In my recent reflections on the question of legalizing homosexual marriage, it has become clear that the disagreements between those who oppose it and those who are in favor of it are grounded upon competing anthropologies.  For defenders of traditional marriage, the human person, his sexuality, and his body are inextricably related, and any attempt to render them apart nullifies the structure of the (created) natural order.  It is, after all, by virtue of the union of male and female persons that the species propogates.

Yet this line of thought, however fruitful, is often confused and badly stated by its conservative proponents (including this one).  Not so, however, for Robert George, who in last month’s First Things offered a defense of traditional marriage that pursued this thread.  Writes George:

The alternate view of what persons are is the one embodied in both the historic law of marriage and what Isaiah Berlin once referred to as the central tradition of Western thought. According to this view, human beings are bodily persons, not consciousnesses, or minds, or spirits inhabiting and using nonpersonal bodies. A human person is a dynamic unity of body, mind, and spirit. Far from being a mere instrument of the person, the body is intrinsically part of the personal reality of the human being. Bodily union is thus personal union, and comprehensive personal union—marital union—is founded on bodily union.

The bodily unity of spouses is possible because human males and females, like other mammals, unite organically when they mate—they form a single reproductive principle. Although reproduction is a single act, in humans (and other mammals) the reproductive act is performed not by individual members of the species but by a mated pair as an organic unit.

It is precisely upon this point that the debate hangs.  It is not the reproductive principle per se that defenders of traditional marriage must articulate, but rather a particular view of the human person and his sexuality.  Namely, the possibility of distinctively one-flesh communion of persons.  Again, George:

In fact, however, at the bottom of the contemporary debate over marriage is a possibility that defenders of conjugal marriage affirm and its critics deny: the possibility of marriage as a one-flesh communion of persons. If acts that fulfill the behavioral conditions of procreation (whether or not the nonbehavioral conditions happen to obtain) are, in fact, capable of uniting spouses interpersonally—thus providing the biological matrix of the multilevel union and sharing of life that marriage is, according to the traditional understanding long embodied in Western law, philosophy, and culture—then truly marital acts differ fundamentally in meaning, value, and significance from intrinsically nonmarital sex acts (such as acts of sodomy and mutual masturbation).

On such an account, sexual union is not for some end that is extrinsic to it, like pleasure or even procreation (an argument, I think, that I have fallen into in the not-so-distant past).  Instead, its end is intrinsic to its action.  Sexual union occurs for the good of the marriage, and not for the sake of anything else, even though pleasure and procreation inevitably accompany it.  It is on this grounds that he rejects the counterargument that infertile heterosexual couples are illegitimate.  The act of sex retains both its unitive and reproductive character, even when the reproductive organs are no longer functioning.

Ironically, if George is right, then most defenders of traditional marriage (including this one) have been unwittingly harming their cause by grounding their understanding of marriage in goods that are extrinsic to–a particular sort of– bodily union.  Additionally, George’s article raises questions for me as to whether Protestant evangelical defenders of traditional marriage have access to the same anthropological resources as him.  Our particular covenental understanding of marriage tends to remove the sexually unitive features to the background.

George’s article, though, is a welcome addition to the ongoing conversation about marriage in America.  By attempting to move the conversation to its core–to competing anthropologies and philosophies of law–George has made a worthy and important contribution.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

32 Comments

  1. “Sexual union occurs for the good of the marriage, and not for the sake of anything else, even though pleasure and procreation inevitably accompany it.”

    Why does this sexual union have to be physical and procreative (i.e. penis-in-vagina) for it to be for the good of the relationship (qua marriage)? A sexual union of persons can be the experience of intimate sexual behavior that is shared by two individuals in a committed relationship. In both cases, some form of penetration is occurring (that’s interpersonal, right?) and does that not fulfill the “bodily union of spouses” requirement? The intrinsic value of sex is consistent across these cases.

    One last question: In the case of infertile heterosexual couples, what is reproductive about their sexual union? “The biological matrix of the multilevel union…that marriage is” is absent in this case so how is it different from other types of sexual union?

    Maybe I’m not getting the nuance of George’s argument…

    Reply

  2. “For defenders of traditional marriage, the human person, his sexuality, and his body are inextricably related, and any attempt to render them apart nullifies the structure of the (created) natural order.”
    — YES!

    “human beings are bodily persons, not consciousnesses, or minds, or spirits inhabiting and using nonpersonal bodies. A human person is a dynamic unity of body, mind, and spirit. Far from being a mere instrument of the person, the body is intrinsically part of the personal reality of the human being.”
    — YES!

    “sexual union is not for some end that is extrinsic to it, like pleasure or even procreation”
    — YES!

    Yes, yes, yes. I’m sure not every gay person would agree (or even every straight person), but this gay person does.

    I especially agree that the “act of sex retains it’s unitive character, even when the the reproductive organs do not function.” This is equally true for infertile couples and for gay couples.

    Straight folks may not understand the depth and complexity of gay relationships or how sex is equally operative as a unitive process in our relationships, or further how this is intrinsic in our lives and experiences as bodily persons.

    I happily and enthusiastically agree with every point of this post except its limitation to heterosexual couples–a limitation I can’t find any reason for in the content of it.

    Reply

  3. Brian G,

    I don’t know whether you’ve read Professor George’s article in full, but if you do, I think you’ll find that he explains the reason for restricting his argument to heterosexual couples.

    Essentially, his argument is rooted in the physical sexual complementarity of male and female persons. The one-flesh union that embodies the interpersonal union of marriage can only be achieved by complementary beings. This complementarity is expressed bodily through the respective reproductive organs of males and females. Consequently true one-flesh union is necessarily limited to intercourse between a man and a woman. Anything else remains, for lack of a better term, two-fleshed.

    Clearly, as you express, homosexual activity and relationships are often a striving after this interpersonal unity. For many who participate, such intercourse undoubtedly has much of the emotional intimacy that male-female encounters produce. Subjectively, such testimonies compel a great deal of sympathy (from me, at least).

    Objectively, though, if we consider carefully our physical construction and if we acknowledge that our bodies are intrinsic to our selves, I believe we must conclude that gay sex is, even in its best expressions, only a counterfeit. This counterfeit may be a very good imitation. It may “pay” some of “the bills” that accompany a marriage, but it ultimately fails to express the deepest truths of human nature.

    Reply

  4. To both Brian and Prufrock,

    What TimC said.

    Also, Prufrock, with respect to the question of infertility, I think George points out in his article that the reproductive organs that unite in complementary sexual relations are still reproductive in nature, even if they can no longer perform that specific function. We don’t say that an arm struck by polio is no longer an arm or no longer has those functions, despite its inability to function properly. The analogy might be poor, but I think it gets on to what George is getting at when he describes the biological matrix.

    matt

    Reply

  5. George distinguishes between instrumental and intrinsic meaning/value/significance of sexual union but, for those engaging in ‘nonmarital’ sex, it can have the same instrinsic meaning. His argument assumes that all other forms of nonmarital sex [sic] have only instrumental value to those who engage in it but it is only the union of complementary sexual organs that can have intrinsic value.

    My problem with his argument is that he stresses the bodily aspect of sexual union and intrinsic value of the sexual act but the basis of this value (in his view) is its reproductive character, which the sexual act somehow retains even in the case of infertility.

    For the infertile, theirs are still technically reproductive organs but how is the sex act itself reproductive?

    TimC, “our physical construction?” I think there are a lot of functions for many of our parts as they are ‘constructed’ so I’m not sure you made your point there. I’ll let you think of your own examples in the context of our discussion here.

    Reply

  6. Prufrock,
    George’s response is that phrases like “the sex act itself” are misleading. He says that he’s only talking about a kind of activity, not individual sexual acts. And, for him, an individual marital sex act is reproductive in kind.
    He has an analogy elsewhere that an individual act of eating still falls under a nourishing kind of activity even though some (or all) of the food swallowed may not be digested and made nourishing in that particular instance.
    So, in general, his reply to your criticism is that he’s not talking about individual sex acts but about kinds of sex acts.

    Reply

  7. “He has an analogy elsewhere that an individual act of eating still falls under a nourishing kind of activity even though some (or all) of the food swallowed may not be digested and made nourishing in that particular instance. So, in general, his reply to your criticism is that he’s not talking about individual sex acts but about kinds of sex acts.”

    This is an important and helpful clarification, as even fertile couples may engage in individual sex acts that do not lead to reproduction, even though they maintain they are still reproductive in kind.

    Reply

  8. Prufrock,
    Perhaps it would have been more helpful to refer you to George’s First Things article itself. In the paragraph (about halfway through the article) starting “But the plain fact . . . ,” George says that “acts that fulfill the behavioral conditions of procreation are acts of the reproductive kind even where the nonbehavioral conditions of procreation do not obtain.”
    This means, if I understand George correctly, that the intentions and actions (expressed through their behaviors) of the participants are the relevant focus, not the outcome. If the outcome of marital sex always had to be procreative, then married couples who fail to procreate every time they have sex are in the wrong.
    The situation is different, in George’s view, for couples who are intentionally sterile. In such cases–including, e.g., contraception–the couple has acted and intended to act in a way that is contrary to at least one of the goods of marriage. On the other hand, even married couples who know they are sterile but did not intend to be (or become) sterile, can licitly have sex because it is not part of their intention to avoid conception.

    Reply

  9. My closing thoughts on George’s argument:

    Any reference to reproduction necessarily negates the supposed intrinsic value of even “marital” sex.

    If he’s talking about kinds of sex acts, his argument assumes what it is supposed to prove.

    The distinction in kind between “marital” and “non-marital” sex acts is based on the argument from procreation (which you probably find convincing), although it does provide a justification for “marital sex” that doesn’t produce offspring.

    I still do not see how a so-called marital sex act is necessarily reproductive in nature.

    Following your analogy, both marital and non-marital sex can be intrinsically valuable (ingesting food) but it does not necessarily make a baby (digesting food). The analogy does not hold because, according to George’s reasoning, reproduction/digestion is the instrumental value of the act of sex/eating and not the intrinsic value of sexual union.

    It’s interesting how our different perspectives about the content of George’s argument lead us to different conclusions about the structure and strength of his argument…

    Reply

  10. I hope I’m not side-tracking the conversation, but GaryH raised a point that I’ve been thinking about in relationship to George’s article. It seems that evangelicals who wish to accept George’s reasoning must also take a hard look at their acceptance (and sometimes promotion) of contraception. Can one agree with George and yet make a case for the intentional (if temporary) sterility that contraception provides? I’m afraid that too many evangelical brethren will attempt to wield George’s argument against homosexual marriage but then ignore the equally potent challenge it poses to the evangelical church.

    (For the record, I’m one of those “young evangelicals” who believes the evangelical capitulation to contraception has been a full-scale disaster, morally and culturally.)

    Reply

  11. prufrock,

    I think you’ve misunderstood the eating analogy. Marital and non-marital sex are *not* both equivalent to ingesting food. At the risk of stretching the analogy to far, non-marital sex is perhaps better compared to sticking food up one’s nose. It might(?) provide sensory pleasure or what have you, but it will never lead to digestion.

    Reproduction as a consequence is indeed extrinsic to a *particular* sexual act, but it is not thereby irrelevant. While procreation does not legitimize a particular act, it does signify what kinds of acts are legitimate. Because humans persons are embodied, only those kinds of acts which truly unite bodies can truly and fully unite persons. By looking at mammalian biology, we learn that two bodies are uniquely united when male and female reproductive organs are entangled. We learn this by seeing that this is how the astonishing reality of procreation happens; clearly an act which produces another life is something noteworthy! Thus, we conclude that acts which are reproductive *in kind* are special and signify a unity of body and person that differs from any other physical interaction.

    Reply

  12. A sexual act cannot be reproductive in kind if nothing is reproduced…

    Any reference to reproduction necessarily negates the supposed intrinsic value of even “marital” sex, as George defines it. It refers to something extrinsic to the act.

    Because I do not deny the possible value/meaning of “non-marital” sex at the outset of George’s argument, I see parts of his argument as self-contradictory and his logic as fallacious. Gasp.

    Reply

  13. Prufrock,

    Regarding your ending, I’m not sure anyone is surprised at your disagreement with George. It’s a contentious issue, and the arguments are difficult. I wouldn’t expect you to be persuaded yet, as you clearly have objections to him. Great! That makes things all the more interesting!

    Frankly, your questions about George’s presentation are the same one’s I had while reading it. I’m trying to understand what the argument is in this case, as I think we all are.

    For instance, I don’t think that TimC’s depiction in his last comment is quite George’s argument. But I also am not sure about your rebuttal that “any reference to reproduction necessarily negates the supposed intrinsic value of even ‘marital’ sex” is quite right either.

    It seems like George has one of two options:

    1) He can argue that the nature of the sexual unions between gay and heterosex is different by virtue of the different piping without reference to the reproductive aspects at all. I’m not sure how he could do this, but he’s smarter than I am.
    2) He can argue that the reproductive function of our sexual parts does not, in fact, mean that reproduction is extrinsic to sex. By locating it within the intrinsic meaning of the sexual act. But this would be to move the meaning of reproduction away from the consequences of the action to the functions of the parts involved in the action and open him up to the “infertility” argument. This is, I think, closer to the route he actually goes. The argument, then, doesn’t hang on reproduction per se, but rather on the intrinsically reproductive nature of heterosexual activity.

    This is where the force of the ‘infertility’ charge lies, and why I think it’s incumbent upon George (and followers) to specify how that isn’t a defeater. I disagree, Prufrock, with your claim that a sexual act cannot be reproductive in kind if nothing is reproduced. Reproduction is the fruit of a particular kind of action (namely, heterosex). The absence of that fruit does not then mean that the kind of action is somehow different. If we change the analogy, since I’m lost on the eating one, to running, I think health is one of the consequences or fruits of a running sort of action. Running, in this sense, is of a healthy nature. However, if health does not obtain for me, despite my running, it does not then entail that running doesn’t have a health-giving nature. It simply means that the particular fruit of running does not obtain in this case, for whatever reason.

    A lot hangs on this discussion, and I know I really appreciate your involvement in it, along with Brian’s, Gary’s and Tim’s. It’s conversations like this that remind me why I love blogging.

    Highest regards,

    matt

    Reply

  14. Prufrock makes two claims: (1) “A sexual act cannot be reproductive in kind if nothing is reproduced.” (2) “Any reference to reproduction necessarily negates the supposed intrinsic value of even ‘marital’ sex, as George defines it. It refers to something extrinsic to the act.” Here’s how I think George would respond.

    Regarding (1): Acts (in general, not just sexual acts) are determined to be of a certain kind based on the intentions of the actor. The kind of action that an action is is not determined by the outcome of the action. Thus, it makes perfect sense, on George’s account of actions, to say that an individual sexual act can be reproductive in kind if procreation does not occur.

    Now, one could certainly argue with George about his way of determining what kind of an action a particular action is, but it’s not obvious that he’s wrong about that. He hasn’t, in other words, begged any questions on this point (I don’t think), though he may be guilty of an error in reasoning about actions and kinds of actions.

    Regarding (2): The claim that “any reference” to reproduction invalidates George’s argument can’t be correct. (Or at least I can’t see why it is.) The claim must be that making reproduction the point of sexual activity invalidates George’s argument.

    I can’t be certain about the next point because I’ve only read George’s article through a couple times, and it’s not (in my opinion) a paradigm of clear exposition. That makes understanding his argument more difficult and the following comments tentative.

    George says (in the paragraph starting “But the plain fact . . .”) that “insofar as the point of sexual intercourse is marital union, the partners achieve the desired unity . . . precisely insofar as they mate, or, if you will, perform [an instance of] the type of act on which the gift of a child may supervene.”

    Thus, for George, it seems that there is a certain sort of distinction between the intrinsic goodness of the “one-flesh union” and the possibility of procreation. There is, however, a connection between the two. It is, I think (and this is one point I’m not clear about), that his argument is that the intrinsic goodness of the “one-flesh union” cannot be realized without openness to procreation. Why not? It’s because the union is “comprehensive” (involving “body, sense, emotion, reason and will”) — that is, it involves reproductive unity. This is evident from George’s quotation from Grisez: “a male and female are . . . with respect to reproduction . . . only potential parts of a mated pair, which is the complete organism capable of reproducing sexually.” Thus, in order to achieve comprehensive unity, the couple must be open to reproductive unity since that kind of unity is part of the comprehensive “one-flesh union.”

    Now, why should George think that reproductive unity is part of the “one-flesh union”? I think this is a major point of his insistence that body-person dualism is wrong. According to George, bodies are intrinsically “part of” a human person; thus, it makes sense for him to say that they play a vital role in uniting two persons.

    Reply

  15. Interesting discussion, all. My only real quibble with George’s argument is his aside about Isaiah Berlin. The central tradition of western thought is not body-person monism, as George avers, but the idea of an absolute, fundamental truth to the universe (as opposed to relativism). In other words, the universe is, at bottom, knowable, even if it can’t be known. You can read all about it (as I’m sure you’re itching to) in Berlin’s essay, “The Decline of Utopian Ideas in the West.” Similarly, the history of the philosophical concept of personhood, even within the Christian tradition, is a lot more contentious than George implies.

    As a throwaway of my own, I like to imagine that, in a previous life, Robert George worked out a natural law theory based on Aristophanes’ speech in Symposium.

    Reply

  16. Gary,

    That’s a really helpful comment. However, it left me with this question: doesn’t specifying the kind of action on grounds of the intention fall prey to the sort of body/soul dualism that he rejects? I won’t speak for Prufrock directly, but one line of response would be that homosexual and heterosexual intentions might be exactly the same, except reproduction won’t supervene on homsexual acts. So it seems like ‘intention’ needs to be understood in an extrinsic(?) way, as something more than a state of mind per se that takes into account the actual material conditions of the action.

    Jim,

    I think your comments are right. I haven’t read that essay (sounds good, though), but your report on Berlin reminds me of Nietsche’s analysis that Western culture could be traced to the fight between Homer and Plato.

    Someday we’re all going to have to get together and do a close read of the Symposium. I think (a la Strauss) that its a deep criticism of Aristophanic homoeroticism, but that’s a separate conversation….

    Reply

  17. Thanks for making my next argument, Matt. Are
    ‘homosex’ and ‘heterosex’ your coinages? Nice.

    I was also curious about George’s assertion of monism and why that was not troubling to others. Personally, I am inclined to that perspective but–oh, my–what about the soul?

    I understand the whole procreation argument–it’s one that I myself used to make–but it is not very persuasive in an overpopulated world.

    Reply

  18. Prufrock,

    Believe it or not, they were typos. I really don’t understand the continued snark, frankly. It doesn’t seem to be warranted.

    I doubt George is a monist. There are various sorts of dualism, and I suspect that George (following Aquinas) thinks that the body is an integral part of the human person, though ontologically distinct from the soul. That’s a pretty common position within Christianity.

    matt

    Reply

  19. ‘Twas only a jest…

    Hey, it still made sense. And thanks for clearing up the monism thing.

    Reply

  20. And all is well. Except for the argument–that’s still rather sickly. Gary or Tim, want to chime in to clarify how this works?

    matt

    Reply

  21. I think Gary has done a pretty good job of working out George’s argument. One aspect in which I differ, though, is the degree to which intention determines the kind of an act. If we give intention alone too much weight, we have the counter-intuitive result that an act of sex ending in conception could be considered “not reproductive in kind” if the participants had not intended to get pregnant. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding?

    As far as “how this works,” I think Gary’s paragraph is exactly right in arguing that there is “a certain sort of distinction” but also “a connection” between the intrinsic value of sexual acts and procreation. Procreation is both an extrinsic good (as a function of sex) and a sign of the unique unity of persons that results from heterosexual intercourse. Of all the possible configurations of sexual anatomy, there is only one that can create a new person.

    (I’m not sure how to understand prufrock’s comment about overpopulation. Putting aside the question of whether the planet really is overpopulated, I don’t see how that bears on the essential nature of sexual acts.)

    Reply

  22. Tim,

    I agree on several points, specifically your praise of Gary’s summation and your concerns about intention and its specificity.

    You wrote: “Procreation is both an extrinsic good (as a function of sex) and a sign of the unique unity of persons that results from heterosexual intercourse. Of all the possible configurations of sexual anatomy, there is only one that can create a new person.”

    I think this is the concern that I have about specifying the ‘kind’ of the sexual act. It seems like the ‘kind’ under this configuration depends more upon a particular arrangement of plumbing in both individuals rather than the specific intentions of the individuals who are engaging in the sexual acts. I suspect we shouldn’t draw too big a divide between those two, but for clarity’s sake, I think that’s where the confusion (and potential objection) lies.

    matt

    Reply

  23. On Robert George and the case against gay marriage…and don’t miss the comments. http://bit.ly/4kxdX7

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    Reply

  24. Matt,

    Can you clarify what your concern is with using the “plumbing” to make these categorizations? It seems that any objective distinction is going to have to tie in to anatomy somehow. As you point out above, even an arm paralyzed by polio remains an arm, and likewise, defective (infertile) reproductive organs retain their reproductive nature.

    (And thanks for this forum in which to think these things through. The discussion has been of a quality that exceeds most internet dialogue.)

    Reply

  25. Tim,

    Yah, sorry for the unclear comment. I agree with you that the objective distinction between the sexual acts will have to include anatomy as well, and my concern is that in George’s formulation he doesn’t clearly specify HOW anatomy affects the kind of sexual act. If Gary is right and ‘kind’ is specified by the intention of participants, then it seems it makes the particular bodily arrangements irrelevant and makes the argument against homosexual marriage much more difficult.

    And thanks for the kind words. It doesn’t happen often, but I’m convinced our little forum is one of the best little nooks for these sorts of conversation on the web. That’s entirely due to the quality of readers.

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  26. To clarify about kinds: I think George would want to distinguish between the question of what determines the content of a kind (or type) of action and what determines whether a particular instance of acting falls under one kind of action or another.

    The first question is about what makes a kind of action what it is. That is, one kind of action is called “running,” another is called “eating,” another “reading,” etc. How do we understand what running is? In order to understand the nature of running, we need to understand certain concepts associated with animal movement (having legs, e.g.) and motion (going fast as opposed to slow, etc.). This requires us to investigate to some degree the natures of animal-ness and motion.

    Turning to the action of having sex, I think George would say that the kind of action that realizes, expresses, etc. “one-flesh union” is determined (at least in part, perhaps wholly) by what kind of thing a human person is. George says that human persons are body-self unities. It’s supposed to follow from this that a certain kind of action is conducive to realizing, etc. “one-flesh union.”

    This is distinct from (though connected with) the question of whether some particular action counts as running, having sex, or having marital sex. The latter question is about whether someone’s action falls under one kind of action or another. In order to understand that, we’d need to understand what a person intends to do.

    This comment hasn’t really covered some of the criticisms made of George’s position. I hope to be able to think about them more and post something over the weekend.

    Reply

  27. It’s nice to see an engaged discussion on this issue. I have been checking in but each time, was too overwhelmed to add anything myself.

    Though I appreciate the discussion, it seems to be taking place largely, if not exclusively, amongst heterosexuals about homosexuals. I am specifically disturbed by the comment,

    “Objectively, though, […] I believe we must conclude that gay sex is, even in its best expressions, only a counterfeit. […] It may “pay” some of “the bills” that accompany a marriage, but it ultimately fails to express the deepest truths of human nature.”

    I recognize that, for straight people, the deepest truths of human nature are fulfilled in the context of a heterosexual union. However, being that you are not gay, I feel utterly disempowered, depersonalized, and dehumanized. I am a person. I am real. And, in fact, a gay union is the ONLY authentic physical, spiritual, and emotional relationship and union for me. This is not really up for debate. It is the reality I live with every day.

    I spent many years believing as you do, that a heterosexual union was objectively authentic and ideal for all humans. This belief was not something intrinsic, but was taught to me by religious leaders. After an intentional process of getting in touch with myself, with scripture, and with God, I am able to see that heterosexual unions are not ideal for everyone–specifically, myself.

    Jesus teaches that we are to judge a tree by fruits. My life, faith, and relationship testify to the affirmation of my sexual orientation as something God-gifted and good.

    For me, a relationship with a man expresses the deepest truth of human nature in ways that I am still discovering.

    Reply

  28. Brian G,
    As one of the participants in this discussion, I’m not sure what to do now. You said that there can be no debate about authentic sexual unions. Should we stop this discussion, or should it carry on but in a different manner?

    Your comment about the significance of relationships reminded me of a distinction that John Corvino makes. He claims that we should talk about and refer to sexual relationships instead of sexual activity because he thinks the concept of sexual activity is too narrow in its scope. Would you agree with that? Or is that distinction not relevant to your position?

    And, one last thing, I don’t think George, e.g., would dispute the reality of your feelings. I think he would dispute whether your feelings are — I don’t know really how to express it — on the right track; he’d say, given the arguments he advances, that there’s got to be something deceptive about them. I’m curious how you would respond to that, if you have time to think about it.

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  29. […] I am curious, though, to hear responses by our readers on the essay, especially in light of the interesting discussion we have had in the comments on Professor George’s piece. […]

    Reply

  30. […] What Marriage is For:  Robert George’s Latest in an Ongoing Conversation […]

    Reply

  31. GaryH, Thanks for your sincere interest. I don’t get notifications of new comments and didn’t realize there had been a response.

    I think even “sexual relationships” is too narrow a scope. I am a queer person whether I marry a man, a woman, or remain single and celibate. I’m always puzzled by an emphasis on acts.

    In terms of continuing the conversation, in my last comment I noted the conversation was occurring largely, if not exclusively, amongst heterosexuals about homosexuals. If you want to have a meaningful conversations, gay and queer folks must be present. And they must be respected. I think this model is also supported by Scripture as Jesus and his disciples made it a habit of associating with, and learning from, those outside of the religious establishment.

    Get to know gay people–ones that are Christian and ones that felt they had to walk away, ones that have been married for years and ones that are still single. Find ones that were in opposite-sex marriages (or even relationships). And then, when we’re all at the table in a meaningful way, we can have a productive conversation. And don’t do it for me, do it for yourself. Because until then you’re missing out.

    Reply

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