Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Perhaps Homophobia Isn't A Choice Either

Published 08.20.08 at Crosswalk.com and 08.21.08 at Townhall.com.

As a Christian who takes the Bible seriously, I believe that any sexual activity other than that between a man and his wife is illicit. This includes adultery, premarital sex and, of course, homosexuality.

But I’ve also been doing what my parents always taught me to do: listen to those who disagree with me. And I think I’ve discovered something rather shocking: opposition to homosexuality must itself be genetic.

For as long as I can remember, homosexuals have been explaining why gay people have no choice about their orientation. And it finally dawned on me that their arguments explain why being anti-gay is also not a choice but an innate predisposition beyond our power to restrain. This led me to embrace my convictions and stop trying in vain to repress who I am.

Since millions suffer from this same condition, I’m hopeful that my epiphany will help others accept themselves and their convictions, too. Here are insights that helped me, in no particular order.

Insight 1: You cannot control whom you love.

Although there are different kinds of love, some of which involve choice and some of which do not, this realization about passion led me to a very liberating conclusion. If we can’t control whom we love, that's because we can't control our strong passions. But passions can be both for and against. And, just as gay love is a passion which is impossible to control, I now know that my passionate anti-gayness must also be impossible to control. I might wish I could change, but it’s hopeless. My judgmental tendency draws me as irresistibly as their same-sex affection.

Insight 2: People shouldn’t have to restrain acting on their innate desires.

I used to think that restraint was the key differentiator between animals and men. But then it was explained to me that sexual urges are such a deep element of real human nature that it’s wrong to suppress them. This led me to realize that moral urges are an equally deep aspect of human identity, and it must be unhealthy to try to suppress them, too. Just as someone may feel a deep desire to have same-gender sex, I often suffer the seemingly irresistible urge to espouse my views on sexual ethics. In fact, my desire to express my beliefs is so deeply human that even the First Amendment to our Constitution explicitly protects it. So it must be truly unhealthy to try repressing something as innate as opposition to homosexuality.

Insight 3: Identical twins are both gay about 50 percent of the time.

Although my instinctive reaction to this statistic is to note that even among genetically identical people still fully half of them manage to not be gay, I eventually figured out what this meant for people like me. While research has yet to confirm my suspicions, the likelihood of identical twins sharing a strong disposition to oppose homosexuality is probably even higher than 50 percent. Given the fact that one or both parents may be carriers of the traditional morality gene, it seems perfectly natural that children in some families might all express a strong disposition to denounce gay behavior. And if I inherited this from my parents, well, who can blame me for that?

Insight 4: No one would be foolish enough to choose being gay.

After all, who would choose to suffer discrimination, fear, alienation, and family discord? I used to worry that this argument would prevent disapproving of any behavior at all, since it seems to entail the unusual conclusion that the more despised something is the less anyone can be blamed for it. But then I realized that I have been ridiculed, called intolerant and fired from an academic post for my beliefs on this subject. In fact, I’ve often thought how much easier my life in this culture would be if only I could lay down the burden of believing in traditional morals and embrace homosexuality. Since no rational person in the United States in 2008 would choose to be anti-gay if he didn’t have to be, it must not be a choice.

Insight 5: Being gay isn’t a choice anyone ever actually makes.

The realization that no one (straight or gay) ever consciously flips a switch to set their sexual preference led me to the recognition that I never chose to be anti-gay. It’s not like I went to bed one night thinking supportive thoughts about gayness and then woke up the next morning committed to opposing it. It’s more accurate to say that one day I just sort of realized, almost to my horror, that I thought gay behavior was wrong. I felt like I had been suppressing my innate moral voice because of social pressure before finally coming to terms with it. On top of my parents both being pro-gay and having lots of gay friends, I had actually taken a seminar on gay theory from Richard Mohr, one of the county’s most prominent gay philosophers. I would gladly have been homo-endorsant if I could have been. But all to no avail. And I clearly can’t unchoose what I had never chosen in the first place.


I know this column might frustrate some people who will resist seeing how their arguments, if true, have helped me embrace my own unfashionable alternative beliefstyle. But that’s okay. I don’t blame people who criticize me. Thanks to their insights, I’ve also come to realize that their homophobophobia probably isn’t a choice either.


David said...

After reading the comments to your article on Townhall.com, I have a question.

How does one argue a moral point with someone who does not accept the morality of it?

There are several individuals posting over on the other site that are literally screaming that the Bible is a fraud and they don't accept it as a basis for morality.

It's the "do your own thing" mentality. How do you argue that based on a set of principles that are dismissed as so much garbage by the other side?

The template appears to be that you are dismissed as a raging, foaming-at-the-mouth bigot if you don't roll over and submit to their way of thinking.

At what point do you shake the dust off your clothes and leave them behind? Where is the "Turn or Burn" moment?

Andrew Tallman said...

Great questions!

There are basically two kinds of ethical discussions: those that take place within a shared worldview and those that take place between people who have different worldviews. Within a worldview, we have the luxury of common reference points and concepts of authority, which make arbitration so much easier. When two people are arguing from two different worldviews, things are exponentially more difficult.

Essentially, you have a choice to make: do you try to convince the other person to change worldviews or do you try to persuade that person from within his own worldview that his own conclusions are inconsistent. Most people make the colossal error of trying to persuade someone to change their mind about the issue using reasons that only makes sense in their own worldview (such as Bible references). You might as well be having an argument in two different languages, which is essentially the case.

So, for instance with this column, what I'm trying to do is show that the pro-gay arguments lead to conclusions that are unnaceptable to pro-gay arguers. Therefore, logic (which they claim to care about by the very fact that they bother making arguments in the first place) should compel them to either abandon those argument patterns, accept the conclusions I am offering that fit those patterns, or try to show that I've blundered in my reasoning.

Since none of the posters that I saw on the Townhall site did any of the above, they've merely shown themselves to not merely be operating in a different worldview, but operating in a fundamentally illogical one. Obviously, this makes matters that much more difficult, for what possible means of persuasion are left when interacting with people who don't even have a language and reason basis to their beliefs?

Well, we have to figure it out and go from there. It's a big hill to climb, but it's not nearly as steep or as costly as the one our Saviour climbed for us. So instead of lamenting the climb, let's just be clear about what's involved and do our best. =)


Naum said...

Homosexuality and the Bible