Thursday, December 15, 2005

Dialogue With a Bisexual Agnostic on Homosexuality, Part I

By Dave Armstrong (12-15-05)

This is a response to a letter written as a reply to my paper, "Dialogue with a Homosexual." The words of my opponent from that paper will be in blue. My older words from the same paper will be purple, and my present (anonymous) opponent's words will be in green.


First of all let me thank you for quite an extraordinary letter - especially coming from a 17-year-old. It isn't often that I receive such a thorough and thoughtful direct reply to one of my papers, so I highly commend you for that, and also for the clarity of your thoughts. We continue to disagree, of course, but there is considerable value in respectful communication, and hope for at least further mutual misunderstanding among those who differ with one another. I would love to engage in further dialogues with you, if you like.

I recently read your dialogue with a homosexual. As usual, your opponent was less-than-well-informed and possessed less than stellar rhetorical polish. Of course, I'm not suggesting that you need be the world's most eloquent writer (Zeus knows this is not my forte) to be an effective debater; however, in comparison to your gifted writing (take this as a compliment [I've read several of your papers; your writing is superb]), the homosexual with whom you dialogued came out looking like a sore loser.

Thank you very much for the kind compliment. I don't recall the dialogue myself without going back to revisit it, so I'll refrain from comment on my opponent. I do recall, however, that he started name-calling and engaging in unhelpful caricature at a certain point, which is pretty much the death of constructive discourse.

Before I proceed, a little background information on me. I'm a 17 year old bisexual male teenager. Politically, I would more or less fall under the liberal banner, but my somewhat moderate pro-war stance and my vehement opposition to abortion, I suppose, disqualify me from being a "true" liberal (by today's standards), so I'm somewhat of Hitchenite, in that I have no political home. I feel just as much alienated in the Republican Party as I do in the Democratic Party, though I plan on voting Republican as long as the Democratic Party maintains an official pro-abortion stance. Having said this, I shall now proceed with my response to some of your paragraphs.

I am delighted to hear about your pro-life stance. Good for you. You are obviously also an independent thinker who doesn't follow along the prevailing trends like a sheep. This is impressive in this day and age.

The gay rights movement has nothing to do with seeking moral approval.

It sure does, else why do homosexual activists have a cow when we dare to state our Christian belief that homosexual acts are immoral, and that there is no such thing as same-sex marriage? Why don't they allow us to disagree with them, if they are supposedly so concerned about "tolerance" and "diversity?" To merely assert such beliefs is to assure being accused of "homophobia" (a stupid, typically-modernist term which means, literally, "fear of sameness").

I didn't realize homosexual activists had a "cow" when the Christian right labels homosexual acts "immoral", and refuses to recognize the "validity" of homosexual marriage. Some might, of course; wimps and whiners exist in every movement (just look at the "cows" Christians have when we sanitize Christmas season by employing the world "holiday." They accuse the media of being bigoted and biased towards Christians,

Do you really maintain that this is a debatable proposition, and that opposition to it necessarily constitutes "whining" in the sense here discussed?

though ironically their darling news network is among the highest rated in the nation in regards to viewership).

Yes, but one network does not a complete media make . . . and that is the point. Overall, it is undeniable that the traditional media in all its forms is overwhelmingly secular and leftist and thus (quite yawningly predictably) biased against Christianity. The same holds for the entertainment industry and academia.

This, however, does not prove, much less imply, that the PRIMARY objective of the gay rights movement is to have Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and the pope approve of our lifestyle and choices.

Of course, in this context, I was not trying to prove what you claim here; namely, that such a thing was the "primary" objective of the movement. I was only denying the assertion that it had "nothing to do with seeking approval." In many instances, it certainly does have to do with that, and this is proven precisely by the sorts of reactions I have cited. Equally obviously - as in any movement of many people - not all do this, by any means, but surely enough do for one to be able to identify it as a significant consideration, in a sociological, generalized sense (as I did).

Far be it from me to seek the moral approval of people who still subscribe to archaic codes of morality and accept the claims of Jewish folklore (wink).

And here is where further discussion on other topics would, no doubt, be quite interesting!

We do allow you to disagree with us.

You do; many others who agree with you do not. I don't see how this can be denied.

Have we ever held a gun to your head demanding that you change your viewpoint (at least in speech; true "conversions" are inner experiences)? We most assuredly have not.

That's not what my comment dealt with; rather, it is this notion that for us to not agree with the redefinition of both marriage and what we consider normal, natural sexuality is tantamount to being bigots and intolerant Neanderthals. We are under no ethical or legal obligation to grant a radically new definition of marriage, and to label us in such a way that we cannot disagree without being typecast as "homophobes" and all the other idiotic descriptions, is neither logical nor fair, to put it mildly.

Major anti-gay-rights figures are homophobic, despite what you may believe.

I'm sure some are, but since I never denied this, it is a non sequitur. But many are also falsely described as this, on inadequate grounds.

Pat Roberston is infamous for blaming homosexuals for natural disasters.

But he would also, by the same token, blame any class of sinner for what he feels is God's judgment (the presupposition being that sin brings judgment, which is indeed a respectable general Christian truth). Thus, including homosexuals in these remarks does not prove that he is "homophobic"; only that he thinks homosexuality is a sin! Thus, this first example of yours merely illustrates my point, not yours: i.e., opposition to the thing itself is immediately collapsed into supposed hatred of the person or "fear" of folks who are different, etc. This is (no offense) rather shallow, lousy "armchair psychoanalytical analysis.

Regarding the literal meaning of the word "homophobia", you should know that terms evolve over time. This is not a new phenomena...

Sure, but hopefully, the actual roots and etymology of words have some distant relation to the meaning eventually adopted in actual usage. It's simply a stupid term: typical of the systematic corruption of the English language in polemical (especially political-ethical-legal) discourse. It is even stupid from your perspective when you think about it, because it is almost as if it legitimizes the word "homo"; which I thought was pretty much considered an insult: "fear of homos". In other words, it appears to incorporate one objectionable term into another one which is equally as silly and offensive to reason and linguistics alike. And this is the chosen term!

Law inevitably has a moral component; there is no escaping it. That is a whole 'nother discussion, but I contend that this is almost a self-evident point (though often overlooked or applied hypocritically by various political activists).

I agree; however, Christians equate "moral component" with "religious component."

Oftentimes, yes, but this is not required by Christianity. Many (thinking, thoughtful, philosophically-inclined) Christians would derive morality from the natural law, and traditionally, even many atheists and agnostics agreed that certain things were right and wrong, without necessary connection to religion or God.

Laws against murder, rape, theft, for example, are not exclusively Christian principles; they are universal principles which have been adopted by socities the world over. But you're right, this "is a whol e 'nother discussion..."

We agree. C.S. Lewis argued that this is far from an opposing opinion from Christianity. To the contrary, he said that Christians rejoice that this is the case. It makes it that much easier for us to come and say, "see here; this is the sinful human condition that we all agree on, from which you need to be saved." Christianity presupposes both sin and the fact that people everywhere know internally or instinctively that certain things are wrong. That is both logically and experientially prior to religious dogma. Lewis called the widespread agreement on many moral precepts "the Tao", in his book, The Abolition of Man.

If you want hypocrisy, look no further than the phrase "Love the sinner, hate the sin".

How is that hypocritical? Of course, if you deny the existence of right and wrong, and sin, then there would be a contradiction. But then if you did that, you would have no grounds for saying I am wrong in my present opinions.

I don't deny the existence of right and wrong; I do, however, disagree with you, and, by implication, the Christian right with what is wrong and right in any given case.


We both agree that rape and murder is wrong, but differ over whether homosexual acts are immoral or not. This does not imply that I'm a moral relativist, for, I do hold that rape and murder are always wrong.

Of course it doesn't imply that you are a moral relativist; no disagreement again. My point above was that the charge of hypocrisy only seemed to me to reasonably apply if the person making the charge was a relativist; otherwise, in my opinion, the charge is rather silly and insubstantial. But even as a relativist, there are problems. You say you aren't a relativist; fine. I'm happy to accept your word on that. But then I would like to see how you argue that such a statement or belief is inherently hypocritical.

But the acts involved in such immoralities are not, in and of themselves, immoral.

Well, that is the bottom line disagreement in our discussion. You will have to make some argument for this.

Sex is not immoral if it is not forced upon someone; killing is not wrong if it is done in self-defense.

The first proposition remains to be proven. There are certainly instances and types of immoral sex that is not forced. I have given the Christian rationale for why we believe this in several papers, and would be happy to revisit the reasoning.

(This may seem a bit off topic, since the topic isn't moral absolutism/relativism per se, but I needed to make my position on morality clear.)


If, on the other hand, there is such a thing as immorality, then it certainly is love (and profoundly so) to point out to someone that they are harming themselves, and their relationship with God and other human beings, by engaging in sinful activity.

Fair enough; however, if I'm not mistaken, Catholicism holds that man is given a free will. What, pray tell, is the purpose of free will if you seek to abrogate our freedom to choose and do wrong?

First of all, having a free will, and whether or not that free will should be used to sin, are two different things. In one sense, we are all free to do whatever we like, because God granted that freedom. In another, we are not free, whether legally, or in terms of social / societal norms and expectations, or with regard to our own physical and psychological well-being. So you open up a huge can of worms. What you write is essentially an unreflective slogan that involves a host of difficulties, once unpacked.

Secondly, you seem to confuse legal and moral freedom. Traditionally, Christian societies, and many other ones determined that homosexuality was a punishable offense. How they arrived at that opinion is a matter of both ethics and the political process. But they did it. Our society is presently in flux on the matter, but everyone knows where it once stood.

In any event, there is no sense in which I, personally, am preventing you or anyone else to do what you do. Nor is it feasible to even worry about enforcement at this late date. No one is breaking into bedrooms. Our culture has accepted the private / public distinction to such a huge extent that the very notion is almost laughable by the present societal standards and ways of looking at things.

Assuming we will be judged sometime in the far too distant future by a historical Jewish carpenter, whose life we know very little about,

Very little? That's strange . . .

and whose true teachings are widely debated in scholarly circles, who are you to outlaw our freedom to engage in sexual immorality (at least among consenting adults; don't want you responding with the usual then-based-on-your-logic-we'd-be-wrong-in-outlawing-pedophilia response)?

Societies determine what is right and wrong, and enact these beliefs into law. So the very existence of law presupposes that one can "outlaw" certain activities, including sexual ones. I thought you agreed with this, above, that law was inherently a moral enterprise? That's precisely why the homosexual activists are trying to change the laws, because they know full well that to make something legal (as in the abortion debate) goes a very long way to making it have a moral respectability among the populace.

Is it not to God, and him alone, to whom we will be held accountable for our sexual "deviancies"?

No, not at all, because sex clearly has huge societal consequences. For example, we know now that fatherless families are the leading sociological predictor of a life of crime (and, I believe, also of poverty) for the children of such families. So what is often regarded as a personal decision affecting no one else (divorce, or illegitimacy with no marriage ever occurring and the father splitting), affects, after all, the children, and then the larger society, if said children go astray. We know this; it isn't debatable.

So now, we could also envision a homosexual couple (either male or female) raising a child (which cannot come from them alone, in either case, which raises other issues). Now we have a home in which parents of one gender or the other are not present in a parental capacity. This will have huge societal repercussions because we know that the optimal situation for a child is to have both a mother and father present.

Furthermore, homosexuality, by nature, is "anti-life," because it has no capacity to produce further life (and that is because it is unnatural. Sex is obviously designed to produce children; that is its biological - and we would say, also, spiritual - purpose). If one is pro-life, they ought to at least question homosexuality, since it is "barren."

I tremble at the thought of being held accountable to Pat Roberston moreso than to your god...

Me, too (even more than you, I think), so I can relate to you there. Fortunately, I don't see this as a very likely prospect anyway, so neither of us need trouble ourselves any further over it.

My point is: fine, tell me I'm sinning by engaging in homosexual acts, but don't coerce me into relinquishing a lifestyle I freely chose.

I'm not forcing anyone. I try to persuade people through reason. If you are forced through law, then you would have to look at how and why those laws came to be, and whether the reasoning can hold up or not. I think it can. But we legally coerce people all the time. I thought you understood this, judging by your earlier comments. But apparently not. Or else you are being contradictory, or your passion and emotion has taken over, etc.

Are we saying to homosexuals that "you must accept the tenets of Christianity and our traditional lifestyle or else you are obviously Christian-a-phobes (and we will force you to by law)?" I have no legal power to force a homosexual to attend church, but they have (or will soon have) the power to force me to accept them as tenants, or to be my church organist, etc.

In a certain way, you are asking us to accept the tenets of Christianity by denying homosexuals the right to marry, for you base your arguments on Biblical principles.

Yes, I agree with your first clause to a large extent. However, I would say that the case against homosexual marriage is by no means restricted to the religious dogmatic one. It can also be based on the historical understanding of what marriage is across most societies of most of history (anthropology). It is the consensus, and as you noted, that goes far beyond Christianity, because we're talking about many kinds of societies and cultures. Or it can be based on sociological data as to what causes societal discord and social problems: some of which I alluded to above. One can also make a case from a medical / health perspective, as it is well-known how many maladies can be associated with homosexuality (particularly of the male variety). And that was long before AIDS was ever heard of . . .

This is not the priesthood we're debating -- it's the freedom of two or more consenting adults to do with their lives as they please, and their right to have SECULAR courts legally recognize their union, if they so desire it.

The redefinition of marriage is an extremely radical concept, which must be thoroughly argued if we are to change it. To do so would and will have tremendous negative consequences for society.

I didn't know homosexuals would soon have the power to force you to accept them as tenants, or have them be your church organist.

Then you haven't been following some of the recent legal developments. In Canada, it is already the case that "homosexual marriage" is legal, and that virtually any speech against homosexuality as sin has been classed as hate speech. It won't be long here in America, unless Christians and sexual traditionalists resist the movement.

I still believe we're in the United States, not Canada. I may be wrong, of course, so if you have any evidence to substantiate your claims, I'd like to see it.

LOL. I am answering as I read and didn't know you were going to mention Canada. We're only about 20 years behind them in moral / secularization trends, just as we are about 50 years behind England and the rest of Europe in the same respect. What C.S. Lewis critiqued in English society in 1950 is pretty much applicable to America today. But in 1950 England, it was far better in other respects, such as pornography, the stability of institutional marriage, illegitimacy (now about 70% among African-Americans and 38% or so among white Americans), etc.

I don't have any factual evidence at hand, but I have surely heard of such things; they were real. It's not just hysteria or paranoia. These are actual legal developments. I would venture to guess, for example, that if you looked at the cases of radical legal groups such as the ACLU with regard to homosexuality, that you would readily find cases such as the ones I mentioned.

You are indeed saying that.

Saying what? That a homosexual must attend my church???!!!!! That a homosexual must be a Christian by force of law???!!! This is ridiculous!

I told you he came out looking like a sore loser...

:-) Very perceptive . . .

Fundamentalist Christianity unleashes it's syrupy vitriol at anyone who is not following the approved "Christian" way of life.

Why do you equate opposition to homosexuality with "Fundamentalist Christianity," when in fact, this has been the consensus of western civilization for 2000 years now? Granted, that civilization is profoundly Christian in its roots, but there are plenty of "secular" types who have agreed with this understanding of the nature of moral, legitimate sex and marriage. It was indeed a societal consensus until the Sexual Revolution made its appearance some 40 years ago.

Yes, and it was the consensus of many ancient non-Hebrew cultures that homosexuality was perfectly natural.

Which ones? And - much more importantly and relevantly for our discussion - what happened to these societies in the long run? Can we learn anything from the course of history? We are slowly learning about the disaster and catastrophe of the Sexual Revolution. But many are still blind to it.

So in reality, the "sexual revolution" of the 60s was, in fact, a resurgence of an ancient view of homosexuality.

Again, from where? What were these societies like? What happened to families in them? Was the social order stable? What did these cultures produce in history (compared to the huge, far-reaching accomplishments of Christian Europe)?

The TRUE sexual "revolution" was the sexual repression introduced by Christianity 2,000 years -- one I'm glad to see fading, albeit slowly, but consistently.

What is "repression"? To confine sex to marriage and to married men and women? Again, that has had a wide consensus far beyond Christianity (in fact, it is far more widely observed among Muslims today than Christians in the West). Why is that? Why is it that if your view is correct, that the consensus of society (which you conceded above) was heterosexuality and a strong commitment to marriage as traditionally understood?

. . . forced to deal with the likes of Fred Phelps protesting at FUNERALS.

This man is an idiot and no example of any kind of respectable Christian. I could pick the very worst example of a homosexual activists (say, that crazy group that blasphemed at a Mass in St. Patrick's Cathedral a few years back), if I wanted to engage in this sort of rhetorical tactic. But I don't think you would appreciate that. Well, I have nothing to do with a fool like Phelps, either.
Yes, we agree, once more: idiots exist in every movement. BTW, I have to ask: do you suspect he's a repressed homosexual?

I have no idea, but it is not inconceivable to me at all, based on the rather common phenomenon of psychological projection (one of the few things where Freud actually showed some significant insight).

As long as a person's beliefs and values do not directly affect you, you have n o claim to "punish" people, or attempt to make their lives difficult.

Ah, this is crucial. It does affect me, because such a momentous cultural / moral shift has far-reaching consequences for the whole society. This would undermine the very foundation of Christian sexual ethics, just as abortion already has done. Now the last remnants of Christian civilization are being attacked: the nature of marriage, family, gender, sexuality, etc.

It does affect you in the same way that laws allowing Klan rallies affect me (I'm Hispanic), black Americans, Asian-Americans, etc, for such rallies undermine the social and political equality so many patriots of yore shed their blood for. Nevertheless, I do not lobby the Congress to pass legislation outlawing bigoted groups from organizing and preaching their message of hate.

It's far more than that. The Klan is in the fringes of the fringes of society. You're talking about a tiny tiny group so far out of the mainstream that virtually no one takes their rhetoric seriously (though their hatred and crimes are still to be feared and taken seriously). But to change the essential nature and meaning and morality of sexuality has huge consequences: almost more than anything else, because it is so fundamental to all of society.

Tell me: does public display of homosexual intimacy (i.e. kissing, holding hands, hugging) affect you and undermine Christian sexual ethics?

It doesn't affect me personally (in terms of undermining my beliefs), yet if this becomes more common, as the culture's sexual ethics change, it does have the effect of reinforcing the overall goal of what might be called "unisexuality." Since the goal is immoral, I must also object to public manifestations of it which undermine what I feel is the true and moral nature of sexual expression (of course, we would oppose overt expression of heterosexuality in public, too, which is a matter of propriety and modesty).

Based on your reasoning above, it does. So, you would favor legislation outlawing homosexuals from, say, kissing in public?

No, because it isn't enforceable in today's environment. I favor an outlawing of sodomy, as did the Supreme Court not too long ago (and it was by no means "conservative" or explicitly "Christian" when it did so).

BTW, abortion does not undermine Chrisitan sexual ethics per se...

It certainly does, because it is anti-life, and the historic Christian position always linked sex with procreation. Abortion separates that, which is a grave sin, in addition to the sin of murder.

people should oppose it because it involves the taking of an innocent human life, not because the Catholic Church tells us its wrong.

Primarily, yes. I was simply disagreeing with your claim that it didn't undermine Christian sexual ethics. I don't have to invoke Catholicism or even Christianity or the Bible itself to argue against abortion, anymore than I have done so (not at all) in arguing against homosexuality. That's not to deny that there are good arguments there which can be consulted; only that one can refute these things without them, and also eliminate the common objection that all opposition is religion-based. 

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