Anti-Epithets and Moral Views on Homosexuality

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David Velleman has another post at Left2Right on homosexuality, this time focusing in on how people abuse what he calls anti-epithets like 'racist', 'anti-semite', and 'homophobe', especially the last. As with past posts by him on the topic, I pretty much agree with his whole analysis and find it strikingly friendly to things I've myself tried to argue. He thinks such words have been abused so much against people they shouldn't be used against that they lessen the force of the terms, leaving nothing left for the real extremists.

There are three levels that need to be distinguished. There are those who place someone else in a morally inferior and even subordinate category. Out of a realization that many people don't seem to understand the difference between using and mentioning a word, I don't even mention the epithets he mentions, because I know someone will come along accusing me of using the words, but the N-word and the F-word both strike me as solid examples of language that necessarily puts someone in a morally subordinate category. I think this is true even of those groups who use those words of themselves, but I'm not going to argue that point now. People who tell gay jokes may fall into this category, depending on the intent of telling the joke. If it's to make them feel superior for not being gay, then it's moral subordination. If it's because they think it makes fun of the stereotype but not gay people as they really are, and they could tell it to gay friends and enjoy the laugh together, that may be different. Anyone who uses the F-word against someone who is gay is clearly in this category because of the force the word carries (what linguists call illocutionary force -- the intended effect of the word on the hearer). Terms like 'homophobe' are best applied to this group, although even then I'd rather reserve it for the subset who really are irrationally fearful or gay people, as I do think a number of people are but won't admit it. (I disagree with David's claim that this should have much to do with repressing one's own homosexual desires. I think people who find anal sex between two men disgusting are not likely to be suppressing their own homosexual desires. People who are genuinely homophobic are hardly ever like the character in American Beauty.)

A separate group would include those who do not morally subordinate anyone (i.e. do not treat them as if their only purpose is to serve others) but do act in ways that are harmful or discriminatory. There's a difference between being a racist and unintentionally discriminating, and there's even a difference between being a racist and deliberately discriminating but not for reasons having to do with attitudinal racism (e.g. catering to others' racism is not attitudinal racism but simply spinelessness). In this category would be those who would not rent to a gay couple because they don't want illicit sex taking place on their property. It would also include those who wouldn't want a gay person taking care of their children out of fear that the person might be a child molester. As I write this, my wife and baby daughter are at the home of a lesbian couple, and my baby may be in the arms of a lesbian; I have no problem with that, and anyone who does may well be truly homophobic, so that label might apply to some things in this category. Both that and not renting to a gay couple involve different treatment and therefore count as discrimination or prejudice. Whether it's discrimination may not have anything to do with whether the person discriminating sees gay people as morally subordinate or inferior. It may simply be due to a view (probably false) about what gay people do or what they're likely to do. That's a false view, and it has bad consequences, but it's not necessarily homophobia. It might be, but it might not be. That's the point of the second category.

The third group is those who have a opinion about the immorality of someone's actions but do not allow it to carry over into their view of the moral status of the person in terms of rights or inherent value and also do not allow it to lead them to treat the person differently. This is where biblical Christianity stands with regard to homosexuality, at least with non-religious matters. Those who hold to a moral code that says homosexual acts and relationships are morally wrong may not discriminate in any way against those who engage in those acts and are even proud of them. That's David's point, I think. This third level is a group with views he disagrees with, but they're views that aren't on the first or second level. The first is an attitude toward the person that stops any discussion, and the second is an action that can be seriously harmful. The third is simply a view that someone's action is wrong.

Compare a couple analogous cases. Christians who follow the Bible believe that sex outside of marriage is wrong. So my neighbors who are living together but aren't married, who presumably are having sex, are sinning. I don't talk to them much, not nearly as much as I should, but it has nothing to do with that. Teaching two courses, staying on top of my responsibilities with a family of five, helping out with a ministry on campus, and trying to make some progress toward my dissertation just seems to take enough time that I don't go hang out with my neighbors, regardless of their sexual practices. The same goes with many of the graduate students in my department. I think I could have been good friends with a bisexual student who is no longer in town. I had many enjoyable conversations with him, and though we disagreed strongly on many moral issues I would have enjoyed spending a lot more time with him. It would have been wrong for me to use my moral views about anything he may or may not be doing or have done to influence me not to spend time with him. Most evangelicals I know agree with me, at least in principle. Yet some people consider the mere belief that it's wrong for two men to have sex to be bigotry. I'm just not sure how something in category three is even structually like something in category one, which is where bigotry seems best applied.

Another moral view is that it's wrong to plagiarize on exams or papers. I've had students plagiarize. One student did it this semester, even on a dialogue paper (which is part of how it was easy to catch). She lifted material from a few websites, and it was quite obvious to anyone reading both her paper and the websites. I gave her a zero. I viewed her conduct as quite wrong and disrespectful to me. Yet I don't see her on a lower plane because of it, and when I was grading her final exam I was rooting for her to do well so that she might pass from trying to do good work to redeem herself, and I will do the same thing when I grade her paper. If she deserves to fail, she deserves to fail. If her last work for the course is able to get her a high enough grade, then I'm glad she learned from her experience and was willing to work hard to pass the course. So I take no attitude toward her as being morally subordinate or inferior because she did something wrong. I should also say that a good friend of mine got caught plagiarizing three times in the same semester, twice with the same professor. None of that changed how I viewed him after the fact, and I was perhaps even closer to him afterward, as much as I view plagiarism as one of the lowest things a college student could ever do. My friend now agrees with me on this, I believe, and considers his actions stupid. He expected people to reject him when he confessed to this. It didn't happen. Taking a category three view does not require a category one or category two view. These cases demonstrate that. I could say the same thing about people morally opposed to smoking who hang out with their smoker friends while they smoke or people morally opposed to being drunk who hang out with their friends while they drink to get drunk. Examples really do abound. Why should it be different with those who think gay sex or being in gay relationships is wrong?

There are some touchy subjects for those who think gay sex/relationships are wrong, such as what to do about saying congratulations to a newly married gay couple, whether to go to a gay marriage ceremony for one's friends, or whether to support legal recognition of gay unions. I've talked about these a bit in other posts but don't want to try to find them all at the moment due to wanting to finish this so I can back to finishing my grading, which is due tomorrow. Check the Posts on Homosexuality link in the sidebar under Favorite Posts if you want to see some of that. Maybe I'll find them later and add links.

There are, however, some clear matters. Any group that holds to a statement of faith and a code of conduct should be allowed not to appoint someone proud of violating that code of conduct to its positions of leadership. It's one thing to do something once or twice that violates it and then to repent. It's quite another to say that the code of conduct is wrong and that you don't follow it but to insist that you should be allowed to lead in a group holding such a code. [Those quick to point out hypocrisy among religious leaders need to understand this distinction, but so do those who think it's bigotry not to ordain gay people.] Isn't it a little perverse for someone to pursue a ministry position in a Christian church while being openly, actively gay and proud of it. Why would anyone want to do such a thing anyway? That would be like a Christian applying for a job teaching courses about how Christianity is the origin of all sorts of oppressive narratives that control our society. A friend of a number of my friends was in such a position in the Syracuse University English Department. She was hired to teach courses like this with specific political goals, and when she became a Christian and forsook her philosophical lesbianism, she realized that she couldn't fulfill her job description anymore. Rather than calling it discrimination that they wouldn't allow her to teach those courses from a Christian perspective or even from a non-biased perspective, she graciously acknowledged that the job description did not allow her to be a Christian and continue in her job, and she resigned.

I want to acknowledge that refusing to hire an openly and actively gay pastor is technically discrimination, but it's not the kind that seems to me to fit in category two. First of all, you can take attitudes like those in category three without insisting on any of these things. I don't think that's the biblical view, but it's technically possible to do so, and many conservatives who aren't Christian in a biblical way may be like that. I wonder if that's one reason David was separating out categories two and three to begin with. Even so, I don't think this kind of discrimination is problematic in the way that it is to refuse to associate with someone for being gay, to refuse to allow someone to attend your church merely for having a homosexual orientation (at least initially -- there may be other reasons to disfellowship someone later on, but that's different), or to refuse to rent to someone or hire someone because of sexual orientation (allowing some exceptions, e.g. a religious job with a code of conduct).

It's discriminatory to insist on hiring a black actor to play Malcolm X or for a heterosexual to insist on marrying only a heterosexual of the opposite sex. It's discriminatory to insist on hiring someone most qualified for a job. Discrimination is simply being choosy. The question is whether it's ok to be choosy in that way in those circumstances, and that's why I think these kinds of discrimination do not count as the same sort as category two. People like to compare them with being opposed to interracial marriage or integrating bathrooms, but there's a difference. People who were opposed to interracial marriage viewed blacks as morally inferior and wanted to preserve a structure that continued that, by refusing to allow them to marry white people. No one is disallowing gay people from marrying heterosexuals. That social dynamic just isn't present in the gay marriage debate. Other ones might be, but that one isn't.

Similarly, many white people thought (and some still think) that there's something perverse about me having sex with my wife because she's black and I'm white. Many people think a man having sex with a man or a woman with a woman is perverse. Yet the social structure being relied on in the two cases is very different. It's not that men are viewed as inferior and therefore it's perverse for someone who isn't a man to have sex with a man. It's that the particular act is perverse but not because of who is doing it. It doesn't involve one person lowering himself or herself, whereas with interracial sex that was the attitude. People saw a black man having sex with a white woman as perverse because they thought he was somehow polluting her with his blackness. With a white man and a black woman, it was different. There must have been something wrong with him to want to engage in that sort of act with someone like that. These social attitudes are so far removed from the dynamic with attitudes toward gay sex that I just don't see the analogy. Holding up gay sex as a perversion is a moral view, and it's one that need not involve any moral subordination or wrongful discrimination. David Velleman sees that. I wish more people with his attitude toward the morality of homosexuality would also see it, because then the people who really do hold category one attitudes toward Christians (or at least those being faithful to the Bible) would be far fewer.

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You said: "People who were opposed to interracial marriage viewed blacks as morally inferior and wanted to preserve a structure that continued that, by refusing to allow them to marry white people. No one is disallowing gay people from marrying heterosexuals. That social dynamic just isn't present in the gay marriage debate."

I'm not sure if you're making two separate points here, or just one. Is the distinction between same-sex marriage and interracial marriage supposed to be 1) that black people were considered inferior and homosexuals are not, or that 2) black people were prohibited from marrying members of the thought to be superior group, or both? I assume it can't be (1) alone since, even if you personally are a member of the 3rd group you talk about--people who believe homosexuality is wrong but don't treat gay people any differently--there are plenty of people who are in groups 1 and 2. Indeed research shows that a majority of Americans have a negative opinion of gay people (a different question of course than whether homosexuality is a sin).

But your later comments make me think maybe that's what you did mean. You said: "With a white man and a black woman, it was different. There must have been something wrong with him to want to engage in that sort of act with someone like that. These social attitudes are so far removed from the dynamic with attitudes toward gay sex that I just don't see the analogy." I would guess that many people in categories 1 and 2 believe that there's got to be something wrong with someone who have sex with a member of the same same (just they way people used to view a white man who had sex with a black woman). Homosexuality, after all, was considered a pyschological disorder until a few decades ago.

And even if you're right about the different attitudes, is it only the attitudes of blacks as morally inferior that required the overturning of anti-interracial marriage laws? Suppose it had been the case that blacks weren't considered morally inferior and yet there was still popular support for the idea that equally good races ought not intermix. Wouldn't there still be a good case for overturning the laws on the basis that they discriminate on the basis of race? That Jane (a black woman) can't marry Tom (a white man) but Alice (a white woman) can marry Tom--Jane and Alice are treated differently on the basis of race (even though society thinks neither race is any better than the other). The same argument, I think, can be given regarding sex discrimination in the prohibition of same-sex marriage.

"It's that the particular act is perverse but not because of who is doing it." But it's exactly a matter of who's doing it that is what people find perverse about sex between members of the same sex. (most) People (Christian or not) don't find the act of oral sex to be wrong or perverse. What makes it perverse is the sexes of the people involved. Perhaps what you meant with the sentence was just what you said later about the assumption of "pollution" and "sickness" with regard to interracial sex.

Anyway, back to the issue of homosexuals not being prohibited from marrying heterosexuals. (First an aside--I've heard this argument numerous times. I've got to wonder what the response of those who offer it would be if homosexuals did begin to swarm to marry heterosexuals and the result was a ton of sexless, loveless, childless marriages of convenience in which two people save some money on taxes and share health care benefits. I would think that if this occurred it would just confirm for those in category 1 and pehaps 2 that indeed gay people are destroying society. Thus I can't help but feel the argument is offered disengenuously. Would you really support such a massive change in the traditional meaning and use of marriage?)

But more seriously I think whether one finds the prohibition against same-sex marriages to be discriminatory or not depends upon how we view the "right" or the "benefit" of which we are asking, "is it being applied equally?" So, for instance, in terms of sex equality issues I believe there was a sex discrimination court case in which a med. insur. company refused to cover pregnancy. The company argued that it wasn't discriminating because it treated men and women equally--no one got pregnancy coverage! And of course if we conceive of the benefit at issue in one sense--having coverage XYZ--then yes there isn't any discrimination in that case. But if we conceive of the benefit in a different sense--as having coverage for the kinds of medical related experiences which one is likely to experience or choose to experience (and in the case of pregnancy such experience is entirely a matter of choice)--then obviously the company was discriminating against women since only women (though certainly no where near all women) are going to choose to become pregnant.

I think the same applies to marriage. What exactly is the benefit regarding which the law must treat everyone equally? Is the benefit simply "the ability to marry a member of the opposite sex"? But how can it be acceptable to define sex into the benefit when we are trying to figure out whether the law discriminates on any basis (including sex)? That would be like asking, "Does a law requiring segregated schools discrimate on the basis or race?" and answering, "No it doesn't, because everyone of any race has exactly the same right--the right to go to a school with only members of the same race."

So it seems to me we need to define the benefit without reference to sex. Many opponents of same-sex marriage (not all, so perhaps not you--I have no way of knowing) feel very strongly about the issue because they place a very high importance on marriage (apart from legal benefits and social status). They argue that it is better for children to be raised by two parents whom are married to one another or they claim that marriage is the bedrock of our society. I assume what they value so much is the love and commitment which hopefully go along with marriage. I assume that they do not value forced marriages or marriages of convenience or sexually open marriages. Some who are anti-same-sex marriage but very pro-heterosexual marriage even point out the supposed physical and mental health benefits of marriage. I would think, thus, that when we talk about what marriage is, what the benefit is of which we are asking, "does the law covering that benefit apply equally?" we would have to say something about having access to the same love and commitment and mental/physical benefits and benefits for one's children (not to mention all of the legal/social benefits). And if we conceive of the benefit in this way, of course, it's much clearer that the law doesn't apply equally because homosexuals do not have access to the institution in which such love and committment is supposed to flourish. What they have access to is simply a kind of pretend version of that institution.

Lastly I just wanted to comment about the categorizations. I agree that it's possible that one can hold homosexuality is a sin and yet yet not discriminate. I could, for instance, believe that heterosexuality is a sin, but yet not discriminate against heterosexuals. But I think there is an important disanalogy between neighbors who engage in premarital sex and people who are heterosexuals. To be a heterosexual is to have a certain identity that is essentially defined by one's actions or one's dispositions for actions. What is a heterosexual? Someone who primarily is attracted to, fantasizes about, falls in love with, has emotional bonds with, enters into committed relationships, has sex with, and wants to share one's life with members of the opposite sex. What, then, would it mean for me to say that heterosexuality is wrong? It would be to say almost everything that is important in the life of most heterosexuals--their marriage, their relationships, sex, their attractions--all of that is instances of immorality. I would, it seems, be committed to saying that each and every day of their life a heterosexual does wrong. Every thought of their lover, every kiss, every touch, every day of their relationship, every feeling of romantic love would be wrong. That's much different than saying "stealing is wrong." The difference, I think, is that sexual orientation is a very complex identity that affects the way we organize our lives. I don't think anyone would say the same about stealing (maybe members of the mafia). I can simply hold that people who steal do wrong once in awhile (whenever they steal). But I needn't hold that they sin a thousand times a day or that the most important things in their life are sinful (unless to them stealing is the most important thing in their life).

I think part of this is the desire to separate the sin from the sinner. So I've heard many people say that being homosexual is not sinful, it's just homosexual conduct that is sinful. But I can't very easily see the distinction. What is a homosexual, after all, if not a person who engages in homosexual conduct? The identity of "homosexual" is formed simply on the basis of one's actions or one's dispositions to action. Surely there are some homosexuals who never engage in sex, who never have any relationships, who never love, who never fantasize (I'm not sure if that would be considered a sin?)

It's kind of like the identity of medical doctor. Generally a medical doctor is one who practices medicine. The identity is formed by the actions. Now not every medical doctor practices medicine. For some people get their M.D. and choose to do something else--but technically they are still medical doctors. I think if I say, "Practicing medicine is a wrong" that wouldn't simply be condeming the actions that most doctors partake it. It would most likely be taken by doctors as a condemnation of their identity as doctors because their identity just is definded by their actions.

I think such considerations can, perhaps, explain why many people take the claim that "homosexuality is a sin" to be a form of bigotry--because they see it as necessarily attacking people and not actions because the actions define a group of people.

I'm not saying that no one considers gay people morally inferior or wishes to make them morally subordinate. I'm saying that believing gay sex/relationships to be morally wrong does not require such an attitude. I also that believing homosexuality to be a mental illness does not require that any more than believing manic depressives to be mentally ill requires seeing them as morally inferior.

My point about considering something wrong with someone for wanting to have sex with someone who is black was not about merely finding something wrong with someone in the way that someone who is mentally ill has something wrong with them. It was about the social dynamic of seeing someone as wanting to have sex with someone who is polluting. That view automatically morally subordinates someone when it comes to sexual relations. The view that homosexuality is a mental illness does not. That's why I see a difference.

Suppose it had been the case that blacks weren't considered morally inferior and yet there was still popular support for the idea that equally good races ought not intermix. Wouldn't there still be a good case for overturning the laws on the basis that they discriminate on the basis of race?

Yes, which is why I have no problem overturning our current marriage laws as long as it leads to removing them to keep the marriage issue religious and not civil, since that's what I think marriage is. What I was saying here is that someone who holds that gay sex/relationships are wrong does not have to argue against gay marriage at all on legal grounds and therefore does not have to be in group 2, which advocates discrimination, but even if they do advocate discrimination it's not as bad as the actual reasons people wanted discrimination with interracial marriage. I'm aware that there are people whose official view is that races are all created by God to be equally good but want separation because that's how God made us. If that's what they really believe, it's not racism in the attitudinal sense. I've never encountered someone who claims that sort of view who doesn't also use derogatory terms about black people, Jews, etc. I've encountered people who say they hold that view whose language shows them to be without a doubt in category 1 despite their claims to the contrary. With homosexuality, I know many people who hold such views about why it's ok to discriminate without any of the category 1 attitudes.

I want to emphasize that while I do see this as discrimination it's not discrimination against sexual orientation. It's sex discrimination. Only men are allowed to marry women, and that discriminates against women. Only women are allowed to marry men, which discriminates against men. Gay men have the same marriage privileges as straight men. They can all marry women. Structurally speaking, it's sex discrimination. Privileges given to men are not given to women, and privileges given to women are not given to men.

'Who is doing it' is ambiguous. I agree that both cases involve a sexual act that is viewed as wrong but might be viewed as ok if it were with someone else. What I meant is that the moral status of the other person is not the reason the act is viewed as wrong. To many who opposed white people wanting to have sex with black people, it was because of the morally inferior racial status of one partner. You don't have that element with gay sex. If there's a view that one partner is inferior for being gay, then you'll have to say the other is too, and people who have that sort of view might as well say to leave the gays to have sex with each other. The racial separatist's line of reasoning seems to favor sexual orientation separatism also and thus a libertarian attitude toward gay sex/relationships. So it's not really parallel.

On gay people marrying straight people, I wasn't talking about what marriage should look like. I was simply looking at the structure of the law. a gay-straight marriage wouldn't necessarily involve "sexless, loveless, childless marriages of convenience in which two people save some money on taxes and share health care benefits" anyway. There are people who have homosexual attraction who have loved someone of the opposite sex. Governor Jim McGreevey emphasizes his love for his wife when he announed his resignation earlier this year. He obviously had sex with his wife and had kids. I'm not sure why a point about the structural nature of the law requires a mass amount of gay people pretending to get married to have some legal status. That just seems to me to be a complete change of subject. Most people who would advocate gay people reconsidering their gay orientation would not advocate marrying someone they do not love and wouldn't have sex with, so I'm just not sure what you're getting at.

I do think refusing to cover pregnancy is discrimination, but I don't think it's discrimination against women. It's discrimination against pregnant women (and not just those who choose to be pregnant because some people are pregnant not by choice). The group that is not discriminated against includes lots of people who are not men, people who never end up being pregnant. The issue is not over preference or choice, though, but actual state. It's not discrimination against the entire class of women but against a subset of that class. It's true that certain behavior generally leads to being in that state, but that behavior doesn't necessitate that state, some people choose to end that state prematurely, and some people wish to be in that state but have a very hard time achieving it. So structually speaking there are many ways the cases aren't analogous. Someone who is figuring out what kinds of discrimination is ok might think discrimination on one basis is ok while the other not, and the trick is figuring out why discrimination on the basis of sex with regard to marrying someone of the same sex is as bad or worse than discriminating on the basis of pregnancy. Since pregnancy is uncontroversially not a moral issue, while homosexuality is controversial morally, that's going to be hard to accomplish.

I think the same applies to marriage. What exactly is the benefit regarding which the law must treat everyone equally? Is the benefit simply "the ability to marry a member of the opposite sex"? But how can it be acceptable to define sex into the benefit when we are trying to figure out whether the law discriminates on any basis (including sex)? That would be like asking, "Does a law requiring segregated schools discrimate on the basis or race?" and answering, "No it doesn't, because everyone of any race has exactly the same right--the right to go to a school with only members of the same race."

I don't understand your argument. You seem to be assuming that I think discriminating on the basis of sex is not discrimination. I'm arguing that laws against gay marriage are discrimination but that, structurally speaking, they discriminate on the basis of sex. Men and women have different privileges with regard to who they can marry. Similarly, blacks, whites, etc. would have different privileges from each other with regard to who they could marry if we still had anti-miscegenation laws. The parallel is exact. That's why I think that a law requiring equal rights of men and women would require removing laws against gay civil unions and removing the marriage language from heterosexual civil unions (you could do it simply by allowing gay people to get married, but that would violate the first amendment, which doesn't allow the government to interfere with religion). The reason anti-miscegenation laws discriminate is race-based, which is outlawed by the 14th Amendment. The reason laws against gay unions are discrimination is because they discriminate on the basis of something not yet in the Constitution. An Equal Rights Amendment would change that, but there are so many reasons not to do that (it would require removing male and female bathrooms, women's basketball teams, and many other things most people see as good). That's why there's nothing unconstitutional about laws against gay civil unions, even if it's immoral. That doesn't mean it's not discrimination. It is. The question is what kind of discrimination it is. I don't think it's as bad as refusing to hire someone because of sexual orientation, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's as innocent as wanting to hire a white actor to play George Washington in a movie. Maybe I misunderstood your point, but given that this is my view is it possible to rephrase it so that it applies to what I'm actually saying?

Your last point is one that I've made myself. That's why I won't use the terminology many Christians have adopted, that we should love the sinner but hate the sin. The problem is in how the sin is defined. Many Christians wrongly define the sin as being homosexual, which isn't how the biblical passages put it. The modern notion of homosexuality is a social construction that the biblical authors wouldn't have known. It's a social phenomenon of people defining their very lives, as you say, in terms of a disposition toward actions and relationships that the Bible does define as sinful. The disposition itself couldn't be sinful, though, because that's just a category mistake. A heterosexual man who lusts after their neighbor's wife is wrong to say that his sin is in being attracted to her or in being tempted to want to seduce her. His sin is in lusting after her, which is an action of the mind. If he's in this state, and he frequently gives in, then he's sinning. If he takes it even further and initiates flirtation and a deeper emotional relationship, and she reciprocates, then it's a more blatant sin. If he actually has an affair with her, then it's even more blatant. The sin is in his acting on his desires. Almost all heterosexual men have desires for women they're not married to. They may define themselves as beings who have such desires, insist that that's normal for them, and then excuse their lustings as ok because natural. That doesn't mean it really is ok, says the Christian. Saying such things are sinful does involve going against how such a person has defined himself, and I do think many heterosexual men think of themselves this way. It's just not noticed because it's socially approved, whereas defining oneself as homosexual is much less socially approved. The Christian view is that both involve defining oneself in terms of sin, and such defining may well be morally wrong. I have a good friend who is a Christian and who one day admitted that he'd come to the conclusion that he was gay. He then added that he believed that was wrong. He wasn't saying that being in the position of having tendencies and dispositions toward people of the same sex was wrong. He was saying that defining his identity that way was wrong.

I think what's causing the problem is that some people can't separate the sinner from the sin, particularly those who are committing the sin. That doesn't mean that others won't be able to do that. I know lots of people who are thoroughly accepting of gay people, who affirm them in their friendships, who encourage them to live as fulfilling a life as they can, yet who see some of their choices in doing so as morally wrong. They may see all those little things as wrong.

Of course, you underestimate who thoroughly Christians believe the fall to have affected everyone. I in fact think most everyone sins thousands of times a day, and it does have to do with a way we've defined our identity. It's a sin to think of ourselves as independent from the God who made all things, ordered them, and insists that we follow him and seek to do his will, so every time anyone does anything that's seen as our own thing, that's sin. Any time anyone seeks to do something simply because we want to, it's sin. As the Bible presents sin, it's a nature we all possess that disposes us to be independent from God and the ways God has ordered creation, and we all do that constantly. That's why no solution to the problem of sin is adequate unless it involves a radical reordering of human nature. The Christian view is that we define ourselves in many ways that don't coincide with how God has defined us, and all those identities are sinful. This will affect the very nature of all our relationships. So I'm not sure how it's all that radical in such a picture to say that one sort of identity is in such a state when so many others are that everyone else is affected by anyway. There are other elements to this last issue that I have things to say about, but this is getting long enough for the moment, so I'll come back to them later if you want to continue this discussion.

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