Agrarianism & Gay Marriage

by Jerry Salyer on July 16, 2012 · 39 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

Rod Dreher has an American Conservative post up expressing concern regarding Wendell Berry’s views on “gay marriage”.  Dreher is reacting to statements like the following, made by Berry during a recent discussion with journalist John Miller:  “I really don’t understand how you can single out homosexuality for opprobrium and wink at fornication and adultery, which the Bible has a lot more to say about. The churches are not going to come out against fornication and adultery because there are too damn many fornicators and adulterers in their congregations.”

It is worth noting that  Berry questions not the churches’ authority to censure homosexual acts as sinful, but rather their sincerity insofar as they “single out” homosexual acts while overlooking other sins.  Of course at first this accusation of hypocrisy is perplexing:  How many conservative churches endorse fornication and adultery?  But perhaps we should keep in mind that Mr. Berry is of an older generation.  When he refers to fornication and adultery, it is possible he does so as someone who grew up prior to the normalization of divorce — in which case he has an excellent point.

Personally I think it unwise to make too much out of some out-of-context and filtered snippets.  And as Dreher himself recognizes, nobody who knows anything about Mr. Berry expects “a full-throated, Family Research Council-ready defense of privileging traditional marriage coming from him”.

That said, I can empathize with Dreher’s concerns, and would add that the brutalization of nature so vehemently (and rightly) denounced by Berry is not unrelated to liberalism’s militant refusal to accept the existence of any natural order.  Leftist gush about the environment, alternative energy and organic agriculture should never be mistaken for anything other than the new-and-improved consumerist hedonism that it is.

Who am I to insist that a man cannot marry a man?  Who am I to insist that mountaintops belong on mountains?

{ 39 comments }

avatar Elias Crim July 16, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Very good points. In further support of which, I think of Berry’s “The Body and the Earth” where he criticizes “sexual romance” by contrast with the blessings of fidelity as part of a sacramental (and traditional) sense of marriage. Consider this sentence: “It is impossible, for instance, to conceive that a man could despise women and yet love his wife, or love his own place in the world and yet deal destructively with other places.”

avatar bubba July 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm

“Leftist gush about the environment, alternative energy and organic agriculture should never be mistaken for anything other than the new-and-improved consumerist hedonism that it is.”

Oh please God. And what should rightist environmental/energy gush never be mistaken for – sincerity, ideological consistency?

avatar Robert Heid July 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Let Wendell Berry be Wendell Berry.

If you have a different opinion on some subject, make your own case and articulate it as well as you can.

An interview with Wendell Berry should not be treated as a test to see if he agrees with “our” wisdom — and if he “fails” that test, we are shocked, disappointed, confused. Can’t we suppose that he actually, and thoughtfully, and perhaps even “rightly,” disagrees with “us”?

I have read a lot of Wendell Berry for a lot of years, and am confident that his wisdom and legacy will remain long after the purported shock of this opinion wears off.

Look to Wendell Berry for inspiration, as I do; but don’t be demanding of him, or asking of him, that he must validate your own, no doubt equally well-thought-out, viewpoints.

To do that would be to insult the man — and yourself.

avatar John Haas July 16, 2012 at 2:39 pm

“Leftist gush about . . .”

Isn’t that “guff”?

avatar mojwnun July 16, 2012 at 6:36 pm

“…the brutalization of nature so vehemently (and rightly) denounced by Berry is not unrelated to liberalism’s militant refusal to accept the existence of any natural order.”

Typo: I think you dropped the “neo” from “liberalism,” there.

avatar Stephen July 16, 2012 at 9:47 pm

It’s good to know Berry types refuse the existence of any natural order…and that utter ignorance of what we know about homosexuality is thriving on the porch.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins July 16, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Belated attention to environmental protection and preservation was recognition, after the industrial revolution had been consummated, that there was a “natural order” we tampered with, beyond a certain point, at our peril. Throw things to far out of balance, and we would find that we had soiled our own nest, sometimes fatally. This does not require acceptance of any particular spiritual ideology, although anyone who takes God or Genesis seriously would also take environmental stewardship seriously.

I am not extensively familiar with Berry, but here he is talking common sense.

avatar John July 17, 2012 at 9:30 am

I tend to read Berry’s sense of marriage as being more involved than just a dogmatic “man+women=marriage.” I think he appreciates it not only for its filial nature, but also for the words and acts that govern its existence as an institution. More specifically, the materiality of fidelity; that is, the ability for an individual to give up a part of the self for a promise and consonance to an external “other.” Ultimately, that “other” is a part of an orderly chain that includes spouse, family, community, nature, God/mystery. If a married couple can respect the natural order, and serve a purpose greater than the self, then I think sexuality becomes a bit irrelevant. Obviously, same-sex marriages are not ideal through the Bible, nor are many other humanly actions that are unrelated to sexuality. However, a same-sex couple that lives a life of thrift, forbearance, and responsibility has the potential to pick up the pieces of the “divorce culture” through good works; and the best example of this is adoption.

avatar John July 17, 2012 at 9:30 am

That should obviously be “woman” not “women.” Ha!

avatar Albert July 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Mr. Heid, I don’t see anyone doing what you are describing, do you?

avatar D.W. Sabin July 17, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Why yes, the tortured souls inhabiting a corner of the raft from the Wreck of the Medusa carried on many spirited reflections upon human morality, such as it was on the raft…..in the middle of nowhere….adrift…..and bereft.

avatar RiverC July 18, 2012 at 10:38 am

Berry is criticizing the sexualization of culture, which the conservative churches have not combated at all – and it is this sexualization that gives rise to the ‘need’ for gay marriage. Without philosophically undermining that so-called ‘sexual romance’ – which if for instance you read ‘Chrysanthemums’ by Steinbeck you can see the species of it in a clear, early form – the romance of the forbidden, sexualized – you cannot really be against Gay Marriage except as a matter of tradition.

But then I think it’s sort of disingenuous of him – these were the churches that stood against no-fault divorce (And lost that battle.) So really it’s just a game of kicking them when they’re down. They are little more – both left and right – mere affirmations of culture and not drivers of it. There were some watershed moments where they had political influence, but if you look at the whole of the situation its questionable whether it was their Christianity that drove the movement or simply coincided with that political movement’s spirit at that time.

When you look at, for instance, the Moral Majority stuff, as Christian as it is, I’ve known plenty of older folks that opposed things like no-fault divorce, interracial marriage, racial intergration, litigation for discipline, – a host of both good and bad things – not so much because of their Christianity but because of their cultural background. And not all of them were really Christian either in practice or in their motivation for supporting certain political ends.

I’m personally intolerant of Berry’s stupid opinions, because he proves time and time again to feel the need to follow the sophist’s rule of saying something because it is offensive. Lefties miss this because they already believe in a lot of the things he is saying, but he knows his audience contains a lot of traditional folks (or those who try to be traditional) and that his words will be controversial. I guess he feels it’s his role to whip the political right, but just because you have a farm and write rustic poetry doesn’t mean you’re thoughtful.

avatar D.W. Sabin July 18, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Why yes “RiverC”, you are obviously a very intelligent, discriminating and principled fellow. Berry is an oaf you say in so many words, “disingenuous”…a “rustic”. and …gag, a “sophist” for bear-baiting an easily baited Right dominated by imbeciles and grasping charlatans. Needless to say, plucking the heartstrings of the lefty is childs play. Congratulations on your superior stature and fully developed thoughtfulness.

Keep up that “intolerance”, hope it works out.

avatar Phil in Canada July 18, 2012 at 9:39 pm

I suppose nowadays a mountain, like a woman, can go topless if it damn well pleases.

avatar Sean Scallon July 20, 2012 at 9:12 am

Isn’t it an old truism of rural areas and small towns that people’s private affairs stay pretty much their own? Well why wouldn’t someone who has made it a point to live the way he does feel the same way?

avatar Siarlys Jenkins July 21, 2012 at 9:18 am

Mountaintops ARE being removed in West Virginia… must an adherent of Natural Law line up in opposition to the mining companies? An interesting thought.

I also note that when missionaries first arrived in Tahiti, they were scandalized by topless women, and promptly offered them European tops. The ladies were entranced by the garments, but promptly cut holes for their breasts… it seems in their culture a woman absolutely did NOT cover her breasts, not ever, it just wasn’t done.

avatar Anymouse July 21, 2012 at 11:00 am

People need to acknowledge that functioning, intact local communities necessarily involve exclusion and control of individual behavior. I am willing to support such things, because I have acknowledged that. Not everyone seems willing to, unfortunately. And that leads us to meaningless and destructive concepts like gay marriage being supported and tolerated.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins July 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Of course functioning communities necessarily involve exclusion and control of individual behavior. The difficult part is defining what behavior, and on what basis such measures will be adopted. For instance, a functioning intact community might exclude private ownership of firearms, and control the impulse to hunt wild game. OR, it might exclude anyone not familiar with and skilled at using firearms, and require each family to hunt game every season.

In the United States, constitutional law allocates what the federal government has jurisdiction over, what is prohibited to the state and federal governments, and reserves some matters to the people, who are to be secure in their houses, papers, and effects.

As this plays out in relation to homosexuality, the police power of the state has no jurisdiction over what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes. Contrary to the muddled rhetoric of the left, right, commercial, and “mainstream” media, this is an entirely separate question from granting official public recognition and licensure to formalize whatever it is they are doing.

There is individual behavior that should be controlled. There is individual behavior that is no more the business of electoral majorities than of crowned monarchs. There is room for debate about where these boundaries lie. That debate is called politics.

avatar Tom Spencer July 23, 2012 at 6:48 am

So St. Wendell has strayed and the believers must rush in to contextualize his remarks. Please.

Perhaps Mr. Berry’s remarks reflect his observance of the “natural order” among the animal kingdom where homosexual behavior has now been found in 1500 species.

There is much that can be criticized in liberalism, but there is little that is “militant” in today’s liberalism compared to the outrageous contempt for natural limits exhibited by those calling themselves conservatives.

avatar Rob G July 23, 2012 at 9:31 am

“Perhaps Mr. Berry’s remarks reflect his observance of the “natural order” among the animal kingdom where homosexual behavior has now been found in 1500 species.”

Yes, and animals copulate and excrete in public and engage in such winning behaviors as throwing feces at each other and cannibalizing. Here’s to the natural order!

avatar Tom Spencer July 23, 2012 at 11:45 am

Rob,

I was waiting for your comment. It was so predictable and sadly, comic. Aside from “excreting and copulating in public,” animals of all sorts are also demonstrably loving, nurturing, empathetic, loyal, and capable of regret. Yes, by all means, “here’s to the natural order!”

Humans, even severely inhibited humans, do not rise above the natural order – we just extend it in different ways most tellingly in our observance and reflection. I suggest you spend some time observing a Golden Lab.

avatar Tom B July 24, 2012 at 9:44 am

The reason, Tom Spencer, you awaited that comment is because your incoherent claim invited it. As FPR readers well know, the debate about homosexuality is simply one marginal salient in the war over the definition of nature.

Your comments indicate something that is obvious: insofar as we look at “the natural order” as simply what is there, already present in creation, we will see radical and inextricable ambiguity. The facts of what exist are very various: some good things, some evil, some attractive, some unproblematic, and some appalling.

What we do not find in the mere realm of “what happens to exist” is anything other than the first foundationsfor determining what ought to exist or, more to the point, how those things which exist ought to exist. One must, rather, combine the long history of how things tend in the history of nature with a capacity to envision how things ought to tend if they are to find their full realization, that is, the fulfillment of their natures.

So far as we can observe, animals have as their immediate end (purpose) the perpetuation of their species, and their species evidently are ordered to the maintenance of a system capable of supporting human life. All the instance of “homosexual” behavior I have read about in National Geographic, etc., indicate that such behavior serves an obvious function in competative reproduction (e.g. the parasitic worm who “mates” with a fellow male, so that his genetic material will be passed on by that unfortunate male the next time he mates with a female).

There is no such obvious purpose to sodomy, unless it be merely to keep the hairdresser from interfering with a man’s wife.

But I don’t write to make that easy point. I would, rather, point out that you are correct to suggest we need to refer to nature in these arguments, but I would advise that we all already operate with a conception of nature that is fundamentally normative, but which does not simply rely on the “facts of what is” to determine those norms. In a world riddled with war, we say “war is a failure of politics whose end is the common good, including peace.” In a world plagued by disease, we say, “cancer is, and is common, but is not, for all that, good.”

So, too, we may say that human beings, whose bodies so plainly are ordered by the same system of organic being as other animals, may frequently display traits in common with other animals. Indeed, they typically do. But in discerning what traits are normative, we need to be capable of asking not simply “what human beings sometimes do,” but what they ought to do if they wish to live well, if they wish not simply to be constituted as human beings, but if they would be fully actualized in their human nature.

Homosexual acts neither help perpetuate human beings as social animals nor do they speak well to the way in which the social aspect of our nature, which requires propagation, [comports] with the rational aspect, which powerfully insists upon our highest destiny being something beyond either the pleasures or the perpetuation of the flesh as flesh. The chief question we must ask, in sum, is not whether homosexual acts exist in nature, but whether they help us fulfill our nature and so fall within the normative arc of a human life well lived. Everything from the physically detrimental consequences of sodomy, the rarity of homosexual dispositions, to the immortality of the intellectual soul and the supernatural destiny of the human person suggest such acts may not rightly find their place within that arc.

avatar Rob G July 24, 2012 at 10:54 am

Tom Spencer — by what means do you determine which of these “natural” phenomena are conducive to human flourishing and which are not?

“the outrageous contempt for natural limits exhibited by those calling themselves conservatives.”

Key words there being “calling themselves.” Most of today’s conservatives are really Right-liberals. True conservatives have a very real sense of limits and responsibility.

avatar T. Chan July 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm

“Humans, even severely inhibited humans, do not rise above the natural order – we just extend it in different ways most tellingly in our observance and reflection. I suggest you spend some time observing a Golden Lab.”

That’s an equivocation on the word natural. Humans should rise about the order of sense appetite/inclination to the order of reason.

avatar Tom Spencer July 25, 2012 at 7:11 am

Well, well. I see I provoked a nice little word storm. (Or in the case of Rob G, a sh*t storm.)Where to begin? Let’s take Tom B’s interesting distinction between “what happens to exist” and “what ought to exist.”

I accept his assertion that we should aspire to the “ought to” category. Human affairs and activities ought to be reasonable, compassionate, loving, nurturing, and responsible (just to name a few of the essential virtues.)

Now let’s take that and apply it to the specific issue at-hand here, Gay marriage, and then to homosexuality more broadly.

In the case of Gay marriage, we have a group of humans who seek to enter into loving, nurturing, and responsible relationships. Gay men and lesbians long to join the “ought to” club. Enough said.

In the case of homosexuality, well, it does “happen to exist.” It is certainly not a choice – unless, as Tom B so charmingly suggests, it is God’s choice to protect housewives from hairdressers. (Really, Tom your stereotype was so contemptuous and unintentionally comical it belongs on The Onion website, not FPR.)

Back to the happens to / ought to distinction… Since millions of humans happen to be homosexual, what would you have them do? Retreat to the shadows of bars and bathhouses, or the lacquered cocoons of hair dressing salons? Or, rather shouldn’t we all hope that our homosexual brothers and sisters would aspire to more – not a penitential celibacy or forced re-education camps but true love and true lives well lived? That seems to be the truly conservative (and reasonable, compassionate, and generous) stance. To Rob G’s point, that begins to sound like “flourishing.”

Now, in closing, let us return to the patron saint of FPR, Wendell Berry, whom I have met and corresponded with and who I admire more than almost any other living soul. He is both a keen observer of what happens to be and a profound proponent of what ought to be. And he seems to recognize the ambiguity or mystery that dances between the two. His is not a putative or judgmental philosophy. His God might even be bored or disheartened by the “ought to” knots we tie ourselves into. He recognizes the intimate and profound connection between all living things, the natural order, if you will, of “the seer and the seen, the eater and the eaten, the lover and the loved.”

The Hidden Singer

The gods are less
for their love of praise.
Above and below them all
is a spirit that needs
nothing but its own
wholeness,
its health and ours.
It has made all things
by dividing itself.
It will be whole again.
To its joy we come
together – the seer
and the seen, the eater
and the eaten, the lover
and the loved.
In our joining it knows
itself. It is with us then,
not as the gods
whose names crest
in unearthly fire,
but as a little bird
hidden in the leaves
who sings quietly
and waits
and sings.

- Wendell Berry

We should strive, there are things we ought to do… but let us not discount the unexpected and hidden truths that that bloom from the glorious “good / evil / attractive / unproblematic and appalling” world of what happens to be.

avatar Tom B July 25, 2012 at 10:10 am

To begin with, I thought the hairdresser quip both amusing and on point. I have met quite a few gay hairdressers over the years, and they play an unhappy role in our society. You allude to that with your string of “bath house” shadowy desmenses to which those with homosexual cravings have resorted in the past.

With you, I agree that a life in the shadows, though actually a reasonably conservative solution to the problem of homosexual desires is not itself a good one. If we have obligations to justice, that obligation most likely entails finding a place for those with these desires that does not simply sweep them under the rug. It’s clear enough, however, that the “under the rug” solution has seemed more compelling to others in the past and that many of those who oppose homosexual “marriage” do so not from any desire to administer the private realm, but merely to keep the public realm clear of the shameful, sordid, and sinful. (It goes without saying, they have been unsuccessful at that, and that the centrality of debates over homosexuality in our culture would not have come to pass had our society done much better at preserving the integrity of real marriages and at stemming the tide of pornography and contraceptive culture that has overtaken it).

Your list of virtues for a good human life seems arbitrary and slippery. I doubt you know what any of those words mean, though they sound as sweet as cotton candy: so much so, your rhetoric seems to have gotten away from you and slipped off into the Age of Aquarius.

Let’s come back to earth. It is not “responsible” to encourage someone to engage in a relationship that stands utterly opposed to the natural ordering of the human person. It is not “loving” to tell someone that he should go wherever his eros happens to steer him. Nor, alas, is it “nurturing,” for, indeed, to nurture means to bring something from a state of incompletion and potential to a state of fullness and actuality. Homosexual desires, whatever their origins, are no less defections from the natural course of nurturing than would be the attempt to make one’s living by thievery or to believe that those “ultimate fighting” cage matches are a legitimate passtime for a human being. All such defections — perversions from our course to the good — hurt the person involved.

A normal human life typically entails the marriage of man and woman and the having of children. There are unfortunate exceptions to this (which we should acknowledge for what they are: misfortunes) and there are exceptions that transcend it; namely, those so called to the contemplative life that they live celibate lives in an effort to leave behind the life of this world and in anticipation of life in heaven. Homosexual desires do not necessarily consign one to misfortune, as one can learn to control them as one can learn not to be wholly determined by any perverse appetite. But homosexual desires certainly do not belong to the category of “transcending” the normal course of human life, though from Andre Gide to Tony Kushner and onward there has been a despicable rhetoric built up on that principle.

You blithely assert the natural determinism of homosexual desires, and yet your entire position is one of advocacy for their freedom. You make pretenses of having knowledge about the origins of those desires that you simply cannot have, because the current research is frustratingly ambiguous on this point; thus, your language constitutes a lie, pretending a point is settled and that all right-thinking persons must agree with it. But it is a superstition — at this time — to bow down to the god of DNA and wag one’s finger at all those who dare propose there might be a place for the freedom of human agency even if someone is prey to the deepest, biologically informed desires.

A life of celibacy would do a great number of people a great deal of good. In the short and long run alike, it hurts those with homosexual desires to propose to them that they are simply “queers” and they should “go with that.” Such a proposal is akin to the “into the shadows” solution of ages past, but it simply seeks utterly to reconfigure social standards so that we all may live in a shadow world of “equal” self-esteem, in which social engineering becomes the latest mode of therapy.

On which note, I had an exchange on another website a few weeks ago that some may find informative: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/06/27/judge-rejects-anti-gay-students-suit-against-augusta-state

To modify but largely restate a point from that exchange: if liberal society wishes to take no positions on the good and the normal course of a good human life, it should ignore marriage altogether (for even the having and rearing of children would seem too substantive a good for liberal society to affirm); but if it is to affirm certain goods and to reduce or outlaw certain vices, then surely it is insane to propose that the standard of that good should merely be the pleasure of the senses. No one has ever proposed that profound friendships between men is perverse or sinful; what is perverse and sinful is sodomy. To codify “gay marriage” would do nothing but affirm the goodness of sodomy; an affirmation we make in the face of all experience of the natural course of a good human life and, by and large, against the common sense of our own bodies.

avatar Tom Spencer July 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm

My, my. One of the virtues that I did not include in my short list was forbearance. So, I will offer a brief reply to your central point:

” You make pretenses of having knowledge about the origins of those desires that you simply cannot have, because the current research is frustratingly ambiguous on this point; thus, your language constitutes a lie, pretending a point is settled and that all right-thinking persons must agree with it.”

If the current research about the origins of homosexuality is “frustratingly ambiguous” why are you so certain about your assertions that it is unnatural and deserving of contempt?

Or, in other words, who died and made you God?

avatar Tom B July 25, 2012 at 3:11 pm

That sums up your position nicely, Tom Spencer.

Present research indicates that there may be biological factors that contribute to homosexual desires, but also indicate that one’s surroundings, life experiences, and culture all substantially influence both the presence of the desire itself and how the person responds to that desire.

Whether or not there is a biological component to homosexual desires says nothing about whether it is natural. Natural means not simply “can happen in nature,” but rather, “generally happens in accord with the nature of a thing.” Some people develop cancer, but we don’t say, “Hey, it’s just natural. Let it roll.” Nor should we about any sort of deviance.

One does not have to be God to see the malignant qualities of homosexual acts, though one does have to have a more robust conception of reality than that available through philosophical naturalism. One would have to believe, for instance, that the words “good” and “evil” are not simply euphemisms for “this feels good to me” or “that feels bad to me.” Beyond that, one need merely have a conception of human life that does not see its highest possible achievement as the therapeutic engineering of a pleasure dome of the guilt-free iteration of sexual pleasure.

But I’m unclear on the nature of your objection. Are you saying that no one but God is in a position to maintain the morality or immorality of particular actions? If that is so, what is the basis of your claims for the goodness of sodomy?

avatar Tom Spencer July 25, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Oh Dear Goodness. And, no I am not speaking of sodomy. Though I hear it is considered quite the “good” among heterosexuals as well as homosexuals.

Homosexuality is akin to cancer? Is culturally transmitted (by hairdressers?) Therapeutic engineering of a pleasure dome of the guilt-free iteration of sexual pleasure?

Really? I mean, REALLY?

This all a little dizzying, and frankly tiring. Though I do admire your, um, tenacity. March on, march on, and by all means watch out for those pleasure domes.

avatar Tom B July 25, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Could you enlighten what remains of the intact western world why any of these propositions beggars belief?

My reasoning seems clear enough: cancer is a perversion of the telos of natural cell growth; sodomy is a perversion of sexuality; and you have made arguments that appeal, in succession, to a) bunk science, b) vacuous sentimentality, and now c) distortion and that variety of irony proper to someone with a bullhorn but no leg to stand on.

avatar Anymouse July 27, 2012 at 5:35 pm

The leftists are incapable of coherent thought unless it is solely about the material world.

avatar Stephen July 27, 2012 at 10:51 pm

A Christian should not say, “I am opposed to gay marriage,” but rather, “There is no such thing as ‘gay marriage.’”

avatar Tom Spencer July 28, 2012 at 10:13 pm

“A Christian should not say, “I am opposed to gay marriage,” but rather, “There is no such thing as ‘gay marriage.’”

Maybe “Christians” should follow the example of Christ.

After all, what did Christ have to say on the subject?

…? …? …? (…The sound of crickets chirping in the distance.)

Last time I read the Gospels the only thing I remember Jesus being specific about related to marriage was that divorce was unacceptable.

Where is the article about “Agrarianism and Divorce”?

avatar Thomas July 29, 2012 at 12:02 am

You should read the Gospels again and probably the rest of the New Testament too. Besides, the scriptures were written in context of Church tradition.

avatar Anymouse July 29, 2012 at 4:05 pm

“what did Christ have to say on the subject?”
I will answer this, even though I really shouldn’t:
He clearly quoted genesis, and said that a man and a woman cleave to each other and become one flesh. He did not say “two persons”. He said a man and a woman.

avatar Tom B July 30, 2012 at 2:33 am

You do know how sodomy came to be called sodomy, right? It is not as if the Jewish or Christian tradition has been silent on this. Further . . .

Romans 1:26-27:

[26] For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, [27] and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

“Ah,” says the mendacious equivocator, “Jesus didn’t say it, only St. Paul!” Rather than trying to establish a convenient, ideosyncratic canon of scriptural authority, it would be more honest just to say that Scripture does not matter, so far as you are concerned.

To those who recognize the authority of divine revelation, of course, it does matter, and there is no way round it here. To those who do not, I would recommend further reflection on what exactly you deem the foundations and criteria of moral argument, and perhaps less time trying to undo the cords of nature to fit your own libido dominandi or epicurean indifferentism.

avatar JonF August 5, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Re: There is no such obvious purpose to sodomy,

Social cohesion– which is the most important thing we humans have going for us. more important than our brains even. Nature, and Nature’s God, has coopted the erotic urge to form strong bonds among humans. Without the ability form such such strong bonds the individualism and egotism that comes with human consciousness would have destroyed us before we could climb out of the trees. So reproduction has taken a back seat as a goal (telos) of the sex act, in which we humans usually and frequently indulge when procreation is not possible (which is most of the time, even for a young, heterosexual pair). This is so very different from other animals who, in normal circumstances, only copulate when a female is in estrus, and advertizing the fact somehow.
Erotic bonding (AKA “romantic love”) holds our society together. It’s mostly between males and females, forming the units we call “family” but some of it spills over into bonding male or female pairs as well, and that’s just as good as bonding heterosexuals for this purpose.

avatar JonF August 5, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Re: You do know how sodomy came to be called sodomy, right?

That’s a medieval tradition, actually. Sodom was not originally identified with homosexuality, but rather with inhospitality (a grave sin in antiquity), and with injustice.
I am not sure why you quote Romans in this context. That verse has nothing to so with Sodom, and refers rather (in full context) to the Hellenized and apostate Jews of the Diaspora, many of whom had given up on Judaic practice and belief in exchange for Greco-Roman paganism. The passage starts out talking about idolatry and castigates those who had known the true God– only the Jews back then– and turned to worshiping pagan idols. Homosexual lust is mentioned not as a sin, but as the punishment for the sin of idolatry.

avatar Tom B August 6, 2012 at 8:52 am

JonF, you read a book once. Well done. Now, try thinking critically, or at least searching Wikipedia. It is indeed true that revisionist readings of Scripture have tried to whitewash the association of that word with homosexual deviance, but revisionist readings of scripture do a lot of preposterous things — and revisionist scholars get rewarded not for being responsible or convincing but for being cheeky or innovative (See, Elaine Pagels).

Every such revisionist account I have seen has been a joke. See this review article for one good refutation: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/gay-marriage-reimagining-church-history-50

Even the Athenian Greeks found homosexual acts deeply troubling; Jews and Christians rightly find it a violation of human nature and so a sin before God.

I see from other comments you have posted that you have personal, familial reasons to want to re-write nature’s law for your own psychological well being. I would not myself make light of those pressures and difficulties, but I hardly think your personal confusions merit the spreading of discredited lies here or elsewhere.

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