Binding tradition?

Stephen Green quite properly fisks one David Warren -- a very talented writer who, in my opinion, has misused his talent and misstated history.

Here's David Warren:

Behind the notion that homosexuality is sin is not only Christian doctrine, nor also the doctrines of the other "great religions". Behind it is the wealth of accumulated and applied human experience, growing through the centuries. The Jews set themselves against the homosexuality that was endemic in the ancient world around them; the pagan Romans set themselves against the homosexual customs of the Greeks. In doing so they were raising the standards of their societies; and not incidentally, raising the status of their women.

Bear with me: this is important. No social order will long endure that is founded on lies about the human condition. And one of the large truths of that condition -- written not only in the Creator's announcement to the ancient Hebrews that he "made them male and female", but to be found in our experience of the creation itself, is the incompleteness of man as man, and woman as woman.

For as Jews and pagan Romans alike learned, or realized more deeply than before, the sexes are necessary to each other.

Let me use as a starting point the comment I left on Stephen Green's blog:
"No social order will long endure that is founded on lies about the human condition." Agreed!

So let's clear up a few lies.

Once again, Warren misstates the ancients. First, he gratuitously reads into the ancient Jewish laws a factor not present in them ("The Jews set themselves against the homosexuality").

Then, he drags the Romans into this same imaginary posture: "the pagan Romans set themselves against the homosexual customs of the Greeks." Innumerable Roman emperors (Caesar, Trajan, Hadrian, to name just three) would have been fascinated to know that they were doing this -- especially considering that they enjoyed homosexual lovers without ever thinking in terms of labels like homosexuality or heterosexuality.

And from where comes the notion that a failure to condemn homosexuality is a "lie about the human condition" which dooms social orders? Rome survived many centuries without "sodomy laws." The Dark Ages began shortly after they were enacted.

Does Mr. Warren think that homosexuals are demanding (as part of the plot to "shatter the mold") that heterosexuals undergo reparative therapy? His entire premise seems to be that homosexuality will engulf and destroy heterosexuality, that soon we'll all be gay -- and we will degenerate into "savagery."

The problem is, history does not show that!

I guess that's why he wants to rewrite it.

OK, now that I am at my blog, I get to expand upon my comment!

Tradition is important. It is part of history and it must be respected.

To a point...

And that's a simple point -- of logic and common sense: Older is not better because it is old, and newer is not better because it is new. The central premise posited by Mr. Warren is that opposition to homosexuality is somehow "progress." That the ancients partook of homosexual relations, while not an argument in favor of homosexuality, is neither an argument against it. Warren makes no showing that homosexuality was in any way responsible for the demise of Greece, Rome, or any other ancient society. But shortly after the anti-homosexual prejudice was introduced, the Dark Ages started. Again, I am not arguing cause and effect, for there were many reasons. But the argument that sodomy laws were a step forward is simply absurd, and not borne out by history.

It is my considered opinion that a "tradition" can arise in many different ways, and once it takes root in a culture, logic is lost, as are the reasons it started. As was the original (i.e. earlier in time) "tradition."

Chinese footbinding, once considered the essence of progress, began because of an emperor's fetish for tiny female feet, eventually becoming a measure of a woman's status and honor. It has been compared to circumcision, and both practices were assumed to be virtuous because they were bound by tradition.

Hey, I am not being judgmental here. I admit publicly that I am circumcised, and I hold no grudge against the doctor who performed it, or my parents for ordering the procedure. But I am not so arrogant as to insist that what was done to me be done to others. Nor would I suggest that our civilization will plunge into barbarity if the modern trend against routine circumcision continues on its present course. (My personal preferences -- whether progressive or not -- are completely irrelevant.)

Speaking of progress, Mr. Warren seems to forget that Islam purports to be the most "modern" and most "advanced" of the three big monotheist religions. Doubtless Muslims also consider themselves to be the sum total of the "wealth of accumulated and applied human experience, growing through the centuries" which Warren describes. Yet no society in the world today more brutally punishes homosexuality than fundamentalist Islam of those countries following the Shariah.

While Islam is not mentioned in the Warren piece, there is this intriguing statement that we must look:

outside the West today, or into prison wards, to find social orders in which male homosexuality is "normal", in which it becomes the alternative bond of society. In all such societies the position of women is radically different than in our own; in all of them women are reduced to chattels -- and kept, if you will, as breeding machines.
Let's play detective! What society shares the following characteristics:

  • outside the West today
  • where male homosexuality is "the alternative bond of society" and;
  • in which "women are reduced to chattels" and kept as breeding machines.
  • Surely not Islam! That would defeat Warren's entire argument. Because Islam is anti-homosexual -- and in the most "progressive" sense of the word! How can that be?

    Or, let us return to the Middle Ages, when homosexuals were tortured to death in the name of the same progressive movement championed by Warren. Were women liberated? Were Medieval Christians "raising the standards of their societies; and not incidentally, raising the status of their women?"

    Footbinding was considered to raise the status of women too. Tortured (literally) as that argument may be, the claim that prejudice against homosexuality raises the status of women is about as preposterous as a claim that women will be oppressed by having normal feet. (And I am sure some stodgy Mandarin rulers could have supplied a list of reasons at least as long as David Warren's....)

    Finally, isn't Mr. Warren being a bit arrogant in his assumptions about women? I went back and carefully reread his piece, and I saw no reference whatsoever to homosexual women. There are such people, Mr. Warren! They are called "lesbians." I am sure they would welcome an explanation of how freeing them from intolerant laws will "lower the status of women."

    posted by Eric on 10.10.03 at 08:07 AM


    You said it all. Warren and many others concimitantly argue or assume that monotheism is better than polytheism because it is more modern. As you point out, given this premise, one could argue that Islam is better than Christianity. Then, one could argue that atheism is an advance over monotheism, even Communism over Christianity. I'm against that. I'm a reactionary. I'm for the old ways, the Gods and the Goddesses of the ancients, and men being men's men and women loving women.

    Steven Malcolm Anderson   ·  December 9, 2003 5:04 AM

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