Saturday, 21 August 2010

Registrars: Religious Martyrs or Bigoted Hypocrites?

This week's headline from the The Christian Institute "Two registrars subject to investigation over their beliefs" was particularly misleading. Nowhere in their article did I find evidence that they were being investigated for their beliefs. Rather, it seemed clear to me, these registrars were being investigated for their behaviour (or for manifesting their beliefs). Surprisingly the CI's own handbook, "Religious Liberty In The Workplace" states:
whilst the right to hold the belief is absolute, the right to manifest it is qualified, that is it can be constrained by matters such as the rights of others. It is a “balancing act”. page 7 
What I have never understood with registrars not being willing to perform civil partnerships as it is against there beliefs, is why they are willing to perform other services that are also against their beliefs.  As the CI also states in their "Religious Liberty In the Workplace" handbook:
... be aware that the more you acquiesce in requests contrary to your conscience, the more difficult it may be to convince anyone of the strength of your religious convictions. page 20
So how strong are these registrars' religious convictions? From the CI's article it appears these registrars only switched shifts to avoid civil partnerships. Yet, if they held consistently to their beliefs they should have also switched shifts to avoid:

  1. Performing a civil marriage where one person is a divorcee and has an ex-spouse who is still alive: But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:32I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery (Matthew 19:9)
  2. Performing a civil marriage where the parties are of different faiths: Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2 Cor 6:14
  3. Performing a civil marriage where the wife-to-be is obviously pregnant: But if ... evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones... Deuteronomy 22:20-21
  4. Refuse to recognise a divorce that is not a result of marital unfaithfulness: “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel. Malachi 2:16 and the verses from Matthew in 1 above.
  5. Registering the birth of a child born out of wedlock, e.g, there is no father on the birth certificate or the parents have difference surnames on the birth certificate: One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the congregation of the Lord. Deuteronomy 23:3

I would be more sympathetic to the fact that these registrars are being persecuted for their beliefs, if these registrars also did switch their shifts for the above. However they did not and therefore I have to conclude that these registrars are not acting on their beliefs; they are simply acting in a discriminatory manner that has no place in a secular and just society, let a lone in their roles as civil registrars. To single out just gay and lesbian couples is homophobic.

No empathetic tears should be shed for these registrars. In my opinion they are behaving as nothing more than bigoted hypocrites.

Quite rightly their employers should investigate their behaviour. When it comes to performing their roles as civil registrars, their employers have to ensure they follow the law and cannot make exceptions for personal belief.  If a registrar believes that mixed race marriage is against God's law (as I was taught in Apartheid South Africa), the registrar could also be exempted from registering these relationships. What other prejudices would then have to be tolerated under a thin defence of religious liberty or, personal or political belief?

As far as I know the CI has never dealt with the question as to why they champion these registrars as religious martyrs while at the same time their martyrs do no consistently act on their beliefs.  If they have, please let me know.

What We Say Behind People's Backs

The Christian Institute published an article, ‘Social anxiety’ skews same-sex marriage polls. In this they attempt to make out that society in general is against same-sex marriage and "political correctness" forces people into agreeing with it. I have another way of viewing the same set of data: when our responses are non-attributable or we can ignore someone else's common humanity,  it is easier for us to be prejudicial and discriminate; what we are prepared to say behind people's backs is less considerate of our true moral conscience.

I sincerely hope that people will experience 'social anxiety' when they are contemplating discriminatory thoughts or actions. This is not a bad thing as the CI wishes to make out.  After all, Christ did say :
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31
The discussion at the end of the article on the use of the word "homosexuality" vs. "gay and lesbian couples" was particularly poignant.  All to often people become fixated on the letters "sex" when the read or say the word "homosexual". The focus then is on a behaviour. Considering people as couples, brings one back to our common humanity and the shared emotions, rights and responsibilities of relationships, irrespective if they are 'mo or 'ro.
It is unfortunate that the CI chose to use the word "skews" in their headline. The word "influences" would show more journalistic neutrality.
Unfortunately these comments made on the CI's Facebook page got me banned.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

God's Blessing Same-Sex Relationships

"God does not bless same-sex relationships"?

The traditional view is that the Bible consistently condemns homosexuality; it regards homosexual lust as a sin; no where in the Bible is there a positive reference to same-sex relationships; this has always been the case and will be for ever more. Most Christians who hold these views state that they will never be persuaded otherwise.

I have previous blogged on why I do not believe this to be the case: Does the Bible really clearly state that homosexuality (a sexual orientation) is a sin?

Indeed God does regard lust (heterosexual or homosexual) as a sin.  However, it is disingenuous to suggest that all same-sex attraction is lust. Why do conservative Christians feel that only heterosexuals are capable of truly loving each other?

At the risk of making some Christian readers jump up and down, I would like to suggest that God does bless some same-sex attraction: for example, 2 Samuel 1:26
I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.
OK, I admit that this does not in and of itself state that Jonathan and David had sex ... but if I used this language with another guy, he would wonder what my intentions were!  I wish to emphasise that I do not want to imply that they did have sex. My point is that that not all same-sex attraction is wrong. In the Bible, there are many words for the English word "love". We are commanded to love our neighbour, of both genders. Where the divide on same-sex attraction is on "koitis" - sexual intercourse.

Protecting Long-Term Relationships

Many Christians reject gay rights because they feel that it is all about sex and this opposes the orthodox view that marriage is between one man and one women for the procreation of children; that sex can only happen in marriage.

There is a pre-occupation in Christian circles about what gay people do in their beds. I can happy confirm that they sleep in their beds.

For many gay people I know who are in long-term partnerships, the legal protection that civil partnerships afford their relationships is extremely important in a just and non-discriminatory society.  Their relationships are not about sex: most seem to experience the same loss of sexual intimacy over time that heterosexuals do.

As a young adult I was once told that when you are in the first year of a relationship, you should put a bean in a jar every time you have sex. At the end of the first year, you must then starting taking out a bean every time you have sex. The narrator then bemused, “You may very well find that the jar is never empty!”

Indeed, homosexuals need legal protection: not because of who they want to have sex with, but because their relationships also move from the care-free “in love” phase, to the responsibilities of the “loving each other” phase. It is about the every day things: keeping a job; knowing that you have a roof over your head; that when you ask for a public health service, you will get the help you need; that you are safe from being attacked. The trials and tribulations of their long term relationships are so akin to heterosexual relationships, that they deserve the same legal respect and protection

Aside: This is not dissimilar to opposite-sex long-term celibate relationships, e.g., someone who cares for their disabled friend their entire life. Therefore, I believe it is important to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex relationships.

Adam and Eve; Adam and Steve

For many conservative Christians, the story of Adam & Eve is the archetype relationship and therefore God could never bless same sex relationships. In a recent blog, the Pink Paster makes the point that Genesis :
... does however teach us profound truths about the human condition, but speaks in the language of theology, not history. Pink Pastor 
For me one of these profound truths about the human condition is that we are designed to be in relationship, with God, with each other and in particular there is the human need for life long partnerships: that significant other who we can grow old with.

Had Adam been gay, God would have given him Steve. However, since Adam was straight, God gave him Eve as his life long partner.

The Gift of Celibacy

Some argue that it is OK for a person to be homosexual but they must never practise it; they must remain celibate. God will only bless them if they remain celibate.  This ignores the fact that we are created to be in long term relationships. Even the apostle Paul argues that celibacy is a gift from God:
I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. 1 Corinthians 7: 7-8
Celibacy is not something to be forced on anyone. It causes many problems as one just needs to look at the Catholic Church to witness.  Nor should one be forced into a heterosexual relationship:
It’s not uncommon for men who have suppressed, denied and hated their same sex orientation to develop a sexual addiction or obsession. ... What many of us have found out, finally leaving the heterosexual marriage to live as openly gay men and lesbians, that being true to yourself, instead of moving us into a life of promiscuity and sexual abandonment, actually releases us from the addictions and obsessions and new sense of morality and control emergesAnthony Venn-Brown
The Blessed Roman Centurion And His "Pias"

Let us not forget the Roman centurion that I've mentioned in one of my previous blogs.  Both Matthew and Luke (Matthew 8:5-13 & Luke 7:1-10) don't hesitate to use the word "pias" to refer to the Roman centurion's servant. The safer & neutral Greek word would have been "doulos" as "pias" had a colloquial meaning of the younger person in a gay relationship. Given both writers also refer to the deep affection of the centurion for his servant, it is very likely the word was meant to imply a same-sex relationship.

The importance here is that their relationship did not stop Christ from commenting on the centurions faith!

Christ Blesses The Homosexual

If you are reading this as a non-Christian who is gay, take heart that you (and your partner) are not excluded  from the love of God. Your sexuality does not preclude you from having Christ's richest blessings in your lives if only you would come to Him.

If you are a Christian who feels that God has withdrawn His blessing because you are in a relationship, remember that He created you to be in a long term relationship. God meant you to have that someone to grow old with; that someone to love and nurture; to share the troubles and tribulations of this life until you both meet again in the next.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Reforming Orthodoxy - Am I Losing My Saltiness?

Two weeks ago the House of Lords in the UK discussed the Equality Bill and an amendment to the current Civil Partnership Act was tabled.  Both were associated with secular interference of religious organisations.

A little background:
  • The Equality Bill
The Equality Bill sort to consolidate several different bits of existing legislation regarding UK discrimination and employment law. Conservative religious groups including the Christian right opposed a clause that limited religious organisations' ability to discriminate who they employed to only those roles that related to doctrinal teaching. Therefore, while they could appoint only males to the role of a preacher, they could not appoint only males to a position of a receptionist.
The House of Lords removed this clause. This has profound impact on the gay community as it allows religious organisations to fire anyone who is gay and reject any homosexual applicants.
  • The Civil Partnerships Amendment
The amendment to the Civil Partnerships Act will allow religious organisation to perform civil partnerships.  Currently, any religious organisation is banned from performing these.  The conservative religious organisations oppose this amendment.  The request for the amendment came from more liberal religious organisation who said exactly what the religious right said about the Equality Bill: the current situation banning civil partnerships in churches who wish to perform these services amounts to interference; secularists have no right to say what should happen in their churches or organisations.
As a person who agrees with tolerance, those churches who do not wish to perform these services on justifiable doctrinal grounds should not be forced to perform them; churches who feel that blessing a gay relationship does not contradict their doctrine, should not be forced not to perform them either!
In the various related discussions I was struck by the common theme that the orthodox understanding of homosexuality and marriage must take precedence over equality & discrimination, i.e., religious organisation must be allowed to discriminate when they feel something is immoral.

Myself and others who questioned the validity of traditional interpretations and orthodoxy were accused of dummying down God's moral requirements; that we appear to be loosing our saltiness by accepting a reformed view, rather than a traditional view, on sexuality.  I have been accused of having a gay theology.

Religious Freedom To All

In as much as the House of Lords defeated the clause in the Equality Bill on grounds that it interfered with religious bodies, so to does the current status of the civil partnerships act interfere with those religious bodies who do not have doctrinal issues with the civil partnerships.

I did hear an argument that these other organisations where not "Christian", apostate and full of heresies.

I do not believe that there should be a measure of how "Christian" a religious body is before it is considered religious. While I do not agree with all the doctrines of these religious organisations, they are religious organisations irrespective of my beliefs.

I wish my fellow siblings in Christ would stop spiritually bullying me & others, and making assumptions about what motivates me or is in my heart just because we disagree with them.

Christian vs. Christian

How is it that when two Christians sincerely read the Bible, refer to the same original texts and have the same hermeneutic methods, yet come to different conclusions. To the independent observer or sceptic, they would argue that the Bible can be used to justify just anything. I disagree that the Bible can be used to justify just anything. When interpretations disagree, the only possibilities are:
  • we are both entirely wrong,
  • we are both partially right, or
  • only one of us is entirely right.
Our views are well considered and we both have the right to express them or criticise each other's hermeneutics.

We can be sincere, but also sincerely wrong.

There are consequences to our respective positions if either is incorrect ... as well as the way we express our views. In many ways I'm very concerned that the way others Christians prescribe heterosexuality results in homophobic attacks on gay people ... even if they did not intend so.

I personally do not hold the view that other conservative Christians are necessarily bigots. I to said many of the things they say. I held passionately to my interpretation believing it to be the correct interpretation and was greatly concerned for the way I believed others were misusing scripture and insulting the Christ I love. I still love Christ, but over time have come to accept that my final authority is the Bible, not any doctrine, presupposition, orthodox view, interpretation or social agenda.

Understanding this has allowed the Church to acknowledge its past orthodox errors and move on.

Past Orthodox Errors

1 ) The Earth Is Flat

One of the areas that the Church has done this in the past is shape of the Earth and the order of the solar system.

Beyon & Sachs in their book "Dig Deeper" in the section "The Bible is True and does not make mistakes", highlight the church's persecution of Galileo for stating the Earth revolved around the Sun, against the orthodox understanding at the time based on Ecclesiastes 1:5. The Ecclesiastes reference does imply that the Sun revolves around the Earth.
'Ha!' says the sceptic. 'How hopelessly naive of the pre-scientific Bible writers, who knew nothing of cosmology! The Bible must be riddled with mistakes like that.' But of course we still speak of 'sunrise' in our own day. That's what it looks like from the standpoint of someone on earth.  It's not saying anything about cosmology. It's not a mistake.
Beyon & Sachs (2005) "Dig Deeper", IVP
Therefore, it is quite possible for someone holding to the inerrancy of scripture and, with a clear conscience, accept what modern science is telling us.

2) The Reformation

The Reformation is another case in point: Reformation theologians rediscovered what was in the original scriptures; although they were accused of introducing something new. They did not; they simply re-interpreted the scriptures.

3) Racism

Growing up in South Africa I was taught that mixed marriage was a sin; that like the Jewish theocracy was meant to be separate from other nations/races - so to were we supposed to keep the races separate; ... and a whole lot of other things too horrid to repeat even as examples ... all on the pretext (with Biblical justification) that the Bible never changes; God never changes; what is sin never changes.

Indeed the list goes on: slavery, women's rights & six day creationism to name a few.  The orthodox views of the Church have been rightly challenged as our knowledge of how God created this world grows.

Why I Changed

It is because of all of the above, that some of us have shift our theology after much prayerful consideration.  We have examined what modern science has discovered about sexuality and revisited the scriptures. We do not believe we are adding to or taking away from the scriptures.

If we did, conservative Christians could justifiably call us apostate or heretics.

Much of the condemnation of homosexuals is based on assumptions orthodoxy makes of heterosexuality. While the Bible has a lot to say about heterosexual relationships, it is relatively silent on homosexuality. Myself and others believe that Biblical assumptions add to the scripture that which is not there, and therefore can be challenged and re-understood with a clear conscience.

In fact, I would go so far as to say these assumptions have even erroneously influencing our Bible translations: e.g., the word Greek "pias" in Matthew 8:5-13 & Luke 7:1-10 is translated as "servant" when to the reader at the time would have understood the word "pias" to mean the younger partner in a same sex relationship.  The Roman centurion was almost certainly gay.

As someone else put it:
Did Christ get in his face and tell him, "You're going to roast in hell like a marshmallow if you don't stop being gay"?
Did Christ tell him, "Sure I'll heal your partner if both of you promise to join Exodus International and become Ex-Gay"?
No, Christ simply healed the beloved partner of the gay Centurion and affirmed his remarkable faith in God!
Unlike other miracles, Christ did not say, "Go and sin no more."

For further consider of these translations and references to same-sex relationships I recommend "Would Jesus Discriminate". It gives a less heterosexist interpretation of the Bible. Although you are welcome to disagree, I trust you can understand why some of us believe the Bible is not that clear in its condemnation of homosexuality.

Never Say Never

Myself and others also hold to our position with firm conviction, but we never can say, "never will we be persuaded otherwise."

In relation to sexuality, modern science is telling us that one's sexuality is not a simple choice. While what determines our sexual identity is not know (nature, nurture or both) it is clear from modern science that it is not a choice. Granted some behaviours and life style aspects are a choice.  What is also very clear from scientific studies is the damage that "correction therapies" cause; that they do not work. Not to mention the associated spiritual damage that comes from inadvertent spiritual bulling.

Therefore, some of us have reconsidered our position on the orthodox view of Biblical sexuality.

This is not to say we regard modern science as more authoritative than the Bible.  As with the Galileo example above, we can accept what science is telling us but adjust our understanding of the Scriptures.

For those of us who have done this, it has not been a decision we have taken lightly.  We to want to be found to be good and faithful servants. As the apostle Paul wrote to 2 Tim 2:15 we want to be found as correct handlers of the truth.  Like the Bereans we examine everything we are told against the scriptures. We believe that when we read the Bible, this is God speaking even though the human authors' own style, education & circumstances influenced the words and grammar.

The Narrow Gate

On this bases, I believe that I'm not widening the gate. I believe that I'm removing a man made obstacle in front of the narrow gate that is causing homophobic attacks on gay people and causing them to unnecessarily reject the Gospel.

I am not a polytheist - in this regard I'm a "Christ-ist" - that the only way to God is through Christ. If there was another way to be reconciled to God, then why the cross? My narrow gate is therefore the same as other conservative Christians.

When I present the gospel to gay people, I do not let them believe that they will not have to change their lives.  I believe the Genesis 1 & 2 teach us that we are designed to be in life long monogamous relationships.  As with heterosexuals, homosexual promiscuity leads to all manner of problems. As with some heterosexuals, this is difficult for some homosexuals to accept.

What would Jesus do?

Given Christ's response to the Roman centurion in Matthew and Luke, I think he would have wept at what is supposedly done in His name.

Christians who use pejorative, unsubstantiated & generalised statements to condemn & deny equal rights to gay people show unnecessary anger, arrogance, hatred, prejudice & little attempt to understand what gay people endure. It shows very little of the love Christians claim to have for gay people.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant 1Cor 13:4
Many Christians feel that they are being persecuted for their heterosexist views. Alas, looking at some of their statements, it is little wonder us Christians are being persecuted. Sometimes I think we do bring some of it on ourselves.
Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions. Prov 10:12.
As a fellow Christian ministering to the gay community, trying to bring them the inclusive gospel of Christ, many well meaning Christians do us a huge disservice. Not only do their statements feed other people's homophobic attitudes that materialise in attacks, rapes and murders of gay people, their statements also cause gay people to dismiss the gospel out right:
God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you. Romans 2:24
As in Romans 2, they focus on the law: how many times is Leviticus and Sodom & Gomorrah quoted … and not grace? I am gaining more and more sympathy for the apostle Paul when he was debating the early Jewish converts to Christianity.

To the Christian reader, I beg of you, heed Christ's warning in Revelations 2:2-7:
... I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers*; ...But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen.

*Assuming, as some do, that being gay is a sin.

In my own conversion from heterosexism, the words “Remember from what you have fallen” really hit home: “But by the grace of God go I.” To my siblings in Christ: remember grace; it is by grace we are saved through faith; not by works so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

I therefore feel the label of a "gay theologian" unfair. Using it this way is to say that I'm also a "liberation theologian" for turning my back on the Biblical justification of Apartheid that I was brought up to believe.

In as much as I'm accused of a gay theology, I feel that others could be accused of a heterosexist theology.  My final authority is the Bible, not a presupposition, orthodox interpretation, particular doctrine or some social agenda.

I have to agree with the LGCM that those Christians who support discrimination of homosexuals ...
... have failed to engage with the experiences of the people which the equality Bill seeks to protect and which a rigid unyielding interpretation of Scripture and tradition continues to do violence to.
LGCM web site (7/2/2010 08:20) LGCM rejects Pope’s condemnation of the UK Equality Bill

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Hypocritical Christian Registrars

The Christian Institute is objecting to the fact that the Irish Civil Partnership bill does not allow for a conscience opt out clause for registrars.

The problem is where do you draw the line? Can a registrar refuse to register a baby born of unwed parents; can they refuse to register the marriage of a couple where at least one of the couple is a divorcee; can they refuse to register the marriage of a mixed race or religion couple?

In the end one could almost get out of doing the job entirely ... and be paid for it. Nice job if you can get it!!!

A registrar is a civil role and it is their job to register that which the law allows. Otherwise, one needs to get another job.

To refuse to perform a civil partnership but willing to register the other heterosexual "sins" is hypocritical.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Haiti - A Modern Sodom and Gomorrah?

A personal note:

It has taken me a while to blog on the Haiti situation, not because I did not think it important. It is just that the last week has really pushed the boundaries of my faith as I reflected on the destruction and human suffering. I have also not edited out some of the humour. It is not meant to be disrespectful of the suffering nor I hope will it detract from the overall sincerity and sadness that is pervasive in my thoughts. The satire and parody still make some points: "many a true word said in jest." Yesterday, the BBC ran an article that reflects some of the conflict that has been in my mind: Why does God allow natural disasters?

A week ago as the destruction of the Earthquake in Haiti became apparent on the Internet and on news channels. It has filled the front page newspaper columns for days. I found myself wondering if we could all pause, put our differences aside and respond to our common humanity.

Not so! Within hours I hear that the Rev. Pat Robinson was highlighting God's judgement on the people of Haiti for a pact they made with the devil to over throw their French slave masters. It was as if he was saying the earthquake was some form of a modern Sodom and Gomorrah for something that happened 200 years ago.

Silly me; this is a much more reasonable explanation than plate tectonics could ever be!

The Internet came alive with people cursing Christians and their God.

Blaspheming the Name Of God

One atheist commentator wrote that God must have been aiming for the gays in New Orleans but missed. I appreciate that to many Christians, this is blasphemy. However, the Bible does warn in Romans 2:24 that if believers keep quoting the Law at others, they will blaspheme the name of God.

I recently read this in an on line debate:
Some time back, a pastor friend shared how someone from Rainbow Coalition had contacted his church for funding for AIDS awareness. His response can be found in Romans 1:24-32.
I know, it took my breath away when I read that to!

It’s a pity this person's "pastor" did not continue reading Romans into chapter 2. He may have found something to consider himself: Romans 2:3-4 and verse 24 above. Yes, statements such as Pat Robinson and this person's pastor quite rightly provoke the response non-Christians have towards the Gospel and Christians these days. I'm afraid us Christians sometimes bring it on ourselves!
Aside: As for HIV, I really wish some Christians would stop trying to shock people with scaremongering and creating moral panic. HIV is quite an equitable virus. It does not mind if you are straight or gay. Interesting, the HIV infection rate in Lesbians is one of the lowest in the world. HIV is God's judgement on homosexuals? I think not!
Thank God For Science

I also have to admire Pastor Pat's grasp of modern macroeconomics:
  • Haiti - sinners therefore poor
  • Dominican Republic (next door) - righteous therefore rich
There I spent years in boring macroeconomics lectures studying Keynes, when all I need to do was open my Bible.

Fortunately we live in a time when science has been able to explain plate tectonics and economics. There is little need to triviliase life this way.  I thank God for the scientists & others who have been able to answer many questions and explain more each day of how nature works and society functions.

These discoveries have been an immense blessing to humanity, especially in the form of modern medicines, forms of media that make us aware of crisis situations, and the ability to fly aid there so fast.

However, science has not answered all the questions yet. We still do not know how to predict these occurances.

God's Blessings On The Righteous Only?

If this was a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, what then of Christian workers who lost their lives? Why did God not arrange for a Lot type exit from Haiti on Aerof-lot? If anyone did turned back to look at the destruction ... well you would have more salt for those awful peanuts they server just after take off.

Indeed in as much as the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous, so to do natural disasters affect us all.

Without plate tectonics we would not have land to live on, minerals would not come up from under the earth to fertilise our crops and feed use, and we would not have magnificent mountains and scenery to appreciate.

What Was God Thinking?

However, I do not know why God uses the potentially destructive plate tectonics to grant us these benefits. Why would God allow this planet to evolve this way? Surely God could have arranged for the same benefits in a less risky way?

We need to be honest: we do not know. The Bible reminds us that God is sovereign and in control. God does not miss. God is ordering all things to the good of those who love God and are called according to God's purpose.

Timing Is Everything

Yes, the Christian understanding is that creation is fallen and broken. Most suffering is because we have rebelled against God and in the process hurt each other.

These doctrines may help explain the macroeconomics situation. However, they do not easily explain natural disasters.

Maybe natural disasters are a sign of God's judgement; maybe they are a reminder of the new heaven and the new Earth that is yet to come? The Bible has this consistent dichotomy between a holy and just God on the one hand who holds us accountable for the freewill we have been given; and a loving and merciful God on the other who forgives us for misusing our freewill. I have always maintained that we can never fully appreciate God's mercy and love without first understanding God's holiness and justice.

However to highlight these doctrines by using the suffering in another country is to deny our common humanity; our common ability to do the things we aught not to do, and not do the things we aught to do.

To highlight these doctrines in light of a particular social agenda at this time lacks sensitivity. Pat Robinson and others have been doing it with their conservative - almost capitalist - agenda.  The gay rights lobby could also do this: Haiti is dominantly a Catholic country that has denied gay people legal recognition of their long term relationships. Would it be appropriate for gay rights lobby therefore to say this was God's judgement on them for their intolerance? Most certainly not!

In the end - to the independent observer - it would appear that God is indecisive or confused in cause. We should not try and tell people what we think is going on in God's mind.

To highlight these doctrines at such a time is like a sermon on hell at a funeral and a discussion of divorce in the best man's speech.

Where is God?

We are left asking, why does God not do anything about it? The answer is that God has - in Christ's atonement on the cross.

For some they may feel this is not enough. They want more direct action.  However as pointed out in the BBC article at the beginning, if God did, it would take away our own responsibility and free-will.

The story goes of a man who is told by a passer-by to leave his house as flood waters are coming. He says to the person that God will help him; there is no need to worry.
The flood waters do come and the man has to climb onto the roof of his house. Someone comes by in a boat and offers to rescue the man. The man responds again, that he has faith in God and there is nothing to worry about. He turns down the offer.
The flood waters rise and become torrential. No boat can save him now. Fortunately, a helicopter flys by and offers to rescue him. Again he shouts back, that he believes in God and that there is nothing to worry about. He pushes the hoist away.
The flood waters rise even more, covering the house and the man is swept away to his death.
When he gets to heaven, he is angry with God. "I was faithful! Why did you not save me?" he remonstrates. God says, "I sent you a person to warn you. I then sent you a boat; followed by a helicopter. What more did you want?"
God is working His will through us and everyday things. We sometimes cannot see it or understand it. The Bible teaches us that God is just and fair. Even when we cannot understand, we continue to work with what God has given us to answer the questions we have.

In concluding this blog I realise that I'm still left with more questions than I have answers. While I desire a rational explanation, I need to be humble and leave room in my mind for God to be God. This is not a blind faith. I'm not called to be obsequious in my following of Christ. My faith is based on knowledge of a sovereign, just, merciful and loving God; a faith that waits patiently for all things to be revealed.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

"Homosexuality Can Be Cured"?!?

A video has been doing the rounds among conservative Christians affirming that the American Psychological Association (APA) maintain that homosexuality can be cured; that "change is possible".

This is very misleading and contains a lot of dis-information.

It would be more accurate to described the video clip as, "Two psychologists find homosexuals can adopt heterosexual behaviour and only in some cases," as mentioned in the video. I still find nothing in this video that suggests they successfully altered people's sexual identity; they only were able to achieve a change in some of their behaviour. This is an important distinction.

The video is particularly misleading in that there is no mention of another more exhaustive study that was presented at the same conference.  This study was very critical of the claims that "change is possible".  I think it only fair to any reader here that they balance the video against this other study.  A CNN summary of the other larger study can be found here and the detail here.

This study noted the following:
  • Prior ex-gays studies did not indicate for whom change was possible, how long it lasted, and its long-term mental health effects.
  • change in behaviour was much less likely to be true for people who started out only attracted to people of the same sex.
  • Efforts to switch a person's sexual orientation through aversive treatments might cause harm, including loss of sexual feeling, suicidality, depression and anxiety.
  • Many who tried to change and failed "described their experiences as a significant cause of emotional and spiritual distress and negative self-image"
The video also fails to mention the following important statement:
"[The] Council of Representatives passed a resolution Wednesday urging mental health professionals not to recommend to their clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or any other methods."
The Jones Yarhouse paper presented at the APA conference in 2009 relates to the findings of their 2007 study.

Therefore, the larger APA study ("Therapeutic Response") includes the Jones Yarhouse 2007 study in its critique ... extensively.  I must admit, I do wonder why the APA allowed Dr. Jones to present the paper the Sunday after the Wednesday when the APA's own extensive study was presented. Maybe it was an olive branch? I do agree with Dr. Jones that the APA should not exclude research that is associated with religion. One's religion (system of belief) does inform much of one's behaviour and should be allowed in psychiatric research.

Here is more on their 2007 study, although I do admit that while these links are not reputable psychological responses, they do reference them:
What is interesting in the "Freedom To Be" link is that it appears that Yarhouse has changed his view slightly:
'At a Sept. 25 symposium at Regent, Yarhouse said — according to The Virginian-Pilot — that while same-sex attraction may be changeable in some individuals, not everyone can change.
'“For me, in my own practice, I would not focus on change of orientation,” said Yarhouse, a psychologist and counsellor who teaches at Regent, an evangelical Christian school. …
'Yarhouse’s study focused on those who said their same-sex attractions collided with their religious beliefs. He said his research found that there was “modest” movement away from homosexuality among some Exodus participants, but categorical conversions to heterosexuality were rare.
'Yarhouse recommended that counsellors avoid uniformly steering struggling gays toward heterosexuality and focus instead on the best outcome for the individual.
'That could include celibacy or exploring different faith groups with various attitudes toward gays and lesbians, he said.'
Indeed Dr. Yarhouse, change is possible; change of opinion is possible and I sincerely hope this change does filter through to other conservative Evangelical Christians!

Tolerating the Intolerant!

This week the UK gay rights group, Stonewall, published its list of the top gay-friendly UK employers. I was somewhat surprised that The Christian Institute (TCI) ran with the story highlighting the prominence of the various UK police forces.  TCI is a conservative Evangelical UK institution known for opposing  gay rights.

Unfortunately the TCI quickly switched the content to the recent investigations of Christians. Therefore in my opinion, although they do not say it out right, by implication that more gay people in the police force is leading to persecution of Christians; that the gay community has a vendetta against Christians; the police and society in general is becoming intolerant of Christians.

This is very disappointing to link persecution of Christians with the improvement of diversity in the police force this way. The two are unrelated.  The police are finally taking homophobic hate crime seriously - and so they should.

TCI Silence on the "Kill-The-Gays" Bill

I do think it a little rich to go on about tolerance when the TCI has said nothing (from what I can make out) on the Ugandan "Kill-The-Gays" bill. Sorry, but the TCI's silence is so deafening that one cannot hear its own complaint about intolerance.

Additionally, some the "Christian" comments on the TCI's Facebook page show little of the tolerance the TCI wants the police and others to show Christians. Postings there use pejorative terms, e.g., "perversion", "correct path", "sin", "immorality", etc. These terms are not in line with tolerance and they maintain stereotypes & prejudices (see below).

Tolerating Intolerance

I agree that some people in the gay community show hate & animosity towards Christians (I've been at the receiving end of it myself), and this is sometimes hypocritical.

However, what the TCI and others appear to be asking for is, "You need to be tolerant of my intolerance of you."

This discredits Christians immediately as they are bound to Christ's command, "Do to others as you would like them to do to you."

Therefore Christians cannot legitimately use the philosopher Rawl's statement that society must tolerate the intolerant:
Rawls concludes that a just society must be tolerant; therefore, the intolerant must be tolerated, for otherwise, the society would then itself be intolerant, and thus unjust. However, Rawls qualifies this conclusion by insisting ... that society and its social institutions have a reasonable right of self-preservation that supersedes the principle of tolerance. Hence, the intolerant must be tolerated but only insofar as they do not endanger the tolerant society and its institutions. 
Wikipedia (16/1/2010 20:33) Tolerance
Homosexuals vs Christians

The gay community are really saying that on tolerance, Christians need to take the log out of their eye before taking the spec of dust out of someone else's.

The vast majority of intolerance & prejudice I see today is still directed by the straight community at the gay community:
  • I hear much about people being subjected to homophobic bulling at school (whether they are gay or not) as "gay" is an acceptable pejorative word. I hear much of straight people who assault, rape & murder gays for just being who they are. I also hear many cases of people loosing their jobs or thrown out of their houses for being gay (by homophobic landlords, by law in the Ugandan "kill-the-gays" bill, or because they cannot afford the taxes when their partner dies).
  • I hear little of people bullied at school for just being straight or gay people assaulting, raping & murdering straight people just because they are straight. I hear very few situations of people loosing their jobs or being thrown out of their houses because they are straight or committed adultery.
Maybe that is why the gay community:
  • Remain suspicious of Christians & report them to the police.
  • Think Christians have "blood on their hands" until they break their silence on homophobia and heterosexism and, they accepted that they are responsible for feeding homophobia because of their pejorative views that homosexuality is an inherently evil sexuality & all same-sex behavior is wrong.
Jesus Confronted Sin

Yes, the Bible is replete with Jesus for one confronting sin ... of all sin. Even if one does accept that all same-sex behaviour is wrong, one is applying two standards maintaining that heterosexual behaviour is a private matter and that homosexual behaviour is a public matter (as some Christians maintain). I still cannot understand why some Christians feel that homosexuality is a special kind of sin ... if it is a sin?

Jesus was also without sin!  That placed him in a much stronger moral position to confront sin.

Additionally, the Christian right need to realise that not all Christians regard homosexuality as a sin. Secular society most certainly do not: their professional bodies will guide their assessment of what is right and wrong, e.g., The American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Workers and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. All of these organisations consistently state that homosexuality is not a choice.

But What Of Christian's Rights

On TCI's Facebook page, one of its supporters posted:
A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism. 'Very few people were true Nazis,' he said, 'but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.'
He then continues:
You can apply the above to militant Islam [sic], the rampant homosexual lobby [sic] or any other totalitarian ideology... but... its OUR silence that allows our FREEDOMS to disappear!
The scary thing is that the poster sounded so much like I did 10-15 years ago. I have learned to be careful with these types of arguments. I agree that Christians need to stand up for their faith ... as Christ commanded them to.

However, the Muslim and homosexual communities could also use this argument for their rights against "militant", "rampant" and "totalitarian [Christian] ideology" ... and others.

We live in a multi-cultural secular society where our respective rights will compete. I do not wish to live in a Muslim theocracy any more than a Muslim wants to live in a Christian theocracy.

This is why tolerance is so important. Tolerance does not mean that we acquiescingly condone the other person's belief system or views; that we are compromising our own beliefs.

We agree to disagree and respect each other's rights. We ensure that everyone is treated equally under the secular laws of the country.

However, Rawls' limit on tolerance (above) needs to be applied as it should have been with the Nazi's!

Gays Crying Wolf

At the same time, I do believe that the gay community does need to be careful they do not abuse their new found respect. They must be careful not to report any which incident they are offended at; otherwise they may find that the police no longer will take their complaints seriously when truly needed.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

"Should gays be executed?"

"Should homosexuals be executed?" was the opening question on the BBC' Word Service's Africa Have Your Say programme on 15 December 2009. It created a furore in the UK. The BBC quickly back peddled, ditching the offending title and replacing it with "Should Uganda debate gay execution?"

Too late ... the damage was done.  Apart from the hate parade that the BBC moderators allowed, many complained that their license fee should not be used to discuss the existence of a minority group.

The BBC then issued two apologies ... of sorts. The first was from David Stead and the second from Peter Horrocks.

Regrettably, the apologies amount to nothing more than, "We're sorry you were offended but we were right to do it." As such, I'm unable to accept the apology. In fact, I find it rather patronising as it makes out that myself and others are simply over reacting.

In one of the Facebook groups, someone posted:
"If it wasn't for the BBC world service you would probably not be aware of this gross human rights abuse, this alone makes it worth your licence fee."
Fore mostly I wish to make absolutely clear that I fully support debate on the Ugandan proposed Member's bill. However, I am completely against the manner in which the BBC went about it.  Like many others I was already aware of this bill's existence and the BBC did a huge disservice for gay rights in Africa.

While I agree that the editor attempted to place the question in context, by starting with the original question, they made a serious and contemptible error in judgement:

Firstly, for the Editors to even admit that they "thought long and hard about using this question which prompted a lot of internal debate", and then changed the question when people started objecting, smacks of incompetence and unprofessional-ism.

Secondly, neither the initial question nor the revised question had anything to do with the Ugandan Member's Bill. The bill calls for the death penalty in the case of aggravated Homosexual assault. Nor did the debate address the other significant issues in the bill, including:
  • the fact that a Ugandan committing a homosexual act in another country where it is legal, could be extradited back to Uganda to face prosecution; or
  • that friends and family members could be jailed for not reporting homosexual activity.
Surely then, if the intention was to foster debate as the Editor's "apology" claims, there were other more relevant points to use in a more responsible manner? Therefore, to me, this appears to be nothing more than a cheep and ill thought out attempt to grab headlines or attention.

Thirdly, the initial question is deeply rooted in a homophobic attitude that executing gay people for just being gay is even plausible and therefore debatable. All this did was give homophobic people a platform to voice their views in an semi-controlled manner. I did note that the BBC moderators even allowed generalised statements against homosexuals that had nothing to do with the Ugandan issue.

Finally, posing the question, "Should homosexuals be executed?", risks normalising the question. It should always remain heinous and never up for debate. Jennie Kermode's article makes this point very well.

If you think my objection disproportional, then I would like to refer to the BBC's  Brand/Ross/Sachs issue: Brand was fired, Ross sanctioned and others lost their jobs. Yet they only insulted one person. However, the BBC still defends their decision to debate if an entire group of people should be executed for a characteristic they have no control over.

The BBC would never run a poll on whether Jews should be bombed as a solution to the Palestinian issue! Yet again, the BBC has demonstrated that they regard gay rights as the black sheep in the equality fold; paying more sensitivity to others. So much for impartiality.

The problem with brushing something under the carpet is that it leaves a bump for people to trip over later. Within three weeks the BBC had to revise another headline: "Malawi gay couple to face justice after engagement"! This time the change was replacing "justice" with "court". While this may not be the same order of magnitude as the "execute gays" fiasco, for this lack of impartiality to reoccur so soon just beggars belief!

I concur entirely with Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, the gay rights organisation,
"Given the near invisibility of so many gay issues from BBC news and current affairs - including recent murders of gay people - it does seem odd that the BBC should invite people to contribute to their web forum asking if gay people should face execution. It is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain the idea that the BBC should receive £230 million from lesbian and gay licensee fee payers every year".
I feel strongly that even an out right apology is not sufficient. This was a very serious error of judgement and those responsible should be disciplined. I do not wish to have my license fee funding such debates nor the salaries of editors and producers who thought long and hard over it.

At the time of writing this blog, the BBC had issued no further apology nor taken any further action. OFCOM the regulator has written back to me stating they cannot deal with the issue and referred me to the BBC Trust.  I've already written to the Trust and still awaiting their response.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Are Consensual Incestuous Adult & Consensual Gay Relationships Ethically Comparable?

In one of my previous blogs, I stated that
While some Christians and others may feel that same-sex behaviour based on loving, committed and consensual relationships still is a sin, it remains entirely inappropriate, prejudicial and unjust to compare these with abusive, domineering, non-consensual and selfish behaviours.
Is Homosexuality a Simple Choice?
Someone challenged me that not all loving & consensual relationships are ethical, such as consensual incestuous adult relationships, and they argued that consensual incestuous relationships are a valid ethical comparison to loving & consensual gay relationships. To this end, it may be worth taking some time to consider how one establishes something to be right or wrong: ethics.

However, it is not my intention in this blog to discuss the detailed ethics of consensual adult incest ... nor to get drawn into one! Rather, the purpose of this blog is to show that consensual & loving homosexual relationships cannot and should not be compared ethically with consensual incestuous adult relationships.

Please recall from my previous post that I maintain homosexuality is a sexual orientation and the sexual identity part of this is not a simple choice. It is a human characteristic. Some aspects of our sexual orientation, how we behave according to that sexual identity, have elements of choice.

Incest (and specifically for this discussion consensual adult incest) is a sexual behaviour and this behaviour is true for heterosexuals, bisexuals and homosexuals.  The Guardian Newspaper featured two articles in 2002 and 2003 on this subject.

1) Non-Religious Ethics

Let's begin to consider the issue of consensual & loving adult incest using non-Religious ethics:
Ethics (also known as moral philosophy) is a branch of philosophy which seeks to address questions about morality; that is, about concepts like good and bad, right and wrong, justice, virtue, etc.
2010 Wikipedia Ethics
To keep this short I'm going to use the modern branches of ethics as the post-modern forms tend to be more academic: Consequentialism and Deontology. Granted, these are big words like “marmalade”.

1.1) Consequentialism
If we take the perspective of Consequentialism (the end justified the means), we need to look at the third-party consequences of consensual adult incest: high birth defects and low survival rates of the off spring. Using Consequentialism I would therefore conclude that consensual adult incest is wrong. Challenging this view would be modern contraceptive techniques that may prevent children from being conceived. It is also difficult to use Consequentialism when assessing the ethics of same-sex consensual adult incest: it is unlikely that a child will be conceived.

1.2) Deontology
Deontology determines the goodness or rightness from examining acts, rather than third-party consequences of the act as in Consequentialism, or the intentions of the person doing the act as in virtue ethics. In this case,  one would consider the intentions of the consensual adults in moving from existing loving family relationships into a sexual relationship. The existing loving non-sexual family relationships have responsibilities and moving from these into sexual relationships is where I believe the crux of the ethical discussion is.

What is it that causes two people to move from loving each other within the bounds of a family relationship to being “in love” with each other?

However, this discussion is way too complex to go into here.

All the consensual and loving homosexual behaviours that I know of, are similar to the vast majority of heterosexual relationships and do not have the element of an existing loving family relationship. Nor do homosexual relationships risk the birth of a child likely to have abnormalities or a shortened life span. Therefore loving & consensual gay relationships cannot not be compared with consensual adult incestuous relationships. Non-incestuous consensual and loving homosexual relationships are more akin to heterosexual non-incestuous, consensual and loving relationships. Therefore, the ethical comparison remains strictly at this level.

2) Christian Ethics

Personally, I am a Christian and, being a Reformed Evangelical Christian, the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” governs my arguments on ethics. “Sola Scriptura” maintains that the Bible is the only infallible and inerrant authority for Christian faith, and that it contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. As a person redeemed by Christ's atonement on the cross, I need to bring all aspects of my thinking and actions, in fact every aspect of my life, under that redemption. This includes ethical decisions. (There are other Christian ethical frameworks but I'm going to use the one I'm familiar with.)

Beginning with the Scriptures then, the following link outlines the Bible verses pertaining to incest and in some of the verses, consensual adult incest:

You will notice however, that there are instances where consensual adult incest occurred and therefore the Bible appears to contradict itself, as it does on polygamy/bigamy (e.g., King David and King Solomon). The New Testament also says extremely little on consensual incestuous relationships (only Herod Antipas and John the Baptist).

As a side, it is interesting that this same issue of marrying your brother's wife was the instigator of the English Reformation when Henry VIII wanted his marriage with Catherine of Aragon, his brother's wife, annulled.
As a person who believes in the infallibility and in-errancy of the Scriptures, I need to consider the anthropology and sociology of the time (as mentioned in one of my previous posts) to explain these apparent contradictions. We have to understand the purpose of Jewish patriarchal social and cleanliness laws in Leviticus & Deuteronomy. We need to understand these in light of the ancient Jewish understanding of property rights and how the family structure was key to these rights. It was after all a Jewish theocracy. We also need to consider the concept of endogamy prevalent at the time (and in some cases still today): “the practice of marrying within a specific ethnic group, class, or social group, rejecting others on such bases as being unsuitable for marriage or other close personal relationships.”

Indeed, the concept of incest as we know it today only came about circa 1200AD and is difficult to compare entirely with the ancient concept of “incest”. Therefore, as a Reformed Evangelical Christian, where the Bible is not clear on modern ethical issues, I need to revert to the overall governing principle: how does one's behaviour (thought and actions) reflect on one's love for God, on one's love for other human beings and on oneself (Matthew 22:37-40). Additionaly we may refer to other principles established elsewhere in Scripture. However, we need to be careful about not being too dogmatic when we need to rely on other related principles.

This overall governing principle includes both the concepts of “consequence” and “intent”, and therefore it is not dissimilar to the non-religious ethical frameworks of Consequentialism and Denotology above.

Therefore, even using my Christian ethical framework I can only justify that the ethical comparison between heterosexual and homosexual loving and consensual relationships. I cannot justify the ethical comparison with adult consensual incest.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Is all Homosexual activity unnatural, does it exist in nature, and is it a threat to the human species?

In my previous two blogs I set out why I believe that homosexuality (as a sexual orientation) is not a simple choice; that we have to distinguish between sexual identity and sexual behaviour; how some sexual behaviours have elements of choice; and that the Bible is not clear in its condemnation of homosexuality. In this blog I wish to tackle the arguments that homosexuality is unnatural as it does not occur in nature, the related argument that if homosexuality goes unchecked it will be a threat to the human species, and that the Bible regards it as unnatural.

1. Homosexuality in Nature

It is not true that homosexuality does not occur in nature and therefore is unnatural as some would have us believe. This topic is eloquently handled in a New Scientist article. In this article they establish that Homosexuality does occur quite regularly in nature and there a various evolutionary reasons why this may occur.

I have to agree with the editorial on this article that homosexuality in nature is not a guide to morality. It it first and foremost a basic human rights issue!

2. Homosexuality Threatens The Human Species

Nor can homosexuality be a threat to the species. Depending which figures you refer to, the gay population is between 3%-4% of the populace; other figures state that it may be slightly higher, between 8%-10%. Irrespective, there is little chance that this will threaten the human species because not enough people are procreating. This also erroneously assumes that gay couples will not want children. There are several modern options available to gay couples wanting their own children (other ethical and moral issues aside).

Therefore, this is just plain scaremongering: some conservatives would have us believe that one's sexuality is a choice and, therefore many more people could easily choose homosexuality and not procreate. As we do not choose our sexual orientation it is therefore not possible for heterosexuals to become homosexual and visa versa.

3. Theological View

In my first blog on whether or not homosexuality is simple choice, I touched on the one aspect of the theological argument that homosexuality is unnatural as it is against God's design. Here I wish to examine why some argue that Leviticus and Romans do state that homosexuality is unnatural.

3.1 Leviticus
Many feel that as Leviticus regards same-sex male penetrative sex (note: female same-sex behaviour is not covered in these verses) as an abomination; that it is therefore regarded as unnatural. It is incorrect to translate the original Hebrew words "shiqquwts" into the English word "abomination". The Hebrew word in Leviticus means "unclean" and not "unnatural". It relates to Jewish laws of cleanliness. If one were to accept that "abomination" equates to "unnatural", then a Christian should not eat shell fish or any of the other "unnatural" foods either.

Remember, that these cleanliness laws no longer apply. With respect to the prohibition on unclean food, in Peter's vision in Acts 10:11-15, God tells him not to regard as unclean that God has made clean. Additionally Christ is the fulfillment of the laws in Leviticus (Mat 5:17).

3.2 Romans
The use of "unnatural" in Romans 1:26-27, as else where in Romans (Rom 11:21,24), pertains to people behaving "against their own nature", not "against nature".

"... the text does not condemn homosexual acts by homosexuals, rather "homosexual acts committed by heterosexual persons" [...] or heterosexuals who "abandoned" or "exchanged" heterosexuality for homosexuality ..."
As I discussed in a previous blog, while I do not regard one's sexual identity as a simple choice, I do believe that aspects of one's sexual behaviour are a choice. For example, in a prison where there is a lack of the opposite sex, heterosexuals may adopt homosexual behaviours but when they are released they revert back to heterosexual behaviours. Their underlying sexual identity has not changed.

The Roman's verses are also in the context of idolatry and therefore more likely to relate to temple prostitution when people were having sex with the gods, deities or angels.
"Paul is condemning specific types of homosexual activity (such as temple prostitution or pederasty) rather than a broader interpretation..."
The idea of sex with deities or angels is regarded as sin: the cause of Noah's flood and the reason why Lot (a righteous man) offered his daughters to be raped by the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. (Therefore, is a Sodomite not technically a person who wants to have sex with an angel and not one man with another?) Furthermore, it is interesting that the original Greek in Jude 1:17 refers to sexual immorality of Sodom & Gomorrah as lusting after "another flesh" - few translations such as the NIV even reference this in a foot note. Others do include it, such as the NASB.