Levellers

Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Loose Ends, 2: GLBT Series

  • Alan and Steven: Please try to indicate in a clearer way when you are talking to each other and when to me. That hasn’t always been clear.
  • The rules for commenting on this blog are posted to the right.  Please follow them. Alan, I did not remove any of your comments. I don’t know what happened and I can’t seem to reply to your email. I am not all that tech-savvy. 
  • In the time I have held this blog, I have found it necessary to ban only one commenter–someone who kept up vicious attacks and tried to hijack every conversation, plus emailed me constantly under numerous different email addresses so that I had to keep finding new blocks for him.  No one else has been like that. 
  • I welcome criticism. I learn from my critics.  It’s no secret that I find D.R. Randle to be annoying, but he sometimes brings up good points that I need to address.  For instance, in one of the recent GLBT posts, he pointed to a possible inconsistency in the way that I appeal to tradition: I appeal to the witness of the early church to support my view that Jesus demands all Christians to be nonviolent. But, says D.R., I ignore the witness of the early church on “homosexuality.”  This is true and I need to say why the difference.
  •    1) My ultimate authority in matters of both doctrine and ethics is neither the letter of Scripture, nor church tradition, but Jesus Christ.  In the words of the Barmen Confession (when something is right, I’ll quote it), “Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.” Holy Scripture bears witness to Jesus Christ and mediates that Living Word.  Tradition is useful as a guide to interpretation, but can always be wrong.
  • 2) Nonviolence is the WAY for Christians throughout the New Testament as well as throughout the early church. There are only 3 texts in the NT, two of them fragments of verses that have translation issues, that have negative judgments on (at least) some same-sex actions. In the only developed passage with a theological context (Rom. 1), no command is given and the main point is the sinfulness of everyone and the inability of any to boast in themselves.  Either Jesus gave an ambiguously positive word for gays and lesbians (Matt 19) or said nothing on the topic at all.  Either way, unlike nonviolence, this is not a central concern of Christian discipleship, never mind a unified witness of the New Testament.
  •  3) I am suspicious of the approach to sexuality taken by the early church altogether because, influenced by Platonic philosophy and Gnostic asceticism, the post-Apostolic church soon developed very anti-body and anti-sex views that contrast with the testimony of Scripture, the goodness of creation, and the full, embodied humanity of Jesus Christ as the Incarnate Word of God.  Thus, I approach the early church testimony on “homosexuality” with far more suspicion than I do it’s testimony on war.  This could be bias on my part.
  • D. R. Randle also asks a good question about the data on violence against GLBT persons. For the stats on the violence and persecution suffered by gay youth in U.S. schools, see this report by Human Rights Watch from May 2001 entitled “Hatred in the Hallways.”  In 2006 (the most recent year for which there is data), the FBI reported that hate crimes against gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, and transgendered persons made up 16% of all hate crimes in the U.S.–up from 14% in ’05. More data on hate crimes against GLBT persons can be found here. Despite gains in some states, legal discrimination in many areas (employment, housing, marriage, adoption, healthcare benefits, etc.) is still widespread throughout the U.S.  The suicide rate for GLBT teens is 33%, 4 times that of heterosexual youth (which is already too high)–and it is higher for youth who come from conservative religious homes and churches.  I don’t have documentation on the churches or clergy who are picketed, but it is more than Westboro BC of Topeka.  I know that when Belmont Baptist Church in Nashville called an out lesbian as pastor, they faced daily pickets and stone throwing for weeks on end.  I also know that when students attempted to form a gay-straight alliance in a local highschool in Bowling Green, KY 2 years back, the pastor of a local church led protests and one of the deacons was quoted in the paper as threatening to burn the school “when only the queer group is inside.” So, D.R., I stand by my claim that solidarity with GLBT persons is NOT conformity to the dominant culture.
  • A final good point made by Randle:  The Scripture calls us not only to be in solidarity with the marginalized, but to proclaim/demonstrate God’s holiness. True enough, but I have been at pains to show that Jesus transforms the meaning of “holiness” from concern about purity matters to compassionate justice.  Holiness as “taste not, touch not” was the way championed by the Pharisee party. The Jesus community, instead, practiced compassionate justice for the outcast.
  • If I don’t reply to your comments, I still read them. But all conversations must come to an end.  The post on a single sexual ethic for everyone will be posted before the end of this weekend and bring this series to a close.
  • In the end, some will never be convinced.  I do not expect the Body of Christ to be unified on this subject in my lifetime. So, how can we be faithful to the gospel as we understand it, follow Jesus’ Johannine prayer that we may be one “as I and the Father are one,” instead of splitting every major denomination, and respect as sisters and brothers those with whom we strongly disagree?

A Bibliography for Further Study:

There are far too many books on this subject to read them all.  I highlight ones that have been helpful to me. In an attempt at fairness, I will include a list of the best “NOT affirming” books at the end of this post.

I. Anthologies that Cover Diverse Views:

Jeffrey S. Siker, ed., Homosexuality in the Church: Both Sides of the Debate (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1994).

Sally B. Geis & Donald E. Musser, eds., Caught in the Crossfire: Helping Christians Debate Homosexuality. (Abingdon Press, 1994).  (Most of those in this book are participants in the debate within the United Methodist Church.)

Michael A. King, ed., Stumbling Toward a Genuine Conversation on Homosexuality (Cascadia Publishing House, 200&). Participants represent the debate within the Mennonite Church, USA.

Timothy Bradshaw,ed., The Way Forward? Christian Voices on Homosexuality and the Church. (Eerdmans, 2003).

Dan O. Via and Robert A. J. Gagnon, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views. (Augsburg-Fortress, 2003). A debate between two well-known NT profs, with Via arguing for the revisionist/inclusive view and Gagnon arguing for the traditionalist/exclusivist view.

II. Revisionist Views:

     A. Biblical Arguments:

Alice Ogden Bells and Terry Hufford, Science, Scripture, and Homosexuality (Pilgrim Press, 2002). A collaborative effort between a biologist and a biblical scholar.

Jack B. Rogers, Jr., Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church. (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2006). Rogers is an evangelical theologian (formerly prof. of theology at Fuller Theological Seminary; later president of San Francisco Theological Seminary; still later, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, USA) who describes his journey from the traditional to a revisionist view.

Walter Wink, ed., Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for Christian Churches (Augsburg-Fortress, 1999).  More than most revisionist collections, this anthology contains several essays by prominent evangelicals including Ken Sehested, Lewis B. Smedes, Peggy Campolo, and others.

Robin Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality. (Augsburg-Fortress, 1983).  Although, I now see that Scroggs overstated his case on Romans 1, this was the first book on this topic to be a major help to me. Scroggs’ basic argument is that the NT condemnations of same-sex behavior have a different focus than our current debate and, thus, are being misused in most of the debates.  I think that broad argument still stands.

Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response, revised and updated edition.  (HarperOne, 1994).  Significantly stronger than the first edition. When the first edition was published in 1978, it was almost the only revisionist book from a Christian perspective, and definitely the first written by evangelicals. (Later, Mollenkott herself came out as lesbian, terrified that her friend, Letha would reject her as her home congregation had.) The original edition was written before the dominance of the Religious Right in North American evangelicalism–the book got a somewhat positive review in Christianity Today. (The CT review did not accept the thesis, but recommended it as a conversation starter in all churches!)

John J. McNeill, The Church and the Homosexual, 4th edition. (Beacon Press, 1993).  When published in 1976, this was one of the first studies of its kind–possibly the first revisionist study in English by a Catholic priest.  This was the book that converted one of my heroes (and a deeply biblical Christian), Fr. Daniel Berrigan, S. J., to a revisionist view. In 1987, Fr. McNeill was thrown out of the Society of Jesus for refusing to stop ministering to gays and lesbians.  Later, he was thrown out of the priesthood, despite having remained faithful to his vows of celibacy.

   B. Testimonies from GLBT Christians:

Mel White, Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America. (Plume Books, 1995). Mel White began as a member of the Religious Right. A ghostwriter and film maker for Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell (his “autobiography”), Pat Robertson, and a speechwriter for Oliver North!  He worked for years to be “cured” of his gayness (and save his marriage), but eventually had to admit he was always going to be gay. He also came to a different view of Christianity. Today, White is the founder of Soulforce, an organization which uses nonviolent direct action to confront Religious Right and evangelical churches and leaders with the harm they do to gay and lesbian Christians.  (In recommending the book, I am not necessarily agreeing with all of the tactics of Soulforce.)

Michael Glaser, Uncommon Calling: A Gay Christian’s Struggle to Serve the Church.  (Westminster/John Knox, 1994).

Gary David Comstock, A Whosoever Church: Welcoming Lesbians and Gay Men into African-American Congregations. (Westminster/John Knox, 2001).

 III. Best Books from the “Not Affirming” Perspective

Stanley Grenz, Welcoming but NOT Affirming:  An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality. (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1998). Written by a Canadian Baptist theologian and ethicist who died unexpectedly.  The hardest part for me with this book is that I support Grenz’ wider views on sexual ethics–which are so much more Christian than much of what is sold as “orthodoxy.”

Thomas B. Schmidt, Straight & Narrow? Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate. (InterVarsity Press, 1995). 

Marion L. Soards, Scripture and Homosexuality: Biblical Authority and the Church Today. (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1995). Written by a former Southern Baptist who became a Presbyterian to escape fundamentalism, but still sees the revisionist/inclusivist view as a threat to the health of the church.

Paul A. Mickey, Of Sacred Worth. (Abingdon Press, 1991). Argues against the Religious Right’s singling out of gays and lesbians for persecution, but also against revisionism on ordination or same-sex marriage.

More could be added from all perspectives. This is the tip of the iceberg where this literature is concerned.

See also the books recommended or cited in earlier posts in this series.

July 25, 2008 - Posted by | GLBT issues, homosexuality

22 Comments

  1. Hey Michael, it seems (as far as I can tell) that my previous commenting problem was due to the hyperlink I included in the comment. Once I deleted that it posted just fine. Thanks!

    Comment by Alan | July 25, 2008

  2. Thanks for the bibliography, Michael. Looks like I have plenty of reading to do. Your series has been helpful for me in wrestling with this topic. I appreciate it.

    Comment by Ryan | July 25, 2008

  3. Dr. Paul Simmons made it a point to sart with the assertion that “one may not be held morally culpable for that over which one has no control”(church and sexuality class, SBTS 1982)If homosexuals are truely ‘born gay’ as so many say they are then it is an orientation over which they have no control

    Comment by Deke Slaton | July 25, 2008

  4. A loose end and tangent perhaps….

    How would you feel about research into in utero detection and treatment of homosexuality through genetic or hormone treatment? Can we be curious? Could it be seen as a biological error? Do you think it is legitimate for a family to have the homosexual disposition/sexuality altered if it becomes relatively simple and inexpensive? Other conditions are treated.

    I support gay inclusion, but I think parents would be completely justified in addressing this as a treatable deviation. If the condition is attributable to a problem response to hormones in the womb or a deviation in a gene, is it ok to ‘fix’ it? I wonder if those of us for inclusion could admit life could go on without homosexuality. In other words, every sort of diversity is not a mandate, is it? I think eventually this is how both sides can find common ground, homosexuality may eventually go away for the most part and tolerated as an untreatable problem like those with both forms of genitalia or an XXY condition, etc. but not necessarily ‘celebrated’ anymore than those conditions (you know, no shame but no parades).

    Respectfully

    Comment by james | July 26, 2008

  5. James, I do NOT support such in utero operations because same-sex orientation is not a genetic disease to be cured! It is a variation, like left-handedness. In fact, the more certain I have become that sexual orientation is largely genetic, the more conservative I have become on abortion.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 26, 2008

  6. “f the condition is attributable to a problem response to hormones in the womb or a deviation in a gene, is it ok to ‘fix’ it?”

    Why stop there? What about race? Is race a mandate? Where does one draw the line with this sort research which is quite simply eugenics.

    And let’s not be Pollyannas here, any “treatment” developed would only come with the sacrifice of the lives of the unborn. Sorry, but that’s how medical research generally proceeds. I think it will be interesting to see if, in the future, Christian conservatives will be willing to soften their stance on abortion in an effort to rid themselves of homosexuality. I’d bet they won’t hesitate for a moment.

    Comment by Alan | July 26, 2008

  7. Again, Alan, please indicate that you are addressing James.
    However, I agree with you that many conservative pro-lifers will suddenly insist on aborting fetuses with “gay genese” if they cannot be “fixed” in utero. In fact, the threats of “designer children” altogether have made me more conservative on abortion–bringing me back to an “only for rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother” stance.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 26, 2008

  8. What about post #3 in your series, comments # 8 and 9 ?

    Comment by Jonathan Marlowe | July 26, 2008

  9. Jonathan, Let’s see. That’s the question of whether singleness is the default position for Christians, right? I plan on trying to say something about that in this final post, but probably not enough to satisfy. I just have to bring this to a close. It has not only gone longer than I ever thought (mostly my fault by letting months go by without touching it), but has taken up far more than the number of posts I originally imagined.

    This is NOT my favorite topic. I took it up out of a sense of obligation to gay and lesbian friends–being used as political footballs in political contests over other issues. But it has resulted in comments that are longer than the posts, etc.

    But I will try to say something about that issue, Jonathan. Thanks for your long patience while I neglected this series.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 26, 2008

  10. “In fact, the threats of “designer children” altogether have made me more conservative on abortion–bringing me back to an “only for rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother” stance.”

    Well, to be honest, as I’ve written in several blog posts, I think the chances of such research ever coming to fruition are less than negligible. I just don’t think it likely that the group of people who, of anyone on the planet, hate and distrust science the most (and who rarely show much interest or aptitude in such disciplines, since they regularly discount even the most basic facts or findings) are suddenly going to get into bed with scientists in order to find a “solution” to the gay problem. Nor do I think most scientists are short-sighted enough to trust those folks anyway. A couple thousand years of animosity between the two groups is unlikely to be undone anytime soon.

    However, that said, I’ve always been staunchly anti-abortion, and the recent talk (perhaps even excitement?) in some conservative circles over what can be called nothing other than eugenics has made me even more so.

    Comment by Alan | July 27, 2008

  11. Can add to the bibliography a couple of texts that are more theological than biblical? Gareth Moore’s A Question of Truth is a pretty comprhensive treatment and critique of the traditional view, covering both the biblical material and the natural law arguments. Also, all of James Alison’s work.

    Really enjoyed the series, Michael

    Comment by Lee | July 27, 2008

  12. Well, Lee, of my commenters, you seem to be one of the few who enjoyed the series. I am glad it was of some value. After I have had a chance to unwind from the topic for awhile, I may provide some theological resources.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 28, 2008

  13. Alan

    Well I’m surprised no one said Hitler yet. The abortion charge is a distraction however because if a treatment were available it would be rendered unnecessary.

    Why are you so down on eugenics? Can we just say the term and win all arguments? Some sort of “soft eugenics” is the future if not the current state of affairs. And in any case it is question begging to call it “designer children” when the attempt is to correct an anomaly with adverse effects related to reproduction.

    I know Michael and you don’t view homosexuality as a debilitating problem but the majority of people don’t view it as normal either. Tolerable if it happens in the abstract maybe, but they wish it would go away in their family whether they say so or not, witness most parents curiosity about how their children’s sexuality will express itself.

    We know parents are not neutral observers but rather are pulling for a certain outcome. They wish to see their genes passed on, they are not pulling for adoption either. Everyone wants to be a grandparent. That’s evolution and I see no reason to declare that evil. If it’s as harmless as lefthandedness as Michael says, there should be no objection to altering it anyway, but of course it is more serious as it touches on successful reproduction/interaction with 95% of the population.

    And your example of race simply is not a variation like this. Who would alter their own racial expression in their children? Unless it was for some strange expression of skin color like albino conditions which I hope we would work to treat and not just treat as “diversity”.

    Michael:
    I think there is currently a whole in theology concerning reproduction. The lack of explicit connection between the sole goal of evolution and God’s will for humans is deeply problematic I think.

    James

    Comment by james | July 29, 2008

  14. James,

    You’re assuming that a treatment would become available at the same time that “diagnosis” became available. It is extremely unlikely that the timing would work out that way, in the history of biomedical sciences that is almost never the case. So I suspect that there would be some period of time during which people would know that their unborn son/daughter is going to be gay, but would only have the option of abortion for “correction”. I have little doubt that in such a situation many folks on the far right would choose to abort. So, I don’t really think discussing abortion is a “distraction” in this case. (Nor would I ever describe discussing the immorality of abortion as a distraction.)

    Your perspective appears to be that homosexuality is an “anomaly”, which quite clearly ignores the facts of biology. This is an example, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, of why I suspect that the far right will never be successful finding/implementing this final solution to the gay problem: they not only don’t know, but outright dismiss the facts of biology behind sexual orientation.

    Why am I so down on eugenics? I assume that question is rhetorical.

    As for analogies to race or left-handedness, I think the race example is right on, and the left-handed example doesn’t make much sense. Being left handed has little effect on one’s life, whereas race has a multitude of important effects on one’s life. In that way homosexuality is much more similar to race. As to whether or not someone *would* change the race of their baby if they could, that isn’t the issue. The issue is whether such a change would be moral, whether or not anyone avails themselves of the option.

    Comment by Alan | July 30, 2008

  15. Alan, fair enough on the timing issue of treatments. However I thinking you are kidding yourself if you think only the far right is exploring the influences of sexuality and funding their own radical scientists, HA!. Equally silly is the idea that any significant proportion of them will abort a “gay fetus” if there is such a thing. I think the desire to alter sexuality would come equally from those who support homosexuality. Toleration and inclusion of homosexuals is a separate issue from medical prevention. Down’s is an example here.

    Certainly the far right is interested in the issue as a way to make this social/religious problem go away, but many (even many gays) are interested in making the problem go away on a personal level. Surely if you polled parents on the desired sexuality of their children “gay” or “I don’t care” would both finish under 10%. It wouldn’t be just the far right saying “straight”. Toleration is a fuzzy notion (It’s like NIMBY in that way).

    As for homosexuality being an biological anomaly we still don’t fully know what’s up with the “facts of sexual orientation”, but when it affects such a tiny sliver of the population and generally works against procreation I think it is not an outlandish assumption to call it an anomaly. I know animal parallels exist but most animals still procreate. They are just indiscriminately sexual. You are right to say that it is not a mental illness or really an illness at all. So maybe some far right folks are on the wrong side of science but their diagnosis of homosexuality is just a rationalization of their objection which I think may still have some scientific validity. We’ll see….I think you are drawing false comfort from a fringe group’s unacceptable position in an attempt to claim the “science” side for your own.

    On race and left handedness, race is an extended family so it is not just the random expression of skin color. So to my mind homosexuality is more like lefthandedness(though as you say more deep and significant), or infertility (perhaps in its biological outcome) or (better) albinism. In other words something completely morally neutral to tinker with to make more biologically ideal (how very Nazi of me I know). Now messing with adults on these issues I think does cross ethical lines.

    Respectfully

    Comment by james | July 30, 2008

  16. James,

    “However I thinking you are kidding yourself if you think only the far right is exploring the influences of sexuality and funding their own radical scientists,”

    Actually I’m not kidding myself. But I suspect you don’t actually know how most science gets done nor are you familiar with how most science gets funded. I am. Not only familiar, but deep in the thick of it, actually.

    “Equally silly is the idea that any significant proportion of them will abort a “gay fetus” if there is such a thing…”

    So it’s silly to suppose that some significant proportion of folks on the right will abort a fetus? Really? Based on what evidence, exactly? See, I’m basing my suppositions (though I freely admit they are suppositions) on the *fact* that abortions among Christians are just as high as the national average (in fact the rates for Catholics are significantly higher than the national average.) Your assertion that my supposition is silly is based on what *evidence*?

    See, just to be clear, I try to base my arguments and beliefs on evidence wherever possible.

    “Surely if you polled parents on the desired sexuality of their children “gay” or “I don’t care” would both finish under 10%. It wouldn’t be just the far right saying “straight”. Toleration is a fuzzy notion (It’s like NIMBY in that way).”

    I’ve provided my evidence for my suppositions about conservatives aborting their gay babies. Do you have evidence for your suppositions? Perhaps you shouldn’t base your views about liberal tolerance simply on personal experience, actual, generalizable evidence is far more useful for making decisions. So what evidence could we use to support your notion that liberals would be just as happy to abort gay unborn children? The closest analogy I can think of is sex selection. Assuming that liberals are the crazy abortionists that they’re made out to be, we would assume a sex selection bias among liberals in this country. Yet I have looked, but found very little evidence for that (though it is common in other countries, but for very different reasons.) Again, I find that basing my opinions on actual evidence, even if it is imperfect, is better than making random guesses based on nothing at all.

    “As for homosexuality being an biological anomaly we still don’t fully know what’s up with the “facts of sexual orientation”, but when it affects such a tiny sliver of the population and generally works against procreation I think it is not an outlandish assumption to call it an anomaly.”

    Fully know? No we do not. But that doesn’t mean we do not know anything. In fact, we know quite a lot. Again, you clearly don’t understand what is currently known about the biology here. Michael did a nice job summarizing that information in a previous post. I’d suggest you educate yourself on that information. There are in nature plenty of traits that affect tiny proportions of populations and also work against procreation. Those traits occur naturally and are not “anomalies” but often serve some other purpose for the survival of the species. Survival of a species isn’t always about every single individual procreating, which is a rather naive understanding of evolution and ecology.

    “On race and left handedness, race is an extended family so it is not just the random expression of skin color.”

    Again, you demonstrate your lack of knowledge about even simple genetics. Neither skin color nor left-handedness a “random” expression. The randomness of genetics is overplayed. Most of gene expression and transmission is not very random at all.

    But as with many other analogies people use regarding homosexuality, you simply pick one you like (left handedness) that has no demonstrable similarity to homosexuality and use it because you believe if furthers your argument, without considering whether or not the analogy actually works. You choose it simply because you believe that experimenting on the handedness of an unborn child is morally neutral. Instead, we’re talking about the importance of the trait to the totality of a person’s life. That’s the analogy. When making an analogy based on effects one must actually look at the effects! That is, you cannot simultaneously argue that homosexuality is like left-handedness in that it is morally neutral and then also argue that it is so awful that people would want to change it. Nor can you simultaneously argue that people would find homosexuality so awful that even tolerant liberals would want to change it, and yet argue that the negative effects of being non-white in this country aren’t enough to perhaps make some people of color want to change the race of their children.

    But we’re talking about effects, and in that way, the life long social effects of homosexuality (both positive and negative) are clearly far more like race than left-handedness. You’re simply choosing to use the analogy of left-handedness because you assume that’s a trait no one would mind changing in their child, unlike race. Well, I’m not sure that assumption is valid anyway. I, for one, would find tinkering with either one distasteful.

    “.I think you are drawing false comfort from a fringe group’s unacceptable position in an attempt to claim the “science” side for your own…”

    Sorry, I don’t know to which “fringe group” you’re referring. And it’s ironic that someone who is defending eugenics is calling any other group “fringe”, eh?😉

    “In other words something completely morally neutral to tinker with to make more biologically ideal (how very Nazi of me I know).”

    If you wish to attempt to insinuate that I’m saying things that I haven’t (the second time you’ve hit Godwin’s Law yourself without anyone else bringing it up) feel free. However, I haven’t called anyone here names, regardless of how distasteful I find their supposed “morality.” I have stated that such experiments would be eugenics. That’s true, based on the common definition of the term. It is also true that the Nazis experimented with eugenics. They also drank beer. However, not everyone who drinks beer is a Nazi. So enough with your martyr routine. If you don’t like my use of the term eugenics, you can attempt (unsuccessfully) to argue that I’m using the term incorrectly. However, the insinuation that I’m making some sort of ad hominem attack, when I am not, isn’t very useful, is it?

    However, I do find it odd that you’re in favor of such experiments for homosexuality, which you admit is “morally neutral.” To be quite honest, I also find it astounding that you think experimentation on unborn children is just hunky-dory, but that experimentation on adults would be crossing ethical lines. Now I’d say a person is a person is a person, as would many of the folks I know who are anti-abortion. That is, in fact, one of the prime arguments against abortion. In addition, another argument made against abortion is that it privileges the mother’s choice over the unborn child’s choice to live. Now you’re arguing for parent’s choices over a child’s choice. This is precisely the sort of intellectual inconsistency that I find most annoying about so-called conservatism these days — picking and choosing what to believe and do based on nothing more than whim and caprice.

    Comment by Alan | July 31, 2008

  17. Alan

    Well done, (and thank you Michael for the forum) but I think there is some confusion here between us.

    I guess I refuse to believe your conspiracy beliefs about science of sexuality funding, but that’s neither here nor there. Perhaps only the right wing is ultimately funding sexuality research.

    On selective abortion on the right, you missed my point. Of course religious people practice contraceptive abortion at the same rates. But we are speaking of health/trait-selective abortion. If you look only at those of the “far right” I am confident you will find a far lesser rate of selective abortion like we are speaking of for a condition like homosexuality. As I pointed out, look at Down’s, fundies are nearly the only ones with them anymore. Secular/liberals and many religious abort them, but only a miniscule portion of fundies likely do. Though the analogy is nowhere near perfect I think those rates would be similar in the case at hand.

    But to be clear YOU brought up abortion. I don’t think abortion will be that big of a factor here anymore than sex selection abortion, a relatively minor amount. I only defended the “far right” from your accusation that they, and perhaps they alone, would abort them. Actually I was speaking of who would make use of the in utero TREATMENT of homosexuality and saying the “tolerant” crowd likely would as well at similar rates.

    I wish I had polling evidence on parents desired sexuality but there is no way in hell we’ll get a poll on that non-PC subject. So I don’t have “evidence” but what do your lying eyes tell you about parental preference for their own children? I’d prefer that to a self-censored poll response in this case anyway.

    Why do you think I haven’t read anything on the matter? Strange. Tell you what I’ll stop calling me a Nazi if you’ll stop calling me ignorant. Though thin on homosexuality, I read the Red Queen: Sex and the evolution of human nature for instance and generally keep up with popular news releases, latest theories(younger brother, hemispheric brain differential). I’ll grant I don’t comb through the latest journals….but I’m not saying anything that violates some widely held scientific consensus like you imply. If you think I have, be specific not dismissive.

    On race and lefthandedness, I specifically said race was not random and you then tell I stupid I was to say that it was. Once again you are not being careful, Michael volunteered the lefthandedness bit not me. Of course lefthandedness is not a simple anomaly or mistake either. I think there Michael just meant morally it is like lefthandedness. I think infertility/sterility or albinism is the more accurate analogy (genetic disadvantageous variations or adverse hormonal response or a combination). Whether homosexuality is an genetic anomaly, random hormonal response or useful adaptation provide by evolution to the colony, I think many/most? “colonies” called “families” would feel within their rights correcting these conditions too.

    As for the distinction between the child and adult I meant involuntary treatment. Of course an adult could voluntarily avail themselves of the treatment but I bet we find it is not effective outside the womb or after the age of two let’s say. The parents choice would trump the child’s choice precisely because parents would view it as “fixing” a problem like sterility or albinism. Parents do this sort of thing already without moral objection.

    I freely admit I am part of a lunatic fringe to even discuss this issue right now, but my claim is that it will soon become a mainstream moral dilemma/discussion. It is pollyanna-ish to think otherwise.

    Your claim seems to be that the alteration would be impossible, continuing to elude us perhaps (which is possible and is fine with me). I get along just dandy with the gay folks at my church.
    Or alternatively and more likely, you think the ability to modify it might be there and not developed, or if developed only used by the 25%-40% or so who remain intolerant of open public homosexuality. And in any case it is immoral to tinker with it. I think this position is wrong on all counts and simple wishful thinking.

    Comment by james | July 31, 2008

  18. “I guess I refuse to believe your conspiracy beliefs about science of sexuality funding, but that’s neither here nor there.”

    Conspiracy beliefs about funding? Where did you get that? You’re the one going on about “the far right …. funding their own radical scientists,” I don’t believe that’s true, nor do I think much sexuality research of any type at all gets funded, particularly by private groups. Again, it’s pretty clear you don’t know how most research in this country gets funded, but I’ll give you a hint: NSF, NIH, NIMH, etc. I’m not sure what they have to do with radical scientists and/or conspiracies about funding… Odd.

    “I am confident you will find a far lesser rate of selective abortion like we are speaking of for a condition like homosexuality. As I pointed out, look at Down’s, fundies are nearly the only ones with them anymore. Secular/liberals and many religious abort them, but only a miniscule portion of fundies likely do.”

    Actually fundies AND gays. I know a boatload of gay parents who have adopted special needs kids, like kids with Down’s syndrome. Again, I think your limited experience may not be enough of a basis to make such conclusions. As I said before, I would hope that if you had any actual evidence to back up this long list of claims you’d present it. I see none.

    “I wish I had polling evidence on parents desired sexuality but there is no way in hell we’ll get a poll on that non-PC subject. ”

    Strange. We get plenty of polls about gay marriage in which people take what I suppose you believe is the “non-PC” stance, whatever that means. Same with polls about employment non-discrimination, polls about ending DADT, etc., etc., etc. People seem to have no problem at all either fielding such polls nor responding to them either positively or negatively. And, just because you such evidence does not exist doesn’t mean it would necessarily be negative. Do I think most parents would prefer a straight child, if asked that question in the abstract? Yeah, probably. Do I think most parents would want to have their unborn child experimented upon in order to “fix” a potential for homosexuality? Well that’s far more speculative, and I’m not sure there’s a lot of evidence to support your position that they’d flock to such “treatments.”

    I also think there is some evidence that doctors wouldn’t perform such “treatments.” Heck, these days many doctors are even unwilling to provide the gender of the child before birth for fear that they’ll be sued if they’re wrong. Can you imagine the lawsuits against doctors if they were to attempt to “cure” unborn gay babies and the kids turned out gay anyway? (Not to mention the inevitable damage and death that would result from these “procedures” … no medical intervention is ever 100% safe.)

    “So I don’t have “evidence” but what do your lying eyes tell you about parental preference for their own children? I’d prefer that to a self-censored poll response in this case anyway.””

    Lying eyes? Now you’re calling me a liar? Why is that? Can you not have a disagreement with someone without name-calling? That’s very sad. Anyway, thank you for admitting that you don’t have evidence.

    Anyway, I don’t have a poll to support an answer to this question, I can only speak to my own limited experience and that of my friends, but the vast majority of us are loved and accepted by our parents. So, I think you may be overgeneralizing. Just because you may have no problem with altering and/or aborting a gay child doesn’t mean everyone shares that sort of morality.

    “but I’m not saying anything that violates some widely held scientific consensus like you imply. If you think I have, be specific not dismissive.”

    I have already done so, which is why I quote the specific things statements that you’ve made that are wrong.

    “Or alternatively and more likely, you think the ability to modify it might be there and not developed, or if developed only used by the 25%-40% or so who remain intolerant of open public homosexuality. And in any case it is immoral to tinker with it. I think this position is wrong on all counts and simple wishful thinking.”

    Yes, I think it is immoral to tinker with it, just as I think any experimentation that may possibly result in the death of an unborn child is wrong. I’m sorry you disagree. As for whether or not such a treatment will be developed, I find it very unlikely, but not impossible, for several reasons that I’ve already stated elsewhere here. As for who would utilize such a “treatment” if it were developed, that too is speculation, but all I can say is that it isn’t the liberals sending their kids to ex-gay camps and subjecting them to damaging reparative “therapy.” Just how many of these ex-gay camps and so-called therapists are run by secular liberals? Perhaps a few, but I’d guess the number rounds to basically zero.

    “I specifically said race was not random and you then tell I stupid I was to say that it was.”

    James, please specifically quote where I used the word “stupid” to describe either you, your words, or your ideas. I’m sorry James, some people might put up with such nonsense, but I find it annoying to have a friendly discussion with someone who makes outright lies about things I have said. Saying you are unfamiliar with the science involved here doesn’t make you stupid. It just means you clearly don’t know the science involved, which is only a statement about the information you do or do not know. It says nothing about your mental faculties. If you don’t mind a little free and friendly advice, you might find having agreeable disagreements easier if you wouldn’t take things so personally, and if you would read the words that are actually written. Again, I defy you to find one place in our conversation where I used the word “stupid” to describe anything. If you can’t — as you clearly will not be able to — I’ll be happy to accept your apology for intentionally misrepresenting what I’ve said.

    “I think this position is wrong on all counts and simple wishful thinking.”

    And again, if you had evidence to support your views I’d assume that you’d present it. You haven’t. You may think my opinions are simply wishful thinking, but at least there is some evidence upon which I base my “wishful thinking.” Your dismissal of my opinions as wishful thinking isn’t really very convincing. I find an argument much more convincing when it does something more than simple contradiction. What about my evidence is wrong? Which statistics that I’m relying on are incorrect? What trends are not applicable?

    Well, believe what you want and I’ll believe what the evidence seems to point to. Again, I honestly can’t understand why you appear to be in favor of such experiments (that will surely lead to the death of unborn children.) And, I’m no closer to understanding that viewpoint now than I was before we began discussing these issues, unfortunately. Again, to have this sort of disagreement with someone I perceive to be a conservative (maybe I’m wrong?!) is astounding. I expect (and have had) this sort of disagreement with my liberal and even gay friends who are pro-choice, because clearly their position is untenable (they’re pro-choice except for this case.) However, I would expect any anti-abortion conservative to be as outraged about the very notion of this sort of experimentation as I am, and I’m always surprised when that doesn’t turn out to be the case. In fact, it usually is not the case, which is yet another piece of evidence that convinces me that they’re opposition to abortion is every bit as conditional as I assume it to be.

    Anyway, I think we’ve both probably made our points, and I generally find it more useful to withdraw from unpleasant discussions than to have these things turn into shouting matches. I’ll be happy to respond to any questions or points you would like me to clarify, however, as long as you do not continue to intentionally misrepresent what I’ve written.

    Take care.

    Comment by Alan | July 31, 2008

  19. “Believe your lying eyes” is just an (evidently not common enough) figure of speech about how what we see often deceives us, but sometimes it’s better than all the stats in the world. No offense intended.

    Sorry I said ‘stupid’ when I meant to say you implied I was ignorant, which you do every paragraph nearly, but let’s not get distracted…I hope you see I was saying you misunderstood my point about race entirely. Careful reading and apologies work both ways. Oh dear we’re talking about talking…I guess we need to quit. I think we could do better off-line.

    All your evidence I think boils down to polling of tolerance of homosexuals. I submit that this is a different issue especially when/if a relatively simple treatment emerges. The simplicity would make it unlike “reparative therapy” as it stands today(a sad waste). My position is admittedly and necessarily speculative at this point, but I think we can project from analogous patterns in NIMBY environmentalists, racially “tolerant” real estate/school segregationists, etc.

    One place you are certainly correct. The experimental phase will surely be led by fundies willing to “risk it” to avoid the moral dilemma of homosexuality. But if successful, it will be commonplace and people will someday say “Wow people just used to grow up that way? They didn’t have a treatment? Weird.”

    And finally I am not a conservative and I am mostly pro-choice and not very religious, but I try. Too bad we stopped talking I thought we might try race and IQ next🙂

    Comment by james | July 31, 2008

  20. “No offense intended.”

    Thanks, I’d never heard that phrase. Sorry for jumping to conclusions.

    “Sorry I said ’stupid’ when I meant to say you implied I was ignorant, which you do every paragraph nearly, but let’s not get distracted…”

    I’m not sure I implied you were ignorant of the science involved here, I think I said it outright. But perhaps I don’t see ignorance as a moral or intellectual failing, but a simple condition to be remedied. 🙂

    “The experimental phase will surely be led by fundies willing to “risk it” to avoid the moral dilemma of homosexuality. But if successful, it will be commonplace and people will someday say “Wow people just used to grow up that way? They didn’t have a treatment? Weird.””

    Here I am in the unfamiliar territory of being an optimist and thinking that, in fact, most people will view this like race, “Why would anyone bother trying to treat it?” I think we’re nearly at the tipping point already. Heck when we’re at the point when a near majority of folks are in favor of gay marriage, and given that any actual “treatment” is decades away, I don’t see this turning into some sort of “Twilight of the Golds” situation any time soon.

    And I’m basing my speculation (which again I admit is speculation) on current trends in fundie social policy vs. liberal social policy, though as I have stated, I think both are unfortunately completely inconsistent.

    Fortunately there are plenty of biological traits which we understand far better than homosexuality that are not yet “treatable” nor is anyone that I’ve heard of even working on a “treatment.”

    But again, I do want to point out that, although I think the fundies may push for such eugenics research (ironic given their hatred of things like embryonic stem cell research) I don’t think they’ll be successful, for the several reasons that I’ve discussed elsewhere.

    On the upside, if I may continue to be an optimist for 10 seconds more, perhaps if such research may ever come to fruition, it may mobilize liberals against abortion. That, at least, would be a positive outcome.

    “And finally I am not a conservative and I am mostly pro-choice and not very religious, ”

    Well, I am what I would call classically conservative, anti-abortion, and religious. It seems like most of this then has been a devil’s advocate debate for you? Frankly, I wish I’d known that from the beginning, I needn’t have bothered.

    Comment by Alan | July 31, 2008

  21. That seemed odd…

    Regardless, excellent points, all around, Alan.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | August 1, 2008

  22. Not sure why my position is odd or confusing or a devil’s advocate position. It is my genuine position and quite clear. I made clear that I was not a fundie or far right member from the beginning. I attend a church open to practicing homosexuals. I believe in evolution and soft eugenics. I am pro-choice in the first trimester, which I didn’t reveal, I suppose because I didn’t think it relevant.
    Is the issue that I’m not so religious, so I’m not a “teachable fundie”? These assumptions (over against my plain declarations) are what make me so defensive at times. You know your dialogue partners assume you must be aligned with the fundies or some sort of Nazi because “how else could one believe such stuff?”

    I do however view homosexuality as somewhat less than ideal particularly if it is found to be easily alterable in its infancy. I wouldn’t fault anyone for that course of action nor despise those who didn’t or couldn’t be helped (like infertility in that way). I guess I support the fundies position but not their rationale or current therapies. And I am also calling the bluff of the more tolerant crowd when the issue hits closer to home (like on Down’s cases).
    I suppose you could call me a libertarian maybe since I don’t care about the related marriage issue. Maybe I’m some sort of gentle social Darwinist? Oh well it’s been interesting…..

    Comment by james | August 1, 2008


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