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.