Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Once More Into the Breach

Here's another argument in favor of homosexuality:

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/21/my-take-bible-condemns-a-lot-so-why-focus-on-homosexuality/

I thought I'd give a short response even though it could warrant a more thorough interaction. Sadly this type of argumentation has become par for the course for proponent of homosexuality in religious circles. One could easily begin to suspect what is driving such arguments is fiat rather than careful interaction and serious grampling with the issues. Either way, we head once more into the breach.

One would expect better from a Yale Grad. The article falls short on several levels:

(1) He misses Paul's larger point in 1 Corinthians 11 and so assumes evangelicals already ignore inconvenient parts of the Bible. The author expects a crash literalism if we were going to truly "obey" the text. This crass literalism is really the same kind of exegesis fundamentalists are accused of when they are belittled. So on the one hand fundamentalists are mocked for being crassly literal and on the other hand if we aren't being crassly literal we are ignoring the text. What hide behind this arguments is really just disdain for people who take the Bible seriously as the authoritative rule of faith and life.

(2) Two quotes from Augustine and Aquinas to through out the unanimous verdict of early church history on abortion. The author cherry picks two quotes on the issue of the soul & body and then interposes them on the modern arguments for when life begins. He misses voices of church history in their own words and in their own contexts answering the issues of their day in opposition to abortion (See Michael Gorman's work on Abortion in the Early Church). In short, he expects ancients to speak like moderns and when they don't he acts like their arguments undercut current abortion arguments. Shoddy historiography.

(3) His moral reasoning on divorce is about the equivalent of what my kids do when they get caught with their hand in the cookie jar, point to their sister and say "yesterday she wrote on the wall." Plenty of evangelicals have been vocal against divorce. And the exegetical issues for when to divorce are a little debated on the edge, for example some think 1 Cor. 7 allows for divorce of abandonment. Again the author shows little knowledge of the text and intense exegetical debates.

(4) This is almost beyond words: "On the other hand, it’s not at all difficult for a community of Christian leaders, who are almost exclusively white, heterosexual men, to advocate interpretations that can be very impractical for a historically oppressed minority to which they do not belong – homosexuals." Sure that works if you set aside the unanimous verdict of church history on the issue (church history is culturally and temporally diverse) and the fact that especially in the Anglican community the most vocal opponents to homosexual bishops and marriage is coming not from "white males" but from the global south. One cannot help but think this is the Monty Python argument "Help! Help! I'm being repressed"

Here's the crux of the argument:
Whether the topic is hair length, celibacy, when life begins, or divorce, time and again, the leaders most opposed to gay marriage have demonstrated an incredible willingness to consider nuances and complicating considerations when their own interests are at stake.
The fails on two accounts: (1) Evangelicals have spent volumes wrestling just as carefully with the homosexual texts as they have with other texts. Again the author acts like evangelicals dismiss certain texts by fiat and then basically pleads "if you do it there, do it here in these texts--abandon your interpretation of the texts on homosexuality that disagree with me." (2) He implies leaders "bend the rules" when their interests are at stake but with homosexual personal interests are not at stake. This fails to recognized that God's pattern for sexuality and marriage is very much at stake. What has driven evangelicals in all this issue has been faithfulness to the text. The argument here is a bit like saying "you cannot make moral pronouncements on murder unless you are a murderer."

The conclusion of the article is laced with irony: "Opponents of gay marriage aren’t defending the Bible’s values. They’re using the Bible to defend their own." --and what have opponents of traditional marriage and sexuality been doing?

When you boil down all the shoddy argumentation and bad historiography all you end up with the unsupported thesis 'If you oppose homosexuality you are oppressive and imposing your moral will on me--and what gives you the right to act that way?' But here is the sad little irony because of the un-nuanced argument, the flagrant generalizations, poor historiography and clear misrepresentation, the only thing this the author really has to offer us is the force of his moral will--and what makes his moral will any better?

We might just as easily say: opponents of traditional sexuality "aren’t defending the Bible’s values. They’re using the Bible to defend their own" --unfortunately space does not permit us to substantiate that claim.

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