Friday, March 04, 2005

Homosexuality

UPDATE: AJM responded again.

UPDATE: AJM responded more fully here.

UPDATE: AJM has posted on his site, a first, quick comment. I'm sure more will follow, so stay tuned.

AJM wrote some comments about the Anglican Church's struggle with homosexuality. He wrote, "I, too, often am tempted toward, and too often commit . . . sins such as sloth, pride, cowardice, lust, greed, and so on. The Church rightly condemns those sins. Yet some Church leaders insist upon making a special exception for the peculiar sin of homosexual activity. Why?"

Here's why. Because certain influencial members of The Church are convinced that homosexualITY (I stress the I T Y) is not a sin.

While they might feel confident that homosexual activity is a sin (as they consider extramarital sex a sin), they cannot get past the fact that, like those experiencing other forms of biologically divergent circumstances--such as dwarfism, color blindness, extra fingers, perfect pitch, incredible beauty, exceptional athletic prowess, genius--homosexuals simply embody homosexuality. Therefore, by punishing them for acting on this innate biologically driven phenomenon, they are punishing them for being that way in the first place. And these particular church leaders cannot accept that.

I believe homosexuals are created that way. Born that way. Call it whatever you want: a cross to bear, a sinner's burden, a doomed existence. Call it an opportunity to act against biology and toward God. I call it people who are innocently attracted to other people . I call it an opportunity to love in their own way. I call it natural. Some call it abhorrent. I call it a percentage of the population. Obviously, there are many views.

But, in the end, I bet the Anglicans who seem so reluctant are those who can't--in their view--hold the less-palatable-to-heterosexuals aspects of creation against gay people.

I commented: "AJM will say: punish them for their actions, then. I will counter: Since we are all sinners, can any of us truly differentiate sin (and now I add that I'm not convinced homosexual activity is a sin)? AJM might (might) say: homosexual actions are not murder, but they are certainly more offensive to God than greed or lust or pride or cowardice. To that, I have no answer, except to say that. . . I wish I could see through His eyes."

AJM commented as follows:

"As always, I appreciate The Accipiter's comments. I certainly agree that homosexuality, whether its causes are biological or sociological, is not a sin. I would not say that homosexual activity is any more or less offensive to God than other sins.

Compared with God's holiness, all sin is perverse and disgusting, especially mine. And I certainly would not suggest that we punish homosexuals for their actions. I cannot say whether homosexuality is inbred or learned. I tend, from my personal experiences with friends who have struggled with (and some who have given in to) homosexual temptation, to believe that homosexuality is a disorder with psychological and sociological causes and, like other sexual disorders, can be cured. "

I'm not sure how AJM characterizes a refusal to consecrate Bishops who openly engage in homosexual sex. But I see it is as punishment.

AJM continues: "Regardless, it certainly is a difficult cross to bear, just as The Accipiter suggests, and one that I do not desire for myself. But, just as the Church would do me a disservice by discounting the significance of my sins, I think we do homosexuals a disservice by discounting the significance of homo sex. Celibacy is a tough path. But many have traversed it faithfully for reasons completely unrelated to homosexual proclivities. And it is no more difficult than the sacrifice of one's life for one's country, working in lands far away from home to provide for one's third-world family, or many other sacrifices that people make daily."

I respect AJM very much for writing this, because I think it's a sophisticated point, and one most conservative, orthodox Christians would not make. However, I fail to understand how, if "homosexual activity is [not] any more or less offensive to God than other sins," it is so much more offensive to the Church than many other "sins" seem to be (like pride or slothiness).

I think the Church has it backwards. There is a difference between one sin and another. Sloth, greed, pride, cowardice, lust, lying: all of these have natural, negative consequences for other people who are affected by the person exhibiting these characteristics. (Moreover, these characteristics are much less biologically based "traits" than they are personality components.)

Homosexual activity has no such natural consequences. It affects the homosexual, and, sure, it affects in various ways those associated with him or her. But not in naturally negative ways. Not in ways that necessarily have negative consequences. (Other than sin, which is what AJM I suspect will contend.)

Put sin aside. Why should a homosexual be pushed to lead a life of celibacy--what AJM likens to dying in battle--when being sexually active has zero naturally negative consequences?

Now, the natural reaction to this, is: Hey, Mr. Accipiter, what about AIDS, STDs, the whole "nastiness of anal sex" (as some see it), etc.? I say simply, those are not necessary negative consequences. Those are ones that must be carefully avoided, or--in the case of others' view of homosexuals and what they do--are culturally motivated, learned, or inherited.

Homosexual sex, when practiced safely, and when between consenting adults, has no naturally negative consequences.

AJM continued: "Whatever calling God has placed on my life, and whatever temptations to which I am most likely to fall prey, I hope the Church will always speak clearly to me about my sinful condition and about the perfect God-Man who offers redemption to me. " I respect that. "I only worry that the Church is refusing to offer that same marvelous grace to homosexuals. That is to the detriment of the homosexual and of the Church."

But this only makes sense to AJM and those who agree with him about the role of the Church and the nature of homosexuality.

Perhaps because I am not an orthodox Christian like AJM I don't recognize homosexuality as a sexual disease or "disorder". And I certainly do not think homosexuality itself is a sin. Frankly, I don't have particularly strong feelings one way or another about whether homosexual sex is a "sin," either.

What I do believe, based on my experience in life, is that sexuality exists along a continuum. I believe people find themselves straight, gay, or more or less straight or gay. And, as AJM and any other reader must admit, one may choose to act or choose not to act on the innate sexual feelings he or she has.

I belive that for sexuality, just like many other characteristics, there is a bell-shaped curve. Based on numbers alone, I believe that homosexuality is near the tails of the graph, rather than the center. That, however, does not make homosexuality any more a "disorder" than someone with blaze-red hair has a "disease," or someone who can memorize 400 random numbers in 4 minutes has a "disorder," or someone who has a third nipple has a "condition". As far as I know, there are no physiological "problems" linked to homosexuality, regardless of how "abnormal" it seems to some. None.

That said, why is it so easy for some to believe that God would want homosexuals to live a non-sexual life? To not express their sexuality, which all Christians consider a gift from God? It is one thing to argue that God--based on passages found in the Bible in various places--would not condone gays sleeping around any more than he would condone non-gays having all kinds of sex with all kinds of people. However, how is it that gays who are committed to one another, living monog0mous, loving lives together, fall under the same umbrella? I don't think they do. I don't believe the Bible is clear on this.

Some may say: It is sex outside of marriage. That's a sin. And marriage can never be for gays because it is naturally between a man and a woman. Simple. But I'm not convinced.

AJM once offered some proof for the existence of God and what He "does for a living," all without resorting to Scripture to prove his point. I was, and am, superbly and sincerely impressed.

I now challenge AJM, or anyone else, to do the same here. Without using the Bible: What makes homosexual sex, in and of itself, bad? Why is it sinful? And, further, just to sweeten the pot, why is marriage "naturally" between a man and a woman?

I have my responses lined up and ready to go. I wait for AJM to take a whack at me with a big wet noodle.

Is God Playing with Us?

UPDATE 3/9/05: As I knew he would, my Evangelical friend AJM devoted numerous paragraphs to this. See for yourself. I find some of it satisfying. Perhaps I should send my further questions on a note in a bottle out to sea. Perhaps I'll write a post later.

---

I know at least one person out there will attempt to answer this question, because he's the only person who ever reads this drivel.

Let's assume the following:

1) God created humans.
2) God gave them free will.
3) God knows the past, the present, and the future and is without time, space or any other pesky physical or 4th-dimensional encumbrance.
4) Humans sin.
5) God told Moses (and others through other mechanisms) that sin is bad.
6) Sin is offensive to God.
7) Redemption of sin is the only way to God.

Allright.

If we accept all those as true, then isn't it also true that God knew when giving humans free will that humans would sin? Of course. So isn't it true he created not only humans with free will but also humans-as-sinners? Yes.

So, why is God offended by sin? He made us sinners.

One possible answer is that God gave us, in giving us free will, the opportunity NOT to sin. But no human is capable of that. So it is really NOT an opportunity, right? Every human sins.

So that leaves me with this: God made humans and everything else, and said "It is good." But humans were NEVER truly good, and NEVER can be. So was that really "good enough" for God? Otherwise, why would he say it?

Why should I believe that God hoped at any time before "The Fall" that humans COULD be good, i.e., sinless? He always knew we never could be. So he expected The Fall. Moreover, I suggest, because he could have limited our free will, it was planned. God knew it and could have done something about it, but didn't.

So He designed us to be sinners. To what end?

So He could delight in joining us/giving us His Son as an opt-out provision (or "opt-in" provision)? So He could "punish us" by denying us Him for being exactly what He made us if we don't accept Him?

By using the free will He gave us (which allows us some of the freedom He has), we actually find ourselves not only LESS like Him but also incapable of being either like or with him except THROUGH HIM (Christ)? Why?

Essentially without giving up the free will he gave us and letting Him guide/control us, we're nothing? So why give us free will at all? I've heard it's so our love for him came from an honest place. So. Why does God need to be loved? He has all the love the universe knows already, with or without us.

Isn't this like creating a child and teaching it--or in God's case, providing it the capability--both to love and to murder but hoping it only loves? To what end is teaching it--or giving it the opportunity--to murder? So that when it does not murder, God feels good? Why does He need to feel good? He is the ultimate Good, regardless of us and our feelings for him. Can't "feel" any better than that.

Chew on it.

UPDATE: Anonymous makes some good points. To her "caged bird" analogy, which I think is deftly on-point, I have to say: Why would God want or need our love anyway? What difference does it make to Him? As far as I can tell, He is the source of love. He created it. He has it all. So why does he need us to express it? To boost his "ego"?

Or, as I suspect, is it that through loving Him, we then are able to love other humans well?

The Hugging Sound

All this talk about evolution and creation is just murky murmuring in a back-hall closet when I hear the hugging sound.

The hugging sound is the warm, purring, throaty vocal inflection my one-year-old daughter makes when she spots her stuffed baby doll (the frog-like, big-eyed "Lily," who talks about colors and counts butterflies, pink flowers, and blue birds) or when she wants a hug from me or her mom. It's not unlike her leaning over at her waist and reaching out for me with both arms straight out, palms stretched, when I get home. It's also not unlike her laughs when I buzz my lips on her belly. It's incredible.

The hugging sound started after she got attached to her doll. My daughter doesn't quite know how to turn Lily on or make her talk. And she doesn't know that holding her by her foot so the green head with a pink bow on top bounces along the oak floors would harm her if she were alive.

Of course, to my dauthter, Lily is alive. Hence the sound. She loves this doll. She cuddles it and walks in her frankenstein-like way across the house to pick her up and hug her and peer at her with her usual inquisitive, raised-eyebrow intent.

So when I am the thing that inspires the hugging sound in her--which has only begun in the last few days--I feel like for the first time, my daughter is telling me that she loves me. Yes, I've seen it in her eyes before. And I know by her hugs and her comfort with me and her desire to be held that she loves me. But it's different when she vocalizes it. It's a bolder-colored sentiment.

So, regardless of how we all got here, I never take for granted this wonderful life and the joy of my daughter and her love.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Out of respect for Ross

AJM says that Hugh Ross is not a theistic evolutionist. From what I've heard and read, I suspected AJM would take issue with that label. Here's the evolution/creation debate portion of Ross' website.

You decide:
http://www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics.

This dude's a sharp cookie. I'll look more closely at his work before I take issue.

Regarding AJM's comment that most Creationists are those who believe that "'days' is best interpreted as epochs of undetermined length that can be approximated by accepted scientific methods," I'm left wondering why I hear so much Creationist rhetoric on TV, in the papers, and on the radio: 1) about the world being much younger than scientists tell us it is; and 2) about how radioisotope dating and other "accepted scientific methods"--and these are well accepted in science--are faulty measuring tools.

That leads me to this question: I wonder whether the vast majority of Creationists know: 1) what "scientific methods" are at play in the creation/evolution debate; 2) whether those methods are or are not accepted by the people who are in a position to evaulate them (scientists who use them and those otherwise technically well versed in the methods enough to thoughtfully criticize them); and 3) how those methods that are at play actually work.

Beyond that, I question how many Creationists care about the scientific method at all. I know AJM does. But he is a highly educated, whip-smart guy whose logical and analytical tools are razor sharp. He understands the importance of science. I am not at all convinced that most Creationists do. Frankly, I don't think many evolutionists do, either.

Enough for now.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

And on the first day . . .

I've decided to begin my examination of the Creation-Evolution debate and its significant parts. Hopefully I won't be forced to measure the whole project in geologic time. There's a lot to dig into. Here's a start.

Having just formatted this, I gaze down the list as I scroll and wonder if God's chuckling as He reads it. Or if He's just content that we care and hopes we'll find our way to the truth.

To what do you subscribe?

Full disclosure 1. I'm a theistic evolutionist and feel good about it.

Full disclosure 2. I lifted this list from http://www.religioustolerance.org/evolutio.htm. A bunch of thoughtful Canadians doin' their utmost darndest to present unbiased in-depth coverage of all the religions of the world (including atheism and secularism) and how they overlap or conflict. I'm pretty sure AJM can find a gap in their armor, but I like them and appreciate their efforts too much to try.

Here we go:

Origin Theories

Analogical Days: Creation started: Unknown. Duration of creatoion: Six "days," of unknown lengths. "Days" are God's work-days, not 24 hour days.

Biblical reality: Creation started: 1) Stars and earth: billions of years ago; 2) Humans: about 8000 B.C. Duration of creation: 1) Three days, each 24 hours long.2) Three days, each 24 hours long. Two separate creation intervals.

Calendar-day: Creation started: After 8000 B.C. Duration of creation: Six 24-hour days. Many alternate names.

Day-age: Creation started: About 10,000 B.C. Duration of creation: Six "days", each 1,000 years long.

"Days of divine fiat": Creation started: Unknown. Duration of creation: Six 24-hour days for God to initiate creation. It took a long interval for creation to actually take place.

Expanding time: Creation started: About 15 billion years ago. Duration of creation: First day: 8 billion years. Each remaining day half as long as the previous day.

Framework hypothesis: Creation started: Unknown. Duration of creation: Unknown. Genesis not to be interpreted literally.

Gap theory: Creation started: Billions of years ago. Duration of creation: A gap of billions of years between creation and the Garden of Eden story.

Indefinite age: Creation started: Billions of years ago. Duration of creation: Six time periods, each tens or hundreds of millions of years long.

Intermittent day: Creation started: Unknown. Duration of creation: Six days, each 24 hours long. Days of creation separated by long intervals of time.

Replicated earth: Creation started: Billions of years ago, for the original "old" Earth. A few thousand years for the "new" Earth. Duration of creation: Billions of years, for the old Earth. Six days for the new Earth. It took God billions of years to create an original earth. Then he copied in in a few days.

Revelatory-day: Creation started: Unknown. Duration of creation: Unknown. The six days of Genesis refer to the time that God took to describe creation to Moses.

Revelatory-device: Creation started: Unknown. Duration of creation: Unknown. "Days" are like phases of a construction project.

Seven-day: Creation started: Billions of years ago. Duration of creation: Six 24-hour days. It only took God six days to create the world, many billions of years ago.

These last two are scientific theories based on secular data. According to www.religioustolerance.org, these are accepted by over 99% of the geological and biological scientists in the U.S.:

Naturalistic evolution: Start of universe: About 15 billion years ago. Species developed over: About 3.5 billion years. Species evolved due to natural forces and processes.

Theistic evolution: Start of universe: About 15 billion years ago. Species developed over: About 3.5 billion years. Evolution guided by God. Within theistic evolution, you find Dr. Hugh Ross and most Roman Catholics.