Talking Points on Homosexuality

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So I talked with a relative this weekend about homosexuality and Christianity. I only have five talking points

1) The person mentioned that scriptures absolutely prohibits homosexuality. First off, the number of verses are slim (6) and very obscure. Secondly, anyone who thinks Sodom and Gomorrah is about homosexuality clearly doesn’t understand the importance of hospitality in the culture at that time. Hospitality was the most important of virtues especially for nomadic cultures. Pointing out that poverty is mentioned over 4000 times doesn’t even seem important at this point.

2) This idea that until this generation marriage and sexuality has always been heterosexual is wrong. Clearly, the idea of sexual identity is a new construct. This idea that we have this true sexuality behind our behaviors is utterly bizarre. Let me offer an example. I know certain people often speculate about other people’s sexual orientation. Even though this person might solely engage in heterosexual behaviors, others will continue to question whether or not these behaviors only serve to mask the person’s “real” sexual identity. Of course, these same people would never hesitate to declare judgment on someone’s sexuality if that person engaged in homosexual behavior. It’s utterly absurd to imagine these people wondering whether or not the over homosexual behavior is really a disguise for the repressed heterosexual desires.

3) In Greco-Roman times pederasty was a common practice among men. Recall in the Gospel of John the story where Jesus heals the Centurion’s lad. Jesus lauds this man for his great faith, even after the Centurion declares that he’s not worthy to have Jesus enter into his house. Why? Probably, because the Roman assumed that Jesus would be morally opposed to his homosexual practice. Also, I have a hard time imagining that these older men were “really” gay and used their relationship with their wives to create the illusory appearance of heterosexuality. There was just no contradiction between these behaviors because the idea of a stable sexual identity was alien to their thinking.

4) I heard the ridiculous slippery-slope argument: where do we go from here? bestiality? pedophilia? My response was rather simple. There is a qualitative difference between two consenting adults having sex than there is between two partners having sexual contact in which one is either not consenting (animal) or not mature enough to be able to consent (child).

5) The person finally suggested that we should look back to tradition. This is just a passing fad. Of course, if we looked back to the past for ethical guidelines we would still be advocating domestic violence, slavery, and the oppression of women all under the name of religion.

Bonus talking point: While, I do not doubt that there is a relationship between homosexuality and genetics, I often find it naive when people argue for the biology of homosexuality by asking heterosexuals when did they choose to become straight. Ok, I never chose to be straight, but rather it was chosen for me the day I was born into a heteronormative society. This idea that sexuality emerges the day one hits puberty is utterly ridiculous. Freud knew that sexuality did not begin at age 13. Also, to act as if children are not already bombarded with sexuality is crazy. Our desires were already assembled and organized into the heteronormative matrix that runs our society.

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4 Responses to “Talking Points on Homosexuality”

  1. A.J. Smith Says:

    I have some comments on a few of your talking points.

    1) Upon reflection, the evangelical American Protestant view on homosexuality is one of the more puzzling facets of that particular belief system. As you know, evangelicals view homosexuality as some sort of uber-sin; in most cases, as the absolute height of debauchery. Usually, this is justified with some contextual contortionist renderings of certain biblical quotations that you mention. Of course, the biblical record is much more complex that evangelical would have and really does not bear this point out to the degree that they would like to think it does.

    2 & 3) I too find this notion of true “sexual identity” bizarre, especially given the fact that it is always couched in such vague notions, viz. that it is always emphasized that everybody is somewhere “in the middle” in this spectrum of sexual preferences. That is, nobody is completely homosexual and nobody is completly heterosexual. If nobody is really either, than how is this dichotomy useful?

    4 and bonus)
    The only slippery slope argument I can see in this regard is the very poor argument sometimes employed by homosexual advocates when they use the reasoning that ‘homosexuality is moral because it has a genetic basis.’ This reasoning, I believe, can lead down the long slippery slope of justifying anything and everything that has a genetic basis (such as, say, pedophilia).

  2. Jeremy Says:

    1) It’s a hysterical reaction to otherness. I just don’t really know what evangelicals expect homosexuals who (if they exist) want to convert to evangelicalism are supposed to do. Celibacy’s the only option. I think the only truly ethical act for an evangelical would be to make a celibacy vow with that person in solidarity again temptation. Otherwise, it’s bullshit that they can have sex, but then tell someone else that they are unable to enjoy themselves.

    2 & 3) Yeah, I mean I think it’s clear that sexuality is on a continuum. Ironically, because of everyone’s obsession with reaction formation (i.e. you often act contrary to your true desires), those who actually over-identify as either homosexual or heterosexual would probably be accused of harboring repressing opposite sexual feelings.

    Also, I have a hard time imaging a bisexual person who is completely indifferent to his/her sexual partner’s gender. There cannot be an equilibrium point, there’s always some amount of preference and discrimination, in my opinion.

    4) Yeah, I tend to stay away from inferring ethical principles based on biology. Many conservatives use the whole heterosexuality isn’t natural or the “parts don’t work” argument. Obviously very crass arguments. As Christians, I believe the ethic Jesus embodies is almost always very unnatural, I mean what kind of animal could benefit from forgiving his attacker 490 times?

  3. dave Says:

    As far as identity goes, whatever our opinion of gender essentialism, I think this it is a pretty striking aspect of this “debate” in the culture wars that, especially in American Christianity, a homosexual person is identified (and demonized) as homosexual first and foremost. I know this might sound like a strange way of arguing, but let’s just assume for the moment that the conservative establishment is correct and that homosexual practice is a sin. The identification of the “sinner” is much more strongly articulated when the “sin” is homosexuality; as A.J. points out, it’s some kind of uber-sin. While someone might retort that we make an identification claim of “sinners” whose “sin” is stealing as a thief, I don’t think the rhetoric is the same. At least, not as I’ve experienced it from the overwhelming amount of Christians that I know who are anti-gay.

    For this reason, I think even those with a conservative presupposition ought to have pause at how the issue is approached. My own view has become increasingly cloudy, but I’ve formerly identified pretty clearly on the conservative end of the spectrum, conceptually speaking. However, the fact that homosexuality is so deeply entangled with a person’s identity gives reason to at least try not to approach the “debate” with the prima facie assumption of correct theological belief. Given that a person’s sexuality is bound up with their humanness, I think that even those Christians with a conservative lean have an ethical imperative to adopt a more hospitable mode-of-being in the “debate.”

    I apologize if my thoughts are coming out in a jumbled, jargonic mess; it’s been one of those days.

  4. Jeremy Says:

    I think a conservative would respond that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice. Hence, it’s worse insofar as homosexuality is a repeated, intentional sin. I don’t think sin is really an appropriate term when discussing evangelical’s views on homosexuality. It’s treated more as a disease or sickness. It’s permanent and contagious. I would be more comfortable with this treatment if Jesus had said, “it’s harder for a camel to go through eye of a needle than for a gay to enter the kingdom of God.”

    I really just feel if heterosexual Christians believe that they should be willing to forgo sexual activity. I mean Jesus and Paul were celibate, presumably. At least, they were both vehemently anti-marriage.

    Also what pragmatically would evangelicals have homosexuals do? I mean imagine a straight person trying to join a religion. However, this religion exclusively admitted homosexual members. Could you even imagine bothering with that religion?

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