I have friends -- people whose intelligence and character I truly respect -- who participate in loving same-sex relationships. Yet I have the audacity to believe that, because of the teachings of a man who lived 20 centuries ago, their lifestyle choice is less than what God desires for them, and that their decision to pursue a homosexual relationship amounts not to an embrace of diversity but in fact a rejection of diversity, a "no" to the other gender which makes up half the world.
As people like sociologist Peter Berger have pointed out, these disagreements divide us so sharply because both parties are morally outraged at the other side. As in World War I, everyone thinks they're on the defense, and the issue isn't gaining new ground but not losing the ground they already have.
Into the foray of this ever-evolving discussion has come a truly thought-provoking, extremely polished and as-of-late viral video featuring Iowa citizen and college student Zach Wahls. It was aptly named "Two Lesbians Raised a Baby and This is What They Got." If you haven't seen it, I urge you to check it out now so that my comments will make sense.
I consulted with a homosexual friend to make sure I had not misunderstood Wahls, and I agree with his synopsis. Wahls is arguing that a practice is not necessarily bad if something good can result from it, and that his similarities to other people (others who were raised by heterosexuals) constitute a strong argument for the normative and morally upright nature of homosexuality, and indeed of homosexual parenting.
I think Wahls made a strong speech. But whether homosexuality is morally healthy or not, the argument being made is the so-called "argument from result," and I don't think anyone actually subscribes to that argument.
I have no doubt, for example, that someday another young man will be put in the limelight, this time one raised by two homosexuals, who has nothing but vitriol and disdain for homosexuality. He will not be accepted as a living, breathing argument against homosexuality any more than we ought to take Wahls as a living, breathing argument for it. In the same way, we might find a culturally nuanced, Ivy League educated child of Muslim fundamentalists and offer him up as an example of the merits of Islamic fundamentalism. I somehow doubt that that would do much to endear Islamic fundamentalism to people.
That's because, in both cases, we have to evaluate things not simply for whether good can co-exist with them but for what they are in themselves.
Last month, a forum was held at NYU to debate the idea "The World Would Be Better off Without Religion." David Wolpe, rabbi of the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, quoted Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times to the effect that:
"Go to the front lines, at home or abroad, in the battles against hunger, malaria, prison rape, obstetric fistula, human trafficking or genocide, and some of the bravest people you meet are evangelical Christians (or conservative Catholics, similar in many ways) who truly live their faith."
This quote employed the argument from good result. A Christian might very well hear it and respond "what's there to debate? We ought to all be Christians." Yet I was not surprised at all when Matthew Chapman, one of those arguing against the merits of religion, instead opened his Bible to quote from the Pentateuch. The quotes he read, as he summarized, were all the evidence that anyone might need to discount (in this case Judeo-Christian) religion. The thing itself, he maintained, was evil and corrupt and therefore ought to be rejected, regardless of any seemingly good result.
We do not evaluate things simply based on whether good or bad may be fostered in their wake. In every sector of life and policy, regardless of the debate, we evaluate them on their own merits and moral qualities.
Even as I disagree with their position, I continue to be impressed -- at least from a sociological standpoint -- by the astonishing strides which leaders of the LGBT movement have made to advance their agenda in the United States and abroad. In fact, I am impressed with and find no fault in Zach Wahls' decision to make his speech. But whether you vehemently disagree with homosexuality or participate in the local Pride parade every year, you ought to do so based on your convictions about the nature and morality of homosexuality itself, not on the basis of whether good or bad may befall those who grow up in a homosexual household.
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