Sunday, October 24, 2010

Homosexuality and Society: Does History Offer a "Verdict"?

There has been quite a lot of discussion lately, on the internet and elsewhere, of the recent reports of gay teens (Tyler Clementi and at least four others) committing suicide after being bullied by their peers.  Here is what Hemant Mehta ("The Friendly Atheist") had to say on this: "Perhaps if Christians pulled their heads out of their asses and realized that some people are simply gay and there’s nothing wrong with that regardless of what their despicable holy book says, there would be more gay teenagers alive today."  In other words, Christianity causes gay suicides.

It's hard not to be aware that the Christian tradition seems (at least) to attract some very  bigoted people. One notorious church has a website entitled "God Hates Fags."  But does this make Christianity, or even "the Church," responsible for violence against gay people?  It is  reported (I think reliably) that at least one young gay man castrated himself because his minister had told him to do so.  Are gay Christians somehow unconsciously contributors to their own suffering, simply by going to church?  Is Richard Dawkins right when he insists that "even mild and moderate religion" fosters violence (p. 342)?

This is pertinent from a global perspective as well, which gives us (some would perhaps say) a more primal vantage point on the relation between religion and homophobia.   Recent rioters in Serbia caused personal injury and general vandalism because they objected to the first first gay-rights march there in many years.  It is reported that "Right-wing groups say the gay events run counter to Serbian family and religious values," and that  "Death to gays!" seemed to be a favorite street slogan. So it's likely that lots of people at least think that their religion supports violence against gays. 

Danny Mann has recently responded to attempts by some to link anti-gay violence  to Christianity per se.   Perhaps he would like to reprise his comments for us here, as a way of getting this part of our discussion going (This is really a soft lob over the plate!)


  1. David,

    I just wanted to start out by thanking you for hosting this dialogue and to reassure you that even though our positions are in such opposition, I just have the greatest respect for you as a human being. I also appreciate how you’ve always treated me with gentleness and respect even as I expressed ideas that I’m sure must have stung. I only hope that I can live up to your example of gentility and sensitivity.

    In a blog essay entitled, "Are Anti-Gay Christians Responsible for the Suicide Trend?” ( the author, indicted Christian teaching for establishing a climate that bullies and stigmatizes gay. Of course, the conclusion of this reasoning is that the church must be silenced. I felt that I had to respond to these charges:

    This is one charge that repeatedly comes up among your respondents: “The Bible (or Christians) stigmatizes homosexual sex (HS).” While I think that there is some merit to this charge, I think it’s important to lay out several caveats:

  2. (continuation)

    1. I know of NO Christians who do not deplore what has happened to the gay Rutgers student, Tyler Clementi – not only the suicide but also the filming.

    2. The Bible stigmatizes many behaviors – everything regarded as “sin” – many of which I too am guilty. I just thank my Savior that He forgives me and washes away my guilt and shame. However, you’re mistaken that we have a preoccupation for HS. In fact, I haven’t heard any sermonic mention of this particular sin for many years.

    3. True Christians don’t look down on gays. We recognize that Christ has had mercy upon us, and so we owe others that same debt of mercy. In fact, gays who know real Christians don’t seem to feel stigmatized by us. Ocean Grove is a good case in point. Traditionally, it has been a Christian community, but over the last 10-12 years LGBTs have been moving in en masse.

    4. It is not just the Bible that “stigmatizes” HS, but also all of the traditional religions and societies. Why? Did they all arbitrarily come to the same conclusion or is there something intrinsically problematic and destructive about HS? I am not aware of any long-lasting gay institution. There is no historical continuity. In contrast to this absence, we observe generations bred by the church.

    5. The main source of stigmatization seems to be coming from within the conscience of those who practice HS. The university campus is far more accepting of HS than it is of Christianity, but Christians aren’t jumping off bridges! Why not? Because even if we are hated for our faith, we are still convinced that it’s not shameful. Along with this, many gays who have left the HS lifestyle have acknowledged that they knew that what they had been doing was wrong. Consequently, they were often experiencing shame.

    6. If you are truly concerned about the victimization of gays, then you should pay more attention to the Islamic world where gays are often put to death. Instead, it’s the Christian who is bullied by the media for our “repressive” attitudes. Why not Islam? Is it because the Christians are a “soft” target, which will not retaliate?

  3. I'm always grateful for Danny Mann's commentary, and I notice that his last is really a response to an article elsewhere, one I'd take almost as much exception to as he does. So I want to pull out a few strands to work with. These have to do with two suggestions he makes.

    (1) One claim is about stigmatization, especially as the issue has surfaced in the public forum over the recent rash of gay teen suicides. He claims that "The main source of stigmatization seems to be coming from within the conscience of those who practice [homosexuality]" -- rather than society at large, and especially the segment of society that espouses "Christian" attitudes toward it. (This brings us back to our original discussion: "Who owns the term "Christian"? See the earlier thread in this blog.)

    (2) The other claim he makes is that conservative Christian views are hardly unique: in fact, Danny seems to think that there is a functional argument against homosexuality that can probably gain ground regardless of one's religious convictions. He believes that homosexuality is "intrinsically problematic and destructive," and his evidence is that "all of the traditional religions and societies" have come to something like this conclusion.

    In my follow-up comment, I'll tackle the second claim first, and leave the first for another occasion.

  4. (continued)

    Right away I see trouble in the way the claim is made. What constitutes a "traditional" religion or society? Does any that happens not to prohibit same-sex practices get defined out of the argument (on the grounds that it has to be "non-traditional")? Let's hope not. But for a moment, let's suppose that Danny is right that successful societies have, for functional reasons, suppressed homosexuality. (A functional reason is just one taken in the interests of social preservation: no society can sanction widespread murders, thefts, etc .) So then Danny asks "Did they all arbitrarily come to the same conclusion or is there something intrinsically problematic and destructive about [homosexuality]?" This is an interesting line for him to take, because it at least suggests a Darwinian model of explanation -- survival of the fittest -- which is not the kind of argument I would expect from someone I happen to know to be more friendly towards Creationism and Intelligent Design. However, it would be hard for even a Darwinian who wants to argue these points to ignore the widespread occurrence of same-sex behavior in the lower animals.

    But in fact Danny's facts are incomplete. He is "not aware of any long-lasting gay institution," but (in addition to a rather casual use of the term "gay" to mean "same-sex") his awareness is probably limited by the fact that these references, until recently, have been buried in rather inaccessible anthropological research. But research in this area has exploded over the last several decades and now is quite available -- as the relevant Wikipedia articles indicate.

    And what does the research show? If we mean (by "long-standing institution") a social form that has received the sanction of generally accepted common practice, then the evidence is quite startling. The evidence is particularly strong for intergenerational same-sex relations, which seem to prevail (for example) in 10-20 percent of New Guinean cultures. New Guinean Bedamini apparently believe that same-sex intergenerational relations have a fertile effect throughout nature At the age of ten, an Etoro boy is expected to find an older male sexual partner (ideally his uncle), and thereafter is expected to find a younger male partner. This continues for several decades in a man's life: in fact, the taboos on heterosexual intercourse are quite restrictive, while there are virtually none on homosexual relations. The story is similar, though with interesting variations, for the Kaluli, Kuks, Sambia,Baruya, Onabaslulu, Kimam, and others. One of the best sources on this is David Greenberg's book "The Construction of Homosexuality," though there are many others as well.

    Several observations on this. The first is that, assuming that Greenberg is reporting correctly, these practices in New Guinean societies are not limited to a minority of the population. They are obligatory for all young males. The second is that though some cultures express the view that these practices are simply due to a lack of available females, this in itself cannot be an explanation given the fact that for males in societies like the Akwe-Shavante of Brazil, available females are few and yet same-sex practices seem rare. So there have to be deeper reasons for this, having probably to do with the ritual beliefs associated with them: these other tribes justify the behavior in the belief that young males will not mature without receiving the implanted seed of the older male (which is thought to produce physical and spiritual strength).

    These are truly primitive societies -- which means that they have been around a very long time. So the conclusion here simply has to be that, despite what we may personally feel about these beliefs and practices, the notion that there are no long-standing institutions which promote same-sex behavior as an approved social norm is simply incorrect.

  5. (Follow-up comment)

    In addition to Danny's opening salvo here, there may be collateral sociological arguments that can be raised against homosexual behavior, but they need to be more fine-tuned than the one Danny has presented. I know Danny has more arguments up his sleeve, and I'm eager to hear what they are.

  6. David,

    These are certainly interesting anthropological examples of the prevalence of same-sex practice, and I wish I had time to follow up on these examples. However, prevalence is one thing – and I don’t dispute your claims of prevalence – but viability is another. In all my travels, I haven’t encountered any examples where history has given this practice its stamp of approval. Meanwhile, we find enduring churches on every corner of the city.

    While you mention the prevalence same-sex behavior in traditional animistic-spiritistic cultures, we must recognize that these cultures are the ultimate in pragmatism (getting results) – what protects them from their enemies and produces fertility. This means that they’re always changing according to the “findings” of the latest medicine-man and spirit-encounter.

    Instead, the verdicts of world religions (especially the Bible’s), history, stats that show that there is a huge price to pay for gay practice – physically, mentally, and spiritually – and anecdotal evidences against this practice are so pervasive and compelling.

    Last night, we went to a Halloween party where we met a gay, angry male. I was wearing a provocative wooden cross on a heavy chain. Thinking that I was mocking the Christian faith, he confided the source of his anger:


  7. (continued from above!)

    • “I won’t tolerate Christians who ask me, ‘Let me just ask you a question…’ They have no right to ask me their questions! They think I’m a ‘pervert,’ so I’ll just act like a pervert. I’ll organize groups to go to their churches and do all sorts of perverted things!”

    I felt so helpless to penetrate his worldview, that I didn’t disclose the fact that I’m a Christian. Later, I thought that I should have braved-it to tell him that real Christians realize that we too are “perverts” in so many ways, and that it’s only through the assurance of our Lord’s mercy – His love and forgiveness – that we can lift up our heads (Luke 18:9-14). Having received the mercy of God, we are called to express the very same compassion to others that Christ has extended to us (Phil. 2:1-8). And when we fail to do this, we displease our Lord.

    I feel that my fear of a possible angry outburst prevented me from expressing Christ’s love to this tormented young man. He was sure that the source of his torment was the condemning church. However, it was apparent that his torment was originating from within himself, living a life in opposition to his God-given conscience! He knows the truth but projects his shame on Christianity as the culprit.

    Meanwhile, Christians are being persecuted and marginalized around the world, but this doesn’t become a source of shame, but of genuine pride (Matthew 5:11-12). This is because we know that we are in the light (John 3:19-20) and our conscience does not condemn us. If it was simply a matter of society not accepting the gay lifestyle, LGBT people could merely laugh away the stigma. The fact that they can’t suggests that there is a deeper issue.

  8. Danny Mann raises several interesting claims in his latest comments, and I want to continue to approach these discussion topics in the careful and orderly fashion they merit. The first is his acceptance of a point that his previous comments would not acknowledge. In his post on Oct 24, he said he was unaware of "any long-lasting gay institution" ("there is no historical continuity"), and he now, in effect, admits that this was an error. He has cleverly (and appropriately) proceeded to shift the ground of his argument -- as indeed he must, given the overwhelming evidence against his stated position. Yet he now wants to distinguish cultural "prevalence" from cultural "viability."

    Danny submits that the "verdicts of world religions (especially the Bible’s), history… show that there is a huge price to pay for gay practice." As I mentioned before, I'm intrigued by this apparently Darwinian (!) appeal to viability (survival of the fittest) on Danny's part, but this is an exceedingly problematic distinction to make on any but eschatological grounds. His willingness to insist on it, I think, speaks to the problems his side has in dealing with the historical and anthropological evidence, and reveals a fact about cultural analysis which many conservative evangelicals have been hesitant to accept. For very often, they do not give much attention to the heavy stamp that culture places on religious practices and attitudes. This is a favorite point among liberals ever since Reimarus in the 18th century and German scholarship in the 19th, whereas conservatives would rather see the "Word" as somehow literally channeled directly from a supernatural source (this of course is bound up with their usual view on scriptural inerrancy). I raise this for just a moment here, and suggest that we take this point up within the "Scripture and Homosexuality" thread elsewhere on this blog. For now, let's just keep our attention on what evidence, if any, we can draw from observation of culture. On this point, Danny reports that "In all my travels, I haven’t encountered any examples where history has given this practice its stamp of approval." I'm not sure what history's "stamp of approval" would amount to, but I do know that a little traveling through the scholarly literature suggests something different from Danny's own view.

    (continued below)

  9. (continuation from above)

    Danny's point about viability is curiously tied to a claim he makes about the way culture functions in primitive societies: he claims that "these cultures are the ultimate in pragmatism (getting results) – what protects them from their enemies and produces fertility. This means that they’re always changing according to the 'findings' of the latest medicine-man and spirit-encounter." This presumably indicates a dangerously unstable element of subjective judgment on their part, and if that's Danny's point, it certainly seems to be a curious imposition of modern assumptions onto ancient evidence -- which is usually something that conservatives skewer liberals for doing! Danny seems to think that shamans are paragons of experimental inquiry, as if they were homespun Deweyans, exhibiting the independence of mind to buck the assumptions of tribal society. I think that absolutely no professional anthropologist would recognize this as accurate. If it were true, then why are those societies so conservative? They should be a hotbed of creative innovation.

    So I think it's pretty clear that Danny's claim on this particular point -- that homosexual practices have been UNIVERSALLY judged to lack viability among the world's religion -- cannot be sustained. So let's move on to what Danny might want to call "more viable" religious traditions than those practiced in the wilds of the jungle. We'd have to agree to omit consideration of New Guinea. Perhaps he would similarly reject the evidence from Native American cultures, in which "Two-Spirited" people -- not only homosexual but typically what we would now call transgendered -- have been documented in over 130 tribes in North America, and whose function in society was commonly to channel spiritual powers even beyond those of ordinary shamans. (On this, ee Will Roscoe's book "The Zuni Man-Woman" (1991).) I am no expert on these matters myself, but I wonder if Danny would reject as well the common homosexual practices of "Nanshoku" relationships characteristic of monastic life in medieval Buddhist Japan (where the older partner would be a priest or monk and the younger would be an adolescent boy, often made official by a formal vow of fidelity)? In China, apparently, it has been traditionally held that homosexual relationships must not interfere with one's family duties, and yet none of the major Chinese religions consider homosexual acts as a "sin": if a man does his duty and sires children, it is acceptable for him to have private affairs with other male lovers. And one could go on and on here.

    (continued below)

  10. (continued from above)

    Conservatives in this discussion often do point to the disapproval of homosexuality, which we undoubtedly do find in a great many religious traditions. The question however is this: Insofar as this claim of common disapproval is (in a way) true, what we can make of it? In some cases, as in the case of Hindu nationalism, "homosexuality" was resisted as a symbol of the Imperial West (it was quite prevalent in the British military), and so one must always be careful not to take the facts simply as they appear on the surface. So what then is the "verdict" of history in the Indian case? I would say that the verdict would simply be that you'd better not get in the way of nationalist fervor, and if you do, your entire lifestyle (which includes in this case lavish gatherings at the palace of the Raj, as well as homosexual dalliances on the side) is going to get lambasted. This is only one case, of course: it just suggests that one needs to see what the deeper reasons might be, before making sweeping claims about "history's verdict."

    Let's now return to Danny's claim that the verdict of world religions and history "show that there is a huge price to pay for gay practice." As a generalization of much (not, as we have just seen, all) of the historical examples we could cite, this may be more or less accurate when applied to a number of societies. But let's ask: WHY is it accurate? Why is there such a high price to pay in many cultures for expressing homosexual affection? Is it a problem intrinsic to the homosexual condition, or is it a kind of self-fulfilling sentence passed upon a marginalized minority group, due to the deeply embedded fears of human culture itself? This kind of sentence has been transmitted for centuries in the usual cultural manner -- through laws and literature and common custom, which are enormously difficult to change. History in the short term -- measured in centuries (even millennia!) in the cosmic time span -- is not necessarily friendly to human beings, as the Jews know all too well. Perhaps we should not make definite conclusions about a story whose ending has not yet been written.

    And so I'd simply conclude here that if there are reasons against homosexuality -- and we haven't explored them all yet -- these can't be found in the verdict of history or culture. I suggest we satisfy ourselves that we have exhausted this discussion before we move on to the interesting story about Danny's Halloween encounter with the angry gay man.

  11. David,
    You’ve refocused us on an essential question:

    • “Why is there such a high price to pay in many cultures for expressing homosexual affection? Is it a problem intrinsic to the homosexual condition, or is it a kind of self-fulfilling sentence passed upon a marginalized minority group, due to the deeply embedded fears of human culture itself?”

    I don’t think that social “fears” can adequately explain the obvious fallout resulting from same-sex practice. It can’t explain the fact that gays live severely shortened lives, nor their incidence of venereal diseases, nor even a myriad of other problems. Instead, these seem to be endemic in the lifestyle, something reflected in the fact that this institution has been tried extensively throughout history without any clear indication that it contributes to the well-being of those who practice it. Even in places where it is reported that same-sex sex was widely accepted, like in ancient Greece and Rome, it seems that it only achieved very limited acceptance in the final analysis. “Aristotle, Herodotus, Aristophanes, and many other later Stoic and Cynic philosophers expressed moral disapproval of such practices.” (John Davis, “Evangelical Ethics,” 144). Arno Karlen has observed that those who think that homosexuality had been broadly accepted “have not read the primary sources.” (“Homosexuality in History,” 80).

    Why has the rejection of homosexuality become what seems to be the ubiquitous verdict of history? Perhaps, it’s because the various societies and world religions have observed the price tag associated with this practice. In this regards, Davis writes of the work of British Anthropologist, J.D. Unwin:

    • “After a comprehensive study of both Western and non-Western cultures throughout human history, Unwin concluded that the record of mankind ‘does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it had been absolutely [heterosexually] monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs.’ Unwin observed that a society’s adoption and maintenance of heterosexual monogamy as a social standard “has preceded all manifestations of social energy, whether that energy be reflected in conquest, in art and sciences, in extension of the social vision, or in the substitution of monotheism for polytheism.” (p. 116)

    Similarly, after investigating 77 different societies, Ford, Beach and Gadpaille concluded that if homosexuality is adopted, it will prove socially counterproductive. Why? We are not born with a blank slate, but with a moral character that reacts against certain things. God has written His laws on our heart, and when we break these laws, we have to pay with internal conflict and corruption (Romans 2:14-15). Paul illustrates this price:

    • Romans 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another… 1:26-27 Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

    I know that this picture is very offensive, but I wouldn’t be preaching doom and gloom unless our Savior had the perfect remedy:

    • 1 John 1:8-9 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

    Without Christ, we’re all in the same shame-ridden boat. I write this not to shame or stigmatize but in hope that the reader will resort to the only One who can remove all of our shames and stigmas. He says:

    • Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

  12. I must admire Danny Mann's matchless fortitude. After the lengthy discussion in previous comments which appeared to decimate his claim that "the rejection of homosexuality had become the ubiquitous verdict of history," Danny keeps returning to the field with more authorities to cite in favor of this exceedingly questionable assertion. His latest response appeals to Aristotle, Herodotus and Aristophanes on the topic. But these are strange allies, it seems to me. The testimony of Aristotle on the subject counts only as heavily as his testimony in favor of slavery; and Aristophanes seems only as reliable a judge of homosexuals as he was of the sainted Socrates (a famous competitor for the affections of the Athenian elite and probably, next to Christ, the most enduring symbol of moral character in the Western canon). And Herodotus an expert on sexuality? Herodotus was labeled 'The Father of Lies' due to his tendency to report purely fanciful information. We need to be careful whom we cite as "experts" in this area.

    However, Danny has advanced the argument some, by means of refining (or perhaps retreating from) his initial claim. First, on Oct 24, he had claimed that there are no long-standing social institutions that sanction homosexual conduct, and faced with the evidence from New Guinea and elsewhere, he moved to a weaker (in fact, Darwinian) claim on Nov 1, that there were no "viable" societies that accepted homosexuality: but the very fact that ancient cultures that do are older than ours suggests strongly that this is not so. And so now he settles, as I think he must, on the logically weaker claim that no "civilized" society condones homosexuality. For this, Danny wants to offer the work of J. D. Unwin, an anthropologist whose famous book came out way, way back in 1934 -- and that, according to my mother, savvy collector of fine furniture, would make Unwin's manuscript itself an antique. This is not a good feature for a piece of scientific research to have. Unwin, by the way, was a Freudian, whose theory of society supposes that female sexual repression is the prerequisite to social progress, and if that weren't enough to make us wonder, Unwin's claim also begs the question as to what "civilized" even means. (Because he was writing before the end of the colonial era, he had absolutely no deep perspective on this question.) And to top it off, his claim that the record of humankind does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it had been "absolutely [heterosexually] monogamous" ignores the obvious case of Periclean Athens. (Goodness, if the writings of the great tragedians, the work of Plato and Socrates, and the adornment of the Parthenon don't count as "civilized," then beam me up Scotty to some other planet entirely!) This is not an analysis that convinces me, and -- unless Danny can do better than cite someone's approval of a viewpoint that Danny already accepts for, I think, other reasons entirely -- I don't think this claim about history's verdict should even enter into the discussion. That it should not do so was how we apparently left things at the end of the previous comment (Oct 31), and unless Danny can show how those arguments are wrong, then that argument is no longer in his arsenal.

    (continued below)

  13. (continued from above)

    There may be other arguments that would convince on this point about history, but Danny has only cited authorities and a few slogans from their writings. Simply to say that "Ford, Beach and Gadpaille have concluded" that homosexuality is counterproductive only raises questions as to who these people even are. So the burden of proof is on Danny Mann, and unless he can provide a more convincing one, then we should leave this claim about history forever in its own dust bin, and move on to more productive topics. (I think this is what Danny wants to do anyway, given the Scriptural references he gives, but I resist taking these up until we have settled this matter of "history's verdict.")

  14. David,

    Asking me to surrender the “history’s-verdict-against-homosexual-behavior” argument is like asking a diva to surrender her song. My primary concern is to demonstrate that there has always been an overwhelming price to pay for same-sex sex, whatever the culture, whatever the time and even whatever the degree of social acceptability it has achieved.

    Admittedly, some of my argumentation is weak. History doesn’t pass on many numbers/stats regarding homosexuality’s physical, emotional, and social down-side, but it does give us some idea of the extensive chorus of voices raised up against this practice. Is it simply a matter of the fact that all the major religions and societies have largely forbidden this practice merely out of prejudice, or because of the perceived destruction brought on by this institution? We might also ask the question why has adultery (even in male dominated societies) and pedophilia been universally forbidden? Isn’t it because of the havoc they have wrecked on the family and consequently on society!

    Moreover, this proscription agrees with all our other data. You might call studies, such an Ulwin’s, “antiques” of history, but this is just what history is! The antiquity of their investigation makes them no less valid!

    Although we both agree that homosexuality has a long history, I’ve challenged you to show me what personal or social good has come out of it. There are a number of ways that you could possibly make your case. We find churches on every corner of the city. Their members boast that their churches have raised up their grandparents, parents and now their children. They have fed the poor and visited the sick. Where are the gay institutions which have a long-standing reputation as beacons in their communities? Can you find them in any nation?

    It was the church that started our hospitals and our Harvards, Princetons, Yales, Dartmouth and Browns as Bible schools. Where are the venerable gay institutions?

    Looking at families – what happens when traditional sexual taboos are violated (where sons sex their mothers or fathers their sons and daughters or brothers sex their brothers)? And why shouldn’t what is potentially very pleasurable – free sexuality – be universally promoted? It is almost inevitable that when these taboos are violated, there are severe consequences.

    We find these consequences prevalent in the gay community. We need go no further than their diminished lifespan. However, we also note the psychological torment that so many gays carry within themselves. I had mentioned the gay man who wanted to lash out at the churches, because they were unwilling to endorse his lifestyle. This is a response characteristic of many gays. When gay marriage was voted down in NY congress, gay organizations wanted to get names and addresses of those congressmen who had voted against this bill in order to intimidate.

    We also saw this very same thing in the wake of the passage of Proposition 8 in California. Gay groups obtained the names of those had promoted the bill and launched a campaign of intimidation and vandalism and them. Why?

    When I was a parole officer, I had an overwhelming number of parolees in one particular town – a welfare town that had more bars per capita than any other town. However, there was an oddity about these town-folk that outsiders couldn’t help noting. They would always inform you about how proud they were of their town – a pride in stark contrast with its decaying streets and the drugged-up population. Clearly, their “pride” was no more than obstinate, corporate denial.

    GLBT people are clearly conflicted and tormented, living in a way that violates their human nature. It is also clear that they try to drown-out this torment through denial and assertions of “gay pride.”

    I can understand this. I too had been tormented by tsunamis of guilt and shame. I therefore resented those who I “perceived” regarded me with the disdain with which I secretly indicted myself. Subsequently, I’ve come to see that,

  15. (continuation)

    • “Fear of man [his opinions] will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)

    As I’ve grown to trust in my Savior and in the confidence in His love and forgiveness – His comforting opinions of me – I’ve gained a freedom from what others might think of me.

    Please try an experiment! Jesus had proclaimed that if anyone wanted to know the truth, this person should try doing His will (John 7:17). Here’s what His will is about:

    • “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13-14)

    None of us are perfect – miles from it – and so we ALL need a Savior who will mercifully love and forgive us. And we must come on His terms, as little children!

  16. Who could fail to appreciate Danny Mann's latest comment? For him to compare his own position on same-sex relationships to a diva's song bespeaks a remarkable cross-over (even a cross-dressing?) of images that few on Danny's side of the issue would readily utilize. It's also refreshing, as it always is in discussions with Danny Mann, to sense his openness to his own error and sin ("None of us are perfect…") This is not the sense one always gets from dealing with conservative Christians, many of whom seem to be vying for membership among the Pharisees. I'm also relieved to see Danny admit to the weakness of his argumentation.

    So where does this leave the discussion on "history's verdict"? We all admit that there is "an extensive chorus of voices raised up against" same-sex practices. To make this into an argument however does not speak well for Danny's strategy, since one only has to imagine a similar situation regarding interracial marriage a mere century ago, and slavery before that. Or remember the "popular" response to Christianity in its early phases. But why on earth would a Christian of all people eulogize the wisdom of the world? This makes mince-meat of some of St Paul's own advice. No one doubts that major religions have often forbidden same-sex practice "because of the perceived destruction brought on" by it; but this is a circular argument if ever there was one. What's at issue is not the fact that the destruction is "perceived," but the accuracy of the perception.

    And so we turn to empirical data. I'm sure Danny is holding in reserve his best arguments, because he certainly isn't utilizing them here. Once again, his comments reflect only a surface reading of the issue. Of course all empirical data are historical, but how we design research and interpret the results ought to be defensible by current scientific standards and not by outmoded methodology. The history of science is full of bad methodological assumptions, and to imply (as Danny's comments in his third paragraph above seem to) that just because the data are historical, scientists should learn nothing from their own mistakes -- well, this seems an extremely odd argument to be making. It would render impotent all progress in science! Danny is making an elementary mistake in logic.

    Danny challenges me to show "what personal or social good" has come from same-sex behavior. So let's take each of these: (1) Claims about the "personal good" can be only anecdotal -- citing evidence from individuals one personally knows -- and I would venture to say that there are millions of gay men and women whose lives have been immeasurably enhanced by having opened a space in their lives for love. I don't know millions of them, of course: I know only my own friends. I know them well enough to know that such an account is almost certainly true (and I would invite Danny to get to know them as well -- something I suspect he has not done, or he could not offer this particular argument.). Now, Danny could of course question the idea that gay love is "true love," but this is a dogmatic point that does not depend on an assessment of the actual experience of those who are happy to have it. In other words, a refusal to entertain a positive evaluation of the difference that coming out has made to people whom Danny himself could meet and greet -- this has to be based not on empirical but on dogmatic grounds. (If that is Danny's position, fine: but let's then admit that this is not an empirical argument and consider this phase of our discussion closed.)

    (continued below)

  17. (continued from above)

    (2) However, I suspect that Danny will not want to give up the notion that he's actually appealing to evidence, though I suspect he'd admit that it's better to be in an apparently loving relationship than to be jumping off the George Washington Bridge out of despair for not being in one. So let's consider the appeal to the "social good." Notice that any such appeal may look empirical, but fundamentally it's not likely to be, simply because the frame of reference is always going to be one's own theoretical beliefs.

    It's easy to see this when historical judgments are at stake. Edward Gibbon saw the destruction of the Roman Empire as (in some measure) due to homosexuality, but lead-poisoning, monetary trouble, military problems, administrative incompetence, and even Christianity itself have been offered as explanations, and these have greater or lesser credibility based on one's own theoretical inclinations. Even though we could frequently agree on what counts as a "social good" (which just means we have the same theory about that), the idea that we can gauge the causes of a social evil on the prevalence of homosexuality makes sense only to those who already suspect this to be true. The evidence is so spotty as to make any claim based on it highly speculative.

    Moving on to Danny's next comment, I am the last to dispute the fact that churches have done great social work, but the mere fact that churches exist is not much of a premise. The Spanish Inquisition would not have occurred without the church, and that fact (Richard Dawkins notwithstanding) does not make Christianity evil -- though during a particular period and in a particular locale, the institution of the church may have spawned more evil than good, and if so, the mere existence of churches would likewise not count against that fact. Likewise, I invite Danny to do some research on the history of lesbian and gay community centers, which have provided a range of social services to LBGT community (and others as well, including meeting space for 12-step groups), as well as groups ("God's Love We Deliver") who have ministered to sick members of the community when the larger community did not.

    (continued below)

  18. (continued from above)

    The lack of such institutions in the early years of the gay movement is surely a factor in any sociological statistics Danny might cite from that period. Danny observes that Harvard and Yale, truly venerable institutions begun under religious auspices, do not have gay parallels, but of course those institutions have had centuries to become venerated by the society at large, and until the late 60s, it was illegal even to serve gay people drinks, even in New York City. So one shouldn't wonder why the LBGT community has some catching up to do. But one should wonder why Danny is making obviously false claims about the lack of such institutions, without apparently even visiting the LGBT center a mere twenty-minute train-ride from his own home.

    But we're talking recent history here. Danny wants an account of the social benefits of same-sex behavior over the long run. Once again, this is somewhat speculative (as Danny's own theories are as well). It's probably true that the way many people (including I suspect Danny himself) naturally think of this topic as governed by the obvious fact that sex is procreative. (It's also therapeutic, recreational, and even spiritual -- but all that is another matter.) In any case, people sometimes think that if you sanction gay relationships, you are offending against the biological necessity of reproduction. But there are at least two solid arguments against this. (a) Unless you suppose that heterosexuality itself is so fragile and innately unappealing that a gay-friendly society risks wholesale desertion from the ranks of parenthood, this argument makes no more sense than to say that we can't afford to sanction policemen because then there would be no firemen. (b) It is plausible to suppose, as the renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson has argued, that homosexual conduct actually has a societal advantage because it frees up childless family members to offer care to their nephews and nieces, relieving some of the burden of responsibility from busy parents. This of course assumes that families accept their gay or lesbian relatives, so that anyone who believes Danny Mann's arguments on this would actually be undermining the social resource that LGBT families members could offer.

    People are sometimes reluctant to see this, because of the very considerations Danny cites -- that pedophilia is assumed by many to be somehow a consequence of homosexual orientation. But the truth is that the two are separate issues, just as the prevalence of child molestation among heterosexuals does not count against heterosexuality. I do not doubt the fact that some of Danny's experiences with resentful gay men convince him that some gay men are conflicted and tormented, and that they "try to drown-out this torment through denial and assertions of 'gay pride.'" This is indisputably true, though again what we make of this is a matter of interpretation. Danny's encounter with this stridently indignant party-goer becomes a kind of Rorschach test of Danny's own settled presumptions about an entire group of people. These presumptions are grounded in interesting views, but they are not, I repeat, based mainly on any reliable evidence whatsoever -- at least not so far. Certainly not on any credible "verdict of history." I suggest again that we agree that, whatever other arguments may present themselves, this particular historical argument is not worthy of Danny Mann's considerable skill as a theological and scriptural commentator. A sociologist or historian, he's not. That's not to his discredit, unless his diva simply refuses to change her tune in the face of bad critical press. In former days, she would risk being yanked off stage like a bad vaudeville act. I'm glad times have changed.

  19. David,

    Of course, Scripture demonstrates my position – the practice of homosexuality is self-destructive – more explicitly and authoritatively than any other source of truth, as Florence had pointed out with her citation of Romans 1. However, you subjectivize the use of Scripture as merely a matter of interpretation. I suspect that if I countered by pointing out that whatever you write is also simply a matter of interpretation – on both your part and the readers – you would respond, “That’s precisely my point. It’s all subjective, just a matter of our own individual perspectives. Therefore, we are left to freely grope without objective guidance within the context of our personal relationships!”

    Consistent with this, you dismiss the “historical argument” that I’ve presented against the viability of homosexual practice, and now you write about the anecdotal evidence: “this is not an empirical argument and consider this phase of our discussion closed.”

    I’m left to ask what arguments are left that you might consider weighty? (I suspect that there are none, and that “the freedom to choose” will trump any evidence.) However, you seem to leave the door cracked to “empirical argument.” However, since we don’t have any statistical studies that have been passed down from ancient Greece and Rome, I have to resort to more recent studies.

    The following are stats I gleaned from an ex-gay, now Catholic, David MacDonald ( He claims that the following are stats that the gay community in Canada has also endorsed:

    • Life expectancy of gay/bisexual men in Canada is 20 years less than the average; that is 55 years.
    • GLB people commit suicde at rates from 2 to 13.9 times more often than average.
    • GLB people have smoking rates 1.3 to 3 times higher than average.
    • GLB people have rates of alcoholism 1.4 to 7 times higher than average.
    • GLB people have rates of illicit drug use 1.6 to 19 times higher than average.
    • GLB people show rates of depression 1.8 to 3 times higher than average.
    • Gay and bisexual me comprise 76.1% of AIDS cases
    • Gay and bisexual men comprise 54% of new HIV infections each year… 26 times higher than the average.

    These stats argue not only that the gay lifestyle is self-destructive, but also that these problems reflect the fact that they are endemic to it. Although, it seems that LGBTs largely acknowledge this sad reality, they generally counter that these costs are merely the product of stigmatization. However, these same stats seem to be found in even the most gay-friendly environments:


  20. (continued)

    • “However, even in the Netherlands, which has been far more tolerant to same-sex relationships and which has recently legalised same-sex marriages, high levels of psychiatric illness, including major depression, bipolar disorder (‘manic depression’), agoraphobia , obsessive compulsive disorder and drug addiction are found.” (Sandfort TG, et al. Same-sex sexual behavior and psychiatric disorders: findings from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS). Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2001; 58 :85-91.)

    You might retort that these are “interpretations” or only statistical realities that aren’t true for everyone practicing same-sex sex. However, even if you are correct, these stats should coerce us to warn those who want to embrace this lifestyle instead of encouraging it.

    Even more significantly, these horrifying stats should prompt us to consider that perhaps there might be something morally wrong about this practice. Perhaps, it is as the Bible asserts:

    • “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-10)

    However, this isn’t the end of the story. Scripture doesn’t leave us without hope. The next verse asserts:

    • “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (Verse 11)

    Those who come to Christ repentantly have become new people. I wouldn’t be writing against the sin of homosexuality unless I was convinced that our God has the perfect remedy (1 John 1:9). We may continue to struggle against our many sins, but the important difference is that we now struggle with our loving and merciful God at our side!