Saturday, May 21, 2005

Sexuality and Morality


One quick way to start a fight, is to start discussing sexuality and what is right or wrong about it. Most people, accordingly, would decide to leave that subject be, but ignoring behavior with a moral value is not something Christians are taught to do. So, in discussing the moral aspects of sexual conduct, I also find it necessary to examine the place of the Church, and of Christians, in how we act towards others in a matter or sexual conduct.

In my earlier post concerning Sexuality, I made a point of noting that Scripture has been taken as support for positions condemning Homosexuality which, when examined closer and in context, is not the sum of their statements. Also, I have noted that the Gospel accounts do not show a single statement by Christ which indicts Homosexuals, or which indicates that sexual orientation is a sin. I decided to present my understanding of sexual morals as they apply to Christians.

Before going on, I should note my strong belief that Jesus not only was never married or had children, I am convinced He never had sex. Any claim to the contrary misses a critical part of Jesus’ promise to us; Jesus Christ made God accessible to anyone interested in the relationship, and to equal degree. If Jesus had a girlfriend, let alone a wife and children, that promise is destroyed. This absolute celibacy by Jesus is the motive for Paul’s suggestion that believers should not marry, if they have the self-control to maintain their virginity. It also has the unfortunate effect, of suggesting that only virginity would please God, which is simply not so.

God made every single human being on the planet, and Genesis makes clear that God intended for humans to have children, which has almost always involved sexual intercourse. But more, it is clear from even a superficial reading of Scripture, that God is pleased when a husband and wife love each other, the Song of Songs is pretty specific about the physical pleasures of a couple, and God’s approval.

If I stopped there, Roman Catholics and most of the traditional Protestants would be pretty pleased. But those same Scripures pose other stories, less obvious but no less significant. Jacob and the Lord wrestled at night (Genesis 32:22-25). David and Jonathan were best friends, and some of their contact indicates a more intimate relationship than even brotherhood (1 Samuel 20:3, 20:11, 20:15, for example) . Some of the most important figures in the Bible were prostitutes, like Rahab (Joshua 2:1-24) and many of the women Jesus addressed had been married more than once, were living with a man they were not married to, or otherwise engaging in activities fairly promiscuous for the times, and it is noteworthy to see how He spoke with compassion to them.

Abram had a child by Hagar before he did with his wife, Sarai. Lot was considered a righteous man, but both of his daughters had children with him (Genesis 19:30-36). Tamar disguised herself as a “shrine prostitute” in order to have children to continue the bloodline (Genesis 38:13-30) . The Roman Centurion whose faith Jesus praised (Luke 7:9), seemed to have an unusual personal interest in his servant, yet Jesus had nothing but praise for him.

So, from a Biblical perspective, it becomes clear to me that a lust-driven action offends God, and violence in any relationship is evil. Further, in any relationship, one member dominates, and so is responsible for whatever happens in that relationship. The moral value of any relationship, then, does not depend on its orientation, but on the character of its pursuit, and the commitment of the participants to the other’s well-being and happiness.

I need to say that I am a bit disappointed, that some who asked me by e-mail to post on this issue, have not said anything since I did so. I expect I posted a few things you didn’t expect, but whether or not you agreed with my take, I think it would be a good and desirable thing, for you to make your own thoughts and opinions known. The conversation is too important, for it to be merely a soliloquoy.

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.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Fiction As Truth

Over on BeliefNet, I have been plunking away at posts regarding the Jedi. Yeah, Luke Skywalker and Yoda and all that lot. But in a way, not them at all.

The “Star Wars” stories worked, in my sometimes-garrulous opinion, because of the basic themes in them – Heroism, Justice, Humor, and Action. Basically, the first movie was good, but it was the inspiration of the Ideals of the Jedi, which made the films truly epic. At least, until Lucas decided to demote ‘The Force’ to blood chemistry, and imposed Jar-Jar Binks on us at the same time.

But fiction has always had its effect, and often for good purpose. Shakespeare’s plays were fiction, yet have been quoted at great length for centuries. Even people who believe the Bible is nothing more than allegory and symbolism, admit it has powerful lessons and moral value. And whole generations have grown up memorizing the signal lines from their favorite works.

I miss the writer Roger Zelazny, a peculiar man I did not agree with at all in his choice of faith and in many of his cultural assumptions. Yet he was a compelling writer, the sort of man who could tell you about his breakfast in a way that could mesmerize.

I liked the way Dusko Doder could create a complete image of Moscow, so you could feel the excitement of the first spring thaw, and feel a belonging to the communities in varying places.

I found Plato’s arguments compelling, written in a style which captured not only his reasoning, but the passion behind his convictions.

We live in a world obsessed with fact. Good fiction reminds us to watch for the greater truth, even when there is no fact at all in its source. You might laugh at Obi-Wan Kenobi, but to do so is an admission that he exists at some level.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Bringing Fiction To Life

It had to end, I know. But it still surprised me a little, and moved me within, to read the final fictional dispatch from the equally fictional Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader.

The writer, who is almost completely anonymous (his page shows “MFDH” at the bottom, and some of the links reference ) , has written a brilliant account of the Star Wars saga from the perspective of Anakin Skywalker, and a better one you will not find, even from George Lucas.

Some people will see the ‘Star Wars’ analogy and roll their eyes. I saw a portrayal of conflict, redemption, and discovery, and think others will as well.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Master On War


Right Wing News has a great selection of quotes by George S. Patton, which I find especially fitting for the present condition. I also have little trouble imagining his reaction to the pessimists and limp-spined expectations of the Left.

To those in Congress talking about delaying Judicial And Social Security Reform:

A good plan violently executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week

To those who think accommodation with the Democratic Minority is preferable to pushing through on the programs Republicans promised to get through:

Americans love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle.”

To those who count our losses and worry:

It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”

To those who think we should quit and go home:

Sure, we want to go home. We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to get the b*stards who started it.”

To those who think we are doing too much right now:

I believe in the old and sound rule that an ounce of sweat will save a gallon of blood.”

To those who say we need to wait until we have everything line up just so:

We have got by due to persistence and on the ability to make plans fit circumstances. The other armies try to make circumstances fit plans.”

And if he were here right now, I have absolutely no doubt that General Patton would have two words for Senate Majority Leader Frist, on the matter of the unconstitutional tactic of a minority using the filibuster to prevent a simple vote on Federal Appeals Court nominees:


Monday, May 16, 2005

Discussing Christ

Over at BeliefNet, I have noticed that the anti-Christian-Churchers have become agitated again. Now, I need to be careful here, because when I say “anti-Christian-Churchers”, I choose that clumsy term (which I will call ACC’s from this point going on) , because I most definitely do not mean to call them ‘Anti-Christ’; that term is for a real sort of people, but would be wrong in this case. The ACCss are people with a grievance, real or imagined, against the Church, and they are influenced by the emotion of that grievance. This leads to conflict on the BeliefNet site, sometimes instigated by the ACC’s, sometimes by the Christians, and sometimes it comes up through misunderstanding. At the moment, I would have to say that well over 80% of the threads on the main board discussing Christianity are contentious, and serve no purpose but bickering.

This raises the question, of how Christians should discuss the Christ. A great amount of confusion is out there, and worse, a lot of bad example. There can be no doubt that satan loves to get his claws into a church, and play it into his own purpose. Greed, lust, all manner of evil has shown up in these churches, and chased people away from the truth. What is to be done?

The first point, obviously, is to examine my own conduct and words. It’s so easy to see the error someone else makes, that one often ignores his own error. Also, a Christian needs to grow, and their work should reflect that growth in the fruit of his efforts. When someone stops to examine someone else, they must be careful to consider what effect they are sowing.

But what next?