Changing my mind

June 15, 2006

I am a frequent poster on the Rev. Susan Russell's An Inch at a Time blog.  And, as we've discussed the issues facing the Epsicopal Church – I've always- ALWAYS- come down on the side of a broad church with room for all- a fully inclusive church.  My reading of the Bible combined with my experience of God tells me that inclusion is just the way it works.

Lately, though, I've been troubled.

I know that anxieties are running high.  Even my own are.  General Convention is only one of my reasons for stress right now- I'm moving in 4 weeks, 1 day, 23 hours, and counting… Work is crazy, I've got a million things still going on at church to wrap up before I go, I'm planning a "going away" party for the kids and me to say good-bye to our friends, and, and, and…  So I will caveat everything by saying that my tolerance meter is running low, and I could just as easily change my mind back again tomorrow.  Or next week.  Or next month.

But given that anxieties are running high, what I see is the worst in some people.  Not all people, but some.  I have heard every argument, I think, that exists- rational or not- on both sides of the "issue" of homosexuality.  The most striking was one blogger, who tried to convince me that the Bible took an absolute stand that slavery was moral and that society has changed to make it unjust– his position is that there is nothing wrong if slavery returns so long as slaveowners treat their slaves properly!  How do we move forward as a church in a discussion with deeply held convictions like that?

In moderating several sites for the convention or related to the Church, I have had to purge the most filthy and disgusting, intolerant garbage by posters who have no respect for humanity at all.  Some of it contains the filth of David Virtue's stuff I wrote about a few days ago- obsession over the "tingly body parts."  One post on one site just put a comment under a lesbian's post that said "Big fat dyke."  Wow.  Is that Christian?  Can we not see that any position of the church that endorses unequal treatment of all also endorses hatred?  Also endorses discrimination and intolerance?  Also feeds hate, homophobia, and contempt?  It allows people to de-humanize "us" drawing a line between "us" and "them".  As the Claiming the Blessing Voices of Witness video shows, we have committed as a church for over 30 years NOT to do that.

I have observed in all of this that there are two kinds of people- or at least people that have two different attributes to one personality characteristic, because there are in fact about 6 billion kinds of people.  The two sides of that personality trait are 1) linear/goal based thinking, and 2) process/relational based thinking.  I don't place a value judgement on either one in itself.  I believe there are people with both character traits on both sides of this issue.  And I think the people speaking loudest on both sides are the folks with goal based thinking- I can't remember which trait this is on Myers-Briggs but it is in there somewhere.

The combination of that trait with a conservative theology is a resulting belief that all things can be known.  That we can know the truth and the whole trust so help us God.  So then the discussion breaks down into a "defend the truth at all costs" argument because if one argument fails the whole house of cards collapses.  Relationship is less important than order/goals (My friend is in town and doesn't want to go to church.  I guess I will have to leave her at home and go by myself.).  Meeting a goal is paramount- the goal could be keeping the peace through rules, making relationship through going to the parish pot lucks, etc.  It is less about the journey and more about the destination– if I head off through the forest I need to find the best way to get to the other side and start marching steadily with as few distractions as possible.  It is about finding answers.  The rules become very important because the rules define their theology, their sense of order, how they make sense out of the world, how they keep stability in an unstable world.  They define God by the rules that they believe God imposes on society.

The other side of the personality trait is the process/relational side.  With this personality trait, rules aren't as important.  Structure is less important than relationships, peace.  Relationships come in less structured ways, but are more important than specific goals.  (I'd love to go to church, but my friend is in town and she doesn't want to go so I'll stay with her.)  It is more about the journey than the destination– if I head off through the forest, who cares if I get to the other side because I may see so many wonderful things on the way?  It is less about finding the right answers then it is about asking the right questions.

So- what is my big change of heart?  My change of heart is this- I am unusual, because by birth I am more process/relational, but through my life experience I have learned to be linear/goal related.  So I can debate and be rational with the best of them, but at my heart I am relational.  That means that I don't really need all the rules.  I don't care if the rules make sense.  I can argue the sense of them all, but my heart guides my actions, not my head.  So all this arguing is distracting from that.  And, when somebody tells me that slavery is ok, I can't argue with that.  I can't continue that dialogue.  How could I possibly?  That is such complete nonsense.  When somebody tries to tell me that the advocacy of gay rights causes people to die because of AIDS, how could I argue with that?  Again, nonsense.

My own opinion is that Jesus was more relational than goal oriented.  My own opinion is that Christianity, at its best, is relational- relationship oriented.  At its worst, it is rule-based.  Christ repeatedly repudiated the religious authorities for being to rule-centric.  All the law and the prophets hang off of love, Jesus said.  That's relationship.

I don't mean to say that we have to change our personalities to be Christians.  But we can't be so rigid about them that we don't hear.  Dialogue takes a willingness on both sides to listen.  I was once in a retreat on "Talking Across the Divide."  The speaker said that in order to dialogue in this kind of environment it is very important to believe that each party has at least a little piece of the truth that the other party doesn't yet have.

I firmly believe that.  It may be a really small piece, but I believe it.  But when the other party doesn't believe it, and will go to any length-even justifying slavery or connecting the AIDS mortality rate to gay rights- it is difficult to stay connected.

And staying connected is what the church is about.  I would love for TEC to remain a part of the Anglican Communion.  But to do that, the Anglican Communion has to want us to be a part of it.  I would love for the Orthodox minority in TEC to stay a part of the the Episcopal Church.  But they have to be willing to talk.  Not to change, but to talk.

I have always said it was a mistake to let the Network leave without trying very hard to keep them in.  Right now, as of this moment, I have changed my mind.  Maybe something will happen tomorrow that will change it back.  But right now it feels like they are holding us back from our mission.  They don't believe "we" have any of the truth.  I believe they add something valuable to our common life, but they don't think I add anything valuable.  That means the debate is done.

I have always said it is important to stay a part of the Anglican Communion.  Right now, as of this moment, I still do.  But I also am less willing right now to compromise.  We took an ethical stand in 2003.  We took a stand for peace and justice.  Do we back down because some people don't get it?  Do we change our minds because of homophobia?  If this had been an issue of, say, feeding the poor, and the rest of the communion felt "a status of impaired communion" over it, would we feel like it would be justified to stop feeding the poor in order to maintain ties with our brothers and sisters?  I hope not.  Nor should we now.  We should continue on our quest to feed the good news of Christ to all.  And, we should make it clear that we do not see it as an "either/or" of being in Communion.  If the Communion feels the need to get rid of us- well, we'll have to leave that in God's hands.

To be clear, I'm not taking a position that we inclusionists get accused of, which is to include everybody except those who disagree with inclusion.  I'm just saying that those who don't agree should be free to leave.  But hurry up, please, and quit threatening and let us know what your plan is.  I've got a hair appointment and I want to make sure I don't miss the going away party.  (I'm not really that crass- it will be a sad day, but more and more a necessary one.  And the longer we go with threats of leaving and without actually leaving the worse off we are.  Either poop or get off the pot.)

I like the words of a theologian who visited All Saints a few weeks ago.  In response to a question on a different topic about the culture war in America and the takeover of the Religious Right in politics, she said "I do not know if we are called to win this struggle.  But I know that we are called to take action against it."  I think the same is true of the fight for gay and lesbian equality.  We must stake our claim.  We must hold our ground.  We must trust in God.  We must move forward and not back.  God will handle the rest.  To do anything else is un-Christian.

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36 Responses to “Changing my mind”

  1. obadiahslope Says:

    I think it might be helpful to think through the exerecise that ++Sentamu gave to one of the deleghates at your GC. Imagine that the communion was not faced with the current issue but rather a province llowing lay presidency.
    the communion might apply the windsor step of calling for a moratorium of holding lay presidency services, and to stop authorising lay presidency people.
    as in the case with TEc the province would not be asked to change its mind by effect a pause in certain activity until a consensus emerges in the communion.
    I would be interested in your thoughts.

  2. Jeff Says:

    Thanks for commenting.

    I appreciate the attempt of the Archbishop of York. What it misses is the sins of the past of the church. It allows them to continue. It tries to compare apples and oranges. It compares the removal of a splinter in the fingertip to the amputation of an arm. The pain is much different.

    The experience of being gay, of coming out, of being different, of being discriminated against, of coming to terms with one’s own true self– is paramount to nearly every single gay person of faith that I have met. To learn to walk in faith with Jesus when we are cast against the institutions that support Jesus requires a tremendous amount of faith.

    To compare that trust and faith with the trust and faith required of a laity vs clergy comparison misses the point entirely. It shows the Archbishop of Yorks lack of understanding of what this issue is about. It shows the lack of understanding in the communion of what our experience is as GLBT people. For that I think the responsibility falls on both the shoulders of the other to listen with open hearts, ears, and minds, and on us to speak with honesty, integrity, and love. Without that understanding the “consensus” that is so often referred to will never emerge.

    So the short answer is that I do not believe that “waiting” is the right answer. But I won’t be upset enough to leave the church if “waiting” is what the answer is. I trust enough in community, in the Holy Spirit, to know that whatever answer we come up with is God’s answer. And I am not narrow-minded enough to think that this is the final answer. God always wins– therefore we have already won through God (not “we” the GLBT community, but “we” all of creation). God is always for the least of these. God is for all of us. What happens here doesn’t matter. Whether or not I live to see the victory is in God’s hands.

  3. obadiahslope Says:

    With respect i think the difficulty is that there are two conversations going on. One is the discussion you want to have about inclusion. The other is how do we set up a process to resolve disptes in our communion.
    I think you can talk about both – but not at the same time and place – that’s what the windsor “process’ is all about.

  4. Jeff Says:

    That’s exactly the problem with Windsor. It’s like trying to talk about how to end the civil war without talking about slavery.

    You can’t separate the two.

    Like I said, I will not leave over the issue, but I am deeply disappointed as an Anglican with it. See my post later this afternoon entitled “Choosing Hope.”

  5. obadiahslope Says:

    ISTM that the inclusion debate and the idea of “listening” to GLBT peope was taken up at succeeding Lambeth Conferences. The “left” of TEC has a strong argument to make about this.
    Your GC is welcome to address those Lambeth events specifically if it desires.
    The Windsor report touches the inclusion question on the question of how rapidly change may happen. I agree there is cross over there. but the WR doesnt offer an opinion of whether GLBT inclusion is a bad or a good thing – and conservatives are frustrated by this too.
    Your GC has the opportunity to agree, disagree with or ignore Windsor. In turn the AC and ABC are free to respond to what you decide.
    I suspect what the GC is trying to say is – we want to move ahead with inclusion.
    We also want to be seen as supporting Windsor (at least without resiling from what the GC did in 2003).
    Whether you can do both is the tough question that Mark at http://www.anglicanfuture.blogspot.com is grappling with.

  6. obadiahslope Says:

    As for your civil war analogy…it is a brave Australian that will seek to talk to an American about this topic. Let me extend the anology and say that it is like Lincoln running the war and writing the constitution at the same time. Impossible i know and that is part of our problem.

  7. Jeff Says:

    Yes, I hope that GC is trying to say that we want to move ahead with inclusion.

    As with Women’s ordination, I’m not sure that it is possible to move forward together at the same pace. We have to move forward independently as autonomous provinces. Even with TEC, dioceses and parishes move forward at different paces. That is the problem with the “Covenant” concept. That was the beauty of the original design of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, and the first Lambeth conference. How we have deviated so far from it is beyond me- I’m no historian on Anglican polity.

    Thanks for forwarding Mark Harris’ posts. I read them occassionally but the most recent pieces help me in several regards.

    On the civil war- I think it is more like trying to re-write the constitution during the war than writing it. We already had everything we needed to stay in communion, from what I have seen. The quadrilateral lays out a strong foundation for how to do that. The history of the church and tradition of how we resolve differences show how to do it.

    I really think it was a LACK of commitment to that vision- that credal foundation instead of doctrinal foundation- that lead us here. It is clear that the majority of the communion wants “doctrinal singularity” or something. That, to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t been our tradition back to the days of Elizabeth I bringing Catholic and Protestant together in one Book of Common Prayer. If we must start that singular doctrine now, I would argue that we are rewriting, not writing, our constitution– the very fabric, of our church.

    Windsor ignores that. The Conservatives see it differently, although I don’t understand how. All they talk about is “Scriptural Tradition,” ignoring that there have been different “Scriptural Traditions” on a variety of topics for 2000 or more years. Thinking of it rationally, without the heart that so longs for this issue to be behind us and makes me sad, without the compassion for our church which makes me want to reconcile, but thinking of it only rationally- it makes me laugh. It is really quite amazing how fanatical a position the conservatives hold. Unless I’ve got my facts wrong, which is always quite possible.

  8. obadiahslope Says:

    Jeff,
    You put the liberal catholic view well. I would argue that the evangelical school of Anglicanism has been present since the Elizabethan settlement too. It is strong in some provinces, weak in others like TEC.

    I would see the 39 articles as more central than you would, and the quadraliteral as the basis of dealing with churches outside the communion – which is why it was written.

    If I were to be critical – it would be to say that you assume your tradition is the whole rather than part of anglicanism.

    But i could have my facts wrong too.

  9. jf mckenna Says:

    Jeff

    sorry about the stuff that’s gross; I’m responsible for some of that. but there’s an aspect of justice that cannot be addressed with clarity until the activities of homosexuals and the consequences of those activities are mentioned. it’s a matter of justice that people are being led into a way of life that will shorten their lives. it’s a matter of justice that milllions of Americans are at risk of this. it’s a matter of justice that what many of them will do will have a disastrous impact on the lives of others — their partners. if I hated gays, in fact, I’d encourage them to go into these activities full blast.

  10. Jeff Says:

    Hi JF –

    I was so hoping you would comment, thank you. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get you in a dialogue. Hope you will read my direct response to your posts, which is filed on this blog under the post Self-Esteem, Six-Year-Olds, and David Virtue.

    After reading the posts that you’ve submitted on Susan’s blog, I tried to address each point that you raised in that blog.

    I understand your points, but as I mention in that article I think you are misdirected. I am gay and I do not have any diseases. Homosexuality does not lead to death.

    I think it must be very hard for straight people to relate to this, but please try. Gay people are not “lead” into being gay- it is simply a part of who we are. We fight for most of the first part of our lives– sometimes for all of our lives- to be “lead” into being straight. Note that my definition of being gay does not involve sex. “Gay” is an orientation, it is not a sex act. It involves a whole approach, and outlook on life. Imagine if you could not introduce your wife at a party without getting funny looks. Imagine if you could not go on a date in public without holding hands. Imagine if you could not walk up a pretty girl and ask her for a date because you did not know if she was even a possibility or not- that she might just hit you, beat the tar out of you, for even asking. These are just a few of the many things that are involved in being gay. Sex really is one of the most minor issues. The major issue is the loving, compassionate relationships that we form as caring adults. The discrimination we face as a result of the misinformation fed by the religious right to the public- information such as the stuff you were quoting.

    Speaking of which, even if I had AIDS, which I’m assuming is the main disease you are talking about, there are more people in the world who are heterosexual who have AIDS then homosexual. Where is your compassion for them when you speak of AIDS as punishment of some kind? You have not proved your correlation between behavior and punishment. The facts you have quoted are just inaccurate as I’ve described in my post. I think somebody has just given you some bad information. I hope you will rethink your position.

    Also, if you are the one who keeps submitting these anonymous posts to Susan’s blog that infer such a correlation, I’d appreciate it if you and I could dialogue about it here (or even through email) and then come to an agreement about what kind of material you will post to Susan’s blog. It has really placed a big burden on Susan to have to moderate all the comments.

    You can reach me at jeffhaukguard-blog@yahoo.com, or post a response online to the David Virtue piece.

    I look forward to dialogue with you on the subject.

    j

  11. jf mckenna Says:

    As for the question of "who you are," my sister has a genetic condition that has kept her in an institution all her life. That doesn't mean that's who she is or that it's healthy. As for being led into it, I just mean that some people are encouraging others to act on it. I don't care whether it's a natural inclination or not, any more than I care about that regarding pedophilia; all that matters is consequences. As for AIDS, that's just one of many problems. Here are the others:
    {edited out by Jeff due to graphic and irrelevant information}

  12. Jeff Says:

    JF –

    First, we've got to come to some understanding about the material you are posting. There is a way to get your message across without being so graphic. Your graphic language detracts from the point you are trying to make. I will continue to dialogue with you because I am taking the risk that you truly want to understand why my position does not see the merit of your position. But to keep using the same repetitive graphic language about bodily conditions isn't helping the discussion.

    Next- there may or may not be a correlation between gay men, lesbians, and certain medical conditions. I am not a doctor and I do not claim to know. What I do know is that your argument that medical conditions are a reason for people not to exist are problematic. African-americans have a higher incidence of a large variety of health problems, ranging from colon problems to anemia. My doctor once suggested to me that while incidences of colon problems had a strong correlation to race, it is not known what the cause is. Is it because of the genetic makeup itself? Is it because of the cultural bias that puts more fast food restaurants in black neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods? Is it something else? We don't know the cause. We only know that there is a correlation. They are very different things.

    Your argument would suggest that the correlation would have them somehow change races? Ridiculous. As ridiculous as arguing that the correlation between the health issues you discuss and homosexuality are enough to somehow have us change orientations.  A "lack of choice" has no bearing on one's predisposition to circumstances that may lead to health problems, you argue. That just isn't the case.  It isn't the case for African-American's predisposed for anemia, or liver problems, or colon problems.  It isn't the case for gays and lesbians, if we are in fact predisposed to certain medical problems.

    As for comparing homosexuality to the mentally ill, pedophilia, or any other mental illness- ludicrous. The American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the American Pediatric Association- they all disagree with you. David Virtue would argue that the APA's decision was political. But they reaffirmed their decision in 1992, 1997, 1998 and maybe even more since then. That's too many times to be political in my book. Even if you dismiss the APA, there are at least two other major medical associations who support the inclusion of homosexuality as a normative part of the human experience. These are the same doctors you quote for your statistics trying to invalidate our experience.

    Rather I think that the psychological experience of those would listen to blind and literal reading of sections of the Bible in isolation from other sections of the Bible, and listen to them in isolation from the community which the Holy Spirit has nurtured into a loving and accepting place is what needs to be examined.

    What is it that you fear by the acceptance of the gay and lesbian community? You have nothing to lose. God has nothing to lose. We have only to win the smile of God by the increasing acceptance of the evermore abundant grace of the lord our God Jesus Christ.

    j

  13. jf mckenna Says:

    edit those things out of your mind, and you risk editing out your life before long

  14. Jeff Says:

    JF – I have tried to make a bona fide attempt to dialogue with you. I have made attempts to describe to you why I think you’re comments are inappropriate. You haven’t responded. That is how dialogue works.

    As for my edits- it is my site, and I do have that privilege. You can start your own site if you wish. My life is in God’s hands, not yours. My doctor tells me my health is quite fine shape, thank you very much.

    Now, are you interested in talking, or did you just stop by to pontificate? If it’s the latter, I really have better things to do and I’ll just do what Susan did and keep your comments out.

    But I hope that your intent is better than that. That you know that God wants us to work together, not to be so hedged into our own position that we can’t talk about it like grown-ups. I’ve listened to you, but I don’t have evidence that you are listening to me. Show me that, and I’ll tune back into what you are saying.

  15. jf mckenna Says:

    I didn’t compare it with pedophilia except to say that some people have a natural inclination toward things, which, if acted on, are harmful to themselves and others. The things that might pertain to Blacks have to do with genetic but not behavior. I’m only talking of behavior. The percentage of the gay population over the age of 65 is drastically smaller than the percentage of the heterosexual population and that’s behavior related. You can’t edit out everything inconvenient; one of these days you’ll have to face reality. I haven’t recommended changing your orientation, only your behavior. And it’s critically important that you be EXTREMELY careful about what you’re advocating publicly, because if someone forms a relationship based on your rationales and they contract the usual infections leading to early death, then you bear part of that responsibility, and you’ll have trouble editing that one out. By the way, don’t complain that I’m not listening to you, since you’re the one hitting the delete button.

    I also don’t think that’s who you are, any more than being a heterosexual is part of my core identity. I won’t say it’s a mere incidental either but we have a higher identity and purpose beyond those things.

  16. Jeff Says:

    JF –

    Now that’s closer to an actual dialogue. Let me just say again that insistence on your point of view without being open to reasonable discussion doesn’t do your point of view any favors.

    On the genetic issue – please reread my response earlier about the colon issue relative to the placement of fast food chains in the African-American community. We know that there is a correlation of colon issues to ethnicity but we do not know that ethnicity is the cause of those problems. As I said, one potential cause could be that our society takes advantage of African-Americans by capitalizing on largely black neighborhoods to make money- we put lots of fast food outlets in black neighborhoods which in turn could cause colon problems (at least so says my gastrointerologist).

    So I do not buy your argument that all health problems in the African-American community are genetic. And that does not mean that they are more or less real, or that we should have more or less compassion for them. They are simply facts. And I think that is the manner in which they have been presented by the medical community, just like the facts you have presented on gay and lesbian health.

    Being heterosexual is a core part of your identity, I would argue. You just aren’t aware of it because it is so embedded in society. You don’t think twice when people say “Are you married?” or “I’ve got the perfect girl you should meet.” Those questions for gay and lesbian people cause a confrontation- do we “out” ourselves or let it go? These are questions we struggle with as we start to come out. AND, I should note, these questions have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with sex or sexual activity- and certainly nothing to do with health.

    I completely agree with you that we have to have a higher purpose beyond our own identity. That is the very issue at stake: will the church allow gay and lesbian people the opportunity to have that higher purpose? Can we be allowed to move beyond our orientation in the church so that we can serve along with everyone else? I think the answer is yes. We are some of the most talented, gifted, loving people willing to give of ourselves in unprecedented ways. The church needs that. To turn away from that offering would be a mistake.

  17. jf mckenna Says:

    If this whole controversy move gays to a level of respect equal with others, then it will have been worthwhile. On the other hand, if it results in doing that while also affirming a behavior that has resulted in such an immeasurable amount of suffering and early death, then we deserve the millstones around our necks. I understand your point about heterosexuality being imbedded in society, but my identity even here on this earth, is still in the kingdom, the here-and-now kingdom, and I affirm that beyond any evident social tendency, even if it makes life easier for me than it would for a homosexual.

  18. Jeff Says:

    I must admit, JF, that you perplex me.

    I hear a lot of compassion in your last post. I am having a hard time understanding how you reconcile that compassion with the actions you are taking that help justify the discrimination and hate-based behavior that are used against gay and lesbian people?

    When we use the medical statistics in the way that you have, we don’t end up with movement of gays and lesbians towards a level of respect- it moves us counter to that. Would you agree with that?

    I think it is better to let the medical community work with the gay and lesbian community on the health issues that face us, and have the rest of the community focus more fully on how to achieve the respect that you mention in the world so that we can focus on our Christian identity, as you put it. Otherwise gay and lesbian people will only ever be able to focus on our sexual orientation because others are so focused on it. As long as that is the case, we are constantly defending ourselves and not able to fully focus on doing God’s work.

    Does that make sense?

  19. jf mckenna Says:

    We can’t compartmentalize the realm of physical suffering from the spiritual realm. “When I was thirsty you gave me to drink” and so on. The two are indissolubly linked. In the debate on homosexuality, there is a monumental level of denial on both sides about the importance of the suffering involved. No one wants to talk about it, and yet if you’re talking about shortening the lives of six million Americans, then our awareness of it surely should be on the level of the war in Iraq, which has so far shortened the lives of a small fraction of one percent of that figure. The two dozen or more diseases associated with anal sex are also worth a mention (don’t edit it out!); if you could quantify the amount of suffering involved with them, it would stagger the imagination. Now, we’re on the horns of a dilemma as it pertains to respect for gays. If people have reason to believe that someone is behaving in a ways that is self-destructive, then it is expecting a lot for them to be respectful except to the extent that that issue is ignored. This should still leave a broad scope for respect, the respect that anyone deserves by being a human being. Of course if someone seems to have that orientation but isn’t practicing, then respect can be without reservation and if there’s any disrespect under those circumstances, that’s inexcusable. But the biggest issue of them all is whether we can take any action or say anything that might lead someone else toward self-destructive behavior. That’s a matter for the medical community in the narrow sense but a matter for all of us because of the pain involved.

  20. Jeff Says:

    OK, JF. Let me try and break it down more simply, using your logic. (Let me say parenthetically that I do not believe the medical facts as you have stated them. Some of the research you have quoted is 30 years old, and much more is known about gay men's health than was known 30 years ago. If there is one thing that AIDS did, it changed gay men's behavior. It also unified us to allow us to fight for our rights, which allowed us to then work for relationships that would be based on something more than sex. And your studies were conducted prior to AIDS.)

    1) You have laid out facts that (if they are true) support a link between gay sex and diagnosis. Your arguments, however, jump to mortality rates, facts which you have not displayed. You assume that diagnosis equates to death. Nowhere do you prove a causal effect between homosexuality and death. Your facts, if they are true, show a correlation between gay sex and diagnosis. That is, medically speaking, much different than a correlation between gay sex and mortality. That is further yet from a correlation between gay orientation and mortality.

    2) If I were to, for the sake of argument, agree with your argument, I would ask you why you choose this particular issue? To be as straight-forward and graphic as you have been, heterosexual couples engage in anal sex too. According to a 1994 study (www.kinseyinstitute.org/resources/FAQ.html), about 10% of heterosexual couples engage in anal sex. In the US, that would account for about 30 million people. That's a whole lot more than the 6 million gay people you have been quoting. Shouldn't you go around saving those souls instead? Why are you so focused on gay and lesbian people instead of the larger more populous number of people exposed to this "dangerous health issue?"

    3) Let's just say, again for the sake of argument, that your facts are correct. Let's say that all of this is the result of behavior and not orientation. Then we could compare it to, say, smoking. The mortality rate of smokers is much more tangible than the mortality rate of the things you have quoted. The BBC has reported that 1 BILLION people will die from tobacco related diseases this century unless more are encouraged to quit (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4309222.stm). Again, speaking just in numbers, why are you focused on the gay issue? Tobacco companies are out encouraging people to smoke left, right, and center. The numbers and impact is far higher. The mortality rate is undisputed. It has a far more serious impact on global health.

    What is your internal motivation for this? You don't have to answer me. But maybe you should spend some time in prayer contemplating the true answer. I just don't buy your arguments that this is out of concern for the gay community. I think my arguments above disprove it.

    j

  21. jf mckenna Says:

    You are correct to correlate this with smoking, which may indeed be a more serious issue, but for exactly the same reason, which is that the human body wasn't designed by nature to withstand that activity. The lungs weren't created to take in anything but air, and to take in something else is to create a health-reducing condition that often leads to a shorter life. The tobacco companies are rightly coming in for increasing opposition because of that. {Edited out by Jeff} Four out of five gays do these two things. People who engage regularly in health-reducing activities obviously don't live as long. One survey before the AIDS crisis showed that less than one percent of the gay population was over 65. Even if the real figure were 10 times that, it wouldn't approach the figure for the general population. As for my internal motivation, it doesn't matter much; all that counts is what is objectively real. I'm not going to claim that I'm some kind of praiseworthy person, and I'm certainly not going to claim to be a better person that you are, or even that I'm a good person, because I guess I'm not particularly. I'll say one thing: My career has been in communications-related endeavors, and it bothers me considerably that a vast illusion can prevail in a free society. I've studied how it can work under communism but in a free society such illusions don't typically last very long, although there have been a few exceptions over the course of history, and this is one of them. The most important aspect of the whole thing doesn't even get a single word in the newspapers and over the airwaves, and that amazes and bothers me.

  22. Jeff Says:

    Don’t you see, though, JF? The reason it doesn’t get press is because it isn’t accurate. There is no relationship between sexual orientation and mortality rates. You still haven’t given any evidence of that. There was during AIDS, but that crisis is over for the US gay population, at least for now. (I am not diminishing the work we still need to do on AIDS prevention, I am just saying that the crisis we had in the 80s has passed.)

    The reason pre-AIDS numbers for the over 65 population are low aren’t because of mortality- it is because that generation was raised pre-Stonewall, where they did not know that they could live a rich, productive life fully embracing the gifts God gave them. It isn’t that they all died, they just don’t self-identify as gay. You will find, I believe, that if you take the survey today the numbers will be much closer to alignment with the heterosexual age distribution, and 30 years from now further still. This is a factor of how well we do at embracing gay people, not a physical health issue.

  23. jf mckenna Says:

    Someone has said quite aptly, this is "self-deception as a group effort." That went on with smoking for a long while — adding filters, and so on, and of course we all knew exceptions to the rule, i.e., people who were old and still smoked. It took the surgeon general's report to turn it all around. If people were totally logical at the time, they would have just said to themselves and each other: The lungs weren't created sturdily enough to withstand anything but air.

    The same is true of the [sex that differs from JF's description of "normal sex"].  All this is common sense, and no studies should be needed. I haven't done the math, but it's possible that every minute of gay sex takes a day of life away from the partner. [Deleted by Jeff.] That's a good answer to Larry King's question the other night: "What's the harm?"

    The deception part of this is also at the social level in which some homosexuals hope to find faithful partners. The numbers of those who do are vanishingly small.

    The third part of the self-deception at a group level is in the proposition that growing up with two mothers or two fathers is exactly the same as growing up with one of each. In the inner city today, 90% of the kids who don't have an intact father-and-mother family have run-ins with the law, compared with only 10% who do have an intact mother-and-father family. The society that doesn't support that arrangement in every way possible will suffer in many ways. Again, all of this is simple common sense, since everyone who has had a mother growing up knows perfectly well that his experience was different than it would have been if it had just been Dad around the house with another man, whether it's a gay man, an uncle, or whatever. (It's worth adding on Father's Day today that the same is true for fathers.)

    It doesn't matter what you think about this. It doesn't matter what I think about it. It doesn't matter what anybody thinks about it. As the saying goes, you can't fool mother Nature.

  24. john Says:

    Look Jeff M, if you engage in sodomy you are IMHO unwell. All of us, in some way(s), are unwell: we’re too angry, we’re slothful, whatever. The problem is that your movement holds up sodomy as okay. We don’t hold up our particular “unwellnesses” as good and praiseworthy, at least I don’t. We struggle with them, we repent of them, we regret them. But, because of your make-up or identity, call it what you will, you seem to think that we can, in clear conscience, give you a pass on that kind of behavior. I can see how we might say: ‘Live and let live’ or ‘Let them do whatever and God will sort it out.’ But that is not true engagement, is it? So, for my money, I will side with those many, many people who have admitted that they struggle with same-sex attraction, who think celibacy is the road to which they are called, and who admit that there are many great things between people of the same sex, but sexual activity ought not to be one of them. Although you have the slogans (‘Love that includes all . . ‘ etc.) I see a greater knowledge of the living God in their life . . .and this comes from someone who has known VGR for many, many years, has enjoyed him in some ways, but feel he, like so many of you, is so deeply narcissistic and curved in on himself, even if as a result from woundedness, that he has lost touch with reality. Sorry, but that’s how I see it. Give up the sodomy, or at least say that it is doubtful, questionable, or morally ambiguous (can you even say that?) and maybe we can talk.

  25. Jeff Says:

    JF –

    Here is the problem with your logic:

    You use facts to support your logic, saying that we need to listen to the facts.

    When I prove that the facts you use are irrevelevant and do not support your conclusion, you change positions and say the facts are not necessary.

    I suppose that if I now turn to discuss your new position and debunk it as well, you will just turn and take another new position.

    That is not the position of reason. God gave us brains to use. You have not addressed the points I laid out. There is no causal effect between your argument and the mortality rate between gays and lesbians.

    The American Pediatric Society endorses parenthood by same-sex partners.

    You do not have facts on your side. You have only your opinions. So you are right in that it doesn’t matter what either of us thinks. The facts, however, do matter, and you are ignoring them.

    j

  26. Jeff Says:

    John –

    Frankly, I don’t care what you think about sodomy. It is when you tell me what I can think about sodomy that we have a problem. What gives you the right to tell me what I can believe?

    Why do you believe that your interpretation of Scripture, that your revelation, that your experience, is more valid than mine, and that you should have the right to have your point of view take precedence?

    If you believe that gays and lesbians should remain celibate, believe it all you want. There is nothing to imply that we have to agree on your position or on mine in this church. We don’t agree univerally on women’s ordination. We don’t agree univerally on transubstantiation. We don’t agree univerally on a whole host of doctrinal issues. Why then is it so important for you to have your way on this one? Are you like Canon Anderson in that you just enjoy a good fight?

  27. john Says:

    There we have it: sodomy is just fine.

  28. john Says:

    PS Note how JM does not address the issues but brings in Canon Anderson and all sorts of other issues. I was pointing out one part of his ethical and political platform that I disagree with. But it’s a part he can’t let go.

  29. jf mckenna Says:

    Jeff,
    You have to connect the dots here. Here's the listing from one medical journal of the infections that relate directly to [Jeff's edit: gay and lesbian health.  List removed, again.]

    This is the path of death. It was prophesied in Romans 1, where it says the penalty for this will be paid "in their own bodies." You have before you the path of life and the path of death. THEREFORE CHOOSE LIFE. Without delay. Get away from some of these people for a while and get alone with God, who will lift you above what John called being "curved in on" yourself, which is a phrase from Luther. The self is a tyrant. I won't be checking into this site or the other one anymore, but I will pray for a mighty breakthrough in your life. You're a young man; I'm old enough to be your father; you have a full life ahead of you. You may not believe me and I can't prove it, but I am wishing you well and praying for God's richest blessing on your life. Good bye.

  30. Jeff Says:

    John –

    Actually, this isn’t about “sodomy.” This is about loving, caring relationships formed in mutual affection and monogamy.

    Again, I don’t really care whether you agree with that or not – that isn’t the point. Your definition of “sodomy” and whether or not you agree with it isn’t the point. I’m tired of trying to convert you homophobes out of your fear – you need therapy, not a blog session for that.

    But maybe in this dialogue you can understand that the only way forward in the church is for us to live together. Otherwise, yes, I will bring in Canon Anderson. Because that is the only explanation of why you won’t sit down and talk about how we can live together despite our differences and instead want to talk about “sodomy.”

    j

  31. Jeff Says:

    JF –

    You are simply making the same arguments over and over again.

    I have been praying for you. I do not know what it is inside of people like you that don’t allow you to see the facts. Medicine simply has not backed up your claims.

    I could pull the same kind of list you pulled for heterosexual sex. That simply doesn’t imply a high mortality rate. Are there possibilities of problems? Yes. There are possibilities of health problems for just about everything. That doesn’t equate to death.

    I hope that with time you will come to understand that.

    The Peace of Christ be with you.

    j

  32. john Says:

    JM
    Your post, Jeff, is like FTG saying, as he often did, ‘Why can’t we talk about something other than what people do with their bodies?’ What we do with our bodies matters, I think.

    And you resort to name-calling . . .homophobe?

    For the record, I have no fear of homosexuals. I just think that while there are indeed lots of good things between people of the same sex–care and kindness, like you mention–orgasm isn’t one of them. Many homosexuals agree with this BTW, tho’ not the activists in ECUSA generally, and they work, hard tho’ it is, to overcome the patterns which you advocate.

  33. Jeff Says:

    John –

    What we do with our bodies does NOT matter– that is the whole point. When you introduce me to your wife, I don't ask you how you "give it to her in the bedroom." It is completely irrelevant. In the same way, my relationship with my partner is not defined by what we do in our bedroom.

    Homophobia for me isn't "name-calling." In my mind, homophobia is just where you are in your psychological state of being. I'm sure you didn't choose to be homophobic, but you do have to choose to work your way out of it. I say you are homophobic because you make a conscious choice to spend time working against those who are dissimilar from you. What do you have so invested in stopping this diversity? Why does it matter so much? You must dig deeper than Scriptural references to find these answers. Therein lies the homophobia.

    As for "reparative therapy" and trying to change ones sexual orientation, define the "many" whom you claim are "overcoming" their orientation. The American Psychological Association condemns reparative therapy. Reparative therapy has been proven to fail in most cases. A minority of gay and lesbian people even enter into reparative therapy, and of those most lead double lives. I even have even heard of stories where unfortunately people struggling with their orientation go to reparative therapy support groups to find dates (same-gender), which leads to very unhealthy relationships. This isn't healthy for anyone, because if they met in Exodus (a reparative therapy group) or similar, they weren't in a healthy enough place to start a relationship in the first place. Reparative therapy doesn't work– although I'm sure that it is possible to find a few poster children to put up for a dog and pony show and pronounce it a big success (exactly what the religious right has done).

    Give me hard facts. Like JF McKenna – you can't just give soft info here. The medical community is against you on this. Again, look deep inside. Why are you so determined to not be accepting? Find an honest answer to this question without using Scripture and you will find your homophobia. Then you will be able to pray and find redemption and reconciliation in Jesus to move forward to healing and resurrection in the full Spirit of God's Grace.

  34. john Says:

    Sodomy is still wrong. As I said in my first post, lots of things are wrong: anger, sloth, and yes, even homophobia. I also said explicitly that there can be and no doubt are many values/virtues among same sex relationships so I did not say that those relationships are defined by(or are solely about) sexual activity. But, yes, I do persist in saying sodomy is wrong tho’ I have only slight hope, from your screed, that you will do the kind of self-examination you urge upon me, to ask and think in your heart of hearts if, in sodomizing, you are doing something wrong. Good-bye.

  35. Jeff Says:

    John –

    Thanks for stopping by. The belief that "sodomy" is wrong is based in homophobia, which you yourself say is wrong.

    I have done years of self-examination. It is a requisite for gay folks in the coming out process. Coming out is an act of faith that is difficult for straight people to understand.

    I have also spent years in therapy preparing for ministry. I have worked through my fears. I know myself very well, and in the process I think I have a very good understanding of how others work as well.

    It is for that reason that I have compassion instead of anger for those who disagree with me. I understand that they are not wrong but rather just not in the same place on their journey as I am. Some will never advance, some will.

    Advancing requires an openness to the Holy Spirit. Moving forward with the Holy Spirit requires that you let the Holy Spirit set the agenda and let go of what you think is right and wrong. I know because I've had to do it. Once you take that step of faith, then- whether it is in the quiet corners of your mind that you do not share with anyone else, or in the public square shouting from the rooftop- you will begin something that will take you to limitless places.

    And, I will be very surprised if in that process you maintain your position on "sodomy."

  36. FrMichael Says:

    Interesting that this discussion had virtually no references to Scripture and apostolic Tradition.

    Jeff, you made the assertion that
    “So I can debate and be rational with the best of them, but at my heart I am relational.”

    Yet when all is said and done, whatever factual arguments your opponents had from studies were deleted. It makes it hard for an outsider to see whether or not your opponents had a real argument. Meanwhile, there is not even an attempt to justify your position from Scriptural and Traditional grounds, which are far more compelling for most Christians, at least of my ilk, then private experience and social sciences.

  37. Jeff Says:

    Fr Michael –

    Thanks for commenting.

    First, note that we’ve had the Scriptural debate. We’ve had it over and over again. The outcome of that debate is this: we interpret scripture very differently. Perhaps I should have incorporated a reference to that debate in my post. But one of the reasons I am exasperated is that I keep getting told that I am not upholding scripture or tradition, when in fact I simply hold a different view of Scripture and Tradition than the orthodox. There is a big difference there, and it is a very small mind that cannot see the difference or tolerate it.

    I deleted the arguments because JF has a tendency to put extremely explicit and graphic sexual content in his posts. My grandmother reads this site, and I have no desire, and since the content he posted even made me wince I have no desire to put her through the same.

    My point to JF was that he was using science as a reason to justify his position, but his argument was flawed.

    If you don’t believe science, that is your business. I don’t intend to try and change your mind on the matter. I will only tell you that I believe that God gave us science so that we can better understand the world around us. Science tells us “how” and scripture tells us “why.”

    I believe that Scripture, private experience, and science all work together. They are all of God. They are all reconciled. To ignore any of them is to try and create a view of God that is limited. In my view, God is unlimited. God is beyond our understanding. If we want to know God, we have to take everything that we do have at our disposal and put them together to get the biggest picture that we can paint. That picture gets more complete over time, because we learn more. The picture itself doesn’t change, but we get to see more of it.

    I hope that answers your question.

    j


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