I wrote the below to a friend of mine who identifies himself strongly as a leftists. He had originally asked me why I couldn’t be sensible about gay marriage as is the United Church of Christ.
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As for your political comments/question, what you mentioned about the United Church of Christ was very interesting. It was an insight to get your perspective on the Christian reaction to the issue of gay marriage. The first thing you should know is that the UCC is heretical to begin with, i.e. they do not believe in doctrines central to the Christian faith. The most important of these doctrines is the nature of Christ. Orthodox Christians, that is those who have believed the same things about God, salvation, Jesus, and man since the church began in the first century AD, have always believed that Jesus was fully God and fully man. This has implications that are incredibly intricate and far-reaching so I won’t go into them now. If you want to know more, I would be happy to answer your questions. Another borderline heretical teaching of the UCC is that all people are saved. Because of this, they tend to have little quality teaching in regards to ethics and morality.

All that to say, what the UCC says about gay marriage doesn’t effect my stance on the position at all. My assumptions are:1) when functioning naturally, i.e. how they were created to be, males are either sexually oriented towards women or remain celebate, 2) women are either sexually oriented towards men or celebate. You might say, “Why is it then that some people are attracted to members of the same sex from a young age?” Such a question does not alter my position. My first response is that in many instances people who live a homosexual lifestyle have come out of horrible and tragic abusive relationships that have damaged their souls and cause them to seek consolation and fulfillment from those of the same gender. Some, however, really do have a tendency towards homosexual behavior regardless of external factors. The Christian response in this case is that in our fallen world – this world which has suffered under the weight of hundreds of billions of wicked choices from mankind – some unnatural desires occur without the ability of that person to change it. Christians believe that people tempted with this desire ought to be helped and nourished and should throw their energies into the service of the church and their communities, battling against sinful impulses in the same way addicts battle against cravings or the way some men battle against adultery or cowards against acting cowardly.

Does this suck? Yes, in a sense. However, the weird thing about Christians is that we don’t try to find utopia here on earth. The bottom line is that human beings cannot possibly be satisfied by anything in this world – sex, money, fame, family or friends. Our deepest longing is for a relationship with God though we may mistake it for so many other things. As St. Augustine writes to God, “Our hearts our restless until they rest in You.” Maybe you kind of know what I’m talking about?

Another VERY important point is that Christians (when truly acting as Christians) do not have any special vendetta against homosexuals. Rather, they struggle with a sin similar to any other. Prima facie it strikes us as more perverse than many sins, but at the heart of the matter homosexuality is not different from substance addiction, promiscuity, lying, cowardice or any other habitual sin. Churches should open their doors to anyone who would respectfully worship with them. Most churches have the policy that homosexuals are more than welcome to attend church. If they are believers in Christ (you can be a Christian and a homosexual, by the way), they can be eligible for church membership although – in theory, according to the words of Christ – no one should be allowed to persist in sin. That is, if they are not making strides to overcoming the sin, whatever that sin may be, they are not able to be part of the church. If they then admit that it was wrong, making appropriate confession and repentance, they are allowed back in. This goes on all the time over a host of issues.

Politically speaking, because homosexuality is a sinful behavior it ought not be encouraged. I can think of about three counter-arguments you could make here and I’m willing to respond to them if you are still interested enough to make them. Also, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, I oppose gay marriage because homosexuals cost us tons of money and resources in social costs such as medicine and counseling. They should still be allowed to continue their behavior because we live in a free country that has chosen not to disallow sinful behaviors. However, economic incentive should not be given to persist in behaviors that are harmful. It’s as simple as that.

Posted by Andrew Selby

  • — Also, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, I oppose gay marriage because homosexuals cost us tons of money and resources in social costs such as medicine and counseling. —

    I won’t touch any of your religious stuff, but this “pragmatic” point is pure nonsense.

    First, you cite no data. And also, as I’ve aptly demonstrated on my blog, much of the social science data that religious conservatives cite on this particular issue is tainted by incredible sources like Paul Cameron.

    Second, if gay promiscuity costs society $$, then the intuitive response would be not to bar gay marriage but rather to implement it, indeed even to “demand” that gay men get married as David Brooks put it. It’s not the dedicated monogamous gay men living conservative lifestyles who are costing the $$.

    Third, as regards “counseling,” it sounds to me that it’s opinions like yours that are responsible for putting gay men in counseling. (BTW: If you support “ex-gay” transformation — that’s a two year minimum at hundreds of dollars an hour.)

    Fourth, you ignore how gays & lesbians contribute $$ to society. Religious conservatives love to cite statistics that show gay men and lesbians to be better educated, have higher incomes and possess greater wealth (and thus don’t need antidiscrimination protection). (And we know that gays have fewer kids.) That means they pay far more in taxes than proportionately than straights. Gays also appear to disproportionally occupy positions in society’s “creative” class — those people who patronize or whose work constitutes the content of art museums, classical music-musical theater, architecture and design.

    Fifth, in terms of actual costs, unquestionably irresponsible heterosexual sex exacts a far greater cost on society than irresponsible homosexual sex. Such homosexual sex causes AIDS and other VD and that is a shame. And gays themselves bear the brunt of that cost. However, irresponsible heterosexual sex causes divorce, out-of-wedlock births, and abortion. AIDS and other VD pale in comparison to the cost that society pays for these. Plus, irresponsible heterosexual sex has a far greater externality affect. Go into any homosexual neighborhoods, even ones where AIDS is disproportionately a problem and you will still see some of the most livable, urbane, nicest and most desirable places to live (as measured by high real estate values). In contrast, go into neighborhoods where out of wedlock teen births are the norm and see what the living conditions are like there. It’s night and day.

    Best,

    Jon Rowe

  • Matt,

    I am particularly interested in the political question, and our civic duty as Christians in dealing with gay marriage. I will say upfront that I am morally opposed to homosexuality as a behavior or as a lifestyle. I agree almost entirely with your sentiments expressed in your post until your last point. I am rethinking my position on gay marriage, and though not decided, think there is something to be said for my civic responsibility to uphold and support a just government, even if in so doing I appear to be supporting certain behaviors I find morally reprehensible. I do not find this to be an incoherent position.

    “Also, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, I oppose gay marriage because homosexuals cost us tons of money and resources in social costs such as medicine and counseling.”

    I will agree with Jon there and say that unless you can point me to some data I’m not sure I can believe this. Politically, I am concerned that Christians are asking the government to legislate morality, which I find to be a dangerous thing. That said, I want to communicate a few of my retorts to my own common misgivings about gay marriage, and see if you can appease me.

    Often in the debate, religious right-wingers say things like, “but they’re trying to change the definition of marriage!” This is not a defense for your position. This is a description of exactly what the debate is about. Yes, they are trying to change the definition of marriage. But perhaps there are situations where changing the definition of words is appropriate. We ended slavery and gave women the right to vote, and a lot of definitions changed then (men and people, for instance). I think we would all agree it was appropriate and right to change the definition of “men” in the constitution to include slaves, and this goes for allowing women to vote as well.

    Is this a time when changing the definition is appropriate? I don’t know, maybe. I have always had a concern about allowing for homosexual marriage because of the effect I thought it would have on children’s adjustment. However, studies show no difference in the adjustment between children raised by heterosexual or homosexual parents, so long as there is one consistent care-giver. But what about the moral effect? Well, then I should be just as concerned about atheists or rotten secularists raising children as well. But I’m not trying to keep them from getting married.

    And what of saying that they are defiling an institution set up by God? But if marriage is a sacrament, it is so only for those within Christ’s church. Otherwise, two atheists marrying is just as “defiling” as two homosexuals.

    Another common argument against homosexual marriage is that the gay community is parasitic in nature, so why should we protect it or offer that community benefits? Homosexuals do not reproduce, and so they can only go on existing so long as the heterosexual community continues to produce offspring, some of whom are gay (by choice or by genetics is neither here nor there in this discussion). But if this is the case, then the right to marry should only be extended to fertile couples who have every intention of bearing children. Infertile couples, or couples who do not want to have children, should not receive the benefit or protection of marriage either, if marriage and the benefits conferred therein are directly tied to the ability to produce life.

    Economically, not allowing gay marriage is giving the federal government a lot of money. When a homosexual dies, and leaves his or her life-partner their house, the value of the house is counted as income and taxed nearly 40% (from my understanding; I could be way off base here, so please correct me if I am confused). However, when one person dies and wills their house to their spouse, it is not counted as income, and is not taxed. In some ways, the taxation issue feels as though we are trying to punish them for being homosexuals, and this seems not at all the correct role for the government.

    I am not decided on this issue, but right now at least, I am wondering if I do not have a responsibility to extend to a certain faction or group (see Federalist paper number 10) certain rights and priveliges in accordance with what is just, despite the fact that I find the behavior something I am against. Think of freedom of speech. I really wish people who were racist weren’t allowed to go on television and say ridiculously hateful things that not only wound people, but even cause violence. However, I will fight for their right to speak freely because it is the same right that allows me to tell them to shut-up (politely, of course). Is it not the same case in this situation?

    I apologize for the long post, but I would love to read your response if you have the time.
    Lauren Maltby

  • Andrew,

    Please forgive me for addressing my post to Matt! My error, I failed to read the “posted by” at the bottom, and am unclear how to change the comment now that it has been posted. Please do respond if you have the time and are interested in continuing the discussion; I would love to hear your thoughts.

    Lauren Maltby

  • Lauren,

    You may be interested in a recent exchange about same-sex marriage in “Philosophia Christi.” The pdf of it is available on Francis Beckwith’s website here. Beckwith argues that legalizing same-sex marriage would not be a neutral position.

    On the point about allowing infertile couples to marry but not same-sex partners, John Finnis has argued that the debate is not over particular marriages but over the kind of marriage. So, his argument goes, we would not be adhering to a double standard since the infertile heterosexual couple in principle is not infertile, whereas the same-sex couple is. I don’t have the Finnis reference on hand, but Google should.

    Gary

  • Sorry, I don’t think the link to the Philosophia Christi articles was formatted correctly. Try this.

    http://homepage.mac.com/francis.beckwith/same-sex.pdf

  • Gary,

    Thanks so much for the reference to the Phil Christi article. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but a quick perusal tells me my fundamental disagreeement with him lies in the premise: I don’t think I will agree with his claims on gender differences (although I could be wrongly assessing them, I am gathering this opinion from somewhere towards the end with a statement like “men and women complement each other more than just biologically” and references to “psychological complementarity”). I hope to read the article sometime today and will post back thoughts if anyone is interested in continuing this discussion.

    Lauren Maltby

  • Alright. I found some time, so I’ll now respond to my gracious commenters – even if they didn’t get my name right! ;)

    Jon, let me first respond to you. It’s very interesting to me that you “won’t touch any of my religious stuff”. That tells me you assume that theology has nothing to do with biology and politics. That’s an assumption that a majority of people throughout history have not held, so it might be worth dealing with. The fact is, I assume that there is a Creator, all knowledge comes from Him, and therefore all knowledge is unified. That implies that theology directly bears on biology and politics. In my epistemology, theology is more certain to me than either of the other subjects, so I’ll have to be persuaded with some pretty staggering proofs to be moved. (This is a viewpoint looked down upon by modern thought, but has the excellent credentials of thinkers not to be dismissed such as Plato, Augustine, and Aquinas.)

    You call me out on not citing data, thereby attempting to shift the burden of proof. I’m sorry, but it seems to me my position is much more intuitive than yours about homosexual lifestyle. For instance, have you ever heard of the diseases proctitis or colitis? These are fairly rare and attack the rectum and colon. They occur in very high percentages among homosexuals for pretty obvious reasons. All that to say, the burden of proof is on you to find statistics that are not from the far left, but have a balanced perspective and give us accurate numbers.

    As to your second point, monogamous gay men still do cost society money by a) not having babies to replenish the population and b) contracting diseases such as proctitis and colitis. Look, the homosexual lifestyle is just hard on the body.

    Your third objection is a better one. Churches offer counseling for free. The problem is making it accessible. Some churches do though.

    In your fourth point, you assume that paying taxes is more valuable than raising children. This point makes me pretty angry, so I won’t respond to it right now.

    Lastly, I agree with you that “irresponsible” sex is bad no matter what. I don’t tihnk it’s so “unquestionable” that sinful heterosexual sex is a “far greater cost to society.” (Again, I would like to see some numbers.) The reason is: at least heterosexuals are having babies! Why do so many people not understand that having children is a really, really important and valuable thing! Our whole economic infrastructure is built upon that. You know who is paying for my generation’s grandparents to live on Social Security right now, right? It’s a good thing my parents had me, because I’m going to be taking care of them.

    ________________

    Ok, Lauren. (By the way, it’s okay for us to have a conversation, too!) I would also encourage you to put the burden of proof on the other position first for the reasons given above.

    “However, studies show no difference in the adjustment between children raised by heterosexual or homosexual parents, so long as there is one consistent care-giver.” Please may I see these studies? I have heard exactly the opposite thing quoted.

    In regards to marriage being an institution set up by God, I think we need a distinction between the sacrament and what’s natural. I’m not sacramental, but even if there is a special grace given in the marriage of Christians this does not entail marriage is “defiling” for every couple. Marriage is a natural grace that makes the world function much better. A wise man once argued to me that civilization started when the first man decided to have only one wife because of the civilizing effect – especially on men – caused by marriage. So, marriage is natural, i.e. created by God, and therefore it is good regardless of the state of the couple. Did God institute homosexual marriage? The answer to that is a pretty decided no. I’m afraid you are comparing apples and oranges, Lauren.

    As to your argument about economics, please see my counter-argumments to Jon above.

    Finally, to address your point about not extending rights to a certain faction or group: it’s not clear to me that prohibiting gay marriage is doing this. If we still had anti-sodomy laws, it would be a different matter. Those laws restrict homosexual sex period. The freedom of speech comes in when they can freely have sex.

  • Lauren,

    Yes, I don’t think Budziszewski’s (sp?) point about gender differences is very persuasive. But I have two qualifiers to that. (1) One might be able to defend his view by moving beyond natural law, say, to the Bible. But appealing to biblical authority will not persuade those who reject biblical authority. In other words, our best source of knowledge (or persuasive knowledge) on gender “roles” might be the Bible.

    (2) If there is a defense of his point on natural law grounds, then I think a persuasive defense of his point would require a good deal of social science research. And I’m not aware of any such research. Further, although Budz. does not see any difficulty overcoming the is/ought distinction (see his article in the latest Touchstone), a persuasive account of how to move from “is” to “ought” would probably be needed. (i.e., even if the social science came back and said “we’ve observed strong patterns of gender complementarity,” you’d still need to move to the imperative mood from that.)

    I hope this isn’t too confusing. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on Beckwith’s piece.

    Best,
    Gary

  • “1) One might be able to defend his view by moving beyond natural law, say, to the Bible. But appealing to biblical authority will not persuade those who reject biblical authority. In other words, our best source of knowledge (or persuasive knowledge) on gender “roles” might be the Bible.”

    And here I would point you to people such as William Webb (“Slaves, Women and Homosexuals”) or Pierce and Groothuis (Discovering Biblical Equality) to say that perhaps the Bible doesn’t prescribe ontological or even essential gender differences.

    I would probably argue for minimal role distinction based on biological differences, and the social science research happenning right now seems to lie heavily on the side of minor genetic or biological gender differences, and is illuminating the staggering effect of socialization on the genders.

    I can cite a lot of these studies if you’d like, I just did an experiment with gender last semester and it was my reading of the research that began to change my mind about the depth of gender differences that are “natural” or “inborn.”

    I will try to get to Budz. Touchstone article and the phil christi paper tonight.

    Lauren Maltby

  • Ok seriously, that phil christi article is LONG. I’m working on it, I am, and I haven’t dropped the ball but… groceries must be bought and papers must be written. Don’t take me for all talk and no game :)