Saturday, May 22, 2010

Conservatives and Gay Marriage in America

New Answers Book 2The newsletter that Answers in Genesis sent me today didn't have much content in it, but it linked me back to their site for chapter 15 of The New Answers Book 2, entitled How Should a Christian Respond to "Gay Marriage"? (Yes, they did put gay marriage in quotes.) It's somewhat lengthy, so I won't attempt to respond to every claim they make but instead generally to each topic they bring up. This is probably the longest post I've done yet, so don't feel like you have to read all of it. I've underlined the headings they used in their chapter so you can skip around to the more interesting bits if you like. And if you agree or disagree with what I've said, please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

An Atheist on a Talk Show

 Ken Ham recalls having a conversation with an atheist on some kind of talk show, which I'm sure he didn't make up.
Caller: “I’m an atheist, and I want to tell you Christians that if you believe Cain married his sister, then that’s immoral.”

AiG: “If you’re an atheist, then that means you don’t believe in any personal God, right?”

Caller: “Correct!”

AiG: “Then if you don’t believe in God, you don’t believe there’s such a thing as an absolute authority. Therefore, you believe everyone has a right to their own opinions—to make their own rules about life if they can get away with it, correct?”

Caller: “Yes, you’re right.”

AiG: “Then, sir, you can’t call me immoral; after all, you’re an atheist, who doesn’t believe in any absolute authority.”
I would first point out that there's nothing innately immoral about marrying your sister from an atheist perspective, it's just a culture taboo. Not that it wouldn't be weird or creepy, but it would be difficult for me to argue that it's wrong to do so. However, according to the biblical commandments, incest is a sin and that's exactly what was required for Adam and Eve's children (if they were literal people) to do if they were to populate the earth. Instead of dealing with this issue, Ken turns the tables on the atheist and accuses him of not having any morals. A while back, I covered the issue of the divine command theory (otherwise known as "God commanded it, it's moral") and why it is irrelevant to morals. I would disagree with the atheist's last statement here, however, as while people can have their own opinions, it isn't about what they can get away with. It's about what is and isn't good for society and other people. Morals can, unfortunately, be a complicated issue and no one book (including the bible) has the answers to all tough questions. I know of places where the bible has good advice and I know where it contains bad advice. I think most Christians know how to weed out the good from the bad, highlighting their own sense of non-biblical morality.
AiG: “Do you believe all humans evolved from apelike ancestors?”

Caller: “Yes, I certainly believe evolution is fact.”

AiG: “Then, sir, from your perspective on life, if man is just some sort of animal who evolved, and if there’s no absolute authority, then marriage is whatever you want to define it to be—if you can get away with it in the culture you live in.

“It could be two men, two women or one man and ten women; in fact, it doesn’t even have to be a man with another human—it could be a man with an animal.

“I’m sorry, sir, that you think Christians have a problem. I think it’s you who has the problem. Without an absolute authority, marriage, or any other aspect of how to live in society, is determined on the basis of opinion and ultimately could be anything one decides—if the culture as a whole will allow you to get away with this. You have the problem, not me.”
Um, no. First, our origins have nothing to do with our morals. What isn't important is how we got here. What is important is how we treat each other now that we're here. Incidentally, most animals do operate under some sense of morals despite the fact that they too are, well... animals and don't have brains as developed as ours. They don't have the bible or any other book to tell them what's right and wrong, yet some animals have an especially strong sense of community. And about bestiality, I'm not sure where Ken Ham is pulling this logic from. You can't jump from two consenting adults to an adult and an animal who couldn't consent or even attempt to understand what that means. Now of course Ken doesn't let the atheist respond, or at least doesn't quote him here. I wouldn't let anyone get away with saying something like that without attempting a rebuttal, even if what was said was so stupid it almost refutes itself.

The “Pragmatics” Aspect of Opposing Gay Marriage—Some Cautions
Even though such problems as the spread of HIV might be shown to be a sound argument in this issue, ultimately it’s not a good basis for stating that one man for one woman must be the rule. It may be a sound argument based on the pragmatics of wanting to maintain a healthy physical body, but why should one or more human beings have the right to dictate to others what they can or can’t do in sexual relationships? After all, another person might decide that the relationship between one man and woman in marriage might cause psychological problems and use that as the basis for the argument.
Well, now we're getting somewhere. Yes, it is about giving two consenting adults the right to marry who they want, even if there are consequences (limited to the two in the act) because giving them the right wouldn't infringe on anyone else's rights to choose as well. The answer is staring you right in the face, but I don't think you quite see it. In fact, I'm quite sure, since you continue on for another 3/4 of a chapter.

Allowing the Killing of a Newborn?
Ultimately, it comes down to this: How does a culture determine what is right and what is wrong? If the majority agrees on a set of standards, what happens when that majority is replaced by a different majority?
We attempt to determine what is right and wrong by coming together and reasoning it out. I realize that logic seems to evade those hard-line creationists, so I understand why this concept is so difficult to grasp. But let's look at America today. Take socialized healthcare. Some people believe that it's the "right" thing to do, others believe it's the "wrong" thing. Could it be a moral question? Is is right to withhold care from those who can't afford it? Is it right to charge disinterested third parties to care for another? These are morals questions and there are people on both sides of the issue who think they take the moral high ground. Incidentally, both sides have tried to claim that theirs is the position supported by the bible, though there's no clear command from Jesus pertaining to the government's role in it.

If a different majority comes in and replaces the standards/law, then that's the new law. If you don't like it, then try to change it. You'll have to convince people that you're correct and your reasoning is better than the current reasoning. That's why a democracy is a good thing. Instead of having one man decide the laws (no matter how good a person he may be), we can have the votes of many and attempt to determine where most people stand. I know the objection here is "but what if everyone is wrong?" Tough. If you think we have the wrong standard, don't follow the standard. To date, I've never seen any example of the horrible things that could happen if we all were somehow creating our own standards (which we have been for millenia).
Some might say that there is no way Western culture would allow pedophilia. Fifty years ago, however, most people probably would not have dreamed that America or Britain would ever allow gay marriage. Where does one draw the line? And who determines who draws that line? What’s the answer?
Just as with bestiality, it comes down to consent. Now as I understand, Mary (wife of Joseph) was, according to what I learned in church, a young woman, perhaps even girl, at the age of about 12 when she was betrothed and the angel visited her. Obviously, the church can't consider this to be pedophilia since that would bring charges to Joseph and God that most people wouldn't want to deal with. The question then is, at what age is a person old an mentally ready enough to consent to a relationship? Certainly not at 5. Perhaps at 12. It's kind of fuzzy, really, because peoples' maturity can vary so widely. I think that's partly why we have it at 18 in most place in America. It's a nice safe age where no one can accuse you of being too young.

Does the Church Have the Answer?
One Christian leader was interviewed on MSNBC-TV and was asked about the gay marriage issue. The interview went something like this:

TV host: “Did Jesus deal directly with the gay marriage issue?”

Christian leader: “No, but then Jesus didn’t deal directly with the abortion issue or many other issues. . . .”

This is such a disappointing response. A proper response could have been such a powerful witness—not only to the interviewer but to the potential millions of viewers watching the news program, so people could understand why this Christian leader opposed gay marriage.
Perhaps a disappointing response for you, but an honest answer nonetheless. I think later you'll attempt to twist the meaning of a Jesus-quote to support your views but we'll get there eventually.
The same Christian leader appeared on CNN-TV doing an interview that, in part, went something like the following:

Interviewer: “Why are you against gay marriage?”

Christian leader: “Because down through the ages, culture after culture has taught that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

We believe this kind of answer actually opens the door to gay marriage! How? Because it basically says that marriage is determined by law or opinion.
Really? Because this seems to be the most oft-cited defense of traditional marriage. By throwing this out, what argument do you have left? ...Oh right, the Bible. *Sigh*
So, why is it that we don’t see many Christian leaders giving the right sorts of answers? I think it’s because the majority of them have compromised with the idea of millions of years of history, as well as evolutionary beliefs in astronomy, geology, and so on. As a result, the Bible’s authority has been undermined, and it’s no longer understood to be the absolute authority.
Wow, I've seen creationists confuse the ideas of evolution, cosmology, and abiogenesis, but this is something new. Apparently the people at AiG confuse evolutionary biology, astronomy, and geology with marriage. And willfully and honestly, at that. Wow. Now certainly, science conflicts with the most literal reading of Genesis, but most Christians aren't as conservative as you and don't take the biblical account to be anything other than metaphorical or allegorical.

Gay Marriage—Is Evolution the Cause?

To respond to this heading, don't be stupid. But I think Ken would like to clarify:
It is accurate to say that the increasing acceptance of homosexual behavior and gay marriage has gone hand in hand with the popularity and acceptance of millions of years and evolutionary ideas. But this does not mean that every person who believes in millions of years/evolution accepts gay marriage or condones homosexual behavior.
Ok, well "hand-in-hand" is open to interpretation, I suppose, but nonetheless, they're two completely separate topics that do not overlap. And that's why your last sentence is correct. Another correct sentence is "Not every person who enjoys Kit Kat bars thinks that we need to spend money on NASA's space exploration program." Their claim is bordering on a non sequitur.
Cultures in the West were once pervaded by a primarily Christian worldview because the majority of people at least respected the Bible as the authority on morality. It needs to be clearly understood that over the past 200 years the Bible’s authority has been increasingly undermined, as much of the Church has compromised with the idea of millions of years (this began before Darwin) and has thus begun reinterpreting Genesis. When those outside the Church saw Church leaders rejecting Genesis as literal history, one can understand why they would have quickly lost respect for all of the Bible. If the Church doesn’t even believe this Book to be true, then why should the world build its morality on a fallible work that modern science supposedly has shown to be inaccurate in its science and history?
Maybe the problem for people rejecting the Bible as an authority on morality was when we abolished slavery in America. Another problem could have been our progress toward giving women equal rights. Both go against what the Bible preaches (and we're better off for it) so I suppose I understand what Ken's saying. As a side note, from what I understand, AiG's position on a literal Adam & Eve is a relatively new movement in Christianity. Many of the old saints did not believe in such a literal reading of scripture. And now for possibly the dumbest image AiG has ever produced:

Church vs Church
Yes, that's right, churches accepting evolution and millions of years result in abortions, euthanasia, porn, racism, and gay sex. Only one picture can describe my reaction to this stunning display of stupidity.

Mocking the Bible
The author then, mockingly, wrote, “Ah, Genesis. Heaven and earth created in six days, a serpent that talks, and a 600-year-old man building an ark. Just the guide we need to set rational policy.”
 Actually, I think that sums it up perfectly. Props to AiG for doing my work for me!

Were Homosexuals Created That Way?
Human sexuality is very complex, and the arguments will long rage as to the causes of homosexual behavior. In this fallen world, most behaviors are a complex mix of one’s personal choices superimposed on a platform of predisposition. This can come both from one’s genetic makeup and one’s environment (for example, one’s upbringing). Few students of human nature would doubt the proposition that some personalities are much more predisposed to alcoholism and/or wife beating, for instance. But would anyone argue that this would make wife beating acceptable?
No, they wouldn't. And shouldn't. But boy, aren't you having a tough time with the concept of "consent" today, Ken? Wife-beating victimizes one party, leaving her with physical and emotional scars. Gay marriage is the agreement between two people that they both actively wish to participate in the act. Totally. Different.
The case for a “homosexual gene” has evaporated, but let’s say that researchers really were able to identify such a gene. After all, mutations in a cursed, fallen world can cause all sorts of abnormalities and malfunctions. For one thing, that would be a result of the Curse, not creation. And would knowledge of such a gene make right what Scripture clearly says is wrong? Absolute right and wrong exist independent of any secondary causative agencies.
And yet in the previous quote you admit that a person's "genetic makeup" helps determine the sexual identity of a person. However, if you don't agree that genetics (or at least biology) affects sexuality, you might do some reading on the subject. If you don't like Wikipedia, feel free to peruse the 86+ references they cite.
In fact, it is quite possible that a contributing factor to at least some cases of homosexuality is a dysfunctional upbringing right at the time when the child is gaining crucial environmental input regarding his or her own sexual identity. (Notice the importance the Bible places on bringing up children, the family unit, and so on.) But if anything, this highlights one of the huge risks of “married” gay people bringing up adopted children, namely the vulnerability of the children to confused messages about their own sexual identity. To put it simply, if one’s environment contributes to homosexuality, gay marriage will tend to increase the likelihood of the next generation being gay.
Oh no, Mommy and Daddy are fighting again! Also, I like boys now...

I want to link that facepalm picture again, but I feel it would lose some of its effect on repeated appearances. Anyway, when you talk about "huge risks" for sending "confused messages" to children when they're determining their own sexuality, you assume beforehand that it's a bad thing to be gay. As we know, growing up in a mostly-heterosexual society doesn't make you straight. Why should we conclude that growing up in a society accepting of gays would lead to more gays? It's more complicated than that, and it's not as though we can just plug a child into a formula and determine their sexuality before they do.

Also, I'm confused by this image:
Are we saying that men with little mutated elbow stubs need to find physically scarred women with giant gaps in their sides? That it's possible for two differently-mutated people to come together but they won't be happy? That the man and woman on the left are incompatible because their parts don't match? That two men shouldn't be together if their legs are egregiously different sizes? I feel this needs more explaining...

Gay Marriage — What Is the Answer?
In the Bible in Judges 17:6, we read this statement: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (NAS95). In other words, when there is no absolute authority to decide right and wrong, everyone has his or her own opinion about what to do.
Ok... so you're saying a King can decide right and wrong? But isn't a king still a person? Why does he have the authority to tell me what is and isn't moral? Why does God have that authority? What if their decision is obviously wrong? What if a king or God told me to murder my firstborn son? Shouldn't I refuse?
So how could the Christian leader whose interviews were quoted earlier in this chapter have responded differently? Well, consider this answer:
First of all, Jesus (who created us and therefore owns us and has the authority to determine right and wrong), as the God-man, did deal directly with the gay marriage issue, in the Bible’s New Testament, in Matthew 19:4–6: “And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this cause a man shall leave father and mother and shall cling to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh?” So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’
 Wait, why does creating someone give you the right to dictate morality? Does this mean that, because I created my child, I can tell him in no uncertain terms what right and wrong is? Or does it only count if you create the matter from nothing? I don't recall a matter-creation clause in the Morality Dictation Handbook.

But even if Jesus did have that authority, he doesn't talk about homosexuality in Matthew. His point was not that only man and woman should come together, but rather that they should not be separated. Notice the "therefore" in his conclusion. He could have used the example of two men or two woman and his conclusion could have been the same. No doubt AiG disagrees, but the question asked to him (left out of their quotation) was “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” Notice the question was already posed concerning a man and a woman to begin with.
Because Genesis is real history (as can be confirmed by observational science, incidentally), Jesus dealt quite directly with the gay marriage issue when he explained the doctrine of marriage.
Um, no. All observational science we know of disagrees with the concept of a 6-year creation 6000 years ago where animals were made fully-formed and the original woman was made from a man's rib. The Answers in Genesis website disagrees, but it is also a haven of ignorance, lies, and pseudoscience. So I don't think they count.
Therefore, in Leviticus 18:22, Jesus deals directly with the homosexual issue, and thus the gay marriage issue.
So does Jesus also deal with clothing and cattle in Leviticus 19:19?
"You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material."
According to Jesus, we can't have homosexual marriage, wear polyester, or allow farmers to grow more than one crop. God sure seems to care a lot about petty details of our lives. Doesn't he have anything better to do, like prevent tsunamis or earthquakes from killing innocent people?
Even in a secular context, the only answer a Christian should offer is this:
The Bible is the Word of our Creator, and Genesis is literal history. Its science and history can be trusted. Therefore, we have an absolute authority that determines marriage.
God made the first man and woman—the first marriage. Thus, marriage can only be a man and a woman because we are accountable to the One who made marriage in the first place.
And don’t forget—according to Scripture, one of the primary reasons for marriage is to produce godly offspring. Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and multiply, but there’s no way a gay marriage can fulfill this command!
And unfortunately for them, we don't base our laws on any religious texts. And I'm not sure how that logic works up in your first paragraph. If I write an accurate book on science and history, can I be an absolute authority determining marriage as well? And what about artificial insemination? Won't that allow us to fulfill this command while still having gay marriage? And what about adoption? Do conservatives really think these are good objections to gay marriage? It seems like they're grasping at every straw they can find, but it also seems like they realize their only real reason is the Bible. So it all but seems like a lost cause. The only things preventing homosexual marriage are the bigotries and homophobia of the right. I hope we can all grow up a little and accept the fact that we're smart enough to make our own decisions without relying on the advice of mostly ignorant nomads who lived thousands of years ago.


Locke said...

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