Sexual Ethics Essay

He also—and this is not central to his argument, but appears to be essential to his opinion of himself—makes a repeated comparison of himself and his like-minded Christian friends to the brave leaders of the American civil rights movement a half century ago, and even to the martyred hero of Christian resistance to Nazism, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.That is simply appalling, coming from a man who is now only in danger of being lionized, not fed to the lions, tortured and executed like Bonhoeffer, or attacked with dogs and firehoses.As readers can see, Gushee takes every step in his argument with a bias toward viewing same-sex attraction as natural and irresistible for those who experience it, toward viewing same-sex relationships as behaviorally and morally indistinguishable from a healthy marriage between a man and a woman, and toward viewing the divinely inspired authors of scripture as completely ignorant of these “stubborn facts.” He concludes that their biblical morality was therefore concerned only with the violent, exploitative homosexual conduct they knew about, which was all they knew about.

Gushee’s shallow theology is evident in his textual exegesis, which claims historical-linguistic warrant that real experts such as Robert Gagnon have challenged and debunked, but which also seems strangely free-floating and ahistorical in its detachment from the life of the early church and the revolution it effected in ancient Mediterranean society. blanket condemnation of same-sex love.” “For Paul,” Harper writes, “same-sex attraction symbolized the estrangement of men and women, at the very level of their inmost desires, from the creator.” The Christian revolution in sexual morality was bound up with its radical teaching on free will, an “acute concern with volition” that delivered a “liberating message of freedom” from sin.

As the classical scholar Kyle Harper has shown in his book From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity, the early church followed the lead of Paul in “radical opposition to all same-sex intercourse,” with an “unambiguous . “The protean energy of human desire resisted being corralled, but marriage, inexorably, became the only legitimate venue of erotic fulfillment.” For David Gushee to argue as he does that Paul and the early church simply failed to grasp ennobling erotic possibilities known to us today is to engage in the worst form of presentism, and condescending to the man whom the Lord knocked off his horse on the road to Damascus.

If healthy, natural same-sex relationships are a normal part of the human experience today, it stands to reason they would have been so in antiquity as well.

But the Bible contains not a single affirming portrait of a rightly ordered same-sex erotic relationship.

Taking the usual Bible passages each in turn, we can reread them in untraditional ways.

The story of Sodom in Genesis can be read as a tale of violent rape having nothing to do with loving same-sex relations.And Gushee is far too certain—more than even the boilerplate statements of the modern psychological establishment can justify—that same-sex attraction, in a determinate proportion of the population, is both fixed and irresistible.Tell that to Rosaria Butterfield, Wesley Hill, Doug Mainwaring, Robert Oscar Lopez, Eve Tushnet, or the men and women in the Catholic documentary “The Desire of the Everlasting Hills.” All their experiences differ, but each of them has managed to come out of the homosexual life and live in faith and sexual integrity with the help of their families and friends.We should reconcile ourselves to living in a “Genesis 3” world, in which all are fallen, whereas the old morality unreasonably demanded a prelapsarian “Genesis 1-2” world we don’t live in.But a merely consensual ethic won’t do, so we should insist on a covenantal sexual ethic for gay couples as for everyone else, i.e., same-sex marriage and/or church-recognized unions.And I have to say I was taken aback, not by the conclusions about sexuality Gushee reaches, which are perfectly conventional in the world today, but by the sophistry he employs to square those conclusions with scripture-based Christian sexual ethics.As I tweeted after reading his Post essay, Gushee gives us bad anthropology, shallow theology, and uncharitable ethics, but impeccable social fashion for today’s world.The male-female frame of biblical sexuality is just, after all, a cultural artifact, and our culture is different now.What then should we do about the apparent (but maybe not real) conflicts between the biblical text and the “stubborn facts” we now know (but were not known in ancient days) from experience and science?Aeon email newsletters are issued by the not-for-profit, registered charity Aeon Media Group Ltd (Australian Business Number 80 612 076 614).This Email Newsletter Privacy Statement pertains to the personally identifying information you voluntarily submit in the form of your email address to receive our email newsletters More generally, when visiting the Aeon site you should refer to our site Privacy Policy here.


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