Like always, science advances whereas archaic beliefs about the world stay the same and sometimes leave little room for interpretation. If you take a naturalistic view of the world, then nature does not have a specific purpose in mind. it doesn't think things are good or evil, it just simply is...Humans have tried to understand these things for a long time. Homosexuality is one of those things that has been pondered by humans and at face value has been seen as something that was "unnatural." Seeing as homosexuality did not reproduce and serve to perpetuate the species. But once again, it is not that clear that this is the only reason or means for sex. Biology also shows us that a huge portion of the animal kingdom show traits of homosexuality :
There has been considerable study as to whether homosexuality had a specific gene that "made someone gay." This however was just turned on its head by a much better study that has just recently been published. It seems that homosexuality has a lot to do with genes, but also has to do with environmental issues. These environmental issues are not the ones that most think of when the word environmenal is used. It has less to do with upbringing, social settings, and parenting than it has to do with the actual environment in which the fetus is developing. Scientists have not ruled out the other environmental options (im sure everyone has heard of girls gone wild videos), but these are not as accurate of an assessment as the genetic percentages and fetal environmental development. This study was done on one of the largest sampling of twins for the purposes of sexual studies and to also find understanding with heterosexual homophobia. A brief synopsis of the study can be seen here:
Once again we see that with time and scientific understanding we can begin to unravel the misunderstandings of human ignorance. We also see that since nature does not care or consider it evil, and that science is proving to point in a different direction than ancient biases, that religious bigotry towards homosexuality is unfounded. There are many shades of this misunderstanding: some of it is literal translation, which moves people towards bigoted hatred. Some of it is more liberal in its interpretation, but still misguided, because the religious just see it as another form of "sin." We understand that the first view held is quite harsh and can have very damaging effects to other humans around them. The second view, while more liberal, is still a problem, because it regards something as a sin that is made up more from a persons biology than their parenting or social setting.
I have had liberal christians ask why i am vehemently against their beliefs, because they are good people and are not like their crazy fundamentalist counterparts. The problem is two-fold. First, the liberal christian should do all that they can to reprimand the fundamentalist on their misunderstandings or literal interpretations of their religious texts. Secondly, the religious texts themselves still have a stanglehold on the way the liberal christian thinks. They still regard the act of homosexuality as wrong or as sin, when that belief is just not scientifically substantial anymore. This view can also damage a homosexual persons self-image when confronted by a christian friend who tells them that they "love them" but there is something wrong with them. This makes the liberal christians view, in my opinion, just as bad as the fundamentalist christians views on homosexuality.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYMjXucTFaM (this is just funny)
I believe there will be a day when science will finally prevail over this archaic non-sense and just as it has in the past, dismiss misguided ideas such as racial superiority, gender superiority, mental illnesses and the list goes on and on. This ends my part of the rant. The most important part to me is the study on the genetic and fetal environmental causes of homosexuality, so i feel it would be good to follow the links i have posted to that, as well as all other links. I'd like to also post an older study done by my friend Richard Spencer. This work was done while he was actually still a theology student, but had since changed his religious views from belief to non-belief. Although it is older and newer studies have been found like the links i've posted above, i feel that he did a very good job as a student in pointing out some obvious logical fallacies of the christian thought on homosexuality and provided sound scientific evidence. I also told him i would credit him for his work, so that everyone would know that this was his writings, and although he feels that he could improve upon this work, it is still relevant 4 years after the fact. So please take the time to read this well written out statement if you are still doubting the facts:
Homosexuality and Christian Ethics: A Secular Response
On November 2, 2004, people stood in line before dawn waiting for their chance to vote in the presidential election. Many thought this high voter turnout to be a positive sign for John Kerry; people rarely stand in line in the early morning to simply say "nice job" to the incumbent. By the end of that night, however, it was apparent that those who predicted victory for Kerry based on the high voter turnout had been wrong. It appears that people were willing to wait in line not to call for change in the White House, but to put a stop to progressive liberal ideas such as same-sex marriage. Although cultural indignity towards homosexuals is pervasive in the United States, as it is in the rest of the world, the movement to accept homosexuals as fully protected under the Constitution has gained considerable ground in recent decades. For the purposes of this paper, I have been told that I would not need to pretend to be a Christian. This is a freedom I will exercise; I intend to argue for the priority of science over religious faith, then, after a consideration of various Christian perspectives, I will defend my own position from a consideration of homosexuality and choice, Scripture, human biology, and natural law. Finally, I intend to demonstrate how my position corresponds to the concerns of Christian ethics. To be clear, I believe that homosexuality is not morally corrupt and that equality should therefore be granted to same-sex marriage.
The Priority of Science
Ronald Preston distinguishes Christian ethics by stating, "In essence the methods and procedures of Christian ethics are no different from those of moral philosophy; the difference in Christian ethics is its starting point in the Christian faith." When we couple this explanation with John Wesley's quote given to us by James B. Nelson that, "all irrational religion is false religion," it is seen that a difficult feature of Christian ethics is the struggle between faith and reason. In other words, the Christian often is placed in an ethical dilemma complicated by either scarce or unscientific Scriptural exhortation; this is certainly the case with homosexuality. As Nelson explains, the authors of the Bible had no concept of sexual orientation and thus, "assumed that everyone was heterosexual." What must be understood is that in order for Christian ethics to remain relevant, it must allow science to inform Biblical interpretation; one's preferred Biblical interpretation should not be allowed to skew science. In any case, when science and faith collide, science ultimately prevails. For hundreds of years, it has been believed by Christians--basing their beliefs on the Bible--that the earth is flat, that the sun revolves around the earth, that women are cursed and inferior to men, that slavery is part of God's will, and that the earth is less than ten thousand years old. However, secular society, fueled by science, has caused these beliefs to change. Other issues remain unresolved as the struggle between faith and science continues. For example, it is only slowly dawning on the church that man is the product of evolution and not a special creation. When the Christian ethicist holds out for a position that flies in the face of all scientific data, it only causes Christian ethics to appear uninformed. Consequently, it is imperative for Christian ethics to not merely support their views with science, but to prioritize science above faith, lest Christian ethics slip into obscurity.
The Views of Christianity
The view traditionally associated with Christian ethics of homosexuality is condemnatory; this view presents homosexual activity as innately sinful and therefore unnatural. However, the Scriptural evidence for this position is scarce and open to interpretation. Accordingly, there are two alternative positions within Christian ethics. These approaches I will call compatibilism for they seek a position based on a compatibility between the traditional Biblical view and the secular view that presents homosexuality as natural and therefore not innately sinful. The conservative compatibilist, unwilling to challenge the authority of either the Bible or science, accepts the position that homosexuality is both sinful and natural. On the other hand, a liberal compatibilist accepts that homosexuality is natural but denies that the Bible condemns it.
Conservative compatibilists display a degree of liberal-mindedness in granting that homosexuality is natural; their position becomes the result of a steadfast belief in the Bible mixed with an honest view of life. Bishop Jim Earl Swilley presents this position well--not in an attempt to defend this position as I have defined it, but to simply explain why the strict Biblical image no longer satisfies him. In describing his experience in ministering to homosexuals he states,
Many years ago I worked with my father in his midtown Atlanta church where we experienced what we thought was a great 'revival' among many of the gay and lesbian people of the inner city. Over the years I counseled with these people, took them through what we believed to be deliverance and inner healing, cast demons out of them (or so we thought), and pressured them into heterosexual relationships, including marriage, so that they could live normal lives... During that period I saw everything from grown men vomiting into trash cans, trying to exorcise the demons of homosexuality, to men who had been gay from their earliest memory trying to maintain a sham marriage so that they could fit the definition of being a Christian.
He then gives a telling description of the "fruit" of this ministry; "To my knowledge, all these years later, every one of these men and women have gone back to living openly gay lives, and all the ones who were married to the opposite sex are all divorced." For Swilley and others like him, evidence suggesting that homosexuality is voluntary is absent. He further explains, "I honestly don't know the right way to look at this situation anymore. I know everything that the Bible says about it, but in my heart I really don't believe that people have any control over their sexual and romantic orientation, and that makes me feel hypocritical about some of the positions that I have to take as a minister."
Essentially, the conservative compatibilist position calls us to believe that natural instincts could somehow produce unnatural actions. Though such a conclusion is dubious, the distinction between homosexuality and homosexual acts is drawn. For homosexuals faced with the traditional Biblical view, consolation can be found in believing that God has the ability to change them. But, this position is unacceptable for the conservative compatibilist; as Swilley explains, "when you tell [homosexuals] that if they come to Jesus they will become a new creation, and they expect to change to the point of having their sexual and romantic orientation altered, they are devastated when they discover (only too soon) that it isn't going to happen." On the other hand, for homosexuals who embrace the secular view of homosexuality, consolation can be found in believing that they have nothing to be ashamed of. However, as we have seen, this position is also unacceptable to the conservative compatibilist because of Biblical teaching. Thus the conservative compatibilist's solution, having accepted homosexuality as sinful yet natural, is to submit homosexual desire to God and live celibate. This means that the conservative compatibilist position, as it struggles to deal with its own implications, offers no consolation; for homosexuals faced with the conservative compatibilist image, there is no hope. Indeed, the homosexual is forced to either live in sin or live alone. If, as the Bible-believing compatibilist would claim, it is the goodness of the Lord that brings people to repentance, we must wonder what is good about a life lived in solitude contrary to ones innate desires.
Liberal compatibilism takes quite a different approach. Without doubt, many churches have proclaimed homosexuality to not be sinful and have called for the church to abandon its condemnation of homosexuality. As Crook states, "[some] Christian ethicists think of homosexuality as a fact of life... They do not regard one's sexual orientation... to be a determining factor in one's relationship to God." These liberal compatibilists have encouraged the full acceptance of homosexuals into the church in accordance with Gods wishes. Interestingly, it seems that such a conclusion relies on the witness of science affirming the normalcy of homosexuality to the exclusion of a literal or traditional interpretation of the Bible. Inasmuch as this position relies on the witness of science, it is indistinguishable from the secular view of homosexuality. Because the Bible passages that deal with homosexuality are rare, and their teachings are vague, Crook states, "we are struck... by the rarity of pertinent Biblical references." And, as Swilley laments, "It would really help if Jesus would have said something about this subject." From this, the most the liberal compatibilist can hope for is a draw in which the Biblical teaching on homosexuality is determined to be inconclusive. Appeals to Bible passages encouraging love and compassion may be made in order to persuade the prejudiced to see homosexuals as God sees them, or we may be reminded that in Christ there is neither male nor female, but nonetheless, passages affirming Gods approval of homosexuality are not to be found. In other words, no Scriptural evidence can be used to corroborate the findings of the secular view of homosexuality, thus this version of compatibilism becomes identical to it; because the Bible is inconclusive, rational inquiry into nature must be our source of information. By supporting the secular view of homosexuality, from the perspective of Christian ethics, I may be seen as indirectly supporting liberal compatibilism.
Homosexuality and the Issue of Choice
If we can only be held morally accountable for voluntary actions, as I submit, then in order to maintain that homosexuality is sinful, it must be insisted that homosexuality is a choice; this assertion is the first error I find in both conservative Biblical views of homosexuality. To examine this error, we return to Swilley's testimony when he states,
It bothers me now when I hear ministers say that being gay is just a decision. I have never met any straight person who just decided one day to be gay. Why would anyone just decide to make their life so difficult and complicated? When you have looked into the tortured faces of people as they tell you the tragic story of a life spent trying to become straight, or have listened to them sob in a fetal position on the floor of your office because they don't want to be who they really are, you begin to see the real problem with the "gay is a decision" theory... As anyone who has ever really ministered to gay people knows, if they are not born that way, then their [orientation] was developed... from such an early age that they may as well have been. It is all they have ever known or felt.
Swilley brings to our attention two important flaws in claiming homosexuality is a choice: it seems to be a choice one is unable to make, and it is a choice that it seems no one would wish to make. A simple introspective glance will reveal that heterosexuality is something I never chose. Moreover, homosexual attraction seems to be something I am incapable of feeling. It is therefore absurd to claim that homosexuals have accomplished what seems psychologically impossible to me without evidence or testimony from a homosexual admitting that they choose to feel the way they do and further evidence demonstrating that this testimony represents the rule and not an exception. Furthermore, homosexuals become victims of discrimination, harassment, and hate crimes; they are often ostracized from their families and face significant psychological stress. As Crook states, "gays and lesbians are often denied the courtesy and respect that other people take for granted." Indeed, this is not a condition one voluntarily opts for. Moreover, it remains unexplained by the conservative Biblical views both how and why one would choose homosexuality: but this analysis of homosexuality and choice begs another important question. Specifically, even if it is assumed that a homosexual orientation is entirely optional, we must ask what would make such a choice wrong. There are two primary sources from which we may draw a critique of homosexual normalcy. The first is an appeal to Scripture: the second an appeal to reason in the form of natural law.
Homosexuality and Scripture
When considering Scripture and reason, the most striking revelation is that there is no reason to heed an appeal to Scripture. The worst for the secular view of homosexuality may be assumed and it could be agreed that the Bible is consistent and clear throughout that homosexuality is an abomination. However, this should hardly discourage anyone from supporting gay rights--unless some rational reason to believe that the traditional, literal interpretation of the Bible should truly be normative for all human behavior exists. That no such reason exists can be seen in the way the many people use Leviticus 18:22 to condemn homosexuality as an abomination. However, trying to live by all the laws of the Old Testament is clearly absurd. Of course, many attempts are made to explain the division of relevant and irrelevant laws of the Old Testament, but, unfortunately for the defender of either conservative Biblical view, it seems futile to argue that the laws of the Old Testament are anything more than the superstitious, intolerant rules of a pre-scientific people (at least when interpreted literally). If the Bible truly contained God's instruction for how to live our lives, it seems that God could have been much more clear and concise. Rather than spending page after page tracking genealogies or pronouncing doom upon ancient nations, God could have provided unambiguous instruction for living a moral life that would apply equally to all cultures at all times. It seems counter-intuitive to suppose that one of the reasons we possess the Bible is for moral guidance when the Bible is the source of so much moral confusion and debate. If God wanted to be clear, He could have been, but the Bible is not clear and it therefore seems unlikely that God--if he is responsible for the Bible at all--intended it to provide normative guidance for human action such as how to act towards the homosexual community.
Homosexuality and Natural Law
It is clear that the Bible does not come equipped with a sufficient defense to establish its moral authority. Yet, even if we assume the Bible speaks truly to Christians, it remains clear that it does so only in a faith-based context. Therefore, in order to justify the restriction of same-sex marriage in a secular nation, an appeal to natural law is often made. The initial irony of such a claim is striking: it's absurd that an organization that has traditionally endorsed circumcision and celibacy would comdemn a sexual practice as 'unnatural.' But they do, and Thomas Clark evaluates this argument from natural law excellently. He explains the appeal to natural law by stating,
Its most religiously explicit manifestation was in the canon of Thomistic natural law, which held that human nature, and thus human behavior, at least in its church-sanctioned aspects, reflected God's design for us. Those who fell from grace by virtue of acts which thwarted reproduction (e.g. masturbation, heterosexual sodomy, and homosexual relations) were violating divinely given natural law, hence were both sinful and unnatural, morally blameworthy and repugnantly aberrant. As natural law theory developed during the Enlightenment, the religious basis for the natural/unnatural distinction was dropped in favor of a more purely secular interpretation. But, crucially, the moral judgment carried by the distinction remained. Those who fell on the wrong side of it were perhaps no longer sinful, but they remained morally blameworthy for being deviant, for their failure to meet the natural norm. They were, in effect, living crimes against nature, a nature endowed with a teleological order within which man played a proper, specified role. Homosexuality threatened the fulfillment of man's contribution to nature's purpose by not serving the ends of reproductive continuity and traditional family life.
Without doubt, it is appeal to natural law where the secular case against homosexuality must be made. The causes of homosexuality are wholly irrelevant if a homosexual lifestyle cannot be demonstrated to be immoral. However, the appeal to natural law fails in numerous ways. Perhaps the single largest flaw of the argument from natural law is that it commits the is/ought fallacy. Even if it could be established that only heterosexual activity is natural, it does not follow that this is the way it ought to be. Thomas Clark further condemns the appeal to natural law:
Clearly, the ancient natural law conception of nature as teleological, and of humankind serving its purpose by restricting sex to those acts that may result in reproduction, is now a contentious matter of quasi-theological or philosophical debate, even though it may once have been widely accepted. So while not categorically religious, such a disputed notion can hardly function any longer as the secular basis for what we mean by 'unnatural'... The current secular conception of nature is that of science, which is explicitly agnostic about natural purpose and intention. Science cannot prove or disprove the hypothesis that nature has a final goal or end "in mind," so it puts the question aside as undecidable. Thus, in the secular arena where science holds sway--that is, in matters of law and government--nature cannot be presumed to confer teleological superiority (much less God's approval) on heterosexual, reproductively oriented behavior. We may not infer... that nature wants us to fill the heavens with our kind, or that sex acts which cannot result in pregnancy thwart any design or intent, and are therefore unnatural. On the scientific view, everything in nature, including sodomy, is literally and unavoidably natural, while the unnatural is simply the non-natural or the supernatural, should these exist. To label homosexual behavior "unnatural" in this sense is again false, since it's obvious that, like all other human attributes, homosexuality and bisexuality are a function of biological and cultural conditions, not of otherworldy influences. Recent studies which suggest that there may be definite genetic predispositions to sexual orientation reinforce this point. Nor is homosexuality any longer deemed unnatural in the sense of being a biological or mental illness, at least by the leading medical, psychiatric, and legal associations. Gays, therefore, are just as much a part of the natural landscape as straights.
Furthermore, the idea that sex exists solely for reproduction does not lend itself to practical application. Stephen Buckle demonstrates the argument from natural law against homosexuality to be weak in this sense when he states that it, "amounts to the view that an action is wrong if it is at odds with a relevant biological function, and thus implies that even innocuous behaviours like kissing and writing (or typing) are also wrong. Mouths are designed for eating and (perhaps) talking, not kissing; and although the human hand is possibly the most adaptable mechanism in nature, nevertheless writing and typing are no part of its biological function." It may be argued that actions like kissing that do not prevent a biological function, like homosexuality, are qualitatively different and therefore not immoral. However, as Buckle asserts, "this strategy will not work, since it is only exclusive homosexuality, not individual homosexual acts, which prevents procreation, but the immorality is alleged to pertain to the individual acts." Also, if sex is only moral when reproduction is the goal, then heterosexual activity involving sterile or pregnant individuals--not to mention contraceptives--is as immoral as homosexuality.
Finally, it is clear that sex performs natural functions in addition to reproduction. For example, natural selection has produced organisms that derive pleasure from sexual activity for the obvious reason that those organisms that enjoyed reproductive activity most were likely to produce the most offspring. Humans, like other species such as dolphins, naturally engage in sexual activity not just to procreate, but also because it is pleasurable. If this were not the case, then it seems nature would shut down the sex drive of females at times when they cannot be impregnated. Ultimately, the pleasure derived from sex has become not just incidental, but is often the exclusive goal of sexual activity; regardless of the sex of the partners, no evidence in nature exists that engagement in sexual activity for no reason other than to experience pleasure is immoral. Without doubt, the pleasure experienced during sexual activity has become its own end, not merely a means. In addition, it is known that babies who are deprived of touch do not develop properly, and this biological need for touch persists throughout life. The need for loving touch demonstrates that a celibate lifestyle may pose psychological dangers and therefore cannot responsibly be suggested as the preferred lifestyle for all homosexuals (nor could the Christian argue that the 'gift' of celibacy is something all homosexuals have been given). Finally, the brain releases at least one chemical, oxytocin, into the blood during orgasm that creates the feeling of a strengthened bond between sexual partners. Therefore, it is seen that reproduction is only one natural function of sexual activity. Experiencing pleasure, touch, and emotional bonds are all distinct functions performed by sexual activity despite the sex of the two participants.
Homosexuality and Biology
If it is supposed that homosexuality does not violate natural law, then the next question logically becomes, "how does nature produce homosexuals?" for it most certainly does; the prominence of homosexuality in the rest of the animal kingdom is sufficient to establish this point. Before answering this question, however, it must be clarified, as Crook informs us, that, "the terms 'heterosexual' and 'homosexual' are by no means as precise as most people assume." This statement is undoubtedly influenced by the work of Alfred Kinsey. As the pioneer in the scientific study of human sexuality, Kinsey collected data on more than 10,000 subjects measured in 250 different items: far more than any previous study of human behavior. What he found is that individuals are not exclusively heterosexual or homosexual. Instead, as Michael Shermer explains, "one can be both simultaneously, or neither temporarily. One can start as heterosexual and become homosexual, or vice versa. And the percentage of time spent in either state varies considerably among individuals in the population." Kinsey likewise states that humans, "do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual... It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories. Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separate pigeon-holes. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behavior the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex." Thus we see that humans cannot be understood accurately by the construction of the binary poles "heterosexual" and "homosexual." Instead, we see that people are better understood simply as "sexual" and representing one of a multitude of possibilities along the human sexuality continuum; the terms "heterosexual" and "homosexual" are accurate descriptively only to the degree that they are accurate predicatively.
For the understanding of how one's place on Kinsey's continuum of human sexuality is determined, human biology must be consulted. If Ernst Mayr is correct when he states, "evolution is the most important concept in biology," such that, "not a single Why? question in biology... can be answered adequately without a consideration of evolution," then a biological consideration of homosexuality must accommodate evolution. At first, it seems that natural selection should have eliminated homosexuality because it discourages reproduction rather than encouraging it. After all, if homosexuality has its roots in one's biological composition, and since natural selection emphasizes the importance of reproductive success, it may appear that homosexuality would have been weeded out long ago. The answer to this problem is quite simple--much like answering why natural selection has not eradicated sterility.
First, we must expel any erroneous conceptions of homosexuality as being strictly hereditary; there is no single "gay gene." Instead, homosexuality is a natural variance in the dimorphic sexing of the brain. Sexual dimorphism creates the medium for mixing genetic material which leads to the maximization of variance. It also ensures that individuals recognize the appropriate mating partners and timing. Furthermore, sexual dimorphism affects body types and sizes within a species in ways that ensure reproductive success. For these reasons, sexual dimorphism is a product of natural selection. Remembering that evolution deals in pragmatism, not perfection, and that reproduction is necessary for the species, not the individual, it is seen that homosexual variation is not a threat to the reproductive success of a population simply because it does not occur frequently enough.
Naturally, if homosexuality occurs as a natural variance in the sexing of the brain, then modern neurophysiology becomes of critical importance in understanding homosexuality. Simply put, sexual dimorphism requires that a brain be programmed to cause the body to act a certain way in order to be reproductively successful. Bishop John Shelby Spong explains, "Despite centuries of belief to the contrary, it is slowly dawning on us that the seat of sexual arousal is the brain, not the genetalia. To put it bluntly, this means that the brain is the primary sex organ of the body. A person's sexual orientation and what he or she finds sexually exciting are functions of that person's brain." Hormones are the body's way of conveying a message from one cell (or a group of cells) to another; they are essential both to establishing the gender of the brain and then controlling the reproductive cycle. Patricia Churchland explains,
Until rather recently it was widely supposed that the role of gonadal hormones did not include intervention in the business of the central nervous system, but it is now known that they are found in regionally specific parts of the brain and that sexual differentiation of the brain takes place at their behest... Priming by gonadal hormones--androgen for males and estrogen for females--activates reproductive behavior. In the developing organism the presence of gonadal hormones has a quite different effect, hidden from causal view. At this early stage the hormones set the brain's development on a course that establishes its gender. The brain of the developing organism thus becomes male or female, and subsequent influx of hormones in the adult organism will not be able to reverse the changes wrought in the brain... During a critical period in which particular neurons are maximally sensitive to testosterone, [the central nervous system] will induce organizational changes in the brain that 'masculinize' it. The critical period... in humans... is believed to encompass the third and fourth months of gestation... Until the influx of testosterone, the brain is bipotential--that is, capable of becoming characteristically male or female. This means that brain sex is not simply a matter of genetic sex, and indeed the two can be dissociated such that a genetic male can have a female brain, and a genetic female can have a male brain... Adult behavior is crucially affected by early exposure of the brain to testosterone and... this exposure determines whether exposure as an adult to gonadal hormones will be effective in producing characteristic reproductive behavior.
Here, Churchland reveals many facts important to a consideration of biology and homosexuality. As we know, sexual dimorphism requires that a brain be programmed to act as a male or female, and Churchland demonstrates how this programming can go wrong. To put it simply, the process of brain sexing isn't perfect. Therefore, the sensitivity of one's brain to the hormones produced by the body will largely determine one's sexual desire and behavior. In short, natural selection produced sexual dimorphism which, as effective as it is, is not perfect at matching brains to bodies from a reproductive perspective.
Given this biological view into the nature of homosexuality, there are two important points to be made in response to errors typically made by defenders of the conservative Biblical views. These errors are the result of attaching religious principles to the ever-changing field of science. First, it is medically inaccurate and outdated to consider a homosexual orientation a mental illness or abnormal as many Christians still do. The American Psychological Association has not considered homosexuality abnormal since 1973 since it is obvious that homosexuals are perfectly capable of leading fully functional, fulfilling lives. Indeed, the clearest signs of abnormality that accompany homosexuality are, as Wayne Dynes explains, "the punitive intrusion of socially sanctioned prescriptions rather than any internal limitations imposed by the behavior itself. In other words, once the corrosive element of self-contempt, which is introjected by the sexual environment, is removed, homosexual men and lesbian women would appear to function as well as anyone else."
After claiming homosexuality is a mental illness, the second mistake commonly made by defenders of the Biblical image is to claim that this "illness" has its roots in the way a child is raised. Although Christians will strongly contest Freud's assertions that religion is, "pathetically infantile," they seem to have no problem endorsing his view that homosexuality is an aberration that occurs when normal development is somehow distorted between the ages four and nine. As Bishop Spong further explains,
Others, inspired by Freud, speculated on the psychic makeup and influence of the primary adults (usually the parents) in the maturation of the gay or lesbian person. This was a particularly cruel theory, for it placed on the parents the blame for what was thought to be a neurotic development... Continued research in this area, however, has... increasingly falsified the idea that homosexuality is a mental illness. Many researchers believe that not one shred of reproducible evidence has come to light to substantiate clinically the illness theory. If, as is the case today, leading medical practitioners are no longer able to call homosexuality an illness, it then seems... the church is either failing to realize its ignorance or is acting as if its leaders are privy to some special source of expertise.
It is commonly acknowledged among psychologists today, having, "moved beyond the simplistic dichotomy between hereditary and environment and realized that all behavior comes out of an interaction between the two," that the debate between nature and nurture is an artificial one. Without doubt, an inseparable link between nature and nurture--summarized by stating that one's biological composition determines the range of possible responses one has to his or her environment--produces the person. Indeed, Freud's theory of homosexuality merely scratches the surface of the proper understanding; Freud had no access to the vast knowledge science now possess of neurophysiology. While the statistics claiming that homosexuality is more likely to occur in children raised a certain way (i.e., boys who didn't bond with their fathers) are dubious and debatable, they still do not trivialize the reality that homosexuality is rooted in the prenatal sexing of the brain. For individuals falling on extreme ends of the human sexuality continuum, environment and upbringing can hardly change one's sexual orientation. It is the orientation of those individuals who fall somewhere around the middle of the human sexuality continuum that may be considerably affected by early sexual experiences, parental bonds, or other factors considered to be determining factors in one's sexuality.
Ex-gay ministries are guilty of this second mistake; they falsely attempt to dichotomize the discussion between nature and nurture. Warren Throckmorton commits this error when he states, "In professional circles, the debate over the development of sexual orientation centers around two viewpoints. The more prevalent of these, known as the essentialist view, argues that sexual orientation is innate, "in-born," and therefore not subject to change. The APA has supported this view, and therefore has influenced the approach many mental-health practitioners currently take. The second, and less accepted viewpoint, known as the contructionist perspective, posits that sexual orientation is a socially-constructed product of a client's life experiences and can therefore be modified." Dr. Throckmorton contends that his research, "contradicts the policies of major mental health organizations because it suggests that sexual orientation, once thought to be an unchanging sexual trait, is actually quite flexible for many people, changing as a result of therapy for some, ministry for others and spontaneously for still others." But, as we have seen, Dr. Throckmorton's research does not contradict popular science--it misrepresents it! Throckmorton's statement is supportive of Kinsey's research. The alleged success of ex-gay ministry could be explained by either assuming that God will respond to such treatment or by remembering that sexuality exists on a continuum. However, the high degree of failure of ex-gay ministry is explained only by the human sexuality continuum; it does not seem reasonable to imagine that God would choose to help a small handful of individuals who go through "reparative therapy" while doing nothing to help the vast majority still struggling with their orientation. James Nelson reveals the truth of ex-gay ministries when he states, "'Therapies' that attempt to change persons from homosexual to heterosexual are now discredited by reputable scientists. Such procedures may change certain behaviors, they may make some people celibate, but they will not change deep feelings and most likely will produce great psychic and emotional confusion."
Homosexuality and the Christian Concern
Placing my position in our contemporary Christian context--which I am a part of only by physical attendance at a Christian school, not intellectual assent to Christian faith--there are a few questions that remain.
Which action is the most virtuous or Christ-like? In considering which action would be the most virtuous or Christ-like, let us consider the person of Christ from a Biblical perspective. If we believe everything the Bible says about Christ is true, then we must believe that Jesus was tempted every way that all humans are. In order for this statement to be true, Jesus would have needed to struggle with both heterosexual and homosexual desires. Therefore, Jesus must be considered bisexual. It does not seem possible to accuse homosexuals of being unnatural or choosing to feel the way they do without hurling these same accusations against Jesus. The most virtuous action to take as it applies to same-sex marriage is to act as compassionately as possible. In light of the evidence considered for the normalcy of homosexuality, the most virtuous and compassionate action is undoubtedly to offer legal equality to same-sex marriages.
Which action is most congruent with God's exhortation in Scripture? The action most congruent with God's exhortation in Scripture is, as we have seen, hardly relevant. In addition, there is little reason to believe that Scriptural exhortation is God's revelation. Therefore, this is a question that is born from Christian presuppositions and answers only a Christian concern. As Max Stackhouse laments, "the problem is that one can't encounter the biblical and classical theological traditions and therefore can't use those traditions for the purposes of discernment without being viewed as a Neanderthal (295)." As I see it, this is the way it should be.
Which action is most appropriate in light of the contemporary work of the Holy Spirit? In light of the contemporary work of the Spirit, the equality of same-sex marriages is still preferred. If there even exists such a thing as a, "contemporary work of the Spirit," then it seems this work is highly selective or ineffective. Homosexuals who are raised as Christians spend years trying to become heterosexual. They go through therapies, spend time in prayer and fasting, attempt exorcisms, acquire accountability partners, and attempt to change their orientations through more drastic measures such as viewing heterosexual pornography or actually engaging in heterosexual intercourse. However, for the overwhelming majority of these sincere and committed individuals, the Spirit does literally nothing for them. If we assume a contemporary work of the Spirit exists, then we must further assume that the Spirit is unconcerned with sexual orientation. This would indicate that one's sexual orientation is not a factor in one's relationship to God.
Which action will prove to bring deliverance to self and others? The answer to the final question of liberation and deliverance seems self-evident. As it applies to the homosexual community, there are two ways of viewing them in need of liberation. First, their bondage could be a sinful one and their need of deliverance may be from homosexuality itself. However, in light of the evidence considered for the normalcy of homosexuality and the continued failure of Christian remedies or reparative therapy, it does not appear that deliverance in this sense should be focused on. The second form of bondage homosexuals stand to be delivered from is that imposed on them by a bigoted and intolerant population. Since God isn't doing anything to liberate the homosexual community, we must. Social change may be slow, but it is possible. Therefore, granting equal status to same-sex relationships is the only fair way of bringing liberation and deliverance to the homosexual community. In addition, the recognition of the equality of same-sex relationships offers those who harbor dissent towards homosexuals deliverance from their prejudice.
"It is easy for us to criticize the prejudices of our grandfathers, from which our fathers freed themselves. It is more difficult to distance ourselves from our own views, so that we can dispassionately search for prejudices among the beliefs and values we hold. What is needed now is a willingness to follow the arguments where they lead," states Peter Singer. Every ethical claim requires an accurate assessment of reality, a desired goal, and a reasonable means to achieving that goal. In this view of ethics, faith has no place as science takes priority in both revealing reality and suggesting the means to achieve goals. For Christian ethics, this means it is inappropriate to oppose same-sex marriage. As Bishop Spong explains, "many scientists [have] been distressed that official church bodies make decisions and ethical pronouncements based upon premises that are not supported by the scientific community. I share his distress. Sanctified ignorance is still ignorance." Indeed, it has been shown that homosexuality cannot be considered immoral by a consideration of natural law, nor can the Bible provide a solid ground for opposition to same-sex marriage; therefore, the duty of any ethicist, including the Christian, is to offer liberty to the homosexual community in the form of the equality of same-sex marriage. The lingering prejudice of the conservative Biblical views is found in the Ramsey Colloqium when states, "We do not doubt that many gays and lesbians--perhaps especially those who seek the blessing of our religious communities--believe that theirs is the only form of love... of which they are capable." To their conclusion that, "We can only respond that we earnestly hope they are wrong (291)," I respond, "you'll have to do better than that."
There are a couple more things regarding this issue I would like to add. The essay above was written for a Christian ethics course. Because of that, I had the disadvantage of space restrictions and I had to remain as courteous as possible to religious attitudes. However, I believe this forced me to write on the issue in such a way that it speaks clearly to the people most likely to be opposed to my position. It may not change anyone's mind, but hopefully they wouldn't reject it outright as anti-Christian banter.
I spent a couple months writing this essay. For one of the first times in my life, I think I may have actually learned a lot from doing a research paper. Before I wrote this, I had nothing against any sexual orientation, but I wouldn't have been able to defend my position very well. The area I think I learned the most about regards the personal lives of homosexuals who are raised as Christians. In this afterword, I want to share two things. First, I want to discuss what I came to realize about the struggle homosexuals go through. Then, I want to elaborate on a point I touched on only briefly in the essay--homosexuality in the animal kingdom.
When I wrote this paper, I determined that a good point to make would be this: Homosexuals pray to have their orientations changed, but these prayers go unanswered; therefore, it is nonsense to tell homosexuals they are living in sin when their condition is one God will not deliver them from. The way I thought I could prove this point best is to simply ask homosexual Christians about the struggle they've gone through in coming to terms with their sexuality. The responses were overwhelming. I put together a survey, and even though I only got it out to four people, the results are striking.
This is the survey and its results...
Were you raised as a Christian?
yes - 4
no - 0
Do you consider yourself a Christian now?
yes - 2
no - 2
Do you experience homosexual desires?
yes - 4
As a Christian, were you taught that homosexuality is a sin? yes - 4
Do you believe that homosexuality is sinful?
no - 3
not sure - 1
Please list as many emotions that apply that describe your reaction to the teaching that homosexuality is sinful as you came to recognize your homosexual desires.
a) anger towards God - 2
b) self-deprecation - 3
c) felt out of control - 2
d) fear of salvation constantly at risk - 3
e) felt like I was a mistake (i.e. should have been born a woman) - 2
f) ashamed - 4
g) helplessness - 4
h) confusion - 4
How old are you? How many years did you invest in trying to become a heterosexual?
27/5, 23/9, 45/20, 19/7
Have you ever prayed that God would take away your homosexual desires?
yes - 4
From the following list, please list all the things that you have done to attempt to change your sexual orientation.
a) prayer - 4
b) fasting - 2
c) exorcism - 2
d) mentoring - 2
e) therapy - 3
f) laying on of hands - 2
g) accountability partners - 3
h) attempted to force heterosexual desire (i.e. forced heterosexual dating, heterosexual activity, and/or heterosexual pornography.) - 4
i) scripture memorization/devotion - 2
j) residential treatment programs - 2
k) intercession - 3
Have you ever believed that the Bible is infallible and inerrant?
yes - 4
Do you now believe that the Bible is infallible and inerrant? yes - 2
no - 2
Do you believe that you have chosen to feel the homosexual desires that you have experienced or continue to experience? no - 4
Do you believe that your sexual desires could be changed through conscious choice?
no - 4
There are a couple things I would like to point out. First, please note how much time these individuals devoted to trying to change themselves. Let's do some math...
If we total their four combined ages, we get 114. If we estimate that they began to deal with hormones seriously at puberty, and place the beginning of that at age 12, we can subtract 48 years, giving us a total of 66 years spent dealing with homosexuality. They claim to have spent 41 of these years trying to change themselves. This means that, on the average, these men have spent approximately 2/3 of their sexually mature lives fighting their sexuality. To the Christian opposed to homosexuality, this may come as a surprise (and the point I wish to make is that it would be an even bigger surprise if they realized that their God has done nothing to help them change!). To the advocate of gay rights, however, this is tragic.
What kind of life must these people lead? With their culture telling them one thing and their body telling them another. I find it detestable when Christians wish to condemn homosexuality by claiming homosexuals have higher suicide rates; as Lucille Bluthe says in Arrested Development, "they turn you into a monster, then they call you one." It is the anti-gay attitudes that homosexuals struggle against--including those forced into themselves--that cause them to experience self-hate. The problem is not homosexuality; the problem is ignorance. Anyone who has found peace with their sexuality has discovered this, but unfortunately, there are many who still have not found that peace.
Now to a lighter subject. Animals do some wacky things. Whether it's a female chimp sticking a twig in her vagina, or a dog humping your leg, it cannot be claimed that sexuality in the animal kingdom at all resembles the way Christians idealize sexuality in humans. Humans do wacky things too (they are fun, after all), and, as an atheist, this is exactly what I think we should expect since humans are animals. However, Christians don't quite see it this way.
Since it is claimed that humans are unique in the animal kingdom by virtue of our possession of a soul and/or free will, the Christian can easily ignore the sexuality of, oh, say lesbian flamingos: we know better, they don't. But this raises an interesting issue that I believe has been overlooked in the debate of homosexuality and Christian ethics. To be honest, it never occured to me until earlier today. Specifically, if humans are indeed different from the rest of nature in that we possess some supernatural component, then humans become much less a part of nature. At best, we would be a natural/supernatural hybrid. In other words, if the Christian is right, we are not natural in the way that a tree or a bird is natural. Indeed, God saw to it that humans would be distinctly unnatural when he gave us a spiritual component. This consideration virtually destroys the argument from natural law. It cannot be claimed that homosexuality is unnatural and therefore should not be practiced because, according to the logic of the Christian, possessing a soul and having free will--indeed, being human--is equally unnatural! (Am I wrong?)
At any rate, here's a partial list of some noteworthy sexual behavior in the animal kingdom... (from Wikipedia and Olivia Johnson as quoted here)
- Approximately eight percent of rams exhibit sexual preferences [that is, even when given a choice] for male partners (male-oriented rams) in contrast to most rams, which prefer female partners (female-oriented rams).
- The bonobo, which has a matriarchal society (unusual amongst apes), is a fully bisexual species--both males and females engage in sexual behaviour with the same and the opposite sex, with females being particularly noted for engaging in sexual behaviour with each other.
- ten to fifteen percent of female western gulls in some populations in the wild prefer other females.
- In early February 2004, the New York Times reported a male pair of chinstrap penguins in the Central Park Zoo in New York City were partnered and successfully hatched a female chick from an egg. Other penguins in New York have also been reported to be forming same-sex pairs. Zoos in Japan and Germany have also documented male penguin couples. The couples have been shown to build nests together and use a stone to replace an egg in the nest. Researchers at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, found twenty such pairs at sixteen major aquariums and zoos in Japan. Bremerhaven Zoo in Germany attempted to break up the male couples by importing female penguins from Sweden and separating the male couples; they were unsuccessful. The zoo director stated the relationships were too strong between the couples.
- a mated pair of swans in Boston were found to both be female. They too had attempted to raise eggs together
- Some black swans of Australia form sexually active male-male mated pairs and steal nests, or form temporary threesomes with females to obtain eggs, driving away the female after she lays the eggs. More of their cygnets survive to adulthood than those of different-sex pairs possibly due to their superior ability to defend large portions of land.
- Cross-species mating often produces hybrids like mules and ligers.
- In fruit flies, mutations in a number of genes affect a fly's homosexual proclivities. Some mutations cause males to court males and females indiscriminately. Some cause males to court only males: put several males together, and they will pursue one another in a ring.
- The bottle-nosed dolphin is catholic in its choice of sex partners. Males are frequently sighted copulating with turtles (they insert their penises into the soft tissues at the back of their victim's shell), with sharks, and even with eels. Eels? Yes, when a dolphin's penis is erect, it has a hook on the end--and many a male will use it to hook a writhing, struggling eel. So it should be no surprise that males copulate with each other, inserting their penises into each other's genital slits. The Amazon River dolphin, or Boto, sometimes goes further, penetrating another dolphin's blowhole.
If I were to call these types of behaviors funny (and I do), it would not be because I intend to be glib about homosexuality. However, I personally find it amusing that dolphins will fuck just about anything. Now, it may be funny to think about these behaviors as if we were watching them on an animal planet blooper reel--"uh oh! turn off the camera, those bonobos are grinding their pussies together!" Unfortunately, the situation becomes much more tragic when we observe the human species. I doubt a dolphin ever killed another in a hate crime after witnessing an eel hooking. The bottom line is this: It is absurd for people to claim that homosexuality is natural when it occurs in the rest of the animal kingdom, but it is unnatural when it occurs in the human species.
It is true to claim that we are the one species who really has the ability to know better. That's why we've created safe, sanitary dildos to use instead of those dirty leafy twigs.
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