Sunday, December 21, 2008

I seem to have touched a nerve...

... with my criticism of President-elect Barack Obama's selection of evangelist Rick Warren to present the invocation at his inaugural.

Shirley, whose opinion I deeply respect, asks

I would be curious to know who you would have selected to do the invocation (or, perhaps you would have chosen not to have one).

Legitimate question. I do find it fascinating that public school events are generally forbidden, on pain of lawsuit, from having a non-sectarian prayer at, say, a football game, or even having Christamas concerts any more, but that the civil inauguration of the President of the United States is free from such constraints. However, that's not directly responsive to your question. Here's the answer: I'd like the invocation at the Presidential inauguration to be presented by someone who has not politicized his or her pulpit. As I object to Pastor Warren, I would object to any Catholic clergyman who had called for, say, Senator John Kerry to be refused communion because he believes in abortion rights. To my mind, the fact that Rick Warren used his religious standing to lobby directly for the imposition of specific Christian views via the political process makes him tainted.

Moreover, there are certainly other issues to pick with Rick Warren, no matter how much he gives to charity, or expresses concerns about the environment. Take his flat-out view that evolution didn't happen, and that a scientific approach to the study of speciation and genetic change over time is mutually exclusive with Christianity, and places the soul of such a person in danger.

Warren further believes that all Jews who do not accept Jesus are going to hell when they die, and that stem-cell research and abortion are simply off the table for discussion.

It is questionable (as in Warren has avoided the question) whether or not he believes that all Catholics who believe in an interpreted Bible (via Apostolic and Church tradition) are going to join the Jews in hell because they are not advocates of a simplistic Biblical inerrancy.

This is not the man I would choose as the representative pastor to stand before the American people; he is not the man I believe Barack Obama should have chosen.

As for that gay marriage thing, several of my commentators have take profound issues with me on that.

Commenter David accuses me of wanting to censor a man who has more access to earned and unearned media than 99% of all Americans who are not Oprah will ever have in their lives. Moreover, since he and Barack agree on gay marriage, I should just shut the hell up:

President Obama opposes same sex marriage fraud, why should he censor someone with that point of view?

Then there is Anonymous [whose name is truly legion, in the Biblical sense], who stands up for the good pastor Warren thus:

He doesn't oppose freedom. He opposes the step by step dismantling of law and culture. This is one important front to protect. There has never been gay marriage. It doesn't take anyone's freedom to not recognize it. It would be like demanding health insurance pay for an artificial womb so people can be free to have children if they are men. It is just stupid.

I grow exceedingly tired of people who have absolutely no idea about the history of human sexuality or legitimized forms of human bonding, marriage, and family building sounding off with the evangelical talking points that there has never been gay marriage. I'm so tired of it that instead of writing it all over again I'm going to clip some of the responses I made to Leo over at Down With Absolutes:

Leo, exactly where do you get your grand historical generalization that homosexuality has been frowned upon? The Roman Catholic church had liturgies for same-sex unions until the Ren/Ref period. You certainly cannot be drawing such conclusions out of classical Greece or imperial Rome. Moving around the world into the Persian Empire, even the Abbasayd Empire under the Muslims, China, and others don’t support this statement.

When you move into pre-technological societies–Native American, Pacific Islander, steppe nomads and others–the factual/historical basis of your observation disappears completely. These societies tend to have completely different concepts of human sexuality from that of the west or the large-scale societies of west or east....

1) Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe; Boswell; academically well respected and not successfully refuted yet, though not for lack of trying

2) Most of the pre-technological societies don’t have anything that directly equates to Christian marriage, much less gay marriage; in most Eastern Woodlands cultures children were raised by their Uncles rather than their fathers, because biological parentage was less significant than clans lines, especially among the six tribes of the Iroquois, the Huron, and several Algonquian tribes; most West African cultures were matrilineal and allowed for both multiple husbands and multiple wives depending on the specific time and culture; many Native American and Polynesian cultures recognized a “third sex” role for non-heterosexual men (known as “berdache” in the Americas), often directly involved in kinship relationships similar to marriage.

The whole hetero-homo dichotomy requires that a society share the particular western linear definition of sexuality–news flash! most of the rest of the world throughout history hasn’t!

....The modern concept of the male homosexual in Western Europe is a 15/16th Century innovation that probably occurred due to changes in marriage, inheritance, and endowment customs. Before that, most men in England who had same-sex relationships were married to women and preferred to have sex with young boys. The “effeminate” homosexual [the term "queen" dates from this time] is a product roughly contemporary with the settling of Jamestown.

There’s plenty of solid academic research on all this, but you have to look further than web pages to find it.

By the way, I should point out that those who disagreed with me over there took issue only with Boswell's book. Not that any of them had read it or would read it; they merely relied on the reviews by conservative Christians which told them it couldn't be true. They never approached the berdache issue, or the fact that most societies throughout history have refused to be limited to our single-line paradigm of human sexuality.

You see, we've reached the point where (as my old friend Waldo puts it), prejudice against homosexuals is the last publicly acceptable bigotry in the United States.

Moreover, as Waldo also helped me discover, the people like Rick Warren who stood against Prop 8 not (so they said) out of prejudice toward homosexuals who wanted to get married, but to defend traditional marriage, are now going to court to have all the gay marriages performed when gay marriage was legal in California thrown out. Their spokesman: Ken Starr.

Assholes like Starr and Warren--and, yes, both men deserve the appelation here--want to retroactively invalidate 18,000 marriages.

Unlike Barack Obama, who declares that he is a "fierce advocate for equality" for gays and then turns around to ask a pastor who rejects all scientific evidence regarding the genetic nature of sexual orientation and labels homosexuality a sin....

Unlike Barack Obama, I will not equivocate.

Inviting Rick Warren to present the invocation is not reaching out; it is a smarmy piece of political pandering that victimizes a minority of American citizens to whom candidate Obama made promises both overt and implicit.


Leo said...

"...or the fact that most societies throughout history have refused to be limited to our single-line paradigm of human sexuality."

And to think you accused me of making "historical generalizations". :-)

Leo said...


There is not much point in repeating my response to what you originally posted at Down with Absolutes. If anyone is interested they can go back to the original post and ensuing comments. (Marriage, Abortion and Gays, Oh My! )

With all due respect, however, I must not only question the revisionist history, but also the pseudo-science that is propagated in support of the homosexual agenda. On second thought, it would be better to leave the word “homosexual” out of the argument and concentrate on the “agenda” part. Because whether we are talking about homosexuality or another disapproved behavior, the agenda is to get away from calling it a behavioral choice and turn it into a condition, a disease, a genetic proclivity or anything else that removes the behavioral and moral component and thereby absolves the individual from personal responsibility.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is now in its fourth edition ( Thanks to the DSM-IV's wonderful insights, we no longer have robbers and thieves, but people who suffer from kleptomania, which itself is a subset of what are called Impulse Control Disorders: The DSM-IV elaborates: “Disorders in this category include the failure or extreme difficulty in controlling impulses despite the negative consequences. This includes the failure to stop gambling even if you realize that losing would result in significant negative consequences. This failure to control impulses also refers to the impulse to engage in violent behavior (e.g., road rage), sexual behavior, fire starting, stealing, and self-abusive behaviors.”

In the same way, we do not have sexual sins and perversions anymore, but rather “Paraphilias and Sexual Disorders” including but not limited to Exhibitionism, Fetishism, Frotteurism, Pedophilia, Sexual Masochism, Sexual Sadism, Transvestic Fetishism and Voyeurism. Of course, in the first edition of DSM, homosexuality was listed in this same group as a “pathological disorder”, but it has since graduated to a common sexual proclivity that has obtained a certain legitimacy or status with inherent rights. I’m sure the rest won’t be too far behind.

To shift the debate a little and hopefully get across that I am not specifically at war with homosexuals, I really liked the piece you posted a week or so ago in reaction to someone breaking into your garage. (I Can Do Better: You cited a number of New Testament references, and from a biblical perspective, you do well to be convicted and moved to action in an attempt to help your fellow man. But from an alternate perspective, perhaps you shouldn’t beat yourself up so much. The desire to look primarily to your own interests or to look out for number one, is simply a natural, innately human tendency toward self preservation. I am sure there is a scientific and medical explanation for it. It has been the tendency of mankind throughout human history. There have even been periods in cultural and church history where “greedy” or “self-centered” behaviors have been tolerated if not approved, as evidenced by common proverbs and maxims such as “God helps those who help themselves.”

Let me transition to a Christmas greeting, which despite the argumentative nature of this post, I offer with all sincerity.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’"

Good news (ευαγγελιον or Gospel) that announces a Savior implies that there is some “bad news” from which we need to be saved. And the bad news is that we are all in a heap of trouble.

Bad news: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (I Cor 6: 9-10). (And lest we think we are exempted, the above list was not meant to be all inclusive. As Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” including goody two-shoes, self-righteous religious people.)

Good news: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Cor 6: 11).

But in order to embrace and receive the good news, we have to acknowledge the bad news. In a sense, there is a grain of truth to the pseudo-science, because our rebellion is so ingrained in us, it is part of our nature; we can’t help it. But there is good news. There is a Savior who can free us, not by allowing us to justify our behavior, make excuses, blame shift, or appeal to history, science or sociology. We embrace the good news by owning up to our personal wickedness and helplessness, and asking the Savior to save us.

Again, I do sincerely wish you and yours a joyful Christmas and happy New Year.

Steve Newton said...

Merry Christmas to you, too.

But I have to ask in relation to I must not only question the revisionist history, but also the pseudo-science that is propagated in support of the homosexual agenda.


1) To what "pseudo-science" do you refer? Taking the movement of language in the DSM from "sin" to "disorder" is clever but essentially intellectually dishonest. As you well know, work on the genetic predisposition to homosexuality is ongoing in hundreds of university and corporate laboratories around the world, along with inquiries into genetic diseases, predispositions toward male pattern baldness, and a thousand other areas of inquiry. If you're going to label something "pseudo science" you have an obligation to show me what you consider "real science."

2) To what "revisionist history" do you refer, aside from Boswell's work, which you have never read and will never read because--as you said--since you reject his conclusions without seeing his evidence (that would be "faith" right? the evidence of things not seen), you have no idea what you're talking about. All history, Leo, is revisionist when it is written, or it would not be written.

As for historical generalizations (the previous comment), you'll note that I buttressed mine with examples from pre-contact North America, West Africa, and the Polynesian Islands. Exactly how many examples would you require?

Leo said...

Perhaps you can justly convict me of using terms a little too loosely, such as "pseudo-science" and "revisionist history". My main overall point is that, whether we are talking about science, history or any other discipline, our conclusions are suspect if we allow them to be shaped by an ideological agenda.

But my even broader point is that no matter what the source or intensity of our behavioral choices or even compulsions, we don't have to be enslaved by them forever. There is indeed a way of escape.

Anyway, thanks for allowing me to post comments to your site. In this type of medium, it is tempting to think that the person with the last unanswered post has won the argument. With those rules, we could go on forever, so I will let you have the last word. Anyway, I wise man once told me, "If you think you have won the argument, you probably lost it."


Anonymous said...

Some people only see the blows that are delivered in a fight.

This was an impressive engagement.
I thank you both...

I am worried about "the agenda is to get away from calling it a behavioral choice and turn it into a condition, a disease, a genetic proclivity or anything else that removes the behavioral and moral component and thereby absolves the individual from personal responsibility."
that I see spreading for every wrong doing.

Seems like we lost all sense of Self-responsibility for our actions, particularly for our actions that are hurtful to ourselves [ like drug use ] and hurtful to others [ like robbery and assault. ] And we expect the Government with all it's money and resources and proposed Health Care to take care of us despite ourselves.

"If you are playing a Poker game and you look around the table and Can't tell who the sucker is, it's YOU." - Paul Newman

Bowly said...

But my even broader point is that no matter what the source or intensity of our behavioral choices or even compulsions, we don't have to be enslaved by them forever.

That same sentence could be used in support of gay marriage. Or, more accurately, in response to those who believe they have the right to control the lives of others.

Bowly said...

I just read the post over at DWA, and until Leo can recognize why the thinking that leads to the sentence "Now homosexuals want the right to marry" is nonsense, then he will never understand the issue.

Leo said...

Good news, Steve. Apparently, there is no behavioral disposition whatsoever -- sexual, social or otherwise -- that is not determined by the genes. So suggests a "groundbreaking study" recently published by the Ameridcan Psychological Association, so it must be true.

Anonymous said...

Instead of making a remark about another person's ability to understand, "and until Leo can recognize why the thinking that leads to the sentence "Now homosexuals want the right to marry" is nonsense, then he will never understand the issue."

Maybe you should consider that it is up to those with a different opinion to try to engage the topic and make your point.

And IF you can not make your point, stop being lazy and using an AD HOMINEM attack.

Bowly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.