Friday, May 20, 2005

Sexual Conduct


I will warn you right up front, this is likely to be a long post, and one which will need follow-ups.

I have received a number of e-mails, requesting I address the issue of Homosexuality in the United States, and also Gay Marriage. I have thought about the issues, read up a bit, prayed on it and decided I would actually prefer to expand the issue to a look at the Morality of Sexual Conduct. You, kind reader, will have to decide the degree of wisdom in my attempt, and the worth of the result.

Because two of the e-mails I received addressed the question from the perspective of Christianity, I will begin with the question of whether or not Homosexuality is sinful. Since human opinion is invariably biased, the logical starting place fro a Christian review would be in the Bible. I found ten citations in the Bible, relevant to the question of Homosexuality. They fall into three categories of note:

General prohibition of homosexuality – Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13

Specific prohibition against “Male shrine prostitutes” – Deuteronomy 23:17, 1st Kings 14:24 and 15:12 and 22:46, 2nd Kings 23:7

Prohibition against ‘unnatural’ desires – Romans 1:26-27, 1st Corinthians 6:9, 1st Timothy 1:10

First, note that the most references, five of them, show up in reference to male prostitutes at pagan temples. The 1st Corinthian reference also notes them, so 55% of the references are directly connected not to the sexual act itself, but to the idolatry of abandoning God. As for the remaining references, the Old Testament laws were given in the same texts which referenced protecting the tribes from mold and mildew, plague and disease. In other words, the Levitical laws existed for a specific purpose when they were issued, and they could be reconsidered when applied to another circumstance. My basis for saying this, is the fact that Jesus appeared to violate the Law when He healed on the Sabbath, and when He chose not to follow traditional cleansing rituals before eating. In His explanations for these, Jesus made clear that the Pharisees misunderstood the law in that regard. I have another comment from Jesus in mind, but I will save that for a later point, where it is particularly appropriate. That leaves the verses in Romans, 1st Corinthians, and 1st Timothy. But looking at these more closely, we see that Paul was writing about lust and wrongful desires, pursuing earthly wants. Romans 1:28-31 in particular, shows what’s going on, as Paul condemns lust in the same mention as envy, murder, deceit, malice, gossip, greed, arrogance, and disobeying your parents. How many people today consider envy the same thing as murder, or gossip the same thing as rape? Paul is speaking about the need to be perfect.

The next point to make about Homosexuality, is what Jesus had to say about it – nothing. There is not a single quote in Scripture, where Jesus condemns a person for Homosexuality. Given the Roman occupation at the time, and some of the more common Roman customs of the soldiers, there certainly were Homosexuals around which Jesus could have pointed out, but He did not. He neither praised nor condemned any particular sexual behavior, save two occasions of note. In John 8:2-11, a woman was caught in the act of Adultery, and Jesus made His admonition that “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”. Also, in Mark 10:2-12, Jesus warns that Moses allowed the law allowing divorce to be written, because men’s hearts were hard, and warning also that “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery”. This is a hard truth, and one which many Christians forget, especially when they consider their own remarried ministers and members.

Over at BeliefNet, a member named ‘The Maven’ made that excellent point. This is not to say that a Christian who has been divorced may not remarry at all, or that divorce is always wrong, but that the commitment of marriage is a sacred thing and no trifle, and to condemn another person is a hateful act which is not at all in keeping with the Lord’s commands.

So, if I had to present a verdict on the morality of Homosexuality, I would say that it is very much like Heterosexuality. If you are only pursuing what you feel like doing, and have no care of attention for your partner, you are using them as a thing, and offending God as you risk great harm to another person. If you are committed to their happiness and welfare, then you do not sin.

As to remarriage, that deserves its own post, which I will work on later. For now, the logical next step is to discuss the so-called ‘Gay Marriage’. Ultimately, there’s three takes on that – the cultural one, the American one, and the moral one. Starting with cultural, people don’t like surprises, and every time something significant shows up on the horizon, there’s people who toss out reasons why it’s bad. On the one hand, I’m not game for revisionist history, or special rights for a group of people. I also strongly believe that no church can or should be compelled to marry Gay people if their doctrine forbids it. That said, it’s nothing but idiocy for the opposite to dominate, like prohibiting a willing church from performing a gay marriage, or denying gays the same rights as anyone else, or automatically treating GLBT as a “risk group”, on the assumption that having a GLBT neighbor, co-worker, boss, friend, or whatever somehow means bad news. Something can be worked out, and will, but hysteria and any sort of phobia is just unacceptable.

On to the American position. That’s pretty simple, really – except for laws which protect children from predators and which encourage families, a GLBT couple should, I would say must, be equal in the eyes of the law to a heterosexual couple. I have heard the ‘slippery slope’ arguments, but those all basically boil down to questions about predatory conduct, which is its own issue. I don’t know if the word ‘marriage’ should be used, since there are connotations to the word that we simply may not be able to address at this time, but there has to be some accommodation that grants people a balance of rights.

On the moral level, it actually comes down to one word – promiscuity. I would be much happier with a son or daughter who marries his love, rather than one who sleeps around, whether gay, bi-, or straight. A married gay couple is committed, monogamous, and that should be encouraged. Period.

I’m going to stop here for a time, for two reasons. First, I expect this is going to be a chunk to weigh and consider. Second, the next issue is the big one about Sexual Morality overall, and that needs a fresh start.

For now, I look forward to your comments and replies. At the least, I hope I will hear back from the people who asked me to post on this topic. Thanks.

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