Leah Libresco replies…

Leah Libresco replies… April 30, 2012

…to my Dan Savage post with a typically thoughtful response that is refreshingly narcissism-free.

Readers will note that the tag on this post, though it deals with homosexuality, has nothing to do with Brownshirts. That’s because Leah does not behave like a bullying thug. This should make clear my first point: which is that I do not and never have said that anybody who self-identifies as gay is a gay brownshirt. Rather, it is people who behave like bullying thugs, who smash windows, intimidate, shout down, and attempt to crush the free speech of others–in short, people who act like brownshirts–whom I grace with the title “brownshirt”.

I realize this offends some people. It offends Leah for instance. But I think that brownshirt behavior should be called by the correct name. And a grown man bullying kids less than half his age and shouting “pansy-ass” at them when they refuse to be subjected to his bullying is, like it or not, acting like a brownshirt.

Note this as well: it is that behavior, not his taking the ocassion to attempt an exegesis of Scripture that is the issue. This is the part of the argument between Leah and me that I find the most interesting. Because what Leah is primarily seeing and reacting to in Savage’s speech is the particulars of his arguments about Scripture, while what I am seeing and reacting to is the fact that he bullied and intimidated a bunch of kids who did him no harm and were simply trying to escape the onslaught of his rage.

There are civilized ways of carrying on a discussion about “What does the Bible say about homosexuality and how much of it applies to us today?” Savage did not employ them. One can note that, yes, Levitical prohibitions against homosexuality are number among prohibitions against shellfish. They are also numbered amongst prohbitions against bestiality. What this means is that the Old Testament doesn’t have a carefully worked out system for distinguishing ritual uncleanness from the uncleanness of sin. I have discussed this in the past here and here.

So pointing to shellfish prohibitions does not really settle the matter, and raises some problematic questions. First, is it advisable to laugh to scorn observant Jews? Gentile Christians will freely acknowledge that we are not bound by the ceremonial laws of Moses. So, for that matter, will observant Jews.

Second, the problem remains, if the Levitical prohibitions against homosexuality and bestiality are of the same weight as eating shellfish, why did nobody in the early Church–or the late Roman, High Medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, or Modern Church–get the memo? Paul’s discussion of homosexual behavior is, after all, the normative take on it, with a few tweaks over time to distinguish between the temptation (not a sin) and the act (sin). At the end of the day, it’s the act that concerns the Church. The disordered appetite (like disordered appetites for heterosexual sins) is a concern, of course, as all concupiscence is. (If you are unfamiliar with that bit of theo-jargon, go here.) But concupiscence is *not sin*. It is merely the tinder for sin. To struggle with concupiscence is merely to be human and normal. We all struggle with it. The principle problem with the gay community is that they wish orthodox Christians to pretend that their favorite form of temptation is not temptation, but something to celebrate. That’s not going to happen because the Church is constrained by apostolic teaching on the matter, which reaffirms the prohibition against sex outside the sacrament of marriage, but not the prohibition against shellfish. People like Savage can either face this fact, or they can continue to spend their bullying rage on teenagers, accusing them of getting ready to stone people to death and claiming the right to “defend themselves” against quiet people who got up and walked out rather than be verbally pounded by a coward with a microphone who was twice their age.

I agree that a good faith discussion is necessary and I applaud Leah’s attempt at it. My own attitude toward homosexuality is, it may surprise her to know, pretty relaxed. That is, while I regard homosex as a sin, I don’t regard it as a uniquely terrible sin, nor do I pretend to have any answers about the genesis of the disordered attraction, nor do I think it’s my job to go around telling people with temptations I do not feel what they should be doing, nor do I think that homosex should be punished by civil law, nor do I think that gays who love their partners should be told to stop, nor do I think they should be prevented from having the right to support one another financially or be denied the normal civil protections anybody should have. What I do think, however, is that the gay community is unusually prone to an ugly combination of bullying and narcissism and that Savage is a poster boy for that. More people like Leah and a lot fewer like Savage would do a world of good for them.

PS. I also think (though the current policy of the Church disagrees with me) that celibate, orthodox and committed men with same sex attraction should be ordained if they have proven their commitment to continence and chastity, so as to better and more effectively model chastity and the possibility of a happy life as a Catholic with same-sex attraction. But that’s grist for another conversation.

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