John W Burgeson wrote:
> GM:I don't think that God simply sets down arbitrary rules, like 3
> strikes and you're out or the knight's move in chess. Thus we can ask
> why condemnations of homosexual would have made sense in the culture of
> ancient Israel or the early church & why they may or may not make sense
> today. The reason Burgy gives may be part of the story, but I think we
> need to be more specific. Reasons I have heard presented are:
> a) the existence of male homosexual prostitution in some pagan
> b) concern about emissions of body fluids, about which there are
> a number of Levitical regulations, and about "spilling of seed," and
> c) the fact that prisoners of war were sometimes subjected to
> homosexual rape.
> It is worth noting that none of these would seem to be germane to the
> question of female homosexuality. I have never heard of lesbian
> religious prostitution, though I suppose it could have existed.
> All these are good reasons. I have a fourth one. Perhaps -- just perhaps
> -- the Lev verse is added in by an overzealous scribe/priest, and was
> never God's will, even for the ancient Hebrews? I have in mind some other
> "strange" verses in that book, like the one forbidding the husband to
> embrace, or even touch, his wife for two weeks after childbirth. The pork
> thing I can understand as a health rule.
When I said that the biblical regulations "made sense" I meant within
the worldview of Israel ~3000 years ago. E.g., concern about emission of
body fluids unifies a lot of the Levitical laws, including the one about a
women being "unclean" for 14 days after birth of a daughter. This doesn't
make a lot of sense to us today. Of course this doesn't preclude some of
those regulations also making sense within our worldview. Some of the health
laws may do that - although the prohibition of pork may be a reaction to
sacrifice of pigs in Canaanite cults than with trichinosis.
> GM:"8. Repeat questions 5 and 6 for the concept of "bisexual." I pose
> the question for a reason more important than the relatively small number
> of people considering themselves bisexual might suggest. A little
> attention to what is going on in mainline denominations will show that
> what is often spoken of now is not simply "gay and lesbian persons" but
> "sexual minorities" which includes "gay, lesbian, bisexual and
> transgendered persons." Genuinely transgendered persons raise unique
> issues (some noted in a recent post by Judy Torunchuk) which I won't try
> to address here. But a demand for inclusion of non-celibate bisexual
> persons by the church obviously raises questions about how seriously any
> expectation of committed one-to-one relationships, call them marriage or
> anything else, is being taken. (See my comment on #15 below.) To put it
> bluntly, can we draw a line anywhere?"
> This is a serious and a good question, and I have no answers. The breath
> of human morphology and sexual orientations is vast. It has taken me
> nearly five years to finally take a position on only one subset of
> homosexual people -- I happen to know several couples which fit this
> definition, and I'm not acquainted with those who "cruise the gay bars."
> Can we draw a line? That is really the question I wrestled with. I
> conclude, of course, that we can draw a line -- that line means to not
> call a sin what I am reasonably persuaded God does not call a sin --
> adult long term loving domestic relationships. The number of such
> relationships between two persons of the same sex may, indeed, be small,
> but even if it were a set of one, the argument applies. Is there an
> expectation of more? I don't know. Are there some today, in spite of
> society's knee-jerk reactions? Of course.
Your concern is, I think, to be supportive of individuals of
homosexual orientation who want to live responsibly in committed
relationships. I would like to do that as well and I think that there are
ways of accomplishing that which are consistent with a Christian ethic. But
I am also concerned about the state of the church as a whole, and think that
we can't ignore the existence of forces in society which would tend to do
away with any expectation of faithfulness or commitment in connection with
sexuality. A quick look around at the cultural scene will show, I think,
that I'm not being paranoid about this.
The question of inclusion of bisexuals among the "sexual minorities"
seems a small one but if the church doesn't give it a hard look it has the
potential to disrupt any attempt to deal with sexuality with theological
integrity. The kind of "line" I'm talking about here is not one of declaring
persons with bisexual orientation (if there are such) unpersons but of saying
to them, as far as their sexual expression in a committed relationship goes,
something on the order of "You have to make a choice."
> GM: 15. Is the possibility of committed, loving, one-to-one
> relationships between male homosexuals realistic, or is promiscuity
> connected in some basic way with male homosexual orientation?
> Again, I should have been clearer - especially since this is a
> crucial question for determining the response of the church. Certainly
> such relationships exist for some male homosexual couples. The question
> is though whether or not it is realistic to think that such relationships
> are either desired by, or possible for, most male homosexuals.
> I disagree that such is "the question." Assuming for argument that 90% of
> all male homosexuals are not interested in a committed domestic
> relationship, the 10% remaining are still a class we must think about,
> recognize, and support.
GM: If the kind of commitment we're talking about is a real
> for a significant fraction of male homosexuals, I think that many
> Christians would be prepared to recognize some type of homosexual union,
> even if they are seen simply as the best way to deal with a less than
> ideal situation. But if not, not. "
> That's probably true, but irrelevant as far as my own position is
> concerned. Like the "lost sheep," it would only take one instance.
Here the difference in emphasis that I noted earlier comes out again. I
agree that we need to
support the 10% but also think the church needs to be careful about making an
important change in its theology & ethics of sexuality without doing as well
as possible to be sure that it's not opening itself up to much more radical &
unforeseen changes demanded by the 90%. The parable of the lost sheep is a
parable, and can't be pressed in all points. If going after the lost sheep
means exposing the 99 at home to a pack of wolves then the shepherd had
better check out the fences & alarm system before setting out in search of
Demands for change over the past ~ 40 years have now become very urgent
but, in light of 2000 years of Christian history, we can afford to take a
little bit of time to make decisions.
I want to be clear that I'm not trying to just stall off any change
in the church's teaching & practice. What I would envision eventually
happening would be the legalization of committed homosexual relations by the
state, that conveying the same legal benefits as far as health care,
inheritance, &c as heterosexual marriage, though it would not be "marriage."
The church could, in cases in which it was satisfied that the appropriate
sort of commitment existed, bless these civil relationships, in somewhat the
same way that a church blessing can be given to a civil marriage - though
again without the language of "marriage."
These committed homosexual relationships would not be seen as an
expression or sign of God's full intention for humanity, like marriage, but
as something more on the order of a "just war" or divorce in some
circumstances. I.e., they are the appropriate way of dealing with life in a
creation which has not yet reached its fulfillment, and in which God's will
is not fully expressed and the effects of sin must be confronted.
Something like that last paragraph seems to me to be necessary for a
recognition of homosexual relationships that has some continuity with the
Christian theological tradition. But I'm not very sanguine about it being
acceptable to many people. A lot of conservatives will reject any sort of
acceptance of homosexual relationships, even if they're to be seen as the
best of bad choices. And many homosexuals will reject any suggestion that
their relationships lack anything possessed by heterosexual ones. (& this in
spite of the fact that, theological considerations aside, they obviously are
lacking at least one thing, the ability to procreate within the boundaries of
that relationship & without technological intervention.) & it still leaves a
lot of other questions - e.g., ordination - open. Nevertheless, I think
this is the approach that should be pursued.
George L. Murphy
"The Science-Theology Interface"
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