Behind all the arguments about ordination and marriage lies the basic argument over whether or not homosexuality is a sin.
It is not.
In this series of articles I will deal in a brief way with the variety of sources usually employed to make a case one way or another. I will ultimately suggest that the best way of determining what is sinful is careful moral reasoning, and I will point out that the dominant modes of moral reasoning on the right - divine command (a kind of deontology), and natural law (another kind of deonotology), are faulty.
Here is a taste of what's to come:
Conservatives insist the primary source for arguing that homosexuality is a sin is the Bible. Every relevant passage has been carefully disected and analyzed by people on both sides. I will not rehash that work, but I will point out some big problems with using the Bible as a primary source for moral reasoning. In fact, I contend that our values have little to do with what scripture says, that moral reasoning and value judgments always precede our reception of scripture and claiming the Bible as a source, rather than a support is a lie.
One example of value judgments prior to input from supports like the Bible, is our personal reaction of enjoyment or distaste upon encountering homosexuals. Look at the picture at the top of this article. How does it make you feel? Aesthetics have a huge impact, whether we admit it or not, on our moral judgments. This isn't all bad. It is a good thing for people to be sensitive to violence - to naturally and instantaneously abhor it. But these primitive, instinctual reactions are far from perfect, and they need to be analyzed. Aesthetic values are certainly no replacement for conscientious moral reasoning.
Evidence is growing that homosexuality is biologically conditioned. This is one topic which usually gets brought up by progressives to argue that homosexuality is not a sin. It is indeed relevant, but it is far from a slam dunk. It is not as simple as eye-color, nor as neutral. A genetic predisposition for same-gender attraction doesn't automatically make homosexual relationships morally neutral. Biology is an important counterbalance to natural law arguments, however.
One of the most popular arguments for deeming homosexuality sinful can be summed up in the catchy slogan, "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." Complementarianism asserts that because penises fit into vaginas they should always and only be used that way. I admit that it is difficult for me to treat these arguments with seriousness because they are so shabby, but I will do my best to fairly point out why Natural Law is a horrible mode for approaching the topic of sin or human sexuality, or almost anything.
Does homosexuality harm anyone? That ought to be a defining question in the debate, yet it is rarely addressed, and when it is the answers given are so poor I am apalled. A partner question is, does homosexuality benefit anyone? Are there positive or negative consequences to homosexual relationships? Can homosexual relationships even be differentiated in their consequences from heterosexual ones?
What kind of person does one become by accepting and living out a homosexual identity? Is there evidence in the lives of homosexuals that homosexuality impacts the development of virtue in any way? When we have gotten here we are really beginning to consider matters that will help us show why homosexuality is not a sin.
As a sort of appendix to the main subject I will briefly put down some thoughts on "gay culture". What is it? What is good about it? What isn't? I venture into this area with some hesitance because I am not an insider to the gay community, but I feel like I can say some relevant, respectful things.