UPDATE: This paper has been updated on 02/26/2014 with a rebuttal by yours truly. It appears on the second page.
As always, I caution the reader to beware.This is serious stuff, and quite controversial. I wouldn’t be standing on this soap box with my bullhorn were it not so. This time my topics are the legality of same-sex marriage, homosexuality itself, and the misunderstandings surrounding the beliefs regarding them. I will discuss those issues in reverse order. To begin, I will need to clear up a few misunderstandings about religious attitudes toward homosexuality, and why the belief is greatly misunderstood. First, let’s focus on the prevalence of the belief.
That homosexuality is wrong is not an obscure belief held by an isolated sect of self-immolating monks who hold hands around a cauldron and chant the alphabet all day. It is a belief held by Christianity (2.1B followers), Islam (1.6B), Judaism (~15M), Mormonism (14M), and most other religions; and somewhat by Hinduism (1B), Buddhism (500M), and Taoism (~300M)—there are differing schools of thought within these last three, so there are several differing attitudes. My point here is not that a belief is correct based on how many persons hold it to be so. My point is that if a belief is held by over 80% of the world’s population, it doesn’t make sense for someone to say “Man, this sure is a backwards belief that a small, bigoted section of the populace is stubbornly clinging to while the rest of the world leaves them behind.”
And what of that label, “bigoted?” It’s tossed around quite a lot, just as “communist” was tossed around during the cold war as a sort of opinion-swaying buzzword. But is it being applied accurately in this case? The consensus appears to be that the belief that homosexuality is wrong is, in itself, prejudiced and disrespectful to other beliefs. Let us test this claim. Because I myself am a Christian, and because Christianity is the world’s most widely-practiced faith, I will examine this belief according to the Bible. Multiple verses throughout both testaments state clearly that homosexuality is a serious transgression. Leviticus 20:13 goes so far as to say that the penalty for lying with someone of the same gender is death. Because of this, many persons are under the impression that executing someone for such is commanded by the Bible, although that is not the case. One must be willing to look at the whole picture in order to see what his/her opponent is actually saying, but few arguers are ever willing (mirror) to do this. Since the penalty for any and all sin is death, the addition at the end of Lev. 20:13 (“they shall surely be put to death”) serves to affirm God’s serious stance against it. If they commit the sin, they shall surely die. For one thing, it is paramount to note that before the coming of Jesus the law was unfulfilled, meaning that not every law written for the Jews thousands of years ago still applies. Besides, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. How do you kill a witch? Convince her to stop practicing witchcraft and she will no longer be a witch. Her old self will die when she becomes a new creation.
Though the Bible makes it abundantly clear what is and isn’t a sin, it also is quite thorough in saying that all humans are God’s children and ought to be loved equally. 2nd Peter 3:9 says that God does not want any to perish. Jesus spent time around prostitutes and other ‘unsavory characters,’ not to condone their behavior, but to share God’s message with them. A true Christian (more on that later) will love sinners but hate sin. To say “I hate homosexuality,” and to say “I hate those who practice it,” are two entirely different statements. If, dear reader, you would like some extra explication, replace “homosexuality” with any other sin to see my point. If I know someone who regularly uses profane words (virtually everyone I know), that does not mean I hate him/her. If I know a guy who is having sex with his girlfriend (I do), that does not mean I like him any less, or that I dislike his sin any less. And to condemn his behavior is not to say that he is despicable.
If one truly reads the messages of the Bible–peace, unconditional love, humility, empathy, level temper— one can see that the condemnation of homosexuality, or any other sin, is not prejudiced in any way. It is simply morality. Some things are wrong, others are right. Thus we can see that saying “It is prejudiced to believe that homosexuality is wrong,” is a conclusion made without collecting the facts. It is a judgment made without knowledge, a belief that is derived prejudicially.You might say it is a bigoted viewpoint. How strange it is that the pot is calling the porcelain black. To call the kettle black is one thing, but this is really something else. I’m not sure what though.
I spent a great deal of time trying to decide exactly how I would tackle this part of the paper. Any essay is just a one-way conversation and I knew that almost any dissenter reading this (not you; you’re one of the good ones) would simply interject my wall of paragraphs with “You’re wrong about that,” or some such. For that reason I decided to present a two-way conversation I had IRL so the reader can express those interjections vicariously.
I am a fan of Socrates and his method, and I like to utilize it in argument whenever possible. Unfortunately I have yet to speak to a person who has the patience to teach me his/her most wise argument. One such discussion with a colleague, whose name is replaced by “Other” below for privacy’s sake, proceeded as such.
John: What is marriage?
Other: What is it? It’s [pause] a legal agreement.
John: And is that it, then? I should not expect a legal arrangement to be accompanied by such ceremonial fanfare. Can any government official perform the proceedings of this agreement, such as a mail man, and if so, then why is the minister to any agreement a religious figure? That seems odd.
Other: Well, it’s also seen as a religious institution.
John: So can it be said that marriage is a religious institution that is legally recognized?
Other: I suppose you could put it that way, but the separation of church and state means it can’t be both at the same time.
John: Are churches and other houses of worship, then, considered to be secular because they are legally recognized as non-profit organizations?
Other: Certainly not.
John: And would religious rites, such as the Bar Mitzvah or a baptism, suddenly be made non-religious if they were legally recognized?
Other: Of course not.
John: Then is the purpose of separation of church and state to keep the religious and legal separate but equal?
John: Then it is meant to keep the religious sacred and the governmental legal?
John: And the religious does not make the government any less authoritative in matters of law?
John: And, likewise, the legal does not make the religious any less sacred in matters of the holy?
Other: Of course not.
John: Then a man of the cloth can recognize the government’s authority without abandoning his faith?
John: And the government can recognize the sanctity of the church without losing its authority?
Other: Yes. Why are you asking these questions?
John: I wish to learn from you the truth of things, since you know so much more than I. And you have done well, telling me that the government recognizes the sanctity of the religious without secularizing it, and that the church recognizes the authority of the government without weakening it. What, then, ought a lawmaker to do when faced with a bill that concerns the religious?
Other: As with any other law, s/he should do what’s best.
John: Best for the greatest number, or greatest overall?
Other: How do you mean?
John: Suppose the rulers sought to feed the hungry citizens, which consisted of mostly wolves and a few sheep. If the council, consisting of wolves, voted that the sheep ought to be slaughtered to feed the great masses of wolves, would that be the best for the greatest number?
Other: It wouldn’t be good for the sheep, but you should always give of yourself for your country.
John: Indeed, and the government does call on us to sacrifice ourselves, such as in conscription. When citizens are drafted to become soldiers, are the weakest ones chosen to be trained?
Other: No, the best citizens are.
John: The ones that are best suited to fulfill their duty, correct?
Other: Quite correct.
John: Can a wolf eat many sheep, or is one enough to sate its appetite forever?
Other: It must eat many.
John: And how much meat must a sheep eat to sustain itself?
Other: None at all. They eat grass.
John: So if there were a shortage of meat, would the sheep starve for want of it?
John: Then would it be true to say that an abundance or deficiency of meat would not affect the sheep?
Other: Yes, quite true.
John: And if the sheep were slaughtered to be fed to the wolves, would the wolves not once again be hungry the next day?
Other: They would.
John: Then would a better solution be to slaughter some of the wolves, to reduce the number of the hungry and also to feed the remaining population, rather than to slaughter those whom the situation does not injure?
Other: If the sheep would go extinct, then yes.
John: Then what is best in this case is a solution that would serve as a detriment to a small portion of the wolves, while sparing the sheep who are not in need of the meat, and sparing the greater number of wolves?
John: And if, in a democracy, a solution benefiting the greatest number must always damage a small portion, is it better that the portion be from within the majority?
Other: [hesitantly] I guess.
John: Then let us return to the previous question. Must a lawmaker be motivated by what is the best for the greatest number, or what is the greatest to solve the solution?
Other: The greatest to solve the solution.
John: And how can he know what that is?
Other: He should ask an expert.
John: And what is the meaning of an expert?
Other: The one who knows the most of the situation.
John: So, in matters of medicine, ought a politician to consult a medical doctor?
John: And in matters of machines, a mechanic?
John: And of plants, a botanist?
Other: Of course.
John: And of religion, the clergy?
John: And in a republic, ought the opinion of the greater number of clergymen outweigh the opinions of the lesser number?
John: Then if the majority of clergymen offers a common view on a religious matter, ought the lawmaker to accept that council?
Other: Not if the law passed limits freedom.
John: And what is freedom? Is it doing that which is best for oneself? Or is it doing whatever is desirable to oneself? Or is it doing that which is not injurious to another?
Other: The last.
John: So if something one wants shall injure another, it is not considered an allowable act?
Other: That is true.
John: Then ought laws to protect citizens from the abuses of others, to disallow acts which are injurious to another?
Other: Quite correct.
John: If bacon grease were to be smeared on the walls of a mosque, would that be considered injurious?
Other: I… yeah.
John: Because sacrilege is considered injurious?
John: And if an act is injurious to a faith, it should be disallowed just as if it were injurious to a person?
John: If a traveler were to become drunk during a pilgrimage to Mecca, would that not also be considered injurious to Islam?
Other: It would.
John: Then if marriage, which is a sacred ceremony in all religions, were to be in some way defiled, would that not be injurious to all religions?
Other: But that’s different. Marriage is also a legal contract.
John: Ah, but before, we reached the conclusion that the separation of church and state is meant to protect the sanctity of the religious and the authority of the legal, did we not?
Other: We did.
John: Then to blasphemy against a religious ceremony is to do harm to those who hold it dear, correct?
John: Then, if the definition of liberty does not allow any practice which is injurious, no law should be made allowing that practice.
Other: But most people are in support of it. Why not just let those who want to get married do it?
John: What portion of our population wishes to enter into a same-sex marriage?
Other: I don’t know, a hundred thousand?
John: It is a small portion?
Other: Percentage-wise, yes.
John: Then if a law were either to prevent the privilege of a few who are injurious, or to impede the right of many who are injured, which ought the law to accommodate? Before, you said that, if a law ought to damage a small portion, it is better that it damage a small portion of the majority. If the majority is in support of same-sex marriage, then ought we to protect the rights of those who aren’t? Either we were wrong about the first supposition, or if we were right then, we are wrong now.
Other: I’m done arguing with you.
John: Does this mean you would deny me the gift of your superior wisdom? Don’t leave me hangin’, bro!
If only I were to hear the end of this dialogue, and discover what the truth really is! Seriously though, this is a conflict I find baffling since the misuse of any religious rite should be opposed by all. If I were to guess, I would say that this is another case of a strong sense of entitlement, where one feels that just because s/he wants something it means that, 1.) it’s a good thing and that 2.) s/he deserves it. Saying that same-sex marriage infringes on the religious rights of others is a wholly ineffectual argument because those who disagree with me have no interest in hearing it. They want to hear only that their desires are fulfilled. Considering the Occupy Wall Street protests (mirror), this makes a great deal of sense. We want everything to be handed to us. Trampling on sacred rites is of no consequence. Just look at Mt. Rushmore, which the Lakota tribe considers to be sacred ground. I personally see nothing wrong with carving up stuff; after all, what does it mean to be American if we can’t carve up the side of a mountain just because we can? On the other hand, the little voice in my head tells me that when you commit blasphemy against the beliefs of an entire tribe, you’ve gone just a smidge too far. I say it behooves us to protect that which is held sacred, for the benefit of those who would otherwise be violated by an action’s allowance. Let’s protect the sanctity of marriage, shall we?
Why, I’m glad you brought that up, humorous internet picture! I was just about to discuss the much more common defilement of marriage. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, around 50% of adults who divorce eventually remarry. The institution has become so devalued in our society that divorce lawyers advertise their services for only a couple hundred dollars, with “full package” included. I can imagine the testimonials now.
“The other day, I was going to get a burger and fries, but I decided on impulse to get a super-cheap divorce instead. Boy was my ex surprised to see all of her stuff and two of our children on the front lawn! Anyway, we’re getting remarried next week, as soon as my black eye heals.” -John D., Las Vegas.
Marrying a second person after divorcing one’s first spouse should not be condoned by any minister. Although remarriage after the spouse’s death is allowed, remarriage after divorce is considered adultery, and divorce is only allowed in the first place for infidelity, which breaks the sacred vow. In Kim Kardashian’s case, the divorce was the result of “irreconcilable differences,” which probably means that Kris has a small penis or something. A divorce should not be allowed for any reason other than cheating, and no pastor should allow a divorcé/e to remarry; yet most of them do anyway. If you are curious as to why, I would like to introduce you to the word “discrimination.” Just like “bigotry” and “intolerance,” “discrimination” is an all-purpose insult used to incite fear. Although discrimination does not necessarily have to be bad (a non-citizen can’t become president, girls can’t join the boy scouts, minors can’t vote, drink, or smoke; a non-doctor can’t be surgeon general, etc.), the word is nevertheless used in a black-and-white context in order to bully others who don’t think the same way. Forcing someone who’s black to use a different drinking fountain is not even comparable to a priest refusing to officiate a wedding that goes against his beliefs. Many pastors fear that if they stick to their guns, they will face legal reprehension. Does this make allowing the remarriage acceptable? No. My point is that two wrongs don’t make a right.
If we recognize that the high divorce rate and high remarriage rate are an insult to marriage, why would our proposed solution be to allow same-sex marriage also? Since when does making a problem worse solve it? The proper reaction would be to say “Let’s not allow remarriage either,” but instead we say “Let’s allow ALL the marriages!” And for a Christian to say “Let’s disallow same-sex marriage,” without saying “Let’s also disallow remarriage after divorce,” is quite inconsistent. It’s almost as if we’re trying to stop the most recent leak in the dyke instead of trying to plug all the leaks. “I’m sorry, Holland! I tried, but the water kept coming through all the old leaks I didn’t bother stopping!” Why can’t we say that both of these issues are equally serious? Can we only focus on one problem at a time?
Of course, that’s assuming we all are true believers. Up until this point I haven’t mentioned those who are not true Christians, like the members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. They claim to be Christians, while affirming that God hates ___ (insert practically anyone here). What is worse is that the rest of the world doesn’t understand the difference between these false prophets and actual Christians. I would like to remind my reader that simply saying one is a Christian does not make it true. You can say that Green Day is a punk band all you want, but that doesn’t make their music any less pop. Thanks in part to the WBC’s efforts, all Christians are viewed as spiteful, prejudiced, and unpatriotic. These 80-odd terrorists activists are doing their own supposed faith a disservice, and they don’t even realize it because they’re guano insane. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s easy to get caught up paying attention to the outspoken critics who really should keep their mouths closed… and seek professional help. In the age of the internet, it’s difficult to enter a rational, civil dialogue about any issue. Add to that the human urge to argue by shouting the loudest, and it becomes downright impossible to reach a solution.
What is my solution, exactly? Well, I’m reminded that there are civil unions. Religiously speaking, I obviously don’t have to explain my position on that. Politically speaking, it would depend on the bill/resolution itself. I might vote in favor of civil unions, or I might not. I can’t say for certain how I would vote until I read what the specific legality would entail. Suffice it to say I have full faith that the government will keep marriage and civil unions separate but equal, since that’s worked so well in the past >_>
Part 3: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…
Disclaimer: I wrote the first two parts of this paper with great care. I agonized over every sentence, every proposition. I wanted to make sure that what I had to say was clear, concise, level, and organized. In this final section, however, my argument will be less of the “essay” variety and more along the lines of “disorganized rant.” I will be candid and brutal. Now then, onto my feelings!
The desire to encourage one’s own desires and thoughts, whatever they may be, unfortunately outweighs the desire to seek what is right by a great margin. Because of this, there are many religious groups which support homosexuality despite scripture. That is why I said “the majority of clergy” in the Socratic dialogue above. Of course there’ll always be an individual clergyman who refutes the teachings of God in favor of his own philosophy. Harry Williams in particular referred to what he called “the God of my own understanding,” even though Proverbs 3:5 says “lean not unto thine own understanding.” Williams is not alone.
The National Gay Pentecostal Alliance supports the idea that the Bible doesn’t prohibit homosexuality, but only where it is practiced. This group seeks to reconcile homosexuality and being Christian–not to be confused with the group that wishes to reconcile being Hindu and eating meat, or the group that wishes to reconcile being a dog and not slobbering all over the place. Most persons see no problem with manipulating reality in order to make our behavior seem OK, no matter the inconsistency or ignorance that results. I understand that it’s very difficult to adopt a different orientation. It’s not like changing a shirt. In the past, I have struggled with a certain sexual disorder myself, so I well appreciate the difficulty of renouncing a characteristic that is deeply engrained in one’s psyche. The key consideration, however, is that I and many others chose not to justify, excuse, or glorify the way we were at the time, instead choosing to change ourselves to be as God would desire. I realized that if an act or thought is displeasing to God, it is better that I change myself than to try and change God so He conforms to my image. I am very glad that I went through with that, instead of seeking to believe that my own desires are greater, like certain groups which consider their actions not only ir-reprehensible, but actually commendable somehow.
Whenever someone against same-sex marriage predicts that its allowance will lead to other “despicable” unions like the ones advocated above, the supporter declares that such an argument is fallacious because it is a slippery slope. This rebuttal is unsound, given that a slippery slope argument is only a fallacy when the steps between the top and bottom of the slope are not established. If someone says “Same-sex marriage’s legalization will inevitably lead to incestuous marriage being made legal,” it is not fallacious if that proposition is argued to be true. I’m fairly certain that most supporters simply heard someone on TV say “fallacy” and have taken to vapidly repeating it without bothering to verify or understand the claim. There is a steady social progression toward acceptance of all behaviors. Homosexuality was not considered acceptable by society several decades ago, but slowly it has been viewed as more and more acceptable. With the advent of the World Wide Web we are connected to like-minded individuals and can instantly find groups who support our preferences and share stories of themselves. It is impossible to predict exactly when and how quickly or strongly a certain movement will gain popular support and come to be viewed as acceptable, but I am certain all the groups in the paragraph above will eventually–even if it’s five hundred years from now– gain widespread acceptance.
It is not surprising at all to see that all these different groups can advocate what they do. Proverbs 21:2 says “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord pondereth the hearts.” If we want to behave a certain way, we will do and say whatever we can to justify it. Deep down inside every human has an innate understanding of right and wrong (“the hearts”), but we choose to do what we want. That is why I firmly believe that society’s acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex marriage will inevitably lead to the acceptance of any other type of sexuality. What I also find baffling is that an atheist can say that homosexuality is OK, but not another certain sexuality, like pedophilia. I was once told by an atheist that any sexuality between two adults is OK, but “I draw the line there.” I asked why and could not obtain a satisfactory answer. If a consenting adult and a consenting child fall in love, why ought we to stop them? What’s wrong with love? Of course, the real answer would be “I’m a hypocrite, and your questions make me uncomfortable, John.” But where would the fun in admitting that be? The question, “What’s wrong with love,” is often asked by supporters. It’s unreasonable to ask a loving, committed, monogamous couple to break up simply because their love is “wrong.” I wholly agree; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. One of my cousins, who is a lesbian, once said to her mother, “You can’t help whom you fall in love with.” My aunt replied “You can’t help whom you let yourself fall in love with.” If you seek first and foremost the will of God, you won’t have to fight against something you have done. If, for example, you don’t tell a lie, then you won’t have to tell more lies to cover it up and then figure out how to dig yourself out of the mess you caused. If you don’t act on your desires and enter an immoral relationship, you won’t have to suffer heartbreak in order to end it.
I know that all of what I have just said is not at all a popular sentiment, but I care not. If I were concerned with popularity, I wouldn’t bother authoring this blog. I mean, four subscribers is cool and all, but I don’t quite have “bestseller” numbers. What is popular is the crusade of “My privilege is my right!” Even when there is not a conflict of interest between one’s religion and orientation, arguments of justification nevertheless abound.
Many supporters will manufacture whatever argument they can think of. My anti-favorite one is “Homosexuality is not a choice. It’s genetic.” Of course, if this were so, homosexuality would be hereditary (genes are passed on to one’s children) and would be unchangeable (you can’t change your hair color at will, you can only dye it). It is neither of those things (after all, many persons choose to change their orientation either way in their lifetimes, several of whom I have known personally). If there were a “gay gene” then how would a geneticist classify a college student getting drunk during spring break and experimenting once, only to completely revert to straight the next day? That makes the gay gene sound like an endogenic retrovirus, splicing itself into our genes and causing temporary havoc with our sexuality, only to be expelled by our immune systems the next morning. Is bisexuality an example of incomplete dominance, and are there carriers of the gene who don’t show the symptom themselves? Does the mother or father pass it on? Why doesn’t the presence of the gene remove the ability to reproduce, since its purpose is obviously to check the population? And if homosexuality is genetic, then how is the gene propagated, since reproduction relies on heterosexual mating? Anyone with a basic grasp of biology can disprove this argument in ten seconds, yet its arguers flaunt it as if it were irrefragable and apodictic. All of this means that this argument is nothing more than grasping at straws. Gay straws. It doesn’t matter what actually is “proved” or “disproved” or “scientifically possible” or “completely stupid.” What matters is how you feel, what your gut tells you. Did you know you have more nerve endings in you stomach than in your brain? Look it up. Most of us have no interest in seeking the truth, instead seeking to argue our detractors into silence. And that is why the debate will continue to rage on. Most individuals would rather win than be right. And winning they are; same-sex marriage is now legal in seven states as of this writing, with an eighth ready to deliberate.
One thing that has only served to assist the advancement of support is an illogical argument. For example, many well-intentioned individuals seek to rebuke homosexuality by saying that it’s not natural, even though to a certain degree it is. The point is moot anyway, because naturalness is not synonymous with goodness. Mercury is natural, but I don’t suggest you take a swig of it every morning unless your name is Qin Shi Huang and you think it’ll make you live forever. We all have our own talents, and together we make up the body of Christ. Not everyone is meant to be a mouth, yet the ones who really should be quiet (cough Sarah Palin cough) are consistently the loudest mouths in the room. Whenever I hear Palin speak, my brain feels like it quit halfway through its first term.
Writing this has not been easy. I would rather be writing about video games right now (or playing Uncharted 3), but I never pass up a chance to stress myself out, wasting my breath arguing on the Web. Now that I am finished with this paper, I am really glad that I’ve gotten it out of the way. Next week I’m writing a game appreciation entry on Pac-Man. I could use a break. Time to play Unchar— do three quizzes, read four short stories, and finish my Chemistry lab.
Next page: A rebuttal from my most fearful adversary: Myself, two years in the future.