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!
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.