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Sexuality and Christian belief (Was: Homosexuality and the Bible)

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FWIW, as far as "scientific" stuff goes, the one major thing that has always given me pause -- ever since I first learned about it over 20 years ago -- is intersexuality, i.e. the fact that some people are literally born with features of both genders (or switch genders during puberty). Once the clear distinction between male and female breaks down at that level, you begin to wonder if it might break down on other, subtler levels as well.

Yes, I agree.

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Obviously acting on pedophilic attraction may well have a different moral status from acting on same-sex attraction, from the perspective of the ethic of adult consent. With respect to the roots of attraction in nature or nurture, though, and the extent to which they are or are not reasonably described as an "identity" or "orientation," I suspect they are more or less comparable. That one is stigmatized and pathologized while the other is not I'm inclined to ascribe, not to objective measures of health or pathology, but solely to the ethic of adult consent -- and I think the incipient movement to rehabilitate the experience of "minor-attracted people" has a stronger relative case than might be suspected (a fact often obscured (for many reasons I really, really hesitate to write this, but there is something to it) by the sometimes exaggerated demonization of pedophiles as monsters or predators).

The two are certainly not comparable and the suggestion that they are is deeply troubling and offensive on many levels. While the honesty is certainly laudable, you probably do well to hesitate sharing such conclusions. I will respond to this in more detail later.

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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The two are certainly not comparable and the suggestion that they are is deeply troubling and offensive on many levels. While the honesty is certainly laudable, you probably do well to hesitate sharing such conclusions. I will respond to this in more detail later.

I look forward to it, with the proviso that I've couched my comments pretty carefully, and language like "certainly not comparable" strikes me as a prelude to ideological interpretation rather than objective description of data.

FWIW, as far as "scientific" stuff goes, the one major thing that has always given me pause -- ever since I first learned about it over 20 years ago -- is intersexuality, i.e. the fact that some people are literally born with features of both genders (or switch genders during puberty). Once the clear distinction between male and female breaks down at that level, you begin to wonder if it might break down on other, subtler levels as well.

Yes, I agree.

Absolutely, sexuality "breaks down," physiologically and in other ways. My main burden in that respect would be to maintain that when things break down, well, they're broken. They are not differently healthy.

I believe, both as a Catholic and as a humanist, is that sex (or gender) is intrinsic to personhood, and is fixed from conception. However sexuality may be presented at birth or during or after adolescence, one's true identity is what one has been since conception.

Even this, of course, can be ambiguous; not everyone is an XY or XX, and I'm not in a position to resolve every difficult case, or even to affirm that all difficult cases can be resolved, even in principle.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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At the risk of betraying ignorance. Isn't the current view that pedophilia is largely psychological? It's largely known that many/most pedophiles were sexually abused themselves as children.

SDG said:

:However sexuality may be presented at birth or during or after adolescence, one's true identity is what one has been since conception.

I'm wondering. Do you believe that who we are, coming from the results of "original sin", is part of our identity? If so, then, in this understanding if a tendency towards homosexuality is in some way the results of "original sin", couldn't it then be construed as also being part of someones identity?

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In other words, Jesus did not appear in a cultural vacuum, nor was the OT the sole precedent for his thinking and teaching. This is the essential fallacy of so much heretical and nonsensical teaching, such as the Mormon interpretation of Jesus and his God. The Mormon attempt to expunge or mitigate the strong monotheism of eg. second Isaiah may or may not be persuasive if you read the Bible in isolation; it falls completely apart as soon as you learn the first thing about the actual historical milieu of Jesus and the apostles. The idea that Jesus believed anything remotely like the Mormon idea of God is crashingly ahistorical nonsense of the first order; it requires one to completely de-Semitize the Lord, to conclude that he was simply not a believing Jew in any meaningful sense.

Something similar is true of attempts to expunge the broad strokes of traditional sexual morality from the Bible.

As I understand it, in fact, historical awareness of the culture, events, customs and practices of the setting of Scripture is actually a form of General Revelation. What is fascinating is that awareness of the culture of the day is useful both for an understanding of what Christ would have been working within and for understanding what parts of Scripture are cultural specific when we enter the sphere of commands and instructions. Sometimes their culture tells what what they would have generally believed, sometimes their culture tells us how they were applying principles in ways that would be applied differently today.

I think one of the differences in Anglicanism is that it also has roots in the old Celtic Christian tradition. It has some roots there, and some in Catholicism, which leads it to having some similarities with Eastern Orthodoxy.

So, for instance, when Anglicans started having women clergy this would have gone against Catholic roots but not against its Celtic roots. So in a large sense this isn't a change or replacement.

Which means that not just a proper interpretation of Scripture, but the context of church traditions, often rely upon the specific culture they are set in. In terms of morality or law, one of the greatest theological discussions in the church, as far as I can tell, is how to distinguish between what is merely cultural and what is truly universal and moral. When we move from Scripture to church tradition, I don't think this dynamic changes.

And some even interpret Romans 1 to be not only speaking to temple prostitutes but the act of pedophilia as well, specifically venerated Greek and Roman teachers and men in power who made "lovers" of their male slaves.

Are you just saying this very generally, or do you have a few specific names of "venerated Greek and Roman teachers" in mind?

Furthermore, and this is crucial, at no time were such acts ever considered acceptable in Jewish society. Not just from the Bible, but from other sources, we can sketch a picture of the basic shape of Jewish sexual morality in Jesus' day, notwithstanding various permutations and varieties of opinion as may have existed. Sex was permissible only in marriage, and marriage was only between a man and a woman. Sex between two men was an offense against God. All Jews in Jesus' day took this for granted as their religio-cultural milieu. This is what Jesus and all his followers, including the apostles, would have been taught growing up, as part of their faith.

The thing is, I don't think any educated person who argues in favor of "gay marriage" seriously argues that this was not the case. You can trace an acceptance for polygamy, slavery or patriarchy in ancient Hebrew culture, without agreeing that such traditional acceptance should be kept in modern Western civilization. Acknowleding what they thought in the past is useful, even necessary, but one purpose for doing so is to try and distinguish cultural taboos from universal taboos that cut across historical ages.

I will pass on whether homosexual acts should be outlawed, and content myself with arguing that the overriding sociological reasons for the state's interest in marriage extend only to what is properly called marriage, i.e., the enduring union of a man and a woman, and that homosexual relationships fall well outside that state interest, and should not be treated as equivalent or interchangeable in marriage law.

What I'm wondering, I suppose, is whether there could be any Catholic traditionalist conservative reasons for arguing that the refusal to view what are called "gay marriages" equally to "traditional marriages" in the eyes of the law (for, oh say, tax or estate purposes) have the effect of turning society away from the discussion altogether. I think there may be profoundly Christian views of the nature of government and political power that understand it to distort discussion in the public square when wielded outside of its proper sphere. The entire debate/discussion of gay marriage might ultimately prove to be one better had within the church and within culture, rather than within politics.

Depends what you mean by "traditions". In Eastern Orthodox circles, there is disagreement between churches as to whether they should follow the Old Calendar or the New Calendar -- so if a change as trivial as *that* is resisted in some quarters, you can only imagine how resistant the Church would be to changes in moral theology or whatever!

Broadly speaking, though, I think the Church would be open to new revelation on some level, but it would always have to cohere with the revelation we have already received. And a change to our understanding of sexuality would probably be the sort of thing that could only be resolved at an ecumenical council -- but organizing and ratifying one of those would be a thousand times more complicated than, say, passing an amendment to the American constitution.

A new revelation? See, this is where my education is incomplete. I have to admit that I've always thought of Catholic or Orthodox church traditions sort of like the English common law - that it grows and adapts with time building on what has been carefully built from the past. So when someone like Edmund Burke writes about preserving and protecting traditions, and I agree with Burke, I suppose he's speaking in broader terms that church traditions. Theology in the Christian church, cutting across all denominations and geography, is in itself a type of tradition. But I've always thought in terms of there being unassailable doctrines and then other accepted customs or conventions that do adjust with time.

But more importantly, your equating homosexuality with individual behavioral proclivities is bogus. The homosexuality "debate" in this country primarily involves the issue of innate orientation and identity , not personal habits, addictions or behavioral preferences. Sexual orientation is at the core of our identity and is present with all of us long before we even know or care what sex is. It's not an adolescent or adult preference about what "turns you on". It's a fundamental instinct that governs how a person views themselves in the world.

Except, I would find it very difficult to claim that children, at least up to a certain age, have any sexual orientation whatsoever. I don't think it helps those who argue for tolerance of something like gay marriage to claim that children can be gay. Coming from a Protestant perspective, I'd also be reluctant to frame the discussion in terms of "identity." Modern ideas about identity and personality are relatively new, and think in terms of psychological needs and self-actualization, rather than in terms of fallenness, desires (good and bad), and free will. I think most reasonable people can agree that for an adult who is gay - being so isn't a choice, isn't a disease and isn't a mental disorder. We don't exert our free will in order to force ourselves to be sexually attracted to persons who we aren't sexually attracted to. A person with "the gift of celibacy" or who, in older times, might be described as a eunuch, didn't freely choose to be that way either, but he or she might be dismayed by the idea that their celibacy defines their identity. I worry about a society which frames "self-identity" in terms of sex or race.

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J.A.A. Purves said:

:Which means that not just a proper interpretation of Scripture, but the context of church traditions, often rely upon the specific culture they are set in. In terms of morality or law, one of the greatest theological discussions in the church, as far as I can tell, is how to distinguish between what is merely cultural and what is truly universal and moral. When we move from Scripture to church tradition, I don't think this dynamic changes.

Yes. I think your right. Depending on ones view on how much the early culture has influenced the early Christian tradition this could be especially pertinent. I align with the view that there has been significant influence from the early Roman pagan culture after Constantine. But I'm not sure as to how much this influence was in regards to views on homosexuality pertaining to marriage. I find similar views in the earlier Ante-Nicene church.

:I worry about a society which frames "self-identity" in terms of sex or race.

It seems to me that this framing is largely coming from (at least originally) the homosexual community, whereas much of the church (at least originally) would have been saying the opposite.

Edited by Attica

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As I understand it, in fact, historical awareness of the culture, events, customs and practices of the setting of Scripture is actually a form of General Revelation. What is fascinating is that awareness of the culture of the day is useful both for an understanding of what Christ would have been working within and for understanding what parts of Scripture are cultural specific when we enter the sphere of commands and instructions. Sometimes their culture tells what what they would have generally believed, sometimes their culture tells us how they were applying principles in ways that would be applied differently today.

If I understand this correctly, I think I disagree.

General revelation belongs to the order of nature, to the character of created things. To whatever extent any aspect of Jewish culture reflects general revelation, it is no more particularly revelatory than any other culture on earth.

In fact, though, Jewish culture is special, in that it reflects the shaping of divine pedagogy over many centuries. Thus, it bears witness to special revelation, to the events of salvation history.

Not all aspects of Jewish belief and practice are normative or revelatory. Still, the religious beliefs of Jews in Jesus' day regarding, e.g., monotheism, the resurrection and the wrongness of homosexuality have, for Christianity, a religious significance different in kind from the religious beliefs of other ANE populations -- and not just because they read the OT scriptures and agree with us on their interpretation.

The thing is, I don't think any educated person who argues in favor of "gay marriage" seriously argues that this was not the case. You can trace an acceptance for polygamy, slavery or patriarchy in ancient Hebrew culture, without agreeing that such traditional acceptance should be kept in modern Western civilization. Acknowleding what they thought in the past is useful, even necessary, but one purpose for doing so is to try and distinguish cultural taboos from universal taboos that cut across historical ages.

I am responding to the effort of some Christians to nuance particular scriptural texts, to argue that the usual texts in Genesis, Leviticus and St. Paul don't really amount to condemnations of homosexual acts. My burden here is: All such efforts are a waste of time. Jesus, the apostles and the other earliest Christians were all second Temple era Jews, and the broad strokes of Jewish sexual morality were strongly upheld by Jesus and the early Christians. There is no basis for suggesting that homosexual acts would have been an exception to this rule.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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General revelation belongs to the order of nature, to the character of created things. To whatever extent any aspect of Jewish culture reflects general revelation, it is no more particularly revelatory than any other culture on earth.

In fact, though, Jewish culture is special, in that it reflects the shaping of divine pedagogy over many centuries. Thus, it bears witness to special revelation, to the events of salvation history.

Quick question before I think through this further: Does the Catholic church view church tradition as "general revelation" or as "special revelation"?

It seems pretty clear to me that Jewish culture was formed by instructions in Scripture, therefore by "special revelation." However, much of Jewish culture was directed by "special revelation" that was culturally specific for them, not for the rest of the world (at least in the sense of being a picture or a symbol to look to).

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Does the Catholic church view church tradition as "general revelation" or as "special revelation"?

Both. The Church distinguishes between a) human tradition and b.) sacred tradition, capital-T Tradition, the tradition of 2 Thessalonians 2:15: "Stand firm and hold fast to the traditions you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by epistle from us."

Note that, in this reading, apostolic epistles -- sacred scripture -- is part of "tradition," i.e., "what is handed down." Special revelation becomes tradition when it is handed down, whether by inspired scripture or by word of mouth (or other writings).

It seems pretty clear to me that Jewish culture was formed by instructions in Scripture, therefore by "special revelation."

But not only by scripture. Throughout salvation history special revelation was passed down orally as well as in scripture.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob wrote no scripture; yet when God, speaking from the burning bush, told Moses to tell the Hebrews that he had been sent by "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob," neither Moses nor the people were like, "What? Who?" The command took for granted that the revelation of God to the patriarchs had been passed down orally, or at any rate not in any canonical book.

Or consider the Jewish doctrine, taken for granted by Paul, Stephen and the writer to the Hebrews, that the law of Moses was mediated by angels (Gal 3:19, Acts 7:53, Heb 2:2). For Christians today, this doctrine has the scriptural authority of these scriptural texts, but where did the sacred writers themselves get it from? Not from the OT; it isn't there. It was part of Jewish sacred tradition, attested by Josephus and other Jewish sources, and matter-of-factly accepted by the early Christians.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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I read pages of this thread when I first saw Jeremy's link, and I don't regret my time. This is a diffuse response to earlier content - and I'm sorry if it breaks the flow for anyone reading.

Parenthetically, the gold teeth were deeply distracting. I kept thinking how much that story and its chosen miracle could reveal about us.

Then Another 'tangent' struck me as central:

I wasn't talking specifically about "rules formulated" by anyone, Catholic, celibate or otherwise. Certainly I believe that historic Catholic teaching is consistent with biological teleology, but neither the celibate hierarchy nor the Church generally invented biological teleology ... or traditional sexual morality for that matter.
Your "traditional morality" declares the emission of semen in any location other than the birth canal-- even in a relationship between husband and wife-- to be a mortal sin. A. Mortal. Sin.

So yes, I joyfully reject this "traditional morality" as do millions of Protestants.

My response to this strand of the discussion surprised me. Somehow I find the 'traditional morality' reassuring and even-handed rather than outrageous or ridiculous. I've always felt a disconnect between our compulsive attention to the Bible's stance on homosexuality and how little is actually said - how relatively quiet and subdued Scripture is about this facet of sexuality in contrast to others. And I have thought, for example: but what about the spilling of seed?

When I consider a prohibition against a man ejaculating into a woman's mouth &c. it makes as much sense to me as a prohibition against homosexual acts. The same sense. Applied to heterosexual couples, it's circumscriptive rather than annihilating; it removes certain things from the table of intimacy but it doesn't unseat you. Extended to all, it seems theologically defensible and consistent in a way that : 'Gay sex is wrong because God intends sex to be procreative' and then in the fine print 'except of course in all the cases where heteronormative sex is not' doesn't.

I know - I know that there are many on A&F who are convinced that homosexuality is just about "who you choose to love." And I know that if you feel that way, you are more or less forced to conclude that anyone who holds to the clear message of Scripture must be secretly hate-filled, or secretly judgmental. I know that nothing I write will convince you differently. But still, I hope.

I have people in my congregation who have struggled/are struggling with same-sex attraction. I love them, eat with them, pray with them, and embrace them as brothers and sisters. I respect the fact that they have struggled hard and long against sin, and have not given in to compromise. But if one of them came to me and said, "I don't believe any more that acting on these desires is sinful," I would be concerned. I would work hard and long to lovingly point them back to Scripture. And if they refused to listen to Scripture, and to the elders of the church, but stubbornly persist in their sin, I would reluctantly exercise spiritual discipline and treat them like an unbeliever. Just like I would for an unrepentant adulterer, swindler, liar, or glutton.

I'm pained that the ignorant, blind sinner is beyond the pale - that with the misrecognition of a single sin we forfeit our belief in the Gospel (if that is what you are saying?). I'm hard pressed to see that position as nonjudgemental. After all, you are passing judgement on your fellow sinners.

On the other hand, if you are consistent in your verdict that all unrepentant sinners are unbelievers, and the spiritual discipline takes the same form, I can't call it hateful or discriminatory.

It's only fair that I join the company of unbelievers.

All that comes between me and the sin of sleeping with another woman is what we call (or miscall) sexual orientation or identity. I'm unrepentant in my belief that it's not a sin. As sure as I can humanly, fallibly be. (So, for that matter, is someone who crops up in very different threads: Marilynne Robinson, whose Iowa church supports gay rights, and began to bless gay marriages once they became legal.)

I want to quote from my side of a long conversation I once had with a friend, about homosexuality and sin. I can always delete it later:

I feel so sure of this one thing - I think you do too? - that our ability to identify sin in others is not on trial. If we are being tested, it's in our capacity to combine moral and spiritual steadfastness with unconditional love and acceptance. Some conversations that take place across the breadth of a society are rightfully intense and impassioned - because of their sujbect - because we're moral beings and we care and wouldn't have it any other way.

You say that a) sexual prohibitions are nothing new and B) We can survive without sex. Celibacy is an option.

My hasty response is that is a bit like telling someone in the 1950s that

a) segregation is inevitable: men and women don't share public showers and movies have age restricitions and

B) you can lead a happy, fulfilled life and enjoy friendship with someone even if you can't share his drinking fountain.

The fact that a) is true and B) only arguably so is beside the point. The point, that is, of the Civil Rights Movement.

My more meditated response is that being gay isn't about sex, in the same way that being straight isn't about sex. It's about so much more. It's about the world that beckons beyond childhood. The milestones of adolescence: crushes, wondering if boys (or girls) like you back, dreaming of someone you can't ever have, holding hands, first kisses. And those of adulthood: sharing a bed, a home, stories and memories and hopes; pets and shopping lists, scary moments and silly jokes and old age. I could go on and on, still my list, my litany, would be incomplete. It all coheres. You can't amputate a person's sexuality without altering the rest of their life. So if you believe that it's sinful to be actively gay, so be it. Only don't be fooled into thinking you can isolate sexual impulses or acts and that what a person convinced of the wrongfulness of their behavior is renouncing is not a lifetime's experience and emotion.

I have yet to hear this and on some level, I need to:

Setting Christianity and sociohistorical precedent aside, I know that in certain fundamental ways being gay is like being straight. I know that it is how you feel, from early on, and that there's the same dizzying spectrum of possibility - from lust to devotion, promiscuity to monogamy. I know that hedonism and pedophilia are no more and no less a part of homosexuality than they are of heterosexuality. Ditto, pledging yourselves to each other for life, being a family. I know all that but the Bible tells me clearly and incontrovertibly that sex between two men or two women is a sin and I can't forswear His word.

(And maybe this: I also think idolatry is a sin, but I will accord others the same freedom and protection to practice this sin as I do those who worship non-Christian gods.)

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Aside to Josie, FWIW, I haven't yet interacted with your thoughtful comments (in various threads) as much as I'd like to, purely circumstantially. No time to respond further at the moment, but I want to say I appreciate your contributions.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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But more importantly, your equating homosexuality with individual behavioral proclivities is bogus. The homosexuality "debate" in this country primarily involves the issue of innate orientation and identity , not personal habits, addictions or behavioral preferences. Sexual orientation is at the core of our identity and is present with all of us long before we even know or care what sex is. It's not an adolescent or adult preference about what "turns you on". It's a fundamental instinct that governs how a person views themselves in the world.

Except, I would find it very difficult to claim that children, at least up to a certain age, have any sexual orientation whatsoever. I don't think it helps those who argue for tolerance of something like gay marriage to claim that children can be gay.

For many of us, sexual orientation was a very early awareness. That awareness framed who we were, how we saw ourselves, how we believed others viewed us us and how we moved through life. I have heard from a few that this realization of sexual orientation/identity came much later in their development and that prior to that they felt like a blank slate, but I don't think that's true for most-- certainly not most homosexuals.


"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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Not all aspects of Jewish belief and practice are normative or revelatory. Still, the religious beliefs of Jews in Jesus' day regarding, e.g., monotheism, the resurrection and the wrongness of homosexuality have, for Christianity, a religious significance different in kind from the religious beliefs of other ANE populations -- and not just because they read the OT scriptures and agree with us on their interpretation.

As I understand this, there is evidence to be found in General Revelation that do challenge the morality of gay relationships. This is universal in nature, leading to certain prohibitions in both Hebrew law and in Roman law. I get this. One of the most convincing thoughts I've read recently on the subject is by the philosopher, Roger Scruton, who argues that inherent in the nature of Eros is the attraction to physical and psychological otherness. Heterosexual relationship provides a confrontation with someone other, someone with differences that are absolute from your self that homosexual relationship cannot provide. Scruton writes:

Heterosexual union is imbued with the sense that your partner’s sexual nature is strange to you, a territory into which you intrude without prior knowledge and in which the other and not the self is the only reliable guide. This experience has profound repercussions for our sense of the danger and the mystery of sexual union, and these repercussions are surely part of what people have had in mind in clothing marriage as a sacrament, and the ceremony of marriage as a rite of passage from one form of safety to another. Traditional marriage was not only a rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood; nor was it only a way of endorsing and guaranteeing the raising of children. It was also a dramatization of sexual difference. Marriage kept the sexes at such a distance from each other that their coming together became an existential leap, rather than a passing experiment. The intentionality of desire was shaped by this, and even if the shaping was - at some deep level - a cultural and not a human universal, it endowed desire with its intrinsic nuptiality, and marriage with its transformatory goal ... To regard gay marriage as simply another option within the institution is to ignore the fact that an institution shapes the motive for joining it. Marriage has grown around the idea of sexual difference and all that sexual difference means. To make this feature accidental rather than essential is to change marriage beyond recognition.

- Roger Scruton, A Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism, 2006, pg. 101

I'm convinced that this is true. But, at least in the realm of the exercise of political power, I cannot reason my way to this insight necessarily justifying any kind of legal prohibition. And legal prohibition is what answers to the question always seem to lead to.

I am responding to the effort of some Christians to nuance particular scriptural texts, to argue that the usual texts in Genesis, Leviticus and St. Paul don't really amount to condemnations of homosexual acts. My burden here is: All such efforts are a waste of time. Jesus, the apostles and the other earliest Christians were all second Temple era Jews, and the broad strokes of Jewish sexual morality were strongly upheld by Jesus and the early Christians. There is no basis for suggesting that homosexual acts would have been an exception to this rule.

Except that the nuance in interpretation is not always leading to the denial of the prohibition of homosexuality in the Biblical age. Instead, the point of the nuance in interpretation is affirming that, in the cultural context of Israel and the Greco-Roman world, these prohibitions were in relation to the culture of that time. Specific cultural prohibitions are still moral in the sense that violating them is wrong. But they also evidence principles that may be different in exact application in another place or time. This nuance does not deny that the explicit Jewish sexual morality was real, any more than it would deny the patriarchal nature of the household codes of St. Paul was real.

Does the Catholic church view church tradition as "general revelation" or as "special revelation"?

Both. The Church distinguishes between a) human tradition and b.) sacred tradition, capital-T Tradition, the tradition of 2 Thessalonians 2:15: "Stand firm and hold fast to the traditions you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by epistle from us."

Note that, in this reading, apostolic epistles -- sacred scripture -- is part of "tradition," i.e., "what is handed down." Special revelation becomes tradition when it is handed down, whether by inspired scripture or by word of mouth (or other writings) ... Throughout salvation history special revelation was passed down orally as well as in scripture.

So isn't the next question then how to distinguish between tradition that derives from Special Revelation and tradition that derives from General Revelation? If Special Revelation contains more that only Scripture, then (just like Scripture) it is still going to need the application of General Revelation in order to interpret it correctly. I've listened to conservative Catholic friends debate over the origins of the idea of Purgatory. One argued that it is a truth that has been handed down orally; the other than it is a truth that can be deduced logically. On the answer to their argument depended whether the actions of the living could affect those currently in Purgatory. I could have misunderstood this, but according to them this is a theological question that orthodox Catholics disagree over.

What troubles me is, if some of the prohibitions against homosexuality in Scripture are cultural in nature, or if the tradition that would forbid gay marriage is specific to the culture from which it arose, then I would fear the exercise of political power to enforce one theological view against the other. There at least seems to be a limited amount of evidence that it could be cultural in ways that monotheism or the resurrection cannot be. It still seems likely to me that Christianity leaves no room for challenging the idea that homosexuality is wrong. But if this is true, that does not necessarily place gay marriage within the proper sphere of government power.

My more meditated response is that being gay isn't about sex, in the same way that being straight isn't about sex. It's about so much more. It's about the world that beckons beyond childhood. The milestones of adolescence: crushes, wondering if boys (or girls) like you back, dreaming of someone you can't ever have, holding hands, first kisses. And those of adulthood: sharing a bed, a home, stories and memories and hopes; pets and shopping lists, scary moments and silly jokes and old age. I could go on and on, still my list, my litany, would be incomplete. It all coheres. You can't amputate a person's sexuality without altering the rest of their life. So if you believe that it's sinful to be actively gay, so be it. Only don't be fooled into thinking you can isolate sexual impulses or acts and that what a person convinced of the wrongfulness of their behavior is renouncing is not a lifetime's experience and emotion.

I have yet to hear this and on some level, I need to: Setting Christianity and sociohistorical precedent aside, I know that in certain fundamental ways being gay is like being straight. I know that it is how you feel, from early on, and that there's the same dizzying spectrum of possibility - from lust to devotion, promiscuity to monogamy. I know that hedonism and pedophilia are no more and no less a part of homosexuality than they are of heterosexuality. Ditto, pledging yourselves to each other for life, being a family. I know all that but the Bible tells me clearly and incontrovertibly that sex between two men or two women is a sin and I can't forswear His word.

I think many of the things that you are describing here are true. I think these are truths about human nature - about what makes us human and who God created us to be. In other words, I think you are touching on a little of what the church calls "General Revelation." Theological debate and reforms in the church always seem to be triggered by what believers ultimately find to be an apparent conflict between General Revelation and Special Revelation. The problem is that we don't believe the two can contradict each other. We are open to the possibility of a paradox, but there are fundamentals that I see on both sides here that don't seem to make sense when put together.

I am in no way a Calvinist, so I believe that sin fundamentally requires free choice. You do not choose your own desires. We have good desires and, because we are fallen, we have bad desires. It is not a sin to have wrong desires but to act on them. And yet, for every evil desire, there seems to be a good desire from which the evil was twisted. In other words, there always seems to be a healthy outlet (or good) for any type of desire (or evil). If homosexuality is wrong, then a few of the other sentences in this paragraph have to be wrong too.

For many of us, sexual orientation was a very early awareness. That awareness framed who we were, how we saw ourselves, how we believed others viewed us us and how we moved through life. I have heard from a few that this realization of sexual orientation/identity came much later in their development and that prior to that they felt like a blank slate, but I don't think that's true for most-- certainly not most homosexuals.

But you are talking about "sexual orientation", as opposed merely to sex or gender, right? It may be that we are merely understanding the phrase differently, but I understand the phrase "sexual orientation" to have to do with sexual attraction. Yes, some of us reached puberty sooner or later than others. Children are soon aware of their gender. But I reject Freud's assertion that children soon experience sexual attraction. Most of them at least get a decade or so, don't they?

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J.A.A. Purves said:

: And yet, for every evil desire, there seems to be a good desire from which the evil was twisted. In other words, there always seems to be a healthy outlet (or good) for any type of desire (or evil).

YES. Amen. The early Christians didn't believe that evil existed as an entity onto itself. Rather it was good that was twisted, or maybe the lack of good. In other words, in this understanding, how could we become evil if there was nothing good in us to twist?

:If homosexuality is wrong, then a few of the other sentences in this paragraph have to be wrong too.

Sure. Under the view that homosexuality is "sinful", which of course some don't believe. But then the argument could also be put forth that there are certain things which we wouldn't consider to be specifically sinful, that are still not good for us. Even things that are essentially good for us but wouldn't be good for us in larger doses.

So this argument could still apply to homosexuality even if it wasn't considered to be especially sinful. But it probably wouldn't stand in the marriage debate.

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SDG wrote:

: I believe, both as a Catholic and as a humanist, is that sex (or gender) is intrinsic to personhood, and is fixed from conception.

Wow. So it's all tied to the X and Y chromosomes, which no one even *knew* about until well within the lifetime of our parents? (I am prescinding, for the moment, from the question of whether personhood itself is fixed from conception; the existence of chimeras -- i.e. fraternal twins who fuse at the embryonic or pre-embryonic stage into a single embryo with two sets of DNA -- suggests otherwise.)

J.A.A. Purves wrote:

: A new revelation? See, this is where my education is incomplete.

Y'know, I was thinking about this as I took the kids to Science World this morning (it's a Pro-D day at their school), in light of SDG's earlier comments, and I think I misspoke. I was thinking not so much of a new *revelation*, a la words from an angel on high or whatever, but of something closer to a newer *refinement* of our existing theological knowledge. The ecumenical councils first had to deal with the question of whether Jesus was human, divine, or both -- and then, once the first few councils dealt with that, the next few councils dealt with questions like whether Jesus had one will or two wills (given that he was one Person but had two Natures). The councils could *add* to the definition of orthodox theology, but they could never *contradict* earlier definitions, is the idea I was getting at.

But of course, having said all that, I don't believe any church has yet had an ecumenical council on the subject of homosexuality. (As a gay evangelical Anglican friend of mine once argued, it never even came up in recent evangelical statements of doctrine such as the Lausanne Covenant.) So it's not exactly *impossible* that an "affirming" stance could be taken on this subject. But I wouldn't expect it, at least not within the Orthodox or Catholic camps. The first ecumenical council might have defined Christ's humanity and divinity on some level, but it didn't just make those ideas up; it saw itself as codifying beliefs that had been held by the vast majority of the church for most of its history.

Heck, even at the Council of Jerusalem (in Acts 15), when the mostly-Jewish early Church had to decide what to do with Simon Peter's declaration that he had been instructed in a dream (a *dream*!) to accept Gentile converts without expecting them to become Jewish first -- and that he himself had been willing to kill and eat non-kosher foods on the basis of that dream -- the Church still appealed to eschatological passages in the Old Testament as *justification* for accepting Peter's dream and the consequences thereof.

: I don't think it helps those who argue for tolerance of something like gay marriage to claim that children can be gay.

FWIW, one of my first openly gay friends told me he knew he was gay when he was five. He was raised Pentecostal, incidentally, but was an atheist by the time I met him.

: I understand the phrase "sexual orientation" to have to do with sexual attraction.

Could depend on what you mean by "sexual". Lots of kids have "crushes" or romantic fixations even if they don't get particularly hormonal about it. If "sexual" is just another word for "gendered", then, sure, it makes sense to me that a boy could have a crush on another boy or whatever.

Josie wrote:

: a) segregation is inevitable: men and women don't share public showers . . .

This, incidentally, is where a number of the current "human rights" issues are being fought: over the right of people who identify as female but have male bodies to use women's washrooms, etc.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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think instead of trying to keep up/catch up I'm just gonna sit back and watch the new conversations, and contribute when something I say will actually contribute...in other words as my wife says "Be like an Ent."


"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

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Not all aspects of Jewish belief and practice are normative or revelatory. Still, the religious beliefs of Jews in Jesus' day regarding, e.g., monotheism, the resurrection and the wrongness of homosexuality have, for Christianity, a religious significance different in kind from the religious beliefs of other ANE populations -- and not just because they read the OT scriptures and agree with us on their interpretation.

As I understand this, there is evidence to be found in General Revelation that do challenge the morality of gay relationships.

Oh, I agree. That's implicit in my argument from the strains of shamefulness of same-sex relations in pagan Greco-Roman culture. It's with respect to Jewish culture that I believe we are potentially dealing not just with general revelation, but special revelation.

Except that the nuance in interpretation is not always leading to the denial of the prohibition of homosexuality in the Biblical age.
True, which is why I'm not terribly exercised to parry the nuancers point for exegetical point, only to short-circuit the possible argument for normalization. At the end of the day, it's a somewhat academic exercise for me whether we interpret arsenokoites to include all male homosexual acts or only to some, e.g., male prostitutes (to use a benighted term; the less parochial phrase would be sex workers). The Judeo-Christian sexual ethic is not at stake in the interpretation of this particular word.

So isn't the next question then how to distinguish between tradition that derives from Special Revelation and tradition that derives from General Revelation?
Yes! That is indeed the next question! smile.png

If Special Revelation contains more that only Scripture, then (just like Scripture) it is still going to need the application of General Revelation in order to interpret it correctly.
Huh. That's an interesting move. I've never heard anyone put it quite like that: that the correct interpretation of special revelation depends on an application of general revelation? Certainly the correct interpretation of special revelation must not contradict general revelation, so to that extent general revelation provides an interpretive tool. But only an interpretive tool, an aid to interpretation; not a key norm.

I've listened to conservative Catholic friends debate over the origins of the idea of Purgatory. One argued that it is a truth that has been handed down orally; the other than it is a truth that can be deduced logically. On the answer to their argument depended whether the actions of the living could affect those currently in Purgatory. I could have misunderstood this, but according to them this is a theological question that orthodox Catholics disagree over.
It's not enough to derive purgatory from logical deduction. If that were all it had going for it, it would remain at the level of theological supposition, not doctrine. We can argue that logic supports and confirms it, but it also depends on special revelation, both scripture and tradition, and the sensus fidelium, the Church's charism of truth.

What troubles me is, if some of the prohibitions against homosexuality in Scripture are cultural in nature, or if the tradition that would forbid gay marriage is specific to the culture from which it arose, then I would fear the exercise of political power to enforce one theological view against the other. There at least seems to be a limited amount of evidence that it could be cultural in ways that monotheism or the resurrection cannot be. It still seems likely to me that Christianity leaves no room for challenging the idea that homosexuality is wrong. But if this is true, that does not necessarily place gay marriage within the proper sphere of government power.
I think I understand some, but by no means all, of this. My view is: a) The Jewish religio-cultural perspective on sexuality reflects the divine pedagogy of Israel, and was accepted as such by Jesus and his apostles. b.) Same-sex acts are contrary to natural law, and can be known to be wrong through reason and moral insight unaided by special revelation. c) The institution of marriage as the enduring union of a man and a woman is a socio-anthropological universal, and demands the recognition of society. d) There is no valid basis for redefining this institution in a gender-blind way, to include relationships of two men or two women. Not sure how your concerns in the preceding paragraph interact with this. Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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: I believe, both as a Catholic and as a humanist, is that sex (or gender) is intrinsic to personhood, and is fixed from conception.

Wow. So it's all tied to the X and Y chromosomes, which no one even *knew* about until well within the lifetime of our parents?

Why should that be surprising? No one knew until modern times about DNA or the genetic code, yet that now plays a key role in our understanding of the origins of life, and is a cornerstone of the modern pro-life movement.

I am prescinding, for the moment, from the question of whether personhood itself is fixed from conception; the existence of chimeras -- i.e. fraternal twins who fuse at the embryonic or pre-embryonic stage into a single embryo with two sets of DNA -- suggests otherwise.
Why would it suggest otherwise? Prior to chimeric fusion, there are two lives, two persons; after, only one. At least one life has ended. How does this challenge the understanding that personhood begins at conception?

I was thinking not so much of a new *revelation*, a la words from an angel on high or whatever, but of something closer to a newer *refinement* of our existing theological knowledge.
Ah, yes. This is much more consistent with the mainstream of Catholic thought.

But of course, having said all that, I don't believe any church has yet had an ecumenical council on the subject of homosexuality. (As a gay evangelical Anglican friend of mine once argued, it never even came up in recent evangelical statements of doctrine such as the Lausanne Covenant.) So it's not exactly *impossible* that an "affirming" stance could be taken on this subject.
FWIW, I would consider it essentially impossible from a Catholic perspective. In Catholic thought, the Church commits itself irrevocably not only to what is solemnly defined in ecumenical council, but also what is consistently taught by the hierarchy and what is universally believed by the faithful (quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est: "what has always, everywhere and by everyone been believed").

But I wouldn't expect it, at least not within the Orthodox or Catholic camps. The first ecumenical council might have defined Christ's humanity and divinity on some level, but it didn't just make those ideas up; it saw itself as codifying beliefs that had been held by the vast majority of the church for most of its history.
Exactly. As with any possible future revelations, conciliar definitions would have to be at least consistent with some kind of strain of prior Christian thought. Where there is essentially no diversity of opinion regarding a tenet of faith, there is no possibility of a later conciliar definition introducing something fundamentally contrary to universal belief.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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For many of us, sexual orientation was a very early awareness. That awareness framed who we were, how we saw ourselves, how we believed others viewed us us and how we moved through life. I have heard from a few that this realization of sexual orientation/identity came much later in their development and that prior to that they felt like a blank slate, but I don't think that's true for most-- certainly not most homosexuals.

There is certainly, I find, an awareness of flirtation. My sister has noted what a flirt my nephew is. When I was putting together some vacation footage, I noticed a shot of my mom playing with M. A girl of about five walked by and he stares at her for about a minute. I remember being five and having a crush on Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. So it seems pretty normal to me when I hear gay guys talk about early gay feelings.

I don't think those early realizations are quite like post puberty...but I think we certainly see leanings in children.


"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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SDG wrote:

: : Wow. So it's all tied to the X and Y chromosomes, which no one even *knew* about until well within the lifetime of our parents?

:

: Why should that be surprising?

Well, for starters, because there are women -- i.e. people with breasts and vaginas -- who have Y chromosomes. The fact of the Y chromosome usually remains hidden, but sometimes you get a female athlete who is disqualified from the women's competitions in the Olympics simply because she has a Y chromosome (apparently the Olympics figures it's more dignified to test the athlete's DNA instead of, y'know, asking the athletes to take their clothes off or something along those lines...).

Unless you're going to argue that those women are really men (which would raise all sorts of *other* questions), you can't really argue that gender is "fixed" at conception. The presence of a Y chromosome does not preclude the possibility that the fetus in question will fail to respond to androgens, and will thus develop outwardly female features instead of male features. (The default gender for all fetuses is female; it is only when androgens are introduced that some fetuses turn male. But if a fetus has faulty androgen receptors, or whatever they're called, then even the presence of androgens will not turn the fetus male. In fact, such fetuses will often grow up to be *more* feminine than most women, because most women have at least a *little* testosterone in their systems; and apparently there are quite a few of these women in the modeling world, because they are both ultrafeminine *and* they tend to be taller, just like men.)

(This is all from memory, based on what I remember reading in the June 1992 issue of Discover magazine. Curiously, the particular article I am thinking of -- 'Sex Test of Champions' -- has not been posted online, though you can see the headline printed on the magazine cover. One article that *did* end up online, however, is 'Turning a Man', which concerns a girl who turned into a boy during her teens. But there, at least, the intersex stuff has an obvious physical manifestation. In the case of the Olympic athlete, on the other hand, no one would have ever suspected anything if they hadn't tested her DNA. And presumably there have been many other women down through the years who lived their lives and had boyfriends and husbands without anyone ever suspecting that these women had Y chromosomes and no uteruses or ovaries. Were all those seemingly-heterosexual couples actually homosexual?)

: : I am prescinding, for the moment, from the question of whether personhood itself is fixed from conception; the existence of chimeras -- i.e. fraternal twins who fuse at the embryonic or pre-embryonic stage into a single embryo with two sets of DNA -- suggests otherwise.

:

: Why would it suggest otherwise? Prior to chimeric fusion, there are two lives, two persons; after, only one. At least one life has ended.

At least, yes. But maybe two lives have ended. Maybe a third life *began* with the fusion of the two embryos (shades of the Star Trek: Voyager episode 'Tuvix') and, thus, did not begin until some time *after* conception.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Unless you're going to argue that those women are really men (which would raise all sorts of *other* questions), you can't really argue that gender is "fixed" at conception.
As noted above, sexuality breaks down. Any description of fringe cases is messy. To say that a genetic male is in fact a male regardless of outward appearances is certainly messy, and opens the door to awkward questions like the ones you note — "presumably there have been many other women down through the years who lived their lives and had boyfriends and husbands without anyone ever suspecting that these women had Y chromosomes and no uteruses or ovaries; were all those seemingly-heterosexual couples actually homosexual?" No one wants to think a thing like that.

However, I can't see that these difficulties are prohibitive … so far. Reality is messy. Many people find themselves in objectively untenable situations through no fault of their own; and we are only responsible for what we know, not what we don't know. As I commented to Justin, I think in this thread, the human experience is one of finitude and uncertainty; we never possess Truth. We do our best with the information we have.

If I am right, then a putative marriage between a man and a genetic man who looks outwardly like a woman is objectively invalid — but in the absence of a genetic test or some other medical finding, they presumably believe in good faith that they are married, and their efforts to live their putative vocation are of a moral character consistent with their understanding. In Catholic moral theology, their efforts to fulfill their marital duties would be counted as righteousness by God.

While I admit I know less about this subject than you, I notice some difficulties about the way that you phrase things. On the one hand, you say:

The default gender for all fetuses is female; it is only when androgens are introduced that some fetuses turn male. But if a fetus has faulty androgen receptors, or whatever they're called, then even the presence of androgens will not turn the fetus male.
Yet you seem to make a point of speaking of these XY "females" developing "outwardly female features." Why "outwardly"? Apparently because, inwardly, they are not women in all ways but a Y chromosome.

Thus you refer to these individuals living with putative husbands or boyfriends "without anyone ever suspecting that these women had Y chromosomes and no uteruses or ovaries." If "the default gender for all fetuses is female," and the failure to receive androgen and the proper time fails to "turn them male," why do they have no uteruses or ovaries? It seems more goes into being a fully formed woman than just not being "turned male" by the reception of androgen.

I admit, were this not the case (and I wasn't sure it was until I reread your post), it would probably be a fatal difficulty for my present understanding. If there were XY "women" who really were female in all respects except for the Y chromosome — if they had ovaries and uteruses, and could become pregnant and bear children — then as far as I can see I would have to back down. Only women can be mothers.

Of course that doesn't mean women who can't be mothers aren't women; but the existence of genetic males who fail to develop the outward characteristics of males, and instead look like women outwardly, while inwardly lacking the biology of women (what do they have inside? are there undescended testes in there?), does not persuade me that I must regard sexual or gender identity as a fluid reality that develops as we grow.

Rather, the outward appearances of it develop, and like anything else that develops in this broken world it may develop wrong. In some cases there are chromosomal abnormalities that may mar sexual identity from conception, although even in such cases it may be possible to make a clear identification of who is male or female (and thus to speak of male or female chromosomal abnormalities).

At least, yes. But maybe two lives have ended. Maybe a third life *began* with the fusion of the two embryos (shades of the Star Trek: Voyager episode 'Tuvix') and, thus, did not begin until some time *after* conception.
Maybe. As a speculative supposition. But I don't see the evidence yet. It seems more likely to me that — as is clearly the case with some forms of chimerism, most obviously microchimerism — one body absorbs matter from another, and the living organism can plausibly be identified with one or the other of the original organisms.

However, in the case of identical twinning, a person, and quite possibly two persons, begins after conception. So I suppose I can't absolutely exclude the possibility of a person (and therefore a gender identity) beginning after conception some other way, as by chimerism. I would be curious to learn more about what the evidence shows.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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SDG wrote:

: While I admit I know less about this subject than you, I notice some difficulties about the way that you phrase things.

This is partly why I acknowledged above that I'm running on years-old memories of the articles I read in Discover magazine. I have tried to supplement those memories by looking up more recent articles online, but honestly, the technical jargon loses me at times.

: Yet you seem to make a point of speaking of these XY "females" developing "outwardly female features." Why "outwardly"?

Because "outwardly" is all anybody had to go by until a few decades ago. "Outwardly" was what all of Christian moral theological development had to go by until a few decades ago.

Earlier in this thread, Greg P (in a passage quoted by Josie) notes that Catholic theology requires semen to go into the birth canal, or the vagina -- so if *that* is what sexual ethics are based on, then all those women with Y chromosomes and no uteruses would seem to be women for the purposes of Catholic moral theology. (As you have said elsewhere, Catholic theology requires an "openness" to having children but does not regard barrenness itself as somehow "invalidating" a marriage.)

If, however, we are suddenly going to define who is male and who is female on the basis of some chromosomes that were only discovered the day before yesterday... well, I don't see that that is a necessary development, morally or theologically speaking. I can see how it *might* inform or illuminate our approach to *outwardly* intersexed people, but I don't know how useful or helpful it is to all those other cases.

I'm trying to find an appropriate metaphor here, but the best I can think of right now is the fact that we now know that the sun is just one of a zillion stars, but for most of human history, the sun was "the sun" and not a star at all; indeed, it was one of "the planets", astrologically speaking at least, because it moved through the sky just like the moon and Venus and Mars etc. Knowing that the sun is really a star is certainly helpful from a scientific or astronomical point of view, but whenever we read in the Bible or the traditions that the sun and the stars are different things, we know what they mean, and we don't have to quibble about that. Y'know?

: . . . (what do they have inside? are there undescended testes in there?) . . .

In at least some cases, yeah, I believe so.

Incidentally, in the case of the Olympic athlete I cited earlier, I vaguely recall that she was aware that she hadn't menstruated, but she had always attributed that to her physical regimen: lots of exercise etc. can sometimes use up the body's resources in such a way that there is nothing left over for a woman's natural cycle. I have also heard this theory used to explain why Joan of Arc never menstruated (which was taken by some of her contemporaries to be a sign of her purity -- but who knows? maybe she was intersex too).

: However, in the case of identical twinning, a person, and quite possibly two persons, begins after conception.

And maybe one person ends and two persons begin when an embryo splits in two, and then those two persons end and a fourth person begins when the two embryos re-fuse into a chimera that will never be detected because all of the DNA is identical! :)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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In answer to Jeremy a page back, he asked me if Iwas thinking of any specific teachers/leaders. first off I acknowledge SDG's correction of my point since it's not necessarily pedophilia, though we don't know the age differences or anything. And of course what we'd consider pedophilia in this culture is not what other cultures consider bad age gaps. Anyways I had heard something to the effect that Aristotle, Socrates, et al had boy lovers. Even Alexander the Great was rumored to have a male lover.


"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

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Aside to Josie, FWIW, I haven't yet interacted with your thoughtful comments (in various threads) as much as I'd like to, purely circumstantially. No time to respond further at the moment, but I want to say I appreciate your contributions.

Thank you, that means a lot coming from you! (Especially in this thread, where I'm aware of our different beliefs.)

I hope to come back to this discussion and the newer entries in a day or two. Meanwhile, on the subject of

But more importantly, your equating homosexuality with individual behavioral proclivities is bogus. The homosexuality "debate" in this country primarily involves the issue of innate orientation and identity , not personal habits, addictions or behavioral preferences. Sexual orientation is at the core of our identity and is present with all of us long before we even know or care what sex is. It's not an adolescent or adult preference about what "turns you on". It's a fundamental instinct that governs how a person views themselves in the world.

Except, I would find it very difficult to claim that children, at least up to a certain age, have any sexual orientation whatsoever. I don't think it helps those who argue for tolerance of something like gay marriage to claim that children can be gay.

if we're not gay ourselves, we're not so much making a claim as accepting personal testimony, often from close friends. I've also heard versions of 'I always knew' and 'When I first felt attraction it was to boys (or girls) like me.'

And I've wondered if some children are more self-aware at a young age because all the social narratives and expectations and cues - the ones that take opposite sex attraction for granted - don't mesh with emergent feelings.

Here are passages from one of those testimonies, by poet Ricardo Blanco:

I'm six or seven years old, riding back home with my grandfather and my Cuban grandmother from my tía Onelia's house.

Her son Juan Alberto is effeminate, "un afeminado," my grandmother says with disgust. "¿Por qué? He's so handsome. Where did she go wrong with dat niño?" she continues, and then turns to me in the back seat: "Better to having a granddaughter who's a whore than a grandson who is un pato faggot like you. Understand?" she says with scorn in her voice.

I nod my head yes, but I don't understand: I don't know what a faggot means, really; don't even know about sex yet. All I know is she's talking about me, me; and whatever I am, is bad, very bad.

I'm eight, definitely. I remember because my grandmother is horrified that I'm already eight and haven't learned to ride a bike yet. "Qué barbaridad, no wonder . . . ," she tells me, leaving me to fill in the blanks with her words: No wonder: I'm a sissy, effeminate, a weakling. I'm used to her words for me. "I'll teach you," she barks, "Put your sneakers on." We walk my bike to the empty parking lot at St. Jude's Church where I pedal and fall; pedal and fall; pedal and finally glide in perfect balance, leaving her behind clapping and cheering me on: "¡Andale! Finally! ¡Andale!"

On the way back home, I ride my bike beside her as she praises me, "Qué bien. You did great! ¡Qué macho!" and kisses my forehead. That night she makes chicken fricasé--my favorite--with extra drumsticks and olives just for me. For a moment I can almost believe she loves me, that she'll never call me a faggot again, that she'll let me play with my sissy Legos and watercolors. But that very night she shoos my cat Ferby off my lap: "Stop dat. You looking like una niña sitting there petting dat thing. Why don't you like dogs?" Apparently, I have the wrong pet, too.

I'm nine, maybe ten, sitting on the family room sofa, sneaking a look through the Sears catalog, again: pages and pages of men without shirts, men in tight briefs, men in boots. Wanting to touch them, I run my fingers across their smooth chests, their hairy chests, their arms, their crotches, pretending. It feels good. It feels terrible. I want to touch myself, but I can't because that's what my grandmother means by faggot, I know that by then. She knows I know and that I'm up to no good when she bursts into the room.

Before I can stuff the catalog back into the magazine rack, she tears it from my hand, tosses it across the room, and yells: "Stop being such a mariconcito. You wanting me to put you in ballet classes? Is dat what you want? What's wrong with you? Go playing outside like a normal boy." Instead I dash to my bedroom. In tears I tear out a page from my composition book and write: I, Ricardo De Jesus Blanco, swear to never do what I did today, ever, ever again, or else. As God is my witness. I sign and date it; seal it in an envelope and place it under my mattress.

Edited by Josie

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: Yet you seem to make a point of speaking of these XY "females" developing "outwardly female features." Why "outwardly"?

Because "outwardly" is all anybody had to go by until a few decades ago.

That's not what I meant. It was a rhetorical question. I meant that the gender identity mismatch wasn't solely genetic, that you wouldn't have said "outwardly" if they looked anatomically female on the inside as well as the outside.

"Outwardly" was what all of Christian moral theological development had to go by until a few decades ago.
And before we discovered genetics it was supposed that personhood began at "quickening." Now we understand that one is an individual member of the human family from conception — and that one does have a sexual or gender identity from conception.

From the perspective of Christian anthropology, I am inclined to consider sexual identity intrinsic to personhood, and to resist the idea that sexual identity ever really changes. Other people have different controlling biases. So far I see nothing in the data to make my position untenable — though, again, if it ever turned out than an apparent woman with an XY chromosome pattern actually had a uterus and could bear children, I would fold. My sense, though, is that this isn't the case.

Earlier in this thread, Greg P (in a passage quoted by Josie) notes that Catholic theology requires semen to go into the birth canal, or the vagina -- so if *that* is what sexual ethics are based on, then all those women with Y chromosomes and no uteruses would seem to be women for the purposes of Catholic moral theology. (As you have said elsewhere, Catholic theology requires an "openness" to having children but does not regard barrenness itself as somehow "invalidating" a marriage.)
You might be right. Maybe it's more complicated than I think it is, though I'm not convinced of this yet.

Certainly barrenness doesn't invalidate a marriage. But being a man, when your partner is a man, invalidates a marriage. And just because you have female anatomy on the outside, especially if you have male equipment on the inside, doesn't convince me that you are actually a woman, even if it's reasonable for everyone to consider you a woman based on the evidence at hand.

If, however, we are suddenly going to define who is male and who is female on the basis of some chromosomes that were only discovered the day before yesterday... well, I don't see that that is a necessary development, morally or theologically speaking. I can see how it *might* inform or illuminate our approach to *outwardly* intersexed people, but I don't know how useful or helpful it is to all those other cases.
I didn't say it was useful or helpful. smile.png

: . . . (what do they have inside? are there undescended testes in there?) . . .

In at least some cases, yeah, I believe so.

Yeah, see, my tendency is to think we're dealing here with a botched man, not a woman.

Certainly if the reason the person developed outwardly like a woman has to do with some developmental thing that occurred long after conception, I'm going to want to stick with the premise that you're male or female from conception. Now, if the later developmental ambiguities related to some factor other than the XY chromosomes that was present at conception, I'd be willing to consider whether that might be a factor in determining sexual or gender identity.

Incidentally, in the case of the Olympic athlete I cited earlier, I vaguely recall that she was aware that she hadn't menstruated, but she had always attributed that to her physical regimen: lots of exercise etc. can sometimes use up the body's resources in such a way that there is nothing left over for a woman's natural cycle. I have also heard this theory used to explain why Joan of Arc never menstruated (which was taken by some of her contemporaries to be a sign of her purity -- but who knows? maybe she was intersex too).

Fascinating.

And maybe one person ends and two persons begin when an embryo splits in two, and then those two persons end and a fourth person begins when the two embryos re-fuse into a chimera that will never be detected because all of the DNA is identical! smile.png

Yep, I thought of that!


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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