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Whining about same-sex marriage is always in season in some circles. Let’s critique one such article, “The importance of your gag reflex when discussing homosexuality and ‘gay marriage.’

“Gag reflex”? I doubt we’ll find much respect and compassion in this article.

The secret weapon in undercutting same-sex marriage

The author (a pastor) begins by acknowledging that Christians will be branded as hateful, first simply for being Christian and second for their desire to “speak the truth in love.”

(Poor baby. It must be so difficult being a Christian busybody in America today).

He says that the secret weapon against same-sex marriage is first to strip away “euphemisms” like gay or homosexual:

We’ve actually stopped talking about the things that lie at the heart of the issue—sexual promiscuity of an abominable sort. I say “abominable” because that’s how God describes it in His word.

I don’t think that word means what you think it means

God labels eating shellfish as abominable. These are ritual abominations, not ones that actually cause any harm.

The Jewish ritual burdens (kosher food laws, circumcision, and other requirements demanded of Jews) were not put on the new gentile converts to Christianity. Prohibitions against homosexual activity in Leviticus 18 and 20 are mixed with other rules that Christians have abandoned. These rules come as a package, and Christians can’t now go back for a few old favorites that they’d like to revive.

The gag reflex is relative, and it makes no sense to say, “Well that grosses me out, so it must be objectively immoral.”

Next the author moves on to a somewhat explicit description of homosexual sex acts with the admitted goal of provoking a reaction of disgust. He concludes:

That sense of moral outrage you’re now likely feeling—either at the descriptions above or at me for writing them—that gut-wrenching, jaw-clenching, hand-over-your-mouth, “I feel dirty” moral outrage is the gag reflex. It’s what you quietly felt when you read “two men deep kissing” in the second paragraph. Your moral sensibilities have been provoked—and rightly so. That reflex triggered by an accurate description of homosexual behavior will be the beginning of the recovery of moral sense and sensibility when it comes to the so-called “gay marriage” debate.

If you’re disgusted at two men kissing, then don’t kiss another man. If you were gay, you’d have a different response.

So two men kissing is offensive but a man and a woman aren’t? How about a male and female coworker kissing in the corner during a business meeting—would that be offensive or at least extremely inappropriate? If you’re made queasy at the thought of your parents doing it, does that mean that it’s morally wrong?

And if, in the right situation, you’d enjoy watching a man and a woman kissing, let’s change it up. Now the woman is much heavier. Or much older. Or much uglier. How about now—is it just as enjoyable? (I’m seeing this from a straight male perspective because the author of this article was male).

The author thinks that dropping our pretense of politeness and describing behavior accurately “will be the beginning of the recovery of moral sense and sensibility when it comes to the so-called ‘gay marriage’ debate.”

3 points of rebuttal

I see several problems here. First, the author thinks that he’s found in the gag reflex a reliable shortcut to God’s morality. He says, “Deep down we all—Christian and non-Christian, heterosexual and homosexual—know it’s wrong.” But do we? Different people have different turn-ons. If a man finds his wife sexy but you find her unattractive, so what? Who cares about your critique of someone else’s sexual relationship? By extension, if a man loves another man, what concern is that of yours? The gag reflex is relative, and it makes no sense to say, “Well that grosses me out, so it must be objectively immoral.”

If he wants visceral gut reactions, pregnant women are often very sensitive to smells. Does he find objective moral wisdom in this? What about the reactions of a typical American to traditional cultural foods in other parts of the world—say, natto (fermented soybeans), Vegemite, or insects. These might provoke widespread disgust, but so what? If these are familiar foods to other people, who are you to complain?

Second, whatever sex act you don’t approve of, there are more straights doing it than homosexuals, simply because there are far more of them. If it’s consensual and the sex pleases them, where’s the problem?

Third, it’s not homosexual sex that’s disgusting but sex itself. Imagine teaching a seven-year-old about how homosexual sex works. They’d be disgusted. Now imagine teaching how heterosexual sex works. They’d be disgusted. Sex is the issue, not homosexual sex.

Or, imagine meeting someone at a cocktail party and having them describe their last straight sexual encounter or their favorite sexual fantasy. It’s not that one kind of sex is pure and beautiful while the other is hurtful and filthy, it’s that sex has its place, and a public setting isn’t it.

(In the interest of completeness, the author responded to feedback to his article).

This author’s book of Iron Age prudery is no guide in the 21st century. Sexual acts are a problem if all parties don’t give consent (or if they withdraw consent) or if precautions against disease or unwanted pregnancy aren’t taken. They’re not a problem simply because they’re homosexual.

I support Christians’ right to speak about their views on same-sex marriage, but they won’t stand up to scrutiny if they’re as weak as this.

If the Bible got the easiest moral question
that humanity has ever faced [that is, slavery] wrong,
what are the odds that the Bible got something
as complicated as human sexuality wrong?
— Dan Savage

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CROSS EXAMINED After graduating from MIT, Bob Seidensticker designed digital hardware, and he is a co-contributor to 14 software patents. For more than a decade, he has explored the debate between Christianity...