Thinking Christian

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Treating One Another As Humans (Redux)

Posted on Nov 15, 2012 by Tom Gilson

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series To Treat One Another As Humans

Yesterday a discussion that should have been about apologetics strategy went off-topic and toxic, and I deleted a large portion of it. I’m not into whitewashing or hiding, so if you want to you can read the PDF I saved. What remains on that page is what I hope will be of interest to Christians who want to be more strategic in their honest persuasive efforts.

But I want to make a very pointed comment about something bigbird said (#29 in that PDF):

Perhaps it is time for the Christian church to re-evaluate our opposition to SSM. It doesn’t matter what reasons we give and how good they are, we are coming across as if we hate gays….We need to ease up on the hysteria and realize it isn’t the end of society if a small minority of marriages are SSMs. The battle is surely lost in the next decade anyway. And maybe gays would slowly begin to realize we don’t hate them.

There are several things here I agree with strongly, and several with which I disagree. It’s a confused mix that needs unraveling. I’ll start with the good stuff he had to say.

1. It’s crucial for us to do every legitimate thing in our power to demonstrate we don’t hate gays.

2. Hysteria is never wise. I’ve been embarrassed by some overblown warnings of what damage SSM will do to our world. (See point a. below for more perspective on that.)

3. We are indeed coming across as if we hate gays.

That’s all valid. However he also says,

4. “No matter what reasons we give and how good they are, we are coming across as if we hate.”

That is, the most reasoned and reasonable position can produce nothing but an impression of hate. And then,

5. “Maybe gays would slowly begin to realize we don’t hate them.”

A Patronizing Position
Now if he’s right, then the only responsible thing for Christians to do would be to shut up.

But look at what he’s saying about gays: the only way they’re ever going to respond to reasoning, no matter how good it may be, is by considering it hate. Isn’t that a sorry depiction of his fellow human beings, to say they can’t evaluate a reasoned position, but can only take it unthinkingly in the gut?

I’m sorry, bigbird, but I think your position is terribly disrespectful toward gays. Don’t you think they can think? Don’t you think they can recognize reason when they see it?

Obviously I’m not defending unreason, or hysteria, or sloganeering, or fear, or any such thing directed toward homosexuals. But that’s not what bigbird was talking about. He was saying that good reasons can only be interpreted as hate. He wasn’t slamming the reasoning, he was slamming people who he thinks can’t handle good reasoning.

It’s patronizing. If I were a gay man I’d pull bigbird aside and let him know I’m more grown up than that.

An Unloving Position
Bigbird’s position is also demonstrably unloving. Now, everyone knows that opposing SSM could be, in certain forms at least, a genuine expression of hate. I maintain that it could also be an expression of love, even from the perspective of those who endorse SSM (see below). But bigbird’s position is neither of those. It’s actually rather pathetic:  “Let’s be careful not to seem as if we hate.”

This is related to something I wrote a long time ago about tolerance. If you want to know something I do hate, it’s the way tolerance is touted as the finest and highest of virtues. That’s an intolerable, deadly sham. It’s horrible. Here’s why. Tolerance in current usage comes down to,

I won’t let your opinions or beliefs bother me. I’ll coexist. It doesn’t matter what you believe, I’ll choose not to criticize. I appreciate your doing letting me be, too.

That sounds good, until you compare it to true love as Christ demonstrated it. (I’ll illustrate it in the context of the current discussion, not meaning to imply that this is all there is to Christ-like love.) Here’s what differences of opinion can look like where there’s love:

I’ll treat your opinions seriously enough to engage with you on them, to give you the respect of disagreeing where I disagree, agreeing where I agree; always respecting you as a fellow human being of great worth who deserves a hearing.

Tolerance is actually a move away from the other; love is a move toward the other. Practicing tolerance, I withhold part of myself from the discussion; with love I bring myself into the discussion.

I’ve had these kinds of loving conversations with gays. I could have just gone along with what they said, but if I had, I wouldn’t have really been there. I would have been offering them a fake version of myself. There is no love where there is pretense.

The Reality of Disagreement Being Regarded As Hate
But bigbird is right about this further oddity: when we disagree, we come across as if we hate, even if we bring good reasons into the discussion. Disagreement expressed reasonably is indistinguishable from expressions of hatred. Expressed that way it’s obviously silly, but that’s the rhetorical environment in which we live.

How did it get that way? Christians are partly to blame. We haven’t made all the right distinctions along the way, such as for example:

a. SSM isn’t so much the problem; the breakdown of marriage in general is the problem, and it’s been hugely damaging. SSM is merely the final endorsement of that breakdown. Our defense against it is just a last ditch effort in a larger war. We’ve mistakenly let it appear as if it’s the whole show. I wish I had seen that sooner than I did.

(Note: we’ve been fighting the rest of the battle. We haven’t been ignoring it. If it’s not seen in public the way our SSM battles are, it’s because we’re fighting it by way of encouragement, teaching, and counseling; in small groups, in conferences, in sermons, in Sunday School classes, and in the counseling office. Those are appropriate places for that effort to be pursued. SSM is by definition a public issue, which is the one reason we engage with it publicly.)

b. Some opponents of SSM are hateful. Some are foolish. We haven’t separated ourselves sufficiently from them, so it’s not surprising that we would be regarded as being in the same camp.

SSM advocates are also partly to blame for this odd confusion that prevents reason from being interpreted as anything but hate. For example,

c. Their chief advocates intentionally maneuvered the rhetorical situation to make it difficult for us to distinguish our reasonable representatives from haters and fools. See #5 in this 1989 article. That was dishonest.

d. Some of their chief advocates continue to define our position as hate, regardless of how we express ourselves. This too is dishonest.

Treating One Another As Humans
For these four reasons and probably others, it’s difficult to disagree without being branded as haters. But I think the pro-SSM community can do better than this. Unlike what bigbird seemed to be implying, I don’t think they’re incapable of reading reasons as reasons. I don’t think they are programmed with circuits that bypass rational thinking, and proceed like a malfunctioning robot straight to “he’s hating me, he’s hating me.”

We’re in this mess together. We’re all human beings here. I intend to treat others that way. I ask them to do the same with me.

Series Navigation (To Treat One Another As Humans):<<< Facts, Values and “Your Personal Beliefs”

60 Responses to “ Treating One Another As Humans (Redux) ”

  1. Tom Gilson says:

    I could have added to this a personal prediction: if we were to let go of this battle now, SSM advocates would still brand Christians as haters. I can’t prove it, but I think it’s likely.

    I think it’s even more likely that if I hadn’t brought up that prediction here, someone else would have done so, and we would have been off and running on whether it was a fair thing to say or not.

    Well, I’ve brought it up, so no one else will have to. And now I intend to put it back down. I want us to (a) recognize it for what it is, a prediction whose truth is wide open to debate and disagreement, and (b) declare it moot, so that we can concentrate on the topic of treating each other as humans.

    I will energetically moderate comments to keep us on the topic of the OP.

  2. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    You’re likely correct about your prediction.

    Here’s my prediction: You’ve correctly and deftly characterized the situation, charitably set the standards, nicely bounded the conditions for further discussion, and from the orthodox Christian perspective accurately identified that which cannot be “let go” in the battle. For this, you will likely be vilified.

    Reveling in the shadows of artifacts cast upon on the walls of a deep subterranean cave is a much more comfortable option for most, n’est–ce pas?

  3. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Tom Gilson:

    First off, apologies for whatever fuel I may have added to the fire.

    On to the important matters. On your list about the good things that bigbird said you start with:

    1. It’s crucial for us to do every legitimate thing in our power to demonstrate we don’t hate gays.

    Why is it crucial? Has the SSM debate any special feature that other debates lack? Or is this a strategic recommendation? Put the SSM debate alongside the abortion debate. Let us construe the Christian arguments into accusations. Then in the SSM debate the Christian is saying that gays are living an immoral life that is self-destructive and in the abortion debate the Christian is saying that every woman that performs an abortion is committing murder and that the husbands, boyfriends, doctors, nurses, etc. are accomplices. Now I can understand if someone gets offended by being called a murder, as it is about as grave a charge as it exists. But immoral? Who besides Christians (and religious people in general) give a hoot about sexually moral lives? Maybe the other side construes the charges as being called an “abomination” (I think Sault used this term). Ok, let us grant it. Why is it especially crucial “to do every legitimate thing in our power to demonstrate we don’t hate gays”?

    This is even more puzzling to me in the light of what you go on to say next, with which I agree, that *anything* we say *will* be construed as hate speech by someone, somewhere, deliberately so or not.

    Maybe I am reading too much into what you are saying, but can you explain a little more at what you are getting at?

  4. Tom Gilson says:

    SSM is different. Its advocates have painted the Christian church as manifestly evil, which casts a shadow over everything else we say and do.

    We can only do what we can legitimately do about it, but whatever we can do will surely help.

  5. [...] Or that's what I'm being told, at any rate. A commenter on my Thinking Christian blog wrote yesterday, Perhaps it is time for the Christian church to re-evaluate our opposition to SSM. It [...]

  6. bigbird says:

    Thanks Tom for taking up the discussion in a new thread. I do think it is an important issue that is worth discussing further.

    I’m sorry, bigbird, but I think your position is terribly disrespectful toward gays. Don’t you think they can think? Don’t you think they can recognize reason when they see it?

    I think gays are way smarter than you give them credit for. Our primary reason to oppose SSM is that we believe that marriage is ordained by God to be between one man and one woman. Agreed?

    All the other reasons we conjure are secondary to this one. There’s sociological reasons why SSM might be detrimental to society for example. But if those reasons didn’t exist, do you really think we would change our position? Of course not (please correct me if you think I’m wrong).

    Gays know this. They know our primary reason for opposing SSM is that we regard it as morally wrong, against God’s design for marriage.

    They also know that we would hold this position regardless of any other evidence (true isn’t it?). They’ve seen our reasons for what they are – arguments developed that simply back up a position we already hold and will not change.

    Obviously, they have a strong disagreement with our position. And as they do not subscribe to our moral values, it’s easy to see why.

    So no, I don’t think I’m being disrespectful of gays.

    He was saying that good reasons can only be interpreted as hate.

    If Christianity was starting from a clean slate, perhaps our good reasons might be interpreted as good reasons. But we are coming from a long history of persecution of gays, and unfortunately there are many in the church today who still have this attitude. Nutters like Westboro only reinforce this view of the church. Statements that AIDS as punishment from God do so as well.

    So I think our good reasons are a little late to be interpreted as merely good reasons. As I’ve said above, our good reasons are (probably rightly) interpreted as our own justification for a position we’ve always held and are unlikely to change.

    Now if he’s right, then the only responsible thing for Christians to do would be to shut up.

    I’m not actually suggesting that we shut up. I’m not suggesting we abandon our view of SSM being wrong, or stop promoting our view of marriage.

    What I am suggesting is that we should abandon our opposition to SSM in society. That we recognize and state that many in our society do not share our beliefs, and that because SSM is of such importance to them, we will not oppose it.

    We may even be able to contribute to the framing of what I regard to be the inevitable SSM legislation.

    if we were to let go of this battle now, SSM advocates would still brand Christians as haters. I can’t prove it, but I think it’s likely.

    I also agree that it is likely, but I don’t think it is inevitable.

    SSM is different. Its advocates have painted the Christian church as manifestly evil, which casts a shadow over everything else we say and do.

    This is the crux of this issue. How can we change this widespread view of the church? We largely blew our opportunities to follow Jesus’ command to care for the sick during the AIDS epidemic. The worldwide abuse scandal in the Catholic Church has inflicted horrendous damage on the church’s moral authority. What can we do now?

    The New Testament church was founded in a culture far more depraved than ours. And yet somehow, within a few hundred years Christians had almost universal respect for caring for the sick and the poor. How did they do it? By trying to reform society?

  7. bigbird says:

    Why is it crucial? Has the SSM debate any special feature that other debates lack?

    I think it is crucial because for too long an entire subsection of the population, gays, have only experienced loathing and hate from Christians. I think this is very sad, and I don’t think Jesus would have conveyed this at all, even though he would not have condoned their sin.

    I think the SSM debate is also different in that SSM is between two consenting adults. Yes, we can agree it may have negative effects on society. But it differs from issues such as abortion which involve the murder of an unborn child.

  8. bigbird says:

    Reveling in the shadows of artifacts cast upon on the walls of a deep subterranean cave is a much more comfortable option for most

    Yes it is, and you’ll probably be unsurprised to hear that this is how I view the current position of the church.

    Incidentally I suppose you know Plato was gay.

  9. Andrew W says:

    This also comes down to a question of values.

    I don’t mean what one values in a particular situation, but the meta-values that drive other values.

    What is more important: autonomy, or conforming to your community?

    What is more “true”: your own feelings, or something external (tradition, nature, etc)?

    When these meta-values don’t match, we end up talking from completely different frames of reference, and even the simplest observation can be controversial.

    (Caveat: the above categories are not binary, and people can be in different places on different topics, yet fundamentally we all cling to some point on that spectrum as “the way things should be”)

  10. Alex says:

    Hey Tom,

    I cant seem to be able to get to the PDF of the discussion you linked above.

    All I get is:
    “This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below.”

    Alex

  11. Tom Gilson says:

    Sorry. It worked earlier. I’ll fix it in a few hours. Thank you for your patience until then.

  12. Tom Gilson says:

    bigbird, what you’re saying as you open your responses here is that every secular reason to oppose SSM is a sham, a front for the one main religious reason. Therefore gays (who are “smarter than [I] give them credit for”) are justified in considering good reasoning hateful.

    I think gays are more human than you give them credit for.

    You say,

    There’s sociological reasons why SSM might be detrimental to society for example. But if those reasons didn’t exist, do you really think we would change our position?

    I think you mean, if God’s only reason for us to oppose SSM is because he’s a cosmic killjoy who doesn’t care if there are human implications attached to his instructions to us, would I change my position? The answer is yes. If God were like that, then I would change my position.

    But God is not like that; the premise of your question is false. The sociological reasons to oppose SSM are what they are. If you don’t believe in God, they are what they are, and if you do believe in God, they are what they are. (There are meta-ethical problems if you don’t believe in God, but let’s just acknowledge that and move on.)

    I think gays are smarter than you give them credit for. They can evaluate reasoning without flipping the “they hate me” switch.

    They also know that we would hold this position regardless of any other evidence (true isn’t it?). They’ve seen our reasons for what they are – arguments developed that simply back up a position we already hold and will not change.

    Aah, now we see what’s going on. You think that faith in God, and his real connection to his creation, are all made-up constructs. There is no evidence against SSM! But there are three problems with your saying this. One, you’re wrong, there is evidence against SSM; and two, you’re the one who said that even good reasoning would be seen as hate. Your position is more like this:

    It doesn’t matter what reasons we give and how good they are (because after all there aren’t any good reasons), we are coming across as if we hate gays.

    Okay, now we have a question of motivation, and how the church makes its decisions. You’re saying the church’s motivation in opposing SSM is purely religious and its reasons are horrible, and therefore the church ought to give it up.

    What shall the church do with that opinion of yours? We who oppose SSM believe—no, we know—that there is no such thing as a purely religious reason. We know that if a reason exists in sociological fact it’s because it’s part of human nature, which is from God and/or explained by the Fall; and we believe conversely that God’s nature is reflected in reality. There’s no split. The world is spiritual and secular.

    So there is no such thing as a purely religious motivation.

    Further, although there are bad reasons to oppose SSM, there are good ones, too. Maybe you’ve never seen a good one. I have. Should I base my actions on your opinion of the reasons you’ve seen, or on the reasons I’ve seen and worked through?

    (Look back here and you’ll find at least one serious problem with SSM–from SSM’s own perspective.)

    Our good reasons are “too late to be interpreted as good reasons.” That means it’s too late for gays to think, since we’ve ripped their brains open with Westboro and other nutters and removed their rational capacities, right? They’re stunted. They’re disabled. It’s our fault, of course; we’ve done it to them. And now they can’t see good reasoning as anything but hate.

    That’s your position. And you also say you are not being disrespectful of gays? Come on.

    What I am suggesting is that we should abandon our opposition to SSM in society. That we recognize and state that many in our society do not share our beliefs, and that because SSM is of such importance to them, we will not oppose it….

    The New Testament church was founded in a culture far more depraved than ours. And yet somehow, within a few hundred years Christians had almost universal respect for caring for the sick and the poor. How did they do it? By trying to reform society?

    Yes, actually. Read your church history. You could start with Ambrose and Theodosius I.

    Of course there were other things Christians did then. But it’s not an either-or situation. Nor is it parallel to today. Christianity then was injected into a horrifically immoral pagan culture and provided leavening from within to improve it. Today Christianity stands within a culture that was not horrifically immoral but is becoming so. Not only that, but it is becoming so in a legal environment where we are among the decision makers. Neither of those were true in the first centuries. The parallel is not that close.

    I definitely believe we need to recover the moral high ground. One way to do that is by doing good. Another way is by clearly explaining what the good is, and why it’s good: which is what’s going on when we explain reasons not to accept SSM.

    I think the SSM debate is also different in that SSM is between two consenting adults. Yes, we can agree it may have negative effects on society. But it differs from issues such as abortion which involve the murder of an unborn child.

    … and it doesn’t affect anyone but those two consenting adults. Ri-i-ight.

    You need to study your Plato and your ancient Greece. There was a whole lot of pederasty back then. There was considerably less consenting-adult activity. The pederasty was celebrated throughout the culture. Plato’s vision of homosexuality had to do with his views on war (a troop of lovers would be more invincible) and of women (getting involved with them is just messy–emotional, divisive, and all that).

    Is this the model you choose? If so, then choose it all: no one then ever dreamed of men marrying men (or even more obviously, women marrying women).

    Oh, and did I mention you are factually wrong? Plato was not “gay.” The “gay” identity is a recent invention. Plato was open to a certain kind of sexual behavior but that’s not identical to what today is described as “gay.” Look up the history of sexual identity and the related identity politics.

    Here’s the sum of it:

    - You hate the way Christians appear to the rest of the world over this issue.
    - You think it’s all our fault.
    - You even think that gays’ reasoning is stunted because of all we’ve done wrong.
    - You give no place in your analysis to gays’ manipulations to make us look far more hateful than what is real.
    - You think that our own errors as viewed through gays’ eyes should drive our decision-making.
    - You think that the best thing for us to do is to quit explaining what is true.
    - You think that demonstrations of truth and goodness are (practically speaking, for this issue especially) the only tool left in our bag.
    - You forget that the Bible is not only about demonstrations but also about explanation: preaching, teaching, persuading, and sometimes even pronouncing judgment.
    - You forget that we are part of the democratic process that is still making this decision.
    - You forget that if there are sociological reasons to oppose SSM, that is equivalent to saying that SSM will hurt our society.
    - You forget that we believers might not also be as stunted emotionally as you think gays are, and that there’s a possibility we might be more than one-dimensional creatures, and our motivations might be more than one dimensional too.
    - You forget that we might actually care about damage done to society, even while we also care about following the God who created us, died for us, redeemed us, loves us, and calls us into loving obedient worship toward him.
    - You think that since you yourself have never heard a good reason to oppose SSM, we don’t have any.
    - You think that if we quit bothering gays, maybe they’ll see we love them after all: as if “not bothering” equals love.

    Pardon me if I don’t agree these are good reasons to change my ways.

  13. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom Gilson –

    … and it doesn’t affect anyone but those two consenting adults. Ri-i-ight.

    I will note that the article you linked to discussed Canada, which doesn’t have the same kind of legal regime as the United States. In particular, Canada doesn’t have a real equivalent to the First Amendment.

  14. Holopupenko says:

    Incidentally I suppose you know Plato was gay.

    That was a non sequitur implication attempting to masquerade itself as a serious point… right?

    … our primary reason for opposing SSM is that we regard it as morally wrong, against God’s design for marriage…

    Uh, no… that’s your personal interpretation desperately seeking affirmation. It also betrays a clear inability to distinguish the proximate vs. the ultimate.

    You incorrectly (although conveniently for yourself) see God’s commandments and Christian moral precepts as external impositions. Actualized homosexuality (as with all actualized sin) is first and foremost harmful to man himself–because of our very natures as created by God. Homosexuality is violently dangerous not to God (as if He can be somehow violated) but in its biological (physical), psychological, and spiritual (moral) aspects precisely because it is UNNATURAL, i.e., opposed to our natures as human beings–biologically, psychologically, morally.

    That’s what you’re missing: it’s PROXIMATELY deadly to the per se nature of its practitioners and to the per accidens nature of society, and it’s ULTIMATELY deadly because it transgresses against the work of the Creator of those per se natures.

    I find it repugnant that you are, in an ultimate sense, so (implied) hateful of homosexuals: on the one hand you are “personally” opposed, but on the other you are happy to abandon homosexuals to their disordered and unnatural appetites to fulfill some personal need you have to “look good” for society… which ultimately implies you seek not to please/worship/glorify God but society… which further means (to support what Tom so deftly noted) you see no need and have no desire to reform society.

    Tom’s bullet point summation at the end of his comment is brilliant: why don’t you actually consider what Tom says seriously?

  15. Tom Gilson says:

    Thank you very much for that helpful distinction between ultimate and proximate, Holopupenko. It’s what I was trying to get to when I was saying our social and physical reality is not disconnected from God. You said it more clearly.

  16. Tom Gilson says:

    Granted on the First Amendment, Ray.

    Note that the current regime (you used the word first) doesn’t think the First Amendment applies to anything but churches. Not even church-run institutions.

  17. bigbird says:

    Aah, now we see what’s going on. You think that faith in God, and his real connection to his creation, are all made-up constructs. There is no evidence against SSM!

    Did I say that? No, not at all. You really seem to want to put words into my mouth.

    What I am saying is that you oppose SSM because you believe God ordained marriage for a man and a woman.

    And you would oppose SSM even if sociological research demonstrated that SSM was harmless. That’s a hypothetical “if” in case you missed it.

    Fundamentally, the reasons you are mustering are in support of a position you have no intention of changing – because you believe God ordained marriage.

    Now I have no problem with that, because I hold exactly the same position. I don’t (and I hope you don’t) need research to back my moral stances that are in line with Scripture. Research is significantly influenced by the worldview of the researcher, and most sociologists don’t share the Christian worldview. I don’t expect it to always endorse my views.

    My point here is that the gay community know this. They see the reasons Christians put up for what they are – justifications of a stance already decided upon (and an immovable stance at that).

    I don’t think gays are stunted in their reasoning and are unable to understand our reasons for opposing SSM. I think they see our motivation more clearly than we often do ourselves – that we have a stance based on moral and spiritual reasoning (that they disagree with), and knowing that these reasons are insufficient to sway a secular society, we scrabble around looking for something more convincing.

    You hate the way Christians appear to the rest of the world over this issue. You think it’s all our fault.

    I think it is largely our fault, yes.

    You give no place in your analysis to gays’ manipulations to make us look far more hateful than what is real.

    Sadly, I’m not sure it is possible for the Christian church to look more hateful than what is real. That’s probably not representative of the majority, but the loud minority are the ones who are heard. We give the gay community all the ammunition that they need (and yes, they are adept at using it).

    You think that the best thing for us to do is to quit explaining what is true.

    No, I don’t. Read again.

    You forget that we are part of the democratic process that is still making this decision.

    Not for long I suspect.

    You forget that if there are sociological reasons to oppose SSM, that is equivalent to saying that SSM will hurt our society.

    There are also sociological reasons to support SSM aren’t there? It is not clear cut what the effect on society will be.

    And finally, you think that since you yourself have never heard a good reason to oppose SSM, we don’t have any.

    Sigh. Wrong. I used to support your position, I know there are a number of reasons that can be mustered in favour of it.

    You think that if we quit bothering gays, maybe they’ll see we love them after all: as if “not bothering” equals love.

    I think our bothering them has been a dismal, utter failure.

    Your reaction to my posts does surprise me. That’s probably my fault for my initial post in the other thread. But I would prefer thoughtful contemplation of a view different to your own and a careful weighing of whether it might have some merit. I’m not seeing that.

  18. bigbird says:

    That was a non sequitur implication attempting to masquerade itself as a serious point… right?

    About as serious as your attempt to place yourself outside the cave and people who happen to disagree with you inside. Not very subtle.

    Uh, no… that’s your personal interpretation desperately seeking affirmation. It also betrays a clear inability to distinguish the proximate vs. the ultimate.

    I think you are mistaken. In my view God’s commandments and Christian moral precepts *are* external impositions.

    That’s not to say that our reality is disconnected from God, but I don’t regard perceived harm as the reason for taking a moral stance.

    Tell me, why do you think homosexual practice is wrong? Because you regard it as harmful, proximately and ultimately? Or because God says it is wrong?

    I find it repugnant that you are, in an ultimate sense, so (implied) hateful of homosexuals: on the one hand you are “personally” opposed, but on the other you are happy to abandon homosexuals to their disordered and unnatural appetites to fulfill some personal need you have to “look good” for society

    Repugnant is a strong word. Ease up a little and apply the principle of charity.

    It seems you think that permitting SSM is “abandoning homosexuals to their disordered and unnatural appetites”? Err, aren’t those who want to get married homosexual already? Is SSM somehow going to increase the number of homosexuals in society? Is that your argument?

    What’s this rhetoric about “personal need”? I’m concerned about the church. It seems obsessed with homosexuality, despite Jesus failing to mention it. In Australia people could be forgiven for thinking it is the only issue Christians care about.

  19. Tom Gilson says:

    Let’s just deal with this for now, since everything else depends on it:

    What I am saying is that you oppose SSM because you believe God ordained marriage for a man and a woman.

    And you would oppose SSM even if sociological research demonstrated that SSM was harmless. That’s a hypothetical “if” in case you missed it.

    I didn’t miss that. First, you have changed the terms from “any other evidence” to “sociological research.” We could come back to that fine distinction later, but for now let’s talk about just evidence. Your view was that I would take the God side even if there was no evidence that SSM caused harm in society.

    I thought you would see from my earlier response just what kind of hypothetical you were posing. Let me lay it out even more clearly:

    1. You say my belief in God is such that if he commanded “no SSM” I would follow his “no SSM” command regardless of whether SSM was demonstrably harmful.

    2. That is incorrect. My belief in God is such that if he commanded “no SSM,” it is because it is harmful, and if it is harmful it is demonstrably harmful.

    3. Thus in (1) you have defined a God I do not believe in.

    So let me rephrase your hypothetical: “Suppose there were no evidence that SSM was harmful, you would still follow the dictates of the God you disbelieve in and oppose SSM.”

    But my answer to that is, how can you imagine to predict what I would believe if I didn’t believe what I believe?

    So I continue to reject the premise of the question, and therefore obviously also its conclusion.

    My position remains the same: there are sociological reasons to oppose SSM, and I think gays are mature enough to assess those reasons without jumping to the conclusion that everything said about SSM is automatically hateful.

    Now let me ask you:

    Do you think God’s commands are good? I mean good in the sense that people who follow them actually experience more actual good in actual life than those who reject them?

  20. bigbird says:

    it doesn’t affect anyone but those two consenting adults. Ri-i-ight.

    The Witherspoon Institute was founded primarily to oppose SSM. Not exactly an unbiased assessment.

    That’s not to say SSM is not detrimental to society. It could be. But the evidence that I’m aware of is not clear cut.

    Most sociological arguments I’ve read fail to acknowledge that SSM would formalize relationships that already exist, and so don’t provide much direct evidence against SSM itself.

    Yes, actually. Read your church history. You could start with Ambrose and Theodosius I.

    Ambrose – “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”.

  21. Tom Gilson says:

    This, by the way, is slander:

    Sadly, I’m not sure it is possible for the Christian church to look more hateful than what is real.

    You’re saying that it’s impossible for the church to look more hateful than is real? So how hateful do we look in the eyes of that vocal minority you mention in that context? That’s the standard of comparison. That’s how hateful we look: Level H, let’s call it.

    So “I’m not sure it is possible for Level H to exceed what is real.”

    and by transposition,

    “I’m not sure it’s possible for what is real about the church to be less than Level H.”

    Do you really think we’re that hateful?

    Did you mean to write that, or did you trip over your negatives and say something you didn’t intend? I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt here.

  22. Tom Gilson says:

    I can’t let this go, either. It relates to my first comment just now:

    In my view God’s commandments and Christian moral precepts *are* external impositions.

    You have a very non-orthodox view of God’s relation to his creation. God created us such that his commandments and moral precepts were entirely in tune with our natures, and vice-versa. Any other view is not Christianity.

  23. Tom Gilson says:

    Your assessment of the Witherspoon Institute article is a textbook case of the genetic fallacy.

  24. Tom Gilson says:

    I see now you’re retreating. Earlier you said that no matter what the reasons were, it would be hateful to bring them up. Now you’re trying to move the discussion back to the evidence you think exists and that you think is inadequate.

    I don’t mind discussing that in some contexts, but in this one let’s realize that you’re changing the subject if you do that.

  25. bigbird says:

    My belief in God is such that if he commanded “no SSM,” it is because it is harmful, and if it is harmful it is demonstrably harmful.

    Think about what you are saying. Do you really think that everything that is harmful is demonstrably harmful? Use your philosophy. The first does not imply the second.

    What if science has not yet uncovered the reasons why God has prohibited certain practices? It may be that certain things can *never* be demonstrated to be harmful, and yet they might be harmful.

    I am intrigued to know where your basis for this belief is founded.

    My position remains the same: there are sociological reasons to oppose SSM, and I think gays are mature enough to assess those reasons without jumping to the conclusion that everything said about SSM is automatically hateful.

    What if you couldn’t find those sociological reasons? What if sociology was not currently able to produce them? I can’t believe your sociological reasons are the *basis* for your stance.

    Do you think God’s commands are good? I mean good in the sense that people who follow them actually experience more actual good in actual life than those who reject them?

    I do. But I don’t require *evidence* that they are good. I don’t require scientific studies on prayer to believe that God answers prayer. And I don’t expect that in all cases good can be demonstrated. What if the ultimate good is a spiritual good that can’t be easily measured? What if ‘good’ is about character?

  26. Tom Gilson says:

    By “demonstrable” I meant demonstrable in principle even if not in actual possibility: that the good that is associated with God’s commands is good that is experienced by real people in the real world, or possibly in the world to come.

    You say you cannot believe sociological reasons are the *basis* for my stance. What if I changed the emphasis? Sociological reasons are not *the* basis for my stance, because I’m not a scientismist. Humans can know things by means other than science.

    There are sociological, medical, philosophical, and theological reasons. In one sense they are all the same, because they all share in the same reality and are all intertwined. And there are sociological reasons.

    And how did this get shifted over on to sociology, anyway? We were talking about your position that any reason at all is hateful.

  27. bigbird says:

    Did you mean to write that, or did you trip over your negatives and say something you didn’t intend? I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt here.

    Thank you. It’s late here. What I meant to say was that it is difficult to make the church look more hateful than what it actually is. I don’t mean the position of the church as a whole, or particular individuals. But there is a vocal minority (I hope) within the church that seems to loathe homosexuals. It seems to be the one issue that really gets some Christians going. You see them on blogs everywhere. I think of Philip Yancey’s friend who came out, and the rejection, disgust and hatred that Yancey describes that he received from Christians. It’s depressing.

  28. bigbird says:

    There are sociological, medical, philosophical, and theological reasons. In one sense they are all the same, because they all share in the same reality and are all intertwined. And there are sociological reasons.

    I’m happy to admit my morality is based on my interpretation of what God has revealed in the Bible. As is my worldview.

    Most of the world doesn’t even have access to the philosophical, medical and sociological and theological reasons you and I have access to. And in years past, we would not have either. Would our view of homosexual practice be any different? I don’t think so.

    And how did this get shifted over on to sociology, anyway? We were talking about your position that any reason at all is hateful.

    I’m not sure I said it was hateful. I’ll have to reread the thread.

    But again, my primary point is that whatever the reasons, we are not going to change our minds. It’s not really about the evidence. Sure, ultimately the evidence should back up the morality we obtain from the Bible. But in short term it may not.

    Perhaps this question will clarify what I’m getting at: is there any evidence or research that would get you to change your mind on the sinfulness of homosexual practice?

    I am happy to admit that I will not change my view. I don’t care if a bunch of sociologists produce research showing homosexual activity is wonderful. My view is grounded in my interpretation of Scripture, and it isn’t going to change.

    In that sense, for me to muster a bunch of reasons to make my theological case more sustainable and convincing to others is in some ways a misrepresentation of the real reason why I hold the view that I do.

    And I think that the gay community recognizes that.

  29. bigbird says:

    You have a very non-orthodox view of God’s relation to his creation. God created us such that his commandments and moral precepts were entirely in tune with our natures, and vice-versa.

    We were created that way. But since the fall his moral precepts are not in tune with our natures. That’s what the sin nature is all about. That’s why the law *is* an external imposition. And that’s why we need saving.

    Any other view is not Christianity.

    I think my view of Christianity must be a little broader than yours. There’s room for many diverse views provided we agree we need a savior.

    Your assessment of the Witherspoon Institute article is a textbook case of the genetic fallacy.

    Not all appeals to origin are irrelevant. In this case the Witherspoon Institute was founded and is funded to produce a certain viewpoint which they are reproducing in that article.

  30. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom Gilson –

    Note that the current regime (you used the word first) doesn’t think the First Amendment applies to anything but churches. Not even church-run institutions.

    Well, there is some debate on that. I’m actually in favor of broader interpretations of the First Amendment. For example, I think Employment Division v. Smith was decided incorrectly.

  31. Tom Gilson says:

    The point in relation to the current discussion being … ?

  32. Tom Gilson says:

    bigbird,

    An appeal to origin is relevant but not determinative. You waved the article off as if its origin were all that was needed to know about it. And that, my friend, is the genetic fallacy galloping in full career over the logical cliff.

    Your view of Christianity is indeed different from mine. There is obviously room for a diversity of views, but there is a set of fences around what is Christianity, and that fence does not consist entirely of knowing that we need a savior. It also includes (among other things) the nature of God, as well as his relation to creation, which is what has been under discussion here.

    The fall to sin did not change what is good for humans, contrary to what you were saying or at least implying about it.

  33. Ray Ingles says:

    The point in relation to the current discussion being … ?

    That while practice in the real world will vary, and occasionally go astray, the differences between Canada and the U.S. are large enough that it would seem to invalidate several conclusions of that Witherspoon Institute paper.

    Germany, for example, has had laws banning Holocaust denial, or even reference for decades now, but there’s no movement to do so here. We find more creative ways to deal with racists.

  34. Holopupenko says:

    Ray:

    Germany also bans homeschooling (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeschooling_international_status_and_statistics)… and in Alberta homeschooling families are BANNED from teaching that homosexuality is a sin (http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/exclusive-homeschooling-families-cant-teach-homosexuality-a-sin-in-class-sa) as part of their curricula. Isn’t it ironic that when homosexual activists were whining “keep out of our bedrooms,” they’re now the ones imposing themselves upon the education of children–in public schools and in private homes!!

    That’s the kind of thing bigbird seems to wants–Christianity on his terms. No matter what label he attaches to the sugary interpretive words describing his religious faith, it’s certainly not Christian faith that emerges through that sieve. Why? Be cause he wants Christianity to serve his personal needs and support his personal worldview.

    The last thing to note is that bigbird doubled down on his flawed externalist vision of moral precepts. It’s not just that it’s flawed: it flips reality on its head because it denies even human nature. If we only “respond” to externalist impositions of moral precepts originating in a externalist vision of God as a puppeteer, then we have no moral culpability. Period. And, I’m beginning to suspect that may be what bigbird’s, ahem, “christianity” promulgates.

  35. bigbird says:

    An appeal to origin is relevant but not determinative. You waved the article off as if its origin were all that was needed to know about it. And that, my friend, is the genetic fallacy galloping in full career over the logical cliff.

    It’s not just its origin. I’ve come across this article previously. I wasn’t impressed then, and I’m not impressed now. If that is truly the best evidence you have of the consequences of SSM, I wouldn’t trumpet it. If you want me to dissect it I will but I suspect it isn’t necessary. Essentially, there is very little that is concrete in that article.

    there is a set of fences around what is Christianity, and that fence does not consist entirely of knowing that we need a savior. It also includes (among other things) the nature of God, as well as his relation to creation, which is what has been under discussion here.

    I’ve noticed on these forums that when people have a theological disagreement they are very quick to accuse someone of a lack of Bible knowledge or their views to be not Christianity, or to cast doubt on their Christian beliefs. I don’t think that is wise.

    The fall to sin did not change what is good for humans, contrary to what you were saying or at least implying about it.

    No. But the fall to sin fundamentally changed our nature (and the natural order) so that we are not in tune with his nature. That’s what much of Romans is about.

    We seem to be on a slightly different page when it comes to morals. I happily admit subscribing to divine command theory as revealed through the Bible. To me things are good because they are commanded by God. I don’t *necessarily* expect that to be borne out by research – there are too many broken links in the chain from creation till now. Researchers themselves have their own biases and motivations, which is why we see so many studies that downplay the effects of raising children in SS households.

    I think anchoring a moral position to research puts us in a dangerous position. All it takes then is research that disproves our position to torpedo our argument. For reasons I’ve given I don’t expect that research will always validate Christian positions (although I would hope that is the case in the long run). A great example from the past is the Everett Koop controversy about the effects of abortion on women.

    I haven’t figured out how you determine your moral code. You seem reluctant to admit that it is derived from the Bible, instead quoting all sorts of reasons that contribute to your overall view of reality.

    If that’s the case – that your religious views are not your primary motivation for your opposition to SSM, ok. You’re not one of the Christians I’m referring to. But for the Christians I know, their religious views *are* their main motivation for opposing SSM. Whatever evidence the gay lobby produces they are not going to change their mind. Essentially, for them, the argument is not about the evidence and the gay lobby knows it.

    Yes, Christians can produce good reasons to oppose SSM. But the gay lobby can also produce good reasons why SSM should be permitted. There are good reasons on both sides, but I think the call for equality on the side of the gay lobby is a powerful one. Upon closer analysis this call for equality does suffer from some logical flaws, but it is a strong appeal that resonates with many people – and unfortunately (and, I think, incorrectly) paints dissenters as bigots.

    This post and thread has gone on far too long, so let me summarize my view. The issue of homosexuality and SSM is defining the world’s view of the church today. The Catholic abuse scandal worldwide has shattered any moral authority the church has with the world.

    I would dearly like the church to discard its obsession with homosexuality. I think it is sad that this issue defines us so much, because it is essentially a negative one. No, I’m not saying the church should *approve* of homosexuality, but I’ve reached the point of supporting a separation of civil weddings and church weddings, and letting civil weddings include SSM. I think this would be a useful distinction that allows us to reclaim the idea of Christian marriage.

    This is not an argument that we should abandon good secular arguments for the various moral positions that we hold. Rather, on my part it is a pragmatic recognition that these arguments have largely failed in this particular instance, and the world has moved on. At least in Australia, strident opposition to SSM is doing significant harm to the public view of the church, and another approach is needed.

    Rather than spending your time further bashing my arguments (we will have to agree to disagree methinks), it might be useful to have a discussion on what you think the impact of SSM will be on our society and on Christians. Civil unions are very prevalent around the world nowadays, and they should give a good indication of this impact. Christians seem to have largely accepted them as a necessary evil. Marriage seems to be one step too far, although it seems that 99% has already been conceded to me.

  36. bigbird says:

    Holopupenko, casting aspersions on someone’s faith because they have arrived at a different position to your own on a particular issue does not reflect well on you. It’s an easy accusation to hurl but not a very sensible one.

    If we only “respond” to externalist impositions of moral precepts originating in a externalist vision of God as a puppeteer, then we have no moral culpability.

    I don’t regard God as a puppeteer. And go read some divine command theory if you want to understand where I’m coming from.

  37. Tom Gilson says:

    bigbird, if the best you can offer in response to the Witherspoon Institute article on Canada is that the source is biased, I suggest you ask yourself how we should view you.

    WI: There are problems with SSM’s social effect in Canada.
    bigbird: We have no basis to accept their opinion: they are known to be defending a certain position, after all.
    Me: I have no basis to accept your opinion on that: you are known to be defending a certain position, after all.

    I apologize for enjoying that, but self-referential irony can be so fun sometimes.

    I’ve noticed on these forums that when people have a theological disagreement they are very quick to accuse someone of a lack of Bible knowledge or their views to be not Christianity, or to cast doubt on their Christian beliefs. I don’t think that is wise.

    The wisdom of such a move is of course dependent on the truth of that move. You have been espousing non-orthodox Christian beliefs. Should I not conclude that you hold the beliefs you’ve been expressing?

    No. But the fall to sin fundamentally changed our nature (and the natural order) so that we are not in tune with his nature. That’s what much of Romans is about.

    Yes and no. In the context of the current discussion where the question is what is good for humans, there has been no change. (I have no need to discuss other aspects of the question, since that’s the relevant one here.)

    Humans may experience or sense or feel God’s commands as an imposition, but they are good commands regardless. That means that the sociological impact of following his ways will in general be good. Read back in the thread and you’ll see that’s the question in context of which this part of the discussion began.

    How do I determine my moral code? From the Bible and from natural law, which agree with each other, though the Bible is certainly more propositionally clear!

    The gay lobby’s call for equality is only powerful until you dissect it with reasonably clear thinking. What is the basis of said equality? What does equality mean with respect to marriage? What is marriage, anyway? Why should the state give it any attention? Is gay “marriage” really like genuine marriage? (I don’t mean to be tendentious here but I have my ontological commitments to uphold.)

    The church’s obsession with homosexuality is your own contrivance and illusion. What percentage of sermons do pastors give on it? What proportion of SS lessons are on it? What proportion of conferences are on that topic? What percentage of home Bible studies deal with it? Answer to all of these question: very, very little of the church’s attention is given to SSM or homosexuality.

    Of course it’s more visible in the public sphere than that. Only a rank idiot would have trouble understanding why: SSM is a public issue. It’s up for votes. Duh. We didn’t raise the issue. Britain didn’t ask for the Luftwaffe to come bomb London. Life the RAF, though, since there are aggressors coming after our culture, we need to take to the air in defense. Don’t blame the RAF. Don’t blame the church.

    And for Pete’s sake quit acting as if gays are too stupid to be able distinguish a rational argument from a hate crime. That’s still the worst putdown of gays I’ve ever seen on this blog.

  38. bigbird says:

    bigbird, if the best you can offer in response to the Witherspoon Institute article on Canada is that the source is biased, I suggest you ask yourself how we should view you.

    .

    As I said, it is also a very poor article that offers little that is substantial. I can dissect it further if you disagree.

    The church’s obsession with homosexuality is your own contrivance and illusion.

    Actually, it is the single issue likely to tear the Anglican church (and many other churches) apart.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19528436

    In evangelical churches, we preach about it and talk about it to *each other* very little. But in the public sphere, we talk about little else.

    And for Pete’s sake quit acting as if gays are too stupid to be able distinguish a rational argument from a hate crime. That’s still the worst putdown of gays I’ve ever seen on this blog.

    For Pete’s sake, my argument is that gays are smart enough to understand that Christians’ rational arguments are in support of a position that they have no intention of ever modifying. Engaging in these rational arguments with Christians is useless from their point of view. That is not a put down – quit making out that it is.

  39. Tom Gilson says:

    And the defenders of marriage are the guilty ones in the Anglican confession? My, my.

    Are you on any pro-SSM sites urging them to cool their jets because of how they’re ripping things apart

    my argument is that gays are smart enough to understand that Christians’ rational arguments are in support of a position that they have no intention of ever modifying. Engaging in these rational arguments with Christians is useless from their point of view. That is not a put down – quit making out that it is.

    I’m not criticizing your argument. I’m criticizing your view of gays. You’re the one who said they can only see hate in our arguments.

  40. bigbird says:

    You have been espousing non-orthodox Christian beliefs.

    No, I haven’t. To claim otherwise you’ll need a standard reference outlining orthodox Christian beliefs, and point out significant differences in the statements I have made. Put up or stop making the accusation.

  41. Tom Gilson says:

    bigbird,

    Put up or stop commenting here. “No I haven’t” is not an authoritative source, and as the host here I don’t appreciate being ordered around that way.

    Your chief unorthodoxy is in this:

    We were created that way. But since the fall his moral precepts are not in tune with our natures. That’s what the sin nature is all about. That’s why the law *is* an external imposition. And that’s why we need saving.

    In the relevant sense for this discussion, which is what is good for humans?, God’s moral precepts continue to be in tune with our natures. Otherwise–and here is the distinct error for which I need cite no other source–you are saying that God desires us to do that which is contrary to what is good for humans.

    That’s clearly unorthodox. It’s false theology. Though that much already is sufficient as an answer to your challenge, I’ll also mention that it makes a Christian thinker nervous (at least!) when a Christian commenter comes along and claims Jesus never condemned sin (see the deleted prior thread, PDF above).

  42. bigbird says:

    I’m not criticizing your argument. I’m criticizing your view of gays. You’re the one who said they can only see hate in our arguments.

    Ok. I still think that’s the case. Although hate may have been the wrong word – bigotry may be more appropriate.

    I cannot for the life of me see how the Christian view opposing SSM can be put across to the gay community without Christians being seen as bigots by that community. And bigotry is inevitably linked with hate.

    I’m not arguing that we are bigots, far from it (although the history of the church’s attitudes towards gays certainly do not *help* our case). But from the point of view of someone who wants to marry their same sex partner, we are. It seems that the cost of opposing SSM is to be seen as a bigot, and in terms of a witness to gays, that makes things very difficult.

    If you have a solution to this I’d love to hear it. I really would. How can SSM be opposed without appearing to be bigoted? Can reasoned argument blunt that foil? The evidence as far as I can see is that it isn’t working.

    PS maybe it is just my end, but your web host does not seem to be particularly reliable.

  43. Tom Gilson says:

    It’s not just you. I’ve been fighting it hard this afternoon.

  44. Tom Gilson says:

    At this point my only access is through my cell phone.

  45. Tom Gilson says:

    I’m back online on my desktop.

    bigbird, when you’re done trying to avoid being hateful and are willing to talk about trying actually to love, maybe I’ll be interested in picking up this conversation again. There’s a difference between the two, you know. Loving is more real, more connected–and also harder. You’re looking for the easy way out. You’re looking for the appearance of love, or more accurately, the appearance of not-hate or not-bigot. I’m looking for the real thing. It’s not easy. I never thought it would be.

    I’m done with this interaction unless you have something new to say.

  46. bigbird says:

    Put up or stop commenting here. “No I haven’t” is not an authoritative source, and as the host here I don’t appreciate being ordered around that way.

    Sorry. Accusations of heresy from other Christians do tend to get my back up. A few posts about a controversial topic don’t really allow time to outline one’s theological position. The principle of charity advises caution in jumping to hasty conclusions (and yes, I’ve done that myself).

    In the relevant sense for this discussion, which is what is good for humans?, God’s moral precepts continue to be in tune with our natures.

    Perhaps we are talking about different aspects of our nature.

    To me the existence of homosexuality is clear evidence that many people’s natures are *not* in tune with God’s moral precepts, and that is the context of my reference to the law being an imposition.

    Otherwise–and here is the distinct error for which I need cite no other source–you are saying that God desires us to do that which is contrary to what is good for humans.

    I agree that you need cite no other source if I was saying God desires us to do that which is contrary to what is good for humans.

    But I am not. I believe that God always desires what is good for us, and from that point of view this is in tune with our natures.

    However I also believe that I cannot expect to know why some things are good for us – they might just be beyond our ken.

    As a corollary, scientific or sociological research is not always going to provide support for our views in all cases. Research may be unable to. The particular good may not be able to be measured scientifically. The particular good may only be able to be measured in the future. In the short-term research may oppose our views simply because of the bias of the researchers, or because of a flawed study.

  47. bigbird says:

    bigbird, when you’re done trying to avoid being hateful and are willing to talk about trying actually to love, maybe I’ll be interested in picking up this conversation again. There’s a difference between the two, you know. Loving is more real, more connected–and also harder.

    I know there is a difference, but I’m not sure they are mutually exclusive.

    You’re looking for the easy way out. You’re looking for the appearance of love, or more accurately, the appearance of not-hate or not-bigot.

    I think that’s probably true. I *am* looking for an alternative approach that doesn’t make me look like a bigot. It’s a difficult issue, and I’m trying to explore a pragmatic approach without compromising my moral views.

    You’re looking for the appearance of love. I’m looking for the real thing. It’s not easy. I never thought it would be.

    We are of course both looking for the real thing. But I’ve found over the years that not having the appearance of love makes it extremely difficult for people to believe that there is real love.

    Jesus somehow managed to do it.

    Anyway, it’s been an interesting discussion, thanks for your time.

  48. Holopupenko says:

    I cannot for the life of me see how the Christian view opposing SSM can be put across to the gay community without Christians being seen as bigots by that community.

    Exactly.

    That pretty much sums up much of bigbird’s personal opinions as he attempts to impose them upon Christianity: he can not see.

    Let’s examine an example of the Gospel’s and bigbird’s (strongly implied) manipulation of the message.

         At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her,
         “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
         “No one, sir,” she said.
         “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
    [John 8:9-11]

    Here’s bigbird’s (strongly implied) addition to the Gospel as he interprets the woman’s response to Jesus’ admonition “leave your life of sin”:

         “Leave my life of sin?!? Stop being a hate-filled bigot, dude!”

  49. bigbird says:

    Holopupenko, take a look at Matthew 19:8:

    “Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.”

    Here we have an law that unquestionably undermined marriage. A law that was against God’s plan for marriage, and against “the way it was from the beginning”. A law that, if sociologists were around at the time Moses permitted divorce, could easily have found sociological evidence that it was going to be harmful to society.

    And yet Moses passed that law, and Jesus continued to permit it. Why?

    If you understand that, you might get a better understanding of where I’m coming from.

    The lesson here is that you need to be careful not to confuse law making with morality. The two do not always coincide. Sometimes the law has to be pragmatic, and we see that even in the Bible in a theocracy.

    I’m prepared to be regarded as a bigot if I have to be because of my beliefs. But if I’m going to be regarded as a bigot because of a particular issue, I’m going to carefully examine whether the issue is important enough. I tend to the view that SSM is not an issue important enough for me. I might add that the ready acceptance of civil unions by the church contributed significantly to that view. We didn’t make a difference for the first 99% and now we’re worried about the final 1%, mainly because of the M word.

  50. Tom Gilson says:

    bigbird,

    I’ve been reflecting on this discussion and the previous one, seeing some missed communications and some false assumptions, some of which I think I’m probably guilty. Your view of Christianity on retrospect may not be as unorthodox as it appeared, for example; I think you were more likely unclear than unbiblical. Or perhaps there were differences in how you understood “nature.” There is a technical sense to the term that we were using, which you might not have been.

    I applaud you for not wanting to be a bigot, but being willing to be regarded as one if necessary for your beliefs.

    So how did this go wrong?

    Let me just suggest that next time you introduce yourself to someone on a new blog, you wait at least 24 hours before you tell the blog host he’s an emotive, nonsensical purveyor of stupidity (this is from the attached pdf):

    It is this kind of emotive nonsense that makes Christians look stupid. We are not going to prevail against the legalization of SSM by these kind of arguments.

    Especially when “these kind of arguments,” the ones you described as emotive, nonsensical, and stupid-looking, hadn’t even been articulated by anyone here, but were instead the product of your stereotyping. In your own words:

    Well, I’ll wait and see. I doubt you have any arguments I haven’t heard before over the last thirty years in the church, but we’ll see.

    That’s my suggestion to you. I mean, if you want to avoid the appearance of bigotry, that is.

    As I said, I’m sure I misunderstood you along the way, and for that I apologize.

  51. Tom Gilson says:

    BTW: your Matthew 19:8 reference is the best thing I’ve seen from anyone yet on why the church should stand aside and let SSM happen. We could go along with that example and say, “Because this is like the hardness of hearts that led to divorce law, we will not stand in the way of your same-sex ‘marriage,’ but from the beginning it was not so.”

    But I don’t buy it, especially on your terms. In fact you wouldn’t even approve of that; for if we did stand aside and let SSM happen that way, in order to avoided being considered bigots in the way you decry, we would have to muzzle our mouths on “hardness of hearts.”

    And what was Jesus’ example?

    He called their hardness of hearts exactly what it was.

    I’m going to consider him my best example on this, too.

    Cheers.

  52. bigbird says:

    Let me just suggest that next time you introduce yourself to someone on a new blog, you wait at least 24 hours before you tell the blog host he’s an emotive, nonsensical purveyor of stupidity

    .

    Fair cop, and that was stupid of me. It affected a potentially useful discussion and was unnecessary.

    In feeble defence (but not intending it to be an excuse) my regular postings are on atheist forums where I get abused as a liar, faith-head and the usual other tags almost every day. It really does take a while to adjust to being on a board where people actually share a similar worldview and are reasonably polite.

    BTW I feel you summarized the situation well early when you asked “Do you feel the power of those images? How are we going to answer that?” and “How will we even get people’s attention?”

    Christians are really on the back foot in many areas, and it’s very unclear what can be done about it.

    In this volatile environment I’m trying to decide what issues really matter to me and my world, and what don’t. What’s worth suffering or possibly dying for, and what isn’t.

    The legalization of civil unions did it for me on this issue. The sky didn’t fall in, and life went on. It seemed to me that we had conceded so much so easily that we just were not going to succeed with SSM.

    But you wouldn’t even approve of that; for if we did stand aside and let SSM happen that way, in order to avoided being considered bigots in the way you decry, we would have to muzzle our mouths on “hardness of hearts.”

    I have maintained that I don’t think we need to abandon our moral stance on homosexuality if we permit SSM. I think we could quite reasonably say that we don’t agree with same sex relationships, we won’t condone them, but we are willing to let you live your lives the way you wish to.

    I think the heart of the bigotry accusations that I see so often would be ripped out if we did this, and it could transform the debate. People may be far more willing to listen to our arguments, and Christians could have far more input into the formation of these laws.

    Dr Everett Koop experienced this during the AIDS epidemic. He was unrelenting in his moral stance against homosexuality, but as the “Surgeon-General for everyone” he did everything in his power to fight the epidemic, including upsetting conservatives by promoting the use of condoms and early sex education. The gay community loved him for it despite his strong moral stance because they knew he cared.

    BTW, I’ve actually followed and enjoyed your blog on and off for some years, and posted occasionally, but I may have used a different email address or alias in the past.

  53. Tom Gilson says:

    Thanks, big bird.

    I wish our discussion had started this way :) .

  54. Crude says:

    The problem with capitulating on SSM is that, if it’s done, it cannot – and should not – be done halfway.

    Meaning, if it’s decided for whatever reason that same-sex marriage can no longer be opposed by churches, then I believe it becomes mandatory – absolutely morally and intellectually mandatory – to support marriage between every other conceivable group of consenting adults.

    3 men and 1 woman. 3 women and 1 man. 2 straight guys who have no intention of ever having sexual intercourse and who don’t love each other romantically, but would nevertheless like the union. A parent and their child.

    I’m not writing that in some hope that the distaste of doing such a thing will somehow make it beyond the pale as an option. I’m saying that if we’ve arrived at the point of concluding that SSM must be allowed, then what we’ve actually concluded is that civil marriage is, for orthodox Christians, a meaningless thing. It’s just a contract at that point. But it happens to be a contract that is directly in intellectual competition with traditional marriage – and we cannot afford to regard it, the civil function, as either sacred, or at all related to traditional marriage.

    I’ll also add that the charges of hatred and bigotry aimed at people who oppose SSM has very little to do with sincerity, and a tremendous amount to do communication and image. A large part of the reasons the LGBT community treats anyone who opposes SSM as bigoted hatemongers is precisely because that works as a strategy, and if the issue wasn’t pushed to such emotional extremes, they would not have made their gains. The failure of Christians (among actual bigotry that does exist in some quarters) on this front is by and large communication – rather like how Akin did harm this election not because ‘he was pro-life’ but because he said something very stupid that he should have never said. This happens with Christians repeatedly.

    Either way, if you’re going to roll on this issue because the perception has shifted to the point where to oppose SSM puts one in an awkward position and darnit, that makes life too tough, let me give a short, and non-exhaustive list, of other issues you should ditch right now.

    * Abortion
    * Infanticide
    * Euthanasia, voluntary and involuntary in the case of the infirm and less-cognizant elderly
    * Raising a child in a religious household

    Each of these issues and more can very, very easy be cast in a lop-sided, emotional way that makes Christians look like heartless hateful monsters, with their opponents made to look like whimpering saints who just want to *love* if only the Christian would stop bashing their brains in with a lead pipe.

    Finally…

    . He was unrelenting in his moral stance against homosexuality, but as the “Surgeon-General for everyone” he did everything in his power to fight the epidemic, including upsetting conservatives by promoting the use of condoms and early sex education. The gay community loved him for it despite his strong moral stance because they knew he cared.

    Have you stopped to consider that the gay community may have loved him because he was upsetting conservatives and capitulating on a key point, as a very visible figure, that had political and social payoff?

    Do you ever doubt the sincerity of someone who says, “I like what you do, because you show you care.”? Rather, have you ever thought that maybe when someone says, “You care. That’s why I like you.”, they really mean something else?

  55. Crude says:

    To add.

    There is no lack, no lack at all, of people who have ‘strong moral stances’ against things which they support not only the legalization but the normalization of. There’s an army of ‘pro-choice Catholics’ who will say, repeatedly, how they’re against abortion, but darnit, it just so happens to be the case that they think it should be legal in any and all cases, including partial-birth abortion. And they don’t think anyone who procures or promotes these things should be criticized, much less sanctioned even in their own church.

    People who are pro-abortion love these types. Because their “strong moral stance” doesn’t. Mean. Anything. Not politically. Barely socially.

    When someone has a moral stance that just so happens to manifest in such a way that it demands no action on their part, it becomes entirely legitimate to question whether they do, in fact, have a moral stance after all.

  56. Crude says:

    Just to cap off a central idea I tried to convey in the previous two posts, let me mention this one more time – as succinct as I can be.

    When whether or not you capitulate on any issue is largely related to ‘how much the opposition will scream, get emotional, and demonize me’, what you do is encourage people – at least, people who really want to win in a debate – to scream, be emotional, and demonize the opposition. If doing that results in a win, if it results in opponents saying ‘Look, this clearly means a lot to them. We should give up.’, it will be done.

    Show a child that if they just throw a powerful enough tantrum then they’ll get what they want, and you’ve shown your child that having tantrums pays off. Show a politician who values advancing his cause over all else that if he just plays dirty and emotional enough, his opponents will capitulate, and he will quickly turn every issue that matters to him into an emotional one.

    At this point, subcultures in our society have learned that if they just scream loudly enough, if they just act supremely offended and outraged and everything else, a lot of people will buckle. And that itself is a thing to fight.

  57. bigbird says:

    I’m saying that if we’ve arrived at the point of concluding that SSM must be allowed, then what we’ve actually concluded is that civil marriage is, for orthodox Christians, a meaningless thing. It’s just a contract at that point. But it happens to be a contract that is directly in intellectual competition with traditional marriage – and we cannot afford to regard it, the civil function, as either sacred, or at all related to traditional marriage.

    That’s certainly an option, and in countries like Germany there is a distinct separation between civil and church weddings (and has been for some years).

    With close to a 50% divorce rate do we really consider that marriage today reflects the traditional Christian view of marriage?

    Either way, if you’re going to roll on this issue because the perception has shifted to the point where to oppose SSM puts one in an awkward position and darnit, that makes life too tough, let me give a short, and non-exhaustive list, of other issues you should ditch right now.

    .

    I suppose if your only reason for yielding on an issue is awkwardness, maybe there are other issues that should be ditched. But most things are more complicated than just a single reason aren’t they?

    I consider each issue I support or decline to support on a number of criteria, as do most people.

    For example, as SSM is between consenting adults, it is utterly different to an issue such as abortion that involves an unborn child being killed. Similarly for infanticide, which is why I oppose these practices. And I have great difficulty understanding why some Christians support them. I’d rather not discuss it with them, because I just don’t get their point of view and I’m not going to change my mind. Perhaps SSM is of similar importance as an issue to you.

    But I just don’t see SSM as that big a deal (especially given the prevalence of civil unions). People who want SSM already share a household. They already have the same legal rights as a married couple. They don’t share my belief system, and don’t want to. They might even consider themselves married already. Let them be.

    Have you stopped to consider that the gay community may have loved him because he was upsetting conservatives and capitulating on a key point, as a very visible figure, that had political and social payoff?

    That’s not my reading of this account (from Philip Yancey). Have you an alternative rendering of history I can read?

  58. bigbird says:

    When someone has a moral stance that just so happens to manifest in such a way that it demands no action on their part, it becomes entirely legitimate to question whether they do, in fact, have a moral stance after all.

    .

    Interesting viewpoint. I think it depends on the moral stance whether action is required. Some moral stances are personal, some require social action.

    For example, I take it you regard homosexual activity between consenting adults as morally wrong (as I do). Please clarify if you do not.

    Assuming that you do think this, what action does this moral stance require on your part (apart from not indulging in this behavior yourself)?

    This behavior was once a criminal offence in most Western countries. Are you, for example, lobbying to have those laws reinstated?

    I think most Christians would think that the world has changed, and we simply can’t enforce that kind of law any more. It just isn’t realistic, and there is no possibility of getting support for such laws. Hence we don’t see Christians lobbying to re-introduce them (that I’m aware of anyway).

    Let’s take civil unions. Are you taking any action to ensure that any legalization of civil unions is overturned? Or, like most Christians, have you come to a point of accommodation with civil unions? That they aren’t ideal, but at least it is better than SSM.

    Abortion, on the other hand, if you think (as I do) that it is wrong, requires action, regardless of whether it is legal or not.

    SSM for me falls on the same side of the fence as the criminalizing of homosexual activity between consenting adults. Live and let live.

  59. Crude says:

    But I just don’t see SSM as that big a deal (especially given the prevalence of civil unions). People who want SSM already share a household. They already have the same legal rights as a married couple. They don’t share my belief system, and don’t want to. They might even consider themselves married already. Let them be.

    Read what you just said, bigbird. Here’s another way to render it: “Funny. They already have pretty much everything they could reasonably expect to gain from gay marriage. With civil unions, they would have everything that could be gained legally.” And yet you say, “Let them be.”

    But “Let them be” doesn’t mean “let them be”. It means, “Give them what they want.”

    They aren’t after marriage. They don’t care about a marriage certificate. This is about changing the culture, and going after people who disagree with them. Should we “let them be” when they sue to force a couple to rent a room in their home to them? Should we have “let them be” with Chik-fil-a?

    It’s not about ‘letting them be’, because they aren’t asking to be “let be”.

    And when I say “they”, I want the be specific: I’m talking about LGBT activists, the people who push these issues. Not people with same-sex attraction. Different people, different groups, even with overlap.

    That’s not my reading of this account (from Philip Yancey). Have you an alternative rendering of history I can read?

    Why do you need another account? Look at the situation as you yourself framed it: he was doing something that upset conservatives. He went against the social trends at the time, and he helped frame the topic in a way LGBT people approved of in a social and political way.

    You yourself described the political and social payoff: treating the problem not as one which should be solved by changing behavior, but by doing the same behavior, ‘safer’. And that was one more step towards regarding any position of viewing such problems as being related to behavior, rather than taking the right precautions when engaging in said behavior, as the only discussion-worthy issue.

    Are you going to deny that LGBT groups have an eye on affecting social trends? Read the links Tom himself has presented – organized groups very often think on the level of marketers and PR people. They project an image, and the image doesn’t always match the sincere thought.

  60. Andrew W says:

    “The sky hasn’t fallen in …”

    I think the real problem is that the sky has been falling in, very slowly, ever since about the time of the French Revolution. But it’s falling slowly enough that the amount it falls in a single person’s adult lifetime is enough to be uncomfortable, but not enough to be calamitous, unless you start digging back through history or have a strong philosophy of “where the sky should be”.

    In that sense, SSM isn’t the be all and end all of the discussion. In fact, that SSM is the focus of disagreement suggests that the Church not only dropped the ball but has perhaps forgotten what it even looks like.

    In another sense, perhaps it’s time to say “let’s turn around and head back to the path while we still have some idea where it’s located”, rather than aggressively destroy whatever knowledge we have of the way back. Because the idea of marriage as an exclusive, procreative social fundamental has been battered, maimed, and mortally wounded, and now we’re trying to finally kill it off and throw it into an unmarked grave.

    (PS: paragraph 1 is about a lot more than just marriage)

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