Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Five Logical Errors of Born Gay Ideology

Published 07.31.08 at Townhall.com and Crosswalk.com.

It is core doctrine of pro-gay orthodoxy that homosexuals are born gay. Though science has yet failed to affirm or deny this, the vast majority of gays and their supporters are convinced of it. Sexual orientation is seen as something discovered, not chosen. Instead of debating the merit of this assertion, let’s grant the premise that sexual orientation is determined prior to birth by genetic, gestational, or other factors. The question is whether any valid conclusions flow from this. I don’t think so.

Error 1: If I was born gay, my sexual orientation cannot change.

If present at birth, sexual orientation could come from either biology or psychology. If biological, then a medical procedure may be discovered to alter it. Science gushes with the ability to change things we were born with, especially conditions which past generations considered permanent. We can treat genetic diseases, repair cleft palates, perform height-enhancing surgeries, and even change genders.

Similarly, if the issue is psychological, treatments may be possible. Many traits people believe to be fixed about themselves can be adjusted by good counseling or psychopharmacology. Simple induction concludes that if medicine goes looking for a treatment for homosexuality, it might find one.

Many gays will be outraged at this line of reasoning. But why? We’ve been told that homosexuality can’t be a choice because no one would be foolish enough to choose it. Clearly some gays would relish the power to turn their unwanted condition into an optional one. And why shouldn’t other gays be happy for those who would then be truly free to choose? After all, they’re happy for sex-change operations, which make it possible for transgender persons to undo the birth nature they think was mistakenly given them. How can gender be so fixably wrong but sexual orientation so unfixably right?

Error 2: If I was born gay, then I have no choice about how I behave.

There are two kinds of inborn behavioral tendencies: the resistible and the irresistible. Unless we are supposed to believe that homosexuality is so involuntary that every gay sex act is literally a matter of biological determinism, we are left with the more plausible alternative: the desire to have gay sex does not compel anyone to actually ever have gay sex. One may not be able to control who attracts him, but he can certainly control who he has sex with. Consider the non sequitur of a gay man offering to explain last night’s particular sexual encounter by saying, “Well, I was born gay, you know.”

Free will is precisely the capacity to resist a carnal urge. If a gay person can refrain from sex even once, he has shown such free will. Thus, his sexual choices devolve to him, not to his inborn disposition. Straight people deny their sexual impulses all the time. I would be shocked to discover that gay people lack such an elementary capacity for urge restraint.

Error 3: If I was born gay, then acting upon it must be good.

No one denies that gays have extremely strong desires to be sexual with like-minded, like-bodied others. But strong desires do not justify behavior. Otherwise the study of ethics would be nothing more than the articulation of our impulses.

Some men may be born promiscuous (and perhaps most are), but this doesn’t legitimize adultery (or polygamy, for that matter). Since morality involves precisely the question of which desires are good to act upon, gay behavior cannot be justified merely on the grounds of experienced gay desire.

Error 4: If I was born gay, then this is simply who I am.

In gay doctrine, being gay isn’t seen as an important part of one’s identity. It’s seen as the definitive center of it. But why should this be so?

I am a Christian, a talk-show host, a baseball fan, right-handed, a philosopher, red-headed, from St. Louis, and heterosexual. None of these is the sum or limit of my identity. However, the ones I’ve chosen or chosen to act upon define me far more than those I happened to be born with. Thus, though choosing to have gay sex is certainly a key part of one’s identity, being born with the predilection to do so is not.

Error 5: If I was born gay, God must have made me this way.

Of all the untenable conclusions drawn from the born gay premise, this is the most scandalous. Whereas claiming that God has His hand in the creation of every child is uncontroversial, alleging that every element of that child’s physical, emotional, and even sexual state at birth are all intended by God is quite another thing. If this pattern of inference were allowed, we would have to believe that God desires every birth defect, handicap, psychological disorder or behavioral tendency we can trace to early childhood. God may allow such things, but that is theological miles from saying that God wanted them.

Yet there is a much deeper blunder embedded in this particular claim. The idea that people have inappropriate inclinations from birth is not unique to the born-gay meme. In fact, it’s so far from unique that it’s actually a cornerstone premise of Christian theology. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants all agree about this one key concept: mankind suffers from original sin, a polluted condition that makes every one of us desire immorality from our birth.

Thus, in a very real sense, one might say that we’re all born gay, although the historically preferred terminology is that we’re all born sinners. We are surely born with corrupt desires, but that doesn’t mean God intended us to be this way.


Although I have serious doubts about the claim that sexual orientation is determined at birth, the issue is largely academic since nothing important hangs on it. Being born gay doesn’t prevent change, prohibit choice, justify behavior, form identity, or implicate God. It just means your moral challenges are different from mine.

Monday, July 21, 2008

To Conservatives in a Pro-Gay Culture

Published 07.24.08 at Townhall.com and Crosswalk.com.

Two different people recently contacted me for my advice on virtually identical situations that arose in the wake of California’s decision to solemnize same-gender relationships.

One woman was concerned about her job in a pro-gay workplace because a friend and co-worker had been disappointed with her inadequately enthusiastic response to his announcement that he and his lover were driving to California to get married. She wanted help expressing her real love for this man while still standing firm in her beliefs.

Another man’s company had created a pro-gay workplace initiative and then solicited employee feedback on it. He, too, was concerned about his job, but he also felt compelled to say something consistent with his conservative Christian beliefs.

Since I expect such difficulties to become far more common, I’ll share with you the principles I advised them to use.

Principle 1: Apologize in advance.

In confrontation, people mistakenly think that playing the “big fish” role will portray strength, perhaps even intimidating the other. In reality, humility best expresses strength, whereas bluster generally indicates weakness. Insecure people always get this backwards. Only the strong can control themselves enough to take the humble approach, and there is no more humble yet powerful thing to do than apologizing at the outset.

Principle 2: Say it before they do.

Generally, we try to hide anything that makes us or our position look weak. Not only is this dishonest, but such things tend to come out anyhow, and it’s always better to control the release of information than to be caught by it. Besides, it’s very disarming to have someone plainly divulge the worst about themselves. So admit anything you’re tempted to conceal, such as your religion, your personal biases, and especially your worst fears. Admitting feared reactions can often prevent them because people dislike being predictable.

Principle 3: Get permission.

Whenever you anticipate a negative reaction, soliciting permission to proceed means the other person has agreed to share responsibility for whatever difficulties ensue. Luckily, this is the easiest one of all because almost no one declines. Curiosity virtually compels their consent.

Principle 4: Be hurt, not angry.

Our instinct for confrontation is to be angry, sarcastic, and harsh. Such tactics will usually make the situation worse. Instead, recognize our culture values not hurting people above all other values. Whoever is most hurt gets the most sympathy, regardless of the legitimacy of your pain. Just consider how much more ground homosexuals have gained by displaying hurt at things they oppose than by displaying fury at them. The paradox is that by trying to be tough (usually through anger) you suffer marginalization, whereas by allowing yourself to look weak (usually through sadness) you get influence.

To understand the just how powerful the display of pain is, consider that this is the only tactic which consistently trumps the second most dominant value of our culture: being funny. When someone makes fun of you or your beliefs, you have three options. You can reply in kind and possibly win if you’re really good at it. You can get angry and lose social credit for not being able to take a joke while probably encouraging further comic attacks. Or you can demonstrate hurt, which actually makes the comedian look bad for having crossed a line and will make him look even worse if he continues without apologizing. Sadness works against sarcastic humor because it’s both honest and reveals the subtle violence of comedic attacks. Comedy makes you look vulnerable, and displaying sadness embraces the vulnerability by asking the audience to admit that your feelings matter. That’s it’s foolish to use ridicule against any group or person in our culture who has successfully positioned themselves as victims in our culture.

That being said, the best way to show hurt in this case is by referencing a pain your audience already understands: that of being forced to be in the closet. Just as gays are coming out of the closet, moral conservatives feel like we’re being forced into it. The social consequences are exactly parallel, except that for us they are rising whereas for gays they are receding. Though some in the pro-gay culture celebrate this, most who have felt this anxiety will recoil at the idea of imposing what they have suffered on others.

Principle 5: Make relationship your main goal.

Winning is nice, but relationships matter more than winning. Fortunately, the best way to have a chance of winning is by cultivating relationships and the influence that comes with them. Real relationships require honesty, vulnerability, and the sort of respect which realizes that friendship cannot be conditional upon the universal acquiescence of the other person to my values. This principle obviously goes both ways.

Example of applying these principles.

“I have something really important I want to talk about with you, but I’m worried that it’s going to offend you. If that happens, I’m very sorry, but do you want me to be honest with you, even if you might get angry?”

“Of course, what is it?”

“First, I want you to know how much I care about you, and that’s why it makes me really uncomfortable that we have to have a discussion about gay issues at all. But here’s what you don’t realize about me. Honestly, gay sex grosses me out. But it’s more serious than just that. I am a deeply religious person, and my religious tradition strongly disapproves of this behavior. Yet recently I feel like my religious beliefs are being attacked and I’m being pressured to hide them from you.

I feel like I can’t be honest about who I am because of the hostility I feel from others for what I believe. And because I’m worried that saying all of this might jeopardize our friendship or even cost me my job, I’m very reluctant to be honest even with you about who I am. If this fear of being scared to express my real identity is what you’ve experienced for your sexual orientation, then I’m so very sorry you’ve had to suffer such an awful thing.

But I’m telling you this because I hope that you’re willing to respect my beliefs just like you want me to respect yours. The only way for us to have a meaningful relationship is if we can be truly open and honest with each other, especially when we disagree, and I want that more than anything. I hope you’re willing to accept me while knowing what I believe just like I’m willing to accept you while knowing what you do.”

Final Note

This may not always work. But using these principles puts you in the best position to succeed, with one caveat. You must be sincere in your use of them. If you exaggerate for effect, you will be a liar, and it will probably won’t work for you anyway. Remember, only the truly strong can afford to appear this weak.