Thursday, June 30, 2011

Veritas Vos Liberabit

The Truth Shall Set You Free—John 8:32
What’s the Truth About Homosexuality?

I have a friend from graduate school, who is Catholic, who always said that the only problem he had with homosexuality was that they could only have pre-marital sex. Since gay people could not be married, they could not have marital sex.  Now I do have to give a caveat here:  My friend is from San Francisco and is a married heterosexual, and he was just as much a promiscuous fornicator before his marriage as the rest of us, but because he is now married he believes that he can take the high road.  I’m not faulting him on this, just stating the facts.

Being a member of the Church of Christ, this is really a non-issue because marriage is not a religious sacrament within the church.  Marriages are recognized whether they are performed in the church by  a minister or by a secular authority.  The only true doctrinal differences my friend and I had was over the idea of a Pope and the Eucharist.  He firmly believed, as most Catholics do, that the Eucharist, or the Rite of Transubstantiation, the change, in the Eucharist, of the substance of wheat bread and grape wine into the substance of the Body and Blood (respectively) of Jesus, while all that is accessible to the senses remains as before.  The Church of Christ, as does many Protestant churches, believe that the Lord's Supper is a merely symbolic act done in remembrance of what Christ has done for them on the cross.  Sorry for the Catholics out there (no offense is meant), but I have always seen the Eucharist/Communion as symbolic and really do not see the difference because Catholics will still say that all that is accessible to the senses remains the bread and wine as before. (A side note, our church does use grape juice instead of wine mainly because we have underage people who are members of the church.  In the past, the lady who always put together the communion would occasionally use her own home-made muscadine wine if she had not been to the store that week to get the grape juice. It was always quite fun to see the look on people’s faces when they realized this substitution.)

With this introduction aside, there is still much controversy going on as to whether homosexuality is genetic or environmental in origin. (If you have been reading these posts, then you know that I believe/know that homosexuality is genetic and natural.) Many theologians believe it should be easy to understand why, for if “God made them that way” then it is not their fault they are homosexual and it must not be a sin to act out their desires. I personally do not need any research that might suggest a genetic origin as a defense. Many Christians believe that it is either environmental or that there is a predominance to be homosexual and thus can be “resisted.”

The Components For Developing A Predisposition To Homosexuality

Tim LeHaye wrote a book called The Unhappy Gays: What Everyone Should Know About Homosexuality.  LeHaye believed that there were components that were the basis for developing a predisposition to homosexuality.  He stated that a person can (and many do) have all these components and still not be a homosexual. As listed and described by LaHaye, these components include:
  • A Melancholy Temperament
  • Inadequate Parental Relationships
  • Permissive Childhood Training
  • Insecurity About Sexual Identity
  • Childhood Sexual Trauma
  • Early Interest In Sex
  • Youthful Masturbator And Sexual Fantasizer
Mark A. Copeland, a sadly misguided minister of Fortune Road Church of Christ in Kissimmee, Florida uses LeHaye’s components for developing a predisposition to homosexuality and uses the following formula:

A Predisposition Toward Homosexuality
That First Homosexual Experience Multiplied By Pleasurable and Positive Homosexual Thoughts
To Which Is Added
More Homosexual Experiences
Multiplied By
More Pleasurable Thoughts
A Homosexual

Copeland states that “when one already has a “predisposition” towards homosexuality, exposure to homosexual experiences and pleasurably reflecting upon them can create a powerful attraction difficult to overcome.”  He goes further by stating that “so powerful can these experiences and reflections be that one not even need to have developed a ‘predisposition’ to be drawn into this sort of behavior.

LeHayes and Copeland’s argument is not hard to dispute. Let’s look at these so-called components for developing a predisposition to homosexuality:
  • A Melancholy Temperament:  Yes, I and many others in the GLBT community do have a “melancholy temperament,” which I think of as the genetic tendency for depression. My mother suffers from depression and so do I.  However, Prozac is a wonder drug and has helped me combat this.  Did this have anything to do with my homosexuality? NO!
  • Inadequate Parental Relationships:  I had wonderful relationships with my parents.  I may not have had the best relationship with my father, but what son doesn’t often disagree with their father?  Go back and read my Father’s Day post to see more of our relationship. Did this have anything to do with my homosexuality? NO!
  • Permissive Childhood Training: My parents were quite strict with me growing up.  There was very little if anything that I was allowed to get away with.  My mother was a nurse and being the second child, my early childhood development went easily but was handled firmly by my parents.  I know that some people who were raised too strictly grew up to be quite wild.  Think of any preacher’s kids that you know.  I was not raised that strictly, but strict enough with a set of values that I still cherish.  Did this have anything to do with my homosexuality? NO!
  • Insecurity About Sexual Identity:  I never thought I was a little girl.  I have an older sister, who was my main playmate growing up, but she was very much a tomboy and we explored the countryside around our house.  We climbed trees, played games, etc.  I did not play with dolls, nor did I play with toy trucks either.  I loved G.I. Joe.  How more American boy could you be?  I never dressed up like a girl or put on make-up.  I never did any of those things that are seen as insecurities about sexual identity.  I was a boy, and I loved the fact that I had a penis.  Did this have anything to do with my homosexuality? NO! Well, okay maybe the love of my penis, but that had nothing to do with sexual identity. It juts meant that I was proud to be a boy.
  • Childhood Sexual Trauma: None whatsoever. There is nothing more to say about that.
  • Early Interest In Sex: Not really.  I didn't even understand about sex until I was a teenager, when my sister explained to me what it was.  I was fairly naïve and did not even really know what homosexuality was until I was in my teens and past puberty. I knew I had feelings for guys, but didn’t know what it meant.
  • Youthful Masturbator And Sexual Fantasizer:  In this instance, does “youthful” mean pre-puberty or post-puberty.  If LeHaye is speaking of puberty onward, then we are all youthful masturbators and sexual fantasizers.  I have only ever known one guy who did not masturbate (but he did have a lot of sex).  He did not masturbate because his father was a Baptist minister, and he had been taught that masturbation was a sin.  Instead, he had lots of sex with different girls and did not consider a handjob as a form of masturbation.  I first masturbated around the age of 13 when puberty was in full swing. (It came as quite a surprise to me when semen [which I had no idea what it was] came out of my penis after my first attempt, but it was a lot of fun and like most young guys, it became a somewhat regular routine.)  Did this have anything to do with my homosexuality? NO!
What We Should Really Be Considering

The Bible is completely silent on the issue of homosexual orientation. And no wonder. Homosexual orientation wasn’t even known until the 19th century.

The discovery that some of us are created and/or shaped in our earliest infancy toward same-gender attraction was made in the last 150 years. Biblical authors knew nothing about sexual orientation. Old Testament authors and Paul assumed all people were created heterosexual, just as they believed the earth was flat, that there were heavens above and hell below, and that the sun moved up and down.

In 1864, almost 3,000 years after Moses and at least 18 centuries after the apostle Paul, the German social scientist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs was the first to declare that homosexuals were a distinct class of individuals. It was a big moment for all sexual minorities. It’s our Columbus discovering the New World. It’s our Madame Curie discovering radium used for Xrays. It’s our Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. It may seem like one small step for the rest of humanity, but it was a giant leap for us.

Ulrichs assured the world of what we who are homosexual already know in our hearts. We aren’t just heterosexuals choosing to perform same-sex behaviors. We are a whole class of people whose drive to same-sex intimacy is at the very core of our being from the very beginning of our lives.

Although the word homosexual was not used for the first time until later in the 19th century, Ulrichs recognized that homosexuals had been around from the beginning of recorded time, that we were “innately different from heterosexuals,” and that our desire for same-sex intimacy and affiliation is intrinsic, natural, inborn and/or shaped in earliest infancy. According to Dr. Ulrichs, what may have looked “unnatural” to Moses and Paul was in fact “natural” to homosexuals.  Therefore, if Paul did not have a concept of homosexuality, how could he have been denouncing it?  The answer is simple, he could not have been.

One of the arguments that Christians use to ignore or denounce homosexuality is that God has given up on us.  I will be discussing this in my next post.


Ipmilat said...

LaHaye presumably gets his 'facts' about homosexuality from the same orifice as his 'facts' about the Rapture. What a liar.

Paul did not have a 21st century western intellectual's conception of gay identity / orientation, (and it's still a conception held by a minority, I reckon) but he sure as hell didn't like men having sex with men. This seems to me to be another nail in the coffin of the Bible as source of transcendent moral authority - morality has to change as times change and understanding of human psychology deepens.

Joe said...

VS, I completely agree with you about LeHaye. He is a sad excuse for a Christian, and he and those like him are part of the problem. They are intolerant of anything that doesn't fit their definition of a perfect Christian world.

If you look at Paul, he really had a problem will sex in any form. He did not think heterosexuals should be having sex because he believed that the world would soon end when Christ returned, and they should focus on preparing for the end of time. Obviously, he was mistaken. And however, we want to interpret the Paul's writings, one thing is for certain, Jesus never even alludes to homosexuality in the writings about him. Personally, I have never understood why Paul was included in the biblical cannon, when at least 7 of his 14 epistles were quite likely not written by him.

Furthermore, I do think that Christianity has continued to evolve to the modern world but has not yet evolved to differentiate between modern homosexual orientation and the way it was perceived in the ancient world. Even before the Reformation, there were calls for a change in Christian beliefs throughout the Middle Ages, and it has continued to evolve today.

I think as we move toward a world where God's love is more important than those who teach hate and use God as an excuse for that hate, then we will see it de-evolve to it's original teachings of love, acceptance, and salvation.

Mack said...

First of all, I love this series you're doing.

Secondly, I get very weary of the double-standard that unmarried straight sex is redeemable because you can get married. But, sorry gays, your sex is just bad because you don't get the same privileges. I might argue, however, that the Church of Christ does have a sacramental sense to marriage. It just doesn't call it a sacrament. There's still little tolerance for extra-marital sex, which suggests to me that there's a sense that something holy is going on with marriage, even if it's a secular marriage. Back to the point, though, that argument that gay sex is bad because they can't get married is just like saying I'm unable to drive just because I don't have a license.

Thirdly, like most things Tim LaHaye has written, this is clearly written out of ignorance. Where did he get this information? He, or someone made it up. I might argue, however, that the melancholic attitude is probably a result of, not a cause of homosexuality. But, just because I sleep in a garage, doesn't mean I'm a car; and just because someone has these signs means nothing about their sexuality.

Joe said...

Mack, I'm glad you like this series. I found it a wonderful journey just writing it, and have loved the conversations it has started in the comments.

Yes, straight people do have a double standard when it comes to pre-marital sex, but people have a love-hate relationship with double standards. They love them when they are in their favor, and hate them when not. My dad was always the king of double standards (do as I say, not as I do), so it has long been one of my pet peeves.

You're right, the Church of Christ, doesn't call it a sacrament, but they do take marriage seriously. Extra-marital affairs and divorced are not well tolerated. In fact, divorce is only allowed in cases of adultery, and if either of the people move on with another relationship, it is still considered adultery until the other dies.

Also, I agree that the melancholic attitude is probably a result of, not a cause of homosexuality. LeHaye is one of those misguided people, but I used him because I wanted to show a great example of their ignorance.

fan of casey said...

Joe: People will always try to explain things in what on its face looks like a rationale method but one can't help but introduce personal biases into the discussion.

I don't know what really made me gay, and I long ago decided it was not important, the fact is I am, and that's how things are. To me from an individual's standpoint, to try to pinpoint an exact cause is meaningless because I can't go back in time to change things. I like to think that it's a combination of nature and nurture and not one or the other.

One can use the formula discussed, but it remains a gross over generalization and is overly simplistic. For example, it uses multiplication factors; make some of these variables -0- and you end up with zero as the result.

What bothers me is the lengths of self-rationalization people will go to, to try to profess obedience. Say for example pre-marital sex. Some people believe only vaginal intercourse counts as sex. BJs, HJs, anal sex all don't count as "sex" some people claim. Some gals claim being "virgins" as long as the hymen is not broken, taking it up the ass is OK.

Another example, divorce. Catholics don't believe in divorce, but they have a ready out called "annulment" -- the effect is the same yet they get so bent out of shape over one word.

Sorry, Joe, i know I went off on a tangent here but my point is if you focus on the substance of the action rather than form, you have to wonder why we allow ourselves to be fooled.

Anonymous said...

Joe - I have also enjoyed this series quite a bit. It's been like attending the perfect adult bible study class.

When I became Orthodox, I sort of tossed the Bible out the window. I called up the gay Bible study group I attended, told them I was done with evangelical Bible studies, I would not be attending anymore.

And I kept my word. In the 20 years since then, I bet I have opened a New Testament fewer than ten times to actually read something in it. When I need inspiration or consolation, I open a prayer book instead. (Or just recite the prayers from memory, much like a memorized Bible verse.)

Seeing how important the New Testament and your church is to you has had me revisit how I feel about the Bible and my church's importance in my life.

And a note, I chuckle every time you reference the Old Testament and say it does not pertain to us today, we don't have to worry about it. In my mind, I can see you ripping a page out as you say it...grin!

Thank you for all the effort you put into these articles. Actually, thank you for all the effort you have put into your blog. It reads like a novel, your story unfolding slowly as I read.



Joe said...

FOC, you're right, people will always try to rationalize things, and in a way, I guess I am doing the same with these posts.

I don't think their was any event other than birth that made me gay, and in many ways, I have quit caring, though I do find myself occasionally having to defend the position that it is not a choice.

You didn't really go off on a tangent. You made some very valid points about how people rationalize their beliefs. How they pick and choose what they want to believe and how they can dismiss something by giving it a different name.

Joe said...

Dan, I can't tell you how much your comment means to me. When I finished reading it, I had tears in my eyes. I'm really glad that you are enjoying and getting something out of these posts. There are three more post to come in this series.

Your comment about my treatment of the Old Testament made me chuckle. I am not quite that bad. I see the Old Testament as a lot of allegory and history. When I teach Judaism, I rely very heavily on the Old Testament, and I also find the Old Testament to be quite beautiful. Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Psalms, Proverbs etc, are some of my favorite readings in the Old Testament. I just dismiss the laws contained within because I believe they are overridden by the New Testament/Covenant with God.

Ipmilat said...

LaHaye's first component of the homosexual 'character' is one I heard quite a few times in the 70s and 80s. 'Why on earth do they call themselves gay when they're anything but!' was the sort of thing you heard in letters to radio current affairs programmes. Up to about the mid-nineties in the UK, every pillar of British society - the conservative government, the clergy, the judiciary, the police, the medical establishment and the popular press - were reliable sources of daily anti-homosexual vitriol and prejudice. Gay people thus had the experience of feeling like resistance workers in their own country. My teenage years were a tough time because of prevailing attitudes, so no fucking wonder I was prone to depression! It was THEIR fault!

I'm still waiting for psychiatry to issue a big apology for the misery it caused so many families who bought into the wretched, judgemental, mysogenistic model of absent father / domineering mother, and the needless guilt and sense of inadequacy the bastards fostered in so many people for so long.

Joe said...

VS, it is the fault of all of those that made us feel less than human because of our sexuality. Psychiatry will eventually issue an apology, unless the arrogance of doctors get in the way.