January 27, 2006

Why Not Condemn the "Heart Attack" Lifestyle?

Wherein SWMNT again presses me to further support my arguments against homosexuality, first presented in this article: Is Homosexuality a Dysfunction?, and continued in this one: If Homosexuality is a Dysfunction, Why the Condemnation?.
Perhaps I'm misunderstanding the case, but it seems to me that health risks are being used to condemn a behavior as part of a justification for deeming it immoral. If that's the case, it seems to me that there are many behaviors ahead of homosexual related diseases that are more deserving of being labeled "immoral." It's not that we celebrate the "Heart Attack" lifestyle, it's that we don't define as immoral the behaviors related to it.
I think the two issues are being confused here: the moral case against it and the health case — perhaps my own fault for working both angles. The problem is that if one has no problems with sex-on-demand, no concept of how human relations ought to be structured, and no belief in an objective purpose and moral order for humans, then it becomes difficult to argue a strictly moral case for homosexuality itself. In this case, I must resort to a merely pragmatic approach to evaluating whether it is a prudent thing to do or encourage. Although, if it can be agreed that homosexuality is an unhealthy lifestyle, then perhaps it could still be agreed to be "immoral" by some secular standard.

The kinds of health risks are different in many cases for homosexuality than for heart disease. For heart disease it is a matter of poor diet and exercise (to simplify it), which may (or may not) lead inch-by-inch to a problem. But with homosexuality it is more like playing Russian roulette, since any one encounter could result in a sexually transmitted disease, some of which are devastating. It's more meaningful to say, "don't go to bed with that stranger, you might get AIDS" than it is to say, "don't eat that cheese cake, you might have a coronary failure."

It is also not a matter of saying that a bowl of ice cream or a chilidog are intrinsically bad. Our bodies are capable of processing such things in moderation. But there are things about homosexuality that the body was not "designed" to handle with grace, like anal sex. And moderation regarding singularly high-risk behaviors only reduces the number of bullets in the roulette chamber rather than being an ideal preventative measure as with heart health. And I won't even go into any related psycho-social issues, which would be difficult to find parallel in a mere laxity in dietary substance.

Of course we don't affirm those who are couch potatoes and eat burgers and fries for every meal, but I will admit to never having seen Jerry Falwell campaign against saturated fats and cholesterol. It is not that it is considered a virtue in the Christian community; indeed, I would say that abusing your body in this or any other way would be deemed sinful by any theologian that I can think of. However, I do know that James Dobson has dedicated shows to health concerns like this in addition to his shows on sexual issues; and even LifeWay has product lines devoted to health and fitness.

Christianity not only frowns upon the abuse of the body, through dietary means or otherwise, you will actually find numerous Christian ministries dedicated to the cause of health. Of course, there are a few ministries dedicated to serving homosexual causes, but the difference is that the health ministries are not picketed and accused of hate speech and bigotry. Here's a choice example of this, and a choice excerpt:
"If anyone deserves a plague of Biblical proportions right now, it's the Radical Right," said Avenger Liz Harris. Five Avengers stormed the organization's headquarters, carrying signs proclaiming "Queer Love Is Not A Disease," and chanting "Exodus, stop your hate and fear! Help like yours is killing queers!" Once inside, the activists climbed onto the reception desk, shouted "We don't need to be cured," and released 1,000 "locusts" (crickets) in an attempt to shut the operation down.
The thing is, this health cause is already taken up by the culture. Watch any secular talk show long enough or go to any bookstore and you will find a mountain of items on this subject. Christians do not necessarily need to preach the immorality of the heart attack lifestyle; it is already assumed by the culture. In fact, it is almost a morbid obsession in some quarters. It is a bit like the environmentalist movement. Christians should be, and are, concerned about the earth (in a balanced way), but we have little need to jump on a bandwagon that is already swarming with nutballs. Unfortunately, they have managed to turn us off so badly that many Christians don't even want the stigma of being thought of as an "environmentalists," even though that would not technically be a bad thing, and we have as much cause as any to lead that charge.

Your general point, though, is noted and should serve as an indictment of all those Christians who have their Burger King butts parked in their lazy-boys mocking Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. It's a wonder that some of us can see well enough to aim our fingers with the kinds of planks found in our eyes.



At 1/28/2006 11:16 AM, Blogger SWMNT said...

Just so I'm clear, I'd like to trim your positions / ideas / beliefs down to the bare essentials - I hope I get this right - my intention is not to put words in your mouth.

The male and female sex organs were created for each other.

The purpose of sex is to produce children.

Homosexual sex is an inherently riskier behavior than is heterosexual sex.

The Bible prohibits homosexuality.

Homosexuality is a largely a learned behavior, not a genetic trait.

At 1/28/2006 7:35 PM, Blogger Paul said...

That's not really a line of argument, though I don't think you meant it to be; it's simply some data points that you've gleaned out of my writings. I'd agree with some of these, but I'd clarify or extend others. Also, there are two lines of argument here, which divide my claims. Here are a few of the factors I am using in each category to make my case.

Secular/naturalistic claims:

* "Nature" has "designed" the sexual plumbing for male-female relationships. Any other sexual expressions are ad hoc and subject to certain inherent limitations. This would also imply a certain social context for raising offspring.
* Anal sex is inherently unhealthy.
* Promiscuous sex exposes one to certain health risks and even extends those risks (i.e., spreads them).
* Intrinsic to the homosexual lifestyle is the rejection of sexual teleology and constraints, which normally results in promiscuity (it certainly does not preclude it).
* There is no evidence of a biological determinative cause for homosexuality, and even were there it would make no difference to the prudence of embracing the lifestyle.
* There are environmental contributors that suggest that homosexuality is merely a symptom or result of some overall problem, which may manifest itself in ways that extend beyond mere sexual preference.
* Same-sex relationships and parenting arrangements are not subject to the benefits that "nature" may have instilled into the pairing of opposite sexes.

Conclusion: Affirming, encouraging, and enabling homosexual relationships is not in the best interest of society for practical reasons, e.g., health, financial, psychological, social.

Sacred/transcendental claims:

* Humanity has been designed in an intentional way, which includes gender.
* The arrangement and function of the sexual organs gives us substantial clues as to the social and sexual relationship between the genders.
* Wrong, bad, and broken things and behaviors are commonly found in the present order of creation.
* Not all choices, behaviors, and inclinations are good.
* Homosexuality is contrary to the intended order of sexuality and social relationships.

Conclusion: What is against design and purpose is wrong, or at least will suffer the practical consequences of operating outside of the "design specifications," which makes further sense of my secular observations.

Of course, if you are a pure metaphysical naturalist then all of my transcendental points are irrelevant to the discussion. And it is pointless for me to appeal to the Bible for guidance on this unless you were a professing Christian.

I am not comfortable agreeing with the claim that "the purpose of sex is to produce children" — perhaps with the claim that the purpose of sperm and egg are to produce children. I'm willing to consider that sex serves a broader purpose than merely producing children on demand, especially since the very definition of "sex" encompasses various non-conception elements of personal intimacy. I think the teleology of sex could be as complex as its designer.

I am willing to consider that some persons are born with a disposition/personality that may lend itself to being channeled toward homosexuality under the wrong conditions, or perhaps the personality itself may cause some of those environmental conditions to occur. For example, a creative and sensitive child (not stereotypically male) may have more difficulty identifying with masculinity in the absence of a male role model. Or his lack of interest in typically male activities may put him at a disadvantage with a disappointed and insensitive father.

Hope this is adequate clarification.

At 1/29/2006 11:22 AM, Blogger SWMNT said...

That is adequate clarification, and I appreciate it. I disagree with some of it, of course, but agree with other parts (though may come to different conclusions). I'll write some concluding observations on my blog - though no need to comment further unless something needs additional clarification.

I do have what might be regarded as a follow-up question, which might lead to a new discussion.

I had to find exactly where it was, but in Matthew 5:17, Jesus says "[t]hink not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil."

But in Leviticus 11:4-8 commands:

"(4) Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that part the hoof: the camel, because he cheweth the cud but parteth not the hoof, he is unclean unto you. (5) And the coney, because he cheweth the cud but parteth not the hoof, he is unclean unto you. (6) And the hare, because she cheweth the cud but parteth not the hoof, she is unclean unto you. (7) And the swine, because he parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, but cheweth not the cud, he is unclean unto you. (8) Of their flesh ye shall not eat, and their carcasses ye shall not touch; they are unclean unto you."

And Leviticus 25:45,46 commands:

"(45) Moreover of the children of the strangers that sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they have begotten in your land: and they shall be your possession. (46) And ye shall make them an inheritance for your children after you, to hold for a possession; of them shall ye take your bondmen for ever..."

And, of course, there's Leviticus 18:22 commands “You may not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

So how does one know which laws are to be obeyed, and which are no longer applicable?

Indeed, we now see slavery as being immoral. Well, I do, anyway, since I wouldn't want everyone else owning people, therefore, it's wrong for me to do so.

At 1/30/2006 12:12 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Very good questions, but so as not to muddy the waters, you should wrap up the homosexuality discussion before changing the topic.

At 1/30/2006 1:19 PM, Blogger Paul said...

This is off topic, since I haven't really appealed to the Bible in my posts and our discussion, but it is a very fair question from the context of my beliefs. It's also one that the average Christian hasn't bothered to do much thinking on. Generally, Christians consider New Testament (NT) teachings to trump the Old Testament (OT), particularly when it comes to ritual and dietary practices, and there is warrant for doing so based on the writings of the NT itself. There are, 1) explicit statements about particular things now being considered (ceremonially) clean, 2) explicit statements saying we are no longer under "the law," and 3) statements to the effect that we are now to be driven by love, right principle, what is "profitable," and the Spirit.

There are, however, numerous NT moral injunctions, which are taken as constraints for our "freedom in Christ." These are not unique to the NT era, but are reiterations of various OT laws. There is enough to allow us to see a pattern of what kinds of additional OT things may continue to apply and why. It would seem that there are general moral laws and ceremonial laws. The ceremonial laws could further be broken out into laws for practical/health purposes, laws for symbolic/prophetic purposes, laws for worship/ritualistic purposes, and those for national Israel's legal/theocratic purposes. Those which continue to apply seem to be primarily of the general moral variety, e.g., murder, theft, sexual mores.

The dietary prohibitions appear to fall in the health and symbolic categories. Some of the items, like shellfish and pork, have or had certain inherent health risks associated with them. And I believe the symbolic understanding of chewing the cud paralleled our expected treatment of God's words (meditate on it); and the cloven hoof represented the idea of separation from the surrounding pagan culture, as did the rejection of mixing fabrics and crops. Obviously, these kinds of laws are more of an expression of underlying principles, and the principle itself is the only thing that holds in a universal sense. On the other hand, the moral laws are irreducible to principles; they are wrong in-and-of themselves, i.e., irreducible.

Another indicator of the difference between the two, and that one may be relative to the time/situation/people and the other not, is that in Lev. 11 we see statements like this: "they are unclean unto you" versus in Lev 18 it more generally says homosexuality "it is abomination."

The sense in which Jesus does not technically abolish the laws but fulfills them is that He was perfectly obedient to the impossible demands of the Jewish laws, and He is actually the substance behind the symbol of what many of those laws were intended to foreshadow or stand in for. The most substantial example of this is the abandonment of animal sacrifice in lieu of the atonement of Christ.

The bondmen issue would fall more in line with laws applying to national Israel, both internally (there were Jewish bondsmen too) and in dealing with those directly hostile to their own region. Note that there are no laws permitting Israel to go throughout the world and take slaves and property, and impose their own laws on other nations. The fact that Israel was defeated and scattered (Jesus Himself proclaimed the final destruction of Jerusalem), and no longer exists (even now) in the theocratic form that it did when the Levitical laws were delivered, means that there is not even a possible context for applying laws of this category.

I will admit, though, that there is some room for misunderstanding and misinterpretation in relation to the OT laws. As I said, the NT offers much more certainty for Christians on issues in which it speaks. Fortunately, homosexuality is one of those areas where the NT echoes the OT, and so there is no cause for possible confusion on this particular issue at least.

If you've got further question on this particular issue, you may want to post them on your blog so we don't go too far astray of the original topic here.

At 1/31/2006 3:28 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...

Well said,



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