Saturday, March 17, 2007

Albert Mohler Jr.

Albert Mohler, Jr. president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, posted this blog piece this week igniting quite a controversy.

The piece covers recent scientific studies that are pointing to (but have not been anywhere near proven) that sexual orientation has a basis in biology, including homosexual orientation. For some Christian conservatives this would be problematic as their condemnation of homosexuality is so complete that any proof of "naturality" to the orientation would suggest humans were created by God with such an orientation. To liberals, Mohler correctly notes, people will abort babies (or design them otherwise) who it is shown to have (however this would be decided) such an orientation. So liberals will face a dilemma: begin criticizing their own pro-choice (and only pro-choice) position and support for homosexual rights as well as one might argue stem cell research.

Here's Mohler's 10 conclusions: (not commandments I think)

1. There is, as of now, no incontrovertible or widely accepted proof that any biological basis for sexual orientation exists.

2. Nevertheless, the direction of the research points in this direction. Research into the sexual orientation of sheep and other animals, as well as human studies, points to some level of biological causation for sexual orientation in at least some individuals.

3. Given the consequences of the Fall and the effects of human sin, we should not be surprised that such a causation or link is found. After all, the human genetic structure, along with every other aspect of creation, shows the pernicious effects of the Fall and of God's judgment.

4. The biblical condemnation of all homosexual behaviors would not be compromised or mitigated in the least by such a discovery. The discovery of a biological factor would not change the Bible's moral verdict on homosexual behavior.

5. The discovery of a biological basis for homosexuality would be of great pastoral significance, allowing for a greater understanding of why certain persons struggle with these particular sexual temptations.

6. The biblical basis for establishing the dignity of all persons -- the fact that all humans are made in God's image -- reminds us that this means all persons, including those who may be marked by a predisposition toward homosexuality. For the sake of clarity, we must insist at all times that all persons -- whether identified as heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, transsexual, transgendered, bisexual, or whatever -- are equally made in the image of God.

7. Thus, we will gladly contend for the right to life of all persons, born and unborn, whatever their sexual orientation. We must fight against the idea of aborting fetuses or human embryos identified as homosexual in orientation.

8. If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin.

9. We must stop confusing the issues of moral responsibility and moral choice. We are all responsible for our sexual orientation, but that does not mean that we freely and consciously choose that orientation. We sin against homosexuals by insisting that sexual temptation and attraction are predominately chosen. We do not always (or even generally) choose our temptations. Nevertheless, we are absolutely responsible for what we do with sinful temptations, whatever our so-called sexual orientation.

10. Christians must be very careful not to claim that science can never prove a biological basis for sexual orientation. We can and must insist that no scientific finding can change the basic sinfulness of all homosexual behavior. The general trend of the research points to at least some biological factors behind sexual attraction, gender identity, and sexual orientation. This does not alter God's moral verdict on homosexual sin (or heterosexual sin, for that matter), but it does hold some promise that a deeper knowledge of homosexuality and its cause will allow for more effective ministries to those who struggle with this particular pattern of temptation. If such knowledge should ever be discovered, we should embrace it and use it for the greater good of humanity and for the greater glory of God.

First off, points 6 and 7 express some strong pro-life sentiments and do say that all humans (whatever their orientation/s) are made in the image of God. Mohler also expresses how such a finding--if it were to occur--could lead to greater compassion/empathy for such people. Of course that position assumes they are struggling with something that is inherently immoral.

What is not supported--at least what is not stated in this piece--is Christian support for an end to prejudice and oppression of GLBT communities. That is it a very open question in my mind whether pro-life means only pro beginning in the womb life. What about fighting the forces of death after birth?

This is very Mohler is facing a double-bind. He wants to say that a human is made in the image of God, including gay and lesbian, but also that the orientation is wrong. To make this argument he states that the consequences of the Fall and Original Sin have infected the human genome (point #3).

As someone who thinks consciousness and matter co-arise, neither causing the other--neither idealism nor materialism--then I assume there has to be some biological element. But importantly not acknowledged by Mohler is socio-cultural construction.

As someone who also believes that the universe (via Spirit) is trying to create greater degrees of complexity and possible ethical choice & communion, then it makes sense to say "The Fall" involves biology. It is not a Fall in this sense but rather a pressure from above that is preventing further movement.

But the idea that GLBT orientations are part of that inherited sin is one I do not hold. I do not believe the Bible condemns all homosexual activity, but rather porneia: adult males using boys as sodomites; adult same sex prostitution. Both of these involve the oppression of another person, the injustice and pain caused on a non-equal, and the sinful seeking of one's own pleasure through using another's body. That to me is sinful. I do not find the Bible criticizing adult mutually chosen, monogamous companionship.

What I find the most offensive in Mohler's words is point 8: support for prenatal testing (were it to be invented) and therapies (were they to be developed as seems at least highly likely) to "cure" homosexual orientation.

The orientation recall is a temptation. The human is created in the image of God and therefore possessing inherent dignity. But the human is ravaged by the effects of sin and therefore if we can mitigate human temptation, we should as a compassionate action. Homosexual orientation (and all this literature almost always means gay male) is (by this view) always a temptation, hence out of mercy we should relieve people, if we can, of this temptation.

Those to me are dangerous ethical suggestions.


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