Friday, May 22, 2009

The Logical End of Gay Marriage (And How Will the LDS Church Respond?)

I've gone pretty back and forth on how best to think about gay marriage as a Christian.

Well, sort of. I don't believe that, ontologically, gay "marriage" exists, and I have absolutely no qualms calling homosexual practice sinful, and homosexuality in general a result of the fall. But regarding how Christians should think and vote about it- well that's a harder question for me.

In any case, the progression argument (i.e. legalizing gay marriage will necessarily precipitate legalizing all alternative marriages, such as polygamous marriage) has always seemed compelling. When being in love is the only standard for marriage, why wouldn't folks in other forms of alternative relationships lay claim to that "right"?

Well, in fact, they are. Dan Phillips pointed to this article on polyamory (i.e. groups of three or more in one shared relationship, distinct from bigamy/polygamy in that it is not a cluster of individual relationships- it is all one relationship). Yup, it's really happening. And nope, I'm not surprised. Should the polyamorous continue to clamor for marriage rights, what precedent will be used to stop them?

One more thing: I wonder, I really do, how the mainstream LDS church would respond to the legalization of polygamy. In early Mormonism, polygamy was unquestionably an eternal teaching. It first came from Joseph Smith (D&C 132), and was heavily reinforced by Brigham Young, the second president of the LDS church.

In 1855, Young said, "[I]f any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned." In 1862, he said, "Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revleation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord's servants have always practiced it....[T]his is the religion of Abraham, and, unless we do the works of Abraham, we are not Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise." One more from Young in 1866:
The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they canot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them...'Do you think that we shall ever be admitted as a State into the Union without denying the principle of polygamy?' If we are not admitted until then, we shall never be admitted.
Keep in mind: this would not be like Jerry Fallwell standing up and saying something that many of the rest of us Christians disagreed with. Mormons place enormous emphasis on continuing revelation from God that is literally on the same level of authority as Scripture. This primarily comes from the president of the church, who they consider to be a prophet. So Brigham Young was God's voice when he uttered those words.

And that last quote brings up exactly what the problem became: plural marriage was seriously frowned upon by the American government, but Utah, populated almost exclusively by Mormons, was only a territory. It was never going to achieve statehood as long as plural marriage was upheld. For that matter, anti-polygamy laws were putting many LDS members in prison, including some of their "apostles" (the twelve men at the top of the LDS hierarchy, surpassed only by the president in rank).

When Wilford Woodruff became the president of the church in 1887, there was serious trouble. The Supreme Court ruled five to four in 1890 that the American government could close the church if they continued to practice plural marriage. In that same year, Woodruff issued a manifesto semi-couched as revelation from God that declared his and the church's intention to submit to anti-polygamy laws. Thus the church's official renouncement of plural marriage. Utah became a state, but it still took awhile before the practice stopped (it actually increased for a time after statehood was reached).

For that matter, Richard Abanes, whose book One Nation Under Gods is the source of my information and generally a fascinating read on the history of the LDS church, notes that not only is the principle of polygamy still upheld as a sacred belief, but it is still practiced by some. Abanes estimates 60,000 LDS fundamentalists (a break-off from the main LDS church) are practicing plural marriage, which is what we normally think of. But he also has good evidence that there are many polygamous Mormons in the mainstream LDS church keeping a low profile living in urban Salt Lake City. Crazy.

All that history to say this: polygamy was most certainly renounced by the LDS church for political reasons. If polygamy had not been outlawed by the U. S. government, and if those laws were not standing in the way of Utah's statehood, then it surely would have remained a part of Mormonism.

Especially since Spencer W. Kimball was president of the church from 1973 to 1985, the major LDS push seems to be to make Mormonism appear to be a reasonable, regular American religion. They want to fit in.

But therein lies the dilemma: even if polygamy became legalized, it still would be a strange religious belief in the minds of most modern Americans. Therefore, the LDS church would likely be reticent to reinstitute it. But all it would take would be one president to declare that God had revealed to him that polygamy should again be accepted, and the LDS church would have no choice but to receive it as God's authoritative word, and practice could pick up.

A rabbit trail, I know, but a plausible one that happens to be of interest to this blogger.

29 comments:

Jerry Brown said...

Very interesting ad showing up in the RSS feed for this article. I believe you can do some configuration to tune your AdSense account a bit, or you may just appreciate the irony of having an ad from meetgaycouples.com on your post. :-)

Johnnie said...

Actually a much more compelling discussion of this issue can be found here:

http://www.slate.com/id/2218774/

To suggest that the "logical end" of allowing homosexual couples to wed is to allow polygamy, bestiality, incest, and whatall else, is utter nonsense, as anyone with your obvious intelligence and education well knows. There's a quite clear relationship between gay and straight marriage--among other things, the fact that a huge number of gays are involved in
"long-term companion" relationships that, once made legal in the states that now allow them, cause not so much as a blip on the radar, whereas all of this other "slippery slope" nonsense--man marries donkey--would be a total upheaval. The fact that gays by and large (no more no less than straights) prefer monogamy and two-parent families is indisputable, and THAT is the "logical end" of gay marriage.

Jerry Brown said...

"There's a quite clear relationship between gay and straight marriage..."

I think not, Johnnie. There is no relationship at all. Gay "marriage" is an attempted legitimization of sin, while marriage between a man and a woman is a union blessed by God.

You might have a good point to make about the slippery slope argument, but your statement that I quote above tends to obfuscate an otherwise solid (whether I agree or not) argument.

Johnnie said...

Jerry:

Let's say "relationships" then. But I think that if you look at this the way much--most?--of the people in the USA do now--that is, rejecting the sin argument (and let's not forget that a good many Christians in the USA reject that as well, including the many churches who bless same-sex unions)...which is what I was trying to do, although I understand the evangelical/right position as well...then my point about the "logical end of gay marriage" is one I continue to stand by.

Johnnie said...

Actually, I think a pretty good analogy to the "sin" argument would be such things as drinking alcohol, use of tobacco, dancing, gambling (or even just playing a card game), etc. Some Christians consider these things sinful, and some do not. Probably right now there are more who believe homosexuality to be a sin than who believe dancing is, but there are still plenty on the other side--who do not--and that balance is shifting. Add to that the number of Americans who do not believe that laws should be impacted by the beliefs of the evangelical right wing, and you also have a good look at the logical end of gay marriage...

glen. said...

Faris: thought about writing this article for a while. Glad you beat me to it.

Andrew Faris said...

Ah Johnnie, what would a post on this blog about a controversial issue be without your vocal disagreement these days?

Here's the thing: I never suggested bestiality. I suggest polygamy and polyamory. And the bottom line is that what you call utter nonsense, some are starting to press. You can call it nonsense as you sit and comment on a blog, but here I give you a real article quoting real people who employ real arguments that real gay people have really used. So it's not nonsense at all. It's reality.

The point is not what gays prefer. The point is about legal precedent. If the government's only standard for marriage is consenting adults, then why not allow polyamorous and polygamous "marriages"?

And in any case, I'd say that gay preferences are quite disputable. It's 1:00 a.m. where I am and I've no chance to track down the stats, but my understanding is that in fact a rather large percentage of homosexuals are not so monogamous. You'll note that even in California, my understanding is that in the interim between the California's court's allowing gay marriage and the prop 8 vote, where gay marriage in fact was legal here, people were rather underwhelmed by the relative number of gays who decided to get married. Perhaps they're not so committed to monogamy.

Also, your drinking/smoking analogy is quite poor. Most "Christians" who support gay marriage are not upholding a high view of Scripture. Thus the real issue with many of the church splits on this matter is deeper than gay marriage: it's a question of the authority of Scripture. By contrast, various Christians' stance on drinking and smoking is not a question of the authority of Scripture, but about interpretation.

Of course you'll say that some pro-homosexuality Christians profess a high view of Scripture's authority while they do so. To which I'd respond that any who would say such a thing would be in the tiny minority.

Andrew

Jerry Brown said...

Johnnie, I don't think it is about what the majority wants, but about what Scripture says, and it is pretty clear with respect to the sin of homosexuality and to marriage being a union of man and woman. If you believe the Bible to be Gods word (as do orthodox churches), then it is about what He says, not whether you like it or not. He rules. And if we take what Jesus says at face value about the gate to life (the kingdom of God) being narrow, and the path to death being wide, we can safely assume that the majority position in 21st-century America is not the best place to be.

Jerry Brown said...

Andrew, interesting thought about what LDS would do if the leash were relaxed. Given the general tendency toward liberalization in order to fill seats, I doubt that you would see the Mormon church jump up and down with glee, as you state. However, I would bet it would quietly start to take off at a grassroots level, particularly in smaller towns in Utah and surrounding states.

Johnnie said...

Andrew,

I'd suggest you read the article I linked to in my post. Since April, 6 states have legalized gay marriage, with several more (New York most prominent among them) poised to follow quickly. So this is going to happen--the CA Supreme Court will most likely uphold Prop 8, because the legalities of the propositions compel them too, but there will be another ballot initiative, and soon, and with so many other states already having legalized it, gay marriage will be the law there as well. So I'm really commenting on your "logical end" argument, and while you did not bring bestiality into it, many others who make your same argument--that gay marriage has a logical end and that that end includes legalizing things other than a two-consenting-adult model for marriage--do. Perhaps, but only perhaps, someone would attempt to legalize polygamy. But who? As you say, the Mormon church simply could not--they have over a hundred years of vehement opposition to it on the books and could not possibly make a U-turn on that now. So who? The fringe folks in rural Utah and Colorado City? And what legal argument could they make? After they said "you changed the definition of marriage to include spouses of the same sex" what would they have left? Not much.

At the most, perhaps in the future we will see a true separation of church and state, and govt marriages--perhaps they won't go by that name--and church marriages truly two distinct things. So that if churches want to allow plural marriage, they can, and the govt will stay out of it (while not recognizing it). But even that is very doubtful for polygamy, given its own history of very dubious claims to "consenting adults"--bringing all that into the light is not something most polygamist groups would look forward to.

As for the question of sin: I grew up in a small town in the midwestern bible belt with many southern Baptist and Pentacostal friends who would have insisted that they were absolutely following Scripture to say dancing and drinking were sins and that I was putting my soul in peril to do those things. The point is that while you have total confidence that you are right about what is sin and what isn't, the Christian community isn't in agreement. Your argument against the Christians who bless same-sex relationships or accept gay clergy may be a very sound one, but the argument itself, among and within the Christian community itself, shows us more about what the logical end of gay marriage will be, and what it won't be either.

Johnnie said...

And Jerry:

My statements about the majority weren't meant to suggest that I agree with the majority nor that those who don't should fall in line. Andrew's original post was a prediction and my response was a counter-prediction. I don't agree with his predictions. And there I think my statements about the majority have relevance. States which have (and which will soon) legalized gay marriage would never have done so if Christians were standing shoulder to shoulder opposed to it. I would bet large amounts that the majority of voters, in states that legalized/will legalize it, and the majority of justices, in states that are doing so via that route, identify themselves as Christian. This is significant because to imagine polygamy, incest, bestiality, etc (and yes, I know Andrew didn't mention all those things, but again...) becoming legal one has to imagine those same folks approving of those things.

That's a very hard thing to imagine

Andrew Faris said...

Johnnie,

First, some people who make my argument do make the bestiality one, yes. I didn't. I don't understand why you seem to be insisting on that point when no one but you has brought it up.

Second, the argument one would make is quite simple: we changed the definition of marriage once for consenting adults who love each other, so why not do it again? If gender isn't a deciding factor in marriage, then why is number? It's the next step, and it's pretty clear.

Third, you have asked me who it is that will push this sort of thing. I've already given you a clear cut example: the polyamorous. They are in fact already doing it. So you can pretend people are not doing that all you want, but they in fact are. For that matter, they are using the same argument I said above, and they have law groups and lobbying groups behind them already. Special sets of lawyers are out there working on exactly this thing- they're quoted in the article.

Fourth, regarding the sin argument, my point is still the same: it's not about disagreement over interpretation. It's about disagreement over the authority of the Bible, so your analogy just doesn't work.

Fifth, for you and Jerry, regarding the LDS church, I totally understand your point. That's why, in fact, I didn't make a prediction so much as a, "You know, this could really possibly happen." It's plausible, but I wouldn't say it's an actual prediction. Just saying it's a possibility.

And at first it does seem crazy, because, even as I was discussing with a friend last night, a lot of Utah Mormons don't even know that Joseph Smith himself was a polygamist! They have really covered it up. Go watch the Joseph Smith movie in temple square sometime: it's unbelievable how much it distorts his life. He has one wife, he sits with the golden tablets right in front of him and translates them, he gives a horse to a black man, he doesn't shoot back when they're coming to kill him in jail. Any intelligent Mormons knows that is all false.

That said, this wouldn't have to be a church-wide decision. It really would just take one president making one "revelatory" statement, and it would have to be seen as the voice of God. That's plainly in LDS theology.

Thanks for the thoughtful posts fellas, and Johnnie: I've not yet gotten to read that article, though I will. Been a busy couple days, and the only times I've been online has been to make these comments.

Andrew

Johnnie said...

Hi Andrew,

Well, it's hard to say that "some people who make my argument do make the bestiality one" and then say you don't understand why I allude to that since "no one but me has brought it up." People have indeed brought it up. I understand you didn't mention it, but the "logical end" argument you do make does quite often include something more than simply polygamy/polyamouras relationships and I felt it made sense to address that logical end argument as well as the narrower argument you were making. Dobson and Robertson continue to include bestiality in their remarks on the subject….but if you are suggesting that you believe there is a slippery slope to gay marriage, but the slope is not as steep as some would have it, that's fair enough.

I'm not going to "pretend" that people won't "push for this sort of thing." If the entirety of your argument is to say that once gay marriage becomes law, other people will push for other things, then I'm in complete agreement.

But "logical end" to me implies, well, an "end" that goes beyond what people push for and instead looks at what they will accomplish. Since we have already established, in every state in the USA, that gay couples can do everything straight couples can--purchase property, adopt children, in many cases receive spousal employer benefits, etc etc etc, and since much of mainline Christianity has no problem with that, the move from civil unions/equal rights protection to govt approved marriage is a very slight one compared to changing the "number" (or "age" or "species"). What you say is the "clear next step" is not, I don't believe, likely to happen in the least, for those reasons. There may well be lawyers preparing their arguments. And I think it will be fascinating to watch the Mormon church react, but I also believe the Mormon-led fight against Prop 8 will be nothing compared to what they would do to fight polygamy.

As you say "any intelligent Mormon knows" the whitewashed Joseph Smith (etc) story is false, and therefore those Utah Mormons you mention who didn't know Smith was a polygamist are not very intelligent. I actually grew up in Salt Lake City and I can say for certain that the history of their church--including the polygamy--is one that is stressed and well known. But so is the revelation banning polygamy--and while a good many Mormons would agree that political expediency had a lot to do with that revelation, they would fight tooth and nail against even the hint that the LDS church is looking to bring it back.

Finally, one last time, my analogy about sin works for my point: gay marriage is different from polygamy and any other "logical end" one sees stemming from it precisely because of the disagreement over the authority of the Bible. I'm not suggesting your own thinking on the authority of the Bible is flawed, but I'm suggesting that when the people of a state like Iowa agree to allow gays to marry in their state they do so, a great, great many of them, believing that they continue to hold Christian beliefs. You may say they are wrong. They may be wrong. But the polygamy argument these lawyers you mention are preparing is going to have to fight the entirety of the Christian community, and everyone else as well. At this point in time, the gay marriage proponents are only fighting a (increasingly shrinking, it would seem) portion of the Christian community. That does make a difference, especially when looking off in the distance towards a logical end.

Bill Faris said...

I don't know how old you are, Johnnie (and other readers), but I'm sort of amazed at the changes I have seen in my lifetime regarding marriage (I'm 53). Joni Mitchell sang it out clearly for many of her/my generation: "we don't need no piece of paper from the city hall keeping us tied and true". Alot of couples still hold to that approach. They live together without that "piece of paper". "Who needs it"? But even Joni married (three times, I think). Guess she cared more about paper than she was willing to admit. So the struggle concerning marriage continues and, as I observe it, it is an issue that is splintering the culture rather than binding it together as it once did.

Nowadays, marriage is being defined already how people want to define it. Live together first, maybe even for years and with offspring, then get "married". Gay marriage. Transsexual marriage, and -- as Andrew points out -- the elastic definition of what the state should refer to as marriage continues to stretch.

My guess is that once we as a society decided not only to not sanction religion but to largely repudiate its influence in the public square, things like marriage are going to continue to be up for grabs. In the end, everyone will go to their own corners clutching their partner(s)close and saying their definition of marriage (including so-called "serial monogomy') is just fine.

But, I believe that we have already lost something in the redefintion of marriage and will lose it more in the days to come. We're fiddling with fundamental building blocks of Western Civilization, my friend, and have been for some time now and whatever we think we are gaining, it's important to be real clear about what we're losing, too.

Johnnie said...

Hi Bill--

I'm 46, and yes, I've certainly seen a lot of changes. From what I can tell, I probably think that some of the changes you see as negative are, in fact, positve, however.

For one thing, I see Western Civilization as something which has always been in evolution, and much of that change has been positive progress. Too often "the building blocks of Western Civilization" are cited without reference to that fact, and too often some recent (that bugaboo "the 60s" or "the sexual revolution") event is cited as though there was a monolithic "think" called Western Civiliation that everyone--all races, classes, genders--was perfectly happy with until Said Event occurred which has taken us all off course...but I don't see it that way. Of course it isn't all good, but I'm not sure I'm willing to say that marriages would be happier if everyone "waited" until the wedding night, or no one moved in together until marriage. One thing I find throughout Western Civilization--the ancient Greeks, Shakespeare, Tolstoy--is unhappy marriages, so I don't know that things were better Back When.

Here's a story: this past weekend, for Memorial Day, there was a family BBQ in my neighborhood--there is a little park nearby and most people from the neighborhood came over to grill some meat, drink a beer or two, socialize. Kids played on the playground, people brought their dogs...you can visualize this scene. Now, in my grandparents day this would have been a similar scene, but all those folks with darker skin than mine wouldn't have been there. (Not where I live anyway.) And in my parents day it would have been similar, but the gay couple wouldn't have felt like showing up, and if they had they would have been threatened with violence, and of course they wouldn't have brought their kids because they wouldn't have had any....and not too long ago the other kids wouldn't have played with those little girls, but now they do. Some--maybe you, maybe not--will certainly feel that we've gone in the wrong direction, allowing those two women to buy a home and set up housekeeping and arrange to have children via artificial insemination, and that we're "losing" something because that has happened, and if my state decides to allow those two women to place a marriage license in their safety deposit box, we'll have lost even more. But I don't see it that way. To use the word from Ian's post, above, I'm happy with the expanded community, and I only see gains.

Bill Faris said...

Johnnie:
I really appreciate a lot of what you shared in your response. The BBQ scene is a great image and I get your point about the inclusion, diversity and fellowship it represents. And your point is well taken that "the good old days" were not so good for everybody in society.

But I think once we step away from the BBQ and get back to the big picture, there is plenty to make us shudder.

The Sexual Revolution is a huge disaster when it comes to the overall good. It's easy to point out the prudism and hypocricy that are the flip side of setting the bar high when it comes to the sexual mores of a society like ours where we (used to) try to hold freedom and individualism in tension with restraint and self-discipline. But the "bugaboos" really do have teeth that tear.

Whatever its gifts, the Sexual Revolution also gave us -- homosexual and heterosexual -- widespread STDs, abortion on demand, huge numbers of children raised w/o fathering or in single-parent households, "friends with benefits", a certain coarse and crude demeaning of the sexes (what some have termed "the pornification" of America" or what the old Bibles used to call "concupisence"), and the kind of "bathhouse" homosexual promiscuity that gave AIDS its initial wings in that population.

It's one thing for Western Civ to "evolve" and, as you point out, it definitely has when it comes to racism, sexism and the like. But "civilization" requires by deifintion that the baser human instincts be checked, redirected and tempered and nothing is more important or fundamental to that task than upholding a high standard of marriage.

Those of us who feel alarmed at the present effort to bless gay marriage as a society are not happy with the current state of hetero marriage either. Our call is not to denounce one and hold the present state of the other as the ideal.

Change (apologies to the present political climate) is not always good just because it is change. Change is good because it is better than what came before it.
Pulling down racism, sexism, exploitation of workers, and some of the other flaws that needed to be addressed within the context of Western Civilization is to be applauded. But the Judeo-Christian notion of marriage has been a huge gift to the overall welfare of the human race in general and Western Civ in particular and does not so much need to be redefined as rediscovered.

Johnnie said...

Hi Bill,

I don't mean to quibble with you over word choice, but I guess I don't see why, as the Judeo-Christian notion of marriage gets "rediscovered," that that rediscovery couldn't include accepting that homosexual people belong in/deserve inclusion in that notion. I recognize that the old prohibitions against mixed-race marriage are not perfectly analogous here, but given that those prohibitions stemmed from misunderstandings about the nature of people, and given that we now understand homosexuality much better than we once did, it seems fair to suggest that since the rediscovery (or "redefintion," if you prefer) of marriage to accept mixed race couples did little to harm "the overall welfare of the human race", in fact probably did more to add to that welfare, so it seems quite possible to suggest the same thing about gay marriage.

If we can imagine a society where gay children can have "crushes" on classmates, gay middle and high schoolers can date openly, sit together and hold hands at the football games and movies, go to prom...and eventually become engaged and marry, all taking place without anyone batting an eye...I think that would be very much to the benefit of the whole human race. No longer pushed into the dark corners, from the very earliest ages, would we not be likely to see behavior that aligns with heterosexual couples? But gays to need to feel acceptance for any of that to happen, and the ugly fight for Prop 8--as if that gay couple who live a few houses down from me are somehow a threat to my family--did terrible harm to that goal.

And could we not then expect that putting an end to the Christian hostilities towards homosexuality would also better the welfare of the whole human race? And possibly bring more people together in a true Christian community?

Would it be a good thing or a bad thing for one of the home-church meetings you run to be held at the house of a gay couple?

Jerry Brown said...

How utterly twisted.

Andrew Faris said...

Johnnie,

1) You almost always seem to disagree with us here. But you always do it respectfully, and for that reason I also always am glad you take the time to write. So thanks for that, especially the blogosphere is so notoriously littered with disrespect.

2) We'll never agree on this because you clearly don't think Scripture is authoritative in any relevant way. I imagine you'll reject such strong words, but I've never seen one of your comments say anything that makes me think otherwise.

3) Our difference on #2 makes the answer to your last question for my Dad quite simple: it would be bad. It would be bad because homosexual practice is sinful in the eyes of God. I believe that because I believe the Bible says it. The answer to your first question in that comment is thus equally simple.

4) I've been thinking about posting on the race analogy for a little while now. Here's what is clear to me about it: all that it proves is that large masses of people with strong beliefs- even strong religious beliefs- can be dead wrong.

Objectively wrong, in fact. Race is so different than sexual orientation that the analogy stops there, even as you hint at.

In fact, the standards you use to get anything out of the analogy are so broad that we could go to bestiality here. Perhaps we discover more that some people really seem to like animals sexually. Isn't it possible that accepting bestiality-marriage could do more for the general welfare? It seems to me that your same analogy would apply.

Which means that your analogy gets us absolutely nowhere, since the bestiality example is obviously ridiculous.

Johnnie said...

Andrew,

I first started reading this blog when you posted an entry opposed to the passage of prop 8. I've continued to read it regularly because I find the commentaries thoughtful. I agree far more often than not with what I've read here, but have probably jumped into the comments when in disagreement, true. (Not on pipes or beer, however!)

But while I am not sure I agree that we read and understand the Bible so differently, I'll certainly attest that on the issue of homosexuality I do not agree with your readings. I know you scoff at the many, many Christians who interpret the Bible on that issue as I do, so ok.

However your bestiality comment makes me doubt I'll return to this site. Even Albert Mohler had recognized the homosexuality is neither a choice nor a "lifestyle" but is in fact a biological fact--some humans are made that way. I think that fact alone separates this totally and completely from bestiality, and the many millions of Christians who welcome homosexuals into their schools, churches, and in positions of clergy agree. This is why gay marriage will eventually be accepted and why bestiality will never be. Mohler and I don't agree on homosexual relationships, but not even he would go where you go with bestiality. Anything can be a "perhaps" but I can say with certainty we will not discover that human-animal sexual relationships are anything but pathological.

Race is certainly different from sexual orientation, but in the legal question--why was mixed race marriage outlawed?--it is not as different as you would have it. However I've said from the beginning that that is a flawed analogy--but as analogies go, it does work for the most part.

Christians have always had to shift around how much they wish to be a part of the larger community. This isn't new and it won't likely ever end. Many Christians today choose to remove their children from public schools, would never consider sending them to non-Bible colleges, and in many other ways remove themselves from the public sphere. I think Ian recognizes some of the larger questions inherent in that today--do we foresee a future when Bible-believing evangelical Christians are the equivalent of the Amish or Hasidic Jews, content to live amongst themselves and letting the outside world alone?

I for one would hate to see that happen, especially if the tipping point were the acceptance of homosexuality. For your father to answer "no" to my question is a true shame, but Jerry Brown's "twisted" comment says it all, I suppose.

Andrew Faris said...

Johnnie,

The bestiality example was an extreme that I don't believe meant to indicate that your analogy was so broad as to be unhelpful.

Homosexuality most certainly can be a biological fact- though I am not so sure that it is in every case.

Besides that, that really gets us nowhere. I have two responses to that, the first being that we also believe that alcoholism includes genetic predisposition, yet we do not push to call that ok, and the second is that we believe that the Fall and its associated curse got into everything, including genetics. So genetic predisposition doesn't mean that something is ok.

The shame, Johnnie, is when Christians call good, evil and evil, good. If homosexuality is indeed sinful in God's eyes- and the likes of Robert Gagnon have made it quite difficult to read Scripture conservatively and come to any other conclusion- then the shame is giving people false assurance rather than calling them to repentance.

Andrew

Bill Faris said...

Does this really all come down to the "gay gene" theory again? It so often seems to. That is to say that if people are "born gay", then they really don't have a choice but to "be" (i.e. act out on) their predisposed homosexual feelings, attractions, orientations and identity. In other words, if God forbids homosexual practice in scripture but genetically predisposes some toward it in nature, isn't He acting cruelly?

This, as they say, is a "sticky wicket". For those of us who love Scripture, we say: "worship God, repent of homosexual practice (predisposed or not), and seek to live as either abstinent or married to the opposite sex". Anecdotally, I've seen this work and not work with people who have really, really tried to do so as sincere Chirst-followers. Yes, both.

On the other hand are those who say: "if scripture sets up this kind of a tension between creation and inclination, there is something wrong with (how we read) Scripture" with a special nod to the whole "God is love, love is God" (as I heard someone say on Larry King yesterday). In fact, "love" does seem to be "god" (much more than the other way around) in much of this arguement.

Fact is, we probably can't know whether we are "born gay" or not. But, as Dennis Prager so elogquently points out, we CAN know what God expects of us. Knowing that, we must either struggle in this direction or struggle in the other direction. Either way is a struggle.

Those looking for a smooth, seamless and fool proof resolution to this conflict are likely to be disappointed.

Steve Hayes said...

There is surely a distinction between "gay marriage" and "homosexual marriage". I don't know of any country where gay marriage has been illegal, and gay people have always been free to marry, though they might not have the inclination.

But surely the state should get out of the marriage business altogether. I've written about that in more detail at Notes from underground: The State should get out of the marriage business

Johnnie said...

At least in my experience, gay people know perfectly well whether or not they were born that way. Maybe they will pause to reflect on the fact that Bill says they cannot know that, but I doubt it.

If we want to think Prager is the definitive word when it comes to gay Christians, then we have our answer to this entire discussion about community, but I doubt we can blame the gay Christians--and their friends and family members-- who choose to follow other Biblical scholars. Scoffing at the "gay gene theory" won't win many converts, but maybe we don't want 'em.

Ryan said...
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Ryan said...

Here's the question I pose to all of this:

Why is sexual orientation different than race in this case? This legislation applies to a particular group who are distinguished because of their preferences. I find it very similar to the idea of legislation affecting a group who are singled out because of their skin color. Also, both Anti-miscegenation laws and anti-gay-marriage laws have been supported by religious arguments. If nothing else, it should make us wary of supporting government laws with personal and religious sentiments.

Also, I have to disagree that somehow gay marriage has any more of a correlation to polygamy OR bestiality than heterosexual marriage, other than the mere claim that it is different from what some consider "the norm." Again, I should mention, bans on interracial marriages were at one time the norm. Women have been marginalized for thousands of years in what could be considered "a historical norm," slavery existed for almost as long as a "norm". I believe the argument against legalizing gay marriage as a government institution (no one is saying this has to be a religious institution.) must have more substance than religious arguments or normative arguments.

I guess that makes my question for you, "Where's the beef?" Where is the substance in your argument? I realize you are opposed to it in a moral sense, but I don't see you calling for the illegallization of adultery, and I'm assuming you aren't opposed to issues of separation between church and state. Is there is a "state interest" in this argument somewhere?

Jerry Brown said...

Ryan, I hope never to see an "Adultery Pride" parade (or a celebration of any other sin). I cannot ever condone a willfully sinful lifestyle. We are all sinners, and I have pulled some bad ones, but I will never ask another human being to condone what I have done. Just like I will never condone gay marriage or any other form of willful rebellion against God.

Ryan said...

Jerry,
As a religious argument, I think that is completely legitimate.You have a right to believe that adultery is wrong, and you are offended by the idea of glorifying it. However, you don't have the right to take away others rights. And in fact, if someone wanted to have an “Adultery Pride” parade, the law allows for it, despite how you personally feel about adultery. It's a good thing too, the protection of the hypothetical "Adultery Parade" is the same protection that your church uses to preach that adultery is wrong. This is how our democracy works. That is why I do not believe morality legislation can be supported unless it affects the well-being of the state, or on a smaller scale, the community.

Now, Scientology believes it is wrong to use pharmaceutical products, some of which saves lives on a daily basis. If Scientologists tried to amend the Constitution to say “Only non-pharmaceuticals can be used in treatments in the state of California,” I'm sure you would be outraged. Why? Because their religious beliefs could affect your life in a VERY personal way.

Just because you believe something is wrong does not mean it has to be legislated by the government. You have personal beliefs about homosexual behavior. I can respect that. However, I see no benefit to making this a legislative process, making a law AGAINST certain behaviors that won't affect the well being of society in any tangible ways. (adultery, pornography, gluttony, anger. While we can argue this affects people spiritually, it does not affect people in ways which are of importance to the state.)

There is a slippery slope here, creating a church and state that is very much the same. I hope you would agree that it's a much more dangerous path than allowing gays to make the same commitment you do to the one's you love.

Ryan said...

By the way, "one's you love" was in no way mean to suggest polygamy. :) That was probably a poor choice of possessive on my part.