Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Toward a More Spiritual Meaning of the Homosexuality Taboo: My Response to Dr. Lively III
Evan Hurst did a post, commenting on my original encounter with Dr. Scott Lively. He also pointed me to a video of Dr. Lively blaming the Rwandan genocide on homosexuals.
I have no problem acknowledging that homosexual individuals took part in the genocide. I do have a problem with linking the genocide to Homosexuality. You are free to make your own judgments as to whether this is a call for mass murder. Can someone like Dr. Lively truly play innocent in urging the mass murder of homosexuals when saying things like this? Is this not a matter of saying: "Homosexuals should not be killed (wink wink), but they are responsible for all the world's worst blood baths (wink wink) and you need to do everything necessary (wink wink) to protect yourself."
I would like to point you to a recent op-ed by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of England, in the Times. He takes a similar position to mine, though he is a much better writer, in regards to homosexuality and freedom of religion. Do take a look at the comments. The rabid venom of some of these secularists is simply frightening. These people do not have a meaningful notion of what rights mean and they actively seek to be able trample over the liberties of people of faith. Such people need to be kept as far as possible from government.
Thank you for your change of tone.
I'm not defending Igra regarding Shaw. I'm actually now questioning whether it was even Shaw that Igra implicated in his book based the violence on your reaction to the idea. You certainly know much more about the Protocols than I do. I don't have any notes on this question in my files because the issue was irrelevant to my research at the time -- and I cannot be confident in my fading memory of that book. However, I didn't give you the tip because of Shaw's connection, but primarily because it related to the Protocols. In any case, I agree that evidence is the necessary prerequiste to deciding whether to entertain a theory, which is all the more reason why you should not have dismissed Igra. You haven't yet seen the evidence.
Just to play Devil's Advocate, let us assume I remembered correctly and Shaw was Igra's subject. Is it really so implausible that he could have written the Protocols? He was morally capable such an act, wouldn't you agree? He was certainly artistically capable of writing it in the persona of its purported author. By analogy, good actors can play bad actors when the script calls for it. And if Shaw, a reportedly "celibate homosexual" was a close friend of the "out and proud" translator of the document, you have what any good prosecutor would call probable cause for a search warrant: motive and opportunity. I'm not saying it's enough to persuade a jury, or that I am personally persuaded, but it's not a crackpot theory in the vein of Mormon "theology".
You may be surprised to learn that I completely agree with your arguments in paragraphs 3 and 4. I, too, prefer a secular society. I too would be unwilling at accept any current religious leaders in any sort of theocratic rulership. That said, I strongly disagree with your premise that secularism can be "religiously neutral." Every legal or governmental system necessarily rests on moral presuppositions which in turn assume an ultimate source of moral authority. This is why atheism in not only morally bankrupt, but literally irrational, in the truest sense of the word. By definition it denies G-d, whose existence is the only possible "prime reality" in logic (a "prime reality" being the logical presupposition that does not itself depend on any other presupposition) and thus, true atheists (as opposed to confused thesists just looking for a way to escape accountability) cannot accurately perceive reality.
The enlightened secularism achieved by the founders rested firmly on Biblical presuppositions. The founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence and Constitution reflect a distinctly Judeo-Christian world view, and the historic record is replete with admonitions from the framers of those documents that to deviate from their world view would lead to disintegration of the nation. Their "secularism" held (for example) the Ten Commandments to be objectively true and inviolable moral precepts, and viewed religious freedom as a matter of tolerance for views that deviated from unarguable truth NOT the system of religious pluralism we're suffering today in which every theological notion, however foolish, is deemed equal.
If you really want a study in absurdity, ponder the question of what religious neutrality by government actually means when atheism and theism are granted equivalence. It is Aristotle's logical impossibility: A cannot be Not A. If A is theism and Not A is atheism government is presented with the impossible task of holding contradictory premises at the same time. This explains the schizophrenia of our government since the 1940s when "religion" was redefined by the Supreme Court to include atheism. Atheism must logically win in such a contest since it has no prescriptions of its own but is only a contradiction of theism's prescriptions. Yet, only theism has rational prescriptions for human needs and underlies the only workable portions of our public policy. Thus, the literal insanity of our age and the explanation for the so-called "culture war." So how do we restore/achieve a sane and workable secularism without veering into theocracy? Through the stewardship of individuals with the ability to understand and apply Biblical principles to civil society and the maturity to do so for the greater good and not personal (or sectarian) advantage.
This brings me to your 2nd paragraph. I take the Bible at face value and accept its absolute authority, but I believe the greater lessons of Scripture are not in the letter of the law, but much more in the spirit of it. I seek the principles of the Bible by attempting to discern G-d's meaning and purposes within, beneath and behind the Scripture. Thus, for example, I do not want to apply the letter of the Mosaic law to homosexuals because I perceive that the letter of the law was meant (and was appropriate) for the nomadic tribal society it was unveiled to and is not intended nor appropriate for today. However, underlying that law are numerous easily discernable principles (including but not limited to) the importance of heterosexual duality, their sanctification of sex only in marriage, the predictability of harmful consequences for deviating from G-d's design, and the necessity of social/governmental affirmation of G-d's standards. I believe that while the letter of the law is subject to modification in its application, the principles of the law are eternally constant and binding.
I conclude that G-d's proscription of homosexuality is of greater concern to Him than other things like eating pork or even civil crimes like theft by the way these issues are addressed throughout Scripture. G-d's emphatic condemnation of homosexuality predates the Mosaic law, is expressly named and clarified in the law in a way that few other sins are, is specifically addressed throughout the historical books -- always in the context of this conduct/lifestyle bringing severe spiritual and sociological consequences -- and is specifically and repeatedly re-affirmed in the New Testament, even while many other Old Testament proscriptions are deemed fulfilled by Christ or otherwise changed. In my reading, only idolatry is treated in Scripture more harshly, but even in this, homosexuality is frequently implicated as an essential aspect.
(If I am "obsessed", it is with my desire to align my mind with G-d's. I honestly would love not to deal with the homosexual issue at all and spare myself all of the hate from the Left, but as one of the few people in the West today with both broad knowledge of the issue and the courage to articulate it unapologetically without regard for my personal reputation or safety, I have a responsibility to do so.)
Contrary to your apparent belief, Biblical law and civil law are not separate and distinct realms regulating believers and non-believers respectively. Sure, the law related to Jewish ritual may be so, but what we call civil law is almost entirely derived from the Biblical law. Take a look at Blackstone's Commentaries on the Law of England sometime and you'll see just how much this is true. You cannot and should not attempt to divorce the criminal law from its true source, which is the mind and will of G-d. Apply your logic regarding sodomy to other Biblical criminal proscriptions such as murder and you can see it isn't sound or workable.
I challenge you to consider how much your arguments for minimizing the threat of homosexuality may be rooted in the fear of being ridiculed as "absurd" by your politically-correct peers. Your generation has been subjected to a culture-wide campaign of propaganda on this issue to such an astonishing degree it is a wonder that any of you are still willing to call homosexuality sin. I respect you for that, but as for your conclusion that homosexuality is a harmless lifestyle alternative outside the scope of secular civil regulation I think you are allowing yourself to be ensnared in an irrational contradiction to your faith and to good public policy.
Dr. Scott Lively
In regards to Shaw and Ingra, I see you are yielding on that front. I will take that as a win. As to why Shaw did not write the Protocols, I would say it is about as likely that he wrote Huckleberry Finn. Shaw, like Mark Twain, was one of the great masters of wit in the English language. Maybe Shaw was experimenting with writing in a more American style? The Protocols first show up in Russian newspapers around 1905. We do not know for certain for actually wrote it, but we can be pretty confident with a profile of a conservative Russian aristocrat.
I do not see a problem with a secular state, properly understood, and see no reason why government cannot be something outside religion. Take your garbage man or highway patrolman; is there a religious way to collect the garbage or hand out speeding tickets? I have no reason to doubt that atheists would be able to collect the trash from my curb or hand out tickets to people driving eighty miles an hour. The government is the sum of all of these little jobs. A government that keeps crime at low levels, defends the borders and handles monetary disputes all while allowing me to pursue my own good in my own way in the privacy of my own home is an effective government. None of this has anything to do with religion or private morality. Rudy Giuliani was a good mayor and I think he would have made a good president. As a human being he may be an absolute scumbag and I would certainly not want him on the board of my synagogue.
I was particularly interested in how you made that "Christian" turn of turning toward the "spiritual" message of the ban on homosexual sex. I also believe that biblical commandments have a spiritual component underlying them, but that the physical commandment is still real and valid and that the spiritual message must be approached through the physical commandment. It would seem that you operate with a Protestant sola scriptura approach to religious authority. As an Orthodox Jew I operate within a religious framework that Catholics would empathize with. Religious authority comes less from my personal reading of the Bible and more on rabbinic authority and the Jewish legal tradition. If you wanted to prove something to a Catholic about his faith you would not quote verses from scripture. Instead you would hand him Augustine, Aquinas, the Fourth Lateran Council and Vatican II. Similarly with rabbinic Judaism the most important text is not really the Bible. If you wish to prove something you need to turn to the Talmud, Maimonides and Rabbi Joseph Caro.
While you can talk about every man being allowed to decide things for himself, if you wish to have a religious community you need to have some sort of final human authority for the buck to stop by. This has nothing to do with this human authority being infallible. A Catholic would tell you that whatever he may personally think of abortion and contraceptives, in order to have a community of Catholics there is a need for someone to set official Catholic policy and that man is the Bishop of Rome. One could personally believe that the Pope is wrong in his ruling and still be a religious Catholic and bow to his rule. Someone had to make a decision and even the wrong decision is better than the Church falling into schisms. The problem with Protestants is that they have no system of authority so every disagreement risks schism. If my neighbor reads scripture differently than I do then he must be a servant of Satan trying to undermine God's True Church and we must break away from him. (I study sixteenth century history; that is Protestantism for you in one sentence.) Protestant movements are only able to succeed by hypocritically bringing in religious authority (whether Luther or Calvin) and hoping that no one will notice that they are adopting "papist" thinking.
I believe in the importance of each person having their relationship with God in their basement or on a hilltop. The moment you wish to have a religious society then you are going to need to agree to some form of religious authority and submit to it even in those situations where you disagree with the religious authority. Just as I am willing to split public politics from private religion, I am also willing to split a personal private spirituality from public established religion. Each one is legitimate within its own particular sphere.
Regardless of this general objection to your approach to religious authority, your application of this approach to homosexuality only ties the noose all the tighter in terms of homophobia. You understand the spiritual meaning of the ban on homosexuality as "the importance of heterosexual duality, their sanctification of sex only in marriage, the predictability of harmful consequences for deviating from G-d's design, and the necessity of social/governmental affirmation of G-d's standards."
I have met Episcopalians who have told me that the spiritual meaning of the ban on homosexuality was to stop the sort predatory homosexual relationships that were common in biblical times. It was never meant to ban "warm" "loving" "committed" "monogamous" homosexual relationships that exist today. Therefore such homosexuals should be welcomed into the Church without prejudice. How is this spiritual reading of scripture any less valid than yours? This raises the question of why you go with your reading; is it possible that you are motivated, just a little bit, by a personal hatred to homosexuals that has nothing to do with God or scripture?
This is not a problem for Orthodox Jews like me or for Catholics. I could respond to the Episcopalian (or the Reform Jew) that, regardless of the moral and spiritual commitment of our homosexual couple, we could not accept them into our religious community because their actions are not in keeping with the demands of the community. This is nothing personal; I am fully willing to acknowledge that these people may be fully right with God, maybe even more so than I am, but the community cannot admit them without undermining the very integrity of the community. This would be no different than if a righteous Jewish pork lover would raise and slaughter his pig in an ethical manner and eat it with the highest spiritual intentions. This Jew may be very holy and beloved by God. God can see into this man's heart and accept him for spiritually keeping his commandments. As a guardian of the community I can only see that he has willfully violated the physical commandments of God.
I can hide behind my religious legal traditions, but you cannot. To do that would be Catholic or, even worse, Pharisaic of you.