Printer friendly version

February 3, 2004

Sullivan Cedes?

As part of his latest counter in his most-recent outbreak of argument with Andrew Sullivan, Stanley Kurtz examines Norwegian marriage at the district level:

One district bans clergy who oppose gay marriage (and these same clergy are the ones who criticize unmarried parenthood). Another district lionizes leftist professors who cite gay unions to prove that marriage has no intrinsic connection to parenthood. If both districts have high out-of-wedlock birthrates, it's reasonable to conclude that gay marriage contributes to those rates.

After completely dodging the fact that Kurtz caught him trying to have it both ways with the term "de facto marriage," Sullivan responds by — get this — comparing Massachusetts and Texas. One must admire the audacity of a pundit who, having just finished speaking of the many factors that contribute to the erosion of marriage, answers an attempt to draw out significant local differences within a notoriously homogeneous region by citing those two states. For a sense of the magnitude of that audacity, compare the three regions by demographic profile.

Much more interesting is Sullivan's subsequent stratagem:

Kurtz argues that civil marriage is still for procreation, not coupling. As an aspiration, that's defensible. As an empirical matter, it's false. According to the Census, 52.1 percent of married couples are in households with no children present. Now many of these may be because the kids have grown up. Many are also because the couple has decided not to have children; or are re-married with no kids; or are infertile; or any other range of possibilities. (I haven't been able to find any stats on how many marriages - second, third or first - never have kids. Can anyone help?) But that's a lot of non-procreative marriages and married couples with no kids in the house. If coupling isn't the de facto meaning of that relationship, what else is? That's the living, breathing reality of civil marriage in America. Given that reality, how can civil marriage be denied gay couples?

It's true that I don't hover at quite the socio-economic level at which Sullivan does, but I find that 52.1% number extremely surprising. I know of very few married couples who are childless. So the relevant question is: How many marriages does Sullivan rule out with his "many are" clauses? Stated differently: How many of those marriages lack children under 18 for a reason that is either neutral toward or supportive of the notion that marriage is primarily procreative?

To begin with, let's note that Sullivan understated his case. He used data for households that include "related children under 18 years," while the table to which he links shows that the number of married couples living with their own children is only 45.6%. (So he could have used 54.4%.) According to the CDC, the average age at which women have their first children is about 25 years. So, for generalized purposes, it would seem that it is only reasonable to expect women between the ages of 25 and about 45 to have children under 18 years old.

Applying a little bit of basic calculation to the relevant data from the 2000 Census shows that 45.2% of married women fall in this range. Not surprisingly for me and my acquaintances, that number is only 0.4% removed from the number of marriages with minor children. Remember, also, that another 1% of couples prove sterile, and that women toward the higher end of the range at hand were more likely to have their first children when a few years younger than those toward the lower end.

So, does Sullivan now cede his argument? Almost all young married couples, according to these statistics, will have children — that is, consider their marriages to be procreative. Anybody who has a child knows that it changes the entire orientation of one's life, so those over 45 are very likely to continue to see their marriages as definingly procreative. Really, in a country averaging 2.07 children per adult woman, but in which 24.1% of women have never been married, where does Sullivan think all those children come from?

More to the point, if that's the living, breathing reality of civil marriage in America, does Andrew Sullivan admit that civil marriage can be denied gay couples?

Posted by Justin Katz at February 3, 2004 2:57 PM
Marriage & Family
Comments

I need to go home to sleep but cannot in good conscience without responding in shock.

I do think the whole Kurtz vs. Sullivan (and I have kept up with it) is getting silly and exaggerated on both sides. But this is the worst yet - to conclude that out-of-wedlock birthrates are affected by either bans or support of clergy who take a side !

You don't think this is a little desperate ? Just a bit of a stretch ?

And yes, I'd be saying the same thing if Sullivan or anyone were to trot out statistics that show out-of-wedlock birthrates decreasing in a town where the clergy were supportive of gay-rights - and concluded a causal relationship.

I want to know how many people really think there is a cause-effect relationship between those.

Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: Mark Miller at February 3, 2004 4:44 PM

Mark,

Allow me to reciprocate your shock.

I'm a bit taken aback at your utter dismissal of others' religious convictions. Of course clergy can affect the behavior of their flocks! Is that really a question? If a structure of religious teaching is meant to be of even less import than secular opinion-makers, what's the point?

And if you insist that clergy have no effect, do you see the influence as going the other way? Does the society influence the attitudes of its members who take roles as clergy? If that is the case, then unique political/theological positions taken by clergy in a particular area would surely suggest a general attitude in that area, which continues to support Kurtz's argument.

I personally see both directions of influence as real and significant, but I don't think you mean to suggest that neither is.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 3, 2004 5:06 PM

Social science is neccesarily a inexact science.
(because human society cannot be isolated in a labortory & independent variables illiminated)
In this regard correlations will be made, while causal connection almost impossible to prove.
A difficulty for both sides in this debate.
but a positive BOOM for the gay "marriage" advocates who love to scream PROVE IT.

(keep that in mind)
Thanks - Fitz

Posted by: Fitz at February 3, 2004 9:12 PM

Justin,

I did not mean in any way to dismiss someone's religious convictions or the effect of one's religious leader on behavior.

In this case, you (and Kurtz) are saying that there is a causal relationship between a clergy who is willing to officiates for gay relationships (and therefore is accepting of gays and their relationships) and an increase in out-of-wedlock births for his flock.

I guess you're assuming the thought process of the flock goes something like "well, if my Priest thinks it's OK to be gay, then he certainly doesn't care about fornication".

That's pretty unfair on many levels.

Really, to try to prove a relationship between the acceptance/support of homosexuality and it's effect on illegitimacy is pretty unfair and, in my mind, rather desperate.

Posted by: Mark Miller at February 4, 2004 9:54 AM

Mark,

You write:

I guess you're assuming the thought process of the flock goes something like "well, if my Priest thinks it's OK to be gay, then he certainly doesn't care about fornication".

Acceptance of homosexual sex is acceptance of fornication by definition. That's the point; the acceptance of gay marriage is indicative of the redefinition of sexual and marital moral norms. But I guess there's no point in our continuing the discussion if you believe this:

Really, to try to prove a relationship between the acceptance/support of homosexuality and it's effect on illegitimacy is pretty unfair and, in my mind, rather desperate.

That's a statement of faith that there is no link. The opinion that I hold, therefore, is definitionally unfair, so any arguments I make to support it must be ploys. No effort to address the points and find the "actual" cause is necessary.

Little wonder that the mechanisms of the judiciary are the preferred method to push our society full of desperate bigots toward the more enlightened future that you have divined as our true purpose.

If doing so undermines our society? Huh. Must have been the wind.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 4, 2004 12:48 PM

Justin,

You write: Acceptance of homosexual sex is acceptance of fornication by definition. That's the point

Again, you are trying to argue that there is a causal relationship between the existence of a clergy who is willing to officiate at a gay-ceremony and the sexual behavior of the other heterosexual members of the church. So does that causal relationship also hold true if the clergy officiates at a wedding where one of the persons is divorced or not chaste ? I do believe that there is no causal relationship and that is based on my faith and logic.


You write: The acceptance of gay marriage is indicative of the redefinition of sexual and marital moral norms.

That may be true for gay 'marriage' but not necessarily true for the recognition of gay relationships in some other way.

You write: Little wonder that the mechanisms of the judiciary are the preferred method to push our society full of desperate bigots toward the more enlightened future that you have divined as our true purpose. If doing so undermines our society? Huh. Must have been the wind.

Rather hypocritical of you to be like that here. You know, you have no more claim to the truth (or the Truth) than I do.

Posted by: Mark Miller at February 4, 2004 9:30 PM

Rather hypocritical of you to be like that here. You know, you have no more claim to the truth (or the Truth) than I do.

I never said I did. But I haven't declared your arguments "desperate," nor have I attempted to write off your intention to justify your position as "unfair." You apparently aren't interested in addressing claims, suggesting alternate interpretations of data.

Whatever is causing the decline of Scandanavian marriage, in that case, begins to look a lot like Nicole Brown Simpson's killer.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 4, 2004 9:43 PM

You write: But I haven't declared your arguments "desperate," nor have I attempted to write off you intention to justify your position as "unfair".

Huh ? You have indeed attempted to declare my arguments as "wrong" on numerous occasions (as I have done the same) in addition to writing off my justifications based on me not being a Christian.

You write: You apparently aren't interested in addressing claims, suggesting alternate interpretations of data.

I can't believe you would accuse me of that. Apparently only you can make claims and assertions based on faith and personal beliefs, but not I.

You write: Whatever is causing the decline of Scandinavian marriage, in that case, begins to look a lot like Nicole Brown Simpson's killer.

Actually, there is no decline of Scandinavian marriage. There is an increase in illegitimacy rates. My point is simply that the cause of this is as likely to be Nicole Brown Simpson's killer as it is the growing acceptance of gay relationships by clergy.

Posted by: Mark Miller at February 5, 2004 11:50 AM

While some may find the relevance of the positions of clergy debatable, certainly the most recent statistics cited by Kurtz are genuinely compelling as to what, exactly, is being fought for any by whom. When the rate of heterosexual marriage is so much higher--even as it declines--than homosexual marriage where both forms of marriage are, legally, exactly the same, what are we left to conclude? That the large majority of homosexuals will not, in fact, get married and, if they do, they will get divorced. But the small minority of people availing themselves of legalized gay marriage makes one wonder what the real motivation is.

Except that I expect it's not a desire for equal rights, but fairly typical leftist-utopian social deconstruction. Just one more way to redefine society in terms of progressive, largely standardless, anything goes social liberalism.

Posted by: Kevin S. Willis at February 5, 2004 12:00 PM

Mark,

Well, of course I think you're "wrong"! That's why we're arguing. I may have, although I don't recall, called your arguments "silly" or somesuch, but that is manifestly different from declaring your attempts to make them "desperate" and "unfair." It's the difference between dispute and ad hominem.

More importantly, when not speaking within the explicit context of faith, I've done my best to substantiate everything that I've said. Not surprisingly, I frequently fail to do so to your satisfaction. That does not change the fact that your belief that anything but attitudes about gay marriage has done such damage to the Scandinavian idea of family is utterly inadmissible of itself.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 5, 2004 12:01 PM

Justin,

You write: "Well, of course I think you're "wrong"! That's why we're arguing."

Precisely, other than my regrettable "utopia" comment once upon a time, I feel that I have been every bit as 'respectful' (or lack thereof) towards your assertion/opinions as you have mine.

I still contend that Kurtz's statistics are less than compelling to support his thesis. It's hard for me to imagine that the people against gay-rights said "great, this is exactly the data we've been waiting for".

To me, it seemed more like searching for any negative social trend (in this case, illegitimacy rates increasing) and then saying that there must be a causal relationship between that trend and attitudes towards gays.

Again, I can't help feeling that you (and Kurtz) were privately disappointed in the lack of some statistics where the causal relationship and harm to marriage would be a little more ... obvious.

I'm not saying that there definitely isn't a connection. Maybe there is.

But I find it hard to believe that Kurtz's findings in Scandinavia are those in which you want to 'hang your hat on' (so to speak) to support your view.

Posted by: Mark Miller at February 5, 2004 1:07 PM

Mark,

I wished to make one side note about your post on "the thoughts of the flock" (sorry I seem currently unable to paste them down here so hopefully you'll be aware of what I'm talking about).

First of all, I find a few slight faults with your reasoning. In fact it is one that I see most often among generally 'lefty' pundits with rare exceptions among 'righty' ones. And that is the "presumption of thought process." Besides the biggest difficulty in such a statement (the validation of any individual's thoughts) there are a few others worth noting.
1) Enormous leaps in logic - This is generally the use of making a statement SO outragious that no sane person could possibly agree to it and ergo could not possibly think it either. No of course no person thinks "wow gays are ok, I'm going to go fornicate" but then you are supposing that actions such as cheating on one's wife are entirely logical to begin with. Which leads us to number 2...
2) The 'always on' assumption - This term I coined from a Robin Williams joke where he talks about a guy realzing "that God gave you a penis, and a brain, but only enough blood to run them one at a time." Yes it's quite funny, but it also underscores a universal truth: humans don't ALWAYS think (when they are awake of course). Well if people ALWAYS figured out reasoning before commiting any sin, we'd have a lot less crime. That is generally the GOAL of religious instruction is to instill in people an "always on" style of thinking. In other words if you were to evaluate a Christian and an atheist about to do something wrong (say shoplift) there is generally a much higher chance that the former will pause and at least consider whether or not to commit the act whereas the latter probably will not. (there are exceptions of course) And this leads us to number 3...
3) What are they NOT thinking - And this is where mostly Justin's and Stanley's arguments are coming from. Namely that WHAT a preacher talks about is what 'the flock' will generally have running through their minds in tempting situations. Let's take an example: Even if you're not a Christian (I don't know, just saying for sake of argument) you've probably heard plenty of times about the Baptist view that "wives should submit to their husbands." Thus you would probably guess that female baptists then, in confrontations with their husbands (which happens always in a marriage) probably end up having that phrase pop into their minds and they at least think about 'submitting.' However, (still assuming you're not a Christian) if I was to ask you what is the husband thinking about in similar confrontations, you would probably say "his wife should behave." And indeed, if the husband and wife's church was ONLY preaching the wife end of that equation, you'd probably be right. HOWEVER, if you actually DO read the bible (or go to some baptist churches) you learn that husbands are ALSO taught to "love their wives as themselves, and to cherish them as they would cherish their own body." Now of course this little clause has generally been overlooked by the media, but surely by now you can see how the inclusion or exclusion of that clause within a religious instruction could possibly affect a person's thought patterns. (again, there are always exceptions)
What's the point of all this? Only that the preachers who are generally in favor of gay marriage do NOT preach against fornification at all if any. Thus, people attending said religious instruction generally do NOT think about such a connection to fornification BECAUSE THEY DO NOT THINK ABOUT FORNIFICATION AT ALL. It's just basic teaching principles at work. The same would generally be true about any sin. If the religious teachers do not MENTION the wrongness of an act, then that makes it LESS likely that the students will even THINK about the wrongness of an act (or even doing the act itself) when they are tempted.


Of course my own statements above do suffer much of the similar fallacies of your statement, but I was merely pointing out to you how the religious thoughts were connected.

Posted by: Patrik Ian Taylor at February 5, 2004 5:12 PM

Mr. Taylor,

Very well put. Thank you. I would only add that there seems to me a likelihood that even those who do stop to think about what they are doing can draw the conclusion that they desire from the implications of homosexuality's being entirely moral.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 5, 2004 7:18 PM

Mark,

I think I've already told you that I see this information as part of a larger picture and that it is most significant as a response to the "conservative argument" for gay marriage. Beyond that, however, your "any negative social trend" comment seems to miss the mark. If a central argument that folks such as Mr. Kurtz and myself are making is that marriage is mainly important for the children raised (or not) within it, then it isn't just picking and choosing to zero in on illegitimacy rates.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 5, 2004 7:21 PM

Mr Taylor:

If preachers who believe that a gay person has equal worth and dignity (as a straight person) are less likely to preach against fornication (and likewise, if preachers who better appreciate the importance of commitment and fidelity are also more likely to preach discrimination against gay people), than the problem is with your religious culture. If your church leaders cannot see that a gay person has equal worth and dignity and also see that commitment and fidelity are important (and their flock follows blindly), than you should work on fixing that.

Posted by: arturo fernandez at February 6, 2004 2:39 AM

Arturo,

I'm not sure how seriously to reply to your comment, because it appears more rhetorical than logical.

If admitting a homosexual's "worth and dignity" is the same as believing the form of sex necessitated by the combination of his or her desires and biology to be entirely moral — a sort of reductio ad genitalia — then I'd say it's necessarily the case that a priest taking that view would be less inclined to condemn sexual expression that falls afield of the Christian conception of marriage. There's a subtlety of sexual morality that comes into play, here, involving at its base the presumed purpose of sex.

However, more in keeping with the apparent spirit of your comment, I would suggest that, if your view is that a person's "worth and dignity" is contingent upon his being able to bed whomever he desires, then it is you who should "work on fixing that."

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 6, 2004 12:04 PM

Thank you Arturo for your comment. That is precisely the case here.

The issue here is whether it is possible to believe that a gay person has equal worth and dignity (and accept their relationships) and also be able to preach against the sin of fornication or any other sin for that matter without being hypocritical.

Obviously, I believe it is possible and actually consistent.

A couple of other things I want to add related to Patrik's response to me:

The whole argument that 'sinning isn't logical to begin with' (I'm paraphrasing, of course) - well, how does that apply here ? It is Justin and Stanley that are making the 'leap' or 'link' that the acceptance of gay marriage has led to the higher illegitimacy rates. Then after I dispute that correlation, you tell me that you cannot apply 'logic' to sinful behavior. Then later you do attempt to prove the link between acceptance of gays and illegitimacy. Did I miss something ?

Overall, I was a little taken back by, what I perceive as the patronizing tone of Patrik's comment. Let me set some things straight:

I'm not a lefty pundit. I'm a Republican (and straight and married if you deem it relevant) and consider myself to be quite conservative but in your world I'd be called a 'moderate' if only for my view on gay rights. But in my world, I don't consider you and Justin true 'conservatives' either.

I am Jewish and am quite informed on religion based on my varied experience which I need not go into. I'm currently reading 'Mere Christianity' and am fascinated by it. (we need someone like C.S. Lewis nowadays).

First, though you didn't outright say it, you seemed to imply that if you aren't a Christian then you can't possibly have a proper view of what is right and what is wrong or in a word, morality. (that is the message I took - but maybe I'm being over-sensitive). I certainly don't agree and wouldn't agree even if you added Jews to the mix. Religious faith is more powerful than can be imagined and it is the only way to the next life and even infinite happiness but you can be a 'moral' person and also be an atheist. Simply put, an atheist also knows that illegitimacy is not a good thing.

In the end, I stand by what Arturo said and feel you are wrong when you said that " ... the preachers who are generally in favor of gay marriage do NOT preach against fornication at all if any.".

That statement is the starting point of the argument that there is causal relationship between acceptance of gays and illegitimacy rates. And I don't see that as true.

Posted by: Mark Miller at February 6, 2004 12:23 PM

Justin's comment speaks to exactly what the debate is ultimately about, in my mind.

As his comment (".... being able to bed whomever he desires") shows, he feels that homosexual behavior is morally and socially equivalent to promiscuous behavior among heterosexuals.

Where as I (I won't speak for Arturo) believe that a homosexual can and should be encouraged to be chaste until 'marriage' (or some other legal commitment). But if that is denied then they can never have a romantic and sexual relationship without committing the act of fornication.

The bottom line is that there are those that feel that homosexual behavior is promiscuous by nature as opposed to in heterosexual behavior, where promiscuity is a choice. I believe the a homosexual, given the proper encouragement, can live (as a gay person) and not be promiscuous. In other words, they can behave just like heterosexuals - for good or bad.

Posted by: Mark Miller at February 6, 2004 12:44 PM

Mark,

You over-read my comment. For one thing, I was seeking to mirror Arturo's reductive rhetoric. "Whomever he desires," more specifically applied, could be anybody outside of the biological and theological boundaries of traditional marriage.

However, as is common (and not particularly egregious) among those who take your view of morality and homosexuality, you presume Christianity to be fundamentally untrue. It isn't just a matter of a priest's being able to articulate both the dignity of the homosexual and the more general need for fidelity. In order to accept homosexual sex, the priest must take an approach to his religion that undermines much more than just that particular teaching. In essence, Arturo might as well have declared that we Christians just have to admit that 2,000 years of theological development amounts to a bunch of baloney.

But since you raise the point, how many priests — or even secular folks — have you heard who support the innovation of gay marriage and who make a point of demanding chastity until a committed, monogamous relationship has been entered?

Also, as a simple point of fact, there is a "correlation" between acceptance of gay marriage and illegitimacy. But you're attempting to argue that there must be a distinct and isolated causal relationship for it to be of importance.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 6, 2004 1:07 PM

Justin:

I have properly understood your argument, as you confirmed in your response. What your religious culture needs to understand is that it can easily lead to bigotry. You have ignored that in your response, as your religious culture is prone to do. THAT is your problem, and it needs fixing.

On the other hand, you have entirely misrepresented my beliefs.

You write that my "...admitting a homosexual's 'worth and dignity' is THE SAME AS believing the form of sex..."

You write "...if your view is that a person's 'worth and dignity' is contingent upon being able to bed..."

I did not "admit" such a thing, and my "view" is certainly not that.

There are aspects of gay culture that need fixing. That a gay man falls in love and has sex with another gay man is not one of them.

Posted by: arturo fernandez at February 6, 2004 1:39 PM

Arturo,

I suppose the fact that you're addressing your concerns to my "religious culture" negates the possibility that your "philosophical culture," whatever that might be, might lend itself to bigotry, as well. (Bigotry seems to be more of a human condition than anything.) Your suggestion about what my culture can "easily lead to" is telling and corresponds exactly to my response to Mark. Religion is light fare, indeed, if its truth must be denied on the basis of potential misuse of it.

You've mistaken the basis of my complaint (whether by my fault or yours, I won't guess): your "worth and dignity" phrase is a rhetorical ploy that avoids the heart of the discussion in five easily mouthed syllables. In response, I presented you with an "if" that you are free to hone. At any rate, it wasn't you whom I accused of "admitting," but rather some hypothetical priest.

The disagreement is essentially about what "worth and dignity" require, a matter that is of legitimate dispute. You believe that certain acts affirm, or at least accord with, dignity; I believe that those same acts, and acceptance of them, are harmful in ways that transcend social standing. My reasoning involves factors other than the act itself, of course, but the extremity of your initial comment suggested that you don't believe any arguments against gay marriage that incorporate a prohibition on the sex part can have any other motivation than bigotry.

Whatever the case, it doesn't do for you to introduce yourself into a discussion snidely only to offer complaint that you haven't been handled with the nuance that you denied to others.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 6, 2004 2:14 PM

Justin - ultimately your argument seems to all boil down to ..... 'because Christianity says so'. (and I'm not saying that is not or should not be persuasive)

Arturo seems to be saying that either a) Christianity is wrong in this case (and leads to 'bigotry') or b) the specific view of Christianity that leads to this belief about gays is wrong.

In any case, it's a place in the discussion that can't really be moved from and can only lead to further snideness.

To answer Justin's question to me - yes there are people I know of that support gay-rights (the 'innovation' -as-you-call-it of gay marriage, is a separate and not necessarily related question) and are also committed to chastity until a committed, monogamous relationship has been entered.

To be frank, the fact that you would even pose such a question is telling about how you generalize the behavior of homosexuals and even of those who support gay-rights.

Posted by: Mark Miller at February 6, 2004 3:24 PM

Mark,

Yes, you keep telling me that's what my argument boils down to, and I keep replying that such is not the case. Purely within the context of Christian leaders' teachings, yes, what "Christianity says" ought to be the bottom line. In the broader context of this thread, the correlation thing, the Christian angle is tangential; whatever the reason, conservative and liberal preachers break out differently in the issues that they address and how they address them, and it is what they address that is relevant here, whether they are right or wrong or whether they have a more secular excuse than "because Christianity says so."

Beyond that, I'm not sure how my response could have been telling, because I'm not sure what you think my question was. You write:

yes there are people I know of that support gay-rights (the 'innovation' -as-you-call-it of gay marriage, is a separate and not necessarily related question) and are also committed to chastity until a committed, monogamous relationship has been entered

Well, I'm not asking about "gay rights," I'm asking about gay marriage. Another problem of communication might have been my doing; perhaps I didn't make it sufficiently clear that I meant that they support gay marriage, but demand chastity until gays are ensconced within "committed, monogamous relationship." I'm sure there is somebody, somewhere taking that stance, but it certainly isn't a majority position, nor that of a vocal minority.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 6, 2004 3:39 PM

Justin,

You write: Yes, you keep telling me that's what my argument boils down to, and I keep replying that such is not the case.

And then you write: ... culture can "easily lead to" is telling and corresponds exactly to my response to Mark. Religion is light fare, indeed, if its truth must be denied on the basis of potential misuse of it.

Maybe I'm missing something (a very BIG maybe) but it seems to me that your argument IS based on the fact of what is the Truth according to your religion - and that that truth cannot be denied in any fair way unless you dismiss the religion as a whole.

In any case, you did differentiate between gay rights and gay marriage and, you must admit, that does pose a little bit of a problem or conflict foe each of our points of view (at least in my mind).

For me, I do support gay equality but am less sure about gay marriage - yet, as Andrew Sullivan has argued, it is sort of illogical.

For you, it is also a conflict to say that you support gay equality (in some ways) despite the clear Biblical objections to it - in ways other than just whether gays should be allowed to 'marry'.

Posted by: Mark Miller at February 6, 2004 4:58 PM

Mark,

Alright. Let's try to get this exchange organized. As I see it, at this moment, there are (at least) three matters of dispute:

1) Whether it is reasonable to fault Christian priests for condemning homosexual sex (and, therefore, marriage), including the matter of whether it is possible for priests to do so without sliding in other areas of social and theological import.
2) Whether Scandinavian religious leaders influence the people to whom they minister, and whether the apparent correlation of attitudes about gay marriage and illegitimacy suggests a significant relationship between the two.
3) Whether civilly recognized gay marriage ought to be allowed in the United States.

When I write of mutable religion's being "light fare," I'm speaking to question 1. With homosexuality, in particular, there are clear barriers in Scripture and long-standing Tradition that must be overcome before a priest can put the weight of his office, so to speak, behind the cause of gay marriage. In every case that I've seen, overcoming those barriers requires undermining the legitimacy of both Scripture and Tradition, and in most cases, the effort is inspired by secular sociopolitical inclinations.

The first part of question 2, you've conceded. The second part remains in dispute.

Question 3 is, obviously, still in dispute, but I don't believe my position to require a contradiction. It makes no sense to me that you mitigate my support of "gay equality." I wish to treat homosexuals no differently in any matters in which their sexuality is not relevant. The only gray area — well, that you might consider gray — is that assertions of the right to free association strike me as too lightly dismissed. For the most part, society works better, and the cause of virtue is better served, if people are free to choose sin and others are free to express their disapproval. All of this "less than human" rhetoric strikes me as hyperbolic to the point of being disingenuous; nobody is (any longer) stopping homosexuals from entering into the types of relationships that could make them "fully human." (In the Christian context, they are already "fully human.")

Marriage, however, is not merely a private affair. It is public by its very nature. It is at this point that the various arguments — emotional, sociological, economic, and, yes, theological — legitimately come into play. My overall position is that the great majority of those considerations suggest that the appropriate stance is to oppose the civil recognition gay marriage. Primarily this is so because the idea is inextricably tied to the fate of marriage as traditionally understood.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 6, 2004 5:59 PM

Justin:

We seem to not be communicating. I think it's partly my fault. My interest here has been not so much in gay marriage, but in Christianity's misunderstanding of what homosexuality is and, consequently, its misguided (to put it nicely) relationship to it.

So I'll just say one thing about how I think, not because it's so brilliant, but because you've attempted several times to guess (let's put it that way) and have guessed wrong.

If my philosophical views (which I don't fully know yet, though I do know they are not entirely irreligious or nonchristian) lead to any bigotries or other evils, than I need to come to understand that, and fix that. When I say that your religious views can lead to bigotry, as in the case of homosexuality it has, and that it needs fixing--I say it because I believe it can be fixed and is worth doing.

Thanks,

Arturo

Posted by: arturo fernandez at February 7, 2004 4:23 AM

Artuno, You state:
"If preachers who believe that a gay person has equal worth and dignity (as a straight person) are less likely to preach against fornication (and likewise, if preachers who better appreciate the importance of commitment and fidelity are also more likely to preach discrimination against gay people), than the problem is with your religious culture. If your church leaders cannot see that a gay person has equal worth and dignity and also see that commitment and fidelity are important (and their flock follows blindly), than you should work on fixing that."

I believe your statement has several underlying principles which are in disagreement with people such as me and Justin who are making the opposite argument. Namely we are at the old impasse of debate where (to use a hyperbolic example) I am trying to argue for low gas prices and you are trying to argue for quality movies. In other words, there seems to be a much more fundamental division here that is preventing effective debate. Please allow me to try and acertain what your position is and explain my point through that perspective.

You make the assumption that a preacher who preaches against fornification would preach "discrimination against homosexuals." That is not what I nor anyone else is contending with.
HOWEVER, if you consider the very principles of Christianity discriminatory (by its nature of distinguishing between "the Church" and "the world") then our discussion is over, as your belief would find everything wrong about the religion (mostly anyway) as well as the very concepts of Religion itself.
But since that's boring and ends my long-winded post too soon ;-) I'll assume that instead you honestly believe that preachers out there teach that homosexuals (or anyone) for that matter should be discriminated against.

First of all, nothing could be further from the truth, as I wonder if you have spent any time in a church to learn this. Just because a preacher may say that sleeping with another member of the same sex is wrong ('married' or not), does mean that they believe that any one who does so has less worth or dignity than any other person. This is a greivious error that I often fault the homosexual side of the debate with: the inability to distinguish a person from their sexuality. As my own preacher has once said, the Bible tells us there won't be any sex in heaven ("There will be no giving away in marriage...") thus, what Christians are SUPPOSED to be concerned about, a individual's soul, is something which is far greater and richer than just sex (no matter WHO it's with). If you have heard it before, you should hear it again for this truism is the key to the whole matter: "Hate the sin, love the sinner." It is that fine line yet important distinction which Christians are commanded AGAIN AND AGAIN (in the Bible and by truthful preachers) to follow. In fact, the preachers you believe "more likely to preach discrimination" are often the most arduent proclaimers of this (though the former group says it too). Very RARELY have I ever heard from this group of preachers you deplore that there is any difference between "gays" or straights. Instead you hear again and again that we are all EQUALLY bad, evil and EQUALLY in need of grace.
Now make of that what you will, it is the Bible's own message. But if you still persist in your assumptions, then I must politely say that it is your view which needs to be fixed.

Mark,
Please allow me to address your reply to my reply. I will attempt to go over each point.

You state:
"The whole argument that 'sinning isn't logical to begin with' (I'm paraphrasing, of course) - well, how does that apply here ? It is Justin and Stanley that are making the 'leap' or 'link' that the acceptance of gay marriage has led to the higher illegitimacy rates. Then after I dispute that correlation, you tell me that you cannot apply 'logic' to sinful behavior. Then later you do attempt to prove the link between acceptance of gays and illegitimacy. Did I miss something ?"

First of all, I believe you have misunderstood the main crux of my argument. I said the ACTION of sin, is generally illogical (with rare exceptions) but the cause or fuel for that sin might be very logical. Let's take for an example the very first one. There was little logic to Adam and Eve's eating the forbidden fruit - after all, what cause did they have to believe God lied to them? what cause did they have to believe the serpant anyway? etc etc. However, there is great logic to Satan's tempting of them as he was in a losing battle against God. What better way to smite an invincible opponent than hurt someone he cares for? (this principle is demonstrated in movies all the time) Back to the point at hand, I was then attempting to show that your disproval of the coorrelation wasn't sound enough. There can be coorrelation (whether it's been proven or not is what should be argued here) but just because an illogical effect is occurring, doesn't mean that you can't logically trace the cause. Surely you have heard before of the "law of unintended consequences." Otherwise the entire fields of sociology or (more so) of criminology would have to be closed down for what animal is more illogical than man?

You said:
"Overall, I was a little taken back by, what I perceive as the patronizing tone of Patrik's comment. Let me set some things straight:"

I apologize for any patronizing in my post, it was not my intention. These sorts of debates can grow quite heated and I have had them in the past with several others so I ask your forgiveness if any past frustration or patronizing slipped through my fingers and onto the web.

You said:
"I'm not a lefty pundit. I'm a Republican (and straight and married if you deem it relevant) and consider myself to be quite conservative but in your world I'd be called a 'moderate' if only for my view on gay rights. But in my world, I don't consider you and Justin true 'conservatives' either."

Forgive me. I had not yet ascertained the full background from which you were arguing from and filled in the gaps in my knowledge with the best assumption I could. Obviously I had a 50/50 chance of getting it right, and apparently I picked the wrong one. Of course, if we want to start arguing about political labels, maybe we can start with the whole "right-wing = fascism" argument. (it doesn't ;-) lol

You said:
"I am Jewish and am quite informed on religion based on my varied experience which I need not go into. I'm currently reading 'Mere Christianity' and am fascinated by it. (we need someone like C.S. Lewis nowadays)."

I am an enormous fan of C.S. Lewis, having read all but a handful of books (I think it was roughly 5 at last count) and as he said of George MacDonald "I consider him in all ways my master." I certainly agree that a man of even half his greatness would be a boon to the world. But then, would we recognize him if he was here? (if you find his collection of essays "God in the Dock" you will discover in it several debates he had with others in his time not unlike the group of us are having now)
Anyway, being Jewish you should thus be well familiarized with the importance or at least influence of religious texts and adherence to those within a religious community. Thus you should be able to see the effects (and the possible unintended consequences) of one branch which strictly adheres to the text (in this case, the Bible clearly states that homosexuality is wrong) vs another branch which doesn't not as strictly adhere. If a church/preacher/flock is willing to bend the bible on its teachings of ANY topic (in this case, homosexuality), does it not follow that they will be more willing and/or likely to bend its teachings on OTHER topics?

You said:
"First, though you didn't outright say it, you seemed to imply that if you aren't a Christian then you can't possibly have a proper view of what is right and what is wrong or in a word, morality. (that is the message I took - but maybe I'm being over-sensitive). I certainly don't agree and wouldn't agree even if you added Jews to the mix. Religious faith is more powerful than can be imagined and it is the only way to the next life and even infinite happiness but you can be a 'moral' person and also be an atheist. Simply put, an atheist also knows that illegitimacy is not a good thing."

Yes, you are being quite over-sensitive. However, you in fact state my case: Religious faith is more powerful than can be imagined. I know there are quite a few atheists who are moral, the point IS that when an individual is tempted (say, to cheat on one's wife) which individual do you think is more likely to resist that temptation? The one with religious motivations or the one with none? Of course there are failings and successes on both sides, but I'm speaking in more statistics as a general rule. (the 'odds' if you were a betting man)

You said:
"In the end, I stand by what Arturo said and feel you are wrong when you said that " ... the preachers who are generally in favor of gay marriage do NOT preach against fornication at all if any."."

I may perhaps be wrong. I do not think there have been any surveys on the matter, but speak as 'in my experience preacher who..." No offense, but if the best you can offer is "I... feel" then there is nothing more debate for we can throw feelings at each other all day long, but only facts will determine one side correct or not. If you have any explination why areas with more 'accepting' preachers have higher rates of infidelity, I will gladly accept it. Meanwhile I have postulated my own hypothesis for why this seems to occur and wait for it to be prove or disproven.

You said:
"That statement is the starting point of the argument that there is causal relationship between acceptance of gays and illegitimacy rates. And I don't see that as true."

First of all, again we have a slight problem with "I don't see that as true." I know you don't Mark, that's what I figured when I saw your debate with Justin. I'm wondering what facts or reasoning you have to back up that assertion. I have stated that the statement has been my experience and also shown how the statement can be inferred through logical progression.
Second of all, no, that statement is NOT the starting point of the argument. The starting point is that there is a casual relationship between acceptance of gays and illegitimacy rates period. My statement, is a hypothesis EXPLAINING this relationship which must now be tested.

From all this I conclude that there are in fact two debates which are overlaping here and that overlap is the fundamental difficulty.
The first is:
DOES a casual relationship exist between acceptance of homosexuality (I use this term deliberately because saying "homosexuals" further muddles the debate as I pointed out to Arturo above) and illegitimacy rates in the first place? Are either of you, Mark or Arturo, attempting to disprove the existence of a casual relationship?
The second is:
WHY does a casual relationship exist between acceptance of homosexuality and illegitimacy rates? People like Justin and myself believe that religious instruction is an answer to this question. Now if Mark or Arturo are arguing with us about this, then we have all settled and agreed on the first debate above- a casual relationship does exist. In which case I am interested (no sarcasm, I really do enjoy theorizing) in you gentlemen's hypothesis on why this casual relationship is ocurring.

Posted by: Patrik Ian Taylor at February 12, 2004 6:52 PM

Patrick:

You have asked us to disprove that a “casual relationship” exists between acceptance of homosexuality and illegitimacy rates. If by this you mean that acceptance of homosexuality necessarily leads to heterosexuals having children out of marriage, it’s easy to disprove. If I had a child, I would teach her that a homosexual male is naturally attracted to another male, and that that was ok; and I would also teach her that it’s a very bad idea to have children before marriage. It is very easy to imagine that she grows up to believe those two things, and conduct herself according to those two beliefs. In fact, many people believe just that and conduct themselves that way.

If by “casual relationship” you mean something less than what I described above, you must understand that discrimination is a very serious thing. A just society must not discriminate against someone without demonstrating that they are positively harming someone else.

My question to you and Justin has been: if I can teach my child that homosexuality is ok, and illegitimacy is not, and she still grows up to be happy and generally a good person, why can’t you and your Church do that? Why must gay men and women suffer needlessly? “2000 years of theological development,” as Justin put it, or “the very concept of Religion itself,” as you do, does not rest on what the view of homosexuality was when the Bible was written.

You have objected to my uses of the words “discrimination” and “bigotry.” You say that Christian preachers teach that the gay person has equal worth and dignity as a straight person. You say that we, “the homosexual side of the debate,” are unable “to distinguish a person from their sexuality.” You say that the Christian is taught to “hate the sin, love the sinner.” I believe that worth and dignity are earned. All of humanity believes the same. To me, and to the rest of humanity, an adulterer has less worth than a man who is truthful and committed to his wife and family. By teaching that homosexuality is a sin, like adultery, you are presenting your followers with the opportunity to treat homosexuals as they treat adulterers: with scorn and contempt. It is you who has encouraged your followers to view and to judge the gay person strictly by their sexuality. Now, some do and some don’t. But in an imperfect world where “we are all,” as you very harshly say, “bad” and “evil” and “in need of grace,” it is very easy to see that your teaching in this regard will lead bad people and evil people to discriminate and to bigoted views. In the real world, “hate the sin, love the sinner” is meaningless. Thank God for the Enlightenment, and for American Democracy, and for the Sixties Revolution, because they have discouraged “bad” and “evil” tendencies from dictating how we think and how we act.

This explains, I believe, how bigotry and a 2000-year-old view of homosexuality are inevitably connected. I have also explained, I believe, how homosexuality and illegitimacy are not inevitably connected.

Thanks,

Arturo

Posted by: arturo fernandez at February 14, 2004 3:59 PM

Arturo,

I'm not sure what it is you're hoping to accomplish here (which is not to imply, in the least, that you aren't welcome). We clearly have views that are so dramatically different that we will never be able to address whatever specifics you wish to encourage changed.

Religious people (at least the ones whom you are addressing) take their religion seriously. It's the way the universe is. One doesn't seek to redefine the physical laws of light and heat because albinos are susceptible to burns. We respect and confirm the humanity and worth of homosexuals, but we can't see their behavior as just another permutation of the birds and the bees. Some people take their reaction too far, to be sure, but any particular group will have members who take their unifying principles too far.

Homosexuality isn't a sin; moreover, homosexual behavior as a sin is more akin to fornication as a sin than adultery. It is your disinclination to make this distinction between the person and the person's behavior to which Patrik is referring.

This brings us to another intellectually constitutive chasm between our views: the idea that worth is earned. Worth to whom? The adulterer is surely of more worth to his mistress than he would be if he remained faithful. He's of more worth to a lawyer. If you're talking about abstract worth, well then, the religious person will translate that as worth in the eyes of God, in which capacity the Christian believes we are all equal. One needn't be Christian, however, to see the dangerous road that is traveled whenever we start to view a class of people, whatever their defining attribute, as of less absolute worth.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 14, 2004 8:31 PM

Justin:

Agreed: the words “worth” and “dignity” invoke unintended meanings. Substitute them with “respect” or “approbation.” And substitute “fornication” for “adultery.” The point is the same: hatred of homosexual behavior does not lead to loving the homosexual. It leads to scorn and contempt. And it leads to prejudice and discrimination.

I have been very forthcoming in what I attempted here: to show that your arguments presented to disapprove of homosexual BEHAVIOR are irrational and lead to discrimination of homosexual PEOPLE. I wish that your side were equally forthcoming: how much discrimination would you be willing to allow?

Arturo

Posted by: arturo fernandez at February 16, 2004 3:07 PM

The point is the same: hatred of homosexual behavior does not lead to loving the homosexual. It leads to scorn and contempt. And it leads to prejudice and discrimination.
— Once again, you're ignoring the foundation for Christian disapproval of homosexual acts. Those acts are inherently detrimental, in the Christian view. They aren't sinful because we dislike them; they aren't sinful because the majority of us are disinclined to pursue them. They are sinful because they are sinful. In this respect, considering the person's soul to be the locus of his worth, "hatred" of the sin is a direct result of concern for the person.

your arguments presented to disapprove of homosexual BEHAVIOR are irrational and lead to discrimination of homosexual PEOPLE.
— As I've implied, that you see the arguments of my side as irrational is indicative merely of the chasm between our views. Depending on which side one stands, the questions in between can simply be rephrased to support each side. You, I could say, discriminate against homosexuals by assuming them incapable of behaving in a manner that is conducive to communion with God.

how much discrimination would you be willing to allow?
— Well, it depends when you stopped beating your wife (as the cliché example of a logical fallacy goes). "Discrimination" can be a neutral word; in any case, it's an act that can't be avoided in life. Our definitions will obviously differ as to what constitutes negative or unjust discrimination. For example, you consider the denial of a right to gay marriage to be an act of discrimination. I do not.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 16, 2004 3:26 PM

Thank you for the exchange. The difference has been made clear.

Arturo

Posted by: arturo fernandez at February 17, 2004 3:31 AM