Respectful Insolence

“Christians can be perverts too”

I wasn’t planning on writing about Ted Haggard. I mean, what’s another fundamentalist preacher falling from grace and admitting that, yes, he did indeed purchase methamphetamine and in essence admitting that he did have sex with themale prostitute “massage therapist” who had accused him of doing so? What’s another hypocritical preacher who preaches what he himself does not live up to? We’ve seen enough of their ilk. Schadenfreude aside, it’s not particularly surprising, and it’s only interesting because Haggard used to brag about his closeness with President Bush and his weekly phone calls with him.

Then I came across a post by LaShawn Barber. Now, if you recall, LaShawn and I don’t see eye to eye on most things; she is a conservative Christian of the type that has driven me away from the Republican Party, particularly her truly uninformed and inane defense of Prussian Blue. In fact, perhaps the only thing we see eye to eye on is her love of Harry Potter and her slapping down Laura Mallory, the idiotic fundie who’s trying to ban Harry Potter books from school libraries in Georgia. This time around, though, she wrote a post about Haggard whose title, at least, made me chuckle, Christians Can Be Perverts Too.

Then I thought about it. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Barber seems to be saying that homosexual sex is in and of itself a perversion and that homosexuals are perverts. True, she did add later a rather tepid “clarification”:

Yes, sex outside of marriage is a perversion of what God intended, too. We all fall short of God’s standards, so in a sense, we’re all perverts. It’s a perverted world!

(“Too,” as in “in addition to homosexual sex.”)

But to me this clarification seemed added because of criticism that she received more than anything else. From my perspective, Haggard’s offense was not so much that he got it on with a cheesy gay prostitute; it was breaking the vow of fidelity he made to his wife, thus causing pain to his family. That was the true evil. He also broke the law by buying and using an illicit drug. But what I found strangest of all was this:

The Bible teaches that we’re all sinners, Christians and non-Christians alike. The difference between the two is that Christians are forgiven for all the sins they’ve ever or will ever commit. Non-Christians are not. They are still under God’s wrath, and unless they repent of those sins and accept Christ as their Savior, they will be judged and punished as unrepentant criminals.

Haggard knows that God has already forgiven him, but the difficult part will be asking his family to forgive him and forgiving himself. Christians know that no matter what we do, the one true God still loves us. He loved us enough to sacrifice his Son so that we wouldn’t be punished for our perversion. Christ bore the shame of it for us.

This fact should embolden all Christians. So don’t despair or shrink away in embarrassment as we learn more about the extent of Haggard’s perversion. Pray for him and heed God’s warning:

I’ve always found this statement from fundies to be puzzling in the extreme. If God has already forgiven Christians for all the sins they’ve ever committed or will ever commit, then what’s the point? And the absolute requirement to accept Christ as your personal savior in the way that they think that you should in essence consigns, in the fundie world view, all non-Christians to hell, no matter how good or how noble they are.

Even back in the days when I was a pretty religious Catholic, I had a problem with that concept. Of course, to many fundamentalists, Catholics aren’t “real Christians” anyway.

Comments

  1. #1 Melissa
    November 6, 2006

    “I’ve always found this statement from fundies to be puzzling in the extreme. If God has already forgiven Christians for all the sins they’ve ever or will ever commit, then what’s the point? And the absolute requirement to accept Christ as your personal savior in the way that fundies think that you should in essence consigns, in the fundie world view, all non-Christians to hell, no matter how good or how noble they are.”

    I’ve always had problems with the notion that a murderer (for example) who accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior will be forgiven by God and go to Heaven. I don’t think I’d want to go there– I’d end up in pretty dubious company!

  2. #2 Rob Knop
    November 6, 2006

    The Bible teaches that we’re all sinners, Christians and non-Christians alike. The difference between the two is that Christians are forgiven for all the sins they’ve ever or will ever commit. Non-Christians are not.

    Foo. That’s not the only reasonable reading of the Bible. I know a lot of Christians believe that, but I sure don’t.

    I do believe the whole “we’re all sinners” thing to some extent. It’s an expression of “nobody’s perfect.” I also think that many (most?) people are basically good, and their transgressions (that happen with all of us, even if we just think naughty things) are nothing to get wadded up about and condemn people as “sinners”. As such, I guess I don’t really agree with the whole “we’re all sinners” thing, because what people mean when they say that is that we’re all irreedemable without the help of Jesus, and I don’t believe that.

    -Rob

  3. #3 ericnh
    November 6, 2006

    The idea of “we’re all sinners” and need to give our lives to Christ never sat well with me. And I agree with Orac that if all is forgiven if we do, then what’s the point of bothering not to sin anymore? Maybe that’s why so many of these supposedly “god-fearing” people are involved in corruption, theft, infidelity, and the like. They feel they can get away with it because God has absolved them from any future wrongdoing and assured them of a place in “His Kingdom” when they die (or not “really” die, since it is supposed to be eternal life). And yet they rant against atheists, claiming them to be immoral and assuming human society would be chaos and anarchy were it not for Biblical law and morals. I’m sorry, but getting a free pass because you’ve given your life to God seems a lot more damaging to the cohesion of society. After all, if the highest power of all says all is forgiven, then why should the devout care about what some elected officials and their laws says?

  4. #4 frank
    November 6, 2006

    “Non-Christians are not. They are still under God’s wrath, and unless they repent of those sins and accept Christ as their Savior, they will be judged and punished as unrepentant criminals.”
    Which makes perfect sense. An eternity of suffering for a finite lifetime of minding your own damn business.

  5. #5 Ahistoricality
    November 6, 2006

    John Calvin Lives!

    Seriously, this sort of predestinational dispensationalism goes back a long, long way, at least to the early Reformationists. It’s a logical, if overwrought, conclusion from the concept of an omniscient, omnipotent, selectively loving Deity.

  6. #6 Korinthian
    November 6, 2006

    What’s funny, though, is that only christians go to hell, the smarter people just die, and that’s that.

  7. #7 Chris
    November 6, 2006

    As a liberal, I hope that someday gays like Ted Haggard will be able to live their lives in peace, without being persecuted by hatemongering bigots like, um, Ted Haggard.

    (Paraphrased from a comment I saw on another blog; unfortunately I forget where.)

    Cheap forgiveness is the biggest problem I have with Christianity. It’s an outright dodging of personal responsibility.

  8. #8 Renee
    November 6, 2006

    To me, Ted Haggard looks a lot like former NJ Governer Jim McGreevey. They’ve got an awful lot in common, except one’s a Republican and the other’s a Democrat.

    Haggard and methamphetamine – at first he said he did buy it, but that he did not use it. What did he do with it? Sell it? Gaze at it and admire it’s crystal structure?

    “…it’s only interesting because Haggard used to brag about his closeness with President Bush and his weekly phone calls with him.”

    I’m not certain why, but when I read ‘weekly phone calls’, I thought ‘phone sex’. Maybe it was the word ‘closeness’.

  9. #9 MadRocketScientist
    November 6, 2006

    My uncle, a deacon with his church, explained the whole accepting Christ thing (in a hopeless effort to help me find Jebus) this way.

    A christian who has truly accepted Christ into his/her heart will live his or her life as closely as they can to Christs ideal (love thy neighbor, be forgiving, accept responsibility and perform appropriate penance, etc ad nauseum). Christians who willingly stray from that ideal (i.e. who sit in judgement of others, who are greedy and corrupt, etc ad nauseum) are not true christians and are not truly saved.

    Sounds nice, but still sounds like a fishy bill of sale to me.

  10. #10 jre
    November 6, 2006

    Hmmm …

    I hadn’t thought of it until you brought it up, but there is a striking mirror-similarity between this idea and one of the most spectacularly silly arguments advanced against biological descent by creationists, viz.: “If people are just animals, then what basis have we to be moral? Why not be an animal, then — rape, kill, etc.?”
    I never understood why our ancestry should have anything to do with our ability to be moral — or, for that matter, how one can reach reliable conclusions about the physical world by reasoning backward from a moral reductio ad absurdum.

    But never mind all that. If LaShawn and other conservative Christians see their faith as a sinner’s Get Out of Jail FREE card, then what further invitation could they possibly need to rape, kill, smoke, drink, cuss, fuss and dance the hootchy-koo?

  11. #11 laughingman
    November 6, 2006

    “Fishy bill of sale.”

    ROFLMAO, MadRocketScientist.

    As an aside, how does LaShawn’s belief square with the idea that you can only get your morality from religion? It seems to me that a sociopath would love this interpretation of the bible. “Jesus loves me and I love Jesus, so it doesn’t matter that I’ve been mutilating animals since I was 8 and killing random people since I was 15. I’m good with the Lord.”

    Is there something I’m missing?

  12. #12 laughingman
    November 6, 2006

    When I started writing my comment, jre’s wasn’t posted. Slow thinker, sorry.

    Anyway, good point, jre. :)

  13. #13 wrg
    November 6, 2006

    I had a fellow recently trying to convince me that “the wages of sin is death” and therefore I must accept Christ to pay that cost. Of course, I’m also somehow supposed to believe that this death sentence has nothing to do with our supposed omnipotent creator. The whole thing sounds like a protection racket. “Nice immortal soul you’ve got there. It’d be a shame if anything happened to it.”

    Speaking of “being an animal”, I’m not sure whether they’ve got the faculties to devise some of our clever cruelties. They’re not as organized in hurting others, in any event, as you don’t often see animals other than humans sending armies to war or torturing each other. I’m aware that predators don’t always kill efficiently and often do cause considerable pain to prey, but they’re unlikely to lock a victim up for repetition.

  14. #14 Keanus
    November 6, 2006

    Yes, I agree with Orac that Haggard’s failing to be faithful to his wife–and failing his children–was a great offense. But equally vile was his rank hypocrisy to himself, his family, and, most importantly, to his followers. How could he stand up there before his parishioners, before the public, or on the phone with Dubya, and rail against homosexuality, homosexuals, gay marriage, and the like knowing full well that he was gay? And how could he be so homophobic when he has to have realized he was born gay? Being gay is no sin, but lying about it, in multiple ways, to himself and others surely is. Yet, his public expressions of contrition only refer to acting on his urges! He’s one mixed-up man. And he claims to have been providing advice to George Bush! But then I’ve always been convinced that the most homophobic among us are themselves homosexuals (or bisexuals) who are desperately trying to deny their reality, a reality that the right side of society tries desperately to deny–in the law no less. Their religion makes them incapable of making peace with themselves so they seek to punish others too.

  15. #15 Sid Schwab
    November 7, 2006

    “reaction formation” is the psychiatric term, is it not? It’s certainly not surprising that those who rail most loudly against a thing are often found to do that very thing. And the “sinner” concept: if a perfect god has made us sinners, then he’s either imperfect, or a very strange guy. He made man a sinner knowing that many (most?) could not, for reasons also of his creation, follow the rules to be saved. So he made man knowing billions would burn in hell forever, according to fundies (including the previous and the current governors of Texas — the current in a statement of a couple of days ago). What would you call a guy who does that? If you proposed a grant to set up a lab model like that, you’d not get funded. No fundee, fundie.

  16. #16 Amy Alkon
    November 7, 2006

    My closest friend slaved away to pay for grad school and get his Ph.D. at 42 in public health. He now does amazing work to help get health care for “underserved populations,” working seven days a week and pumping out study after study. So…if he doesn’t believe in Jesus, but if Adolph Hitler accepted Jesus as his savior before he offed himself…Adolph goes to heaven and my friend goes to hell?

    I think it’s essential to remember what the church is, first and foremost: big business, and in the business of keeping the funding coming in. Why can’t priests marry? Somebody once told me it’s because they’d then have to pass an inheiritance down to their families. If they can’t marry, it all stays in the church. Disgusting. As is the nonthink that has 21st century humans believing, without evidence, in The Invisible Friend, moving them all around like chess pieces, and apparently, worrying about whether they’ve had a bowel movement today.

  17. #17 TheProbe
    November 7, 2006

    Melissa quotes and writes:

    “”I’ve always found this statement from fundies to be puzzling in the extreme. If God has already forgiven Christians for all the sins they’ve ever or will ever commit, then what’s the point? And the absolute requirement to accept Christ as your personal savior in the way that fundies think that you should in essence consigns, in the fundie world view, all non-Christians to hell, no matter how good or how noble they are.”

    I’ve always had problems with the notion that a murderer (for example) who accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior will be forgiven by God and go to Heaven. I don’t think I’d want to go there– I’d end up in pretty dubious company!”

    Do you realize that the next “logical” step after that is to realize that their religious views allow them to justify such things as Crusades, Pogroms, Inquisitions and Holocausts, simply because the victims are all heathens who will rot in Hell for all time. To many of them, they are doing G-d’s work by starting early.

  18. #18 Chris
    November 7, 2006

    The whole thing sounds like a protection racket. “Nice immortal soul you’ve got there. It’d be a shame if anything happened to it.”

    The concept of hell has always been a form of terrorism. Do what the boss says or he’ll torture you for all eternity. It would be funny if people didn’t actually believe it.

    Terrorism isn’t defined by its acts, but by its threats, by the creation and manipulation of terror. The threat of hell was created and still exists to terrify people who believe in it. Successfully terrorized people are then easier to manipulate – do what we say and you won’t have to go to hell.

    Once you’ve accepted that the Torturer in Chief is the source of all morality and the determiner of what is good and evil, then you can go on to do whatever the leaders who speak for him want you to do. Just don’t ask why he never shows up to set the agenda himself – you can get killed (and then sent to hell) for asking awkward questions like that.

  19. #19 Flex
    November 7, 2006

    Keanus wrote, “when he has to have realized he was born gay?”

    That’s a minor pet-peeve of mine. Not that I have anything against Keanus for saying it. It seems to be a common enough viewpoint.

    I’m no expert, but I don’t think it has been shown that sexuality is a simple genetic switch flipped either to ‘hetrosexual’ or ‘homosexual’

    I know there have been various claims that homosexuality is not a choice, but let’s be reasonable.

    Human behaviour is a very complex phenomenon, highly influenced by environment. Sexual behavior is clearly even more heavily environmentally influenced than most. Or is there a claim that S&M desires are also genetically determined?

    Face it, physical contact with another human can be pleasureable, and pleasure strongly re-enforces behavior. It’s like the old George Carlin joke about the dog washing his balls, ‘He’s been on that spot for ten minutes now…. If I could do that, I’d never leave the house.”

    To catagorize sexuality as a something everyone is hard-wired with and knows from an early age is to over-simplify human behavior.

    /rant

    Cheers,

    -Flex

  20. #20 Badger3k
    November 7, 2006

    Of course, christians can be perverts – to have perversions means there has to be judgements on what is perverted, and christians are among the most judgemental people anywhere. They seem to live for perversion, and many see it everywhere, and seem to live in terror of it. Very unstable people, those individuals are.

    Flex, as far as most studies go, there seems to be a huge genetic component to homosexuality. About the biggest question (other than what and how, of course), is whether or not there is a continuum (hetero-bi-homo). The “it’s a choice” argument has been dying a slow death for a while, and I wonder how “reasonable” it is to support an argument that lacks any evidence, and has much evidence against it. About the only choice available seems to be whether or not a homosexual individual stays in the closet, or actually comes out and be who they are.

    Pleasure can reinforce behavior, but it can’t reinforce what isn’t there. If you are a man, and not attracted to other men, no amount of homosexual sex is going to make you gay – unless, you really do have some attraction to men (again, the continuum idea). People in the “ex-gay” movement admit that they are not “cured”, merely repressing their desires. Somehow, for them, they seem unable to change their orientation through repitition.

    From another anecdotal standpoint, my friends who are homosexual tell me that they were that way since they became attracted to other people. It’s not something that developed later, although many did not accept it until later in life (some dated opposite sex, but it never felt right or good). Add in the tidbit that homosexual men and women display some brain activity that is more in line with the opposite sex suggests genetic/developmental differences than straights.

    For a similar tale, on another blog I read of a news story on some of the girls who do the “girls gone wild” type stuff. Big surprise (to some) – the girls who make out with other girls are doing it because the guys want it – they see it as expected behavior and act that way to get to the guys. When asked if they were attracted to the other girl, or if they would make out with a lesbian, these girls expressed disgust. Somehow, I doubt these women will become lesbians through repitition. The behavior can be learned, but the attraction (what really defines someone as homosexual) seems not to be – of course, you may be talking about homosexual/bisexual behavior and not actual orientation/attraction, in which case culture and other factors can modify that behavior (but not change the basic desires/attraction/arousal behind the behavior – at least according to all studies and experiments – the “ex-gay” movement, for example – to date).

    Haggard was taught from an early age that he was evil, sinful, depraved, and wrong to be comfortable with who he is, and this caused him to cheat on his wife and sneak around to act on his attraction. His self-hatred expressed itself in his diatribes (reinforcing the study that found the most aggresive homophobes seem to be the ones with the most same-sex arousal). Of course, that is extremely simplified, but in some cases, simple explanations can work (and not take up too much space).

  21. #21 Flex
    November 7, 2006

    Badger3k,

    I know it’s a fine point, but I didn’t say I thought it was a choice either. My point was that behaviour is a very complex area of study and the best arguments I’ve seen for a genetic component suggest correlation but do not suggest a causal path. This doesn’t mean there isn’t one, and I’m certain that people are looking for one, but correlations can be misleading.

    The brain activity argument lacks force in that the studies are done on a developed, i.e. already highly environmentally affected, brain. I’d consider those studies a little more realiable if they had been able to measure the correlating brain activity at birth, sealed the results, and opened them 30 years later to see if there was still a correlation. That’s assuming that this particular brain activity is active at birth, which I tend to doubt. (Or that a study like this would even be ethical.)

    Consider this, if there is a huge genetic component to sexual orientation how can the continuum argument be still unsettled? There should be clearly identifiable differences between the extremes and detectable differences for individuals all along the proposed continuum. Which still doesn’t explain S&M behavior unless you want to say that S&M also has a huge genetic component.

    Finally, you suggest that repetition should lead to pleasure, so a homosexual repeatedly pracising hetrosexual sex should change orientation because of the pleasure. This again is a simplistic view of human behavior. Human pleasure is not simply exciting the proper nerve endings at certain extremities. There is a large mental component to it. The ‘ex-gay’ movement, as well as some of the other studies I’ve read about, seem to make the same simplistic assumptions that repetition will lead to behavior change. I agree, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    You may wonder how I can suggest that sexual orientation is not necessarily a choice, but not necessarily genetically determined? Simple. There are plenty of physical developmental effects generated by the environment around an organism. Some of these are controlled by genetic switches, sure, but not all are. All I’m postulating is that there are developmental effects from the surrounding environment which influence behavior non-consciously.

    Of course, this brings up the interesting questions…

    If homosexuality has a strong environmental component, can we design developmental environments to reduce that behavior? Can we, should we? Is it ethical to even try?

    On the other hand, if there is a strong, detectable genetic component to homosexuality, would there be discrimination, discrete or overt, against people who carry those genes? Should we even discuss it?

    Cheers,

    -Flex

  22. #22 Kiwiwriter
    November 8, 2006

    I’ve always found it interesting that the foremost gay-bashers often themselves are deeply closeted gays. Roy Cohn, for example.

    I think that is why they are such anti-gays. They are trying very, very, very hard to cover up their lifestyle from public scrutiny and embarrassment. It also explains their failure to have marriages and families, and, most importantly…their knowledge of gay behavior, and where to go to do the bashing, and whom to bash.

    Hypocrisy rules.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.