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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

So you think Homosexuality is a sin...

So here's my first post of the New Year.  I had hoped for something a little more cheerful and uplifting, but other stuff beat me to it.  Still, I'd like to say first that I hope everyone visiting had a wonderful Christmas season (which isn't over for us until the 6th), that your New Year's celebrations were safe and happy, and that 2013 is a year of peace, health and prosperity.

For those of you in the US, I hope you somehow manage to survive what your president is doing to your country.  You have my hopes and prayers.

And now, off to controversial things!!

Recently, someone on my facebook friends list (someone I know through a group, so not a close friend) posted a graphic that I've seen a few times.  I find that, as the years go by, I have far less tolerance for stupidity, so I responded.  I would have posted the entire conversation as a screen cap, but it was disappeared before I could respond to the final comment.  I have my facebook set to email responses to me, so I have her comments, but my own were no longer accessible, so I will have to fill in as best as I can remember.

First, the graphic.

 Now, there are so many things wrong with this, it's mind boggling, but it's a popular one I've seen a few times.  Usually, it's shared as part of a group or something, with so many responses, I don't bother commenting because it would just be like spitting in the wind.  However, when I saw it again shared by this person (whom I've had conversations with on the topic of SSM in the past), I just rolled my eyes and left a comment.  To the best of my memory (and that of Eldest, who is my handy editor), I wrote:

"Wow.  There are so many misinterpretations/revisionisms of the Bible here, it's embarrassing."

I also made a comment about how this was a typical way of attacking the "enemy."

Being in a facebook comment, I didn't bother trying to tackle individual points, though I was willing to, if challenged.

To which she responded.

 Now, when I post something contentious on my newsfeed, I know that there are people who might disagree with me.  I know I am opening myself up to be challenged.  If I'm not up to that, I don't post it.  Full stop.  The idea that people post contentious things, expecting only to have people agree with them, then getting upset when someone doesn't, always startles me.  If you're not willing to defend what you've said or shared, why post at all?

So I responded (again, as best as I can remember):

"But you're still willing to post it.
Wait.  Are you actually justifying sharing something that misrepresents two major faiths and millions of people (not everyone who disagrees does so for religious reasons) because those faiths have already been misrepresented in the last 2000+ years (6000+, since it also references the Talmud), and that makes it okay?  Sharing something that insults such a large portion of the world's population should not be taken lightly, even on facebook. :-/"

Well, I guess she didn't appreciate that, because I soon got...

Obviously, she had some technical difficulties at the end, there.

I actually found this response hilarious.  She's accusing *me* of being judgemental, after sharing a graphic like this?  It is, however, a very typical response.  Rather then address the issue (misrepresentation of what the Bible actually says), she excused it ("...a little humorous"), justified it ("anything that gets people thinking..."), upped the emotionalism to attack ("...get off their judgemental asses..." etc.) and basically told me that, if I disagree, I should just shut up ("You don't have to read my post...").

I made a fairly long response after this.  I wish I could remember it better.  I pointed out that it was laughable for her to post something that is so judgemental and insulting of anyone who holds a differing point of view, takes all who disagree and shoves them under one umbrella, regardless of their actual reasons for disagreeing, then turns around and accuses the victims of said judgemental attitude of being judgemental.  I also wrote that 'I have long noticed that the most intolerant people are those who scream the most for tolerance.  This graphic is just another example of that.'  I'm paraphrasing as best I can here.  Somewhere in there, I also commented that it's possible to accept people for who they are, without agreeing to redefine our core institutions.

Her response?  Sadly, also very typical.

Yup.  She just leapt to equating disagreeing with her with being a racist.  Disagreeing with her means I'm delusional - though how that's supposed to make me feel better about anything, I have no idea.  Then, she projected all sorts of things onto me that had nothing at all to do with my original objections to the graphic.

As I said, typical.  Rather then address the actual objection, demonize the person objecting.

I had started to respond with a comment along the lines of how amazingly judgemental and intolerant her assumptions were, but I suddenly had to leave the computer.  Eldest asked if she could respond, as we had been discussing this together.  As she was writing, another comment appeared... this one.

So my daughter responded to both at once.  When I came back, I read over what she'd written, agreed with it.  She was kind enough to reproduce her response here.

 "It seems to me like you are very passionate and not particularly well studied on the subject at hand. If the beliefs you oppose are so horrible, what need is there to lie (or at the very least post a deliberately dishonest graphic) about them? The idea that the sinfulness of homosexuality is based on one line out of one book next to the virulent anti-shellfish rhetoric is just as silly as the idea that Christianity not accepting homosexual behavior means we want to relegate all the scary gay people into closets."

She never received this response.  When I hit post, it failed.  Yup, in the time it took to write the above, she unfriended me and, from what I could tell, removed the entire thread from her timeline.

Again, very typical.  I can't say I'm going to miss having her on my friends list, but I suspect it will make getting conversations in this group we're both a part of rather interesting.

While this is quoted from one person, her responses and reactions are so common, she could be any of a number of people I've seen try to justify their support for SSM.  They do it by first misrepresenting the "enemy".  For those who claim to be Christian, as this person does, they do it by redefining God (sorry, hun, but God specifically tells us to stand up against sin and, yes, be judgemental.  More on that later).  From past conversations, I know she holds to the version of God as a God of sunshine and butterflies that's really popular right now.

So let's deal with what this graphic is actually saying, point by point, without - hopefully - running on for too long.

The problems start right at the very top, with the double question.

"So you still think homosexuality is sinful?  And therefore gays shouldn't be allowed to marry?"

This is two different issues forced into one.  First, there's the sin part, with the word "still" in there.  Because apparently, that's not something anyone is supposed to believe anymore.  Then there's the use of the word homosexuality.

Let's be very clear about this.  When SSM supporters talk about homosexuality, they are not talking about the same thing as those who say homosexuality is a sin.   In the first part, they are talking about an identity.  In the second, they are talking about a behaviour.  This gets confusing, because people rarely add the word "behaviour" in there when talking about the sin of homosexuality.  This makes it easy for their detractors to turn around and say they "hate gays" - namely, people with same sex attractions, rather then people who engage in a specific sexual behaviour. (more on this later)

Then there's the second part - that thinking homosexual behaviour is a sin is the sole reason anyone objects to SSM.  In truth, people disagree with SSM for all sorts of reasons.  There are atheists, agnostics and gays who disagree with SSM, while there are religious people who believe homosexual behaviour is a sin, but do not think the state should prevent SSM.  There is no black and white, here.

Let's see if I can draw a parallel here.  Lying is a sin.  People who lie are called liars.  We do not define people who lie by their lies, unless their behaviour becomes excessive.  There are consequences to behaviour.  It is not against the law to lie EXCEPT in cases where lying has far ranging effects.  It is illegal to lie under oath in a court of law.  Such lying can land you in jail.  Similarly, homosexual behaviour is a sin.  It does not become a matter of law until people try to change those laws to validate their behaviour, and force the rest of society to condone said behaviour.  This is not a matter of equality.  The laws defining marriage applied to everyone equally.  One man, one woman, legally adult, not close blood relations.  This did not stop people from having relationships with each other.  This did not stop people from having sex with each other.  This did not stop people from loving each other.  The state recognised marriage as different for a purpose.

So the question itself is a problem.  The graphic then gives two choices; yes or no.  If you say no, you get a lovely "congratulations on being part of civilized society."

Here is the most in-your-face judgementalism of the graphic.  Either you agree with whoever made this, or you're not part of civilized society.  This sort of ad hominem attack is really common (right up there with equating people who disagree with racists).

If you say yes, it asks why, then sends you through the flow chart.

The first one is "because Jesus said so!" (complete with exclamation point!!!).  The graphic then claims:

"Not true.  Jesus never uttered a word about same-sex relationships."
 Of course he didn't.  He didn't have to.  What he did way was things like "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,'  and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'?  So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:4-6) 

Jesus very clearly specified what marriage was.  He didn't need to spell out anything about "same-sex relationships."  That was already understood.

Which leads to another problem with the answer.  It says "same-sex relationships."  We're not actually talking about relationships between people of the same sex.  We are talking about a specific, sexually defined relationship that is recognised by state, society, religion and God as uniquely different from any other relationship. 

As for homosexual relationships, that is a modern invention that did not exist as a separate, labelled category, based on attraction rather than behaviour, until about 150 years ago.  People who say Jesus never said anything against homosexuals are being dishonest and misleading.  Yes, people engaged in what we now call homosexual acts, but until relatively recently, these acts were part of a long list of sexual acts that scriptures said were sinful, such as incest, adultery, fornication and bestiality.  The only non-sinful sexual behaviour was between a married couple with each other.

Let's move on to the next "why" response.  "Because the Old Testament said so!"

The graphic answers:

"The O.T. also says it's sinful to eat shell-fish, to wear clothes woven with different fabrics, and to eat pork."

It then asks:

"Should we still live by the O.T. laws?"

This part demonstrates common ignorance of what Leviticus actually says, and is quite misleading.  That's not even the beginning of what's wrong with it.

First, it avoids the "why" by distractions.  Rather then address whether or not that's what the OT actually says, it throws up other restrictions of what it defines as sinful behaviour, out of context, then says, "see!  If you do any of these, then you're a hypocrite, picking and choosing what sins are acceptable."  Assuming they are actually right about this, how that makes the sin of homosexual behaviour any *less* of a sin because people sin in other ways is illogical, but it scores emotional points, and people fall for it.  Mostly because they don't know what that part if the OT actually teaches.

First of all, the book of Leviticus was a book of laws for the Levites.  They were basically the Rabbis and teachers of Israel, and had specific duties to fulfill.  Some of these restrictions, such as wearing cloth of mixed fibres, were purely ceremonial.  A number of these sins had no punishment for disobedience at all.  They were largely a way for Jews to remain separate from the pagans that surrounded them   Laws regarding diets and sanitation applied only to Jews - if you weren't Jewish, they didn't apply to you.  They did, however, lead to Jews having life spans that were triple their gentile neighbours.

The laws put down in Leviticus covered three categories: moral, civil and ceremonial.  What the response in the graphic does is equal civil and ceremonial sins with moral ones.  This is dishonest and misleading.

For Christians, Jesus fulfilled the prophecies, thereby some of these laws no longer applied, such as the dietary laws, which he specifically mentioned.  However, Jesus also said "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Matt. 5:17)  So if you're a Jew, all the OT laws still apply (choosing to obey them is something else).  For a Christian, all the laws apply except those where Jesus specifically said otherwise, such as when he responded to criticisms that some of his disciples were eating without having gone through the ceremonial washing by saying "There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man." (Mark 7:15)

With all this, the graphic is being completely dishonest, rendering its question "should we still live by OT laws?" irrelevant.

On to the next "why" response: "Because the New Testament so!"

Their response is"

"The original language of the NT actually refers to male prostitution, molestation or promiscuity, not committed same-sex relationships.  Paul may have spoken against homosexuality, but he also said that women should be silent and never assume authority over a man."

Then they ask (as if they satisfactorily responded to the objection in the first place) with:

"Shall modern-day churches live by all of Paul's values?"
Here, they've done the same thing as before, except with the added appeal to authority by saying "the original language," as if they've actually studied this.  Yes, the NT refers to male prostitution, etc., but to leap from that to saying there are NO objections to "committed same-sex relationships" is dishonest.  The NT is clear that marriage is between a man and a women, so there is no need to specify against anything else.  It then goes on to attack Paul (again, out of context, as it was referring to the structure of leadership within the fledgling church - Christianity actually played a huge part in elevating the status of women and children as being equal to men, since it taught that all humans were of equal value in the eyes of God), as if his writings about women has anything to do with SSM.  Also, it should be pointed out that Paul was not a prophet.  He was a theologian.  This renders the final question purely rhetorical and irrelevant.

Now, in the flowchart, if you still answered "yes" to the above statements, it takes you to final response:

"Have fun living your sexist, chauvinistic, judgemental, xenophobic lifestyle choice.  The rest of culture will advance forward without you."
See?  If you disagree with the maker of this graphic (and anyone who agrees enough to share it), which is full of false claims and misrepresentations, you are sexist, chauvinistic, judgemental and xenophobic!  How tolerant!  How non-judgemental!  How open minded and loving!

Yeah.  Right.

So what's next?  Ah, lovely.  "Because God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!"

That's a handy little catchphrase that I really wish people wouldn't use, but it does make the point that God created us, male and female, as partners, with the admonition to go forth and multiply.  Obviously, SS couples can't do that.

If this catchphrase is silly, their response, however, is even sillier.

"That was when the earth wasn't populated.  There are now 6.70 billion people.  Breeding clearly isn't an issue any more!"



So here we come to a place within gay activism that many people try to pretend isn't there.  This is the place where heterosexuals are derided as "breeders."   It also reflects an increasingly common anti-human attitude that sees us as a virus; a plague on Mother Earth that needs to be cut back and controlled is Gaia is to survive.

I notice something else about it that's amusing.  The response tacitly agrees with Genesis creation of two humans, from whom we are all descended.

Either way, this statement saying that, because there are already so many people, breeding isn't an issue anymore, is irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is whether or not homosexual behaviour is a sin (according to the Bible, at least; they don't touch non-Biblical religions that also object to homosexual behaviour at all).  Their response is another distraction and irrelevant.

What's next?  "Because the Bible clearly defines marriage as one-man-one-woman!"

Their response:

"Wrong.  The Bible also defines marriage as one-man-many-women, one man many wives and concubines, a rapist & his victim and conquering soldier & female prisoner of war."

Okay.  Let's point something out here.  The Bible isn't just a book about Things We Ought to Do.  It's also a record of when God's chosen people messed up.  Horribly.  It records people doing nasty, nasty things to each other.  It also relates specific instances where people were commanded to do certain things.  Those commands were not things to be applied generally, to all and future generations, but to those specific instances.

One of the things that defined whether or not a couple were married was consummation of that marriage.  It was the sex act itself, not any ceremony of priestly blessing, that decided if a man and woman were married.  The roles of men and women were defined.  Part of that was the responsibility of men to provide for and protect their wives.  Let's take the rape victim for an example.  In the ancient world, technically, the sex act meant they were married, voluntary or not.  Meanwhile, the victim would be less valued and have difficulty finding a husband to provide for her in the proper way.  She would be damaged goods.  Sadly, this attitude is still with us today.  The victim suffers for the rest of her life, while the man gets to go on his merry way.

Most people see this demand of men to marry their rape victims as some sort of punishment for the woman, and a boon to the man.  What they're missing is that this is actually a punishment for the man, while ensuring his victim is provided for for the rest of her life.  The man, forced to marry his victim, is the acknowledged perpetrator of a great crime.  He will be required to provide for his victim for the rest of his life.  It's hardly an ideal situation for either of them, but at least the victim will not suffer the cultural consequences of the man's crime.  Meanwhile, couples are admonished to love each other - this is a behaviour, not an emotion. 

Likewise, with prisoners of war, the men would have been killed.  That left the women without providers and protectors.  Again, not an ideal situation, but better then slow death by starvation, animal attacks or attacks from other humans.

The ancient world was a brutal, bloody place. 

This is a good time to remind everyone that the purpose of marriage has never had anything to do with being in love or acknowledging loving relationships. 

The point, however, is that the Bible does indeed define marriage as between one man and one woman.  It's also a record of people who were constantly disobeying God.  I mean seriously; we're talking about a world where God had to explicitly and repeatedly tell His People to not have sex with animals, stop sacrificing their children to Molech and oh... Ladies?  When you're on your cycle, it's really a good idea not to bleed all over the place.

The Bible defines marriage very clearly.  That people didn't obey doesn't change that definition.  If we are going to examine the Bible and what it says, we have to look at it through the time period and context it deals with, not project our modern sensibilities and interpretations onto it.

And now, finally, we reach the final "why" response.  "Because it just disgusts me, dangit!"

Throwing in that "dangit" was a nice, not-at-all-trying-to-influence-the-reader addition.

Their response?

"Props for being honest.  However, a whole population of people shouldn't have their families discriminated against just because you think gay sex is icky.  Grow up!"

First, that "whole population" is a tiny minority, and those who support SSM are an minority within a minority.  Did you know that, early in the gay rights movement (back when they fought against real discrimination, like being fired from their jobs for being gay, or being violently attacked, etc), when people suggested that someday they would be demanding gay marriage, early activists scoffed at the notion?  These early activists didn't want SSM.  Some because they acknowledged the role of marriage in society and agreed that it was a heterosexual institution.  Others because, being a heterosexual institution that was increasingly being attacked on all sides (such as from militant feminism), they wanted nothing to do with it.  Marriage, they claimed, should be left to the breeders.

Oh, how things have changed!

Where else does this statement go wrong?  By saying this minority "shouldn't have their family discriminated against..."

Excuse me, but if the requirements of marriage apply to all people, equally, how are homosexuals - and their families - being discriminated against in any way that's different from, say, siblings who want to marry?  Or underage children?  Marriage is an institution that has qualifications.

This is where the attempt to equate objections to SSM and racism falls apart.  The definition of marriage is based on gender and blood relation (or lack of it), not race or ethnicity.  Race is irrelevant to the basic purpose and role of marriage within society, therefore, laws that restricted marriage based on race were, obviously, racist and rightfully overturned.  SSM, however, runs counter to the basic purpose of marriage.  Its existence in those places that have legalized SSM has caused mind boggling new problems that no one ever expected, ranging from rendering biological parenthood extremely complicated (recent court cases include 3-parent laws in the making, and a sperm donor being forced by the courts to provide child support, even though the lesbian couple involved have never asked for it and are fighting in his defence against it) to rendering marriage and parenthood itself, and by extension, all married couples and parents, married or otherwise, genderless (we are no longer legally husband or wife, but spouse 1 and spouse 2; we are no longer mother or father, but parent 1, 2, 3 or 4).  The problems with legalizing SSM are just beginning to show, and it may take a full generation or two before the damage is fully realized.

Which brings me to a final point about this graphic.  In its attack on defining homosexuality as a sin (without differentiating between identify and behaviour), it never fully answers the second part of its double question, which deals with "allowing" SSM.  What the maker of this graphic is skirting around is that it's not just a simple matter of "allowing" SSM or not.  It does nothing to explain why we should legally redefine marriage to validate the SS relationships.  It does nothing to explain why believing homosexual behaviour is a sin has anything to do why we should or shouldn't "allow" SSM at all.

This graphic attacks those with opposing opinions, first by misrepresenting the objections, then through responses of misrepresentation, mockery and judgemental insults.

Now, tell me again; which side of the debate is being judgemental and intolerant?

Oh, wait... in order for there to be a debate, both sides have to be willing to put forward arguments and rebuttals.

Never mind.

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