Reflections on Gay Marriage

[I was going to present a list of links, but my commentary on one of them ballooned out of control.  Now it is a post.  Also, if any people in gay relationships are reading this, I don't hate you; I want only good things to happen to you.  It's just we don't agree on which things are in fact good.]

In light of the recent Supreme Court decision in which Justice Kennedy (a man whose fundamental job description is to interpret a written Constitution in light of precedent, remember) overturned thousands of years of precedent in light of few decades of liberal opinion concerning alternative sexualities, I begin by presenting:

Judaism's Sexual Revolution

This article explains, from a Jewish perspective, why the Torah's prohibition of (male) homosexuality wasn't just based on mere bigotry.  Some good insights in here; though some of the statements about historical causation seem oversimplistic, in broad outline I think the narrative is true.  Christians will need to make a few obvious corrections.  For example, we believe that celibacy is not only permissible, but—for those able to accept it—an even higher calling than marriage.  (And, since we don't accept double standards of chastity between the two genders, we believe that lesbianism is also wrong.)

I'm not going to analyse the legal reasoning of the Supreme Court decision right now, nor do I wish to explain in detail, in this particular post, why homosexual relationships are morally problematic.  Instead I would like to focus on the implications of gay marriage for the culture.  (It should go without saying to any reader of Plato, that it's a huge philosophical mistake to talk about the cultural effects of gay marriage without first discussing the morality of gay relationships!  But I'm going to do it anyway.)

God loves all of us, and his rules are not based on hate and contempt for any person.  They are based on his knowledge about what is genuinely best for us, "the perfect law that gives freedom" (James 1:25).  It really only takes a mustard seed of faith to believe that an omniscient being just might know a bit more about healthy sexual boundaries than we do.

Even nonreligious people should have the humility to realize that we aren't the first generation to gather experience about how the world works.  We live in a culture which is shockingly unrooted from the past.  Those who seek to normalize gay relationships should start by taking a long and hard look at previous cultures in which it was culturally tolerated for many generations, and ask whether they would really want to live in a society like those.

Mind you, history never repeats itself exactly.  Even those cultures which endorsed same-sex relationships have viewed them as an obviously distinct cultural category from Marriage.  That is because they were in tune with basic biological facts which we prefer to ignore, but still, it presents a new situation.  For the first time, gay relationships are being modelled on the norms and practices of heterosexual married couples, possibly leading to a more wholesome set of relationship norms.

Except for that annoying rule about not having sex with other people; apparently half of gay couples (not necessarily married) are in explicitly open relationships.  (Edit: the underlying study is available here, and some limitations of this study are discussed here.)  While I am sure that a small minority of gay couples follow all the rules of traditional sexual morality (no premarital sex, adultury, or divorce) except for the gender of the other partner (and the exclusive use of unnatural sex acts, which necessarily goes along with that choice), let's be honest and admit that, if there were still legal penalties for adultery, Marriage is the last thing that the Gay Rights Movement, taken as a whole, would have wanted.  (Not all gay people are on board with this; one of my friends from college is gay and sarcastically pointed out to me that too many gay people regard it as a "license for promiscuity.")

Like anyone else, what gay people need is to turn to Christ and learn to live in freedom from the harmful fleshly desires which are indeed part of the human condition for everyone.  But if they cannot accept this, it is far better that they should live in a committed exclusive relationship, than that they should live the notoriously promiscuous, reckless, and obscene lifestyle characteristic of the cultural venues of the gay community.  (Note: I do not identify all gay individuals or couples as being members of this "gay community"; those are different things.)

Recently several supposedly Christian denominations have also come out in favor of gay commitment ceremonies.  If they are really, really serious about "Marriage Equality", the first step is to emphasize that gay people are otherwise subject to the exact same rules about chastity as everyone else.  I have a feeling most of them will welch, saying something about how the "dynamics of oppression" and "homophobia" have made it so that they are "triggered" by hard words like "sin", and that what they really need is "affirmation and welcoming" and some vague talk about "committing to respect the other person for their unique personhood".  Bosh.  Real love is willing to lay down specific boundaries, the boundaries which are necessary for genuine love to thrive.  You simply can't extend an institution like Democracy or Marriage to a new group of people without first giving them a crash course in what the necessary working rules for that institution are.  Institutions can't exist without rules, any more than animals can exist without skeletons.

To be clear, a conservative Christian like myself cannot actually endorse any relationship which is forbidden by God.  But we can hope and pray that Gay Marriage is at least a step towards a more wholesome life for our friends who are gay, as compared to the likely alternatives.  It is a relationship which requires work, sacrifice, and commitment to another person.  Perhaps some diluted reflection of God's holiness can shine through a little.

But early signs are not all encouraging.  At the most recent Episcopal General Convention in Salt Lake City, in which the U.S. bishops endorsed new commitment ceremonies for gay couples, the following prayer was offered at an LGBT celebratory Eucharist:

“Spirit of Life, we thank you for disordering our boundaries and releasing our desires as we prepare this feast of delight: draw us out of hidden places and centers of conformity to feel your laughter and live in your pleasure.”

Needless to say, "disordering our boundaries and releasing our desires" sounds more like a pagan orgy than something a Christian priest should say.  "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace" (1 Cor 14:33).  The Holy Spirit does instill in us the desire for holiness and peace and submission.  If a spirit instead releases the desire for sensuality and lawlessness, that's a different kind of spirit, which comes from below, not above.  These are ordained Christian clergy, who theoretically believe that gay marriage is required based on justice (due to being the same as straight marriage), but who still can't help but portray it, in their own liturgical ceremonies, as being about transgressive wildness.  (Why not celebrate the newfound ability of gay couples to lead honorable and respectable lives of chaste decency, in obedience to God's commandments?  Becuase, deep down, they know that's not what they're doing!)

Intellectually, the libertine faction of gay activism (which really wants to destroy marriage) is strictly incompatible with the faction that wants those rules and boundaries (because that's what marriage is), but now for gay people as well as straight people.  And yet these two factions are in bed with each other.  (Uh, politically, I mean.)  Until the "conservative" faction excommunicates the "libertine" faction, even religiously sanctioned gay marriage simply won't approximate to the same thing that it means for straight people.

Many people scoff when conservatives claim that Gay Marriage will harm the institution of Ordinary Marriage, since obviously a small minority of people falling in love with each other can't really affect the majority culture.  Unless, of course, the effect on Straight Marriage is positive, then it could totally happen!  (Ironically, one of the benefits cited by this article is learning from gay and lesbian relationships that—guess what?men and women are different and therefore bring different things to a relationship!  The obvious next step, of asking whether the "male" traits might naturally complement or balance the "female" traits in some way that produces a more stable and wholesome union, does not seem to occur to them.)  Yet, when reading the writings of gay activists, it doesn't take very long to find claims that gay couples can help straight couples break out of the straightjackets of faithfulness and traditional gender roles.  Exactly the conservative claim, but now portrayed as a good thing!

But the conservative activists do have it backwards.  Gay marriage will not and cannot destroy straight marriage.  Straight marriage was already on the rocks, and its boundaries had become disordered to the point where many people could no longer tell what was the difference between it, and another union based primarily on romantic thrills.  The existence of gay marriage will accelerate certain harmful trends in how straight people percieve marriage, but not by very much.  For the most part, it hurts only the gay couple themselves, and anyone who cares about their well-being.

In any case, there is no need to panic.  God's law remains the same as before, and he still works in people's hearts to lead them to repent and follow Jesus.  Praise be to the Lord for his unsearchable riches and grace, and may he have mercy on me—a sinner.

About Aron Wall

In 2019, I will be studying quantum gravity and black hole thermodynamics as a Lecturer at the University of Cambridge. Before that, I read Great Books at St. John's College (Santa Fe), got my physics Ph.D. from U Maryland, and did my postdocs at UC Santa Barbara, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Stanford. The views expressed on this blog are my own, and should not be attributed to any of these fine institutions.
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42 Responses to Reflections on Gay Marriage

  1. Ashley says:

    Spiritualfriendship.org

  2. Jack Spell says:

    To expand on your point about the dangers of same-sex marriage (I opt not to use the term gay marriage simply because gay people have always had marriage equality, even before an unelected, activist majority of SCOTUS decided that they knew what was best for the People than did the other 320 million Americans). You probably are already aware of many of the effects that have followed from the Massachusetts Supreme Court's declaration of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage constitutional right to same-sex marriage; some of which are frieghtening.

    In response to the question of how homosexual behavior can adversely affect homosexually-oriented individuals, have a look at this article citing the work of Thomas Schmidt in his Straight and Narrow? (Downer’s Gove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1995):

    To begin with, there is an almost compulsive promiscuity associated with homosexual behavior. 75% of homosexual men have more than 100 sexual partners during their lifetime. More than half of these partners are strangers. Only 8% of homosexual men and 7% of homosexual women ever have relationships lasting more than three years. Nobody knows the reason for this strange, obsessive promiscuity. It may be that homosexuals are trying to satisfy a deep psychological need by sexual encounters, and it just is not fulfilling. Male homosexuals average over 20 partners a year. According to Dr. Schmidt,

    The number of homosexual men who experience anything like lifelong fidelity becomes, statistically speaking, almost meaningless. Promiscuity among homosexual men is not a mere stereotype, and it is not merely the majority experience—it is virtually the only experience. Lifelong faithfulness is almost non-existent in the homosexual experience.

    Associated with this compulsive promiscuity is widespread drug use by homosexuals to heighten their sexual experiences. Homosexuals in general are three times as likely to be problem drinkers as the general population. Studies show that 47% of male homosexuals have a history of alcohol abuse and 51% have a history of drug abuse. There is a direct correlation between the number of partners and the amount of drugs consumed.

    Moreover, according to Schmidt, “There is overwhelming evidence that certain mental disorders occur with much higher frequency among homosexuals.” For example, 40% of homosexual men have a history of major depression. That compares with only 3% for men in general. Similarly 37% of female homosexuals have a history of depression. This leads in turn to heightened suicide rates. Homosexuals are three times as likely to contemplate suicide as the general population. In fact homosexual men have an attempted suicide rate six times that of heterosexual men, and homosexual women attempt suicide twice as often as heterosexual women. Nor are depression and suicide the only problems. Studies show that homosexuals are much more likely to be pedophiles than heterosexual men. Whatever the causes of these disorders, the fact remains that anyone contemplating a homosexual lifestyle should have no illusions about what he is getting into.

    Another well-kept secret is how physically dangerous homosexual behavior is. I’m not going to describe the kinds of sexual activity practiced by homosexuals, but just let me say that our bodies, male and female, are designed for sexual intercourse in a way that two male bodies are not. As a result, homosexual activity, 80% of which is carried out by men, is very destructive, resulting eventually in such problems as prostate damage, ulcers and ruptures, and chronic incontinence and diarrhea.

    In addition to these physical problems, sexually transmitted diseases are rampant among the homosexual population. 75% of homosexual men carry one or more sexually transmitted diseases, wholly apart from AIDS. These include all sorts of non-viral infections like gonorrhea, syphilis, bacterial infections, and parasites. Also common among homosexuals are viral infections like herpes and hepatitis B (which afflicts 65% of homosexual men), both of which are incurable, as well as hepatitis A and anal warts, which afflict 40% of homosexual men. And I haven’t even included AIDS. Perhaps the most shocking and frightening statistic is that, leaving aside those who die from AIDS, the life expectancy for a homosexual male is about 45 years of age. That compares to a life expectancy of around 70 for men in general. If you include those who die of AIDS, which now infects 30% of homosexual men, the life expectancy drops to 39 years of age.

    So I think a very good case can be made out on the basis of generally accepted moral principles that homosexual behavior is wrong. It is horribly self-destructive and injurious to another person. Thus, wholly apart from the Bible’s prohibition, there are sound, sensible reasons to regard homosexual activity as wrong.

  3. Andrew says:

    I don't think its clear that the Bible is against same-sex relationships. I don't think the ancient Israelites or other groups really understood sexual orientation. For example, when the Bible calls it an "abomination" it sounds like a strong word but I know it can mean "ritually unclean" from what I understand some Pagan sects believed in things like sex magic and sex rituals, where the "priest" would have sexual relations with their group of followers. The Israelites would certainly be aware of other Pagan practices. And I think then it is Paganism they are condemning.

    Also the Catholic Bible I believe contains a commentary on what "homosexual" means. They understand it in some verses to mean "homosexual offender" which is really a sex offender or something like pederasty. I've seen similar statements in other verses or Bibles, sometimes they interpret the same word differently.

  4. Andrew says:

    Jack Spell's comment sounds weird to me. The "gay-promiscuity" thing is a myth, if you look at the statistics of dating websites they are about as promiscuous as heterosexuals. For example:
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/oct/19/gay-men-promiscuous-myth

    Now, yes, as it turns out anal sex is more prone to infection than vaginal penetration because the tissue does not tear as easily. But those are obviously not the same. That is an act heterosexual couples often do.

  5. Aron Wall says:

    Ashley,
    Thanks for the link.

    Jack,
    Those life expectancy numbers seem surprisingly low, as compared to this study for example:
    http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/26/3/657.abstract
    which found a life expectancy at 20 in the range 54-66. (The abstract gives the number of additional years, not the total number of years, so I added 20.) But it is interesting to contrast with e.g. the increasing intolerance of smoking, which has a similar effect on lifespan.

    There is indeed a danger of persecution as a result of Christians failing to toe the line on this point. It is not actually a necessary consequence of winning politically, that one attempts to drive out the opposition through intolerance and indoctrination. But it seems likely in this case.

    And of course, somebody could easily compile an equally long list of awful things Christians have done to gay people in the past. But that doesn't prove anything either way about the merits of the underlying dispute about ethics.

    Also, to play devil's advocate, someone might argue at least some of the negative social problems in the gay community are because (until very recently), legally recognized same-sex-marriage was not available to them. How promiscuous and dysfunctional would straight people be likely to be if there were no cultural support for marriage among straight people? But I very much doubt this accounts for the entire effect.

    Andrew,
    I'm not sure I'd expect people to be at their most honest when putting their profiles onto dating websites, nor are the people who use dating websites (as opposed to e.g. gay bars) necessarily representative of the population as a whole. But I'm not all that qualified to adjudicate the social science research here. I do know that the gay community contains a highly vocal subgroup which endorses promiscuity as a valid lifestyle. Somebody needs to say that this isn't acceptable for anyone, of any sexual orientation. On the other hand, in my very limited sample of gay friends and acquaintances, very few of them actually seem to actually be in relationships of any kind.

    Just because some heterosexual couples also engage in dangerous and unhygenic sex acts, doesn't make it right when they do it either. The Bible doesn't necessarily have a complete list of all the things which are bad ideas, sometimes we have to use our brains to figure it out ourselves. (At one time I would have said, well the Bible doesn't condemn this act between heterosexuals, but just because it is inadvisable, unsanitary and unaesthetic doesn't make it morally wrong. But then I realized, moral goodness is not a name for a different and special kind of goodness which is different in nature from all the other kinds of goodness there are. Rather, it is just a name for earnestly seeking whatever things are in fact good.)

    As for the Bible, first of all we aren't just talking about the Torah-era ancient Israelities, but also the Hellenistic Jews of the 1st century New Testament era, who probably had more diverse kinds of cultural experience than you might think. If you read Plato's Symposium, you will see that the Greeks had a variety of theories about the reasons for homosexuality, one of which was similar to the modern concept of "orientation".

    But more importantly, I don't see why it is even relevant whether or not the concept of "orientation" was known to the Biblical authors. You don't have to know what the causes of homosexual desires are, in order to prohibit its expression in sexual acts. (For that matter, I'd say we moderns are still pretty much in the dark about what causes sexual desires, that doesn't mean we should put sexual ethics on hold until we figure out the neurology better.)

    The main Greek word St. Paul uses for homosexual sex, arsenokoitai, is a compound word combining "male" and "has sex with". It appears to have been coined by St. Paul based on the Septuigant translation of the relevant passage in Leviticus. See here. In any case, his description of homosexuality in Romans 1 is direct and clear. Much too clear for many people.

    Some people do try to argue that in Romans 1, St. Paul was only really condemning "naturally heterosexual" people unnaturally deciding to having sex with other men, and that St. Paul had no beef with homosexually oriented men doing what comes naturally to them. Often they say this right after saying that he had no concept of sexual orientation, without realizing they are contradicting themselves! Basically, they read between the lines until it says what they desparately wish it said, instead of what it actually says. You have to realize, that if there is sufficient demand for an interpretation of the evidence, there WILL be people who peddle it---this is the "itching ears" effect (2 Tim 4:3). Just like how Young Earth Creationist books continue to be written despite it contradicting everything we know from Science.

    If I used similar language in a blog post today, and people didn't realize I was quoting St. Paul, nobody would have any difficulty realizing what was meant. (And then these same people would say I was a hateful bigot!)

    In any case, we don't need to rely on St. Paul or Moses. Jesus himself, when he defined the purpose and nature of marriage in Matthew 19, specifically stated that it is based on the fact that we are created "male and female". To me, faithfulness to Christ's teaching is more important than conformity to the modern worldview about relationships.

  6. Jack Spell says:

    Andrew,

    I mean to say this in the most respectful way possible: you have been grossly misled.

    For starters, let's look at the data your source, OkCupid, actually provides purporting to prove that gay people aren’t promiscuous:

    Median Reported Sex Partners

    straight men: 6
    gay men: 6
    straight women: 6
    gay women: 6

    Nevermind that there is no data presented concerning the the percentage of Okcupid users who identify as straight or gay in the first place. The fact remains that what little data they do actually disclose stands in stark contrast to everything ever published in the literature: Men and women (straight ones) don’t report identical numbers of sexual partners, generally speaking, and men and women (gay ones) don’t report identical numbers of sexual partners. Yet, this isn't even the most dumbfounding aspect of the purported data. To illustrate what is, imagine the following number sets,

    (1) 0, 0, 1, 3, 5, 6, 10, 30, 100

    (2) 3, 3, 3, 3, 5, 7, 7, 7, 7

    represent number of sexual partners. Thus, in both samples the median (i.e., middle) number of partners is 5. Now, the mean (i.e., average) number of partners is still 5 for sample (2), but in (1) it’s 17.22.

    As the example makes clear, the difference between the median and the mean can be vast! Most studies of this sort report the mean, and if they report the median at all, it’s in conjunction with the mean. That the Okcupid post only reports the median at best doesn’t allow them to make the claim they did; and at the worst it bespeaks a deliberate attempt to distort and deceive.

    I'll make one final point concerning your source. Given their recent history, it goes without saying that we should proceed with caution in determining the credibility of any claim they might with respect to this topic. They loudly protested the fact that Mozilla Corporation CEO Brendan Eich donated $1,000 in 2008 in support of California’s Proposition 8, a ballot measure to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Indeed, they did everything in their power to bring about Eich's professional demise. Upon reaching the OkCupid website, Firefox users were greeted with the following letter that chastising Eich’s stance on same-sex marriage and urging Firefox users to use another browser:

    Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience.

    Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.
    Politics is normally not the business of a website, and we all know there’s a lot more wrong with the world than misguided CEOs. So you might wonder why we’re asserting ourselves today. This is why: we’ve devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together. If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal. Equality for gay relationships is personally important to many of us here at OkCupid. But it’s professionally important to the entire company. OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.

    All this, simply because the man exercised his First Amendment right in support of democracy and the rule of law. Proposition 8 was a democratically-enacted ballot proposition for a California constitutional amendment codifying marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It came about due to a State Supreme Court ruling in which 4 unelected judges, while "legislating" from the bench, effectively overturned the will of of 61.4% of California voters. Refusing to accept such lawlessness, Proponents of Prop 8 gathered and submitted 1,120,801 signatures to qualify it for the November 4, 2008 election ballot. Over 7 million Californians comprising the Majority voted to approve Prop 8 and amend the state constitution. The State Supreme Court subsequently affirmed its constitutionality by an almost unanimous 6-1 vote (sadly, all it took was 1 radical, unelected federal judge, who happened to be a closet-homosexual, to invalidate and silence them all). Thus, standing in support of millions who chose to go about the political process constitutionally and democratically, was enough in OkCupid's eyes to warrant his demise. Unbelievable.

    Finally, to positively support the case of increased promiscuity associated with homosexual behavior, I will simply refer you to a few (here and here) among the multitudes of scientific studies that overwhelmingly support the contention.

  7. Andrew says:

    Thanks to both of you I have a lot to learn about the Bible. But for the record, I don't think you're a hateful bigot.

  8. Aron Wall says:

    Thanks Andrew.

    And for the record, I didn't think you thought that... That comment was reacting to things I've read by other people, not to anything you said.

  9. TY says:

    Aron, I think you struck the right tone in the reflections: God love the sinner but not the sins. That’s pretty much my attitude on this gay issue. Of course, readers who are gay will take issue with me and say, how you dare call our sexual preferences sinful. Gay people say they were born that way. Which brings me to this question that has always bothered me: is there scientific evidence of that? If there is truth in that claim, if the theory of evolution is a valid explanation for species survival, and if believe “go forth and multiply” is unambiguously heterosexual, theologically speaking, then it seems that homosexuality is an aberrant sexual trait. Yet, our liberal culture may be delaying the “extinction” of the homosexual trait.

    Dr Wall, what are your thoughts on the claim that homosexuality is congenital? And is it in God plan that the trait will eventually die. I’d like to hear from other writers. Interesting comments so far.

  10. Scott Church says:

    Ty, I think the extent to which homosexuality is, or is not congenital was best addressed by Stephen Jay Gould. He once wrote,

    "The solution, as all thoughtful people recognize, must lie in properly melding the themes of inborn predisposition and shaping through life's experiences. This fruitful joining cannot take the false form of percentages adding to 100--as in "intelligence is 80 percent nature and 20 percent nurture, or homosexuality is 50 percent inborn and 50 percent learned," and a hundred other harmful statements in this foolish format. When two ends of such a spectrum are commingled, the result is not a separate amalgam (like the shuffling of two decks of cards with different backs), but an entirely new and higher entity that cannot be decomposed (just as adults cannot be separated into maternal and paternal contributions to their totality).

    The best guide to a proper integration lies in recognizing that nature supplies general ordering rules and predispositions--often strong, to be sure--while nurture shapes specific manifestations over a wide range of potential outcomes. We make classic 'category mistakes' when we attribute too much specificity to nature--as in the pop sociobiology of supposed genes for complexly social phenomena like rape and racism; or when we view deep structures as purely social constructs..."

    ("The Monster's Human Nature." In Dinosaur in a Haystack, 1995)

    It's in our nature to make the category mistakes he speaks of. We want to believe that things like homosexuality (or heterosexuality for that matter) are either nature or nurture, and put percentages on any perceived mix. It fits our agendas better, no matter what they are. But the truth is, we are all more fearfully and wonderfully made than those simple categories.

  11. i like pizza says:

    I've been thinking about this topic on and off for a while and I have mixed feelings about it. One thing that has bothered me is the different response Christians have to gay marriage than to other issues.

    Others have pointed out that things such as greed, gluttony, self-righteousness, etc are addressed thousands of times in the Bible. Homosexuality, on the other hand, is addressed only six times: three in the Old Testament and three in the New Testament. Why is the response to gay marriage so much more vocal, aggressive and damning?

    One could argue that divorce causes much more harm and is much more prevalent than homosexual relationships, yet Christians get divorced just as frequently as anyone else, and there isn't much of a reaction, other than pity.

    I'm speculating, but perhaps it's because homosexuality is an issue that most people will never confront in themselves, which makes it much easier to attack.

    I realize that this isn't an argument for or against gay marriage; I just find the Christian reaction to gay marriage vs the Christian reaction to other issues frustrating.

  12. Daniel says:

    Aaron,
    As students come to me asking for help to face the sexual confusion in their families and our culture, I was so encouraged by your post about how God has given us the command to avoid the sexual immorality that plagues all of us in order to set us free to obey and free to be free. How encouraging God's word in Psalm 119 is, "I run in the path of Your commands for You have set my heart free!" The good news of the physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead leads to hope that we can be forgiven for our addictions to non-God pursuits and walk in real life. Let's all encourage one another to keep our promises to our wives and kids by running away from serving our feelings more than the truth, from promiscuity, from watching what degrades and enslaves, from adultery and the cheapening of our relationship to God and one another, and to really live life by His kind uncompromising truth and bold graciousness.
    God have mercy on us and on me, a sinner,
    Daniel

  13. i like pizza says:

    Hey Aron,

    I hope you don't mind if I push back against your post a bit. I'm not attempting to 'refute' your position; I'm honestly curious about your thoughts on these things.

    Those who seek to normalize gay relationships should start by taking a long and hard look at previous cultures in which it was culturally tolerated for many generations, and ask whether they would really want to live in a society like those.

    Can you clarify this a bit? I'm not familiar with what these cultures were like. And were they like that because they tolerated homosexual relationships, or did they tolerate homosexual relationships because they were like that?

    Mind you, history never repeats itself exactly. Even those cultures which endorsed same-sex relationships have viewed them as an obviously distinct cultural category from Marriage.

    You acknowledge that those cultures viewed same-sex relationships as a 'distinct cultural category from Marriage,' so how good of a predictor are these societies for how modern gay marriage will affect our culture? (When I say 'our' culture, I'm referring to western cultures; would it affect non-western cultures differently?)

    That is because they were in tune with basic biological facts which we prefer to ignore, but still, it presents a new situation.

    This is based on the assumption that homosexual relationships are based only on sex, not love, which I don't believe is a fair one. Granted, I haven't really researched sexual behavior, but I think it's clear that a good number of people in gay relationships are interested in having a loving and fulfilling relationship, not just sex.

    Except for that annoying rule about not having sex with other people; apparently half of gay couples are in explicitly open relationships.

    Are you using promiscuity among homosexuals as an argument against gay marriage, or are you just offering a piece of info? If the former, I take it that your argument is something like this: if homosexuals want marriage equality, they must acknowledge that they "are otherwise subject to the exact same rules about chastity as everyone else." Half of gay couples are either incapable or unwilling to have monogamous relationships; therefore, marriage equality is not an option.

    Please correct me if this isn't the argument you were making; but if it was, what about the other 50% of homosexuals that do have a monogamous relationship? Are we to treat them the same way because of how the other half behaves?

    Also, we can't ignore the fact that extramarital affairs are a problem among heterosexuals too. From what I understand, it's difficult to get accurate data about how many married people have affairs, but it seems that researchers estimate that it happens in anywhere from 20-60% of marriages. So heterosexuals have difficulty following the rules about chastity as well.

    I think additional data would also be useful.

    - The New York Times article that you linked to showed that about 50% of gay men are in open relationships. Is the same true for gay women, or is the number lower?

    - If the number is lower for females, is the reason for so many gay men being in open relationships because when men (gay or straight) have non-monogamous relationships, they go for quantity of partners, whereas when women have non-monogamous relationships, they go for quality of partners?

    - Is the reason for homosexuals with multiple partners different than the reason for heterosexuals with multiple partners?

    Like anyone else, what gay people need is to turn to Christ and learn to live in freedom from the harmful fleshly desires which are indeed part of the human condition for everyone.

    Everyone, of course, needs to turn to Christ, but the statement about 'the harmful fleshly desires' again seems to assume that homosexuals are only interested in sex, not love. What is your view on homosexuals who wish to have a non-sexual relationship?

    I understand what the Bible says about homosexual behavior, but I've never really understood why. So I'm genuinely interested in your response; I'm not simply trying to argue against your position.

  14. TY says:

    Scott
    Thank you for that piece from Gould and I do appreciate it’s a complex interaction of nature and nurture. But I go to something rather basic, from observing people I knew very well. In one of the cases, Tom (not his real name) couldn’t understand since he was young why girls didn't attract him. And as he grew older into his teens, the dating age, his behaviours didn’t change. He comes from a normal home, one older brother Gerry (not his real name) “straight”, with good Christian parents, but that’s how Tom turned out. It was a shock to the parents.

    My story can be multiplied many thousands of times in all cultures, across all races. Now, Gould says, “The best guide to a proper integration lies in recognizing that nature supplies general ordering rules and predispositions--often strong, to be sure--while nurture shapes specific manifestations over a wide range of potential outcomes.”

    So this makes me wonder: what different and specific nurturing Tom received that Gerry didn’t receive so that their sexual natures took radically different paths?

    It's troubling and one wonders if this is how God desired or planed it!

  15. i like pizza says:

    Also, to play devil's advocate, someone might argue at least some of the negative social problems in the gay community are because (until very recently), legally recognized same-sex-marriage was not available to them. How promiscuous and dysfunctional would straight people be likely to be if there were no cultural support for marriage among straight people?

    There may be something to that, but I think the social issues in the gay community may be based on something even deeper. Although things are beginning to change, historically homosexuals have been branded and treated as perverts and sinners; people who are fundamentally flawed; people whose parents reject them and who face discrimination and violence because of who they are, etc.

    When a child is discovering that s/he is gay, and realizes that these things apply to him or her -- that they're abnormal, that they're perverts, that they'll be rejected if anyone finds out, and so on -- is it surprising that they develop some deep-seated issues and grow up to suffer from depression, drug abuse, promiscuity, etc?

  16. Jack Spell says:

    I like pizza,

    It seems to me that the reason many Christians are so vocal against homosexual behavior and not "greed, gluttony, self-righteousness, etc.," is simply because there is no nationwide movement whose aim is to systematically propagate (by any means necessary) the false notion that "greed, gluttony, self-righteousness, etc." are morally-praiseworthy values and anyone who says otherwise should be silenced (by any means necessary). Moreover, since these values are in conflict with Christian teaching, it therefore follows that Christianity must be false—so the argument would go.

    On the other hand, there is a nationwide movement whose aim is to systematically propagate (by any means necessary) the false notion that homosexual behavior is a morally-praiseworthy value and anyone who says otherwise should be silenced (by any means necessary). Moreover, since this value is in conflict with Christian teaching, it therefore follows that Christianity must be false—so the argument goes.

    Celebrating behavior that leads to disease and an early death is closer to hate than love. As I touched on above, according to data from the Center for Disease Control, homosexual men comprise more than 80 percent of sexually transmitted HIV cases despite comprising less than 2 percent of the population; the FDA says that men who have sex with men have an HIV infection rate 60 times higher than the general population. Why should we be encouraging behavior that results in such tragic outcomes?

    In response to the idea that homosexual orientation might be congenital, I would simply point to the decades of research that show nothing of the sort. Here is how the APA summarizes it:

    There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. (http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/orientation.aspx)

    In fact, the research has actually provided strong evidence against it. Extensive, worldwide research suggests that homosexuality is predominately influenced by environmental factors. For instance, "twin studies" are large-scale studies that compare rates of homosexual orientation in sets of identical twins. If homosexual behavior were inborn, every time one identical twin was homosexual, the other identical twin would also be homosexual virtually 100% of the time. This is because identical twins effectively have the same genes or DNA. They are nurtured in equal prenatal conditions. Thus, if homosexuality is caused by genetics or prenatal conditions and one twin is gay, the co-twin should also be gay.

    But this is not what the research reveals. Rather, every time one identical twin was homosexual the other twin was homosexual only about 10% to 15% of the time (for example, see http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/JMichael-Bailey/Publications/Bailey%20et%20al.%20twins,2000.pdf). Homosexual behavior is clearly not genetic.

    Another critical fact that refutes the idea of homosexual orientation's being congenital is that vast amounts of people who once were homosexual no longer experience same-sex attraction:

    One study* followed approximately 10,800 adolescents between the ages of 16 and 22 years old. Of the 16 year-old males who had exclusively SSA, 61% had opposite-sex attraction at age 17. For same-sex attracted females, 81% changed to opposite attraction in just one year.

    The study also compared sexual attraction at ages 17 and 22, with similar results. For example, 75% of adolescent males with SSA at age 17 had opposite-sex attraction at age 22.

    Dr. Neil Whitehead, a research scientist who worked for the New Zealand government for 24 years and the United Nations for another four years, analyzed this study. He notes that although a small percentage of heterosexual adolescents developed homosexuality, the vast majority transitioned in the opposite direction. Based on the data, 16 year-olds with SSA are “25 times more likely to change towards heterosexuality at the age of 17 than those with a heterosexual orientation are likely to change towards bi-sexuality or homosexuality.” That means that heterosexuality is 25 times more stable than homosexuality. It also seems to suggest that heterosexuality is more of a “default” orientation.

    That’s not all. Approximately 3% of the current heterosexual population once claimed to have either SSA or bisexual attractions. That means there are more people who have changed to exclusively heterosexual attraction than there are currently homosexuals and bisexuals combined. As Dr. Whitehead put it, “Ex-gays outnumber actual gays.”

    This is a stunning report. Not only does it contradict the widely held belief that homosexuality is unchangeable, but it demonstrates that change is prevalent in adolescence. Moreover, these young men and women experienced change without any known therapeutic or faith-based intervention. It was through “natural” life experiences.

    This research seems too good to be true. Some might suspect this study was conducted by Christian investigators or comes from an obscure source. But the data is from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a project by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and mandated by the United States Congress. Its goal is to investigate adolescent health and is the largest and most comprehensive longitudinal survey of its kind. (http://www.str.org/articles/once-gay-always-gay#.VbhOC_lViko)

    Homosexual orientation is not congenital: whether you or not you are white/black/hispanic/etc. is congenital; you will find numerous former homosexuals; you will never find a former white person.

  17. Jack Spell says:

    Ty,

    I would say there was no "specific nurturing Tom received that Gerry didn’t receive so that their sexual natures took radically different paths"; rather, I'd argue it was caused by "non-shared factors" (i.e., things happening to one of them but not the other), or a personal response to an event by one of them and not the other.
    For example, one Tom might have had exposure to pornography or sexual abuse, but not Gerry. Clearly a sibling can interpret and respond to their family or classroom environment differently than the others. These individual and idiosyncratic responses to random events and to common environmental factors predominate. Given the complexity of the human mind, there is no way to nail it down to a particular event that could've set Tom on this course.

  18. TY says:

    Jack
    Good comments and thank you for the two references mentioned in your reply to I like Pizza. I had been looking for that type of academic material but couldn't lay my hands on them.

    I like Pizza
    As much a homosexuals don't like "straight' people pity them -- since they see themselves normal -- deep in my soul I pity them (not in any condescending way) because of the serious health risks from that lifestyle. And so I share with you and all the same feeling that they need compassion and respect, regardless of whether they decide to reject it. That's the Christian thing to do.

  19. i like pizza says:

    Hi Jack,

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

    It seems to me that the reason many Christians are so vocal against homosexual behavior and not "greed, gluttony, self-righteousness, etc.," is simply because there is no nationwide movement whose aim is to systematically propagate (by any means necessary) the false notion that "greed, gluttony, self-righteousness, etc." are morally-praiseworthy values and anyone who says otherwise should be silenced (by any means necessary).

    That's an interesting point; however, the gay movement is a recent phenomenon. The hostile reaction to homosexuality, on the other hand, is not. I can understand that the emergence of the gay movement has made it a contributor to the anti-gay response, but it certainly doesn't seem to be the original or primary impetus for it.

    After all, there's a long history of aggressive behavior and attitudes against gay people, and the gay movement emerged as a reaction against these anti-gay sentiments.

    I think it's also worth considering that there's no movement to propogate greed, gluttony, envy, etc because those things are already prevalent and tolerated. Everyone, including Christians, commits one or more of these sins, sometimes willingly and repeatedly. And while Christians may acknowledge that they're sins, the reaction against them is nothing like the reaction against homosexual behavior. (And there are people, though perhaps not many Christians, who have no problem claiming that things like greed, gluttony, etc are not 'bad'; and in fact, that they're associated with success).

    Celebrating behavior that leads to disease and an early death is closer to hate than love.

    I tend to agree, but I don't get the impression that people aggressively oppose homosexual behavior out of love. Rather it seems that it stems from something that's very 'unloving'. Also, the high rate of HIV among homosexuals isn't because they're homosexual; is because they have unsafe sex. This is also the reason that 69% of people with HIV live in Sub-Sahara Africa.

    In response to the idea that homosexual orientation might be congenital, I would simply point to the decades of research that show nothing of the sort.

    Granted; however, I didn't suggest otherwise. I think that what is more relevant is the fact that it's not a choice.

  20. i like pizza says:

    Out of curiosity, I searched Google for countries where gay marriage is legal. I checked out the Forbes article and one of the comments is an example of what I mean:

    God set the rules. Gay, Homosexuality and Lesbianism is wrong. They will go to Hell! The will go to the lake of Burning Sulfur! They will go to the Eternal Fire! Homosexuality is degrading! Shameful! Indecent! And it is perversion! Jesus calls sexual immorality unclean, defiled and polluted! God will judge the Sexually Immoral…the Gays, Homosexuals and Lesbians and all sex outside of the marriage bed. Marriage is one man…one woman. Period! No one is born Gay, Homosexual or Lesbian…it is a choice. Gays, Homosexuals and Lesbians need to go back “into their closets” and fall on their knees and wash their filthy hands and perverted hearts and scream out to God for forgiveness. And RADICALLY SELL OUT THEIR LIVES to the living God. And he will set them free and wrap arms of love around them.

    (http://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2015/06/29/the-countries-where-gay-marriage-is-legal-map/)

    =/

  21. Jack Spell says:

    Ty,

    You are very welcome.

    I like pizza,

    Thank you for your polite and extremely respectful response. I am currently on vacation in the mountains and will respond to your thoughtful comments tonight. Thanks again.

    (By the way, when I was responding to the notion of congenital factors causing homosexual orientation, I didn't mean to attribute that claim to you; it was just a general reply.)

  22. i like pizza says:

    Jack,

    Take your time. I'm starting to get too wrapped up in this topic as evidenced by the fact that I keep checking for replies (even though it's only been a day). This is one of the reasons I don't like debating online, although I actually don't consider this a debate. This is more of a conversation, which is great; but I'm still getting too obsessed with it and maybe need to step back and relax a bit :P

  23. Martel says:

    Great post, Aron. By the way, I still intend to reply to you on the thread regarding the respective merits of Protestantism and Catholicism, but have been too busy lately.

    I would also invite your readers to review this document--http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20030731_homosexual-unions_en.html--which still represents the Catholic Church's official position on this matter (despite the Pope Francis mind-reading routinely performed by the media and the 'Who am I to judge?'-inspired speculations of Catholic dissidents).

  24. Aron Wall says:

    Jack, TY,
    The identical twin studies make it clear that a homosexual orientation is not 100% genetic. But, identical twins still have a significantly higher correlation than fraternal twins or sibilings, who in turn have a higher correlation that sibilings raised apart. This suggests that genetics does play some role, doubtless through a complex interaction between genetics and enviornment, and yes, also our own choices. According to the Swedish twin study:

    Overall, the environment shared by twins (including familial and societal attitudes) explained 0-17% of the choice of sexual partner, genetic factors 18-39% and the unique environment 61-66%. The individual's unique environment includes, for example, circumstances during pregnancy and childbirth, physical and psychological trauma (e.g., accidents, violence, and disease), peer groups, and sexual experiences.

    This study measured correlation, not in sexual orientation, but in actual sexual behavior, which obviously cannot happen without choices being made, but the question is whether factors such as genetics make certain choices more likely.

    There are also some studies indicating that boys with older brothers are somewhat more likely to be gay than their elders. This may be due to changes in the womb environment, which would not be genetic, but would still be prior to birth.

    I would suggest that the question of whether "orientation" is genetic actually plays very little role in deciding whether it is moral or not. In cases where we actually view something as actually harmful (e.g. alchohol abuse), we don't change our view just because some people are genetically disposed to it. Conversely, if something is totally innocuous (e.g. playing checkers) we likewise don't need to "excuse" it by saying we were compelled by our genes.

    Yes, many gay people (especially men) feel that they didn't make any conscious choice to be attracted to e.g. other boys when they were growing up. We should take this into account when empathizing with their experiences. But, like everyone else, they are morally responsible to decide what to do with the hand they've been dealt.

    TY,

    Yet, our liberal culture may be delaying the “extinction” of the homosexual trait.

    Really? I would expect that, from a Darwinian point of view, encouraging gay people to form non-procreative partnerships could only encourage the "extinction" of whatever genes are partly responsible for homosexuality. Conversely, in most traditional cultures most men would still have married women, regardless of any sexual attraction to other males, thus ensuring that those genes continue to propagate.

    I suppose this creates a bit of a paradox both for traditional marrage supporters and for advocates of "sexual diversity", but it isn't worse than the eugenic paradoxes that occur in other situations. Good medical treatment means that people with genetic diseases are more likely to survive to pass those genes on to future generations, but no morally decent person would say we should just let those people die.

  25. Aron Wall says:

    i like pizza,
    Thanks for your challenging comments. There is no need to apologize for "pushing back"; I welcome this sort of thing.

    The article I linked to gives some details about the form of homosexuality in ancient cultures. In the ancient mediterranean world, male homosexuality involved a distinction of status between the active and passive partner (who was supposed to be a lower status person such as a child or a slave). Since being on the receiving end was regarded as degrading to ones masculinity, but apparently taking pleasure in degrading others was regarded as more acceptable (though not all Greeks approved of the practice, even before Christianity). Another common example was male shrine prostitutes (mentioned several times in the Bible) in which the deformation of gender roles was religiously as well as sexually exciting.

    Historically, at least in Western Europe, the culturally most common form of homosexuality was male pederasty, in which an man would fall in love with a youth or boy and form a temporary liason with him until a certain age. Perhaps because boys look more feminine in appearence, and the age difference is a substitute for the gender difference. I hasten to add that most (modern) homosexuals are not pedophiles, and that paedophilia is (rightly) still taboo in modern Western culture. This is part of what I meant by saying that modern homosexual relationships are modeled along different lines from the ancient ones. The gay rights movement could not have had the success that they did if they tolerated organizations like NAMBLA.

    I'm sorry to go into these details, but my point is that the historical precedents are gross and bad. That doesn't mean the modern gay relationships necessarily need to follow those precedents, but it means that they have less benefit from positive role models than straight people do. And one has to wonder there is something inherently problematic about homosexual relations, given how frequently it tends to draw other bad things along with it. But as I said, this is a new situation and something new may happen.

    This is based on the assumption that homosexual relationships are based only on sex, not love, which I don't believe is a fair one. Granted, I haven't really researched sexual behavior, but I think it's clear that a good number of people in gay relationships are interested in having a loving and fulfilling relationship, not just sex.

    I never said that homosexual relationships are based solely on sex. But if we remove it, love without sexual or romantic passion is just friendship. Christians don't think there's anything wrong with that. The fact that two people are having morally wrong sex, doesn't necessarily mean that all other aspects of their relationship are bad.

    Historically, marriage didn't exist primarily for the purpose of cultivating "romance" any more than it existed for sexual thrills. It existed because men and women are capable of having children together. It also existed to provide a social context for making alliances between families. The process may sometimes have started with two people "falling in love", but it was not defined by that.

    Everyone, of course, needs to turn to Christ, but the statement about 'the harmful fleshly desires' again seems to assume that homosexuals are only interested in sex, not love. What is your view on homosexuals who wish to have a non-sexual relationship?

    In the linked article, I am using "flesh" (σάρξ) in the way that St. Paul does, to refer to all of the problematic desires that are rooted in our corporeal existence, not just sexual desires. So a craving for romance and companionship, or for a good career and high status, pursued without regard for God, would also be "fleshly desires". Paul uses the term σαρκικοί even to refer to those who formed factions in the Corinthian church (1 Cor 3:3, not something we would normally think of as a bodily appetite. And yet it is: selfish rivalry is a pattern instilled in us from birth which we find it hard to shake off.

    People attracted to the same gender say: "this is part of who I am, and I can't change how I feel". But St. Paul points out that this is true about ALL sins, not just homosexuality. This is why the true Gospel has to be about Death and Resurrection through the power of God, not mere moral reform. "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die" (St. Bonhoffer). Sexual issues are just the canary in the coalmine, indicating that we somehow stopped believing that.

    Please correct me if this isn't the argument you were making; but if it was, what about the other 50% of homosexuals that do have a monogamous relationship? Are we to treat them the same way because of how the other half behaves?

    First of all, the 50% figure is just the percent of couples (not necessarily married, in this study) who cleared their infidelity with the other person. Presumably if we include the number that have affairs the figure is higher! However, some limitations of that study are reported here. The study only referred to men, by the way, so I don't know what the fidelity rate is among lesibians. Presumably it is higher. Here's the actual study, by the way.

    Are you using promiscuity among homosexuals as an argument against gay marriage, or are you just offering a piece of info?

    No, I am not using it as an argument that gay marriage is a bad policy. My claim is that a large portion of the gay community does not want marriage as traditionally understood, minus the mixed-gender requirement. But you can find people who are monogamous, and I approve of their desire to be have an exlcusive relationship with just one person, as opposed to being promiscuous. As individuals, they are entitled to be judged based on what they do, rather than based on what other people do. (Although when making rules for the whole society, a legislator must consider the effects on the population as a whole.)

    As for why gay men tend to be more promiscuous, perhaps it is in part because sex that falls short of coitus is always going to leave a person slightly unsatisfied, feeling as if there is something more to be had? Or because men are more naturally protective of women than other men? These are just speculations, but I suspect there is some truth to them.

    The reason I don't believe in gay marriage is because I believe that homosexual relationships are morally wrong. (Perhaps I shouldn't have written about gay marriage as a cultural question, before talking about the underlying moral question.) And while the government may reasonably tolerate immoral activities, I don't think it should actually go so far as to endorse them. However, now that gay marriage is the law of the land, I do hope that it will lead more gay couples to be monogomous.

  26. Aron Wall says:

    i like pizza,

    Others have pointed out that things such as greed, gluttony, self-righteousness, etc are addressed thousands of times in the Bible. Homosexuality, on the other hand, is addressed only six times: three in the Old Testament and three in the New Testament. Why is the response to gay marriage so much more vocal, aggressive and damning?

    True, everyone is obsessed by gay marriage these days, on both sides. That's because it's the hot button issue of the day. Of course people will discuss it more, just like people discuss war more when we've got one going on! But you can't weigh these things based on politics alone. Abortion and gay marriage are hot button political issues, so people discuss them a lot for that reason. It doesn't mean it's what people are most focussed on in their day-to-day lives.

    I've been to a lot of different churches, and the majority of sermons, when they touch on ethics, focus on non-sexual issues. And when they do discuss sexual issues, they are most likely to discuss heterosexual problems. In other words they are adapting their message to the problmes faced by most of their congregants. Is it really true that Christians don't judge anything but homosexuality?

    By the way, the bible mentions homosexuality 15 times, actually. In addition to the six passages you are probably thinking of (Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1, 1 Cor 6, 1 Tim 1:10), there is also Judges 19 (similar to the Sodom story), Deuteronomy 23:17-18, 1 Kings 14:24, 15:12, 22:46, 2 Kings 23:7, Job 36:14 (male prostitutes do not serve women) and in the New Testament, Jude 1:7 and probably Revelation 22:15 ("dogs" is probably slang for male prostitutes, as in the Deuteronomy passage.) Of course, some of these passages only condemn homosexual prositution and rape.

    (Although, just as relevant is the positive biblical perspective on heterosexual relationships, found in Genesis 1-2, Matt 19 (and parallel passages), Eph 5, and the Song of Solomon among other places.)

    One could argue that divorce causes much more harm and is much more prevalent than homosexual relationships, yet Christians get divorced just as frequently as anyone else, and there isn't much of a reaction, other than pity.

    I'm pretty sure a lot of conservative Christians do still frown upon people who get divorced (barring extreme circumstances). I know I do! (Or wait, was the point that I shouldn't judge either group of people? Rats...)

    I think it's also worth considering that there's no movement to propogate greed, gluttony, envy, etc because those things are already prevalent and tolerated. Everyone, including Christians, commits one or more of these sins, sometimes willingly and repeatedly. And while Christians may acknowledge that they're sins, the reaction against them is nothing like the reaction against homosexual behavior. (And there are people, though perhaps not many Christians, who have no problem claiming that things like greed, gluttony, etc are not 'bad'; and in fact, that they're associated with success).

    This is an excellent point.

    But what exactly would not tolerating these things look like? Suppose I decided to take 1 Cor 5:9-13 and not eat with people who claim to be Christians, but who are "sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler". I'm going to find it pretty easy to identify who the fornicators and homosexuals are, at least if they're public about their relationships. But how exactly am I supposed to tell who is too "greedy"? Seems a lot more ambiguous...

    Economic sins may be just as wrong as sexual sins, but it's a lot harder to sort out questions of complicity in our economic system, then just tell people who not to have sex with. I'm not sure I totally blame people for finding this difficult.

    I tend to agree, but I don't get the impression that people aggressively oppose homosexual behavior out of love. Rather it seems that it stems from something that's very 'unloving'.

    But this is pretty normal for fallen human beings, right? Isn't it really hard for most people to morally criticize people while simultaneously loving them? There's a reason why Matt 7:1-5 and James 4:11-12 warn us not to judge other people. I see this as a more general problem, not one just associated with sexual ethics.

  27. i like pizza says:

    Thanks for the information about 'historical homosexuality.' I now understand your point.

    I never said that homosexual relationships are based solely on sex. But if we remove it, love without sexual or romantic passion is just friendship.

    I'm not so sure I agree with that, but I do understand the point you were making.

    People attracted to the same gender say: "this is part of who I am, and I can't change how I feel". But St. Paul points out that this is true about ALL sins, not just homosexuality.

    One thing I'd like to clarify, it's not 'homosexuality' per se that's a sin, it's homosexual sex that's a sin, correct?

    The reason I don't believe in gay marriage is because I believe that homosexual relationships are morally wrong.

    This I don't understand. Well, I understand that homosexual relationships are wrong because the Bible says so; but I don't understand why. If you're planning on writing a post about it in the future, I look forward to it. If not, maybe we can discuss it through email.

    True, everyone is obsessed by gay marriage these days, on both sides. That's because it's the hot button issue of the day. Of course people will discuss it more, just like people discuss war more when we've got one going on!

    It's certainly true that there's a lot more talk about it these days, but the hostile reaction to homosexuality in general (not just homosexual marriage) has always existed, even when it wasn't a hot button issue that generated a lot of discussion.

    I guess my point is simply the following. Take the comment from the forbes.com article I posted above. That's not uncommon in reaction to homosexuality. But you don't often see that type of reaction to other sins.

    Perhaps I should acknowledge that it's not just homosexuality that generates that type of response -- it tends to be sexual sin in general.

    I should also acknowledge that this isn't a uniquely Christian response: it spans people of different religions (including people who aren't particularly religious at all), people of different cultures, people of different historical periods, and so on.

    I suppose there's just something deeply personal about it, and maybe even a biological basis that triggers a particular response to sexual issues. But in any case, it bothers me that Christians have generated the stereotype of being not-so-friendly to homosexuals, while tolerating other types of sin.

    But this is pretty normal for fallen human beings, right? Isn't it really hard for most people to morally criticize people while simultaneously loving them? There's a reason why Matt 7:1-5 and James 4:11-12 warn us not to judge other people. I see this as a more general problem, not one just associated with sexual ethics.

    Very good point!

  28. TY says:

    Aron
    Thank you for the reply. Clearly, from all the academic research done (including the Swedish twin study) one cannot reject the hypothesis that genetics does NOT play a role (whatever that is) in homosexuality. The relative weight of genetics is of course arguable and, ultimately it seems, its determination is an empirical matter (i.e., not something any model or theory can decide).

  29. Aron Wall says:

    i like pizza,

    One thing I'd like to clarify, it's not 'homosexuality' per se that's a sin, it's homosexual sex that's a sin, correct?

    Well, the word "homosexuality" is just as ambiguous as the word "sexuality": it could refer to anything on a spectrum from involuntary arousal, secret fantasies, viewing porn, coming "out", acting with stereotypically "gay" mannerisms, flirting, going to gay bars, emotional, romantic, or platonic relationships, living together, having a commitment ceremony, and yes particular sex acts. The usual distinction people make is between "orientation" and "behavior", but really it's a lot more complicated than that. (While the concept of sexual orientation has some use, I think it is misleading in certain important respects which I may discuss later.)

    On this spectrum, the thing most clearly forbidden by the Bible is actual illicit sex. But Jesus says that even lusting after a forbidden person can be sinful, "But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:28).

    The immediate application of this verse is a heterosexual men coveting a woman (presumably Jesus is referring to a woman he isn't married to, since you can't commit adultery with your wife!), but the general principle would seem to have wider applicability. To the extent that we have control over our own thought life, we are responsible before God for that as well. Of course this is very difficult for most people of any sexual orientation, which is why it is so important that we have forgiveness of sins when we go astray, and the Holy Spirit to help us.

    We may very loosely say that thoughts we have no control over are "sin", not in the sense of an act which we commit, but rather state of fallenness or "original sin". As David says, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51:5). Yet God holds us personally responsible only for the things we can actually control. And even then, there is forgiveness. Even that horribly awful, tasteless hateful and tone-deaf comment (the one which you quoted from the Forbes article) acknowledged that!

    To the extent that we do not have control over our own thoughts, well we do indeed inhabit sinful bodies but in Jesus Christ there is no condemnation! St. Paul talks about this issue in depth in Romans chapter 7 and 8.

    Well, I understand that homosexual relationships are wrong because the Bible says so; but I don't understand why. If you're planning on writing a post about it in the future, I look forward to it. If not, maybe we can discuss it through email.

    I will write about this in the future! It's something I've thought quite a bit about, and who needs a tenure track position at an elite research university anyway? (Joking, things are probably not quite this bad yet, especially in the sciences...)

    I suppose there's just something deeply personal about it, and maybe even a biological basis that triggers a particular response to sexual issues.

    I suspect that to some extent prudishness is built into human nature, just like sensuality is.

    From Scott Alexander:
    "Some of it is certainly genetic – estimates of the genetic contribution to political association range from 0.4 to 0.6. Heritability of one’s attitudes toward gay rights range from 0.3 to 0.5, which hilariously is a little more heritable than homosexuality itself."

    So if anyone complains about my position, I'll tell them I was born that way...

  30. ananthiM says:

    Gay man calls for advice he said basically I am a gay guy. But due to family pressure, I got married but stuck I don’t feel any intimacy with my wife it’s so depressing when I go back to my home and I don’t like spending time with her and I keep checking on guys. Never feel lesser because you should walk proudly as a gay man. That is your orientation, that is your preference. It’s your prerogative. No one can take that away from you and no one should. Yes, we live in a traditional and conservative society. We have parents and grandparents, people who do not understand the concept of homosexuality.

  31. Aron Wall says:

    ananthiM,
    If you want to to discuss the contents of a specific link, it is better to include the link in your comment using html tags, so people know that's what you are talking about. (Rather than putting it in the "link" field, which is an optional way to give a link to your own homepage.)

    I'm sorry, but I completely disagree with the advice given. If a man voluntarily chose to make a promise to stay with a woman for the rest of her life, then he is bound by that promise even if he later decides she isn't his "type" and wants to pursue somebody else. That's what making such a promise means. This is true regardless of the gender of the type of person he might prefer. Stable relationships are a lot more important than sexual thrills, and despite what our culture says, it is not "living a lie" to refrain from commiting adultery and to choose to love (in whatever ways possible) the person you committed yourself to. Rather, dishonesty consists of breaking one's own solemn promises for the sake of hedonistic self-fulfillment. (Which is unlikely to be as fulfilling as the people on that website believe, but even if it were, that doesn't justify it.)

    I find it disturbing that people like this seem to think that love can exist only when sexual passion exists. Would this commenter also call a marriage where the woman was unable to have sex for medical reasons and the man visited her every day at the hospital a "loveless" marriage that justifies divorce?

    Is this an ideal situation? No. The man should have brought this issue up prior to the wedding, and then the woman should have been given a say in whether this marriage is what she really wanted. But if the woman is willing to remain with him, he is morally obligated to continue to support her as her husband in whatever ways he can.

  32. Christopher says:

    Amen to that Dr. Wall.

  33. Ted says:

    Hi Aron,

    I lost faith in your post in the second paragraph where you wrote "overturned thousands of years of precedent". I know you know that the precedent relevant to the Supreme Court of the United States of America is legal precedent in the courts of the USA, not the Bible or any other religious texts or writings of other peoples.

  34. Aron Wall says:

    Ted,
    I never said that the Supreme Court should base its decisions on the Bible or any other religious text. However, our legal system incorporates British common law, and as a result the Court does sometimes find legal precedents prior to 1776 to be relevant to its decisions. But I don't know what's the farthest back they've ever gone.

  35. Matt says:

    "they should live the notoriously promiscuous, reckless, and obscene lifestyle characteristic of the cultural venues of the gay community"

    What is "obscene" about gays and their "lifestyle" that is any different from straights other than the small number of hetero Christians who save sex for marriage?

  36. Roger says:

    Aron,
    Sadly I came to your posting via links in Cambridge student magazines which were hostile to you. I'd like to express my thanks to you for your careful thought about things to which mathematicians (of which I am sort of one) rarely give such careful thought, and to let you know that you will have supporters here as well as detractors when you come. Sorry that we'll have to wait till 2019 to meet you !

  37. PC1 says:

    I find your position rather odd, given that you seem to agree that God does not approve of (I would say condemns) gay sexual relationships.

    I can understand you saying that gay 'marriage' is better than a promiscuous lifestyle, but that doesn't make it 'good'. And if it's not good, why endorse it? The whole point of gay marriage is to view gay relationships as perfectly good and exactly the same as straight sexual relationships. That might be society's view but it isn't God's.

    Your quote from the marriage ceremoncy speaks volumes about the mindset involved, from supposed 'Christians'.

    As a gay Christian myself, who remains celibate, I find it sad when so many fellow Christians are happy to endorse and thereby encourage behaviours which God condemns. Where does it end?

  38. Marcus says:

    Hi Aron, current maths student at Cambridge here.

    I find it deeply worrying that an someone with attitudes about the LGBT community such as yourself will be working and teaching here. It has taken decades to get society to the place it is on LGBT issues; indeed just 75 years ago a famous son of our department, Alan Turing, was tortured by the state for his sexual orientation which in the end resulted in him taking his own life. The reason that happened was because conservative Christian ideas about morality such as the ones you espouse were the norm in this country at that time. Thankfully those have all but disappeared now.

    How will your preconceptions about their moral worth affect the way you interact with them? How do you suppose LGBT members of the department are supposed to feel about you being here?

  39. David K says:

    It's quite telling that those who paint themselves as championing peace, understanding, and tolerance are entirely unwilling to tolerate, attempt to understand, or even simply be at peace with a man who isn't afraid to air his convictions in a hostile climate.

    I know that Aaron is heading to the UK, but I think this quote from Captain America is still apropos:

    'Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right.

    This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world -- "No, YOU move."'

    If it's admirable for a man to stand up for what he believes in, regardless of the opposition, then this post makes Dr. Wall an admirable man. Period.

  40. Paul McMichael says:

    Dear Aron,

    Since your new position at Cambridge is a public one and the story is covered in a small number of locations, then I have to post at least one comment on this blog post.

    You link to a journal on life expectancy. It's a well-known paper, quoted by the most egregious and extreme homophobes such as Scott Lively, to influence homophobic laws in Africa and Eastern Europe. And he succeeded in that objective.

    But here's the thing, the paper was published in1997, using a dataset collected in the years 1987-1992 BEFORE the wide spread use of protease inhibitors. It's use in 2015 to support a claim that Jack Spell's numbers (above) were 'a bit low', is at best clumsy, at worst ignorant, or it is one of those, 'I'll stop when I find the first paper that supports my bigoted beliefs' type of references that really stinks of confirmation bias.

    I could go on. I honestly don't see how you have the nerve to let the comments above stand.

    yours sincerely, Paul McMichael
    London

  41. kdg says:

    I realise that this is a contentious issue, but some of the disquiet directed at Aron strikes me as being rather odd.

    Matt, I take it that the "cultural venues of the gay community" that Aron referred to are things like gay bathhouses, gay pride parades, and Grindr. The claims that gay bathhouses are more unabashedly sexual than most bathhouses, that gay pride parades are more unabashedly sexual than most group pride parades, and that Grindr is more unabashedly sexual than most dating apps seem quite defensible. And while one might disagree with Aron's disapproval of such unabashedly sexual cultural venues, the disapproval of unabashedly sexual cultural venues does not seem liable to offend. I realise that that Aron's disapproval of gay marriage is liable to offend (I'm very glad that I approve of it, as it makes me less likely to suffer social reprisals) but I really do not think that Aron's disapproval of the cultural venues of the gay community should cause offence. Surely some gay people also disapprove of the cultural venues of the gay community. I'm Jewish, and God knows I disapprove of the cultural venues of the Jewish community.

    Marcus, I can't help but feel that it's improper to lay the blame for Alan Turing's travails at Aron's doorstep. Aron has not advocated the criminalisation of homosexuality, nor the "treating" homosexual men with estrogen injections. I rather suspect that Alan Turing would have faced significantly fewer travails had he lived in an England filled with people of Aron's political sensibilities. This doesn't show that Aron is right, of course. But I think it does show that Alan Turing is neither here nor there.

    Paul, I earnestly hope that guilt-by-association has not yet reached the extravagance of transferring between people for citing the same statistics. I recently cited a rather famous economics article––nearly 7,000 citations so far. I'm sure that some of the other people who cited the article are abominable, but I do hope that your opinion of me is not thereby imperilled. Also, you're incensed that the IJE life expectancy figures Aron cited are too low. Do you realise that Aron cited the IJE study to make the case that Jack Spell's life expectancy figures were too low? Jack Spell claimed an astonishingly low life expectancy for gay men, Aron made the case that gay men were liable to live longer than Jack Spell claimed, and *that* is what stinks of confirmation bias? It strains credulity.

    Any intersection of politics, religion, and sexuality is liable to be rife with controversy. I'm sure we can all find enough fodder for outrage at those with whom we disagree without inventing villainies on their behalf.

  42. Mom the linguist says:

    As Aron's mother, I naturally have strong impulses to defend him, but I won't do that here. But there was one point brought up in comments that my heart wishes to reply to.

    As Christians, we are taught that all people have infinite moral worth, and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. This includes those who hold opinions we disagree with and those who make decisions we consider unwise. Our highest goal is to become more like Jesus, who astonished everyone by continually speaking to, touching, and eating with all kinds of people, including women, ethnic outsiders, those with scary physical and mental ailments, sex workers, corrupt government bureaucrats, and self-righteous religious hypocrites.

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