant of pertinent Biblical histories and cultures and therefore have no intellectual context that might even cause them to question “traditional” interpretations.

            And, of course, FEAR.

          • http://www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

            While I largely agree with your comment, I have to say that I think suggesting that it is plausible that the gang gathered outside of Lot’s house asking for the angels to be sent out so that they might “know” them may have been only insisting on their right to know their business is a little bit much. That really isn’t plausible at all in the context. The very fact that Lot’s response was to offer them his virgin daughters is enough to make clear what they were after. Furthermore, if they were just insisting on their rights to know the business of the visitors, it would not have been some atrocious thing for which the angels response was to strike them all blind. Clearly they did want to rape them. Of course that has nothing at all to do with homosexuality as that rape, like most rapes would really have had nothing to with sexual pleasure and everything to do with exerting power over and degrading the victim.

            I think one thing that is so often lost sight of in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is that, no matter how you interpret the actions of the mob towards the angels, that is not why the cities were being destroyed. They were earmarked for destruction before that ever happened. The angels went there to remove Lot and his family and destroy the cities. There is an almost identical story to the mob of Sodom and Gomorrah attempting to gang rape a stranger elsewhere in scripture with the only difference being the stranger was not an angel and therefore unable to strike the people blind to stop them and so instead they were actually given a women in lieu of the stranger and did actually rape one to death. This city was not however destroyed. As horrible as the story of the mob attempting to gang rape the angels in S&G was, it was only an example of the depravity for which the cities were being destroyed.

            We are told in no uncertain terms why S&G were being destroyed and it was for selfish indulgence and disregard for strangers in the land. I think the reason it is pushed in churches as being about homosexuality is actually really easy to understand when you realize the real reason that S&G were destroyed is something that is rampant in our churches today. Nobody wants to talk about why Sodom and Gomorrah were really destroyed because the vast majority of our churches today are grossly indulgent and entirely hostile toward strangers (certainly including homosexuals). Passing it off as a story about homosexual lust makes for a wonderful scapegoat and is just one more blatant example of how much of Christendom is following in the path of Sodom and Gomorrah. An interesting bit of irony if you ask me…

          • Diana A.

            I think you’re right. Especially your last paragraph.

          • Christy

            The ego of the Church is just as deceptive as our individual ones. Excellent points, Cindy.

            We could look at it metaphorically too, that if Lot and his family were the only “righteous people” left in the city and the righteousness leaves the city……the city destroys itself.

            And Lot’s wife…..need not have turned into a literal pillar of salt, but rather in looking back and not being able to let go of the past, she become hardened and bitter……like a pillar of salt.

            Ancient writers were gifted writers. They employed all of the literary techniques familiar to our very best writers today.

          • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

            Cindy, you’re thinking of the story of the Levite & his concubine in Judges 19, which is one of the more horrific & dishonorable stories in the Bible — nobody involved in it comes out looking very good (not even Jehovah, who in the next chapter apparently tells Israel to attack the city & its allies only to see Israel get soundly defeat at the loss of tens of thousands of men; He tells ‘em to try again the next day w/similar results; they only succeed on the 3rd try. And then the story gets REALLY weird & offensive…)

            But it is almost a shot-for-shot remake of the story of Lot in Sodom, only with the concubine being chucked outside to satisfy a mob of rapists instead of angels handing out some divine retribution. And it ends with the destruction of the city in question, almost all of its allies in the tribe of Benjamin, and then the massacre of a city that wasn’t involved at all!

          • http://www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

            Point taken. Although I’m not sure that it is clear that the city is actually destroyed in the war that follows. Not utterly destroyed in the sense that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. The city was burnt, along with several others, but it does later say that the cities were rebuilt (though I don’t know that that necessarily includes Gibeah).

            That story is counted among one of the more disturbing stories in the bible to be certain.

          • Russell Mark

            Have you noticed that inclusivness is heretical and exclusion is orthodoxy? Oddly, it seems to have been that way since the beginning – especially in the church. I guess it’s that tribal mentality that still plagues humanity. It’s a very short trip from shunning “the other” to desiring to destroy them, bucause their continued existence is a constant reminder that “they” are really not so different.

            Like so much of what Christ teaches, we are to live counter to the world. Grace is terribly frightening to so many of our brothers and sisters – because it implies chaos without the rigid walls of law. One has to actually engage with God to determin what is and is not healthy for our lives. Grace is about discovering true freedom – where we live our lives without passing judgement on the validity of others, but support one another in our journeys. What is so saddening to me and even maddening at times is how few Christians truly take God and his word – God’s love IS unconditional – yet we persist in placing faux conditions on God. Either Christ’s sacrifice was “once, for all,” or it wasn’t and he’s a liar and we’re all screwed.

            I chose to believe my Savior. “I know whom I believed…”

          • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

            Russell,

            Great line…”Have you noticed that inclusivness is heretical and exclusion is orthodoxy?” That is so right on. Great post

          • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

            Excellent post!!

        • TCS

          Yeah, Paul also said women should wear head coverings in Church. Follow that one? Most don’t. Because it’s archaic. He also told everyone not to rock the boat (including encouraging slaves to just be happy with being slaves), because Jesus would be back real soon. Turns out Paul was wrong. A lot of what Paul advised was in the context of his fervent belief that Jesus would be back in his own lifetime, and so it was better to just sit tight than to shake things up too much. But again, Paul was wrong (never mind that in this regard, i.e. not shaking the boat, Paul is often in direct opposition to Jesus…)

          Also – Paul is not talking about committed, monogamous relationships, he is talking about adulterous, lust-driven sexual encounters that bear no resemblance to the kind of homosexual practice at the centre of this debate.

          Also, the term “sodomy” actually evolved from the (mis)interpretation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. It didn’t originally mean “homosexual sex”. It just meant someone from Sodom. Further, the story of S&A is about rape and providing safe shelter for travellers and the vulnerable, and messengers of God. It is NOT an indictment against homosexual acts. When JESUS refers to the S&A story, he does not associate it with “sodomy”. Rather, Jesus is telling his disciples to seek accommodation in people’s houses, and if they are turned away, those people are worse than the people of Sodom. Jesus clearly understands the S&A story to be about being kind to strangers and messengers from God, NOT about homosexuality.

          The S&A story is so grossly misinterpreted, and so OBVIOUSLY misinterpreted, it is almost a joke in this discourse. You’re going to have to do better than that.

          Mercy. Not sacrifice.

  • Betsy Mazzone

    The foremost Scriptures about homosexuality is in Leviticus and the Scripture story of Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah. If you read Ezekiel 16:49-50 it explains Sodom. Abominations has to do with worship practices.

    If you want a reinforcement for your argument that homosexuality is wrong then pick out selected quotes in Leviticus. If you want to know what God was telling the Hebrew, then you have to read chapters. 17-20 as a whole. In short, God is telling them that this is how the Canaanites worship idols and this is how I want you to worship me. Has nothing to do with committed relationships. God was adamant about the idol thing. If you read Exodus 12:12 it explains the 10 plagues. God was making fun of the idols of Egypt. God wanted the Hebrews to be God’s special people. Committed and loving to God and to each other. Idol worship was a cruel, brutal practice. It also promoted promiscuous sex. I think we know the problems that brings. The practice in the idol temple was; go there and have any kind of sex with a temple prostitute, to worship the idol. They also sacrificed children, babies and people. Not the world God imagined.

    Most other Scriptural references go back to Leviticus, and are addressing idol worship of the time.

  • Alex McFerron via Facebook

    Thanks for writing this. Standing up for gays against Christian dogma is still very important. I hear people struggling with this and this helps.

  • Baya Clare

    Thank you John, for exploring this issue & persisting in it. Unfortunately, this passage,   “No Christian argues that the homosexual who never engages in homosexual sex is sinful; in fact, those Christians who proclaim homosexuality a sin praise to the highest degree the chaste and celibate homosexual. They rejoice in his resistance of the “sin” of homosexuality. No Christian would assert that a homosexual at home alone reading a book is guilty of the sin of homosexuality…” is somewhat problematic, given that there are still many people who condemn glbt people for simply refusing to hide or be ashamed, regardless of whether they are celibate. If the “homosexual at home alone reading a book has any self-esteem, is out to her/his family & friends, or makes a point of challenging anti- gay jokes or bullying, then they’re somehow in need of “reparative therapy” as well. They make a distinction between people who self-identify as G or L (B&T being quite beyond the pale, of course) and those who “admit” they “suffer” from something they call Same -Sex Attraction Disorder, or SSAD. Click on over to the FB page of Catholic Parents Online or take a look at their website for more about this. 

    • LSS

      yeah that was the problem i had with this article, too. it just isn’t true that all anti-gay people are ok with celibate gays.

      • LSS

        and… i think he edited that part out when he re-wrote the article. ok then….

        • Robert

          Hi… I was targeted as gay, a sissy and faggot by peers and teachers at the age of six through the age of 16. I was not having sex at the age of six. So please do not tell me that christians are ok with celibate homos… they aren’t.

          • Robert

            and by the way… at 16 is when I learnt to punch back… the only thing a bully understands is a punch… they live by “might makes right”. And most christians who are anti-gay are bullies.

          • LSS

            yeah and iirc, some kids are still put into “reparative therapy” (often similar to torture) at young ages, too. especially i have heard of it with trans kids.

  • Richard lubbers

    John, check out the circa 1950s video Tammy posted on her FB page. I can’t believe the attitude!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nwbuckeye Pat Hux via Facebook

    It’s a great article for those who are hung up over gay marriage. But I have to agree with what a couple have said here – that for many fundamentalists, the very “choice” to be gay has to be “repented of”. Gay sex withing a marriage is seen as sinful, because that marriage is not sanctioned by God, seeing as the Bible “clearly says that it is between one man and one woman”.

    Until that sort of believer can see that neither being gay nor engaging in homosexual sexual acts is not sin, nothing will change.

    It is cruelly ironic that by denying marriage to homosexuals, they are doubly enforcing the sanctions against gay people. You can’t be who you and and have a sexual relationship, and you can’t marry and have one either…..

  • http://crazycomposer.ca Rev. Amsel

    When I became a Christian in 1989 there were a few things that began to bother me right away; the first was the near fanatical Zionist view of the denomination with which I’d fallen in with (the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada), and their extreme views when it came to people who led “non-traditional” lifestyles. At the time I was in university, so I didn’t rock the boat – but – I was also Jewish … which made the Zionist issue a bit more difficult for me to swallow. I am NOT a Zionist, nor do I believe that the present state of Israel is the prophesied nation that is spoken of in the New Testament.

    Ultimately my heart led me to realize that there were just too many conflicts between what the Bible was saying (to me) and what the ministers of the church were teaching. Even when I approached them with scriptural evidence to support a contrary opinion, and they agreed – always in private – nothing ever changed. It got to the point, in 1999, where I was ordained by a non-denominational evangelical organization and, as a result, presented a sermon at the church – but, I was requested to speak on “Jewish themes”, at Easter.

    Jesus was very clear in His teachings that we are no longer under the strictures of the Law. He Died so that we might be delivered from the more than 600 laws that guide the daily lives of the ultra-Orthodox – laws that CANNOT be fulfilled today, without the constant sacrifices that must be made in the Temple, as well as the yearly sin offering that must be made at the time of Yom Kippur.

    The Law CANNOT be fulfilled – it WAS fulfilled – ONCE – for ALL. Anyone that wants to live under the strictures of the Old Testament had better make sure that they’re not wearing cotton and wool, or any other combination of garments – they WILL be put to death for they have broken the LAW. You see, there is no small “sin” under the Law – to break one law is to break them all and, given that there is no temple, every single day, the law is totally, irrevocably shattered – it is fractured beyond repair. Anyone putting themselves under the Law is CONDEMNED beyond the hope of redemption. It’s just a fact – I’m not judging anyone, I’m simply reporting the truth based on the Scriptures.

    Sorry.

    The good news, however, is that we don’t have to worry about all of that nonsense – before the Veil between the Holy of Holies was torn down by the earthquake the plan of Salvation had been set into motion, making the role of the Temple totally unnecessary. When Jesus says, in Luk 23:43 “… Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” do you think he wasn’t aware of the fact that the man was being crucified for a crime? People weren’t hung up on crosses for spitting on the sidewalk (well, maybe they were – these were brutal times – but, Luke recorded that he was a thief). If Jesus could look over at the thief and promise that HE would be with him in Paradise, is it difficult to imagine that people who committed other sins – like the woman He rescued from stoning – would similarly be admitted to the Kingdom?

    What we are missing in this moment (Luke 23:43) is that Jesus seems to be setting out the basic principal of salvation that Billy Graham picked up on 2,000 years later: “Just as I am”. First, we have to go back to something that is written in the Old Testament: Gen 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Did you catch it? “In the image of God CREATED HE HIM – male and female created he them.”

    If we are created in the image of God, and God created both male and female (and God is Love) – then what is the contradiction between having a loving, committed relationship between two people CREATED BY GOD? People are always bringing up the “sanctity of marriage” to rule out homosexual participation, but – what is the sanctity of marriage when people are using hatred to deny people their civil rights in order to perpetuate an agenda based on fear and hatred.

    I’ve known many people who are gay and not once have I witnessed any member of the gay community try to “recruit” people from the straight community – nor have I witnessed any form of inappropriate behaviour with children of any sort. When I was in university I had a student who had two fathers – he was a perfectly well-adjusted kid and did extremely well during the two years that I taught him (and the family was doing extremely well based on the house they were living in, near the Glebe in downtown Ottawa). Where I live now our neighbours happen to be a married lesbian couple who are just about the nicest couple I’ve ever met. They went away for three weeks in September and I went over to their place every day to cat sit for them – their house was a shrine to normalcy, a model residence, filled with beautiful art reflecting their Native heritage.

    Human sexuality is something that was not understood in the time when the scriptures were written, just as the idea of defying the slave owners wasn’t something that Paul would have considered putting into his epistles, we certainly wouldn’t use those letters to support the position that slavery is something that should be restored … well, we wouldn’t support it NOW … but … get it? That’s the problem with fundamentalism, it takes scripture out of context and puts a spin on it that is based on a particular sociological twist according to where we happen to be at that time, without taking the time to consider where we WERE sociologically when the Word was originally written down by those who were entrusted with the message.

    All I’m saying is that we have to be less judging with our eyes closed and hour hearts steeled with the Word and more judging with the fullness of the information that we have available to us – including those precious words about NOT judging. If we would only follow that advice, what an amazing difference there would be: how do I feel about gay people? How do I feel? I love them. How do you feel about … drug users? I love them. Prostitutes? I love them (I don’t pay them … but I love them). I don’t hate anyone – though people on the right push me, they really do – hatred accomplishes nothing, and it is contrary to the Great Commission that we were called to as believers in the Lord.

    The world is full of evil, to be sure, but that is not within our job descriptions to deal with – I’m a composer and minister – my job is to create music and share the Love of the Lord.

    Take care, and God Bless,

    -p

    • Diana A.

      Beautiful! Thank you, Rev. Amsel!

    • Robert

      thank you P… your response is exactly what I needed to hear

    • DenitaP

      Your words are beautiful music that I felt in my heart. wow. peace

    • LSS

      that was an amazing letter. shalom v achava

    • Erin D.

      This was amazing. Thank you.

    • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

      Thanks for this post, it really spoke to me. God Bless you too Rev. Amsel

    • MGR

      I was directed to this page by someone and came across your comment, Rev Amsel.

      I do not have enough time to deal with your long comment in its entirety, but let me just focus on one clear fundamental clanger from you:

      “If we are created in the image of God, and God created both male and female (and God is Love) – then what is the contradiction between having a loving, committed relationship between two people CREATED BY GOD?”

      You only condemn yourself here. If God created male and female, and homosexuality is a clear defiance of that creation, the idea that love and commitment can still exist sanctioned by God is obviously in error.

      I think the rest of your argument falls apart as a result, and frankly, I further expose you for proliferating the lie that a life that celebrates acts of sin that are against ones own gender is OK with God. It surely is not.

      And yet again, I expose you for lying to those struggling with sexual addictions in this area that God is somehow too small to heal those in such a place in their lives. But God – as YOU YOURSELF SAID – “created both male and female” and He is fully able to bring His healing and overwhelming power into people’s lives. If He rose from the dead, He can surely do this also. Why are you robbing people of this hope?

      And I’m afraid you failed big time with your paragraph that begins “Human sexuality is something that was not understood in the time when the scriptures were written.” Ummm, Rev Amsel, when God created sexuality FULLY functional, YOU were not even born. Frankly, I think He knows a lot more about it than you or any other revisionist post-modern false teacher. Have you created any clever methods of human reproduction lately? I don’t think you realise how utterly arrogant your sentence reads!

      Finally, there’s this sentence:

      “(fundamentalism) takes scripture out of context and puts a spin on it that is based on a particular sociological twist according to where we happen to be at that time…”

      I could not have written anything better myself that describes your God-intolerant, narrow-minded, man-pleasing, convenient twisting (and therefore, disparagement) of scripture.

      I think anyone who reads what you wrote as authoritative needs to perhaps avail themselves of the copious counter-arguments that destroy your position. They exist, believe me, and they exist to bring people to a fuller revelation of God and His truth and love, not insert man’s flawed ideas as standing in judgement of God’s Word. I mean, the mere fact you are effectively arguing against the clear design behind what has created 7 billion people on the planet should be enough for people to see how utterly wrong you are.

      • vj

        “And yet again, I expose you for lying to those struggling with sexual addictions in this area that God is somehow too small to heal those in such a place in their lives.”

        MGR, clearly you are new to John’s writing. I would urge you to read his latest book, ‘Unfair’ (available in electronic and softcover versions), which contains testimony after testimony from CHRISTIAN men and women who also identify as lesbian/gay. Many of them attest to trying various methods, numerous times, over many years, in utterly heartfelt and sincere ways, to avail themselves of exactly the ‘healing’ from God that you seem to believe is necessary. It is, in fact, you who are lying to these precious children of God if you perpetuate the myth that only heterosexuals are acceptable to Him. I’m sure you are familiar with John 3:16 – ‘whosoever’ means ‘WHOSOEVER’.

        I do understand your assessment of homosexuality as a variant of sexual addiction, and at one time I would probably also have offered this up as the most likely explanation. However, there seem to be a lot more Christians testifying to the fact that the healing they desired from God came in the form of a certainty, from God, that He accepts them just as they are, than there are testimonies of people who begged God to change their sexual orientation and found themselves no longer homosexual. The people featured in John’s book fasted, prayed, joined ‘accountability’ groups, did everything that was demanded of them by their homophobic church leaders – but found themselves still irrevocably more attracted to persons of the same gender. Since God is most definitely NOT too small to ‘heal’ sexual orientation, I can’t believe that He would answer their desperate, sincere pleas for change with ‘no’ – unless sexual orientation is not a big deal and He does, in fact, accept them just as they are.

        As for ‘God made male AND female in His image’: this is an indication that men and women are BOTH precious to God, both created GOOD, both bearers of His image – and has absolutely NOTHING to do with sexual orientation of any kind. The New Testament tells us that there is no more male or female, but all are ONE IN CHRIST – distinctions between gender are cultural, not spiritual. Likewise, issues about sexual orientation are cultural, not spiritual.

        • MGR

          “It is, in fact, you who are lying to these precious children of God if you perpetuate the myth that only heterosexuals are acceptable to Him.”

          Alright, vj, let’s unpack this error-riddled sentence. Yes, everybody is precious, but, for example, anal sex between men is an abomination and I have to ask why you are supporting it when God says no, so this act is far from “precious”. Yes, everybody has a precious sexuality – male or female – so why are you supporting the degrading of this clear purpose?

          Unfortunately, what you are perpetuating is the myth that God created heterosexual and homosexual. He has clearly done no such thing. God created male and female, very obviously complementary to each other. Why do you have a problem understanding this? So who is really lying?

          As to all the testimonies John cites, what would happen if I cite testimonies that tell of the opposite? Try these:

          http://www.venusmagazine.org/cover_story.html

          http://www.oneby1.org/story_offended.html

          But please do not think I am basing my argument on the testimonies above. You actually don’t need to read them (even though they are not very long), I only cite them to make a point. What you have to understand is that I am somewhat impervious to the emotional tactics you are using (and John uses also), not because of any indifference or cruelty, but because I know personal stories exist to support BOTH sides of the argument. BUT people are flawed and can change their minds. So using this kind of evidence is extremely weak. What would happen if ALL of the people John has stories from in his book changed their point of view next week? His entire book would be suspect, would it not? What happen if mine changed? Have you ever considered the ramifications of all of this has to the strength of either of our arguments?

          So unlike you or John, I have to look elsewhere for valid conclusions that go beyond just personal testimonies. Testimonies are the last stop in an argument, not the first, so John simply argues backwards if that is where his book gets its traction from. But where I look first is this – the testimony of the bible (which does not change), in conjunction with the facts of biology (which are also consistent). And this is what I have – the clear and 100% witness that homosexual sex is wrong morally from Scripture, and also the 100% witness from the natural world that homosexuality is inherently infertile and even unhealthy if pursued for extended periods (ie. HIV, rectal cancer, etc.)

          And what sort of evidence would you have in response? I know the answer already – you have none. Zero. All 7 billion of us on this planet came from heterosexual sex. If this doesn’t give lie to the ‘equality’ of homosexuality, I have to wonder what might convince you.

          After this, and only this, can you bring testimonies, but only to show that the objective evidence you have is confirmed with real world experiences. As I explained, it’s the last part of an argument, not the first. If you don’t have a solid objective basis for your testimonies, they aren’t strong as evidence, so what they really represent is something else entirely – the propensity for self-deception of the human heart.

          The real cruelty is when people allow themselves to agree that up is down and down is up, and couldn’t care less about the consequences, either on this earth, or in eternity, for people they love. Asking people to modify their grasp of reality just to suit the corrupted private sexual habits of some is not on. We must tell people the truth, just as Jesus did, and He sure got hated by it – not just by the religious folk, but I seem to recall there was a pretty sizeable mob of ordinary people who shouted “Crucify!” too. And I note just how much hatred towards those who would love God more than man is shown here.

          Homosexuality is not God’s design for humans, to pretend otherwise is to declare yourself more knowledgable than God, the creator of sex. Your solution to temptation is basically just to give in to it, and even to celebrate the sin! The contention is ridiculous, offensive, and places people’s eternities at risk. I note that you also perpetuate the worthless and emotionally charged terms, ‘homophobic’ and ‘sexual orientation’. But there is no scriptural justification for either idea and they actually have entirely political and marketing origins. The fact you feel they have validity says a great deal about your lack of discernment. You seemed to miss the part where I pointed out that humans that were not even born when God created sex have little authority to say squat to twist His purposes. To claim that sexual orientation of homosexuality is valid even when it clearly frustrates the primary purpose of sex is to publicly declare yourself spiritually and intellectually blind.

          Certainly everybody’s story is different and all of those who have difficulties in this area have a different road to travel, but I am not prepared – as you are – to act in clear defiance to the most obvious and brutally complete tangible evidence God could possibly give you (including YOUR own body) – and just declare stupidly that male to male (or female to female) sex is good. No, it is not. God created male and female, nowhere does it say heterosexual and homosexual. You’re making it up. It is not Christian.

          btw, this also renders your absurd twisting of the ‘whosoever’ part of John 3:16 utterly invalid. It might mean male or female, black or white, old or young, etc. – all things that people cannot change and are recognised throughout scripture as identity – but NEVER ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’ the latter which scripture sees as inherently sinful behaviour. Have you never considered that the terms heterosexual and homosexual would be meaningless without sexual identity (ie. male or female) first being established? So how can those terms have the same validity? You are quite badly mistaken, from beginning to finish, and although I may not be able to convince you, I hope that others reading this will see just how far off the mark you are.

      • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

        And I expose you for being responsible for the thousands of gay kids who have killed themselves as a direct result of your theology. Their blood is on your hands as is the spiritual alienation of millions of people who desired to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and as a result of your bigotry and perversion of the Gospel on your part and those like you, you condemned and pushed away.

        God have mercy on you for the thousands of gay kids that you’ve destroyed.

        • MGR

          DR: “And I expose you for being responsible for the thousands of gay kids who have killed themselves as a direct result of your theology.”

          OK, when you have calmed down enough to avoid such stupid statements, watch this short clip:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAD3DUwmwFU

          and then tell me again who is responsible for what and whose blood is on whose hands.

          Better than that, tell the ones who loved this guy enough to try to get him to avoid this outcome. Go on, I dare you to tell the family of this guy that they were responsible for his death. Isn’t that what you are arguing? Aren’t you glad to be able to blame some tenuous scapegoat rather than the real culprit, homosexual sex? Does the hate feel good to you as you convince yourself you hold the moral high ground, DR?

          But excuse me for not allowing your vacuous sanctimony to get a foothold. Do you choose life or death? Homosexuality is a dead-end lifestyle is it not? Can one reproduce with this behaviour? Please do not send me such accusations, you don’t even know me, yet you have ONE response: HATE. Elsewhere I note you wrote this: “I can be too angry and I get that it can get way too personal and destructive. It keeps me from listening.” Well here on this thread we have Exhibit A.

          I’m sure you are probably better than this, but really, try for a moment to see it from my point of view. God created male and female, why do you have a problem with what He did?

          Now, given that I have already done some background on John and his blog, I doubt I will be given the freedom to continue commenting here. If others have been banned who are quite reasonable and not given to insults or hate, then I have to wonder what this better world you think you are creating looks like where only lockstep ideas are considered acceptable. It’s so clear because you hate everybody who wants to declare God’s saving truth. Witness John’s recent “go to hell” post. Charming stuff. Sure can imagine Jesus saying that to the Pharisees. Sure would fulfil Isaiah 53:7, hey?

          And please don’t talk to me about church being a safe place or anything like that usual GLBT propaganda when you endorse something so heinous and actually DOES directly lead to death. Watch the clip again and finally let me quote to you what Paul writes in Romans 1:32 “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

          Do you realise what Paul wrote here? Giving approval to these acts is as bad in God’s eyes as actually doing the deed. If that isn’t enough for you, try the fact that in Rev 2:20, Jesus Himself condemns those who merely tolerate sexual immorality. I don’t think you fully appreciate the shaky ground you are on. This is not a game where you get to blame others for such ridiculous notions when there are eternal matters at stake. Jesus came to save the lost to eternity and abusing the clear physical testimony to God’s creation of the sexual reality of male and female is as big a slap in the face to God as I can imagine. If physical reality so obvious is not good enough for you, the more difficult navigation of God’s Word is clearly going to be beyond you. I earnestly pray you would wake up to the Spirit of God today.

          • Dan

            MGR – you have some good things to say. Don’t give up or get caught up in the hate being spouted here. Keep up the good and Godly work.

          • MGR

            Thanks for the tip – I got the link here from a friend of a friend and it will be especially valuable to make sure John’s pro-homosexuality book gets the lambasting it deserves for twisting all kinds of things from God. Having read part of the first chapter online, I’m actually a bit shocked at how brazen it argues for clear heresy and how he constructs emotional arguments full of strawmen and hatred. People really need to be alerted to this kind of false teaching. The worst thing is that John and his cohorts here are fully convinced they are doing good, when they are clearly advocating a dead-end lifestyle – literally. They really need to consider whether they want to serve the God of life or death.

          • http://www.donmburrows.com Don M. Burrows

            MGR,

            Comments like yours get deleted and most people don’t pay attention to them because they offer nothing new. You are spouting the same tired, old, pseudo-intellectual and anti-biblical nonsense I did when I was a teenage fundamentalist, and that was decades ago.

            Your comment on Romans 1:32 was interesting. I’ll ask you what I ask anyone about Romans 1: who’s saying this? Who’s Paul talking to in Romans 2:1, when he uses the vocative? Have a clear answer? If not, Romans 1 isn’t much of a proof text for you.

            You keep regurgitating the ancient male-female binary. You use it to suggest “homosexuality is a dead-end lifestyle,” simply because it does not lead to procreation. If that is your measuring stick, I suppose celibacy is a dead-end lifestyle. Yet most early Christians, for the first 500 (1600?) years of Christianity, would disagree, since they saw this as the preferred lifestyle. This includes, of course, Paul. Now you’re welcome to disagree with Paul, but it complicates your efforts to enforce your sexual ideology using his words. If you don’t disagree, and you think celibacy is, in fact, a worthy lifestyle, that’s fine, too, but your procreation argument is thus null and void, because it isn’t applicable across the board. Either God makes procreation his No. 1 priority or he doesn’t. No one in the early church thought so. Gregory of Nyssa stated that procreation only leads to more sin and death, and thus discounted procreation as an argument against celibacy.

            And of course, Christianity was one of the first to frustrate this male-female dichotomy that you are so fond of. The Romans loved it; Christians not so much. Ergo, Paul in Galatians 3:28 says there is no male and female, a very early Christian creed. And Jesus in Matthew 19:12 says some make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. Now, if God made us male and female, and we are supposed to procreate, why would making oneself a eunuch, deliberately counteracting that plan, be done “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven”? Again, you are welcome to disagree with Jesus. I have no doubt you’ll come back with an elaborate, apologetic response as to why Paul and Jesus, though they sound like they disagree with modern, 21st century fundamentalist family theology, really were precursors of it in the 1st century, despite no solid, unambiguous evidence for it in the text.

            I’ve made all these arguments before on this blog and elsewhere, because I’ve heard all your arguments before, ad nauseam, for the past several decades as Christians wed to a particular sexual and family prejudice strive to maintain it by making ever more elaborate apologetic arguments. You accuse John of arguing backward, but that’s quite literally what you have done: you have started with a host of biblical and cultural assumptions and, in contradiction of modern science, biblical criticism, and plain common sense, you have reasserted them time and again, working backward against the tide of new evidence to maintain your preconceived prejudice, based on a biblical literalism that is itself a modern, not ancient, tradition. That’s fine. Keep it up. But it ain’t nothing new. That’s why we ignore you. And why I will go back to ignoring you now.

  • Kristyn Whitaker Hood via Facebook

    This is such a timely article. I’ll be sharing it with other Messiah College Alumni in light of recent events:http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/05/messiah_college_alumni_urge_ad.html

  • http://supercrayons64.blogspot.com/ Blake

    Good post. Bonus points for using a picture of Spock.

    I don’t want to have sex with another man, but I have felt attracted to some before, and enjoyed it if we hugged. But is that a homosexual act? Because if it is, it’d be absurd to think that hugging is wrong. I assume everyone who likes to hug likes to hug because it feels good. Exactly how many butterflies can be in your stomach without being gay.

    • Roger Smith

      The answer to the butterfly question is twelve, eight if they’re larger, but the trick is not to count.

      Actually, it’s really seldom a quesiton of being either gay or straight; statistically, the most likely thing that people are (up to 80% of everyone) is some degree or other of bisexual. That is what explains some, maybe only subtle or flickering, kind of attraction that a person may have for someone of the same gender, but still without wanting to have any more intimate (or romantic) relations than that.

      And I’m speaking from the “it takes one to know one” camp, because it took me several decades to come to terms with the fact that I’m simply bisexual, drawn rather more to guys than to women, but of course in neither case does it mean that I want to hop in the sack with everyone. “Part of my nature” is a different thing from “going to ‘do something’ about it”. However, I should mention also that I have been in wonderful relationships with both women and men (with a man, for the last five years).

      And of course again, none of this is meant as if to imply or expect any sort of repsonse from you at all necessarily; life shouldn’t be about “true confessions time” (until someone wants to for any reason). But all I meant was hopefully to offer an alternative explanation to what you described — which, incidentally, probably speaks for the great majority of people reading this, whether they ever care to comment about it or not — and also hopefully to help anyone who reads this to broaden their perspectives on the varieties of how God creates people. The sooner that the majority of the population (especially of Christians) become comfortable with the fact that most of them are simply bisexual to one degree or another — again, and no that does not in any way imply that anyone has to go “do something about it”, especially if they’re already in a committed relationship — the easier it will be both to understand ourselves and others, and to talk about these things with a lot broader understanding, and without seeming to be forced into one assumption or another (“gay or straight?”).

      • LSS

        yes, the binary is half the problem.

        “when presented with two options, choose the third.” (Jewish proverb)

    • mike moore

      thank you, Blake, tone is hard to convey in quick comments, so no sarcasm here:

      I love the butterfly test! No joke, I think you’ve stumbled upon a simple and profound way to for men to think about their sexual orientation. (good bye Kinsey scale, finally.)

      As I think about it in terms of the butterfly, and in my broad experience – I’ve kept track of these odd sorts of information using, as any self-respecting gay man would, a vintage mahogany slide-rule and latest-generation iPhone – I find that 36 butterflies, give or take, is the tipping point between Bromance and Romance.

      For those not in-tune with their inner-butterfly, there remains another simple test: boners.

      • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

        Mike,

        I just can’t stop laughing at that last sentence…..just classic, thanks!!

  • Jaime Donahue via Facebook

    Allen, that’s fine and all but I don’t understand why we have to perpetuate puritanical sexual mores in order to make homosexuality acceptable to conservatives. It reminds me of that Thoreau quote, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”

  • Ken

    But what is “sin” itself? Really. What I have always found interesting is that, if I recall correctly, the word “sin” first pops up in Genesis 4:7. So sorry Adam, sorry Eve, but for all your world changing disobedience there, despite that one magnificent “O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem” it be your son Cain that’s got the real biblical cred for “sin”.

    Now, mind you, I suppose we could maybe go with “abomination”; but then, as Proverbs, Ephesians, Leviticus, Exodus, James (to name a few) demonstrate, the all time title holders in that category of offensiveness seem to be the gossips (with homosexuals a rather distant second at best, if not merely fourth or fifth).

    On a certain level I find myself wondering – of all the possible offenses in God’s eyes why do so many Christians care so much about homosexuality? How does it affect them? It didn’t even make the Ten Commandments! Sure, gays might be 10% of the population, but let’s be real, the gossips are like, um, 99.9999%. Gays? Not a big crisis. Gossips? Whoa! Besides, how’s the line go?

    “And why behold you the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?” Mat 7:3-4

  • Will A.

    And what if I never touch my friend’s french fries because they cause my gallbladder to act up, but I do gaze at him longingly because I love him — not in the way you love your friend, Pastor Bob, but with the kind of white-hot romantic yearning you feel for your wife, which, nonetheless, never finds sexual expression? In my world that still makes me gay as a goose with twenty-three butterflies in his stomach, and though a very few might applaud my heroic self-control, I’m still immediately branded a second or third class member of God’s Kingdom. I think you’re right about the question behind the question, but I’m not sure framing the discussion in terms of mere behavior ultimately helps (could be wrong). But if I choose celebacy, I do so as a gay man who longs to be affirmed/respected/accepted for the way I process the world, give and receive love, and seek to honor God —- not for who/what I do in private with my french fry loving friend. Then again, maybe I missed the intent behind the post.

  • Mateo

    This is the problem with a lot of religions. Even the bahais who claim to be open and accepting of everyone, still have a problem with homosexuality. They essentially say, well, you can be gay, but we do not condone sex out side of marriage. We also do not condone same gender marriages. So it is okay to be gay, and would be okay to have sex, but you can’t get married, so you can never have sex in a marriage. So, any sex you have will be wrong.

    I would have to disagree with one point you make. When you say:

    If done within the context of a loving, committed, monogamous relationship—if done, in other words, within the context of marriage—are acts of homosexual sex sinful? If they are—that is, if even the holy state of matrimony doesn’t render loving consensual sex between homosexuals sinless—then the Christian has solid moral grounds for discouraging gay and lesbian people from getting married.

    This is not a logical conclusion. If it is wrong, no matter what, then a Christian may consider themselves to have grounds to discourage homosexual sex in general. (although they ought to keep it to themselves in my opinion) But why would they have grounds to discourage homosexual marriage. If it is wrong married or not, then what does it matter. gay marriage will not make more people have homosexual sex. It may result in more monogamous relationships, thus resulting in less gay partners for the married person. But it will in no way increase the incidents of gay sex. It will also provide more stable families for children, give people legal rights etc. So, there would seem to be no real reason to discourage gay marriage.

    if, on the other hand, it is okay within a marriage, then that would obviously suggest that gay marriage should be promoted. So, either way, there is no reason to discourage gay marriage.


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