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Mormon leader addresses the Great Conundrum

Timothy Kincaid

October 8th, 2010

Boyd Packer is the president and the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons). On Sunday, speaking to the 180th Semiannual General Conference in Salt Lake City (which was broadcast around the world), he preached a sermon which was dedicated to anti-gay doctrine and political activism.

Coming on the tail of a series of news reports about anti-gay bullying resulting in child suicide, this shocked and angered those who seek to protect vulnerable children from a culture of contempt. Last night, thousands of protesters surrounded the Mormon Temple in symbolic illustration of the deaths that result from such incautious words.

Public outrage over the comments included demands that the church retract and denounce the sermon. In a most peculiar decision, the church decided instead to sanitize the sermon to make it less obviously objectionable when media came looking for quotes, and released a statement that Packer’s statements were “based on principles of truth, respect and love for all of God’s children.”

I do not fault a religious leader for espousing their religious beliefs, even those which I find to be contrary to everything I think is moral and true. However, as Packer’s talk was laden with terms such as “evil” and “wickedness” and “perversion” and as Packer declared that civil equality for gay couples would lead to the end of civilization, his entire sermon is foul and objectionable.

But amidst the animus and condescension, Boyd did illustrate what I call the Great Conundrum. In May I wrote about this paradox:

For millenia, church teaching has been that God is good and applying his rules leads to happiness. God has said that homosexuality is forbidden and abomination to him. This is evident in Scripture and it is abundantly clear that homosexuality is not to be tolerated. Those who are homosexual are vile and willful sinners who choose to defy God.

However, we currently know the homosexuality is a naturally occurring attribute of a person. One’s attractions are not selected and are based in part on genetics. Other contributors may include other biological or perhaps even social factors, but conscious choice is seldom involved at all and no manner of effort seems effective in changing homosexuality into heterosexuality.

Therefore, God has – through genetics and other factors under the control of his divine hand – created a group of humans which he condemns for being the way He created them. He rejects and punishes them (and endorses the human punishment of them) for the sin of existing, a sin over which they had no free will.

This is not conceivable to modern Christians. This is contrary to how they view the nature of God. And so, Christians are faced with the following options: Either

  • The writers of the Scripture got it wrong, or
  • Your understanding of Scripture is incorrect, or
  • Modern understanding about homosexuality is wrong, or
  • God is a bully.

And I discussed the various ways in which a conservative Christian can resolve such a puzzle. Boyd Packer chose what I called “Response 3: Denying evidence.”

Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, he is our Father.

Paul promised that “God . . . will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” You can, if you will, break the habits and conquer an addiction and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the Church.

Boyd’s logic goes like this: Inborn tendencies come from God. God is good. Homosexuality is bad. Therefore, homosexuality did not come from God and is not inborn. Science, research, personal witness, and any evidence that contradicts this formula must be ignored.

No doubt this conclusions-based logic will continue for some time to satisfy faithful Mormons who are seeking justification for their anti-gay attitudes or activism. It will provide cover for the church’s continuing attack on the civil liberties of gay people.

But in time, denying empirical evidence will only serve to weaken Packer’s influence and image and come to harm his church.

Comments

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TampaZeke
October 8th, 2010 | LINK

Timothy, you might want to do some research into some of the pronouncements of the other senior members of the Quorum of Twelve through history, particularly as relates to dark skinned people of African decent, plural marriages and interracial marriages.

They spoke with the same surety, sincerity and righteousness that this current clown does.

People asked the same kinds of questions then that you do now and got the EXACT same kinds of responses. They denied science and evidence and logic and demanded that their flock do the same.

Just as they are now ashamed, OR SHOULD BE, of their previous, deeply held racist and misogynistic beliefs, they will someday, SOON, be ashamed of the pronouncements of this prophet of ignorance and hate.

But you know what? People tried to warn their previous “prophets” about the future and their legacy but they stubbornly held to their gospel. The same goes for racist politicians in the South. They didn’t listen and now for all eternity they will be remembered as hateful, ignorant bigots.

Karma’s a bitch; especially when you spit in her face.

Leonardo Ricardo
October 8th, 2010 | LINK

I´ve got a little idea:

Why doesn´t the Apostle and the rest of the 12 sit down with a LGBT ONLY Mormon filled Tabernacle…shut the doors, no newsmedia, no interlopers (only card carrying/bishop approved Mormons if they exist) and talk it out. Clearly Brother Packer isn´t real clear on some very real facts…let them, the not-knowers, start a listening process with the ¨informed, first person, brothers and sisters¨…it´s may be time for another revelation from God…this one through Gods children directly to Packer and the top fellas of the Celestial Kingdom listkeepers brigade.

FRESH enlightenment may not be as mysterious and exclusive as the Mormon leadership have made it out to be.

Soren456
October 8th, 2010 | LINK

This is a superb essay; it so clearly outlines the illogic of the Christian (not just Mormon) argument against homosexuality, most particularly against the witness of science and of our own experience.

In a nutshell, homosexuality MUST be a choice made–to accept or to retain–because if, despite all contrary evidence, it is seen otherwise, it blows a gigantic hole in the theology. And most Christians, their leaders especially, haven’t the integrity to face that.

Biblical science begins with the six-day creation, the poison apple, the rainbow, and proceeds right through to explaining homosexuality (sort of). It’s all of a piece.

Chris Cool
October 8th, 2010 | LINK

As a professing Christian myself, I find it incredibly ironic that Mr. Packer uses part of a passage (in this case, 1 Corinthians 10:13) that he believes proves homosexuality is a temptation, when in fact the first part of the verse — which he omits for whatever reason — could be interpreted to mean the opposite of what he intends.

Yes, Paul says God will provide you a way out of all temptation… but first Paul provides a handy explanation as to what qualifies as temptation: “No temptation has taken any of you except what is COMMON TO HUMANITY…” (emphasis mine).

In other words, in order for any desire to be considered a “temptation,” it must be something that every person on the planet can experience. Thus, if in fact homosexuals make up 1-3% of the population (depending on which Religious Right figure is spouting statistics at the time), it can’t possibly be a temptation.

Apparently it isn’t just “[s]cience, research, personal witness, and any evidence that contradicts this formula” that “must be ignored” — now they also have to rip out passages from the Holy Book they claim to worship when it doesn’t fit their own preconceived worldview.

Ben in Oakland
October 8th, 2010 | LINK

Leonardo: If Boyd Packer — gotta love that Freudian slip! — had the slightest interest in enlightenment, he’d open his mind.

Or a book.

Timothy Kincaid
October 8th, 2010 | LINK

“Biblical science begins with the six-day creation…”

I simply don’t understand the insistence on literalism. To me, the creation story – from the void, though light and then matter, and life beginning in the seas up to animals then humans and finally the transition to “knowledge of good and evil” – is an amazing parable.

I think it is a real selling point to say, “yeah, the Bible said that long before Darwin.” But instead they insist on reading Genesis like it’s a history textbook. Instead of illustrating credibility, it forces the thinking person to choose between empirical observation and words in a mystical book and the book can’t win that debate.

Timothy Kincaid
October 8th, 2010 | LINK

Ben,

The problem is that he has opened a book or two. Unfortunately, he’s decided to read into them what he wants to see.

Pender
October 8th, 2010 | LINK

Not a very compelling argument, given that pedophiles and people with dangerous or other necessarily illegal fetishes clearly exist and are cannot be “cured” any more than a straight or gay person can change their sexuality. Clearly at least some people are necessarily destined for lives of loneliness and suffering, so even if every religion in the world fully embraced gay people and our civil and spiritual equality, this so-called Great Conundrum would persist with respect to those unfortunate souls.

Emily K
October 8th, 2010 | LINK

Chris, I think you bring up a very interesting point. Homosexual attraction is NOT felt by the “common of humanity.” It can only felt by those who are non-heterosexual.

sexual temptation in general can be felt by EVERYONE (well, except maybe perhaps by asexuals) but SPECIFICALLY homosexual temptation can not be.

Everyone can be tempted to steal, but not everyone can be tempted to steal the same item.

Everyone can be tempted to cheat, but not everyone is tempted to cheat on the same thing or in the same way.

It seems like the basics are what matter. common things.

Ben in Oakland
October 8th, 2010 | LINK

E was being sarcastic, Timothy. But you knew that.

Adrian-T
October 8th, 2010 | LINK

No surprise to find religious extremists who rail against homosexuality, also denying the facts about evolution and climate change. If you are an ignorant creationist know-nothing and a fanatic like Packer is, then you cannot believe in genetics, period.

Seraphiel
October 8th, 2010 | LINK

Soon enough, this ancient, withered jerk will join Falwell and all his previous poisonous ilk in the ground.

He’ll die of old age, probably peacefully in his sleep, in comfortable and serene surroundings. It won’t be anything like the terror that some have felt as the victims of his toxic brand of religion; murdered, abused, driven to suicide. It’ll be a far more pleasant passing than he deserves.

But ultimately the world will be rid of him, and whoever replaces him will eventually die and rot as well. With every generation the kids get a little smarter, a little more human, until people like him are finally irrelevant enough that we don’t need to treat their insane mumblings with so much as a mention. One day we can go to his grave and plant a stone that says, “He stood in the way of justice. Justice won.”

RWG
October 8th, 2010 | LINK

Please don’t try to confuse the Apostle with facts…his mind is made up. We’re evil, we have to be, ’cause he says so, and he has a big catherdral, so he must be right.

Daddy Todd
October 8th, 2010 | LINK

Don’t read too much into the rewriting of Packer’s address. It’s routine for the talks delivered at LDS General Conference to be edited for publication. The version given over the pulpit is considered something of a working draft; the OFFICIAL version is the one that will be printed in a few weeks in the LDS church’s magazine, The Ensign.

It’s not unknown for conference speeches to be re-recorded in an empty Assembly Hall days later for the official archives.

Scott P.
October 8th, 2010 | LINK

People, this guy is NOT the current Prophet, Seer and Revelator of the Mormon Church, he’s basically second-in-command, but they’re all cut from the same cloth.

keep sweet
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

I’m loving watching the LDS retreat and retract and redact and act all defensive thanks to Boyd K Packer. Loving it. It’s now national news that the Mormon Church has retreated after pressure and protest from gays and allies.

The beautiful irony is that the LDS took their idiotic Prop H8 campaign in the hopes that Southern Baptists and other evangelicals would finally accept Mormons as Christians. Instead, the Baptists took the Mormon money and the free labor, and left the LDS holding the bag as poster-children for anti-gay bigotry. And the Evangelicals still don’t accept Mormons as Christians, Mitt Romney gets asked about Boyd Packer’s weirdness and needs to act defensive, it’s just too perfect. Pew Center says 46% of Americans have negative views of Mormons, compared to 17% who have negative views of Jews, and the Evangelicals hate the Mormons as much as they hate the gays. Wow, think about that in historical context. It’s perfect symmetry.

The net changes everything. If Mormons want to be left alone you need to leave other people alone to live their personal lives and be equal American citizens like the constitution says. If you want your General Conferences to stop being comedy for the entire world, Mormons need to keep backing off. Those of us who grew up LDS are watching every move and will be delighted to expose every single hypocrisy.

Schadenfreude never tasted so good.

justsearching
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

“Therefore, God has – through genetics and other factors under the control of his divine hand – created a group of humans which he condemns for being the way He created them.

This is not conceivable to modern Christians. This is contrary to how they view the nature of God.”

I don’t buy that conclusion at all. There are few Christians today who would say that God condemns someone simply because they have a homosexual orientation. However, most conservative Christians I know would say: “I know you didn’t choose to have these feelings, perhaps you were even born with them, but God says it’s wrong to act (key verb) upon these urges of yours.” For them, all the personal testimony and research demonstrating the innateness and non-changeability of sexually orientation would be entirely irrelevant.

Richard Swinburne writes in an essay on the problem of evil that “I need to want to overeat, get more than my fair share of money or power, indulge my sexual appetites… want to see you hurt, if I am to have a choice between good and evil.” It doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that God ensures that (or has allowed that) each of us has certain negative impulses that we are forced to put in check. This struggle is beneficial for the well-being of our souls. Could not our homosexual desires just be one of those urges we need to refrain from indulging in?

I think you are misreading Paul’s comments on inborn tendencies. I think he is saying that even though we have inborn tendencies towards doing wrong (and maybe a homosexual orientation is one of those tendencies but it probably isn’t), God would ensure that we never had such tendencies (inborn or socially obtained) that we couldn’t overcome them. For some Christians, celibacy could be considered overcoming homosexuality because it involves the conscious personal struggle not to give in to one’s lusts and temptations. Mormons, though, value marriage more than other Christian groups, but consider how commendable it would be if one denied one’s own selfish desires/lusts to obey God’s will and join oneself with a fellow Mormon of the opposite sex.

In short, I don’t see the Paradox.

Soren456
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

@justsearching:

With the “problem of evil,” it seems to me that to overeat, to cheat others for money, to hurt others for my advantage, all involve effects and results of demonstrable harm.

But my homosexuality of itself, and shared physically with agreeable others, involves no harm, and even may develop a beautiful love.

I agree that sexuality without restraint of conscience can be used hurtfully, but this doesn’t explain why homosexuality itself should be considered evil. Or for that matter, a selfish lust, and thus refrained from.

What is the reason for refraining?

customartist
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

The photo of Packer has to be at least 15 years old. In the sermon video his posture and voice tone reminded me of the then shriveling Pope John Paul, barely able to stand or to push out the words. His is not an accurate perspective of the modern world.

The Mormon Church uses their position of wealth to impose Religion into Secular Politics as evidenced by funding Prop 8. Sadly their words result in the deaths of Children, And They Still justify sending this message out to youths.

Within two weeks Mormons have:

Filed another brief with the Appellate Court supporting Prop 8,

Apologized to the Oakland, CA LDS Church group for “the pain that they caused relative to Prop 8”,

They televise Sermons of Condemnation for youth to hear On The Heels of teenage suicides (as if this is the proper thing to do?),

And now They back step yet again with “corrected” statements on their website “for the record” (sadly the sermon has already been delivered and received)

Q? If a Wife is driven to extreme measures ( suicide, murder, etc.) by the relentless verbal abuse of her husband, is the husband responsible?

Q? When the conduct/words of Parents endanger the well being and or the lives of their child, doesn’t Social services take over saying that “while the Adult(s) have Rights, those are trumped by our government in the “best interest of the Child”, and aren’t the parents action called into question, and legally so?

Q? If Children are driven to extreme measures by Religious Leaders purportedly representing the ‘highest of entities’, representing huge congregations of people, then is the Religious Organization responsible?

Answers:

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

Religion cannot be allowed to continue harming the health of Children within secular society. This must end.

John in the Bay Area
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

More than marriage, the Mormon Church’s highest priority seems to be getting their 10% from every Mormon. This organization seems far more interested in money than morality.

As for bigot Packer, he is only saying out loud what the rest of the highest ranking members of the Morg would also say. Anti-gay bigotry has been their current path to political success outside Utah and Idaho for the Morg.

They have a viable candidate for President in Mitt Romney. These proposition battles and their increasingly sophisticated ability to launder money into political campaigns will be important when Romney runs for president.

We gay and lesbian Americans are the current targets, but the Morg is a very ambitious organization. Ultimately they are probably after what they have always been after, more money and more power. The political machinations of this group are far from over.

Other Fred in the UK
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

@ Customartist

For those Christians who believe that that following God’s commandments will necessarily lead to happiness only in the next, and eternal, life there is no problem with God creating homosexuals and commanding them to be celibate. However, the paradox does exist for Christians who believe that following God’s commandments will lead to happiness in this life. I may be very wrong but I get the impression that in the U.S. there are quite a few of the latter group.

justsearching
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

@Soren456~ I’m not suggesting that there is any valid reason for you to refrain. I’m just suggesting that it is not paradoxical for Christians to claim that those with homosexual inclinations shouldn’t act upon them. The Christians I know would say that morals proceed from God (they don’t consider what sort of problems that creates)) and say that God can declare any behavior to be immoral, including homosexual acts, no matter how loving (and non-harmful) you might feel your relationship is. Thus, it is your Christian duty to persevere in your obedience to God and try to abstain from committing any immoral act.

My main point is that I don’t think conservative Christians will necessarily believe that homosexual behavior is acceptable even if they are brought to the belief that a homosexual orientation is inborn/innate/unchangeable etc.

Soren456
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

@justsearching-2:

I appreciate your response. Thank you.

Seth R.
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

Ummm…

You guys do realize that the LDS Church published the altered version of the speech almost an entire day BEFORE the protests or letters started coming in – right?

The change had nothing to do with gay activism – is was merely an internal change made because the LDS Church takes no position on the “nature vs. nurture” question with respect to homosexuality. Packer’s remarks were not in harmony with that official position.

The current LDS position is that homosexual inclinations are not sinful, but that homosexual SEX is. And this position was formed years BEFORE the whole Proposition 8 incident.

The reality is, Mormons have been unpopular for a long time for a variety of reasons. Don’t think that gay activism had anything to do with this change. It was already made before anyone started fussing about it.

John
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

My main point is that I don’t think conservative Christians will necessarily believe that homosexual behavior is acceptable even if they are brought to the belief that a homosexual orientation is inborn/innate/unchangeable etc.

That be true when discussing theology but it’s been my experience that even many conservative Christians become far more receptive to gay rights when learning that homosexuality isn’t chosen but instead is innate. Religious rights groups know this which is why they fight like heck against any evidence showing homosexuality isn’t a choice. It’s important to keep that in mind and always bring it up because it does matter.

Where we need to move in all this is to the point where folks get used to the fact that they are working with, living next to and socializing with people they may consider to be sinners but would also defend their full civil rights. Conservative Christians do all of this with atheists and people from other religions, folks of different races, a looser set of sexual mores, etc. In other words, folks they may think will go to hell unless they convert to their own religion. I’ll bet that most of these conservative Christians also would defend the civil rights of these perceived hell-bound folks as well and wouldn’t think of denying them under the law. Most obviously do not now consider race a factor in this anymore and wouldn’t dream of it, yet many in previous generations did. We haven’t gotten to that point with gays yet. We’re very slowly creeping there but it will take another generation or two it appears.

jcrr
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

Seth R,

Actually, according to Gallup, the precentage of Americans who have a positive opinion of Mormons fell from 43% to 37%, as a result of the backlash against the passage of Prop 8.

Timothy Kincaid
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

justsearching,

I think that in theory that some conservative Christians aren’t opposed to the abstract attribute of having tendencies towards attraction to the same sex and would not consider such tendencies in and of themself to be sin.

However, in practicality, they consider “homosexuality” to be sin and that definition is far more extensive than just specific forbidden sex acts.

For example, they consider self-acknowledgment as gay to be entertaining sinfulness. They consider any measure of response (ie noticing someone attractive) to be entertaining sinfulness. All the things that a single heterosexual is allowed to do as far as attraction, courting, etc. goes beyond entertaining and become sin in fact. Even passive acceptance (not striving for God’s perfection) shows a heart that is in rebellion.

So while some have changed their doctrine to accept homosexual orientation (what I call Response 2), most conservative denominations DO NOT. The Southern Baptists, most Pentecostals, and folks of that ilk deny that sexual orientation exists at all.

Timothy Kincaid
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

Ya know, they really don’t have to change their doctrine to improve their image. I imagine that the Amish have doctrine that is every bit as anti-gay and out of the mainstream as the Mormons but no one holds any grudge towards the Amish. Because they leave everyone else the hell alone.

chrissypoo
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

I think what did it in for me with the Mormon church (as a former mormon now) was seeing their former Prophet and President leave some regional conference in Worcester Mass in a lovely Rolls Royce leaving the venue.

Then I read the book Mormon Corporate Empire, which showed that the Mormon Church leaders like Boyd K. Packer are getting thousands of dollars from the church, when they have made everyone else work for free. We were told that these old men have made their money, and that everyone in the the church leadership isn’t paid.

So seeing this “prophet” be chauffered around in a Rolls Royce kind of sealed it for me that the leadership is about making a buck.

Pacal
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

I just don’t get the idea that being Gay is a choice! Like one day I woke up and decided to get a boner looking at an attractive guy, or one day I decided I would get all lovey dovey over a guy and want to date him and send him flowers. Just where do these guys get the idea that you have a choice in any of that?

Richard Rush
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

Timothy wrote,

Ya know, they really don’t have to change their doctrine to improve their image. I imagine that the Amish have doctrine that is every bit as anti-gay and out of the mainstream as the Mormons but no one holds any grudge towards the Amish. Because they leave everyone else the hell alone.

Yes, exactly. I did a double-take when I read your comment because I was going to include the following paragraph with a comment I made on the other post about the Boyd Packer story. I excluded it because it didn’t seem to add anything to my main point.

————-

I would care less if most religions were much more like the Amish, who, despite having some of the most bizarre beliefs, seem content not to insist that everyone else live according to their dictates (although I wonder if that would still be true if they were not a small minority). And at the other end of the spectrum we have religions that do insist that everyone else live according to their dictates, and hauled truckloads of money into California to make it happen.

Amicus
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

@justsearching, soren:
“I’m just suggesting that it is not paradoxical for Christians to claim that those with homosexual inclinations shouldn’t act upon them. ”
——-
But it is paradoxical.

If homosexual acts are immoral because they proceed from a homosexual orientation, an orientation condemned a priori, then the paradox is on full display, as Tim describes: the orientation “exists” and is condemned, even though it is part of God’s good creation.

If homosexual acts are immoral a posteriori, then it must because of known consequential harm(s), to self or others. Hence, gambling is bad, because it leads to financial ruin and waste of effort, etc. And, yet, we have ample, copious evidence, for those with ears to hear and eyes to see, that gay is good, despite the efforts of LaBarbera to scurry the gutters to find “the sordid truth”.

I suspect that, to augment Tim’s catalog, there is also a brand of Conservative Christian who are worried about how to change the doctrine, without losing or weakening the perceived authority of the scripture or tradition, so they stand fast.

There is another group that use the issue for power struggle/gain within the hierarchy, just as they might for any other contentions theological issue.

Last, there are problem some who are lazy. They understand full well that there is a theoretical way to ‘bless sodomy’, if it is limited to gays when it ‘makes sense’; but they are unwilling to do the hard pedagogical work of propagating an ethic to that effect. It’s too easy cheaply to deflect the issue onto one about public morals or giving every prejudice possible to the primacy of childrearing.

Amicus
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

“scurry the gutters” is not accurate, “scurry about” is better.

“problem some” s/b “probably some”

Seth R.
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

jcrr,

I doubt it was just Prop 8. We’ve had a busy past several years. First there was the Romney candidacy which made everyone notice we actually exist for the first time in ages. That also brought out all the Jesus-screamers in the Christian Right bagging on Mormons for having a “different Jesus – yadda, yadda.”

Then we had Prop 8 where people suddenly realized that the religion actually has sway and societal relevance. But also revealed some rather misguided stances within the LDS Church (I disagreed with Prop 8 and I think the way the LDS leadership handled it was rather naive).

Then we had the raid of all the polygamists in Texas – who are NOT part of the LDS Church, but rather a splinter faction. But few people were keeping real close track of these kind of details…

Big Love… broadcast television talent shows…

The net result is that we’re just on everyone’s minds in general more these days – both on the political right, and the political left.

It’s hard to isolate Prop 8 as the sole cause for those numbers. Lots has been going on these days.

Amicus
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

God can declare *any* behavior to be immoral, … duty to persevere in your obedience to God and try to abstain from committing any immoral act.
===
On second eyes, I have to say this looks more like a Jewish Orthodox view, than a Christian one, even a “fundamentalist” one.

Indeed, it seems more accurate to describe this posture as a-Christian, a-scriptural, no?

The tension _inside_ undiscerning, code-based religions is twofold (at least): 1. to Tim’s point, how they fit into the broader world and 2. how quickly they can atrophy, one adherents – faced with “conundrums”, perhaps? – find a false spirit codified, and reject it, leaving the old code for a new consciousness.

Anyway, it’s late and I obviously have written too much, and I have no more energy to fight sacred ignorance, today.

Amicus
October 9th, 2010 | LINK

“one adherents” s/b “once adherents”

justsearching
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

@ John “That be true when discussing theology but it’s been my experience that even many conservative Christians become far more receptive to gay rights when learning that homosexuality isn’t chosen but instead is innate.”

True, for some a new understanding of a social issue leads many (perhaps most) to reform their theological perspective. I’m just saying that the theological perspective is not forced logically to change in the face of evidence about homosexuality’s innateness. You’re right in that our focus should be in getting followers to see that homosexuality is innate rather than wasting time trying to get theologians to change their minds (because in this case the facts about homosexuality don’t necessitate a change in theology)

@ Tim “However, in practicality, they consider “homosexuality” to be sin and that definition is far more extensive than just specific forbidden sex acts.” In the same way, the New Testament condemns adultery, and this precludes thinking about it, flirting with a married person, accepting one’s own desires to commit adultery, or idly allowing the desire to commit adultery to grow. So yes, the condemnation of homosexual acts and the condemnation of adultery go beyond just the sexual acts themselves. But I don’t think most conservative Christians would condemn a person for having a disposition towards committing adultery or a homosexual act. As they would put, it’s just the “sinful nature” or the “carnal flesh” in us that is not fully purged to the end of all earthly things. One always has that sinful nature, but one is not condemned for having that nature unless one accepts it passively/entertains the possibility of acting on it/acts upon it.

@Amicus “an orientation condemned a priori…” I don’t accept that most conservative Christians think that way for the reasons stated above.

“The orientation “exists” and is condemned, even though it is part of God’s good creation.” I’d still contend that some would view struggling against the “flesh” as a beneficial thing.

“Indeed, it seems more accurate to describe this posture as a-Christian, a-scriptural, no?” I’m not sure how the idea that God’s dictates determine what is moral or immoral is a-Christian. God’s plan for human sexuality, conservatives might protest, has been made clear in the OT, NT and in the design of human anatomy, and the fact that members of society feel good about committing (and cause no other harm while committing) this sin, doesn’t make it not a sin.

Amicus
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

The import of innateness is strong beyond words. There was no reason to accommodate, say, Galileo, but the Church eventually had to. The Church did not have to change its highly doctrinaire stance that enabled “slap a Jew”, but they did. The list goes on. There will, one day, be a solemn apology to gays and lesbians, for centuries of persecution. Dare to dream.

As for the other, “conservative Christian” is too broad for further analysis.

However, the notion that Christianity (or “Kingdom” as some have it, see “Word of Faith” groups) could be reduced to acts, performed or unperformed, is probably a-scriptural. In Acts 15 (no unwanted overtone implied, gulp), it’s fairly clear that the old code-based “faith” is repudiated, replaced. Thus, in the circumstances you describe, a scholar might use the rubric “Christian cult” or something else to describe that set of beliefs, short of the more powerful “heretical”.

Defining the morality of something in terms of acts does not escape the paradox/conundrum that Tim laid out. It may show up cognitively or spiritually in other ways or in terms than I used to be clear/systematic, but it is there. If you teach that hugging puppies is an immoral act, the weakness of that teaching soon becomes plain.

“Struggling against the flesh” is thought to be a way to come closer to god, to emphasize the spiritual (cf. St. Paul), to be centered in Christ. And the scripture is clear on that purpose. (And I don’t pretend that this is not extraordinarily serious for some Christians.).

However, for gays, to the extent that “gay” is innate, that struggle has the opposite effect. It’s a false teaching to demand a struggle against their god-given nature. It sends people on a spiritual _journey_ for a life centered in Christ that is already present. It’s a grave abdication of fatherhood/stewardship to propagate such a teaching… That point could be greatly fortified, but that’s enough for here. Suffice it to say, we could call such a teaching “spiritual violence” and be wholly justified.

Last, the Christian scriptures are deeply involved in the world, in the sense that, despite proclamations about scriptural inerrancy and authority that we here from Baptists and others, in particular, the texts have overtones of a very different epistemology. Matthew 7:15, for instance, is the well known instruction, ‘by their fruits ye shall know them.’ There are plenty of other teachings that are not of the “because I said so” variety. There is much more, enough to be encouraged that literalists could never have the “last word” and not to despair in engaging with them, but I’ll kept it short.

Yesterday, I spent a little time on the anti-gay gcmwatch.com. In places, you see that the teaching, despite the aggrandizing and bizarro frame, is something familiar, that gayness is like an addiction, ‘the constant possibility of human sin’, to borrow a old phrase. This is a kind of assertion that is demonstrably false, no matter what claims about the authority from which it comes.

From there, I ended up on http://theocracywatch.org/, a good set of people who do a good job of keeping track of both the history of these folks and their “challenged” ideas, too.

Last, this person has a different taxonomy that Tim, one that’s laid out for those who might think about techniques to dialog.
http://theocracywatch.org/homo_gospel_gaymarriage_alternet_june16_05.htm

Amicus
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

err…”strong beyond words” potentially has the wrong connotation. I meant it literally, not figuratively, as in having strength beyond rhetorical value, ‘physical testament’.

Amicus
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

specifically on sexual morality:

God’s plan for human sexuality, conservatives might protest, has been made clear in the OT, NT and in the design of human anatomy, ….
———–
without attacking the authority of the scriptures of the role that authority should in people’s lives, it would be possible to borrow your phrase from below and use it here: “no amount of feeling good about asserting certainty/clarity, no matter what the harm, doesn’t make a willful ‘conservative exegesis’ of a parable/allegory story like genesis not a sin”

Thus, the question is not the authority of the scripture, but our poor abilities to discern God’s full purpose. And the law-giver Himself gave instruction on what to do when faced with such uncertainty…

and the fact that members of society feel good about committing (and cause no other harm while committing) this sin, doesn’t make it not a sin.
——
The no other harm part of this strikes me. Of the closest things to non-consequential harms that I can think of are sins against the spirit (broadly and perhaps imprecisely put). There is NO WAY that love, gay love, is a sin of this type.

Therefore, this is too strong a conclusion, given the premises, and should be rejected.

Amicus
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

s/b “or” not “of” in “or the authority of the scriptures
Also, no “of” in “Of the closest things..”

Amicus
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

As they would put, it’s just the “sinful nature” or the “carnal flesh” in us that is not fully purged to the end of all earthly things.

Just as an aside, consider just how very far from the scripture this teaching/understanding really is, in terms of the conceptual edifice that is constructed that is completely missing if you turn to Mark 10, alone, say.

In that chapter, the Pharisee’s bring a controversial issue to Jesus to tempt him. Why tempt? I think we can doubt that the controversy had to do with a theoretical debate raging about whether men should resist their carnal desires, no?

It seems more likely that people – women – were questioning the consequential aspects of Mosaic law, that they could be set aside, put away, no?

So, we have a spiritual teaching about responsible relationships grounded in the controversy about a social harm.

justsearching
October 11th, 2010 | LINK

“However, the notion that Christianity (or ‘Kingdom’ as some have it, see “Word of Faith” groups) could be reduced to acts, performed or unperformed, is probably a-scriptural.” I absolutely agree with that. I never suggested that Christianity could be reduced to ONLY doing or refraining from certain acts. Struggling against the flesh is “centered in Christ” but that could contain a component of struggling against one’s inner desires to act against God’s moral codes.

In Romans 7, Paul does write that “I would not know what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was had not the law said ‘Do not covet.” Without getting into the complexities of which parts of the law were abrogated by the coming Christ, I don’t think it non-typical for Christian theologians to claim that we have the duty to follow the moral dictates of God.

You state that “It’s a false teaching to demand a struggle against their god-given nature.” Romans 7 states that “I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin… Who will rescue me from this nature?” It seems entirely Pauline to suggest that some part of a “sinful nature” remains and it must be struggled with, and that further more it will remain until Christians gain their non-earthly bodies. I never suggested that the nature was “God-given” per se, however, He allowed that nature to exist for His own purposes.

You state that “Of the closest things to non-consequential harms that I can think of are sins against the spirit (broadly and perhaps imprecisely put). There is NO WAY that love, gay love, is a sin of this type.” and “If you teach that hugging puppies is an immoral act, the weakness of that teaching soon becomes plain.” There’s nothing in the structure of humans and dogs to suggest that the former ought not to hug the latter. But to the Christian who believes that God’s plan, even before the Fall, was that man and woman become “one flesh”, then the God-made structures of men and women could suggest what God’s plan is for human sexuality. Feeling content or loving when pursuing some other mode of sexual expression doesn’t change the moral status of that expression.

Amicus
October 11th, 2010 | LINK

Well, I should probably take some time for something more cogitated, but here’s the dope on Paul.

First, we clearly concur the Christians scriptures are not like older, law-based religions, not Leviticus, not Hamurabi, not Zarathustra, etc. So, before entering into a general discussion about the ‘moral dictates’, one has to have the orientation that the basis of the authority and insight in most of the scripture is not “dictated”. Compare: “Blessed are the meek”. This is not a dictate, per se, at least in the sense of say-do.

Now, ‘the law’ is NOT external to man. The Kingdom of heaven is within you. The law is an epistemic and pedagogical tool to help you discover that, to guide and center a spiritual journey, an understanding of it that is consistent with a broad range of similar ‘wisdom books’. Thus, to put the law against ‘nature’ or ‘man’ is to confuse things (I think). And, in general, the law was ‘made’ to serve mankind, men were not made to serve the law. Subtle, but important difference.

Now, when Paul is struggling, it is not against his “nature” as a heterosexual, against all physical attraction. (I would say God-given nature.) He does talk about wishing others were like him (celibate for reasons unknown to us), but that is not because their impulses are immoral. So, I would say, that Paul would no sooner tell a homosexual to struggle against their gay nature as he would tell a heterosexual to struggle against theirs. For either, his message might be, abstinence makes the heart grow fonder (of God).

The rest might involve a more lengthy understanding about the various ways in which Paul writes and thinks about “sin”.

And this is no small task. Lumping things into “sinful nature” and “struggle against” might be useful shorthand for catechism, but hardly is the full picture.

For instance, Paul (and James) point out that sin begets sin, without repentance – it’s not my experience that homosexuality, per se, is a moral slippery slope. However, murder …

Feeling content or loving when pursuing some other mode of sexual expression doesn’t change the moral status of that expression.

But, of course it does. Certainly not on its own, but along with discernment and testament and so forth.

Let me dramatize it this way. If one – anyone – has a poorly constructed moral ethic, it will be challenged. So, if you have a poorly abstracted moral imperative (claimed God-given) from the Genesis allegory, then … someone is going to hang “95 thesis” on the door and reform the church.

The question, in time, is not whether, but how, that reform takes place.

There are some that claim that reform would be to surrender a fundamental Christian “grounding”/distinction, let’s put it that way, but I think not so. Gay love can and will be, someday, blessed as Christlike.

Timothy (TRiG)
October 11th, 2010 | LINK

justsearching,

Feeling content or loving when pursuing some other mode of sexual expression doesn’t change the moral status of that expression.

Yes, it does. Because morality is about happiness and suffering. This is why our morality is directed primarily toward our fellow humans and secondarily toward animals. We do not have moral obligations toward rocks.

Nor do we have moral obligations toward fairies in the sky, and religions which teach we do (that’s most of them) are guilty of perverting morality.

Your moral reasoning is wonky.

TRiG.

justsearching
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

I agree that morality is about happiness and suffering. I’m not, and haven’t been, representing my own views here. Just the views of other Christians who wouldn’t take your Utilitarian ethics seriously.

“Gay love can and will be, someday, blessed as Christlike.” Probably. Or one could “dare to dream”, as you put it, that someday people would find it irrelevant what is and is not supposedly Christlike.

Amicus
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

I doubt the alternative dream. Too many people, in my view, think of it as a wonderland, where the yoke of revealed truth is thrown off and the power of the jealous, corrupt, unforgiving/undiscerning clergy is forever done away with. I don’t see green pastures emerging, in that scenario. I see chaos, tribalism, secular mullahs, and strife.

Meanwhile, the Genesis story does support a gay exegesis. I should mention it, because it’s not like a challenge, in terms of Tim’s ‘conundrum’/’paradox’ to the “received” interpretation stands alone.

cowboy
October 27th, 2010 | LINK

Update: The Second-in-Command (so to speak) in the Mormon hierarchy just gave an impassioned speech that was broadcasted through the Mormon’s vast broadcast satellite system. Basically, he wanted to tone-down the rhetoric his fellow Brother Boyd K. Packer said at the LDS General Conference with a pathetic placative: “We’re all God’s children.”…yadda yadda yadda .

When the LDS Church finally comprehends the concept that we are not like alcoholics and our sexual orientation is nowhere close to being a “temptation” will I stand up and shake their hand in any demonstration of fellowship.

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