Can We Be Friends?

05.22.2012, 11:11 AM

Fannie’s post “Not a Christian, But” has provoked a lot of discussion that started with Linus asking:

[D]o you think it is possible for Christians of good will to hold their traditional moral beliefs about controversial topics such as sexuality, while also seeking to cultivate positive relationships with their LGBT family members and neighbors?

La Lubu put it succintly when she said that

If your faith—no matter how conservative—stops at the boundaries of your life, we’re cool. Once you start intruding into my life, we’re not.

When Lucy answered that she believes Linus’s question can only be answered negatively, Linus asked:

I’d love to have a discussion about why you think my question can only be answered negatively? Why does this issue polarize to the point that we can’t disagree constructively and respectfully? Is respectful disagreement (the baseline of any “positive relationship”) unattainable?

I’d be interested in hearing reactions to this last question of Linus’s.

I’ll start by offering a couple thoughts of my own.

First, to clear some things up in the discussion, I should make it clear that I — a Catholic who seeks to be faithful to the Church’s teaching on all things pertaining to faith and morals — do not believe that moral objections to homosexual acts should be the basis for a state defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Given the pluralistic context within which we live, the state’s interest should not be that of regulating the private relationships of people – but should have everything to do with a child’s right to know and to be known by their biological mother and father.

I’m not interested in making laws to stop gay people from being gay. To me, this conversation is a non-political one — though making headway in this conversation could perhaps ground the political debate in more mutual respect and charity.

Second, I disagree with La Lubu that one’s faith should stop at the boundaries of his or her life. If I have a Muslim friend who sincerely believes that Christianity is false, I fully expect him to engage me in conversation and try to persuade me to join the Muslim faith. Of course, if he uses force to accomplish the goal of conversion, then we have problems! But is his view that my Christian religion is false — is that necessarily a bigoted view? I don’t think so. Instead, I take it as a sign of his integrity and respect for truth that he is willing to engage me in conversation about what he believes to be true, good and beautiful — and as someone who cares about my welfare, he wants me to help me to see the truth, goodness, and beauty of the Muslim religion. So he makes arguments, tries to get me to go his mosque, is constantly inviting me to read books about Islam, etc. Far from crossing a personal boundary into my personal life, I hope I would take all those attempts to convert me as a sign of genuine friendship and concern for my welfare.

So, in answer to Linus’s question: I don’t think the conversation between me (a person with traditional views on sex) and a LGBT friend has to be hopelessly polarized — so long as charity and respect for truth are at the foundation of the friendship.  

But I’d be interested in what everyone else thinks about Linus’s question’s to Lucy:

I’d love to have a discussion about why you think my question can only be answered negatively? Why does this issue polarize to the point that we can’t disagree constructively and respectfully? Is respectful disagreement (the baseline of any “positive relationship”) unattainable?”

 

 


35 Responses to “Can We Be Friends?”

  1. Matthew says:

    Well, of course, if you are genuinely respectful of gay and lesbian people, don’t try to codify laws against our relationships or try to prevent people from being gay, then there is no reason that you cannot be good friends with gay and lesbian people. I have several close friends who are sincere Christians. I do not think they agree with the Catholic Church’s official position on homosexuality, but in any case they never have indicated that they agree with it or believe that I am “intrisically disordered” or whatever the party line is. They are supportive of equal rights for gay people.

    Friendship has to be based on mutuality of respect and interests, but that doesn’t mean that friends have to agree on everything or believe the same things.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    David, would you feel different about your Muslim friend if Muslims were 80% of the population and controlled all the power, and Catholics were a mere 2% of the population? Would his desire to convert you and criticize your faith feel different if you weren’t coming from a position of power and privilege?

    When Christians challenge LGBT people on their rights and lives, it is coming from the position of extreme power and control. That’s why it is so painful and difficult even if the Christian believes they are doing it from a position of honesty and grace. Honest and graceful Christians act to oppress LGBT people on a daily basis in the U.S.

  3. La Lubu says:

    I love that you called me Lucy; perhaps I am bringing light as well as heat? *smile* Or perhaps it’s a Freudian slip, since Lucy is the patron saint of Sicily.

    Anyway, it’s fine if you are open to your friends trying to convert you. If you or anyone else openly invites that kind of investigation into their private lives, that is your right. However…

    …not all of us have that open invitation into our private lives. We draw our boundaries closer, and expect those boundaries to be respected. I regard the questioning of my spirituality—even from a friend—to be at least as intrusive as digging through my financial records or underwear drawer.

  4. Matthew says:

    David, I think have read your post a bit too quickly. You say, “First, to clear some things up in the discussion, I should make it clear that I — a Catholic who seeks to be faithful to the Church’s teaching on all things pertaining to faith and morals — do not believe that moral objections to homosexual acts should be the basis for a state defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Given the pluralistic context within which we live, the state’s interest should not be that of regulating the private relationships of people – but should have everything to do with a child’s right to know and to be known by their biological mother and father.”

    When I first read that, I thought you were saying that despite your Catholic beliefs you were not opposed to same-sex marriage. In re-reading it, it seems that you may be saying something else: namely, that your opposition to same-sex marriage stems not from Catholic dogma but from “a child’s right to know and to be known by their biological mother and father.”

    Sorry. But that seems, to use a word from another thread, “disingenuous” to me. If you work to deprive gay people of equal rights, regardless of why, I would not consider you a friend of mine.

  5. fannie says:

    “[D]o you think it is possible for Christians of good will to hold their traditional moral beliefs about controversial topics such as sexuality, while also seeking to cultivate positive relationships with their LGBT family members and neighbors?”

    and

    “I’d love to have a discussion about why you think my question can only be answered negatively? Why does this issue polarize to the point that we can’t disagree constructively and respectfully? Is respectful disagreement (the baseline of any ‘positive relationship’) unattainable?”

    In order to answer this question well, I will re-iterate that it would be helpful to know what specific “traditional moral beliefs” about sexuality are being referenced.

    If it is the “traditional moral belief” that engaging in same-sex sexual behavior is immoral, it would likewise be helpful for religious people holding that belief to understand that many lesbian, gay, and bisexual people find that base, starting position to be not respectful, and indeed outright hostile.

    It is a position that has justified a spectrum of religiously-motivated aggression against LGB people- ranging from “mere” proclamations from powerful voices that we are immoral to outright calls for our extinction from humanity.

    When I hear that someone holds “traditional moral beliefs” about (homo)sexuality, I am always, always, wondering how far their hostility- their belief that my sexuality is immoral- extends. This is a defense mechanism necessitated by the reality that, rarely, in my experience
    is a person’s judgment/traditional moral belief confined to the libertarian “live and let live” sentiment that has been, in my opinion, kind of being unrealistically idealized at this particular forum in the past couple days.

    That being said, I do think it’s possible to have respectful conversations about this topic, in that we can have these conversations without sentiments like “fag,” “bigot,” and “burn in hell” being uttered.

    But, what would it mean for such a conversations to be “constructive”?

    That one party changes their views?

    Isn’t that impossible, when at least one party is operating from the assumption that they are speaking from a place of absolute moral truth regarding the matter of “traditional moral belief”?

    Is a respectful and constructive disagreement one where (a) lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people (re)consider the notion that we are engaging in immoral behavior when we engage in same-sex sexual behavior and (b) that we do this while being civil, agreeable, and without calling you bigots?

    Do you think we have not yet done this in our lives? Do you think this regular reconsideration and reexamination of our lives is healthy? Draining? Emotionally exhausting? Harmful?

    When one understands that many lesbian, gay, and bisexual people view their sexual orientation as a fundamental part of themselves, one might better understand why it’s problematic to treat the morality of homosexuality as though it’s a legitimate, debatable issue that might be a fun, entertaining, and/or respectful debating exercise for LGB people (or our allies).

  6. Matthew says:

    I agree with all that Fannie said above. But I also want David to respond to my post above about his position on same-sex marriage. Do you really believe that there is any difference between opposing same-sex marriage out of religious dogma and because “Given the pluralistic context within which we live, the state’s interest should not be that of regulating the private relationships of people – but should have everything to do with a child’s right to know and to be known by their biological mother and father”?

    It seems to me that opposing same-sex marriage because a child allegedly has a right to know and to be known by their biological mother and father is simply illogical. Marriage, contra NOM and the Roman Catholic Church, simply has nothing to do with procreation or with raising children. One is not required to be married to raise children. Period. Preventing gay people from marrying will not prevent us from raising children.

    If you are concerned about a child’s right to know and to be known by their biological mother and father, then you could better spend your time regulating adoption or adultery or surrogacy or whatever.

    Most gay people who marry don’t have children; and most who do have children know who the children’s mothers and fathers are.

    The idea that opposition to same-sex marriage has anything to do with a child’s right to know and be known by their biological mother and father is simply ludicrous. It has to be a front for religious dogma or homophobia or something else. It makes no sense. At least wanting to deprive gay people of equal rights because of homophobia has its own logic. This does not.

  7. David Blankenhorn says:

    Matthew says:

    The idea that opposition to same-sex marriage has anything to do with a child’s right to know and be known by their biological mother and father is simply ludicrous. It has to be a front for religious dogma or homophobia or something else. It makes no sense. At least wanting to deprive gay people of equal rights because of homophobia has its own logic. This does not.

    Well, I wrote a whole book arguing a point that you here call ludicrous, makes no sense, has to be a front for something else, has no logic. I hear you, that this makes no sense to you, and that you cannot possibly imagine a rationale, sincere person of reasonable intelligence holding this position, etc. etc. I’ve heard many people talk this way, about many different subjects.

  8. La Lubu says:

    Do you think we have not yet done this in our lives? Do you think this regular reconsideration and reexamination of our lives is healthy? Draining? Emotionally exhausting? Harmful?

    From what I can observe, it’s very painful. I have a cousin that I’ve known was gay for many years; he changed jobs several years ago and I googled his (rather unique) name in an attempt to get his work email address, since his old email was no longer active. Up jumped a gay travelogue that mentioned my cousin’s full name and hometown (the critic was commenting on the “gorgeous bartender”—my cousin—but what struck me wasn’t that he was gay, but that he had lied about his age! The bartending gig was his version of college work-study (I’ll bet he got a lot of tips.) *snicker* Anyway, he came out to my mom about a year before she died, and came out to me shortly thereafter. I just wanted to let him know that he is loved, and that he and his partner are always welcome into my life. To my great surprise, he informed me that he has been out to his immediate family even back in high school—and that it has always been ok with them (his father is a lifer in the military, and has a long reputation for being uncomfortable with homosexuality).

    But the extended family? Yeeeaahh…not so much. My cousin has not felt comfortable letting anyone other than my mom, my dad and me know about his orientation. There is a lot of hostility amongst many of my mother’s family. As a consequence, I don’t get to see my cousin very often. He lives across the country. He doesn’t feel right leaving his partner (who he has been with for over a decade), nor does he feel comfortable exposing his partner to the (likely) hostility he would experience from many members of my extended family. That hurts.

    But you know what hurts more? Our other cousin. A younger, lesbian cousin. Someone who hasn’t had the opportunity to go to college. She lives with her mom, and is in the thick of criticism about her sexuality. She has had an on-again, off-again relationship with heroin. She overdosed a couple of years ago, and has been physically disabled ever since (lost the use of her legs). I worry about her a lot. She isn’t accepted for who she is, and that can’t help her addiction (which again, I suspect was an attempt to self-medicate that part of herself away).

    I know the people who make hurtful comments to lgbt people swear up and down that what they say isn’t hate; that they are only looking after their welfare. But my cousins experience it as hate.

    Again, it’s probably worth mentioning that most of the folks in my family who have a hostile attitude towards lgbt people would describe themselves as politically liberal. Democratic voters. (Pretty sure only my wackaloon uncle that thinks fluoridated water is a communist plot is the only one who didn’t vote for Obama, and even more sure that’ll be the case this election year too). So…where to lgbt people find those much vaunted friends, huh?

  9. Phil says:

    But is his view that my Christian religion is false — is that necessarily a bigoted view?

    I don’t think that believe someone else’s beliefs are false is inherently bigoted. Every human being on the planet who is capable of rational thought also thinks that someone else’s beliefs are false. Even if you think that all belief systems are equally true, then you think someone’s beliefs are false, because I don’t believe that.

    Second, I disagree with La Lubu that one’s faith should stop at the boundaries of his or her life. If I have a Muslim friend who sincerely believes that Christianity is false, I fully expect him to engage me in conversation and try to persuade me to join the Muslim faith.

    I have a few analogies that come to mind. The first is mental illness: if you sincerely believe that the Starbucks barista is an agent of an alien warlord and is out to get me, of course I can understand that, under your belief system, you must warn me and try to protect me. Does that mean I should refrain from judging your actions and reacting in an appropriate fashion–say, either trying to persuade you that you are mistaken, or cutting off contact? No, I don’t think it does. I don’t think the excuse of “I was acting according to my specific supernaturalist beliefs” is a magic shield that defends you from having your actions evaluated by others. (For that matter, I don’t believe that religious beliefs are a shield against having your actions described as bigotry, either.)

    If I’m describing what level of religious proselytizing I believe is appropriate, I would say that I believe you have exactly the same right to talk to me about how your religious beliefs are true as I do to talk to you about how your religious beliefs are bullshit. If you have the kind of relationship with me where you feel it is appropriate to discuss Christian or Wiccan or Hindu morals with me at length, unsolicited, then it should be assumed that we have the kind of relationship where I can, unsolicited, talk to you at length about how your own personal religious beliefs are utter and complete bullshit. You have the same moral right to post a sign in your yard saying that “God believes marriage is between a man and a woman” as I do to post a sign in my yard depicting a celebrity defecating on a bible and setting it on fire. Obviously, we both have a legal right to post such signs, but if you think that the latter is inappropriate public behavior, then it behooves you to realize that the former is also highly inappropriate public behavior.

    (Also, please note that I completely reject the argument that references to defecation or slang terms like “bullshit” are impolite in a way that condemnation of gay relationships is not. I cannot express what I mean unless I can provide an example that will evoke a reaction that is similar to what I feel when I hear one of the core elements of my being condemned. If a Christian commentator goes on television to say that same-sex relationships should be banned under the law because they’re against God’s will, I believe that is the rhetorical equivalent of an activist going on the same television show and peeing on a bible. Should both acts be legal? Unquestionably. Do both acts evoke similar defensive reactions in the people who receive them? I think it’s a reasonable analogy, as far as the public sphere is concerned.)

    I do agree with you, David, that there is a significant difference between supernaturalist beliefs and non-supernatural beliefs. If a Catholic has no reason to oppose same-sex marriage other than his or her Catholic beliefs, it is wrong for them to vote against SSM. To do so is to engage in theocratic behavior. You make a distinction between arguing from Catholic belief and arguing from a logical standpoint, and I agree that this distinction exists.

    I find your logical standpoint to be illogical and inconsistent, but at least it is something that can be debated rationally. The nature of supernaturalist beliefs is such that they cannot be debated rationally, and because of this, it is always inappropriate to base legal arguments on religious beliefs.

    Why does this issue polarize to the point that we can’t disagree constructively and respectfully? Is respectful disagreement (the baseline of any “positive relationship”) unattainable?

    I find anti-LGBT religious, moral, and political views to be so inherently offensive, and I find others’ inability to see how offensive they are to be so frustrating, that the only way we can have a meaningful discussion of this is if we can come up with a hypothetical example where we’re both on the same side.

    Do you believe, David, that a person who holds the profound religious belief that race-mixing is wrong, and that interracial relationships are an affront to god, can have a “respectful disagreement” and a “positive relationship” with a person who is married to a person of a different race?

    To me, holding a religious belief that same-sex marriage is wrong is the exact moral equivalent of holding the religious belief that interracial marriage is wrong. It is fair to also say that I believe that holding the political belief that SSM is wrong is the moral equivalent of holding the political belief that interracial marriage is wrong. In saying this, I am not comparing gay relationships to interracial relationships. I am comparing beliefs about two different types of relationships. It is the beliefs that I find essentially equivalent, not necessarily the relationships.

  10. Mont D. Law says:

    I believe the book you wrote is sincere and that you believe you are doing this for the children.

    But that doesn’t make you right or logical.

    As far as civil marriage is concerned you could have exactly what you claim to want much more quickly by putting all your time and money into restricting who is allowed to marry. Civil marriage is governed by state licenses. It would be relatively simple to change the law in several states to ensure that all children are raised by their biological parents. If you put a proof of fertility clause in the licensing process. Take away some benefit eligibility if there is no biological child in 5 years. Then no gays could marry in your state. Off the top of my head I think your Constitutional case would be stronger than the one you are arguing now.

    I think the States control divorce law too. So they would seem to have the ability to do away with no-fault divorce. New York state just changed their divorce laws to no-fault so the opposite should be true. You don’t think it’s worth trying to get some states like Mississippi or Alabama to change their divorce laws? You could make sure children are raised by those who bore them and their parents would stay married.

    The fact is you show marginal interest and commit minuscule resources to these strategies. Yet you and others dedicate literally millions of dollars and man hours to defeating marriage equality.

    You may be sincere but that is in no way evident from your position. Your argument may not be religious but surprisingly it produces a result your religion fully supports. It also places the costs of saving the children exclusively on gays and lesbians and their children.

  11. David Blankenhorn says:

    Mont D: It’s clear from your comments that you are clueless as to how I use and have used my “time and resources” and what my “interests” are. So I’m out. You certainly don’t need me poking around, making comments, in order to make the claims you make.

  12. David Lapp says:

    Fannie – Yes, when I say “traditional views on sex” I mean that that includes – among other things – that homosexual acts are immoral.

    But, what would it mean for such a conversations to be “constructive”? That one party changes their views?

    For starters, don’t be like Matthew and assume that I’m being disingenuous! Instead, assume that when I – who believe homosexual acts are immoral – say that I being sincere when I say that I do not consider gay persons to be in any way inferior or less than human, but that I look at them the same way I look at myself, my grandma, my Aunt Elizabeth, and every single person on the planet: as weak, and susceptible to sin, but pregnant with greatness and goodness and wonder and who demand my utmost respect. That’s my anthropology.

    According to the religion to which I submit (Catholic Christianity), homosexual acts are sinful – but persons with homosexual inclinations are not in any way inferior. And according to the Catholic Christian tradition, a life of celibacy – whether lived by a heterosexual or homosexual – is one of the highest and greatest vocations on earth. Indeed, many of the Church’s greatest saints were lifelong celibates who – far from doomed to a life of self-loathing – have been models of vitality, spiritual fruitfulness, mirth, and good works. Their stories even inspire some of us to pray that God will give our children the vocation of celibacy.

    That all may sound utterly foreign and silly to your ears. (And I won’t even mind if you get a good, rip-roarin laugh out of it!) But at least believe me when I say that I harbor no hate in my heart towards gay persons.

    Matthew – Before you claim to know the deepest motivations of my heart about this issue better than I do, I challenge you to read David Blankenhorn’s book on the subject, The Future of Marriage, for an understanding of how I could believe that the political debate about same-sex marriage is all about the children. But could we please drop accusations of people being “disingenuous”? If I had the imagination and will for it, I’m sure I could fabricate sundry adjectives to describe you. But I don’t know you, and I rather think it would be an unhelpful exercise – -so I choose to assume that you are motivated by good will (as I’m sure you are!). Please assume the same of me.

  13. fannie says:

    David L.,

    I agree that accusations of people being disingenuous are not appropriate within this conversation, especially about a contentious topic among people who disagree.

    Anyway, I take you at your word that you do not hate gay people. I’m also familiar with Catholic teaching on homosexuality. And, I’m highly familiar with this reasoning:

    “I look at [gay people] the same way I look at myself, my grandma, my Aunt Elizabeth, and every single person on the planet: as weak, and susceptible to sin, but pregnant with greatness and goodness and wonder and who demand my utmost respect.”

    But, there is a distinction though, right?

    When your (let’s say heterosexual) Aunt Elizabeth enters into a heterosexual marriage with her husband, you don’t see her as engaging in sin.

    When I marry my same-sex partner, you do see me as engaging in sin. There is nothing I can do, as a lesbian in a same-sex marriage, to not be living a sinful, immoral life, according to you.

    All other things being equal between Aunt E and me, I’m always going to be less moral than her. Solely because of the gender of my partner.

    Catholicism may guilt everyone into thinking we’re all sinners, but some sinners are, clearly, more sinny (is that a word?) than others.

  14. David Lapp says:

    Phil —

    Do you believe, David, that a person who holds the profound religious belief that race-mixing is wrong, and that interracial relationships are an affront to god, can have a “respectful disagreement” and a “positive relationship” with a person who is married to a person of a different race? To me, holding a religious belief that same-sex marriage is wrong is the exact moral equivalent of holding the religious belief that interracial marriage is wrong.

    (Sigh of sadness.) This is what I was afraid of. And I have to say, I hear you – and I think I understand given our likely differing assumptions about sexuality.

    See, my assumption is that, when it comes to a person realizing his or her dignity as a person, sexual desire is not analogous to race. Whereas race is good by nature, sexual desires can be rightly ordered or wrongly ordered. The right and natural end of sexual desire (according to the tradition Christian view) is a sexually complementary marriage, in which sexual desire finds its natural fulfillment in the conception of children. But our sexual desires can be wrongly ordered in a host of ways, both heterosexual and homosexual.

    So I don’t believe (as you well may) that acting according to one’s sexual desires – whether heterosexual or homosexual – are integral to a person realizing his or her dignity as a person. Rather, when it comes to sex, our dignity as persons is realized by acting in accordance with the “end” (or purpose) of sexual desire: which again, is a sexually complementary relationship which finds its fulfillment in the conception of children.

    Is it your assumption that “acting according to one’s sexual desires is integral to a person realizing his or her dignity?” If not, please help me to understand why you believe homosexual actions are analogous to race. (I ask sincerely!)

  15. To answer the question in the post title: Sure, we can be friends. I’m friends with a lot of people who I think have substantially wrong (and even harmful) views on some particular issues.

    However, I think it’s perfectly legitimate to decide not to be friends with someone because they hold a view that you consider to be immoral or lacking compassion. Not everyone feels that way, but some people do, and they have every right to.

    The right and natural end of sexual desire (according to the tradition Christian view) is a sexually complementary marriage, in which sexual desire finds its natural fulfillment in the conception of children. But our sexual desires can be wrongly ordered in a host of ways, both heterosexual and homosexual.

    Yes, but heterosexuals have a “rightly ordered” way of being sexual, in your view. Homosexuals do not have any “rightly ordered” options. This makes your religion’s treatment of homosexuals much harsher, in practice, than its treatment of heterosexuals.

    Rather, when it comes to sex, our dignity as persons is realized by acting in accordance with the “end” (or purpose) of sexual desire: which again, is a sexually complementary relationship which finds its fulfillment in the conception of children.

    Well, if that’s what your religion says, then okay. Religions say all sorts of illogical things: some say the Earth is only 6000 years old, for example. Some oppose evolution (although the Catholic Church does not). Etc.

    But, based on simple observation, it’s obvious that sexual desire has more than one “end” or “purpose.” It is multifunctional; it creates children, it cements romantic bonds, it provides pleasure, it can provide a spiritual experience, it can fuel ambition, etc..

    I don’t think the belief that sexual desire serves only one function holds up very well to objective observation. Sexual desire serves multiple functions.

    Is it your assumption that “acting according to one’s sexual desires is integral to a person realizing his or her dignity?”

    Which person? Which desires?

    For some people, like me, sexual expression is a relatively minor part of my being. I can go many years without sex and not really mind.

    But I am atypical. For many people, forming a sexual companionship — by which I mean, a long-term romantic relationship with a person they love, including having sex with that person — is integral to that person’s being.

    Many people say that they can’t even imagine life without their spouse. For many people, the ability to form a family — to get married to someone they love — is absolutely integral to everything they want from life.

    Is everyone like that? No. But many people are, including many lesbian and gay and bi people. To deny that to those people for no good reason is a cruel act. (I’m not saying you intend to be cruel. But it’s cruel regardless of intent.)

    What do you think Paul was talking about when he said “But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain celibate. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”?

    I think he was talking about people who will never be able to have a satisfying life without romantic, sexual love. For those people, it’s better to marry than to burn. But that option is not offered to lesbian and gay people, within your faith. Why is relief important for heterosexuals but not homosexuals? Do you think gay people “burn” less than straights do?

  16. Phil says:

    David Lapp,
    Since you are the author of the original post, and since you have responded to a comment of mine where I explained pretty clearly what type of rhetoric and communication, in my view, is appropriate in the context of discussion of sexual morality, I will respond to you based on the assumption that you did actually read my entire post and you do not have a problem with an honest and sincere in-kind response.

    (Sigh of sadness.) This is what I was afraid of.

    Why? Why would you be afraid or sad that your religious views would be treated exactly the same as someone else’s religious views?

    See, my assumption is that, when it comes to a person realizing his or her dignity as a person, sexual desire is not analogous to race.

    I think I explained it pretty clearly when I said “In saying this, I am not comparing gay relationships to interracial relationships. I am comparing beliefs about two different types of relationships.” It is the beliefs I was comparing.

    But, to answer your question, I do not think that sexual desire is analogous to race. I think that sex (meaning the quality of being male or female) is analogous to race. If a man is born white, and his spouse is born black, neither person was in control of their own race. A person’s own race is not a moral choice, and as such, there is no moral issue present when a white person chooses to be in a romantic relationship with a black person.

    Similarly, if one person is born male, and his spouse is also born male, neither person chose their sex. Since a person’s own sex is not a moral choice, there is no moral issue present when a man chooses to be in a romantic relationship with another man.

    In my view, the existence of persons who are ordered toward being attracted to members of the same sex–let’s call them “gay people,” for conversation’s sake–strengthens my argument. There is far less evidence that there is a whole class of people who are intrinsically ordered toward being attracted to people of different races, but we still recognize, rightly, that whom a person chooses to marry is such a profoundly personal thing that if you express disapproval of a person’s choice of spouse based on race, you are an ignorant bigot.

    The right and natural end of sexual desire (according to the tradition Christian view) is a sexually complementary marriage, in which sexual desire finds its natural fulfillment in the conception of children. But our sexual desires can be wrongly ordered in a host of ways, both heterosexual and homosexual.

    Ah, I think I see the problem with your beliefs. And the problem with your beliefs is: they are utter bullshit. You’re using buzzwords like “sexually complementary marriage” and “natural fulfillment in the conception of children” and “wrongly ordered.” You didn’t develop these terms on your own; you are parroting talking points which were cooked up by devotees of ancient superstitions.

    I am pretty certain that if I bring up the example of heterosexual couples who cannot conceive a child together, an example which completely and effectively refutes the “sexually complementary marriage that leads to its natural fulfillment in the conception of children” argument, you would bring up more religious terminology– perhaps saying that nonprocreative heterosexual couples are still “rightly ordered,” or that they are “open to life.”

    That distinction, however, is bullshit magical thinking.

    If you were to, say, advocate for laws based on your supernaturalist beliefs, that would be the exact moral equivalent of a person whose religious beliefs preclude interracial marriage trying to advocate for laws based on their own racist religious beliefs. Certainly, they have a legal right to engage in such advocacy, but perhaps we can both agree that to do so would be immoral, theocratic, and repugnant.

    Rather, when it comes to sex, our dignity as persons is realized by acting in accordance with the “end” (or purpose) of sexual desire: which again, is a sexually complementary relationship which finds its fulfillment in the conception of children.

    Are you listening to yourself? You are saying that our dignity as persons is realized when we ignore human emotion and commitment and devotion, and instead focus on our true purpose: to serve as baby-making machines. That’s how we achieve our dignity as persons? Disregard the specific human being who we love, and instead focus on spawning? What you are saying is not a defense of human dignity; it is an insult to human dignity.

    Additionally, what you seem to be saying here is either that gay persons don’t exist, or that gay persons should force themselves to marry people of the opposite sex so that they can have children. (Celibacy is also sometimes touted as an option for gay persons, but that is obviously completely illogical if “the conception of children” is as important to you as it seems to be. Sure, there are Catholics who say, without irony, that homosexuality is sterile and closed to life, and therefore homosexuals should be celibate. But such logic is, once again, bullshit supernaturalist magical thinking. It doesn’t hold up under the simplest rational scrutiny.)

    Is it your assumption that “acting according to one’s sexual desires is integral to a person realizing his or her dignity?”

    I think that, generally speaking, human beings are animals that can achieve a particular kind of fulfillment in a committed, loving relationship with another human being. To say that gay people are only acting according to their sexual desires when they try to form a committed pair, but that straight people are not is…ignorant. It treats gay sex, and only gay sex, as a type of synecdoche for an entire category of human beings. Culturally, we do not reduce straight people to their sexual desires when we talk about them, because heterosexuals are the default. We should fight the urge to reduce gay people by talking about them as if they are simply the sum of their sexual desires.

    If not, please help me to understand [...] (I ask sincerely!)

    If you are asking me sincerely, I shall answer you sincerely. I believe there is compelling evidence that, for most people, sexual orientation–I’m not talking about desire, I’m talking about orientation–is innate. There is also very little evidence that sexual orientation is changeable. In fact, there’s a lot of evidence that, for most people, sexual orientation is not changeable.

    However, mountains of evidence support the idea that religious beliefs are changeable. I can tell you from personal experience that I went through a profound journey where my core religious beliefs changed, because I examined them and reconsidered them.

    I encourage anyone who holds beliefs like the ones you hold to examine your religious beliefs, and ask yourself, “What if these weren’t true?” Don’t just give it a cursory, nominal consideration where you come from the standpoint that you already know you are correct. Try to sincerely play devil’s advocate–no pun intended–and really think critically about the religious beliefs that you hold, as if you were an outsider looking in. Imagine what kinds of thoughts you would have if you had never had any religious indoctrination. Imagine people in other cultures, who are indoctrinated into other systems of magical thinking, belief systems that you already believe to be wrong–what monumental effort might it take for them to overcome their religious beliefs and think clearly?

  17. La Lubu says:

    Rather, when it comes to sex, our dignity as persons is realized by acting in accordance with the “end” (or purpose) of sexual desire: which again, is a sexually complementary relationship which finds its fulfillment in the conception of children.

    And yet, Christianity does not require heterosexual couples to accept this “end”—childfree marriages are perfectly within the bounds of the teachings of almost all Christian churches, and in practice, is even within the bounds of the Catholic Church (which takes a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to the endemic use of birth control, vasectomies and tubal ligations).

    In other words, heterosexual couples are given an “easy out” that same-sex couples are not. Two different sets of rules, with heterosexual couples free to take the child or no-child path (or the stepchild path, or the adoptive child path). Can you see why people who do not share your beliefs see this as special pleading? That heterosexual couples are allowed to base their sex lives on mutual satisfaction, expressions of love, companionship, bonding, etc. but no one else is? Gee, it’s almost as if heterosexual human beings created these rules to serve themselves!

  18. Matthew says:

    David B. and David L.: I realize that you have a lot invested in the notion that preventing same-sex couples from marrying somehow is related to the idea that every child should know who his biological parents are. I don’t think I am thick, but the logic of that completely escapes me. Preventing same-sex couples from marrying does not prevent them from having and raising children. Preventing same-sex couples from marrying does not do anything about assuring the children raised by opposite-sex couples know who their biological parents really are.

    Please explain how your position is logical.

  19. David Lapp says:

    Barry, Phil, La Lubu, Matthew —

    I can’t respond right now, but I look forward to continuing the conversation with you all, hopefully this evening sometime.

  20. Matthew:

    Marriage, contra NOM and the Roman Catholic Church, simply has nothing to do with procreation or with raising children.

    I actually disagree with this. It seems to be the mirror image of the anti-SSM claim that marriage makes no sense apart from children. Both claims are too extreme to match reality.

    In our culture, marriage is one of the major ways we organize both procreation and child-rearing. It’s one of the main functions of marriage, and one of the reasons the government has for facilitating marriage. I don’t think it makes much sense to deny that.

    On the other side, it’s just ONE of the functions of marriage, and just ONE of the reasons for the government to have an interest, not the whole bagel. That’s where typical anti-SSM arguments go wrong.

  21. Matthew says:

    Barry, I am not denying that many people marry in order to have children and therefore organize the bearing and raising of children around marriage.

    What I am saying is that there is no requirement that one be married to have children. And, indeed, a large minority of children who are born in the United States are born “out of wedlock”: that is, their parents are not married.

    I am also saying that that there is no requirement for people who are married to have children. Many people who marry do not have children within their marriages, either because they are infertile, beyond childbearing age, or simply do not want to have children.

    Marriage is neither a prerequisite for childbearing or a necessary condition of childbearing or raising children. Neither is childbearing a condition for marriage.

  22. Matthew says:

    I am also saying that if one’s goal is to ensure that all children know who their biological parents are, then banning same-sex marriage is not an efficient way to assure this. In fact, banning same-sex marriage has zero effect on whether children know who their biological parents are.

  23. Matthew, I agree with all of that!

    I don’t think we really disagree. I just think the way you phrased it earlier – “marriage…. simply has nothing to do with procreation or with raising children” — isn’t accurate.

  24. [...] Can We Be Friends? « Family Scholars “We” being people who disagree about gay rights. I’m participating in the comments, a bit. [...]

  25. Matthew says:

    Good. I don’t think we disagree at all, Barry. Obviously, I value marriage. I think it is a good institution in which to rear children, including the children of gay and lesbian parents. The people who are opposed to ssm seem to want to punish the children of gay and lesbian parents because they don’t like their parents. I was simply pointing out that there is no legal requirement for married people to have children. Nor is there a way to prevent people from having children out of wedlock. So the idea that somehow by preventing gay and lesbian couples from marrying will ensure that children will who their parents are is a non-sequitur.

  26. Rob Tisinai says:

    David Lapp, I think a lot of it depends on you and how you act on your beliefs that my life is sinful.

    For instance, my partner’s family is conservative and Christian, but I’m welcome at their home on holidays, and my partner’s nieces and nephews call me “Uncle Rob” with no correction from anyone in the family. I love that.

    On the other hand, if I discovered that these nieces and nephews were being taught that the relationship around which I’ve built my life was a sinful abomination, and they should take the Bible literally when it says my partner and I shall surely be put to death, then I’d have to say no, we can’t have a friendly relationship.

    Then there’s the matter of my own behavior. If I were to tell those nieces and nephews that their grandparents were evil bigots (they’re not, and I don’t), then there’s no reason I should be welcome in their home. On the other hand, I’m not going to pretend that I don’t love my partner the way a husband and wife love each other, and I’m not going to quietly let pass anyone saying that I don’t.

    So I guess I’m tossing the question back to you: I’ve described my behavior — can you accept that from a friend? And what kind of behavior can I expect in return?

  27. David Lapp says:

    Barry, La Lubu, Phil -

    Thank you for your comments. If there’s one thing I hope we can take away from our conversation, it’s that I can live with you calling the Catholic Christian proposal about sex silly, “illogical,” or “utter bullshit.” That just means that I have to try to do a better job of making the proposal — and that the Church needs to be a better living witness to what it proclaims as “good news.” But I hope that you give me — and other traditional Christians like me — the benefit of the doubt that I’m motivated by good will, not hate.

    Rather, when it comes to sex, our dignity as persons is realized by acting in accordance with the “end” (or purpose) of sexual desire: which again, is a sexually complementary relationship which finds its fulfillment in the conception of children.

    This is not exactly right, because it suggests that anyone — whether heterosexual or homosexsual — who chooses to live chastely fails to realize their dignity as persons. And, as you can probably tell from some of my earlier comments about celibacy, I (following the Catholic Christian tradition) hold a very high view of celibacy.

    But it is precisely this demand of celibacy from persons with same-sex attractions that makes the Catholic Christian proposal seem so cruel to us today. I have confidence, based on the witness of celibate men and women now and through the ages, that it can be an occasion of great freedom and joy. But, unfortunately, that confidence is more often an occasion for mockery in our day. I think there’s only one way that this will change: when more young Christian men and women freely choose to live a celibate life, and their testimony of joy and freedom in the midst of their sacrifice is apparent to more people.

    Christopher Roberts, author of a book called Creation and Covenant: The Significance of Sexual Difference in a Theology of Marriage, put it this way:

    The prospects of life without the embraces of those for whom they [gays and lesbians] long strikes them as miserable and impossible, but a life without marital embraces is what the [Christian] tradition appears to suggest. Are the churches prepared to insist that such a life is nevertheless necessary and redemptive? Where is the good news here?

    It would not be the first time that, for the sake of the gospel, the church has insisted on renunciations that strike the culture as absurd. The rich man in Mark 10 ‘was shocked and went away grieving’ when Jesus told him to sell his many possessions…. Could it be that expectations of erotic fulfillment, an attitude of sexual entitlement, is a variation upon wealth, a new possession modern people grip so tightly that we cannot be wholehearted followers of Christ?…. As with the church’s teaching on voluntary poverty, or other types of suffering, a language will have to be recovered, to the effect that there is freedom and joy in a life without those things the world calls necessary.

    Oh, St. Francis of Assissi, where art thou?

  28. Rob Tisinai says:

    But I hope that you give me — and other traditional Christians like me — the benefit of the doubt that I’m motivated by good will, not hate.

    Here’s the problem, David. Gays and lesbians have a history of discrimination, blackmail, institutionalization, and lobotomiziation (!), so it’s hard to give a benefit of the doubt, especially when some traditional Christians are still calling for gays and lesbians to be locked up in electrical fences until we die off.

    That’s not fair to you — Lord knows, I wouldn’t want to be judged by every random thing said by every gay person. But traditional Christianity, in my own lifetime, doesn’t offer much incentive to grant a “benefit of the doubt.”

    You know what it’s analogous to? I grew up in conservative western Pennsylvania in the 60s and 70s, so even though I live in Los Angeles of 2012, I still scan the horizon for gay bashers every time I take my boyfriend’s hand in public. It may not be rational anymore, but it’s a valid survival mechanism I learned in my youth, and it requires an act of will, a serious effort, even to pretend to turn it off.

    That’s similar to how I react to traditional Christians and their view of homosexuality (not merely as it was in the 60s, but how it shows up even today).

    So instead of asking for a benefit of the doubt, how about you match me effort for effort? I’ll make an effort to remember that not all traditional Christians hate gays, and instead requesting a benefit of the doubt, you make an effort to make my effort worthwhile.

    Now, the intellectual version of “scanning the horizon” is looking at an argument against same-sex marriage and wondering: Is this about principle, or is it just about not liking the gays?

    I can’t shut that down without considerable effort, so give me a hand. If you believe marriage is about “a child’s right to know and to be known by their biological mother and father,” then explain why you’re happy to let elderly couples marry when you won’t offer the same right to couples of the same sex.

    Robert George couldn’t explain that. Maggie Gallagher certainly can’t explain that. Can you?

    And if not — if you can’t provide us with a compelling, concrete, non-abstract basis for your view — can you blame us for being wary?

    Lord, this was long. Sorry.

  29. Rob Tisinai says:

    It would not be the first time that, for the sake of the gospel, the church has insisted on renunciations that strike the culture as absurd. The rich man in Mark 10 ‘was shocked and went away grieving’ when Jesus told him to sell his many possessions

    David, is that truly analogous? The full admonishment was to “sell everything you have and give to the poor.”

    Now that seems less pointless and absurd. Can you find a similar justification for giving up sexual intimacy — which is not just physical, but can be emotional and spiritual as well? I think your analogy fails.

  30. Phil says:

    Thank you for your comments. If there’s one thing I hope we can take away from our conversation, it’s that I can live with you calling the Catholic Christian proposal about sex silly, “illogical,” or “utter bullshit.”

    I’m glad. We would have fun team-teaching a CCD class, I think.

    That just means that I have to try to do a better job of making the proposal — and that the Church needs to be a better living witness to what it proclaims as “good news.”

    Well, I suppose that is not an unpleasant way to respond to criticism.

    But what if your religious beliefs are wrong? Either factually wrong, or morally wrong, or both? How would you know?

    But I hope that you give me — and other traditional Christians like me — the benefit of the doubt that I’m motivated by good will, not hate.

    In your opinion, which group more dangerous? People who are doing evil and know that they are doing evil, or people who are doing evil but believe that they are doing good?

  31. La Lubu says:

    But I hope that you give me — and other traditional Christians like me — the benefit of the doubt that I’m motivated by good will, not hate.

    David, I believe that you are motivated by good will. Really, I do. And you know as well as I do that many of your brethren and sistren are not—that they use this opportunity to exercise the ill will their religion admonishes against, because a great deal of Christian culture allows this….”steam releasing”, and considers it to be for the greater good.

    No importa. You don’t need to do a better job of advocating for you religion. You need to do a better job of stepping back and recognizing that many of us do not share it, and that does not mean that we are empty vessels waiting to be filled up. You need to do a better job of accepting that in a pluralistic, secular society, the tenets of your religion need to be exercised within the faithful, and not exercised upon people who are not among your flock.

    Look, I have no doubt that very devout people can find meaning and fulfillment in chastity. I’m not among them. You are proposing that my life should be seriously diminished…..for no reason whatsoever. I know you don’t see it that way, but I do. And my perception of my life matters more than yours (radical idea, I know). And hey…I’m a straight person. I always have the “easy out” of marriage. Imagine how your proposal sounds to a person who isn’t straight—that they never deserve to have the form of relationship that many straight Christians find deep and meaningful, a life some of them even describe as a calling.

    In my eyes, many Christians speak out of both sides of their mouths about sex. When they do it, it’s….pure, righteous, beautiful, holy, sacred, ecstatic, a form of love and bonding with their beloved. And somehow, the same act when performed by an unmarried person or a same-sex oriented person (married or not) is…..base, vile, empty, meaningless, a selfish exercise in hedonism, a mechanistic practice of destruction.

    I don’t know how many times I can say that I don’t accept your premise. I don’t accept your foundational beliefs. If every Christian in the world was suddenly a paragon of devotion, and all hypocrisy was erased from Christianity…..I still wouldn’t find it any more appealing. What’s good for you is not good for me. (and that’s setting aside all the inside baseball about why your specific denomination is totally inappropriate for me).

    My beef isn’t with the hypocrisy or lack of evangelizing, or that you are presenting your arguments without the proper wording, or whatever (FWIW, I think you articulate your beliefs clearly). It’s with your refusal to accept the proper boundaries for the public sphere and the private sphere. Both religion and sexuality are within the private sphere and thus not subject to interference from the populace at large.

  32. Matthew says:

    David wrote: “But I hope that you give me — and other traditional Christians like me — the benefit of the doubt that I’m motivated by good will, not hate.”

    We have gotten far afield from the original question: whether people with divergent views on homosexuality and ssm can be friends.

    I do not doubt that you may hold your beliefs in good will. In fact, I don’t even object to your beliefs particularly. Lots of people have beliefs that I do not share. If you think homosexuality is immoral, do not participate in it. If you object to same-sex marriage, do not marry someone of the same sex. I am not at all bothered by the fact that you are not homosexual or not married to someone of the same sex. I have lots of friends who are heterosexual and are either single or married to a person of the opposite sex.

    I am not even bothered by the fact that you think homosexuals are called to a life of chastity. I am not bothered by the fact that even some homosexuals may believe that. (I suspect that that is the reason that some homosexuals become priests.) I do not share that belief, but it is perfectly fine by me if someone thinks that.

    What I am bothered by–and object strongly to–is the imposition of these beliefs on our secular society, both directly and indirectly.

    To get back to the original question. Can we be friends? Yes, as long as you do not seek to use those beliefs (or related beliefs) to deprive me and other gay men and lesbians of equal civil rights.

    True friendship is a relationship of equals. As long as you do not think that I am worthy of equal rights in this society, we cannot be friends.

  33. nobody.really says:

    The prospects of life without the embraces of those for whom they [gays and lesbians] long strikes them as miserable and impossible, but a life without marital embraces is what the [Christian] tradition appears to suggest. Are the churches prepared to insist that such a life is nevertheless necessary and redemptive? Where is the good news here?

    It would not be the first time that, for the sake of the gospel, the church has insisted on renunciations that strike the culture as absurd. The rich man in Mark 10 ‘was shocked and went away grieving’ when Jesus told him to sell his many possessions…. Could it be that expectations of erotic fulfillment, an attitude of sexual entitlement, is a variation upon wealth, a new possession modern people grip so tightly that we cannot be wholehearted followers of Christ?…. As with the church’s teaching on voluntary poverty, or other types of suffering, a language will have to be recovered, to the effect that there is freedom and joy in a life without those things the world calls necessary.

    I’ve been pondering a similar idea. I read St. Paul to say that ALL people are called to celibacy and abstinence. In this sense, Paul makes no greater demand on homosexuals than on heterosexuals. And it is far from clear that people who answer Paul’s call to celibacy and abstinence are deprived of dignity in their own eyes, or in the eyes of others. This observation undermines Berry’s thesis that asking people to forego marriage and sex necessarily deprives them of dignity.

    However, Paul also concedes that people are weak and sinful, and therefore acknowledges that society prescribes an institution for people to opt out of the celibate life. Thanks to this alternative social path, those who walk the path of celibacy can be understood as having chosen that path. The same cannot be said of homosexuals; by depriving them of the alternative of marriage, society frog-marches them onto the path of celibacy. I sense it is this compulsion, not the celibacy itself, that deprives homosexuals of their dignity.

    (Then again, perhaps it really is about the sex. That is, perhaps people who live a sexless life – or some percentage of them – are thwarting a fundamental biological drive, which cannot help but distort their personalities and manifest itself in other ways. Pedophile priest scandals certainly fuel this hypothesis.)

    In your opinion, which group more dangerous? People who are doing evil and know that they are doing evil, or people who are doing evil but believe that they are doing good?

    That’s it, in a nutshell.

    Given that people opposed to same-sex marriage may be people of good faith and good will, can’t we all be friends? I certain hope we can. That said – and brace yourself — I have little evidence that Hitler did not act in good faith and good will. And sincerely, I hope we could all have been friends with him, too. For example, I hope that our good faith and good will would have kept us from torturing him. But it surely would not have kept us from trying to incapacitate him – even at the risk of killing him. Good faith and good will are not a substitute for good policy.

    Reinhold Niebuhr remarked, “Nations, as individuals, who are completely innocent in their own esteem are insufferable in their human contacts.” Get over your innocence. Same-sex couples are harmed by the lack of marriage rights – all your good faith and good will notwithstanding.

    By the same token, I don’t begrudge opponents of same-sex marriage from taking umbrage at the self-righteousness of same-sex advocates such as myself. My good faith and good will will in no way ameliorate the social collapse that they think will accompany state recognition of same-sex marriage, and I don’t expect them to be sanguine about the impending deluge.

    So let’s all be friends. Let’s play soccer together between the trenches on Christmas Day. But if we are all truly people of good faith and good will, I can’t expect anything other than that we’ll all be back in our respective battle lines come the following morning.

  34. JeffreyRO5 says:

    Religionists are always free to advocate for their way of life or their beliefs. But when they start imposing these beliefs on others, through force of law, it’s a real problem. And ultimately turns people off to the religion, but religionists can’t seem to see that far.

    Just because claimed Christians are the majority in this country, doesn’t make them right and give them the right to impose their faith beliefs on the rest of us. Some day I know I’m going to pick up a newspaper and read how Mormons are trying to get coffee outlawed in the US, because it contains caffeine!

  35. Matthew says:

    JeffreyRO5, I don’t think we need to worry about coffee being banned. The Mormons used to be rabid about soft drinks, but once the LDS Church inherited a huge pile of Pepsi stock, they suddenly thought it was all right for non-Mormons to drink it. Just give them some coffee stock and they’ll be fine with it.