Speaking of closets....

Is Ted Haggard the latest to be "outed"? I don't think so.

I don't think the word "outed" really applies, because despite the rather gay looking picture (obvious enough for Glenn Reynolds to notice) I seriously doubt Haggard will ever say he's "out." From the perspective of his supporters, it is understandable that they would want to pray for him. From that perspective, it is also understandable that as long as he does not declare himself to be gay, he is not. And if he is not, then can he be said to be out?

This touches on the huge difference between Ted Haggard and the outed gay Republicans. While the latter are gay; they're generally outed because they were discreet about it, and the hypocrisy charge is leveled at them for very different reasons. Haggard literally preaches against something he practices, while the crime of the outed gay Republicans is not that they preached against homosexuality, but that their employers are against gay marriage.

I don't think this is a distinction without a difference. For whatever reason, Haggard is truly ashamed of his homosexuality. For the most part, the gay Republicans just don't want to make an issue of it.

The reason I'm writing this is because I expect people to lump Haggard in with the gay Republicans, and it simply isn't logical.

Beyond that, I think there's something else going on, and it goes to the heart of what I have never been able to understand.

There's no live and let live with people like him. Homosexuality is something to be fought personally -- and not just within oneself. It is something that must be fought in other people, even total strangers. Why anyone would care what another person does with his genitalia is something I will never understand. But that's one of my blind spots. I don't understand it because I don't think or behave that way. As I've tried to explain countless times, I see sexual intercourse as a matter between the people having or wanting to have it. The only person who has any reasonable or logical right to worry about my choice of sex partners would be someone who has or wants to have sex with me (or, of course, someone with whom I might want to have sex). But this runs afoul of the communitarian view that everyone's business is everyone else's collective business, and while I have tried to understand this view, I just don't feel it internally, and I doubt I ever will.

Beyond this, there is personal disgust towards homosexuality. While I see homosexuality as an undeniable part of nature (even though it is no more reproductive than masturbation), I recognize that it's normal to be disgusted by that which is personally repellent. (I hate the idea of eating liver, for example, and I would gag and possibly vomit if made to eat it.)

However, there are many people who are not turned on by homosexuality who nonetheless do not find it as viscerally repellent as others. While it might not be fear in the usual sense, I've likened it to the phenomenon of people who recoil over spiders or snakes. You either have that kind of reaction or you don't. Sure, there are people who love snakes and keep them as pets (just as there are people who run away screaming from them) but most people don't have strong feelings.

What makes a strong feeling?

Should society be guided by strong feelings of this nature?

Should there be a culture war between people who have strong feelings?

Where does this leave the people who don't?

Is there a right to be left alone?

MORE: I realize that I have not addressed religious feelings. But right there, I'm running into a logical quagmire.

Can a religious belief fairly be called a feeling? If a religious text prohibits eating certain things (or engaging in certain sex acts), is that really the same thing as feelings that might arise from doing or refraining from doing the prohibited activities?

I hope this doesn't sound condescending or judgmental, but I see other people's religious views the way I see other aspects of their personal lives. It's none of my business unless they make it my business.

posted by Eric on 11.03.06 at 09:53 AM










Comments

I've long argued that most forms of extremism harkens back to one's own psychological issues. I'm reminded of the psychological theory that suggests that the psyche is similar to a tube of toothpaste. The gist of the argument is that a tube of toothpaste works well when the cap is removed and pressure is applied in order to push the paste from the container. However, if the cap is placed on the tube and the same pressure is applied, toothpaste will eventually ooze out from numerous newly created and unintended openings. The psyche functions similarly in that if we allow our identity to flow naturally and resist the societal pressure to "cap it" we function normally...but if we attempt to hide our identity...meaning to "cap it" in order to keep it hidden (whether that be from shame, fear, or some other factor)...it will escape and manifest itself in numerous dysfunctional behaviors.

If Jesus was to be our example, then I don't understand this thing we now call Christian values. Pastor Haggard may believe that he speaks for God but his actions suggest that he merely fears his own humanity. Further, if the values he espouses exist to demonstrate his faith in the God he knows, then the God he knows must have already seen this element of his humanity that he cannot personally accept...which would mean that any true God has already accepted that which we humans won't and would also prove that the God Haggard purports to represent is not a real God but a God of his own creation designed to serve his flawed view of the human condition.

Read more here:

www.thoughttheater.com

Daniel DiRito   ·  November 3, 2006 11:23 AM

There are two ways to preach against the subject of homosexuality:
(1) Love the sinner. Hate the sin
(2) Hate the sin. Hate the sinner.

The first one is wholly consistent with Christian values. The second is such a perversion of Christian values that it is, in my belief, the work of the devil.

If you are Christian, and you see that another person is doing something harmful to himself, or to his soul, you have an obligation to try to prevent this from happening. And it makes sense that if you are "tempted" by the "sin" of homosexuality, you would be particularly motivated to preach against it. (The use of "scare" quotes is not sarcastic, but is value-neutral and being done to avoid making a "judgment" as to whether homosexuality is or is not a sin; I am merely stating the mindset of the person holding the belief system.)

I know nothing about Rev. Haggard or his church. If he is preaching against homosexuality from the former perspective -- love the sinner hate the sin -- I have no problem with that. It's not hypocritical to fall short of your goal. However, if his message is a godhatesfags.com style "hate the sinner as well as the sin" perversion, I've got a fundamental problem with his theology as well as his mental health. I don't know enough about him to know which one it is.

Rhodium Heart   ·  November 3, 2006 4:34 PM

A Palestinian storekeeper once took a liking to me and expressed concern about my buying pork in his store. "God doesn't like that," he said. I appreciated his concern, and I know he meant well, but regardless of what constitutes sin, from where derives the notion that some men have a responsibility to worry about the sins of other men?

It's one thing to offer advice, but do Christians really have an obligation to try to prevent others from sinning? If all people are sinful by nature, it strikes me as unreasonable as well as impossible. And if sin is to be prevented in others, why the disproportionate singling out of homosexuality for attempted prevention? Is it worse than theft, adultery, perjury, breaking the Sabbath, making graven images, or taking the Lord's name in vain?

Who decides?

Eric Scheie   ·  November 3, 2006 5:03 PM

"And if sin is to be prevented in others, why the disproportionate singling out of homosexuality for attempted prevention? Is it worse than theft, adultery, perjury, breaking the Sabbath, making graven images, or taking the Lord's name in vain?"

I once had a discussion with a good friend (LDS) who was very uncomfortable with homosexuality (but not homosexuals). It took a little work, but I got him to admit that even under his theological interpretation, adultery was a far worse sin than what he perceived homosexuality to be. Why the obsession with homosexuality? Is there? Or, would there be but for the media obsession? Do evangelical Christians really spend that much time or energy on the subject or does the media just like to make us think they do? I think it's the latter. (This does not apply to the truly evil man Fred Phelps and his demented followers.)

The fundamental question, though, is what is the extent of a Christian's obligation/duty to prevent another from sinning? We live in a world with free will and people are free to choose to sin. They just have to deal with the consequences, whether that be in this world or next. But what is the good Christian's duty to prevent another from sinning?

Clearly, if you ahve an alcoholic friend who's trying to quit, you shouldn't jut sit idly by, shrug, and watch him take a drink. How much is enough? Silent prayer? Remind him that he's trying to stay sober? Talk him out of it? Pour the booze down the drain? Punch him in the jaw so that he's in too much pain to remember to drink? Obviously that last point or two is too far, but how far is too far?

What about the Christian who thinks homosexuality is a sin? What level of prevention is sufficient to discharge one's Christian duty? Prayer? A benign prayer from a third party asking God to give me the strength to live my life in accordance with God's plan and wishes would definitely be welcome. What about a prayer that I be "cured" of homosexual desire? Too much or not enough? What about a church sermon that sex outside of a male/female marriage is a sin? Too much or not enough? (For the record, I've never heard a priest give such a sermon.) What about an active church social calendar so that the young'uns don't prowl the internet looking for porn? If that's the purpose, is that legit?

Christians have a duty to prevent others from committing sins. But if you can figure out exactly where the line should be drawn -- separating helpful assistance and a friendly hand from improper restraint and autocracy -- congratulations. You'll be in line to be one of the great theologians of our age.

By the way -- don't you think this whole "hypocrisy" question and the issue of line-drawing and how much prevention is enough also applies to environmental policy? Food, diet and nutrition, too. It's just not sex and definitely not just homosexual sex.

Rhodium Heart   ·  November 4, 2006 12:54 AM

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