Getting Beyond the “Ick Factor” in the Gay Marriage Debate

Getting Beyond the “Ick Factor” in the Gay Marriage Debate April 20, 2009

In one of my early posts on same sex marriage, I wrote that I used to be in the “natural law” camp of persons who said that, thought there’s not an overwhelming amount of verses in the Bible about homosexuality (six, to be exact), there’s a strong argument to be made from Genesis. It’s the old “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Or, as I wrote in the earlier post, “The plumbing’s not right.” For a funny take on this argument, watch the first few minutes of this video, then read more from me after the jump…

I’ve got to be honest that, earlier in my life, part of my opposition to gay marriage stemmed from what moral philosophers call the “wisdom of repugnance,” a.k.a., the “Ick Factor” or the “Yuck Factor.” Leon Kass introduced the phrase “wisdom of repugnance” in 1997 in an article on the bioethics of cloning [link is to a PDF]. He wrote,

“Offensive.” “Grotesque.” “Revolting.” “Repugnant.” “Repulsive.” These are the words most commonly heard regarding the prospect of human cloning. Such reactions come both from the man or woman in the street and from the intellectuals, from believers and atheists, from humanists and scientists. Even Dolly’s creator has said he “would find it offensive” to clone a human being.

But the idea that what we find repugnant affects our moral standards has long been understood by philosophers. Kass jut put a fine point on it.

Revulsion is not an argument; and some of yesterday’s repugnances are today calmly accepted — though, one must add, not always for the better. In crucial cases, however, repugnance is the emotional expression of deep wisdom, beyond reason’s power fully to articulate it. Can anyone really give an argument fully adequate to the horror which is father-daughter incest (even with consent), or having sex with animals, or mutilating a corpse, or eating human flesh, or even just (just!) raping or murdering another human being? Would anybody’s failure to give full rational justification for his or her revulsion at these practices make that revulsion ethically suspect? Not at all. On the contrary, we are suspicious of those who think that they can rationalize away our horror, say, by trying to explain the enormity of incest with arguments only about the genetic risks of inbreeding.

Kass argues, and others have joined the chorus, that while the Yuck Factor isn’t a rational argument, per se, it does tell us something about morals at a sub-conscious, pre-reflective level.

But I think the same sex marriage debate is a case-in-point about why this kind of thinking is fallacious (and the above video is Exhibit A). What Kass fails to take into account is how what we find “icky” is socially conditioned. Take for instance the eating of a dog, which some people in Asia find acceptable but I find repugnant. Or wiping your ass with your hand, which is common in some parts of India. Or eating a hamburger, which is repugnant to Hindus. (Some of you found it repugnant that I used the word, “ass,” in this paragraph.)

When homosex was less commonly referred to in our society, it caused some of us heterosexuals to cringe when we’d see two men kiss in a film, or imagine the act of homosex. But in ancient Rome, no such revulsion would have occured, since homosex was culturally ubiquitous and generally accepted.

And now that gays and lesbians are more comfortably public about their orientation, not to mention sitcoms, movies, and celebrities bringing it to our consciousness, the Ick Factor is going away. Many who oppose gay marriage, like Rod Dreher, argue that they have gay friends and that the act of homosex does not affect their stance on the issue. Others, like Andrew Sullivan, disagree and charge them with latent repugnance.

In either case, I’ll confess that repugnance for homosex did affect my earlier opposition to GLBT rights and privileges. I’ve had to disabuse myself of those feelings and look at the issue more objectively. That’s been part of my journey toward support of SSM marriage.

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  • Selena

    Thank you for posting this. I think the most important thing I am exploring right now in regards to this issue is not whether or not it is okay to engage in homosex, but is actually whether or not this issue is about more than sex. Isn’t there more to the gay issue than sex? Isn’t there more than sex that is unique to the gay person? I am bisexual and I find that there are parts of my identity that come from my being bi that have nothing to do with sex whatsoever. There are parts of me, such as my humor, and the way I hold myself, that have nothing to do with sex. Nothing. But they are not naturally female traits. I do not always, for instance, feel like I am female. I often feel like I am male in a lot of ways. I have been told that the way I have carried myself on many occasions have not been the ways of a woman. It has taken me a long time to figure this out, but there really is so much more to this conversation than sex. Does anybody else see this?

  • pagansister

    IMO some of those that find homosexual marriage unacceptable is their view of what they consider “abnormal” sexual activity. But marriage or serious relationships involve a lot more than just the physical. It’s about trust, friendship, love, companionship etc.not just sex (no matter whether it is a same gender or opposite gender). Anyhow, what happens between 2 consentual adults in the privacy of the bedroom is really no one else’s business.

  • Anon

    I definitely agree about the culturally conditioned nature of the “ick” factor. Among gay men, I’ve known virtually no one who experiences an “ick” factor with regard to heterosex (aside from a few snarky comments about cunnilingus and fish), which makes sense given that LGBT folks are raised in a culture where heterosexuality is ubiquitous. It’s not our thing, but when you’re been around it enough, it’s not a big deal. Likewise, straight children raised in families with out gays tend to not experience much of an “ick” factor towards their gay relatives.
    I hope you’re right that the “ick” factor experienced by so many straights in our culture will decline as more and more LGBT people live openly, and our lives are portrayed in the media and so forth.
    As for Rod, I’m not sure what to make of him. His gay friends that he keeps talking about must be a long-suffering lot. It’s a pity that he bailed on having a dialogue with you, as he rarely goes deep on the theology of his opposition to homosexuality, focusing only on political concerns, like (dubious) threats posed to religious liberty by allowing same sex couples to wed. Bickering with Andrew Sullivan is probably good for traffic though…

  • although i don’t know why, i find the word “homosex” repugnant. probably because the only time i have ever heard it used (with zero exceptions) is when religious people discuss homosexuals. probably because it should more accurately be written as homo sex (since everyone else in the world seems to say gay sex which can’t be written as gaysex) and when written that way it starts to look too much like using “homo” in the pejorative, playground sense.

  • yarrrr

    Don’t you use the “wisdom of repugnance” when you’re confronted by people like the Phelps clan? The fact of the matter is that almost all ethics begin with aesthetics…
    Natural law has it’s uses… IVF should be banned for everyone… there’s one famous lesbian couple who have gotten insiminated at the same time and another famous gay person in a couple who payed for someone in india to be the surrogate…

  • Selena, Yes! I also identify bi and have been reflecting on the very same thing you talk about. Tony, thanks for a great post and for continuing the SSM conversation.

  • Theresa Seeber

    In regards to social conditioning and the ick factor, when Prop 8 pamphlets were coming in the mail last Fall (I am in CA), my six-year-old daughter saw one of two women in bridal gowns coming down the steps of a large government building. She was not grossed out at all, although she was curious. She thought it was a little silly, but seemed to be looking to us for our take on it before deciding.

  • Jules

    Selena, Yes, I know what you are talking about. As a lesbian I am tired of having to defend my life and all that it encompasses. I find my faith is over shadowed by who I am with. My girlfriend, although an important part is my “full me”.
    Tony, Not a fan of “homosex”. It screams something so negative to me. Not trying to be picky, but is almost as if hearing something derogatory and also I feeling of not respecting my community. I don’t mean it as whiny as it sounds, but it is frustrating.
    Onward, I appreciate your post. Sadly, before coming out I sad a lot of things that came from hiding, trying to be “normal” or pure ignorance and a big dose of just wanting to be right. I think placing ourselves in the “question” changes so much. It takes a way the need for rightness and allows the conversation to begin.
    Also, what is this “I have friends who are gay…blah blah blah” It reminds me of the racist who says, “I have friends who are black, but you SHOULDN’T marry them.” Its so degrading. These Christians who say they have a “gay friend”, but….its crap to me.
    Thanks for this post Tony!

  • thanks for another great post tony…if you’ve seen FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO, you’ll remember the line from the founder of SOULFORCE to the effect that once straight people learn that gay people are as boring in bed as they are then the gig is up

  • I can not support SSM based on my biblical worldview. This does not mean I am a homophobe or hate gay people.

  • Anon

    As best I can tell, the only people I’ve ever heard talk about experiencing the “ick” factor are straight men with regard to gay male sex. Straight women don’t seem too grossed out by lesbians getting it on, and obviously straight men aren’t too grossed out by lesbian sex (e.g., the huge amount of “girl-on-girl action” porn that gets produced is not (primarily) for the benefit of lesbians). In public opinion research, straight men are also the group that always polls the highest when it comes to opposing gay rights, which also bears out my intuition that the “ick” factor is primarily a straight male phenomenon in our culture.
    If I were better trained in sociology or psychoanalysis, I could offer a better account of why so many straight men in our culture experience this reaction when the image of men have sex with each other comes to mind. As a gay man, though, I do find it deeply amusing how much time and effort so many (especially young) straight men seem to put into avoiding any faint air of gayness (e.g., compulsively saying “no homo” when they do anything that could be perceived as at all gay, the awkwardness of straight men hugging, assiduously avoiding crossing one’s legs at the knee).

  • Kevin s.

    “IMO some of those that find homosexual marriage unacceptable is their view of what they consider “abnormal” sexual activity.”
    Do you have any opinions that translate to English? I have no idea what you are saying, here.
    “As best I can tell, the only people I’ve ever heard talk about experiencing the “ick” factor are straight men with regard to gay male sex.”
    This is getting closer to a sentence, and I think, maybe, expresses the same idea as is above.
    In my experience, the “ick” factor transcends gender. Conversations about what makes on go “ick” are irrelevant to the discussion.
    My position on legalized gay marriage leans toward the “pro” side. I am not an “Ick” person (though, wouldn’t it be convenient for Tony Jones if I were). The bible, however, does not reflect an acceptance of gay marriage. That ends the discussion, until someone makes a more nuanced argument.

  • Benjamin

    i really wish people would stop parading their opinions as christian theology
    read every single piece of christian literature not from this century and the issue of SSM or SS Intercourse is not an issue, its clear, its wrong. Just like the pride of the catholic church, just like the idolatry of Israel, just like the sin of the Pharisee’s.
    If your bi-sexual or gay this is not an attack on you, i promise. I’m prideful and co-dependent, my sin is clear to me and i dont deny it. I’m not better than you nor are you better than me, we both have the image of God and we both, like sheep, have gone astray.
    Please Please Please Please read the scripture and let the holy spirit counsel you. Read the words of our savior, he is soft with the humble and he is giving to the weak, but if you boast in your sin he treats you like a pharisee and the wicked people we are.
    Tony, your conjecture, while your opinion, is contrary to the message of Christ. while i cant get you to stop or even change your mind, i want you to know that your stance is one that has no theological basis or ground.

  • Anon

    Kevin s.,
    Your prose is hardly the paragon of lucidity (reread your fifth paragraph, if you don’t believe me), so your unsubtle snark is quite unjustified.

  • Anon

    How does your own faith community deal with LGBT people? If I showed up with my same sex partner, would we be welcome? If I put my arm around him in an affectionate manner, would this freak everyone out? I heard you mention elsewhere that for your faith community, identifying as open and affirming would be a step too far. How then do you deal with LGBT folks?

  • Claire

    There are only a few passages in the Bible that express disapproval of homosexuality and they appear alongside passages that say that slavery is fine, that you can stone adulterers, that certain fibers should never be mixed together in clothing under pain of death, etc. Do you approve of slavery? Do you think adultery should be punished with death? If not, then how do you justify adhering only to the passages regarding homosexuality while tossing the less convenient passages out?

  • Benjamin

    Your right to call me out on my perceived hypocrisy, thank you for doing so. but i find that your questions lack the appropriate context.
    The key to reading any passages is context. In the Old Covenant, that is how God designed it to work, that WAS the law, black and white. But NOW, We are placed in the New Covenant where (provided we are born again) we are all priests. The New Testament is just as sour towards homosexuality as the Old Testament, but it is to be dealt with ALONG SIDE CONVERSION.
    Maybe i should have said this before but all these SSM and SS sex is only a problem when you want to become a christian, i cannot force a gay man or women to stop being gay, but i can tell him/her that if she wants to follow Christ, they need to follow his teachings, which is turn from our pride and sin to walk with him alone.
    With that said, my political views are completely different. The Constitution clearly gives gay people the right to be married, absolutely.
    In the Church Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jesus all tell us to flew sexual immorality. That includes every list that the Old Testament gives. That means the man who uses his wife to lord over his house and uses sex as a tool to beat her down is just as sinful as homosexuality, no greater no worse, its both sin.
    I must stress that we, meaning Christians, cannot and should not try to conform everyone around us to our set of morals. Tony would disagree with this but it is our nature to NOT be moral, so why should we expect anything different? It is only when Christ redeems us that we then begin to show moral actions as a fruit of our conversion, not moral actions to induce salvation.
    I hope that answers your questions Claire

  • Your Name

    benjamin, your posts make it very difficult for other members to try to engage you, but let me attempt to offer an alternative viewpoint. first of all, i’m not sure how you defend the statement that support for same-sex marriage is “contrary to the spirit of Christ.” when i am seeking out the mind of Christ on a particular issue, i always turn to the gospels, and there i don’t see a figure who is very involved in what we might term “social issues,” i see a person who engages individuals on a one-to-one basis, a person who fulfills the law rather than repeats it, a person who said “judge not lest ye be judged,” “i have other sheep who are not of this sheep-pen,” “greater things than these will you do.” in short, i see a figure who is wholly progressive, who is about widening the circle of God’s love even as the path itself narrows (simply because we cannot give up our selfishness and pride). one of the core characteristics of God is that he does not want people to be alone. although you are correct in saying that Jesus calls us to give up all and follow him, noone has suggested that that would involve sacrificing conjugal relationships. although a few people have streamlined a very beautiful and compelling theological argument for the necessity of chastity in homosexuals, you cannot theologize away the fact that homosexuality is a very real, human phenomenon. gay people CANNOT experience a full and meaningful emotional cathexis in a heterosexual relationship. but, it would be against the spirit of Christ to deny gay people the values of monogamy and fidelity in a lifelong and, yes, Christ-centered, relationship. i don’t think that it is tony’s philosophical (and, to you, anti-biblical) tone that is bothering you, i think that what is bothering you is a paradigm shift in your thinking that you are simply unwilling to make. you are very kind in your confining your views to the christian mileau, and arguing for at least the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, but your assumption of a greater grasp on truth than other believers needs to be sacrificed if you believe in the fellowship of the Body of Christ.

  • john davies

    of course there are obvious precedents for people choosing celibacy in their quest to follow God, but its never required in scripture. and, personally, i think catholic priests and nuns should be able to marry.

  • Jim

    These arguments have been made so many times it becomes very easy to predict the pattern. Person A affirms homosexual marriage, Person B quotes scripture to try and demonstrate the sinfulness of homosexuality, Person A quotes several verses that we no longer follow (slavery, generally), and accuses Person B of picking and choosing to follow only verses that he likes.
    I propose that we take this conversation as given, and try to move a step farther. Let’s start with the obvious fact that there a commands in the Bible which we no longer obey, (stoning adulterers, let’s say) and commands that we do obey (repent and be baptized, or love your neighbor). This is true and obvious, and I think we needn’t argue it any more.
    What seems to me to be far more worth discussing is the method by which we decide what is still binding and what is not. Proponents of homosexual marriage should not assume that opponents are arbitrary in their decisions, they often have good and rational reasoning for their claims. Nor should those who support traditional (“traditional,” if it pleases you better) marriage assume that those in favor of homosexual marriage are just discarding the whole bible. This is equally unfair.
    So let’s stop rehashing the old cliches, and explain to one another the principles with which we’re coming to these texts. It might be very illuminating and help us understand and respect each other’s positions a little better.

  • Alan K

    I’m sure you know this. If your blog is going to be a place where there can be meaningful dialog on this issue, then matters of epistemology, authority, worldview, and theological anthropology and the like need to lay the groundwork. I know this is a lot less sexy and a lot of people will tune out, but if your blog fails to adequately cover these issues, then I fear this argument will be going on for a thousand years. Words like “ick factor” and “natural theology” cannot be the starting place for discussion. Just take a look at how the comments fly past one another. Sadly, this is not too unlike when my presbytery gets together to decide what our ordination standards should be–a whole lot of passion and very little theology.

  • jestrfyl

    Now take out Gay/Lesbian and put in its place octegenarian. Is it any less “icky” or is it cute and supportinve and “so wonderful they found each other to love”.
    Understand this — Marriage is not ALL about sex.
    Get over that and you may learn some wonderful things about people who are experiencing love in some profound ways.
    Until you are ready to ban marriage for anyone over the age of reproduction, then grow up and get past this “icky” understanding of marriage.

  • Alan K,
    Even if this comment section were limited to people who were very well-versed in philosophical terminology and the epistemological and ontological issues related to this issue, we would not thereby find agreement or somehow “discover” together some bigger truth about which we could all agree. This was the project of the Enlightenment and it failed. I can predict with prophet-like certitude that the same merry-go-round will continue to spin, with the same handful of viewpoints expressed. This is the reality of blogdom and online interaction. It’s conducive to some things, but reaching understanding and mutual agreement is not one of them, I have found.

  • Oops. URL correction.

  • Jim

    Too true, Chris. We can hardly expect to come to some sort of golden mutual agreement. But maybe a little bit of understanding about our own and others’ methodology and presuppositions? That doesn’t seem too much to ask.

  • Your Name

    Legalize gay marriages but let the churches decide if they are going to bless these marriages.

  • Sara the Mainline A-Team Christian

    Perhaps “Marriage Equality” would be a better term. “Marriage Equality” is a “values term” that avoids the “yuck factor” with the phrases such as “Gay Marriage.”

  • “Your prose is hardly the paragon of lucidity (reread your fifth paragraph, if you don’t believe me), ”
    My fifth paragraph is fine. But Jim makes the point much more effectively…
    “What seems to me to be far more worth discussing is the method by which we decide what is still binding and what is not.”
    Well said, Jim. This is the only discussion worth having.

  • Panthera

    In all the time I have followed the conversations here, I have yet to read even one single cogent argument as to why my now 24 year monogamous, true, faithful – and, for the last four years – legal marriage to my husband is invalid in God’s eye.
    Not one.
    Lots of hatred, lots of twisted Biblical cherry-picking but not one single reason why our love is wrong.
    Come to think of it, I have also yet to read any valid statement as to why we are not Christians, tho’ gay.
    And, while we’re on the topic, nobody has ever yet made even a passable argument as to why my marriage is a threat to their CSM.
    Wonder why that is?

  • Alan K

    Thanks for your comments. You may be right about the limitations of the blogosphere (in fact, I’m pretty sure you are), but I think we owe it to one another for the sake of having this dialog actually go somewhere to lay out some basics. For instance, can we in the church agree that epistemically our first move is Jesus Christ, and that what we know of God we know through him? Can we in the church agree that the particular Jesus Christ we are talking about is the one we confess in the creeds and whose story is told in the scriptures? Can we agree that all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Jesus Christ, and he is the head of one church, and thus even if we disagree over understandings of the human being there really is nowhere else to go? Can we agree that any and every concept of the world, that any and every cosmology at the end of the day will fail in their attempts to contextualize God and Jesus Christ? If we can’t lay out such things, then we will be judged by future generations as the church that barked at one another a whole lot but never went anywhere.

  • Panthera

    What a pretty name!
    I am not bi-, so you may want to take my comments for what they are worth. Still, I am human and I suspect the congruency between us exceeds the disparity in our perceptions of ourselves and the way the world sees us and our cultures demand we react.
    Personally, I am built like a brick, um, shed. At 6’2″, I look more like a football player gone to seed than a mild-mannered professor. I’ve been in a wonderful relationship with the same man for 24 years of monogamous bliss and the last four years, we have been married (I don’t live in the US).
    All of my life, I was told that I couldn’t be gay. Gay men have to be effeminate, small, weak and incompetent. Our hands have to flutter, we really should lisp and the fact that I chose archery over varsity football did cause our coach to break down and cry. “But you’re built for it!” He said. “Archery is for guys who can’t cut it in real sports!”
    I think you see where I’m going with this. Now, I can be just as snarky as any old queen in her feather boa when I want to be and my “masculine drag” is more a result of growing up on a working farm than any conscious “maleness”. Our cultures demand certain roles of us and many of those roles are just not appropriate for gay people. I know nothing about female bi-sexuality, so, again, this is just for what it’s worth, but I suspect much of the dichotomy you sense between who you are and how you are expected to be has nothing to do with who you really are – that is OK. It is a conflict between the reality of you and a culture which demands adherence to certain role models for women.
    My suggestion: Go with the flow. If you wake up one morning and feel like the role you’ve played as a woman up until now isn’t the one you want to play that day, then don’t. If you wake up on another day and want to do the ’50’s house-wife thingy, go for it! Me, with my size 13 feet and hands like coal-shovels, there isn’t a glass big enough or a throat-ribbon wide enough to dress any other way than male. But when I wake up and want to walk down to the pasture and speak silly nothings into the horses ears, come back in and bake orange muffins then go out and dead-head the roses, before I load the manure spreader and go, well, pretty much the same thing my freshmen do regularly…nobody better tell me that is not “man’s work.”
    Honestly, we focus far too much on placing people in little boxes in this society. It is absurd. Be yourself, whomever you may be. You and your partner can only benefit from it. Funny, but now that we have three generations of children raised by SSM couples in the Scandinavian countries, we know that they turn out to be just as well adjusted, if slightly more inclined to earn university degrees and with exactly the same 90-10% straight to gay ratio as kids raised in CSM (cross-sex marriage). And that’s that for the role model purists. They are wrong. Who you are was determined before your birth. Be you.
    Sorry to be so long winded, just couldn’t quite figure out how to say what I wanted to say simply.

  • Panthera

    Tony, I don’t know whether it was the “gotchas” or the use of a term which your very strange software decided was inappropriate, but I got tired of waiting, so slightly edited and resent the above post. Please don’t trouble yourself reading the “held” posting, it is identical except that I asked myself which words a Victorian lady with one of those lace doilies on her head would object to.
    It troubles me that has no problem with letting racists post (see Crunchycon) yet terms which have been in common use for decades (and frequently have a non-pejorative usage) get an entire posting flagged.
    Is there anyway you folks could do something about this system? It is an abomination. Go take a look at, for instance, the ancient system used by The Denver Post. Or the Washington Post. Or, well, you know what I mean.

  • pagansister

    Panthera: Congratulations on 24 years!
    jestrfyl, well said as usual.

  • Selena

    Panthera – thank you for your many kind comments. I am working through the non-sexual aspects of who I am and it is hard to determine which parts are because I am bi and which are not. Thank you for sharing, and I have a lot to think about now. I am sorry to say I have more questions now than I did before, rather than feeling I got some answers, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Especially when identity is involved. So I thank you, and I am hopeful that the non-sexual aspects will be brought into light in the coming age.

  • “Lots of hatred, lots of twisted Biblical cherry-picking but not one single reason why our love is wrong.”
    We call them reasons. You call them cherries. This explains the predicament.

  • Panthera

    Kevin S,
    As there is neither scientific nor medical basis for your objections, your only recourse is to interpreting the Bible to fit your needs.
    This is called cherry-picking where I come from.
    Let’s keep it simple, shall we?
    First, you said that we Christians are freed from the strictures imposed upon us by the OT. Great. I guess that frees us from those pesky ten commandments? Which ones? All of them? Or just that rotten one about having to be true to my God? Gosh, I have always taken them to mean I can’t covet those broad shoulders and nice view of my neighbor’s husband
    when he’s bent over polishing his car. Why, thank you! Guess I’ll just go right out and worship him. Two commandments at once! Yee-haw!
    (Exodus 20:1-17, in the Vulgate, who knows what the 20th century perversions you fundamentalist Christians prefer says. I’ll go as far as the KJV with you and not one step further.)
    Second, since the Bible doesn’t say word one about homosexuality (at least not in the Greek or Latin or German or English prior to the 20th century, obviously you are basing your statements on interpretations. What is the basis for these interpretations? You can only be reading from a biased post-19th century text, as the term “homosexuality” didn’t even exist prior to that.
    Third, one aspect of the Bible which is pretty clear is Jesus’ pronouncement on divorce. (Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 for starters.) How do you, as a genuine fundamentalist, literalistic Christian feel about that? We all know that the divorce rate is higher among your type of Christians than among the general population and, for those of us who live in countries where it is legal, also higher than in SSM. As a devout Christian, divorce is something which I have great trouble dealing with.
    Why are you silent about it yet denigrate my 24 years of faithful, monogamous companionship – and now a legal marriage? You can’t weasel out of this one, Kevin, you have to answer it directly because this one is not an interpretation – I can point to it in Greek, Latin, German and Elizabethan English.
    Does your interpretation let you fundamentalist Christians off the hook on that one? Would explain a lot about the way you conservative American Christians regard treating the poor, showing forbearance and forgiveness. Um, you have heard of Jesus, haven’t you? That long-haired, Jewish Rabi? Or does your Bible only begin with Paul in Romans, skipping then again over those icky parts on love in Corinthians and resuming somewhere more condemnatory?
    Forth, what about judgment being reserved to God? If you try the “righteous may pronounce righteous judgment” (John 7:24) proof-texting, be prepared for me to quote from the Gospels on that – try: (Matthew 7:1 and ff), actually, just try reading Matthew. I know, not nearly as much hatred to build on as can be found cherry-picking Paul’s epistles, but for those of us whose Christianity is based on love of God and not hatred of the other, an important Book. Oh, and, conflict there! You’ll have to deal with that one, too.
    Frankly, I don’t care one little bit how you justify your hateful interpretation of the Bible and God’s will for us as Christians in your own circle of believers.
    You must explain, however, why your beliefs are to be given preference among Christians over those of us who are too busy dealing with the logs in our eyes to bother with the motes in our brothers’ eyes. (Still in Matthew 7, verse three now. I guess Jesus kept saying these things because he was a Jew and the Son of God, not the wonderfully Christian Paul. Silly God, whatever could He have been thinking of to send His Son as a Jewish Rabi?)
    As long as you are at it, why should the secular concept of marriage be bent to your perverted reading of the Bible? If your religious views are to be accorded greater status than my marriage, you’d better be prepared for the Mormons to come screaming back in with their polygamy. That, at least, can be justified through the Bible, OT and NT and thoroughly without any interpretation necessary. Shall we just take one? Ok, Matthew 22:24-2. That pesky Matthew again!) Slavery, too, while we are at it. (Ephesians 6:5, to take just one).
    You will note that, apart form the ten commandments (I count a few more in there, but never mind), I have stuck to the NT here – I don’t recall Jesus saying you get to pick and choose there!
    So please, instead of just your cute little one liners, have at it. Explain yourself. Oh, and, if you don’t mind, I’d appreciate your sharing with us which Bible you have gotten all this interpretation from. No point wasting our time with heretical texts. I propose one of the Vulgates, your choice.

  • Panthera

    Selena wrote:
    April 21, 2009 11:06 PM
    …I am working through the non-sexual aspects of who I am and it is hard to determine which parts are because I am bi and which are not. Thank you for sharing, and I have a lot to think about now. I am sorry to say I have more questions now than I did before, rather than feeling I got some answers, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Especially when identity is involved. So I thank you, and I am hopeful that the non-sexual aspects will be brought into light in the coming age.
    end quote
    Well, answers would be nice, I don’t think I have many and I am sorry. I do think, however that you are on the right track when you say that questions arise which are not sexually oriented, but yet come about because of your orientation.
    That, I get.
    We live in a world which assumes heterosexual feelings are the norm. Fine, for straights they are, but you aren’t straight. You are you.
    What questions do you want to pursue? What questions do you have to pursue? Which resources are available to you? Which questions are going to cause major turmoil in your life?
    Maybe that helps. I am confronted every day with the dichotomy between society seeing me as a man, hence a straight man and me neither reacting as one or even getting the context expected of me half the time.
    Example: This morning a student stood up and asked a question. I thought the question was good, so asked her to come down and try out possible solutions in front of the class. She did, she solved it (yay!) and I was happy. It wasn’t until the break when two young male students came up to me and said thanks – what an eyeful! – have her on the podium more often!, that I realized why the class was paying attention.
    I just didn’t ‘get it’.
    I only saw a young woman with a valid question, they saw, well, whatever, it goes right over my head.
    Funny, how often the hateful people here demand that being gay is all about sex.

  • Jim

    Your passion does you credit Panthera. Please let me join you in being deeply troubled by divorce. It is surely in violation of Our Lord’s teaching, and God cannot be pleased with its frequency among his professed followers.
    On the other hand, my heart aches for those suffering in broken marriages, people deeply wounded and betrayed. Let’s make sure we always supplement our passion for God’s truth with compassion for hurting people. I honestly don’t know what can do but continue to proclaim Christ’s condemnation of divorce, but at the same time constantly pray for and love divorced people, welcome them into our home and our hearts, show them that there is no condemnation in Christ, help them heal, and trust in God’s faithfulness. I’m not sure what else there is to do.

  • Panthera

    I think you are right. Surely, there comes a point at which it is cruel to impose “marriage” upon someone whose spouse treats them so badly one must ask where their inalienable right to human dignity has been locked away.
    In principle, there has to be an out for such situations.
    But this ‘no-fault’ nonsense, no, it is not good for anyone. My marriage is for life. For better or worse, in sickness and health. It is not just until that cute neighbor wakes up and dumps his wife and jumps in my bed, never mind his three young children. It is for life.
    Mainly, I just plain lost my patience with Kevin S. He loves to pronounce his judgment upon gays yet hasn’t the first clue what God really asks of us on those topics which affect him. I notice, this is true of fundamentalist Christians in general. They find it easier to attack us than to really bother living Christian lives.

  • Theresa Seeber

    Panthera, you know me enough to know I am not hateful nor a critic of the LGBT community. So I hope you understand my genuineness in asking the following question (by the way do you have your own blog, because I dare say we may get off subject if we are not careful. If not I do and we can meet there if we get too far off-base). Here is my question. You said the following to somebody else earlier:
    “Second, since the Bible doesn’t say word one about homosexuality (at least not in the Greek or Latin or German or English prior to the 20th century, obviously you are basing your statements on interpretations. What is the basis for these interpretations? You can only be reading from a biased post-19th century text, as the term “homosexuality” didn’t even exist prior to that.”
    I see that the term homosexuality is not used, but the concept is discussed (kinda like the term Trinity). I almost sense you saying that the Bible does not address homosexuality, which I certainly wish were true for the sake of the LGBT community (and selfishly, for the sake of my heart for this group of people). But it does. So I am unclear the point you are trying to make. HOWEVER, and this is important to see before anyone jumps on my case please, I am fully aware of the argument that states that while ss interactions are discussed quite negatively in the OT, so is eating shellfish and not stoning to death a defiant son. So I am not asking which parts of the OT are valid, I am asking for clarification of the point you are trying to make in the text above. 🙂

  • Hi Theresa,
    Good to hear from you! I think you ask a valid point.
    There is an excellent discussion of this which I think can answer the matter better than I can. Please take a look at it, assuming the link above went through.
    I haven’t heard from Thomas here lately, I do hope he wasn’t offended by me. I try to be moderate without pulling my punches.
    Hope this finds you well, do write back what you think of the link.
    Oh, I will have to contact you through your blog. I’ve got so many students this semester, I fade in and out here, depending on workload.
    Let’s concentrate on here for this discussion.
    Thanks for your gentle but firm voice of sanity. Some folks here make me want to ask whether they have ever actually read Matthew or just skipped to the easy parts.

  • jennifer

    so you don’t believe that homosexuality is wrong?

  • Theresa Seeber

    Panthera, I have read the link you shared with me, and created a post on my blog about it here, where we can discuss it specifically:
    Anyone can come and engage in the conversation there with us, but I am not as gracious as Tony when it comes to harsh criticisms or meanness. I will delete any such comments as soon as I see them. Sorry to be so direct, but it is important to me. Peace.

  • Selena

    Panthera, you asked me: “What questions do you want to pursue? What questions do you have to pursue? Which resources are available to you? Which questions are going to cause major turmoil in your life?” Wow, you have hit a really big nail on the head for me. Thank you.

  • David KCMO

    The ick factor reaction is an adult human’s response in the modern world? Get real! Immature would be the best word to describe this “factor.” It holds no merit. Young children think other young children of the opposite sex are “icky,” “gross,” etc.
    These are excuses appeasing to arrogant people who are aware they are soon to get a huge dose of consequences that they’ve been avoiding with the God told me to” defense.
    Even though we will get our Equal Civil Rights with marriage very soon, I am completely over being nice to the arrogant, bigoted, Hebrew Water Walking Sky Zombie adults of this world.
    We will no doubt prosecute the above mentioned with anti-hate speech laws that will rise up as we have!
    Your religion will no longer be able to excuse you under the law for discrimination.

  • Cand86

    Very interesting. I think I tend to disagree with Kass- I think that we not only can rationally explain our revulsion, but that we should, every time we experience them. (At the very least, it would necessitate more reflection and understanding). I could list off a dozen reasons why father-daughter incest gives us a sense of revulsion- including our discomfort with age discrepancies in relationships (based itself off the “dirty old man” and “innocent little girl” archetypes), fear of abuse of the familial power dynamic influencing her “consent”, a heaping pile of warped media images about incest lingering in the back of our minds (redneck hillbillies and dueling banjos, Leatherface, “the people under the stairs”, etc.), and perhaps even biological factors (like the scientific studies that demonstrated a natural incest aversion between relatives through scent). I just think it’s important to break it all down- rape, murder, necrophilia, bestiality. To me, it isn’t “rationalizing away the horror”- it’s giving it a much needed context. Questioning why something is bad does not always have an end outcome of “It must be good.”- we can instead confirm that yes, we were right to find it immoral. (Not to mention that giving license to find only some things beyond questioning sort of automatically leads to somebody using it for their own purposes, like being against homosexuality).
    But that was way off-track; I know you were just quoting him for context. Anyways, you’re completely right about the gay sex (sorry, “homosex” as a word just makes me laugh) and social stigma affecting those who have repugnance towards it. Every time I hear an argument based on the “It’s disgusting!” rationale, I want to bring up the idea of old people having sex- wrinkled, sagging, grey-haired, liver-spooted old folks doing it. It makes many shudder for a lot of reasons (reminds us of our grandparents, who of course are not supposed to have such naughty desires!, doesn’t fit in with our youth-obsessed standards of beauty and desirability, etc.), but few people are willing to say sex between seniors is wrong or ought be banned.
    Anyways, I just wanted to say that it’s pretty wonderful to see somebody going through this journey towards accepting homosexuality and same-sex marriage; a friend linked to you through her blog, and while I’m not Christian-identified, I like reaching out to the Christian community and understanding/learning/discussing.

  • Husband

    ” I almost sense you saying that the Bible does not address homosexuality, which I certainly wish were true for the sake of the LGBT community (and selfishly, for the sake of my heart for this group of people). But it does.”
    It does so only in a radically different context than we do here, today. Allow me …
    The Leviticus passages refer specifically to people turning away from what is “the natural” and to “the unnatural”. People miss the point that heterosexual sex is quite UN-natural – for gay people. The presumtion is that all people were born heterosexual, and that is just not the case.
    It also speaks of “lieing with a man as with a woman“. Perhaps it is simplistic, but gay men don’t ‘lie with women’ – in any fashion. To me, (again, perhaps simplistically) this refers to normally heterosexual men who get it on with men out of lust (the actual ‘sin’ being committed here), the equivalent of being ‘on the down low’ in today’s vernacular. This is merely using other people as sexual objects for one’s own gratification, clearly lust and clearly (to the religious) an actual sin. Plus, in this passage, what you might have called homosexuality (and which I feel was referrig to something else entirely), these behaviours are called “abomination”, but then again, eating shrimp and lobster get the same condemnation. These pasages were, I believe part of the Levite Holiness Code. No offense, but I’m not a Levite either.
    Then there’s the “Sodom” passage – which, as has been pointed out, is misinterpreted as somehow being about gay sex instead of the sin of inhospitality (as explained in Ezekiel), and which utterly ignores the fact that Lot offerrd up his daughters to be raped (again, the rape and the lust are the sins committed here) by an angry mob. It is unfathomable that the entire town – which was judged as “wicked” would have been entirely homosexual.
    There may be one other OT passage in the Bible that may speak of what you called “homosexuality”, and although the actual passage escapes me, I believe it had to do with cult temple prostitution. But once again, it is not what we refer to as homosexuality (or our undertanding of homosexuality) today nor does it address what we are discussing, namely committed, adult, loving same-sex relationships.
    As for the NT, I think there are two passages, both ‘authored’ by Paul. I am not a Pauline, I am a Christian, so that poses some problems right there. When I factor in Paul’s attitude about women (they’re not to speak or teach in the Church, apparently, and should keep their hair long too!), and about slavery (“slaves obey your masters”), I end up not putting too much cred in what we have left of poor old Paul’s writings. And, do we need to mention Paul’s own personal “thorn in the side”? Not a few sholars suggest tha perhaps Paul might have been a bit light in the loafers himself. (For a scathingly funny take on this, I highly recomend Gore Vidal’s “Live From Golgotha”.)
    As a Christian, I prefer to follow what Christ had to say about homosexuality, which was absolutely NOTHING. (At least in the passsages we have left that didn’t get edited out by you know who.)
    The above 6 passages are commonly referred to as the Clobber verses. There’s (or at least there used to be) quite a discussion about them here on B’net in the Community Forums.
    That’s 6 – in the entire Bible! Now, consider the some 367 passages in the Bible that ‘condemn’ certain heterosexual sex acts. By this I do not mean to imply that “God hates str8s”; only that they seeem to need a great deal more supervision. (This last is not an original line – I credit the comedienne/philosopher Lynn Lavner.)
    Hope this helps in some way.

  • revkev

    My wife and I are in the midst of a paradigm shift on the whole issue of homosexuality. For years we toed the line of the far-right. Then it happened…we began to get to know, and to be friends of men and women who are gay. Few if any of them fit the description of deviant, promiscuous, perverted, godless, menaces to society they were described to be. Where to begin? Who should we be reading to broaden our perspective? Do you articulate your support for gay marriage in a particular book or article?
    Thanks so much…

  • Emilio

    I want to say thanks to Teresa for such a great articule, I would add that today’s pulpit should re-direct they priching to core teaching of the Bible which love to our self and so to our fellow man, and not so mucho spreding of hateful-dogma. God is love.

  • Gerry

    Do you know why the Bible doesn’t use the word, “Homosexuality”?
    In ancient cultures the dominant social and personal expectation is that a person would grow up, get married (to someone of the opposite sex), bear and raise children. Childlessness was seen as a profound personal and social disgrace. It was seen as a profound diminishment of ones masculinity or femininity. Not only was personal honor at stake, but also family honor as well. No man or woman would willingly choose to remain childless.
    Given the above social and personal matrix homosexuality as an exclusive lifestyle was rare to the point of social irrelevance. Homosexual acts occurred only incidentally for the vast majority. Those who engaged in homosexual acts still perceived themselves as primarily sexually procreative persons (heterosexuals).
    While homosexual interest is a part of human sexual nature its expression for thousands of years was channeled into only incidental, not exclusive, behavior. Says something about the power of social messages and approval doesn’t it as well as the basic fluidity of human sexual nature.

  • jacniceli

    By being forced to accept and condone homosexuality, our minds are being messed with. Songs on the radio “I kissed a girl and I liked it” by Katie Perry, movies called “I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry” & “Brokeback mountain” receiving awards for their disgusting nature….I don’t like having homosexuality forced on us. Yes, there’s the “ick” factor and I hope that factor remains. People should not be forced to change what they know is true and right.
    God did not create man to be with man or woman to be with woman. Fortunately for everyone who is homosexual, our God is very tolerant and willing to forgive that and all other sins if people confess and admit that its a sin to be involved with homosexual activity.
    God did not create you that way. There’s a devil in this world who messes with people’s minds. His name is Satan and his days are numbered. Meanwhile, he wants to drag as many people down with him to hell as he can. Why be his victim? Your Christian friends and family who pray for you and talk to you about why homosexuality is wrong aren’t mentioning it for their own benefit, but for yours. The Bible is the true word of God. I’ve never known it to be wrong. If fact, its so right, its stunning! What God says he’s going to do, He does.
    He warned Lot and his family to leave the area of Sodom & Gomorrah because He would destroy those cities for their homosexual activities.
    He rained fire and brimstone – all the homosexuals were killed.
    Its going to happen again, not as a group but on a personal level.
    Like when a homosexual person dies then faces judgement. The New Testament tells us that homosexuals will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Since heaven is forever and so is hell, where would you rather be?

  • Ann

    Jacniceli- I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you don’t even realize how hateful your post is. Maybe you believe you are helping… that the threat of hell will scare someone into repentance. You must know deep down that this is not the case. Jesus did not spend his time running around preaching fire & brimstone to the sinners in His day. What did he do? He invited them to dine with him? He befriended them.
    If your desire is to help, then I challenge you to actually befriend a homosexual person. Spend 6 months just developing a friendship and abstain from any judgement. Just get to know them and listen to their side. Then after 6 months if you still feel the same way, try to tell them to their face the hateful things you posted.
    If you don’t care about these people, then please just keep these vile thoughts to yourself.

  • Your Name

    Further to negating the ‘ick factor’ as a viable means to determining truth would be the reaction that most kids have to the reality of their parents having sex. It’s not wrong or immoral by anyone’s standards…but it gets a big and authentic gut wrenching “Ewwwww” from the kids!

  • Husband, thank you. That is very helpful. I have been exploring this issue for some time, and have arrived at this beautiful link which captures what I feel is an excellent representation of the Bible’s stand on gay marriage. I am finally in a place to admit that. Thank you for being gentle with me.
    Tony, thank you for providing this place of forum and dialogue.
    Emilio, thank you for your kind words. I agree, we need to focus on the most important commands ever given – love God and love others! 🙂

  • Remington

    So, I’ve searched high and low, and I have yet to find a truly scholarly argument against gays, gay rights, gay marriage, or gay couples adopting children. Moving past the “Ick Factor,” I am left with Biblically based, church influenced arguments, but none of them seem to cite any true science. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? While I am a strong proponent of gay rights, I am searching for an argument against it that has no scriptural basis, and lacks sophomoric sarcasm (Adam and Steve, to name one, which fits both categories). Some have cited evolution, but even evolution has non-productive traits, and the moment we start into that, we get into Hitler-style eugenics. I would genuinely like to know if the anti-gay side has any basis beyond the Bible for condemning gays, as my past research has yielded nothing but a revisiting of the texts of nomadic desert people who thought that the world was flat.

  • Remington

    jacniceli, you mentioned Lot. Are you referring to the same fine moral specimen (God’s choosing here) who later impregnated his two daughters?

  • noah

    again tony.
    not a single scripture to back up your points.

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