Wednesday, September 19, 2007

# Posted 8:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHY DOES OXBLOG RESPECT BIGOTRY? In a post about Larry Craig, I stated my unequivocal support for equal rights for gays and lesbians. I also stated that "I respect the opinion that homosexuality is a grave sin from a Biblical perspective." One commenter observed that if that is what I believe:
Then you also respect a lot of other, ridiculous things.

Can't you just say that you don't respect that opinion?

Essentially, you're saying that you'd take a stand on a moral issue, except against certain, fervent people... Because what they believe is rooted biblically.

I didn't really take that argument seriously at first, so I didn't post a response. But then the author appended the same comment to a different post about a different subject. But he did so respectfully, so I believe that he is serious in raising this point. So what is my response?

Invoking the Bible as a justification of one's arguments does not provide automatic legitimacy. Often, the bible is radically misinterpreted. If someone invoked the Bible to justify racial segregation, I wouldn't profess respect for that opinion. Yet there are also instances in which I wouldn't respect an opinion that has a legitimate basis in the Bible. For example, if someone seriously argued for legalizing slavery since it is allowed by the Bible, I wouldn't profess respect for that opinion. Yet who in the United States would ever make that argument seriously?

As the example of slavery suggests, the community of American believers has come to accept over time that democratic rights must sometimes prevail over Biblical injunctions. This acceptance is often implicit, since I sense that few of the faithful feel comfortable subordinating the word of God to any other principle. Yet implicit or explicit, this acceptance is there.

So, then, how should one treat a fellow American who invokes the Biblical as a justification for denouncing homosexuality? The position of my anonymous commenter seems to be that one should deny respect to such opinions or even denounce them as "ridiculous". But I think that approach is entirely counterproductive. The scorn of the secularists accomplishes little more than postponing the day when equal rights for gays and lesbians are no longer a political issue. The tide is turning in favor of those who consider equality before the law to be self-evident and unthreatening.

But I also reject scorn as a matter of principle. Faith has a tremendously powerful influence over the faithful. As a Conservative Jew, I am not bound so closely to the literal meaning of the biblical text. But many other denominations do emphasize that approach. It is a powerful approach that brings much good and meaning into many lives. Of course, it has its drawbacks as well. Yet on balance, is this kind of commitment to the Bible such a terrible thing that it should be met with scorn?

I am certainly willing to meet it with disagreement, but I see little reason to deny it respect. Not all that long ago, I took part in the liberal consensus that evangelical Christians are deserving of condescension at best and vitriol the rest of time. Over time, I came to see that this approach accomplished little other than to close my mind, insult others and contribute to unnecessary polarization, which I can do without.

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(19) opinions -- Add your opinion

This is one of the most sensible posts I've ever read.
"I respect the opinion that homosexuality is a grave sin from a Biblical perspective ... I also reject scorn as a matter of principle."

Ok, David, but it's hard to contain my scorn when so many "people of faith" selectively invoke the Bible to justify naked homophobia. They don't invoke it to justify slavery anymore, or God-inspired genocide, or banning the consumption of shellfish, but homophobia seems to get a pass. God help the Episcopalian Communion, and the rest of us who grapple with this problem.

I'm a regular mass-attending Roman Catholic and, as Ralph Hitchens writes, I have some scorn for some evangelicals for their selective reading of the New Testament. I grew up in the Deep South (Florida, Georgia and Alabama) and have always been annoyed with the selective reading, especially their failure to acknowledge such elemental aspects as the Discourse on osetntation, Discourse on Holiness and the Discourse on Judgmentalism. I wonder of any of them really pay attention to the Gospel According to Matthew.

Far too many people use religion as a mirror to reflect their own preconceptions back to them. I would rather use it as a window to gain insight into the world and as a way of humbling myself.
Hi David,

So what you're saying is - faithful people may, often, not respect homosexuals, but homosexuals should not '...deny...respect' to the faithful, because it contributes to 'unnecessary polarization'.

In effect, then, the initial question still remains the same - you purport to extend 'unequivocal' support for the rights of gays and lesbians...yet, this support seems conditional upon a set of principles, contained within a sacred text.

'Unequivocal' means not being subject to conditions, or being of an unqualified nature.

I think it would be more sensible if you re-stated your original position, acknowledging that your support, while respectful and broad, is not all-encompassing, but rather inherently constrained by a 'tremendously powerful' variable which 'brings much good and meaning into many lives'.

I think that might be more fair.
Some people believe that homosexuality is a psychological disorder, some don't. The first group has more than just religious arguments - generations of psychiatric studies support that position. Some people know those who claim to be former homosexuals (google Dennis Jernigan for a famous example), and know no reason to doubt the claim - and Dr. Robert Spitzer's recent study says such a change is possible.

One religious argument other than the usual suspects in Leviticus and the Pauline letters states that since Jesus defined marriage in exclusively heterosexual terms (Matthew 19:4-5), and since the Bible consistently condemns nonmarital sex, the Bible therefore does not approve of gay sex.

The other group will cite the American Psychiatric Association's 1973 delisting of homosexuality from its list of disorders - spearheaded by the same Dr. Spitzer, ironically. I can't find on the Internet an explanation for why this change was made. I do know that a very small percentage of the APA holds the actual authority to change its manuals, and that the decision was not unanimous, and that it took place when gay activists were lobbying heavily for the delisting.

Many will cite various studies searching for that holy grail of a gay gene, but the grail hasn't been found, and the Bailey and Pillard twin studies established the existence of sets of identical twins who have the same genes but different sexual orienation, leaving only the external environment (physical or social) as the only possible root explanation. (Twin studies have yet to control for environment; finding twins raised apart from each other is rough.) A genetic or otherwise physiological cause of homosexuality doesn't prove that it's an innocuous trait, anyway - red hair is genetic, but so is paranoid-schizophrenia (at least in some cases).

Political correctness says the first group is bigoted and the second isn't. Why should we believe that? Can't rational people disagree over the nature of homosexuality?
Also to bear in mind, following Voltaire, that in a society that values freedom of speech although you may disagree greatly with a given opinion and argue against it whenever opportunity presents, you would defend the right of people to express it if that right were being threatened.

Besides, if you don't make the effort to take someone seriously you have zero chance of being able to begin to bring them around to your point of view.

I'm not sure that political correctness says anything. However.

As far as religious conservatives appearing to be bigoted in their condemnation of homosexuals, your choice of the word bigot was literally correct. The word's 16th century origin denotes a superstitious religious hypocrite.

Not belaboring on the Ted Haggards, the Larry Craigs, the Jeff Gannons, ..., but not dismissing them either, it seems that the Religious Right enjoys this sin too much. Yes, it does seem to be a hypocritical position.

To extend your dialectical argument, you should contrast the Religious Right's lack of concern over the gay sinner with Jesus' overt acceptance of and concern for Mary Magdelene. Yes, I'd conclude that the Religious Right is being bigoted.

Lastly, you appeal to our rationality. I'd rather appeal to your humanity.
"To extend your dialectical argument, you should contrast the Religious Right's lack of concern over the gay sinner with Jesus' overt acceptance of and concern for Mary Magdelene. Yes, I'd conclude that the Religious Right is being bigoted."

Anonymous, you are making a sweeping generalization of religious conservatives. Many social conservatives (religious and secular) have no problem getting along with gays despite finding fault with homosexuality.

Perhaps I should make my point clearer. Many cultural liberals (the folks I identified earlier with political correctness) believe that it is bigoted to believe that homosexuality is a psychological disorder - but they never give a straight answer (no pun intended) as to why. The PC crowd gives the usual responses which I cited in the previous comment, and if that's the best it can do, it seems that the issue is pretty much up for grabs. Neither disbelieving nor believing that homosexuality is a disorder are automatic signs of bigotry. But many on the cultural left refuse to accept it - and that is sheer bigotry.
I'll never understand why people get so worked up over homosexuality. You know what is affecting me right now and will for the next 10-40 years? The ever expanding debt of this country. If a gay neighbor moves in next door, my pocketbook is unchanged. But guess what folks, with the dollar declining at a rapid pace I'm getting poorer by the day! Maybe some people should thinkg about re-focusing their energy towards political problems that actually affect us in a real and meaningful way. And if I haven't made myself clear I'll be blunt. If you neighbor is gay that has no affect on you!!!!!!!
Yes, Alan I am making a sweeping generalization about the Religious Right. But then they are trying to pass a Constitutional amendment defining gays out of marriage. And yes, conservatives often have no trouble getting along with gays on a personal level, for example, Dick Cheney, but they seem to have a problem on the general level. Hence the generalization.

I can give you a really good answer as to why it is bigoted to believe that gays are psychologically abnormal. There are so many of them. They may be in the minority, but they are our brothers, our sisters, sons, daughters, .... Sound pretty normal to me.
Suppose someone said "I believe that homosexuality is a sin, according to my religion; but I don't believe the State should enforce the views of my religion (or any other)." Would that make sense? Would such a view be homophobia (naked or otherwise)?

How about someone who said "Homosexuality is a sin, and so is gluttony, and heterosexual fornication; and I don't see any reason to think that one is more severe than another. Since there are about ten times as many cases of gluttony (being overweight) as there are of homosexuality; and ditto with heterosexual fornication; therefore I expect my pastor to spend ten times as much effort trying to get us to lose weight, and not fornicate, as he does trying to prevent homosexuality."
"I can give you a really good answer as to why it is bigoted to believe that gays are psychologically abnormal. There are so many of them."

But you refuse to offer any, so I have no basis to take your word for it.

"[Th]ey are our brothers, our sisters, sons, daughters, .... Sound pretty normal to me."

All sorts of good, bad, and innocuous traits are found among our sisters, sons, and daughters. Irelevant.

If an attitude is bigoted, explaining why is a simple matter. If it takes a lot of complex discussion about claims about behavioral science that a lot of people don't know about, it's an unsettled scientific debate, not bigotry.
Sorry for the pronoun reference problem.

"I can give you a really good answer as to why it is bigoted to believe that gays are psychologically abnormal. There are so many [gays and lesbians]."
I respect freedom of thought and freedom of speech, so I support the right of anybody to believe and say things that I consider wrong, even stupidly and disgustingly and cruelly wrong. In that sense, I respect the opinion that "homosexuality is a grave sin from a Biblical perspective" although I disagree with it, even from a Biblical perspective.

But that argument has no relevance to how homosexuals ought to be treated. We should not allow discussion of equal rights to be sidetracked into whether or not homosexuality is a sin, or an illness, or a naturally occurring variation in natural sexuality. The legal issue of equal civil rights for homosexuals is independent of whether homosexuality is "normal" or "abnormal," "Biblically moral" or "Biblically immoral." The principle of equal civil rights for all is also independent of whatever scientific debate goes on over the nature of sexuality -- or the nature of gender differences, the measure of intelligence, or the reality of "race."

Our government is founded on the principle that the only justifiable limits we can place on each other by law are those required to protect the equal rights of all. It is justifiable to forbid murder, theft, and rape, and use the force of the state to hold individuals to those social agreements. It is not justifiable to use the force of the state to forbid dancing with the opposite gender, or sexual relations with your own, unless you can present evidence that such behavior causes objective harm to other human beings. Being morally outraged is not an objective harm. You have the right to be protected against physical harm. You do not have the right to be protected against being morally offended.

Sadly, I have to say the same thing to my homosexual and liberal friends. Homophobia morally outrages you; homosexuallity morally outrages them. If you demand that "homophobes" respect the freedom of homosexual persons to do what "homophobes" despise, then you are obligated to respect their freedom to do what you despise. Homosexuals have the right to do what and with what and to whom they please, as long as they do not harm others; those who condemn homosexuals have the right to say whatever they please about it, and long as they do not harm anyone.

You will not win equal treatment for homosexuals by making everybody stop calling homosexuality a sin or an illness. It is more practical, more respectful, and more in line with basic principles of democracy, to say, "Whatever you believe, you have to behave toward heterosexuals and homosexuals with equal respect and consideration."

To my conservative brethren and sistren: for a Christian who condemns homosexuals as sinners, and claims that they and anyone who condones their behavior are going to Hell, to then complain about being called a bigot is hypocritical. You say "sinner," a liberal says "bigot" -- it's moral outrage both directions, and if you have the right to voice your moral outrage, then other people have the right to voice theirs. If you have the right to condemn others, they have the right to condemn you -- so either suck it up, or shut up.
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