Conservative Anti-Gay Rhetoric

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I've identified one of the reasons I'm so resistant to aligning myself with those who oppose gay marriage. It's primarily the offensive rhetoric that comes out of almost everyone who speaks from that group, even the more reasonable ones. An example is at the World Mag blog today:

As the institution of marriage is increasingly minimized through divorce, labeled irrelevant by co-habitation, and profaned through homosexual unions, the successes of this God-ordained sociological model are often forgotten.

Why is it that divorce merely minimizes marriage, and co-habitation merely labels it irrelevant, while gay unions profane it? The assumption is that divorce and co-habitation are normal, while gay unions are evil to the worst degree. A consistent biblical position on marriage is going to be as opposed to each of these. Malachi tells us that God hates divorce. Why is it that gay unions profane marriage but divorce doesn't? Co-habitation isn't a concept used in scripture, because there were really three kinds of sex in biblical times -- prostitution, adultery, and consummating a marriage. Any action that we would try to put in a third category would have been seen in those days as the third, at least to the Hebrew mind. So co-habitation is as much a perversion of the marriage relationship by denying the kind of relationship that's already there, treating it as if it's less than it is.

Why do I constantly see people who place this one sexual sin on a level worse than others that contain more frequent and often more strong language than anything about gay sex? Paul describes one instance on non-marital heterosexual sex in I Corinthians as united Christ with a harlot. Is that not a perversion? People who pick on one sin they don't struggle with and call it a perversion while not doing the same with the ones most Christians are going to have more need to see as really negative are doing a disservice to all of society. It's a mindset that reminds me too much of the Pharisees to want to associate with. That more than any other thing is why I will have nothing to do with any political action regarding homosexuality, at least until people who want to see change in that area start letting their Christianity affect their language.

11 Comments

I have an explanation (not a justification) of the difference in attitudes. Co-habitation, extra-marital sex, etc. are sins of a different kind (the folks at the World Mag blog did not assume that cohabitation and divorce are *normal* - as you said, they do not think these to be as perverse as same-sex relations). Conservative Christians don't consider them to be *unnatural*, at least not in the way they think same-sex relations are. Men and women are made for each other and we can expect the temptation to have sex before marriage or to cheat on your wife/husband to follow, naturally, from the more general desire for intimacy with the opposite sex. That desire is not abnormal (it is not something God expects us to rid ourselves of), but how one fulfill's that desire is another matter altogether. On the other hand, men are not made for men, nor are women made for women. The desire for intimacy with the same sex is not normal. There are no normal ways of fulfilling that desire.

Of couse, sexual sin is just sexual sin. I have no warrant for treating the gays and lesbians I know any different than people who co-habit (of course, I won't march in solidarity with gays and lesbians at the Pride Parrade, or something along those lines). When I was watching the 2000 Republican Convention, I once saw a group of evangelicals silently praying in front of the main podium when a gay economist was giving a speech (about the need to reduce trade barriers between the U.S. and South America). I doubt those evangelicals would have been praying in front of the economist if he was not gay but was known to be co-habiting with his girlfriend or going through a bitter divorce. They wouldn't consider such transgressions serious enough to single out people for in public... but gay sex... that is something they will point out every time.

I know the unnaturalness issue is important, but I don't think that justifies a difference with divorce, for instance. Anything that comes between two who are made one flesh in marriage is unnatural. That includes death, but that's not something one usually does to oneself, though each is responsible for being in the condition leading to his or her own death. Sometimes something is done to someone, e.g. abandonment. Not in every case is the unnatural thing something both parties are responsible for, so it's not entirely analogous. Still, in every case there's something unnatural going on if a marriage ends, and in most cases it's something the other person is responsible for. It's not the same kind of unnaturalness, but it's unnatural.

It seems to me that the real difference between these cases is that heterosexual Christians are disgusted by gay sex, particularly between two men, and they convert that disgust into genuine dislike for gay people. They say they hate the sin but love the sinner, but their language reveals that they don't love the sinner. If they loved the sinner, in this case, they would have made efforts to get to know gay people and show them love, which requires listening to them and knowing what kinds of statements offend them because of gospel issues (and real sin issues, I suppose, but those should only be emphasized when it comes to particular sins if the person is already a believer) and what kinds of statements offend them needlessly. This is a completely needless offense.

As I said, I was offering an explanation for the difference in attitudes, not a justification (regarding the first line of your response).

"Anything that comes between two who are made one flesh in marriage is unnatural. That includes death..."

That reminds me of something Wittgenstein once said. Death is not an event in life. If it were, it could be experienced.

Jerry ... if you will.

Its quite simply what Newsweek called the "Ick" factor. I trust you know what that means.

I mean even if an atheist were to cursorily read the Bible - even if he forgot most of what he read in the Bible - the one story he would not forget, one that is so graphic - is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The other one probably would be ... Judges 20. These stories would be imprinted in their minds.

I'll have to continue to mull over what you say. I must say however, that in finding yourself averse to what goes on with World mag or whoever, you should be careful not to go the other extreme. Whether you or world mag, we have to find our balance in the Bible.

God Bless,
Raj
"From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth."
~Psm 50v.2

P.S. You might want to check out John Pipers latest sermon. Its on homosexuality. He covers the topic because he is covering the book of Romans, and its covered in the next chapter that he is going through. He said that he is not covering the issue because it is the rage today, but because it is the next chapter in what he is covering - although that is enough justification by itself.

He took July off to study the issue. I think you should take a look or a hear. The audio can be found at :

http://www.biblicalpreaching.info/sermons.php

and the print at:

http://www.desiringgod.org/library/sermons/04/080904.html

Sorry to put this out here like this. I dont do advertising often.

Similar to what other ppl have said, I think that people zero in something like this because it personally repulses them, not because it's REALLY going to be the end of the world. Because we know, that if homosexuals are allowed to marry, it's not going to be the end of the world. If people were as concerned about the common flaw every human being posseses - hubris - as they were about homosexual marriage, well, maybe I'd join the bandwagon. But no one gives a darn about hubris, even though has been the cause of every act of contention ever committed. A march on Washington against human hubris would be for a better cause than one against homosexual marriage. But, hubris isn't as easy to publicly point the finger at as is homosexual marriage, or premarital sex, or smoking, what have you.

Personally, I think gay couples should have all the legal rights of married people. I just don't think it should be called "marriage".

An interesting article related to this can be found in the April issue of Touchstone. Credible Marriages: on the Christian Destruction of Marriage, by Louis Tarsitano.

Jeremy, I agree with where you are going here. We Christians tend to zero in on a few "pet peeve" sins, like homosexuality, when we ought to be condemning divorce and the like with as much gusto (if not more, considering the divorce rate today, even among Christians).

But I'd give World's language here the benefit of the doubt. Homosexual unions do "profane" marriage in the sense that, in contrast to divorce and cohabitation, they pretend to be marriage when they're not. All three are anti-marriage, anti-biblical statements of self over others, self over God. But one might argue that, of the three, only one is pretending to be marriage when it's not.

(There's an argument for cohabitation, perhaps, but it's not nearly as strong. That's more acting like marrieds while being pleased to *not be* married.)

I think it's entirely reasonable to declare one particular type of sexual behavior as an ideal and grade others based on their proximity to that ideal. When it comes to the defense of Marriage, I think this is what people are trying to do, which is simultaneously reinscribe and elevate Marriage. Are they not displaying a little guilt in not doing this soon enough? Absolutely. Now they want to put their foot down.

I didn't say that homosexual marriage doesn't profane marriage or that gay sex isn't worse than heterosexual sexual sin. What I'm talking about here is the vast difference in rhetoric about each, something that really does come across as disgust on a visceral level that a gay person will take as directed toward their very identity and thus see it as hate. This is the explanation for the term 'homophobia', and I think there are too many people who really do justify the use of such a term. I used to think those who take liberal views on this issue were silly in calling those who think gay sex and gay relationships are morally wrong homophobic, since obviously they're not afraid of gay people. Then I met Christians who were scared to death that their kids might turn out gay, as if it were the only sin they wouldn't want their kids tempted by. I met Christians who were so disgusted by gay sex that they wouldn't sit next to someone who was gay or had so much trouble with the thought that someone was gay that they couldn't think of the person in any other way except in their gayness.

Not everyone who calls gay sex or gay marriage perverted or profane necessarily has such a negative attitude toward gay people, but when they make such a strong distinction between gay sexual sin and any other sexual sin, all of which devalue marriage and the sexual ideal, then it can't help but send the same message as the people I've been describing send.

Someone who is gay, who defines their identity in terms of their gayness, is at a point where Christians need to go out of their way to indicate that they really care about the person even given that the person is gay and to show that the person's needs and concerns are important, even if someone of them are misguided or even wrong. Those whose only public statements on the issue are like this World Mag post can't do that, particularly if they have no private role in the life of any gay person. Since the far more important issues are always to do with sin and rebellion against God in general and only secondarily to do with homosexuality, it's totally counterproductive to Christian's primary purposes to seek political resolutions on this issue. It reflects a desire in many people, and portrays that desire even when it's not there, to control people's behavior and force them to abide by others' standards on such an identity-defining issue that therefore threatens the gospel, since it's primarily Christians who are saying anything about this issue.

So this has nothing to do with whether there are degrees of difference with gay sex being worse than heterosexual adultery or prostitution, and it has nothing to do with whether gay sex or gay marriage will really profane marriage. It has to do with being careful with our language, that it really reflect gospel priorities and not our own negative evaluations of a person because of how they see their identity. In this case, I think most Christian rhetoric about homosexuality does the latter and not the former, which is why I'm so firm in distancing myself from it.

Raj, I've read Piper's previous treatment five years ago when he covered Romans 1. In fact, I've used that to present the Christian view of homosexuality in my classes. I think his stuff on it is some of the best stuff available on the internet. I don't think this recent one was anywhere near as comprehensive and thus doesn't quite show as much balance, but I don't disagree with anything he said. One of the things he's very careful about is to distinguish between homosexuality and homosexual sex/relationships. The latter are sinful. The former is simply a state of being that one may or may not be morally responsible for coming to be. He doesn't settle that issue.

Sin is sin, is sin.
I think most Christians don't realize how they drive homosexuals even further away from Jesus by their rejection of them - even if it's not intentional.

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