More on Phil Robertson and the Gays

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A friend recently shared this article on facebook.

There is allot of good stuff in this article, and in some ways it is clarifying, but it starts out with an unforgivable vagueness:

Q: If I don’t agree with homosexuality, but don’t wish homosexuals to be put to death, does that make me a bigot?

A: Yes. 

Now, what can “agree with homosexuality” possibly mean?

If we define homosexuality as a persistent and predominate physical attraction to members of the same sex, there is nothing about which to agree or disagree, this attraction is simply a reality that two or three percent of the population experiences. It is like agreeing or disagreeing with the sun rising in the East.

But that is not the only way to define homosexuality: there is homosexuality the behavior, homosexuality the social construct (because gender is, to an extent, a social construction), homosexuality the cultural and political movement.

These distinctions are very real in practice. It is possible for someone to engage in homosexual behavior without self-identifying as homosexual (i.e. prison sex, some hazing activities in schools or the military, or the exploitation of boys common in cultures like ancient Greece or modern Afghanistan.) It is possible for someone to experience the attractions and not act on them on moral grounds. It is possible to be actively homosexual and not identify with the movement. And while experience shows that the great majority of people who self identify as homosexual cannot change themselves to heterosexual either by psychological therapy or hormones or by “praying the gay away”, experience also shows that our “sexual identities” are not monolithic and set in stone, but subject to shifts and changes over time.

So while it is technically impossible to agree or disagree with the fact that some people are attracted to members of the same sex, it is technically possible to agree or disagree on a moral or intellectual level with actions or political ideologies. But because our sexuality tends to color how we interact with others and how we see ourselves, the discussion gets easily confused.

And this is where the dilemma lies, and this is where some mutual compassion is necessary:

A conservative Christian can, with the best intentions in the world, say to a homosexual: “I respect you as a person, and want the very best for you, but acting out homosexual impulses is objectively wrong. Place your hope in Christ, who loves you, and though he will not take away this cross from you, he will help you bear it.”

And said homosexual will hear: “I reject you as a person, because the nature of your sexual desire inevitably colors your interaction with every man and woman you meet, and colors how you interact with yourself. You spent your whole adolescence in a deep state of anxiety and depression, worried about being different, wishing you were just like everyone else, wondering if others knew, feeling like you had the word “faggot” tattooed on your forehead. Well, I’m hear to remind you that your adolescent self was right, you are weird, and God thinks so too.”

Which of course is the last message the Christian wants (or should want) to get across. But the gay-rights activist’s unilateral excommunication from polite society of all who do not “agree with homosexuality” (again, whatever that may mean) is a rather obtuse response to what, in some cases, is an attempt at a serious moral distinction.

I think it is a good thing that one can live in America as an open homosexual and not fear any special repercussions. It represents progress to the extent that it forces serious people to deal with one another as individuals, instead of as categories. It is good for conservative Christians to be forced to re-examine what were once knee-jerk cultural prejudices, and take into account the lived experiences of people who had to deal with the stresses of trying to grow up gay.

But unless the Gay Rights movement can display a similar compassion, and at least try to understand the distinctions being drawn, and try to distinguish a well intentioned argument from an anti-gay slur, the only thing they are going to achieve is replacing one disrespected minority (homosexuals) with another (conservative Christians), which is to achieve nothing.

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10 comments

  1. Excellent. Thank you.

  2. You were doing pretty well till the last paragraph. And the crowning glory in your failure lies in the final scroll down to reveal that Ask The Bigot thinks it’s excellent … yikes. So, to paraphrase, until black people can understand the lines being drawn by the KKK, and distinguish racist slurs from well-meaning chat about racial differences, they’re just replacing one culturally disrespected biological minority (themselves) with another illogical, chosen belief system minority (the KKK).

    1. I admit the last paragraph is a little vague in style and maybe obfuscates the main point, which not to defend bigotry, but to distinguish it from rational discourse. For example: not all criticism of the state of Israel is anti-semitism. If you label all criticism of Israel as anti-semitism, you are not defending Jews, you are using a power ploy to silence critics.
      Your KKK reductio ad absurdam does not parallel what I am talking about. By its long history of violence and intimidation, blacks should know not to trust the a group like the KKK. However, if a black civil-rights group were to label someone, like Thomas Sowell, who tries to engage in an honest discussion of race, as a closet KKK member, they would not be defending blacks, but squashing dissent.
      And I do believe that “the bigot” is being tongue-in-cheek with her avatar name.

      1. “If you label all criticism of Israel as anti-semitism, you are not defending Jews, you are using a power ploy to silence critics.”
        Terrible comparison. Criticising specific actions of a group of people does not even begin compare with calling the natural state of being (i.e. same sex attraction) of a whole group of people ‘wrong’/’sinful’/’evil’/’against nature’, especially when it’s based on the illogical and ignorant ramblings of ancient texts, the interpretation of which changes in every society and time. People choose what they want to believe from the Bible. That’s why divorce is now okay and slavery is an abomination.
        “And I do believe that “the bigot” is being tongue-in-cheek with her avatar name.” She’d certainly like to think she is … 🙂

      2. Dear violet, you missed my point.
        Criticizing the state of Israel is not the same as being an anti-semite.
        Being against aspects of the gay rights movement, or having moral objections to homosexual acts, is not the same thing as thinking a whole category of people is “evil by nature”, (though that message is unintentionally sent, as I mentioned in the post.)
        As for whether or not “the bigot” really is a bigot, I think she has her own blog, you can ask her.

      3. I would have to disagree. Having moral objections to homosexual acts, is having moral objections to homosexuals. How many people of any sexuality can happily live a celibate life? For most of us (not all, sex drive varies) it against our most basic instincts and sense of identity to do so. You cannot equate it with an act of open choice. I’ve spent more than enough time discussing issues on ‘the bigot’s blog to know she is a Christian who ‘loves’ gay people with all her heart but thinks gay sex is immoral … much like your earlier example above.

  3. I am coming round to this view. To that Conservative, his “Christianity” is an identity, and he cannot change his beliefs about gays without being expelled from his community now, and damned hereafter; whereas homosexuality is not, and one cannot be born that way, because God does not make mistakes. It must be a devilish choice.

    However, if you seek understanding from my side of the Church, I require it from yours- and that places an obligation on you to challenge every genuine anti-gay slur. So much is expressed in a paranoid way, so much closer to what you say the gay man hears than the Conservative intends.

    1. I sincerely doubt that in modern America anyone is going to be expelled from anything for calling gay sex a good and godly thing. As for homosexuals being “born that way”, well gosh, if it were a question of mere biology, there would not be any problem at all. But it is rather a question of psychology and identity, with added aspects of culture and politics, which is why it is such a touchy matter.
      You do however bring up a an important problem that I failed to address in my post: the “conservative Christian” cannot simply claim to be a protected minority status, since he can easily change his opinions while a gay cannot easily change his orientation. It is incumbent upon him to argue his position. I did not make that clear in my vague last paragraph.
      And you are right, of course, that being mean or insulting towards another human being is never acceptable for someone claiming to be a Christian.

      1. Let us not argue about fact. I took to Google:
        http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2009/06/68442971/1#.UtRjgfu-avg
        The Southern Baptist Convention broke its links with a Fort Worth church because of gays in the leadership.
        http://www.baptiststandard.com/resources/archives/46-2006-archives/4648-beaumont-church-ejected-from-sbtc-for-allowing-gay-friendly-ministry-to-use-building
        The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (I don’t know their relation to the SBC) kicked out a church for renting its property to gays.

        I don’t think the Christians crying out in support of Phil Robertson can easily change their opinions. The taboos they have against such change are too great.

      2. Well, looks like I’m wrong about that one. But at least our conservative Christian knows that if he changes opinion, he has a new tribe willing to welcome him with open arms.

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