‘God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean’

In comments a few days back, I see there was a question regarding whether I believe “that homosexuality is objectively immoral.”

It’s my fault if I haven’t been as clear as I need to be on that point: No. I do not believe that homosexuality is objectively immoral.

But that’s not strong enough. It’s more than that: I believe that denying LGBT people full legal equality is objectively immoral. I believe that excluding LGBT people from full inclusion, full participation and full equality in the church is objectively immoral — and objectively unbiblical.

Such civil discrimination and religious exclusion violates core principles of biblical Christianity — principles as pervasive and essential as the Golden Rule.

More specifically, I would point to Acts 10:1 – Acts 11:18 as a compelling argument that followers of Christ must not “call anyone profane or unclean.” This story teaches us that appealing to biblical law in order to declare another person or group of people as “profane or unclean” is not legitimate, even if we think we can make a strong case for interpreting the law in this way. The biblical laws regarding circumcision were not ambiguous or optional, yet such clear commandments regarding Other People’s Genitals were not to be allowed to exclude the uncircumcised from being baptized.

Let me be clear on that point: God commanded Peter to disregard those laws, commanded him not to allow those laws to exclude others. Peter wasn’t told that he now had the option of welcoming those who had been excluded. Peter wasn’t told he might maybe kind of sort of “tolerate” these people as second-class members of the community, “as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed” the gift of the Holy Spirit.

No, Peter was told that he must welcome them, fully and openly as equals. “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” Anything short of full acceptance would itself constitute disobeying a command from God.

I’ve been preaching this sermon from Peter’s vision in the book of Acts for many years now (for a few examples, see: “The Abominable Shellfish: Why some Christians hate gays but love bacon,” “Slavery, seafood, sexuality and the Southern Bible” and “Selfish Gentiles and ‘Shellfish Objections’“). I think it’s important. I think it’s very important, because right now, throughout most of the American church, across almost all denominations, we Christians are calling profane those whom God has made clean.

And I believe that is objectively immoral.

“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Peter asks. LGBT Christians have received the Holy Spirit just as we have. To withhold the water for baptizing them, to call them profane or unclean, is wrong — it is disobedient, unloving, hurtful, harmful, unbiblical. It’s a sin.

It’s particularly astonishing that the very same American Christians now excluding LGBT Christians from full inclusion and full participation in the church are, overwhelmingly, Gentiles. We Gentile Christians would, ourselves, be excluded if it were not for that lesson Peter learned in Acts 10:1-11:18. Freely you have received, freely give. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.

I’m very pleased to see an increasing use of this passage as the case for full equality — in the church and under the law — gains momentum. (“Who am I to Think That I Could Stand in God’s Way?” Mal Green asks in arguing for marriage equality in New Zealand.) I expect that this will produce some backlash — likely an attempt to reinterpret Peter’s vision to mean something other than what Peter himself said it meant (as both Al Mohler and Timothy Dalrymple have done recently).

There will always be a Jonah Faction in Christianity — a group that shakes its fists at God for “abounding in steadfast love” toward even the Ninevites whom that faction despises. They seem driven by the fear that if God’s love and mercy are extended even to include the Ninevites, then there will be less of them left over for us. From the perspective of the Jonah Faction, salvation is a zero-sum game.

Peter’s vision is a rebuke to Team Jonah, so that faction will eventually have to come up with a way of explaining away its expansive, explosive message. They will try to say, somehow, that this passage from Acts is only about Cornelius, or only about dietary law. They’ll dissect this passage with a lawyerly eye, studying the finger while refusing to look where it is pointing.

I’m sure they’ll find a lot to say about the finger, but it will all be beside the point.

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  • ASeriesOfWords

    I am both proud and appalled by that pun at the end.

  • http://twitter.com/rebelsquirrel Not That Thena

    Fred nails it again.   Sir, stuff like this is why I keep reading your blog.  

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Indeed. I really appreciate posts like this.

  • Jurgan

    What I would like is a response to the “love the sinner, hate the sin” argument.  Because that’s always the rebuttal I get when I use this line of reasoning- I’m told that we should accept them as people, but still expect them to repent and cease sinning.  My response is that their sexuality is key to their identities and cannot simply be separated, but I don’t have so specific a scripture to cite.

  • Turcano

    That one’s easy.  “Love the sinner, hate the sin” usually translates in real life to “I’m going to say or do something hateful, but I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t take it personally.”

  • Lori

    “Love the sinner, hate the sin” usually translates in real life to “I’m going to say or do something hateful, but I’d really appreciate it if
    you didn’t take it personally.”  

    IME it’s more like “I’m going to say or do something hateful, but you’re not allowed to call me on it. Because calling someone a hater is way worse than being a hater.”

  • Matri

    Basically, it’s one of those “I’m not a racist, but…” arguments.

  • fraser

     If it was really about the sin, then there wouldn’t be any issue with homosexuals joining the army: The right would just say “Well, they can join but only if they stay celibate.” Instead, merely being gay is considered a desirable reason to refuse them/ Even people who say “It’s a conscious choice!” do not consider homosexuals who want to acceptable–they have to actively choose to be straight.
    So I call bullshit.

  • RockyMissouri

    There is no sin, other than the sin of bigotry….

  • Tricksterson

    Open question here:  Where do the RTCs get the biblical basis for “Love the sinner, hate the sin” ?  Just curious.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I would suspect the ‘go forth and sin no more’ bit at the end of the cast-the-first-stone story, but don’t RTCs think that’s not a real Bible story?

  • http://snarkthebold.blogspot.com/ Edo

    John 7:53-8:11 doesn’t factor into it at all. RTCs don’t have an official stance on whether that’s canon or not. Opinion’s gone back and forth on the Pericope Adulterae (the RSV got a lot of hate for sidelining it; on the other hand, the NIV italicizes it and clearly indicates that it’s a later addition), and RTCs are spoiled for Bibles to choose from. (The one evangelical commentary I read took space to stress that it’s a later addition, but it was working primarily from NIV – and wasn’t written for a lay audience either,  so no idea how representative that is.)

    Honestly, I think “Love the sinner, hate the sin” isn’t so much part of RTC theology as it is general pop theology.

  • Kiba

    Open question here:  Where do the RTCs get the biblical basis for “Love the sinner, hate the sin” ?  Just curious.

    The thing is “Love the sinner, hate the sin” isn’t from the bible at all. I’ve seen it attributed to both Gandhi and to St. Augustine.  

  • jwalker_cht

     The best response to this that I’ve ever heard is “I’ll hate my sin, you hate your sin, and we’ll just love each other.”

  • cringest

    I don’t think anyone’s sexuality is key to their identity. Christ should be the only key to their identity.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So you’re basically asserting that my whole queer atheist life is a lie?

  • Jurgan

    A key, but not the only one. Important, though.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    So… Someone being gay wouldn’t be a problem, then, because the whole “Christ” thing would be the key to their identity, and their orientation just a triviality that no one should make a big deal about, right?

  • http://jdm314.livejournal.com/ Mad Latinist

    I think Fred would reply that Cornelius was not asked to repent of being a gentile, or even of being a Centurion in the Roman army.

  • markedward

    I’m not being contrary for the sake of being resentful or hateful; this is a sincere thought I want to bring to the discussion. If I’m following Fred correctly, the gist is this: the Law opposed this or that, but in Acts 10-11 Peter learned that God overturned the Law, thus this or that is no longer opposed. While I do see how Acts 10-11 CAN be applied beyond the scope of ethnic identity (the brunt of Acts 10-28) over to sexual identity, I honestly don’t know if that is how it SHOULD be applied.

    When the main ethical teachings come from a bunch of Israelites (i.e. the NT speakers/writers), and they roundly oppose ‘sexual immorality’, what else would they be referring to except for what the Law defined as being ‘sexually immoral’? When, for example, Paul says something like ‘abstain from sexual immorality’, but doesn’t specifically clarify what that consists of, this implies that his original readers (the Thessalonians) would have understood what he meant, and there’s only one place I can think of for where they got their understanding from.

    So, this is an open, genuine question (not a rhetorical one), and I’m hoping Fred can respond as well: My whole question is this. While in one spot the NT says ‘Hey, food offered to idols is just food, it’s a matter of conscience’, or in another spot it says ‘Circumcision is not necessary, you are saved by faith, not Torah’, Jesus and the disciples still consistently speak against ‘sexual immorality’… what is it they opposed, if not the things the Law defined as ‘sexually immoral’? It is because of this that I am having trouble reconciling the wider application of Acts 10-11 with the NT concept of what constitutes ‘sexual immorality’.

  • Ursula L

    While in one spot the NT says ‘Hey, food offered to idols is just food, it’s a matter of conscience’, or in another spot it says ‘Circumcision is not necessary, you are saved by faith, not Torah’, Jesus and the disciples still consistently speak against ‘sexual immorality’… what is it they opposed, if not the things the Law defined as ‘sexually immoral’?  

    One thing worth paying attention to is the general pattern of moral philosophy that you see playing out in the early Christian church as reflected in the portion of the historical record of that institution that wound up in the Bible.  

    They were struggling to work through a very complex moral problem.  There were two things that they knew.  First, they wanted to be moral people.  But second, the laws from the Torah and the surrounding traditions, that were supposed to guide them towards moral behavior, and also the religions and traditions of other cultures, didn’t seem to teach behavior that they considered to be actually moral. 

    And a lot of the writings that wound up in the Bible were not arguments about general morality, but rather addressing specific moral problems.  A church would have a problem they couldn’t agree on, and write to Paul about it.  He’d try to figure out what was right in their situation, and write back to them with advice for their particular problem.

    And then, two thousand years later, people are looking at a few fragments of an ongoing and much larger correspondence, and are trying to use it to sort out the general principles that led to the specific advice being given for a specific problem.  When we don’t even have access to the letter explaining the problem which the letter that we’re reading is a response to.  

    We see that, whenever specific Old Testament laws are referenced in the New Testament, they’re looked at critically, as people try to get a better understanding of what is moral.  So when we see them writing about “sexual morality” then they were probably thinking about it in the same way they were thinking about every other moral issue – seeing problems in the rules they were taught, and trying to sort out what is actually moral.    

  • The_L1985

    Well, let’s see. Leviticus’s section on sexual immorality has a LOT more to say about incest than gay people. In fact, the infamous “Lie not with a man” section (hey, nice job leaving out lesbians!) isn’t even in the sex section–it’s in the “We need the new Israelite nation to be nice and distinct from the Canaanites, or we’re going to go extinct as a people pretty soon. So let’s not do these religious things the Canaanites do.”

    It’s very possible that the verse refers to the use of male temple prostitutes. Remember that ancient Hebrew society wouldn’t necessarily have had the same kinds of homosexual relationships around that we think of today. They didn’t even have a word for homosexual yet!

  • martsen79

    This is going to be a bit lengthy. Try and stay with me. :)

    Firstly, Jesus doesn’t consistently speak against ‘sexual immorality’ – I only could find two occurrences  (four total, two parallels/repeats) in the gospels: Mark 7:21 and the corresponding passage Matt 15:19; paraphrase: ‘Nothing that goes into a man can make him unclean, but it is out of his heart that evil thoughts come – murder, sexual immorality, … etc.’ And then Matt 5:32 and 19:9 (Matthew’s teachings on divorce), where sexual immorality is given as the only legitimate reason for divorce.

    The Greek word normally rendered ‘sexual immorality’ is ‘porneia’ (mercifully we have moved on from older bibles, which translated it inaccurately as ‘fornication’). And ‘sexual immorality’ is really the best translation you can come up with – or ‘sexual indiscretion’ or ‘commit sexual wrongs’ or any such equivalent phrase. ‘Porneia’ is essentially a catch-all for sexual prohibitions, and what that entails depends a great deal on the author. Nearly universally it will at least include adultery committed by a woman, and sometimes a man as well. You can throw in prostitution as a common part of porneia, too. Especially in older texts it seems to mean ‘any sexual act done with another man’s property’ – ranging from wife to children to slaves – and anything else is OK. It may mean a virgin daughter engaging in coital sex (but not a virgin son). In Paul, and other Jewish writings, it would likely mean something close to ‘sexual acts against Jewish moral law, as interpreted in these Hellenized times.’ That is, ‘sexual immorality’ – given that you and I have a common frame of reference on what that means. It’s a slippery term and is often problematic.

    The best way to approach the term ‘sexual immorality’ in the Bible is to:

    (a) Be aware that what was and was not considered sexual immorality varied widely across the Roman Empire, and even among Jews. There wasn’t one standard definition of it, much like today.

    (b) Be aware that the author is (likely) coming at this from the perspective of a Hellenized Jew – with all the assumptions and prejudices that includes.

    (c) Be aware of the audience the author is writing to – whether it’s Jewish Christians (Matthew), pagan converts (most of Paul), or a general audience – and consider that ‘sexual immorality’ would mean different things to different audiences.

    (d) If you’re reading the passage for religious understanding, given the (a)-(c), allow yourself to think on your own understanding of sexual immorality, using your moral background, understanding of what God expectes, your experience, and knowledge of what is and is not a wrong act.

    To the Paul question (Rom 1:26-27) which has come up, it seems pretty clear to me that Paul in this passage is considering homosexual acts to be a result of idolatry and uncontrolled lust. This was not an idea that originated with him. The Book of Wisdom (a popular book at the time of Paul) chapters 13 & 14 make the exact same argument as Romans 1 – and is almost certainly where Paul took it from: (1) First humanity began to create and worship idols, which (2) separated them from God, and (3) lead to sexual immorality. The ‘unnatural lusts’ of same-sex intercourse are only one symptom of the broader spectrum of sexual immorality caused by idols, and Paul here takes an argument that would likely be familiar to his middle- and upper-class readers: that same-sex intercourse is the result of people (men*) who, having overindulged in the lusts of heterosexual intercourse, can no longer be satisfied with it and now “move on” to the more exotic forms of intercourse, namely homosexual ones.

    Paul is very conversant in Greek Stoicism, which was one of, if not the, major philosophy/worldview of the day. When Paul talks about “passions” or “passions and desires” or “a passion of lust” (or passionate lust as it’s sometimes translated), it is not mere word dressing – he is using technical, specific language about how (in the Hellenized worldview) the human heart works. Stoic philosophy recognized four major passions – think impulses, desires, wants, id – that governed human beings when they weren’t properly subjecting themselves to the self-control of the intellect: lust (‘epithumia’, which Paul references frequently), fear, distress, and delight. The proper man (and Philo and other Jews argued, God) is devoid of passions, and ruled only by reason. An excess of passions could lead to many different problems – and for the Romans 1 passage the most important of these is that an excess of indulging in epithumia – the passion of lust – can cause one to experiment in homosexual lusts, because you haven’t been able to sate yourself on the ordinary, heterosexual lusts. This is one of many differing Greek ideas on sexuality, and is not original with Paul nor is it Jewish. We now know – and any homosexual person can tell you – that such a thing does not at all describe gay men and women. But for Paul, this was taken as a given – as people forty or fifty years ago might take the division of the mind into ego, id, and superego – and all the ensuing Freudian weirdness – as a given. He is reaching for this understanding of gay intercourse to demonstrate in his passage (echoing Book of Wisdom) how idolatry leads to an eruption of uncontrolled passions – particularly, lust. The larger argument he makes (here, I think, understood, and elided over for a different point on Jewishness and Gentileness) is all humanity is subject to the whims of the passions; and for Paul the only escape from this is from God, through Jesus.**

    * It is not at all clear that this passage addresses lesbians – most early church fathers did not seem to read it this way, and they were closer to the culture in which the passage was written. I am also quite unsure about whether the classical Stoic view of lesbianism was similar to male homosexuality or not.

    **See Gal 5:24 “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires [the Greek word here is epithumia, i.e. lustful desires].” – see larger passage; e.g., the Spirit of God through Jesus allows his followers to free themselves from the ruling passions and desires (viz. id, ego; other pop psychology) of the body and live by reason and holiness.

    PS: Yes, this means Paul got sexuality wrong. As he also got the dictates of nature and long hair wrong (1 Cor 11:13-15), his confused thoughts on equality of women (1 Cor 11:2-3 vs Gal 3:28), the morals of slavery (Philemon, all of it), and his – and the whole NT’s – assumptions about the etiology of disease. You don’t have to throw out the inspiration of Scripture to recognize these things.

  • Joshua

    Alas I have only one like to give to this post.

  • David Starner

     What is sexual immortality? Leviticus defines it as sleeping with a woman while she’s having a period. Somehow, I’ve never heard a Christian mention that line. It also tends to include lesbianism, even through the Bible never mentions it. There seems to be a lot of claims of following Leviticus that don’t stress about the fine details of what exactly Leviticus says.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Sexual immortality sounds like fun, actually. Though who knows, I might get tired of it after a few millenia.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Content warning: Discussion of sexual kinks in a general sense.

    Pbafvqrevat gung fbzr zra naq jbzra npghnyyl, sbe gurve bja ernfbaf, yvxr univat frk juvyr ba n jbzna’f crevbq, bar fhfcrpgf guvf “fva” tbg engure dhvpxyl zragnyyl qvfpneqrq bapr ercebqhpgvir naq frhkny urnygu orpnzr jvqrfcernq naq orggre haqrefgbbq.

    Decipher with http://www.rot13.com/index.php

  • jwalker_cht

    arguments for/against same-gender unions aside, I would take sexual immorality to be any sexual behavior that detracts from our obligation to demonstrate the “New Man or New Woman” who has been resurrected in Christ.  if our behavior is driven by lust rather than love, if we’re engaging in promiscuity, “serial monogamy”, cheating or otherwise giving our bodies up to someone other than our dedicated partner then we’re not letting our conversation before men be one that glorifies God.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Paul says something like ‘abstain from sexual immorality’,

    In a modern context it would probably mean “don’t do things with other people without their consent”.

  • Katie

     I  think that you could make a case that ‘consent’ is the guiding principal for Paul as well.  In the 1st century, the most common expression of homosexual desire was a relationship between an older man and a teenage boy.   This kind of asymmetry in status would make ‘consent’ a very problematic proposition.  Of course, one could say that same thing about the position of a teenaged bride who married an older man, but she would, at least in theory, have some social and legal protections, which a boy-lover would not.

    A similar thing could be said, given the economic and legal disparity between men and women, between any kind of non-marital sexual liaison.  There would always be the possibility of coercion, and of the weaker party being hurt and abused.  And it would certainly apply to prostitution,  especially since in the First Century, many prostitutes were slaves, or in the case of cultic prostitution, dedicated to the temple by their parents or guardians. 

    Leaving aside the differences in modern and first century understandings of human sexuality,  it seems to me that Paul was willing to tolerate sex inside of a heterosexual marriage because, in his world, it was the one kind of widely recognized relationship that did not, by its very nature, involve the sexual exploitation of a status inferior.  It had the capacity to be reformed into a union of mutual care and respect, between two people who were of equal value and status.

  • Ursula L

    A similar thing could be said, given the economic and legal disparity between men and women, between any kind of non-marital sexual liaison.   

    Actually, under the circumstances of the first century AD, I’d include marital sexual liaisons and interactions as being problematic.  

    Marriages were often arranged.  Marriage involved considerable financial investment and consideration which created a conflict of interest for any father negotiating a marriage for a daughter when he has a financial stake in the matter, but is not the person who is being married or being expected to have sex with the person that arrangements are being made for them to be married to.   There was often a significant age difference within marriage, with the husband being much older than the wife.  There was always a significant power difference between husband and wife, with legal and social  power on the side of the husband.  

    There was a huge double standard regarding sexual behavior.  

    Men were permitted to have sex more-or-less as they chose, provided it did not interfere with another man’s right to sexual control of a particular woman (a father controlling his daughter, a husband controlling his wife, a slave-owner controlling a slave.)  

    Women were expected both to comply with sexual demands from the man who had legal and social control of them (daughters remaining virgins until married to the man of their father’s choice, wives having no sexual partner except their husband, slaves having sex at the command of their owner, either with their owner or with other men as directed by their owner – entertaining a guest of their owner, or working as prostitutes under the legal control of their owner.)  Women were also expected to refuse and reject any potential sexual encounter that wasn’t sanctioned by the man who legally controlled her.  Even a relationship with an unrelated man, unmarried and without any potential for harming any third-party, whom she liked or loved and very much wanted to share sex with.  

    You don’t have to go beyond the Ten Commandments, the most basic understanding of Old Testament law, to see the problem.  There is a command against adultery.  Even if there is 100% uncoerced and enthusiastic  consent, both between the people engaging in the sexual act and anyone they have made any sort of sexual commitment to, such as a spouse.  But there is no prohibition against rape.  

    Which makesany part of the Bible a suspect and unreliable source for guidance in sexual morality.  Even the wisest and most moral person in the world would find it nearly impossible to set out rules guiding moral sexual behavior, when living in a context and culture where there is no sexual morality in any sense that respects the fundamental principle of consent.  

  • Robyrt

    I think you’re right that the Bible is simply not organized around a “fundamental principle of consent” at all, and it was written in cultures where the entire concept would be suspect or alien. The Ten Commandments example is great – and it extends into the New Testament too, where orgies are a favorite example of forbidden behavior and no attention whatsoever is paid to the level of coercion involved.

    That doesn’t make the Bible a suspect and unreliable source for sexual morality, though, unless you are starting from the assumption that consent is the bedrock principle on which sexual morality must be based.

  • Carstonio

     For argument’s sake, what other bedrock principle would one use?

  • Robyrt

     Off the top of my head, you could treat sexual morality as primarily governed by contract and property rights, with forbidden activities being either anything not specified or anything specified, depending on the contract. You could use a principle of moderation. A favorite of sci-fi novelists and cult leaders is a principle of sharing and community, where everybody sleeps with various people on a schedule that does not take consent into account. You could use a strict power relation as your guide, treating sex pretty much like food where there are no particular limits except “How much do I want?” Paul seems to personally prefer an ascetic principle, where sex should be minimized if at all possible. The point is, there are lots of options.

  • Madhabmatics

    I’m sure that basing your sexual morality on a “Well, you don’t want to have sex with me, but you signed your rights to object away, so I’m having sex with you anyways” basis is totally not the dumbest idea in all of creation.

    what the hell are you thinking

  • Madhabmatics

     Yo i’m just going to drop here that people are strongarmed into horrible, abusive contracts all the time by desperation and basing your sexual ethics on “whatever I can strongarm a woman into signing” is a HORRIBLE IDEA.

  • Carstonio

    But would those options promote individual and communal well-being? Doesn’t sound to me like you’re considering that question, or attempting to judge whether the options are workable.

  • Ursula L

    That doesn’t make the Bible a suspect and unreliable source for sexual morality, though, unless you are starting from the assumption that consent is the bedrock principle on which sexual morality must be based. 

    Well, I can’t imagine any form of morality that doesn’t start with consent, even if it adds other rules on top of consent (e.g., a legal “age of consent” that is strictly defined, even if a few individuals may be mature enough to give meaningful consent earlier, because the general welfare of everyone in the community is better served by having a clear line to protect people at ages where most are not mature enough to give meaningful consent.)  

    It’s not like consent is an alien concept.  It’s a matter of looking at the rules for preschoolers playing at the playground and continuing them for adults playing in the bedroom.  

    “If the person you’re playing with isn’t having fun, you need to stop.” “If the person you’re playing with wants to stop the game, then you stop.” “If they were having fun, but aren’t having fun anymore, than it is time to stop.” “Play your games so that they are fun for everyone playing.” “If they don’t want to play anymore, then thank them for the nice time you had playing, and let them go away and do what they want to do.” “Just because you start a game, it doesn’t mean you have to play to the end of the game. Stop the game if it stops being fun for everyone.” “Be careful that no one gets hurt while you’re playing.” “If you’re having fun and they’re having fun, then it is good to keep playing, as long as everyone is happy and you make sure that you’re playing safely.” 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    Well, I can’t imagine any form of morality that doesn’t start with consent,

    (shrug) I can imagine it.

    I mean, if I assume that Athena over there in the corner really is vastly wiser and more knowledgable and more benevolent than anyone else in the room, and that what Athena suggests we do is therefore far more likely to lead to good results than anything we might want or choose to do on our own, then I can imagine a form of morality that equates right action with doing what Athena suggests, whether we want to do it or not, whether we consent to it or not, whether we approve of it or not.

    Which is not to say we can’t ignore Athena and do what we choose to do (perhaps based on mutual consent, perhaps based on other principles), nor even to say that Athena would be justified in, or obligated into, forcing us to do so. It’s merely to say that I can imagine a form of morality in such a world in which ignoring Athena is wrong, and right action consists in doing what Athena suggests, and consent is at best a secondary consideration (e.g., maybe it comes into the picture when Athena is silent on a question).

    This is similar to the frequent condition of very young children with respect to their adult guardians, although of course not all adult guardians are vastly wiser and more knowledgable and more benevolent than the children they guard.

    Of course, my ability to imagine it doesn’t mean much beyond that I have a decent imagination.

    More relevant to my actual experience of the world is that in that experience, Athena (and all other vastly wise, knowledgable and benevolent entities that might exist) are silent on pretty much all questions.

    That said, I appreciate that some people’s experience of the world includes such entities that actually do answer important moral questions. It does not surprise me that such people start with “what does my chosen Teacher/Book/etc. say on this?” rather than starting with “what do we consent to?”

  • Jan

    ‘In a modern context it would probably mean “don’t do things with other people without their consent”. ‘
    No. To Christianity certain sexual acts are SINS. Do not whitewash that. Do not attempt to impose the ‘consent’-spiel. Even in the NT homosexuality is condemned in one go together with adultering, thieving, idolatry, etc.
    The way to go here is NOT that being gay is okay by the NT because it does misrepresent the text. The point is that it is not an exceptional bad or noteworhty sin.
    Somebody also claimed that homosexuality is core to somebodys identity. I doubt that and i think it is actually quite dangerous for any person to define themselves first and foremost by their sexuality instead of their personalities and morals.

  • EllieMurasaki

    No one defines themselves first and foremost by their sexuality–no one I’ve ever met or heard of, anyway–but it is an uncommon thing (something to be treasured and encouraged, of course, but not common) for a straight person to be propositioned by someone of the same sex and to take that in stride rather than having a negative reaction to being assumed to be queer. So it really oughtn’t to surprise you that we queer folk don’t tend to appreciate people assuming either that we’re straight or that our queerness is not an important part of us.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    Do not attempt to impose the ‘consent’-spiel.

    SPIEL? SPIEL? How fucking DARE you!

    I’m actually too angry just now come up with something more coherent, but to be THAT dismissive of consent… I just… WOW. It’s not like consent is something that only applies to sexual morality, either. It’s the difference between a loan and theft, a boxing match and assault…

    “Spiel”. Really. Wow.

  • Beroli

     

    SPIEL? SPIEL? How fucking DARE you!

    I’m actually too angry just now come up with something more coherent,
    but to be THAT dismissive of consent… I just… WOW. It’s not like
    consent is something that only applies to sexual morality, either. It’s
    the difference between a loan and theft, a boxing match and assault…

    “Spiel”. Really. Wow.

    Fairly regularly on the Internet, I’ve noticed, someone will describe the right-wing position in a way that makes me think, “That has to be a caricature.” And a right-winger will come along and use a thousand words to say, “Yes, we totally believe that ridiculous horrible thing, only why are you calling it ridiculous and horrible?”

  • Baby_Raptor

    Ma’am, you do not speak for all christians everywhere. You cannot claim that your personal view of the scriptures is the exact right one, and that someone else who understands it a different way (or was given a different understanding by god) is wrong. Not only is it potentially shutting out you learning something, you’re shutting down that person’s voice in the conversation. And neither of those is okay; especially the second.

    Further, those verses you speak of that say homosexuality is wrong are highly questionable. Many scholars believe that the original text spoke of pedophilia, and that homosexuality being there now as either a translation error or a willful insertion by someone with an agenda. Not having the original letter in the original context is another reason you should attempt to refrain from screaming “No, this is the only right way!” 

    Lastly, there are people that choose to make their sexuality core to their identity. That’s okay, and really you have no right to be telling them it’s dangerous. Also, keep in mind that the Right (speaking from America here, this won’t apply to everyone) goes out of their way to target gays simply because they have the audacity to want the same rights as straights. When we’re constantly being attacked, lied about and threatened for being gay, it’s not *us* that’s making our sexuality a core part of us. It’s ya’ll. It’s you who won’t just leave us alone. 

  • fraser

    Really? I define myself quite strongly by my relationship with my wife. Not first and foremost but it is very much part of my identity. Before that, my identity as someone not in a relationship and wanting one was also important
    And I know many other people whose self-definition includes their sexuality: I’m staying virgin until marriage. I screw anything that moves. I’m bi. I’m straight. I’m gay. I’m asexual. I’m married. I’m looking. Not necessarily the core of their identity, but not something trivial either.

  • The Guest That Posts

    I’m a straight person. It’s darn easy for me not to define themselves by my sexuality, since I’m unlikely ever to take any flak for being heterosexual.

    In an ideal world, homosexual people wouldn’t have to define themselves by their sexuality any more than by, say, their being golf players or cinema fanatics. You’re not bringing that world any closer by that post.

  • Tricksterson

    I’m a heterosexual too but my whole life I’ve had people assume I was gay.  Why, I’m not sure, I certainly don’t fit the stereotype physically (well, maybe the “bear” one).  As far as I can tell, especially given the mentality of the town I grew up and for the majority of my life live in it’s probably because i read a lot and speak in words of more than one syllable.  And no, I’m not from the South, the north has it’s share of rednecks as well.

  • friendly reader

    Just posted this somewhere else, seems appropriate to repost it here:

    “Sin, he* reflected, is not what it is usually thought to be; it is not
    to steal and tell lies. Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the
    life of another and to be quite oblivious to the wounds he has left
    behind.” – Shusaku Endo

    Note that Endo was a Christian writer, and that’s from his magnificent book Silence, one of my strongest recommendations for good Christian literature.

    *The “he” is a Catholic priest facing torture under Tokugawa persecution of Christians, contemplating his guards.

  • The_L1985

    But “whom I want to marry and spend my life with” IS a core part of your identity. I knew from a very early age that, although I liked to look at ladies in bathing suits, I wanted to marry and have/raise children with a MAN. I am (mostly) heterosexual, and this is how my sexual identity manifests. It colors large portions of my life–keeping old books and toys for my future children, dating men who seem like my “type,” etc.

    If I’d wanted to marry another woman, I’d be spending more time in lesbian bars (because only there could I be certain that the nice, pretty girl I met WAS a lesbian), studying laws and prices on adoption and IVF so I could have that child, and probably hiding this entire part of my LIFE from my homophobic parents, for my own protection, to the point that the hiding would make me quite neurotic. With my history of clinical depression, the hiding alone would easily be enough to drive me to suicide.

    Sexual attraction is about a lot more than just sex.

  • RockyMissouri

    Thank you….for sharing that…

  • LouisDoench

     See folks… this is why many of us join Team Atheist or Humanist,  because the very concept of sin is at best confusing and at worst deleterious to human health.  If you are judging any human activity by anything other than its tangible, measurable effect on your fellow humans then you are doing it wrong. 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Nothing prevents members of Team Atheist or Team Humanist from declaring certain things as just wrong, and indeed many of them do. Not all atheists and humanists are moral consequentialists. The line between good and evil is drawn through every human heart.

  • Wednesday

    Y’know, when Jesus met the Roman Centurion who asked him to save the
    life of his beloved male teenage sex-slave, Jesus did save the
    teenager’s life, and he praised the centurion’s faith. He did
    not even add “go and sin no more” (as he did in the
    case of the stoning of the adulteress).  He didn’t even say “don’t have
    sex with teenagers and don’t keep slaves”, both of which our modern
    understanding of morality condemns. What he said was “hey, this
    non-Jewish guy who is not keeping the Jewish Law has better faith than
    any Jewish guy I’ve met so far.”

    So, please show me where in the New Testament anyone says that homosexuality itself is wrong and a sin (as opposed to same-sex sex/pagan orgies/prostitution.)

    Because if homosexuality is a sin, then it’s a sin of a very different nature than adultery, idoltry, etc; the rest are sins of actions, but homosexuality would then be a sin of simply being.  You can’t stop being gay by choosing to be celibate*. If you’re gay and decide to be celibate and join the clergy and never do anything else wrong, you are still gay, and according to you according to Christianity, still sinning. Just by existing.

    This is why “love the sinner, hate the sin” is a particular vile thing to say in the context. Even if you claim to love the sinner, you are still saying you hate their existence, that you hate something about them that is beyond their control

    *Something that, it’s worth noting, Paul really encouraged for straights. He allowed marriage to men and women who couldn’t handle celibacy, “because it is better to be married than to be burned”.

    Straights don’t have to define themselves by their sexual orientation because heterosexuality is the norm in our society. It’s like how we don’t need to define ourselves as air-breathers, although we are and that’s fairly fundamental to what we are and to our survival — although people who need oxygen or other assistance breathing frequently are defined by society as a deviation from the norm. They’re defined by “needs to carry oxygen”.

  • AnonymousSam

    Various translations of Romans 1:26-27 specify having any kind of feelings for the same sex, rather than simply sex. Not that I feel the Bible has the slightest relevance as a book of moral teaching.

  • Kiba

    Hi. I’m gay. I do not define myself solely by my sexual orientation. However, my sexual orientation is a fundamental part of who I am, just as it is with you.  What you fail to understand is that sexual orientation colors our (humanity’s) life. To better explain this I will just quote the American Psychological Association’s pamphlet on sexual orientation:

    Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions. Research over several decades has demonstrated that sexual orientation ranges along a continuum, from exclusive attraction to the other sex to exclusive attraction to the same sex. However, sexual orientation is usually discussed in terms of three categories: heterosexual (having emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to members of the other sex), gay/lesbian (having emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to members of one’s own sex), and bisexual (having emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to both men and women). This range of behaviors and attractions has been described in various cultures and nations throughout the world. Many cultures use identity labels to describe people who express these attractions. In the United States the most frequent labels are lesbians (women attracted to women), gay men(men attracted to men), and bisexual people (men or women attracted to both sexes). However, some people may use different labels or none at all.Sexual orientation is distinct from other components of sex and gender, including biological sex (the anatomical, physiological, and genetic characteristics associated with being male or female), gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female),* and social gender role (the cultural norms that define feminine and masculine behavior).Sexual orientation is commonly discussed as if it were solely a characteristic of an individual, like biological sex, gender identity, or age. This perspective is incomplete because sexual orientation is defined in terms of relationships with others. People express their sexual orientation through behaviors with others, including such simple actions as holding hands or kissing. Thus, sexual orientation is closely tied to the intimate personal relationships that meet deeply felt needs for love, attachment, and intimacy. In addition to sexual behaviors, these bonds include nonsexual physical affection between partners, shared goals and values, mutual support, and ongoing commitment. Therefore, sexual orientation is not merely a personal characteristic within an individual. Rather, one’s sexual orientation defines the group of people in which one is likely to find the satisfying and fulfilling romantic relationships that are an essential component of personal identity for many people.

    Emphasis is mine.

    Now, where I do not define myself solely by my sexual orientation there are more than a few people in this world who do and that is not my fault. If you have issues with people being defined solely by their sexual orientation then maybe you can, oh I don’t know, work for a more equal society for everyone and where being a QUILTBAG individual isn’t seen as being “other”.  

    Edit: Sorry Disqus ate the formatting and wont expand the window for me to try and edit it back in.

  • AnonymousSam

    To certain denominations of Christianity certain sexual acts are SINS.

    Fixed that for you. If “Christianity” taught this, then I doubt many of us would be here in this blog.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Two things.

    First, there’s nothing wrong with treating the Bible as a living document, one that exists today and has previously unexplored meaning that is only visible to us in the light of our current experience of Creation.

    If you want to ignore all that stuff and restrict yourself to whatever subset of the meaning of the Bible was understood a hundred years ago, or five hundred, or a thousand, or whatever your preferred set-point is, that’s your choice. I don’t approve of it but I endorse your right to make it.

    If you want to insist that other people do that too, I oppose you.

    Second, I know lots of people whose marriages, families, loves, failed loves, and aspirations for same are core to who they are and how they live their lives. For my mom, for example, marrying a man and bearing children with him and raising those children remains one of the central ways that she defines her life, even though her children are long since grown adults. It’s core to her identity.

    You are free to consider that unlikely, and you are free to consider it dangerous. You are also free to believe that my mom’s desire to marry a man and have sex with him and bear his children isn’t a sexuality. I disagree vehemently with every single one of those claims, but you’re free to believe them.

    If you want to insist that other people believe them too, I oppose you.

  • Bnerd

    I actually agree in part with you. I’m of the belief that homosexuality definitely falls under the Biblical prohibition against “sexual immorality” (even as a gay man myself). It makes sense given what we know of the Israelite views on nature and sex. However, I might ask, why are we still referring to views on sexuality from 2,000 years ago for guidance NOW? It seems utterly ridiculous to point back in time to a people who knew so little of the actual mechanisms of the world and pretend they had some sort of knowledge that was timeless. We’ve evolved culturally. I have no need to reference first Century Christians for my views on the morality of any sexual act; nor should anyone else.

    As to the last part of your post: Gay man, lesbian women, Trans* persons, etc. absolutely are DEFINED by their orientation or identity. It is however NOT a choice for most of us to have that designation as our primary identity. We live in a heterosexist society that sees anything falling outside of the cis-hetero paradigm as abnormal and worthy of scorn and hate. Our culture is defined by rigid notions of sex and gender that make anyone who doesn’t adhere to the societal norm a target. In short, our identities were thrust upon us. And we can either take those identities and use them in such a way that they break down barriers, which requires us to be out, proud and outspoken, or we can pretend they don’t exist and continue to live in a world that marginalizes us for that very identity we would be trying to downplay. I think you realize which option I chose and why.

  • AnonymousSam

    Many religious conservatives pride themselves on adhering to “traditional values.” The implication is that something is older, therefore better because it wouldn’t have endured so long if it didn’t have intrinsic value.

    Of course, “traditionally,” we treat women like chattel and slaves like animals. We do still have slaves, right? They were just fine in the Bible, so why not now?

    Oh, right… that whole progress thing that’s so integral to not being assholes.

  • fraser

     Don’t forget, Ralph Reed asserted 20 years ago that the Bible passages about slaves clearly teach employees to shut up and obey their employers as God’s anointed.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    No. To Christianity certain sexual acts are SINS. Do not whitewash that. Do not attempt to impose the ‘consent’-spiel.

    And this is me giving you the hairy eyeball now.

  • connorboone

    For one thing, though you claim that homosexuality is not core to anyone’s identity, I’d be willing to bet that YOU make it core to someone’s identity when you meet them.   You make it the issue within your worldview.

    The second thing: ‘whitewashing with consent spiel’ has to be the most heinous thing ever said by anyone, anywhere, ever.  You should be ashamed of yourself.

    The last thing: bullshit like this is why I strongly and steadfastly believe that policy should never be informed by religious considerations.  That’s what the Enlightenment was all about, and I’m damn glad we had one.

  • Kimberly

    Hi Jan.

    Psychologists understand sexual orientation and gender identity to both be  part of the inherent core personality. 

    Religion is a choice. Morality is a choice. Sexual orientation is innate. 

    Thus, I do not have a choice about being a lesbian, but you DO have a choice as to whether you will worship a God so cruel and unjust that He would condemn me to eternal suffering for the natural expression of love in a committed relationship. 

    As a lesbian, I have many LGBT friends.  Many of them are incredibly kind.  New people are welcomed with overwhelming love into the community–far more so, in fact, than in any church I have ever visited. These people do not deserve to be sent to hell, and a God that would send them there would not be worthy of worshiping. 

    The fact that you think that sexual orientation is not an important component of who you are, shows that you have always been immersed in a community and culture where your sexual orientation is by far the vast majority. Having a different sexual orientation makes it very difficult for me to relate to a lot of popular media, for example, because the plot of the vast majority of books, films, and so on, have heterosexual romance as a major component. Straight people are so accustomed to being surrounded by people with the same sexual orientation that they have, they often don’t recognize the degree to which sexual orientation shapes the way they see the world.

  • Carstonio

     

    Religion is a choice. Morality is a choice. Sexual orientation is innate.

    We should emphasize that the cause of sexual orientation is irrelevant to the principle that discrimination against LGBT people is wrong. Using the innate nature of orientation to argue against discrimination inadvertently implies that there’s nothing wrong with discrimination against people who are in minorities by choice, such as some religions.

  • Tricksterson

    And you don’t thimk a person’s sexuality is a key part of their personality?

  • http://twitter.com/Jenk3 Jen K

    ‘In a modern context it would probably mean “don’t do things with other people without their consent”. ‘
    No. To Christianity certain sexual acts are SINS. 
    To first Century Christians, a man forcing his wife to have sex is not a sin.   Now?  It’s against the law in most places, and certainly not moral. 

  • http://spacecoyotevega.livejournal.com/ vega

     When I first read Jan’s post, I assumed that s/he was a hard-line atheist trying to argue that Christianity is fundamentally wrong or evil, and that fact should not be whitewashed. Then I noticed that s/he didn’t explicitly come out and say that. It was only after reading the responses that I realized that Jan was actually describing the system of morality to which s/he adheres.

    To which I must respond- what the hell? Does this person actually think s/he’s making Christianity sound non-evil?

  • Robyrt

    That’s a wonderful thought but not very accurate. Generally, when sexual immorality is brought up in the New Testament, it’s not under the “consent” framework at all. It’s about a lifestyle of debauchery and bacchanalia, contrasted with a lifestyle of self-control, humility and submission. Check out what Peter (well after his vision) has to say on the matter:

    For the time that is past suffices for
    doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions,
    drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.

    Now, many people have extrapolated from the rather vague list of sexual sins in the New Testament plus our knowledge of the hedonistic, consent-low Roman society to infer that principle. For a document which doesn’t explicitly condemn slavery to endorse our 21st century sexual ethics strikes me as rather too convenient.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Now, many people have extrapolated from the rather vague list of sexual
    sins in the New Testament plus our knowledge of the hedonistic,
    consent-low Roman society to infer that principle. For a document which
    doesn’t explicitly condemn slavery to endorse our 21st century sexual
    ethics strikes me as rather too convenient.

    Which is why I said: “In. A. Modern. Context.”

    We are not frozen in a 1st century AD time warp.

    We are not required to interpret religious texts as though society had not evolved a millimeter from the position it was in two thousand years ago.

    In point of fact, societal shifts have been so extreme we’ve actually forgotten a lot of the cultural constructs and unstated social assumption that have gone into the Bible’s writing!

    This mentions Asimov’s “Lost in Non-Translation” as a good place to start. I particularly recommend to you to read it.

  • Robyrt

    Ah, I think I misinterpreted the original post. I thought you were explaining what a good modern translation of “sexual immorality” would be, not what an analogous modern rule to whatever was meant by “sexual immorality” would be.  I’m still not thrilled with the idea that mandates like this should be interpreted to align with our cultural mores, because the original context was all about rejecting then-current cultural mores.

    Where would you suggest I find a copy of “Lost in Non-Translation”? It seems to be from a decades-old book of essays, which are the kind of thing that’s difficult to track down at best.

  • hagsrus

    As far as I can make out from the one Amazon review it’s included in Asimov on Science: A 30-Year Retrospective (Doubleday 1989)

    Amazon lists various used copies as low as 22 cents but I’ve just ordered it from the library, so you might check yours.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Hell, libraries still have copies of Asimov’s anthologies. “Magic” is one of them, IIRC.

  • Tricksterson

    And in the context of Paul it could be translated as “Don’t even think of anything sexual because I’m a narrow minded jerk with issues I’d rather impose on others than contemplate”

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Always nice to hear. Thanks.

    “O thin men of Haddam,
    Why do you imagine golden birds?
    Do you not see how the blackbird
    Walks around the feet
    Of the women about you?”

  • Emcee, cubed

    While I do see how Acts 10-11 CAN be applied beyond the scope of ethnic
    identity (the brunt of Acts 10-28)

    Except ethnic identity is not, in fact, the brunt of Acts 10-28. It is simply the specific instance used to apply the general rule.

    but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.

    This is what Peter says. He does not say, “God has shown me that Gentiles are not profane or unclean.” He does not say, “God has shown me that Gentiles who are unclean are welcome as long as they are willing to not be Gentiles any longer.” The rule is “I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” He then applies that to the Gentiles. He could have, and would have, applied it to anyone, because that is what God showed him. “I should not call ANYONE profane or unclean.”

    Also, I won’t claim to know the NT word for word, but where exactly does Jesus condemn “sexual immorality”? As far as I can remember, Jesus spoke very little about sex, ever.

  • Matri

    Also, I won’t claim to know the NT word for word, but where exactly does
    Jesus condemn “sexual immorality”? As far as I can remember, Jesus
    spoke very little about sex, ever.

    That would be the Book Of Rush Limbaugh, 1st Edition.

    Naturally, only Real True Christians can see it. Us heathens will just have to take their word for it.

  • markedward

    You’re right, Jesus spoke very little about sex at all; only three brief comments that I remember. Twice in his criticism of how divorce was practiced (Matthew 5.32; 19.9), and once in a listing of ‘defiling’ behaviors (Matthew 15.19).

  • stly92

    Well, the argument I usually hear is a “I see your Acts 10:1-11 -11:18 and raise you Romans 1:24-27.” Then you might start talking about things like cultural context, and the contrast in our understanding of human sexuality between Paul’s time and ours. Then they got you. “Aha, NOW who’s reading the scripture with a  lawyerly eye, now who’s trying to get the Bible to not say something it seems to be clearly saying!”

    And, as Fred would say, they would be High Fivin’ and doing their touchdown dance right about now. So they probably won’t here you when you start making the point, that they are still ignoring one verse in favor of another. And, if these two passages seem to be at odds, doesn’t that mean this issue is more complex than just an appeal to what “The Bible Says?” And if that’s so, isn’t it worthy of actual discussion, instead of trying to shut the discussion down?

    The other key argument is the fruit argument, which Mathew Vine put forth. That any Christian Doctrine has to be judged on the fruit it produces. And the fruit of the church being antigay is very bad. Mathew agrees, but is too polite to say what that bad fruit is. Well I’m going to say it. Bullying teens into suicide, beating up gay people who want to come to church. That’s stuff that’s happened, not hypothetical worst case scenarios. Or it’s pastors who say they merely want all gay people sent to Arkham City. Yeah. I think the real bottom line is that being antigay is making the church antichristian. That should make Christians pause and really look at it. But it doesn’t. As Fred said, it’s not about a message any more, it’s just about the line in the sand.

  • ako

      And, if these two passages seem to be at odds, doesn’t that mean this
    issue is more complex than just an appeal to what “The Bible Says?”

    The thing I don’t get is why more people don’t make this leap.  I’ve seen a lot of people play the “My prooftext trumps your prooftext!” game as if that somehow made them the winner instead of demonstrating how that approach to Biblical interpretation doesn’t work

  • Erp

    I’m not a Christian, but I think the usual response is what are the fruits?   A mutually loving couple who happen to be the same sex can produce marvelous fruit (look for Martin Gill or for Steve Lofton and Roger Croteau).    I believe there is a certain verse about bad trees and good fruit.  Sexual behavior that damages such as cheating, lack of honesty,  lack of consent, physical or psychological abuse, that is immoral and it doesn’t depend on which sex those involved are.

    Note that first century Christians would probably not approve of same-sex relationships but then first century Christians had little problem with slavery either.    Times change. Some Christians might also quote John 16:12-15
    12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

    as expressing a progressing theology, that the guiding into all truth is taking centuries because people weren’t/aren’t ready.  Hence it wasn’t until some time after the death of Jesus that Gentiles were admitted as equals. Hence it wasn’t until the 18th century that slavery really began to be seen as wrong by any large group, or the 19th/20th century that women were equal to men.  Or that the death penalty was wrong. 

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Hence it wasn’t until the 18th century that slavery really began to be seen as wrong by any large group, or the 19th/20th century that women were equal to men. Or that the death penalty was wrong.

    And we’ve still got a lot of hold-outs on that last one.

  • The_L1985

    Don’t you mean the last two?

  • AnonymousSam

    Or the second one. Or the first one, once you strip off the fancy labels of “employer” and “employee.”

  • Tricksterson

    Which Equal rights Amendment are you referring to?  The one pertaining to sexual equality never got passed.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    The only Equal Rights Amendment I know of:

    Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

    Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

    Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

    passed Congress 30 years ago.  It needs to be ratified by the states, though, and is currently three states short (35 out of 38 needed).

  • fraser

     The willingness of prominent conservatives to discuss what a bad thing it is that women can vote (Ann Coulter, John Derbyshire, John Lott, Bryan Fischer) says a lot about how little they’re bothering to hide it now.

  • Fusina

     John 16:12-15
    12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.

    Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. I probably still won’t try to talk my family down on the homosexuality subject, but I can keep this verse in my heart and armor myself against their religious nastiness. I am not gay, but I was an outcast. So I tend to band together with others of my kind, if you see what I mean.

  • http://www.facebook.com/j.alex.harman John Alexander Harman

    as expressing a progressing theology, that the guiding into all truth is taking centuries because people weren’t/aren’t ready. Hence it wasn’t until some time after the death of Jesus that Gentiles were admitted as equals. Hence it wasn’t until the 18th century that slavery really began to be seen as wrong by any large group, or the 19th/20th century that women were equal to men. Or that the death penalty was wrong.

    I’m suspicious of justifications like this for the excruciatingly slow moral progress of Western religion away from things like slavery and chattel-marriage.  I think the people oppressed by such an evil practice are always ready for the beatings, rapes, etc. to stop; it’s only the perpetrators and beneficiaries of the practice who “aren’t ready” to see the light.

  • The_L1985

     Amen!

  • Erp

     I agree that it isn’t a justification for the “excruciating slow moral progress of Western religion”.   I’m not a Christian, and, I don’t believe in a god; it is an argument that some Christians might make (even if the Holy Spirit is a tremendous sluggard).  I also agree that the people oppressed want it to stop though there is a distinction between wanting it to stop for me and mine and wanting the institution to go.    For some the possibility they might end up on top may make them not want to destroy the institutions that are causing their oppression (I might win the lottery; I might work hard enough and advance far enough that I will benefit from the tax advantages of  the rich).  Others have internalized it (I’m at fault if my husband hit me, I wasn’t properly obedient to him, pray God make me obedient, pray God make me straight). 

    I do fear what the generations to come will see as the enormities of  this generation.     What beams do we fail to see?

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m suspicious of justifications like this for the excruciatingly slow moral progress of Western religion away from things like slavery and chattel-marriage.  I think the people oppressed by such an evil practice are always ready for the beatings, rapes, etc. to stop; it’s only the perpetrators and beneficiaries of the practice who “aren’t ready” to see the light.
     
    To be fair, a lot of rape survivors and domestic violence survivors today say that it took time, sometimes years, for them to realize what had happened, or that it was wrong, or that it wasn’t their fault. There are certainly rape survivors and domestic abuse survivors today who don’t identify as such because they haven’t yet had those epiphanies. Which isn’t to say you’re wrong, mind, it’s just that not everyone has gotten the message that (for example) your partner having sex with your sleeping self is your partner raping you (and it’s wrong of them and it’s not your fault), or your partner not stopping sex when you say to is your partner raping you (and it’s wrong of them and it’s not your fault), or etc etc.

  • Mary Kaye

    I would like to respond to “hate the sin but love the sinner” with “In that case, I challenge you to put as much effort, energy, and resources into showing love as you’re currently putting into showing hate.”  But I fear I’d just get a facile “I’m showing my love by rebuking the sin” followed by some (in my view wrongheaded) analogies with a parent lovingly disciplining their child.

    The kind of love that manifests *only* in rebuke strikes me as not love at all.  But I don’t think I can make that argument to someone who doesn’t already have an inkling of it.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I know we have all heard some Lady Gaga before, but this post in particular reminded me of this specific cover she did of one of her most popular songs.  

    It is the kind of thing you would expect to hear sung in a church after a sermon on this very subject.  

  • Carstonio

    Thanks so much to Fred for responding to my question. Since I don’t belong to any religion, I won’t contest his point that “civil discrimination and religious exclusion violates core principles of biblical Christianity.” I can say instead that it violates core principles of morality in general. Whether or not Paul was advocating “don’t do things with other people without their consent,” that particular moral principle is eminently sound regardless of one’s religious affiliation, and it’s obvious that Fred agrees. Sad that arguments like Jan’s are merely restatements of “because it’s written” or “because X said so,” neither of which is a moral principle. What matters is how one treats other people.

  • Guest

    After the most recent Methodist conference, and its terrible descision on homosexuality, our (Methodist) minister made great use of the irony of the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch popping up in the lectionary the very next week:

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+8%3A26-40&version=NIV

    (Eunuchs (and foreigners for that matter) were expressly forbidden from the temple; so one of the first converts was a sexual pariah)

  • Fusina

    As Terry Pratchett so wisely said, (and I hope I am quoting it correctly, or if not quite perfectly, at least in spirit getting it right), “The greatest sin is treating people like things.” 

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    As Terry Pratchett so wisely said, (and I hope I am quoting it correctly, or if not quite perfectly, at least in spirit getting it right), “The greatest sin is treating people like things.”

    He was pretty much cribbing Kant there.

  • http://willbikeforchange.wordpress.com/ storiteller

    My pastor gave his sermon this week on the “not calling someone a fool” and “not lusting after women”  section in the Sermon on the Mount, and this was exactly his point.  The Old Testament covers actions you take towards people, the Sermon on the Mount addresses how you speak to them and regard them.  From that section and many, many others, I think the principal guidance for all human interaction – sexual and otherwise – is to treat people with respect they deserve as people instead of as objects.

  • AnonymousSam

     I’d point at Matthew 15 in particular. That was Jesus saying “the old laws aren’t what make a man clean or unclean. What he says and does to others, on the other hand…”

    These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
    They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are but rules taught by men.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jess-Goodwin/28602067 Jess Goodwin

    Somewhat depressingly, most of the posters on the essay Fred linked to are “Know-Nothings” as Harold Bloom called them, who hang around the site in order to leap in and denounce pretty much anything anyone says.

    There’s no point arguing with them: their take on religion is that it’s about Obeying the Rules. Adam and Eve didn’t Obey the Rules, so everybody has to go to Hell. The only way to avoid this is by formally asking God for forgiveness (and it has to be done according to proper procedure; God refuses to acknowledge any petitions that don’t have “in Jesus’ name” tacked on somewhere, ‘cos, y’know, Rules) and promising to Obey the Rules henceforth.

    One guy was “explaining” that the bar against Gentiles (and, incidentally, against pork chops) was only lifted because Peter and Cornelius got personal, “crystal-clear”, unmistakeable visions from above ending the taboo. Nobody in the gay-rights movement has claimed an official, verified vision from the Almighty yet, or been visited by an angel with the proper ID. (Tony Kushner notwithstanding.) Any attempt to change the traditional understanding of Scripture *must* be signed off on by God Himself in person. No documented visions specifically mentioning LGBTQ folks? Then they’re still “profane and unclean”. It’s all about the Rules.

    I was tempted to ask them what would happen if I or my friends *did* receive a Heavenly vision. Would they believe us? Or would they insist the vision must come from Satan, because it contradicts Scripture…despite the experiences of Cornelius and Peter?

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

    I suppose if you’re a Calvinist you wouldn’t really care about consent because you don’t believe in free will and consent is only a meaningful concept if volition and agency are. In the Calvinist paradigm only God has these and the rest of us are just meat puppets with an illusion of agency following a script where every thought and “choice” is already written.

    I *really* don’t like Calvinism. When you think about it in any depth it’s bloody creepy.

     

  • SisterCoyote

    I don’t have a gif for it, sadly, since internet is down and I am thus trapped in school computer labs, but…

    Bless This Post. I might have to print and post it up somewhere.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    I did once have a friend who I think might have represented a reasonable embodiment of “hate the sin, love the sinner.”  He told me once that he was undecided how he felt about the issue of whether homosexual sex was a sin, but got along wonderfully with the gay people in his life.  At the risk of putting words in his mouth, I got the impression his attitude was basically, “Maybe it’s a sin, which would make them sinners… just like everyone else.  So no big deal.”

    Essentially, if you can’t genuinely love, admire, and respect people who commit sins for who they are, sins and all… you’re going to have a very lonely life, because no one is perfect.

    I will note that I never heard the words “love the sinner, hate the sin” escape his lips.  I suspect most people who genuinely embody the phrase don’t actually use it.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     This doesn’t sound like hating the sin to me.
    Indeed, it doesn’t sound like hating anything at all.
    Mind you, I endorse this, I’m just sayin’.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    I agree, but I suspect that’s the idea that “love the sinner, hate the sin” is intended to convey — that loving and respecting another person doesn’t depend on their being perfect and sin-free (because no one is, including you).

    (Although according to the Internet, that saying originated with Augustine, so… maybe not. :-) )

    In practice I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who used the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin” who I thought actually meant it as (I think) intended.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    I was also going to observe that one could BOTH believe that homosexuality was objectively immoral AND believe that denying LGBT people full legal equality is objectively immoral.  Our human rights aren’t dependent on living a completely blameless life, after all.

    (Mind you, I don’t think homosexuality is objectively immoral.  I’m just saying that thinking homosexual sex is a sin doesn’t take you straight to denying them rights without making other assumptions as well.)

  • Carstonio

    I disagree, and that’s partly why I posed the question in the first place. Deeming homosexuality to be objectively immoral puts it in the same general category as murder, rape, theft, bearing false witness, and so forth. That’s not the same thing as deeming it to be a sin. If that word has any secular meaning at all, it may mean a vice,  and vices would be immoral only to the extent that they cause one to harm others. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     I’m not sure I follow.  I consider adultery immoral, but I wouldn’t argue that adulterers shouldn’t be granted the same civil liberties the rest of us enjoy.

  • Carstonio

    Adultery is immoral because it’s about one person harming another through betrayal and deception. At one time adulterers were effectively denied civil liberties because the law deemed it a crime. (Such laws were unjust because they violated the privacy of the wronged spouses, plus the harm done didn’t meet any rational standard for compelling interest for government.) 

    The standard for immorality is whether the action harms others, and the principle here is that one is not morally entitled to harm others. Homosexuality is not immoral because no harm is being done to others outside the relationships. Any claim that it’s immoral automatically implies that individuals aren’t morally entitled to be in gay relationships. It further implies that any argument for government having a compelling interest in banning homosexuality should be seriously considered. (Laws against sodomy were on the books in many places until recent years.) 

    At a bare minimum, the belief that homosexuality is immoral is fundamentally incompatible with the live-and-let-live principle involved with civil liberties. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    So… yeah.  What I said.  Adultery is immoral, but we don’t (and shouldn’t) strip adulterers of their civil liberties, even if it was done in some places and times.

    As far as “hurting other people” being the standard for morality, that’s *your* standard for what constitutes immoral behavior, and I personally tend to agree with it.

    However, it’s not everyone’s standard for what constitutes immoral behavior.

    “God said it’s wrong” is another popular standard, as is the idea that a particular behavior isn’t hurting other people, but it hurts the person doing it and that the fact it’s only hurting ourselves doesn’t actually make it morally acceptable (in my experience this usually also goes back to God — we belong to ourselves, but we also belong to God and we’re not supposed to mess ourselves up).

  • Carstonio

    “God said it’s wrong” has two major weaknesses. One is that we don’t know if a god really said so or if it’s just someone claiming to speak for the god. The other is that those commands may not make the world a better place in terms of how humans interact with one another. That concept of morality would have no meaning in a deist or atheist context.

    I think it’s fair in principle to object to behavior that hurts only the person doing it, although in practice it far too often turns into “I know what’s best for you.” But I wouldn’t label such objections as moral ones, since morality seems to be about how one’s actions affect others. Would right or wrong exist for a person living alone on a distant planet whose actions cannot affect anyone else, since there would be no interpersonal context for those actions? I doubt it.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    Right, but that’s *your* belief about what makes something moral or immoral.  I tend to agree with it, but not everyone does.  I may think we’re right and they’re wrong, but they presumably think the same.

    I was just observing that thinking homosexual sex is immoral doesn’t necessarily mean thinking gay people should be denied legal rights.  I mean, in practice many people who think the first often think the second as well, but it requires additional assumptions to get there.  (Again, most such people consider adultery immoral as well, but no one is trying to make it illegal for adulterers to re-marry.)

  • Carstonio

    Of course some people believe in a different standard for judging morality. I just question the purpose or goal of such a standard, because it wouldn’t seem to involve the avoidance of interpersonal cruelty.

    And “denied legal rights” doesn’t quite get at my point. I’m suggesting that people who believe homosexuality to be immoral also believe that LGBT people deserve natural consequences or imposed punishment. If the latter doesn’t mean denial of legal rights, then it would mean some type of social opprobrium. SSM opponents generally don’t recognize that the issue involves legal rights – they wrongly see it as government or society endorsing homosexuality. My stance is that neither government nor society has an interest in which gender a person prefers for a lover or a spouse.

  • Francis

    [quote]No. To Christianity certain sexual acts are SINS. Do not whitewash that.
    Do not attempt to impose the ‘consent’-spiel. Even in the NT
    homosexuality is condemned in one go together with adultering, thieving,
    idolatry, etc.
    The way to go here is NOT that being gay is okay by
    the NT because it does misrepresent the text. The point is that it is
    not an exceptional bad or noteworhty sin.
    Somebody also claimed that
    homosexuality is core to somebodys identity. I doubt that and i think
    it is actually quite dangerous for any person to define themselves first
    and foremost by their sexuality instead of their personalities and
    morals.[/quote]

    I for one consider it far far less dangerous that someone defines themself even explicitely as a pervert than that they define themselves by a set of “morals” that mean rape is something other than non-consensual sex.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    I admire Paul’s writings, but I think there are 3 things it’s important to keep in mind while interpreting them:

    1) Paul is Paul, not God.  He isn’t infallible.  Peter and James didn’t always see eye-to-eye with Paul, and they actually KNEW both Paul and Jesus.  If they didn’t think Paul was always right, I don’t see why I should.

    2) Paul was writing letters to a specific group of people addressing specific problems.  He was writing for them, not us.  He had no idea that a small subset of his letters would survive and become scripture.  They were intended to provide guidance for a specific situation, not to be the last word for all of time, especially because…

    3) Paul didn’t think people would still be reading his letters 2,000 years later because he didn’t think there would BE a 2,000 years later. He thought the Kingdom of God was going to come in the lifetime of his listeners.  See all point 1.

    Which isn’t to say I don’t think we should take Paul seriously, just that — as with everything else in the Bible — we need to look at in light of the context in which it was written.

  • Erista

    I have to admit that I’m always baffled that people seem to take every word that Paul wrote as the Word of God. Paul was a man, and even if you believe he had some kind of special connection to God, he would still just be a man, prone to mistakes, misunderstandings, misinterpretations,  bias, overreaching, and all the other wonderful human frailties. Unless Paul said, “And God said to me—” then why is anyone taking it as more than the personal beliefs of one man? If there is one thing that the bible has proven, it is that divinely inspired men can do truly stupid thing (Noah’s first act after stepping of the ark? Get raging drunk. Lot, the one righteous man in  Sodom and Gomorrah? Had sex with his daughters. King Solomon?  700 wives and 300 concubines.), but few take those stupid acts and insist that we should follow them. And yet, for some reason that I do not understand, believing that Paul could have made an error is beyond what most will accept. Most Christians act as if Paul’s words actually had more weight than Jesus’s did, given the number of times that people quote each respectively.

    That being said, if o Acts 10:1 – Acts 11:18 only applies to food, then I have to wonder where the whole “Don’t wear clothing of more than one fiber” law went. Because I’d bet good money that everyone reading this is wearing or has things that they wear which are of more than one kind of fiber.

  • AnonymousSam

    As someone pointed out recently, Adam, who spoke directly to God–was physically confronted by and spoken to in a manner needing no special interpretative skills–misquoted God in the very first example of a human conveying God’s message to another. I’m not sure what that says.

  • Erista

     It’s true! O_O

  • Turcano

    Pretty close.  The full quote is this:

    There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that.  And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.

  • http://twitter.com/jaredfalk Jared Falk

       True we should not judge people while we too are sinners.  LGTB should definitely be allowed to worship with everyone else since Jesus came for the sick, not the well.  
       Two points where you need to address.  First, leadership positions in churches are for people who are above reproach and are to be judged more strictly.  I want an LGTB as a leader in a congregation just as much as a thief, child abuser, liar, adulterer, etc.  
       Secondly, baptism is one of repentance.  if you are an LGTB and proud of it and embrace it, you are not fully repentant.  
       I am not allowed to call LGTB unclean myself, for I am dirty in my own sinful way.  But I want to put away my sin and fight against it daily.  But if I were to embrace a sin and not want to eradicate it from my life, that is not truly repentant nor humble thus making baptism null.  
       I do not doubt though, Jesus would have no problem dining with a homosexual like he did a prostitute in the Bible, but He would also part with the phrase:  “sin no more”

  • EllieMurasaki

    God–if, for sake of argument, she exists–did not create Anne a thief, Bob a child abuser, Cathy a liar, or Daniel an adulterer. Those are things Anne, Bob, Cathy, and Daniel chose to do. God did, however, create Emily lesbian, Fred gay, George bisexual, and Hayden transgender. These are not things Emily, Fred, George, and Hayden chose to be. You are saying that it is just as bad to be Emily, Fred, George, or Hayden as to be Anne, Bob, Cathy, or Daniel, and that no penalty attaches to being the straight cisgender Iris. (Or, probably more accurately, to being the straight cisgender Jack; Iris’s female, which is a mark against her in many eyes.)
    And you wonder why Emily, Fred, George, Hayden, and those Irises and Jacks who find nothing wrong with being Emily, Fred, George, or Hayden are abandoning your church in favor of one that distinguishes between what we are and what we do.


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