Finding the Seven Mountain Teaching in Unexpected Places

Since publication in 2007, I have referred many people to the book, unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.  In their book, Kinnaman and Lyons report that the church is known more for what it is against than what it is for. They also document the extreme anti-gay sentiment which dominates evangelicalism. Among young people outside the church, nine out of ten viewed Christians as anti-gay.

Part of my retreat from the culture war relates to the realization that evangelicals have earned this perception. Evangelicals have not stopped with disagreement, but actively opposed equal treatment of gays. And they have not stopped with political opposition. Evangelical thought leaders blame gays for every societal evil and do so with a venom that is often shocking. When I read unChristian, it seemed that the research reported there validated my worries that Christians were largely on the wrong track.

Until recently, I had referred people to the book without knowing much about the organization which produced it. UnChristian author Gabe Lyons runs a group called Q. On the Qideas website, Lyons describes Q as:

Q Ideas

Q was birthed out of Gabe Lyons’ vision to see Christians, especially leaders, recover a vision for their historic responsibility to renew and restore cultures. Inspired by Chuck Colson’s statement, “Christians are called to redeem entire cultures, not just individuals,” Gabe set out to reintroduce Christians to what had seemed missing in recent decades from an American expression of Christian faithfulness; valuing both personal and cultural renewal, not one over the other. Re-educating Christians to this orthodox and unifying concept has become central to the vision of Q.

I was surprised by two items in this description. One, Chuck Colson, a respected evangelical figure, has done a lot to earn Christians the anti-gay reputation that Lyons seems to lament in their book. For instance, today’s column from Colson complains about the President’s recent push to promote decriminalization (more about that in a coming post).

The second element which surprised me was the embrace of the cultural mandate – the belief that Christians are called to create a Christian society. A modern version of this view is that Christians are called to dominate the seven areas of culture and thereby create a Christian society. In an article, titled Influencing Culture, Lyons lays out the program:

HOW NOW SHALL WE INFLUENCE?

The idea of culture shaping is widely debated. Most people, and until recently myself included, implicitly believe that cultures are changed from the bottom-up and that to “change our culture, we need more and more individuals possessing the right values and therefore making better choices.” The problem is that it is only part of the solution. In a widely distributed briefing that was presented to The Trinity Forum called To Change the World, James Davison Hunter asserts, “It is this view of culture that also leads some faith communities to evangelism as their primary means of changing the world. If people’s hearts and minds are converted, they will have the right values, they will make the right choices, and the culture will change in turn.” 

Hunter goes on to say, “…the renewal of our hearts and minds is not only important, it is essential, indeed a precondition for a truly just and humane society. But by itself, it will not accomplish the objectives and ideals we hope for.” This could explain why Christianity as it is practiced by many well meaning, admirable Christians in the past decades has failed to have significant traction.

Cultures are shaped when networks of leaders, representing the different social institutions of a culture, work together towards a common goal: “Again and again we see that the impetus, energy and direction for changing the world were found where cultural, economic and often political resources overlapped; where networks of elites, who generated these various resources, come together in common purpose.”

Saving souls is not enough. “Networks of elites” must come together with the “common purpose” of creating a Christian culture. Then he describes the seven mountains teaching with the slightly different phrase “seven channels of cultural influence.”

The Seven Channels of Cultural Influence

What are the different social institutions of our culture that Hunter is referring to? They are the social institutions that govern any society, including business, government, media, church, arts & entertainment, education and the social sector. Their combined output of ideas, films, books, theology, websites, restaurants, investments, social work, laws, medical breakthroughs and technology drive an entire nation.

The ideas and values they perpetuate sustain the moral fiber and social conscience of the culture. The people who lead these influential institutions have the opportunity to shape the ideas, thoughts and preferences of millions of others. If Hunter is right, it doesn’t take all that many people or time to witness dramatic shifts in the convictions and aspirations of a culture.

And one of the most unique channels of cultural influence is the church. Few other institutions convene participants from so many areas of society. When Christians embrace the common goals of both redeeming cultures and individual souls, the possibilities for positive cultural influence dramatically increase.

Lyons then uses what he calls “the homosexual movement” as an example of how one may use the seven mountains teaching to change the culture. He points to an article in the Regent University Law School Journal by Paul Rondeau (a past president of the board of the Parents and Friends of Ex-gays) which claims the current acceptance of gays as people stem from a small group of gays gathered in 1988 in Warrenton, VA. According to this narrative, the ability of that small group to steer the seven channels of influence is what has triggered the social change.

Lyons wants to do the same thing via the Church.

THE CHURCH’S OPPORTUNITY TO INFLUENCE CULTURE

I believe that the church is the hope of the world and is positioned like no other channel of influence to shape culture. Its people are called to be in the world. As John Stott puts it, “we find ourselves citizens of two kingdoms, the one earthly and the one heavenly. And each citizenship lays upon us duties which we are not at liberty to evade.” Although the work of culture creation may take place outside the physical walls of a church building, the local church creates a natural space where social networks of leaders, within all seven channels of culture, can work together towards a common goal. Nowhere else does this potential for synergy exist. Unlike other channels, the church is a living organism where God’s spirit constantly moves and seeks to express Himself through a willing Body.

Sadly, by focusing on just the “spiritual” and the afterlife, the Christian church has strayed away from its potential influence in the here and now, positioning itself instead as just another subculture. Many Christians currently hold unique and influential positions throughout the seven channels of culture, but have never been supported by fellow believers.

There is nothing particularly new in this. This is an expression of a familiar controversy about the role of the church in society. Lyons says it is sad that the church has focused on the spiritual. I think the church does not focus enough on it. Especially as the 2012 election looms, it is clear to me that many in the religious right want to use the church a a tool of political organizing for the GOP.

Lyons and Kinnaman rightly complain that the church today is known more for being anti-gay than for anything else. However, in my view, the approach suggested by Lyons is part of the problem. If the church is seeking to express Christian views of spiritual life to individuals then the personal characteristics of that individual don’t matter much. However, when cultural change is your aim, then those who would be hurt by your vision of culture become your enemies.

For instance, Chuck Colson inspires Lyons to redeem cultures. Colson’s vision of a redeemed culture does not include defense of people oppressed because of their sexual orientation.  Colson is using his position as a cultural leader to oppose the decriminalization of homosexuality around the world. If Colson is doing it well, as Lyons implies, then the anti-gay attitudes Lyons documents are inevitable.

I think the Founders got it right. Religion in general can be beneficial when it supports the rights of all and freedom of conscience. However, when one religion seeks to dominate, then others who believe differently will rise up to seek protection for their beliefs.

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  • M. Worrell

    I have been following this blog with great interest for many months. My wife and I have been wrestling with issues of faith and homosexuality for some time, because we are fairly conservative Christians with gay friends that we love greatly, and because we have seen gay and lesbian friends show an interest in matters of faith and, in one case, come to Christ. I also have a friend of many years who rejected homosexuality long ago (as a result of Christian conversion) and is now married with a middle school aged son, so that’s in the mix. I have been referring others to this blog, and appreciate the civility you cultivate here.

    This post and others like it really resonate with me, because I have seen (and participated in) the fruitless efforts of recent decades to press non-christians into behaving like Christians. I’m not sure I’ve sorted it all out for myself as I vote and donate time and spend my money, but I do know that the Gospel needs to be my priority, not public sin management.

    It does seem to me that, in your current course correction, you frequently appear to have swung so far in the opposite direction that you are unable to see (or perhaps concede) the threat to freedom of conscience presented by certain dogmatic stances to sexuality being enforced in public/common arenas (like public schools or the corporate workplace). Orthodoxy of any kind is oppressive, even if the intentions are good.

  • http://wthrockmorton.com Warren

    M Worrell – Thanks for reading and pointing others here.

    I have a sincere question. Is there something in this post that raises the concern you have? I agree that one can swing to an extreme in reaction to another extreme, but what have I written that seems to indicate that to you?

  • StraightGrandmother

    M. Worrel, if you are a frequent reader here then you know that I am often times unable to understand what people write. Can you break this down for me. Please use shorter sentences, and use “true Christian” instead of orthodoxy to make it easier to understand what you are saying. You throw in that word orthodoxy and I am running to Wikipedia to try and get a translation. (thanks!)

    Specifically what do you mean by this

    you frequently appear to have swung so far in the opposite direction that you are unable to see (or perhaps concede) the threat to freedom of conscience presented by certain dogmatic stances to sexuality being enforced in public/common arenas (like public schools or the corporate workplace). Orthodoxy of any kind is oppressive, even if the intentions are good.

    I don’t get that at all what you are trying to say. Can you re-state it so that I can understand?

    Yes it is soooooooo nice to participate in a discussion where people actually politely give your point of view a fair hearing. Members here may, or may not, agree with your point of view but at least we have thoughtfully considered it.

  • Teresa

    This Post sees the ‘culture changing’ as only a newly found Protestant idea. The Catholic Church has been invested (or, as they would say, vested) in stating in absolute terms, over and over again, that not only individuals but countries, the world in fact … is God’s Kingdom on earth, from Her inception. The Catholic Church saw as its mission, until Vatican II, that each country should be dedicated to ‘Christ as King’.

    Pope Pius XI wrote the Encyclical, Quas Primas, On Christ the King, in 1925, especially as a warning about disappearing Catholic culture and countries. The Church saw the French Revolution as the fulcrum towards man turning from Christ, and using only Reason and Man as the centerpiece of the who we are as individuals, and as Nations.

    One only need take an historical view of the period between Constantine and 1789 (more rightly Luther) to see Catholic culture at work, individually and socially. However, since some Evangelicals do not consider Catholics Christian, they’re apt not to look back to see their ‘newly found’ views have been an already “been there, done that, bought the t-shirt” in a cultural way.

    It strikes me as peculiar and funny that as the Catholic Church has abandoned, in large part, her social reconstruction view … the Evangelicals are mining the same ore. Do any of us want to live in the year 1310, and try that all over again.

    Also, and not so funny, are the critical elements of an ‘elite’ deciding what is and what is not culturally acceptable as Christian; and, the important and critical issue of ‘usury’ as practiced now in most countries, except Islam one.

    Who decides if we live Sharia Law or Evangelical Law?

  • StraightGrandmother

    Theresa =

    Who decides if we live Sharia Law or Evangelical Law?

    StraightGrandmother = Judges.

  • Teresa

    M. Worrell

    It does seem to me that, in your current course correction, you frequently appear to have swung so far in the opposite direction that you are unable to see (or perhaps concede) the threat to freedom of conscience presented by certain dogmatic stances to sexuality being enforced in public/common arenas (like public schools or the corporate workplace).

    By way of introduction, I am a Catholic woman who is single with same-sex attractions. I take my Catholic faith seriously; however, I’m troubled with ‘church’ as church; and, how it can destroy individuals rather than lift them up. Are you saying in the piece of your comment that I’ve quoted here, that you would deny me rights to a job because I’m same-sex attracted?

    Also, I’m assuming that your use of the word ‘homosexuality’ means same gender sexual behavior? Is that assumption wrong?

    As a matter of common agreement, I too wrestle with how much, how far do we take our freedoms in matters that seem to me, (only my opinion), to impinge cultural survival. I participate on this Blog as a gay woman who believes acting on my same sex attractions, in a sexual way, is not the best for me … and, not what Our Lord would want for me. But, that’s just me, and my freedom to make that decision based on my faith beliefs.

    The point of a gun or imprisonment might have kept me in line socially; but, would have killed me spiritually. For some people, who happen to see homosexuals and an ‘agenda’, we’re responsible for all that’s wrong in society. We’re an easy target. Far harder is it for the average Christian to not divorce and remarry, to not use artificial contraception, to not indulge in pornography, to not abort, to not fornicate, to avoid usurious contracts, to not spend our way to happiness, to live within our means, to take care of our sick and poor and elderly … because we, each of us, have been unable to adhere to the Gospel in our personal lives, when it costs us dearly; we, each and every one of us, instinctively looks for a scapegoat for our personal inadequacies, which ultimately demonstrate themselves in our cultural milieu.

    If gays are that convenient scapegoat now, it won’t be long when each of us takes a turn at the guillotine for whatever some ‘elite’ has decided is no longer acceptable. God gave me free will, even when it cost Him to do so. I’d prefer living in a country that allows me and others the most freedom in exercising our God-given free will, including participating in Warren’s Blog. But, hey, that’s just me. Others see it differently.

  • Patrocles

    Warren,

    you can, of course, like Kupelian, despise the way how secular liberals used different channels to influence and change the dominant culture in order to realize their ideas about sexuality. In that case you are entitled to preach that the church mustn’t follow the vile ways of the seculars.

    But if, on the other hand, you have no problem with seculars using different channels to change the dominant culture, you can hardly argue that Christians mustn’t do the same.

    Some hints about theology and history. Your present position would be rather equivalent to a kind of “antinomism”, either radical Lutheran or even gnostic.

    You might instead opt for a kind of anabaptism, meaning that Christians have indeed to have a different culture, but as a non-dominating sub- or counter-culture.

    The catholic church, even if it felt entitled to dominate culture, was in fact rather pragmatic. Just therefore was Catholicism criticized by the new-coming Hussites, Calvinists and Puritans which were the most radical in “dominionism”. Critics of modern “evangelicalism” use to ignore that it doesn’t only continue the genuine tradition of Wesley, but has been blended with the remains of Calvinist orthodoxy.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    I have seen (and participated in) the fruitless efforts of recent decades to press non-christians into behaving like Christians.

    Personally, I’m more concerned about pressing Christians to behave like Christians.

    Starting with the bit about “not bearing false witness”. Or even more basic than that, acting out of kindness as per Matthew 22:39-40.

    Still, it’s your Religion, not mine.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Zoe, I sent you an e-mail

  • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    StraightGrandmother = Judges.

    ???

  • StraightGrandmother

    Dave, yeah Judges. Because Judges will rule if new Laws with an Evangelical flare, or laws with a Sharia flare withstand the U.S. Constitution. Exactly how Judges are judging now if DOMA and Prop 8 are Constitutional and how they judged DADT.

  • M. Worrell

    Warren, there’s nothing explicit in this post that illustrates what I’m saying, but it’s been a cumulative takeaway over many posts. I recall feeling that in posts about anti-bullying programs in the public schools, you seemed not to consider how those types of programs might be exploited by those with a more expansive agenda. I feel those concerns are legitimate, just as I recognize that those who try to introduce intelligent design discussions into public school science classes often consider that but a first step to greater things.

    I may have been triggered in this post by this statement: “Evangelical thought leaders blame gays for every societal evil and do so with a venom that is often shocking.” I agree, but I always want to balance out statements like this because the other side of the coin isn’t showing. I immediately read that statement and think that you could look to the vocal fringe of any movement and hear intolerant venom being spewed, including the gay rights movement (and are those really the “thought leaders” of those movements? Not in the circles I run in). But perhaps you’re only concerned with the crimes of those you consider affiliates, which is legitimate.

    StraightGrandmother, I’m just saying that all people (left, right and center) with an agenda love to silence the opposition. If they are allowed to, they will do so with intimidation and coercion. If we really value freedom of conscience, thought and speech, then even those with a good cause can’t be permitted to silence and intimidate those who disagree.

    Regarding orthodoxy: I know from discussions with gay and lesbian (and progressive) friends and co-workers that there are some things about human sexuality that you are simply expected to believe in 2011, or else you are labeled as a hater or worse. Never mind if those beliefs are factual and scientific or not. When I have said I do not favor gay marriage, I have actually been shouted down by intelligent, educated people… long before I am able to explain that what I prefer are domestic partnerships that EVERYONE participates in, so that the benefits currently reserved for marriage are open to anyone wanting to set up a household together.

    So, I just like to see some balance. I understand that this blog *is* the balance to some.

  • M. Worrell

    “Are you saying in the piece of your comment that I’ve quoted here, that you would deny me rights to a job because I’m same-sex attracted?”

    Theresa, absolutely not. I have personally hired gay and lesbian persons to work for me, and I consider it none of my business and a non-issue. But I would also hire a devout Mormon, and I’d expect them all to make it work.

  • StraightGrandmother

    M. Worrell, you have given me food for thought. I would like to bring up something here. I would like to talk about being in a majority position or a minority position. See the two sides are not equal. Sexual minorities, by virtue of being a minority, will never have the numbers needed to gain their civil rights and an equal seat at the table. 2% to 3% of the population is simply not enough votes, therefore they must seek to become powerful, you might say a mighty mite. The powerless get nothing, they can’t effect change. I read a good quote from Ben in Oakland over at Ex Gay watch, “If you are not willing to pilot your own boat, do not complain about the harbor you are in.

    M. Worrel =

    then even those with a good cause can’t be permitted to silence and intimidate those who disagree.

    StraightGrandmother= What do you mean by intimidation? And do you find this to be a widespread problem that concerns you?

    About silencing those who disagree. If you were in a room with 100 people and 98 of them were saying derogatory things about you and the one other person like you say each gets five minutes at the podium, now you and the other person like you, have 10 minutes vs the majority of the groups time of 8 hours. Is that a fair conversation? When considering the issues you must never forget the minority status of sexual minorities. It is not a fair discussion when one side by virtue of their dominate status is able to dominate the conversation.

    So yes they seek power and powerful friends, persons of influence, they have to, they do not have the numbers to do it on their own.

    As for saying, let us deny civil marriage to sexual minorities and switch it to domestic partnerships for all. I would go along with that, as long as you immediately dissolve all marriages. Now honestly how likely is that? Do you think that all the people who have entered into both “Holy” marriage and “Civil Marriage” are going to vote that their marriage will be dissolved? So you put forth a theoretical solution, but a solution we can agree will never be implemented.

    So let’s move from theory (and you are able to speak from a position of privilege) to practicality. The only practical solution is to acknowledge the right of sexual minorities to marry. Talking theory about how we should just move to universal domestic partnerships is an effective way of maintaining the status quo isn’t it? The intent may not be there, but the result is the continued discrimination in civil marriage rights for sexual minorities.

    What good is it to put up a solution that will never happen while keeping sexual minorities out of the current institution of marriage while waiting for universal domestic partnerships to be implemented? I see it as a dodge and delaying tactic is all. You may not intend it to be that way, but that is the end result. First make sexual minorities equal to heterosexuals in all civil rights as they exist now, then we can all hold hands together as equals and change to domestic partnerships. I don’t mind that.

  • StraightGrandmother

    M. Worrell=

    I recall feeling that in posts about anti-bullying programs in the public schools, you seemed not to consider how those types of programs might be exploited by those with a more expansive agenda.

    StraightGrandmother= Could it possibly, just possibly, just possibly be that we simply want youth who are or perceived to be gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender to stop completing bullycide? Can it for once be about the children? Please? There is a very good article today over at Box Turtle Bulletin

    that speaks to this

    http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2011/12/20/39923#comments

  • http://wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Teresa – I hear you regarding the history.

    M Worrell – Thanks for the clarification. My reference to thought leaders was to groups like FRC, AFA, FOTF, etc. Those are pretty mainstream groups and yet they engage in some pretty outrageous rhetoric at times.

    RE: schools. I like to deal in specifics. If a school district abridges one group’s rights in order to avoid potential discrimination of another group, then I am concerned. In general, I think any cause can bias those involved and lead to problems for other groups. So in principle I hear you but to comment I would want to have specifics.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com Emily K

    I recall feeling that in posts about anti-bullying programs in the public schools, you seemed not to consider how those types of programs might be exploited by those with a more expansive agenda.

    What other agenda could there be other than the one SG mentioned above?? I mean, seriously, what else could there be?? so often I find conservative Christians to be such puzzles.

  • StraightGrandmother

    In the Box Turtle Bulletin article make sure and read ALL the comments, especially the one by Regan DuCasse. Can we please stop talking about the slippery slope M. Worrel, and simply NOW protect all children? Can we do that?

  • Kyle

    Emily,

    I take it that Worrell is referring to those who would use anti-bullying programs to push certain views about the values surrounding homosexuality and the morality of homosexual behavior. Anti-bullying programs should be aimed at just that: anti-bullying, not moral education one way or the other regarding homosexual relationships. That way no one’s rights on either side of the issue are abrogated.

    I think it is not altogether different from contraception education in public schools. I’m all for it for health and pragmatic reasons, but I think it would be wrong for public school officials effectively to tell my kids that pre-marital sex is morally permissible (often just by insinuating that they will most certainly have sex, that they can’t live without it,. and that thus they should wear a condom, etc).

    This is tricky stuff, I think. To what degree are we allowed to push our views of what is right (or morally permissible) and what is wrong on the wider culture? Often we call for cultural and political change based on moral convictions – segregation was opposed because it was thought to be fundamentally unjust, on a moral level. So what do we do when great groups of people disagree over the morality of something, say, homosexual behavior? How do should personal morality and politics interact? When should morality leaven public policy, and when should it butt out? Things are even more confusing when you add something like marriage to the mix, an institution that is often seen as having religious overtones. Now politics and religion are mixed…and that’s messy.

    There are no easy answers here, I don’t think. At the end of the day there has to be, I think, a mutual respect and freedom involved when it comes to moral and religious values of various kinds. How far this goes…is a difficult issue. Freedom is funny like that: my freedom ends where yours begins, and vice versa.

  • Kyle

    Perhaps, Emily, you believe that the only way to stop bullying is to teach that homosexual behavior is morally and valuationally neutral, just another feature of human diversity. And this is again where I think things become really tricky. If someone has this conviction, how much should it leaven politics? Conversely, if a conservative Christian had a conviction that the only way to curb premarital sex was to cease contraception education in sex ed, should they promote that practice?

    This is tough stuff. I think it presses the limits of democracy, as it shows the fundamental tensions between freedom, justice, and equality.

  • Kyle

    SG – I think I agree that since a transition to domestic partnerships for all probably won’t happen for some time, we ought to just let gays get married. While I’d like to just pull marriage out of the public sphere altogether–since it seems to me fundamentally religious–I’m not sure that’ll ever happen.

    For those who have certain religious convictions about the morality of homoerotic partnerships, they can define marriage in their own way in their own churches. So we’ll have marriage before the state, and the religious freedom of religious institutions to have their own norms regarding what they believe are legit marriages “before God” or what have you. This seems to me a fair compromise.

    Related to what I said above about morality and politics, this probably will not please those who see a religious conviction against homoerotic relationships as fundamentally unjust/wrong on a moral level, on par with being opposed to interracial marriages. They are bound to see even this kind of solution as smacking of “separate but equal.” Still, it seems (to me, at least) that the rights and religious freedoms of individuals must come into play here. I think *before the state* we need equality on this matter, just as we have equal treatment of various religions in the eyes of the law. Then we can leave the rest to personal morality and convictions. Those who think a religious conviction like this is wrong can live under that conviction, and those who think it is not an evil/unjust conviction (and not of the same character as racism) can live under theirs. The law will just treat them the same.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Well said Kyle. It is very very tricky.

    Kyle =

    When should morality leaven public policy, and when should it butt out?

    StraightGrandmother= Morality should butt out when no harm is done. There is no harm done when 2 persons of the same sex marry. The morality of the Catholic church has no say in civil same sex marriage, as she is not harmed.

    Children are not harmed when they are taught history in school that includes the history of the fight for equality for sexual minorities. Sexual minorities are not invisible persons that should be left out of our history books. What is we let black people’s struggle for civil rights out of our history books?

    Morality should butt out when no harm is done. What is moral about discriminating against a class of our citizens?

  • StraightGrandmother

    oh I am in moderation again.

  • Kyle

    SG, you growing to like moderation purgatory?? :)

  • Lynn David

    There is an article on Reclaim7Mountains.com that mentions the Warrenton, VA, meeting led to Kirk and Madsen book, After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the ’90s. Although, they had recently collaborated on an article in the same vein in 1987. Odd that they interpret the book through Kupelian’s The Marketing of Evil [WND].

    And in speaking of “Gay Rights and the Bible,” not a thing is said about any civil rights. The writer claims his god loves all people, that evangelicals are too judgemental about sexual sins as impardonable. And yet in all the condemnatory language quoted from the Bible there is naught concerning one’s civil rights.

  • Kyle

    What I personally don’t want to see happen is the state force private religious institutions to marry people in a way that is against their religious convictions. It should not be that churches are doing something illegal by only marrying heterosexuals, according to their religion.

    Again, this is why I think there needs to be marriage before the state and marriage before one’s private religion. A private-religion marriage may automatically be a civil marriage (gay marriage and gay-affirming-church marriages included), but it should not be that civil marriages of every kind must automatically be accepted by every religious institution. Then, it seems to me, the rights-abrogration has just gone in the other direction.

  • M. Worrell

    Woo, this blog is active! =) This is it for me… I have to finish up some work tonight, but what a great discussion.

    I didn’t mean to veer this thread into the issue of marriage, but I would just say that if, right now, we expand marriage to include two men or two women, I believe that represents a completely arbitrary and unconstitutional moral boundary codified into law that is more discriminatory than the existing law, because the existing law at least has a foundation in a unique biological function. Additionally, why is the state identifying a romantic arrangement as being of particular value, particularly if access to legal benefits, not children, is the issue at hand? If marriage carries benefits, and if denying those benefits to certain persons is discriminatory, than who is anyone to say that if I want to share those legal benefits with my father and we have a common household, I can’t do that when others can? I see domestic partnerships as the most constitutionally sound solution, and folks can get married (or not) as their beliefs dictate. I do not see the need to eradicate all previous marriages in order to institute a good law going forward, any more than we needed to take three years of enjoyable drinking away from everyone who could drink at age 18 when the legal age was changed to 21.

    Re: “Can it for once be about the children? Please?”

    Of course! My standard is simple: no child – gay, straight, liberal, conservative, religious, atheist, should ever have to feel threatened or isolated at school. If the school wants to deliberately present a particular ideology, however, the environment that creates for those who will come under pressure for disagreeing with the ideology has to be considered, as well.

    Warren, here are a couple of specific past examples of the kind that make me leery of ideology creeping into an anti-bullying curriculum. I don’t know the specific plans of leftist progressives at SIECUS or the NEA, but I’m a thinking person with experience. I know for a fact that right wing groups are always looking for a good wedge issue, and they are not unique. We have a relatively progressive public school district at the high school level. In the past several years I have had to explain to certain teachers that:

    – It is not a violation of church and state for my daughter to enter an abstracted sculpture of a cross in a school art show. The teacher had tried to tell her she had to change the subject matter for that very reason.

    – It is not acceptable to allow the other kids in the class to call my daughter derogatory names and jeer at her because she opposes legal abortion, in a classroom set up where controversial topics are introduced and kids are told to stand on either side of a line based on their beliefs on the matter. She was one of two kids out of a class of perhaps 20 on her side. She’s tough, and I think it actually helped her on some level, but it was inappropriately handled.

    Every individual deserves to be protected, and I for one could not care less what category they are in. Every single kid can become a threatened minority of one in the moment.

    As you said, “…when cultural change is your aim, then those who would be hurt by your vision of culture become your enemies.” I fully agree, I just think it applies to everyone, including educators.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com Emily K

    Perhaps, Emily, you believe that the only way to stop bullying is to teach that homosexual behavior is morally and valuationally neutral, just another feature of human diversity.

    Correct. This is exactly right. Just as the left-handed were forced to write with their right hands as recently as the previous generation in catholic schools, that wrong was by and large righted, and left-handedness is no longer seen as being inherently “sinister.”

    Likewise, It might be one’s “sincere religious/moral conviction” that a woman falling in love with another woman and fulfilling that romantic love is “sinful” and “morally reprehensible, just like stealing and murdering and drug use” – but that shouldn’t let education be clouded.

    This isn’t as “tricky” as you think it is. Muddling one’s self in the grey areas provides an easy out from having to face uncomfortable and inconvenient facts – that being gay isn’t really any different from being straight, except for those who really really want it to be so much different. But it’s not something to strive for, especially when education is involved.

    Since you brought it up, studies have shown that “abstinence only” education is not as effective as honest and frank discussion about sexuality – which includes the fact that some teens engage in it, and find it enjoyable, fun, and pleasurable, while others aren’t ready, and choose not to, and still others find it awkward and not as great as they thought it would be. You don’t have to assign extremes to anything. Sexuality doesn’t have to mean either being religiously celibate or engaging in “free love.” It’s more complicated than that. But this doesn’t detract from the fact that the safest defense against negative consequences of sex is to abstain.

    Another fact is that some people are attracted to the same sex and some people are attracted to the opposite sex. Others are attracted to both, others to none, and others are pansexual, that is, attracted to sexually mature human beings of all stripes, including those who are transgender and intersex. There is no moral compass associated with this fact unless you assign one that comes from a particular religion.

    People’s sexual orientation is in fact morally neutral outside the realm of certain religions, just as is being left-handed. That’s how it should be taught – that it is neutral. There’s nothing “tricky” about it, unless you come to the table with the notion already in mind that it is tricky.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com Emily K

    Kyle, churches are, as they have always been, free to discriminate on who they will marry.

    Rabbis routinely deny marriage ceremonies to interfaith couples, Catholic churches routinely deny marriage rites to those who have been divorced or are excommunicated, and evangelical churches are free (and always will be free) to deny marriage blessings to same sex couples.

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    I recall feeling that in posts about anti-bullying programs in the public schools, you seemed not to consider how those types of programs might be exploited by those with a more expansive agenda. I feel those concerns are legitimate

    First, M Worrell, welcome!

    Second, after reading your follow-up comments, I would suggest a different wording for the bolded passage: “exploited by various interests with various different agendas” — to avoid suggesting that there is ONE particular group with a highly specific self-interested agenda.

    After all, it isn’t always “ideological” reasons that might cause an anti-bullying program (for example) to become distorted and bloated beyond its original purpose, leading to “unintended consequences”. School administrators wary of liability and litigation also have an “agenda” — to avoid being sued by parents — and this could motivate them to be increasingly heavy-handed and micro-managing in how they run the anti-bullying program. (Opponents of “zero tolerance” approaches often warn of this danger. At first glance, it seems like an obviously great idea that the ideal level of bullying should be “zero” — but when you try to put it into practice, sometimes the most noticeable effect is to create job security for adult bureaucrats, without necessarily reducing the problem of bullying on the playground or in the cafeteria.)

    just as I recognize that those who try to introduce intelligent design discussions into public school science classes often consider that but a first step to greater things.

    I think the comparison to the “Intelligent Design movement” is very instructive. A great many ID supporters (maybe most of them) have no particular “agenda” — apart from, perhaps, a wariness of creeping atheism, an instinct for fairness, and/or a conviction that tax-funded institutions like public schools have an obligation to allow Equal Time for alternative viewpoints. It’s certainly not the case, however, that all ID supporters share common theological views.

    But that doesn’t mean there isn’t and never was any agenda at all behind ID, since it’s well documented that some of the originators of Intelligent Design as a recent phenomenon are, specifically, Evangelical Protestants with ties to Young-Earth-Creationist “Bible colleges.” Moreover, some of the “ID founders” may have had specific political goals in mind, such as getting more Evangelicals onto school boards, or possibly luring African-American and Hispanic “swing voters” who are religiously conservative but who tend to be loyally Democratic. (If a Democratic candidate can be induced to publicly denounce teaching ID in schools, then this can be spun as “see, the Democrats support atheistic Darwinism — vote GOP!”)

    But to continue the analogy between anti-bullying programs and Intelligent Design — whatever the original agenda of the ID Founders might have been, the “movement” such as it is could be exploited by others. For example, some people have warned that legal victories for ID could create a useful (though unintended) precedent for Muslims who want to force greater accommodation for Islamic sensibilities into public schools. (“Allow Intelligent Design today, and tomorrow, schools will be forced to schedule the entire year’s curriculum around the timing of Ramadan.”)

    Personally, I think that’s very far-fetched, but I think it’s foreseeable that widespread adoption of “ID curricula” in high-school biology could certainly lead to pre-med college students coming into their mandatory undergraduate biological courses much less prepared, leading to more catch-up time in college and more headaches for professors and T.A.s who have to deal with these undergrads. So that’s an “unintended consequence” that isn’t directly caused by someone having an Agenda.

  • Kyle

    I hear you Worrell. Rights all around, I say!

  • Kyle

    And Worrell, interesting thoughts on domestic partnerships and the constitution. I incline toward a very similar solution to these matters. If we don’t want the state to dictate values on these matters, and if it just a matter of legal benefits, we should give people benefits based on partnerships, which are given because such partnerships are good for the country and the economy, etc.

    I don’t think either side should insist on getting the state to “morally endorse,” as it were, a certain marital arrangement. Is that really the role of the state? It seems that both the left and the right often tend to think it is.

    At the level of public morality, we should just deal with public matters.

    I guess I don’t mind the pragmatic solution of just extending “marriage” for now to accommodate gay partnerships at least functionally. Maybe when people try to push the definition even farther (perhaps beyond even romantic relationships) we will begin to see that what is really at stake here, or what should be, is partnerships and legal benefits, not state moral sanctioning of a certain relationship.

  • Kyle

    I’m sure this solution will not please many gays, who see this as more of a moral issue that they want recognized on the public level. So again we meet the question of how much we are to expect our own morality to become a public issue. I think we can subvert the whole mess by leaving marriage to private religion. Then ANYONE can get married, and anyone can be in a civil partnership.

    The only other solution is to make a principled case on the public forum that marriage should be defined as two consenting adults who want to be bound together, no more, no less, and that the state should recognize this. But I think that brings about more problems than solutions…

  • Kyle

    I should also note, this solution will not please most conservatives for exactly parallel reasons. Both sides want the state to define marriage their way, and somehow give it a public moral stamp.

  • JCF

    I would just say that if, right now, we expand marriage to include two men or two women, I believe that represents a completely arbitrary and unconstitutional moral boundary codified into law that is more discriminatory than the existing law

    And, in other news,

    “War is peace,

    Freedom is slavery

    Ignorance is strength”

    Who knew Big Brother was a Christianist?

  • hazemyth

    [blockquote]He points to an article in the Regent University Law School Journal by Paul Rondeau (a past president of the board of the Parents and Friends of Ex-gays) which claims the current acceptance of gays as people stem from a small group of gays gathered in 1988 in Warrenton, VA.[/blockquote]

    Strange that the author of a book decrying the anti-gay invective of Envangelical groups would subscribe to just such a conspiracy theory. Have you contacted Gabe Lyons or Q about this?

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee
    He points to an article in the Regent University Law School Journal by Paul Rondeau (a past president of the board of the Parents and Friends of Ex-gays) which claims the current acceptance of gays as people stem from a small group of gays gathered in 1988 in Warrenton, VA.

    Strange that the author of a book decrying the anti-gay invective of Envangelical groups would subscribe to just such a conspiracy theory. Have you contacted Gabe Lyons or Q about this?

    Hmmm, I don’t think it’s a “conspiracy theory” to suggest that a larger movement originated with a relatively small and specific group of people.

    It starts to become a “conspiracy theory” if you argue that the members of the original small group secretly plotted to assassinate anyone who disagreed with them, and that passers-by who accidentally witnessed the assassinations were either shot in the head themselves, or bribed to stay silent…

    Still, I agree that Paul Rondeau’s intended meaning is a little ambiguous — did he mean to say that the effects created by a “small group of gays in 1988” was an example of a conspiracy at work, or merely an example of successful grassroots marketing?

  • Jayhuck

    M. Worrell –

    I recall feeling that in posts about anti-bullying programs in the public schools, you seemed not to consider how those types of programs might be exploited by those with a more expansive agenda. I feel those concerns are legitimate, just as I recognize that those who try to introduce intelligent design discussions into public school science classes often consider that but a first step to greater things.

    How are these two things related? There is plenty of room in schools for ID in philosophy classes, but as the evidence pointed out in the Dover, PA trials, it does not belong in science classes. Whatever agenda might be accomplished by anti-bullying programs it is entirely unconscionable that Christians, above most others, would try and prevent them from being adopted, especially in the wake of so many suicides which appear to be tied to bullying of gay or perceived-to-be-gay kids. I can’t believe you’re even condoning such concerns.

    Re: “Can it for once be about the children? Please?”

    Of course! My standard is simple: no child – gay, straight, liberal, conservative, religious, atheist, should ever have to feel threatened or isolated at school. If the school wants to deliberately present a particular ideology, however, the environment that creates for those who will come under pressure for disagreeing with the ideology has to be considered, as well.

    This is a convenient dodge (one I hear quite often from Evangelical folks) of the reality currently being faced by some gay kids. Anti-bullying programs SHOULD be about creating a safe place for all kids, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof, or sexual orientation. However, you do not address the present problem of kids committing suicide because of bullying related to their sexual orientation. Sometimes anti-bullying programs have to be targeted to particular groups to make sure a particular point is made. Schools have to be able to talk about sexual orientation in order to make these schools safer.

    Regarding your statements about marriage:

    Additionally, why is the state identifying a romantic arrangement as being of particular value, particularly if access to legal benefits, not children, is the issue at hand?

    Then why allow infertile or old couples get married? If you want to ban marriages for those that cannot have children then you need to do that across the board and be fair about it. But be aware that many gay couples, esp today, are raising children.

    If the word *marriage* bothers you so much, I’m fine with domestic partnerships (even if the same sex couple was married in a church), but the rights and privileges have to be the same as for married couples or you create a second-class citizen and that’s never going to pass constitutional muster.

  • stephen

    Kyle, as a gay man who is legally married I’ve read your comments with interest.

    First: marriage is a civil institution. One marries under license from the state which can then be solemnized in a church. Second: no one wants to force churches to marry them. Third: I would much prefer M Worrel’s civil union with all rights and responsibilities if that option is available to everyone. They have this now in France where it’s proved very popular. Personally I’ve become so sickened by the lies and disinformation being hurled about by the anti-gay industry over this issue that I regret that we did it. We lived together very happily for 34 years before we married and devised our own legal protections where we could. Since marrying 8 years ago nothing has really changed even though our marriage is now legal in New York where we live. however, because of DOMA the ‘marriage’ is essentially an empty shell legally speaking.

    About the marriage/church thing. here’s a way to look at it. If one is a married Catholic and the marriage doesn’t work out and you can manage to get your marriage annulled by the church you are still legally married till you divorce your spouse. Marriage is a legal contract that is primarily to do with property rights and to provide clear lines of inheritance. That it has become something else over the past 100 years doesn’t alter its fundamental structure.

    People’s tempers are frayed because gay Americans are living under a daily barrage of the most disgusting slander and vilification. So we tend to be reactive and moral outrage is an easy horse to climb up on but not so easy to get off once you reach your destination. It will take time for everyone to calm down. But this post is interesting because WT is right about the public perception of the right-wing of American protestantism. I’ve said in the past that I don’t believe in this so-called culture war: that’s merely cover to allow evangelicals to believe they are doing something other than attacking people who have nothing to do with their lives. To call it a culture war gives a gloss of purpose to what would otherwise be perceived as warrantless bigotry.

    I’m always amused that the 7 Mountains claptrap invokes the arts: as if anyone connected with it has any conception of what the arts are.

    And am I wrong or didn’t Jesus tell his followers to flee the world if they wanted to follow him?

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    For those who have certain religious convictions about the morality of homoerotic partnerships, they can define marriage in their own way in their own churches. So we’ll have marriage before the state, and the religious freedom of religious institutions to have their own norms regarding what they believe are legit marriages “before God” or what have you.

    That’s one way to look at it — instead of quackity-quacking about how gays are trying to “redefine the word marriage,” perhaps the best thing for religious conservatives to do is to begin vigorously promoting an alternative term to be used within their own circles instead of the now-secularized marriage.

    Matrimony is an obvious choice, and Gilbert and Sullivan provided us with a verb form in the Pirates of Penzance:

    “You shall quickly be parsonified,

    Conjugally matrimonified,

    By a doctor of divinity

    Who is located in this vicinity.”

  • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    @Kyle

    Anti-bullying programs should be aimed at just that: anti-bullying, not moral education one way or the other regarding homosexual relationships. That way no one’s rights on either side of the issue are abrogated.

    The problem there is that one must be specific about the main groups being bullied for it to be effective, as I’m pretty sure Warren went into on another post. I’m also not sure I understand what rights of those who are anti-gay are being violated by anti-bullying programs which specifically address gays and lesbians. If it’s just being exposed to things with which they disagree, I don’t know of any way to avoid that even excluding this issue.

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    To call it a culture war gives a gloss of purpose to what would otherwise be perceived as warrantless bigotry.

    I’m always amused that the 7 Mountains claptrap invokes the arts: as if anyone connected with it has any conception of what the arts are.

    Speaking of warrantless bigotry…

    That bit of posturing condescension really ended your post on a sour note, stephen. Just because you’ve got a proven flair for the highly theatrical doesn’t qualify you as an arbiter of what is and isn’t “the arts”.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Emily K =

    People’s sexual orientation is in fact morally neutral outside the realm of certain religions, just as is being left-handed. That’s how it should be taught – that it is neutral. There’s nothing “tricky” about it, unless you come to the table with the notion already in mind that it is tricky.

    StraightGrandmother= best summary paragraph I have read in a while. Props.

    Kyle =

    For those who have certain religious convictions about the morality of homoerotic partnerships

    and

    Related to what I said above about morality and politics, this probably will not please those who see a religious conviction against homoerotic relationships as fundamentally unjust/wrong on a moral level

    StraightGrandmother = Why do you use the term homoerotic? Is a sexual miorities couple the same or different than a hetroerotic couple? Why did you attach the term erotic to homosexuals, but not once to heterosexuals? Two sexual minorities who fall in love are sooooooo much more than simply erotic sex, yet you single them out for attaching the term erotic. This term homoerotic focuses to narrowly on sex and diminishes them as whole persons I think.

    M Worrel, I was waiting for you to respond to my question I posed earlier

    StraightGrandmother= What do you mean by intimidation? And do you find this to be a widespread problem that concerns you?

    Are we to understand by your later comments concerning your daughter that the intimidation you are referencing is about when she was in a class discussion on abortion?

    M.Worrel =

    It is not acceptable to allow the other kids in the class to call my daughter derogatory names and jeer at her because she opposes legal abortion

  • StraightGrandmother

    StraightGrandmother = Darn! I hit the submit button before I was finished. Continued from comment above……..

    Are we to understand by your later comments concerning your daughter that the intimidation you are referencing is about when she was in a class discussion on abortion?

    M.Worrel =

    It is not acceptable to allow the other kids in the class to call my daughter derogatory names and jeer at her because she opposes legal abortion

    StraightGrandmother= I 100% agree with you. The teacher should have reprimanded those name callers. It is bullying. And I also agree that in an art class your daughter has a right to create a cross if she wants to. I agree with you. Is this the intimidation that you wrote above earlier and are concerned about?

    So let’s get into the details then. If there is a discussion of sexual minorities in class is it acceptable for your daughter to make a statement that according to her faith sexual minorities are condemned to hell, and that homosexuality is a sin, and that homosexuals can be straight if they simply prayed hard enough.

    If your daughter would make those statements in class what is the proper response of the teacher? It is not fair to never have these discussions in our schools as our schools are there to teach and the fact is sexual minorities exist and are being discriminated against. What do you think is the proper response from the teacher to your daughters comments?

  • stephen

    Throbert,

    The Arts as defined by music, painting, opera, drama, comedy, poetry, sculpture, literature, dance etc. Those human endeavors that trade in emotion, beauty, the centrality of man’s consciousness, and uncertainty. The opposite of the evangelical point of view. Catholics did, and perhaps still do, value artistic expression so long as it was in service of God. But I see nowhere in America’s right-wing evangelical church any tolerance of the arts in any way shape or form. Which is too bad; it does us all good to feel small in the presence of Handel from time to time. It wasn’t always thus; the Quakers and Shakers, for example, developed an exquisite sense of form and style. I can’t think offhand of any music or literature from the past – sermons don’t count -, certainly no theatre, but the visual style of New England’s Puritans is still with us, now happily minus the stocks.

    That was before religion got monetized and evangelicals became a voting bloc. Now we have kitsch and aggression. But that’s true of many sectors of the population. Here’s a good game: Name me one work of art, in any field, to come from the contemporary evangelical movement. Which is why I say it amuses me. Just as all those paintings of sweaty, muscular, half-naked angels that Ted Haggard hung in the lobby of his mega-church amused me. These people list ‘art’ as one of their mountains when it clearly means nothing to them and any discussion of ‘art’ usually devolves into the disastrous effect the latest X-Men film (gay) or Lady Gaga (gay) is having on the children. Fascists (small f) always talk about controlling the culture. And no, I’m not calling anyone a Nazi.

    And the charge of elitist condescension is the cultural equivalent of red-baiting. Of course I write in a theatrical manner. Why shouldn’t I? That’s what I do. I’m not a professor. I don’t even play one on TV. Those of us who do work in the Arts are trying our best to keep the lights on for the rest of the nation. It’s something of an uphill struggle.

  • http://wthrockmorton.com Warren

    M Worrell – I agree that your daughter should not have been subjected to those incidents. On point, I don’t think kids should be ridiculed in school if they believe homosexual behavior is wrong. Nor do I believe those kids should express their beliefs in a form that ridicules gay kids. Two views can be expressed in respectful ways. Kids have a hard time pulling this off and so adults need to model it.

    However, I don’t see how this relates to anti-bullying programs. These programs by themselves do not require changes of beliefs regarding sexuality in order to communicate expectations for mutual respect. Some schools may err in the implementation and these instances can be addressed on a case by case basis. In general, bullying prevention programs (I am most familiar with Olweus) insist on simple rules of mutual respect and then attempt to alter the school and classroom environment with more monitoring and community building activities.

    I have watched the implementation of Olweus in a town which is strongly evangelical. In no meeting, at no time did the issue of changing beliefs about homosexuality (or any other culture war issue) come up. However, exhortations have been made to treat everybody (regardless of gender identity or orientation) with respect. This cannot be wrong.

  • Kyle

    “StraightGrandmother = Why do you use the term homoerotic? Is a sexual miorities couple the same or different than a hetroerotic couple? Why did you attach the term erotic to homosexuals, but not once to heterosexuals? Two sexual minorities who fall in love are sooooooo much more than simply erotic sex, yet you single them out for attaching the term erotic. This term homoerotic focuses to narrowly on sex and diminishes them as whole persons I think.”

    I used the term “homoerotic” not to characterize homosexual relationships as merely sexual, but to characterize them as romantic and sexual – “eros,” to desire. I did this because “homosexual relationships” is too broad, and makes it sound as if homosexuals can’t have loving relationships (with other gays or straights). I didn’t use it to describe a hetero-erotic relationship because I wasn’t talking about heterosexual relationships that include this dimension (such as any marriage would).

    The real issue for many traditional Christians (on the moral level) is whether gays should be having the kind of relationship that leads to consummation. So yes, in a sense, it is the sexual/romantic side of things that is at issue. But I was certainly not implying that homosexual couples do not truly love one another. I believe they do.

    Hope that clears thing up for you.

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    @MWorrel

    I think it would be a bit ludicrous to assume that only one side have an agenda when it comes to the public schools. Christians have all kinds of agendas (and yes I am a Christian). But we don’t think them through .. We want Christian teachers to be able to openly share their beliefs and convictions with their studnets but we don’t consider that there are teachers of different faith traditions that may want to share as well. We want teachers to lead in prayer at various school events but again .. we forget that not all teachers share our Chrisian faith traditioin .. they have different faith traditions. We want the school to share our view of sexual morality but we forget that ours is not the only view and that even Christians disagree on issues of sexual morality. I might add that when it comes to same sex sexuality many so called Christian groups are going beyond a moral view and pushing an oreintation change view ( .and if you have been reading this blog for a while .. you know that this is view is neither scientific nor is it biblicallly supportable/guaranteeable).

    In short .. we want the schools to teach our particuar brand of Christianity’s faith and morals .. but no one else’s. And we rarely (if ever) offer an anti bullying program that would respect people’s various moral views. Instead .. an oreintation change program is often pushed in the name of Christianity .. (a .. ‘you are broken and need fixed ideology’ ).

    Dave

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    Here’s a good game: Name me one work of art, in any field, to come from the contemporary evangelical movement.

    Um, I dunno, the Left Behind series? I think one of the books was made into a Kirk Cameron movie.

    Not a fan, myself, but I do know the difference between “art” and “art that I personally admire and would recommend to others.”

    (For instance, I find most of Sondheim’s stuff incredibly tedious; I might chuckle here and there over a clever lyric, but I could just read the damn libretto in much less time than it takes to listen to someone singing it. But even so, it’s definitely art — and admittedly shows vastly greater craftsmanship than the Left Behind books!)

  • Kyle

    Emily,

    I don’t agree with “abstinence only” education, and I’m fine with education that owns up to the fact that some kids will have premarital sex. I just don’t want anyone telling my kid, “Of course you will have sex; you are a hormone laden teenager. Here are some condoms.” That’s all. I was only using this as a thought experiment.

    There are no facts I find “inconvenient” about homosexuality. The only real facts are the scientific ones about the origins and tenacity of homosexual orientations. But whether or not it is moral to take part in homosexual partnerships is not something that has been “settled” (by science or anything else). You have to “come to the table,” as you put it, with a certain moral conviction in order to arrive at that view.

    There are long moral traditions that have their reasons to hold that sex is only appropriately expressed in a heterosexual, monogamous marriage. You may disagree with those reasons, and you may find them objectionably discriminatory, but they are there, and I think they should be respected, even if disagreed with (and for the record, there is no parallel robust tradition about left-handedness, even if there have been some odd views in the past).

    Science cannot tell us about the moral status of these desires, or the moral status of engaging them (or any others, for that matter). And while I agree that secular and non-traditionally-religious people see homosexual partnerships as morally permissible (or amoral altogether), it does not mean it is right for any state-sponsored program to put forth a certain moral view. Most secular and non-traditionally-religious people find premarital sex morally permissible, but I think it would be wrong for the schools to teach my children this. It would be just as wrong as if the schools taught abstinence-only education based on the moral convictions of conservative folk. Either way, the state is going too far in impinging on personal morality. This is what I meant by the matter being “tricky.” Democracy is tricky.

    What if, as you may believe, it causes harm to deny someone a homosexual partnership, since homosexuality is just a natural, amoral feature of human diversity that is morally permissible to engage in? To what degree should this be put into law, when there are so many who disagree? Or what if a conservative religious group has a similar conviction about something else causing harm; where is the line in terms of putting things into law? I truly think these are confusing issues that are much more complicated than we often realize in a free society. The relationship of morality and legality is a confusing one.

    I’m fine if a school simply has a “no comment” policy. That would be to remain truly neutral. But when the state has declared something morally permissible or morally irrelevant, I think they have taken sides inappropriately. Anti-bullying should be about mutual respect. One need not say anything about the moral status of a particular behavior (or the “truth status” of any religion, or political view, or what have you) in order to have an effective no-bullying program. And it looks like Warren is saying that this is what is being done, which is good, I think.

  • Kyle

    The evolution example is instructive. Many want to say that it is part and parcel of evolution that it is unguided. But it isn’t. The scientific facts leave guidance or lack thereof open. It won’t do to say “it is only viewed as guided by religious people.” Of course, that’s true, but it is also only viewed as totally unguided by non-religious people. So, the state should not comment one way or another in public school on the matter. It should not just be assumed that it is unguided merely because “only religious people” will view it as under the guidance of God.

  • Kyle

    David,

    “The problem there is that one must be specific about the main groups being bullied for it to be effective, as I’m pretty sure Warren went into on another post. I’m also not sure I understand what rights of those who are anti-gay are being violated by anti-bullying programs which specifically address gays and lesbians. If it’s just being exposed to things with which they disagree, I don’t know of any way to avoid that even excluding this issue.”

    I agree. I was just positing a hypothetical problem with anti-bullying programs. But it looks like Warren says this is largely not an issue.

  • Kyle

    This may have not been clear in my post to you, Emily:

    There are two things a state-sponsored program could do that I think are wrong: declare something morally neutral, or declare it morally permissible. The first entails the second – if something is morally neutral or has no moral significance, there is nothing immoral about it; it is permissible. But the second does not entail the first, indeed entails the contrary of the first – if something is morally permissible, it is not morally neutral, it has moral significance.

    I think it’s a mistake to do either, for both involve assumptions about the morality of a particular action. To be truly neutral is to say nothing about the matter regarding morality whatsoever. Perhaps this is what you are advocating. If so, I’m on board.

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    The real issue for many traditional Christians (on the moral level) is whether gays should be having the kind of relationship that leads to consummation

    Since I’m a man who has never in his life felt any desire to have “the kind of relationship that leads to consummation” with a woman, I wish someone could explain to me why exactly it would be more pleasing to God if I just left my penis in my pants to gather dust and mildew, taking it out (with protective gloves and tongs) only to urinate.

    I freely admit that there are many contexts in which it would be immoral of me to engage in consensual homosexual behavior with another man — for example, if I’d misled him about my interest in a serious relationship with him; or if I perceived that he was actually in deep conflict over his homosexuality and would feel extremely dirty and remorseful the next morning were we to behave sexually.

    However, the proposition that “homosex” can never be non-immoral, regardless of the relationship context, has always baffled me intellectually.

    If Christians wanted to say that homosexual activity was treyf (i.e., un-kosher) and prohibited for Christians — but not necessarily off-limits for non-believers — I could see some logic in that. (Orthodox Jews believe that it’s sinful for Jews to eat pork or shellfish, but they don’t regard it as immoral when Gentiles enjoy these foods.)

    But to maintain that homosexual acts always have an intrinsically immoral character for everybody under all circumstances, just seems to make nonsense of the word “immoral”.

  • Kyle

    Thorbert –

    The traditional Christian is going to begin, of course, with Scripture, which he takes to be divine revelation, and which he believes teaches that all sex outside of the context of marriage between a marriage and a woman is outside the boundaries of God’s will.

    As for *why* God sets up this standard, certainly there would be a reason, even if it is hard to see up front. As a fairly traditional Christian, I suspect that it has something to do with the logic of maleness and femaleness; perhaps the relevant differences between the sexes is a necessary condition for sex to be what God intends it to be in the context of marriage.

    I remember not quite understanding why sex before marriage was wrong as a Christian youth. If it’s consensual and both parties love each other, whence the standard? Looking back, though, I can see some hints as to why God set up this standard. To some degree, Christians are called to trust that God has good reasons for His standards, even if they are somewhat baffling up front. We trust that the reasons will eventually be made clear, and that it is our limitations keeping us from seeing them right away.

  • Richard Willmer

    [T]he proposition that “homosex” can never be non-immoral, regardless of the relationship context, has always baffled me intellectually.” (T. McGee)

    Me too – at least for the last 20 years. (But I think those fail to be suitably ‘baffled’ are often obsessed with sex and so see perhaps most sex only terms of ‘doing dirty things’.)

  • StraightGrandmother

    Kyle, I think I can help you out enormously in your thoughts on moral neutrality, government, and freedom. The determining factor in restricting freedom is if the action/activity causes harm. For we believe ardently in our right to self determination in our country, and our personal Liberty Rights, the right to lead our lives as we damn well choose without government interference

    Please let me know if you agree with this.

    Lawrence vs Texas 2003 Supreme Court decision when the court struck down Texas’s sodomy laws.

    “for centuries there have been powerful voices to condemn homosexual conduct as immoral. The condemnation has been shaped by religious beliefs, conceptions of right and acceptable behavior, and respect for the traditional family. For many persons these are not trivial concerns but profound and deep convictions accepted as ethical and moral principles to which they aspire and which thus determine the course of their lives. These considerations do not answer the question before us, however. The issue is whether the majority may use the power of the State to enforce these views on the whole society through operation of the criminal law. “Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code.”

    This, as a general rule, should counsel against attempts by the State, or a court, to define the meaning of the relationship or to set its boundaries absent injury to a person or abuse of an institution the law protects. It suffices for us to acknowledge that adults may choose to enter upon this relationship in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons. When sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring. The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to make this choice.

    The supreme Court has said FOURTEEN Times that marriage is a Constitutional Right. Even pedophiles and rapists in prison cannot be denied their Constitutional Right to marry while in Prison. On what basis would you deny this Constitutional Right to couples of the same sex?

  • StraightGrandmother

    M. Worrel =

    if, right now, we expand marriage to include two men or two women, I believe that represents a completely arbitrary and unconstitutional moral boundary codified into law that is more discriminatory than the existing law, because the existing law at least has a foundation in a unique biological function.

    StraightGrandmother= Ahhhh we finally circle back to Pro-Creation. This is most certainly always always the fall back position of persons opposed to civil marriage for sexual minorities.

    So let us look at the History of Marriage in America if it is and has been PRIMARILY about Pro-creation. Time to call in an expert. Please meet Dr. Nancy Cott. Please read below her expert testimony during the Prop 8 Trial. Dr. Cott studied the History of Marriage in America and wrote the definitive peer reviewed book. Warren maybe you should add her book to your Christmas List. I know this comment is going to be exceptionally long Warren but I hope you permit it.

    Curriculum Vitae of Dr. Nancy Cott – it is 13 pages long mostly single spaced.

    I didn’t print it here because it is to long.

    http://history.fas.harvard.edu/people/faculty/documents/cott-cv.pdf

    Q. – Professor Cott, could you give us a brief description of your academic background?

    A -. Yes. I gained my PhD in the History of American Civilization in 1974. And shortly after that, I began teaching in the Departments of History and American Studies at Yale University, and I remained there moving up through the ranks. I remained there for 26 years teaching in those fields, specializing in the history of women, gender, the family, marriage and related social and cultural and political topics. And in 2002, at which point I was a Sterling Professor of History in American Studies at Yale, which is the highest faculty honor the university gives, I moved to Harvard University, where I remain. I’m the Jonathan Trumble Professor of American History, and I am also the faculty director of the Schlesinger Library and the History of Women in America as part of my responsibilities there. I continue teaching in the same fields.

    Q. – Are you a historian?

    A. – Yes.

    A. – I began my book by focusing on the place of marriage in the views of the founders of the American republic. And they were very much aware of what a minority, in among all the peoples of the globe, their form of marriage constituted. They were very aware that most of the peoples in the globe, at that time, practiced polygamy or group marriage, or as they saw among Native Americans, other forms of marriage quite different from their own.

    Q. – Professor Cott, I have displayed on the screen one of Mr. Cooper’s statements yesterday about the purpose of marriage. And I will read it for the record. Mr. Cooper said that: “The purpose of the institution of marriage the central purpose, is to promote procreation and to channel naturally procreative sexual activity between men and

    women into stable and enduring unions it is the central and we would submit defining purpose of marriage.” In your work as a historian, have you examined the purposes of marriage in the United States?

    A. -Yes.

    Q.- Could you give me your views, as an expert in the history of marriage in the United States, as to that statement by Mr. Cooper in his opening statement.

    A.- I could.

    Q. – Would you do that for me.

    A.- Let me begin by saying, when I’m speaking of the purposes I mean from the point of view of the state that sets up and defines the terms of marriage. And as I look at the history of the institution in our country, I would certainly agree that this is one of the purposes. But it is by no means the central or the defining purpose of marriage. In fact, picking this out rather — when I heard it yesterday, it rather reminded me of the story about the seven blind men and the elephant, in that each of them is feeling the animal at some side of it; and the one that feels the trunk says, oh, this animal is just like a snake. That is, marriage has many purposes. It is, as I mentioned yesterday, a capacious, complex institution. And the state’s interest in having sexual activity between men and

    women channeled into stable unions is one of the purposes of marriage. But I think that the larger understanding of marriage, from the state’s point of view, and the larger purpose would put an emphasis on the household formation that marriage founds, and the stability of that household formation, its contribution to social order, to economic benefit, to governance. And I emphasize this because, as I said at the outside, it’s important to recognize the extent to which marriage has been an institution of governance in our history.

    Q. – Let me ask you about that. When you say “governance,” how is marriage an instrument of governance, when it’s a union between two people? How does that contribute to governance?

    A. – Looking at this historically, what I’m emphasizing here in using that word is the regulatory purpose of marriage from the state’s point of view. And long ago marriage had an important political governance purpose. It set up men as heads of households who would be responsible economically for their spouses and for any of their dependents, whether those were biological children, adopted children, stepchildren, slaves, apprentices, et cetera. But the point of establishing marriage and giving certain benefits to it was to ensure that the sovereign would be able to govern the amorphous, large, variable population in smaller subunits which were households. Now, that political governance purpose of marriage today is — has shifted rather dramatically, because we no longer assume that a single head of household governs everyone below it. We have a much more individualized distribution of political power in our population, particularly since 1920, when women got the right to vote. However, still today, the purpose of the state in licensing and incentivizing marriage is to create stable households in which the adults who reside there and are committed to one another by their own consents will support one another as well as their dependents. The institution of marriage has always been at least as much about supporting adults as it has been about supporting minors, children, as the proponents tend to emphasize the child’s side.

    Q. – Has the ability or willingness to procreate ever been a litmus test or a test of any kind in terms of the validity of a marriage in the United States during our history?

    A. – No.

    Q. – And has — as a historical matter, have there been – has it been recognized that there are other benefits, aside from child-rearing benefits from marriage?

    A. – Most definitely, from the point of view of the state as well as the point of view of the individuals who join it. There has never been a requirement that a couple produce children in order to have a valid marriage. Of course, people beyond procreative age have always been allowed to marry. And known sterility or barrenness in a woman has never been a reason not to allow a marriage.

    Q.- Yesterday you spoke about the social meaning of marriage. Does the legitimately factor in a broader sense have any connection to the social meaning of marriage, as it’s developed in our history?

    A. – Yes.

    Q. – Could you describe in what way.

    A. – I think I would just say that the fact that the state is involved in granting these kinds of benefits and legitimacy to the marital family tends to lend a prestige, a status to that institution that no informal marriage has ever approximated.

    Q.- Now, here, Professor Cott, I’ll read this for the record. Mr. Cooper said that: “Across history and customs marriage is fundamentally a pro-child institution between a man and a woman. Marriage aims to meet the child’s need to be emotionally, morally practically and legally affiliated with the woman and man whose sexual union brought the child into the world.” In your view, from a historical perspective, is that a correct and complete description of the purposes of marriage?

    A. – No. I think it’s a very partial description.

    Q. – And why is it only a partial description?

    A. – Well, as I look at the history, I see very little evidence that state authorities considered marriage from the point of view of its pro-child, particularly it’s pro-biological-child advantages. It’s not that those advantages were absent. Not at all. But, rather, that the purpose of the state, as I began to say before, and the incentives given to marriage were much broader than this, in the aim to create stable and enduring unions between couples, and so that they would support one another, whether or not they had children, and that they would support the broad range of their dependents. Biological children, but others.

    Q. And we have on the screen one of the things that Mr. Cooper said during his opening statement. And that is,

    “The limitation of marriage to a man and woman is something that has been universal. It has been across history, across customs, across society.”

    Do you agree with that statement?

    Q. Why do you believe it’s inaccurate?

    A. Because of my knowledge of the existence of many forms that are not a man and a woman.

    Q. Could you give the Court an example.

    A. Certainly, the examples of polygamist marriage that have been sanctioned in, well, take ancient Judaism, take Muslim cultures still today. It’s fairly clear, I think, to anyone who has looked at all at world history, that this is not an accurate statement.

    Q. In the United States we have a tradition of an — and in the laws, which require monogamy. Where did that tradition and that legal structure arise from, as a historical matter?

    A. I believe that monogamy is attributable to Christianity. And that is probably why the person in the ad said “Biblical,” because he was thinking of the New Testament, not the Old Testament.

    And it is a tribute to the success of Christian evangelism, particularly after the 18th century, that there has been so much move around the globe toward monogamous union as compared to polygamy.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Moderation purgatory again, sigh…

    I have two very good comments which will not appear until later. Please check back and look just above this comment.

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    The traditional Christian is going to begin, of course, with Scripture, which he takes to be divine revelation

    And yet surprisingly few traditional Christians begin with 1 Cor. 7:7-9, and counsel their children to pray for the self-restraint that Paul had, and to avoid marriage except as a measure of last resort for those who can’t control themselves.

  • Kyle

    Paul did believe celibacy was better, and that marriage should only be entered into if someone cannot bear to remain celibate. He’s clear that this is his own prudential judgment on the matter, not a command from God. But I think Protestant churches in general have done a poor job articulating a theology of celibacy that is affirming. They tend to sort of worship marriage.

  • Kyle

    SG –

    As I said, I think I’m cool with gay marriage if “marriage” is here to stay in the civil realm. I just think it is a mistake to start with to blend a religious and civil institution like this; it’s going to cause more problems in the long run.

    As for harm being the litmus test for public policy, that still leaves us with some seriously tricky situations, because people will disagree over what causes harm, what constitute harm, etc. Democracy is messy!

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    On re-reading my previous post to Kyle (about Paul’s self-restraint, etc.), it came across as a bit more flippant than I wanted. And I certainly didn’t mean to accuse “traditional Christians” of hypocrisy; I just wanted to make a point about giving selective attention to certain Scriptural verses but not others.

    As long as traditionalists recognize that homosexuals pay taxes, too, and that we therefore have every right to expect some fair accommodation from the government, including some sort of legal recognition of our relationships and households, “it neither breaks my arm nor picks my pocket” if they personally consider homosexuality to be immoral.

    As to the question of whether Jesus Christ approves of homosexual relationships or not, that’s for traditionalist and progressive Christians to duke out amongst themselves — I’m not a Christian and it’s not for me to tell them what to think. (Although personally I root for those who say that Jesus approves of same-sex marriage, but he hates same-sex fornication, same-sex adultery, and same-sex divorces…)

  • Emily K

    ““[T]he proposition that “homosex” can never be non-immoral, regardless of the relationship context, has always baffled me intellectually.” (T. McGee)

    I don’t think the above question has been answered, and I’ve posed it as well. So it might be “treyf” for Christians – so what? Why does it also need to be treyf for non-Christians?

    So there is a longer history of discriminating against homosexuals than left-handed persons, so what? What exactly is the point? They are both the victims of bizarre beliefs that really have no logical basis.

    Anybody?

  • Richard Willmer

    Kyle has a point about the maintenance of a separation between the civil and religious realms.

    The problem, as I understand it, with the ‘Seven Mountains’ mob is they disagree with such a separation.

    Of course Christians (like myself) want to see society be constantly enriched by truly Christian values (just as those campaigning for human and civil rights for, say, lesbians and gay men, want society to be enriched by the values that they espouse); the moment one tries to ‘enrich’ society through coercion, it is surely only ultimately impoverishment that ensues. And religious-based coercion is probably the most dangerous type there is.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Kyle, glad you are on board with civil marriage for sexual minorities. Let’s move to your next point, err well rather my point about “harm” that you responded to. As you can prolly tell I am rather a court junkie regarding court cases relative to civil rights for sexual minorities. These lawyer are smart (on both sides) and they call in smart experts. Instead of searching all over the internet for ideas and answers if you merely read the trial transcripts and court decisions you will find the best information available. The reason is, as David Boies said, the Witness Chair is a lonely place to be. You can’t lie, and make conjecture. You have to have EVIDENCE. Personal opinion doesn’t cut it in the witness chair. Prop 8 has been tried in Federal Court and found to be Unconstitutional. It is now under 4 different appeals.

    Appeal #1 is the merits of the case. Did the lower court Judge make the right ruling based on the evidence. Oral Hearing Dec 6 2010 (last Year)- VERY GREAT VIDEO!

    http://www.youtube.com/user/9thcirc#p/u/29/W7n8HlxMfx4

    Appeal#2 is if the anti marriage side has standing to be in court to defend the court case. Oral Hearing Dec 6 (Last Year)

    http://www.youtube.com/user/9thcirc#p/u/28/nlfSffNy5dE

    Appeal#3 is an appeal to throw out the lower courts decision because he is gay and would benefit from his own ruling. Oral Hearing December 8, 2011. VERY GREAT VIDEO

    http://youtu.be/V5dIUOCWslU

    Appeal#4 is an appeal to release the video tape of the trial. Oral Hearing Dec 8th, 2011

    http://youtu.be/KUKjn_L5aS8

    It took me a while to lay the ground work for my next remarks. Remarkably the defendants, the anit gay side, said in Appellate Court on December 8, 2011 that they admit, permitting couples of the same sex to marry will NOT harm any individual’s heterosexual marriage. This is found on the video of Appeal #3 (If it is not in Appeal#3 video then it is #4).

    If you don’t want to watch the whole video please see this short YouTube video of the Appeals hearing where the anti gay side came out and said in open Court that no heterosexual marriages are harmed by permitting couples of the same sex from marrying.

    http://youtu.be/-VyUPBY5jwY

    A very interesting set of questions from an Appeals Court Judge to the defendants, BLAG basically the U.S. House of Representatives in the Court Case Gill vs OPM. Gill is a lawyer and an employee of the 9th Circuite Court of Appeals no less, she wants to insure her wife but is being denied by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management based on DOMA, the Defense Of Marriage Act. The judge wanted the defendants lawyers to answer his questions at the during oral arguments. At the next link there is a control at the bottom of the page to zoom in and make it easier to read.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/75801535/3-10-cv-00257-177

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    I think Protestant churches in general have done a poor job articulating a theology of celibacy that is affirming

    But you know who did a really spectacular job articulating a theology of celibacy that is affirming?

    Shakers!

    (According to Wikipedia, there are now three living Shakers left.)

    Also the Essene Jews — whose influence Paul might have been warning against in 1 Tim. 4:3 (“there are false teachers who say that it is wrong to marry and to eat certain foods”).

    Which is to say that there are good reasons for not affirming celibacy too vigorously.

    But if churches can affirm celibacy for those few who feel called to it, why can they not affirm some form of homosexual union for those who feel a strong instinct for homosexuality, and no instinct at all for heterosexuality?

    Look at it this way: If you had a nephew who announced to the family that he loved corndogs but disliked tacos (wink-wink, nudge-nudge), AND you were very concerned that he might get caught up in the promiscuous drug-addled gay-party-boy lifestyle, the most helpful and loving thing you could do is to say to him, “Nephew, I hope you will find some nice church-going young man to settle down with, and bring him over to meet the family when you do — it’s disgraceful and dangerous the way so many gays cat around, I’d be so disappointed if you turned out like that.”

    Mind you, I do respect traditionalists for being conservative about this, since the very idea of publicly-sanctioned homosexual couplehood is such a novelty. It makes sense to wait a bit and see how things pan out, statistically, now that some states offer same-sex marriage, and some liberal denominations have instituted “Blessing of the Union” rites for same-sex couples. Some gay writers like Andrew Sullivan have argued that legalizing SSM will “tame and civilize” gay-male culture — so if, a few decades hence, gay culture has become a LOT more modest and conservative and respectable than it is now, then that’d be an argument for traditional Christians to reconsider their stance that homosexual coupling is inherently immoral.

    On the other hand, I think Sullivan is a sloppy and mediocre intellect, so I don’t blame traditionalists a bit for being skeptical about the notion that legal SSM will transform gay culture for the better.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Correction that is Golinski vs OPM not Gill. Gill is another DOMA challenge court case from Massachusetts. Above is Golinski who is an employee of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, is legally married, and cannot get health insurance on her spouse like all the other heterosexual couples who work for the court can.

  • Teresa

    Butting in here, as usual. I think again, we must look historically at what we’re talking about when we talk about marriage as being in the main about procreation. Not many years, and I mean not many, Christianity took a huge left turn on the procreation piece, starting with the Anglican Lambeth Conference, on to the rhythm method for Catholics, the birth control pill, and last Natural Family Planning.

    How many families, unless they’re very conservative, very traditional, have families greater than 3 children. If nothing else, society as a whole, as it becomes more industrialized, moves beyond agrarian, seems always to limit family size … just because. Even immigrant Hispanics and Muslims within a generation, or two at max, have smaller family sizes.

    So, the bugbear about procreation no longer holds water, at all. We’re not down on the family farm where the more children the better, because many were dead before they were 5 years old, or at childbirth … and the many hands, make light work seemed to make sense.

    The Augustinian view of sex only for the purpose of bearing children is long since dead. The Thomistic view that sexual act, if it had ‘desire’ in it for one another, was considered at best a venial sin, is dead also.

    The procreation argument is dead, pretty much. So much ‘sex’ today is non-procreative, purposely so … and that includes most Evangelicals, whichever method they choose, including sterilization.

    The only argument left is the one that the ‘parts’ don’t fit together. If Evangelicals want to counter in any other fashion, they best ‘suit-up’ and show-up with their band of merry children … not with their 2.1 children.

  • Richard Willmer

    Not sure that ‘straight-male’ culture is always that ‘tame and civilized’, Throbert!

    The real problems with both gay- and straight-male culture may reside in the ‘male culture’ bit!!! Just a thought.

    As for the role of the Church in the democratic process (praxis): I rather like what Pope Benedict XVI had to say about that in his Encyclical Caritas in Veritate in 2009.

    The Church does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim ‘to interfere in any way in the politics of States.’ She does, however, have a mission of truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance, for a society that is attuned to man, to his dignity, to his vocation. Without truth, it is easy to fall into an empiricist and sceptical view of life, incapable of rising to the level of praxis because of a lack of interest in grasping the values — sometimes even the meanings — with which to judge and direct it. Fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom and of the possibility of integral human development. For this reason the Church searches for truth, proclaims it tirelessly and recognizes it wherever it is manifested. This mission of truth is something that the Church can never renounce. Her social doctrine is a particular dimension of this proclamation: it is a service to the truth which sets us free. Open to the truth, from whichever branch of knowledge it comes, the Church’s social doctrine receives it, assembles into a unity the fragments in which it is often found, and mediates it within the constantly changing life-patterns of the society of peoples and nations.

    One possible interpretation of this is that the Church should be a kind of ‘political dissident’ that constantly challenges the societies in which she finds herself, but never seeks to be an instrument of ‘power politics’ (Jesus himself appears never to have to sought a ‘power-political’ role for himself). The last sentence of the above paragraph strikes me as particularly important, with its implied acceptance of the on-going nature of the search for truth, and need to watch and listen in order to receive and understand those aspects of ‘the truth’ being manifest in human affairs.

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    Just as a side observation, since I have a comment awaiting moderation — I thought it was kinda funny/intriguing that Greg Lyons (the Christian author that WT mentions in his top post) decided to call his group “Q.”

    Because a lot of people would assume that “Q” is a reference to “queer”, while sci-fi geeks might think it’s an allusion to the nearly-omnipotent extraterrestrial on ST:TNG. Still others might think of the Broadway musical Avenue Q, or Q*bert, or Quetzalcoatl the winged serpent-god.

    I guess that they were going for the “Q document” (from German die Quelle, “the source”) — i.e., the hypothetical text on which the Gospels of Luke and Matthew were partly based.

    Or it could be from the Latin Quo vadis?, “Where are you going?”, which was addressed by Peter to Jesus both in the Gospel of John and in one of the “pseudo-Gospels” of early Christianity.

    Or, maybe they had in mind the tirelessly valiant Quixote, who (on Broadway) “was willing to march into Hell for a Heavenly cause.”

    Or, maybe they’re just axin’ Questions…

  • Kyle

    Emily,

    I don’t think the above question has been answered, and I’ve posed it as well. So it might be “treyf” for Christians – so what? Why does it also need to be treyf for non-Christians?

    So there is a longer history of discriminating against homosexuals than left-handed persons, so what? What exactly is the point? They are both the victims of bizarre beliefs that really have no logical basis.

    Anybody?

    It has a logical basis if you think the sex of the members of the couples makes a moral difference in marriage and sexual behavior. Some Christians will spell this out in terms of procreation and/or the needed link between love-making and bringing a life into the world; others will hold that the differences between the sexes enables there to be a relevant distinctness and otherness in the relationship, mirroring the relationships of the Triune God, and thereby making sex what God wills it to be in the context of marriage. Still others will have other reasons for holding the traditional view (perhaps all things being equal, having a mother and a father in child-rearing is what God intends, though I freely concede that *on average,* homosexuals do just as well as your average heterosexual couple in raising kids). There is an inner logic to traditional Christian sexual morality.

    From the perspective of someone who thinks sexual differentiation has no moral significance whatsoever when it comes to sexual practice and marital coupling, this will of course make no sense. However, it makes sense to someone who holds that God imbued human sexual difference with moral significance regarding coupling.

    Regarding “discrimination,” I would argue that it is question begging to call the traditional Christian view on this matter “discrimination” — by which I take it you mean an unjust and unjustified singling out or disenfranchisement — without making the case that sexual differentiation is morally irrelevant to sexual behavior. Until they do, the (moral) analogies to racism and sexism don’t hold. I (personally) don’t think homosexuals have made the case that sexual differentiation is morally irrelevant to sexual coupling. This is not to say they shouldn’t have equal civil rights; I think they should. But that’s a separate matter.

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    If I were God, and I happened to approve of homosexuality, it would probably occur to me to invent Christian Dominionists, just to serve as a moderating check against the excesses of homosexuals.

    For that matter, if I were God, and I happened to approve of Christian Dominionism, I would probably invent homosexuality, and the gay-rights movement, as a counter-balance to curb the extremes of Dominionism.

  • Kyle

    Theresa, what are your personal reasons for holding to the Catholic prohibition against homosexual sexual relationships? I agree that the idea that sex must be for procreation is not tenable. I personally think the reason for the prohibition has more to do with the differences between the sexes – physical, psychological – and how that is an important piece in the sacrament of marriage.

  • Kyle

    “And religious-based coercion is probably the most dangerous type there is.”

    Agreed.

    Emily – also, Christians have a certain reverence for Christian tradition. If the tradition has said something, we tend to think it is probably right (for a good reason), since we believe the Holy Spirit has guided the church into the truth. Not that it can’t be wrong or corrected; it can. But the history means something on a moral level.

  • Teresa

    “The Church does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim ‘to interfere in any way in the politics of States.’

    Richard, the first statement of your Benedict XVI quote seems not to jive with what’s occurring throughout the world, now, and even historically. Who is it but Benedict himself that has made statement after statement about homosexuals and their only choice in life, and what countries should be doing concerning same-sex marriage?

    I think Benedict XVI is being very sincere here; but, the way it’s playing out, the Church continues to insert herself in politics, as has been customary throughout the centuries. The Evangelicals are just catching on to this as per Warren’s Post here.

    Do you think I’m incorrect in my assessment here, Richard?

  • Teresa

    Kyle asked:

    Theresa, what are your personal reasons for holding to the Catholic prohibition against homosexual sexual relationships? I agree that the idea that sex must be for procreation is not tenable. I personally think the reason for the prohibition has more to do with the differences between the sexes – physical, psychological – and how that is an important piece in the sacrament of marriage.

    Kyle, it’s hard to separate the male/female in this discussion; and, that’s a primary sticking point on the current disagreement. Here’s the traditional Catholic point of view: conjugal relations are PRIMARILY for the procreation and education of children. SECONDARILY, and almost an afterthought, is mutual support of the spouses, or what’s commonly called by St. Augustine and St. Thomas, and I might add, St. Paul … alleviation of concupiscence. There’s been such a fine line between what the Church has seen as ‘proper desire’, and ‘lust’ that it’s really never been adequately addressed … until, maybe, and I stress maybe, John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

    The Catholic Church has always valued celibacy; however, only celebrated it, in her Religious Orders of nuns and priests. Unlike Protestant denominations, marriage is not the pinnacle state of life … vowed, celibate Religious life is.

    Why do I hold to what I do? Because I see complementarity of the sexes, physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, as prime issues, for me. Presently, my faith belief, much informed by recent Catholic theology, drives my decisions as to my life choices.

    However, that being said, I balance my views in the political realm as allowing the greatest latitude and freedom for others. My view for social reconstruction starts with the individual … never a top-down approach … radically different than the Seven Mountain approach. I continue to repeat, historically we’ve been down that road before in so many ways, and it’s failed miserably … with good reason.

    I hope this has answered your question, Kyle.

  • Kyle

    Theresa, you certainly did answer my questions, and I think I am on the exact same page as you overall. Clearly you are both an educated and sensitive person on these matters, and you have even more credibility given the fact that you are actually gay, unlike most people who discuss these issues (myself included…)

    Why do I hold to what I do? Because I see complementarity of the sexes, physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, as prime issues, for me. Presently, my faith belief, much informed by recent Catholic theology, drives my decisions as to my life choices.

    This is my position as well, though I freely admit that as a straight male, I have serious limitations in approaching these matters. Honestly, those of us who are traditional Christians and are also straight have no better resource than those who are dealing with this issue firsthand – gay people – on both sides of the issue. Couple this with the guidance of Scripture and tradition, and we all just have to do the best we can. The moral life can be a huge maze. Christian tradition can be wrong and certainly needs to be refined from time to time, and so we should all be willing to revisit issue time and time again.

    I completely agree about latitude on the political front, and even the religious front. Since this is just one moral issue among many, I don’t even think practicing gay people should be disqualified as Christians in my mind, any more than anyone else who practices something that I personally judge as inconsistent with the Gospel. As you noted, we have tried the top down, authoritarian approach before, and the human propensity to control and persecute just does not gel well with that…

  • M. Worrell

    Warren,

    I agree that your daughter should not have been subjected to those incidents… However, I don’t see how this relates to anti-bullying programs.

    It relates in the following way: based on these experiences, along with other experiences as a student and a parent, I simply do not trust our public schools to be fair and unbiased. I’m not saying they can’t be, I’m simply saying that too often they are not. Consequently, I feel that the less they have to say about non-academic matters the better.

    When I consider my own kids and what I and my wife have built into them in terms of religious experience and their accompanying worldviews, frankly most public school teachers do not even have the vocabulary, let alone the depth of understanding or experience with theology and religion, to address how they might engage with a topic like the homosexuality of a classmate. That’s where I’m at. In matters of faith, and honestly on the matter of homosexuality, most teachers don’t know enough to weigh in with my kids about it. Certainly they should not purport to be authoritative. I would prefer that they stuck to making certain that my kids exhibit a polite, respectful, friendly demeanor towards all other students, and leave it at that.

  • stephen

    Throb,

    why do you assume I think Sondheim is art?

  • http://wthrockmorton.com Warren

    MWorrell – I do understand the concerns about schools, although I would include private ones as well.

    At various times, we have had one or more of our kids in private Christian, public, home, and cyber schools. I can honestly say that the worst experiences in education have come from the Christian school. For narrow sectarian reasons, one of my kids was singled out for ridicule in a way that never happened in a public school.

    M, I am not worried about your kids and mine, and I bet the gay students in their school have no problem with them either. However, your kids and mine aren’t the only ones there. Some kids come to school thinking that gay kids are inferior and need to be roughed up a bit. I don’t mind if teachers tell those kids that gays specifically are worth respect and will be protected individually and as a group.

  • Jayhuck

    M. Worrell –

    It relates in the following way: based on these experiences, along with other experiences as a student and a parent, I simply do not trust our public schools to be fair and unbiased. I’m not saying they can’t be, I’m simply saying that too often they are not. Consequently, I feel that the less they have to say about non-academic matters the better.

    I agree with you, but I’m sorry to say teachers and students DO have to deal with the topic of homosexuality. It cannot be ignored, expect by those who call themselves Christian and would like to pretend that children have not been killing themselves over this very issue. And people wonder why so many are leaving the faith in droves…

    When I consider my own kids and what I and my wife have built into them in terms of religious experience and their accompanying worldviews, frankly most public school teachers do not even have the vocabulary, let alone the depth of understanding or experience with theology and religion, to address how they might engage with a topic like the homosexuality of a classmate. That’s where I’m at. In matters of faith, and honestly on the matter of homosexuality, most teachers don’t know enough to weigh in with my kids about it.

    I agree with you to an extent. Public school teachers need more education on how to deal with a delicate topic such as this. My question to you is, what would you have these teachers do? They are not theologians. Not all Christians agree on the topic of homosexuality, so then do you expect them to be able to deftly deal with the wide ranging beliefs on this topic?

  • Jayhuck

    expect = except

  • StraightGrandmother

    I agree with Jayhuck, and i fact I asked the same exact question of M.Worel earlier,

    “So let’s get into the details then. If there is a discussion of sexual minorities in class is it acceptable for your daughter to make a statement that according to her faith sexual minorities are condemned to hell, and that homosexuality is a sin, and that homosexuals can be straight if they simply prayed hard enough.

    If your daughter would make those statements in class what is the proper response of the teacher? It is not fair to never have these discussions in our schools as our schools are there to teach and the fact is sexual minorities exist and are being discriminated against. What do you think is the proper response from the teacher to your daughters comments?”

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Teresa

    Yes – your assessment sounds ‘spot on’ to me. Benedict is being sincere, I’m sure, but old habits die hard (I once commented that that sentence should be rewritten so that said ‘should not‘ rather than ‘does not’).

    Specifically on the matter of ‘sexual morality’: the ‘condoms statement’ last year was something of a ‘watershed’ (a ‘Nixon in China’ moment, as one friend described it). That the Pope hinted that it might be OK to use condoms for certain purposes was surprising (but extremely welcome, of course); that he should have cited the actions of a gay prostitute as showing ‘elemental moral awareness’ was quite extraordinary.

    Kyle is correct: ‘top down’ attempts to ‘christianize’ society have been miserable and – often – bloody failures, and it is tragic to see countries like Uganda looking as if they are planning to repeat our mistakes. (One irony on this blog is that our resident Ugandan MP, ‘Maazi NCO’, is not actually a Christian – he doesn’t realize what he is ‘buying into’ through his vociferous support of the Bahati Bill.)

  • StraightGrandmother

    I have a short comment and it is in moderation? Why is that? No links or anything in it. Second all my editing buttons are gone, No Block Quote, Bold etc. Does anyone else have that problem?

  • Richard Willmer

    We most of us have comments that spend time in moderation – at least some of the time. I’ve never been able to do block quotes, but I do have the other editing buttons.

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    @SG .. Everyone of us has comments in moderation at times. You are the only one that incessantly whines about it .. Seriously . .. within 2 minutes of a post that doesnt show up you are complaining about it. (I know this by checking the time stamp of the post .. the time stamp is from when it was originally entered .. not when it is cleared.) Do you really think that the good doctor spends all of his day waiting for one of your posts so he can immediately OK it? I have had comments in moderation for half a day or more. If you read the rules of the blog you will find that you can send an email to him if a post does not clear moderation for a while. You don’t have to keep complaining here on the blog.

    I do agree that the editing buttons have mysteriously dissappeared. I assume it is some sort of glitch.

    Dave

  • StraightGrandmother

    Dave, I didn’t realize that you think I am whining. I understand that some comments, if they are long or have links, are going into moderation. However I do have comments that are short with no links and it does not make sense to me why they go into moderation. You have said that you all have comments in moderation at times. 90% of my comments go into moderation, is that the same for everybody? Serious question, not a whining question. It will be random for me. One comment will go in moderation, the next one goes through, and what you see is me trying to figure out, is how to submit a comment without going into moderation. I make them shorter and remove a link, moderation. The next one can be a bit longer with a link yet it will go through. It is honestly not complaining so much Dave, as is simply trying to figure out the system. Which is why you will see two posts time stamped close. My first one gets held in moderation, so I try a second shorter one and that goes through. I am trying to figure out at what length does your comment have to be that it will get caught in moderation.

    That is why you will see me comment “grrr” because I thought my comment would go through and it didn’t. I thought I had figured it out!… and it failed. Honestly 90% might be an exaggeration but truly it seems to me that at least 75% of my comments go in moderation. I feel bad about looking like a whiner to everybody and will take your observations to heart. I wonder if this one will post or get held in moderation? I always have that on my mind before I hit the Submit button.

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    Long or short .. my posts are often moderated. Sometimes happens on hot topics. Sometimes happens because I accidently mistype my email address which make me look like a new poster. Again .. if you check under comment guidelines at the top of the page it goes over what to do if you think your post was moderated .. I have never felt the need to email him .. I just wait for it to show up.

  • Teresa

    SG, not to worry about sounding like a whiner because of going to Moderation. I know it’s a bit frustrating to see a comment go to Moderation Status, but we all get that. So, I’m sure there’s a bit of an algorithm to this; but, I suspect for all of us “patience is a virtue”.

    Just expect your comment to go to Moderation Status; and, then you’ll never be disappointed. Sort of a take on: Expect the worst, hope for the best, and take what comes.

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    SG — The auto-moderation software also looks for repeated comments. So if a post of yours gets moderated and you try to re-write it slightly and/or remove a link before submitting it again, the second version may also be moderated because it’s mostly the same as the first.

    Beyond that, I’m not sure exactly what rules the moderation software uses, apart from the ones you already know about. But as Dave said, the most important thing is to be patient; there’s generally no point in emailing or in announcing on the thread that you’re in moderation, unless it’s been several hours.

    Regarding the disappearance of the editing buttons, I would guess that it’s for troubleshooting reasons. (Possibly Warren’s blogmaster suspected that the edit buttons were causing some other sort of glitch, and temporarily removed them from the page to see if this makes a difference.)

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    One thought — has anybody noticed comments getting caught in the filter if you try to use blockquotes or italics by putting the tags in manually, without the buttons?

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    It just occurred to me that using HTML tags could be part of the problem right now, even though they haven’t generally been an issue in the past (except for links).

  • AJ

    Dave,

    SG’s comments on moderation don’t bother me. I just see it as conversation. Since all of the communication is written, maybe I read her comments inside my head with a “tone” that is different from what you hear in your head.

  • Teresa

    I just see it as conversation.

    AJ, yes it is conversation, isn’t it? What a nice way to put it. Thanks.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com Emily K

    Kyle, I think we’re living in two different worlds. You still haven’t answered the question as of why what is immoral to you should also be considered immoral to the rest of the world.

    As for science “proving” being gay isn’t immoral, it’s not science’s job to do that. It’s likewise not my job to justify my existence as a gay person to you. It’s your job to find something wrong with me and to justify my being shut out, or re-closeted.

    I find bizarre your comfort in saying “well Christians have always said [x] is immoral, so who am I to go against such a rich history, which is probably inspired.” Other examples of this that have only been recently shoved aside in favor of a rational view include slavery, geocentrism, and the theory that sperm each have a tiny homunculus inside of them.

    As far as I can see, being gay – being in a gay relationship and *gasp!* having pleasurable gay sex with another gay person – is morally neutral, as morally neutral as doing the same as a straight person, with straight acts involved.

    Christians will so eagerly say “well SCIENCE supports my Christian view” but then black out the science that opposes them. Cases in point: Answers in Genesis; NARTH.

    Here’s hoping your children are educated about gay people by other gay people and not you OR any church.

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    Hey folks,

    I get the sense that some of you are unhappy with my one post and how I have phrased it. Not sure what to do about that. It was not my intent to step on anyone or put anyone down.

    Let me just say that I co-lead a sub-forum over on GCN (Gay Christian Network) and although my work is not as extensive as what Warren does on this blog I get a bit of the view from the other side of internet blogs/forums. I get complaints from people who wonder why it took me so long to admit them to the forum I co-lead .. and/or hear complaints from people that don’t appreciate the forum rules .. and on occasion I have had to moderate discussions that have gotten out of hand. Again .. the view from the other side is a bit different.

    Managing a blog like this is not an easy task. There are decisions to be made on whether someone is trolling or not .. whether someone is being disrespectful or not … whether they are here to preach or to learn .. whether they are using the blog for their own agenda .. and so forth. In light of this, the blog rules are there to make things easier for the person running the blog and for those who participate in it. I read them the other day and noted that up to a 24 hour delay in moderation is possible. Yes that is frustrating and I admit I have been frustrated at times when my post did not show up for a while. But that’s just the way it is at times. It is part of the simple reality that there is a life outside of this blog for Dr. Throckmorton and whoever helps him to manage it.

    So at this time I would just like to express my appreciation to Dr Throckmorton and the work he does. Without your work these conversations would not be possible and our knowledge in these areas would be severely limited. And to all of you .. a very Merry Christmas. It is a privilege to know and converse with each and every one of you.

    Blessings,

    Dave

  • StraightGrandmother

    Dave, I think you completely mistook my comments as complaining, relax. I like it here and am not complaining, and actually wasn’t complaining before. That is simply the way you were reading them is all. It is really honestly more like AJ & Teresa wrote. I am just trying to reverse engineer the logic for why something goes in moderation. In other words it’s the software, I am trying to figure it out. I wouldn’t dream of sending an e-mail to complain, are you kidding me, that is not me. But I do see your point of view, they *could* be read that way, even though it was not what was intended, and I don’t want to be thought of that way.

    Because you do this type of management you are probably more sensitive to it. You vented a little bit about how hard it is to manage the blog you do and felt that you should speak up to me, thinking I am doing the same thing over here. Well you got it out of your system so that is done. Trust me when I complain you’ll know it LOL! We’re good Dave, you could have said it in a nicer way but you know what, life is to short for small stuff. It’s Christmas Peace & Love bro.

    But moving on I have a really good comment to add on a different topic, I have to quit and go find it that topic.

  • Guest

    These problems are not about religion and church or governmental politics. Getting to the heart of these issues can be achieved in a few very simple verses of scripture. For one, we wrestle not with flesh and blood.

    For another, we are not going to save the world or change the world to bring about a better culture. It will get worst and worst to the point that the majority will not tolerate sound doctrine. The more we talk about politics the further away we get from reality of the situation.

    What are you going to do about a world set on a course that you can’t change?

  • Teresa

    Guest: What are you going to do about a world set on a course that you can’t change?

    Guest, oh, but we can change the world by “changing the things we can” … which is ourselves, ultimately. It’s always been this way, will always be this way.

    Changing ourselves is the least interesting, most boring, toughest work we’re about. I’d rather take others inventory, fault others for a messy world, tell others how they should live, tell others what they should believe, and hold a gun to someone else’s head … that’s the easiest and most delusional choice all of us make many times, and for many of us, continue to make everyday. It’s a reflection of an uneducated, weary, fatigued people.

  • Kyle

    Emily,

    I guess some (somewhat long-winded) clarifications…

    I understand, and frankly respect, the viewpoint of those such as yourself who think gay relationship are morally neutral or morally permissible. I certainly believe you are entitled to that view, and I also believe you are entitled to practice openly according to your conscience (and also entitled to the same legal benefits as straight couples).

    I personally take a different view about human sexuality and sexual expression, the view of general Christian tradition. In the end I find that view more compelling, and I believe good reasons can be brought forth to support it (I’ve given some quick glosses of those reasons above). I understand you may think it very obvious that gay relationships are morally permissible, just as interracial marriages are morally permissible, but there are those of us who believe there are important differences between the two issues. You may disagree, and that is of course your right, and I respect it.

    I do not at all think you or any other gay person has to justify his/her lifestyle to me. My point here was just that if people decide to engage in a discussion over the morality of same sex relationships, we have to realize that there are different perspectives, and the gay affirming side also has their burden of proof to bear – in this case, that the sex (male/female) of sexual partners is irrelevant to the morality of sexual coupling. Again, you may think this very obviously true, but it’s important to keep in mind that it is not clear to many others. Both sides are making a moral claim in this debate – the gay affirming side is saying gay sex is intrinsically morally permissible, and the prohibiting side is saying gay sex is intrinsically morally impermissible – and both sides have to bring forth arguments to sustain that claim if they wish to make it in a discussion. That was my only point here.

    As for why I think it is immoral not just for me but for everyone, I personally don’t believe sexual morality is the kind of thing that depends upon the situation (not that I believe it is my job to force everyone to obey my view of morality, by the law or whatever). And I take it that you, too, believe gay sex is morally permissible for all gay people, religious or not (just that some religions unjustifiably prohibit it). Most people believe sexual morality is not situationally relative, I think. So I think both sides are making an equally substantive moral claim here. That’s all I wanted to point out.

    My point about science was just that it has not rendered a verdict about the morality, or lack thereof, of same-sex sexual behavior – *not* that it should, for either side. My point was just that there was no “agreed upon uncomfortable fact” about same-sex sexual behavior that contradicts the traditional view. And regarding Christian tradition, I certainly do not believe that something is true *just because it can be found within Christian tradition.* I believe Christian tradition can be and has been wrong at times. But Christian tradition does hold weight for Christians, and we believe that on most things, God has guided it into truth. Christians should be critical of tradition, bringing in other sources of theological reflection such a reason, science, experience, and the Bible. But it does mean something to us; that was my point there.

    I want to repeat that I respect the view of the gay affirming side, such as yourself, and I respect the science of people like Dr. Throckmorton who speak truth about the gay experience that Christians need to hear. I personally take a the traditional view.

    I can sense that you are frustrated by our dialogue here. If so, maybe it’s best if we disengage. I personally have learned a lot from conversing with gay people on both sides of this issue, and so I do value a voice such as yours.

    Kyle

  • Kyle

    I should say also that I understand the viewpoint that the only way to secure anti-bullying is to promote the view that gay sex is morally permissible, just as straight sex can be. I do disagree with this, as I think the problem is about hate and being different, not morality – even though some may make fun under the guise of morality, in the end it’s not about that, and inculcating the view that gay sex is morally permissible will not change the persecution. And I believe both sides need to be respected on this controverted issue in a free society.

    But I do wholeheartedly agree with tolerance and anti-bullying programs. But just as we need not (and should not) say anything about the truth value of any religion to foster religious tolerance, I think we need not (and should not) say anything about the moral value of gay sex in order to foster tolerance for gay people. At least, in my view.

    I respect the view that we DO need to foster the view that it is morally permissible, just in the name of what is right, in addition to civil rights. But then we come back to the moral debate (as opposed to the civil one). And there we all just need to share our perspectives and make our cases.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Kyle, this seems to me to be a reasonable position to have, you said,

    “I understand, and frankly respect, the viewpoint of those such as yourself who think gay relationship are morally neutral or morally permissible. I certainly believe you are entitled to that view, and I also believe you are entitled to practice openly according to your conscience (and also entitled to the same legal benefits as straight couples).”

    I only hope when you are in the privacy of the voting booth you vote this way. I’ll hold you to your word which you said above, that you would vote for civil marriage rights for couples of the same sex. You never actually said you would “vote” for it but you implied it. Well maybe just clear this up. Since you believe that sexual minorities should have the same rights, that means in the privacy of the voting booth you would vote this way also, right? The reason I ask is I have a feeling that there are many people who have the same point of view that you have, but when it comes to pulling the voting lever they just can’t vote for it. In other words, if other people vote for it sufficiently and it goes through no problem, but I can’t personally vote for it.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    He points to an article in the Regent University Law School Journal by Paul Rondeau (a past president of the board of the Parents and Friends of Ex-gays) which claims the current acceptance of gays as people stem from a small group of gays gathered in 1988 in Warrenton, VA. According to this narrative, the ability of that small group to steer the seven channels of influence is what has triggered the social change.

    This is the old Madsen and Kirk “After the Ball” myth. In fact, it’s based on a casual mention of a meeting in the book.

    (For the record, gay rights leaders do periodically meet to discuss progress and strategy – much like racial minority civil rights leaders, Christian leaders, leaders in the legalization of marijuana effort, police captains, leaders in efforts to oppose drunk driving, gay Republicans, Hispanic business owners, emu ranchers, left-handed bowlers, and pretty much every other group of people who share an interest)

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Kyle,

    I support and endorse your right to your religious conclusions. But it is difficult for me to come to the same conclusions, and here are three reasons why:

    1. Jesus invariably positioned pragmatism over policy. That is to say that Jesus always returned to the purpose of the Law – often to the point of direct violation of the word of the Law. Hunger was more important than not gathering grain on the Sabbath.

    While you and many others see this as a matter of “gay sex” or “sexual acts” or other “sins”, Jesus was not even remotely interested in acts – He focused on people. If you change the perspective from “things that are permissible” to people, then we suddenly have a very different question.

    It ceases to be “What will I permit you to do?” or “Is your behavior immoral?” and becomes instead “How am I commanded to treat you?” and “How am I compelled by Christ to think about you?”

    One of the things which Christians ignore (but I think you are not ignoring) is that ours is not a faith that answers the question about what others are to do. It only speaks to us. And what it tells us does not shift based on what others do, are, or believe. We love our neighbor and treat him the way we want to be treated. If he’s a Christian. If he’s a Samaritan. If he’s a Satanist. If he’s gay.

    2. Jesus spoke about sexual minorities… and even noted that a lot of people weren’t going to understand what he was talking about. The oft-quoted section about marriage didn’t end where most stop quoting. Jesus went on to talk about another group, the eunuchs.

    The “eunuchs” about which Jesus spoke were not just the castrati, but a more general term that included any non-typical-heterosexual folk – what some today might call “queer”. And, just for good measure, Christianity’s first convert was a black eunuch – a coincidence that seems to me to be more of a message than just happenstance.

    As Jesus said, “Let anyone accept this who can.”

    3. Jesus codified the Prioritize People Before the Law Principle when he said that all of the Law and Prophets rests on the principle of loving God and your neighbor (He went so far as to imply that if you love God you will love your neighbor).

    And, to everyone’s annoyance, he defined “neighbor” as the guy you disagree with religiously. And it doesn’t even stop there. Nope, scripture goes on to define Love in Corinthians.

    Ultimately, every “can he/can’t he” question in scripture, every uncertainty as to doctrine, every question of faith can be applied to the Love Principle. And if you err on the side of love… you’re in good company. So did Jesus.

    But, of course, it’s a bit risky. After all, the church folk who loved the rule-book killed him for it and I don’t see that tradition fading away any time soon.

  • Kyle

    SG – Of late I’ve been something of a conscientious objector when it comes to voting, mostly because I see politics as a mess :) In a free society such as ours in which rights to freedom of conscience and religion are to be mutually respected, I think I would vote for gay marriage rights, to support overall fairness. I personally think everyone should get civil unions (gay, straight, romantic relationships or not) and that the state should stay out of marriage, but I’m fine with having “marriage before the state” be distinct from “marriage before God according to my religion,” and voting along those lines

    So the short answer is, yes, if those rights are desired, I can only fairly claim my own rights of freedom of religion if I vote for similar rights for others. I guess we have to ask ourselves, what’s the point of having the state given benefits anyways? I take it that the point is that coupling is good for society, and that the state wants to encourage it. Well, I think a case can be made for coupling of all kinds being good for society in various ways, including gay coupling. The point is not a state stamp of morality; the point is that the stamp recognizes certain goods accruing from coupling for society as a whole.

    If the state stamp was about morality, we wouldn’t have frivolous divorce possibilities, or several other things. This is where I believe Christians have been inconsistent. Frivolous divorce is quite legal, but you don’t see them trying to make the divorce laws firmer.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Kyle = “Frivolous divorce is quite legal, but you don’t see them trying to make the divorce laws firmer.”

    StraightGrandmother= Ain’t that the truth….

    Kyle, I respect you and appreciate your comments here. As long as you are for civil rights for sexual minorities I will ask you to change your religious views. After Christian religions that are gay affirming, you are my kind of Christian!!!

  • Kyle

    Hey Timothy –

    Those are definitely some interesting and thoughtful theological reflections. I don’t quite find myself agreeing with everything you said, but I guess I’m a bit “commented out” at this time :). But I do want to say that this is the kind and spirit of discussion that ought to be had over this issue within Christian circles. I believe practicing, affirming gay Christians are still Christians, just as I believe other Christians who disagree with me morally on other issues are Christians.

    Here’s to civility and respect –

    Kyle