Who is my gay neighbor?

Progressive Evangelical theologian Randal Rauser wrote a new great post about Conservative Christians and their attitude towards the persecution of homosexuals.

Should conservative Christians care about the persecution of Uganda’s homosexuals? I certainly thought so. But it looks like not everybody agrees as I faced some strong criticism in the discussion thread to my article on the topic. (You can skim the discussion thread to find it, if you like.) The hostility, so far as I could see, was shaped to a significant degree by an endless succession of clips of gay pride parades on the evening news.

I have to tell you that the gay people I’ve met are so much more boring than this.

They’re also far more noble than that. (The evangelicals I know are also far more noble than that which one finds in the evening news. But that’s a different topic.)

So how are homosexuals nobler? Consider a couple examples.

In 2000 I was living in London, England. There I was sitting on the Tube. The car was crowded. A couple poofs were sitting nearby. I judged them. Poofs. Yck.

Then the subway stopped. Folks got off and others got on. Among the new passengers was a little old lady. I looked at her and never thought twice.  I had a seat and she didn’t. That’s just the way things are. Too bad for her.

But maybe not…

And then one of the “poofs” jumped out of his seat and offered it to the elderly lady. In a moment I saw that I was the priest shuffling busily by and the gay man I had dismissed with my cavalier, self-righteousness gaze was the Good Samaritan.

Ouch.

Fast-forward five years.

We’re at Buddy Wonton Chinese Restaurant in Edmonton. The family is sitting by a large picture window about to have our meal when a drunk man — presumably homeless — stumbles up to the window and starts staring at my plate of food. I tolerate this for about thirty seconds … and then I wave my hand for him to move on. A switch flips in the man and he starts screaming at me. “I’m going to f*$#^ kill you!” he screams.’

I don’t feel threatened. But I also don’t feel an inclination to go out and confront this man. So I tell the poor Chinese busboy to do so. He turns ashen white and turns to the door to go out and face the wrath of the angry homeless man.

There are a couple of lesbians nearby. I hadn’t paid them any heed prior to this moment. But suddenly one of the ladies, a solid gal with a brushcut, jumps up and follows the poor, terrified Chinese busboy outside. She walks up to the homeless man and gives him a piece of her mind. She tells him what time it is. She tells him to move on. She’s got confidence and courage. Eventually he lowers his head and shuffles on. I am left to enjoy my meal with my family. She walks back inside and joins her consort. I eat my meal and say nothing.

Shame on me. I inadvertently instigated the confrontation with the homeless man. And I left it to the lesbian stranger to defend my honor.

If anything, I am the one that needs forgiveness.”

I once rewrote a parable of Jesus in a way very similar to these real stories.

I made the same experience. Even as I was an atheist, I had prejudices against gay people and viewed them as perverted. Getting to know them personally and hearing their testimonies utterly changed my attitude.

I was especially moved by the life stories of Christian homosexuals who struggled very hard to get rid of their “sinful” sexual orientation, prayed, fasted, took a lot of drugs without any success.

The terrible suffering they went though before accepting their homosexual nature deeply touched me.

All the time I hear fundamentalists telling me that some people might have a pedophilic nature but this gives them no excuse for acting according to it.

This is obviously true, but they forget the main difference: it has never been proven that committed lifelong homosexual relationships are harmful in any way.

So following the teaching of Jesus, we ought to welcome them into the Church.

Bild

25 thoughts on “Who is my gay neighbor?

  1. It’s important to understand that every person has innate dignity, and a story to tell. It’s so important to get to know people before dismissing them as “less than”. This is a great post.

  2. The character development that gay people experience in struggling with their gay identity is evident in your post.
    Adversity can make you more sure of who you are.
    And this makes you more resistant to attack.

  3. I can only say I completely agree with everything in this post!

    I too have been guilty of homophobia in the past and I deeply regret that.

    My feeling is that if Jesus were walking the Earth now, he would be hanging out with the gay community. Indeed, and I know that many would view this as blasphemy, it’s possible that he might himself be gay. Jesus always identifies with the ones others reject, with the outcast and marginalised, the abused and the victims of prejudice.

    The argument comparing homosexuality with pedophilia is fallacious, as you say. Pedophilic ‘relationships’ inherently involve inequality and abuse of power; homosexual ones don’t.

  4. TheEvangelicalLiberal raises the important difference between pedophilia and same-sex attraction: pedophilia creates a victim and that – not the attraction – is why it should not be acted upon. Homosexuality is consensual between adults. What you are suggesting, lotharson, is for people to forgo expressing a part of their nature that you yourself can… simply on the basis of your ick factor. Imagine being told that you can have feelings of attraction but must never, ever, act on them because, well, just because it suits their sense of sexual propriety. The arrogance!

    Whenever you deny to another what you yourself accept as your right, you’ve rationalized a discrimination.

    • Hi tildeb, thanks for the endorsement – but if you read again, Lotharson is very much making the same point as you (and as me).

      At the start he quotes from someone who *used* to have an ‘ick’ reaction to homosexuality but who has since radically changed his views – as I have too. If you re-read the last few paragraphs of the article I think you’ll see that he’s not anti-gay at all but quite the opposite.🙂

      • So they might. You do too. I can live with disagreement.

        It’s not silly because I believe we should all agree that gays are bad people. It’s silly because the point it makes adds nothing substantial to the discussion except “some conservatives are mean”.

        More than that – how does he know these people weren’t ALSO gay rights protesters? He doesn’t. All he knows is that they did something nice once.

  5. I was especially moved by the life stories of Christian homosexuals who struggled very hard to get rid of their “sinful” sexual orientation, prayed, fasted, took a lot of drugs without any success.

    Who is saying that an orientation is sinful? Disordered is one thing, but literally sinful?

    All the time I hear fundamentalists telling me that some people might have a pedophilic nature but this gives them no excuse for acting according to it.

    This is obviously true, but they forget the main difference: it has never been proven that committed lifelong homosexual relationships are harmful in any way.

    What harm is caused by a pedophile who, say… looks entirely at computer-generated pedophilia?

    What harm is caused by a lifelong practice of paganism?

    • Also, this:

      This is obviously true, but they forget the main difference: it has never been proven that committed lifelong homosexual relationships are harmful in any way.

      …Is missing the point for evangelicals anyway. Not going to Church on Sundays isn’t hurting anybody, but it is required by their religion. Even if this is only a religious requirement, deciding that it shouldn’t be because homosexual romantic relationships don’t harm anybody simply doesn’t follow.

      And it doesn’t follow that having a religious requirement for it is bigoted, either. Sex before marriage, when used with protection, hurts nobody. But nobody I know thinks having a religious prohibition against it is necessarily crazy.

      • Malcolm,

        You saw where I was going.🙂

        Now, I think various sexual acts DO harm people – trivially so – on a natural law perspective. But the ‘it has never been proven to cause harm’ line just doesn’t work from within the Christian perspective. You end up justifying just about everything when ‘harm’ only means ‘obvious physical harm’ or thereabouts.

    • Normally I’m not one to nag for an answer, but in this case I’m going to make an exception.

      Particularly to these two questions:

      What harm is caused by a pedophile who, say… looks entirely at computer-generated pedophilia?

      What harm is caused by a lifelong practice of paganism?

      In the former case, I’m looking for someone who uses the ‘it harms no one’ defense to bite the bullet and tell me: it harms no one, and thus should not be discouraged. Or, lacking that, who tells me that it IS harmful – but manages to pull this off in such a way that I cannot use the reasoning in other cases.

      In the latter case, I’m looking for a Christian to tell me either what the harm is, or – if there is no harm – why this should be discouraged. Keep in mind, of course, that conversion is discouragement.

      • Hello Crude.

        I apologize for not having answered earlier, I am getting through a pretty stressful time.

        1) Heathen worship.
        God loves all people and longs for building up a communion with them.
        It saddens Him if they worship ancient or modern idols.

        Moreover, most of the time, adoring these idols is going to be harmful.
        These holds also true for perverted Christian theologies.

        2) Computer-generated pedophilia

        a) God wants everyone of us to become a better and better person (virtue ethic)
        b) real pedophilia is undoubtedly extremely harmful for the children
        c) thus simulating pedophilia via a computer (while masturbating) makes you a worse person.

        What’s more, due to the very nature of sexual addiction, there is a great chance that those first doing that on the Internet will (sooner or later) attempt it in the real world with children in blood and flesh.

        Indeed, empirical evidence tragically indicates this is the case

        d) Therefore it is morally wrong to masturbate oneself before pictures of small children.

        Now I think it is my turn to return you a question.

        It is all too easy to make up all sorts of justification for condemning behaviors one does not like.
        It is a very strong human tendency.

        In the past, American Conservative Christians had no problem finding all kinds of reasons (both Biblical and secular) for not allowing interracial marriages.

        Can you explain me why a committed lifelong Gay relationship is wrong in a way that a racist of the past could NOT have used to argue that a black man marrying a white woman is an abomination?

        Cheers.

      • God loves all people and longs for building up a communion with them.
        It saddens Him if they worship ancient or modern idols.

        Moreover, most of the time, adoring these idols is going to be harmful.
        These holds also true for perverted Christian theologies.

        I don’t buy it.

        What is this harm? How does it harm anyone to be a wiccan, or a pagan, or (pardon any Mormons reading) a Mormon or anyone else?

        If the harm is merely ‘It saddens Him’ then why shouldn’t we accept that these sexual relationships are harm? If the harm is something else – I’d like to know it.

        Does atheism harm people too? Judaism? Buddhism?

        a) God wants everyone of us to become a better and better person (virtue ethic)
        b) real pedophilia is undoubtedly extremely harmful for the children
        c) thus simulating pedophilia via a computer (while masturbating) makes you a worse person.

        Woah, woah, woah.

        How are you getting c from b? That’s like saying,

        A) God wants every one of us to become a better and better person
        B) War harms millions of people.
        C) Thus simulating war in a video game makes you a worse person.

        What’s more, due to the very nature of sexual addiction, there is a great chance that those first doing that on the Internet will (sooner or later) attempt it in the real world with children in blood and flesh.

        Indeed, empirical evidence tragically indicates this is the case

        Then by all means, provide it. I’d love to see it. And even if that were the case – I can provide you evidence linking promiscuity and male homosexual acts, at the very least in terms of powerful correlation. But I’d bet my left arm you’d not conclude that the correlation was a cause, or even if it was, that it couldn’t be overcome and therefore was not a determining factor.

        In the past, American Conservative Christians had no problem finding all kinds of reasons (both Biblical and secular) for not allowing interracial marriages.

        I will accept this characterization of ‘American Conservative Christians’ the moment you accept that American Liberal Christians have had no problem justifying abortion, infanticide, adultery and – insofar as they’ve been quite happy with lowering the age of consent – sex with minors.

        The Catholic Church has had no such history, nor have many, many ‘American Conservative Christians’. And politically speaking, the parties that favored such laws were historically the ‘left-wing party’. See Robert Byrd.

        Can you explain me why a committed lifelong Gay relationship is wrong in a way that a racist of the past could NOT have used to argue that a black man marrying a white woman is an abomination?

        Sure can – natural law arguments alone will carry the day on that front.

        I could go further, but you need to clarify something to me: what does it mean ‘in the way that a racist of the past’? Because it sounds to me like you’re setting me up in the following way:

        Racists purportedly referred to bible quotes to justify opposition to interracial marriage.
        People opposing gay marriage referred to bible quotes to justify opposition to gay marriage.

        Ergo, if you accept the latter, you must accept the former.

      • Hi Crude, sorry if I’m being thick or speaking out of turn, but please can I just ask you clarify – am I right in thinking that you view homosexual relationships and marriage as in some way problematic or unacceptable?

        If so, I’d be interested to hear in more detail in what way you believe them to be problematic, and also your basis and rationale for this viewpoint (and if it’s ‘natural law’ I’d like to hear that expanded on a little).

        I’m not saying this to criticise but simply because it’s hard to engage constructively if we don’t fully understand each other’s viewpoints and reasons for holding them.

        Thanks
        Harvey / TEL

      • EL,

        Hi Crude, sorry if I’m being thick or speaking out of turn, but please can I just ask you clarify – am I right in thinking that you view homosexual relationships and marriage as in some way problematic or unacceptable?

        No need to apologize for asking me sincere questions, EL. Ask away.

        To answer your question: you have to be more specific. It’s not the ‘relationships’ which are the problem. It’s the sex. And it’s not exclusive to homosexuals by a longshot – there are problems aplenty with heterosexuals, etc on that front too.

        Yep, I do think ‘marriage’ is problematic. I think various desires are intrinsically disordered as well. Including some of my own, by the by. That’s one thing that always seems alien to people.

        If so, I’d be interested to hear in more detail in what way you believe them to be problematic, and also your basis and rationale for this viewpoint (and if it’s ‘natural law’ I’d like to hear that expanded on a little).

        No problem. I think various sexual desires, including same-sex, are intrinsically disordered – and I think public acceptance and celebration of those desires and acts are deeply problematic, not only from a religious point of view, but also from a Natural Law perspective, with repercussions that also extend into the by-and-large practical and secular.

        With regards to Natural Law, the short version is that people and animals and things have natures and essences and final causes, and the final cause of sex and sexual attraction is reproduction. Uses of sex that frustrate that end are wrong, immoral.

        I’m not saying this to criticise but simply because it’s hard to engage constructively if we don’t fully understand each other’s viewpoints and reasons for holding them.

        Excellent, then you won’t mind my asking you some questions.

        I take it you do accept same-sex marriage then? You think there’s nothing wrong with sexual acts so long as it’s between two consenting adults and there’s no immediate physical harm? And would you be able and willing to reply to the questions I asked Lothar most recently?

        • Hi Crude,
          Thanks for your response and for clarifying your position.

          I’d like to do your questions justice, which means I probably won’t be able to answer them in full now.

          As a short answer, I’m broadly agnostic about same-sex sexual desire, practice and marriage. Like many, I’ve moved from a position where I believed it to be entirely wrong on the basis of the Bible to a position where I think it might actually be okay – but I’m not 100% sure.

          For a much longer answer, I’ve written a 3500-word post on the subject entitled “Okay to be gay? Homosexuality and Christianity”: http://evangelicaliberal.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/okay-to-be-gay-homosexuality-and-christianity/

          The article deals briefly with paedophilia and incest, along with the idea of norms, plus the biblical texts, possible causes of homosexuality etc.

          I find the natural law argument interesting but not entirely convincing. In my view and experience, human beings are too complex for natural law to be consistently or coherently applicable. We all share a large degree of common essence for sure, but I object (strongly but perhaps irrationally) to ideas of, say, standards or norms or ideals of masculinity and femininity, or of marriage.

          There are many aspects of human life that are arguably not ‘ideal’, including disability and various forms of genetic disorder. But I wouldn’t see these as bearing any negative moral implications.

          I also don’t believe that sex is solely or even primarily for the purpose of procreation. That’s one of its purposes of course, but within a committed relationship (preferably marriage in my view) it has a variety of other purposes. Many people – including most older couples – can’t have children, but I don’t think that means they mustn’t have sex.

          All the best,
          Harvey / TEL

  6. So…is the guy in the picture gay or is he the one who let the busboy and lesbian duo go out and stand up for him?

    LOL, a “solid gal with a brush cut” he says!

    There has to be a joke in here somewhere…so a Chinese busboy, lesbian (think “solid gal” here, not playboy fantasy), and a progressive theologian walk into a bar…

  7. By the by – with regards to this quote:

    I have to tell you that the gay people I’ve met are so much more boring than this.

    Yeah, many gay people are much more boring than that.

    The problem is, there is something called LGBT culture, and these sorts of things aren’t exactly the exclusive province of a tiny, shunned minority.

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