“Homosexuality is immoral”: the Ultimate Spiritual Shortcut

Pro-gay-marriage protesters inside the state capitol building in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2012. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons..
Pro-gay-marriage protesters inside the state capitol building in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2012. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Someone messaged me last night because people from my family’s Christian community launched a typhoon of a Facebook thread about homosexuality.

In what may have been my only stroke of good luck for the whole week, the brouhaha missed my feed, but my friend said that if I felt “the need to be particularly RAGEFUL” I should read it.

“All I want to do is tag your name in a post and let you school all the morons on that thread,” the person added.

Thanks but no thanks, I said.

But I couldn’t help watching many friends on either side lick their wounds the next day

“Just spent way too long reading through a thread of some pretty heavy anti gay and anti gay marriage commentary,” a classmate wrote. “I think if you truly truly love someone who is gay, you could never feel the way these people feel.”

A more conservative classmate couldn’t resist reopening the argument: “I think I really, truly, deeply love specific individuals who identify as gay. And yet I still question the morality of living a homosexual lifestyle.”

You can argue and argue to prove that homosexuality is a biological reality and shouldn’t signify second-class status, or that you can criticize the gay “lifestyle” without disliking the gays themselves. But I’d rather point out the spiritual shortcut anti-gay folks are taking when they define morality by a refusal to do something they would never be tempted to do anyway. How convenient.

However gently you couch your “love the sinner, hate the sin” opinion, when heterosexual people call homosexuality immoral (referring to a “behavior” or “lifestyle” doesn’t get any traction in my book because that subverts the truth that homosexuality isn’t a choice), they’re elevating themselves and their lives over gay people and gay people’s lives. If straight folks call homosexual people immoral, the inevitable subtext is that the straight folks are born morally superior.

It’s like praising your cat for cutting cupcakes out of her diet, when science tells us cats are the only mammals on earth that can’t taste sugar anyway.

I hate to hear people preaching about points of morality when they have absolutely no concept of the so-called temptation they’re fixated on. This doesn’t mean a priest who’s never shoplifted can’t counsel his congregation against stealing. Surely, at some point in his life, he or someone he loved felt the urge to pocket something that wasn’t his. Avoiding the silent squirm of covetousness isn’t some biological lottery. We all know what it feels like.

It’s easy to pat yourself on the back for not doing something you’d never want to try anyway. But it’d be like giving Lifetime No Accident trophies to people who don’t know how to drive, which is just as ridiculous as giving straight people tacit moral accolades for wanting partners of the opposite sex.

Calling homosexuality immoral when you define a moral relationship as what your brain and body are hard-wired to want anyway actually belittles the hard work of a spiritually upright life, fighting the temptations that attack all of us and the pitfalls that require true repentance.

No real meteorologist is going to call for a blizzard in the Sahara. And I don’t think anyone who’s really concerned for others, gay or straight, would warn that the “homosexual lifestyle” is immoral – i.e.,  waiting to trap anyone unwary enough to fall into it.

Want more inflammatory secular righteousness (or just cultural commentary)? Scroll down to the bottom and keep up by subscribing. 



Add yours →

  1. Well said. I get sooo tired of this narrative of minding the business of others! How does the life choices of gay people impact their lives I wonder? I’m often inclined to think that their rage is due to projection.

    • Yes, who knows where those difficult feelings really come from. It reminds me of Catholic business-owners who claim their religious freedom is violated because their employees have access to birth control, even through a third party. Why can’t people just live their own lives?

  2. Glad I stumbled on this. I have a big problem with how the evangelical community has treated the issue of homosexuality. So much focus, as you’ve said, is on the morality, or immorality of it. Even as a Christian, I just don’t get it. As far as I’ve read and been taught about my faith, even if we made it illegal (and impossible) to be gay, yell at our kids, smoke, do drugs, look at porn, say mean things, ignore the poor, etc. we still have not accomplished anything in light of the Gospel. Christianity is not about being moral. It’s about believing in a savior who came because we all have sinned and fall short of what God intended us to be. I think a lot of people need to read 1 Corinthians 13 again, which says that if we don’t have love we are just a bunch of noise.

    • I’m not religious anymore myself, but I do remember what it’s like to come from a place of faith, given my upbringing. I tend to prefer the idea that any religious faith is about living the precepts of your doctrine. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

  3. They can also see themselves as more moral than LGBT allies. They respect the Bible and God’s Will, liberals do not. They grab the moral high molehill.

  4. A nice perspective Alaina. As someone who did comment on that feed, I was astounded at some of the content of the comments. I decided to avoid the pitfall of revisiting FB thread again—due to the absurdity of it all.

    • I don’t even want to see it myself because I can imagine the verbal carnage. I’ll say my piece and leave it at that; anyone who wants to comment here is welcome. Thanks as always for reading.

  5. Your supposed “spiritual shortcut” which you’ve set up and try to ride through this brief article is made largely out of straw. Insightful moral, philosophical, political or psychological commentary and journalism all avoid the “pundit’s short cut” by refusing to argue only with a fictitious opponent created for convenience.

    You are failing to listen and engage in the conversation if you content yourself with dismissing the religious objection to homosexuality as being about “giving straight people tacit moral accolades.” Similarly you do miracles with “logic” if you determine that the “inevitable subtext is that the straight folks are born morally superior.”

    Granted, you acknowledged that you couldn’t be bothered to read the thread before trying to “school all the morons” thereon. And maybe you are content enough with your convictions that engaging in a conversation is a waste of time. (That would be my conclusion too if I were no longer religious.)

    But by aimlessly tossing a strawman insult at religious people and pretending like it might add something of value opens you to the the following criticism. Lazy. Engage and add something or don’t bother writing.

    • Oh dear. I guess I used all my moral, philosophical, political and psychological insight up on that silly journalist/editor day-job of mine. I’m sure straw men everywhere thank you for your diligence – they’re so tired of getting pushed around when religious objectors should be getting respectfully heard instead of beating off all these scarecrows. Who’s my fictitious opponent? These are my reflections on the idea that homosexuality is a chosen behavior versus someone’s natural state of being, and the idea that that behavior is immoral. These ideas are advanced in America every day. I haven’t fabricated something to attack because I felt like arguing.

      I can see you’re upset by my argument, but I don’t see you countering my inference about the logical flip-side of the “homosexuality is immoral” statement (that heterosexuality is moral). Do you think I’ve made an unreasonable mental jump? If so, instead of explaining why, you opted to insult my thinking.
      I can’t comment on how moronic the thread in question was – those weren’t my words. I’m keeping a blog where I sometimes explore opinions I’m passionate about, like anyone has the right to do (in America, at least). My perspective here isn’t tied to any one Facebook thread and it’s an opinion I’ve had for a long time. I’m not really interested in schooling people via social media, morons or not. And yes, I am content with my conviction that all people are born equal regardless of sexual orientation, and deserve the same rights, respect and protections under the law, regardless of others’ religious objections.

      You’re not the first reader to tell me to shut my mouth (or laptop?) because he/she didn’t like how I expressed myself. Fortunately I’ve been at this for awhile so I’m not fazed. My essay isn’t aimless, and as an editor yourself, I think you know that. I care deeply about the issue, thought for a long time about what I wanted to say, and worked hard late at night to put it together after a long work day. But lazy certainly isn’t the worst thing I’ve been called, so somehow, I’ll soldier on. I might even keep defending gay people as whole human beings, not people whose morality, as a group, can be debated by the public. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

      • ok.Perhaps it was your references to the facebook discussion and the comments made afterwards which led me to think that you were trying to comment on that discussion rather than on your pet peeves with the broader cultural discussion.

        So now I will be specific about where you miss (it seems completely) the religious argument made in your faith of origin.

        1) “referring to a “behavior” or “lifestyle” doesn’t get any traction in my book because that subverts the truth that homosexuality isn’t a choice”

        I think you are suggesting that distinguishing between behaviors/action and sexual orientation is intended to or accidentally obscures the fact that sexual orientation is not a choice. And so you would like to dismiss the distinction.

        However, I am sure you are able to see the distinction between behaviour and orientation. And this distinction is paramount to most of the religious project in most world religions in all areas (not just the realm of homosexuality). Namely that humans have flawed “orientations” and the ability to choose behaviors which are distinct from our orientations. You may not be interested in this religious distinction but you can’t pretend that you are speaking to the religious argument if you choose to ignore it.

        2) By ignoring this distinction you give yourself permission to ascribe a “spiritual shortcut [to] anti-gay folks.” However, its hard to follow your logic further because now I don’t know who you are talking to. I do think that there are “anti-gay” folks out there but I haven’t talked with any…(and I roam in fairly conservative circles). Maybe your article is against “haters”… but the fast majority of objectors to the practice of homosexuality no longer think you are speaking to them… Because they don’t hate gay people. Now, if you wanted to distinguish between “gay people” and “gay behavior” then I think you would suddenly find yourself addressing a much larger group. Yes, there are many people who reject gay behavior. (But that is a distinction you didn’t want to preserve lest someone become confused).

        3) The above leads to your punchline addressing very few people. “If straight folks call homosexual people immoral, the inevitable subtext is that the straight folks are born morally superior.” You see, most of us straight (and vaguely straight and gay) folks do not call homosexual people immoral in any special sense. If we are religious, we call everyone immoral. And we call the behavior of homosexuality one kind of immorality. This makes it impossible to turn around and enjoy your imagined “subtext of superiority by birth.” And so once again I do not think you are actually paying attention to your religious community of upbringing if you think that “back patting” or “tacit moral accolades” are being enjoyed by virtue of being straight.

      • We’re really on different tracks here, and that’s ok. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m not interested in debating the morality of homosexual people or entertaining the notion that you can separate homosexual behavior from the person. I wanted to take my own thought journey about how religious objections to homosexuality might reflect on the objectors. I’m not in the business of punch-lines – it’s called the closing line of an argument. And it can’t have been half-bad, given the range of responses and hundreds of hits it got. I enjoy debates with readers, but I’m surprised by your ongoing attempt to belittle the quality of my writing in this case. It’s uncharacteristic of your normally scrupulous arguments.

        One thing I’ve learned both through my work and by going through life married to a black man is that the most insidious types of prejudice – the ones that are most difficult to spot and eradicate – are the subtle ones. The ones with “rational” arguments; the ones who can’t or won’t see the roots of their prejudice; the ones who separate principle from practice when they find themselves face to face with the kind of person who makes them uncomfortable. This isn’t a blog for the “haters,” because as a society still rife with all kinds of prejudice, it’s not always about Strom Thurmond vs. Nelson Mandela.
        Everyone is battling some kind of prejudice, from remnants of a racist upbringing to scorn for fat people. For example, I’ve caught myself gravitating toward men instead of women as sources for business-related features. I have to notice that prejudice and correct it (how did sexism get so deeply ingrained!?). As I’ve discovered in my own life, it can be as subtle and surprising as a self-professed liberal boss who insists he respects everyone equally, yet thinks he can put his hands on me in the office because I’m a young woman. He’s not a “hater” – just a person whose background and privilege predisposed him to an inappropriate behavior, who learned to stop it when I spoke up. There are many nuances to prejudice, but just because it’s more subtle or gently spoken or justified by faith (i.e., “I reject gay behavior” vs. “I don’t like gay people”), doesn’t mean we shouldn’t shine the light on it.

        You probably have misunderstood the intended audience for my piece. For the same reason I don’t frequent religious FB threads, this post isn’t intended “to speak to the religious argument,” or make religious folks change their minds and announce that homosexuality is indeed a biological quirk affecting a small percentage of the population, instead of a moral behavioral issue. The audience I had in mind for this particular piece is people like me who are bemused by religious objections to homosexuality, and want a unique take on what might be behind that, or what the effect or unstated flipside of that prejudice might be. But of course anyone is welcome to read and comment. Because I really do love religious people; it’s only religious behavior that bothers me.

      • Yup. Seems like different tracks and that I’ve misunderstood your audience. If you didn’t think you were addressing religious objections then carry on. I’d only advise your readers who are looking for a “take on what might be behind [religious objections to homosexuality]” that they ought to keep looking. Because in my opinion and experience an opportunity for smug self-satisfaction in one’s straightness does not account for the religious objection; neither in its arguments nor in the experience of many who hold the religious objections.

        I certainly don’t expect us to agree on this point. I just don’t want you or your readers to mistakenly assume that you have figured it out.

        Though I would like to mention that I like most of the middle paragraph in your most recent comment above. Namely that your pursuit is to uncover the subtle instincts and reasons for various kinds of prejudice. I salute that pursuit and think it produces useful questions. Just not questions that have been effectively answered in your article.

        Regarding my taking the time to critique. My goal is certainly not to drive you from journalism or broadly criticize your writing. Only to specifically call out a weak piece. Its entertainingly written as usual but not as robust as I’ve seen you deliver in the past. I would critique your writing more often if it more regularly contained gaping holes and hastily drawn assertions. Usually it doesn’t.

      • God forbid my writers think I had it all figured out – that’s what the comment section is for!

        About your critique – it’s already too late. I’ve forsworn journalism forever and my writing dreams have crumbled to dust. It’s almost as bad as the time another reader called me a “hothouse flower” because I’m too opinionated for a woman. Actually, I’m writing this comment from another dimension, because one time a reader who disagreed with me told me I should leave planet Earth. Having a blog is really hard.

  6. Well said. I heavily took part in the thread, and I couldn’t agree more. (Though I do understand the conservative perspective, I believed many of those things at one point.)

    • But I agree; hiding behind believing the act of homosexuality, rather than the individual, to be immoral is a cop-out. You’re hurting them either way, and that’s not cool.

      • Yes, I agree we can never have a wholesome or fair conversation on this issue until people stop trying to separate the idea of homosexual people from homosexual behavior. That distinction is a false basis for the whole discussion. A straight person who thinks a homosexual person ought to resist same-sex partnerships out of some sense of morality should try thinking how life would feel if the straight person denied themselves a partnership with the opposite sex because other people insisted it was religiously immoral. You’re right that whether you denigrate gay people or try to get around that by criticizing their “lifestyle” only, you’re denying the reality of the other person.

      • Ben. As in my longer comment above. I understand the discomfort, but follow the logic through. All religions or systems of ethics that are not hard core deterministic rely on a distinction between inclination and behavior. So it is a “cop out” to think of it as “hiding behind.”

      • The difference is that the inclination to homosexuality, unlike the inclination to other behaviors that codes of faith or ethics concern themselves with, is (as the scientific method increasingly makes clear) a congenital biological quirk affecting 5-10% of us. Ben and I can’t line that up with religious debates about proper “behavior.” Understanding the general human fight against temptations (don’t lie, swindle, steal, etc) does not mean you understand how it would feel, for a gay person, to be told that you should have a partner of the opposite sex, or no partner at all – because of someone else’s religious conviction.

      • I know. A lot of people seem to be unable to make that connection. Still, I think Ben and you are both capable of careful thinking which is why I continue to appeal to logic.

        Religious people believe a great many things are congenital biological quirks or genetic normalities which effect most members of the populations. In both the rare and the regular, religious people reject acting out the imperatives of our genes, biology, culture, etc. Any self-reflective person will find inclinations in him or herself toward some combination of all manner of unsavory things: Theft, lying, murder, lust etc. I doubt any good biologist would argue that male homosapiens are inclined to monogamy. In fact, for most males I would argue that our biological nature scream against monogamy for most of our lives. And yet religions have the gall to ask straight men to suppress this very normal urge.

        The real question is whether or not homosexuality is good or bad in any meaningful sense. North American culture is highly conflicted on this point with winds blowing quickly toward the answer of “good.” I accept that religion in North America may very likely lose this cultural tug-o-war. But one misunderstands quite fundamentally the claims of religion if one thinks that there is something inconsistent about condemning homosexual behavior simply because it is an inborn quality.

      • A lot of things about this conversation have quite painfully reminded me why I needed to move away from religious life. Conflicts, logic, categorical moral codes, condemnations…at heart all I want to do is honor every person as a complete person, the way they were born. If I know anything about faith and morality, it’s that they don’t rest on logic, which is as liberating as it is maddening.

      • Ben and Alaina, I think there are a lot of fairly reasonable arguments that could be made for the morality of homosexual behaviour, but I don’t think, “It’s a biological quirk” or “It’s an orientation” is one of them. Those arguments only seem to make sense if you come at them already assuming that homosexuality is not immoral (either because you don’t think an expression of love between two adults could be immoral, or you think anything that does not overtly harm someone else is immoral, or just because it’s blindingly obvious to you). If the orientation were towards something immoral, then the “it’s inborn” argument wouldn’t make a bit of difference – and I think you WOULD find yourself differentiating between attraction/orientation and behaviour.

        The thing is, there are orientations like that. Let me say in big bold letters first, I DO NOT THINK THE BEHAVIOUR I’M ABOUT TO TALK ABOUT IS THE SAME AS HOMOSEXUALITY. I bring it up only because it provides an illustration to show that the scenario I mention isn’t just possible, it’s all around us.

        Here it is: according to the top researchers (not some fringe organization), 1 to 5 percent of men are primarily attracted to children, and some of that percentage exclusively so. Source: http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2013/12/22/is_pedophilia_a_sexual_orientation.html. That attraction operates as an orientation – no one is sure where it comes from, it seems to have some biological components, and it is very difficult (if not impossible) to change. In the most recent edition of the DSM, attraction to children (technically called pedophilia, but that term carries all the baggage of association with those who have acted on it) was classified as an orientation. It was later changed to make it clear that they weren’t intending it to fall under the laws banning discrimination based on orientation, and that they strongly support prosecution of abusers, but psychology speaking it is still viewed as operating the same way as an orientation.

        So, what do you say to and about these 1-5% of men who, through no fault of their own, maybe through a “biological quirk,” find themselves attracted primarily or only to children? I don’t think you can avoid sounding very much like a conservative Christian talking to and about homosexuals: “your attraction doesn’t define you; you do not have to act on it; I’m sorry you have that burden.” This isn’t a hypothetical, non-existent question – if the smallest end of that estimate is accurate, we’re talking about 35 million men in the world.

        Now, again, I want to emphasize that I view acting on pedophiliac desires as much more harmful than acting on homosexual ones, because it involves a party who is unable to consent – it involves a victim. But I do believe that acting on homosexuality is harmful to those who do it. That’s where our disagreement lies, and it’s fine for us to have the argument there. But “they didn’t choose that orientation” doesn’t have any bearing unless you FIRST assume, “homosexual behaviour doesn’t hurt anyone.”

      • I actually prefer not to attach “morality” to homosexuality or heterosexuality; or anything on the wide spectrum in between. Sexual orientation is just a biological reality; how we treat our partner and family is where morality comes in.

        As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m not interested in debating the fact that homosexuality isn’t harmful – except for the mental pain for folks getting all knotted up about other people’s lives, when they have no concept (as far as they’ll admit) of what it feels like to be gay in this world. I don’t pretend to know. But I have watched dear friends get married in one state and then come home to another state that doesn’t recognize their marriage. The ache I feel for them is unspeakable and it’s just my sympathy for them from the outside. All the verbal dissections and castles of logic and theological semantics and “well whaddaya say to the problem of pedophilia?’s” can’t erase that fundamental injustice – any more than they can prove the existence of God.

        I can see how much thought and passion you’ve put into your arguments, even though I feel sad when I read them. I could comb through your arguments and try to build up a logical case for why I think it’s “blindingly obvious” that homosexuality isn’t any more wrong or right than heterosexuality. But my blog isn’t the ground for that. If you really want to know how I feel about it, the idea that gay people hurt themselves or others by the mere fact of their partnerships is just like the idea some people still have that black and white people ought not marry each other. I have no more interest in debating the “morality” of homosexuality than I do in entertaining the notion that kissing my African husband is harmful.

      • Alaina, sorry, I know you weren’t interested in starting a debate about the morality of homosexuality with your post; I was responding more to some of the comments that have taken the conversation in that direction.

        But to respond to your post itself: imagine, say, that there was a large movement for society to accept an orientation toward something we both believe is harmful, e.g. if the argument that adult-child relations could be consensual started to gain traction. If that happened, I’d speak out pretty strongly against people acting on that attraction. Would that be a “spiritual shortcut” since I’ve never felt that attraction myself? I think that would be a pretty ridiculous argument. But to me, it sounds like that’s what your blog post implies. Now, you can call my belief that homosexuality hurts the people involved misguided, idiotic, bigoted, whatever – that’s fine. But given that I DO think that, publicly declaring my views on it does not have to come from a place of “I’m better than you” – isn’t it conceivable that it comes from a place of concern? As Brian mentioned in the comments above, yes, maybe there are people who condemn homosexuality because it gets them out of facing their own sins, but I haven’t met them.

      • I’m so sickened by the widespread ongoing commentary that pretends pedophilia, for the sake of argument, has any bearing on homosexuality that I have nothing more to say on this point except to iterate what you know yourself: sexual contact with children is a crime against a victim who is unable to consent and may suffer acutely for the rest of his or her life. Stop unpacking it to justify your religious convictions about fellow human beings who are gay. Or at least stop doing so on my blog, because I won’t allow any more references to this warped line of thought to appear in the comments. It’s an altar to the logic of prejudice, not love.

        Of course I can admit that though I do think it’s misguided, some religious people may “condemn” homosexuality out of a place of concern and not a sense of superiority. Just like we’ll never totally eradicate racism, we’ll never have a world where everyone agrees that homosexual people aren’t in some kind of disorder, and maybe some of the objectors act on true moral qualms, instead of hypocrisy, bigotry, fear of the unknown, or secret shame at their own orientation. But I would be content if those religious convictions didn’t influence laws that give benefits to straight people that gay people are denied. Because you can’t argue with the logic behind that: one group of people deserves better treatment than another. In a perfect world, as my husband said of consensual relationships after reading through this thread, “Do you like to [perform a sex act]? No? Then don’t [perform a sex act].” And leave other people out of it. Thanks for reading and engaging.

      • Alaina,

        Though logic is one of the reasons you mention for being pleased to move away from religion, I must appeal to it again, just as I must use English to communicate with you.

        You’ve made another popular “friends of LGBT” assertion which usually is not backed by logic. You appeal to the justice of laws which treat all equally. I like those laws. And they do treat every person equally. Gay and straight people are both given the full privileges associated with heterosexual marriage when they enter into a heterosexual marriage. What is actually being asked for is a new privilege to be associated with homosexual unions not equal treatment.

        The comparison to racist laws does not hold because different privileges were awarded to different races. That is unequal treatment. “Friends of LGBT” love to make the intuitive assumption that privileges for homosexual relationships is an equalizer rather than an addition of a new privilege, but that is ignoring logic (and I’m not content to do that).

        In terms of justice the real question must be: ought government to award special benefit to any category of relationship? Because these benefits exclude certain other categories, for instance – single people. That would seem unjust and unequal in treatment.

        But why does the government privilege certain relationship categories? If certain categories of relationship are given privileges by government then there has to be a demonstrable benefit to society from these categories – or else the privilege is merely arbitrary, and therefore without justice or sense.

        Do heterosexual marriages benefit society as a whole in a way that justifies special privileges? Do homosexual unions benefit the society in same way? Or in a different way that equally benefits society?

        “Me too! I want this X, Y, Z” is not a sufficient reason for adding governmentally imposed privileges.

      • I’ll let the comment stand, but your use of logic chills me, especially given your role in the human community, and I’m exiting this discussion because your lack of empathy is not worth justifying with further argument. My readers already know I’m a proud “Friend of LGBT” and can continue to scope out the discussion and decide for themselves.

      • Sorry, but it’s laughable to think gay marriage is an additional privilege to a cathegory, it’s laughable even applying your logic which is “homosexuals are not discriminated by law (explicitly I’d add) if they can’t marry, because they are not excluded by the straight marriage”, where are straight people discriminated by including another consensual orientation which doesn’t harm anyone and recognizing their relationship with the marriage as gay and straight people are both given the full privileges associated with “homosexual” marriage when they enter into a homosexual marriage :).

  7. I love lamp.

    Is that still relevant?

    I tried.

  8. Good post. For a touchy subject, it seems to get more and more airplay. I think that counts as progress.

    • I’m sad it’s still a “touchy subject.” Crossing my fingers that in another generation, we’ll all look back on the laws now and say what the hell were we thinking.

  9. Whoa cuz, you were right! Hard for me to draw a line between ignorance, superiority complexes, and bigotry. It is frustrating, but I’m confused if said straighties really need me to justify my relationship to an extent that they want to become gay, or if they just want to make themselves feel heavenly because they have willed their sexual organs toward god (yeah right). Honestly, I really don’t get it. Not sure why some folks are so scared. I just feel bad for them.

    • Sorry about your sex organs. Just remember that leaving your husband is always an option if you want to be moral men again, and stop hurting each other by being a family when you ought to be living alone and celibate.

      I agree that after a certain point you do have to recognize when other people are operating from a place of fear, and have sympathy for that because it’s a tough way to live when the world is changing fast. Thanks for weighing in.

  10. I object to the commentor’s statement that “religion” is going to lose the argument about homosexuality in America because more people love and accept gay people for who they are. I consider myself religious and my religion and my heart lead me to embrace gay people as my brothers and sisters, to respect and celebrate their relationships, and fight for their rights. Anti-gay people do not get to claim that they represent “religion” or Christianity or Swedenborgianism. I don’t like to get into arguments that I know are going to just increase divisive feelings, but I think it’s really important to point out that there are religious gay people and religious straight people who support gay rights. The other thing I want to say is, the pedophelia comparison has got to stop — it’s incredibly hurtful, and it a false analogy, for those of you who really love logic. Basically, it’s a destructive lie.

    • Thanks for speaking up for the LGBT and LGBT-ally religious people. Anti-gay Christians should not believe they represent all Christians, or “true” Christians. I agree with you about knowing where to cut off arguments that aren’t going to do to any good. But thank you for affirming the poisonous truth about the pedophilia/homosexuality analogy for purposes of “logic.” It is selfish and sick to co-opt this kind of suffering for your own “logical” ends – especially when that end is denigrating a particular group of people, because through it all, that’s what’s going on here.

    • Amanda,

      I do not presume to speak for all self-identifying religious people, Christians or Swedenborgians which is why I rarely fail to use the phrase “religious objections” or “religious argument.” I realize full well that I am referring to a specific subgroup.

      Religious people have to struggle together to understand commonly held doctrine. That is a separate discussion. The one I raise here is with the scoffing dismissal and denigration of the religious objection to homosexual behavior without bothering to engage the arguments or bother with logic.

      Alaina has all but said that she’ll drop logic when necessary and instead, apparently she is content to continue to pepper her comments with assertions of fact that she can’t defend – including statements of fact about the purposes of other people. At least this leaves me clear the terms of conversation with her. But don’t claim “non logic” without bothering to demonstrate why or to at least admit, as Alaina has done, that she is content to make assertions without backing them up.

      • I had to remove your latest comment’s references to the pedophilia argument because my blog isn’t the ground for that.

        When you can use logic to prove the existence of God, heaven and hell, maybe I’d be convinced that logic can justify discrimination too. Taking scripture and doctrine to heart requires a leap of faith, and so does being a straight LGBT ally.

      • Alaina, we may have reached agreement. If becoming a “straight LGBT ally” requires a leap of faith then I think we see it the same way. (Except that gay people cannot become *straight* LGBT allies through leaping faith.)

        But I don’t think it is even much of a leap. If I were atheist or agnostic it would be a small, if arbitrary, step.

      • Amanda and Alaina,

        Since my comments keep being edited I will try an even more general statement:

        I acknowledge your right to ignore logic and to make assertions of all kinds without backing them up. I appreciate Alaina’s openness that this is what she is doing. However, I do not come from a perspective where I can take your assertions as having any value unless we are allowed to unpack them using the commonly accepted tool of logic.

        I understand if you don’t want to engage in that process. I also accept that we might very well not agree if we did engage in that process. However, until we do, your assertions of fact remain merely assertions and you and I are not in conversation.

      • Usually I don’t change or edit comments, except for egregious grammatical stuff. But the beauty of managing your own platform is that you call the shots, and I’m comfortable with the choice to keep that particular argument out of the waters here, and be honest about how hurtful I think it is.

        We’re on different moral planets and as I said before, it’s ok. From my planet, you seem just as illogical as I seem to you. People have contacted me in private to express their joy and relief at what I’ve said here, while others have written that they’re offended. The sun will still rise tomorrow and I met my original goal, because I wrote something that made others think and feel.

        I find the whole thing amusing on some level – I moved away from a religious lifestyle because in my eye, faith and logic don’t have much in common (and that’s ok). But here I find morality is all about logic, intractable as a tough mathematical theorem and prickly as a hedgehog. So maybe faith is right for me after all?

  11. Agree to disagree – a blog debate is not going to solve this one. Hope you still love this “religious” person ;-(

    • As I said elsewhere, since being religious is a choice, it’s possible to separate my love for religious people from how they decide to behave.

      • Sad Member of God's Creation February 1, 2014 — 1:12 pm

        I have chosen to not participate in the any of the discussions these past few days. This a very sad place for humans to have to focus on, including me. Being a religious person, your last comment somehow makes me feel very “Judged”. While I am sure that many here will dismiss my “feelings” as shallow, petty and blindly religious, but I cant come away from this without the impression that Smugness is often viewed best in one’s own mirror. All of us should glance that way once in a while to to see the reflection that others see

      • Thanks for reading – very true that everyone should make a habit of looking in the mirror.

  12. What tires me about this topic is that it sexualizes people so much so that the debate turns into whether or not a person can get into heaven based on their sexuality. Really? Sex? That’s all we are? Just look at the countless articles and books chastising society for “sexualizing” women, saying women are more than just sex. True. And I would argue further that we are ALL more than “just sex”. So, WHY the endless debate over homosexuality? I was raised to believe that the Lord looks at what’s in our hearts when we die. Have we been useful, good, wise, and kind? Are some people seriously claiming that all homosexuals are not useful, good, wise, and kind? If not, than what gives? Why the continual focus on sex? Why not have continual debates and pointed fingers at those who appear to love the world too much by buying big, expensive items? Or continual debates and pointed fingers at those who have divorced because of adultery? Or continual debates and pointed fingers at those who take the Lord’s name in vain (something the Lord said He would not “hold anyone innocent” for doing)? Could it be because homosexuals make easy targets? There is no other rational explanation given the number of arguments that could go on, and on about other acts that many in society consider sins. Homosexuals stand out in the crowd. Because their way of living is different, some people feel justified in ostracizing them.

    The choices we make in our lives (whether sexual or not) are between us and our Creator. The way I understand it, we’re here to work on ourselves not others. The Lord Himself told us to focus on the plank in our eye and not the speck in our neighbors’. It would be a much kinder world if we would stop looking at what we see as faults in each other and, instead, focus on making *ourselves more useful, good, wise and kind.

    • Thanks for catching the real drift of my essay: that there is a curious hypocrisy in focusing your religious teaching and arguments and debates on the merits of gay people, instead of fighting against greed, stealing, cheating, murder, etc. It’s a lot harder to rat out a sin in another person that you see in yourself. So yes, gay people are easy targets.

      You’re right that people’s sexual orientations and choices are a personal matter, and that no person should ever be reduced to a sex object – whether that means an objectified young woman in a magazine ad, or a person who is judged by the fact of whether he/she loves a man or a woman. If it’s very important to you that romantic and sexual relationships be exclusively heterosexual, then focus on your own heterosexual relationships.

      WHY the endless debate, though? A lot of reasons, probably, but I’d guess most of them are hate, confusion, or fear.

      • Alaina and Heidi,

        I’m with you – I wish homosexuality wasn’t such a focal point. But the reality is, I don’t know that many Christians, even conservative Christians, who DO make it their main focus. Yes, there are some who do, and some of them are probably motivated by hate, confusion, and fear – but I think it has more to do with the fact that this is one area that their morality is clearly distinct from that of the larger culture, and they want to emphasize their uniqueness (no one’s going to argue with you if you preach against greed, for example).

        But for the most part, I don’t see the Christians I know best making a big deal of it. I don’t recall ever hearing a sermon focused particularly on homosexuality, and I suspect I’ve only heard a couple that even mention it. I know I’ve never preached on it. And to use the specific example at hand, the person who started the Facebook thread that someone encouraged Alaina to comment on has posted hundreds of religious statuses that DON’T mention homosexuality. In fact, his posts tend to focus on the need for individual self-examination and repentance. So it’s not a problem of excessive focus on homosexuality on his part; it’s just that that’s the most controversial one he’s posted, so while his other post might get five or six comments, this one got three hundred plus. That’s the way I usually see it happening – it’s not about an excessive focus on the religious person’s part, it’s about the fact that this topic – unlike greed, etc. – has people taking different sides of it and arguing passionately.

      • No, there aren’t many sermons focused on homosexuality in my faith of origin, but I’ve done a lot of research into 100+ years of commentary on issues of gender and sexuality there, and found many painful anti-gay sentiments, couched in many ways that all boil down to the same intolerant and micro-aggressive message. I also pay a lot of attention to overall cultural and media currents as part of my work, and in general my sense is that religious objections to homosexuality get a disproportionate amount of airplay – partly b/c everyone does seize on it versus other, less-controversial stances on morality that everyone can agree on. But there do seem to be a noteworthy number of conservative pundits who fixate on this issue instead of others that would be a lot more productive.

        And in general, the hardship, hurt and terror that LGBT people routinely face in today’s world speak volumes about how prevalent anti-gay sentiments really are, among Christian circles or elsewhere. From horrible hate-motivated assaults to the fact that 40% of America’s homeless youth are LGBT (with almost 70% of those saying they’re homeless b/c they were kicked out by their families), to the fact that you can still be fired or evicted in many states just for being gay, means that there is a damaging focus on homosexuality that should be turned toward other topics. Some states are still making big productions of anti-gay-marriage ballots or constitutional amendments. Can’t the legislature focus on, oh, fixing crumbling bridges or boosting employment or something like that? Booooring, I know.

        Also, heartfelt thanks to you for respecting the parameters of discussion I requested and speaking kindly and non-judgmentally to the discussion we’re actually having.

  13. Thank you Alaina for taking the time and energy to put your wisdom and reflections on the page. I see these conversations in my church of origin and I get tired. Tired of the arguments, the proof-texting, and the attitude that there is a “correct way” and an “incorrect way” and that somehow some people have access to the “truth” and others don’t. And so that’s what I will take the time and energy to speak up for today—there is not only one-way. There is not only one story. There is not only one-way to view a sacred text.

    The thing that is the most upsetting to me is when there is a claim that a specific assumption or way of reading the text is not only the right one, but also the one backed by Divine Authority.

    It is one thing to have an opinion, and another choice to share it. But when you claim that your opinion is the “Word of God,” that is where I see dangerous and shaky ground.

    A teaching in the sacred texts (The Writings) of this church we’re referring to is that Divine Truth is accommodated to all people. ALL people. For different times, places, paths, and eras. No human being can ever fully comprehend Divine Truth, because it is at the essence of God, an infinite God, who we cannot comprehend fully as humans.

    There are many ways to read sacred text. There are many ways to engage life. There is not one single story. And when we claim there is, and then use God to back up our opinion, deep damage is done. We wonder why people are running from the church and leaving their connection with God. If this is what God thinks, feels, teaches, inspires, if THIS is who God is—run.

    I’ll add my voice to the call for many ways. And to thank Alaina for being another voice, voicing another way, and creating space for many voices to be shared.

    I am a Christian, a New Church person, a Swedenborgian, soon to be clergy member, and a human being. And from my religious convictions, my study of the Bible, the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, and my engagement with the communities around me, I am a firm supporter of honoring the wide variety of ways that God created human beings, their sexual orientations and their gender identity. I did not arrive at this belief over night, and I don’t feel that I will ever arrive at fully understanding the nuances of humanity.

    What I know, today, is that the God I know and the scripture, theology, and sacred text I continue to study, follow, honor, and engage calls me to love and compassion, honoring and fighting for human freedom, and seeing each individual as a beloved child of God.

    Easier said than done. Especially in conversations like these. But I’ll keep trying.

    • Some lovely thoughts here, thanks. One thing that may have driven me away from religion more than anything else is that constant right way/wrong way dichotomy about everything, anyone’s assumption that THEIR way is the way of God, with no room for anything else, plus the idea that fully living your faith means having the ability to make others conform to it, too – and a tendency to batter others over the head with that “truth” if others don’t want to accept that premise. I started out as a religious person and became an agnostic one (so far), but I do agree that if some kind of God exists, how can the human mind possibly comprehend the whole truth of God? A lot of the time we can barely make sense of the other people outside of our own skins – and we claim to speak for God? Oh my.

      Yes, keep trying! Thanks for your comment.

    • Anna,

      I read through a lot of these. I thank you for writing yours. I thank you Alaina for writing what you have written as well. When I came upon the Facebook thread, I felt the abject stab of horror in my core. My stomach became like a thousand tiny fires, and I could not sleep. (Which sucked because I had to be up for work at 5 am, and I finally fell asleep at 2…).

      This was a week or so ago now. I have processed what I read, and I did write a response in that thread… too heated and dramatic to make much impact at that time I fear… I blocked people I’d called friends as well, and will continue to remove postings on my wall as they come, out of sheer exhaustion in regards to “the topic.”

      But yes… I felt that urge to run when I was reading. I feel it too often in the dialogue of “Religion” these days. It was, still is… painful to watch old classmates tear each other apart with words over these things. I feel an old man long before my time. One who has lived through a war that is forever raging, watching people he thought he knew, open fire on their neighbors, drawing that double edged sword of “truth” that kills as easily as it “protects”.

      More woundings by people who meant no such offence, only to do what they thought was “right” to “save” those they see as being in error. What violence Faith Alone doth bring! Who has been saved? I am seeing only people being hurt! So many voices who are so convinced of the moral solidity of their standing… So I am thankful for what I read of your reply here. About the many ways we find the Divine in life, verses naming only one way as paramount over others. And how little we still know. And how that is fine.

      Over the last few years, I find myself drifting towards Taoism, Bhuddism; for their openness and logic based in humble ignorance of the Divine. (“The Way that is named, is not the true way..”)

      I am also grateful, for our small struggling congregation at Light For Life here in Seattle, where our smallness reminds us to hold each other closely but lightly, and listen to one another after each sermon. We are all we have, so we must remember that valuing one another, loving one another as God loves us… is what is most important. We remember by showing love in action… to each other, to our neighbors, to strangers… I hope that someday… being “right” will not be what is important, but being “kind” and “good” will take the lead. I still have a deep feeling of God, of the Divine, and the Divine that I have come to know, has not guided me by saying be “right”. The Divine has guided me by saying, be “good.” That’s a God and a faith I’ll gladly run to, rather than from. Even if it bears no labels, and holds no services. Thanks again.

      • I often wonder if I would’ve made religion part of my adult life if I’d had the good fortune to get involved with some kind of congregation with a tolerant and inclusive stance – which, as you put it so well, really focused on being “good” instead of being “right.” For now I’ll keep in touch with my large religious network and explore faith again if I feel the need, but at this point I feel like I had enough in my youth, and all I want to do now is be nice to other people as well as I can, and stand up for the people who need it – the Golden Rule, as it appears in many faiths. Thanks for reading and for your comment!

  14. Something was clarified for me earlier while reading a Facebook thread on this issue. Someone mentioned that he had friends who experienced same-sex attraction but chose not to act on them; someone else responded, “You claim you know gay people who have ‘turned away from acting out’. Here’s the reality: They’re lying to themselves and to you.” It’s that attitude that really, really bugs me: that the people who have acknowledged, even publicly, that they experience primary or exclusive same-sex attraction, and choose not to act from that, are told that they are liars or self-haters or delusional. Fortunately, there are stronger and stronger communities of such people to help counterbalance such statements, as described in this article: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/coming-out-christian/.

    What bothered me about some of the things in the blog post and in the comments is that when you completely deny any element of choice in terms of sexual orientation, even though you don’t necessarily intend to, you also imply that those who have *chosen* not to act on their orientation have made an inauthentic, invalid choice. We don’t do that in any other situations where people choose not to act on their desires / attractions / whatever – e.g. if a person is attracted to polyamory but remains monogamous – and I don’t think it’s fair to do so in this case either.

    • I don’t think the yen for polyamory vs monogamy is analogous to a homosexual vs. a heterosexual attraction. But you do, maybe unintentionally, raise the important point that of course sexual orientations/inclinations are never an either/or dichotomy. Human sexuality is really a massive spectrum: i.e, “LGBT” is really the tip of the iceberg and we’re all really just individual people, attracted to other people. I never really understood this til a few years ago, when I read a book by a transgender woman (born a man) called “Gender Outlaw.” The book really blew my mind, explaining how gender identity and sexual preference are actually completely different things, even though we always conflate them. One worry I do have about this blog post is that might lead the reader to believe that I have a rigid either/or approach to sexuality, like everyone’s either gay or straight. But that’s overly simplistic. My views on these issues have evolved a lot over the years. For example, I find the notion of polygamy pretty damaging, but I don’t think the government should make it illegal if all parties are freely consenting adults.

      I do reject the premise that someone can alter his or her sexual orientation through various religious “therapies,” but I certainly don’t want to denigrate anyone’s free choice in the matter of their sexual behavior. If someone is gay and doesn’t want to act on that same-sex orientation, that should be a valid choice – just as there’s a group of people who identify as “asexual” – i.e., not interested in sexual contact with anyone at all – and should be able to act accordingly instead of dating b/c the rest of us are obsessed with sex. Sometimes I think I’ll re-identify as “sapiosexual” – a person who is attracted to intelligence in others. ( :

      You may have misunderstood my issue here, or maybe I just phrased it poorly. I don’t want to dump on people’s individual sexual choices – I don’t mean to tacitly criticize gay people who choose not to act on their orientation or make angry comments about that. I criticize the society that gets itself so involved in that person’s choice. I guess the way I would put it is that if you can show me a world where homosexual people have all the same rights as straight people (including the right to work without fear of getting fired for being gay or the same right to adopt kids that straight couples have), where homosexual relationships aren’t seen as lesser than straight ones, where LGBT youth aren’t living on the streets in droves, where people aren’t beaten or killed for being gay, then we can talk about gay people’s choice to suppress their sexual desires as if it’s an independent one that we ought to honor without question. When you look at the broader context, a heterosexual person’s choice to, for example, stay celibate til marriage, just isn’t akin to a homosexual person’s choice to eschew sex forever – the former might get some cultural push-back from more liberal people, but not claims that they’re ripping apart our social fabric, as gay people often face.

      Right now America’s deck is just stacked so high against gay people – legally, socially, religiously, etc – that I feel like we just can’t entertain the argument about whether a gay person’s choice to avoid acting on their orientation really is freely made, and not the result of outside pressures. Because that’s what really gets my goat: people who presume to control others (especially when they do it in the guise of faith or love).

      Also, straight religious people who want to cheer on gay people who promise to keep celibate rather than act on their orientation shouldn’t get out the pom-poms until they really face the truth of whether they, too, could live a celibate life without romance, deep partnership or the option of becoming a parent, because of someone else’s encouragement/pressure. To me, that seems like a horrible thing to ask of another person – a violation of their physical, emotional and spiritual boundaries in so many ways. And I think the idea that gay people could or should force themselves into heterosexual marriages does a huge disservice to everyone involved (though I know that’s not what you’re advocating).

      Thanks as always for weighing in.

      • Thanks for that reply, Alaina. I just want to emphasize one thing in your last paragraph (that I think you’ll agree with): the problem there of “a celibate life without romance, deep partnership, or the option of becoming a parent” as you describe it there is that it is imposed by someone else, rather than chosen. Just wanted to emphasize that if a person does CHOOSE that lifestyle, they can still have a fulfilling life. As I say, I don’t think you were saying otherwise – in fact, I think you’d be one of the last people to say that a single life cannot be fulfilling – but I wanted to emphasize that, to avoid the idea that everyone who chooses to remain celibate is living a morose, lonely, unfulfilled life.

        I get what you’re saying about how hard it is in the specific case of homosexuality to say whether a lifestyle is freely chosen or not, and I think you’re right. That said, I can imagine that if I were in that situation (same-sex attracted and choosing to remain celibate), I would find few things more exasperating than well-meaning friends saying, “Don’t worry, you didn’t REALLY choose to live this way; it’s just the pressures of society.” (Not that I think you’ve made that presumption, just another pitfall to be avoided.)

      • Yeah, thanks for making sure to clarify the idea that marriage/family life isn’t necessarily for everyone. Definitely not a requirement for a fulfilling life – it just should be an option for anyone who wants it.

        Sometimes it seems that there are few things more exasperating, in general, than well-meaning friends – you’re still one of my faves, though.

Don't let me have the last say. What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: