A Reflective Christian

All for God’s Kingdom

Homosexuality, society, and the Church – Different sexual ethic frameworks

The conflicts that that takes places between morally conservative forms of Christianity and homosexuality isn’t in any innate evil or disdain for persons or selfishness, per se. The divergence takes place not because of arbitrariness either. Rather, the Biblical ethic has a different rationale and raison d’etre for sexuality than Western society. In the many emotional arguments over the topic of homosexuality, it is a clash of entirely different justifications.

The Biblical ethic roots itself within the creation narrative of Genesis 1 with the command to humanity to “Be fruitful and multiply”, which is followed by “fill and subdue the earth/land.” There is a correlation between these two components, first as it requires many people to fill and then subdue the land. There is a sociological component between these land and reproduction, as a family’s, tribe’s, and nation’s hope for survival was in increasing their numbers. First, it provided more workers for the land to produce food. Secondly it protected the groups claim to the land by increasing in manpower. Interestingly enough, both Psalms 127 and 128 corresponds to these two ideas. Psalm 127 uses a combat metaphor in speaking of children like Arrows (127:4). Then as a result of being blessed with many children, a person “will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate” (127:5). As for Psalm 128, children are compared in a simile to olive plants (128:3), which corresponds to the person being blessed/happy when they “eat the fruits of [their] hands” (128:2).

Because of this relationship between reproduction and the land, sex was given the primary purpose for reproduction. To participate in improper sexual acts was to violate this relationship and if practiced exclusively, would lead to taking away from the strength and productivity of the families, clans, and the nation of Israel as a whole. Furthermore, it could drive other persons to follow the same example, further multiplying the problem. Generally speaking, it would then be necessary to expel said sexual offenders from the group in order to preserve the sexual behavior that was beneficial for Israel.

So Leviticus 18, which is the outworking of the Biblical sexual ethic and includes homosexuality (18:22), links sexuality (in a more broad sense) with the land, as to participate in these acts defiles the land (18:25). In addition, the punishment for violation of Israel’s sexual ethic was to “be cut off from among their people” (18:29) so as to prevent the offenders from swaying others. Although, this punishment might be said to only apply generally, as particular violations such as acts of homosexuality where elsewhere called to be punished by death (Leviticus 20:13). Despite that exception, Leviticus 18 reveals the rationale for the sexual ethic in general. As a result, that explains why sexual relationships were to be practiced exclusively in heterosexual relationships, as opposed to bisexuality that might still draw other persons away from a potential reproductive relationship to exclusive homosexuality.

So, sexuality was linked with survival. Violation of sexuality was not punished out of arbitrariness, disdain for something different, or some innate disgust, but because it potentially harmed the well being of Israel, its tribes, and its families.

However, in Western and American society today, there isn’t the same importance placed upon reproduction for multiple reasons. First off, the prosperity of Europe and North America allows persons not to reproduce since it doesn’t affect the whole as drastically. Secondly, the population numbers also doesn’t put quite the onus upon individuals to be in child bearing relationships. Thirdly, even if the population of an area is being depleted, because of individual mobility of today and more toleration of other cultures (relative to ancient times), immigration from other populated areas is an option. Finally, individuals are not as directly reliant upon land for their livelihood, but instead rely upon larger farms and corporations for farms and mines to produce the goods needed for survival. Corporations hire workers, whereas families produce workers (As a side note, these things also relates to abortion). So, European and American society is free to embrace another view of sexuality without it seeing it as imperiling its survival.

Currently, sexual ethics are holding together two different principles in tension. First, there is a the romanticized and existential ideal of finding that person in “love” and to find that person who “completes you.” This is by no means exclusive to any population. For instance, many Christians assume marriage was made to be a union that reaches a spiritual level. Considering the “pursuit of happiness” mindset in Western society (although, perhaps subtly different from the phrase in the US Constitution). But the logical conclusion then is if a person is not attracted to a person of the opposite gender, but a person of the same gender, then they should be able to pursue that happiness that is to be found in finding another complete person.

The second aspect is more purely hedonistic and primal in the basic fulfillment and pleasure in the sexual act. That being the case, context of the sexual act is not important so far as it produces pleasure in the individual, Thus homosexuality is “justified” (although this principle if absolutized would categorically reject any restriction of the sexuality, so there is no true need to justify the act). However, it is being held in the romantic ideal, so it does not have free reign. Varying individuals may work from the first principle more than the second.

These two aspects being in held in tension together in society that celebrates liberty and equality (the modern notion of “equality”, not necessarily “equality” in earlier times), it is natural for homosexuality and homosexual marriage to be justified and approved of. The Biblical ethic, however, does not specifically endorse liberty and equality, nor the two principles in tension. This does not mean they are mutually exclusive and are always contradictory. But it does mean that there can come some points where there is a difference and conflict, such as on the issue of homosexuality.

In the end, the two divergent views are held because the traditions and person are formed by diverging belief systems (although, again, not mutually exclusive and inherently contradictory). But there is either the ignorance of the knowledge that persons on the other side have different justifications for their beliefs and that all people do not think alike, or there is the absolute demand to conform regardless of beliefs backed by insulting, threatening, and accusatory (such as a comment on the first post in this series) rhetoric.

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April 28, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,

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