I’ve been following the #ERLC2014 hashtag on Twitter, which links me to updates on the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s 2014 conference on the theme of homosexuality.
Many of the folks tweeting have been voicing frustration, anger, and hurt over what’s being said at the conference. I haven’t been watching any of the livestream, but I imagine some of the frustration is warranted. But, then again, I also imagine much of the hostility to the conference has to do with dismay that the SBC still holds the view of marriage that I do—which is that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman and any sexual activity outside of that context is prohibited for Christians. In other words, I imagine many people’s frustration boils down to (a) incredulity that the SBC still holds this view and (b) fervent desire that it would change.
What I was asking myself today, though, was—once again—why the “traditional view of marriage” provokes so much anger in our culture. I can certainly imagine some legitimate reasons for it to do so, since the people expressing that view have often been hypocritical, upholding “traditional marriage” while also getting divorced at roughly the same rates as more “liberal” folk and behaving with shocking insensitivity toward LGBT people. (The latter is something I know from personal experience, having grown up in the SBC trying to keep my own same-sex desire secret.) But, even granting that, why is it that so many people in our culture, even friends of mine who might otherwise be very sympathetic with much of what the ERLC stands for, are so up in arms about Christianity’s traditional stance on gay sex?
The question is even more puzzling when you recognize that Christianity has a ton of other very difficult teachings that don’t provoke nearly the amount of outrage and skepticism right now that its teachings on gay sex do. For instance, think about what Christianity says to straight single people: “If you never find an appropriate marriage partner, you are expected to go your whole lifetime without sex.” That is, by any measure, a pretty hard teaching! Or consider what Christianity says to people who get divorced for reasons having simply to do with incompatibility: “Don’t get remarried” (see Mark 10:2-12; Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-12; Luke 16:18; 1 Corinthians 7:10-16). (I have two friends who are recently divorced on what they and I perceive to be biblical grounds [see Matthew 19:9], and yet these friends are both wrestling [in conversation with their bishop, I might add] with whether they are really permitted, on biblical grounds, to remarry. They are seriously contemplating whether God wants them to remain unmarried for the rest of their lives, which is, as I know from my own life’s questions and decisions, a remarkably hard thing to be grappling with.) Why aren’t these kinds of moral commands and decisions treated with the same level of dismay that Christianity’s judgment about gay sex is?
Here’s the key, I think: It’s because gay and lesbian people perceive Christianity as not just asking for a certain modification or a certain disciplining of their behavior but rather for a suppression or erasure of their identities. In modern Western cultures, being gay or lesbian—or bi, trans, queer, or some other parallel or related identity—is perceived as just that: an identity. It is not only a matter of performing or not performing some genital behavior; it’s rather that the behavior that Christians want to prohibit is seen as inextricably bound up with their personhood. And so, unlike Thomas Aquinas who treated homosexuality as just one particular permutation in the broader category of lust (Summa Theologiae IIa IIae Q.154, arts. 11-12), most of us in the West today think of homosexuality as a category of persons, rather than a category of actions. As Steve Holmes has commented (in a forthcoming collection of essays in honor of Stanley Grenz), “For the churches of the West, whatever formal stance they take concerning the ethics of human sexuality, there is (generally) an awareness, often acute, of the cruelty of imposing ethical norms that conflict with personal identities.”
And this, in turn, explains the huge investment conservative movements like the ERLC have in getting Christians like me to stop calling ourselves “gay.” The reason that’s important is that if my identity isn’t gay—if, on the contrary, I’m just another human person just like my straight neighbors—then it becomes easier to see why and how Christianity’s traditional prohibition of same-sex sexual behavior isn’t an intolerably cruel diminishment of my personhood. If I’m just a Christian—if there’s no basic identity difference between me and my “straight” Christian friends—then the same ethical norm (don’t have sex with people of the same sex) can apply to both of us equally without unfairly infringing on the basic identity of one, but not the other, of us.
It would take another post (like Eve Tushnet’s post here, for instance) to explain why I go on using the word “gay” for myself, despite all the complications I’ve just described. But for now, I just wanted to try to articulate—once again!—why we all find this so hard to talk about, and why it’s so easy for conservatives and progressives to misunderstand each other.
On the panel talk today there was a wide range of views expressed about the rights and wrongs of claiming a gay identity. Jackie Hill-Perry strongly opposed using the term gay Christian and Christopher Yuan defended it (when understood correctly).
It’s been an interesting conference so far. I get the impression that the SBC leadership team have been paying close attention to the type of debates you have here at SF. They really want to get the language right – without confusing/alienating their core audience.
I agree. Whatever the term one uses to describe themself, one’s actions be can be separated logically from one’s core identity. So that, if one says they are heterosexual, that no more means that they are on the prowl for every other heterosexual in sight, as if one who says they are gay (or same-sex attracted, etc.) that they will jump the bones of any other gay person nearby.
For me, I use the term “gay” and then make sure the person I am in dialogue with clearly understands that I am meaning that my core sexual identity is gay, yet my sexual lifestyle is one of celibacy in that regard as I fulfill my vows to God and my spouse in our mixed-orientation marriage.
And, yes, it is very complicated. And those complications bring pain as one attempts to engage in healthy community with other people of faith.
I agree with you wholy. I just have one comment: if you are married you are not celibate, you are living chastity in accordance with your state of life which is married and this means your sex life is ordered towards your life. Celibate is the opposite of married. You practice chastity in your life by being faithful to your wife. God bless you I pray with all my heart.
I meant to say that your sex life is ordered towards your wife (not life).
Thanks! That didn’t come out of my fingers like I was thinking it. I was meaning to say what you said. 🙂
I’m a little confused and I hope I am not being too personal here (of course you don’t have to answer). I assume that you are married to a woman and by ‘mixed orientation’ you mean that your wife is ‘straight’? I also assume that you are both chaste in this marriage?
You are correct in both assumptions.
You hit the nail on the head in your third paragraph. My initial thought was, “why on earth did they choose to structure an entire conference on one topic as controversial”? (Not to mention sparsely written about outside of maybe five specific verses and/or under the umbrella of all sexual immorality) I think I’ll write a strongly worded letter suggesting they leave the LGBT community alone for a quick minute and focus on 1 Corinthians 14:34 for next year, wink, wink:) Your stance is wonderful…encouraging and loving, yet rooted in the Word. Keep it up!!
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I’m thankful for this comment, but I must take issue with one thing. Orthodox Christianity understands that Christ becomes the identity of each confessing individual. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”
It is not a matter of SUPPRESSING our particular identities (e.g. sexuality, race, gender, class, level-of-wealth); it’s a matter of SACRIFICING our chosen identities to Christ Himself.
I’m straight, or should I say that my sexual attractions are towards the opposite sex (in my case, women), but I don’t build my identity on sexuality. Personally, I struggle with other idols, such as financial security and intellectual dominance. I struggle is in refusing to build my identity on these false idols that I find myself worshipping. It’s what our Lord has asked of me to do, and in return, we are promised Him, or, should I say, everything.
I don’t understand how you arrive at a sexual identity being a false idol. I’m not convinced it is…or that it at least ALWAYS is.
By placing our sexuality as the central, defining feature of who each of us are, we are worshipping an idol. See Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller.
For clarity, I’m not accusing homosexuals as being the only group that idolizes their sexuality. See the hook-up culture for example, which places sexual encounter as the most meaningful thing for all, whether gay or straight.
Nor am I suggesting that the idol of sexuality is somehow worse than say the idol of personal peace and affluence. The worshipping of an idol, no matter which, leads to our destruction.
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21
Adopting “gay” as a label does not an idol make, even in Tim Keller’s book, which I loved.
Jokingly we could refer to it as a “War on Adjectives”.
I’m with Dave, in that I don’t agree that sexuality is necessarily an idol (the term “false idol” seems like an awkward amalgamation of “idol” and “false god”).
With that said, I may be losing the ability to get truly indignant about this stuff any more, which is arguably a good thing. It makes me smile, chuckle lightly to myself, and shake my head at the silly catch-22 in which I’m caught by straight people like the thought leaders in the SBC.
For a specific example, if someone asks me why I have not fixed my “sinful” (well, at least according to Al Mohler) celibate, unmarried state at the ripe old age of the upper 20’s*, I can either lie and say it’s because I’m too focused on volunteer church ministry and career, in which case they’d say I’m sinning by being selfish (or at least Mohler and friends would). If, on the other hand, I were to tell the truth and so much as hint at the fact that I’m gay – or same-sex attracted, to placate the language police – they’d tell me that I’m adopting an ungodly identity. I simply can’t win.
In other words, if you’re not holy and righteous enough to pray away the gay, you’re mandated to say away the gay to keep in the good graces of people whom I’m caring less and less about pleasing every day.
* Marriage: now _there’s_ an idol in the evangelical church!)
So the evangelical church doesn’t think celibacy is a valid path?
I wouldn’t generalize quite that far. While the most vocal leaders in the SBC (Al Mohler is sometimes jokingly referred to as that denomination’s “pope”) have said that “delaying marriage is selfish” (as I recall the verbiage going), I don’t think that represents a universal opinion in evangelicalism.
Thanks for the answer LJ. I guess there is no universal answer from evangelicals precisely because they don’t have a Pope! 😉
Great point. I faced much the same catch-22 in the PCA (the closest Presbyterian equivalent of the SBC and the church home of Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin). I finally just walked away in frustration and now attend an EPC church…that *gasp* has women serving in leadership roles.
After being criticized by my pastor as selfish for being single and 40, I came out of the closet as a celibate gay Christian. The pastors on my presbytery at least acknowledged that reparative therapy was bunk, but they kept demanding that I repent of my sexual orientation. As I explored the issue further, I came to realize that these guys had so idolized the 1950s view of marriage and manhood, that any failure to conform outwardly to that ideal was viewed as implicitly sinful.
Now that I’ve left the PCA, I can’t help but look back on my 15 years in that denomination as anything but spiritual abuse. Groups like the SBC and the PCA are merely Canaanite fertility cults passing themselves off as Christian churches.
@Bobby – Those are strong words. It does sound like you faced an abusive environment in the PCA. I do think the PCA also often falls into the common conservative Protestant idolization of marriage over celibacy.
However, I don’t think you can extend your experience to the whole PCA. I’ve attended two different PCA churches recently, and my experience has been positive. In fact, the pastors have looked to me as a resource for learning more about LGBT issues. They certainly haven’t kicked me out for acknowledging my orientation or pressured me into needing to change it. I think things are improving, although I’m sure not all churches are the same.
I realize that the PCA can be better in certain locales, such as NYC. But in my neck of the woods, the suburban churches are pretty typically evangelical, and the urban churches are heavily influenced by the Acts 29 movement. Neither crowd has much interest in discussing gender-related issues in a nuanced way.
Also, I noticed that you’re a Tarheel as well. I got my JD from UNC a few years back. I went to a PC(USA) church in Durham during those years.
@Bobby–I am absolutely with Jeremy on this issue with the PCA. With your words you did the same thing for which we often slam the church. We who deal with SSA (or whatever term you want to give it personally) often feel unfairly lumped together as a group of sex-crazed pedophiles-in-waiting. And that’s because there have been others who have shared our attractions and have acted on them in ungodly ways. Your slamming the PCA as a whole because of your personal experience in certain congregations is unfair to others. Others, such as my pastor who, when I shared with him, sat with me and wept and repented on behalf of the church as a whole for the wounds that I have suffered, and who reaffirmed to me that he and his wife regard me as one of their very own, right alongside their biological children. Others, such as the pastor I sat with this week who really wants to love folks who deal with these attractions and who, at one point in the conversation, said, “I believe it’s possible to experience same-sex desires and live a pure life.” You just lumped those two men, who are loving God and learning more how to love others, under the heading of a Canaanite fertility cult. You should be ashamed of yourself.
Would you mind pointing me to a written work (article, book chapter, blog post, etc.) by a TE in the PCA that offers an opinion along the lines of what Wes has expressed here?
Two pastors on my presbytery offered such views to me, but would do so only verbally and in private. Neither was even willing to discuss these issues by email.
I think there are a substantial number of pastors in the PCA who are willing to speak against the denomination’s approach to these issues behind closed doors and out of the hearing of other pastors. But they are unwilling to put those opinions into writing.
I’m not looking for someone to weep with me. Nor am I looking for someone to chat with me over beers. No. I’m looking for someone to think through the issues, reduce those thoughts in writing to a coherent position, and to defend that position publicly. That’s how we arrive at truth.
When a client hires me as a lawyer, she’s not looking for me to cry with her. She isn’t looking for me to empathize with her over beers. Rather, she wants me to go into court and demonstrate that the truth vindicates her. That’s what I want from my pastor.
@Bobby – I know your request was not directed to me, and I don’t have an example of something in writing off the top of my head. However, Covenant Theological Seminary, which is the PCA’s seminary, hosted a conference a week ago on homosexuality. The primary speakers were in fact Wesley Hill and Mark Yarhouse, and Kyle Keating and Julie Rodgers were also included among others.
I think this is a pretty strong indication that there is significant acceptance of what we’re doing at Spiritual Friendship within the denomination. This doesn’t mean that everyone is on board, but I think this is a positive step that is certainly not negligible.
The Eventbrite page for the event has a little bit more information, at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/homosexuality-and-the-church-toward-faithful-pastoral-care-tickets-12479435327
I also attended this conference myself and was quite pleased to see it happen.
Oh, and there’s also the sermon one of my pastors gave, which was pretty on board with a lot of what we’re saying at SF and which quoted several of the contributors. I was actually included as well. http://cccpca.org/resources/sermons-archive/sermon/how-should-i-think-biblically-about-same-sex-attraction
This stuff isn’t technically in writing, but I think it’s pretty substantial evidence that the current state of affairs in the PCA is not what you think it is. I think this is a sign of positive change.
Thanks for the links. Again, I’m not suggesting that there aren’t some pastors in the PCA who are interested in doing a better job of ministering to gay Christians. There are. But these guys are a minority. I don’t expect there to be major change at the GA level, especially as more and more of the bigger-tent churches leave the PCA for the EPC.
It’s not uncommon for those in the majority to not “build” their identity on that majority characteristic. I bet if you asked many Caucasians how they “identify” the majority would not list “white”, at least not very high up the list. But if you asked that same question of African Americans, many would include “black” at or near the top. So I think it may be hard for you to relate.
Very important point.
it’s like I said:
Many White Americans are startled by the idea that they might have “an accent”– something only foreigners are referred to as having.
When you’re the definition of “normal” it’s hard to self-evaluate.
That’s why many heterosexuals insist that they “don’t flaunt” their sexuality “like some gays”.
“Why do they have to shove it down our throats!” they opine–while casually referring to their own traditional family (and thus their sexuality).
You claim you struggle with these false idols in your life yet you have sacrificed yourself and given yourself over to Christ, correct? So if you still struggle with these things despite the intercession of Christ it must be your admission then that you believe sin to be more powerful than Christ. Is that accurate?
God doesn’t work like a magic wand. You establish a relationship with Him knowing and trusting that He will win every part of you over towards Him. It is not about saying “Christ I give myself to you” once as if those words were to magically change everything immediately. It is about a process, about cultivating a relationship that requires the explicit and implicit statement of “God I turn myself to you” many times. And you will see change, transformation. Of this I am witness.
If I sacrifice my homosexuality to Christ and it doesn’t go away, it is His fault. The only other logical explanations if you are right is that Christ is either powerless to sin or capricious and choosing not to help us (also, breaking His promise to us, so you can add liar to the last one).
Either God is incompetent, God is cruel, or you and BV are wrong. I suspect it more likely you two are wrong and that these sinful states are just part of our lessons in this life. Or maybe we don’t fully get it yet.
You want a magic wand… I hope you can find it and they maybe share.
I meant to say maybe once you’ve found your magic wand you can share
There is no magic wand. That was the point. My orientation may have it’s share of downsides but it is ultimately a blessing to be cherished like my artistic ability or writing talent. It is not a curse to be rid of. The problem with expecting Christ to transform or heal you when you pray is it sets up a losing proposition for God.
If God heals or transforms you then why doesn’t He heal the kids dying of Leukemia in hospice? It is a belief that creates animosity towards God. An unsteady foundation where belief is predicated on chance (and it is just chance as the age of miracles is long since past – God’s overt power is gone from this world).
Of course there is no magic wand (I’m glad we can finally agree on something) but you are missing my point. I don’t advocate to “pray the gay away”. I advocate submitting the gay to God and let him wield you. You, on the other hand, seem to want to wield God.
In other words when I say that God transforms us I don’t mean He will take away all our illnesses or problems or gayness. What I mean is that he will use these towards His plan for a higher good for us and for all. But we must submit to Him not only our problems but our blessings. We must submit our lifes.
Rosa, these answers you are giving are ultimately empty because they’re not very practical.
How so you expect to win over gays and lesbians with such theoretical talk?
It’s literally a battle between:
Offer 1: “You’re damaged. Come for healing that’s not really healing–but still it’s healing.”
Offer 2: “You’re worth just as much as everyone else. Nothing is wrong with you.”
Who do you think will win?
I don’t intend to win at all. To me the options are:
1) To submit to God letting him wield you
2) To not submit to God.
There is a problem with human beings and it is that our sorrows, pains and struggles seem to be the greatest of all. This is true of everyone. But what do we know of the struggles of others? I cannot speak of the challenges of being gay but I’m certain that there is a way of submitting these to God. I speak from my own experience in relation to my own struggles and challenges.
So in summary, I don’t intend to win and the option is between submitting to God or not. There is always a way.
Wow. I can’t help but view your comment as harsh. Since when do people, ever escape from struggle? The fact that the original poster admitted to struggling with false idols, simply means he is human and in need if God’s continued and abundant grace. Do you seriously mean to indicate that a sanctified believer no longer struggles? The admission of struggle does not concede the power of sin is more powerful than Christ. It is simply an honest recognition of our fallen state and our need for God’s available rescue. Do you honestly never struggle with sin of any kind? You are woefully deceived if you claim you don’t.
I know we all and forever need God. I never said otherwise. You are misreading me. We need Him when we are sad but we also need Him when we are happy (sometimes even more so). We need Him when we sin and when we are holy. We need Him when we struggle and when we surrender. We certainly need Him always. And we do well always and everywhere to give Him thanks. It is our duty and our salvation to do so. But I’m not deceived, not at all.
I’m not deceived, but I believe our Lord and I have experience His word when He says: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Saying otherwise would be a lie. However, even so I still say, just like Paul: “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
God Bless you Jeff…
I fully agree on the magic wand business. My original response was somewhat sarcastic and harsh in tone because the idea that one can submit their gayness to God and God will transform them is a dangerous and commonly pushed bit of snake oil. It is a view that kills. As such it is a view that, even if offered in ignorant good will, demands that a corrosive light be cast upon it to show the sand of its foundation lest it lead people astray.
[I advocate submitting the gay to God and let him wield you.]
I strive to do that very thing, actually.
My apologies for the harshness.
The assertion that Christ or God can heal people of anything is a dangerous false idol that gets innocent people killed. The OP may or may not have meant he believed one could be cured of being gay but the reality is that praying away the gay works about as well as praying away a knife wound to your aorta. Because lives are literally at stake, I think it is always important when anyone makes a statement that could be construed in such a way as to substantiate magical healing from God that such statements needs to be torn asunder and laid bare to show the impotence of the speakers claims.
There are too many innocent gay people or parents of gay kids who are hurting, find blogs like this one, and see such assertions like the OPs as a ticket out of their situation.
Is race a “chosen” identity?
Do you refuse to identify yourself as “white”? Or “American”? Or “male”? (Or whatever other descriptor might apply–veteran, cancer survivor etc )?
Does our identity in Christ cancel those out? Or does it only eliminate “gay”?
This argument only ever seems to come up with respect to sexuality and only seems to apply to non heterosexual people.
The word gay is as legitimate descriptor as any.
“What I was asking myself today, though, was—once again—why the “traditional view of marriage” provokes so much anger in our culture.”
Part of the answer is that support for gay marriage/rights is currently trending as a form of cheap virtue. It doesn’t cost people much to cut and paste their support for the gays across social media sites. Gay people won’t ask people who post supportive tweets to give them money or make any other material adjustments to their life.
Really insightful point…
The Social Justice Warrior types who support these things for a sense of cheap justice and virtue are there, but I think it has more to do with gays on both sides (A and B) being open and out there much more these days.
Another part of the answer is that opposition to gay marriage has been likened to opposition to racial equality.
It doesn’t help that the opposers are sometimes one and the same.
I mean what credibility can Southern Baptists claim in Civil Rights matters?
Exactly. It’s a cultural pose for some people. In some circles you get major cred for harshly denouncing the “bigots” who don’t support gay marriage. Most of the people who do so only started doing so once gay marriage started to gain in popularity, but there’s no sell-by date to this stuff. I can switch to the pro-gay marriage side tomorrow and get all sorts of pats on the back for my new-found wisdom and start denouncing others who haven’t changed their minds.
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“If I’m just a Christian—if there’s no basic identity difference between me and my “straight” Christian friends—then the same ethical norm (don’t have sex with people of the same sex) can apply to both of us equally without unfairly infringing on the basic identity of one, but not the other, of us.”
That requires some serious mental gymnastics, I would think. Fortunately I’ve never felt the need to try.
[What I was asking myself today, though, was—once again—why the “traditional view of marriage” provokes so much anger in our culture.]
Because it is talked about as if it has stood since the beginning of time when the modern nuclear family as we see in shows like “Leave it to Beaver” is actually a modern permutation in it’s own right. The “traditional marriage” as it is bandied about today is little more than a propaganda tool and anyone with access to an internet connection can spend an afternoon reading the history of marriage and see the truth of the matter. Those who speak of it are uninterested in actual traditional marriage where women had mates chosen for them by their fathers on the basis of what pairing would prove most lucrative for the father through dowry. The anger comes from the duplicitous nature of the argument, not the concept of a monogamous marriage in and of itself.
Although the modern nuclear family permutation isn’t actually sinful in the way that a same-sex permutation would be.
I think it’s fairer to say that the practice of the nuclear family isn’t sinful in the same way that the practice of same-sex marriage is sinful. It is indeed sinful.
Is it? That remains to be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. That said, the sin aspect is irrelevant here because the question is why do people these days balk at the phrase “traditional marriage”.
One side maybe gay but the other has been caught in a lie. It is hard to claim that your fig tree is more sturdy than hours when rotten fruit hangs upon it’s branches.
I believe “gay” to be a political term and not an identity. If you can control the dictionary you can control the argument. A baby in the womb is now called a fetus, the latin word meaning, offspring.
It is a baby, much easier to kill when society uses the word, fetus.
See this article on the word, homosexuality.
As a Christian, I am not a heterosexual son of the Father, I am his son, I am in the beloved. That is my true home, and not what I feel.
Why do people identify with what Christ crucified.
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
I have just come across this blog and find the articles, stimulating, encouraging and challenging. Bless you.
Gay is a natural evolution in terminology coinsiding with an increased understanding of what homosexuality is. The word “homosexuality” is insufficient because it hails from an age where the orientation was broken down into mere actions cleaved free of love or the like. It is still used by the enemies of LGBT people to boil us down to our sexual drives.
Language evolves to reflect the observable, measurable truth (not to be confused with the philosophical “Truth” which is debatable). Our side has that truth on our side and so the language changes to reflect the reality of the situation.
To the point that you make that we have truth on our side, I beg well not really beg, but Jesus said that He is the Truth. I trust Jesus with the truth more than you or I.
God does not judge anyone’s orientation, He judges what we do, whether that is with the body or the mind. So I try to be consistent in differentiating bewtween what some one does and how they feel.
LGBT people are not my enemy. But to allow them to communicate unchallenged that what they feel as reality, would be collusion on my part to acknowledging a higher value to disordered feelings instead of our good Fathers original design before sin came into the world.
You are confusing “Truth” with truth.
The sky is blue. My hair is brown. Iron is a ferrous metal. I am romantically and sexually attracted to other men. These are truths as I defined them.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and His words are best conveyed by the King James Bible. Catholicism is the one true faith. There is no god but Allah and Muhammad was his Prophet. Homosexuality is a disorder. These are “Truth” as I defined them.
Nothing Jesus said has anything to do with my orientation or society calling me gay in order to account for increased understanding of what I am.
I would refer to your comments as accuarte, but not truth in any sense of the word. Jesus is truth or Truth and Allah is not god in any kingdom, not even hell. We could do this for quite a while, lets just say I agree to disagree.
You are totally free to hold onto any perception you have about yourself, but there is a God designed order for His creation. He created us as male and female and whether we “feel” it or not, we are His and the normative design for male and female is to procreate and subject creation His creation through our actions for His glory.
[I would refer to your comments as accuarte, but not truth in any sense of the word. Jesus is truth or Truth and Allah is not god in any kingdom, not even hell. We could do this for quite a while, lets just say I agree to disagree.]
I don’t disagree with you. Since I have done a poor job in explaining myself, let me respond with an example of what I mean to hopefully remove the misunderstanding:
The view of real love is something to strive for as opposed to lust or infatuation is something most people agree with. Most people still strive to find “the one” and there is that deeply felt drive to unite with another to create a whole and such is as much as said by Scripture (man breaks away from mother and father and cleaves to wife, etc) – science actually shows married people live longer, contribute more to society, are happier, and more. So, as you can see, this is substantiated by both spiritual truth as well as scientific/observable truth.
The problem is when your spiritual truth is opposed by the observable truth. In these instances, people are more likely to default to scientific/observable truth.
[You are totally free to hold onto any perception you have about yourself, but there is a God designed order for His creation. He created us as male and female and whether we “feel” it or not, we are His and the normative design for male and female is to procreate and subject creation His creation through our actions for His glory.]
He created us male and female but what constitutes male and female? Is it genitals? Is the shape of the mud more important in determining what we are than the breathe of God within?
Answer the two following points and you will go a long way in rebutting the culture, evangelizing Catholicism, and convincing me I am wrong:
If a man is born blind, is his soul deformed? Considering the Church has saints that suffered from congenital conditions and Christ Himself rebuked the view by actions like healing the blind man, this is untenable. As such, flesh is a faulty barometer for measuring the truth of the soul. Yet how can it be so faulty one way (e.g. blind man doesn’t mean blind spirit) but not another whose only difference is the focus (e.g. born with penis means you are male, regardless of MRI scans or one’s deeply held feelings)? Does the body reflect the truth of the soul or not?
If the soul and body are inexorably linked as Theology of the Body and Aristotle would claim then the Saints are dead and their souls stay trapped with their bodies. If one can pray for the intercession of saints whose bodies currently reside on earth in the ground, display cases in Italy, and so on, how can they possibly petition a God on our behalf whose presence they cannot possibly be standing in as per the limitations set upon this view of the body/soul relationship by the aforementioned theological view?
The last one is especially damning for me as I have been helped by Novena to Saint Therese, the Little Flower, and am much more willing to trust her intercession (e.g. my observable truth that she does interceded for me) than the Church. If you have a good answer to these two points that doesn’t rely on rationalization and exception by circumstance then you should write a book because you will be the first Catholic theologian to answer them in history.
A couple of thoughts…
I’m a firm believer in the merits of covenantal marriage. Even so, I object to those who pay lip-service to covenantal marriage, while freely tolerating a wide range of departures from it within the context of opposite-sex relationships. Evangelicals have largely acquiesced to the culture’s redefining of marriage as a contractual institution centered around the legitimate satisfaction of one’s sexual lust. We freely marry young couples who are marrying for no other reason than to ease the guilt of premarital sex. We pay little attention when couples at church “fall out of love,” get divorced, and remarry a few years later. And we spend immense efforts propping up the inwardly focused “nuclear family,” even though it bears few resemblances to the outward-focused community-serving view of marriage we see in Scripture. What we often see practiced in evangelical circles today is a far cry from covenantal marriage; rather, it’s something closer to Gary Becker’s pragmatic view of marriage with an undercurrent of Freudian sexual theory. So, unless the SBC is ready to start undoing 50 years of acquiescence to the culture’s shift away from covenantal marriage, then it’s rather outrageous to criticize same-sex marriage because of its departure from covenantal marriage.
I’m also a firm believer in the unimportance of sexual orientation to one’s social identity. Even so, I object to those who uphold rigid views of “biblical masculinity” that valorize heterosexual lust, glorify chauvinism, and shame men who fail to conform to some John Wayne ideal. Evangelicals, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, routinely treat sexual orientation as important to one’s social identity, as long as that orientation is heterosexual. After all, it was social conservatives in the late 1800s who invented the term “heterosexual” to describe what they viewed as the ideal social expression of masculinity. This practice implicitly creates a class of outcasts or rejects, who are defined as such based on their sexual orientation. So, it comes off as a bit disingenuous when the defenders of heterosexism criticize the outcasts for seeking to establish a queer identity, a gay identity, etc. After all, the outcasts wouldn’t feel this urge but for having been cast aside to make way for the “real men.” So, yes, I’m all for getting rid of orientation essentialism and the concomitant focus on sexualized social identities. But that can’t happen without a systematic dismantling of the structural heterosexism that pervades our culture, and which is often unwittingly reinforced by evangelicals (as a knee-jerk reaction to feminism). So, unless folks in the SBC are ready to part with heterosexual privilege, I have little patience for those who whine about queer identities, gay identities, etc.
For the record, I have severe misgivings regarding Christian same-sex marriages. But when I look at the disingenuous and self-serving way in which evangelicals have addressed these issues, I have deep empathy for the struggles that many sexual outcasts face within the evangelical subculture. And, in a sense, I have trouble seeing same-sex marriage as any worse than what we have already freely tolerated and, oftentimes, blessed. After all, the arguments in favor of same-sex marriage are largely consistent with the modernist reconstruction of marriage, family, and sex that we accepted very long ago.
I agree with you.
I go further in thinking that “gay” is an ontological reality and is therefore just as legitimate–and neutral–an adjective as “White”, “white”, “Peruvian”, “male” or “marine”.
But I’m glad you brought up the topic of privilege.
It reminds me of the common example that many White Americans are shocked at the idea that they might speak with an accent. When you are the definition of normal only foreigners have accents.
Does anyone in this group, think that one word has the ability to actually carry the weight of our glory. I think the words we use to describe ourselves reflect how we see ourselves only in a partial sense. I can’t imagine meeting someone defining themselves, saying hi, i,m left handed. And as the conversation went on their entire reference about themselves would revolve around their left handed identity. Their left handedness is continually reinforced everywhere they go. But that is an aspect of who they are.
At the same time, I don’t want to ignore or gloss over the reality of someone having SSA. I do think that so much of this is an expression of the “I” culture that we live in compared to the “we” culture that the Trinity lives within and we would benefit from embracing.
It’s probably a lot more likely that someone would identify as left-handed if he or she were forced to live in a world that treated left-handedness as a stigma and reconstructed a whole host of social institutions to make it harder for left-handed people to be able to engage with that institution.
This is exactly what happened with sexual orientation. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, social conservatives collaborated with conservative Freudian theorists to argue for the importance of sexual orientation to one’s social identity for the purpose of privileging certain models of masculinity at the expense of others. This reconstruction of marriage, family, and sex is referred to as familialism. It was largely propagated by the emerging medical profession during the early 1900s. In many ways, we have become so familiar with it in the US that we’re not even aware of it. Socially acceptable expressions of masculinity are far narrower today in the US than they were 100 years ago. And they’re far narrower today in the US than in Catholic countries in Europe, where familialism never gained a foothold (Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, etc.).
So, yes, I long for the day when we gay people can stop having to say that we’re gay. But I’m going to keep identifying as gay until we as a society repudiate the systematic heterosexism that has been a sad part of our heritage. Further, the American evangelical church needs to repent deeply for its sinful complicity in promoting the godless doctrine of familialism. But if you accept the promotion of familialism while simultaneously telling me that I shouldn’t identify as gay, it sounds to me like you’re trying to trying to legitimize the system that privileges certain social expressions of masculinity at the expense of others (and unjustly confers benefits on those more capable or more willing to express themselves in “truly masculine” ways).
And that’s the problem I have with the SBC. The SBC wants to maintain its prohibition against same-sex marriage, but wants to do so without parting with the heterosexism implicit in the familialist conception of marriage, family, and sex. My aim is to demonstrate that that’s an inherently unstable (and unbiblical) position because the creation of a gay out-class is implicit in the familialist logic. If you want to keep familialism (and its implicit privileging of heterosexist expressions of masculinity), then you have to be willing to accept the notion that members of the out-class will marry each other. If you don’t want cultural acceptance of same-sex marriage, then you have to be willing to dismantle familialism and the systematic privileging of certain expressions of masculinity. The SBC appears to be trying to have its cake and eat it too.
I long for the day when we can turn back the clock on familialism. As a more effeminate guy, I love visiting France, Spain, and Italy. I work for a European company, and actually do get to travel there quite frequently. But I can’t even begin to express how normal and how “masculine” I feel in places like Barcelona, Paris, Lyon, Geneva, and Milan. I don’t feel gay at all. But as soon as my plane lands at O’Hare, I feel like I walk back into a world that views me as a man-fail. And evangelicals have done a lot to prop up and legitimize the culture that makes me feel that way. If Calvin’s Geneva can reject familialism, then there’s hope for Chicago.
Very articulate response. Lots for me to think about. I agree with you in many insights. I am an American living in England for over 20 years and I wholeheartedly agree with your insights on the topic of masculinity. I am not aware of the history of familialism.
I do think especially in the way society is evolving with more people marrying later and many people not marrying, we certainly need as Christians to promote and nurture a new way in sharing the fullness of life together while not being prescriptive.
I think it is the Bible that legitimizes specific social expressions in relationships. I think every church culture has their own take on masculinity. I do think we need to teach what is true biblical masculinity is, and it is not mannerisms or attributes, but our actions, our attitudes, our character. I am sure I could learn from other men about growing in my masculinity, regardless of their orientation.
Thanks for your comments and helping me grow in my insights.
Sure. I’m not suggesting that Scripture provides no boundaries for acceptable social expressions of masculinity. Rather, I’m suggesting that those boundaries create a rather broad space in which males can be men and in which females can be women. The problem lies in our societal efforts to impose far narrower boundaries than what Scripture commends. When we do that, we end up wrongly castigating certain classes of people as gender-role rejects. The church should have stood up for the weak against the strong, and worked to discredit the effort to impose restrictive gender roles. Instead, the evangelical church largely led the charge in the effort to draw the boundaries narrower and to castigate more and more people as gender-role rejects. The church has to repent of this.
I agree that there is a wide latitude of masculine expression, but that latitude is usually more easily embraced in a person than a concept. A local body of believers can love and embrace a person, more than a concept of varieties of masculine expression.
As I have been thinking about this more and more I have come to understand this entire dialogue of “gay Christian” through the lens of identification. I am amazed how many men will say after their local football wins, “we won”. They are identifying with their local team.
I believe that any true Christian who has a personal revelation that they have truly been raised with Christ, will identify that their old self is dead to sin. This I would believe is sexual orientation, they identify with Christ. Not a heterosexual male Christ, but the Divine Christ. Our new identity is hidden in Christ. We should not embrace what was crucified with Christ as an identity. This is necromancy, interacting with the dead. My old self died with Christ.
My main goal is to fight against the heterosexism (i.e., the privileging of certain idealized expressions of masculinity and femininity) that’s an all-too-common feature of the evangelical subculture and of our culture in general. There’s nothing particularly biblical about the John Wayne model of masculinity. But we seem to act like there is.
“Here’s the key, I think: It’s because gay and lesbian people perceive Christianity as not just asking for a certain modification or a certain disciplining of their behavior but rather for a suppression or erasure of their identities.”
This is partially accurate. But it is more accurate to state that it is not enough that Christians be allowed to adhere to the tenets of their own faith, it is that many Christians want to forcibly impose their faith on others through sword and law.
Wesley, thanks for the post.
Part of this may just be that the Church’s reaction to the growing prevalence of homosexuality is often intrusive in a way that Christian teachings on chastity, divorce, and remarriage, however strict, are generally not. My impression is that the latter standards are viewed by both Christians and nonbelievers alike as a matter of either private personal conviction or individual church discipline. Whereas when it comes to the highly politicized issue of homosexuality, Christian conservatives have a reputation–however unfairly extrapolated from unrepresentative samples–for being outspoken, whether in the form of protests (Westboro Baptist), proselytizing (Uganda’s evangelical-influenced anti-gay bill), or pulpit politics (the recent case of Houston’s sermon subpoena). Unlike with other politicized issues related to sexual mores, like abortion, there are no obvious Millian grounds for things like publicly condemning homosexual practice, criminalizing homosexual behavior, or legalizing same-sex marriage (setting aside worries about any potential harm to children of gay parents–the empirical evidence, suggested for instance by a study published a couple years ago by sociologist Mark Regnerus, is highly controversial).
The fact is, many people simply do not view their gay neighbor as a threat. Jay-Z’s 2012 CNN interview statement sums it up: “What people do in their own homes is their business.” I think this explains the growing pro-gay and anti-homophobic sentiments many younger people adopt in churches today, whether gay or straight. Hurt feelings from a wounded sense of identity might explain a *gay* Christian’s dismay toward the persistence of conservative movements like the ERLC. It’s harder to see though how this would explain the–rarer but growing, and equally justified–dismay of *straight* Christians (or whom the LGBT community would call “allies”).
Here ís an excellent post by Matt Moore about identity.
I could say that Moore’s post is excellent insofar as it represents a clear summary of the “don’t say gay” perspective. However, I find that perspective to be flawed, and have views more in line with those expressed by Dr. Hill in his article here. Two other responses to Moore’s post that explain more eloquently than I could why I am not going to stop referring to myself in certain relevant contexts as a gay Christian are these:
But it’s important to see the underlying evil in Moore’s tack. In seeking to take away the term “gay” from celibate gay Christians, Moore is trying to erase the victims of the church’s heterosexism and its absurdly hyper-aggressive policing of gender roles. Miroslav Volf addresses this point eloquently in his book “Exclusion and Embrace”.
Moore is a smart guy, and is smart enough to know what he is doing. In trying to twist the meaning of the term “gay” to exclude those whom the church has systematically victimized, Moore is trying to cover over the guilt of heterosexists without calling them to repentance. When I last checked, that wasn’t exactly what Christian pastors are called to do. But, then again, he represents a denomination that, until the last few decades, constructed elaborate theological defenses of the South’s culture of racial segregation.
I’m not saying that being a member of a racial out-class is the same as being part of a gender out-class. The latter often have the option of pretending to be part of the in-class, if they so desire. That is, after all, what reparative therapy entailed: It taught members of the gender out-class how to pass themselves off as members of the in-class.
Someone recently asked me why I came out of the closet if I were just going to remain celibate. In one sense, I probably came out because I was tired of living a lie just to please other people. But more broadly than that, I came out because I believed that our refusal to call out and work against heterosexism compromises the Gospel. And that’s exactly why Moore and Mohler want us celibate gay Christians to go away: We challenge the chauvinistic patriarchalism with which these men have become all too comfortable, and reveal it for the sin that it is.
Bobby you make complete sense, but the majority of Christians will never be in any frame of mind to understand what you’re saying or to appreciate it.
Privilege is a terrible thing.
This fight over the word “gay” is an attempt at erasure–plain and simple. It’s another way of saying “Go away!”
(Ever so often people try the same thing with race. They say things like: “Why say African-American? Just say “American”!” For obvious reasons it’s never really successful.)
Yeah, denying the existence of the privilege is one way of maintaining it.
[1) I hate sin.]
So do the celibate gay Christians. And non-celibate ones for that matter. I like how the automatic assumption is that anyone not on his side must hate God/Jesus.
[2) I don’t believe calling myself a Gay Christian would help in my endeavor to communicate a gospel that transforms identity.]
Evidence indicates that transformation of identity is impossible. Thus, Moore is bearing false witness. A Disciple of Paul who follows the false apostle’s example of winning converts through guile – the Pharisee would be proud.
[3) I love Jesus too much.]
More like he loves his cheap grace too much. This is point number 1, rehashed. How tiresome.
Ad Hominem, Obfuscation, and Ad Hominem; the wide and easy path of “apostle” Paul strikes again. Maybe you guys should give up on guile and try truth for a change.
Thanks for posting this. I have a hard time engaging on this particular topic because of the amount of cross-talk and feedback that seems to go on. For whatever reason, this is a hugely emotional discussion for both sides, and I find there isn’t a lot of listening going on. I think that’s been evident in both the recent Catholic Synod and the SBC’s discussion.
There have been a lot of great thoughts mentioned previously, and I agree with a great deal of them. I have good reasons to approve of the use of the term “gay” and I have many concerns with it. I’ll only add this one point: You asked why our world gets so upset about the Christian position on homosexuality but not on other issues (in particular divorce and extramarital/premarital sex). The answer is fairly obvious to me: they don’t care about the Christian teaching on those points because WE don’t care about the Christian teaching on those points. Oh sure, conservatives will *say* you oughtn’t get divorced/remarried or that straight people shouldn’t have sex before marriage (or look at pornography), but when it actually happens, there’s a gentle rap on the knuckles, a wink and a nod, and we all know no one really cares because “well, he’s only human” – completely eradicated from modern Christianity is any idea that someone might actually truly have *become* abhorrent to God precisely because of his heterosexual-ness. We don’t think there’s a real heart-issue of sin in those areas (they are sinful actions but say nothing about the nature of the person), so we don’t think that a *person* has to change; they only have to stop doing a certain thing (or at least act sorry when they’re caught). The Fall, for a straight person is primarily about what we do rather than what we ARE.
On the issue of homosexuality/being gay, there is a profound double standard: The conservative world teaches that heterosexuals should stop doing sin (“having premarital sex” – and this only half-heartedly) while they teach that homosexuals should stop *being* sinful (“being gay” – even if you aren’t having sex!).
Of course I think the world reacts so vehemently because this issue is exactly where Christians have the closest potential to actually recover a real Scripturally-based anthropology. Tell a straight couple to stop having extramarital sex, and you’ve only told them to stop doing something (which they can do in their own effort). Tell a gay man to not have gay sex, and you’ve essentially told him to begin denying who he really is. That, at any rate, is what the GLBTQI community interprets what we’re saying as.
But isn’t that the whole point of the Gospel – to deny ourselves (who we are at the core of our existence) for the sake of Christ? The REASON why the world gets so uncomfortable with the Christian perspective on homosexuality is perhaps precisely because it’s the only area in which conservatives are still semi-preaching the actual real Gospel.
It’s bizarre, then, that conservatives seem so anxious to insist that we aren’t, in fact, preaching THAT Gospel (the one which requires us to see the mess we really ARE rather than just MAKE and which demands that we deny the core of who we are) by insisting that no one should identify as “being gay”. The argument centers around the idea of “identifying too much with our sin/brokenness” – but in demanding that we not identify with our sin, they are unwittingly undoing the very need for Christ at all.
In essence, we’ve bought the lie that the Gospel of denial, the Cost of Discipleship, should be thrown away: We want to believe that there’s nothing essentially wrong with ANYONE, and that all Christ asks us to do is DO (or NOT do) something. When confronted with a group of people (“celibate gay Christians”) who insist that they *are* inherently something which is incompatible with *doing* enough (even repenting!) to please God, conservatives immediately get defensive and start insisting that this isn’t what they mean. But it’s exactly what we *SHOULD* mean, which is why it’s so appalling to me to see the SBC and the Bishops dig their heels in on this point. Why are they so determined to teach heresy?
I honestly can’t tell if this is because we conservative Christians are all just Pelagians or because we’ve truly decided that marketing the Gospel and making it palatable is the most important thing – above even being honest about what it actually is.
In the end, I actually see a lot of similarities between both the liberal mantra that homosexuality can be blessed by God and the conservative mantra that we mustn’t identify too closely with our sin. I just don’t see how either fits with Christianity.
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I have just read this excellent article by David Kyle Foster on what change looks like for the homosexual. Enjoy.
So, if you don’t experience a change in desire, you didn’t try hard enough?
Evidently the vast majority of people who go through ex-gay programs weren’t able to try hard enough to get God to take notice and reduce or eliminate their same-sex attraction.
Needless to say, I did not enjoy that article, as it’s hard to enjoy something that’s filled with sugar-coated untruths and passive aggressive condemnation.
Thanks for your response. I believe this scripture to be accurate and filled with hope.
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3
I do not think that the article references “trying hard”. It is about the slow and painful process of living “through” Christ as in 1 John 4:9.
Every Christians identity is in Christ, not what you do or what you feel. As Paul says, we see no man in the flesh, but accoring to who they are in Christ.
The last thing I would want to convey in any way to you is that you need to try harder or others need to try harder.
I don’t see passive agressive or condemnation in this article but David Kyle Foster’s personal experience and representative of the circles that he moves in.
I work with men who have come out of SSA and many of them are on a journey toward greater freedom over their SSA.
The foundational reality for freedom for any believer is a passionate, all consuming desire to walk in greater intimacy and live our life in the Trinity.
David Kyle Foster seemed to present his experience as within reach for anyone who [my paraphrase] wanted it bad enough and/or tried hard enough. This implicitly condemns anyone who hasn’t been able to achieve orientation change (as I pointed out in the study to which I hyperlinked, this is most same-sex attracted people who engage in sexual orientation change efforts), as well as anyone who doesn’t believe that it’s worthwhile to attempt to engage in such efforts.
I think 2 Peter 1:3 is true. I don’t think the “problem” is on God’s side. Let me ask you this, are you saying that God can’t change your sexual orientation, or doesn’t want to help you in this area, is his grace & power inadequate. I think any effort we put into greater intimacy and living in an areness of his presence is worth every once of effort. I think the Chritian life does take effort, a key distinction is between earning and effort. We can not earn the grace and mercy of God but without our own effort we will not walk in any degree of santicficatio, be it gluttony, gossip, or sexual orientation. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling. This is not a solo act. For years I prayed to god to give me a greater hunger and desire to be more l.ike Christ, because I had no desire, I had to really want this. I am not saying that it is all our effort. I am in the charismatic end of the body of Christ and the only ministry that has shifetd my self hatred and pain has been two types of ministry, Theophostic Prayer and SOZO. My daughter is adopted, she was abandoned by her family only a day old. Talk about a deep wound and a deep lie that I am unlovely, unloveable, unworthy. She from a very early age over a period of 7 years, has had both of the above ministries and she is a different person all together. Is she totally free of every lie in her life, no but she is in a positive trajectory with a loving family and church. LJ I wish you well, I wish you peace, I wish you rest in Him.
I too felt that the piece was a bit irresponsible. Moreover, he seems to be misusing the term “homosexual.” He is using it to refer to conduct rather than to orientation.
I suspect that a lot of those who experienced success in reparative therapy are like me, asexuals who have an aesthetic and/or romantic attraction to members of the opposite sex. I’m an asexual who generally has an aesthetic attraction to men and a romantic attraction to women. From an early age, I knew that I was not heterosexual. Therefore, I assumed that I must be homosexual. That is, until I came out of the closet and began dialoguing with real homosexual people, and realized that I lacked the sexual desires that they possess (just as I lacked the sexual desires that heterosexual people possess). It was at that point, that I realized that I had mistaken my aesthetic preferences for sexual desires.
I’d guess that some number of the ex-gay success stories are people like me: Asexuals who have an aesthetic attraction to the same sex but who otherwise lack any sexual attraction to either sex.
In many cases, I still socially identify as “gay” because our heterosexist culture victimizes and casts aside both asexuals and homosexuals. Therefore, we share a common social history of having faced exclusion from the societal mainstream by the heterosexual in-class. I also want to make sure that heterosexists don’t use my “success” story to further stigmatize homosexuals. My story proves nothing except that we often overlook asexuality and mistakenly misdiagnose it as homosexuality. It says nothing about the prospects of curing a true homosexual of his or her orientation.
I would add that the view of sanctification set forth by Foster is largely inconsistent with the Pauline corpus. Sanctification, like justification, is effected in us out of God’s unconditional grace. It’s something we ask God to work in us, not something we work in ourselves.
What is theophostic prayer?
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I think there needs to be a clear distinction between earning and effort. We do not earn God’s grace but with out effort on our part, we will not walk in the freedom that Christ died for.
I think Colossians 1:29 is helpful here:
That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. NLT
But without a doubt, it is because of His grace and mercy, that any of my efforts would contribute to being conformed to the image of his Son.
“most of us in the West think of homosexuality as a category of persons, rather than a category of actions”.
The great sadness of this kind of formulation comes from an inability to understand, as St John Paul II addressed repeatedly, the unity in the acting person and how consciousness is more than merely cognitional. All of our actions reflect our personhood. These in turn can be parsed by way of their alignment with natural law and our willingness to cooperate with that order. The disparity of acting on same-sex attraction or even a heterosexual attraction in a genitally expressive way outside of a spousal relationship is disordered acting that has its effect in reordering the person. In Catholic anthropology, the acting person is meant to express the unity of being.
Fr Edward Moran
Can you please explain this a bit more? Sometimes we act against our instincts and desires… In think that’s what the article is referring too.
It’s difficult to know how to answer your question since you did not elaborate. Yes, we have ‘instincts and desires’. In addition, we also have thinking, will, and conscience. All are tied together in a body/soul unity that is always effected through our actions. When we seek the good and distinguish it as a good for our life, we have to judge it in relation to other goods that compete. Hence the need to rightly order our lives in the kind of self-mastery that allows us to honor our commitments and live responsibly. Sexual self-mastery is the hardest I think because because of the strength of our desires and feelings for another. Together, they can overcome our best and most honorable intentions. Impulse is seizing a good we recognize for ourselves personally often without much regard for the constellation of other goods which surround wanting to seize a particular good. Consequences teach us, oftentimes unfortunately, that the good we wanted, even felt we deserved, comes with other goods we had not expected, wanted or were even prepared for. Hence, the need always for deliberation, counsel and prayer whenever we want to exercise our desires. We are more than our actions but we reveal who we are by how we act around others. The person I was responding to in the blog was separating person from action. I was trying to argue for a deeper unity instead of such dichotomous thinking. So much evil can be rationalized when one thinks that way. Hope this helps. The comment came at an auspicious time since I’m writing a paper for a class on St.John Paul II’s understanding of the ethical unity in the acting person.
I am not sure the line you quoted is saying anything that disagrees with the point you are making. The world sees homosexuals/gays as being romantically and sexually attracted to people of the same biological sex. Homosexuality isn’t just a category of actions any more than heterosexuality is. People are dirven to find someone special and bind to them in love long before sex ever comes into the picture (ideally).
Homosexuality and gay are not terms for describing a straight guy who has sex with people of the same biological sex. That is how it was once treated (it was actually considered a mental disorder, officially, though a lack of diagnostic evidence to substantiate it’s placement as a disease in psychological terms got it stricken from the DSM). The new evidence means that people see it as what it is; the sexual part springs from the internal motivation and brain architecture so we now define homosexuals as a group of people with this peculiar emotional and mental trait rather than as an action unattached to anything more than a whim.
My original attempt was to try and address the dichotomous thinking the writer seemed to making in distinguishing the person from action. This caught my attention since I happen to be working on an ethics paper that challenges that kind of reductivism which is fairly prevalent in today’s mindset. It actually helped me make a great point in the paper to bring all of the philosophical and psychological parsing down to a practical example.
Your argument seems fairly reductive also. Are you sure that’s all it is (i.e. “the sexual part springs from the internal motivation and brain architecture..)? I would invite you to take a deeper look and could recommend some good books on social bio-anthropologies. I know clinicians who deal with sexual impulse issues quite a bit in their work as well as some of the most current thinking and research that has taken the studies way past your formulations and help us to see so much more in the human person…especially regarding sexuality.
Regarding the reference to the DSM, it would behoove you to study some history. The kind of activism that was prevalent in 1972-73 forced the APA Board to stand down on calling same-sex orientation a disorder. The efforts to remove the disorder from the DSM conjures forth the following image in my mind: 1970 Democratic Convention in Chicago; Chavez supporters out in the streets of Caracas confronting opponents.. You get the picture. You can go and watch some of the videos of the take-over on YouTube. A lot of fairly mild-mannered psychologists really go rattled. Let’s just say that it was not on clinical trial, or double-blind experimentation or all the other methods we use to measure and assess psychological disorder. It was coercion plain and simple. There are often real psychological attachment issues in same-sex attraction and the clinical evidence will show this despite people not wanting to talk about it. Look at the intolerance now on the other ‘shoe’ when trying to discuss this topic calmly with good sources and references despite the new orientation laws, political suppression and social engineering notwithstanding all in the current culture that has ‘sealed the deal’.
From my faith perspective, we are all broken vessels needing God’s love and healing. Before you criticize me with perhaps ‘painting with too broad a brush’ my work with same-sex patients reminds me of this truth all the time.
Today we have so much sexual dimorphism that range from the more prevalent and widespread addictions to pornography to the more severe sexual reassignment surgery issues. These and other strange kinds of sexual acting out have also failed to make the DSM even though the clinical evidence is overwhelming. It makes me think that that some of our helping organizations like the APA have become a little political??
Arguments that go contrary to the prevailing practices of sexual disorders that manifest poor personality management are shut out, shouted down or generally ignored as anachronistic thinking from some past age. Yet, the folks still come to the clinic seeking help for acting on more than just “a whim”.
Hope this helps. From the clinic and pastoral counselling perspectives, I see so much and wish to keep a peaceful spirit that will help people find Christ, regain self-mastery and carry their crosses as we all are called to do. Love and truth must always go together.
Thanks for your interest and prayers..
It would behoove you to study some history as well. Yes, there was activism, but it was backed up by the science that you incorrectly claim was lacking. There are LGBT people with mental illnesses, but not all LGBT people are mentally disordered only by virtue of being LGBT.
Thanks for joining the discussion. We can all learn from one another which is what makes a blog so challenging and broadening. Thanks for the article which I parsed with some fellow clinicians. Three things that stand out to me that cause a degree of doubt about the statistical significance of the study are (a) the population of 30. That’s right on the edge of generating statistically significant numbers. (b) choosing subjects from the Mattachine Society hints strongly at what we call ‘selectivity bias’. (c) Hooker’s own life biases hint at some very strong progressive outlooks. At this point, think of some of those scientists who are strongly involved in climate change analysis and how that bias might effect their interpretation of data. Granted that trying to do a study like this in the 50’s was as close to ‘heroic’ as I can think given the social contexts and stereotyping that passed for ‘science’. The editorial slant of the APA writer is also pretty evident. I would have liked to have known more about the study and can find it here at our library and will get back to you after I digest its findings, Again, these are only initial responses since i thought your comment and interest in the topic deserved a prompt response. The logic statement you end with, like a Venn diagram is perfectly correct. There are some same-sex attracted folks out there who are truly excellent human beings. I feel blessed to be able to call some of them very close friends. But many same-sex attracted have serious attachment issues that need help in understanding and correcting.
Clinical diagnoses don’t work along the distinction of ‘being crazy’vs ‘not being crazy’. We all have our issues. The question is usually how much these ‘issues’ impede our daily lives. I’ll spare you the stories of the clinic from which I draw many of my inferences. Like the ’emergency room, the outlook on humanity can become rather skewed if those are the only people you meet on a daily bases. At my rather decrepit age, it’s mostly about experiences in counselling, knowing a large swath of people and meeting some of the best and worst of them that I draw my conclusions. I am very optimistic about the human species ever since the Resurrection.
Thanks for the input and forwarding the article. I always like to learn.
I will go with Father instead of Reverend, since Reverend seems more Protestant in nature. I didn’t realize you were a priest the last time so that is my bad.
[Reductivism, What is Gay, and People vs Actions]
The original point I was making was not that I support cleaving a person from their actions but simply that actions spring from the person and their mental/emotional/spiritual state. What can be construed as homosexual in nature varies, considerably, so we play by the rules of the general public. Gay is about a mindset. I have never had sex with another man, yet I am gay because when I dream of meeting someone special and spending my life with them I dream of finding a another man.
Would you call this gay or am I straight because of my actions not showing that I am gay? When I first read your response, you seemed to be arguing the latter. Apologies if I misunderstood.
[DSM and the Activist Conspiracy]
When the DSM first changed, it was indeed activism and the Stonewall tsunami that helped make the change but if we critically look at homosexuality it doesn’t meet the prerequisites for being classified as a disease by any objective standard that exists. I do keep up with the research on both sides but there are two big hurdles that those who want Homosexuality in the DSM will have to leap:
1) Depression, dementia, philias, phobias, anxiety disorders, and the rest can present differently but there are always a series of unifying negative features associated with them (signs and symptoms of the illness). As of yet, there are no peer reviewed studies that have proven such a series of traits exist among homosexuals as a universal group.
2) While great efforts have been taken to link HIV, Hepatitis, drug abuse, and other diseases to Homosexuality these correlated issues suffer under their lack of causality. Put simply, there are no inherent physical problems or health risks associated with Homosexuality, in and of itself. Studies and statistics that link homosexual males to HIV in order to claim it as a “gay disease” for example could just as easily be used to prove it is a “black disease”. Without causality, correlations are not evidence.
Homosexuals are too varied a group to be clinically diagnosable. And, oftentimes, I find such attempts to diagnose the group or attribute features of other illnesses to homosexuality to be a dangerous drive.
For example, I am monogamous and gay. Thirty three and never had sex. A close friend of mine who is twenty five is also gay. He has wrecked every relationship he has ever had with everyone by introducing sex into it. He has no concept of boundaries and the only reason I am still his friend is because I never take advantage of him and refuse his advances. If I had to wager a guess, I would say he is a sex addict – that is, his drive towards sex is manic, he uses it to deal with fear of closeness and anxiety about life, and it has had consequences in his life.
Had he been born a woman who acted out like this, he would be more properly diagnosed and treated. He is resistant to treatment because he has rationalized his behavior and acting out as part of being gay. He buys into that rhetoric that says being gay means having loads of risky sex. I don’t believe you mean harm but I would urge you to consider the implications of treating homosexuality as a disease in and of itself. While it might make the theology easier to swallow, the unforeseen consequences for people like my friend could be dire.
I had an opportunity to have a couple of the clinicians who do quite a bit of testing look at the article you sent. The results came back as I expected. Here’s the comment of one:
“I had a chance to take a closer look at the article you sent today.
Like a lot of the “me-search” in psychology, the agenda bias is strong. There is a certain and sure outcome this proponent of ‘knowing what love is when she sees it.’
So, she is taking her sample from this Mattachine Society and her control group is coming from a diverse population? from working-class folk? From random test subjects that would lend some objectivity to the study? We don’t imagine that perhaps the members of this Society might be functioning higher given their social support network not to mention what it says about someone who has enough energy, wherewithal, and leisure to focus on a specific cause like joining such a society??
The tests that were administered were exclusively projectives. Projectives by their very design illicit the input and subjective analysis of the administrator. Who was?… Dr. ‘I know love when I see it’.
Further, I don’t see any indication that the hypothesis and intended purpose of the study were hidden from the participants in any way. So, these participants, as evidenced by their society membership, are loud, proud and…..interested in being as objective as possible when presenting themselves in testing?? No motivation to do a little impression management?? Yeah.
Matched pair analysis is a fairly strong methodology because you can control for multiple possible confounding variables as she mentions — age, education, IQ. So, that part checks out, but as you mentioned the test population of n=30 is not sufficient to title the research ‘groundbreaking’
Likewise, I agree with all other points of your analysis of the article. Namely… Her early life betokens a strong progressive ideology (e.g. the early trip to Russia). The fact that participants were selected by the Mattachine Society hints strongly at selectivity bias. The award came in 1992 almost 20 years after the ‘overthrow’ when PC was really starting to reign.”
Hope this helps. Other clinicians I farmed this out to may report back on this but I expect pretty much the same analysis. It’s a deeply flawed projective study.
So there you have it. Critical thinking of material one reads is always the best way to approach such ‘studies’. It helps to have looked at lots of them (which I do not profess to have done since my focus is directed elsewhere).
Thanks for your interest. Blessings
Perhaps you can share a study that is acceptable to you that proves that homosexuality is a mental illness? Because right now, I’m basing my opinion of what you’ve claimed previously (not your particular response to that study) based on the assumption that you’re talking about LGBT people you’ve seen in a clinic, which is, I shouldn’t have to remind you, just as biased of a sample as a selection from the Mattachine society.
With all due respect, that linked article is describing the study i question because it was the initial study that began to cast doubt on the long-held Freudian notion that homosexuality was a form of mental illness. That study was carried out over 60 years ago, and spawned numerous more rigorous studies. In any field, one’s initial study is often a more limited, informal study, which is conducted for the purpose of determining whether a more systematic study is warranted.
Homosexuality was not removed from the DSM based on the results of the single study conducted by Hooker in the mid-1950s. If the clinician to whom you sent the article is APA certified, I think he or she ought to know that.
Of couse the clinicians I consulted knew it.
Blog threads aleays need context to understand where the argument goes. LJ thew the link up as proof of some historical clinical legacy reference point which we quickly debunked by looking at the interior workings of that 60 year old study. Yes there are other studies out there which are much more current. The intent was to show LJ that it was not a good study to use to advance his argument. That’s all.
A research study (especially done so long ago) is different than seeing clients who wish help. I could share with you how researchers find their populations for their studies. But that it’s not what’s at issue here. It’s your firm of argumentation.To equate the people I see with doing a scientific study is an ‘Apple’s to oranges’ means of seeing the point. Hope you can review your comments and see that. Hope too you are doing well and enjoying this blog process of sharing ideas..
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