Russell and Duenes

You’ll Soon Be Unable to Say Anything

with 4 comments

Someone recently noted that the time is soon coming when those who have a principled objection to gay “marriage” will be unable to say anything against it in public without serious repercussions, including legal ones. Indeed, California recently passed a law making it illegal for anyone to offer therapy designed to help a homosexual deal with his or her homosexual desires, with the hope of changing them. According to The Week, California governor Jerry Brown, having signed this bill into law, said that these therapies “will be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.” Thus, the fact that any views which do not approve of homosexual behavior or gay “marriage” will be silenced came home to me in a new way in my Constitutional Law class this past week.

We were discussing the 1967 case of Loving v. Virginia, where an interracial couple challenged a Virginia statute that made it a felony for “any white person [to] intermarry with a colored person, or any colored person [to] intermarry with a white person.” The Court said: “[T]he Equal Protection Clause requires the consideration of whether the classifications drawn by any statute constitute an arbitrary and invidious discrimination.” Thus, the Court rightly concluded: “There can be no question but that Virginia’s miscegenation (i.e., interracial marriage) statutes rest solely upon distinctions drawn according to race,” and therefore, such statutes are “odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality.”

Toward the end of our discussion, the professor asked if there were any ways that the Loving decision may or may not be relevant to the question of gay marriage. In other words, though being gay is not strictly the same kind of thing as being of a certain race, could the government rightly deny gays access to such a privileged and valued institution as marriage based on a trait that, if not innate, would be very difficult if not impossible to change, much like the difficulty encountered in changing one’s religion?

One of the students responded by saying that one could argue that there’s an element of choice in being gay, and thus, it’s not the same as a racial classification, though this student was quick to strongly disavow any agreement with such an argument. The professor’s response was to agree that the argument that homosexuals have a choice about their sexuality was a completely untenable argument, one already clearly left on the dust pile. Case closed, I guess. And the tone with which he dismissed such an argument left no doubt that anyone making it could not be taken seriously.

I tried to imagine what the reaction might have been had I said that the Loving decision did not support gay marriage, and that I believed gay marriage was insupportable legally (and morally). To say it would have been decidedly negative would likely be an understatement.

I did not want to wade into the discussion, frankly because I do not think the issue was framed properly, and thus, I do not think it would have been all that productive. Law school, like most of our educational system, does not allow for robust reflection and honest back-and-forth discussion about such things. It does not encourage the consideration of ideas and exploration of their bases and foundations. No, instead, questions are front-loaded to impugn certain responses, and of course, we have to “move on” to new material because, you know, we have hundreds more pages to cover. Further, there are so many unexamined epistemological, philosophical, and metaphysical assumptions that govern such a “discussion,” that it is hard to believe anything is accomplished by raising objections, other than being thought a narrow-minded bigot or a “scary” religious nut job. Finally, I had to confront my own motives, for what is at stake in issues of sexuality and marriage is the glory of God and Christ. Thus, whatever I might say or argue, and whatever disapproval I might receive for saying it, I want to be because Christ is honored, not because I’ve appeared merely to make some conservative political argument.

But I felt a bit of the weight of the social cost one would have to bear in coming out against gay marriage in such a public setting, a cost which is only going to increase. Knowing this, I think we do well to consider certain issues as we seek to honor Christ on the topic of sexuality. Christians ought to consider how to address questions such as: What does it mean to be human? What’s the nature and purpose of human beings? Is it radical individual autonomy, driven by evolutionary desires? What are the conditions for human flourishing and maturity? How do you know? What is the nature and purpose of human sexuality? Is human sexuality simply the product of evolutionary forces, or is our sexuality something given to us by God, to be enjoyed and with which to honor Him? If we say that it comes from God, are we prepared to defend our basis for believing so, knowing that others will not accept our basis? Are sexual behaviors and choices moral choices, or are they simply biochemical choices based on “how we were born,” and therefore beyond the reach of morality? If they are beyond the reach of morality, what does that say about our humanity and our ability, as humans, to make choices? Are our behaviors and choices really just governed by our DNA? If so, why hold people morally responsible for other, non-sexual choices?

Before we seek to address gay marriage, we ought to consider, and we ought to press those in favor of it to consider, the question: What is marriage? What is its nature and purpose? How do you know? Why have humans historically accorded marriage such an exalted and valued status? Why is it not viewed simply like other relational arrangements? Or should it be, so that it’s just about caring and consensual relationships, as Elizabeth Brake suggests? If you say that gay marriage is “not hurting anyone,” explain what you mean by that? How do you measure harm? To whom? To children? To cultural institutions? Is harm or the lack of it measured only by good or bad feelings about one’s behavior? Further, if one believes people should be able to “marry whomever they love,” why not legally allow polygamy, or incest? Is polygamy a “fundamental right” which is would be discriminatory to deny people under our Constitution?

There are many other relevant questions, of course, and Christians have a moral and spiritual mandate to consider them (which is a good argument for Christian education), and how to answer them truthfully, yet graciously and winsomely. We ought to object when the above questions are just ignored, and questions about the propriety of gay marriage are front-loaded against God’s view of marriage from the start. We will not be popular, no matter how articulately and kindly we discuss the issue of homosexual behavior and gay marriage, but we can certainly honor Christ in how we treat others in our discussions. And we most definitely can give good reasons for why God has commanded us as He has with regard to sexuality. For God is good, and his rules and commands are good, and we need to teach our hearts and the hearts of others, as Douglas Wilson says, to not only know God’s standards, but to love them. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

October 8, 2012 at 8:32 am

4 Responses

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  1. I am a Redwood alumni who was in the closet his whole life because Redwood never addressed the issue of sexuality well. I was made fun of mercilessly at Redwood because everyone thought I was gay. I have always loved God from a young age, but I have also always loved men from a young age. I’m seeking God in this the best I can and yet it’s inevitable that I will fall at times. I understand how tough it really is to be at a mix between my faith and my sexuality and let me tell you this if you are a gay non-Christian there is not a doubt in my mind that you would succumb to homosexuality entirely. I have partially succumbed to the gay identity, but not fully. I’ve had a boyfriend before even if we weren’t really sexually active. I just wish Christians would show more love in this issue. I’m not asking that Christians accept homosexuality. I’m asking that Christians accept the fact that if a person is a gay non-Christian, they will most surely succumb to that identity. That might sound harsh, but it’s the truth. A person can be the best Christian he can be and discuss this issue, love the person, and offer healing, but that’s it. If a gay person doesn’t want help, it’s not our problem to tell them what to do and especially not impose our views on them. I think Christians should have the freedom to express opinions against gay marriage, but I personally do not think gay marriage or gay adoption should be illegal. We live in a democracy where people vote for what they want and the majority are in favor of gay marriage/adoption. I have no right to FORCE people what to do. That’s their decision. We aren’t called as Christians to FORCE someone not to sin. God does not impose His ideology on us so we shouldn’t with others? Did you know that 70% of the “Do Nots” of the Ten Commandments are legal? We obviously shouldn’t just make something illegal because it is a sin. I’m not ultra supportive of necessarily calling it “marriage” per say, but I’m 100% supportive of giving them the same full legal rights as a man and woman. LGBT members in partnerships make less money because they don’t get tax exemptions, their partners have died in hospitals without them being next to them because they did not receive hospital visitation rights, and there are a whole hosts of other rights that they don’t get, but they deserve. It is DISCRIMINATION to say they can’t make as much money, get hospital visitation rights, get social security/immigration/ etc etc assistance because they are gay. It’s are jobs as Christians to still fight that discrimination irregardless if they aren’t one of us. Jesus wasn’t very nice to the Pharisees and I don’t think he would stand up for the modern-day Pharisees who say that gay couples can’t receive simple legal rights just because they both have dicks. That’s absurd. As for me, I’m looking at my options. I don’t know if I will ever be straight if I will be with a man or woman or whatever. All I know is that irregardless of what I do I am going to heaven with Jesus because I trust Him in this and I know that my orientation does not give me a death sentence. I don’t even think being with a man would seal my death sentence. Jesus loves us PERIOD. It doesn’t say except gay people in the Bible. It doesn’t say you will go to hell if you’re gay(whether active or not) in the Bible. I’m sick of the conservative Right(I’m sorry I know that’s what you guys are 😦 ). Seriously though, the conservative Right has done nothing to me, but condemn my orientation and say I’m less of a person than my straight friends. That’s not what Jesus would do. I refuse to accept that the Republican’s are God’s party. How can a party be God’s party when it refuses to accept and love gay people(AND IT DOES because I’ve experienced this AT REDWOOD!!!) and refuses to acknowledge legal rights to property, hospital visitation etc. etc. ? I need a lot of help with this so please email me! I really want to get help in this because I don’t know what I’m supposed to do at this point! I’m in love with my best friend and he lives with me yet he’s straight. Every time I’m with him I just want to never leave him. Just gotta trust in Jesus, but still don’t know what to do 😦

    Anonymous

    October 8, 2012 at 10:35 am

    • A – There’s a lot to unpack here, and I cannot hope to do it justice in this space, but let me think a bit about what you’ve said and offer some thoughts. I appreciate your honesty.

      -D

      russell and duenes

      October 9, 2012 at 5:41 pm

  2. Further, there are so many unexamined epistemological, philosophical, and metaphysical assumptions that govern such a “discussion,” that it is hard to believe anything is accomplished by raising objections, other than being thought a narrow-minded bigot or a “scary” religious nut job. Finally, I had to confront my own motives, for what is at stake in issues of sexuality and marriage is the glory of God and Christ. Thus, whatever I might say or argue, and whatever disapproval I might receive for saying it, I want to be because Christ is honored, not because I’ve appeared merely to make some conservative political argument.

    I know exactly how you feel in every line of this, D. I faced exactly the same feelings in medical school in discussions regarding abortion, although I’m proud to say that I spoke out a couple of times.

    In addition to what you’ve said, I think you’ll do well to remember two things:

    1) You will likely find, if you speak up, that afterwards some people will turn out to agree with you.

    2) When the issue has, as you say, been framed improperly, with the consequence that you feel disoriented and unsure how to respond, because there’s so much “groundwork” you’d have to lay first – failure to respond in that instance is not tantamount to cowardice.

    We will not be popular, no matter how articulately and kindly we discuss the issue of homosexual behavior and gay marriage, but we can certainly honor Christ in how we treat others in our discussions.

    Right. I realized through participating in some of those aforementioned medical school discussions that tiptoeing around the issue, trying to be this “nice”, “considerate” Christian, doesn’t really win you any points. Yes, be courteous and respectful of others’ humanity (if not their point of view), but if you’re going to make Christian arguments, you’re just going to have to make them straightforwardly.

    Prayers for you, D.

    samsonsjawbone

    October 9, 2012 at 8:26 am

    • Thanks, bro. I appreciate your wisdom.

      -D

      russell and duenes

      October 9, 2012 at 5:36 pm


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