Friday, October 20, 2006

Qualifying Comments on The Gay Lifestyle - Glesne

POST #6
UNDERSTANDING HOMOSEXUALITY meets STRAIGHT INTO GAY AMERICA, a conversation between pastor/author David Glesne and pastor/author Lars Clausen. Today Glesne clarifies his meaning in using the term "gay lifestyle."

Also, Dave is on vacation next week and will return to the blog when he's back home. Have a good vacation!

Dear Lars,

And I thought I was a morning person!! I notice that you wrote your last post between 4:00 am and 6:30 am. You are clearly one step ahead of me on that one! But it looks like we perhaps agree that mornings are the best time of the day – although my wife Mona would definitely not agree with us.

It is good to see that there are others joining this conversation. I hope that they will stay with us as we continue.

For the sake of brevity, I will take up here a concrete aspect of the second point in your previous post having to do with the use of data and statistics and specifically the concern of comparing apples with apples.

The concern is expressed by you and other bloggers that chapter three of the book makes no - or at least inadequate - distinctions or qualifications between the sexual activities of ‘everyday’ (your terminology) homosexual persons and those involved in a promiscuous gay lifestyle.

When I first read this concern I thought, “Could this be right? Is this true? Maybe I did not communicate well what was in my mind as I wrote the chapter and the chapter is in fact saying something different than I intended or is confusing and/or unclear.” That feeling of dread came over me for – as you state – a lot of books were sent out! So with the critique upper most in my mind I went back and reread the chapter. What I found there was not as bad (in my humble estimation) as I feared and yet by putting on a different set of eyes I saw how the communication could have been clearer.

The first thing I would point out is that the entire chapter is set in a certain direction by the title itself. The entire chapter is couched in terms of “The Gay Lifestyle”. This term, of course, is not my own, but one widely used (just google it!) albeit with all too much vagueness of meaning and definition (which can be a source of confusion). As indicated by the title, what I am talking primarily about in the chapter has to do with homosexual behaviors connected to the “gay lifestyle”.

In a section of chapter 1 (page 19) I define what I mean by homosexuality by distinguishing between “homosexual orientation” which speaks of a preference for persons of the same sex involving erotic attraction, and “homosexual behavior” which refers to the physical expression of this attraction. When speaking of the behavior, there is also a further distinction in my mind between behaviors that are quite likely to be engaged in by male homosexual persons in general (mutual masturbation, fellatio, and anal intercourse, for example) and those behaviors which go beyond these which are more specific to what might be called a subculture characterized by the “gay lifestyle”, behaviors that are condemned by many gays. Right or wrong, the “gay lifestyle” in my mind has additional and different relational and behavioral elements in it than the what we normally think of as behaviors of “everyday” homosexual people. But do these distinctions come through in the chapter?

The statistics in the second paragraph of the chapter (i.e. 90% of male homosexuals are promiscuous and the average number of male partners in a year and over a lifetime given there) in my mind speak to this “gay lifestyle” that is characterized by among other things - promiscuity. These statistics have an immediate context for they are followed by “many of these encounters will be with total strangers in bath houses…public restrooms and back rooms of gay bars.” These are venues that I believe many (most?) people identify with the “gay lifestyle” and not “everyday” homosexual neighbors and friends. So this is speaking of something beyond that of faithful, monogamous homosexual relationships. Then the question is asked, “But what really goes on in homosexual encounters?” It is in response to this question in this context of the gay lifestyle that the behaviors on pages 44-46 are given. The description of these kinds and frequencies of homosexual encounters (i.e. rimming, fisting, golden showers, scat) then, are not to be read as representative of the overall gay population in America.

Within this context, in paragraph three the “fuller picture of what we are facing as a society” (page 44) speaks to the behaviors of the “gay lifestyle” which I contend is by and large not known by many in church or society (maybe I am wrong here?). Again, these are behaviors that go beyond that of “everyday” homosexual people’s practices.

Paragraph four gives a strong qualification, it seems to me. “An additional word of caution is needed. It must be kept in mind that there is a variety of homosexual persons. The following profile does not fit those same-sex attracted persons who struggle to live a Godly moral life and are determined to remain chaste. Nor does the profile describe those who are in the process of exiting homosexuality. The profile below is descriptive of sexual behavior for that group of persons who identified themselves as homosexual and who, in one degree or another, are participating in ‘the lifestyle’. Then I identify the difficulty in arriving at figures in such a subject matter.

This is a chapter on “The Gay Lifestyle and Agenda”. The very title carries within it an intended distinction and qualification which implies that it is not talking about all gays. Maybe I am assuming too much but the chapter is to be read as such. I believe that as noted above, the three paragraphs have within them distinctions and qualifications – some stronger than others to be sure. It is within the wider chapter context and that of these three paragraphs that lead up to the section describing the kinds and frequencies of behavior engaged in by those participating in the “gay lifestyle” that these behaviors on pages 44-46 are to be seen and understood.

You specifically reference the phrase, “it would be well to look briefly at the lifestyle of homosexuals” at the beginning of the chapter and comment that this reads as an overarching statement, which, as it is written, includes all homosexual people with no qualifications. I would agree with you if the phrase stood alone. If it is read by itself only, it indeed would read as an overarching statement. But it does not stand in isolation. It stands in a context and words and phrases derive their meaning from their context. The phrase is nuanced by the context of the chapter’s title, “The Gay Lifestyle”.

But here is where iron sharpens iron. Lest your concern and critique bear no fruit, I would say in this instance that it would have been phrased better if I had written, “it would be well to look briefly at the homosexual lifestyle” (reflecting more closely the chapter title and in continuity with the bold paragraph heading that follows) rather than “the lifestyle of homosexuals” as written. This is a place where a change of wording would have enhanced clarity.

You thanked me for the qualifications that I provided in my letter to you, but fear that none of these qualifications are in this section of the book. I am saying that I believe the distinctions and qualifications that I had in mind in writing these sections are present in this chapter. Could the distinctions and qualifications have been clearer and more explicitly spelled out? In light of the feedback from your initial reading, I would have to say “yes” they could have been spelled out more explicitly to avoid possible confusion in people’s minds. It is the kind of feedback that I welcome and it will help me to clarify if others share the same or a similar concern.

For the sake of relative brevity I’ll stop here. If there is need to probe this area of concern further we can still do that. Thanks for this exchange on the journey.

Shalom,
Dave

7 comments:

Dr. Joe Norquist said...

Basically only anti-gay people like Jerry Falwell or Dr. James Dobson, use the term "gay lifestyle" to describe because there is no such thing as a "gay lifestyle" any more than there is a "straight lifestyle". There are great varieties in the straight lifestyle, icluding singles bars, serial polygamy, strip lounges, and massage parlors, as well as monogamy in legla marriages. One could take a survey of straight males in singles bars or during Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the statistics and descriptiions of nighttime sexual activity of 1000 people would give wild statistics of what we straight people do; but it would be a gross distortion of the true picture. Dr.Merton Strommen wrote also about the "dark side" mentioning some of the very bizarre types of sexual activity that readers assume is what most or many gay people do. As I said already in another blog, when I hear soemone say "not all... I think of what I used to hear; "not all Jews are crafty and controling banks...." and not all Negroes (that's what African-Americans were called)are lazy or like watermelon.."
One does not have to be chaste to live a Godly moral life in a married or committed relationship. I think there is nothing immoral or ungodly going on my my son's bedroom (as if it were any of my business) when he and his parnter are enjoying life with the one they love.
Dr. Glesne, would it be possible for you to seek out 6 gay and lesbian people from the roles of Lutherans Concerned and be willing to have a heart-to-heart talk with each of them and see if it would be easier another way of looking at this whole issue?

Tim Fisher said...

October 23, 2006

Dear Dave,

You wrote:
>>The first thing I would point out is that the entire chapter is set in a certain direction by the title itself. The entire chapter is couched in terms of "The Gay Lifestyle". This term, of course, is not my own, but one widely used (just google it!) albeit with all too much vagueness of meaning and definition (which can be a source of confusion). >>

True, the term is not your own. But what IS your own is the obligation to use the term responsibly. Of *course* the term "gay lifestyle" is misleading, just as much as "straight lifestyle" would be misleading if we used it, say, to describe those involved in the porn and swingers scene. That we are even debating this basic point seems silly to me. The term is obviously both politically and grammatically loaded.

But I think we are dealing with much more than a disagreement about terminology.

1. You claim that you are not talking about all homosexuals. In one facet, yes, you are right, you are not talking about all homosexuals. In chapter 3, you are almost entirely talking *only* about *male* homosexuals--although you never actually articulate a distinction between male and female "lifestyles." You allow your reader to blur such a distinction with your consistent use of "homosexual" and "gay" to refer broadly to both genders.

This lack of distinction is astounding to me, given that what we are supposed to have here in our hands is a careful, sober analysis of the situation before society and the church, complete with thoughtful uses of meaningful statistics. That's not what we have.

2. You claim that you are not talking about all homosexuals. Well, if you want to lean heavily on the word "all," then sure, you have not misspoken. But this is a distinction without a difference. As Joe has said in his comment to this post, we have heard this "not all" caveat too often to not be suspicious. Dave, you say you are not talking about "all," and yet you find it very easy to say the following :

"Gay propagandists would like to portray homosexuals as mature, monogamous, loving individuals who form and maintain long-lasting, stable relationships in society. And some homosexuals do just that-but very, very few." (43)

Here you make your intention obvious, Dave, that for all practical purposes, your reader can proceed from this point with the understanding that you are speaking more-or-less broadly and categorically about gay people in general. Ninty percent--boy, that sure is a lot!! As you have told me before, such statistics (you say) tell us something homosexuality.

3. In your post of Oct. 20, you highlight a quote from your page 44. Please tell us Dave: what do you mean by "liv[ing] a Godly moral life" and "remain[ing] chaste"? What do you understand the meaning of the word "chaste" to be? Do you think it is possible for a gay/lesbian couple to lead "Godly moral lives" while still engaging in a genital, sexual relationship?

It seems the answer to this question must be no, given the arguments you make in Part 2 of the book.

4. You say you are not referring to all homosexual people. Well, it is clear that you divide them into two categories: those who are sexually active, and those who are not. You use the term "gay lifestyle" to refer categorically to those who are sexually active. You make your definition quite clear on p. 44 and following. According to your book, any kind of sexual contact between persons of the same sex--from "simple physical embrace or touch or kissing" all the way to eating human feces--is contained within the category "homosexual lifestyle" or "gay lifestyle" That is how your book sets it up.

>>Then I identify the difficulty in arriving at figures in such a subject matter.>>

Huh? No, you don't *identify* any such thing. Please. In reality, you merely pay short lip-service to the "difficulty" and then proceed to tell us that the truth is clear. Here's the quote:

"While acknowledging the difficulty in arriving at exact figures in such a subject matter, the testimony about homosexual behavior coming from both sides of the debate paints a fairly clear picture of the kinds and frequencies of behavior engaged in by homosexual persons." (44)

Obviously, your real point here is that the picture is "fairly clear." And it comes "from both sides" to boot, so it must be pretty close to the truth--or so you strongly imply.

And again, you betray a far too easy habit of eliding from a discussion of what a few do who participate in the so called "gay lifestyle" to the behavior of "homosexual persons."

>> When speaking of the behavior, there is also a further distinction in my mind between behaviors that are quite likely to be engaged in by male homosexual persons in general (mutual masturbation, fellatio, and anal intercourse, for example) and those behaviors which go beyond these which are more specific to what might be called a subculture characterized by the "gay lifestyle", behaviors that are condemned by many gays. Right or wrong, the "gay lifestyle" in my mind has additional and different relational and behavioral elements in it than the what we normally think of as behaviors of "everyday" homosexual people. But do these distinctions come through in the chapter?>>

Uh, no, that is not the distinction you make in your book. Far from it. As I have described above.

Dave, if you really intended to acknowledge that a Godly, moral life were possible between two men who engage in "mutual masturbation, fellatio, and anal intercourse" (but don't do any of that other stuff) and that at least 10% of those do indeed live a chaste (i.e. non-promiscuous) life, then why do you work so hard to support the ban against rostering such people as Jay Wiesner? Or, to look at some female examples, why do you oppose the rostering of Mary Albing and Anita Hill? (For those who might not know, Wiesner is a partnered gay man who serves as pastor at an ELCA congregation in Minneapolis. Albing and Hill are partnered, lesbian women serving as pastors in the Twin Cities.)

***If you answer no other question or challenge on this blog, please answer the question I ask above.***

Now, if you truly believe that it is possible for a sexually active gay couple to live Godly, moral lives, then I think you are obligated to publish and distribute a clarifying addendum to your book.

Grace and peace,

Tim Fisher
Minneapolis, MN

Ben said...

Dave,

I appreciate that you are willing to critically look at your writing and offer the concession that, in hindsight, your compartmentalization of the issues could have been more clearly expressed. Yet I am still concerned that you overestimate the average churchgoers' experience with homosexuals.

I would argue that the majority of Christians today do NOT hang out with people who are openly gay. They probably can't really name any homosexuals in their churches or their friendship circles. They have NO IDEA that a differentiation needs to be made between different types of gay lifestyles. In reading your book, they are trusting you to tell them what they need to know. You tell them that the lifestyle of homosexuals is immoral to a shocking degree that I've certainly never imagined! You talk about compassion, but your words encourage homophobia in the mind of the reader. I think homophobia has chased most homosexuals either out of our churches or into a closet of guilty repression.

In reading your words, the grace-addicted heart of this heterosexual white male Lutheran felt a twinge of homophobia that I haven't felt in nearly a decade! That sentiment left me long ago when I first ended up in a circle of friends with a gay male and realized that he really wasn't all that different from me or threatening to anyone. When I look back at the past decade and compare the heterosexuals and homosexuals that I've known, it is the heterosexuals that were generally promiscuous and treated partners badly. The homosexuals I've known have typically been caring people who just wish they could find that special someone to spend their time with. Homosexuals are normal, functioning members of society that find that the people who they want to share their life with share their gender as well. In my life experience, I have yet to meet an openly homosexual person that in any way qualifies any generally negative view of homosexuals. Many of them model the teachings of Christ more than the average Christian does.

I haven't read your book, nor do I have access to a copy. I'm basing my opinions on what you are writing and quoting here. I'm growing more and more concerned. I'm hoping these concerns will be alleviated as the discussion continues.

In the grace, peace, joy, and love of Christ,
Ben

Dave Glesne said...

In response to Tim Fisher:

I'll grab a few moments here and give a brief response. I think we both agree that we are speaking of a variety of same-sex persons here. There are those that have homosexual orientation that do not act out a physical expression of that orientation. There are those that have a homosexual orientation that act out a physcial expression of that orientation within a monogamous and non-permiscuous relationship. There are those that have a homosexual orientation that act out a physical expression of that orientation in a permiscuous way i.e. in a gay lifestyle as I have been speaking of it. There are some physical expressions that in all likelihood are common to both those who are monogamous and those who are non-monogamous. There are some physical expressions that I would understand are characteristic of the non-monogamous lifestyle only.

But your specific question is a question of morality. Is the behavior in question morally right or morally wrong? That quesiton, I believe, cannot be answered by the findings of science or from deduction from observing the actions or listening to stories and experiences of human beings. One cannot derive an ought from an is. The morality question can only to answered by God who happily has revealed His will to man in His Word to us in the Scriptures.

The major part of my book (Part II) is devoted to answering the question of the rightness or wrongness of same-sex behavior in light of the Scriptures' teaching. By way of summary, on page 132 I conclude that "We find homosexual acts to be sinful. We find homosexual behavior contrary to the will of God and God's purpose and desire for human beings."

It follows, then, that same-sex behavior - whether permiscuous or within a monogamous relationship - is contrary to the will of God. A Godly moral life is one lived in obedience to the will of God.

With regard to rostered leaders in the church, I would reiterate here what I spoke of in pages 173-177, that from the Scriptural teaching there are only two alternatives for God's human sexual creatures to live obedient lives of faithful discipleship: heteroseuxal marriage or sexual abstinence. This is not a question regarding the ordination of celibate, repentant, non-practicing same-sex persons to positions of leadership in the church. But just as we ought not to accept, I believe, a heterosexual person engaged in extra-marital sexual relationships into the ordained ministry, so we ought not accept into ordained ministry same-sex oriented persons who engage in homosexual acts with another person.

Blessings,
Dave

Dave Glesne said...

In response to Ben:

I value your honest and forthright comments, Ben, and am glad that you are a part of this conversation.

I too believe that homophobia has contributed to same-sex persons leaving our churches and has pushed them toward the closet. In the past, society has rejected same-sex persons and then when they have come to our churches they have felt the same rejection causing many to start churches and organizations of their own. That is why I begin my book (and reiterate it again in Part III) by saying, "Maybe the way forward through this tangled sexual mess is the Church repenting and asking gays and lesbians for forgiveness for the way we have treated them."

In the book, I am calling for the attitudes of repentance, humility, love, acceptance, and compassion toward same-sex persons by the church and by us as individuals. I am heartened by the numerous responses to the book to date by lay persons, pastors, professors, professors emeritus who indicate that they welcome and embrace that call as well.

I hope that a reading of the book would alleviate concerns that you have in this regard. Were you to pursue that endeavor I would direct you to www.kirkhouse.com.

Shalom,
Dave

Tim Fisher said...

Dear Dave,

I thank you for your response, even if I find it evasive.

If it is true that you believe that:

"there are those that have a homosexual orientation that act out a physcial expression of that orientation within a monogamous and non-permiscuous relationship"

as you claim to believe, then you are/were obligated to talk about this in your book. You are obligated to point out that many gay/lesbian people--WHO ARE IN MONOGAMOUS, COMMITTED, SAMESEX RELATIONSHIPS--do not in any way take part in the "gay lifestyle" as you describe it.

But you didn't do that. You need to do so, publically, with broad distribution. Because as it stands now, you have (via your book) clearly linked the "gay lifestyle" categorically to homosexual people in general and thus to your descriptions of pedophilia, promiscuity, and "icky" sexual practices.

I find this highly irresponsible. Your most honest move now would be to admit your mistake and rectify it as best as possible.

Tim Fisher
Minneapolis, MN

G. Armour Van Horn said...

Dave, you've got some real problems with terminology here. When you speak of "the gay lifestyle" you've got problems with at least two of the three terms. The biggest problem comes from that first word "the". When we speak of a range of things using a phrase that starts with that word, we're specifically saying that the concerns raised are global. It doesn't matter if you're talking about "the gay lifestyle" or "the Christian church", you need to make sure, on editing, that the concerns raised apply to all of the category that you are writing of. I think what you meant in "the gay lifestyle" is probably closer to "the bathhouse lifestyle" and suspect that track lighting is more typical of overall gay lifestyle choices than golden fountains.

And then there's the word lifestyle, which in common usage means the pattern of those things we choose to spend our time and discretionary income on. This goes hand-in-hand with your comment about "gay lifestyle homosexualists want society to accept as a perfectly acceptable alternative to the heterosexual relationship." Choosing the fisting and rimming of the bathhouse scene is an alternative, being gay isn't.

Van