Sunday, November 12, 2006

Affirming Identity - Clausen

Post #12. Understanding Homosexuality meets Straight Into Gay America, a dialogue between Pastor Dave Glesne and Pastor Lars Clausen

Dear Dave,

Continuing thanks for continuing conversation, and for your last post trying to name our agreements and also to name “the root” of our disagreements. I think you did a good job of this, and I’ll try to reply as directly as I can.

I agree it’s hard to manage our dialogue because of the many possible directions. I’m thankful we’re still trying. A cleanup area for me would be to go back and address the science concerns I worked on in the last blog post. You write in your last post that your goal is to put forth a "reflective and reasoned argument that is informed both by science and Scripture." I raised a number of questions about the science and the data you’re quoting, as well as about the reliability of NARTH. Those are continuing questions for me.

But…to your blog. In the area of disagreements you begin with an issue being the failure to “distinguish between personhood and behavior.” You then state your understanding that homosexuality is a behavior and not an identity.

Behavior vs. Identity:
I don’t mean to be flip here, Dave, but I want to ask what happens in this section on disagreements when we replace the word homosexual by heterosexual. If we then ask the same question, “Is a heterosexual identifiable by identity rather than behavior?” we might conclude, “Since there is no scientific, medical, or biological evidence that heterosexuality is inborn or unchangeable, no one can authenticate that he or she is heterosexual. It is only declared.”

I don’t agree with your statement about homosexuality, but insofar as the statement stands, I believe this statement works as well with the term heterosexual as with the term homosexual. Which brings us to Scripture and the ways that you write about God ordering life as heterosexual even from the Genesis story, so that homosexuality is evidence of the brokenness of the world. Biblically, I hear you saying heterosexuality is good. Homosexuality is bad.

I want to follow with the example you gave about women and black people. Yes, these are physical characteristics, but the issue at hand was not the physical characteristic, it was whether women and black people were rightfully regarded as property, or whether they should have equality. The Bible says it’s fine to regard women as property and to hold people as slaves. To use your example, “no one can authenticate” (as a woman or as a slave), that the Bible or science entitles them to equality. “It is only declared.” Society eventually chose to honor this declaration of women’s rights at the ballot box, at work, and in the family. Society eventually chose to honor this declaration of African Americans that slavery was wrong and equality was needed.

I feel like I’m heading too far over in the logical arguments arena, but I do so to say that I believe you’re right about homosexual people claiming their declared identity. Homosexual people, like women’s rights activists before them and abolitionists before them are simply declaring their identity and claiming its equal value. As a heterosexual person I’m not feeling threatened about a gay takeover. To the contrary, I’m feeling excited that the long march of justice for serfs, religious freedom, sexual equality, and racial equality is now including same-gender oriented people. Just as we celebrate these past victories for justice, I am confident we’ll some day celebrate the victory of equal rights for LGBT and Intersex and perhaps other sexual minority people. Ultimately, this question will be answered by neither science nor by specific Biblical verses. It will be answered by the great arc of compassion and justice that weaves through the time tested religious and spiritual expressions of humanity’s journey on earth.

And because of this journey, I can speculate on why people might address you as anti-gay. I can understand two reasons why you might be labeled anti-gay:

  1. I don’t hear you being on this arc toward justice and equality LGBT people. Instead I hear you judging homosexuality as behavior. In times past, I imagine that suffragists and abolitionists dealt with people who were good hearted and loving Christians, yet whose assumptions stood in the way of achieving equality.
  2. The second reason I can imagine you being labeled anti-gay goes back to our early blog posts when I challenged you about the overarching use of homosexual as you described your list of behaviors. We went back and forth on the term “homosexual lifestyle,” but your last blog post makes me think we need to return to those posts. You wrote.
“Disease-causing behavior, coupled with denial of lethal dangers, provides
strong evidence that gay orientation is a compulsive and addictive condition –
with practitioners looking for self-justification in a pseudo-identity.”

I thought in the earlier blogs you were trying to carefully distinguish between your understandings of homosexual people and aberrant behavior. Now I see you writing about gay orientation as a lethally dangerous pseudo identity.

Dave, here’s my challenge. If you’re going to really use that term “love the sinner, and hate the sin,” will you relook at the way that you understand homosexuality?

If you make one simple switch – if you accept the testimony of millions of LGBT people – if you accept LGBT life as identity, and if you look for loving, compassionate, caring relationships between LGBT people, then I wonder if you would write what you did, including:

“In their declaration, such persons only lay claim to being a practitioner of
sodomy in one of more of its many forms.”

And…

“Given the compulsive and addictive nature of homosexuality and its destructive
and lethal consequences, would a loving person – be that God or a compassionate
legislator – approve homosexual behavior, or reject and forbid it? ...I contend that a loving and
compassionate person would say “no” to the behavior.”

Dave, you write, “Love not based on objective truth is no love at all. It is betrayal.” I agree. I’m hopeful that together we’re really looking at discovering objective truth, as best we can. You read my book, Straight Into Gay America, so you know the people that I met, and their stories. They simply don’t fit the mold of disease causing, danger denying, compulsive, addicted, pseudo-identified individuals.

Let me know how we should move forward. After all the blogs to this point, and the care with which we have tried to address language and science, I was surprised to read your last blog post. But…I believe you’re right…you’ve named one of the root areas of our disagreement.

How shall we proceed?

Blessings,
Lars

8 comments:

Earl said...

This is an outstanding discussion! So rare to see respectful dialog like this...that is truly worth reading. Kudos to you both for taking the time to share this conversation with others. Blessings, Earl (Jeshua)

Anonymous said...

Interesting that he should choose to speak of Black as a physical characteristic when about 20% to 30% of us are living as White in America. Hence the reason for White being misnamed "caucation" when they word should be "caucasoid" or white like. Remember this United States has a one drop law, meaning that if there was ever anyone black in your family history You are still Black no matter what your physical characteristics are.

Sandy

Throckmorton said...

They simply don’t fit the mold of disease causing, danger denying, compulsive, addicted, pseudo-identified individuals.

This is certainly true of my experience as well. I do not believe we should resort to these characterizations in order to object to a sexual ethic on biblical grounds. To me, this issue is not about pragmatics, it is about authority. What does your Bible, your church, your spiritual tradition teach you about how sexuality should be organized and lived? Answer this and you do not need to know what percentage of straights or gays get depressed, have anal cancer or get divorced.

I suspect that evangelicals make pragmatic arguments because they serve public policy objectives. Since most Americans probably don't consider the Bible or their church to speak authoritatively, they go with their gut. And if you can make an entire group of people look like "disease causing, danger denying, compulsive, addicted, pseudo-identified individuals" you might be able to impact the opinions of people at the gut-level.

Kevin said...

Blog to Straight into Gay America – 11-12-06

As a heterosexual male, I've been following this discussion with great interest. I have a couple of gay relatives, several gay friends, and have met and / or worked with scores of gay people over the last 35 years. I have found these people to be some of the most kind, sensitive, and caring individuals of any I have ever met. Their "being" is unquestionably real and genuine. No one could ever convince me that they have chosen to be gay, just as I didn't choose to be bald. Before science proved that the world was round, it was flat. Before science explained the rising of the sun, moon, and stars, it was the "gods" at work. And now , before science has conclusively proven (which it soon will) that homosexuality is innate, there are those who are doing everything possible to ignore the inevitable while continuing to deny the overwhelming anecdotal evidence to the contrary. Why is this? Is it because of biblical references - the ones alongside those that tell us that it's OK to stone unfaithful women to death? Or is it because of the lack of sexual maturity in oneself, which leads to a perverse curiousity that abnormally focuses on sexual acts among consenting adults? It's beyond me to understand the intensity with which some disparage those who simply want to live peaceful and productive lives just like the rest of us with the same rights that we enjoy. Homosexuals have walked on the earth since the beginning of man. Have they ever been a threat to civilizations?

A relative of mine a few years ago stated to me that the only big issues that mattered in her life were gay marriage and abortion. Other issues like the war in Iraq, poverty, environmental degradation, and global warming paled in comparison. While I can understand the unsettling nature of the abortion question, it's difficult to understand how the issue of gay marriage exceeds that of nuclear war in some minds.

I would encourage Dave Glesne to take a look at the website:
www.whosoever.org, an online magazine for GLBT Christians. If you open your heart and read some of the material on this site, you will be forever transformed in your thinking. If not, I suspect that you and others who cannot accept the reality of this issue are emasculated by fear, prejudice, and a serious lack of self esteem.

Kevin

Tim Fisher said...

Dear Dave,

You write:
"Since there is no scientific, medical, or biological evidence that homosexuality is inborn or unchangeable, no one can authenticate that he or she is homosexual. It is only declared."

Whether or not a homosexual orientation is inborn has absolutely nothing to do with the observation that someone is homosexual. Strictly speaking, the term homosexual/heterosexual simply describes sexual desire--does the subject find him/herself attracted to males, females, or both? While the questions of genes, hormones, etc… (the various measures indicating that orientation might be "constitutional" or innate) are interesting and telling in some contexts, the "authentication that he or she is homosexual" is certainly not one of them.

One can authenticate a homosexual orientation, no matter what the etiology of orientation might be. In men, at least, this is done with a device called a plysmegraph. This device measures the level of penile engorgement. Basically, the way this test goes is that the device is hooked up to the guy and then he is shown erotic pictures of both men and women. In practice, it is difficult (although not impossible) to fool this detector; the "response" to the pictures, as measured by the device, tells the story.

So your claim that "no one can authenticate that he or she is homosexual" seems very misleading. This validation (or authentication, or measurement) of homosexual desire seems to fall within a gray area between "behavior" and "being." Some behaviors are consciously controlled by the subject ("I decide to go shopping today"), and some are unconscious ("I recoil in fear at flying insects."). A behavior may spring from an unchangeable thing (whatever that thing might be). Or, it might not. Or, it might spring from something only marginally changeable. The jury is out on that one.

But sexual orientation can certainly be scientificly, medically, and biologically verified. What has been shown empirically is that the "behavior" in question (the positive response measured by the plysmegraph) is largely if not wholly automatic (i.e. unwilled). Sure, whether or not someone has sex with another person is a choice. But the direction (i.e. toward male or female or both) of that desire is not what any of us would understand as under willful control.

Now, it is important to add that penile engorgement (in the case of males) is not the only thing that goes along with a sexual orientation. Love, the desire to be with the other and care for the other, the feeling of sharing oneself in a near-total way with another, etc… also accompany the sexual orientation. This is just as true for homosexuals as it is for heterosexuals. Obviously, our friend the plysmegraph cannot measure those things. The only thing that can measure those things are interviews, i.e. "self reports." While self report is often not the most reliable and valid measure, it is all we have for measuring love, etc. . . . Because reports of love, care, etc… in regards to same-sex relationships are as ubiquitous among gay and lesbian people as they are among heterosexual people, I think we can safely assume that what is reported is actually felt.

Our "personhood" is not defined entirely by our genes. Of course not. The deep, deep feelings of love and companionship (the whole panoply of things that married/partnered people report everywhere in the world) also have much to do with our sense of personhood--indeed, usually these things are far more important to our "personhood" than anything that could ever, ever, be genetically measured.

Tell me, Dave--can you authenticate that you are a heterosexual? Can you authenticate that you love your wife? That you love your children? That you love God? That you are a Christian? If so, how? Is there any scientific, medical, or biological verifyable BASIS for any of these things?

I have more to say about the confusion of personhood and behavior, but it will have to wait.

Grace and peace,

Tim Fisher
Minneapolis, MN

Dr. Joe said...

In Blog #8, Dr Glesne quoted Dr. Robert Spitzer. Spitzer explains that he sought to determine whether people changed their orientation at all, not how often this occurred. "But since it was so difficult to find 200 people who had changed for the study, the likelihood of altering sexual orientation is probably rare, he says. "It's hard to change anything that's basic to a person's personality." He further says, "The Christian right never mentions my conclusion that in the general population, such change is rare, and I find their whole agenda obnoxious. They want to humiliate gays and deprive them of civil rights.".

Here’s a direct quote from Dr. Spitzer from a personal telephone conversation I had with him today: November 14, 2006:

"It took 2 years to try to find 200 subjects in my study, despite many attempts by Exodus International and NARTH to (find?) them to participate in the study. This tells me that, although I believe my study shows that change is possible in some, it is almost certainly very rare.
Unfortunately, when the Christian Right referred to my study, they never mentioned my noting the likely rarity of change of sexual orientation."

The cautionary note in his original paper (Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 32, o. 5, Oct. 2003, p.413) was this: "It is unclear how many gays and lesbians in the general population would want to change their sexual orientation or how representative the study sample is of those who would be interested in therapy with that goal. Obviously, this study cannot address the question of how often sexual re-orientation therapy actually results in substantial changes reported by most of the participants in this study. To recruit 200 participants, it was necessary to repeatedly send notices of the study over a 16-month period to a large number of participants who had undergone some form of reparative therapy. This suggests that the marked change in sexual orientation reported by almost all of the study subjects may be a rare or uncommon outcome of reparative therapy."

Joe Norquist

Tim Fisher said...

November 14, 2006

On Personhood and Behavior

Dear Dave,

You write, "Might not a major difference stem from not distinguishing between personhood and behavior?"

What is the behavior of gay and lesbian people in the context of their committed, sexual relationships? To hear you tell the tale, Dave, it seems that gay/lesbian behavior has chiefly to do with particular sex acts: anal sex, fisting, peeing, feces play. More broadly speaking, your tale tells of promiscuity, pedophilia, perversity, and sexual addiction.

How different is the word we hear from actual gay and lesbian people. Nadine, for instance, has spoken on this blog about how her relationship "provide[s] the supportive feeling of having a person that is the love of your life, of making that person a part of your extended family and having that person make you a part of their extended family, and sharing your life." Nadine speaks of the mutual sharing of selves. Nadine speaks about how she cares for her partner and how her partner cares for her, and how this behavior helps them prosper within their extended families.

You talk of fisting.

Both tales, yours and Nadine's are about behavior. But Nadine's is not solely about behavior; it's about how her behavior and her personhood (however we may define that) fit together in the wholeness of her life with her partner. The church cannot continue discussing gay and lesbian people with the sort of superficiality that would reduce their lives to mere body parts and the meaningless grunt of sexual kicks. This kind of talk must stop.

You claim to value attentive listening as "the key to good conversation." And yet, here and in your book, you blow right by testimonies such as Nadine's--and countless similar testimonies that you heard, say, at the Orlando Assembly--and instead plow such abstractions as "love the sinner, hate the sin." We look for evidence that you have even seen the sinner and his life, much less loved him; we look for evidence that you have seen it in its particulars, its context--its cross. The church cannot speak helpfully about the lives of any of us, much less our gay and lesbian brothers and sister, unless we are able to witness clearly to what is actually incarnated before our eyes. Allow me to list some other behaviors of gay and lesbian people (names changed) that I have observed:

- Alison gives up her life of drugs and alcohol and irresponsible relationships after meeting her life Janet. This behavior saves Alison's life.

- Alison and Janet invite their good friends, who live across the street, to share in a holiday meal with their extended families.

- Max and Oscar go to the adoption agency together to register to adopt. They are told their chances are slim to none. Eventually, a woman comes forward giving her baby to be adopted. Because of good experiences she has had with gay men, she specifies that she wants a gay couple to be the parents.

- Max and Oscar raise the son. Max answers to the name "Daddy" and Oscar answers "Poppa." Eric loves his Daddy and his Poppa.

- Mike holds Kyle's hand during the funeral service for Kyle's father.

- Mike, sitting with the rest of the family in the pews, consoles Kyle's mother.

- Elizabeth gives up a very lucrative career in business to raise a child she has had with her partner, Susan. Susan continues working, enabling Elizabeth to remain at home with the child.

- Any couple, anywhere, look each deeply into each other's eyes, knowing themselves formed in their humanity by the living delight of the other, and so entering their bodies' grace. (Rowan Williams)

Through their committed relationships, gay and lesbian couples preserve the resources needed for survival and the flourishing of family life and work. Through their committed relationships, gay and lesbian couples find means of doing good in the world through love, forgiveness, and care for the other. Martin Luther and others during the Reformation presented a strong case that the institution of marriage provides a way of participating in the body of Christ, of being "of the mind of Christ." Procreation was not deemed a necessary function of marriage, according to Luther.

As I was told by a lesbian couple, people "discover themselves as children of God through our relationship with others. Marriage sanctifies. The church should be about how we're poured out in service for the other and in intimacy with the other."

A woman related to me her take on the communion liturgy. "Jesus is recognized as our brother in the breaking of the bread," it goes. "What defines 'family' cannot be mere biology or sexuality," she said, "but rather it must be our love and care that we can share because of Christ. If Christ is my brother because of what he did for me, then how can the church not define my family by how we care for each other? When I am told a family is a family solely because of its biological arrangement, then in essence I am told Christ isn't really my flesh-and-blood brother."

All of this is about behavior and all of this is about personhood.

You may wish to argue, Dave, that none of the behavior I speak of above is sexual, strictly speaking. It is not, in essence, genital. Mike could hold Kyle's hand without their relationship including sex. If you indeed wish to argue this way, you denigrate your own marriage by doing so. Mine too, for that matter. How and why sex can, and does, deepen relationships is one of the glorious mysteries of life.

Grace and peace,

Tim Fisher
Minneapolis, MN

P.S. The paraphrase from Rowan Williams above is from his well known essay, "The Body's Grace." It can be found at www.igreens.org.uk/bodys_grace.htm

It's one of the most wise and beautiful essays I've read on our subject. I encourage all to read it.

Tim Fisher said...

November 14, 2006

On Trust

Dear Dave,

I have complained to you about this before, and I will do so again. In your personal correspondence with me, in your comments on this blog, and in your book, you will relatively often use sentences and passages that you have lifted directly (or nearly so) from other sources. I am uncomfortable with this practice, but not chiefly because of potential plaigiarism (although it's possible you may be flirting with it in your book). My main concern has to do with trust.

Dave, I will repeat myself: An important part of what we are dealing with here has to do with authority and trust. When we bring information to the table, we need to be able to trust that the data is valid, that it hasn't been construed in a misleading way, that its source is sound, and that the methodology of its collection is up to snuff. We need to be able to trust that the person bringing us the information has done a careful and thorough job of selecting it.

When the honesty and validity of some of your sources (e.g. Paul Cameron) is one of the issues at hand, your responding with somebody else’s un-attributed language is not what anyone should regard as an honest and careful response--not in a personal letter, not in a blog, and certainly not in a published book. When you say you have considered the facts, when you say you have looked carefully at the data, the church needs to be able to trust that you have actually done the work. The church deserves something better than a mere mouthpiece.

Here are some examples of what I mean from your post #10 of November 9. Do you suppose any of our fellow bloggers might recognize the following text? It is from “The Homosexual Rights Agenda: Reframing the Debate” by Allan Dobras and Earle Fox

This website, titled “the Road to Emmaus,” provides talking points for those who wish to oppose gay rights legislation. One of the stated aims of the material is to “provide a head start in forming a small group who can work together to support each other so that homosexual advocates will begin to understand that whenever they get up to speak, they will have to defend homosexual behavior in public.” This makes me wonder, Dave, at your earlier comment about your not wishing merely to win the fight for your camp.

Here’s the text from Dobras and Fox:
--------------------------

Q1. How do you respond to complaints made by homosexual rights advocates that same-sex couples—because they cannot legally marry—are denied a number of significant benefits available to those who may legally marry, that is, opposite sex couples who fall within certain restrictions set by law, e.g., age, relationship, etc.

A1. The complaints by homosexual rights advocates are true, but legally frivolous and irrelevant because are defined by their behavior, not by any identifiable state of being.

Since no scientific, medical, or biological evidence exists that homosexuality is either inborn or unchangeable, no one can authenticate that he or she is homosexual--it is only declared. In their declaration, such persons only lay claim to being a practitioner of sodomy in one or more of its many forms--oral and anal sex, anilingus, multiple partners, "fisting", cross-dressing, bestiality, and other bizarre sexual expressions. Accordingly, any claim that same-sex couples are entitled to certain rights granted to a legally married husband and wife has no more legal merit than that of persons engaged in such similarly aberrant sexual behaviors as consensual adultery, incest, or polygamy.

(http://theroadtoemmaus.org/RdLb/22SxSo/PnSx/HSx/RefrmHsxDbat.htm)
----------------

The following, also penned by Earle Fox, is from a tract called “Winning the Homosexuality Debate in the Public Arena.”

--------------
Prior to the 1990's, no researchers on either side of the fence said either that homosexuality was genetic, inborn, or otherwise "hardwired", or that one could not change one's orientation. Alfred Kinsey, John Money, Masters and Johnson, all pansexual proponents, said that persons could change, and that it was their own business. It was difficult, but possible.
Not until the 1990's did homosexual activists discover the "PR" value of getting people to believe that their condition was "genetic" or "biologically determined". Several studies during the early and middle '90's were alleged to prove such. The claim was false. Not one of those studies has survived scientific peer review, and few, if any, researchers today will support that claim. Even some homosexual groups are now admitting the "inborn" case to have failed.
The prodigious promiscuity in disease-causing behavior, coupled with denial of lethal dangers, provides incontestable evidence that the homosexual orientation is a compulsive and addictive condition -- with practitioners looking for self-justification in a pseudo-identity.”
(emphasis original)

www.theroadtoemmaus.org/RdLb/22SxSo/BroSx/Html/Strtgy1pg.htm
---------------

As many of our readers may recognize, these passages were lifted almost verbatim.

Respectfully submitted,

Tim Fisher
Minneapolis, MN