Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Why You Can't Own a Canadian

A correspondent to City In the Trees has presented a comment in reply to Why Can't I Own a Canadian? below. This person has certainly presented a well-thought piece; there's no escaping the fact that it went through several reiterations. The tone is highly respectful, and, while frank, compassionate.

But with respect, I have to disagree with the comment's suggestion that the prohibition against homosexuality is based on something other than "God arbitrarily said so". That's really all we've got. There are myriad ways for human beings to love each other. Some are sexual, some aren't. Of the ones that are, only one single means of expressing it results in reproduction; dozens of others don't. It's inescapable that if the bottom line is reproduction, and so homosexuality is wrong, then so is every other heterosexual act that results merely in pleasure, and serves only to strengthen the bond between two people. In fact, every act of heterosexual copulation that does not result in conception -- as when contraception is used, or between couples who are knowingly infertile -- would be an abomination because it would, technically, occur outside the plan the commentor speaks of. Imagine the hurt that suggestion would place on the hearts of such loving people. And yet this is precisely what this philosophy hopelessly condemns homosexuals to. Little wonder the commentor can profess to have never known a truly happy homosexual! In my opinion, no loving God could desire such a thing.

My own feelings on the matter are that if there is a God, a conscious God of whatever nature, then It ("He" strikes me as wrong, but we really don't have an appropriate pronoun in English) has placed the only real commandment in our hearts already -- don't hurt others. Don't do to them what you wouldn't want done to you. Almost all the rest is politics, and generally speaking, I don't believe it's "God's will" anymore. As the Why Can't I Own a Canadian? article pointed out, there are simply too many examples of "God's will" that stand neither the test of time nor this crucial test in the human heart. The pronouncements on the justice of enslaving neighbouring tribes, on the treatment of women, the severe punishments for the most trivial of transgressions... these can't be the will of God. We've rejected them as such. But so many of us seem to say, "Well, God didn't really mean that bit about slaves, but He really meant it when he was talking about homosexuals." Samuel Morse (of Morse code fame) certainly held that "God really meant that bit about slaves", and he and others like him said so rather forcefully . The untold misery that resulted stems from that. So does the misery that homosexuals have gone through for centuries, right up to this day. But if Morse was wrong, and God didn't really mean one thing, why do others presume they're right in saying He really did mean something else that seems just as at-odds with our everyday experience to the contrary? Why are we free to reject one tenet but not the other?

Human beings are complex animals. We're sexual beings from the outset, but I personally feel we're far too complex for the exact nature of our sexuality to be hardwired. I think it's learned; it's a matter of socialization. Look how different the standards are around the world. A person, at some point in his or her life, simply becomes attracted to something in others, and that forms the basis for his or her sexuality from then on. The idea of a "gay gene", so-called, strikes me as ridiculous for two reasons. First of all, a gene whose entire raison d'etre is to prevent the continuation of the gene pool in which it exists wouldn't last long. What's the survival advantage in not surviving? Secondly, as I said, we're incredibly complex. When one looks at the spectrum of what turns people on (above and beyond the first layer, male and/or female), it's pretty clear it's learned. I mean, how could there possibly be, for example, a shoe fetish gene? Regardless of how we arrived at it -- created or evolved -- it's our nature to be sexually diverse. If we were created, then that's a feature of our nature created by God.

Getting back to the singular commandment of the heart... not to hurt others... we see this reflected in every culture, and in just about every person (gay, straight, white, black, whathaveyou). We even see it demonstrated in other animals approaching us in intelligence and sophistication. My cats have claws and fangs. But it is very clear to me they are aware of their capacities, and finely tuned to the level at which their application causes me pain. For them to curl their front paws around my arm with their claws out to hold but not tear, or to pinch, rather than bite, with their teeth as in a show of affection, demonstrates this. Why should it be so? Firstly, they have affection for me; I firmly believe this based on the evidence of their conduct and attitude towards me. Secondly, they are aware of my pain, and their own ability to cause it. Thirdly, something in their nature makes them desirous that I should not feel pain from their actions, and they clearly take measured steps that avoid it, almost without fail. I'm sure almost everyone has had experiences like this. It isn't just humans who sense and follow the Golden Rule. My own feeling is that if there is a mark of divinity in the world, this is the best hint of it. Perhaps the only one.

Sexual acts, in and of themselves, are not harmful. It's the context that is. A sexual act forced on another is harmful. But any sexual act between consenting adults, not forced on one another or anyone else, is not harmful. It's an expression of one of the joys of life. One might as well say that two men must not sing together. Or two women must never eat some magnificent confection from the same bowl. So long as the act is not done when one or both of the parties is in a committed relationship with someone else, how can it be harmful? (Morally speaking, of course; one might say 'it risks spreading disease', but then, one could say the same of singing together or sharing a bowl of food. Diseases spread by many means, but somehow we don't come to consider those social activities as 'evil' as a result.) So it seems to me that any affectionate act that doesn't violate the Golden Rule (i.e., don't rape someone, don't do it if the knowledge you did would break someone's loyal heart) would be fine with whomever created us. If the only appeal otherwise is to a book written centuries ago by people who clearly had an agenda, then we're right back to resurrecting the legitimacy of rules on slavery, diet, women's uncleanliness, and so on. If I can't credit those, I can't credit the suggestion that God meant that two people who love each other should deny themselves and one another simply because the nature of their releationship cannot result in reproduction; that it might offend some being who may or may not even exist. We might as well be rabbits, or perhaps not even that sophisticated, if we're meant for nothing more than that. If God's plan is the continuation of our race, that's surely not at risk (at least not from any lack of interest in the act that ensures it)! But is that all there is? Is there nothing more? Is there room for nothing else? I can't believe that.


James said...

Little wonder the commentor can profess to have never known a truly happy homosexual!

Myself, I've known dozens of happy homosexual men and women -- and happy bisexual men and women, too.

I would suggest that the probable reason the commentor doesn't know any is that (a) he doesn't know many homosexuals, period, (b) he does know some, he just doesn't know that those happy people are homosexual, and (c) those that he does know tend to hang around people like the commentor, who go on and on and on about how evil homosexuals are.

A thinker said...

James, I don't intend to draw you into a debate over this, but I feel compelled to address one thing you've said.

Leaving aside your assumptions about my homosexual friends, which frankly are rather funny :-D, you've stated that I "go on and on and on about how evil homosexuals are."

I'm rather astonished that you've drawn that conclusion simply from what I said in my blog comment. There is no statement to that effect, either direct or implied, in what I wrote there. You also don't know me in real life to make such an accusation. It's something I've never said, don't believe, and don't plan ever to say. But I don't expect you to believe me, because your mind is made up that I think a certain way. It's not about me, it's about Christians.

(Besides, I seriously doubt anybody, homosexual or straight, would want to "hang out" with somebody who was teling them how evil they were!) ;-)

When you are in a debate or a discussion with somebody with whom you disagree, it's not considered fair tactic to accuse them of saying or doing something they did not say or for which you have no evidence. If you disagree with me, please disagree with what I've actually said. I welcome that. But please, don't disagree with or accuse me of something I did not say. Thanks. I appreciate it. And so does anyone else you may disagree with :-)

Ferdzy said...

Good post, lone.

And I have to respond to A Thinker: true, you didn't, in so many words, say that homosexuals are evil. What you said was that homosexuality is wrong. Unfortunately, the very clear implication of that, and of your defense of the right-wing-Christian/bible-says position in general, homosexuals are "wrong". Wrong in their very existance. You can say that's not what you mean until you are blue in the face, but I assure you that that is the conclusion any thinking person must draw from what you say.

The pain that such a position causes, when held by a sufficient number of people, is real and widespread; quite as real as if you flat-out said that homosexuals are evil. Certainly you have, by your position, allied yourself with people who have no problem saying that homosexuals are evil. Your position is more nuanced, but it is on the same continuum.

By the way, my father is bisexual, and has lived with his male partner for over 25 years now. They are very happy.

A thinker said...

Hi Ferdzy,

Thank you for your thoughtful and well-written response. I also realize it's an issue close to home, with your dad. So please don't take what I say as a personal attack.

I have a lot of sympathy for your feelings, and I can certainly understand them.

You are right that hateful attitudes perpetrated by some "Christians" have caused a lot of pain. For that, they will have to answer to God. And I apologize on their behalf, although I don't and can't identify with them. Gay people have taken persecution, hatred, misunderstanding, lack of sympathy, lack of help, and far more from the church. And it's time it stopped.

And I must state unequivocally that I do not believe that homosexuals are inherently "wrong", any more than I believe any other broken person (all of us) is. They're people. They're made in the image of God. God loves them, and I am called to do the same. I don't choose my friends based on their sexual orientation and I don't base my
friendship on whether they change.

I have several gay friends whom I love very dearly. One of my closest friends is gay. This doesn't change the fact that I believe their lifestyle is wrong and harmful--in fact, if I can tell you the truth, it reinforces it. There are many reasons for that, only one of which is "God says so." It may seem an impossible paradox that I could completely and genuinely love a person, while affirming that I do not support what they do. I don't think it is. I'm sure we all do it at times.

This is an incredibly complex issue, and there's so much more I could say, but this is not the place. I'd love for anybody who wants to respond to me on this, to please visit my blog and email me. I'd be very happy to have a discussion with you. But I don't think in fairness to Lone Primate that he wants his blog comments cluttered up with an in-depth discussion of a very difficult issue. Thanks.

A thinker said...

. . .and I need to add, I get it wrong. I've messed up time and time again in my interactions with my gay friends. It's one of the toughest issues I've faced. That's the truth. . .

Lone Primate said...

This is an incredibly complex issue, and there's so much more I could say, but this is not the place. ...I don't think in fairness to Lone Primate that he wants his blog comments cluttered up with an in-depth discussion of a very difficult issue.

Well, that's kind of what the place is for... it's no skin off my nose if people post a thousand comments. Better that than none. :) It's up to you if you want to express your views in public, but if you do, feel free.

I don't choose my friends based on their sexual orientation and I don't base my friendship on whether they change.

I think it's unreasonable even to suggest this. How would you react if someone suggested you ought to "change" your sexual orientation? Would it flabbergast you? I mean, not because you're (presumably) straight, but because it would strike you impossible? For what's it's worth, if I had to categorize myself, I'd say I'm playfully bisexual with a hetero bias... but I can't imagine just deciding to ignore a facet of my identity. I am who I am, and so long as I don't harm anyone, why on Earth (or in Heaven, for that matter) should I or anyone else be condemned?

This doesn't change the fact that I believe their lifestyle is wrong and harmful

How? Metaphysics aside, how is being homosexual anymore "wrong" or, particularly, "harmful" than being heterosexual?

A thinker said...

Hey LP,

I'll be glad to take this up with you on email. I actually rather regret posting that comment because I really don't want a public debate on this issue. In fact, I really don't want a debate on it at all. . .but I'll email you later.

peace out

Ferdzy said...

I really don't want to get into a debate either. I doubt very much anyone's mind is going to be changed. So this is my last word on the topic.

Yes we are all, as humans, broken. But to suggest that one's sexuality per se, whether it be heterosexuality or homosexuality, is necessarily part of that brokenness, strikes me as the height of arrogance.