Monday, June 27, 2011

Sex, the homosexual soldier, and the rest of us

This post originally appeared on Cahiers Péguy immediately following the announcement of the lifting of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Earlier this year over on Καθολικός διάκονος, I posted something I originally wrote back in the summer of 2009: "...we must refuse to speak in sanitized clinical euphemisms". In that post I used a quote from Archbishop Rowan Williams' 1989 impassioned apologia for the morality of homosexual sex, written while he was still professing theology at Oxford University, The Body's Grace, in which he argues that

"in a church which accepts the legitimacy of contraception, the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts, or on a problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures."

I employed the quote to show the logical consequence of divorcing sex, even heterosexual, married sex, from procreation in response to a chapter of Pastor Mark Driscoll's otherwise very good resource Porn Again Christian: a frank discussion on pornography and masturbation. I opined that Driscoll would likely deploy several scriptural texts in a fundamentalist manner, but I also asserted that several of the scriptural passages that would be marshaled are not as ambiguous as Williams axiomatically assumes them to be. For me, the trouble with Driscoll's proof-texting is that it not only fails to answer, but even to ask, the pesky Why? question. Why does God forbid same sex relations? After all, if God is not arbitrary and capricious, and we know He is neither, there has to be a reason.

What prompted my repost was reading an article that appeared in an issue of Our Sunday Visitor in which Robert A.J. Gagnon, an associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, not only rebutted, but refuted Lisa Miller's Newsweek article, Gay Marriage: Our Mutual Joy. Sadly, Prof. Gagnon's article is available only to subscribers.

Among the unambiguous passages is the one from the first chapter of St. Paul's Letter to the Romans, specifically verses 24-27. More importantly, Prof. Gagnon deals with Jesus' teaching on marriage, which, in the synoptics, is set forth most clearly in the thesis/anti-thesis section of Matthew chapter five, verses 31-32. This can be augmented with our Lord's teaching on marriage in Mark chapter ten. He shows how what he calls "the male-female prerequisite" is at the core of a biblical understanding of marriage and sexual relations. He demonstrates how the core verses from Genesis (1:27 and 2:23-25) are the basis of the later rejection, first by the Essenes and then by Jesus, of polygamy. He also shows how Miller's viewpoint easily leads us backwards and not forwards, that is, back towards polygamy, etc. What he offers is far from the fallacious slippery-slope argument that such assertions are frequently accused of.

Gagnon concludes that "there is no realistic possibility that Paul's indictment of homosexual practice - or, for that matter, the indictment by any Jew in antiquity of such behavior - was limited to certain exploitative, 'violent' homosexual acts."

What brings this all back to mind is last week's passage of the bill that overturned the U.S. military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, which was enacted during the Clinton Administration. This change in the law that will ultimately permit homosexual people to serve openly in the U.S. military is heralded by many as a landmark moment, a moment of societal progress on par with Pres. Truman's racially integrating the military by executive order. Of course, analogies between race and sexual preference are woefully inadequate on many grounds. This is why I was struck by John Guardino's post on the American Spectator blog in which he points to the beginning of the all too predictable backlash in a post entitled DADT and Left-Wing Intellectual Bigtory. In his post, Guardino points to an article by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post calling for the dismissal of the recently installed Gen. James Amos, Commandant of Marine Corps, who had the audacity to oppose the change. Guardino is absolutely correct to point out that, contra Cohen, Gen. Amos never uttered one disparaging word about people who are homosexual. In fact, after the passage of the legislation changing the policy of homosexual people serving in the military, Gen. Amos issued this statement:
"Fidelity is the essence of the United States Marine Corps. Above all else, we are loyal to the Constitution, our Commander in Chief, Congress, our Chain of Command, and the American people. The House of Representatives and the Senate have voted to repeal Title 10, US Code 654 'Policy Concerning Homosexuality in the United States Armed Forces.' As stated during my testimony before Congress in September and again during hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month, the Marine Corps will step out smartly to faithfully implement this new policy. I, and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, will personally lead this effort, thus ensuring the respect and dignity due all Marines. On this matter, we look forward to further demonstrating to the American people the discipline and loyalty that have been the hallmark of the United States Marine Corps for over 235 years."
I encourage you to read Guardino's piece in its entirety. Believe it or not, I even think what he quotes from Pat Buchanan's article is quite insightful because it is reminiscent of many of the arguments Peter Hitchens makes about these things, which are firmly rooted in reality, especially about homophobia, which, apart from meaning "fear-of-the-same," goes hand-in-hand with other crack-pot diagnoses, like Islamophobia, from which everyone who opposes the Ground Zero mosque apparently suffers. I am tempted to call Guardino's piece prescient, but since he is writing about what has already started to happen, it is not, but merely descriptive and likely predictive. He is quite correct to point to a J.E. Dyer piece that appeared on Commentary's Contentions blog in which Dyer insists that even prior to the repeal of DADT gays could "already serve in the U.S. military; repealing DADT isn’t about allowing them to [serve]. It’s about endorsing their sexual orientation in military operations and culture." Indeed, this strikes me as the crux of the matter.

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