The Problem with Raising the Stakes in the Debate on Homosexuality in the Church

Over at the fantastic blog Mere Comments, Dante translator Anthony Esolen wrote a piece urging the church to “raise the stakes” in the debate on homosexuality in the church by “blistering and frank condemnations of fornication — based on a keen insight into what that sin can do to a human soul.” This would solve the problem by climbing back up the slippery slope the church has fallen into on sexual morality. It would also remove the oft-used argument in Christian-leaning homosexuals who say undue condemnationis brought on them by a finger-pointing church. The proverbial finger would still be pointed, but now broadened to take in all sexual sins.

Great idea, right? Well, I think so too, but there is one problem…

Here is the comment I wrote on Mere Comment’s blog.

“This is a great strategy, but with one little – and by little I mean paralyzing – problem: I honestly don’t think that the pastors in our nation are capable of “blistering and frank condemnations of fornication — based on a keen insight into what that sin can do to a human soul.” There just isn’t the theological background to do so. Our pastors are not adequately trained to understand how human sexuality relates to being a human being. Basically, I’m not sure our leaders know why sexual immorality is a sin (or even a robust understanding of what sin is). So the message against sexual immorality from the pulpit comes out: ‘God says sexual immorality is a sin, so it is bad. Sins are bad because they go against what God said.’

“Granted, congregations ought to respond to this message because they love God and want to do what He says. But such a superficial argument leaves doubts that linger and lurk only to rise up in the heat of the moment when that better understanding of sex and sin was needed.”

Our pastors simply don’t know how to talk about sin in an understandable way, much less sexual immorality. We need, so desperately, to educate Christians to think well and rationally.

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  • makelovehappen

    Obedience to God is superficial unless one knows His reasons?

    Are His thoughts not unsearchable? Are His judgments not inscrutible? Are His ways not higher than our ways?

    Why is sexual immorality a sin?

  • http://blog.myspace.com/peregrineward Peregrine Ward

    Why is sexual immorality a sin?

    St. Paul seems to think that it’s a sin because it violates some kind of natural order that is ordained by God. “Their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion one for another…” (Rom. 1:26,27).

    If we try to think with Paul, that is, understand how sexual sin might be “contrary to nature,” we can list biological reasons (homosexuality is an infertile practice), or social reasons (extra-marital sex disrupts the harmony of the fundamental human society–the family). This method would be what is called a “Natural Law” approach to understanding right from wrong.

    We can also list “religious reasons” for thinking sexual immorality, well, immoral: our authorities (Scripture), whom we believe to be inspired by God, condemn it, and it is good to trust a trustworthy authority even if one doesn’t understand all of the authority’s reasons.

    Can something be immoral and not be a sin? It’s a provocative question. What do you think, makelovehappen?

  • http://blog.myspace.com/peregrineward Peregrine Ward

    Selby,

    I think most conservative Christian leaders are very good at issuing “blistering” condemnations of certain sins (homosexuality). We may say that fornication or adultery are sins, but they’re not considered taboo like homosexuality. This is because almost all Christians are actually homophobic, which is a condition inimical to Christian love (which casts out all phobia).

    If we stopped fearing certain sins, or thinking them gross, then maybe we could more reasonably and charitably evaluate what practices are more or less degrading to human personhood and society. Then fornication and adultery and divorce (and political corruption, and usury, and WalMart) might get the attention they’ve earned.

  • Andrew McKnight Selby

    Mr. Ward and MakeLoveHappen, thank you for your thoughts.

    Mr. Ward, you said, “I think most conservative Christian leaders are very good at issuing “blistering” condemnations of certain sins (homosexuality).” Blistering maybe – though I haven’t heard too much of it in evangelical churches. I’m sure fundamentalist churches don’t have a hard time with it, but they are dying out. (Another author at http://www.merecomments.com writes about the demise of fundamentalist churches.) My complaint is not along that line, however. The problem is that evangelical churches aren’t able to think through sexual sins. My suspicion is that this comes from a lack of understanding about what is the good for a Christian. Without this understanding, it is nearly impossible to evaluate why homosexuality or adultery or fornication might be bad for men and women.

    I might also add that the “homophobic” issue is at best peripherial. In fact, one of the most misguiding things we can for the church is simply call for less “homophobia” (what exactly does that mean?). Rather, we should start at the beginning and reason from the Scriptures – with a healthy dose of historical theology to help us identify our cultural blindspots – which are significant in this case – about the nature of sexuality and how it relates to the good life.
    ‘If we stopped fearing certain sins, or thinking them gross, then maybe we could more reasonably and charitably evaluate what practices are more or less degrading to human personhood and society.

    When you say, “If we stopped fearing certain sins, or thinking them gross, then maybe we could more reasonably and charitably evaluate what practices are more or less degrading to human personhood and society”, I think you put the cart before the horse. Let us first understand sexuality and what corruption of it does to us and quite naturally the fear will vanish. Fear is caused by the unknown, so let us bring to light what was once in the dark.

  • Andrew McKnight Selby

    MakeLoveHappen, you consistently raise provocative questions on our blog, which I truly appreciate. Forgive me for not responding to your comments as well as I should. Let me take this opportunity to answer your questions – “Obedience to God is superficial unless one knows His reasons? Are His thoughts not unsearchable? Are His judgments not inscrutible? Are His ways not higher than our ways?” – as my conversation with Mr. Ward has indirectly answered your last question.

    Obedience to God is best. If it is motivated by fear of punishment – e.g. “I ought not commit x sin because I might go to hell because I’ve offended God” – it is still obedience and is therefore meritorious. However, acting from love is better than fear – e.g. “Of course I ought not commit x sin because I love God and doing such a thing would put a barrier between us and I want to be close to him.” St. Thomas Aquinas helped me on this one with his distinction between “servile fear” and “filial fear.” Servile fear is an attitude of fear of punishment. Filial fear is an attitude of fear of separation from the beloved, as a son wants to do well for his father because he desires closeness with his father by doing what the father does.

    Understanding some of the “why” behind the commandments of God is necessary for filial fear. While God in and of Himself is inscrutable, what we need for proper relationship to Him through our actions is knowable through natural and special revelation, i.e. through reason and the Bible.

    What do you think?

  • http://blog.myspace.com/peregrineward Peregrine Ward

    Selby,

    I’m not sure there’s a real distinction here between the cart and the horse.

    However, I don’t see how homophobia is peripheral to the issue. If our problem is that we are unable to think through sexual sin, then we should ask why. You suggested in your post that pastors are inadequately trained. Why are they? I’m saying that there is a big taboo on homosexual practice that stymies many Christians from being able to think well about the issue. You adopt a sly but superficial rhetorical tactic (what exactly is homophobia anyway?), but I think we all know what homophobia is. If we’re hanging out, and I approach a woman and kiss her, you’ll rightly call me a cad and punch my face. If it’s a man instead, you’ll be totally disgusted, call me a sicko and punch my face. why should one both offend us and make us say eww! inside, while the former just offends? This is homophobia. Does God think sexual sin is not so bad so long as it’s heterosexual? I don’t see why he would. This is homophobia, and we need to get over it. Getting over it is both the key to loving homosexuals and better understanding their practice.

    How we should go about discovering “what corruption of sexuality does to us?” Do you really think that getting over homophoba has no part to play in this pocess?

  • The Gay Species

    Selby:

    Are you serious? What does rationality have to do with God’s literal and inerrant Word of God that alone is sufficient for salvation? If you’ve not read my post about Fundamentalists on jonrowe’s blog, you’ve invited to examine it on mine: http://www.gayspecies.blogspot.com.

    One simply cannot be rational and take the Fundamentalists’ criterion seriously. It just cannot be done. My case against the Fundamentalists exposes the inherent inconsistencies of their own method. It isn’t even close. After all, the segregationist South appealed to Saint Paul’s epistle to justify slavery. Strangely, given their bizarre thesis, I’ll accept that interpretation: Paul does tell slaves to obey their masters! Paul could not have been clearer. If the Bible is what the Fundamentalists claim it is, then by golly go for it all, but don’t cop out at the most critical junctures like slavery, much less Christ’s “Last Supper.”

    Before I address the homosexual issues, let’s take an an excursion into the Book of Genesis. No, not the Creation Story, but the Abraham Story. Maybe Fundamentalists are not aware of it, but the Abraham Story is a key text in Catholic Christianity. It appears in the Catholic Mass. And, I for one want to take that story literally and inerrantly, just as the Biblical Fundamentalists do!

    Redaction: Abram and Sarai, a very old couple in years, and apparently infertile, appeal to Yahweh for a child. Maybe in those times, 99 year olds were known for the sexual prowess, but clearly this couple had failed. The couple hadn’t procreated. The story picks up after the strange interpolation of the Melchizadek of Salem story.

    Abram had always tithed, but Yaweh, in Abram’s mind at least, hadn’t held up His end of the bargain. Yahweh, that very merciful figure, relents. Yes, Abram, I know you and Sarai haven’t had a child, and I know you’ve tithed, so here’s the bargain: Because of your “faith” in Me, you and Sarai will beget a child in your old age. As Yahweh, I get to do that. Not only that, because of your incredulous faith, I will make you the Father of Nations. “Wow! Hey, Sarai, we’re going to have a kid!” Well, as it turns out, Sarai bore Abram no children, and Abram, the Father of nations, was miffed. So miffed, in fact, that he went to his maidservant Hagar and screwed her. I often wonder if she had a say in this act? In an ironic twist of fate, both Sarai and Hagar conceive. When Hagar noticed that both she and Sarai had become pregnant by Abram, Hagar belted to Sarai, “May the wrong done to me be on you!” I’ve always wanted to add “bitch” to that scene. Perhaps it’s my sense of gay drama. The whole thing has a kind of a “Dynasty” episode to it.

    Poor Arbram, now he’s got two kids on the way. Once sterile/impotent, now his slave and wife are both going to bear him kids (sons, wouldn’t you know it). And the story presages the Semitic enmity between Jews and Arabs ever since. And Abram, now Abraham, is the extolled as the “Father of Faith?”

    Did I miss something, or was it because Sarai didn’t get pregnant, that Abraham screwed Hagar? What kind of confidence is that by Abraham in Yahweh’s covenant of faith? I get the distinct impression that Abraham basically said, “I want a kid. You promised me one, Yahweh, but You lied; so I took the nearest slave I could find and tried to impregnate her, assuming I could still do that.” I could add my emendations, but this is the story of Genesis 14:17-17:27. The Sodom Story begins immediately after, with Abraham negotiating the terms for the town’s survival.

    Now, in what sense is Abraham the Father of Nations or in Catholicism the Father of Faith? I swear he’s anything but! But read it read it for yourselves. Talk about existential doubt! The guy was beside himself. Whether his ED corrected, or Yahweh got the message confused, this story does not turn out as expected. And the Middle East has never been the same! Abraham’s descendants, Ishmael and Isaac by different women, are fighting in the Middle East as I write. They still haven’t gotten over this deal.

    On a much touchier subject, let’s address the homosexual problem. Let’s sally past the David and Jonathan love affair (2 Sam 1:26) and the Jesus and his beloved’s love affair (John 21:20-23). Obviously, Leviticus is far more important. After all, aren’t David-Jonathan and Jesus-beloved, not to mention Ruth and Naomi, obvious exceptions? So let’s deal with Leviticus for now. Everyone in Western Civilization knows this verse; it’s at Lev. 18:22. I had forgotten its location, so I kept reading about all these other things that seem to piss Yahweh off: Mixed fabrics, a woman during menses, bestiality, prohibition of eating seafood and scavingers, the limited times sex with a slave is appropriate, prohibition of eating meat “rare,” etc. Yes, it’s all there, and much much more, including the thing about men sleeping with men. I might have missed it. Talk about all the pollution! It’s everywhere. But I also notice that Yahweh has this thing for “not judging your neighbor” (19:15), and prohibiting “slander against kinfolk” (19:17), and “sharing the abundance of one’s crops” (19:23 ff.), and helping the poor, etc. But maybe that one verse over there at Lev. 18:22 sweeps everything else off the map. I sure hope my scallops for dinner tonight won’t consign me to hell, but I won’t lose sleep over it.

    Lastly, let’s address Saint Paul’s homophobia. As I read the guy, he’s fundamentally opposed to sex entirely, but states that if it’s sex or damnation, go get laid. I fundamentally agree, but this pericope at Rom. 1:20 ff. has produced so many wonderful heterosexuals who want to help us homosexuals get over our lust, that I think we ought to consider it seriously. After all, the Fundamentalists’ ex-gay ministries of Exodus and Love in Action want to redeem us queers from ourselves, and I want to know why. I will not bring up drunkenness, debauchery, serialized marriages, divorce, gossip, and all those “other” issues Fundamentalists ignore. (Maybe at some future point you can help me understand why “a man and woman become one, no one can divide,” but that’s not the issue now.)

    I admit this pericope just does not strike me the way it strikes the good Christian Fundamentalists. My reading of Romans 1 is that of a prologue (in fact, my Bible has that appellation). In this Prologue, Saint Paul raises so many issues it’s hard to keep track of them all. I sort of understood him to appeal to everyone, “like Gentiles, Greeks, and barbarians” (1:13-14). He even appeals to theodicy (1:19-20) and to those who have given everything else up, except their hedonism (1:24 ff.). Somehow, I sense that Saint Paul is appealing to “everyone,” no matter what one’s state in life might be. It’s kind of like Cicero in his orations appealing to the masses, saying, “I understand you’re fundamental disconnect with this world; I have good news to proclaim. And everyone is invited.” Well, obviously Fundamentalists read this prologue differently; for them, it’s all about queers (nevermind the Gentile, Greek, and barbarian comments). For them, it’s all about people degrading their bodies (except heterosexuals who go through serial marriages). For them, it’s all about “exchaning the truth about God for lust,” (except, of course, when heterosexuals do it). But oddly, my copy of the New Testament states this is Paul’s Prologue; this is Paul’s Shakespeare saying, “Countryman, nobles, etc., lend me your ears.” Well, it’s hardly the first time that Fundamentalists and I see things differently.

    But, Selby, however else we differently see this Prologue (as “NOT” a prologue, even), it’s impossible to miss the rhetorical flourish that occurs at 2:1. Paul writes, “Therefore YOU have no excuse, WHOEVER YOU ARE, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, THE JUDGE, ARE DOING THE VERY SAME THINGS!” Saint Paul is NOT addressing anyone in particular, he’s addressing everyone in particular: “Do you imagine, WHOEVER YOU ARE, that when you judge, are DOING THE VERY SAMETHINGS” (2:1). In other words all you self-righteous bigots, are your judgments “on those who do such things in accordance with the truth, OR have you arrogantly assummed that YOU ARE JUDGE, AND MADE YOURSELF EQUAL WITH GOD?” Clearly Saint Paul’s message is to those assholes who think themselves are equal with God, and who have placed themselves in judgment of others! Go back to the Decalogue: The FIRST sin is to make one’s self as GOD. IT DEFINES IDOLATRY!

    Whatever else Paul’s Prologue was intended to do, NO ONE could possibly miss Paul’s ascription of one’s JUDGEMENTS of others as, in fact, misplaced IDOLATRY of one’s self in judgment of OTHERS. Maybe I’m reading it too much for what it obviously is, but Paul’s ultimate point is that “GOD SHOWS NO IMPARTIALITY!” And if anyone else does, much less assumes that divine role, “there will be anguish and distress for EVERYONE” (2:9). I don’t want to beat a dead horse into the ground, but once again nearly every Fundamentalist gets THIS WRONG. Of all the judgmentalists, Falwell, Robertson, Sheldon, et alia ARE the very people Paul claims are IDOLATERS. Yes, again, Fundamentalists are fundamentally wrong, but not just wrong, in the most important case, THEIR IDOLATRY is wrong. They have violated the very FIRST COMMANDMENT. Maybe homosexuals, Greeks, Gentiles, barbarians miss an important or salient feature, but what they don’t do, IS MAKE THEMSELVES JUDGES, WHICH IS TO MAKE THEMSELVES GOD! Saint Paul ends the pericope with, “God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all” (2:16). Paul is anything but concerned about “others,” he’s pissed about those who would make THEMSELVES GOD. Doing so is in fundamental opposition to the Decalogue!

    But, hey, what do I know? I certainly don’t take the Bible as the literal and inerrant Word of God, but beyond credibility, those who do, get it all wrong. Either Fundamentalists or I am totally off base. I’m just a lowly reader of texts, but I do think I get it. I definitely do NOT believe any of it, but I really do think I fundamentally get it. How can I be so wrong, and they be so cock-sure they’ve got it right? Obviously, there’s a fundamental disconnect, but I am not making extraordinary and preposterous claims: they are! When Fundamentalists take themselves seriously, we still won’t agree. But that they can’t see the transparency of a text that THEY hold “literally and inerrantly true,” is so wide from the mark, that I simply cannot understand them. That they’ve prostitued the Gospel is someone else’s business.

  • The Gay Species

    Cross-posted on http://www.mereorthodoxy.com The following comments are issue-specific to claims made on Mere Orthodoxy. I hope this extended post will put the nut to rest.
    _____________

    What does rationality have to do with God’s literal and inerrant Word of God that alone is sufficient for salvation? If you’ve not read my post about Fundamentalists on jonrowe’s blog, you’ve invited to examine it on mine: http://www.gayspecies.blogspot.com. (see, below).

    One simply cannot be rational and take the Fundamentalists’ criterion seriously. It just cannot be done. My case against the Fundamentalists [infra.] exposes the inherent inconsistencies of their own method. It isn’t even close. After all, the segregationist South appealed to Saint Paul’s epistle to justify slavery. Strangely, given their bizarre thesis, I’ll accept that interpretation: Paul does tell slaves to obey their masters! Paul could not have been clearer. If the Bible is what the Fundamentalists claim it is, then by golly go for it all, but don’t cop out at the most critical junctures like slavery, much less Christ’s “Last Supper.”

    Before I address the homosexual issues, let’s take an an excursion into the Book of Genesis. No, not the Creation Story, but the Abraham Story (Gen. 14:17 ff.). Maybe Fundamentalists are not aware of it, but the Abraham Story is a key text in Catholic Christianity. It appears in the Catholic Mass. And, I for one want to take that story literally and inerrantly, just as the Biblical Fundamentalists do! (right!)

    Redaction: Abram and Sarai, a very old couple in years, and apparently infertile, appeal to Yahweh for a child. Maybe in those times, 99-year-olds were known for the sexual prowess, but clearly this couple had failed. The couple hadn’t procreated. The story picks up after the strange interpolation of the Melchizadek of Salem story.

    Abram had always tithed (donating ten percent), but Yaweh, in Abram’s mind at least, hadn’t held up His end of the bargain. Yahweh, that very merciful figure, relents. “Yes, Abram, I know you and Sarai haven’t had a child, and I know you’ve tithed, so here’s the bargain: Because of your ‘faith’ in Me, you and Sarai will beget a child in your old age. As Yahweh, I get to do that. Not only that, because of your incredulous faith, I will make you the Father of Nations.” Abram resonded, “Wow! Hey, Sarai, we’re going to have a kid!” Well, as it turns out, Sarai bore Abram no children, and Abram, the Father of nations, was miffed. So miffed, in fact, that he went to his maidservant Hagar and screwed her. I often wonder if she had a say in this act? In an ironic twist of fate, both Sarai and Hagar conceive. When Hagar noticed that both she and Sarai had become pregnant by Abram, Hagar belted to Sarai, “May the wrong done to me be on you!” I’ve always wanted to add “bitch” to that scene. Perhaps it’s my sense of gay drama. The whole thing has a kind of a “Dynasty” episode to it.

    Poor Arbram, now he’s got two kids on the way. Once sterile/impotent, now his slave and wife are both going to bear him kids (sons, wouldn’t you know it). And the story presages the Semitic enmity between Jews and Arabs ever since. And Abram, now Abraham, is the extolled as the “Father of Faith?”

    Did I miss something, or was it because Sarai didn’t get pregnant, that Abraham screwed Hagar? What kind of confidence is that by Abraham in Yahweh’s covenant of faith? I get the distinct impression that Abraham basically said, “I want a kid. You promised me one, Yahweh, but You lied; so I took the nearest slave I could find and tried to impregnate her, assuming I could still do that.” I could add my emendations, but this is the story of Genesis 14:17-17:27. The Sodom Story begins immediately after, with Abraham negotiating the terms for the town’s survival.

    Now, in what sense is Abraham the Father of Nations or in Catholicism’s sense the Father of Faith? I swear he’s anything but! But read it read it for yourselves. Talk about existential doubt! The guy was beside himself. Whether his ED corrected, or Yahweh got the message confused, this story does not turn out as expected. And the Middle East has never been the same! Abraham’s descendants, Ishmael and Isaac by different women, are fighting in the Middle East as I write. They still haven’t gotten over this deal.

    On a much touchier subject, let’s address the homosexual problem. Let’s sally past the David and Jonathan love affair (2 Sam 1:26) and the Jesus and his beloved’s love affair (John 21:20-23). Obviously, Leviticus is far more important. After all, aren’t David-Jonathan and Jesus-beloved, not to mention Ruth and Naomi, obvious exceptions? So let’s deal with Leviticus for now.

    Everyone in Western Civilization knows this verse; it’s at Lev. 18:22. I had forgotten its location, so I kept reading about all these other things that seem to piss Yahweh off: Mixed fabrics, a woman during menses, bestiality, prohibition of eating seafood and scavingers, the limited times sex with a slave is appropriate, prohibition of eating meat “rare,” etc. Yes, it’s all there, and much much more, including the thing about men sleeping with men. I might have missed it. Talk about all the pollution! It’s everywhere. But I also notice that Yahweh has this thing for “not judging your neighbor” (19:15), and prohibiting “slander against kinfolk” (19:17), and “sharing the abundance of one’s crops” (19:23 ff.), and helping the poor, etc. But maybe that one verse over there at Lev. 18:22 sweeps everything else off the map. I sure hope my scallops for dinner tonight won’t consign me to hell, but I won’t lose sleep over it.

    Lastly, let’s address Saint Paul’s homophobia. As I read the guy, he’s fundamentally opposed to sex entirely, but states that if it’s sex or damnation, go get laid. I fundamentally agree, but his pericope at Rom. 1:20 ff. has produced so many wonderful heterosexuals who want to help us homosexuals get over our lust, that I think we ought to consider it seriously. After all, the Fundamentalists’ ex-gay ministries of Exodus and Love in Action want to redeem us queers from ourselves, and I want to know why. I will not bring up drunkenness, debauchery, serialized marriages, divorce, gossip, and all those “other” issues Fundamentalists ignore. (Maybe at some future point you can help me understand why “a man and woman become one, no one can divide,” but that’s not the issue now.)

    I admit this pericope just does not strike me the way it strikes the good Christian Fundamentalists. My reading of Romans 1 is that of a prologue (in fact, my Bible has that appellation). In this Prologue, Saint Paul raises so many issues it’s hard to keep track of them all. I sort of understood him to appeal to everyone, “like Gentiles, Greeks, and barbarians” (1:13-14). He even appeals to theodicy (1:19-20) and to those who have given everything else up, except their hedonism (1:24 ff.). Somehow, I sense that Saint Paul is appealing to “everyone,” no matter what one’s state in life might be. It’s kind of like Cicero in his orations appealing to the masses, saying, “I understand you’re fundamental disconnect with this world; I have good news to proclaim. And everyone is invited.”

    Well, obviously Fundamentalists read this prologue differently; for them, it’s all about queers (nevermind the Gentile, Greek, and barbarian comments). For them, it’s all about people degrading their bodies (except heterosexuals who go through serial marriages). For them, it’s all about “exchanging the truth about God for lust,” (except, of course, when heterosexuals do it). But oddly, my copy of the New Testament states this is Paul’s Prologue; this is Paul’s Shakespeare saying, “Countryman, nobles, etc., lend me your ears.” Well, it’s hardly the first time that Fundamentalists and I see things differently.

    But, however else we differently see this Prologue (as “NOT” a prologue, even), it’s impossible to miss the rhetorical flourish that occurs at 2:1. Paul writes, “Therefore YOU have no excuse, WHOEVER YOU ARE, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, THE JUDGE, ARE DOING THE VERY SAME THINGS!” Saint Paul is NOT addressing anyone in particular, he’s addressing everyone in particular. In other words all you self-righteous bigots, are your judgments “on those who do such things in accordance with the truth, OR have you arrogantly assummed that YOU ARE JUDGE, AND MADE YOURSELF EQUAL WITH GOD?” Clearly Saint Paul’s message is to those assholes who think themselves equal with God, and who have placed themselves in judgment of others! Go back to the Decalogue: The FIRST sin is to make one’s self as GOD. IT DEFINES IDOLATRY!

    Whatever else Paul’s Prologue was intended to do, NO ONE could possibly miss Paul’s ascription of one’s JUDGEMENTS of others as, in fact, misplaced IDOLATRY of one’s self in judgment of OTHERS. Maybe I’m reading it too much for what it obviously is, but Paul’s ultimate point is that “GOD SHOWS NO PARTIALITY!” And if anyone else does, much less assumes that divine role, “there will be anguish and distress for EVERYONE” (2:9).

    I don’t want to beat a dead horse into the ground, but once again nearly every Fundamentalists get THIS WRONG. Of all the judgmentalists, Falwell, Robertson, Sheldon, et alia, they ARE the very people Paul claims are IDOLATERS. Yes, again, Fundamentalists are fundamentally wrong, but not just wrong, in the most important case, THEIR IDOLATRY is wrong. They have violated the very FIRST COMMANDMENT. Maybe homosexuals, Greeks, Gentiles, barbarians miss an important or salient feature, but what Fundamentalists do, IS MAKE THEMSELVES JUDGES, WHICH IS TO MAKE THEMSELVES GOD! Saint Paul ends the pericope with, “God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all” (2:16). Paul is anything but concerned about “others,” he’s pissed about those who would make THEMSELVES GOD. Doing so is in fundamental opposition to the Decalogue!

    But, hey, what do I know? I certainly don’t take the Bible as the literal and inerrant Word of God, but beyond credibility, those who do, get it all wrong. Either Fundamentalists or I am totally off base. I’m just a lowly reader of texts, but I do think I get these fundamental texts. I definitely do NOT believe any of it, but I really do think I fundamentally get it. How can I be so wrong, and they be so cock-sure they’ve got it right? Obviously, there’s a fundamental disconnect, but I am not making extraordinary and preposterous claims: they are! When Fundamentalists take themselves seriously, we still won’t agree. But that they can’t see the transparency of a text that THEY hold “literally and inerrantly true,” is so wide from the mark, that I simply cannot understand them. That they’ve prostitued the Gospel is someone else’s business.

  • dthompson

    Selby, I’ll let you respond to your detractor there.

    My reply is on a slightly differenly strain: the one Tom left in comment #6
    ——————————————-

    Gotta say I agree with Ward here. Living and working in Los Angeles really forces a person to examine what they think about homosexuality. I’ll admit that my own reactions to homosexual behavior have included a significant “eww” element. To love a homosexual is a little more difficult I think when one is preoccupied with their own feelings about the acts of homosexuality.

    On the flipside though, Ward asks why we punch a man in the face and call them a “cad” when he makes unwarranted advances toward a woman vs. why we say “eww” and punch a man in the face when he makes any sexual advance toward another man. First, the obvious (for those who are prone to miss it) I don’t condone punching men, or women of any sexual orientation in the face as a sort of social judgement on their actions. There may have been a time in our history where that kind of rash, moral condemnation was acceptable, but 21st century America is not that place. Second, I think the “eww” reaction to a man kissing another man is understandable, even appropriate, for the very reasons Ward pointed out earlier – If Good is a target and “evil” is the degree by which you miss that mark the reaction becomes understandable. In the first circumstance the “cad” is a man with essentially appropriate desires, but misplaced timing and mode (i.e. it is not Good to force sexual advances upon another person. Intimacy is something that is mutual and consensual). The “cad”‘s actions warrant correction. For the same reason, it is not Good for the man in the second scenario to force sexual advance on another person. The man has misplaced timing and mode, but there is something more the second man has misplaced. I think the gut “eww” reaction speaks to this.

    Where understanding lacks I think the Lord sustains culture by giving us proper feeling about sin. Most American christians are not well equipped to make a insightful, blistering moral condemnation of fornication, but I think you’ll notice that the vast majority of “born-agains” are utterly repulsed by the sin. There’s nothing that will land you on the outside of a Baptist church faster than a run of unrepentant fornication. The church feels similarly about homosexual sin.

    Without understanding, fear and repulsion are appropriate reactions to sin. Sin is dangerous. Sin is unnatural. However, fear and love are in contention here.

    Especially regarding the issue of homosexuality, our 21st century American church needs to strive to better understand the fear.

    Fear has the power to suggest that something or someone is monstrous, unlovely, grotesque. The reaction in a person who has done such a fearful thing is most likely reciprocated fear. “Am I monstrous?” “Am I grotesque?” “Am I unlovely?”. There are a number of ways to react to this fear which I won’t get into, but I think a small step of imagination will take anyone there who wants to go — the key is this: most often the reaction is detrimental to the person’s journey down Truth’s narrow path.

    Insight, and wisdom are roads that allow us to better love sinners. Insight and wisdom have the power to alleviate fear…

  • Andrew McKnight Selby

    Thompson said what I was going to say about the “eww” reaction to homosexuality. Everything else he said after that I also agree with.

    Ward, I think my comment “what does homophobia mean anyway?” was placed so as to look like a rhetorical trick. I didn’t mean to do that and I’m sorry about it.

    However, I think it isn’t a bad question in itself. I get the feeling that many think those who believe homosexual behavior is not right are “homophobic” so I wonder how the word is used. Is it so inclusive as to refer to all who believe homosexuality is not right? Or does it mean those who act angrily toward homosexuals? Or something in between?

  • Andrew McKnight Selby

    Thanks, Gay Species, for your lengthy comment. It goes way outside the scope of my post about thinking through sexuality, which was aimed at evangelicals. I want to respond but I need to think about how to do so, to be honest.

  • http://blog.myspace.com/peregrineward Peregrine Ward

    Selby and Don: Yes, I agree.

    Don: I wasn’t really suggesting punching the guy; just using dramatic cases to illustrate differences in reaction. I have an unslightly bombastic streek in my rhetoric.

    Gay Species: Thanks for taking the time to make such a long comment. I’m not sure how many or what sort of Christians you’ve talked to to develop your view of their view, but I must say that your criticisms are very pedestrian and could be answered easily. I’ll let Selby do the heavy-lifting, since he is the primary interlocutor in this discussion, but in the meantime just know that we at Mere O take love and compassion just as seriously as repentance and forgiveness, and though prior experience may have led you to conclude that Christians are bigoted and idiotic, I trust that if you spend enough time with us, you’ll see that’s not always true.

  • dthompson

    Tom: Obiviously I know you don’t condone punching people in the face (though I seem to remember being struck in the face during a short-lived grapple in Cambridge…) The comment was for the benefit of those who don’t know us. There seem to be a few of them about these days.

    PS – I anxiously await your return to Los Angeles. A decent blow to the face deserves a sound, albeit delayed, answer… you’ll get yours. :)

  • http://www.unbridledwarhorse.com surfsnell

    Selby for Pulpit!

    Or Altar, depending on his ecumenism. And then Pulpit!

  • The Gay Species

    If my perignation did not address sexuality (e.g., Abraham & Sara) or homosexuality (e.g., Lev. and Rom.), what, pray tell, do you think it did address? I certainly believe it also showed the mental disconnect about Abraham being Christians’ “father in faith” and the typical evangelical/fundamentalist problem of missing the forest for the tree.

    Peregrine Ward’s “Christians are bigoted and idiotic” is a self-fulfilling observation to which I concur. Not all Christians, mind you, but all that take the “Bible as the literal and inerrant Word of God that alone is sufficient for salvation.” Such a preposterous proposition as axiomatic inevitably leads to foolishness, at best, and bigoted and idiotic comments almost invariably.

    Faith is always a gift, if Paul is to be believed, but even gifts can be abused and misused. The evangelical/fundamentalist has done more damage to the Gospel than any atheist. Those of us who appreciate Jesus’s wisdom and insight cringe over the destruction of his “revelation” by those who esteem the written word over the Second Person of the Trinity. Getting it wrong on so many accounts is certainly understandable given their preposterous axiom, but the damage they do “in God’s Name” is no less abhorent as it is repugnant.

  • dthompson

    Observation: Blogs, while decent tools in many ways, are a very poor arena for getting to know a person.

    I regret that we’ve only encountered you in the digital domain here, Gay Species.

  • makelovehappen

    Selby:

    Sorry for the late response. I like your (Aquinas’) distinction between servile and filial fear. The Bible has good things to say about fear, and you seem ready to accomodate that.

    > “Filial fear is an attitude of fear of separation from the beloved, as a son wants to do well for his father because he desires closeness with his father by doing what the father does. Understanding some of the “why” behind the commandments of God is necessary for filial fear.”

    Does understanding the “why” make a person more obedient?

    Let’s take an example. God told Abraham to take the son that he loved to the land of Moriah and sacrifice him. Was the motivation for Abraham’s obedience (and faith cf Heb. 11) his understanding of the commandment? That is to say, did a light bulb appear above his head? Did he turn to Sarah and say, “Of course! Isaac must die! How could I not see this before?! It’s genius!”

    My understanding is that the gospel of John is always relevant and it speaks to each of us at all times … especially at mereorthodoxy.com, so I feel at liberty to quote from it freely. I am told my interpretations of the book are poor at times, so read carefully!! ;) In chapter 3 Nicodemus asks Jesus how he can be born a second time and part of Jesus’ response is:

    “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

    I am fairly sure Jesus is saying either (1) something that doesn’t have anything to do with filial obedience or (2) “knowing” where something is going doesn’t have anything to do with being led by the Spirit. I sometimes lean toward 2 (see Proverbs 3:5). How would you interpret it?

  • makelovehappen

    Peregrine:

    You asked, “Can something be immoral and not be a sin?” I apologize because at first glance it probably appeared like I was saying something trivial when I asked, “Why is sexual immorality a sin?”. I was just trying to avoid naming perverse actions (as Paul writes it is shameful even to mention what the wicked do in secret).

    I enjoy a good paradox (especially the ones that go “all the way down” if you know what I mean), but sexual immorality is a sin. I don’t know why, but I don’t seem to need to know for the purposes of obedience and making love happen.

  • http://mereorthodoxy.com K.B. Enthusiasmos

    When two people become entrenched in a back-and-forth volley of, “Don’t judge me, you judgmental bastard!”s, the irony is almost too much for me.

    Great dialogue, guys. Thanks for all of your thoughts. I will continue to mull over these posts.