‘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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  • 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.

  • 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.” 

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.


    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?”

  • 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.

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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”

  • 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.

  • Tricksterson

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Tricksterson

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • ‘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. 

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

  • 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.

  •  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’.

  • 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

    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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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


  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • 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.  

  • 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).

  •  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?