Nope, still a bigot

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council takes a break from denying what scientists say about climate change in order to deny what scientists say about human sexuality. And what humans say about human sexuality:

Homosexual behavior is a choice. A person can choose to either participate in homosexual behavior or not to participate.

The widespread, vocal insistence of this "Just say no" theory of sexual orientation is part of why I find this chemistry.com ad so delightful:

The ad opens with a guy checking out a copy of Playboy. He ponders it a bit before concluding, somewhat cheerfully, "Nope. Still gay."

The joke works because, at first, we don't know the guy is gay. This is, to Perkins, why it's "outrageous" for homosexuals to complain about discrimination — because if they "choose" to, they can pass themselves off as straight. If they're really good at it, they can even get elected to office as Republicans. African Americans don't have that option, of course, which is, Perkins says, the difference between the discrimination faced by homosexuals and that faced by African Americans:

Homosexual behavior is a choice. A person can choose to either participate in homosexual behavior or not to participate. An African American cannot choose to participate in having black skin; they are born with it. [The] suggestion that homosexuals who want to marry are oppressed or victims of discrimination is simply outrageous. No person is being denied the right to marry. They are simply asked to meet the core requirement (since civilization began) that both genders be present.

I suppose this is technically true — homosexuals do have the right to marry, just not the right to marry someone they actually love. But what's love got to do with it?

It's a bit strange to hear this from someone in Perkins' position. He's the head of an allegedly pro-marriage, pro-family lobbying firm, but here he is calling for more loveless marriages. Let a million Ted Haggards bloom!

Perkins is preaching the gospel according to Burton Quim.

I can't help but wonder if he really believes this, if he really believes that sexual orientation is a "choice." How often, I wonder, does Perkins find himself confronted by this choice? I hope, for Mrs. Perkins' sake, that it is not too often, because I would not wish for her — or even for him — the kind of loveless, white-knuckled sham he is advocating for others.

  • nieciedo

    Newscat:
    I guess I wonder if Perkins believes in religious discrimination?
    Yes, I believe he does support religious discrimination — discrimination against anyone who doesn’t follow his religion. Unfortunately for him, that is illegal — except for the dispensation that many non-discrimination laws grant to religious organizations. You can’t refuse to hire an evangelical, but he can probably refuse to hire a non-evangelical.

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Quoth Geds:We’re not attracted to genders, we’re attracted to people. I think that’s the sort of thing that allows for gay, straight, or bisexual preference and would make Tony Perkins’ head explode.With the caveat that gender may be one of the involuntary filters that helps determine which people we’re attracted to, yes. It is the not-getting of this very simple point that led this one Senator (whose name is left as an exercise to someone with better Google-fu than I) to declare that “bisexuals are promiscuous by definition; they have sex with everyone.”
    Being bi myself, I kinda disagree with that Senator. And I’m kinda perfect as a counter-example, as I’m not only bi but in a poly/open marriage. And even well-meaning friends get a little confused as to why I am not therefore hopping into the sack with everyone who shows an interest. It also makes turning people down, on the rare occasion that I get propositioned, honestly a little difficult: “It’s not your gender. It’s not my wedding ring. Frankly, I just don’t dig you. Would you settle for friends?” My husband and I may not be monogamous, but that doesn’t mean we’re not as picky as anyone else about who we initiate intimacy with.
    Maybe I’m just naive, but I think we ought to make the opener of the Declaration of Independence an actual binding part of the Constitution. We’d have to reword it, of course, but something like “Congress shall make no law denying life, liberty, or happiness (or property) to one set of persons without this denial being required to protect the life, liberty, or happiness (or property) of another set of persons.” And then we’d need to have smart courts who understand that forbidding theft and murder to protect would-be victims’ property and life is not the same as forbidding homosexual marriage to protect Tony Perkins’s ability to sleep at night.
    Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have the right sort of legal climate in the USA to deal with this kind of law. And yet we’ve managed the 1st Amendment just fine…
    Which brings me to what nieciedo said:The difference between religious and sexuality is that the Constitution explicitly recognizes free exercise of religion. The fundies are none to happy about the Establishment Clause, but they understand the value of the Free Exercise clause. It’s in their best interests. They have not reached the point (yet) where they are openingly calling for suborning the Constitution. The Constitution, unfortunately, does not explicitly guarantee rights of privacy and individual sexual liberty. Only case law precedent enacted by the hated “activist judges” prevents the (re)criminalization of homosexuality.I’m trying to figure out whether you’re simply explaining the fundies’ point of view here, or buying into it in a sort of dispassionate Constitutional-Law way. Because the problem with this argument is that there is 0 (zero) reason for laws denying gays the right to marry, or have sex, or otherwise engage on equal terms with US society, other than religious. Which means that denying them rights is to violate the “equal protection under the law” and the anti-establishment bits of the Constitution at the same time.
    I can understand that fundies don’t care about this; in fact, they tend not to care about the anti-establishment clause much at all (as any number of pundits screaming, erroneously, that the 1st Amendment “isn’t about freedom from religion!” will demonstrate). But that’s their major malfunction, and oughtn’t to be credited with legal validity.

  • the opoponax

    @ Geds — to clarify, “poor girl” was my reaction to her circumstances in general, not your potential behavior. i’ve been the ugly duckling who got dumped when something only marginally better came along. it’s not fun.
    though as a sorta warning, Saving Face isn’t exactly comparable to Geds’ situation or to my little hypothetical romantic comedy — it just happens to have a similar opening (protagonist gets talked into attending an immigrant-community social event for the purposes of matchmaking, with interesting results).

  • Geds

    With the caveat that gender may be one of the involuntary filters that helps determine which people we’re attracted to, yes.
    I apparently need to be less elliptical, since nieciedo and Nicole seem to have both assumed I’m not accounting for gender.
    I absolutely believe that there is a place where the person’s gender influences whether or not they are attractive to the observer. I talked around that, but when I was trying to reason through the whole gay/straight thing and figured out the “we’re attracted to people, not genders” concept, one of the things that goes in to it is whether or not we are or can be attracted to another person.
    It actually started for me when I was telling a female friend that I had no idea why a guy would be attractive. You can explain it to me until you’re blue in the face and show me pictures of attractive men, but no matter how you explain it, no matter how passionately you tell me about it, I’m not going to get it. I then realized that I’ve had discussion with people about women that work on exactly the same principle. I have no idea, for example, why everyone is so ga-ga over Angelina Jolie. She just doesn’t do much for me.
    That said, I’m also reasonably certain that I’d be a lot more likely to respond if Angelina Jolie was standing naked in front of me than if George Clooney were. So, yeah, gender is a big part of it, I’m not trying to take away from that point. I just don’t know how that heterosexual/homosexual matrix shakes out in terms of choice v. genetic encoding. My constant point, as I’d make to Tony Perkins or James Dobson or the theoretical strawman of the actively recruiting gay community is that the whole thing is way more complicated than a binary view can possibly tell us.

  • armadillo

    “Homosexual behavior isn’t a choice. Falling in love with someone of the same sex is homosexual behavior just as much as having sex with them is, and we don’t choose who we fall in love with.”
    This is absolutely true, and (I think) the only way to actually refute my point. However, I think it’s more parallel to my point than anything else. Or, to put it differently – while the actually falling in love is not a choice, one could chose to act on the attraction or not, in much the same way that those who are married/celibate/… chose not to get involved in (other) relationships. To that extent, then, bisexual people in particular are a sticking point in the “It’s not a choice!”/”Let’s be nice to those poor helpless gay people” argument (one sticking point among many others of course) – they _could_ simply wait until a person of the “acceptable” gender presentation comes along with whom they click.
    Whether refusing to act on love is a psychologically damaging to the person stuck in that situation is left as an exercise to the reader (and will be affected by your views of the idea of “one true love”).
    This argument is not academic for me – as a bi gal, I have been made to feel actively guilty for being in a same-sex relationship by precisely this type of “it’s not a choice!” argument. For me, at least, there was choice involved in acting on the attraction, building and maintaining a relationship, etc.

  • Geds

    @ Geds — to clarify, “poor girl” was my reaction to her circumstances in general, not your potential behavior. i’ve been the ugly duckling who got dumped when something only marginally better came along. it’s not fun.
    Gotcha. And, yeah, I’ve kind of been there before, too (with all kinds of caveats, up to and including the fact that she wasn’t a very good person and I was in the process of figuring out how to break off the whole thing when I found out, but it was still a hit to the ol’ ego). Seems to me, though, that the proper follow up to that sort of situation is probably not getting involved with someone who’s grandmother is trying to guilt him in to a relationship based on only two criteria: she’s nice to old people and she’s Norwegian. Because, inasmuch as I’m shallow enough to not want to go there based on the non-flattering physical description alone, “She goes to Calvin College,” has about a 50% chance of making us incompatible and, “She wants to be a pastor’s wife,” has about a 100% chance of causing problems. (Note to self: I should probably tell my grandmother I’m not going to Seminary.)
    Also, opo, the Wikipedia description of Saving Face made the movie seem hopelessly convoluted. I think I might have to watch it just to figure out who all of the people are and what their relationships are because I’m really confused.

  • nieciedo

    Nicole:
    I’m trying to figure out whether you’re simply explaining the fundies’ point of view here, or buying into it in a sort of dispassionate Constitutional-Law way
    As a gay Jew, I’m hardly agreeing with them. I was explaining why a rational appeal to leaving sexual choice as matter of conscience the same way religion is would not work with the fundies. They don’t want religion left to a matter of individual conscience, but the Constitution explicitly prohibits them from doing anything about it.
    Because the problem with this argument is that there is 0 (zero) reason for laws denying gays the right to marry, or have sex, or otherwise engage on equal terms with US society, other than religious.
    Right, which is why they have to to lengths saying that gay marriage would “redefine” or “threaten” marriage, or arguments like Perkin’s that homosexuality is a choice and therefore should not be covered by antidiscrimination or hate-crimes laws. The whole “special rights” malarkey.
    If we’re going to fight them, we have to understand them. Know thy enemy.

  • nieciedo

    Nicole:
    I’m trying to figure out whether you’re simply explaining the fundies’ point of view here, or buying into it in a sort of dispassionate Constitutional-Law way
    As a gay Jew, I’m hardly agreeing with them. I was explaining why a rational appeal to leaving sexual choice as matter of conscience the same way religion is would not work with the fundies. They don’t want religion left to a matter of individual conscience, but the Constitution explicitly prohibits them from doing anything about it.
    Because the problem with this argument is that there is 0 (zero) reason for laws denying gays the right to marry, or have sex, or otherwise engage on equal terms with US society, other than religious.
    Right, which is why they have to to lengths saying that gay marriage would “redefine” or “threaten” marriage, or arguments like Perkin’s that homosexuality is a choice and therefore should not be covered by antidiscrimination or hate-crimes laws. The whole “special rights” malarkey.
    If we’re going to fight them, we have to understand them. Know thy enemy.

  • Geds

    If we’re going to fight them, we have to understand them. Know thy enemy.
    I grew up with them, nieciedo. I’m from Wheaton, IL, former center of all that is fundigelical in America (Colorado Springs, CO, has now taken over. I can’t say I’m sad to see the changes that have come over Wheaton).
    Fighting “them” on “their” turf is a losing battle. The only way to do it is to cause actual, honest thought on the topic, because as long as everything comes down to, “Gays are teh evil, gays choose to be teh evil,” everything’s going to go back to that reflexive “Biblical” condemnation.
    Also, I’m just reminded of something. I remember seeing a midrash of the whole sodomy = bad concept that basically worked like this: Sodom was condemned by YHWH because the people of Sodom were not only inhospitable to the visitors, but they were predatory jerks. The Sodomite, then, is one who is inhospitable, not one who has gay sex.
    Can you shed any light on this?
    The thing is, from the Christian perspective, and I’m guessing at this since I’m no Greek scholar, if Paul, in his various didactic rants against what is currently translated as “homosexuals,” were actually talking about people being inhospitable jerks to each other, it completely throws fundigelical doctrine of homosexuality on it’s ear (at least to the Reality Based Community). My theory, then, is that Paul’s training was Rabbinic and it would stand to reason that his rants might not have actually been addressed at sexual preference at all, but towards the attitudes of people who didn’t care about others (which actually makes more sense in the context of the rants, too). The Christian community might not like it based on the whole idea that Christian’s don’t like homosexuality, but then you throw the whole “literal meaning” and “original intent of the writer” back in their faces.

  • the opoponax

    ” the Wikipedia description of Saving Face made the movie seem hopelessly convoluted. I think I might have to watch it just to figure out who all of the people are and what their relationships are because I’m really confused.”
    yeah. in my opinion, the Wikipedia entry makes the movie seem like it’s mainly about the protagonist’s mother’s pregnancy, with the protagonist’s lesbianism as a minor side issue. in my opinion, either it’s actually vice versa or the two strands are on equal footing. I linked there, however, because IMDB pages tend to just be about who’s in the movie and stuff like that, with only a sentence or two of plot description (which could be completely bogus).
    it’s not that complicated, really. basically the story is about Wilhemina, a Chinese-American surgeon living with her single mother in NYC. there are two main plot strands — firstly, Wilhemina’s relationship with the woman she meets at said opening sequence immigrant community social event, and secondly, the fact that Wil’s mom, who has been divorced from Wilhemina’s father for years (he’s not in the picture at all, we never meet him or find out much of anything about him), ends up randomly pregnant, and will not reveal to anyone who the father of the child is.

  • Edo

    Geds: Also, I’m just reminded of something. I remember seeing a midrash of the whole sodomy = bad concept that basically worked like this: Sodom was condemned by YHWH because the people of Sodom were not only inhospitable to the visitors, but they were predatory jerks. The Sodomite, then, is one who is inhospitable, not one who has gay sex.
    Can you shed any light on this?
    Yoink.

  • Brandi

    As if no light-skinned black person ever passed for white?
    Indeed; here’s a particularly interesting example.

  • Geds

    Thank you, Edo. I thought I remembered reading something on Slacktivist about that.

  • 85% Duane

    Fighting “them” on “their” turf is a losing battle.
    What Geds said. My folks are retired fundamental Baptist missionaries. Time before last when I was visiting them, it was prior to the 2004 elections and they were all hepped up about gay marriage (because Rove was using it as an electioneering tool and they are too stoopid to realize this.)
    After listening to them go on and on about how gays were trying to destroy marriage, I asked them where in the Bible it says gays can’t get married. I figured this would shut them up but here is the reply I got:
    “Where in the Bible does it say they CAN get married?”
    I replied that there is a whole lot of stuff we do that isn’t covered in the Bible. They stared at me blankly.
    So if you need to understand anything Neiceido, it’s that there is nothing here to understand.

  • Geds

    “Where in the Bible does it say they CAN get married?”
    For some reason this led to the bizarre follow-up question of, “Where in the Bible does it say we can use telephones?” I think that’s my entire grounds for disliking Left Behind now. They’re breaking the rules!

  • nieciedo

    It’s not just a midrash, which would mean nothing to the fundies. Ezekiel 16:49:
    Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
    The rabbis made a lot out of this. In the Mishna Tractate Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, someone who says “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours” is exemplifying the “characteristic of Sodom” or middat Sedom. The righteous person says “what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is yours.”

  • Jeff

    It actually started for me when I was telling a female friend that I had no idea why a guy would be attractive.
    I’m 90% more attracted to women than men, and the men I do find attractive aren’t usually “conventionally attractive”. The one thing they tend to have in common with the women I’m attracted to are the eyes and the smile. And that’s just physical attraction. Long-term relationships are based on a LOT more.

  • Geds

    Ooh, nice. Thanks for the reference, nieciedo. That’s even easier to use than my admittedly convoluted (for a fundie), “But Paul was Jewish, shouldn’t that mean something?” argument.

  • Jesurgislac

    Niecedo: In terms of the gay sex gateway, if two men or two women are allowed to marry there is no reason why three people or more cannot marry.
    Except that changing marriage legislation so that it applies to three people having a marriage instead of two would be a whole world more complicated than the simple change of not barring same-sex couples from marriage by reason of their shared gender. So, other than it being way more complex to institute, and changing the institution of marriage for everyone rather than just extending the right to marry to everyone, er, no reason…
    You have got to think these things through. I know creepy homophobes say “Woo! Homosexual marriage! Leads inevitably to polygamy, bestiality, and paedophilia!” but they’re just stupid people who are thrashing around trying to find a way to oppose the right of same-sex couples to marry without admitting that they’re trying to impose their religious beliefs on everyone else.

  • Chan

    “This is, to Perkins, why it’s “outrageous” for homosexuals to complain about discrimination — because if they “choose” to, they can pass themselves off as straight.”
    Mr Perkins:
    Gays are not body snatchers.
    Ratchet down that rampant paranoia a whole lot, please.
    Thanks!

  • Chan

    And another thing:
    It’s all about that old Mark of Cain, isn’t it? If we can’t see that you’re any different from us, then you’re dangerous. Liberals look just like Republicans, y’all! Gays look just like straights!
    At least we can tell Africans, Asians and Latinos apart, and thus avoid them so we don’t get ripped off and murdered in a dark alley.
    [/snark]

  • Vendor X

    I think it’s important to remind everyone, based on the ‘what Christians believe’ responses, that pretty much the only advice the New Testament has to give on Homosexuality is when Paul describes them as having been abandoned by god and to just leave them alone. He doesn’t tell anyone to speak out against them, he doesn’t advocate an open, active policy of discrimination or even reeducation. He says, “leave ‘em alone, just get on with being a Christian.”
    That last message crops up an awful lot in Bible, the notion that you don’t need to worry about how non-Christians behave, so long as they’re not stopping you from being a Christian. So when we see people claiming that they think being homosexual is a deadly sin that they need to fight against it in both Christian and non-Christian communities, what we’re really seeing is either blatant lying or crippling ignorance as regards their own faith. Now, normally I’m not too harsh on crippling ignorance, but when it comes to deciding how other people should live their lives, you don’t get to be that sloppy or stupid. If you’re going to be trying to influence social law, you’d better understand your own reasoning a hell of a lot better than that. These are other human lives we’re talking about, for chrissake. How they’re lived is not some cheap game you get to halfass your way through.

  • the opoponax

    “Long-term relationships are based on a LOT more.”
    what do you mean by this?
    granted, in a romantic relationship, you want to have satisfying sex, and there’s a big difference between liking someone’s smile and wanting to actually have sex with them (or feeling like “close your eyes and pretend it’s a chick” is satisfying sex). which is probably what you meant — there’s a big difference between “that’s a very attractive man over there” and “we should fuck regularly for years on end, probably monogamously, and possibly culminating in reproduction and shared childrearing”. is this what you mean?
    personally, i find that there’s not a lot of difference for me between a close platonic friendship (with a person of either gender) and a serious romantic relationship, except for the sex. what i’m looking for in a long term partner is basically someone who can be my best friend, and also we’re sexually compatible. and i find that i can be “best friends” with a person of either gender. it’s just the sex part that has been hard to nail down thus far.

  • Jesurgislac

    Vendor X: that pretty much the only advice the New Testament has to give on Homosexuality is when Paul describes them as having been abandoned by god and to just leave them alone.
    And it’s actually both uncertain (given the terminology used) and unlikely (given that the concept of homosexuality/heterosexuality wasn’t invented for another 1900 years) that Paul was referring to “Homosexuality” anyway.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    Just one question: Where do the Gay Sex Demons* fit into all this? :-)
    *I would have linked to Fred’s article about them on the Evangelical blog, but this library’s computer won’t let me include weblinks in Notepad. Sorry.

  • Jesurgislac

    I would have linked to Fred’s article about them on the Evangelical blog, but this library’s computer won’t let me include weblinks in Notepad. Sorry.
    I live to serve: Gay Sex Demons.
    (I consider it a perfect example of the google-stardom of Slacktivist that if you google on gay sex demons Fred’s post is the one at the I’m Feeling Lucky spot.)

  • The Cynic Sage

    Yeesh! Have you read Every Man’s Battle? Evangelicals have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy towards heterosexuality. No wonder gays aren’t accepted.

  • The Cynic Sage

    BTW: On my blog I’m gonna go through Every Man’s Battle the same way you do with Left Behind. I’ve been reading L. William Countryman’s Dirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics and Their Implications for Today and it’s a real “fundy-killer” when it comes to the modern evangelical view of sex. Very informative book.
    Thanks Fred. You’re work here has inspired me.

  • Jeff

    “Long-term relationships are based on a LOT more.”
    what do you mean by this?
    I think my modifier got muddled. I was talking about more than physical attraction — for a long-term relationship you have to love, respect and admire the person within. I think that’s true even if it’s primarily a sexual relationship — you have to talk sometime!
    it’s just the sex part that has been hard to nail down thus far.
    For me, I’ve found that, to a major extent, the sex part is the least important. Yeah, your partner can’t be physically repellent, but, for me, the psychological components have been much more important than looks. My girlfriend and I love play and experimentation and “hanging loose”. As a result, we have pretty fantastic sex, even though neither of us are gracing People Magazine any time soon.
    But this probably TMI for most readers.
    ===========================================
    Sage: On my blog I’m gonna go through Every Man’s Battle the same way you do with Left Behind.
    Oh goody. I already spend too much time at the computer, you have to lure me in with wit humor and WW2 biographies. Thannnnnks. [/snark]

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    I apparently need to be less elliptical, since nieciedo and Nicole seem to have both assumed I’m not accounting for gender.Well, I didn’t, ackcherly, but since others appeared to have done, I thought I’d best cover the bases. Boo-yah! I iz stealth an’ reverse psychology kitteh!
    If we’re going to fight them, we have to understand them. Know thy enemy.Thanks for clarifying – I am not as intimately familiar with all the regulars’ stats as I should be (can we resurrect that old USEnet .sig code stuff? that would help), so I wasn’t sure where your argument was going. I see what you’re saying now…
    I think perhaps fighting them will have to consist of convincing others that they’re loons, because I don’t see us changing the loons’ minds anytime soon. So I think it’s best to stick to the logical arguments and make them loud and clear for the rest of the public to hear. It’s that old Marketplace Of Ideas strategy: put the logic next to the crazies, and over time logic will win out.
    I just wish logic won out sooner.

  • the opoponax

    “for a long-term relationship you have to love, respect and admire the person within.”
    yeah, that’s where i was confused. to me, your post seemed to imply that while you could find a man attractive (for ephemeral/esoteric reasons not necessarily related to actual sexiness), you would not be able to go that particular emotional distance with a person of the same sex. which is silly — i’m sure there are men in your life you love, respect, and admire.
    at first, my reply was going to be to ask you straight out if you really thought you couldn’t have that kind of relationship with another man. but i felt i was making an assumption about what you meant by “a lot more”, and also being snarky and judgemental. in the end, i decided to leave it an open ended question, with the possibility that you meant true sexual compatibility as opposed to just a nice smile — the two are very different things, after all.
    but, ok, now i’m even more confused. you really don’t think you could have a loving, trusting, admiring, etc. relationship with a man, though you might occasionally find one attractive?
    this is what you originally said, btw:
    “…the men I do find attractive aren’t usually “conventionally attractive”. The one thing they tend to have in common with the women I’m attracted to are the eyes and the smile. And that’s just physical attraction. Long-term relationships are based on a LOT more.”
    which i took to mean that you might sometimes be attracted to a man, but it’s merely physical, generally lacking in whatever “a LOT more” is.
    by the way, none of this is anything personal, just trying to tease out what you were talking about there.

  • Hasimir Fenring

    It’s all about that old Mark of Cain, isn’t it?
    If only! Remember that The Mark placed Cain under God’s protection. (Gen 4.15: ‘Yahweh said to him, “Therefore whosoever slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And Yahweh set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.’) If Yahweh Marked homosexuals and wreaked sevenfold vengeance on gay-bashers, I’d have a lot more respect for Him.

  • Hagsrus

    “Therefore whosoever slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.”
    Killed seven times?
    Never did understand why Cain was protected this way. A very early advisory against capital punishment?

  • Jesurgislac

    Never did understand why Cain was protected this way.
    Because he was the only other man on Earth, and therefore a protected species.
    Of course, that raises the question of (a) Whose daughter(s) did Cain marry? and (b) Who was likely to kill Cain?

  • nieciedo

    Because he was the only other man on Earth, and therefore a protected species.
    That’s a good possibility. Another aspect is that the Rabbis interpreted his speech in 4:13-14 as an admission of guilt and so God mitigated his punishment by not killing him immediately and letting him have children to populate the earth. They interpreted “vengeance will be done upon him seven-fold” as meaning “Abel will be avenged after seven generation.” After seven generations descended from Cain had been born, Cain would be killed. In verse 23, where Lamech confesses to having killed a man, the Rabbis interpreted this to mean that he had killed his grandfather, Cain.
    Of course, that raises the question of (a) Whose daughter(s) did Cain marry? and (b) Who was likely to kill Cain?
    a.) He married his sister(s). That’s the only option within the story, and the opinion of the Talmud and the apocryphal Book of Jubilees.
    b.) Since he’d killed a member of his family, it’s likely he feared the same would happen to him. The Torah was not written as a chronological history, so presumably the other sons and daughters that Adam and Eve had were already born by this time.

  • Edo

    They interpreted “vengeance will be done upon him seven-fold” as meaning “Abel will be avenged after seven generations.”
    So what’s the meaning of Lamech’s seventy-sevenfold?

  • nieciedo

    Rashi’s* commentary on that verse doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. One thing to note, though, is that in the first instance it is God who says that “vengence will be done seven-fold” Perhaps it can be interpreted that while Abel’s murder only effected one generation who loved and depended on him (Adam and Eve), Cain’s eventually murder will effect seven generations. Or something. Anyhow, in this second instance, it is Lamech who says that he should be avenged seventy-seven times. Whereas God is in a position to state what will be, Lamech can only express wishful thinking that may or may not come true?
    Rashi also says that Cain is afraid of being killed by animals, not his siblings. He read the account chronologically and thinks that the “other sons and daughters” had not been born yet and that Cain’s family would not kill him. So the “mark of Cain” was to scare wild animals away. Or something.
    *Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaqi, 11th century French rabbi, universally considered the greatest traditional commentator on the Bible and the Talmud.

  • Jeff

    by the way, none of this is anything personal, just trying to tease out what you were talking about there.
    No offense taken. I’m not exactly sure what I’m talking about, because I’ve never explored any intimate relationships with men (as men, as opposed to pre or post-ops). So any aspect of “attractiveness” is pretty much “he looks nice” rather than “I’d do him”, much less “gazoinga!! Me wants!!” I have no problem kissing other guys or even holding their equipment but it doesn’t turn me on the way the female anatomy does.
    I think I “could have a loving, trusting, admiring, etc. relationship with a man”, but it wouldn’t be very physical, and since cuddling (especially nekkid) is a big part of a relationship for me, it’s not the kind of relationship I go out of my way for. I do have relationships with a few men that are “loving, trusting, admiring”, but they’re not as intimate as the ones I’ve had, and especially the one I have now, with women.
    I don’t know if that helps or just confuses you more… Feel free to write more here, or you can e-mail me (jhlipton [at] yahoo [dot] com).

  • Errol Flynn

    Nieciedo:
    You know, I hate the term “fundies,” even though a lot of people here use it. I think it’s dehumanizing. Certainly there are a lot of people who think a lot of different things, and some of them think as you have described “fundies” thinking, but by and large the individuals I’ve met in the Christian Right are pretty humane. They may want to desecularize America, but they all seem to draw the line way before forced conversion or second-lass-citizen status for non-Christians, and I feel that attitude toward religious freedom could be enlarged to include sexuality as well. Maybe I just have more faith in people than you do. I hope I’m right.

  • MichaelR

    I don’t think you can really do “desecularize America” and “non-Christians aren’t second class citizens.”

  • nieciedo

    MichaelR makes a very good point, Errol, one shown from history. The “Christian Right” does indeed want to “desecularize” America. They don’t just want this: they think God wants it, too, and therefore they feel commanded to do so.
    The problem is that there is a great diversity of religous opinions — and non-religious or anti-religious opinions. It is impossible to “desecularize” the nation while remaining objective and equally protecting the freedom of religious expression of all its citizens. That’s why we have the First Amendment.
    The example of the European wars of religion and the oppression of confessional states was a major reason behind that. We are fortunate that the First Amendment protections of religious opinion and expression remain strong in the face of constant assault. Fortunately, there are many religious people who believe that homosexuality is wrong but do not believe it is their place to interfere in the lives of others or to make the government interfere in private sexual choices. Unfortunately, there are many others who feel commanded to do otherwise and who also chafe at the legal and constitutional bonds that prevent them from interfering in personal religious choices.

  • nieciedo

    Maybe I just have more faith in people than you do. I hope I’m right.
    I hope you’re right, too. I would love it if you were right. But I’ve found, both in my life and in history, that if you put too much faith in people you will be let down — possibly tragically so.
    Afterall, Jews in Germany in the early years of the past century had faith that their neighbors were one of the most advanced, progressive, and enlightened nations in the world. They were wrong.

  • Angelika

    nieciedo: Afterall, Jews in Germany in the early years of the past century had faith that their neighbors were one of the most advanced, progressive, and enlightened nations in the world. They were wrong.
    Actually, what they thought of Germany was correct. Germany was one of the most advanced, progressive, and enlightened nations in the world. Only the conclusion, that an advanced, progressive, and enlightened nation would refrain from genocide was wrong.

  • ako

    They may want to desecularize America, but they all seem to draw the line way before forced conversion or second-lass-citizen status for non-Christians, and I feel that attitude toward religious freedom could be enlarged to include sexuality as well. Maybe I just have more faith in people than you do. I hope I’m right.
    I am terribly curious about this. Because I’m a lesbian, but I’m also more-or-less an atheist (I’m on that awkward bit of territory belonging to people who think that “No deity” is by far the most likely possibility, but not beyond possible doubt). While I’d like to have the legal benefits of marriage as an available option, I’m not the slightest bit interested in whether a church approves of any commitments I might make in the future. I only care about religious teachings on homosexuality to the extent they impact my thoroughly secular rights and freedoms. I don’t care what the popular beliefs are about whether or not deities approve of my sex life. How, aside from your hope that they wouldn’t actively seeking to punish me for my sexual preference, would the fundamentalist vision of desecularized America not make my life worse?
    Okay, no forced conversions. I believe you. This isn’t the Inquisition. But for my career options, for my social life, for my freedoms to have beliefs and share them, how would desecularization do anything but make my life harder and unhappier? How would giving religious people as a group more power and more social control do anything but hurt me? For that matter, how would that be good for anyone who didn’t share their religious views?

  • Geds

    ako:
    Historically speaking, desecularization is bad for people who don’t share the views of the majority and even for people within the majority who show some deviation from the mean (John Calvin’s reign in Zurich, Switzerland included punishment of people who didn’t show up in church on Sunday. Any Sunday. For any reason that didn’t include being severely incapacitated).
    The problem is, those who want religious control over the state don’t tend to see these problems. There is an assumption that the belief system and those who adhere to the belief system are better than whatever other institutional control there could be.
    Historians, sociologists and even those who are more reality-based within the community (for instance, in his book What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Phil Yancey, a popular Christian writer made his belief that Christian control of politics was bad in no uncertain terms. His contention was actually that it’s bad for Christianity, which isn’t exactly the way it’s often parsed) tend to be against religious control over the state, especially in a multicultural system like, well, most nations these days. The problem is, though, the debate for this sort of thing works pretty much exactly like the Creation/Evolution debate, with both sides talking past each other.
    But, yeah, if the Dominionists took over, you’d be screwed ako. And not in that happy Disneyland sort of way…


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