This is a response to a letter written as a reply to my paper, Dialogue with a Hostile, Anti-Christian Gay Activist. The words of my opponent from that paper will be in green. My older words from the same paper will be brown, and my present (anonymous) opponent’s words will be in blue.
First of all let me thank you for quite an extraordinary letter – especially coming from a 17-year-old. It isn’t often that I receive such a thorough and thoughtful direct reply to one of my papers, so I highly commend you for that, and also for the clarity of your thoughts. We continue to disagree, of course, but there is considerable value in respectful communication, and hope for at least further mutual misunderstanding among those who differ with one another. I would love to engage in further dialogues with you, if you like.
I recently read your dialogue with a homosexual. As usual, your opponent was less-than-well-informed and possessed less than stellar rhetorical polish. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you need be the world’s most eloquent writer (Zeus knows this is not my forte) to be an effective debater; however, in comparison to your gifted writing (take this as a compliment [I’ve read several of your papers; your writing is superb]), the homosexual with whom you dialogued came out looking like a sore loser.
Thank you very much for the kind compliment. I don’t recall the dialogue myself without going back to revisit it, so I’ll refrain from comment on my opponent. I do recall, however, that he started name-calling and engaging in unhelpful caricature at a certain point, which is pretty much the death of constructive discourse.
Before I proceed, a little background information on me. I’m a 17 year old bisexual male. Politically, I would more or less fall under the liberal banner, but my somewhat moderate pro-war stance and my vehement opposition to abortion, I suppose, disqualify me from being a “true” liberal (by today’s standards), so I’m somewhat of Hitchenite, in that I have no political home. I feel just as much alienated in the Republican Party as I do in the Democratic Party, though I plan on voting Republican as long as the Democratic Party maintains an official pro-abortion stance. Having said this, I shall now proceed with my response to some of your paragraphs.
I am delighted to hear about your pro-life stance. Good for you. You are obviously also an independent thinker who doesn’t follow along the prevailing trends like a sheep. This is impressive in this day and age.
The gay rights movement has nothing to do with seeking moral approval.
It sure does, else why do homosexual activists have a cow when we dare to state our Christian belief that homosexual acts are immoral, and that there is no such thing as same-sex marriage? Why don’t they allow us to disagree with them, if they are supposedly so concerned about “tolerance” and “diversity?” To merely assert such beliefs is to assure being accused of “homophobia” (a stupid, typically-modernist term which means, literally, “fear of sameness”).
I didn’t realize homosexual activists had a “cow” when the Christian right labels homosexual acts “immoral”, and refuses to recognize the “validity” of homosexual marriage. Some might, of course; wimps and whiners exist in every movement (just look at the “cows” Christians have when we sanitize Christmas season by employing the world “holiday.” They accuse the media of being bigoted and biased towards Christians,
Do you really maintain that this is a debatable proposition, and that opposition to it necessarily constitutes “whining” in the sense here discussed?
though ironically their darling news network is among the highest rated in the nation in regards to viewership).
Yes, but one network does not a complete media make . . . and that is the point. Overall, it is undeniable that the traditional media in all its forms is overwhelmingly secular and leftist and thus (quite yawningly predictably) biased against Christianity. The same holds for the entertainment industry and academia.
This, however, does not prove, much less imply, that the PRIMARY objective of the gay rights movement is to have Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and the pope approve of our lifestyle and choices.
Of course, in this context, I was not trying to prove what you claim here; namely, that such a thing was the “primary” objective of the movement. I was only denying the assertion that it had “nothing to do with seeking approval.” In many instances, it certainly does have to do with that, and this is proven precisely by the sorts of reactions I have cited. Equally obviously – as in any movement of many people — not all do this, by any means, but surely enough do for one to be able to identify it as a significant consideration, in a sociological, generalized sense (as I did).
Far be it from me to seek the moral approval of people who still subscribe to archaic codes of morality and accept the claims of Jewish folklore (wink).
And here is where further discussion on other topics would, no doubt, be quite interesting!
We do allow you to disagree with us.
You do; many others who agree with you do not. I don’t see how this can be denied.
Have we ever held a gun to your head demanding that you change your viewpoint (at least in speech; true “conversions” are inner experiences)? We most assuredly have not.
That’s not what my comment dealt with; rather, it is this notion that for us to not agree with the redefinition of both marriage and what we consider normal, natural sexuality is tantamount to being bigots and intolerant Neanderthals. We are under no ethical or legal obligation to grant a radically new definition of marriage, and to label us in such a way that we cannot disagree without being typecast as “homophobes” and all the other idiotic descriptions, is neither logical nor fair, to put it mildly.
Major anti-gay-rights figures are homophobic, despite what you may believe.
I’m sure some are, but since I never denied this, it is a non sequitur. But many are also falsely described as this, on inadequate grounds.
Pat Roberston is infamous for blaming homosexuals for natural disasters.
But he would also, by the same token, blame any class of sinner for what he feels is God’s judgment (the presupposition being that sin brings judgment, which is indeed a respectable general Christian truth). Thus, including homosexuals in these remarks does not prove that he is “homophobic”; only that he thinks homosexuality is a sin! Thus, this first example of yours merely illustrates my point, not yours: i.e., opposition to the thing itself is immediately collapsed into supposed hatred of the person or “fear” of folks who are different, etc. This is (no offense) rather shallow, lousy “armchair psychoanalytical analysis.
Regarding the literal meaning of the word “homophobia”, you should know that terms evolve over time. This is not a new phenomena…
Sure, but hopefully, the actual roots and etymology of words have some distant relation to the meaning eventually adopted in actual usage. It’s simply a stupid term: typical of the systematic corruption of the English language in polemical (especially political-ethical-legal) discourse. It is even stupid from your perspective when you think about it, because it is almost as if it legitimizes the word “homo”; which I thought was pretty much considered an insult: “fear of homos”. In other words, it appears to incorporate one objectionable term into another one which is equally as silly and offensive to reason and linguistics alike. And this is the chosen term!
Law inevitably has a moral component; there is no escaping it. That is a whole ‘nother discussion, but I contend that this is almost a self-evident point (though often overlooked or applied hypocritically by various political activists).
I agree; however, Christians equate “moral component” with “religious component.”
Oftentimes, yes, but this is not required by Christianity. Many (thinking, thoughtful, philosophically-inclined) Christians would derive morality from the natural law, and traditionally, even many atheists and agnostics agreed that certain things were right and wrong, without necessary connection to religion or God.
Laws against murder, rape, theft, for example, are not exclusively Christian principles; they are universal principles which have been adopted by societies the world over. But you’re right, this “is a whole ‘nother discussion…”
We agree. C. S. Lewis argued that this is far from an opposing opinion from Christianity. To the contrary, he said that Christians rejoice that this is the case. It makes it that much easier for us to come and say, “see here; this is the sinful human condition that we all agree on, from which you need to be saved.” Christianity presupposes both sin and the fact that people everywhere know internally or instinctively that certain things are wrong. That is both logically and experientially prior to religious dogma. Lewis called the widespread agreement on many moral precepts “the Tao”, in his book, The Abolition of Man.
If you want hypocrisy, look no further than the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin”.
How is that hypocritical? Of course, if you deny the existence of right and wrong, and sin, then there would be a contradiction. But then if you did that, you would have no grounds for saying I am wrong in my present opinions.
I don’t deny the existence of right and wrong; I do, however, disagree with you, and, by implication, the Christian right with what is wrong and right in any given case.
We both agree that rape and murder is wrong, but differ over whether homosexual acts are immoral or not. This does not imply that I’m a moral relativist, for, I do hold that rape and murder are always wrong.
Of course it doesn’t imply that you are a moral relativist; no disagreement again. My point above was that the charge of hypocrisy only seemed to me to reasonably apply if the person making the charge was a relativist; otherwise, in my opinion, the charge is rather silly and insubstantial. But even as a relativist, there are problems. You say you aren’t a relativist; fine. I’m happy to accept your word on that. But then I would like to see how you argue that such a statement or belief is inherently hypocritical.
But the acts involved in such immoralities are not, in and of themselves, immoral.
Well, that is the bottom line disagreement in our discussion. You will have to make some argument for this.
Sex is not immoral if it is not forced upon someone; killing is not wrong if it is done in self-defense.
The first proposition remains to be proven. There are certainly instances and types of immoral sex that is not forced. I have given the Christian rationale for why we believe this in several papers, and would be happy to revisit the reasoning.
(This may seem a bit off topic, since the topic isn’t moral absolutism/relativism per se, but I needed to make my position on morality clear.)
If, on the other hand, there is such a thing as immorality, then it certainly is love (and profoundly so) to point out to someone that they are harming themselves, and their relationship with God and other human beings, by engaging in sinful activity.
Fair enough; however, if I’m not mistaken, Catholicism holds that man is given a free will. What, pray tell, is the purpose of free will if you seek to abrogate our freedom to choose and do wrong?
First of all, having a free will, and whether or not that free will should be used to sin, are two different things. In one sense, we are all free to do whatever we like, because God granted that freedom. In another, we are not free, whether legally, or in terms of social / societal norms and expectations, or with regard to our own physical and psychological well-being. So you open up a huge can of worms. What you write is essentially an unreflective slogan that involves a host of difficulties, once unpacked.
Secondly, you seem to confuse legal and moral freedom. Traditionally, Christian societies, and many other ones determined that homosexuality was a punishable offense. How they arrived at that opinion is a matter of both ethics and the political process. But they did it. Our society is presently in flux on the matter, but everyone knows where it once stood.
In any event, there is no sense in which I, personally, am preventing you or anyone else to do what you do. Nor is it feasible to even worry about enforcement at this late date. No one is breaking into bedrooms. Our culture has accepted the private / public distinction to such a huge extent that the very notion is almost laughable by the present societal standards and ways of looking at things.
Assuming we will be judged sometime in the far too distant future by a historical Jewish carpenter, whose life we know very little about,
Very little? That’s strange . . .
and whose true teachings are widely debated in scholarly circles, who are you to outlaw our freedom to engage in sexual immorality (at least among consenting adults; don’t want you responding with the usual then-based-on-your-logic-we’d-be-wrong-in-outlawing-pedophilia response)?
Societies determine what is right and wrong, and enact these beliefs into law. So the very existence of law presupposes that one can “outlaw” certain activities, including sexual ones. I thought you agreed with this, above, that law was inherently a moral enterprise? That’s precisely why the homosexual activists are trying to change the laws, because they know full well that to make something legal (as in the abortion debate) goes a very long way to making it have a moral respectability among the populace.
Is it not to God, and him alone, to whom we will be held accountable for our sexual “deviancies”?
No, not at all, because sex clearly has huge societal consequences. For example, we know now that fatherless families are the leading sociological predictor of a life of crime (and, I believe, also of poverty) for the children of such families. So what is often regarded as a personal decision affecting no one else (divorce, or illegitimacy with no marriage ever occurring and the father splitting), affects, after all, the children, and then the larger society, if said children go astray. We know this; it isn’t debatable.
So now, we could also envision a homosexual couple (either male or female) raising a child (which cannot come from them alone, in either case, which raises other issues). Now we have a home in which parents of one gender or the other are not present in a parental capacity. This will have huge societal repercussions because we know that the optimal situation for a child is to have both a mother and father present.
Furthermore, homosexuality, by nature, is “anti-life,” because it has no capacity to produce further life (and that is because it is unnatural. Sex is obviously designed to produce children; that is its biological – and we would say, also, spiritual – purpose). If one is pro-life, they ought to at least question homosexuality, since it is “barren.”
I tremble at the thought of being held accountable to Pat Roberston moreso than to your god…
Me, too (even more than you, I think), so I can relate to you there. Fortunately, I don’t see this as a very likely prospect anyway, so neither of us need trouble ourselves any further over it.
My point is: fine, tell me I’m sinning by engaging in homosexual acts, but don’t coerce me into relinquishing a lifestyle I freely chose.
I’m not forcing anyone. I try to persuade people through reason. If you are forced through law, then you would have to look at how and why those laws came to be, and whether the reasoning can hold up or not. I think it can. But we legally coerce people all the time. I thought you understood this, judging by your earlier comments. But apparently not. Or else you are being contradictory, or your passion and emotion has taken over, etc.
Are we saying to homosexuals that “you must accept the tenets of Christianity and our traditional lifestyle or else you are obviously Christian-a-phobes (and we will force you to by law)?” I have no legal power to force a homosexual to attend church, but they have (or will soon have) the power to force me to accept them as tenants, or to be my church organist, etc.
In a certain way, you are asking us to accept the tenets of Christianity by denying homosexuals the right to marry, for you base your arguments on Biblical principles.
Yes, I agree with your first clause to a large extent. However, I would say that the case against homosexual marriage is by no means restricted to the religious dogmatic one. It can also be based on the historical understanding of what marriage is across most societies of most of history (anthropology). It is the consensus, and as you noted, that goes far beyond Christianity, because we’re talking about many kinds of societies and cultures. Or it can be based on sociological data as to what causes societal discord and social problems: some of which I alluded to above. One can also make a case from a medical / health perspective, as it is well-known how many maladies can be associated with homosexuality (particularly of the male variety). And that was long before AIDS was ever heard of . . .
This is not the priesthood we’re debating — it’s the freedom of two or more consenting adults to do with their lives as they please, and their right to have SECULAR courts legally recognize their union, if they so desire it.
The redefinition of marriage is an extremely radical concept, which must be thoroughly argued if we are to change it. To do so would and will have tremendous negative consequences for society.
I didn’t know homosexuals would soon have the power to force you to accept them as tenants, or have them be your church organist.
Then you haven’t been following some of the recent legal developments. In Canada, it is already the case that “homosexual marriage” is legal, and that virtually any speech against homosexuality as sin has been classed as hate speech. It won’t be long here in America, unless Christians and sexual traditionalists resist the movement.
I still believe we’re in the United States, not Canada. I may be wrong, of course, so if you have any evidence to substantiate your claims, I’d like to see it.
LOL. I am answering as I read and didn’t know you were going to mention Canada. We’re only about 20 years behind them in moral / secularization trends, just as we are about 50 years behind England and the rest of Europe in the same respect. What C.S. Lewis critiqued in English society in 1950 is pretty much applicable to America today. But in 1950 England, it was far better in other respects, such as pornography, the stability of institutional marriage, illegitimacy (now about 70% among African-Americans and 38% or so among white Americans), etc.
I don’t have any factual evidence at hand, but I have surely heard of such things; they were real. It’s not just hysteria or paranoia. These are actual legal developments. I would venture to guess, for example, that if you looked at the cases of radical legal groups such as the ACLU with regard to homosexuality, that you would readily find cases such as the ones I mentioned.
You are indeed saying that.
Saying what? That a homosexual must attend my church?! That a homosexual must be a Christian by force of law?! This is ridiculous!
I told you he came out looking like a sore loser…
:-) Very perceptive . . .
Fundamentalist Christianity unleashes its syrupy vitriol at anyone who is not following the approved “Christian” way of life.
Why do you equate opposition to homosexuality with “Fundamentalist Christianity,” when in fact, this has been the consensus of western civilization for 2000 years now? Granted, that civilization is profoundly Christian in its roots, but there are plenty of “secular” types who have agreed with this understanding of the nature of moral, legitimate sex and marriage. It was indeed a societal consensus until the Sexual Revolution made its appearance some 40 years ago.
Yes, and it was the consensus of many ancient non-Hebrew cultures that homosexuality was perfectly natural.
Which ones? And – much more importantly and relevantly for our discussion – what happened to these societies in the long run? Can we learn anything from the course of history? We are slowly learning about the disaster and catastrophe of the Sexual Revolution. But many are still blind to it.
So in reality, the “sexual revolution” of the 60s was, in fact, a resurgence of an ancient view of homosexuality.
Again, from where? What were these societies like? What happened to families in them? Was the social order stable? What did these cultures produce in history (compared to the huge, far-reaching accomplishments of Christian Europe)?
The TRUE sexual “revolution” was the sexual repression introduced by Christianity 2,000 years — one I’m glad to see fading, albeit slowly, but consistently.
What is “repression”? To confine sex to marriage and to married men and women? Again, that has had a wide consensus far beyond Christianity (in fact, it is far more widely observed among Muslims today than Christians in the West). Why is that? Why is it that if your view is correct, that the consensus of society (which you conceded above) was heterosexuality and a strong commitment to marriage as traditionally understood?
. . . forced to deal with the likes of Fred Phelps protesting at FUNERALS.
This man is an idiot and no example of any kind of respectable Christian. I could pick the very worst example of a homosexual activists (say, that crazy group that blasphemed at a Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral a few years back), if I wanted to engage in this sort of rhetorical tactic. But I don’t think you would appreciate that. Well, I have nothing to do with a moron and scumbag like Phelps, either.
Yes, we agree, once more: idiots exist in every movement. BTW, I have to ask: do you suspect he’s a repressed homosexual?
I have no idea, but it is not inconceivable to me at all, based on the rather common phenomenon of psychological projection (one of the few things where Freud actually showed some significant insight).
As long as a person’s beliefs and values do not directly affect you, you have no claim to “punish” people, or attempt to make their lives difficult.
Ah, this is crucial. It does affect me, because such a momentous cultural / moral shift has far-reaching consequences for the whole society. This would undermine the very foundation of Christian sexual ethics, just as abortion already has done. Now the last remnants of Christian civilization are being attacked: the nature of marriage, family, gender, sexuality, etc.
It does affect you in the same way that laws allowing Klan rallies affect me (I’m Hispanic), black Americans, Asian-Americans, etc, for such rallies undermine the social and political equality so many patriots of yore shed their blood for. Nevertheless, I do not lobby the Congress to pass legislation outlawing bigoted groups from organizing and preaching their message of hate.
It’s far more than that. The Klan is in the fringes of the fringes of society. You’re talking about a tiny tiny group so far out of the mainstream that virtually no one takes their rhetoric seriously (though their hatred and crimes are still to be feared and taken seriously). But to change the essential nature and meaning and morality of sexuality has huge consequences: almost more than anything else, because it is so fundamental to all of society.
Tell me: does public display of homosexual intimacy (i.e. kissing, holding hands, hugging) affect you and undermine Christian sexual ethics?
It doesn’t affect me personally (in terms of undermining my beliefs), yet if this becomes more common, as the culture’s sexual ethics change, it does have the effect of reinforcing the overall goal of what might be called “unisexuality.” Since the goal is immoral, I must also object to public manifestations of it which undermine what I feel is the true and moral nature of sexual expression (of course, we would oppose overt expression of heterosexuality in public, too, which is a matter of propriety and modesty).
Based on your reasoning above, it does. So, you would favor legislation outlawing homosexuals from, say, kissing in public?
No, because it isn’t enforceable in today’s environment. I favor an outlawing of sodomy, as did the Supreme Court not too long ago (and it was by no means “conservative” or explicitly “Christian” when it did so).
By the way, abortion does not undermine Christian sexual ethics per se…
It certainly does, because it is anti-life, and the historic Christian position always linked sex with procreation. Abortion separates that, which is a grave sin, in addition to the sin of murder.
people should oppose it because it involves the taking of an innocent human life, not because the Catholic Church tells us its wrong.
Primarily, yes. I was simply disagreeing with your claim that it didn’t undermine Christian sexual ethics. I don’t have to invoke Catholicism or even Christianity or the Bible itself to argue against abortion, anymore than I have done so (not at all) in arguing against homosexuality. That’s not to deny that there are good arguments there which can be consulted; only that one can refute these things without them, and also eliminate the common objection that all opposition is religion-based.
[T]he movement is called gay rights and not gay acceptance. What we are fighting for is our right to marry members of the same sex, if we so choose, and to have secular courts recognize such unions. Personally, I could care less if the Christian right morally approves of what we do within the privacy of our own homes — that’s not what we’re fighting for, and if it was, it would be a worthless cause . . . The majority of people associated with the gay rights movement are staunch supporters of the first amendment. The people you speak of are the exception, not the norm. I’m sure you could cite many horror stories, but so can I (think Ann Coulter!), so they’d just cancel each other out, so to speak.Old ground, so I refrain from further comment . . .
I’m sure plenty of people within the gay rights movement label your views bigoted and intolerant. But likewise, plenty of people within your movement label our view that homosexuality is perfectly natural (as the APA, a reputable medical organization, contends) anti-Christian, anti-God, anti-Bible, anti this, anti that. We are labeled “sodomites”, “whores”, “idolatrous”, among other less-than-polite terms. We are condemned to hell… the more extreme fringes even picket the funerals of homosexuals.
Absolutely; this goes on. My argument, however, does not rest on any of these things. I have casually stated (not made an argument) that homosexuality is contrary to the Bible and Christian sexual ethics. But I think you knew that already (and so do most homosexuals; even the ones who try to desperately rationalize away the biblical data). So I don’t see how this is objectionable from a dialogue standpoint. It’s what Christians (and particularly Catholics, which is my affiliation) believe.
I have made my argument mostly from sociology, medical facts, ethics, the “natural / unnatural” distinction, and societal considerations (an opposition to the fallacies of libertarianism and the myth that individuals’ actions do not affect the larger society). Hopefully, you will interact with my own arguments in the depth I think they deserve, at some point, rather than our going over and over the usual unfortunate modus operandi of the debate on both sides.
Even if the courts legally recognized gay marriage, that doesn’t mean you’d be legally bound to. White supremacists don’t morally approve of/recognize marriages between blacks and whites, nor are they legally bound to (exceptions, of course, would be public officials such as judges).
But interracial marriages have no discernible effect on society (only on racists, who are already increasingly relegated to the wacko fringes of society). Children being raised without a parent of one gender or the other certainly does adversely affect society. If people have no children on a wide scale (as today) this negatively affects cultures and nations, because when a nation goes under zero population growth, it starts to lose population, leading to the eventual death or great demise in influence and power of a culture within two to three generations.
I would define homosexuality as broadly opposed to both the family, as traditionally and widely defined, and against procreation (since neither male homosexuality nor lesbianism can produce children in and of themselves).
. . . . not nearly as much as he [Pat Robertson] specifically blames homosexuals, especially in public. I’d be less inclined to label him a homophobe if he directed his ire at every class of sinner, but that is not the case. He singles out homosexuals, and this can only be because he finds them more repugnant, repulsive, and odious than the rest. So I’m afraid my first example does not illustrate your point. ;-)
I’m not sure he is placing homosexuality far away above all other classes of sinners. I doubt, for example, that he would think an abortionist or murderer or rapist was on a higher moral plane than a homosexual. I would have to see examples of what he wrote to analyze his case further. It may be that he places undue emphasis on some sins over against others, but it still isn’t true that all he talks about is homosexuality, as if he doesn’t preach against other activities that Christianity regards as sinful.
I am not very familiar with his [C. S. Lewis’s] works, though I vaguely recall having read a portion of his book Mere Christianity back when I was 14, maybe 15. He basically argued that our intuitive sense of right and wrong could only be attributed to the existence of a higher power (or something to that affect). I chuckled, for this argument hardly lends any credibility or validity to Christianity. To theism? Yes, of course — and I’m open to the possibility of a higher power –, but “theism” is not a synonym for “Christianity.” There could be a god whose concept of sin is radically different than yours.
You have assumed that he thinks that such basic arguments prove Christianity or something. Lewis wouldn’t argue in such a fashion (nor would any apologist who knows much at all about theistic philosophy and agnostic objections to same). So your chuckling as a 14-year-old (even as a very intelligent one) was almost certainly misplaced, and I would advise you against caricaturing Lewis as a simpleton. Lewis himself converted to theism at first and then to Christianity, so he is well aware of the distinction between the two.
I should also note that this concept of right and wrong most of us have usually limits itself to murder, rape, dishonesty, and theft, not homosexuality. During my Catholic days (and before I realized I was attracted to both sexes), I never felt homosexuality was wrong,
If you want to argue that the fact of most people naturally and instinctively feeling that homosexuality is unnatural and wrong is irrelevant, then your feeling that it was right would be equally irrelevant. The argument from instinct or feeling obviously is a two-edged sword.
and I had a difficult time accepting the church’s teachings on this matter.
Many of us have a difficult time accepting many Church teachings. That has no bearing, of course, on their truthfulness or falsity. I have a hard time applying many of the Church’s teachings, but I accept them based on reason and faith, not based on how my own particular feelings, desires, emotions, or drives lean.
Naturally, the disagreement only intensified after I realized I was attracted to men too.
See the above reasoning.
I believe both moral relativism and absolutism are inherently contradictory.
That makes it very difficult, then, to argue in favor of anything, doesn’t it? This whole discussion is reduced to the level of arguing over whether vanilla or chocolate ice cream is “better.” Without some standard at some point, constructive discussion is impossible. And so we pretty much have gone around in circles and resolved very little, because you have admitted that logical and moral systems reduce to nonsense.
I don’t know what to label my moral code — it is somewhere between absolutism and relativism. I do believe certain acts are always wrong no matter if the person committing them believes so too; however, there are other acts I don’t believe are inherently wrong, or right — I believe circumstances render that judgment.
Situation ethics . . . very well, then; make your case for homosexuality. Let’s see how well it stands up to scrutiny. If all it amounts to is the usual “if it feels good, do it,” then you are in the wrong place, because I don’t waste time trying to argue against hedonism and suchlike. How can one even do so? The nature of those outlooks preclude rational discussion. Reason plays no part in them. So you either have to argue reasonably or there is no point in arguing at all.
I had the chance to read Mr. Armstrong’s second installment of his response to my email critiquing his debate with a homosexual. Although he does raise some very valid points, particularly in regards to the scientific information he cites, he nevertheless winds up proving my point:
You had one single point to make? I didn’t know that . . . if so, you haven’t made it based on any compelling reasoned argument, as I will show.
even though he argues from many different angles against homosexuality, the primary reason he opposes the gay rights movement is because it is contrary to his religious beliefs. This is made clear when he writes that “Christians… must oppose homosexual legal activism because it is directly contrary to Christian teaching (my emphasis).”
One could have a field day with this; it is so fallacious. First of all, I haven’t stated this myself. You have concluded it because (seemingly) it is the conclusion that you were looking to find.
Secondly, it all depends on what one means by “primary.” There is “primary” and there is “non-negotiable.” These are two different things. For most Christians who take the Bible seriously and accept traditional Christian orthodoxy (as reflected in historical beliefs passed down for now 2000 years) seriously, the prohibition against homosexuality is indeed non-negotiable. It still doesn’t follow, however, that one’s religious commitments must necessarily be the primaryreasons for opposing homosexuality.
As an analogy, say I weighed three hundred pounds and was a member of a religion which regarded all 300-pound persons as gluttons, and urged its members to weigh 180 pounds or less. Would you argue that the “primary” reason I wanted to lose weight was because of my religious affiliation? That seems to me clearly false.
The primary reason would be to feel better, look better, to be better received in some circles which might frown upon overweight people, to avoid the callous, unthinking judgment of many folks that I eat too much, etc. Those are all the true primary reasons. And they are true regardless of what my religious belief is. They are instinctive and natural and have very little to do with religion at all.
Likewise, with homosexuality. The most compelling arguments against it (the ones I have provided for you and my readers) are all non-religious, and indeed they have to be, in order to be based on reason, because the biblical prohibitions (revelation) do not particularly delve into the reasons for why it is wrong (just as the Bible is also not a scientific textbook, nor meant to be construed as such; not that the Bible never uses reason; it does do that, too, particularly in St. Paul’s letters).
God left that for men to discover by use of their own reason, and with the benefit and hindsight of personal and cultural experience. I thought it was just as wrong when I was a practical atheist for ten years of my life, and when I was rather politically liberal (in favor of abortion, feminism, sexual liberalism, etc.). And the reason I did goes back to the natural / unnatural distinction, and an instinctive understanding that an unnatural thing is also unhealthy and therefore undesirable. This is epistemically far, FAR prior to any religious considerations (both logically, and in my case, chronologically and experientially).
This goes back to when I noted that C. S. Lewis taught that Christian morality merely reflects what people already know on other grounds. It didn’t cause it; it was already there. Christian or other religious belief may verify it and coincide with what we feel and believe ourselves, through use of our senses, reason, and experience, but then again, that is not a primary cause, is it? Belief in God works the same way.
It is generally present before folks get particularly “religious” or construct epistemological justifications for theistic belief (even you yourself do not rule it out or think it is absurd nonsense with no possibility). If it is already there (like morality in general and the instinctive aversion to homosexuality in particular) it can hardly have been caused at all by a religious belief-system, let alone that system being supposedly the “primary” cause.
So this may be a convenient “club” for you to dismiss my entire set of secular / medical arguments since you simply have to claim that it’s all allegedly based on supposedly irrational religion from the Bible, which can’t be argued with, etc. It’s not nearly that simple. I’m here to tell you that my opposition is not based at bottom simply on revelation, but rather, on various factors which are consistent with that revelation, but not necessarily based on it.
To step back a moment and do a little religious philosophy: one can approach Christianity in at least two different ways:
1) One can accept a certain interpretation of revelation and Christian teaching and force-fit all the rest of reality into it, even if this involves absurdity and irrationality. For example, one could (falsely) claim that the Bible denies the sphericity of the earth or heliocentrism, and so reject those scientific findings that strongly suggest otherwise.
2) Or one can realize that biblical interpretation itself is subject and dependent upon many other things, including linguistic, cultural, and scientific considerations. This approach recognizes that all truth is God’s truth, and that reason and revelation are fundamentally compatible. Reason can be brought to bear on all subject matter, including religious. Religion is reasonable; it ultimately transcends reason, but it is not contrary to it. Therefore, one has nothing to fear from reasoned inquiry. It will always support Christian claims, because they are reasonable (so it turns out after repeated testing of the claims).
This is obviously the approach I take, and it is that of the Catholic Church and most of the more learned Protestant apologists, whereas the first option is anti-intellectual and a type of “fortress mentality.” It’s the stereotype of religion, based on how its detractors want to portray it, for their own personal and political ends.
And so it turns out in this present debate. The findings of medicine, sociology, physiology, anthropology, and so forth, back up the Christian claims which date back more than 4000 years, just as, e.g., the Big Bang cosmology confirms what Christians believed all along about the universe having a point of origin, and not being eternal.
My apologetics is entirely reason- and facts-based. That’s why I don’t have to appeal to the Bible at all. Instead, all I have to do is appeal to man’s own systems of knowledge which are more than able by themselves to prove the folly of various behaviors and points of view. You can keep bringing this back to religion and the Bible if you wish, simply because I am a Christian, but I will keep using secular knowledge and information against you. Readers can see what is happening here: who is actually arguing using reason on grounds that both parties basically accept (science and observation), while the other keeps trying to create straw men so as to dismiss the other without dealing with rational arguments.
. . . the presence of such corruption of morality during the course of history does not prove that homosexuality was either usually normative nor that it was or is morally defensible.
It doesn’t prove as much, no, but it does prove that discriminatory behavior against certain segments of the population was not based on any real evidence, but rather, based on religious and/or racial bigotry; on the misguided belief that one’s religious worldview is inherently superior to that of others, and hence, that all views/lifestyles not in conformity with such religious beliefs must be outlawed.
I must say that I expected (or at least hoped) much more from you. I hope you will give us some actual argument in favor of your position before we are done.
This smacks of religious persecution against the minority and as far as I am aware our constitution does not allow for that to take place within our legal institutions. You admitted, as I previously noted, that Christians must oppose gay activism because it is directly opposed to Christian teaching. That’s fine — I just don’t know how well such an argument would hold up in court, especially in light of what our constitution says.
Which is precisely why I didn’t make such an argument .. . . I made a host of others, which you acknowledge as “very valid,” but have not yet dealt with. In fact, my understanding of this very point was proven by how I argued when I myself was in a courtroom and faced with a jail sentence for my participation in Operation Rescue (blocking of abortion clinic doors, to save lives) back way in 1989. When I got to have my say before sentencing (which turned out to be one night in jail!), I made an appeal to ancient, pre-Christian Greece and the accepted beginning of modern medicine, because the Hippocratic Oath outlawed abortion.
My specific argument was that opposition to abortion goes far beyond Christianity, even to ancient pagan Greece. This is an argument from reason, not religion, and it is absolutely relevant in a legal environment. You oppose it yourself on non-religious grounds. So why is it that you can’t seem to comprehend that I could oppose homosexuality primarily on non-religious grounds, while I also oppose it on Christian, biblical grounds?
I’m sure many Christian right lawyers will cite this and that scientific study, arguing that, unless we outlaw all forms of homosexual behavior, our nation will suffer dire consequences (presumably at the hands of their god).
Of what use is this continuing silly caricature? Do you actually think a Christian lawyer is stupid and dense enough to stand there in court and make an argument from science and then appeal to divine judgment? If you think this happens, why don’t you produce for us a court transcript of someone actually doing it? When the Supreme Court outlawed sodomy as recently as the 80s, do you think it relied on the Bible for its legal judgments?
Homosexual behavior may or may not be harmful to those who engage in it — that is not the point; it has never been the point.
Obviously it isn’t for you, since you refuse to interact with the alarming statistics, and insist on endangering your own health and in effect, that of many others, by your espousal of the lifestyle as just as healthy and natural as heterosexuality. You, too, are free to act in stupid and irrational ways with regard to your own physical and mental / emotional health. But you will pay a price. I have warned you and others reading this, what the price will quite possibly be (disease, an early death, etc.). But you are free to ignore reason and fact and do as you please. Millions do. They smoke; they act in immoral sexual ways (promiscuity, abortion, divorce, etc.) and will continue to do so, because this is the human condition.
And yes, I believe that if one continues to deliberately engage in mortal sin, with full consent of the will (knowing full well that it is grave sin), that they could quite possibly end up in hell. I don’t know for sure who will go there; only God knows that, but I can warn people that they are on the wrong path, out of love for them and concern for their eternal happiness. If you think that is “hateful,” so be it. It won’t stop me from expressing love and concern for you as a person.
I have to stand before God one day and give account for my teaching and “preaching” as a Christian apologist and evangelist. And I will not stand there and say that I was too scared to proclaim God’s truth in certain areas because it was unfashionable or unpopular, or because I would be slandered by many for so dong. No; truth is truth. If I am wrong in the end, at least my motives were pure, and I was trying to prevent the misery of others, and not trying to harm or hurt them.
If it were, and if such a view (especially if con) were valid, we’d also have to outlaw sex between an HIV-positive/AIDS-infected person and a HIV-free/AIDS-free person. But we don’t, because our nation’s belief in individual liberty allows for people to engage in self-destructive behavior.
To some extent, yes. But we have laws against cigarette and alcohol advertising for this reason (and drunk driving). Are you conceding that homosexuality is self-destructive, and you simply don’t care; you will do it anyway, damn the consequences and how much others suffer? If you die young as a result, don’t you think that will affect the people who love you? So much for radical individualism. If you become very sick or die, that affects many people. They suffer. I know; my brother died of leukemia at 49. My dad has lung cancer now. He is a smoker. Statistics show that if he hadn’t smoked all those years, that he would likely not have developed lung cancer. But again, that is trying to reason with people who are dead-set against reason and don’t care, if it involves something that they desire or are addicted to.
Granted, our legislative branch of government is not always consistent in upholding this cherished belief as is evidenced by its fatuously drafted legislation against certain drugs, but just because bad legislation is written into the books doesn’t make it right.
I couldn’t agree more; hence my disagreement with the so-called “gay marriage” laws.
Later in your response, you provide a considerable amount of medical/scientific evidence “against” homosexuality. The medical/scientific points may or may not be valid in the debate to secure equal rights (not “special” rights, as conservatives contend) for homosexuals / bisexuals / transgendered people but this has nothing to do with its moral component and, more importantly, its legal component.
[see this medical data, which I compiled in a separate paper: Dialogue on the Health Risks of Homosexual Sex ]
It has quite a bit to do with the morality, because immoral things are invariably unhealthy and destructive. This is obvious. If you smoke, you die younger than you would otherwise. Those who do drugs have overdoses (Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon of the Who, etc.). If you live a life of sexual promiscuity (either heterosexual or homosexual) you will end up miserable (are Hollywood stars known for their incredible happiness and stable relationships?). A life of crime causes one to end up in jail or die young. It also has relevance to the legal arguments, because law and legislation have an interest in protecting the larger society from harmful tendencies and trends.
I brought up all the medical facts because you wanted to state falsehoods: that there was no difference at all in homosexual sex. Here is what you wrote:
In secular thought, two consenting adults of the same-sex are not harming anybody. The only argument against homosexuality is that it’s immoral in the eyes of the judeo-christian god, whom you must remember is not everybody’s object of worship. But former nation-states that outlawed homosexuality did so based on religious reasons not scientific evidence.
After that, I hit you with a ton of medical-scientific evidence, which you cannot possibly refute (and so you haven’t made the slightest effort to even try). I can understand opposition to religion, because it is usually based on misunderstandings, but this sort of ignoring of the science is inexplicable, since you claim to be standing on secular, scientific ground, over against us “gullible” Christians who “follow ancient myths,” etc. ad nauseam.
We know that doctors inadverdently kill 195,000 people every year, but that doesn’t warrant the outlawing of the medical profession, nor does it render it immoral.
If they killed themselves (on purpose) at a clip of 195,000 a year, would you favor outlawing suicide?
Two consenting male or female adults engaging in sex doesn’t harm anybody except themselves (assuming homosexual sex is absolutely detrimental to your health, no matter how cautiously you may engage in it, and how frequently, for that matter).
This is untrue. I’ve already dealt with some of the consequences above:
1) If you die young, folks who love you will grieve; they will have the loss of you not being there anymore. You’re part of their life, too.
2) If you get real sick, this affects your job, and others around you. Now their life or situation is affected. It costs someone money to pay for your treatment. You take up hospital beds. You use up resources which could better provide for the poor or the sick people who didn’t cause their own condition by irrational and immoral behavior.
3) There are also psychological factors, which were outlined in the article I cited at length from.
4) If Christianity is true, you place your eternal soul in peril.
5) Even if Christianity isn’t true, based on the medical facts, insofar as you may lead others down the same path through promiscuity (which is quite common), you play a part in their own probable later health problems, and (if Christianity is true) their spiritual life becoming impoverished and their soul possibly endangered.
The government has no business outlawing such behavior amongst adults, and it has no right to deny such adults the right to legally establish their union in a court of law . . .
Since this is based on the bankrupt theory of legal positivism and the self-defeating notions of libertarianism, it is based on incoherent reasoning.
especially in light of the fact that Mr. Armstrong has conceded that Christians oppose/should oppose homosexual legal activism because it is directly opposed to Christianity’s teachings.
I have “conceded” nothing. I dealt with this strain of “argument” above at length. The legal argument can be made without reference to Christianity at all, if needs be.
The Congress doesn’t/shouldn’t draft legislation based on the teachings of Christianity, but rather based on what is permissible under the Constitution. One thing that certainly isn’t permissible under the Constitution is the meddling of religion and state.
I have replied to virtually everything you have argued, while you have ignored a great deal of my argumentation.
By the way, I run a far greater risk of killing myself by going rock/mountain climbing than by engaging in homosexual sex. This risk is even greater for habitual rock/mountain climbers. Maybe we should outlaw that, too? Oh, and why not outlaw driving as well? We don’t have to do drive… it’s not an absolute necessity, generally speaking. It’s a convenience at the expense of 50,000 innocent lives every year.
That’s all well and good, and none of it proves that homosexual sex is healthy and no different health-wise from heterosexual sex, nor that it is “natural” according to human physiology, nor that it doesn’t harm others at all. If you wish to concede that it is both unnatural and unhealthy, then I would consider this argument basically a triumph for the position I have taken. You started out saying there was no difference. Now, all you can do is point out that other activities are also potentially harmful, as if that justifies homosexual sex?
Homosexual Sex: Dialogue with a Liberal Christian [11-11-98]