On a recent thread, there was a brief discussion of homosexuality. It was prompted in part by one of our members who has joined in the discussion because of his outrage at the depredations of the Bushite regime but also despite his being a traditionalist Christian.
I have long valued his participation, just as I valued the testimony of the conservative jurist, Bruce Fein, because of their being exceptions to the very troubling general pattern: that supposed conservatives in America have been so willing to be seduced by these Bushites, so unable to see how radical and evil these supposedly conservative Bushites truly are. Exceptions to that lamentable rule deserve to be honored.
For the most part, I've sought to stay away from the discussion of those issues along which Americans generally divide between liberal and conservative. My reason is that America's main business now is to repudiate and dethrone the Bushite regime and, as I wrote in the overview to NoneSoBlind, "the urgent struggle now is not that of liberal values against conservative values, but of those who really care about goodness against those who only pretend to." And therefore these divisive issues have threatened not only to be a distraction but also to play into the hands of the Rovian propagandists who have thrived upon creating and accentuating our differences and preventing our acting together on the basis of those values which Americans of good will --on both sides of the political divide-- share.
On this occasion, however, I felt moved to reply to our traditionalist Christian friend, who on many previous threads had made reference to homosexuality in the context of explaining his discomfort in consorting with liberals who, though they share his outrage at the Bushite regime, favor an accepting attitude toward a sexual orientation he regards as profoundly immoral. The occasion that elicited my response was his posting a comment in which he noted several gay and lesbian people he had known whose good character --other than their indulging in the ostensible sin of homosexuality-- had impressed him most favorably.
I want to share here what I wrote in reply. Although most of the people reading this here are unlikely to have any need of these ideas, I can imagine that many of these readers might also know other people, of more conservative and traditionalist viewpoint, for whom these ideas might serve some good purpose. And it is with that in mind that I post my comments here.
A thought for our conservative Christian friend, who writes of several people he's known who are homosexual and regarding whom he concludes, "One of the big surprises is what good people, in so many respects, many of these people seem to be."
Over the years, I had a somewhat similar experience, knowing both gay and lesbian people and being struck with how thoroughly decent most of them are.
This led me to rethink the attitude about homosexuality that I'd imbibed from the culture as I grew up, and imbibed also (in a somewhat different form) from my training in clinical psychology in the 1960s. I'm wondering, my traditionalist friend, if you also would consider following this evidence to the truth toward which I believe it points.
If one thinks of homosexuality as an "immoral choice," or otherwise connected with immorality, then one would anticipate that there would be a correlation between that bad choice and other aspects of a person's character. (Was it Trent Lott who linked homosexuality with alcoholism and some form or other of thievery?)
But, as you've observed, that correlation is strikingly lacking. Aside from the question why anyone with an ounce of sense would ever CHOOSE to be homosexual in a society in which homosexual people are denigrated and persecuted, and sticking with this evidence you and I have both observed: it would seem that whether or not a person is gay is NOT any reflection of a general defect of character.
One gay man that I know and a person who in terms of his general character (kindness, consideration, unselfishness, devotion to the good, the true and the beautiful) is a real prince once said in my presence: "I'm not gay because I choose to be. I'm gay because that's how God made me."
And the accumulation of evidence not just your and my anecdotal evidence suggests that this is true.
And if it IS true --if, though most people are made heterosexual, some are made homosexual-- what would that mean regarding the appropriateness of regarding homosexual relationships as immoral?
My answer to that question is that it's a mistake to treat homosexuality as a moral issue. The question of promiscuity vs. monogamy may be a moral issue, but the issue of straight vs. gay seems to be one in which the majority has unjustly come from prejudice against the minority.
It might be asked, if indeed some people are made homosexual, what is the "good" of forbidding or condemning a loving, committed homosexual relationship? Some seem to say that if God said it is bad, then that is answer enough. But shouldn't there be some good that is served, other than simply some presumed obedience to a Being that, we are told, being perfect, has no unmet needs whatever?
Do you not agree that for some moral law to be a good one, some GOOD needs to be served by it? Shouldn't our morality serve the good of those creatures who do have needs, and upon whom our moral beliefs will have for better or for worse an impact?
Let me propose a perspective on our cultural condemnation of homosexuals. In this condemnation, the mainstream culture has acted very much the way societies for centuries dealt with the matter of right-handedness vs. left-handedness. As seems to be the case with sexuality, the great majority of people are born one way (right-handed), but a minority is born the other (left-handed).
And are you aware of how harshly various societies in our civilization often treated those who were born left-handed? The ways in which left-handedness was condemned can be inferred from the language in which words for left (like sinister and gauche) were equated with evil and wrong.
Now, I know that it's a lot easier for me to talk about cultural prejudice in this matter of the moral condemnation of homosexuality than it would be for you to do so and then to revise your assessment of those moral judgments. We come back to the idea that the condemnation of homosexuality is the position of God Himself, as I gather that for you these moral judgments appear to come with the authority of God Almighty expressing his position in the book of Leviticus.
For me, the question of whether something in the Bible is valid is a matter that's open to being tested by evidence of various kinds. I don't know if you feel compelled to ASSUME the validity of every single thing you find there, and therefore to reject any evidence --such as your observation of the generally good character of your gay acquaintances-- that would call that conclusion into question.
What I believe is that some of the people who wrote the Bible did have real contact with the transcendent realm, but that what people bring back from such experiences is inevitably contaminated by the limits and defects of those people. All the more so when a whole culture molds the heritage from such revelations over the generations.
So it is very easy for me to believe that the Bible contains not only deep truths perhaps divinely inspired, but also cultural prejudices. Indeed, the issue at hand is not the only place where that seems to be so.
So I invite you to consider whether your own experience of these good people you write about points to a more open and humble view of how inerrant and unquestionable a guide to morality is the sacred text of your tradition.
Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)