I recently posted a link to Jerry Walls’s essay, “Homosexual Behavior and Fornication: Intimate Bedfellows,” in which he argued that Christians have no chance of challenging homosexual behavior with integrity if they do not begin with the far more prevalent sin among heterosexuals. James Mace, one of his good friends and former students, responded in the comments. While generally agreeing with Walls’s argument, Mace raised what he sees as an important difference between the two. Here is what he wrote:
While noting some similarities, nobody has taken into consideration the differences between the offensive pro-homosexual movement and the lack of such a movement of pro-adulterers. There is no Fornicators Pride movement actively undermining Christian theology to rewrite God’s word to say that fornication is the way God made us.
Thus, while the article has many true things re which I rejoice, I am disturbed by the seeming willingness to abandon the defense against attacks on theology and praxis from Sodomist ideologues, falsely equating them with garden-variety fornicators while ignoring determinative distinctions in their religio-socio-political agenda.
I am dubious, however, whether the difference is as great as he suggests. Here is why. The heterosexual equivalent of the “Gay Pride” movement occurred a generation or two ago in the so called sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies. The “free love” movement, epitomized by such cultural icons as Woodstock and Haight-Ashbury was as fundamentally challenging and shocking (if not more so), to the moral sensibilities of the Church and larger American culture when it occurred, as the “Gay Pride” movement has been more recently. Certainly it was at least as much a frontal attack on traditional norms and values.
Consider how quickly and thoroughly this revolution occurred. In the space of a few decades, America was transformed from a country where Elvis shaking his hips on TV created a national scandal to a country where TV shows like “Friends” depicted serial fornication among “friends” as harmless fun, indeed, as a charming and even hilarious indoor sport. And now it has gone to another level with shows like “Desperate Housewives” and “Mistresses.” What this shows I would suggest is that the “Fornication Pride” movement succeeded with extraordinary efficiency decades ago and is now so deeply woven into the fabric of our culture that we hardly ever notice it even occurred. Indeed, that is why the phrase “garden-variety fornicators” rings so true. Fornication is simply now the normal behavior. And if my earlier analysis is on track, it is only a matter of time before fornication is more widely and openly defended in Christian circles as an acceptable lifestyle.
That is why the attempt to draw the line at “Gay Pride” without a serious recovery of the larger Christian moral vision is a futile project. Any realistic effort to do this must recognize that the failure of the Church to communicate its vision effectively is at least partly responsible for the sexual revolution in the first place. The failure to celebrate sexuality, starting with its marital pleasures, is part of a larger failure to teach and preach a strong creation theology that affirms the goodness of the physical world as God’s gift to us. The sexual revolution is a distorted version of affirming the goodness of sexuality in isolation from the larger truths that ground its goodness and beauty. Invariably, of course, when a fragment of the Christian vision of reality is broken off from the larger whole of which it is a part, the fragment is not only twisted out of shape, but diminished and shriveled as well.
Only a full blown vision of the goodness of sexuality in its larger context of creation and redemption can correct this distortion that is at the heart of our moral confusion.
As a coda, I would simply add that a number of commenters seem to think we are arguing against saying anything about homosexual sin—essentially that we want to tacitly accept homosexual sin, as well.
That is not what either Walls or I am arguing for. I have been publicly defending the belief that homosexual activity is contrary to God’s creative plan for many years now. I recently started a series of posts exploring the claim that
we should be confident that if we reflect more deeply on deeper themes connected with the Gospel—creation, providence, marriage, celibacy, sin, redemption, resurrection, etc.—we will find the resources for understanding Paul’s teaching on homosexuality, even though Paul himself does much less than many of us would like to explain the reasons behind the prohibition.
Neither of us is trying to water down the Christian teaching on homosexuality. What we do argue is that we can only present that teaching credibly if we also present the Christian teaching on sexuality as a whole.
I would also add that presenting the fullness of Christian teaching on marriage and human sexuality is not only important for being able to respond to the challenge of same-sex marriage with integrity: it is also crucial for the well-being of heterosexuals themselves. The failure to preach and practice the fullness of Christian teaching deprives them of the fulfillment and happiness that comes from cooperating with God in fulfilling His plan in Creation.
Ron Belgau is completing a PhD in Philosophy, and teaches medical ethics, philosophy of the human person, ethics, and philosophy of religion.