Saturday, March 20, 2010

To All the Sincere Christians (Pt. 2) . . .

So I have gotten some very good responses to my previous post "To All the Sincere Christians Uncomfortable With Gay Relationships . . ."  I am grateful to my friends Jeff and Christina for their very thoughtful, graceful, humble, and respectful questions and critiques of my post.

Unfortunately, I do not allow anonymous responses on my blog, and she's too stubborn to get herself a username and password, so my beloved audience cannot be privy to the exchange we've had.  But let me assure you, it's been VERY good stuff!

Jeff, on the other hand, responded on the post.  His first response seemed quizzical to me, so I pushed for clarification, and he offered the following:

DJ, thanks for the follow-up. I would've responded sooner but life got busy.

My initial comment was not meant to be focused on the "sex part". It was meant to be focused on your statement "If it is love, then how could it be sin?" From a scriptural standpoint, it is a weak argument, and since your blog post was titled "To all the sincere Christians...", I thought you need to have a better foundational question to your argument, since I know many evangelical Christians that would jump all over that question if you addressed it to them. Teenage couples having sex, unmarried Christian couples living together, bigamists, polygamists, incestous relationships, adulterers, all could ask the same question - "If it is love, then how could it be sin?" It does not leave any room for making the case that some relationships are disobedient to the Word.

That being said, I have read arguments (including one Xanga blogger that I can no longer read because he gets me too riled up) that no gay relationship could be considered true love, and I find them hard to take seriously, although I still hold to the belief that Christians should not be in same-sex sexual relationships (let's just agree to disagree there). I have loved other men, and I love other men now, and I know the strength that love can have. I long for a couple particular friends even now, and sometimes wish there was more to our friendship. It is a strong emotion, and I cannot doubt that two men or two women love each other in very real ways. Heck, David even said his love for Jonathan was stronger than his love for a woman. So I am not a "dissenter" with you on that point. Christians who argue that two men or two women cannot truly love each other just have to get past their "ick" factor to understand and see them as individuals in a loving relationship, whether they approve or not. To say that someone cannot love another is just avoidance of the fact that it really happens.
I really feel like Jeff has addressed some very important issues here, and I think in some sense he's speaking more on behalf of the average Evangelical, than 100% for himself.  But since other average Evangelicals have not responded, I'll have to take those points seriously and reply despite their silence, because I agree with Jeff that most Evangelicals would minimize my question in a similar way that Jeff describes.  Since I respond somewhat thoroughly, blogspot chided me for having so many characters, so instead of breaking it up, I'll just post it all below:

Ahhh.  Ok, Jeff.  I see what you're saying.

I think your comment still missed the mark in a couple of very important ways though.

1.) The comment is predicated upon a presumption that the question is "an argument", when in fact, it is a question.  And a very deep question at that (which I think you will see once you begin to seriously answer the question.)  Which brings me to my next point . . .

2.) The "argument" you use (or rather, that perhaps a conservative evangelical would use) to state that the question is invalid, doesn't actually answer the question.

Thus, any Evangelical who jumped all over the question, would no doubt bring up some of the same points that you did (teen sex, domestic partnership, incest, polygamy, etc.)

The big problem with those things is that they are all "answers" to the question that don't actually address the question.  It’s a classic straw man argument: talk about some OTHER sexual issue which is a priori assumed to be "wrong", and thus demonstrates that the question at hand must be wrong too.

Only problem is, straw man arguments are on philosophical, logical, (and in this case, theological) shaky ground at best.  For example, the a priori judgment that teen sex is wrong STILL must be shown WHY it's wrong.  If the 2 do in fact love each other, and they are having sex, then what's wrong with that?  If it is in fact sinful, then there must be a reason for it.  so you either have to support a theology which states that there are some kinds of love that are bad/wrong/sinful (which is impossible to prove Biblically), or you must posit that there is something ELSE wrong with what they're doing, but that the love is fine and beautiful (if it's love at all, beyond the emotions of "falling in love" - M. Scott Peck gives the best distinction I’ve ever read on the issue in The Road Less Traveled).  

I would imagine that most reasonable evangelicals would choose the latter (i.e., that there's something else in the relationship that's sinful), and they are thus stuck with trying to explain why the SEX ACT is wrong, and thereby establish that everything else about the relationship is absolutely fine.  (Do you see now why I came to the conclusion that your answer to the question is really focusing on sex, and not the actual question at hand?)

However, if you try to extend that same line of reasoning to the gay couple, Evangelicals start to get very uncomfortable, b/c they don't in any way want to affirm that gay people might actually love each other.  It’s easier to answer the sex question, and make the judgment about the sex question absolute for all aspects of the relationship.  It’s intellectually inconsistent, dishonest, and fallacious.

They might similarly feel uncomfortable in the case of incest.  It’s an interesting example to look at.  What exactly is "wrong" with incest?  I think any Christian who takes the Bible seriously would have to say that NOTHING is inherently wrong with it.  That’s right.  There is NOTHING INHERENTLY WRONG WITH INCEST FROM A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE.  Why is that?  Because if there was, then why did God create all mankind from only one couple?  If the population is to proliferate, then Adam and Eve's children must then procreate either with them, or with each other.  That’s called incest.  And God created a world that required incest to get it off the ground.

So if there IS something wrong with incest, it's not in the act itself (or else you're admitting that God forced mankind to sin), nor is it in the love that the family members might have for one another.  It must be something else.  Personally, I feel it's more a cultural necessity to avoid incest, but you start to see the problem as we get to this point . . . you either have to evoke "Divine Command Theory" (as it's popularly called in the philosophy world - i.e., it's wrong only b/c God said it was, even though it was right before), or you have to evoke some other moral/ethical theory to explain why it's wrong. 

So let's return to the gay couple.  Most evangelicals would say that a gay relationship is sinful.  We then must ask WHAT is wrong with it.  The friendship?  The emotions? The longings? The affection?  The attraction?  The commitment?  The love they have for one another?  Or just the sex?

Biblically speaking, you can only make an argument about gay SEX being wrong (and I, of course, would debate that particular issue), but I don't think any Evangelical has a leg to stand on if they assume that all aspects of my relationship w/ my partner are wrong .  Why? Well, b/c the grand majority of the relationship is based on love.  And there is no law against love.  Anywhere. In. The. Bible.  Or in any other ethical metanarrative thereof, or elsewhere.  

This is why folks like your (former) Xanga buddy must insist that there is NO love b/w gay couples - b/c if you affirm anything, it becomes a bit more difficult to talk about why gay SEX is wrong - you no longer have a straw man to fall back on.  And most Evangelicals will have to fall back on Divine Command Theory, which is quickly becoming insufficient for most of Christendom.

Of course, I know quite well that there are some good debate points that both sides could make for why gay sex is right or wrong.  But that's a completely different issue from the one I asked about.  The question is about gay love, and SPECIFICALLY about gay LOVE for a reason.  As I said previously, the sex question is peripheral, and must be viewed on both sides of the cultural divide through the lens of the love question.  The love question is absolutely preeminent, and THAT is the reason the question is there.


Jeff S. said...

So this is the first time I think that one of my comments has become a basis for someone's blog post, even though I've done the same for others.

I have to get running to church right now, then off to the in-laws for the day with my family, but I gave your post a good initial read and will think on it before responding. It's kinda funny because I'm agreeing with you that two gay men can love each other, as I know from my own experience andother gay men I know. Most of my evangelical friends would probably consider me heretical for saying that, but so be it.

Love ya, DJ. Looking forward to more dialogue. Just need to make some time.

D.J. Free! said...

Haha. Well, I think a good deal of your responses to folks are worth their own post :)

And yes, I fully recognize that you agree with me on the major point. I'm not sure I made it clear enough in my response that I understand you call the argument "weak" from the standpoint of many Evangelicals who would dismiss it out of hand. My response then is not so much to you, but to those Christians who would not give the question its due worth.

Closeted Christian said...

gay sex is clearly wrong because it's so hot and I want it so bad. oh man, oh man, oh man...