Inconsistent Sexual Ethics at 6 a.m.: Start Making Sense

Time Magazine Gay Marriage

The landscape of sexual ethics in the modern world is a mish-mash of confused values, convoluted principles, and conflicting presuppositions.

Consider these 3 modern profiles –

1)  A “conservative Christian” rails against same-gender sexual activity and homosexual marriage based on “Biblical convictions”.  He quotes Scripture passages from the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) that forbid such relationships (calling them “abominations”) as well as verses from the epistles of Paul who declares they are the results of our fallen sinful condition.

Yet, this same man is himself divorced and remarried (or supports those who are).   He conveniently ignores the explicit teaching of his “Lord and Savior” – Jesus Christ – who calls divorce and remarriage “adultery”.

2)  A “liberal Christian” endorses same-gender sexual activity and homosexual marriage based on an ethic of “justice/love” she believes Jesus embodied in his relationships and teachings.  She contends that Jesus did not once even address the topic of homosexuality (which must mean he “blesses” such unions – provided they are based on a philosophical ideal of “love”).

She conveniently disregards that the foundation for Jesus’ ethics is not in philosophical ideals he invented (or borrowed from others), but firmly rooted in the Old Testament Law.  It is true he sometimes corrected misapplications of the Law, but he clearly stated that he came to fulfill it, not abolish it.  Just because Jesus did not address same-gender sexual activity does not mean he endorses (or blesses) them anymore than he blessed usury, unjust slavery, or bestiality.

3)  Advocates for gay/lesbian marriage contend they have the “right” to the same privilege of a life-long union with the partner of their choice – redefining the traditional definition of marriage  ( a union between a man and a woman) to become a union between two consenting adults of any gender.

Yet, gay (G) and lesbian (L) advocates continue to lobby for bisexual (B) and transgender (T) rights, arguing they are worthy of equal rights as well.  While it has not been politically expedient (yet) for them to clarify this position, the obvious next step of advocacy will be for bisexuals to have the right to fully express their sexuality in a covenant of “marriage” – which will necessitate another redefinition to allow for a person to marry at least 2 others – a male and a female.  Otherwise, we would be denying them their “rights” inherent in their “sexual identity”.

Inconsistencies abound.  It boggles the mind.

But, perhaps I am just muddled in my thinking.  I would encourage all of you who identify with one of the three positions above (or who concoct another one) to help me understand how your sexual ethics are more consistent than what I’ve portrayed.

image “Time Magazine Gay Marriage” from Bryon in It’s all a part of life

19 thoughts on “Inconsistent Sexual Ethics at 6 a.m.: Start Making Sense

  1. I don’t think that most bisexuals would think they have to be married to two people at once. I think they, like most of us, feel lucky if they find one person to put up with their bullshit. But, if three consenting adults want to bind themselves together legally and it keeps two of them from getting divorced and costing taxpayers money in divorce court, I say have at it. I do not see this as a Christian argument, but a legal argument. If you wanted to abolish all legal advantages to make everyone equal, then that would at least be fair. My family recognizes my marriage and it’s really nice that NH does. The United States government is not here to extend Christianity into law. Legal marriage is not Christian marriage or Jewish marriage or Hindu marriage or LDS marriage. It should be the same for everyone and I should have all legal Federal protections as well as tax advantages provided to my heterosexual legally married brethren. This was dashed off quickly, ’cause I have lots of things to do today.

    • Amy –

      You provide a well-reasoned and honest response. As a non-Christian, you are certainly not bound to Biblical ethics. Christians should not assume a diverse, predominantly secular society must impose our values on the legal system. We live in a democracy, not a theocracy. Christians are one voice among many, contending for values we believe to be best.

      I also appreciate your statement that you would honestly support marriage with multiple partners (for bisexuals). I would like to hear this more publicly verbalized by advocates of gay marriage (who support GLBT rights) so people who are voting on the issue today might better know what they are signing up for in the future.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  2. Thanks for putting it into words, Tony. One of the biggest excuses people give is that Jesus did not SPECIFICALLY speak against homosexuality, so it must be ok. I like your explanation, that he did not speak about bestiality either, and obviously THAT is a sin. I agree this is a slippery slope, whereas there will then be “marriage of 3” or who is to say “marriage of 10” including animals and/or CHILDREN?

  3. Tony,

    I love these debates! Thanks for the well-written post. I feel there are plenty of angles to consider here; you’ve done a great job at bringing ideas to the table without taking much of a stance on any of them (which for me is extremely hard to do!).

    I am personally a “liberal Christian,” though I do hate that term. I also hate the “conservative Christian” term; either way it paints my/our beliefs into Western/American values. As a christian, my goal—not always attained—is to rise above the values of this world and onto eternal things. Looking at this debate through the scope of conservative/liberal agendas keeps us focused in the wrong context.

    That said, I don’t agree with your description of a “liberal Christian.” (I know you were purposely giving broad descriptions to engage debate). My beliefs are this: As a Christian, I don’t believe homosexuality was God’s intent with creation. But I feel we’ve screwed a lot of things up. Homosexuality is a target for Christians because it is mentioned throughout scripture, while pollution (environmental damage), sex-trafficking and/or modern pornography isn’t, so we tend to let that go. In another words, it’s an easy target.

    I think the fight has polarized us and caused us to lose our way. So yes, I’m in favor of gay marriage. After all, if sin is what we’re worried about, keeping people from being married doesn’t make them any less gay. Liberal… maybe?

    A quick note on the Bi-sexual debate… it seems like you guys might be engaging the “Slippery Slope” logical fallacy a bit. “Next we’ll be marrying pigeons!” (a joke, of course).

    • I couldn’t agree more that some professing Christians unfairly target gay marriage as a heinous sin. One of my points in this post is similar – some “Biblically-more-literal” (if you don’t like conservative) Christians support and even engage in divorce and remarriage yet denounce homosexuals bonded together for life.

      You lost me with your conclusion that you are in favor of gay marriage because “keeping people from being married doesn’t make them any less gay.” Being attracted to the same gender (because of genetics or environment) is not the “sin” so much as engaging in sex with someone of the same gender.

      I chose not to respond to the “slippery slope” comment because, on the whole, I don’t find it very convincing. (But you’ve got to admit pigeons are awfully cute!) 🙂

  4. Whew! A slippery slope indeed. One of the discussions we have in our house relates to (at least in the US) the concept of the separation of church and state. My own muddled and airy opines aside, I agree with you, Tony: the Christian faith has for its existence identified marriage as the union between one man and one woman (I heard a pundit on TV a few days ago in a heated argument about why Christians insist on saying “one man and one woman” instead of more common vernacular of “a man and a woman”–do we not have enough to haggle about in one discussion?!).

    To that end, my concern is whether by “legislating” marriage the US government will write a mandate into that legislation that states all faith leaders will be required to perform marriages between same-sex couples. My gut reaction is “Of course it won’t come to that!” and it shouldn’t. The concept of marriage between two people of the same sex is a civil issue for me rather than a faith issue. Not too long ago, it would have been illegal for me to marry “outside my race.” Today, there are still pastors who would not marry me if I walked into their church with anyone who didn’t look like me ( or for any other number of civil rights-related reasons (

    What I first heard in the marriage argument was just that–civil rights issue: one person wanted to ensure that his/her loved one was covered under medical insurance, could be notified in case of serious injury or death (i.e., military-related), or could be a financial beneficiary without massive estate tax penalty. I don’t have an issue with any of that. If I decide in my doddery that I want to will all my earthly riches to my equally feeble cat, I can do so without so much as a nod (well, maybe a small one).

    And then the argument changed from a civil issue to something completely different; there was this sudden distinction between civil rights and equality. “A civil union and a marriage is not the same.” I can’t argue. I have no point of reference. I am not in a same-sex relationship and never have been. I always thought the two were the same, except one had the benefit of a pastor, priest, rabbi, or other religious affiliation attached. I thought the point of the initial argument was to obtain rights and privileges that before had not been afforded. Is the method that important? No, really. I’m asking. Is it about being able to wear a wedding dress/tuxedo to the ‘official hitching’ event? Is it about wearing matching rings? I know married heterosexual couples who have not and don’t do those things but still are afforded the rights and privileges that same-sex couples are fighting for.

    I guess this is my very long-winded way of saying that the whole thing confuses me.

      • 🙂 It is quite a balancing act. I think I’m more of an “ask questions” sort. I took a class once and one of the greatest things I learned was that if you are engaged in a conversation with someone and he/she poses something that is outside your toolbox, ask “Help me understand…” followed by whatever the issue is. From hearing that lecture, I’ve taken the “ask questions” stance as my norm. Like, “Help me understand what would be so terrible about making changes to the current system of background checks for gun purchases?” Sorry–that’s another “slippery slope,” isn’t it? Only one allowed per blog post 🙂

      • 🙂 I think I’ll sit back and lurk in my bloggy little cave, awaiting the day that you are compelled to write on the subject (laughs maniacally in the shadows)…

  5. In the future, I think we will come to view “old” laws which prohibit the marriage of a man to a man or a woman to a woman in the same light as we today view those even older laws that used to prohibit the marriage of a black man to a white woman or a white man to a black woman…

  6. Tony, I do not speak for all advocates of gay marriage and quite frankly don’t think it’s on anyone’s mind. Certainly wasn’t on mine until you posed the question. I also don’t represent the majority of Americans or the majority of the LGBT community for that matter. I am responding to you in dialogue, aren’t I. Most wouldn’t even give you the time of day. They would write you off as hopelessly entrenched in dogmatic thought and move on. I think dialogue is always important and I don’t think somebody’s sexuality is everything about them. I also don’t think that somebody’s religious beliefs or convictions are everything about them. I think folks are darned complicated and it’s fine to enjoy them for who they are as long as they are receptive to reasonable dialogue. I like difference in people because I think sameness is very boring and not representative of how the world is naturally. Wanting everybody to think and fell the same way is easy but I don’t think it’s natural.
    I think that concept of mutliple partnered marriage or marriage to animals is more fear based than anything. There just aren’t the numbers to support that. Lesbian and Gay folks have their own troubles embracing bisexuals, so I don’t think anybody has to worry that if they vote for Gay Marriage that close on its heals will come multi-partner marriage. I was simply telling you how I felt about it and talking about it because I’m not sure why it really matters. In your vernacular, if we’re all sinners, why do some get to have legal and familial privilege that others don’t. Why do pedophiles, the vast majority of whom identify as heterosexual, retain their marriage privileges. Why do people that break the ‘thou shalt not kill’ commandment get to marry. These are logical questions that I don’t understand.

    • I greatly appreciate your willingness to engage in thoughtful dialogue on this sensitive and personal issue. Your comments are always well-reasoned and engaging (a rare commodity in much social discourse these days).

      I likewise appreciate that you do not write me off as “hopelessly entrenched in dogmatic thought” as many would (and do).

      I think you know me well enough to know that, in many respects, we both appreciate diversity – in artistic expression, philosophical thought, even identity (ethnicity, gender, etc…). While I may not embrace diversity when it comes to the particular behavior of same-gender sexual activity, I do not count you (or any of my other gay or lesbian friends or family members) any more a sinner than I am.

      As for responding to your challenging questions at the end –

      Why do pedophiles, the vast majority of whom identify as heterosexual, retain their marriage privileges?

      Anyone who commits a crime (such as pedophilia) and is caught suffers consequences (legally, spiritually, and – one would hope – relationally). Should they be made to get a divorce? Perhaps. Certainly, they are separated from their spouse in prison and (ideally) stripped of assets that would support their relationship.

      Why do people that break the ‘thou shalt not kill’ commandment get to marry.

      Good question. I would certainly consider supporting legislation denying certain things we now call “rights” from criminals who have committed heinous sins.

      One assumption you seem to make is that marriage is a right/privilege that should not be denied on the basis of sexual identity (and behavior). Again, since you do not share my Christian worldview, I think yours is a well-reasoned position (one that is shared now by perhaps a majority of voting Americans).

      But should we base such critical decisions solely on the basis of majority rule? One of your statements was very telling –

      “I think that concept of multiple partnered marriage or marriage to animals is more fear based than anything. There just aren’t the numbers to support that.”

      So, am I to assume that once the multiple-partnered marriage and marriage to animals advocates successful lobby the American public to overcome our fears, there will be numbers to support it? And then it will pass?

      Again, thanks for the dialogue. You are a bright, caring woman I respect a great deal.

  7. Guess I’m not sure there could ever be a successful lobby for either, which is kind of what I’m saying. I agree, wholeheartedly that this should not be a voting issue anymore than slavery should have been, even though, when it comes down to it, to put it in the constitution, it really was. DOMA was voted on (as a law) and the decision on whether or not to overturn it really seems to be coming down to state’s rights and not individual rights. I, unlike a lot of folk, think that DOMA will only result in federal recognition in states that have marriage or civil union. I don’t think the red states are going to all of a sudden change their minds and vote it in. I don’t think we will see U.S. wide recognition until the millenials take most of the offices. I don’t ever think that religious communities will have to perform ceremonies in their churches if they don’t want to. Separation of church and state seems reasonable to me.
    I will tell you that I wanted to be married and not civil-unioned as your respondant, A.R. Neal was commenting on, not because of the religious aspect, but because of the traditional aspect. So as a way of explaining how I feel about it I will say that to me Marriage is an act where you stand up in front of your family and tell somebody you will be bound to them no matter what comes along. We wrote our own vows and had our friends do pieces of a non-religious ceremony because we felt like we would be lying about it if we had a pastor do it. Didn’t seem right. The only church we go to on Sunday is a walk in the woods. So, what I wanted by getting married is what my parents and most of my family have had. We have a lot of happily and long married folk in our family and I wanted what they had and I also wanted their joint public affirmation and support and much to our surprise, they gave it to us. We were amazed that all of the family that we invited came to the wedding. Floored, really. Made us feel ridiculous for worrying about it and we also realized we should have gotten a bigger venue because we couldn’t have all of our friends come.
    Anyway, I appreciate your dialogue as well. I like that you ask questions. We all change and grow and learn from each other.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Amy. Come back any time. Next post – “Should Children Bear Arms?” My take – “Absolutely! How else are they going to swing on the monkey bars.” 🙂

    • Yes, Amy–thank you! I appreciate hearing about the traditional aspect of it. As a non-traditional person myself (I lived with both my husbands before marriage–imagine my glee at the horror expressed by my devout family members! It was wonderful–was widowed at an early age from the first marriage, and married a divorced man the second time. The first time I got married at our church because I was forced and the second time got married by our pastor in our house 🙂 ) I never would have thought about that. It helps to understand more of the issue beyond what the media shares and what my feeble mind can comprehend when it comes to relationship building. Blessings to you and congratulations!!

      Tony–I am shocked! I thought you were going to write about long sleeves versus short sleeves…oh, wait…darned spell check (that’s ‘bare arms’). 😀

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