Skip

I pick the Motorcycle.
April 27, 2010 9:52 AM   Subscribe

Journey into Manhood is a program designed to rid Christian men of their attraction to other men. The program is rooted in the belief that homosexuality has its source in gay men's early relationships with their parents and peers. The program is endorsed by the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, whose writings on "Childhood Gender-Identity Deficit" seems to have greatly influenced the JiM program. Straight, atheist writer, Jim Cox, decided to investigate the program. He writes about his experience here: What Happened When I Went Undercover at a Christian Gay-to-Straight Conversion Camp
posted by Panjandrum (196 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is this anything like Overcome?
posted by any major dude at 9:54 AM on April 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Were they going for the ironic double-entendre or is that just a bonus?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:55 AM on April 27, 2010 [48 favorites]


Too bad they're not named Journey Into Saintly Manhood.
posted by Kskomsvold at 9:58 AM on April 27, 2010 [22 favorites]


I don't care what their religion, gender or sexuality - no-one's going to journey into my manhood...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 10:02 AM on April 27, 2010


Journey Into Manhood is not professional therapy.

It is not a gay-bashing weekend.

It is not a place to meet potential sex partners.

It is not a place for shaming. Quite the contrary: we affirm your inherent value as a man, just as you are.
These are all hilarious except the last one. I don't understand how the last item makes sense if you were born liking dudes. Isn't that "just as you are"?

Also, for anyone else wondering what their acronyms where, SSA = Same Sex Attraction.
posted by mathowie at 10:02 AM on April 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


There were about ten other groups like this sitting on the floor in the darkened room: one guide giving “healing-touch therapy” while the surrounding men rested their hands on the receiver. Some men were held in the Motorcycle position. Others were turned towards their guide, cradled the way a parent would hold a sobbing child who had just scraped her knee on the sidewalk.

If there's one way guaranteed to produce traditional Christian manhood, this is it!
posted by DU at 10:03 AM on April 27, 2010 [10 favorites]


Journey into Manhood sounds like a porn title. Surely they know this, right?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:05 AM on April 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


What Happened When I Went Undercover at a Christian Gay-to-Straight Conversion Camp

Dude.
You don't tug on Superman's cape.
You don't spit into the wind.
You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger.
And you don't mess around with JIM!
posted by bondcliff at 10:06 AM on April 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


Staff members pass out black cloth blindfolds, which we tie around our eyes. With the blindfolds in place, staff men squeak their sneakers and bounce basketballs on the hard floor, recreating the sounds from a busy high-school gym class.

They yell out the the kind of shit-talk typical of high-school kids:

“C’mon, take the shot!”

“You suck!”

“How did you miss that?”

“Why are you always picked last?”

“Okay, let’s hit the showers.”


This is destined to be the basis of a movie starring Will Ferrell.
posted by ignignokt at 10:07 AM on April 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


I'm only judging by the opening paragraphs, but I have to say, it sounds like an effective program. I'm sure that'll straighten those gays right up.
posted by Caduceus at 10:08 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Appalling.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:09 AM on April 27, 2010


One simple example: You won’t just talk about what it is like to look another man in the eyes – you’ll stand eye to eye with another man while we help you process whatever feelings might arise.

Sounds hot.
posted by blucevalo at 10:09 AM on April 27, 2010 [20 favorites]


Journey Into Manhood III: All-Stars and Barely Legal Throwdown
posted by Burhanistan at 10:09 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've tried these all. None of them work.
posted by gum at 10:10 AM on April 27, 2010


Also, apart from the boners, these guys are deeply reminiscent of the Crywalkers.
posted by ignignokt at 10:11 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The single funniest outcome for the straight journalist Cox would have been him becoming gay after his time in JIM.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:12 AM on April 27, 2010 [32 favorites]


I have high hopes for this thread. Don't let me down, people.
posted by ged at 10:12 AM on April 27, 2010


Meanwhile, in an alternate universe, the Straight to Gay program has men getting backrubs from bikini-clad supermodels and then having a beer in front of a running gas engine.
posted by DU at 10:12 AM on April 27, 2010 [80 favorites]


On the one hand, i want to laugh, because they're clueless Christians who think that straight guys love long boner-pressing hugs from other straight guys; on the other hand, I feel bad for a bunch of dudes who can't just accept who they are.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:18 AM on April 27, 2010 [23 favorites]


From the article: Journey into Manhood co-founder and “Certified Life Coach” Rich Wyler goes to great lengths to keep his techniques hidden from public scrutiny. Only after I had booked my non-refundable flight, and paid the non-refundable retreat deposit, was I informed that all Journeyers are required to sign a confidentiality agreement. Last year, when I attempted to write an article for Salt Lake City Weekly to run the week that Journey into Manhood arrived in Salt Lake City, Wyler complained to the paper, citing the confidentiality agreement I signed.

These confidentiality agreements are cropping up more and more often. Their abuse is a tremendous danger to the free press in this nation.
posted by JHarris at 10:19 AM on April 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


It seems kind of funny, sad, and hokey, but I have a close friend who went through a wrenching coming out process -- it took years of agonizing soul-searching because he is a deeply religious person and he was in a deeply conservative church. He finally decided that the church was broken, not him, and he has been reasonably happy out of the closet for a good long time now. I expect that one of these organizations, at the right time in his life, would have been like pure poison to him, working to keep him in the church at the expense of, you know, his self-understanding. It makes me angry just thinking about it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:20 AM on April 27, 2010 [23 favorites]


(And they're why you're reading about this on Alternet, which is generally considered left-fringe, instead of off a newspaper's website.)
posted by JHarris at 10:20 AM on April 27, 2010


LOLXIANS?
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:21 AM on April 27, 2010


I'm not LOLing at anything because I read the linked articles. I find it really sad, not funny. Sad and disturbing as hell.
posted by heyho at 10:23 AM on April 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


For some reason this reminds me of Sarah Palin being saved from witchcraft.
posted by bearwife at 10:24 AM on April 27, 2010


Manhood and Being a gay man are not mutually exclusive things Are we not men?
posted by longsleeves at 10:24 AM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


We are Devo.
posted by cereselle at 10:26 AM on April 27, 2010 [30 favorites]


One of their methods is to beat an effigy of one's father "to death" with a bat while being encouraged to let loose with primal screams. That's a really shitty therapeutic methodology. There don't seem to be any vids on YouTube of these NARTH idiots in action. This is screaming for some 60 Minutes style sunlight.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:27 AM on April 27, 2010


I'm not LOLing at anything because I read the linked articles.

We LOL because it's better than going insane with frustration.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:27 AM on April 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


Jocko homo?
posted by joe lisboa at 10:28 AM on April 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Dammit, that was supposed to be a reply to cereselle. You guys are too quick, as it were.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:28 AM on April 27, 2010


An opportunity to get authentic and genuine with 30-plus other men.

Sounds like a party.

Seriously though, this is horrible.
posted by HumanComplex at 10:30 AM on April 27, 2010


Why is homosexuality considered unmanly? If anything, it's double manly.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:32 AM on April 27, 2010 [66 favorites]




Quick pro tip for the gentlemen: while Saul of Tarsus might have a bizarre obsession with where you put your penis, Jesus of Nazareth seems far more concerned with whether you're fucking (over) the poor and the powerless. When it came to pricks, his basic teaching was don't be one. Why is this so hard to grasp? (Okay, sorry for that last bit.)
posted by joe lisboa at 10:34 AM on April 27, 2010 [56 favorites]


Wanna be some guy's girlfriend?
Wanna have some guy reach around you in the middle of the night, and start messing with your junk?

Is he ugly?

No, its pitch black. You don't... you don't see him. It never stops, guys! And everybody acts like its no big deal.

Is there a cover charge?
posted by Auden at 10:34 AM on April 27, 2010 [30 favorites]


I would call this a potential clusterfuck, but that would probably peg the homoerotic meter. Oh, I said "peg," there, I did it again.

These groups exist precisely to the degree that Christianity has aligned itself against various kinds of sexual expression. I know it is fashionable to argue that the Phelps of the world are simply a fringe element and that Christianity is accepting and tolerant in this age, but this evidence points against that interpretation.

If Christians truly want to reform, the continued existence of these programs will serve as an excellent metric for precisely how little progress has been made. It's easy to discuss the disproportionate influence of a few gay-obsessed organizations and Christians and makes a lovely way not to face up to the problems because, hey, "It's just these loudmouths;" it would be hard to change enough to make these little camps go away because they have no customers.
posted by adipocere at 10:36 AM on April 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:36 AM on April 27, 2010




Having read the article, I was surprised by how the weekend went. Here's why: the concept behind running these retreats is supposedly "curing" these men of their homosexual urges, which is of course absurd, because their religion does not accept these men for who they are.

Yet during the retreat, they are told they are beautiful just as they are and invited, even encouraged, to refute and even, in one alarming case, beat down in effigy anyone who ever made them feel worthless. Though I think the whole beating down thing is ridiculous, the "you are a golden child" is not a bad message. And the "healing touch", with the men holding each other, is a church-sanctioned way for these men, who are all attracted to other men, to embrace each other. What's more, they are encouraged to stay in touch with each other after the retreat. So they know there are other men who feel the way they do and they know how to get in touch with them. It's like a support group...or a match-making service.

Honestly, I thought it would be much uglier; I thought these men would be shamed and ridiculed.

So, although I agree that it is a sad article--especially as one of the men asks the reporter, upon being told to accept himself as he is, "What do you want me to do, man, leave my wife and kids?"--it wasn't at all what I expected.
posted by misha at 10:39 AM on April 27, 2010 [9 favorites]



[Journey Into Manhood] is not a place to meet potential sex partners.


Neither was
  • the boarding school I attended,
  • the Christian missionary trip I went on in high school,
  • that one particular frat in college,
  • the gym I used to work out at, or
  • my gay-friendly church.

    But yet...

    (Disclaimer: I've not actually met potential sex partners at my church. But I'm sure others have.)


    heyho: I'm not LOLing at anything because

    I totally understand how some can't laugh at this, but not to be too dramatic or suddenly serious but I joke about matters such as this, not to trivialize the pain they cause but because if I did not, I could not breathe, let alone get through a day.

    There was a time when my grandmother was doing seriously researching things like PFOX; I'm glad those days are behind me.

  • posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:41 AM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


    There were about ten other groups like this sitting on the floor in the darkened room: one guide giving “healing-touch therapy” while the surrounding men rested their hands on the receiver. Some men were held in the Motorcycle position. Others were turned towards their guide, cradled the way a parent would hold a sobbing child who had just scraped her knee on the sidewalk.

    I was straight before I read this. Now I'm feeling sort of tingly and cockwantingish.
    posted by Astro Zombie at 10:42 AM on April 27, 2010 [26 favorites]


    "I learn that these guys are good men, the kind of people you hope to have as neighbors."

    There's the crux of the matter. They'd be just as good men if they were out and happy. Probably better, because they wouldn't be dealing with the self-loathing brought on by religious indoctrination that their sexual orientation is a sin. This is sadder than sad.
    posted by Caduceus at 10:43 AM on April 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


    Crud. I meant Jim "seems kind of funny, sad, and hokey," not my friend's life. I should not comment while grading.
    posted by GenjiandProust at 10:44 AM on April 27, 2010


    I was gonna LOL here too about the homoeroticism and stupidity of it all. But the end of the article, the story about Dave, just makes me really sad. I feel a lot of pity for gay men who can't or won't accept being gay. And hate for the profit-seeking hucksters pretending to be men of god who guilt them into buying phony services like "transition to heterosexuality".
    posted by Nelson at 10:48 AM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


    I agree that the one-liners are actually funny. I just meant I wasn't laughing at the Christians, as the comment above mine was maybe suggesting that others were doing. I came away from the collection of articles with a reaction similar to what misha was saying. And the group didn't seem overly religious to me. Anyway, that accounts for my comment above. (Cockwantingish sounds like a town one might spend their retirement years in.)
    posted by heyho at 10:50 AM on April 27, 2010


    Dude in black grasping his gnarly staff: "What is a man?"
    Me: "Assphincter says what?"
    Dude in black: "What?"
    Me: "Precisely"
    posted by e1c at 10:53 AM on April 27, 2010


    Everything about this story saddens me.
    posted by tommasz at 10:55 AM on April 27, 2010


    In Joel Derfner's memoir Swish, he goes not-really-undercover-but-really-more-misleading-pretense at one of these Let's Fix The Gays For Jesus conventions, and becomes friends with a lot of the guys there, all of whom seem incredibly sad and tragic. I feel for these men.
    posted by shakespeherian at 10:58 AM on April 27, 2010


    The ex-gay files: The bizarre world of gay-to-straight conversion.

    Ex-Gay Watch is dedicated to monitoring the ex-gay movement.
    posted by ericb at 11:00 AM on April 27, 2010


    I have a dear friend whose partner, a gay, religious Christian, committed suicide. He did so in part because of an intense self-hatred which was encouraged by people in his life who wholeheartedly and unquestioningly believed that being gay was a shameful, disgusting "lifestyle choice."

    I can't laugh at any of the people in this article. I can't laugh with Jim about the odd messages the camp tells its attendees. Men who go through programs like this are trying to "normalize" themselves because they've been drilled into thinking they are somehow unacceptable for being gay. They're innocent victims of their cultural and/or religious beliefs, which stupidly tells them that they are damaged or unnatural. It's wrong, infuriating, pathetic and horrifically sad. And I wish they had better, wiser, kinder, smarter people to turn to than that bunch of dangerous bastards at JiM.
    posted by zarq at 11:02 AM on April 27, 2010 [19 favorites]




    I don't see much about the Christian aspects of JiM in the Alternet article, or in JiM's website. If anything, the weekend described seems more like a new-agey LGAT session (including the baseball bat therapy) than a Christian, religious-based thing. An expensive weekend retreat with phoney-baloney "life coaches" and drumming.
    posted by Cookiebastard at 11:05 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Elton John: A letter to Ryan White, 20 years after his death from AIDS

    He notes that "lingering stigma" still prevents people from getting tested
    posted by zarq at 11:05 AM on April 27, 2010


    These confidentiality agreements are cropping up more and more often. Their abuse is a tremendous danger to the free press in this nation.

    Is there a lawyer who can chime in about this? I'm curious as to how binding a confidentiality agreement is in cases like this. I understand that, if I break a confidentiality agreement I sign at work, my employer can fire me. But is a confidentially agreement ever binding between two parties that don't have a business arrangement?
    posted by grumblebee at 11:05 AM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


    On the one hand, if your faith is genuinely more important to you than your sexual desires, I don't get that, but I don't mind if you abstain from your preferred gender.

    On the other hand, it seems to me that your main concern in that case is living in the way your faith prescribes. That means you should be trying to find some enjoyment in your heterosexual marriage. The usual way to do this is to stay at home and experiment with your wife, or perhaps hire a couples counselor.

    Even if gay-to-straight conversion programs worked, they wouldn't really help. Eliminating a desire won't improve your life. It might make it easier to avoid something you consider sinful, but if you take sin seriously, you will be struggling against your own base desires on a fairly regular basis anyway, regardless of how sexual those desires are.
    posted by LogicalDash at 11:06 AM on April 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


    They'd be just as good men if they were out and happy.

    Unfortunately, if they were out, I doubt very much if most of them would be happy, at least not for a very long time; they would lose families, friends, everything. Such is the appalling prison they find themselves in.
    posted by frobozz at 11:06 AM on April 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


    Heartbreaking. Why don't more--why can't millions more--thoughtful Christians with half of a clue about Jesus speak out against this ridiculous hurtful ignorance? I know some do, I know some churches take a stand, but not nearly enough and Christians can't all be this fucking stupid can they?
    posted by applemeat at 11:07 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Okay, a couple of thoughts here. I'm pretty sure this is going to get lost in the general crush of LOLXIANS and rather juvenile innuendos, but it'd be nice of MeFi could rise above its stereotype for once, so I'll give it a shot anyways.

    First, I think it's kind of telling that we now tend to associate any physical contact between men to carry some sort of sexual connotation. Why should this be? The execution of the whole JiM project may be kind of bizarre (more on that later) but the attempt to affirm that a man can be affectionate towards another man without implying any sort of sexual attraction should be lauded, not ridiculed. I would think that the proper correction for homophobia is not to only insist that homosexuality is fine, just fine, but to also make space for asexual interactions between men.

    Second, how much weirder is this than the standard ropes courses of the sorts you see in outdoor leadership, scouting, business consulting, etc. activities all over the place? You've got this sort of quasi-spiritual thing going on where everyone has a role to play, is encouraged to be "vulnerable," and engages in a variety of "trust-building" activities with trappings of some non-existent authority structure. I mean, yeah, it's lame, but it isn't lame in ways that are that far out of the ordinary.

    Third, and here's where I think it gets interesting, I think these sorts of projects serve to highlight just how far evangelical Christianity has gone off the rails. The theory here is that homosexuality is a condition which is the result of sin. Bear with me here. This is actually a rather subtle position which is far too often oversimplified, misunderstood, or outright ignored. The theory is not that homosexual desires are inherently sinful but that as a result of The Fall of Man, has corrupted everyone's sexual desires in some way or another.* The argument goes that this is no different than the desire to sleep with someone else's wife, to drink to excess, to binge eat, or any other of the innumerable psychological/physiological conditions which implicate Christian concepts of sinful behavior. This is basically the argument that the mainstream Christian church has maintained for as long as anyone can tell.**

    What's weird is that evangelical Christians think that this sort of pseudo-psychological, neo-Freudian, talk-therapy-based gobbledygook can have a real and lasting effect on what, for them, is a truly serious spiritual problem. I mean, if they're going to take their own tradition seriously, how can they possibly think this stuff works? God's answer to sin involved a rather longer and messier solution than anything in evidence here.

    My suspicion is that, like in other areas, it's basically because they've stopped taking their own tradition seriously. The sorts of churches which think this sort of thing is a good idea tend to be the sorts of churches which act as if the Gospel is a way of getting your life in order and as if Jesus is really just an awesomely cool life coach, i.e. the long-standing core of sin and redemption has been almost entirely leeched out of the theology. I mean, seriously, we're dealing with men who are struggling with incredible feelings of guilt, and instead of hearing "Your sins are forgiven," which if you believe in that sort of thing could at least in theory be of some benefit to them, they hear, "You can take control of your past and overcome these feelings of guilt."

    No, you can't! That's the whole freaking point! According to the mainstream Christian view of the nature of sinful man, homosexuality really, really isn't the sort of thing which can be dealt with through a ropes course or acting out childhood memories. Far more potent stuff is required. Sin and its consequences cannot be dealt with through denial or reconceptualization, and the Christian response to the guilty soul is not to offer useful psychological tricks but to offer absolution.

    More than that, theologically serious Christian traditions have never viewed desires as the sorts of things which can be eliminated but as the sorts of things which are to be mortified, a process which requires the involvement of the Holy Spirit and will last for the believer's entire life. Sexuality is powerful stuff, and the idea that a sexual desire will just go away if you resolve your daddy issues doesn't treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves.

    Exactly what, then, do these jokers think they're doing? They specifically disclaim any professional psychological or counseling activities. But they act in ways which completely fly in the face of their own tradition's thinking on the subject. They're doing these men a terrible disservice by their own lights.

    Ultimately, I cannot defend what they are doing. Indeed, my rejection of this practice is on grounds far more serious than the author of the article linked above. He thinks they're frauds, even twisted ones. I think they're jeopardizing men's souls. But I cannot entirely exclude compassion from my response either.

    *Of course, this assumes a normative sexuality, which is something you can get to if you're working in the context of divine revelation. If you aren't, this is the point at which that disagreement would manifest. Later discussions about the appropriateness of homosexual conduct generally devolve on this point here, and that argument would be a derail.

    **And no, I'm really not interested in having a discussion about this either. This isn't a derail. Work with me here.
    posted by valkyryn at 11:08 AM on April 27, 2010 [80 favorites]


    grumblebee, there is a business relationship here, i.e. you pay them money and agree to their terms, they let you come to the weekend and participate in their activities. These sorts of things are actually pretty easy to enforce, and it's not surprising that various publications' legal departments didn't want to risk violating them.
    posted by valkyryn at 11:11 AM on April 27, 2010


    But is a confidentially agreement ever binding between two parties that don't have a business arrangement?

    Why not? It's just a contract.
    posted by DU at 11:12 AM on April 27, 2010


    I have compassion for confusion. And god knows I have compassion for people who are in a despised minority, and have been raised to believe it is a sin, who believe they have a cure for that sin.

    My compassion stops at the people who make a profit from this -- and, make no mistake, it's big business. And I don't care if the people making money are gay, as many are. If you told me Walter Freeman had been gay, it still wouldn't have excused him using an ice pick to lobotomize homosexuals. Whatever their confusion or self-loathing, they've turned it into a for-profit industry that makes its fortune off the fact of homophobia, and I can't abide that, any more I would a Jew who made a profit selling yellow stars arm patches, or whatever other horrible parallel can be conceived.
    posted by Astro Zombie at 11:16 AM on April 27, 2010 [4 favorites]




    Astro Zombie: there were in fact some Jews working for the Gestapo helping to arrest other Jews in Nazi Germany.
    posted by LogicalDash at 11:24 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Exactly what, then, do these jokers think they're doing? They specifically disclaim any professional psychological or counseling activities. But they act in ways which completely fly in the face of their own tradition's thinking on the subject. They're doing these men a terrible disservice by their own lights.

    My understanding is that this sort of, as you aptly put it, pseudo-psychological, neo-Freudian, talk-therapy-based gobbledygook is at least in some fashion a sign of incremental progress on the part of conservative Evangelicals (bear with me here): Because it is taken as prima facie that homosexuality is sinful, for many years the standard Evangelical position has been that homosexuality is a willful choice engaged in by normatively heterosexual people (because everyone really is). You still see this sort of thing stated all the time. But I see these (yes, terrible and tragic and incredibly wrong-headed) 'conversion camp' things that address homosexuality as being due to some childhood trauma or whatever as an Evangelical acceptance of the fact that homosexuality is not something that someone simply wakes up one day and decides to try just for the hell of it-- they are now accepting that people are telling the truth when they say that they have 'same-sex attraction'; but given the prima facie that homosexuality is sinful, they now have to look to other reasons to explain why someone would naturally, through no willful choice of their own, behave sinfully.

    So, I mean, it's still not good, obviously, but it could be the first in a long, long, long series of steps towards Evangelicals being better about homosexuality.
    posted by shakespeherian at 11:24 AM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


    Astro Zombie, I guess I had more in mind the guys who volunteer to be leaders at these things. They likely aren't paid. Most of the cost goes towards food, renting the facility, paying speakers, etc. The guys in black may well have simply been volunteers from participating churches.
    posted by valkyryn at 11:25 AM on April 27, 2010


    Astro Zombie, I guess I had more in mind the guys who volunteer to be leaders at these things. They likely aren't paid.

    True, and very fair. Poor schmucks.
    posted by Astro Zombie at 11:27 AM on April 27, 2010


    $20 saved.
    posted by applemeat at 11:29 AM on April 27, 2010


    Astro Zombie: there were in fact some Jews working for the Gestapo helping to arrest other Jews in Nazi Germany.

    Oh god yes, I know. Capos too. God, what a depressing world.
    posted by Astro Zombie at 11:29 AM on April 27, 2010


    LOLXIANS?

    No, LOLing from bitter experience. If I had a dollar for every histrionic word that was expended and every abusive act that was committed by various religious groups and cults to try to convince me in my adolescence that hetero conjugal bliss was the one and only path to righteousness, heaven, and the greater glory of God, I would be able to retire and buy a small deserted island in the Caribbean on which I could spend my dotage with my committed homosexual partner and not ever have to think about LOLXIANS again in my godforsaken life.
    posted by blucevalo at 11:30 AM on April 27, 2010 [18 favorites]


    It is possible the confidentially agreement is in place to protect not the practices but the participants. In which case I'd agree wholeheartedly with it. Not because I think what they are going through will "cure" them or any such thing, but there is a certain level of trust in this ridiculous endeavor. As much as what he describes is laughable and sad at the same time the last thing the participants would need is more shame.

    (man I wouldn't care what genders where participating for whatever reason, I would get all sorts of heebee jeebees from that)
    posted by edgeways at 11:31 AM on April 27, 2010


    Far more potent stuff is required. Sin and its consequences cannot be dealt with through denial or reconceptualization, and the Christian response to the guilty soul is not to offer useful psychological tricks but to offer absolution.

    What's "potent" about three Hail Marys and three Our Fathers, and maybe one Act of Contrition on top? That's absolution. It's unbelievably, laughably quick-n-easy and it's obviously a hell of a lot less work than the process the article describes. This works for fucking MORTAL SINS, man, stuff that is way more serious, soul-wise, than homesexual behaviour, which is just a venal sin if I remember my catechism correctly.
    posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:33 AM on April 27, 2010


    I wish he could have told Dave that being gay is not an on/off situation. Sexual gratification is nice, but a marriage is more than a sexual union, it's family. While I don't think his wife would want an open marriage, he isn't stuck either becoming a bachelor stereotype or a domestic martyr.
    posted by Phalene at 11:38 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Shakespearian - suddenly addressing talk-therapy as a way to "cure" homosexuals would mean that the Evangelicals have finally joined the late 1940s.
    posted by The Whelk at 11:39 AM on April 27, 2010


    ethnomethodologist, the concept of absolution isn't limited to the Catholic Church and doesn't work the same way in every tradition. What I was getting at is less a specific sacramental practice than the idea of forgiveness.
    posted by valkyryn at 11:41 AM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


    My first thought is: "This is the gayest thing evah!"

    My second thought is that it's sad that these men's deep faith doesn't mesh with their sexual preference. They desire to serve their Lord and yet, because of an accident of birth, they are unable to do so fully and completely (in their eyes.)

    So many people, in addition to having to come out to their friends and family, must also reject the teachings of the faith with which they've grown up. For some, it's too much.

    I completely understand these lost souls, and I will pray that they find the peace that they are looking for.
    posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:47 AM on April 27, 2010


    Shakespearian - suddenly addressing talk-therapy as a way to "cure" homosexuals would mean that the Evangelicals have finally joined the late 1940s.

    That's exactly my point. Is the 1940s a good place to be? Fucking hell no. Is it a better place to be than the 1840s? Probably.
    posted by shakespeherian at 11:47 AM on April 27, 2010


    Okay, so I've been to a new-agey type retreat (not one that focused on straight->gay; I am and was straight and I'm now happily married). The focus of this retreat was something like realizing your full potential, or awakening your inner strength or something.

    The truth is, the purpose of these retreats ultimately doesn't matter. Despite what pretty much every self-help guide, workshop, program, etc. tells you, self-improvement is not really about breakthroughs, or new insights. At least not in my experience. Self improvement comes about by a slow process -- occasionally following an epiphany, but not always -- in which you make incremental changes in your behavior which lead to you being a better person.

    But people come to these retreats nonetheless, hoping for a breakthrough, although most of them know that's not going to happen. I remember one of the participants at our retreat. He was a psychotherapist, and so presumably he's working on his issues pretty consistently. He talked about all of the different retreats and workshops he'd gone on, and how he still felt unresolved about things. During the retreat he often sounded angry or impatient. During the whole weekend, we each would take turns working through whatever our issues might have been. So each person's been having their process -- and some of them are really weird. It's not helping that there's a truckload of interpersonal issues that come up right away between the participants, with each assuming the dysfunctional role they're the most familiar with. So anyway, eventually a bunch of people have gone and so the psychotherapist basically just yells out, "My turn!" and goes into the middle of the circle, lies down into the fetal position, and just starts bawling. Some people come up and touch him reassuringly, and he's writhing around and crying and shaking, and then after a good while he's done, gets up, and sits back in his chair.

    And the thing is, while I can see how that can be an incredibly healthy and healing thing to do, there's no way it was transformational. The way he said "My Turn!" made it abundantly clear that this was not a new experience. He knew exactly what he wanted: he wanted to be held while he cried. He didn't bother, like the rest of the gathering, to contextualize it in terms of past experiences or his current situation. He wasn't crying because he was working through his issues with a parent; he wasn't shaking to rid himself of present or past fears. In the same way you might go have a latte, he went out to have a retreat.

    Ever since that retreat I've been fairly skeptical of a retreat's ability to effect change or personal growth, but very aware of its power to create a space where uncomfortable emotions can be expressed.

    In that sense, this retreat could be excellent so long as it abandoned its pretense of being there to make gay Christians straight. It would definitely work as a place where SSA Christians could express their feelings of self-hatred and pain. This camp could actually help a lot more people if it let go of its focus on past father-son relationships and let the participants talk about their lives in general.
    posted by Deathalicious at 11:49 AM on April 27, 2010 [13 favorites]


    Burhanistan: "2Were they going for the ironic double-entendre or is that just a bonus boner?"

    FTFY
    posted by Drasher at 11:49 AM on April 27, 2010


    Journey into whose manhood? Heyo!

    List of famous ex-gays who are awesome:

    1. Little Richard

    That is all.
    posted by Sys Rq at 11:56 AM on April 27, 2010


    "Let's go weinis some souls" - Ex-Gay Wario
    posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:56 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


    I read a lot of ghastly books, both in terms of the quality of writing and what happens to the characters within it. One of the things that felt terrible to me was in one of the books in Orson Scott Card's spinoff Ender's Shadow series. A character, who was fully man-oriented, was bravely ignoring his own preferences, gotten married, and had duly carried on with impregnating his wife in the usual manner, because that was his duty.

    This was the expected mortification of the flesh valkyryn brings up. You are expected to turn your back upon this, be miserable for it, and then accept and embrace your ongoing misery, despite the corruption of The Fall being not a lick of your fault. You will be a stoic and simply shoulder this burden for the rest of your life. Get married. Have sex you have little taste for, because That's What You Do. Oh, and keep up with that fruitful and multiply business, while you're at it.

    Card simply whipped up this character and inflicted this fate upon him to make a point, one which is ideologically in-line with what we see above. I felt as if I were reading a passage about someone righteously clubbing a baby seal simply to demonstration Man's Dominion over the Animals. This mortification is tightly wound within Christianity, and little wonder, reading those glorious passages about the Crucifixion, lovingly attentive to the tolchocking and the nailing-in.
    posted by adipocere at 11:59 AM on April 27, 2010 [10 favorites]


    suddenly addressing talk-therapy as a way to "cure" homosexuals would mean that the Evangelicals have finally joined the late 1940s.

    And isn't that progress? They're less than a century behind the rest of us. That's not too bad, right?
    posted by infinitywaltz at 12:01 PM on April 27, 2010


    There's a Christian church a short way from my house, on a pretty busy road. It's a United Church of Christ church, and the denomination as a whole has liberal views on social issues, including gay rights and same sex marriage. The church as the slogan A Family of Faith for Everyone on their roadside sign, with a rainbow stripe below that phrase. When it first went up, the sign was burned a few times, but they kept replacing the sign, and it's still there. (Full disclosure: I don't attend that church, but they have pretty good thrift sales.)

    I just wanted to share that anecdote to clarify that not all Christian organizations are alike. I know it's easier to say Christianity has issues, or Christians are at fault here, but that brush is much too broad.
    posted by filthy light thief at 12:06 PM on April 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


    It seems kind of funny, sad, and hokey, but I have a close friend who went through a wrenching coming out process -- it took years of agonizing soul-searching because he is a deeply religious person and he was in a deeply conservative church. He finally decided that the church was broken, not him, and he has been reasonably happy out of the closet for a good long time now. I expect that one of these organizations, at the right time in his life, would have been like pure poison to him, working to keep him in the church at the expense of, you know, his self-understanding. It makes me angry just thinking about it.

    I'm so grateful these things weren't around (at least to my knowledge) when I was struggling to change myself in my late teens/early 20's to be consistent with faith and ideals. I shudder when I read about these organizations, because I would have been such a perfect mark, and they likely would have fucked me up in a really bad way for very long time.

    .
    posted by treepour at 12:12 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Yeah, the title is suggestive, and so are a lot of the graphics. What's with the circle arrow thing spelling the 'C' in change? "Men of Service"? "Guides"?
    This seems more like an "I repressed my homosexuality, you can too!" camp.

    So, ok. Why am I so f'ing macho? My dad had time for me? He died when I was a kid and my mom was so nurturing she would alphabetize my Alphabits before she put the milk in. By their logic I should be a big sissy or completely gay but I'm pretty much off the chart straight and I eat iron nails for breakfast. So, what, coach patted my ass enough before hitting the showers? Get back. More to being 'a man' than your orientation. I wouldn't care if my son was flamboyantly gay as long as he had good character. That's not something Joe Christian Fratboy is going to be able to teach him in some bullshit 'man' camp.

    These people are just sucking money off deluded parents. Man I feel for these kids. Even if this pop pseudopsychology b.s. were true - Like this isn't more rejection?

    "“Finish him!” commands the Guide."
    You know who else commanded that?
    Shang Tsung from Mortal Combat.
    posted by Smedleyman at 12:18 PM on April 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


    "How could anyone ever tell you
    That you’re anything less than beautiful?
    How could anyone ever tell you
    That you’re less than whole?"
    You can tell they're trying to make these guys straight because they sing this song instead of Christina Aguilera's Beautiful.
    posted by octobersurprise at 12:31 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


    These people are just sucking money off deluded parents.

    I really don't think that's what's going on in this particular case. From what I can tell, it's targeted at adults. That sort of thing may go on elsewhere, but this seems to be a more self-motivated sort of idea.
    posted by valkyryn at 12:33 PM on April 27, 2010


    Is there a lawyer who can chime in about this? I'm curious as to how binding a confidentiality agreement is in cases like this. I understand that, if I break a confidentiality agreement I sign at work, my employer can fire me. But is a confidentially agreement ever binding between two parties that don't have a business arrangement?

    Valkyryn gave a good response above, I'm just going to elaborate a little.

    1. A confidentiality is a contract, i.e. it binds the parties that sign. Remedies for breaching a contract are often stated in the contract. For example, most loan contracts provide the lender can accelerate the debt and take any collateral if the borrower doesn't pay. Or an employer can have the right to fire an employee who breaches a confidentiality contract by disclosing.

    2. Contracts are also enforceable by way of civil lawsuits. In general, the party not in breach is entitled to a remedy that makes them whole. This makes confidentiality agreements a little tougher to enforce in court, because it is hard to quantify appropriate damages in a lot of cases.

    3. Most states have a tort cause of action against a third party who interferes with a contractual relationship. Such an action might well lie against a paper that published in violation of a known confidentiality agreement.

    Hope that helps.
    posted by bearwife at 12:36 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


    This retreat might work out better on homophobes, if the goals were just about dad-bashing and male contact and all that. "See? You spent a weekend with some gay dudes, you didn't get seduced and you didn't get recruited. Even a boner in the back didn't kill you. Now go back to your life. You're welcome."
    posted by drowsy at 12:49 PM on April 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


    What's "potent" about three Hail Marys and three Our Fathers, and maybe one Act of Contrition on top? That's absolution.

    Actually, ethnomethodologist, those would be acts of penance. And prayers alone are pretty rare, at least in my experience; the priest would most likely assign them coupled with more concrete actions, like making things right with the people you hurt, and/or doing some other kind of good (like volunteering for charity) to try and even the scales. Absolution is the term for forgiveness from God. And real forgiveness, even between human beings, is potent.

    I've grown far enough away from the Catholic Church that I don't really want to defend it further than that. The Church has plenty of other things wrong with it (including the way they handle homosexuality, though generally they seem to be less invested in these gay-to-straight conversion camps than some other denominations), so you don't have to rely on a caricature of the sacrament of reconciliation to criticize it.
    posted by sigmagalator at 1:04 PM on April 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


    This is really well-written, and really sad.
    posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:08 PM on April 27, 2010


    i so wanted to be cured when i was 15, and the church promised me i could be cured, i was torn between my god, and my appetites. even as a theologian, i keep thinking that in my core, that this cannot be reconciled. for queer christians, this is our founding tragedy.
    posted by PinkMoose at 1:32 PM on April 27, 2010


    It's a United Church of Christ church, and the denomination as a whole has liberal views on social issues, including gay rights and same sex marriage.

    My own dear mother, a National-Review-and-Human-Events-reading, Fox-News-watching, tax-hating, health-care-reform despising, liberal-bashing conservative is a lay minister for UCC. I try to point out to her that her politics are 180° from her own church's philosophy, but it just never gels for her.
    posted by Mental Wimp at 1:36 PM on April 27, 2010


    and MCMike

    Which boarding school?
    posted by PinkMoose at 1:48 PM on April 27, 2010


    Mental Wimp, it's possible that she's found a UCC congregation which fits her. The denomination as a whole is quite liberal, but like all liberal denominations there are still individual congregations and groups of congregations that aren't. The ECUSA, ELCA, and PCUSA are like this, so I don't see why the UCC shouldn't be either.
    posted by valkyryn at 1:50 PM on April 27, 2010


    for queer christians, this is our founding tragedy.

    You can choose not to be Christian.
    posted by Nelson at 1:51 PM on April 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


    That story made me want to go home and hug my baby boy some more so that he will continue to grow up knowing he is loved. No matter what. No weekend getaway therapy session required.
    posted by caution live frogs at 1:56 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


    joe lisboa: "Quick pro tip for the gentlemen: while Saul of Tarsus might have a bizarre obsession with where you put your penis, Jesus of Nazareth seems far more concerned with whether you're fucking (over) the poor and the powerless."

    Good grief, I'm getting sick of seeing this nonsense on Metafilter. There is not nearly as big a gap between Paul and Jesus on ethical questions as people claim. The much bigger gap is between the gospel's understanding of atonement and that Pauline theology of the cross. No honest reader can look at Paul's letters and find any obsession, bizarre or otherwise, with sexual ethics. He does mention sexuality, of course, but not out of proportion with anything else. Where this idea came from is beyond me. Look, here are a couple of passage for you. Tell me which person cares about how you treat the powerless and which one is obsessed with sexual ethics:

    Passage #1: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

    Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.


    Passage #2: You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

    The first is Paul, from Romans 12, the second Jesus, from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Both cared about the poor; both cared about sexual morality. The two aren't mutually exclusive.
    posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:57 PM on April 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


    I cannot. I grew up Christian, and even if I chose not to be know, there is so much damage that needed to be extracted like glass from flesh--i am in church to do that extraction.
    posted by PinkMoose at 1:59 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Well, Pater, there is the argument that Paul's writing codified the oppression of women into institutional Christianity; that has less to do with sexual morality, per se, though, than with equality of the sexes. Some academics looking into the so-called "historical Jesus" suggest that men and women were treated equally as his disciples (these are the same scholars that suggest that the early Christians were like nothing so much as a commune of political and spiritual dissidents). Paul's instructions in First Corinthians seem fairly at odds with that idea.
    posted by infinitywaltz at 2:13 PM on April 27, 2010


    You can choose not to be Christian.

    Maybe. If your Christianity is just a social/political affiliation. But if you genuinely BELIEVE in the sanctity of Jesus and your inherent salvation (yadda-yadda-yadda), I think it's not as simple as just "choosing".
    posted by philip-random at 2:27 PM on April 27, 2010


    "Love, and do what you want"
    "Grant me chastity and continence, Lord, but not yet"
    (St. Agustine)

    Seriously, though, I read an interesting article on a left-leaning newspaper the other day, a reporter visited a dozen or so churches in Rome, and asked for confession, maintaining she was a lesbian, and that she was suffering, and felt guilty, for the opinion of the church. She received the most varied responses, from generic, embarassed advice to try and use restraint or find a purpose in volunteering her time, to "accept life in all its contradictions, and don't let the fear of sin hold you to live it to the fullest", to "I understand, I like women, too, and feel guilty", to "yup, I'm gay too, and pretty pissed off" (from a priest in St. Peter's, no less).

    Must say, it gave me a glimmer of hope.

    here's the original, here the (mangled but somewhat understandable) machine translation

    [ATHEIST, NOT RELIGION-IST]
    posted by _dario at 2:45 PM on April 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


    PinkMoose: I cannot. I grew up Christian, and even if I chose not to be now, there is so much damage that needed to be extracted like glass from flesh--i am in church to do that extraction.

    Yes, but there's the question of selecting the right pair of tweezers to do that extraction. It doesn't necessitate necessarily leaving your faith. Read this.
    posted by WCityMike at 3:01 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


    Is there a lawyer who can chime in about this? I'm curious as to how binding a confidentiality agreement is in cases like this. I understand that, if I break a confidentiality agreement I sign at work, my employer can fire me. But is a confidentially agreement ever binding between two parties that don't have a business arrangement?

    IANAL or journalist, but I think that newspapers might not want to break a such an agreement for fear of damage to their reputation forrrespecting confidentiality. If Newspaper X is willing to break a signed confidentiality contract, what assurance do its potential sources have that their off-the-record comments will stay off-the-record? Or that their conditions of anonymity will be respected?
    posted by homuncula at 3:34 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


    Maybe. If your Christianity is just a social/political affiliation. But if you genuinely BELIEVE in the sanctity of Jesus and your inherent salvation (yadda-yadda-yadda), I think it's not as simple as just "choosing".

    Is there something about Christianity -- about believing in the sanctity of Jesus and your inherent salvation (yadda-yadda-yadda) -- that also requires affiliating yourself with people who hate you? Sorry -- hate your sin?
    posted by Legomancer at 4:14 PM on April 27, 2010


    My apologies, PinkMoose, my flip comment about "choosing not to be Christian" dismisses the damage that religion can do to people who grow up in a hateful church. And while I think religion is more of a choice than sexuality, religion is an ingrained part of some people's identity much the way my being gay is part of who I am.
    posted by Nelson at 4:34 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


    It's a United Church of Christ church...

    The UCC includes the Congregational Churches here in New England -- They date back to early colonial times and were a centerpiece of towns and villages from the nation's begining. They have had a tradition of being liberal and inclusive. You may recall when CBS rejected their Superbowl ad which promoted inclusion for mixed race and gay/lesbian couples. Another ad which was banned by some of the networks in 2004.

    United Church of Christ Backs Same-Sex Marriage.
    posted by ericb at 4:55 PM on April 27, 2010


    Both cared about the poor; both cared about sexual morality. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

    You're too bright to fall for / pull that canard, Peter. You equivocated on the topic of "sexual morality" and invoked a false dilemma. Sorry to go all logic textbook on you, but I'm grading exams so it seeps in, you know? My general point, which I know you grasp and appreciate, is that nowhere in the canonical Gospels does Jesus address homosexuality or any relevant ancient variation thereof (so as to avoid quibbles over the concept of "homosexuality"), positively or negatively. It's the impending-end-of-the-world Saul who can't stop talking about sex, and you know it. Shit, he told us all (men, of course) that we shouldn't even bother getting heterosexually married because the end of the world was so imminent. Barring that, of course, we could "settle" and marry as it's better to marry then burn, after all (I'm getting hitched in October, I'd be happy to report back as to whether he was right).

    I know you're usually a solid force for battling back against the more underinformed or juvenile caricatures of LOLXIANS, Peter, but you're stretching a bit thin here. No need to make apologetics a way of life, especially when the people you're talking about couldn't give a shit about genuine theology, they're rationalizing away their own fucked up issues. We all do it, I'm not claiming to be superior, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't all work to keep each other honest when we do. Peace be unto you. Seriously!
    posted by joe lisboa at 4:56 PM on April 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


    You know what, I'm just going to go ahead and grant you any eschatological theology points you're going to make, Peter. I'm likely letting my absolute contempt for Saul distort my analysis, but I hope my general point remains: Jesus is not on Canonical record saying anything about "laying with another man" or anything of the sort. His principal vision (while eschatological in nature) was one of a willingness to disregard Talmudic law when the suffering of genuine Others was at stake. I know this is an interpretation open to debate. I also know enough to know that what we're both attributing to "Jesus of Nazareth" is dubious epistemologically to begin with. But you know that. I'm not interested in fighting on this particular hill, much less dying.
    posted by joe lisboa at 5:07 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


    * ( eschatological / theological)
    posted by joe lisboa at 5:24 PM on April 27, 2010


    Re: confidentiality agreements. The use of these-- and many of the faux-therapy "encounter group" type stuff reported here-- is a common practice in LGATS and "emotional growth boarding schools" that I wrote about here and in Help at Any Cost. Many of these teen programs also tried to make gay kids straight through similarly ludicrous "regression" techniques and confrontation and humiliation alternating with love bombing.

    However, I've never really seen anyone try to enforce the confidentiality things. Lots of people-- some of whom used their real names-- have shared their experiences of this stuff with me. I've written about what they said in many major publications. And these organizations do sue a lot of people-- and they make their employees sign these confidentiality agreements as well. But lots of other reporters have written about them, too. The difference here might be that the reporter himself signed the agreement-- whereas those who just talk to participants aren't the ones who are doing that and violating any personal promise.

    Also, in my case, I talked to many teenagers who had been forced to attend these things-- so their consent wasn't exactly voluntary and they didn't personally sign anything because their parents signed for them.

    I guess you could sue for release of "trade secrets"-- and some places have tried to do this with former employees who speak out. But they have usually failed-- and one main sign of this is that there are so many copycats who start their own similar program and start making people sign confidentiality agreements as they use exactly what the program they came from used, sometimes without even a different name.
    posted by Maias at 5:31 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


    joe lisboa, I'm not really interested in fighting this battle here either, but for slightly different reasons. I know enough from what you've written here to recognize that you read the Bible so differently from Pater Alethias and myself that our point of disagreement wouldn't actually be about homosexuality. As I implied in an earlier footnote, sexual morality is logically way down the chain of issues you reach in Scripture. If we don't agree on basic hermeneutics--and we don't--there's really no point.

    Which is why I punted on that issue in my first comment here. I know the vast majority of MeFites disagree with the mainstream Christian position on homosexuality, but I also know that this disagreement depends on more fundamental disagreements to the point that homosexuality is really just a red herring.

    All of that being said, I'd still like to think that even a reader such as yourself would be able to see the inconsistencies between what the conservative evangelical-types discussed in the linked article believe* about homosexuality on a theological level and the descriptions of how they engage it on a practical level, i.e. if it really is sin we're talking about, nothing described in the articles in the FPP are going to make a lick of difference.

    *Or are supposed to anyways. All bets are off these days.
    posted by valkyryn at 5:49 PM on April 27, 2010


    Thanks, valkyryn. Sorry for thread-jacking, everyone.
    posted by joe lisboa at 5:53 PM on April 27, 2010


    For those keeping score, this is a great example of a well-written post.
    posted by swift at 6:08 PM on April 27, 2010


    For me, it was the doctrine of Hell that finally was the straw that broke the camel's back and made me relinquish my faith in a literal, infallible, God-breathed Bible. But it was surely my homosexuality, and the dysfunction of the evangelical movement in handling gay people, that greatly facilitated my apostasy. As was said upthread, I realized the church is broken, not me.

    Of course, once you've determined that the Bible really can't be relied upon to be infallible, then it breaks the chains and a lot of the other prejudicial doctrines and dogmas begin to fall away, too.

    The evangelical ex-gay movement is an abomination and an affront to humanity.
    posted by darkstar at 6:09 PM on April 27, 2010


    Which gets me all curious about the inevitable evangelical ex-straight movement.
    posted by philip-random at 6:22 PM on April 27, 2010


    They're innocent victims of their cultural and/or religious beliefs

    I'd warrant there's no difference.
    posted by five fresh fish at 6:40 PM on April 27, 2010


    This works for fucking MORTAL SINS, man, stuff that is way more serious, soul-wise, than homesexual behaviour, which is just a venal sin if I remember my catechism correctly.

    Some time in the last 50 years there has been a shift in morality such that the not so bad to really incredibly evil and probably unforgivable even for an infinitely merciful god spectrum runs from sins which I will admit the temptation of to sins which I will either not admit the temptation of or which do not tempt me.

    And where's the fun in "let he who is without sin cast the first stone"?
    posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:02 PM on April 27, 2010


    swift

    Add to that an awesome comment that pointed out a hypocrisy that should have been obvious to me as a former Christian but somehow was not, and an extremely gracious retreat from a possible argument that followed, and I think that this thread serves as a shining example of the best of Metafilter, with the sort of interactions I should try to aspire to. I'd post as much in MetaTalk, but I think the general response would have been "Flag as fantastic and move on, k?"

    Which is probably what I should have done in lieu of writing this comment... but it just didn't seem sufficient.
    posted by The Confessor at 7:03 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


    I think it's kind of funny that some of my gay colleagues were willing to engage with some NARTH gay-cure asshole when we were out canvassing, and I was about thirty seconds from just punching him in his mouth.
    posted by klangklangston at 7:29 PM on April 27, 2010


    valkyryn, thank you for that exceptionally clear exposition of the mainstream Christian position on homosexuality, sexual morality, normative sexuality, and divine revelation.

    I have one lingering question: does the mainstream position (on anything, not just homosexuality) ever change in light of new understandings of the world, society, human psychology, etc? I'm guessing it does for some versions of Christianity but not others, and it happens more quickly in some than others.

    It seems to me that if it does/can change, then what falls inside or outside of the normative might also change, thus not forever and by default excluding homosexuality from the realm of the normative. I guess this question interests me for a couple of reasons. One, because I think it's precisely this exclusion from the realm of the possible normative that I've found so incredibly and personally damaging in my life; and two, the evangelical anti-gay conversion movement's pseudo-psychoanalytic position strikes me something of a shallow caricature or shadow of the mainstream's theological understanding of normative sexuality. That's not say the latter has somehow caused the former, but rather that it may still contribute to the former's veneer of legitimacy in the minds of conflicted and vulnerable gay believers.

    For what it's worth, I recall the first time I spent some time alone in Grace Cathedral and San Francisco and realized I could be at home there, just as I was, if I wanted to be. I'm still more agnostic than anything else, but that was a truly powerful and healing moment, and not one I'd ever dreamed I would find within my lifetime. I mentioned upthread that I could easily imagine that my adolescent self would have been an ideal victim of one of these predatory "ex-gay" organizations. But if my adolescent self had been fortunate enough to experience a moment like the one I experienced at Grace Cathedral, I'm not so sure I'd have been such an easy target.
    posted by treepour at 8:45 PM on April 27, 2010


    I have one lingering question: does the mainstream position (on anything, not just homosexuality) ever change in light of new understandings of the world, society, human psychology, etc? I'm guessing it does for some versions of Christianity but not others, and it happens more quickly in some than others.

    Oh it does undoubtedly, but any given religion (or denomination, or even congregation) is a pretty big ship to turn, and yeah, some denominations change much more slowly than others, and sometimes the mechanism for change is schism, which is neither graceful nor painless-- but think about the 'mainstream' position on indulgences when Luther protested the Catholic Church, or try to imagine a mainstream pastor or priest refusing to perform an interracial marriage.
    posted by shakespeherian at 9:30 PM on April 27, 2010


    My take on the confidentiality requirement: It may be enforceable, but not as part of a contract. (I know contract law - I don't know the law regarding confidentiality agreements outside of that context.) To be enforceable, a contract has to be reciprocal (i.e., there must be an exchange of promises). Once that exchange has been made and agreed to, neither party can just tack on "oh, and I want this also." From the article, it appears that the contract here was formed when the writer paid for the retreat, and the confidentiality provision was tacked on later as a unilateral demand. He did sign it, but I would argue that it's not enforceable because it's unilateral, it's not negotiable, and they didn't offer him the option of a refund.
    posted by anshuman at 9:39 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


    mathowie: “Also, for anyone else wondering what their acronyms where, SSA = Same Sex Attraction.”

    (I only comment here to point out that this is literally ass backwards. Somehow this seems fitting to me.)
    posted by koeselitz at 12:30 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Hm. I grew up in a small rural town. I didn't realize how conservative it was until some of my friends and classmates, including myself, started coming out in high school. I had grown up going to church every week, and was always heavily involved in youth leadership and the like. I liked the church, and I was strongly considering seminary. I watched some of my friends come out first, and saw a deep ugliness in the town and in their churches that I had never seen before. When I followed them, I was ready to come out guns blazing, so to speak. To my surprise and relief, I never experienced anything but acceptance and support from my church, and especially my pastor. With their support, my friends and I formed our high school's first official GSA and tapped into what resources we could find in the area. We experienced death threats, graffiti, and some physical encounters for our efforts. Some of my friends came from very conservative families and churches, and one was abruptly sent to a "special school for confused youth" by his parents. I haven't heard from him since then. I don't know how to get in contact. I credit the town's hate with driving me to the biggest cities I could get to as soon as I graduated. I credit my old church with keeping me sane and level during all the ordeals. I never did go to seminary, and I've drifted away from the church for various other reasons since then. When I read about something like this, I laugh at the irony of it, but I also cringe a bit. It's pretty easy to imagine that some of my classmates who never got that display of love and acceptance may well be in programs like this now. Most of the people in GSA never came out in high school, and we worked hard to protect their anonymity. It hurts a lot to think that some of them might have fallen into this cycle, and have backed themselves and their identities into a corner they can't leave without trauma either way. I truly feel for Dave in that story. I can't imagine trying to choose between my identity and my family. Doesn't seem like there's any happy answer there.
    posted by unique_id at 1:53 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


    treepour, changes do happen, but probably not in the way you're looking for, and shakespeherian accidentally illustrates that point. What follows is an attempt to explain why I don't believe any conservative Christian tradition will ever accept homosexuality as a valid lifestyle.

    Take shakespeherian's example of an instance of someplace where the church, very broadly speaking, "changed its mind." If you go back and look at the history, what you'll find is that the issue of indulgences, indeed, the issue of the authority of the Pope, wasn't actually settled in the early sixteenth century. There were two competing schools of thought there, and though the Vatican took one side, its position was far from controversial. The Reformation represents less something new emerging and striking off on its own as the splitting of two incompatible ideas which had previously co-existed within the church.

    Homosexuality is not one of those ideas. It has never been controversial within the church. Indeed, until the twentieth century, sexual morality was remarkably uncontroversial across and within every Christian tradition. The reason is related to my point here, i.e. sexual morality actually comes up pretty late when you're building a theology from Scripture. Things like the nature and sovereignty of God, the doctrines of creation and the Fall, the narrative of redemption, and the purpose of history, all come before sexual ethics. And it is uniformly the case that every Christian denomination which has come to accept homosexuality as a valid expression of human sexuality has abandoned the historic position of Christianity on these more fundamental issues long before it made its decision about homosexuality. Pick any tradition which thinks homosexuality is okay--an issue which really only started making the rounds in the 1970s and 1980s--and you'll find a tradition which saw a conservative revolt against theological modernism and liberalism in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, if not before. The ECUSA is currently going through one such revolt, one which was delayed until now arguably due to the fact that the Anglican tradition emphasizes unity and resists schism much more strongly than any other Protestant group. But even they probably can't keep it together over this one. The world wants the church to approve of homosexuality so badly that conservative Episcopals are finally taking a stand.

    In short, homosexuality really isn't the main issue. The basic Christian position on ethics, which flows naturally from the Christian understanding of man's relationship to God, is that man cannot choose for himself what is right and wrong. If you accept that, it's impossible to read Scripture in such a way which legitimizes homosexuality. But if you don't, you're disagreeing with such a fundamental Christian doctrine that there's no way of incorporating you within the bounds of any conservative tradition.* So if, like joe lisboa, you're willing to read Scripture has evidencing massive tension between Jesus' teaching and Paul's, you can probably get to a place where homosexuality is okay. But no conservative Christian tradition will ever read the Bible that way, and indeed, resistance to reading the Bible that way is one of the main reasons many conservative denominations came to be in the first place.

    But lest anyone think that traditions becoming more liberal is a natural and desirable trend in the life of any Christian tradition, understand that the most of the mainline churches which are accepting of homosexuality are dying: attendance is falling, birth rates are negligible, average age is rising, and conversions are almost non-existent. The ECUSA has lost 30% of its members since 1960, and other liberal denominations have experienced something similar. More significantly, the mainline denominations' influence in American Christianity is increasingly minimal, despite their large membership base. Mainline Protestants are less likely to be involved in church activities than their conservative counterparts and are less likely to say that religion occupies a very important role in their life. As a result, any time you hear about Christianity on the news you're most likely to hear about either Catholicism or some evangelical group. Statistical analysis would tend to deny any particular linkage between liberal theology and the ailing of the mainline denominations, but conservative churches almost universally believe that there is a connection.

    So no, liberalization is not inevitable, and would require Christian traditions to compromise on beliefs not related to sexual morality but to very basic doctrines like the doctrine of Scripture and of man. That, combined with the rather discouraging fate of the mainline denominations creates little incentive for any change on this particular point. If you're looking for a Christian denomination which both holds to the historic truths of the faith and approves of homosexual relationships, you're probably going to be looking for a long time. The two just don't go together.

    *This is actually also the case for a number of other hot-button issues, particularly women's ordination. Those denominations which ordain women were liberal in a technical sense long before they went down that road.
    posted by valkyryn at 4:35 AM on April 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


    Both cared about the poor; both cared about sexual morality. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

    The problem is homophobia has nothing to do with sexual morality (at best it has something to do with "sexual morality" in scare quotes). There are two types of homophobia.

    1: The straight looking for people to castigate. This is nothing to do with morality, it is to do with finding victims. Clear case of both "Judge not lest ye yourselves be judged" and "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out." Jesus of Nazareth himself ran into enough gay relationships (in particular one involving a catamite) - and didn't seem to object.

    2: Those who are gay and who have been convinced that far from love being the greatest of faith, hope, and love, that love itself is evil. (Orson Scott Card is probably a good example of this, and the case mentioned in Enders' Shadow mirrors some things he has written about his own life). Again, this isn't a matter of sexual morality so much as social perversion - society has perverted them out of their natural course. And so, of course they aren't happy. And are deserving of pity.

    But to say that homophobia has much to do with sexual morality is to render morality down to an arbitrary and incoherent set of rules that harm human beings and are an offence against love. Fuck that! (Or not if it's not your type...)
    posted by Francis at 6:08 AM on April 28, 2010


    The basic Christian position on ethics, which flows naturally from the Christian understanding of man's relationship to God, is that man cannot choose for himself what is right and wrong.

    ...

    But lest anyone think that traditions becoming more liberal is a natural and desirable trend in the life of any Christian tradition, understand that the most of the mainline churches which are accepting of homosexuality are dying:

    I put those two excerpts together, and the conclusion I reach is that dying out is a natural and desirable trend in the life of any Christian tradition.
    posted by Francis at 6:14 AM on April 28, 2010


    In short, homosexuality really isn't the main issue. The basic Christian position on ethics, which flows naturally from the Christian understanding of man's relationship to God, is that man cannot choose for himself what is right and wrong. If you accept that, it's impossible to read Scripture in such a way which legitimizes homosexuality. But if you don't, you're disagreeing with such a fundamental Christian doctrine that there's no way of incorporating you within the bounds of any conservative tradition.

    I don't really think this is true -- first of all, regardless of my personal hermeneutic, I think there's a perfectly defensible reading of Paul that has exactly nothing to do with consensual loving homosexuality with which you or anyone else may or may not agree but is defensible. Some of the most conservative US denominations -- I'm thinking here of the Assemblies of God -- ordain women specifically because their interpretation of Paul's passages on women in the church differs from a more mainstream interpretation, but I don't think you can argue that they're theologically liberal simply because they read Paul differently: and they certainly aren't discounting him.

    I don't think liberalization is inevitable, but I do think it will happen, largely because I don't believe that any particular interpretation of Scripture is tied to theological conservativism: look at the prevalence in conservative congregations of Tim LaHaye-style readings of Revelation, which is certainly not a close-from-the-book reading. I think that culturally-related moral issues like slavery, women's rights, and homosexuality are a lot more closely tied to the larger secular culture than most people in the church would like to admit, and that most biblically-rooted defense of either position pro or con tends to be a lot more justification than reasoning.
    posted by shakespeherian at 6:31 AM on April 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


    Riffing on a post by valkyrin: 'The basic Christian position on ethics, which flows naturally from the Christian understanding of man's relationship to God, is that man cannot choose for himself what is right and wrong. If you accept that, it's impossible to read Scripture in such a way which condemns slavery. But if you don't, you're disagreeing with such a fundamental Christian doctrine that there's no way of incorporating you within the bounds of any conservative tradition.'

    Specific slaves are freed (or made), masters are encouraged to treat their slaves well, but you will search in vain for a single verse in scripture that says slavery is controversial or maybe even wrong. The ten commandments notes the horror of cooking lamb the wrong way (Exodus 34:10) but skips slavery.

    I bring this up as a demonstration that Christianity can and has ignored scripture. It may do so for homosexuality as well. Secular morals will lead the way, Christianity will get the credit. No one seems to tire of talking about Christianity's role in abolition or the civil rights movement. Seldom a peep about Christianity's role in the slave trade for thousands of years. I predict the same regarding homosexuality. In a few generations it will turn out the Christians made it all okay, and never mind the few thousand years before that. Which is frustrating and wrong but not evil. Slavery and persecution of homosexuals are evil. Refraining from evil is a kind of good. Ball is in your court, Christians. You scored big ignoring scripture on slavery. Go for two!
    posted by eccnineten at 6:56 AM on April 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


    The ten commandments notes the horror of cooking lamb the wrong way (Exodus 34:10) but skips slavery.

    Are you reading a different Exodus 34.10 than me? I don't mean to underplay the importance of dietary laws in the Mosaic covenant, but the Ten Commandments (enumerated in Exodus 20) don't talk about cooking lamb.
    posted by shakespeherian at 7:17 AM on April 28, 2010


    shakespeherian, the AoG churches, like most Pentecostals, are kind of doing their own thing. They don't interact in any significant way with other Christian traditions, and while a growing group, they don't really have any leadership role in the American church. At least not as far as I can tell.

    eccnineten, the conflation of the church's position on slavery and on homosexuality, while popular, doesn't really do justice to the history or the internal conversation on these subjects. Suffice it to say that, 1) slavery in the ancient Near East wasn't anything like slavery in the nineteenth century Western Hemisphere anyways, and 2) the abolitionist movement was not ignoring Scripture but was actually teasing out a rather subtle truth of Scripture. That's as far down that particular derail as I'm willing to go.

    But for both of you, evaluating the church's position on these issues the way you are doing it is sort of like evaluating President Obama's performance in office by asking Glenn Beck what he thinks: you're making an evaluation based on your terms, not the terms of the community you're evaluating. If you start with the assumption that "culturally-related moral issues" are, well, culturally-related, then you've defined the issues differently than the church defines them and in such a way that your answer must be the right one. What I'm trying to get at here is that there is a basic difference of opinion about whether these issues are culturally arbitrary or whether God really cares about them independent of the culture. The church believes the latter, and that's where the real argument is.

    I'm not going to get into an argument about the relative merits of the church's position here. I'm just trying to explain what that position is, at least as far as I understand it, and why movements like JiM are a failure by the church's own terms. This is a far more serious problem for JiM than a critique by people who think homosexuality is morally acceptable.
    posted by valkyryn at 7:18 AM on April 28, 2010


    In re valkyryn's most recent post -

    Would accepting or providing for same-gender unions count as "disagreeing with such a fundamental Christian doctrine that there's no way of incorporating [one] within the bounds of any conservative tradition"?

    Because then you're delegitimizing the Anglicans, Episcopalians, many Lutherans (including the state churches of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark), and British Methodists. And nothing about Adelphopoesis, huh?
    posted by jtron at 7:19 AM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


    shakespeherian, the AoG churches, like most Pentecostals, are kind of doing their own thing. They don't interact in any significant way with other Christian traditions, and while a growing group, they don't really have any leadership role in the American church. At least not as far as I can tell.

    I'm aware of that, but I don't think that has anything to do with the point I was making, which is that theologically and scripturally conservative congregations can and do widely differ on interpreting Paul's supposed anti-equality passages.
    posted by shakespeherian at 7:20 AM on April 28, 2010


    But for both of you, evaluating the church's position on these issues the way you are doing it is sort of like evaluating President Obama's performance in office by asking Glenn Beck what he thinks: you're making an evaluation based on your terms, not the terms of the community you're evaluating. If you start with the assumption that "culturally-related moral issues" are, well, culturally-related, then you've defined the issues differently than the church defines them and in such a way that your answer must be the right one. What I'm trying to get at here is that there is a basic difference of opinion about whether these issues are culturally arbitrary or whether God really cares about them independent of the culture. The church believes the latter, and that's where the real argument is.

    As for this, valkyryn, I think you misunderstand me-- I was raised in the church and am still in it; I attended a fairly well-known Evangelical college and have taken classes from Ron Youngblood, who lead the OT translation for the NIV. I do know how the Christian church thinks about these issues. By 'cuturally-related moral issues' I mean issues on which cultural morality has shifted, and that regardless of anyone's theology, the church's response on such issues shifts if for no other reason than that the church attempts to be in dialogue with secular culture.
    posted by shakespeherian at 7:28 AM on April 28, 2010


    shakespeherian, then you probably misunderstand me, as I'm arguing that the church's stance on moral issues generally only changes after a fundamental shift in theology. Where the church maintains its historic theological commitments, its historic ethical commitments remain largely intact.

    jtron, I'm aware of what I'm doing, and if you'll read a little farther up, you'll see my argument with respect to those denominations in particular.
    posted by valkyryn at 7:50 AM on April 28, 2010


    90% of what I know about Christianity comes from my husband, so you're hearing this secondhand, but he thinks that the focus on homosexuality as a sin stems from the fact that it's far easier to call out a sin that you'll probably never engage in. The average evangelical churchgoer is more likely to be tempted by anger, greed, and plain old heterosexual adultery, but rather than deal with those, it's easier to scapegoat homosexuality.
    posted by desjardins at 9:15 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Until 1973, homosexuality was classified by the American Psychological Association as a mental disorder. Classifying sexuality within the construct of mental illness is a slippery slope. Things aren't any better today.

    A new draft version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will include "hypersexuality" as a mental illness. It would apply to people who repetitively engage in sexual "fantasies, urges and behavior" in response to anxiety, depression, stress or the like, and who repeatedly try and fail to control or significantly reduce the urges and behavior. via dodsonandross

    Now everyone child caught masturbating will be sent to sex rehab and every bicurious teen to christian boot camp. Sad.
    posted by Carlin at 10:12 AM on April 28, 2010


    A new draft version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will include "hypersexuality" as a mental illness.

    Well, there is a difference between sexual orientation and not being able to keep your hands off of your genitals for more than an hour. So-called "hypersexuality" can indeed be as detrimental to someone's success in life just as much as any other obsessive disorder. Not the same as liking people of the same sex at all, really.
    posted by Burhanistan at 10:18 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Just stopping in to say that this has turned into a very interesting thread, and thanks to those making it so. That's all.
    posted by Erroneous at 10:47 AM on April 28, 2010


    the abolitionist movement was not ignoring Scripture but was actually teasing out a rather subtle truth of Scripture.

    I'd like to hear a justification of this statement.
    posted by Pope Guilty at 11:21 AM on April 28, 2010


    I have made an error, and I thank a particular metafilter contributor for pointing it out to me. There's no hope for me not making mistakes but I do try to learn from them and admit them when I make them.

    I offer this correction (edit in bold): "Specific slaves are freed (or made), masters are encouraged to treat their slaves well, but you will search in vain for a single verse in scripture that says slavery is controversial or maybe even wrong. The ten commandments notes the horror of cooking lamb the wrong way (Exodus 34, particularly 34:26) but skips slavery."
    posted by eccnineten at 11:29 AM on April 28, 2010


    treepour, changes do happen, but probably not in the way you're looking for, and shakespeherian accidentally illustrates that point. What follows is an attempt to explain why I don't believe any conservative Christian tradition will ever accept homosexuality as a valid lifestyle.

    Thank you for the elucidation, valkyryn. I'm not done reading it, but I just want to point out that while conservative Christianity may consider homosexuality a "lifestyle," it's precisely this characterization that' so incredibly demeaning and hurtful. If conservative Christianity will never be able to grasp that homosexuality isn't merely a "lifestyle" then I will have to conclude that being hateful and bigoted is an essential though implicit component of this version of Christianity which I could never be "at home" in for reasons far broader than my sexual orientation alone.
    posted by treepour at 11:32 AM on April 28, 2010


    If conservative Christianity will never be able to grasp that homosexuality isn't merely a "lifestyle" then I will have to conclude that being hateful and bigoted is an essential though implicit component of this version of Christianity

    Just because they're inherently going to view homosexuality as "lifestyle" (as opposed to "biological reality") doesn't mean that hate and bigotry necessarily follow. Neither are Christian virtues the last time I looked. In fact, much of what's so frustrating about the likes of the good folk at your local uptight place of worship are all the genuinely good intentions that underlay their actions.

    One wishes there was an 11th Commandment; something along the lines of THOU SHALT NOT BE SO FUCKING STUPID.
    posted by philip-random at 11:56 AM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


    In fact, much of what's so frustrating about the likes of the good folk at your local uptight place of worship are all the genuinely good intentions that underlay their actions.

    I do think that there is a shift in the understanding of the Golden Rule which is somehow harmful, and which relates to a lot of the ideas already in this thread. That is: there is a tendency to believe that "treat others as you want to be treated" has some kind of macro view about the person's state of being in which they are encountered. The good intentions spring from an eternal perspective, wherein the soul of the person encountered is more important than the situation in which the person finds him/herself. From that perspective arises the idea that young gays need to be made straight, that rescue mission work with the homeless must include an altar call along with the food and shelter, etc.

    Imposing mortification upon others never leads to the desired outcome, which should be one of a closer relationship with God and an appreciation of the burden of sin, etc. It seems more often to cause deep resentment of religious rules, self-loathing, and long-term unhappiness.
    posted by hippybear at 1:19 PM on April 28, 2010


    treepour, that realization has already arrived. But you'll probably like what that means even less. I should probably have dug into this a little deeper in my original comment, but I'll do so here.

    Much of the conservative American church is largely okay with the idea that homosexual desires are innate. But just because a desire has a biological origin doesn't mean that it's 1) normal or 2) okay to act upon. Straight men have a biological urge to have sex with as many women as they possibly can, but the mainstream Christian church has frowned upon the lifestyle choices of promiscuity, adultery, and polygamy since before the first Jews became Christians. Thus the ultimate objection is not to the idea that people have homosexual desires--though this is out there, and I'm not arguing that it isn't--but that these desires should be approved of and catered to, i.e. approval of a lifestyle that involves sex outside the bounds Scripture seems to put on it.*

    So while homosexual desires may well be just as deeply wired as heterosexual desires--or any other physiological urge you care to name--and recognizing this may help conservative Christians as they attempt to compassionately interact with homosexuals, this does not affect the ethical analysis in the slightest. Just like heterosexual men are required to discipline their sexuality, homosexual men are too. Everybody's sexuality is broken, and brokenness extends far beyond sexuality. Some people need to gamble. Some need to binge eat. Some need to do drugs, or hurt people, or acquire material wealth, or be control freaks, or simply be selfish and prideful. Whatever. None of these are choices; they're just the broken way people are. But whether or not we act on those impulses and desires, whether or not we permit them to rule our lives and define who we are, those are lifestyle choices with an ethical value. And here's where the Christian doctrines of sanctification and the mortification of the flesh come in. We will struggle with sinful desires our whole lives, but by grace, we can rule over them instead of having them rule over us.

    Now if you want to say that there's a double standard going on here in that the church doesn't actually police heterosexual activity all that well but it completely outlaws homosexual activity, I'd agree entirely. To the extent that the church turns a blind eye to heterosexual misconduct while enforcing its standards on homosexuality, it is inconsistent, and this needs to change. But my response is that the church needs to start taking all of sexual ethics seriously, including pre-marital and extra-marital affairs. Still, if its a choice between enforcing one area of conduct or neither, it's hard to make a theological that selective enforcement is worse than no enforcement at all.

    While it's manifestly obvious that the church is failing to deal with homosexuality in a constructive way much of the time, I think the church may already be closer to an accurate understanding of homosexuality than the stereotypes would have you believe, but again, I don't think you're going to like the results very much.

    But I think that this is yet another way in which JiM is failing people. The idea that God uses suffering to make us better people is deeply rooted in Christianity, but equally deeply rooted is the idea that God provides grace and strength to overcome and thrive in the midst of that suffering. JiM does a decent job of recognizing the suffering its participants are going through, but it never offers them the Christian solution to suffering, i.e. the grace and mercy of God. How are these men not supposed to feel depressed?

    *Again, punting on the specific question of whether or not Scripture views homosexual behavior as out of bounds. As discussed above, the mainstream Christian tradition has believed this forever, but this belief is based upon more foundational doctrines which must be changed for a different view to emerge.
    posted by valkyryn at 1:34 PM on April 28, 2010


    the abolitionist movement was not ignoring Scripture but was actually teasing out a rather subtle truth of Scripture.

    I'd like to hear a justification of this statement.


    This letter to the Colossians, and the letter to Philemon, were carried from Paul in prison to the city of Colossae by Onesimus. Onesimus was Philemon's slave, who had stolen money from him, run away, and somehow ended up meeting Paul in Rome.

    So Onesimus is returning to his former master, hat in hand, asking to be taken back, and he delivers Paul's instructions to Philemon:
    That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.

    I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.

    (...) It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever. He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

    So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it. And I won’t mention that you owe me your very soul!

    Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.

    I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!
    It doesn't take too terribly much reading between the lines (particularly that last clause "and even more") to see this as a coded, subtle request to give Onesimus his freedom. (Beyond forgiving him, taking him back, treating him as a brother, what "even more" could be left?)
    posted by puddleglum at 2:17 PM on April 28, 2010


    It doesn't take too terribly much reading between the lines (particularly that last clause "and even more") to see this as a coded, subtle request to give Onesimus his freedom.

    Because he was a convert, and a friend to Paul in prison. Which doesn't necessarily lead to the argument that all slavery is wrong (I mean, I think it is, but I'm not a very good Christian). No less a theologian than Martin Luther argues that Paul's letter upholds the status quo of slavery by sending back Philemon his "property."
    posted by infinitywaltz at 2:37 PM on April 28, 2010


    I ask this question about once every year or so to Biblical literalists, and have yet to find an answer. Perhaps someone could help me here.

    I find only one reference in the Bible to female same-sex attraction: Romans 1:26, which refers to "unnatural" attractions but does not punish them. All other Biblical references to same-sex conduct refer to men.

    According to the Bible, am I as a lesbian less sinful than a gay man? After all, nowhere in the Bible is girl-on-girl sex prohibited. Why are my relations, then, grouped under the judgment of Deuteronomy, Leviticus, etc.? It would seem those laws don't apply to me.

    disclaimer: I have no interest in leaving my gay man doodz in the lurch in terms of taking the heat from those sects of Christianity who like to deal it out. It's really just a question of semantics for me.
    posted by harperpitt at 2:51 PM on April 28, 2010


    I find only one reference in the Bible to female same-sex attraction: Romans 1:26, which refers to "unnatural" attractions but does not punish them.

    Actually for the vast majority of the Church's existence, that passage has been interpreted to mean heterosexual buttsecks. So I think you're probably in the free and clear.
    posted by shakespeherian at 2:54 PM on April 28, 2010


    Which doesn't necessarily lead to the argument that all slavery is wrong

    Right. I was just trying to tease out a bit of the "rather subtle truth" that the abolitionists may have argued. I think Paul could have stuck with "because it is the right thing for you to do".
    posted by puddleglum at 3:32 PM on April 28, 2010


    Much of the conservative American church is largely okay with the idea that homosexual desires are innate. But just because a desire has a biological origin doesn't mean that it's 1) normal or 2) okay to act upon. Straight men have a biological urge to have sex with as many women as they possibly can, but the mainstream Christian church has frowned upon the lifestyle choices of promiscuity, adultery, and polygamy since before the first Jews became Christians.

    But human sexuality is about much more than "biological urges." It's also about love and companionship and identity. Even if one posits an innate biological urge for every straight man to have sex with as many women as possible (which I find a bit of strawman assertion borrowed from the-not-entirely-rigorous realm of evolutionary psychology), there is still (as far as I'm aware) a conservative Christian version of normative straight sexuality into which those biological urges can channeled.

    There's a world of difference between telling someone he or she is condemned to a life of absolute chastity and telling someone he or she must remain chaste outside of marriage. The former, I would argue, effectively addresses the "whole person" at the level of identity, basic human bonding and sociality in a way the latter does not.

    We could pick apart what we mean by "whole person" versus an aspect of one's self or behavior, but I think anyone who has been told that she or he is fundamentally barred from the realm of human sexuality because of who she or he is isn't likely to find this distinction anything other than a thin and purely semantic one. In my opinion, this assertion is likely to be such a violent and fundamental affront to a person's being that it simply cannot be reconciled with any conceivable notion of compassion. Moreover, I don't believe that any amount of spiritual practice, even a lifetime's worth, can undo the damage of such assertion (at least inasmuch as one actively believes this assertion about herself or himself).

    It may not be possible to eye-to-eye on this as I'm arguing from much less of a purely theological perspective than I think you're arguing from. However, I do, in fact, believe that if religion is ever to shepherd humanity to a better place in this world, then it has to take the real human consequences -- in this life -- of its theology into account, and I'm not convinced that the theological positions you've outlined are doing so with regard to gay people.
    posted by treepour at 7:08 PM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


    There's a world of difference between telling someone he or she is condemned to a life of absolute chastity and telling someone he or she must remain chaste outside of marriage. The former, I would argue, effectively addresses the "whole person" at the level of identity, basic human bonding and sociality in a way the latter does not.

    You're missing something. Everyone, married or not, must be chaste. The fact that married people can have sex while remaining chaste--if they're careful--while others cannot may not strike you as fair, but that isn't actually much of an objection, theologically speaking.

    Besides, getting married just so you can have sex isn't exactly something the church would approve of, given the Christian views on the nature of marriage.

    By Christian lights, sexuality is not the highest expression of human fulfillment, and the argument that a person cannot be whole without expressing their sexuality in physical ways has no foundation in Christian thinking. If total sexual abstinence is the only way that one can use one's sexuality in a way that pleases God, then Christianity is okay with that.

    But this is and has always been what the church has thought about sex. There are even arguments here and there in Paul's epistles where he makes the case that not being married, which implies not having sex, is a better spiritual position than being married, as being single permits one to be more completely devoted to God.

    As I said, I didn't think you'd like it.
    posted by valkyryn at 3:40 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


    But this is and has always been what the church has thought about sex. There are even arguments here and there in Paul's epistles where he makes the case that not being married, which implies not having sex, is a better spiritual position than being married, as being single permits one to be more completely devoted to God.

    For what it's worth:

    "8: But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9: But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion."

    (I Corinthians 7: 8-9).

    Just before, he says that he describes marital sex "by way of concession, not by way of command" and strongly insinuates that his own single state is a blessing from God.

    Of course, that implies that Paul reasons that marriage is a way to avoid the "burning with passion". Which might suggest that it would be better for homosexuals to marry than to burn, also.
    posted by lucien_reeve at 5:26 AM on April 29, 2010


    Really, lucien_reeve? We've already got numerous commenters upthread bagging on him for hating on teh gays. I think their perspective on his motivations is flawed, but I don't see how anyone can even pretend to argue that Paul thinks homosexual conduct is okay.
    posted by valkyryn at 5:35 AM on April 29, 2010


    Because when your Bible says 'homosexuals' in 1 Cor and 1 Tim it didn't say that until 1958, when someone decided that the Greek word arsenokoitai should be translated as 'homosexuals,' even though there is no word in Greek that means 'homosexuals.' This word is paired with malaokois, which is sometimes translated as 'male prostitutes,' but which is a word Jesus uses to refer to the garments rich people wear. Arsenokoitai doesn't appear anywhere else, so no one really knows what it means, but it's most likely that Paul is referring to the practice at Roman temples to Aphrodite and Diana of wild orgies with temple prostitutes, both male and female, often children, and it is this practice that Paul condemns.

    There is absolutely no reason to believe that Paul has any context for a monogamous, adult, chaste, loving homosexual relationship, or that he ever said anything about it.
    posted by shakespeherian at 6:20 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Everyone, married or not, must be chaste. The fact that married people can have sex while remaining chaste--if they're careful--while others cannot may not strike you as fair, but that isn't actually much of an objection, theologically speaking.

    So everyone must be chaste, but anyone attracted to his or her own gender must be chaste-r. This may not be "much of an objection, theologically speaking," but if you are seeking to proselytize, to spread the good news, not merely to relish your own virtue, you must realize that this isn't likely to appeal to many gay or lesbian men or women however receptive to the Christian message they may be otherwise. Some (like Andrew Sullivan) will make what compromises they must to live in a church they want to be a part of; some will ignore you; and some will be insulted and angry. You'll reply, presumably, that these are God's rules, not yours, and that there's nothing to be done but be chaste. Which is fine. I don't care to argue with you on that point. I will simply point to how well enforced celibacy seems to have worked for the Catholic Church.
    posted by octobersurprise at 6:21 AM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]




    I don't see how anyone can even pretend to argue that Paul thinks homosexual conduct is okay.

    I am no Pauline scholar, and I wouldn't care to get into a debate about his intentions, implications or the interpretation thereof. I will just note that different people certainly have different readings of the man's work even whilst still seeing themselves as very much a part of the Christian tradition.

    For my part, I was just drawing out what seemed to me to be one reasonable interpretation of that particular passage: that desire itself is undesirable, as is fornication, but if you aboslutely must have desire then it's better to have it in the context of marriage. In which case, one could make a similar point about homosexual desire - a similar undesirable-in-principle thing might become okay in the context of marriage.*

    I believe he doesn't say much about homosexuality specifically either way, barring that reference Shakespherian discusses above.

    *I should stress that I don't agree with St. Paul on any aspect of this - marriage, celibacy or (his possible negative attitudes to) homosexuality. I'm just interested in furthering the discussion as regards Pauline conceptions of sin and compromising with desire.
    posted by lucien_reeve at 6:35 AM on April 29, 2010


    I've said it a million times already, but I'm not going to get into Biblical interpretation here. There's too much foundational work to be done in hermeneutics before any such conversation would be productive.

    All I'm doing is saying what the historic Christian interpretation of Scripture with respect to homosexuality has always been. I'm not saying anyone has to like it, and I'm not even attempting to justify it. It is what it is. My whole point all along has been that JiM's practice is not consistent with this position, rendering their whole project incoherent.

    If anyone can come up with evidence that before the twentieth century, any part of the mainstream, orthodox church* has ever thought that homosexual conduct was acceptable, I'll be very interested to see it. But the conversation about whether or not the church's historic position is correct is a derail I will not follow.

    *I talk about what I mean by that here.
    posted by valkyryn at 6:51 AM on April 29, 2010


    valkyryn, I was responding to your statement that I don't see how anyone can even pretend to argue that Paul thinks homosexual conduct is okay. This was a statement not couched in rhetoric about the church's historic position. I very much appreciate the thought you're putting into this discussion, but right now it sort of feels like you're trying to argue in two directions at once, switching whenever it's useful.
    posted by shakespeherian at 6:59 AM on April 29, 2010


    the conversation about whether or not the church's historic position is correct is a derail I will not follow

    Fair enough.

    My comments were with regard to your saying "I don't see how anyone can even pretend to argue that Paul thinks homosexual conduct is okay" - I was attempting to explain why I made the offhand remark that I did. "Pretend to argue" strikes me as taking a bit of a swipe at my position, though - I think one can think through the implications of something without necessarily "arguing it" as if one were in a court of law.

    What do you make of the wikipedia article here, on the history of (attitudes to) homosexuality in Christianity? I thought it was pretty interesting...
    posted by lucien_reeve at 7:08 AM on April 29, 2010


    octobersurprise, you're making a pragmatic argument, and compelling as it may or may not be, pragmatic arguments aren't the sort of things which can refute theological arguments. It's a category mistake.

    Besides, I think I can make your point even better than you do. Christianity is a religion whose founder said things like "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell," and "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." When he told the people by the Sea of Galilee that no, he would not feed them, and if they wanted to live they must eat his flesh and drink his blood, many turned away, saying this was too difficult or unpalatable. And he let them go.

    Jesus never makes any bones about whether or not following him is going to be costly. Anyone who tells you otherwise, or implies that you can go on living your life the way you used to live it, simply doesn't get it.

    This flies in the face of everything the world believes to be true and considers important. As Paul puts it, "...[W]e preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."

    I'm not going to soft pedal the Christian position on any of this. Following Jesus the hardest thing one could possibly do, and there's no guarantee whatsoever that you'll get to live the life you wanted to live. The Christian life is fundamentally about dying a little every day. Everyone dies differently. For some people it's sex, for others it's power, for others it's family, etc. But make no mistake: this costs you everything.

    Now don't get me wrong. It's worth it. We die to self that we may participate in the Resurrection. But that's something which has to be seen and experienced to be believed, and it requires faith. You can reject what I'm saying as unacceptable. That's on you. But this is what Christianity has always believed, and I won't negotiate away the very thing which gives the Christian faith its power to make it go down easier.
    posted by valkyryn at 7:20 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Interesting, yes, lucien_reeve, but I think it basically bears out my position. Until the twentieth century, no one in the church questioned the church's position on homosexuality, and even then, the critique has been limited to a minority group of almost exclusively liberal Protestants.

    The merits of their arguments are, again, something I won't engage here, but the article you link supports my position that the Christian church has always considered homosexual conduct to be immoral.
    posted by valkyryn at 7:25 AM on April 29, 2010


    I can see why you'd think that, shakespherian, and I'm doing my best to stay on point. I should probably put more thought into keeping it clear that I'm really trying only to clarify what the church's position is, not what it ought to be. That probably goes double for this comment.
    posted by valkyryn at 7:27 AM on April 29, 2010


    ...the article you link supports my position that the Christian church has always considered homosexual conduct to be immoral.

    Yes, I quite agree - it certainly seems to have.
    posted by lucien_reeve at 7:36 AM on April 29, 2010




    octobersurprise, you're making a pragmatic argument, and compelling as it may or may not be, pragmatic arguments aren't the sort of things which can refute theological arguments. It's a category mistake.

    Why, yes, I am. I wasn't trying to refute your theological argument. If you can persuade a minority that they must live in celibacy with their brothers- and sisters-in-faith who needn't be celibate, then, well, knock yourself out. I think it's contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the Christian message and I think that there's been much weeping and gnashing of teeth in the churches that have tried to establish such, weeping which may yet topple a Pope, but as you say, none of that is important.
    posted by octobersurprise at 8:01 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


    I'm ducking out of this discussion because, excellent and informative as it has been, it's becoming both too technical and too emotionally draining.

    My parting thought is that I still believe there is a sense in which the "chaste-r" requirement (as octobersurprise put it) addresses the whole person whereas the "chaste-in-marriage-except-through-a-hole-in-a-sheet-when-you-feel-compelled-to-start-raising-a-family" does not.

    I get that in either case the theological position is that sexuality is merely a part of oneself, and so this should just be a minor distinction, but the practical effect of that double-standard on the individual is quite profound and glaring and injurious. The church may call my statement mere whining, but that, in my opinion, would more evidence of the church's lack of compassion and self-examination on this issue.

    I'm reminded of something a philosophy professor of mine said. It was something to the effect of: "laws don't interpret themselves -- it's up to us to decide what they mean, what cases they apply to, etc, and that's where the 'human element' in applying the law comes in. We can fail to apply it when it should be applied, thus causing an injustice. Or we can apply it too rigorously and broadly to cases it wasn't intended to apply to, thus also causing an injustice." I clearly think the church is taking the latter course; on the other hand, maybe taking the latter course is always preferred to taking the former in a conservative viewpoint. If this is the case, however, there's no possibility of having a real dialogue about whether the church's position on homosexuality constitutes an injustice, and a real change in the church's position can only come from an authentic change of heart.
    posted by treepour at 9:39 AM on April 29, 2010


    Octobersurprise: Heterosexual couples are supposed to be, under many doctrines, celibate except for procreative sex. This doctrine obviously fares poorly in the wild.
    posted by klangklangston at 9:58 AM on April 29, 2010


    I think it's contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the Christian message...

    Yeah, a lot of people come up with that. The rest of the world thinks that the Christian message is something along the lines of "be nice to everyone, don't judge, and everything will be okay." In which case the church's position on homosexuality really wouldn't make all that much sense. Turns out that that's never actually what the church has thought, and giving people who, you know, aren't Christians, or take distinctly unorthodox theological positions on a wide variety of non-ethical issues, a seat at the table in determining what the spirit and/or letter of the Christian message is a bit of a tough sell. It'd be like insisting upon GOP representation and the DNC.

    Which is why I come again to my thesis that the mainstream Christian position on homosexuality isn't likely to change: the only people who disagree with it also disagree with the church's positions on more fundamental theological and hermeneutical issues, whether they call themselves "Christians" or not.

    treepour, I don't mean to characterize your position as "whining," and serious-minded Christians--the ones I know anyways--wouldn't either. I'm not going to argue that the church is handling the issue of homosexuality well. The mere existence of things like JiM would give the lie to such a position. I have enough problems with the church's handling of single straight people to dismiss your concerns as trivial. But just because you've got a real problem doesn't mean that the solution is one you want. Indeed, the elevation of sexuality to the ultimate, necessary criteria for a fulfilled human life is counter to the teachings of Christianity. Christianity isn't about getting what you want on your terms, it's about getting God on His terms.

    Unfortunately, the church has largely not been true to its own theology. On one side we get things like JiM, which don't take the issue seriously enough. On another side we get things like Westboro Baptist, which take it way too seriously. And everywhere we see the church giving a pass to some forms of sexual immorality--promiscuity, divorce, serial marriage, pornography, you name it--while treating homosexual conduct as if it were somehow especially awful. There's no reason in historic Christian theology to think this is the case, but that hasn't stopped the contemporary church from acting as if there were. But there is reason in historic Christian theology to believe that homosexual conduct does fall into the broad category of proscribed sexual conduct.
    posted by valkyryn at 11:55 AM on April 29, 2010


    the only people who disagree with it also disagree with the church's positions on more fundamental theological and hermeneutical issues, whether they call themselves "Christians" or not.

    Again, and I don't really know why you are ignoring this, you're sort of making a no-true-Scotsman argument here. ECUSA, ELCA, and other congregations which fully embrace homosexuals are also part of the larger Christian church, whether or not every specific denomination considers them to be in fellowship with one another. There is an ongoing dialogue-- however tense and angry it may be-- between these liberal congregations and the more conservative congregations, and I don't know why you automagically discount them as having identification with the Body of Christ simply because there are currently more denominations who disagree with them.
    posted by shakespeherian at 12:02 PM on April 29, 2010


    The rest of the world thinks that the Christian message is something along the lines of "be nice to everyone, don't judge, and everything will be okay." ... Turns out that that's never actually what the church has thought

    Well. Thanks for correcting my misunderstanding!
    posted by octobersurprise at 12:26 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


    Okay, fair enough shakespeherian, but these liberal groups all have staked out their disagreement with the church's historic positions on a wide variety of issues. I don't know as I'd go so far as to completely exclude them from the Body of Christ entirely, but they're certainly deeply unorthodox and out of fellowship with those traditions who have made a conscious attempt to remain in continuity with the historic teachings of the church.

    Every single Christian body which approves of homosexuality can trace its heritage through the liberal theology of the nineteenth century. The liberal theologians deliberately tried to remove the supernatural from Christian theology, to the point of explaining away Christ's miracles, denying the Virgin Birth and an actual Resurrection, etc. These are, as I said, "disagree[ments] with the church's positions on more fundamental and hermeneutical issues."

    If you're okay denying the reality of miracles and the truth of the Resurrection, hey, go nuts, but understand that this is not in continuity with the historic church. Once you've taken that step, what you think about homosexuality really doesn't matter from the perspective of the more conservative theological tradition, as there's already such a huge incompatibility that sexual ethics hardly registers.
    posted by valkyryn at 1:04 PM on April 29, 2010


    valkyryn, I assure you that both the ECLA and ECUSA affirm Christ's virgin birth and actual resurrection. I think you're attempting to position both of these bodies as far more fringe than they actually are. They are not deeply unorthodox, and, again, your implication that they are not of a tradition that has 'made a conscious attempt to remain in continuity with the historic teachings of the church' is begging the question.
    posted by shakespeherian at 1:13 PM on April 29, 2010


    The fact that married people can have sex while remaining chaste--if they're careful--while others cannot may not strike you as fair, but that isn't actually much of an objection, theologically speaking.

    This. This is why there is so much LOLRELIGNUTS. That an institution that is supposed to foster "goodness" of some sort becomes so inbred in its intellectual life that whether something is fair or not doesn't figure in to its philosophical underpinnings justifies dismissing it as an archaic remnant of a once-useful corporation.
    posted by Mental Wimp at 2:05 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


    It's a crying shame that the vision and mission of Christ was never fulfilled by the churches that took his name. The guy was a revolutionary who had a great idea for how people should treat one another. The churches have failed him miserably.
    posted by five fresh fish at 7:19 PM on April 29, 2010


    I assure you that both the ECLA and ECUSA affirm Christ's virgin birth and actual resurrection

    Really? I mean, the ELCA's statement on the subject certainly permits such an interpretation, but it by no means requires it. Same goes for the resurrection. It's certainly possible to be a mainline Lutheran and espouse the church's historic position on these issues, but it's just as possible not to. The denomination itself takes no position. Indeed, it goes out of its way to permit those that do not believe in either of these things to be at home there. That isn't "affirmation" in any way that I recognize.

    The ECUSA generally permits those who deny the virgin birth and resurrection to practice as clergy without restraint. I mean, you've got Spong, for crying out loud. When it comes right down to it though, you'll be hard pressed to get an official ECUSA statement on almost any doctrinal issue. I mean, if you can find clear evidence that the ECUSA firmly believes in an actual virgin birth, actual resurrection, and actual ascension--three beliefs I am entirely comfortable using as litmus tests--I'd love to see it. But I don't think you will. I certainly can't.

    So yeah, I'm pretty comfortable with saying that the ELCA and ECUSA, at least as far as the leadership goes, is generally out of continuity with historic Christianity. There are certainly plenty of Christians in both, and innumerable healthy congregations, but the traditions as a whole are headed somewhere traditional Christianity cannot reach.

    This isn't question begging at all, thanks very much. I've got a very clear idea of what is meant by orthodoxy, and it's equally clear that neither of these bodies wants any truck with it.

    In any case, that's as far as I'm taking this particular derail.
    posted by valkyryn at 7:58 PM on April 29, 2010


    Really?

    Yes. Both denominations include in their liturgy and statements of belief both the Nicene Creed and the Apostle's Creed, both of which affirm belief in both virgin birth and resurrection.
    posted by shakespeherian at 8:44 PM on April 29, 2010


    Here's a lawyer remark:

    Confideniality agreement survives based on consideration, for something as small as a peppercorn can suffice to sustain the agreement.

    The real question is, even if you can enforce it in court, what damages can you prove? Okay, the guy lets people know there's nothing but semen guzzling followed by electric shock. Fine. Still, what damages? How can they prove those damages?

    It seems to me the most that can happen is:

    1) you get a cease and desist from lawyer from talking about the semen/electroshock, and

    2) you get called into court via subpoena, but

    3) you have a hell of a time proving any real damages.
    posted by CarsonDyle at 11:03 PM on April 29, 2010


    There's plenty of evidence, which I provided links to, to suggest that they don't actually mean what the church has historically meant by those things. The ELCA page takes great pains to emphasize exactly that point. Did you even read what I linked?

    Sure, fine, they do still espouse the Creeds; that's why I can't write them off completely. ButI know enough history and theology to know that both bodies are, at the very least, okay with deep heterodoxy.

    Seriously man, this shouldn't be controversial. The mainline churches are notorious for being exceptionally... "flexible" about their stances on core theological issues, including these. It's a pretty essential part of their whole deal and the main cause for conservative congregations and parishoners fleeing in droves over the past hundred-odd years. This is the entire reason for the emergence of the Fundamentalist and Evangelical movements in the twentieth century. I don't know what your beef is.
    posted by valkyryn at 10:21 AM on April 30, 2010


    "Really? I mean, the ELCA's statement on the subject certainly permits such an interpretation, but it by no means requires it."

    It presents it as the "official and normative" position of the Church. And their official interpretation of the resurrection as both actual and a larger metaphorical message is based in the non-literal interpretation most influentially promulgated by Augustine.

    "This is the entire reason for the emergence of the Fundamentalist and Evangelical movements in the twentieth century. I don't know what your beef is."

    It's certainly a big part of it, but it's a little simplistic to present it as the entire reason, and the sole motivation for conservatives leaving the mainline churches. A lot of the fundamentalist and conservative evangelicalism was also driven by their deep ties to millenarian and dispensationalist movements in the 19th century; I'd note that there are also more than a few liberal evangelical churches (who are often forgotten in the political discussion of evangelicalism).

    Finally, I'd note that the "historical church" is large enough to contain multiple interpretations of scripture, hermeneutics and theology, and pretty much any interpretation can find a lot of support through the Christian tradition. In general—and perhaps this is simply my bias showing—I'd say that liberal theologians tend to be able to muster more support and evidence in the debate in large part because liberal theology encourages a more robust scholarship.
    posted by klangklangston at 10:46 AM on April 30, 2010


    "This. This is why there is so much LOLRELIGNUTS. That an institution that is supposed to foster "goodness" of some sort becomes so inbred in its intellectual life that whether something is fair or not doesn't figure in to its philosophical underpinnings justifies dismissing it as an archaic remnant of a once-useful corporation."

    I don't think that makes any sense, really. When you say "whether something is fair or not" --- judged by who? If I think the fact that you only get $200 bucks for passing Go in Monopoly is bullshit, that doesn't mean that when it's my turn I get to take $300. The rules are the rules; if I wish to substitute my own judgment as to what's right and wrong in place of the rulemaker's, I've ceased to play the game. Not won it.

    Any system of thought which attempts to make an entirely coherent and internally logical system of rules for governing human behavior is going to run into problems like these, dilemmas in which an instinctual understanding of justice conflicts with essential principles of the thought-system. (In this case, "the book is always right and we've got to follow what it says," vs. "the book says that a subset of people ought to act in a way in which modern biology and culture will leave them permanently unhappy").

    You seem to assert that an instinctual understanding of justice ought to always win out when confronted with such dilemmas --- but if you take that route, the thought-system starts to lose its coherence and power (the rules get buried by the exceptions). And the whole point of having a thought-system at all is that it gives you clear-cut rules by which to govern such dilemmas --- the thought-system is a substitute for an instinctual understanding of justice, which comes along with the promise of certain rewards if its strictures are obeyed.
    posted by Diablevert at 8:36 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Any system of thought which attempts to make an entirely coherent and internally logical system of rules for governing human behavior is going to run into problems like these, dilemmas in which an instinctual understanding of justice conflicts with essential principles of the thought-system.

    Um, okay?

    the thought-system is a substitute for an instinctual understanding of justice, which comes along with the promise of certain rewards if its strictures are obeyed.

    If you're talking about the law, okay. But religion?
    posted by Mental Wimp at 9:38 PM on April 30, 2010


    If you're talking about the law, okay. But religion?


    Sure. a) Heaven, but also, and possibly more importantly, b) meaning. I mean, people's instinctual understanding of justice leads pretty quickly to the perception that life is often unfair. People we love die, injustice goes unpunished, compassion unrewarded. The idea that there is an eternal scorekeeper keeping track of the points up there is what makes the game worth playing, even if you don't care for his application of the infield fly/offsides rule.

    It's not just law or religion, you get the same problems in, say, communism. Of course, it is somewhat easier for most people to value their own judgment more that the thought-system in those instances, as those don't make a claim to supernatural, perfect inspiration.



    By the by, I am kind of afraid that my repeated use of the phrase, "thought-system" is making me sound like a hugely pretentious twat, but somehow ideology didn't quite feel like it fit properly.
    posted by Diablevert at 8:11 PM on May 1, 2010


    And again, any semblance of rationality in discussing religion's value or logic is blown into a muddy soup mixing in the unfairness of life, communism and "perfect inspiration". The precise problem with religion is its refusal to state its own purposes, cloaking them all in reference to the supernatural, the real consequences be damned, because, hey, you know, life is unfair and, hey, look over there at comm'nism, it's no better.
    posted by Mental Wimp at 2:34 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


    And again, any semblance of rationality in discussing religion's value or logic is blown into a muddy soup mixing in the unfairness of life, communism and "perfect inspiration". The precise problem with religion is its refusal to state its own purposes, cloaking them all in reference to the supernatural, the real consequences be damned, because, hey, you know, life is unfair and, hey, look over there at comm'nism, it's no better.

    I think perhaps you have mistaken my point. You suggested, above, that religion was fundamentally flawed --- a useless medieval anachronism --- because there where many instances when its strictures and guidelines as to how to live one's life conflict with our sense of what's fair.

    I am suggesting that any attempt to provide Big Answers to Big Questions, as it were, runs into this problem. Because you're attempting to derive from certain limited set of fundamental principals rules which can govern every possible situation. It is inherent.

    Therefore, I would argue that it is a mistake to suggest religion has no value because of this issue.
    posted by Diablevert at 7:56 PM on May 2, 2010


    Yeah, how're those Big Answers working out for you?
    posted by Mental Wimp at 11:05 AM on May 3, 2010


    I lucked out. The faith I was raised in so crippled my sex instincts that I was a legal adult and far out of the church for years before it ever occurred to me that I wanted more than the limited options culturally enforced. But it still wasn't easy, to go against the culturally enforced stereotypes of behavior on something as taboo orientated as sex can be. I had to work up to that level of rebellion and freedom.

    These made me cry. My heart aches for the longing these men have to end their conflicted spirits. I'll remember to be grateful that my search for peace had very little of the challenges they face.
    posted by _paegan_ at 11:30 AM on May 3, 2010


    Yeah, how're those Big Answers working out for you?

    I don't really have any, I'm agnostic.

    Personally speaking, I think the Bible was written by a bunch of people who lived thousands of years ago, and is suffused with the culture and prejudices of its times and place (well, many times and places, but you catch my drift). The universe is pretty big; maybe something made it on purpose, I'm not sure how you'd tell and even you could, that that would necessarily mean that it gave a toss about human affairs.

    Generally speaking, I think that religions, like governments, are the creations of man, and suffer from the inherent flaws and limitations of our little monkey brains. Animal rationis capex, pace Swift.
    posted by Diablevert at 4:42 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Yeah, musing about Big Questions aside, the establishment of religions is, at best, a mixed blessing. Maybe at one time mysticism and magic was needed to help convince folks to behave, but nowdays it seems to create more mischief than assistance.
    posted by Mental Wimp at 7:43 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Whoo-boy. Here we go again!

    Anti-Gay Christian Right Leader George Alan Rekers Caught Returning Home from Vacation with 'Rent Boy'.

    BTW -- Rekers is a board member of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).
    posted by ericb at 10:38 AM on May 4, 2010


    More info on Rekers.
    posted by ericb at 10:39 AM on May 4, 2010


    I suspect that when the Grand Unification Theory of Everything is figured out, one of its fundamental laws will be that conservative anti-homosexuals must be practicing homosexuals themselves. It's some sort of strange construct of our universe, as essential to its function as the weak electromagnetic force.
    posted by five fresh fish at 11:49 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


    This whole business with Rekers would be freaking hilarious -- especially because his rentboy "Lucien" has bad Jesus-like hair (though you can't really tell that from the pictures) -- except that Rekers has testified multiple times about how gays shouldn't be able to adopt because of the risk of sexual abuse and the fact that Rekers adopted a 16 year old boy.

    The leap that my mind makes here is not a large one.

    (In case somebody stumbles across this and misreads it, let me be very, very, very, very, very clear: most decent, responsible gay men -- Christian or otherwise -- would be able to adopt children without some sort of issue like the one Rekers uses as a fear-mongering example. The problem is, though Rekers may be a gay man, he is clearly not a decent or responsible one.)
    posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:22 PM on May 5, 2010


    « Older Lady Gaga discusses the human form   |   It's not just every day you... Newer »


    This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



    Post