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Why homosexuality looks like a decision

Note that in the following, I’m figuring out something that is probably obvious to everyone except me.

The other day I found myself expostulating, “How can anyone think people choose which sex they’re attracted to???” (Yes, with three question marks. I was expostulating.) I followed this with the well-worn, “If they think homosexuality is a choice, then they must also think that heterosexuality is. But at what point in their lives did they really make a choice between finding boys or girls hot? Never!!!”

My argument is not a good one. For at least some anti-gay folks, it poses a false equivalence. I think.

Thinking that gays choose their sexual “preference” but straights do not appears to be a contradiction until you factor in some assumptions about nature and temptation. So: God set it up so that humans naturally are drawn to the opposite sex. But we can be tempted toward all sorts of sins: We can lust after a neighbor’s spouse. We can be drawn toward liquor. We can be tempted to shoplift. We all face many different temptations of varying degrees of badness. Good people resist temptations as firmly as they can. Homosexuals give in to their temptations, and even flaunt them.

Thus, the proper equivalence isn’t between heterosexuals and homosexuals deciding which gender they’ll desire. It’s between homosexuals giving in to their temptation (same-sex sex) and heterosexuals giving in to their temptation (adultery, promiscuity, or some such). The equivalence isn’t in the choice of temptations but in the reaction to those temptations.

I’m not agreeing, of course. I fly my rainbow flag high. But this helps me to understand what otherwise looks like an argument so incoherent that it’s incomprehensible how anyone could actually hold it. It’s not incoherent, given a certain set of premises. It’s coherent…but wrong.

5 Responses to “Why homosexuality looks like a decision”

  1. It’s a bit of a tangent to your actual point, but assuming your talking about God as described by the Christian faith, then it would be wrong to say that temptations have varying degrees of badness. It’s common, even for Christians to miss this point, but there is no degree of sin, all sin is equally bad and the wages for all sin is death. Hence, Jesus dying on the cross to pay the price for all our sins.

    I mention this because its the key reason that Christians should never condemn homosexuals, treat them badly or turn them away from church. Everyone has committed equally bad sins – let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

    Hope that helps with understanding the Christian viewpoint a bit more. More importantly I hope that it makes clear that the adversarial and confrontational attitude of some Christians is not supported by either the majority of Christians or scriptures they claim to be following.

  2. Thanks, Adrian. I was trying not to generalize about all Christians, especially since I did think that some branches have various categories of sins with different weights — mortal vs. venal, 9 circles (yeah, I know that’s just Dante), etc.

  3. David,

    I think you’re right about sins — Adrian has a point that all are equal in one respect, but you’re right that as a matter of practice Christians of almost every sort distinguish between littering and murder. (And of course, reasonable and holy people dissent from his implication that homosexuality is a sin at all.)

    With regard to your main point, a number of scholars argue that that’s what lies behind Paul’s rhetoric at a number of points. Paul sees the besetting problem with sexuality in general as desire and distraction — thinking about hottness instead of thinking about God, devoting one’s energies to activity contrary to the Torah rather than to prayer and mitzvoth. Paul thinks that Gentiles, when they get overheated, jump on same-sex partners; it’s part of that whole Gentile lifestyle, Gentile agenda, that includes idolatry and general barbarity. He doesn’t imagine that Jews experience same-sex attraction (what, they’re not GENTILES!), but he understands that when Jews are overcome with desire they succumb to adultery.

    As he then says (to Adrian’s point), No one’s in a position to scold, everyone’s a sinner (though he does show a sense of the gradation of sins also — when he’s scold the Corinthians, he says of the man who’s shagging his stepmother, ‘Even Gentiles don’t do that!’).

    What we think about sexuality, and what Paul thought about sexuality, and what Moses (or his amanuenses) thought about sexuality, what rabbis and clergy and imams think about sexuality is always inflected by what we think about the world and other people. You’ve got a clear line on why same-sex attraction seems like a choice to particular people who don’t experience, or who don’t acknowledge, homoerotic feelings.

    We’re working on equal marriage here in Scotland; it looks pretty good, pretty soon (many, many Scots seem just to take it for granted). Best wishes for the SCOTUS, and we’ll see what we can work out over here.

  4. And then there are bisexuals…

  5. I find it impossible to justify ignoring all those weird old testament dietary laws as repealed because of Christ’s new covenant and still find homosexuality a special case sin. ALL “sexual immorality” is equally a sin under ACTS 15:29. Much of the sexual immorality that was preached against 2,000 years ago was roman bathhouse and religious temple prostitute “fornication” (just as many Jewish dietary laws are based on prohibitions of Babylonian worship practices), while many things that today are illegal (polygamy, rape, child marriage) were common practice and not sins then.

    It would seem that Christians who find homosexuality unacceptable because it’s a sin would also have to avoid usury and keep kosher.

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