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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What Every Parent of a Gay Child Needs to Know: 6. It's not your fault (It's God's!)

Owing to the relentless propaganda coming from the Religious Right and their allies, that tries to convince us all that parents, especially distant fathers and overbearing mothers produce gay children, many parents feel responsible for their children not being "normal."

A few years ago I attended a lecture by the chief proponent of this theory, known as Reparative Therapy (or Conversion Therapy), Dr. Joseph Nicolosi.  After it was over, I asked him why I turned out to be straight when my parents fit the description perfectly.  "Well," he said, "It doesn't always work that way."  It sure doesn't, and for good reason.  Every respectable professional association not only condemns this theory, but labels it positively harmful.  It promotes needless guilt in parents and holds out false hope that gays can be "returned" to heterosexuality.

Here's a summary statement taken from ReligiousTollerance.org:
The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in 1973. The American Psychological Association followed suit in 1975; the National Association of Social Workers in 1977; the National Psychoanalytic Association finally followed suit in 1991, stating that homosexuality was not a disorder. The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers, and National Education Association formed the "Just the Facts Coalition." They developed and endorsed "Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation & Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel" in 1999. 
The primer says, in part:
"The most important fact about 'reparative therapy,' also sometimes known as 'conversion' therapy, is that it is based on an understanding of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers, together representing more than 477,000 health and mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus there is no need for a 'cure.'

In January 2012, Exodus International president Alan Chambers unexpectedly came out against the view that gays can be made straight. Here's the full quote: “The majority of [gay] people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation.” (Full article here: http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/) Interestingly, that would likely include Chambers himself, who has for years claimed an orientation change.  Exodus International is the leading organization contending that gays can change.  

I have in my files on a CD, a speech from a former member of EI's board of directors suggesting that, since a preponderance of gays don't change, Exodus International should change its motto to "Come suffer with us." 

There has been only one “scientific” study that has held that gays do change.  It was conducted by none other than the psychologist who led the American Psychological Association to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders in 1973, Dr. Robert Spitzer.  It was his presumed objectivity that gave the study its prestige.  Recently, Dr. Spitzer retracted his study with an apology to the gay community for the harm he had caused. 

The most important thing I believe parents of gay children should take from these professionals is that there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about.  No one did anything wrong, and your kids are perfectly normal. This is not to say that there will be no issues associated with gayness that you and your child will have to face.  However, these conditions are a product of society's ill-formed picture of what being gay is all about. Fortunately, they are diminishing at a rapid rate, so quickly in fact that now a majority of Americans believe that same-sex marriage should be legal.

Charles Darwin's conviction that the origin of sexual orientation is one of humanity's deepest secrets, available to no one, is still true.  One thing is for certain, parent--you are not the reason you have a gay child.   If there is a God, and I believe there is, God made us all the way we are.

Here's an excellent Q and A on the subject:



WEDNESDAY: The Bible doesn't condemn your gay child.  Really!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What Every Parent of a Gay Child Needs to Know: 5. What If My Child Is Transgender?

Navigating the world of the Ts and Is

The T and I in LGBTI are likely the most foreign and off-putting sexualities in the acronym. One of the most cruel tricks nature can play on someone is to realize that your body says you are of one gender, but your heart and mind tell you that you are really of another gender. So you may appear to be, say, a boy, but inside you know you are a girl (or just the opposite).  In the extreme case, you are born with what is termed "ambiguous genitalia," that is, having both male and female sexual organs to some extent.  The normal course of action, until recently, was "gender assignment" at birth, where the parents decided what gender the child would be brought up as, and the offending genitalia were surgically removed. This often created conflicted feelings in the child that caused permanent harm.  The trend now is for the child to remain "ambiguous" until he or she can name one's own sexuality (or not).  These, termed intersexuals, are now considered a normal, if relatively rare form of human sexuality.  It is estimated that one to two births in 100 are intersex.

Those with normal genitalia, yet totally rejecting that gender role, often opt for "gender reassignment" surgery, which is preceded by hormone therapy and rigorous psychological study, and live comfortably as the other sex from then on.  These are the T or transgender. (Note: not transgendered.)  Others adopt the dress and behavior of their opposite gender to feel comfortable with themselves, without electing the surgery.

According to the American Adademy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:
Children and adolescents who are growing up gay, lesbian, bisexual, gender nonconforming, or gender discordant experience unique developmental challenges. They are at risk for certain mental health problems, many of which are significantly correlated with stigma and prejudice.
If we lived in a world where LGBTI children were allowed to grow up without societal prejudice, most of the problems now associated with their lives would never materialize.  But we don't have such a society.  So the parents of these children need to provide as much safety and nurture as they can.  This will have to involve professionals trained in these area, as most of us are not equipped to cover all the issues.  So my advice is to surround yourself with as many people and services as possible who are.

Now for a side issue.  Some Christians associate T and I with the Mosaic denunciation that
A woman shall not wear a man’s apparel, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does such things is abhorrent to the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 22.5)
This is extrapolated to mean that Moses denounces any kind of altering of sexual patterns. (As for this being an "abhorrent," see http://clergyunited.blogspot.com/2013/01/leviticus-when-is-abomination-not.html for a full explanation.)  Two things need to be kept in mind. 1. The Mosaic Law was concerned with conformity.  The natural was considered to be a certain (arbitrary) form.  For example, a fish has scales, so catfish are unclean and an abomination. Scales as a deciding factor is arbitrary, as we now know fish are many things.  So men need to conform to what a man is and women to what a woman is.  2.  Sociologists suggest that in harem societies, this law was intended to keep men from sneaking into a harem and violating the harem owner's rights.

If your child is struggling with gender identification issues, you have an opportunity to make a significant and highly valuable contribution to his or her well-being.  The worst course is to take a combative approach, for if this doesn't lead to suicide, it will mean heartache for you and emotional issues for your child.  Get the best help you can now.
 
Here's a video that looks at intersexual biology and the ethical question of gender assignment.


For additional help, start here: http://www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/intersex.pdf

These are the links listed at the end of the video:
www.isna.org
www.bodieslikeours.org
www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/intersex.aspx

TUESDAY:  What every parent of a gay child needs to know: You did nothing wrong

Monday, January 28, 2013

What Every Parent of a Gay Child Needs to Know: 4. Will My Son Get HIV/AIDS?

I want to begin this post by exploding one of the most pernicious myths circulating about the gay community, and particularly about gay men.  Here is what purports to be the results of a scientific study led by a supposedly reputable researcher. Dr. Paul Cameron.
How long did homosexuals live before the AIDS epidemic and how long do they live today? We examined 6,737 obituaries/death notices from eighteen U.S. homosexual journals over the past thirteen years and compared them to obituaries from two conventional newspapers. The obituaries from the non-homosexual newspapers were similar to U.S. averages for longevity: the median age of death of married men was seventy-five, 80 percent died old (65 or older); for unmarried men it was fifty-seven, 32 percent died old; for married women it was seventy-nine, 85 percent died old; for unmarried women it was seventy-one, 60 percent died old. For the 6,574 homosexual deaths, the median age of death if AIDS was the cause was thirty-nine irrespective of whether or not the individual had a Long Time Sexual Partner [LTSP], 1 percent died old. For those 829 who died of non-AIDS causes the median age of death was forty-two (41 for those 315 with a LTSP and 43 for those 514 without) and < 9 percent died old. Homosexuals more frequently met a violent end from accidental death, traffic death, suicide, and murder than men in general. The 163 lesbians registered a median age of death of forty-four (20% died old) and exhibited high rates of violent death and cancer as compared to women in general. Old homosexuals appear to have been proportionately less numerous than their non-homosexual counterparts in the scientific literature from 1858 to 1993. The pattern of early death evident in the homosexual obituaries is consistent with the pattern exhibited in the published surveys of homosexuals and intravenous drug abusers. Homosexuals may have experienced a short lifespan for the last 140 years; AIDS has apparently reduced it about 10 percent. Such an abbreviated lifespan puts the healthfulness of homosexuality in question.
This summation of Cameron's "research" was pulled from his organization's website after receiving incredible denunciation from peer reviewed journals.  He now offers an equally nonsensical explanation at www.familyresearchinst.com.  Due to this and other spurious "results," Cameron has been removed from memberships in the Nebraska Psychological Association, and The American Psychological Association.  In a court case, Baker Vs. Wade, a District Court Judge called Cameron's sworn statement, "fraud."

If this study were to be believed, parents of gay children would have much to fear for their child.  But it is not to be believed.  Neither are the notions that gay men are more promiscuous than straight men. In fact, a study of the sexual habits of four million gay men recently published in the UK establishes that
There is only a one percentage point difference between heterosexuals and homosexuals in their promiscuity: 98% of gay people have had 20 or fewer sexual partners; 99% of straight people have had the same number. Tellingly, OkCupid found that it is just 2% of gay people that are having 23% of the total reported gay sex. 
(http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/oct/19/gay-men-promiscuous-myth)
HIV/AIDS is a relevant issue for gays and straights.  Young gay men are being infected at a larger rate than others because they are growing up in an era where AIDS is not the killer it once was.  So they think, as most young people do, that they are immune to it and will live forever.  Unprotected sex is the culprit.

However, just because a person reveals ("comes out") that he or she is gay, does not necessarily mean that sexual activity is involved.  It could be nothing more than attraction at work with no acting out.

On the other hand, the chances are good that sexual activity is present or soon will be.  This is where good parenting comes into play and why it is good that you now know.  There are many sources of information available to parents and youth that can make for good discussion opportunities.  http://www.wikihow.com/Avoid-Getting-AIDS and http://www.livestrong.com/article/80154-avoid-aids/ will get you started. The sooner you have this talk, the better, for knowing this information is the first step toward staying AIDS free.

I know many Christian sources advocate sexual abstinence until marriage as the only protection against HIV/AIDS, but studies show that this is one of the least effective means. Although the question singles out gay males, it is a much broader issue that affects both men and women, gay and straight, and people of all ages.  Here's a video of teens talking to other teens that emphasizes this and offers good advice on how to avoid AIDS.


TUESDAY:  What if my child is Transgender?  Navigating the intersexual world.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

What every parent of a gay child needs to know: 3. Your child is just fine

You need assurance that your child is all right, not because there is any doubt in the minds of professionals, but because of society's fear of the different, the "other," that has made even left-handedness suspicious.  So false stereotypes exist that continue to make life uneasy for you and your child. You may also worry because bullying and overt discrimination work against those who are perceived as different.  I don't want to lead you to believe that life will be rosy.  On the contrary, there will be obstacles in the way of your child that are not present for straight children.  But there is a lot of good will and support available to you, as well.

I am concerned, first of all, that you understand that there is nothing psychologically, physiologically,or mentally about your child that is considered unusual or cause for concern.

Listen to these professionals:

The American Psychological Association released a Statement on Homosexuality in July of 1994. The opening paragraphs are:
The research on homosexuality is very clear. Homosexuality is neither mental illness nor moral depravity. It is simply the way a minority of our population expresses human love and sexuality. Study after study documents the mental health of gay men and lesbians. Studies of judgment, stability, reliability, and social and vocational adaptiveness all show that gay men and lesbians function every bit as well as heterosexuals.  
Nor is homosexuality a matter of individual choice. Research suggests that the homosexual orientation is in place very early in the life cycle, possibly even before birth. It is found in about ten percent of the population, a figure which is surprisingly constant across cultures, irrespective of the different moral values and standards of a particular culture. Contrary to what some imply, the incidence of homosexuality in a population does not appear to change with new moral codes or social mores. Research findings suggest that efforts to repair homosexuals are nothing more than social prejudice garbed in psychological accouterments.
This affirmation of the normalcy of gays and lesbians is across the board of professional associations, including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, American Counseling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association.  Therefore, if you have any fear that your child may be somehow deficient as a human being, put those fears away for good.  There is no basis for it except in the minds of those who refuse to look at the facts.

The biggest obstacle to understanding the normalcy of nonheterosexuals is not knowing many or any.  As long as we insulate ourselves from the community, we will never get to see them as we see ourselves.  When I first moved to San Francisco, I took with me all the negative stereotypes that had formed me as a young man.  Yes, the flamboyancy was there, the sexual promiscuity was there.  But what I soon discovered was the promiscuity of my straight peers was its equal, and that the gay community as a whole was no different from any other.  They were also forming families, raising children, going to church, and leading very indistinguishable lives. In fact, being gay is so ordinary that most gays are not identifiable without self-labeling.    You are living among many of them and you don't even know it.  This may possibly even included your own child.

If you take the step to inform yourself by going to gay community centers or PFLAG meetings, for instance, you will see what I mean.  If there is an Open and Affirming church in your community, that's a great place to begin.  Once, African Americans were considered inferior, and were not allowed to marry whites in some states (up to 1964!).  Now one is the president of the United States.  We were able to see this remarkable transition unfold in a lifetime because whites got to know blacks and the stereotypes were debunked.  The more we get to know our gay and lesbian neighbors, the quicker we will move as a society away from their crude and highly misleading stereotypes.

So, your child is normal.  Well, kind of, and in an OK kind of way:




MONDAY: Will my son get HIV/AIDS?

Friday, January 25, 2013

What Every Parent of a Gay Child Needs to Know: 2. What Is This LGBT(QIA) Thing?

If you are new to the world of the gay community, you will soon be introduced to a variety of terms and acronyms that are in general use, most of which are self-explanatory, but not all.  The most all encompassing is LGBT: An acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender which refers to these individuals collectively. It is sometimes stated as GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender). Occasionally, the acronym is stated as LGBTA to include allies – straight and supportive individuals. The acronym sometimes includes Q for queer or questioning. (All definitions come from the PFLAG website and documents.)

Let's break these down.

Lesbian: A woman whose enduring emotional, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction is to other women. Avoid identifying lesbians as homosexuals, which is often seen as a derogatory term. 

Gay: The adjective used to describe people whose enduring emotional, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attractions are to people of the same sex (e.g., gay man, gay people). In contemporary contexts, lesbian is often a preferred term for women. 


Bisexual: An individual who is emotionally, romantically, physically, and/or spiritually attracted to men and women. Bisexuals do not need to have had equal sexual experience with both men and women; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as bisexual. Sometimes stated as bi.

Transgender: A term describing the state of a person’s gender identity which does not necessarily match his/her assigned sex at birth. Other words commonly used are female to male (FTM), male to female (MTF), and genderqueer. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically to match their gender identity.

Queer: Traditionally a negative or pejorative term for gay, queer currently is used by some LGBTs  — particularly among younger people —  to describe themselves and/or their community. Some value the term for its defiance, some like it because it can be inclusive of the entire community, and others  find it to be an appropriate term to describe their more fluid identities. Many within the LGBT  community continue to dislike the term and find it offensive. This word should be avoided unless quoting someone who self-identifies that way.

Intersexual: Having both male and female anatomical characteristics, including in varying degrees reproductive organs and secondary sexual characteristics, as a result of an abnormality of the sex chromosomes or a hormonal imbalance during embryogenesis. (This definition from the Free Online Dictionary)  These were once know by the term Hermaphrodite. 


Ally: Any non-LGBTQ who supports the efforts for gay rights and equality.

If you don't recognize your child here, we will broaden the possibilities in a future post.  You might ask him or her to give you their take on the ins and outs of this acronym as a way for each of you to understand yourselves better. There are quite a few more terms and acronyms that you will encounter, but this list is the most used and will get you going.  

What's most important to know is that LGBTQs will be very patient with you if they sense that your intentions are to relate, not to judge.  Any crossing of that line will be noted immediately and may harm what could be fruitful dialog and possibly a healthy relationship.  

One other thing: The gay community is not monolithic. There is some disagreement as to the usefulness and meanings of this acronym.   So it's best not to assume you share the same frame of reference.  Be a good listener.  In the following video (about 4 minutes), Jeffrey gives a good representation of the issue and offers a way out.




TOMORROW: Your child is just fine.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

What Every Parent of a Gay Child Needs to Know: 1. You Are Not Alone

No, you are not alone.  It may not feel that way at first; you may feel there is no one to talk to, no one to turn to for help, no one you can trust with what you just heard.  Perhaps not even your spouse.  Yet your mind is racing with questions: Will my child be alright?  Will she be safe? Will he lose his job, or his friends, or his church?  Is she going to hell?  What can I do?  Can she change?  Is it my fault?  Will I never have grandchildren?

Know that for these questions to surface, and more, is normal.  After all, you are likely entering into a world you are not familiar with, so it feels uncharted, and you are set adrift.

The very first thing I would encourage you to do is to talk to a knowledgeable person.  And get in touch with others who have faced the same situation.  Mothers and fathers of gay children are all around you, but because you have not needed to know this, they aren't on your landscape.  See if there is a PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) chapter near you.  If there is, you will immediately learn that you and your child are in good company where you will meet others who have gone through the same experience and found hope.

If you are reluctant to go to a public meeting, most PFLAG folk would be happy to meet you and discuss personal issues with you and/or your child.  What is most important now is for you to connect with others who can support you positively through this time.

If a PFLAG chapter is not an option, contact a clergy person from the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) or any church in the Yellow Pages or online in your community that advertises itself as either "Open and Affirming," or the Methodist's "Reconciling Congregation," or the Presbyterian's  "More Light congregation."  Lacking these, call an Episcopal priest or anyone in the local Interfaith community.  Ask them to recommend a gay-friendly person to talk to.  If you are fortunate to have a church nearby that supports gay inclusion, you will get good answers to your questions.

Your child will have many questions as well.  The PFLAG website has several documents that you can download that are very helpful for both parent and child.  Here's the link to their most requested resource for parents, http://community.pflag.org/document.doc?id=495, "Our Sons and Daughters: Questions and Answers for Parents of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual People."  Here's the link for your child: http://www.pflag.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Publications/Be_Yourself.pdf.  "Be Yourself: Questions and Answers for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth."

If all else fails, contact me at info@clergyunited.org, and I will personally assist you and keep everything in confidence.

There is currently running an ad campaign that tells gay youth, "It gets better!"  This is just as true for parents of gay children.  It gets better!  The sooner you contact a supporting person or group, the better you will feel, not only about your child, but about yourself, as someone who can continue to be the loving, supporting parent you have been and will continue to be.



TOMORROW:  What is the LGBT(QIA) thing?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What Every Parent of a Gay Child Needs to Know


The "coming out" process for any LGBT person, especially to one's family, is often a very traumatic experience.  What is often overlooked is the trauma visited upon the family, especially the parents.

Mom and dad are very often confronted with a whole new world that they previously knew little or nothing about.  Although suspicions of same-sex orientation may have lurked in the background, they are often quickly dismissed; the possibility is too dire to entertain.  At least that's what they think.

There are many voices of concern out there urging many different approaches.  So, where does a parent begin?  Who or what can a parent turn to for help?  How can the proper information be separated from the harmful, or just plain ignorant?  These and other questions will be answered along the way.  I write from the perspective of a pastor of over 40 years who has been confronted with just about every situation a parent can experience, including counseling dozens of parents and hundreds of gay children.  You may feel that no one else has gone through what you are experiencing right now, but you will soon discover much company along the way.

This series of articles is intended to assist parents who are genuinely trying to understand their gay child.  If you are such a parent, the sooner you get involved with them with understanding and support, the better the outcome will be for all concerned. You don't have to have all the answers, or any for that matter.  All you need to begin is to acknowledge that your child is no different today from the one you brought into the world, that your love is the same and continues, and that nothing can change that.  If you truly believe this, the rest of these articles will help you.  If you can't affirm your love for your child, get counseling immediately; studies show that suicides are a greater risk following parental rejection.  I don't tell you this to make you feel worse, it is a fact that you need to know and consider.

Over the next two weeks or so, these are the subjects we will look into.  We will take them one at a time.
  • You are not alone
  • What is the LGBT(QIA) thing?
  • Your child is just fine
  • Will my son get HIV/AIDS?
  • What if my child is Transgender? Navigating the intersexual world
  • You are not to blame
  • The Bible doesn't condemn your child
  • Marriage is a good possibility
  • You still may have grandchildren
If you take advantage of the support available to you now, you may never have to face the the worst fate for a parent, as explained by Mary Lou Wallner in this 5 minute video.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Ex-Gay Proof-text: "And Such Were Some of You!" 1 Corinthians 6:9-11


Ex-Gays: The Big Hoax

Herman Goebbels was right: tell a lie often enough and soon it will be thought to be the truth. Such a lie has been circulating for a few decades now, but is finally being held up to the light of truth, scientific truth to be exact.  It is the lie that gays can be made straight through proper counseling and prayer.  It’s been stylized as “Pray away the gay,” in many conservative Christian churches and movements.  Last January, no less an authority than Exodus International president Alan Chambers completely reversed his longstanding view that gays can be made straight. Here's the full quote: “The majority of [gay] people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation.”    (Interestingly, that would likely include himself, who has for years claimed an orientation change.)  Exodus International is the leading organization contending that gays can change.

I have on a CD, a speech from a former member of EI's board of directors suggesting that, since a preponderance of gays don't change, EI should change its motto to "Come suffer with us."

There has been only one “scientific” study that has held that gays do change.  It was conducted by none other than the psychologist who led the American Psychological Association to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders in 1973, Dr. Robert Spitzer.  It was his presumed objectivity that gave the study its prestige.  Recently, Dr. Spitzer retracted his study with an apology to the gay community for the harm he had caused.

So, what drives the conservative Christian movement to applaud such studies and accept this lie at face value?  Very simply, it’s all about one short paragraph in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
This verse straightforwardly states that some in the congregation were once sodomites, but are no longer.  Sodomites, of course, are understood to be today’s homosexuals.  Many gay Christians took this verse to heart and subjected themselves to every conceivable treatment to rid themselves of this condition because they believed what they read.  (Mel White estimates he paid nearly $500,000 in efforts to change his orientation, including shock treatments.) However, this verse does not actually say anything of the kind.  The translation, sodomites, was not coined until 1000 years after the Bible was written, so its use here is anachronistic.  Therefore, a more suitable translation is required, and one is at hand: users of temple prostitutes. Male prostitutes were temple prostitutes in Corinth and they had customers/users.  These are the people under consideration in this paragraph, and no wonder Paul could claim you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ…. But to expect the same for nonheterosexuals is not warranted or even possible, and NOT under consideration in this paragraph.

Here's a sampling of what experts in the field have to say about the impossibility of changing sexual orientation and the harm it causes:
American Academy of Pediatrics (1993)
“Therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.”
American Medical Association (2003)
“Our AMA opposes the use of ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy that is based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation.”
American Psychoanalytic Association (2000)
“Psychoanalytic technique does not encompass purposeful efforts to ‘convert’ or ‘repair’ an individual’s sexual orientation. Such directed efforts are against fundamental principles of psychoanalytic treatment and often result in substantial psychological pain by reinforcing damaging internalized homophobic attitudes.”
American Psychiatric Association (1998)
“The American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as reparative or conversion therapy, which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the priori assumption that a patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation.” The APA removed homosexuality from its list of disorders in 1973.
American Psychological Association (1997)
“No scientific evidence exists to support the effectiveness of any of the conversion therapies that try to change sexual orientation.” The association removed homosexuality from its list of disorders in 1975.
National Association of Social Workers (2000)
“People seek mental health services for many reasons. Accordingly, it is fair to assert that lesbians and gay men seek therapy for the same reasons that heterosexual people do. However, the increase in media campaigns, often coupled with coercive messages from family and community members, has created an environment in which lesbians and gay men often are pressured to seek reparative or conversion therapies, which cannot and will not change sexual orientation. Aligned with the American Psychological Association’s (1997) position, NCLGB believes that such treatment potentially can lead to severe emotional damage. Specifically, transformational ministries are fueled by stigmatization of lesbians and gay men, which in turn produces the social climate that pressures some people to seek change in sexual orientation. No data demonstrate that reparative or conversion therapies are effective, and in fact they may be harmful.

Gays can’t change their orientation any more than straights can.  Since God made each of us in our own special way, why would we want to?

Here's Justin Lee's take on it:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Romans 1, Part 3 "Passion Fruit, the Aphrodisiac of Idolaters"

(Please read Parts 1&2 to make the most of this post if you haven't already.)

In an earlier post I mentioned that one of the most egregious errors people make in trying to understand the Bible is to think that what they are reading is as understandable as today's newspaper.  This view which I call the "face value" way of reading situates the ancient text in the modern era.  So one expects that what words meant then (two to three thousand years ago) are what words mean today.  (Or what we mean today is what was meant back then.) Ever try to cross a three thousand year old bridge?  Be very, very careful!  It could collapse on you at any moment.  Such is the danger of trying to access meaning across cultures separated by millennia.

This couldn't be truer than with interpreting Romans 1.  

The history of interpreting this chapter has taken a turn in recent scholarship.  One of the most important insights came from asking a simple question: If what we know as sexual orientation (that is, heterosexuality, homosexuality and the like) is a product of modern psychological study, and are foreign concepts in biblical days, have we misread the Bible? Another way of putting the question is, Have we assumed that Paul has these modern categories in mind in Romans 1?  If we do not, and I believe we should not or we are invoking anachronisms, then a whole new outcome is revealed, one that can no longer support the view that Paul is denouncing gays and lesbians.  How can this be?  

Not only did Paul not work the the unknown categories of sexual orientation, he did not even think in terms of homosexual behavior, either.  Sex for him and his Greco-Roman contemporaries was either ethical or unethical, appropriate or inappropriate.  Worst of all was sex that was driven by passion. (For those of you who want to dig deeper into this, a good starting place is an article by New Testament scholar, David E. Fredrickson, found here: http://books.google.com/booksid=6pCEjNJexFYC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&f=false

and in the book, Homosexuality, Science, and the Plain Sense of Scripture, by David L. Balch)

A revealing notion from Dio Chrysostem (a contemporary of Paul) is that he assumed that the same lust that drove men to women prostitutes would lead the same men to male prostitutes.  Lust, or passion, was considered the most harmful of the influences on one's life.  The ideal man (sic) is the one who is virtually passionless, who is always in full control of one's emotions.

This is easily seen in the way that Luke (the author of this Gospel is a classically trained Greek) excises the emotions from Mark's depictions of Jesus.  Here are just a couple of examples.  
Mark 4:20  And these are the ones sown on the good soil; they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.  Luke adds the description of the ideal person. Luke 8:15  But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance. 
Mark 3:5  He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  Luke omits the emotions altogether.  Luke 6:10  After looking around at all of them, he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.”  Take out your concordance and see for yourself how many times Luke disregards Mark's emotional Jesus.  His Jesus is the Hellenistic perfect man, virtually devoid of emotion.
With this in mind let's take a closer look at 1:26-27 (NRSV) 
For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
If we don't immediately assume lesbianism at work here in Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, it is not necessary to import it.  It's open to a variety of meanings. And the expression in the same way also the men means that passion invaded their bodies just like it invaded the women's bodies.  So the due penalty for their error was indeed received in their own persons, that is, in their own bodies, that despicable source of all evil, passion. 

Interestingly, Paul did not say the devil made them do it.  Indeed, according to Paul, this behavior is the direct work of an offended God.  It's God who allows the passion fruit to be eaten and wreak its vengeance. 

When we delve deeply into the prevailing context of the biblical era, we discover an almost impenetrable distance.  So different, in fact, that we end up comparing apples with oranges, or in this case, modern sexual orientation with a Stoic distaste of emotions, and think they are the same thing.  They are not.  The notion that two people of the same sex could love each other and be as committed to one another as any heterosexual couple was as foreign to him as his idolatry/passion related explanation is to us.Surely we can not be so stubborn as to say that our present day LGBTs fit this description.  We must look elsewhere for the source of their orientations and remove Romans 1 from the index of charges against them. Yes, idolatry has its casualties; let's not add LGBTs to that list.

MONDAY:  The Ex-Gay Proof-text: "And Such Were Some of You!"  1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Friday, January 18, 2013

Romans 1, Part 2 "The Nastiest People in the World"

We can "cut to the chase" very quickly by beginning at the end.  To see where Paul is headed is to see what concerns him.  And it should concern us, too.

Whoever it is that Paul is castigating here surely are among humanity's most despicable people.  Here's how the NRSV puts it:
They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them. 
No one of wholesome spirit would want to be associated in any way with such as these. These are the dregs of the earth, for sure.  This is character shaped by idolatry, or, shaped by other than God. 

We begin here because I want you to consider something in your own experience.  Do you know any Christian LGBTs who fit this description?   Of course you don't.  They fit, instead, another of Paul's lists of characteristics, the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness.  If this is not your experience, you don't know enough gay Christians!  Therefore, we can say with assurance that whomever Paul has in mind, it is not gay Christians!

It must also be said that this does not fit even the vast majority of LGTB people at all. The prejudicial depiction of the stereotypical gay is a product of projecting a minority of gay pride parade participants as typical of the whole.  Even in a pride parade, the exhibitionists are in the minority. 

To say that all gays are like that is to say that all straights are like the party animals at the Mardi Gras.  A woman in one of my seminars wanted to say that all gays are promiscuous, "just like in the parades."  To which I replied, "So, if I threw you a necklace of glass beads, you would show me your breasts.  Right?"  She got the point.  I hope you do, too.  The fact is that most gays are indistinguishable from straights. The proof is that hundreds of them live in proximity to anyone of us and we don't even know it!

I know hundreds of LGBT Christians, many of whom make my witness look puny.  I also know many non-Christian gays who have been driven from our churches by behavior more typical of the strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, insolent, haughty, boastful behavior that Paul decries, than that of the Spirit.  

So then, just who or what is Paul referring to with such language as God gave them up and they were filled with every kind of wickedness?  This we will turn to tomorrow.

TOMORROW:  Romans 1, Part 3 "Passion Fruit, the Aphrodisiac of Idolaters" 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Romans 1, Naturally (Part One)

Let's clear some of the debris out of the way, in Part 1, before we get into the specifics of this most vitriolic of rants by Paul, Romans 1:18-32. 

The first observation is that there is no word or combination of words that can be translated "homosexual," or its synonyms, in Greek (or Hebrew, for that matter). Linguists know what sociologists prove, that without a word there is no concept. So to believe that what we know as homosexuality today existed in the same form 2000 years ago is quite wrong. To use the word homosexual (sodomite,etc.) in an English translation is to put words in apostles' mouths (or in their pens, as it were).

Some translations that use the "Dynamic Equivalent" mode of translation think they found the equivalent in either homosexual or Sodomite, but there is no equivalent extant today. Even the NRSV, a non-DE translation, mistranslated the word and has no excuse. So the people who can quote their translation thinking they are quoting the Bible, are only misquoting the original. 

So, point number one is that whatever it is that Paul is talking about here, it is decidedly not homosexuality as we know it today. The Bible cannot condemn that which it does not know.

The Greek word for nature, physis (φύσις), as used by Paul, is not at all what conservative interpreters want it to mean, that is, equivalent to Natural Law, or the way God made things. Quite to the contrary, as seen in Paul's use of the word in 1 Corinthians 11:14, Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him.  One is entitled to ask,  in what way does nature teach this?  Well, it doesn't.  Paul came to his belief about the length of hair by way of his culture's teachings which are received as the way things are (or should be!).  My mother was roundly condemned by her mother when she "bobbed" her hair (cut it short) as a young woman in the Roaring Twenties.  Grandmother was simply put off because she and her peers were taught that short hair on a woman meant she was "loose."  Today, short hair is considered inconsequential.  Nature has nothing to do with it.

Troy W. Martin, a medical historian, in an article in the Journal of Biblical Literature, 123/1 (2004) tells us how Paul and his contemporaries came to this conclusion about hair.  Since the time of Hippocrates to well beyond Paul's day, hair was considered to be a sexual object.  The words for hair and testes are the same.  That's why women were to cover their hair.  Hair also had a procreative function.  It was thought to be hollow and therefore created a vacuum.  This was thought to pull the sperm into the womb.  Women who were not able to conceive had pungent suppositories placed in their vaginas and told to return the next day.  If the physician could smell the odor in the woman's mouth, she was thought able to conceive; if not, she was impotent.  

Naturally (if you'll forgive the pun), it worked the same way in the male.  Long hair pulled the man's sperm away from the source making procreation more difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, long hair would be deemed unnatural and degrading to a man.  Short hair on a woman  was, likewise, degrading 
(why it was often punishment).  Both were rejecting their "natural" roles as procreators.  

So, my second point is that we need to be very careful when we follow Paul's lead when he appeals to "nature."  He is certainly reflecting the notions of his (Hellenic/Jewish) culture and not giving us truth fallen from heaven.  That doesn't mean he's wrong; only that his information is only as good as his culture can make it.

TOMORROW: Part Two, The Nastiest People on Earth!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Leviticus: When Is an Abomination Not an Abomination?

This is the third in a series of posts that support same-sex marriage by examining the biblical passages that are used to condemn it and homosexuality in general.

Here are the two passages in Leviticus that are at the center of the controversy:
Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.Leviticus 20:13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.
Quite straightforward, aren't they.  After reading this in my seminar, I would close the Bible, and announce that the seminar is over.  This is so clear, how could anyone with any credibility believe that God approves of LGBTs after hearing this?  Moses wanted them executed; how could we possibly defend this?

One might be excused in believing that this is the last word on the subject who reads the Bible strictly on a “face value” basis.  “It says what it means and means what it says.”  But that is often a very misleading way to read the Bible, as we shall see.

Just what is meant by a biblical abomination?

Here a couple of other interesting abominations in the stories about Joseph.
Genesis 43:32 They served him by himself, and them by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. 
Genesis 46:34  When Pharaoh calls you, and says, 'What is your occupation?' you shall say, 'Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our ancestors'—in order that you may settle in the land of Goshen, because all shepherds are abhorrent [toévah] to the Egyptians.
Some abominations are clearly culturally derived.

Here are some other notable abominations (all from the Hebrew toévah).
Observing the nakedness of a relative
Sex during menstruation
Eating shrimp, lobster, rabbit, pork, etc.
Wearing of other gender’s clothing
Planting two different crops in the same field
Wearing clothing of two different fabrics
Spots on a priest’s bald head
Eating fruit from a tree less than five years old

Abominations, all.  So, if you are a woman reading this wearing bluejeans, you are an abomination.  If you are anyone wearing a cotton/polyester shirt, you are an abomination.  If you are a farmer planning hybrid crops, you are an abomination.  If you raise most cattle or livestock, all hybrids, you are an abomination.  If you had a shrimp cocktail or lobster at Red Lobster last night, you are an abomination.

I think you get the point.  However, some miss it entirely, as they know that all these are also biblical abominations which require the trespasser to avoid all such behavior, yet blithely, even cavalierly, think nothing of ignoring these biblical abominations.  Yet they insist on holding steadfastly to the ONE and only ONE regarding same-sex loving.

The problem, though, is that this is a package deal.  We can’t just pick and choose what abominations we will observe and which we will ignore.  They all stand or fall together.   We have no problem ignoring the shrimp prohibition or any of the others, except the ONE that bothers some people the most.  I’ll let you decide why this one and only this one is picked as the inviolable one, “because the Bible says so.”

This clip from the West Wing TV show nicely sums it up:



Yet, it is said that this prohibition carries with it capital punishment, as both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.  What about it?  Shouldn't we place this into a special category, since, well, how could God not still consider this worthy of death?

Let’s see.  Well, here are other Laws that require the death penalty:
Not impregnating your brother’s widow according to the Levirate marriage laws
A child cursing one’s parents
A woman’s lack of virginity on the wedding night
Adultery
Incest
Working on the Sabbath day
Would those who insist on upholding Lev. 20:13 insist also on making each of these a capital offense?  I think not.  So why the ONE?

If we executed every child who cursed its parents, and every person who committed adultery, there would be few adults left to raise the remaining children.  (Let alone, serve in Congress.)
And as loathsome as incest is, we are not about to begin killing its perpetrators.  So let’s cut the hypocrisy here and admit that there are no grounds for insisting on keeping the Levitical prohibition in place.

But there is one more piece of work left to do.  I introduced the cultural aspect of how abominations are formed with the examples of Joseph in Egypt.  In America, I might ask if you had sauteed Poodle for dinner last night?  That would appall you, wouldn't it.  Other cultures might find it appetizing.  It’s how the culture creates what is approved or not.  In Israel, coming into the Canaanite territory, the temptation was always to adopt the habits and mores of their neighbors.  All the prophets railed against this, and Moses stipulated against certain things that would draw the Israelites closer to worshiping Baal.  
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: I am the Lord your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan. Lev. 18:3
One example is male temple prostitution.
1 Kings 14:24 …there were also male temple prostitutes in the land. They committed all the abominations of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.
The Levitical prohibition certainly was aimed at forbidding this abomination and may have been the only reason for it, as nowhere in the Mosaic Law is female to female sex banned.

Okay, the fallback position is Romans 1.  This shall be the subject of tomorrow’s post. Please tune in.

TOMORROW: Romans 1

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sodom and Gomorrah: Much Ado about Homosexual Nothing


This is the second in a series of posts that support same-sex marriage by examining the biblical passages that are used to condemn it and homosexuality in general.  



One of the things that makes biblical interpretation so thorny is the difficulty of moving from one culture to another.  If you read the Bible the same way you read the newspaper, thinking that things then are just like things now, you make your first mistake and guarantee a false outcome.  This is especially true with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Let’s take a step back before we get into the text and see what cultural norms are operating here.  The early second millennium BC was a particularly harsh time for desert dwellers. Travel in these days was complicated by bandits, harsh weather and predatory animals. One literally put one’s life in jeopardy when traveling.  That’s why traveling by caravan was so popular.  So to alleviate as much misery as possible, a “hospitality ethic” was born.

The hospitality ethic, practiced throughout the Middle East, was to ensure the safe passage of strangers while they traveled.  The way it worked is illustrated in the story just preceding this with the arrival of the strangers to Abraham’s encampment.  Abraham bows down to the strangers, showing greeting, not hostility; Abraham orders a fine dinner prepared for them, and then personally stands watch over them while they ate, as he was now responsible for their safety.  This was not done because people in those days were especially nice to each other, or there was an abundance of food to go around.  No.  It was to ensure that a city got a good reputation for hospitality so that its citizens, when traveling, would be accorded the same good treatment.  If a city had a bad reputation, its travelers would not find a hospitable welcome.

It’s in the context of the hospitality ethic that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah unfolds.

Aliens come to the home of a resident alien, Lot.  This is grounds for grave suspicion.  Could they be planning something against us?  The citizens demand to have the strangers brought out so they may “know” yadha them.

In the Septuagint, the rabbis translated the Hebrew word yadha into the Greek word meaning “to interrogate” the strangers.  The rabbis saw this story as a typical reaction to strangers and the need to know their motives.

It is fairly obvious that the citizens’ intention was to rape the strangers.  Not “to have sex with them”, but to rape them.  Lot counters with an offer to allow the men to rape his daughters.   (One could digress here and point out that this is not what any of us would do today. Offering our daughters is not an act of hospitality we would consider appropriate as a host. That’s why we can’t assume that things then are like things now.  Yet, Lot was obliged to make any concession to protect those who came into his home.)

Note: there is nothing consensual in either case, the strangers or the daughters.  Male on male rape was a common aspect of ancient Near Eastern society regarding enemies: rape was (and still is) an effort to humiliate and control.  The usual practice after a war victory was to rape all the remaining soldiers into submission as a show of dominance.  Ancient Near Eastern museums are full of artworks depicting this, such as the one below.

This aspect of rape is depicted by the men of Sodom saying, “This fellow (Lot) came here as an alien and he would play the judge!  Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” (They were going to rape Lot, too!)

We now know that rape has nothing to do with sex, except that it is done with the genitals. To say that rape is sex is to say that we kiss a drumstick while our lips assist in tearing meat from the bone.  Therefore, this is a story of rape, having nothing to do with sex, let alone, homosexual sex.

This story is concerned about abuse of the stranger, not about homosexuals.  The sin here has absolutely nothing to do with homosexuals at all.

If you don’t believe me, will you let the Bible interpret the Bible?
Isaiah 1:10,17
“Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!...Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
Ezekiel 16:48-50  Regarding Jerusalem
“As I live, says the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49 This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50They were haughty, and did these abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.
Zephaniah 2:9-10
Therefore, as I live, says the LORD of hosts the God of Israel,
     Moab shall become like Sodom and the Ammonites like Gomorrah,
     a land possessed by nettles and salt pits, and a waste forever.
     The remnant of my people shall plunder them,
         and the survivors of my nation shall possess them.
 10  This shall be their lot in return for their pride,
         because they scoffed and boasted
         against the people of the LORD of hosts.
Book of Wisdom 19:13-18  Regarding Sodom and Gomorrah
On the sinners, punishment rained down not without violent thunder as early warning; and deservedly they suffered for their crimes, since they evinced such bitter hatred for strangers.
Church Father, Origen (185-254 C.E.)
“Hear this, you who close your homes to guests!  Hear this, you who shun the traveler as an enemy!  Lot lived among the Sodomites.  We do not read of any other good deeds of his:…He escaped the flames, escaped the fire, on account of one thing only.  He opened his home to guests.  The angels entered the hospitable household; the flames entered those homes closed to guests.” (Homilia Vin Genesim)
Conclusions we are entitled to draw:
The sodomites were not homosexuals; they were straight.
The sodomites were gang-rapists; they were attempting to commit an act of violence to humiliate their victims.
The reason for their destruction by God is clearly their inhospitality and violence toward aliens.
This story cannot be used against homosexuals.  This story cannot be used to say that God’s will is to destroy homosexuals.

It took over 1000 years for Christians to associate this story with homosexual acts.  The first Christian coupling of Sodom with homosexual acts was in the 11th century C.E. by a Roman Catholic monk who wanted to prove to the pope that monks sleeping with monks was sinful. He scoured the Bible and was the first to turn this into a story that could be used against LGBTs.  He coined the Latin term “sodomia” and it entered the vocabulary for the first time. The pope wasn’t convinced, but 100 years later, the new pope, needing to clamp down on the monasteries for other reasons, chose to encourage this interpretation.  It stank then and still stinks now.
“We must come to old theological texts on the assumption that we have everything to learn about the meaning of their central terms.  So we cannot come to the texts knowing what their authors mean by ‘Sodomy’. The last thing we should do is to translate ‘Sodomy’ as 'homosexuality.’‘Homosexuality’ is a term from late nineteenth-century forensic medicine….If you ask, What does medieval moral theology have to say about ‘homosexuality’ the only precise answer is, Absolutely nothing.  ‘Homosexuality is’ is no more discussed by medieval theology than are phlogiston, Newton’s inertia, quarks or any of the other entities hypothesized by one or another modern science.  ‘Sodomy is not ‘homosexuality.’ What it is, we can learn only from medieval texts.”   Mark D. Jordan, The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology, p.161.
It is an irony of history that "Sodomite," originally a term to denote inhospitable people, now is used in a most inhospitable way against a people who are its innocent victims.

TOMORROW: Leviticus!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Loneliness: The First "Not Good" of Creation


This is the first in a series of posts that support same-sex marriage by examining the biblical passages that are used to condemn it.  I could just as well have titled this one, "Why God Approves of Adam and Steve, as Well as Adam and Eve."


Maggie Gallagher quotes Norval Glenn in her book, The Case for Marriage 

"Most social scientists who have studied the data believe that marriage itself accounts for a great deal of the difference in average well-being between married and unmarried persons.  Indeed, loneliness is probably the negative feeling most likely to be alleviated simply by being married." (p.77)

Gallagher and Glenn are on to something here.  Loneliness is a universal condition which the Bible addresses from the very beginning.  Human loneliness is at the heart of the marriage issue, although not well understood or articulated by either side.  This blog post will attempt to explain how important ending loneliness is, not simply because it is an onerous human condition that no one unwillingly should be made to bear, but because it is the fundamental human predicament that first surfaced in the Genesis story of creation that caused God to reevaluate the human being.


From Genesis, chapter 2, it is clear that God's first intention for the human being, ha’ adam’ was not heterosexuality or even sexuality, for ha’ adam' was created as a "stand alone" being.  In other words, no other creature was intended.  Don't be confused by chapter 1 where in verse 27 we read, So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  This is, of course, true (and obviates the overt patriarchalism of the story).  However, it is a summary statement that concludes the events of chapter 2, a much earlier story of creation than chapter 1.  So we need to read chapter 2 before the summary of chapter 1 makes sense.


The story begins with God creating ha' adam' as someone who would be placed in charge of the garden, to care for and tend it with God as partner.  For reasons not disclosed, God observes that it is not good for the ha' adam' to be alone, and goes about making a suitable helper for him.


What happens next is unexpected and likely a surprise to some:  the first thing God does to provide a suitable helper for the man is to create animals and bring them to the man for his approval.  Ch. 2:20 says, The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.  We must take this seriously as an authentic search for a partner.


Consistent with what we have seen in God's actions, God's first experiment to find a suitable helper for the man ended unsuccessfully.  It is only after the man turns down every creature presented to him that God created the woman. Verse 23 is very telling here:  Then the man said, This at last [after all the foregoing effort] is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.


Among the many details of this story, I find three appropriate for this discussion:

1.  God's first intention was to limit humanity to "the man."  The man's loneliness precluded this.

2.  God's first choice for a companion to the lonely man was not a woman, it was a creature.

3.  No matter what the man's choice was, it was the man's choice.  God did not force the woman on the man; the man told God, this, at last, is the one for him.


God trusted the man to make the appropriate choice. The decision was always the man's.  God's role here is facilitator to end the man's loneliness, not the dictator of how to fix the man's loneliness.


There is no way that a doctrine of the priority of heterosexuality can be adduced from this story.  If anything, the woman, and sex, are afterthoughts, contingencies required of the changing situation.   This is consistent with in other texts regarding the experimental nature of God with humanity (Genesis 6:5-6; Genesis 22:7-12; Exodus 32:7-14).  Perhaps better put, God is willing to adapt to realities that present themselves owing to the nature of free will and its, often, unexpected consequences.


 From these realities, I ask these questions:

1.  Since heterosexuality is a contingency, why cannot nonheterosexuals be considered a contingency?

2.  Since God allowed “the man” to make his own choice, why is it not consistent for today's nonheterosexual person to make his or her own choice?

3.  Since overcoming loneliness is the objective, and since a nonheterosexual's loneliness cannot be overcome in a heterosexual relationship, is it not proper for a nonheterosexual to find a companion suitable for him or her?


Let's be clear about what we are asking of Christian nonheterosexuals.  Richard B. Hays, in his The Moral Vision of the New Testament, writes,

Heterosexual persons are also called to abstinence from sex unless they marry (1 Cor. 7:8-9).  The only difference—admittedly a salient on—in the case of homosexually oriented persons is that they do not have the option of homosexual marriage.  So where does that leave them?  It leaves them in precisely the same situation as the heterosexual who would like to marry but cannot find an appropriate partner (and there are many such): summoned to a difficult, costly obedience, while groaning for the redemption of our bodies. (Rom. 8:23)

The flaw in Hays' reasoning is clear:  the heterosexual has hope; the nonheterosexual has no hope.  The heterosexual's loneliness is capable of being overcome, while the church is unwilling to allow the same for nonheterosexuals.  This is far from being in a similar situation.  Our nonheterosexual brothers and sisters are forever denied the way out of what God called the first "not good" reality of God's creation:  loneliness.


In effect, we are not asking LGBTs to deny themselves a loving, fulfilling companionship.  We are asking them to deny their humanity, to commit suicide of their souls and consigning them to a lifetime of unabated loneliness. This I find to be profoundly unchristian and unworthy of a compassionate Lord.


So we need to listen carefully to the stories of creation in Genesis.  Since heterosexuality is merely a contingency of creation, what can be adduced from Genesis is heterosexuality, expressed as the procreative ability, is the norm, but certainly not the sole sexuality.  Yes, the couple is now told to "be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it;" but reproductive (heterosexual) capability has never been a mandatory criterion for being a full human being who bears the image of God, or for being married.


So, Maggie, I thank you for pointing out to us that one of the great benefits of marriage is that it enables us to overcome our loneliness.  Given that God literally moved heaven and earth to accomplish this, shouldn't we have the same God-like attitude on behalf of all God’s children?


Saturday, January 12, 2013


On the National Organization for Marriage website, NOM answers questions supposedly posed to them by the opposition.

The question to NOM, Number 9 What about older or infertile couples? If they marry why not same-sex couples?
NOM's Answer: “Every man and woman who marries is capable of giving any child they create (or adopt) a mother and a father. No same-sex couple can do this. It’s apples and oranges.”

The emphasis that NOM places on the priority of a mom and dad seems to me tantamount to idolatry.  "I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other parenting options before me."  As with all idolatry, serving a false god not only ends in slavery to it, but keeps one from the true God; in this case, the God who supports all people of good will, and calls us all to do the same.  Certainly NOM is slavishly committed to only mom and dad as parents.  Too bad for children, because the world is full of kids that need the love of an adult of any orientation that will never find it if NOM has its way.  Fortunately NOM's influence is waning; the arc of justice is bending in favor of other options for parenting.

What is the source of this idolatry?  One need not speculate; it is a fundamentalist understanding of the Bible. Their statements over the years are filled with appeal to their notion of God's intention for the family.  Funny, but the Bible is not the holy repository of "only a mom and a dad" theology.  A strong case can be made (and I will make it in a future posting) that Jesus was not a fan of the nuclear family, and the apostle Paul preferred his followers not marry at all.  And his stated reason for marrying (as a last resort) was not for procreation, but to keep from lustful sinning!  

Now, what about older or infertile couples?  They certainly fall into the acceptable category of NOM's rightful parents.  They will likely never be mother or father to any children that issue from that marriage. Let me put it another way.  People who never will be parents are allowed to marry.  Many same-sex couples will never be parents, either.  So under what possible reasoning can we withhold marriage from them?  

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This is the last of this series on NOM's questions and answers.  I've responded to all the questions they posted on their "Get Informed/Frequently Asked Questions" webpage.  If you found these helpful, give a shout-out to your friends. If you did not find them helpful, respond to me and we'll take it from there.  Regardless, I wish you all well.