Responding to a critic of “Love the sinner, hate the sin”

Since I seem to be having trouble getting my comments past the moderator, I’ll try posting them here instead.

The following is a reply to this post by Ken Jansen:
“Love the Sinner”…um…Yeah, Don’t Give Me That Crap

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I appreciate that this phrase is seen as an annoying cliche (though any suggestion that homosexuality is not to be celebrated turns out to be a source of annoyance), but it actually does express something rational and meaningful to those who use it.

Your illustration of the color red fails to capture something very important to this discussion. Red is not a thing that has properties; red *is* a property. So, if you hate red, then that’s it, there’s nothing else about it to love. A somewhat better analogy would be a red shirt. One might say they love the shirt (its fabric, pattern, quality, etc.) but hate its red color — they like the thing, but dislike something about it.

Now, I say a “somewhat” better analogy, because it fails in yet another important way. Color is a tangible, self-evident, constant, measurable property of the shirt, whereas homosexuality is only manifest by virtue of certain behaviors, which may or may not be exercised (and believe it or not, some choose not to). Homosexuality is, at best, a property of a person. Those who use this cliche believe that we are, first and foremost, precious human beings, which have intrinsic value endowed by our creator (as quaint as that idea may seem these days). But humans can have bad desires and engage in bad behaviors. We can be alcoholics, smokers, over-eaters, prostitutes, and pedophiles, but we are still human beings who have rights and value on that account. So, we may say things like, “I hate alcoholism, but I love my uncle Richard, who suffers from it.”

Many homosexuals insist that their core identity is their homosexuality. This leaves the category of humanness to be a mere property, as though they could just as easily be a poodle and still be themselves because it is their gayness that really defines them. But why should we accept such identity politics? Why not have skin color be our identity (which some indeed do), or our careers, or hobbies, or IQs? It seems reasonable that it be our humanity that is preeminent, and which is the only thing that offers us hope of unity, since it is the only thing we share in common and upon which we might ground any kind of “equal” rights. It is that humanity which may be loved above and apart from any sin in which humans engage.

Regarding the use of a “Hindu” quote: first, long before Gandhi came St. Augustine, who wrote: Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, which translates roughly to “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” Second, it is no more ironic to use pearls of wisdom expressed by non-Christians (who are also made in the image of God and invested with the same moral intuition) than it is for non-Christians to quote from the Bible, which they do regularly. And that leads to the next point.

“Judge not” has become the favorite memory verse of this age. The ironic thing, though, is that it’s usually trotted out by people in order to scold someone for judging some particular thing, and who themselves can usually be found judging various other things. Are we to presume that this author finds nothing wrong in the behaviors and beliefs of the people in his world, or at least keeps his mouth shut about it (given that he elsewhere describes himself as an “advocate,” I think not)? Must we really forfeit our rights to call things like rape, theft, and child abuse wrong, too, simply because we ought not judge? Certainly not!

I think the real issue here is not so much that judgment is happening, but that homosexuality is being considered as worthy of judgment, since nobody ever says “judge not” when we’re talking about murder, terrorism, or any liberal grievances. It seems to me that the very appeal to “judge not” as a defense smacks of a concession that there is actually something to judge. When I hear this phrase I get a sense of a defeatist subtext. It’s like they are saying “so, okay, homosexuality is a problem, but leave it alone, because you’re not supposed to be judging anyway.” It sounds like a boxer who gets a pacifist streak after a sound thrashing.

Here’s another thing: how do we know that Jesus said “judge not?” Don’t we first have to appeal to the Bible and presume its accuracy and authority in this matter? But this same book says very many other things that tend to reflect poorly on the beliefs and behaviors of those whose favorite verse (segment) is “judge not.” I’ll not go down that unflattering road, but I will point out that Jesus told us to do other things, like fight injustice. Mustn’t we first judge something as wrong (unjust) in order to seek to address it? It would seem that we are at something of a stalemate.

It is noteworthy that Jesus went on in His sermonizing about judgment to say that we may indeed be involved in removing the “speck” from our brother’s eye, assuming we first remove any “planks” that may be in our own. The problem is that there are some who never admit or address their own problems, but are content to find problems in others. Sure we have sin, and always will have some, but this doesn’t mean we are forever prohibited from being salt and light in the world. As an analogy, should we have stayed out of WWII because our own country still had flaws?

Now, making a stink over all the sins of fellow Christians and unbelievers isn’t (supposed to be) standard operating procedure, since the point is to make believers out of people (or make them more mature believers), and the rest begins to work itself out on its own. Many have, understandably, wondered why homosexuality gets special attention by Christians. The problem with this particular sin is that it’s different than most. You see, people are generally agreed that things like alcoholism, adultery, and bad parenting are not good things, so no one really has to argue against them. We may need to look toward prevention, or call someone out who’s engaged in them, but we seldom need to make the case that they are bad in general. There’s a reason you’ve never seen an Adultery Pride march.

The difference with homosexuality is that the behavior/lifestyle is being promoted as normative. Indeed, it is being celebrated and taught to our children as a good and acceptable thing, and perhaps they may even like to try it out for themselves to see if they are one.  Imagine for a moment a representative from the “It’s All Good Association” coming to your child’s school to teach them that sex is wonderful, natural, and boundless. He then encourages them to go home and try it out with their friends, sibling, pets, and parents – whatever turns you on. Perhaps this may offer a sense of why some would choose to pay particular attention to the issue of homosexuality, which is seeing advocacy in every layer of our culture.

As Inigo Montoya, from Princess Bride, might say, “you keep using that word “unconditional” (love). I do not think it means what you think it means.” Loving unconditionally does not mean that we see or care about no fault in a person. A good parent certainly loves their child unconditionally, but they still guide, correct, and discipline; and if the child grows up to be a little monster, they may have to take severe measures. The unconditional part means that through it all they still care about their fate, hope for the best, do all that they are able, forgive them every time they seek it, and visit the little monsters in prison if it comes to that.

Jesus likewise does not overlook the sins of his companions. It’s true that he hung out with sinners, but the rest of the story is being overlooked here. The tax collector didn’t just go back to cheating the citizens after his visit from Jesus, and the adulteress was told to “go and sin no more.” Jesus loved them in spite of their sin, but He also wanted them free from it. While He loves the people, He clearly thinks that sin is a big problem. In fact, He often claims that people are a “slave” to sin or “dead” in sin, and He regularly ups the ante on what sin actually is. For instance, He takes the commandment against adultery and adds lust into the mix.

But another thing. How do we love “unconditionally” unless there are actual “conditions” to be suffered? No one has to love a perfect person “unconditionally”; you simply bask in their glory (assuming one such can be found, apart from Jesus). Saying “we’re supposed to love unconditionally” is similar to the “judge not” defense, in that it seems to imply a surrender in the debate over homosexuality and merely appeals to the injunction that we should love them anyway.  Why not just stick with arguing that homosexuality is a morally good (or at least neutral) thing, which isn’t a condition that must be loved, or an issue that must be tolerated, or a fault for which we should suspend judgment?  Doing otherwise simply looks like a diversion from the real discussion.  But in my experience, having that real and pointed discussion is a hard thing to achieve.

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Posted on February 2, 2014, in Homosexuality and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. A commenter named “Ben” replied on the EvolEquals blog as follows:

    What a long, long load of nonsense.

    ” it actually does express something rational and meaningful to those who use it.” Of course it does. It allows them to point their sin drenched fingers at other people and pretend they can see those specks in the eyes of others with no concern for the logs in their own.

    “whereas homosexuality is only manifest by virtue of certain behaviors, which may or may not be exercised (and believe it or not, some choose not to). Homosexuality is, at best, a property of a person.” Which is it? A property or a behavior? you can’t have it both ways. But of course, you obviously don’t know a thing about the subject when you say it’s manifest in a behavior. It is an orientation towards someone of the same sex. One need NEVER actually have homosex by be a homosexual. It is an inherent property. Of course, the testimonies of millions of gay people, the failure to turn anyone heterosexual, and the evidence accrued by nearly every professional organization in the west that has anything at all to do with the subject don’t really count. It is only the spiritual arrogance of the self-proclaimed and self-righteous Christians that has any relevance.

    For the record, I knew I was gay long before I knew what it was, or even what sex was. I just didn’t know what to call it.

    “We can be alcoholics, smokers, over-eaters, prostitutes, and pedophiles,” you give the game away here. Each of those things are destructive to the self or others. There is NOTHING inherently destructive in homosexuality. There is a great deal that is destructive in homohatred, at least for the objects of its disaffections, whether disguised as sincere religious belief or admitted for what it so clearly is.

    ” But why should we accept such identity politics?” because it is the homohaters that turned this into a political issue? It wasn’t us who have labeled us as defective, mentally ill, sick, criminals, and the destroyers of civilization. That’s all your, buddy.

    “Must we really forfeit our rights to call things like rape, theft, and child abuse wrong, too, simply because we ought not judge? Certainly not!” HARM, dear. HARM. We harm no one. homohatred harms us, and the harm that you have inflicted on us for centuries just doesn’t seem to merit your concern.

    “The problem with this particular sin is that it’s different than most.” Yes, it’s a made up one, one that a certain class of so called Christian has elevated to the only sin that really matters. Nothing else will get a political campaign started and the donations flowing. Money and power.

    “The difference with homosexuality is that the behavior/lifestyle is being promoted as normative. Indeed, it is being celebrated and taught to our children as a good and acceptable thing, and perhaps they may even like to try it out for themselves to see if they are one.” As always, moralizing busybodies turn the problem on its head. IT IS NORMAL– for gay people. No one is promoting it– that’s your fantasy. We’re telling you to stop destroying lives because of your hatred– excuse me, your Christian love. “Stop clubbing us with a baseball bat” is not the same thing as saying “Please pass the homosexuality.”

    ” He then encourages them to go home and try it out with their friends, sibling, pets, and parents – whatever turns you on.” Oh, yes, that’s what we’re doing. We’re just too blind to see the reality of your fantasies. Why is it that you ALWAYS go to SEX: dog sex, child sex, incest sex, toaster sex?

    The money shot. “. A good parent certainly loves their child unconditionally, but they still guide, correct, and discipline.” You will always go there; you’re doing it out of love– your own definition serving your own ends. I’M NOT A CHILD. and I know far more about this subject that you could ever hope to.

    And frankly, from what I’ve seen of a certain class of so-called Christian, the ones who simultaneously demonstrate the sort of ignorance and the smarmy self-righteousness that your posting is dripping with, I find your idea of love completely indistinguishable from hate.

    Just because you choose to wrap your baseball bat in a pretty little bow does not make it any the less a baseball bat when you send it smashing into our lives.

    Stay the hell out of our lives, focus on your own damn family, keep your Christian “love” to yourself. We’ll all be happier.

  2. And here’s the response to Ben that I had difficulty posting on the site:

    Sorry about the length, perhaps I should have stuck with Jansen’s cornerstone point at the beginning of the article, but in my experience, some perceive victory so long as any small point is left unaddressed.

    For a “load of nonsense” it is curious that you left most of my central points untouched and chose, instead, to charge me with ignorance and to psychologize my motives. But questioning motives cuts both ways, since the defense of homosexuality seems ultimately to depend on the desire/predisposition toward it. It is something of a foregone conclusion where your loyalties will lie if you have a desire for the thing in the first place. Although, I will admit that it is equally suspect to be against it merely because you find it “yucky.” Some higher principle should prevail here, unless, of course, your only ethical criteria is that we should do whatever the hell we want so long as we aren’t “hurting” anyone (according to our own definition of that word). Not a very impressive ethic.

    I said that homosexuality was, “at best,” a property, because I didn’t want to get into the philosophical quagmire of assessing the ethereal nature of “preferences” and “orientations.” From a materialist perspective (to which most atheists adhere), even the very issue of consciousness and will is problematic to explain, much less an “orientation.” From an objective perspective, we could only hope to assess whether or not someone IS a homosexual by virtue of their behaviors (note that one *behavior* could be saying, “I am gay”). Assuming that there really is such a thing as a binary flag defining that person X is gay and person Y is not (which would then be a property), we are here just discussing whether that property is determined by their behavior or by some intangible part of the “self” known as an “orientation.” In any case, the point stands that such a thing is merely (or “at best,” assuming we believe in it’s concreteness) a property of the person, so Jansen is wrong that they are identical and there is nothing separate to love. This seems to defeat the crux of his argument, where the rest is just expressions of his irritation at Christian meddling and his attempt to find ways to shame them out of their criticisms.

    You said: “Of course, the testimonies of millions of gay people, the failure to turn anyone heterosexual, and the evidence accrued by nearly every professional organization in the west that has anything at all to do with the subject don’t really count.”

    Given that the testimonies of homosexuals who have indeed changed (voluntarily) and gone on to live heterosexual lives is typically disqualified as illegitimate, and that professional organizations changed their tunes primarily due to homosexual advocacy and pressure rather than new scientific insights on the matter, it would be hard for me to disagree with you in any persuasive way. When you establish your own criteria and definitions, then everything you say is true by definition… but also unpersuasive.

    You said: “For the record, I knew I was gay long before I knew what it was, or even what sex was. I just didn’t know what to call it.”

    I think you mean to demonstrate that homosexuality is a property that one is born with. Fine, for the sake of argument I’ll grant the premise for now. But it still would affirm my original point that it is simply a property of your humanity, and not the very essence of it. Second, it matters nothing to the debate over the moral nature of it. I knew that something was wrong with my nose long before I knew what allergies were or how to use a Kleenex. And alcoholics, pedophiles, and amputee-wannabees (http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/Health/story?id=1806125) can likewise make the case that biology (or whatever) is to blame. “Born that way” does not automatically equal “good.” You have to bring in other qualifiers. The hard truth is that some people are disposed to behaviors that even you condemn, and would tell them they are just not free to pursue. Perhaps you can see why the “born that way” defense is unpersuasive to us.

    You said: “There is NOTHING inherently destructive in homosexuality… HARM, dear. HARM. We harm no one.”

    Here’s where your real argument lives. The “born that way” argument is heavily used, but as I previously show, it doesn’t do any rational work. In every discussion I have had on this topic, after all the arguments are diffused and the smoke clears, it boils down to this (to paraphrase): “We have certain desires that we wish to act upon, and we think you should allow us to because it’s harmless to do so.” This is pretty thin ethical gruel, and seems more relevant for one trying to argue that homosexuality ought to be tolerated in society, like smoking or prostitution, rather than justifying it as something equal in worth and status to heterosexuality.

    But since you brought it up…

    The problem with the words “destructive” and “harm” is that you tend to define them in your own self-serving way, and the definition generally amounts to something like “violent physical damage.” Sure, when engaging in homosexual acts nobody gets blowed up and the neighbors don’t get radiation poisoning. But if you’re willing to include risks, indirect effects, and long range effects (which I think we should), then the story changes.

    I doubt that you really want me to go into the gory physiological detail relating to the effects of using the body in ways that nature (or God) did not design it to be used, but perhaps I can begin to make my point be including a few links. I’ve tried to include only things that you might consider “unbiased.” If you do nothing else, then please scan the first two articles, which include admissions, from within the gay community itself, of the elevated risks of this lifestyle.

    http://www.glma.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.viewPage&pageID=690
    http://www.glma.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.viewPage&pageID=691
    http://www.cancernetwork.com/prostate-cancer/link-between-sexual-orientation-and-cancer
    http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/gender/msm/facts/index.html
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2593118/?tool=pmcentrez
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21415374
    http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3318301.html
    http://kaiserfamilyfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/8539-health-and-access-to-careand-coveragefor-lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender-individuals-in-the-u-s.pdf

    This calls into question your assertion that homosexuality harms no one. We can start by recognizing that it can, and often does, harm the homosexual and their partners, and move on to the indirect harm (or burden) that this also imparts to society. If Mrs. Obama can be concerned about the personal and societal problems of obesity (can’t we say: “eating junk food harms no one!” ), then it seems fair game to consider the risks and dangers of homosexuality. After all, at least a fat person can’t infect another person with obesity, but a homosexual can certainly spread HIV, HPV, or contribute to rectal cancer in others. And both increase the cost of health care.

    You said: “because it is the homohaters that turned this into a political issue?” and “No one is promoting it– that’s your fantasy.”

    This is especially ironic after seeing the Grammys turned into a Gay Pride rally (which I’d always naively assumed was a music award show). This is by no means an isolated bit of advocacy in the culture. Here are a few other areas where gay rights are being “promoted” at the expense of those who disagree.

    * Pushing for hate crime laws with the aim to encroach into speech itself
    * Advancing pro-homosexual school curriculum
    * Saturating the media with pro-gay messaging
    * Attempting to shut down businesses that don’t cater to homosexuals or their agenda
    * Pushing for policy changes for the Boy Scouts, foster care, adoption, etc.
    * Having people fired for holding traditional views on sexuality
    * Trying to interfere with psychiatrists and patients that actually (horror of horrors) *want* to participate in therapies for the condition
    * The ACLU. Nuff said
    * Fostering cultural shame and squelching dialog on the issue by the use of labels like “homophobe” and “haters”
    * Performing acts of sabotage on non-compliant businesses, churches, and political campaigns
    * Pushing for changes in legislation to redefine the very nature of marriage and family

    Anti-bullying advocacy is one thing, and seeking the freedom to act upon homosexual desires is understandable, but this isn’t where it ends. It’s pretty clear that the advocacy will not rest until it has achieved full acceptance and normalization in the culture, and that all opposing voices are silenced. It’s clearly more than your compatriots saying “stop clubbing us with a baseball bat.” They’ve long since switched from defense into an offensive stance. You may actually see all this as a good thing, but it just *is* the case that the advocacy for your right to do your thing has begun to impinge on our right to say what we want, believe what we want, and raise our children how we want.

    I said: “Must we really forfeit our rights to call things like rape, theft, and child abuse wrong, too, simply because we ought not judge? Certainly not!”
    You said: “HARM, dear. HARM. We harm no one.”

    Mostly answered above, but I just wanted to note that you are admitting that “judging” things and people is actually okay under certain conditions, which runs counter to a good portion of Jansen’s article. We just disagree about whether homosexuality qualifies as one of those things.

    You said: “Yes, it’s a made up one, one that a certain class of so called Christian has elevated to the only sin that really matters.”

    I don’t want to get into which “class” consists of true Christians (especially with someone miles outside of the tent), but it starts with those who actually think this is a sin. I know of no Christian who truly thinks this is the “only sin that really matters,” since classical Christianity teaches that sin, in general, is what separates us from God. But I understand why you would perceive this to be true. To be honest, there are in-house debates about how we fairly handle this issue without surrendering ground on its moral status.

    In my original reply I tried to explain why this sin “really matters,” and is different than most. You simply brushed it off by disagreeing that homosexuality is being aggressively advocated. Whether it is or not is not really the point. The point is that it is being denied as a sin. Almost every other thing we call sin is not something people are proud of or trying to normalize in the culture. At best, they just want the slack to allow it to happen (like divorce, or marijuana use).

    Funny thing: I saw a lady on a message board recently who was arguing for abortion and wondered why it was the only thing the church seemed to care about. Conservative Christians are also busily “meddling” in that issue, and abortion isn’t even something that its advocates think is a “good” thing (i.e., they’d like to make it legal, safe, but *rare*). No one claims to enjoy getting pregnant and then aborting the child for sport; there’s no “abortion lifestyle.” By comparison, there is a gay lifestyle, so perhaps you see why we might just dare to give special attention to this particular sin.

    You said: “Why is it that you ALWAYS go to SEX: dog sex, child sex, incest sex, toaster sex?”

    Well, isn’t that what defines homosexuality: a sexual attraction to the same sex and (or?) a lack for the opposite sex? There’s a reason why “homosexuality” includes the word “sex.” I’ve never heard any same-sex marriage advocates claim to be two platonic best buddies or two sisters that just want to live together and enjoy the legal benefits afforded to other married people. Perhaps there are some celibate monks out there who want to get married for whatever reason, but I would think that the exception.

    As far as the comparisons, it’s not always to other sexual behaviors. Perhaps you failed to notice that I included alcoholism, smoking, and overeating. All these comparisons are raised because they also happen to be things that people likewise have urges to do (or once boundaries for normative sexuality is removed there is less reason to condemn). And when talking about urges, there are few things stronger than sexual urges. So, yeah, we are rationally driven to go there.

    Sex is also a primary area of focus because it is the principle expression of homosexuality which is objectionable to Christians and natural law theorists. It’s not two men living together, and being fond of one another. It’s not men being immaculately dressed or styling hair. It’s the idea of putting the instrument of life into the orifice of decay and excretion (not to mention the idea that a proper, healthy family can do just fine without a woman — by design).

    You said: “I know far more about this subject that you could ever hope to.”

    Being gay, I would think that would make you biased 🙂 There’s a reason why a wife can’t act as a character witness for her husband, or an Exxon executive’s opinion on green energy isn’t worth much. I don’t doubt that you have deep knowledge and deep wounds, but please don’t assume that I am ignorant on the topic, and that I do not have friends and family involved in this lifestyle, which, by the way, are always welcomed into my house. Also, do not doubt that I struggle with urges of my own. I think most everyone does, but some have the advantage of their urges being more socially acceptable than others (or satisfiable in private) even while they may be just as existentially bedeviling.

    You said: “Stay the hell out of our lives, focus on your own damn family, keep your Christian ‘love’ to yourself.”

    Perhaps if homosexuals merely kept their “love” to themselves this wouldn’t be as much of a problem. But as I said, the movement long since turned from a defensive one to an offensive one. There’s little opportunity to exercise grace and tolerance, since the battle is now in our front yard. And it’s also hard to offer love and sympathy when someone loudly insists that there’s no problem in the first place and that you are the one with the problem. It’s easy to sympathize with an alcoholic in an AA meeting; it’s harder to sympathize with them when they are in denial.

    I’m genuinely sorry for your struggles and for whatever abuses you’ve surely been subject to at the hands of well-meaning, naive Christians, or those with no principled objections to homosexuality and who can rightly be described as “homophobes.” However, not all of us ground our objections on blind bias, or lack of experience and understanding on this issue. I didn’t use to hold an opinion one way or the other on this issue, even having experienced 4 incidents of sexual aggression by gays in my early life. It was only when I started to really think about this and other life issues, and acquire principles for assessing such things, that I took a stand. Opponents of same-sex marriage and the normalization of homosexuality will not be dissuaded simply by way of labeling and offerings of weak moral appeals (“we’re not hurting anyone,” or “you shouldn’t judge”). It will take a defeat on rational grounds. But, as I mentioned at the conclusion of my last post, it’s hard to find advocates willing to have a conversation about the heart of the matter — especially a levelheaded conversation.

  3. Hi. I’m going to respond directly to you and your arguments against my blog. First, your replies are each at least three times as long as my posting, so it took a bit to read them. The point I tried to make in this post is that humans have no right to judge other humans. As a christian, even you should know the your bible clearly states that “God” is the only judge. End of that line of debate.
    Next, are homosexuals “born this way” or is it a choice. We both know that there will never be a concrete answer to this question. I happen to believe we are born gay, while you believe it’s a choice, and we can turn it off and on. Again, no agreement will ever b e reached without scientific proof.people have gone through to come up with this one.
    The largest, and what appears to me to be the stickiest point hinges on each of our translations of the bible. I noticed that you use a new translation, which IMO is a mistake. Who knows how many mistranslations people have gone through to end up with this one. If you want to quote the bible, go with modern translations of the original scrolls used 2000 years ago to write it. The history of the book we now call the bible is rife with people looking at something they are trying to translate, and saying “I don’t understand this phrase, how about we make it say…” Then, at the end, we the readers put our own spin on what is written in front of us.
    I fully stand by my translation of the bible used to write this blog. I used mostly the King James version with a bit of New International for the simplicity of the wording. (Though, honestly I don’t like the NIV)
    I’m beginning to go on here, so I will come to the point I tried to make in the blog. To me, the phrase is offensive, because it can be used, and is widely used as a way of saying that you don’t truly love somebody. It’s used to assuage YOUR sense of morality, and not live a truly Christ like love. I think the best way I can put it is this. Stop pointing fingers at others, until your own hands are truly clean.
    Using the NIV here:

    1 Corinthians 13:4-8
    New International Version (NIV)
    4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
    Read verse 5 a few times, especially the last phrase.
    Thanks, Ken

  4. Ken, what a pleasure to have you respond personally, and civilly! I apologize about the length, but I thought your post deserved at least one thorough reply. However, I know that a lengthy text can be tedious when it’s not something with which one agrees. For that reason, I’m afraid you may have overlooked some of my points. Based on your reply, I’ll need to restate some of them, and I’m afraid I’ll again need to be a little verbose in order to do an effective job.

    About “judge not”:

    In Matthew 7 Jesus is certainly saying something important that we ought to hear about “judging,” but He is clearly not suggesting that we ought not recognize anything as wrong (i.e., exercise discernment) or do anything about it. We have to put this in context and contrast it with other things He says. Otherwise, we have to charge Him with inconsistency, and then why listen to Him at all?

    John 7:24 records Jesus saying “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” Here we are told to judge, but to judge rightly. This is actually similar in nature to Matthew 7, which ultimately goes on to say that you can go ahead and take the spec out of your brother’s eye, but only after removing the log from your own. These are talking about the *type* of judging, not the act of judging in general.

    The type of judging that you and I can certainly agree upon is the idea of writing someone off, shunning them, or the kind of hate that Jesus morally equated with murder. But that’s exactly what the “hate the sin, love the sinner” sentiment does not allow; it suggests we cannot and should not hate the *person* any more than we would hate a cigarette smoker that went to the grave smoking.

    To say that God is the only judge is definitely true, in the sense that it is by His measure and authority that one’s eternal fate is determined, but this is an entirely different thing from the act of discerning good from bad, which we MUST do in order to live virtuously or to confront injustice.

    If Jesus were really giving us a blanket prohibition against judging, then we couldn’t call things like rape, alcoholism, or littering bad. I know you believe that homosexuality doesn’t qualify as a bad thing, but that’s not the point. You’re just claiming that we shouldn’t judge, but there’s clearly cases where it’s valid to do so in some sense.

    I am a theologically conservative Christian. Liberal Christians have called me naive, bigoted, delusional, etc. I never appeal to “judge not” because I don’t think it applies. I don’t think they shouldn’t judge me, I simply think I’m right. Why should I even appeal to that sentiment? It’s a defensive tactic. And if I’m wrong, and I’m trying to change the culture based on my wrong ideas, then it’s perfectly understandable that people would be trying to “judge” me.

    If you were saying that you know homosexuality is a problem which you’re wrestling with, and that I simply should not judge you because I surely have my own issues, then I would be entirely sympathetic. But you’re not doing this; you’re denying that it is a problem at all. We’re simply debating about that fact. What to do about it is a different question.

    You said: “are homosexuals ‘born this way’ or is it a choice. We both know that there will never be a concrete answer to this question. I happen to believe we are born gay, while you believe it’s a choice, and we can turn it off and on.”

    I’ve actually looked over this issue quite thoroughly, and even the pro-gay researchers admit that they *know* there’s an environmental component, but they only think there’s *probably* a genetic element. I’m not looking to get into this with you here, though, since it wouldn’t matter to my case whether it was genetically determined, since things like pedophilia and addictive personalities are supposed to be also.

    I actually don’t think it’s just a choice. My view (and many like me) is far more nuanced than you imagine. I could unpack that if you were interested. Again, I don’t think it matters, anyway, to the question of the status of homosexuality, since many other things we both would find immoral or pathological could also fall into the “no choice” category. In fact, some are making the case that people like Phillip Seymour Hoffman are hardwired to be addicts. No one’s celebrating that fact.

    You said: “The largest, and what appears to me to be the stickiest point hinges on each of our translations of the bible. I noticed that you use a new translation, which IMO is a mistake. Who knows how many mistranslations people have gone through to end up with this one. If you want to quote the bible, go with modern translations of the original scrolls used 2000 years ago to write it. The history of the book we now call the bible is rife with people looking at something they are trying to translate, and saying ‘I don’t understand this phrase, how about we make it say…’ Then, at the end, we the readers put our own spin on what is written in front of us.”

    I happen to have quite a deep understanding of the history of biblical translation, the construction of the canon, and higher/lower criticism. I don’t think this really is a “sticky point” for us at all. Even some of the least accurate Bibles, like the KJV, are serviceable renderings of the source materials for the purposes of this particular discussion. But whenever an issue actually does requires word-level precision, I always appeal to the original language text and work my way forward from there.

    I think you overplay the problem of “mistranslation” and the achievements of modern textual scholarship. I’d be happy to share why I believe this, but I’d first have to determine how deep your skepticism was (for instance, if you think that modern translations are nothing more than “translations of translations of translations”).

    I also believe in the “perspicuity” of the Scriptures as a whole (i.e., it’s not mysterious, unfathomable, and equivocal) — particularly in the most essential matters. I was raised liberal with no exposure to conservative theology. When I first read the Bible as an adult, it was in isolation. What I got out of it was conservative theology, which ran contrary to the things I’d always been told were in the book. And as I began studying classical Christian theology and read things from the Church Fathers, I found it to resonate with my own understandings.

    I’ve seen gay theologians pull things out of the text that are nowhere directly to be found in it and which run counter to the stream of the rest of Scripture. Yes indeed, people do put their own spin on it. So, at best, we are at a stalemate for any differences, but it seems to me that any interpretation that is not self-evident bears the burden of proof against one that is.

    You said: “To me, the phrase is offensive, because it can be used, and is widely used as a way of saying that you don’t truly love somebody. It’s used to assuage YOUR sense of morality, and not live a truly Christ like love.”

    Yes, you have every right to feel this way and perceive what you want about the phrase, but you seem to be passing *judgment* on the intentions of those who say it. You are presuming that your perception is true, without exception. Perhaps you’ve been hurt by people who’ve said this, but that does not negate the fact that this sentiment is indeed believed and practice by those of us who have gay friends and family in our lives.

    You said: “Stop pointing fingers at others, until your own hands are truly clean.”

    Are you saying there’s actually something to point at (a sin), but that I’m simply not worthy to point? No, I don’t think you are. I don’t think this point applies in this situation. It would only apply if you agree that I would have a right to “point” if I were a perfect person, and that, perhaps, Jesus is pointing at you.

    I am not saying my hands are clean. In fact, they are very dirty, but I know they are and I don’t defend it (kind of the heart of the Gospel). We are simply debating over what qualifies as “dirt.”

    You said: “Read [1 Corinthians 13:5] a few times”

    If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to do a little exercise by injecting three different specifics into this equation. Consider the following contextual reworkings of 13:5:

    1) “Love does not dishonor murderers, it is not self-seeking regarding murder, it is not easily angered by murderers, it keeps no record of wrongs by murderers.”

    2) “Love does not dishonor heterosexuality, it is not self-seeking regarding heterosexuality, it is not easily angered by heterosexuality, it keeps no record of wrongs by heterosexuality.”

    3) “Love does not dishonor people, it is not self-seeking regarding people, it is not easily angered by people, it keeps no record of wrongs by people.”

    Now, please consider these questions:

    Do these passages work for scenario #1? Aren’t there behaviors that we can call sinful apart from what “love” is all about? This means that we can’t automatically hide our own proclivities behind the skirts of “love.”

    Doesn’t scenario #2 seem pointless? Why commend long-suffering for something that is not a problem in the first place? If homosexuality is morally equivalent to heterosexuality, then it is pointless to appeal to these verses for tolerance.

    Does it even make sense to inject a specific behavior or disposition into the passages? Is it not “people,” in general, and the sundry flaws and failures that we are to be patient with? Note that this presumes that they are indeed flaws and failures, but again, I don’t think you are conceding that point about homosexuality.

    The bottom line is that, if my critiques are valid, all these are irrelevant defenses and distractions from the larger question of the moral (or psychological) nature of homosexuality, and whether it should be given normative status in our culture. In any case, they certainly do not dissuade those of us who hold principled positions on such issues.

  5. Ken:”I happen to believe we are born gay”.

    I would say that would be difficult to try to reconcile due to a couple of problems with that assertion. First, since God in His word condemns the practice of homosexuality as sin, why would God create sin as part of a person’s “DNA” and then condemn them for all eternity for something he created in them? Doesn’t sound like a good and just God if that were the case.

    Why would God create an individual to have desires for sexual encounters and to have a family with the same sex, but then create an anatomy that would contradict and hinder those desires to be carried out by natural means as heterosexual couples as a rule can? Some will try to give examples of heterosexual couples not able to have children, but that is the exception and not the rule. Some say it’s not necessary to have children in order to consider someone a family, but that is not what I’m talking about. No matter how one tries to spin it, a homosexual couple can not have children 100% of the time. If you would put a heterosexual couple on one island and tell them to start a village and a homosexual couple on the other for the purposes of starting a village and furthering the blood line. We would see the homosexual couple die off in one generation 100% of the time. The mere union inhibits life and in the end promotes death. Sin leads to death and that is what this union will always lead to when left to it’s natural conclusion.

    • Republic, you make a very good point, but I want to temper it for Ken.

      First, for your argument to work one would first need to believe that the way that we are is the way that God was pleased to intentionally make us. Someone could still believe that we are “born” a certain way without God existing, being involved, or thinking it ideal. It could just be the roll of the biological dice. Even though Ken did not explicitly say “God made me this way,” he seems to be quoting Scripture in an affirmative way, and Scripture depicts a very hands-on God, so perhaps that’s what he does believe.

      Second, it is inaccurate to say that God condemns someone for simply having same-sex attractions. If that were true, then I would be condemned by God, because I have desires to do all kinds of other things that the Bible speaks against. The Bible talks about us being a slave to sin, and Paul talks about his inability to get past the desires of his flesh to do what he knows is right. We know that we are all born with sinful natures, which include desires to sin, so it’s something more than that. It is what we do with those desires and how we perceive them that makes all the difference.

      Third, Ken might say that God did not “create” homosexuals on an island as an exclusive group; He “put” them among us. He might appeal to diversity, and say that they can exist as a part of the whole of humanity.

      Your larger point is very important, though. Assuming God is the author of this orientation, why would God intentionally make (and consider good) a desire that must be fulfilled in such an ad hoc way, which must look beyond its own natural capabilities in order to simulate a natural family?

  6. I am not sure why you referred me to this tedious farrago. I was aware already that you are obsessed by homosexuality, and that you post on it a great deal. You say this last comment is you “challenging someone on your own side” and you end by saying “Your larger point is very important”. If that really is you being as even-handed as you are capable of, thank you for showing it.

    • Not that I need to defend my “obsession,” but here is where you’ll find a good sampling of my past obsessions: http://pspruett.blogspot.com/2005/02/links-and-article-index.html
      Note the low percentage of time given to this topic.

      This blog is a chance creation born out of a most unfortunate exchange on someone else’s blog. Believe it or not, I entered that discussion by a circuitous route first begun at the persistent encouragement of a gay young man who has rejected his orientation. Since then I’ve decided to add some posts originating in older private exchanges, and I’ve added one new piece of writing. I’ve decided to kind of focus on the GLBT angle in order to make it different in some way from my past blog (which I’ve been neglecting).

      Reading askthebigot has encouraged me to camp on this topic for awhile and see where things go. After all, it is a huge cultural issue that is worthy of deep consideration. It also is an umbrella issue for many of my other favorite issues: moral theory, biology, liberal Christianity, and atheism (since most atheists are okay with homosexuality and seem to be strong defenders).

      Even if I were “obsessed,” it does not mean I am wrong. You’ll have to move beyond ad hominems to prove that.

      As to why I referred you here (and to another place)… it was because you seemed to be challenging my right to rebut an idea unless I first gave a satisfactory argument for my entire position. I then point out that one need not even disagree with a thing to critique arguments; you could do this with someone even on your own side of the debate. So, the fact that I ultimately agree with Republic1776’s larger point is simply in line with what I am saying. Only if he/she had no valid point at all could it possibly be a thorough critique. Odds are that someone on my side of the debate should have at least some nugget with which I agree. If this were not the case then I probably wouldn’t be on the same side! I think your main grudge is that I agree with him/her at all.

  7. Late follow up to the Matthew 7 commentary… Jesus himself refutes your assertion that “humans have no right to judge other humans” in the very same chapter:

    7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

    3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

    He doesn’t say “you will see clearly so that your brother can remove his own plank.” I believe Jesus knew what he was talking about and the “judge not” command’s tempering with “lest ye be judged” wasn’t saying “don’t do it.” It was saying, “be prepared, because when you show what is true and just, you will be under the same scrutiny.”

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askthe"Bigot"

A place where ideas, not people, are under assault.

WINTERY KNIGHT

...integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

The Poached Egg Christian Worldview and Apologetics Network

"Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it." - Blaise Pascal

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