What if the church is wrong about homosexuality?

A little Evangelical “inside baseball…”

USA Today had an op-ed yesterday by a minister named Oliver Thomas taking the position that the morality of homosexuality depends on what science learns about the factors which may cause it.

I suppose that is the first topic for discussion here.

I have resisted this argument. One, because I do not like the idea that what one values or chooses to do is solely determined by private inclinations. As a matter of principle, there are numerous reasons to hope for restraint of private inclinations in behavior. Values and beliefs ought to guide such decisions. Two, as one who holds to an authority outside of myself, I reserve for myself the value of living by wisdom that may not comport with my private inclinations. So I do not agree with the idea that inclinations to do certain things are themselves enough to make them reliable guides to moral action. This is my brief take on things and I think many in Evangelical circles would agree.

Now for others, personal experience is the determiner of truth. For example, it was for Carl Rogers who said: “Experience is, for me, the highest authority…Neither the Bible nor the prophets — neither Freud nor research –neither the revelations of God nor man — can take precedence over my own direct experience.”

Worlds collide.

Now, let that quote from Rogers segue into a controversy involving Bart Campolo, son of prominent evangelical, Tony Campolo. Recently, he wrote an article suggesting in a Jethro Tull-like fashion that he could not believe in a God that did not compare favorably to his view of fairness and compassion. The article is a passionate and interesting read; here is a quote that provoked me to include it in this post: “I am a free agent, after all, and I have standards for my God, the first of which is this: I will not worship any God who is not at least as compassionate as I am.”

Bringing these two articles together, they testify to the powerful forces within Christianity broadly-speaking and to an increasing degree, within Evangelicalism as well, to allow science and compassion to decide the “gay issue.” If science determines that being attracted to same sex is hardwired (although I am not sure how much is enough – 40%, 60%, 90%?), then how could a compassionate god consider homoerotic behavior to be immoral? Science becomes the delimiting factor for what can, and cannot be moral.

We have a similar discussion before on this blog. Some people come to gay-affirming theology due to their study of the Scripture and not science nor subjectivity. And so there can be a discussion based on a foundation – what does Scripture teach?

However, for those following the lead of USA Today’s Thomas, we should take a leap of faith in the promises of the biological determinists regarding homosexuality. If we follow Campolo’s lead, human compassion, individually determined, is the test of godness and by extension what god prefers.

These are tough times for those who value primary guidance from Scripture and tradition and I suspect the status of homosexuality as a matter of ecclesiastical contention is safe for the forseeable future.

(Hat tip: No Kool Aid Zone for the Campolo article…)

“You fight like a girl” – Fruit flies and the playground

Fruitfly research is pretty hot stuff and this new study is sure to find its way on to late night television.

Fighting Like a Girl or Boy Determined by Gene in Fruit Flies

BOSTON, Nov. 20 /Standard Newswire/ — Fighting like a girl or fighting like a boy is hardwired into fruit fly neurons, according to a study in the Nov. 19 Nature Neuroscience advance online publication by a research team from Harvard Medical School and the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna. The results confirm that a gene known as “fruitless” is a key factor underlying sexual differences in behavior. The findings mark a milestone in an unlikely new animal model for understanding the biology of aggression and how the nervous system gives rise to different behaviors.

I’ll bet the boy fighters call each other dude and drink Gatorade between rounds.

Reality show idea combining this and the last post – Get men and women to fight and have raters decide if they are gay or not by how they fight. The raters go off the show if they are wrong. The celebrity version of the show would be huge. Anyone want to suggest a name for it?

Gaydar and stereotypes

Michael Bailey is quoted extensively in this article regarding his research on gaydar. Social psychologists study stereotypes and the “I knew it all along” feeling (e.g., I just knew he was gay). I suppose I have furthered a few stereotypes by my support of Daryl Bem’s Exotic Becomes Erotic theory.

I had to chuckle a bit at this aspect of the article where Dr. Bailey puts his gaydar square on Haggard: “The one blip on his Ph.D.-caliber gaydar was Haggard’s broad grin.”This is total speculation, we haven’t done studies yet, but I think gay men tend to have much more expressive smiles. That’s one thing that struck me about Haggard.'”

And here I thought it was because he was the pastor of a megachurch. Silly me.

Another article regarding Haggard and reparative therapy

AP’s David Crary covers the Haggard issue with comments from the usual suspects.

This article covers some of the same ground as the Denver Post article on November 12. I was struck by a couple of points in this article. There was a certain dogmatism to the APA commenters. Doug Haldeman said there is nothing good that can come from conversion therapy. This is an extreme statement that is at odds with the experience of many who have been involved in it. Possible harm, yes; but “nothing good?” – I think that is easily falsified and is actually contrary to some of Dr. Haldeman’s writings in APA journals.

I thought Joe Nicolosi made a good point by pointing out that each individual has the perogative to determine what same-sex attractions mean to him within a valuative framework. However, in my opinion, he undermined his position to some degree by assessing Mr. Haggard’s history, apparently without any knowledge of him (one hopes it is without experiential knowledge), as needing to face “…the realities that you [Haggard] did not get certain central affirmations from your mother or your father…” How would one know that?

Mr. Crary correctly points out that:

There have been numerous studies, with varying conclusions, on how homosexuality originates and whether it can be changed. But there has been no authoritative study – accepted by both sides – examining the effectiveness and possible ill-effects of reparative therapy.

And so dogmatism on any side seems unwarranted.

Unprotected: How universities can be hazardous to student health

I have interviewed the anonymous author of the new book Unprotected and briefly reviewed the book. Released tomorrow, the book provides a very sobering look at unrestained sexuality on campuses and how campus health services are often accomplices in the risky behavior (not at GCC of course :).

Ted Haggard – Pastor’s Case Stirs Debate: Denver Post

Today’s Denver Post has an article by Kevin Simpson and Eric Gorski that reports on the various views of sexual orientation and how the restoration of Ted Haggard might proceed. A balanced article, the reporters include quotes from Anthony Bogaert, Daryl Bem, Robert Spitzer, Jack Drescher, Mary Heathman, Joe Nicolosi, Alan Chambers and yours truly. There is also a story of someone who went into Exodus and did not experience the change he was looking for.