Friday, March 27, 2009

Not a Sin: Introduction

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:

The Bible
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.

Aesthetics
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.

Biology
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.

Natural Law
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.

Teleology
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?

Virtue
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.

Gay Culture
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.

17 comments:

Raycol said...

Your series of articles sounds interesting. In regard to the Teleology article, you may be interested in comparing your views with the No-harm and Optimistic pages of the “Gay and Christian” site at www.gaysandslaves.com.

Aric Clark said...

Thanks Raycol, I'll have a look. Let me know what you think as the series progresses.

Jodie said...

Aric,

This will be interesting. I have been following your conversation with the lady author of another blog. She won't let me comment of course. I am impressed by how hard she tries. She throws in everything but the kitchen sink, virtually hijacking famous authors that wrote about completely different topics, re-framing them and turning their messages inside out with shameless impunity, all for the purpose of banning gays from full participation in the church. She knows a lot of facts, quotes a lot of authors, but refuses to understand them if understanding them requires her to give even an inch on her fundamental jihad.

She basically argues that you either agree with her or you are not a Christian. She knows this because her "relationship with Jesus" tells her what is the only correct interpretation of the bible. Thus she wraps her poison in holy language, like a child who hides behind her mother's skirt after secretly throwing a rock at her older brother, and makes herself invulnerable to reason.

I keep wondering if such ideologically driven arguments are normative of the fundamentalist movement today, or if she and her "concistory" friends are the exception. I wonder because if she is the rule, I fell that any dialog with Fundamentalism is hopeless. (Every time I think I am about to make some headway into the Fundamentalist mind I get banned).

Their dogma is air tight. Nothing gets in and nobody gets out.

But maybe you will have better luck.

Or maybe your target audience are the people who wander by church, hoping against hope to find God's love there?

Doug Hagler said...

Heh.

This is blogging. As far as I can tell, our target audience is ourselves :)

Jodie said...

LOL

Got a point there, Doug

Viola Larson said...

Aric,
I see you have continued our conversation over here. I wanted to thank you for being so polite in my comment section I should have done so with my last comment. We almost totally disagree but nonetheless I believe we are able to have an intelligent conversation. There is a good reward in thatI think.

Now that I am over here, I, of course, am reading the other comments, you have here.

I put something else here but decided I wouldn't. I don't need to defend myself--if God wants to he will in his own good time.

Aric Clark said...

Viola,

Welcome to our little team blog here. No doubt this series will address many of the same topics we were discussing in the comments on your post about Lisa Larges. It is a timely topic.

As for the comment Jodie made, I think he can and does speak for himself fine, so if he has given offense, you may bring it up with him if you like, I've always found him approachable.

We don't have comment moderation turned on here, and I'd prefer not to have to, so I will take responsibility for my own decorum and hope others behave like adults... most of the time.

Anyway, you are welcome to visit here and read or comment, or not, as you wish.

John Shuck said...

Thanks for posting on this, Aric. As far as biology is concerned, I am not sure it matters. I trust people regarding how they self-identify and who they love. I do think another heading might be helpful, sexual ethics.

When is our expression of intimacy "good" and when it is not? I am thinking of Marie Fortune's "Love Does No Harm: Sexual Ethics for the Rest of Us" as a starter.

John Shuck said...

OK, one more thing. Frankly, I am way beyond whether or not 'homosexuality is a sin."

Answer: No. I get tired of the question being framed that way.

"How do we respond to the sin of prejudice aginst LGBT people?' is the question of importance in my view.

Ultimately, that is what I think you are doing in this series. Again, thanks!

Doug Hagler said...

I'm also a fan of Marie Fortune's book. Good stuff there.

Heather W. Reichgott said...

Yep, start a post about gay people and way more than the normal number of comments pour in, regardless of the quality of your other recent posts. I hope we can all get past LGBT prejudice so that people can once again focus on good stuff like providence and sacraments! :)

forceoffireandlight said...

Dear Friars (and Fool),

I just wish to express my sincere thank you. If my belief in a rational God is justified, and our relationship with Him implies that over time we learn what His love is capable of bringing forth in us, then there is, for me, still hope that my homosexuality is truly not a sin.

A series of recent events in my life resulted in a severe shaking of my faith in Christ, and currently I am still in a very dark place. But your words have spoken to me personally, and although it will not take away the pain I still have to work though, it feels like there is hope again. Thank you so very much.

Doug Hagler said...

We're really glad you found this post, and that it was some help to you. There are other posts here that you may find helpful - none of the three of us (Aric, me, Nick) believe that homosexuality is intrinsically sinful. If you want to contact us to discuss things more for any reason, you can do so through our Google profiles I believe, or comment here, etc.

Syed Ali Rizvi said...

my answer is NO. man and women are made biologically for each other not men for men or women for women...poposterous and unacceptable...I think this is so low saying men can love men because even animals look more sophisticated and natural then humans...so sad when people can so politely say i am a GAY...Its simply sick i am sorry thats how i feel and think. You can say if animals are not homo they are fools n you might be right. But i dont know with all the brains human got they still eat dung just like we read so much about the crows being so smart we read stories and see documentaries showing them to do things that are mind blowing like i was looking at a documentry on National Geographic crows throwing nuts on the road so the cars do the job of opening them for them that they cant do on their own cool they even wait for the traffic signal to go red to go down and collect their prize but then still like to eat dung.. So NO NO NO Gay NO nO No

Constance Walden said...

What you say here is untrue.
Homosexuality is a sin no matter how many times you say it's not.

Homosexuality is a sin like adultery is a sin, like sex outside of marriage is a sin, like incest is a sin.

Marriage, as ordained by God from the Garden of Eden, is between a man and woman. The Bible says so. The Bible, which is God's word, is true.

Stop deluding yourself.

Connie

forceoffireandlight said...

@ Constance: just one question have I for you. Did you even BOTHER to read the author's page before you started your slander? I suspect not. And anyways: the Bible also says a woman should not be outspoken in church. What now to do? Maybe be careful with such a quick judgement on your part. Otherwise we are all left to wonder: who really is the deluded?

Doug Hagler said...

Hi Constance, thanks for commenting. We're really proud of this particular series, and I think Aric makes a lot of very strong arguments here. I encourage you to read them and talk about them, if you're willing.