And on and on it goes

Via Andrew, I see that the debate between Damon Linker and Rod Dreher about homosexuality goes on. Since I agree with the former, and have little to add to his response, I will simply urge you to read what he wrote. But there are a couple of points that Dreher makes in the first of his responses that I feel deserve some attention.

First, there is this:
Sex, especially homosexuality, is a big deal because how one comes down on those related questions has a lot to do with how you view the authority of Scripture and Tradition. There's a reason why the churches today are breaking apart over homosexuality, and it has to do with the plain fact that there can be no compromise on this issue, as it goes to the heart of how believers understand ourselves, our relationship to God, and to the nature of truth. This stuff matters. It matters a lot. If you are a gay person, you know how much it matters to you. Why should anybody be surprised that it matters to traditional Christians, and for reasons that go far beyond any supposed anti-gay animus? Trads believe we do not have the right to ignore the clear and continuing teaching of Scripture and the Church because it strikes our contemporaries in this post-Christian society as correct.
I have written about this before, but I will try to avoid repeating myself. The reason that this particular issue matters to those of us who are gay is obvious on its face. Why it matters so much to other people is less so. An issue that is utterly central to the quality of our lives and loves has no bearing on the lives of other people unless they choose to make it so. Why and how does this issue affect how Christians understand their own relationships with God? Or, even more confusingly, themselves?

Dreher fails to demonstrate why there can be no compromise on homosexuality, when there has been demonstrable compromise on numerous other issues that (I would argue) were far more central to the life of early Christians. If someone would like to point me toward a church whose members have all sold their homes and given the proceeds to the poor, perhaps I will revise this opinion. The vast majority of Christians, I wager, may consider the lilies of the field, but also have savings accounts and insurance policies. Christians balance their reason and the scriptures all the time, and to imply otherwise is empty posturing. Why they dig in their heels on this issue is not fully explained, nor is it made clear why this issue supposedly has such centrality to their understanding.

Also, there is this throw-away line:
[A]side from mainline Protestant churches and liberal Catholics who dissent from their own Church's authoritative teaching, no Christian church argues for the licitness of homosexual relations. Prior to the mid-20th century, as far as I know, no church of any size anywhere did.
Oh, aside from those? Aside from Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Methodists, no Christian churches, huh? Oh, and pay no attention to those liberal Catholics! No Christians! Am I wrong in thinking this is another way of saying "Everyone agrees with me, except the ones that don't"? And heaven only knows how many Catholics would feel and speak differently if the Vatican didn't steamroll over any dissent.

Further, what does it matter that no churches of any size were interested in arguing for the licitness of homosexual relations prior to the mid-20th century? Neither, presumably, were any arguing about global warming until very recently. Or women's suffrage before the early 20th century. Homosexuals have very recently in human history decided to stop living lives of quiet repression, and thus the issue has primacy now that it did not have before. The Church's historical silence on an issue that was not pressed has no bearing on the present argument.

And, finally, backing up a bit in his post, there is this:
If homosexuality is legitimized -- as distinct from being tolerated, which I generally support -- then it represents the culmination of the sexual revolution, the goal of which was to make individual desire the sole legitimate arbiter in defining sexual truth. It is to lock in, and, on a legal front, to codify, a purely contractual, nihilistic view of human sexuality.
These sentences make me nauseated. What condescension is expressed by that word "tolerated." How very nice of Dreher to support our being tolerated. Shall I now scuttle off and be grateful for that, and stop with my incessant whining about wanting rights, and legal recognition of the validity of my relationship and those like it? And what, pray, is nihilistic about my desire to lock in and codify my love for and promise of fidelity to my husband? Dreher appears wholly incapable of seeing my love for the Better Half for what it is, and thus must reduce it and other gay and lesbian relationships to mere expressions of desire. Suffice it to say, I am not particularly impressed by the depth and value of being tolerated by the likes of him.

Arguing for gay rights with him and his ilk is a losing proposition. He simply doesn't support it from some well within himself, and has found convenient justification for those biases in the Scriptures. Fine. But I refuse to concede that his spirituality is more valid because he backs it with a few Bible verses, and I support mine through my own experience, reason, and apprehension of God's presence in my life and love.

1 comment:

  1. Again, when interpreting Scripture regarding any issue, the responsible approach--in my opinion--is to interpret verses within their historical and cultural context. Many Christians, myself included, believe that the "clobber verses" do not address sexual orientation as we understand it today.