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Amongst interpreters of the Bible, the story of David and Jonathan has always stood out as a story that showed true devotion between the two men. The depth of that devotion has recently been claimed to be much more than we have often suspected; indeed, there is a homoerotic element to the relationship according to some scholars.
This post will address whether or not such a homoerotic relationship existed between David and Jonathan. Unfortunately given the scope of a blog post, not all of the issues involved can be discussed here, and those that are could be subject to a lot more detailed analysis (for a rather thorough and technical investigation see Marcus Zehnder’s study entitled “Observations on the Relationship Between David and Jonathan and the Debate on Homosexuality” in Vol 69 No. 1 of the Westminster Theological Journal). Hopefully however this post will serve as a useful primer on the arguments being used.
Tom Horner has given what I have found to be the most concise summary of the Biblical passages in question from the resources available to me:
“when two men come from a society that for two hundred years had lived in the shadow of the Philistine culture, which accepted homosexuality; when they find themselves in a social context that was thoroughly military in the Eastern sense; when one of them – who is the social superior of the two – publicly makes a display of his love; when the two of them make a lifetime pact openly; when they meet secretly and kiss each other and shed copious tears at parting; when one of them proclaims that his love for women –and all this is present in the David-Jonathan liaison – we have every reason to believe that a homosexual relationship existed”. Greenberg states that despite possible redactions of the text to remove the explicit sexual references, “homophilic innuendos permeate the story.
Biblical discussions on the topic of homosexuality will invariably include a reference to Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. In these texts we are told “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” And also “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” The precise meaning of these texts has been hotly debated in recent years, with some arguing that this does not refer to homosexual activity at all, and by others that the texts are no longer applicable in modern times.
This post will seek to provide a positive case for the traditional interpretation of this verse, namely that it does refer to homosexual activity and is applicable for the modern era. Rather than Christians playing pick and mix with the Levitical commands, ignoring some such as the prohibitions on mixing cloth and accepting others, this post will show that the Levitical prohibitions of homosexual conduct are still in force today. In a future post I will address some of the counterarguments that are to be found in the literature.
A number of weeks back I was granted permission by the philosopher John Corvino to republish on my blog his coming-out story. I indicated at that time that I had also requested permission to do the same with the stories of other prominent gay persons. This post will republish the story of Andrew Sullivan, author of “Virtually Normal”, blogger at http://dish.andrewsullivan.com, debater and proponent of the public, legal acceptance of homosexual relationships. Andrew Sullivan is no intellectual lightweight being an Oxford university graduate and also a Ph.D. from Harvard in political science.
Dr Sullivan has granted me permission to republish a short portion of his story here.This reproduction is of necessity highly truncated and many elements that may be considered important components have been omitted. The following excerpts come from Mr Sullivan’s book “Virtually Normal” which can be purchased from the following link: http://www.amazon.com/Virtually-Normal-Andrew-Sullivan/dp/0679746145/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372231308&sr=8-1&keywords=virtually+normal
One of the things that I hope comes across from what I have reproduced here is the fact that the homosexual orientation is not something that was desired by some homosexual men when it was forming. It is not something that is a conscious choice to rebel against social norms and to pursue another path; instead sometimes there is an attempt to suppress these feelings. I also hope that this post helps to make the inner struggle of some of those who are gay become clearer.
Dr Sullivan’s story does not in any way, in my mind, affect the morality of homosexual relationships one way or the other; it does however put a personal face on a debate that is often characterised by a lack of compassion and empathy.
This post is a continuation of my previous post calling for clarity in contemporary discussions of homosexual ethics. In my previous post I had outlined the reason that many of the arguments used to show homosexual relationships to be immoral are often ineffective. The post originated from reading the works of those who see homosexual relationships as morally neutral at the least, or positive at the most. My reading and also watching / listening to debates highlighted to me that most people who view homosexual relationships as immoral are not being clear enough in their argumentation. Unexpressed assumptions and underlying premises along with the arguments not being accompanied by supporting evidence often leads to a fruitless and frustrating discussion.
This post will briefly outline the reasons that a number of additional arguments used to show homosexual relationships are immoral often fail.
Whilst liable to attract criticism from some in my religious circles, I have desired for some time to help people understand the stories of those who have come out as gay. My desire to do this was occasioned through reading books written by gay men, listening to their lectures and hearing their testimonies in debates. This process highlighted to me just how little I understood the emotional impact of this process, even though I have read many scientific studies on the aetiology of sexual orientations and knew that it was not an orientation that many wanted to have.
I need to be clear, these personal stories do not have any direct bearing on the morality or immorality of homosexual relationships. I am not publishing these stories to challenge people’s views of the morality of homosexual relationships. They do however need to be understood and heard, especially by those who believe (against the overwhelming majority of the social-scientific evidence) that the homosexual orientation is something that people choose to have. Those who believe that the homosexual orientation just needs to be repented of and that a decision to be heterosexual chosen.
I have provided below a rather condensed excerpt of the philosopher John Corvino’s story, with sentences and sometimes whole paragraphs omitted. This has in places affected the flow of the story. Where this has occurred I have indicated it through the use of ellipses (…).
This blog post is occasioned by a growing concern over the lack of clarity in our language when discussing the question of the morality of homosexuality. Indeed, a growing concern over unexpressed assumptions and uncritically asserted “facts”.
The opening sentence of this post includes one such example of lack of clarity. Is it the homosexual orientation that is at question, or is it the homosexual lifestyle? If the latter, what do we mean by “homosexual lifestyle”… are we in actuality talking of homosexual desires, or perhaps relationships or maybe just the sexual acts? In some instances the discussion will encompass all of these elements but if this is the case then it absolutely must be made clear that this is the case.
Whilst I am still in the early stages of my study of the ethics, science and sociology of this subject, it is clear to me that the discussion often fails on both sides when clarity is not present. This lack of clarity contributes not only to confusion as to what is being asserted, but also to emotional reactions rather than rational discussion.
Adult-Adult Homoeroticism in Greco-Roman Sources
“… astrologers in the Roman world knew of what we might call sexual orientation, but they did not limit it to two orientations, homosexual and heterosexual. Instead these writers believed that configurations of the stars created a broad range of sexual inclinations and orientations.”
It has been claimed by some scholars that the ancient Greco-Roman world expressed homoerotic tendencies primarily in the context of pederastic relations. This claim, among some goes even further to the point of suggesting that the Greco-Roman world knew nothing of life-long same-sex orientation, or to put it another way, stable attraction towards those of the same sex throughout a person’s life. Whilst seemingly an obscure issue of little relevance, this is brought to bear on the question of whether the Biblical authors who commented on same sex relations could have had any possibility of commenting on what we today term homosexuality.