Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity: A Summary

My article, “Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity” provides an extensive analysis of the key biblical, religious, and social issues relating to homosexuality. That article challenges and refutes the common traditional and conservative Christian view that homosexuality is inherently evil and sinful.

However, it is a long article (over 13,000 words). For a summary of the points in that article, I had previously directed readers to my answer to a question about homosexuality on Christianity StackExchange. I am now re-editing and republishing that answer here to make a shorter version more easily available to my readers. The nine points in this summary cover in much briefer form the major points made in the main article. I recommend that you read that article to get the full picture.

1. Homosexuality is rarely mentioned in the Bible

Homosexuality is rarely mentioned in the Bible. There are only five or six clear references to it in the Old and New Testaments combined. In comparison, the sins forbidden in the Ten Commandments receive major coverage throughout the Bible. The heavy focus on homosexuality among traditional and conservative Christians despite this scant Biblical mention of it suggests that their strong opposition to it comes from a cultural opposition to homosexuality rather than from Biblical sources.

2. The OT prohibition on men having sex with men was culture-specific

In the Old Testament, the prohibition of men having sex with men in Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 was made in a specific cultural context that no longer exists in most of today’s society. Specifically, in the ancient world marital and sexual relationships were viewed as a relationship between unequal partners. The sexual act was seen as an act of a dominant partner penetrating a submissive partner. But in ancient Hebrew culture and religion all men were seen as equal under the Law and in God’s eyes. It was therefore “detestable” (meaning culturally taboo and ritually unclean) for a man to have sex with another man because it reduced the man who was penetrated to a lower social and religious status.

Because it was based on cultural conditions that no longer exist in the Christian world, the prohibition against men having sex with men in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 is one of many Old Testament laws that no longer apply to Christians.

3. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not about homosexuality

The story of the condemnation and destruction of Sodom in Genesis 18:16–19:29 is often read by traditional Christians as a condemnation of homosexuality. However, the parallel story of the heterosexual gang rape of a woman in Judges 19 is not read as a condemnation of heterosexuality. Thus the argument that the story of Sodom should be read as a condemnation of homosexuality holds no water.

Further, in Ezekiel 16:49–50 the Bible itself states quite clearly what the sin of Sodom was—and the focus is on arrogance, self-indulgence, and lack of charity. This sets the tone for how the story of Sodom should be interpreted. In short, from a Biblical perspective the story of Sodom has little or nothing to do with homosexuality. For a fuller presentation of these points about the story of Sodom, see “What is the Sin of Sodom?

4. Jesus and the Gospels say nothing about homosexuality

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ himself never said a word about homosexuality, positive or negative. The lack of any condemnation of homosexuality in the Gospels, where the Lord Jesus himself gives the primary teachings for the Christian Church, should give pause to those Christians who believe that homosexuality is a terrible sin.

5. Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality is also culture-specific

Paul’s condemnatory references to homosexuality in Romans 1:24–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, and 1 Timothy 1:9–11 were made in a cultural and religious context similar to that of the Old Testament condemnation of homosexual acts in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. In fact, the textual evidence is that Paul drew directly on the Holiness Code in Leviticus and on other standardized ancient lists of sins in writing those verses.

Paul, like the Old Testament writers, condemned homosexual acts because he saw it as an act of one man reducing the social and religious status of another man. This took on even more poignancy in Paul’s world, which was embedded in Roman and Greek culture. Standard Greek and Roman homosexual practice was for an older, dominant male to penetrate a younger, submissive male. Basically, all homosexual sex in the ancient world was sex between unequal partners. This ran contrary to Paul’s Hebrew- and Christian-inspired view that all men are equal under the law and in the eyes of God. Therefore Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality does not apply to the present day ideal and practice of committed, monogamous homosexual relationships between equal partners—something that was practically unknown in the ancient world.

This is not the only issue on which we now see Paul as dated by his culture. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11:5 Paul requires women to wear veils while praying or prophesying, and in Ephesians 6:5 he requires slaves to obey their masters. These are teachings that few if any Christians still believe are in force. So the argument that every rule Paul made still applies today holds no water.

6. There is no demonstrable harm from faithful homosexual relationships

Moving beyond strictly Biblical argument to other Christian-inspired lines of reasoning, the first point is that there is no demonstrable harm to society or to homosexuals themselves from committed, faithful, monogamous homosexual relationships.

It is unfair and unjust to condemn homosexuality based on its perversions, just as it would be unfair and unjust to condemn heterosexuality based on its perversions. A fair comparison requires us to compare the highest Christian ideal for heterosexual marriages with a similar highest Christian ideal for homosexual marriages. So the only valid basis on which to condemn homosexuality would be if committed, faithful, monogamous homosexual marriages caused some sort of evil to society or to the homosexuals themselves.

However, there is no evidence and no good argument that faithful, committed, monogamous homosexual relationships and marriages cause any real personal, social, or political harm.

And to state that homosexuals will go to hell because homosexuality is a sin is to commit the logical fallacy of assuming the result. That argument would have to first establish or assume that homosexuality is evil and a sin—which is the very issue being debated.

7. Most homosexuals are acting according to their conscience

Even if homosexuality were an evil, it would not be a sin for those who practice it in good conscience. Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains” (John 9:41). And in Romans 2:14–16 Paul says that Gentiles who are not under the law will be judged by their own consciences.

Since most sexually active homosexuals do not believe that homosexuality is a sin, but believe that it is a good thing and even blessed by God, it will not be charged to them as sin because they are living according to their conscience—and in the case of Christian homosexuals, according to their understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ.

8. Homosexuality cannot be “repented from”

The conclusion now generally drawn from overwhelming evidence and experience is that homosexuality is a fundamental, non-changeable trait of homosexual men and women.

Many organizations, including many Christian organizations, have tried and failed to change homosexuals into heterosexuals through prayer, repentance, therapy—including Skinnerian aversion therapy—and various other methods. Studies over time and follow-ups on these efforts show that they are an almost total failure, if not a complete failure. The most commonly cited study to the contrary, published by famed psychiatrist Robert Spitzer in 2001, was retracted by its own author in 2012. Many prominent “ex-gay” organizations have disbanded or have ceased their efforts to change homosexuals into heterosexuals.

How is this relevant to Christian views of homosexuality? If homosexuality is not a “sin” that can be “repented from,” but is a fixed, permanent part of a person’s basic humanity, it is incompatible with the love and mercy of God for homosexuality to be a sin that is punishable by eternal damnation. If something is a sin, it must be possible to repent from it. But it is not possible for homosexuals to “repent” from homosexuality. It is part of their basic nature.

9. Marriage has great spiritual benefits for homosexuals just as it does for heterosexuals

God created marriage between a man and a woman as one of the deepest and most searching and effective forums for spiritual growth and Christian rebirth or regeneration. In a growing marriage, the partners must continually examine themselves for selfishness, ego, pride, and other sins, and repent from them, in order to truly love and care for their marital partner. Marriage is therefore a gift of God for our eternal spiritual growth and wellbeing.

Gays and lesbians, however, cannot participate honestly and from the heart in heterosexual relationships. If they are going to be in a loving, committed marital relationship at all, it will be with someone of the same sex. God has placed the desire to unite with another person deeply in the human spirit. For gays and lesbians, this means uniting with someone of the same sex.

Most if not all of the spiritual benefits of marriage are the same in spiritual and Christian homosexual marriages as in spiritual and Christian heterosexual marriages. Annette and I therefore believe that it is God’s will that homosexuals who desire marriage should unite with someone of their own sex who shares common faith and values. In this relationship gays and lesbians can gain the same God-given benefits of marriage as heterosexuals can.

Annette and I believe it is God’s will that all of the people God creates and loves should be able to share in the joys and spiritual benefits of marriage. Therefore in our view, Christians who would deny homosexuals marriage are working against God’s will and against God’s eternal love for all people.

This is a brief summary of a much longer article. For the full version, providing much more detailed information, explanation, and references, please read the article “Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity.”

(Note: This post is an edited version of an answer I originally wrote and posted on Christianity StackExchange. You can see the original question on StackExchange here, and the StackExchange version of my answer here.)

For further reading:

About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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31 comments on “Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity: A Summary
  1. Please remove me from your mailing list.

    • Lee says:

      Hi shellybelly66Shelly,

      I do not have the ability to remove you from the mailing list. However, you can remove yourself by using the unsubscribe (or “manage subscription”) link at the bottom of every email that comes from this site.

  2. Rami says:

    Hi Lee,

    I’m something of an agnostic on this matter, so I won’t speak from the perspective of a definitive attitude.

    However, I do admit that there are a number of angles of the issue in which homosexuality doesn’t appear to add up. You’ve described the spiritual benefits of marriage, and within the context of heterosexual marriage we can see a complimentary union of the masculine and the feminine (however those characteristic are expressed) that most importantly lends itself to the creation of new life, which seems impossible to fully actualize within homosexual unions (and yeah, I realize this would imply problems for heterosexual couples who refuse to procreate).

    And if that reflects the ideal archetype of marriage, then it seems homosexual marriage would at best be a spiritually inferior union.

    Also, from a Swedenborg perspective, what kind of light would correspondence shed on the matter? If we can understand heterosexual union and reproduction through a larger view of correspondence, what would that tell us about homosexuality?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rami,

      I’d recommend reading the full article if you haven’t already. As I said there, I don’t claim to understand the psychological and spiritual nature of homosexual relationships. I find it confusing. So I stick to what I know: It is not a choice on the part of homosexuals, but is a fundamental and unchangeable aspect of their character; it does no discernible damage when the same morality is applied to it as is applied to heterosexual relationships; and it is not a sin for those who engage in homosexual relations according to their own conscience.

      I also don’t claim to know the correspondential nature of homosexuality. However, some of my colleagues believe that there is a male/female interplay even within homosexual relationships. The idea is that we all have both love and wisdom within us, and that they can interact with one another as psychological “opposite sexes” even if the two people in the relationship are of the same sex. In other words, the feminine in one interacts with the masculine in the other, and vice versa. It is also quite common, though not universal, for one partner in a homosexual relationship to be more feminine, and the other to be more masculine in aspect and approach.

      About homosexuality being an “inferior union” compared to heterosexuality, I don’t find that to be a particularly useful distinction to make or avenue to follow. The reality is that for homosexuals, homosexual relationships are the only possible type of romantic or marital relationship. It does no good to say that it is “inferior” when it is the only game in town. Besides, for the most part, my experience of gay and lesbian relationships is that their dynamics are pretty similar to straight relationships. If they are “inferior,” I don’t see any evidence of that in the practical realities of actual gay, lesbian, and straight relationships.

      As for childbearing, that is a temporary aspect of marriage anyway. No children are born to the marriages that exist in the spiritual world. Instead, marriages in heaven produce “spiritual offspring,” which are new developments of love and wisdom, good and truth, that grow out of the relationship. And that sort of “spiritual offspring” can result from homosexual relationships just as it does from heterosexual relationships, in the form of new love, new understanding, new compassion for others, and so on, that grow out of the relationship.

      One of the reasons I support destigamizing homosexuality is that as long as people have religious and sociological axes to grind about homosexuality, we will never be able to study and learn about it with any real objectivity, and the conclusions we draw about it are more likely to be based on our own preconceived notions than on the reality of homosexuality as it actually exists among flesh-and-blood gays and lesbians. At some point in the future I hope we’ll be able to answer all of these questions. But that will happen only when as a culture we stop trying to impose our own intellectual and religious prejudices on homosexuality and see it for what it is, objectively and without bias. And for that to happen, we must let gays and lesbians be gays and lesbians, and not try to suppress it.

      Meanwhile, it is a human and compassionate issue to accord LGBT people the same respect we accord to the majority straight population, and give them the freedom to live their lives as their heart prompts them to live—subject, of course, to the same laws as everyone else. Marriage equality, in my view, is simply a matter of human freedom, respect, and decency.

  3. Rohan Pereira says:

    Hi Lee

    This might be an immature belief of mine but I believe that all young children start off homosexual.

    Not sexually homosexual but emotionally homosexual.

    Young boys are programmed to look towards other boys as role models to aid their development. They naturally spend a lot of time forming emotional and physical bonds with other males in order to discover traits about their biological gender-specific character.

    You will notice that boys look towards their fathers as role models and would rather play and mingle with other boys than girls. They naturally seek out people like themselves who are in different stages of development.

    I had spent a lot of my childhood growing up as an expat in a middle eastern country and because single males over there were kept away from single women, the young men would engage in behaviours that the West would consider homosexual. This includes holding hands while walking or greeting each other on the cheeks. But they were not homosexual. They used other men for their emotional and physical needs in the absence of women.

    So I believe that homosexuality is a ‘defective’ state of mind when the male seeks a form of fraternity that was either unavailable to them when they were younger or when the fraternity is all they will ever have.

    I don’t believe that a boy would resort to homosexuality unless something upsets this ‘natural dynamic’ like an absent father.

    I think the bible calls for men to be ultra-male. It takes a lot of courage and motivation to leave the fraternity and be a caretaker/provider to a woman. Only some are ‘eunuch’ out of service to God and community.

    I look at the redPill/men’s right movements and I see a form of homosexuality encouraged where fraternity is encouraged instead of commitment to one woman.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rohan,

      There’s a difference between a friendship and a sexual relationship. “Not sexually homosexual” is a contradiction in terms. Homosexuality is a sexual orientation. It is defined as a sexual attraction between members of the same sex.

      Did those single men in a Middle Eastern country engage in sexual relations with one another? Holding hands is not inherently sexual. It is common behavior for people who have an affection for each other, regardless of whether that affection is sexual. Kissing each other on the cheek as a greeting is a common non-sexual greeting in many cultures—as reflected in the Bible itself.

      Heterosexual men also commonly have male friends that they hang out with and play sports, go hunting, drink at the bar, play chess with, and so on. And heterosexual women have women friends that they hang out with and do “girl things” with. There is nothing sexual about it. We humans have various emotional needs, not only sexual ones. We are a social animal. And we don’t have sex with, or sexual attraction for, all of the people we interact with socially, whether male or female.

      Homosexuality is not a seeking of “fraternity” or brotherly friendship. Homosexuality is specifically a sexual and romantic attraction to someone of the same sex. It is quite distinct from same-sex friendships, which are almost universal among homosexuals and heterosexuals alike. Homosexuality is not a “defective” state of mind in which fraternity is sought with other men instead of with women, because it is not essentially a friendship at all. Of course, as with heterosexual relationships, homosexual partners are commonly friends as well as lovers. But it is the lovers part that makes them homosexual, not the friends part.

      The red pill / men’s movement is composed mostly of heterosexual men. They’re not engaging in sexual liaisons with one another. The part of the men’s movement that eschews women is essentially a secular-based form of celibacy. It’s adherents avoid women because they’ve got an axe to grind against women, not because they want to switch their sexual orientation to men.

      The Bible does not particularly “call for men to be ultra-male” if that means being a caretaker / provider to a woman. First of all, polygamy was common in Bible times—especially in Old Testament times. And really, the women were more caretakers of the men than the other way around. Women’s primary functions were to serve men and to produce male heirs for men. Men did not really “provide for” women in the sense of going out and earning the money that supported women. Rather, women worked the flocks, herds, and crops just as men did, and provided essential labor without which the men would have found it difficult to survive. The male-provider household is really a rather recent thing, and probably existed as a widespread norm only for a few decades in the post-war boom of the mid-20th century.

      Paul is heavily criticized by many gender equality advocates today for his statements making woman subject to man. But that was just standard cultural stuff in his day. What’s more remarkable is Paul calling for men to care for women, respect them as the men respect themselves, and so on. In saying these sorts of things, Paul was moving toward a very different concept of the relationship between men and women than had existed as a rule in Old Testament times. He didn’t go as far as many go today, seeing men and women as fully equal, but he made some major strides in that direction.

      In short, the very idea of a man being a “caretaker / provider to a woman” is a rather late development in the Bible, and remained a largely unrealized ideal throughout most of the history of Christianity. I would recommend to your reading Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage, by Stephanie Coontz.

      • Rohan Pereira says:

        But Lee I am not saying that friendship and homosexuality are equal. Rather many men resort to fraternity/friendship-based relationships in lieu of a relationship with a woman.

        I don’t want to use the word ‘inferior’ like Rami does but it is a lower form of relationship which they settle on. One that is not an as fulfilling as that with a woman. I hope you can at least agree on that.

        Often men who use fraternity as their relationship-base settle for less and remain unfulfilled.

        They submit to another man. They share their deep emotions/feelings to them and they physically comfort each other by pats on the back, etc. All which should be reserved for their wives.

        I remember reading that Swedenborg said that wives are like psychologists to men; helping arrange their thoughts.

        How could a man ‘naturally’ want to love another man otherwise. There is a functional nature to love and in this case the fraternity fulfils it in some way.

        You look at Sodom and Gomorra and they were a fraternity.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          Sodom and Gomorrah were not a fraternity. They were cities full of horrible people who thought it would be a good time to gang rape a couple of visitors staying in their town. These were not Shriners. Nor were Sodom and Gomorrah male-only towns, nor did the men of Sodom and Gomorrah eschew relationships with women. The story mentions Lot’s “sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters” (Genesis 19:14).

          But to your main point, when heterosexual men decide to avoid women and hang out with male friends instead, I agree that that’s a lesser relationship than a good and loving marriage with a woman. However, that’s a totally different thing than gay men forming marriages with one another. Marriage is not the same as friendship, whether it is an opposite-sex marriage or a same-sex marriage.

          Friendship and marriage are two very different things.

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Lee, I accept your point that friendship and marriage are different.

          It’s just that from my study of the bible, there seems to be a difference between a biological male and a Christian man.

          Traditionally the Christian man is defined in contrast to the Christian woman. The Christian man is one who matches a set of gender roles laid down functionally. The most important of which is to lead the family.

          Now I know from previous conversations that you do not accept hierarchy but do accept gender roles and I respect that.

          It’s just that according to this traditional perspective, the gay man who submits to another man cannot fall into the Christian man category.

          My question to you is can the full spectrum of natural masculinity and femininity be explored in a homosexual relationship? Or is it important that such a spectrum is explored for a good marriage?

          Because the traditional Christian view seems to want the ultra masculine character to ideally pair up with the ultra feminine character so that both could complete each other.

          You seem to indicate that vaginal sex is similar chemically, biologically and mentally to other forms of sex such as anal in that there are all a form of subjugation of a partner to another. Similarly on the surface, child bearing seems superior to adoption/artificial means.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          The “traditional Christian” view of man, woman, and gender roles is based on the same 2,000+ year old view of gender roles described in the main article on homosexuality, which is the basis for the rejection not only of homosexual relationships, but also heterosexual relationships based on equality between the sexes rather than domination (by the man) and submission (by the woman). As such, I believe it represents a much lesser ideal of marriage than God’s ultimate ideal of marriage. For more on this, please see these two articles:

          1. What are the Roles of Men and Women toward Each Other and in Society?
          2. Man, Woman, and the Two Creation Stories of Genesis

          Traditional and conservative Christians will admit that many of the laws given in the Old Testament are no longer binding on Christians. However, they generally maintain that any law given in the New Testament, and especially in the letters of Paul, remains in force. And such Christians generally get their view of gender roles in marriage and in society as a whole primarily from Paul’s letters.

          However, it is a fallacy to think that everything Paul said in his letters is still binding today, and that nothing he said was given for the particular culture, and cultural situation, in which he lived. There are many things in Paul’s letters that were specific to the culture and gender roles that existed in his society. Paul was, after all, the product of a culture that existed 2,000 years ago, not of today’s culture. And in order to teach the people he was addressing, he had to address them in terms of the culture and practice of his day.

          The reality is that no Christian church or group today follows even Paul 100%. Traditional and conservative Christians pick and choose which statements of Paul they will emphasize and enforce, and which statements they will de-emphasize and not enforce, or not follow at all.

          • How many Christian groups think it is better to be celibate than to marry? (1 Corinthians 7:8–9)
          • How many Christian groups believe that women must cover their heads during worship (1 Corinthians 11:5)?
          • How many Christian groups believe that women should be silent in church, and only ask their husband afterwards if they have a question? (1 Corinthians 14:34–35)
          • How many Christian groups believe that slaves must obey their masters? (Ephesians 6:5)

          Although some Christian groups follow some of these rules, the reality is that no Christian group today follows all of the rules that Paul laid down. If you look at the various traditional Christian groups and denominations, you will find that there is a miscellaneous hodgepodge of which rules they follow and which rules they don’t. And that’s just the rules given in Paul’s letters. If you widen it to include the entire New Testament, the reality that no Christian group follows every rule given in the New Testament becomes even more stark.

          So the idea that the gender roles articulated in Paul’s letters represent some undeniable and eternal rule of how men and women must interact with each other cannot be sustained. Paul, like the other human authors of the Bible, had to speak to the culture of his day, according to the existing cultural realities of his day. Attempting to make his statements binding on all people in all cultures throughout all time is a fine example of adhering to the letter, which kills, and ignoring the spirit behind the letter, which gives life (2 Corinthians 3:5–6)

          In Paul’s day and age, the rules he gave about men, women, and gender roles were a major step forward from what had existed before. He taught that men should love, honor, and respect their wives, not mistreat them, and so on—all things that were rather uncommon in that day and age, in which men were commonly considered to be absolute rulers of their wives, and could do almost anything they wanted to their wives, including beat them, divorce them, take additional wives, and so on, at will.

          However, society has made significant progress since Paul’s times 2,000 years ago. And in particular, society has taken major strides forward in the last few centuries, and especially in the last century. Society has now progressed far beyond the culture that existed in Paul’s day when it comes to respect for women and a belief that women are equal to men in God’s eyes and in the eyes of society and the law. We have traveled in the direction that Paul was moving toward, beyond anything even Paul himself could have understood—since he, too, was a product of his times.

          In short, although Paul represented a step forward in gender roles compared to the culture of his day, following everything Paul said in today’s culture would represent a major step backwards. And I believe that’s precisely what traditional and conservative Christians are doing when they attempt to assert the gender roles that existed in Bible times, and are articulated in Paul’s letters, as binding upon men and women today.

          Specifically, as I cover much more fully in the two articles linked at the beginning of this comment, I believe that man being the “head” of or ruler over woman represents a lesser ideal of marriage and gender roles than the currently emerging ideal of man and woman being fully equal in society and in relationship to one another. I believe this emerging ideal is a return to the original equality between male and female represented in the first creation story, when God created humans male and female together, both in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26–27). For a much fuller presentation of this, once again, see the two articles about man and woman linked at the beginning of this comment.

          In general, homosexual relationships today do not fit into the old, lesser (in my view) standard where one partner must submit to the other. Yes, some do. But most people involved in same-sex marriage see themselves as equal partners with one another rather than being in the “traditional Christian” mode of one partner being the dominant partner and the other being the submissive partner. So most gay marriages don’t follow the pattern you have indicated of one man submitting himself to another man.

          This issue, and the lack of gender equality in the marriages of both Old and New Testament times, is precisely why homosexuality was rejected in the Bible: because its writers could not even conceive of heterosexual marriage as a relationship between equals. So they necessarily saw same-sex sexual relations as inherently unequal, which was unacceptable both in ancient Jewish culture and in the emerging Christian culture of the New Testament, which saw all men as equal legally, socially, and in the eyes of God. And in point of fact, homosexuality as it was practiced in ancient times was overwhelmingly, if not universally, an unequal relationship. All of this is covered in much more detail in the main article on homosexuality.

          Today’s mainstream Western views of marriage and of gender roles are very different than they were 2,000 and more years ago. Today, men and women are increasingly seen as equal legally, socially, and in the eyes of God. So all of the rules designed to ensure that one partner is the dominant one and the other is the submissive one are rapidly fading away—as they should. And all of your concerns about a man submitting himself to another man are moot, because that’s not the predominant ideal of same-sex marriage today. Two men, or two women, in a same-sex marriage are not commonly seen as dominant and submissive, but rather as equal partners in the relationship.

          As for the physical sex acts, I won’t go into that in detail here (this is already getting long) except to say that these days a number of conservative Christian churches and leaders are saying that any sex act that the man wants, the woman should agree to because he is the head and she must submit herself and her body to him. In doing so, they expose the hypocrisy of saying that homosexuality is evil because gay men can’t engage in vaginal sex.

          And as for natural childbearing being superior to adoption and artificial insemination, just try to tell that to hundreds of thousands of couples who are unable to have biological children and long to be parents. Just try to tell that to the hundreds of thousands of orphans whose dearest wish is to have parents who will love them and raise them as their own. To put it bluntly, the idea that natural childbearing is “superior” to adoption and artificial insemination is heartless and cruel.

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Lee I completely accept your theological view that we are all equal in marriage. I no longer believe that hierarchy must be enforced to live and love the biblical way.

          Regarding Paul, I recall reading the quran and they have a different perspective of the same biblical events of the OT such as that of Moses, Abraham and Adam. What was a common amongst these perspectives was that ‘all divine instruction were concessions given to bring about agreement from disagreement’. That man was originally a community of one and eventually because of fatal disagreements, divine instruction was given to bring about agreement either willingly (good people) or through the sword (bad).

          I can see Paul in a similar light offering insurrection to a divided Corinthian church that had no sense of common direction. They were being pulled into the same direction of other lifestyle choices such as Jewish or Gentile. They needed a sense of direction. A right and wrong.

          Regarding submission, I have been studying the red pill and men’s rights movements recently. They seem to make a lot of non-religious observations of the female character. They often note that females still want to pair with a mate who they can submit to. That irrespective of who they are, they all want a male who could ‘clothe’ them. So they had observed natural submission and hence have come up with many strategies including pick up artistry and the encouragement of an ultra male character to woo women. Surprisingly there are many Christians on these forums who comment and agree with the submission bits but not the promiscuity part of the red pill. Could these groups know natural submission without any theological training? I have observed that men from eastern matriarchal societies struggle to woo women of western patriarchal societies. So there seems to be a natural submission in line with the animal world.

          I am also weary of where Swedenborg’s equality theology could lead us down to. You say that patriarchy is no longer needed because our societies have progressed. But what about a 100 years from now when we outsource the role of women like we already have with men using artificial intelligence and robots.

          We can and will produce robots that can parent children, provide better sex and offer platonic relationships. Will you then say that children should no longer respect their parents because that was an old biblical concept for rugged societies of the past?

          Equality somehow leads to a lack of dependency on others. The upside is that it makes life easier but kills relationships. You think how many a son would love his mother for spending three hours cooking his favourite meal vs a mother that prepares his favourite meal in an oven in minutes.

          Submission and hierarchy somehow makes people depend on each other. Life is harder but at the end of it, you have more involved relationships.

          You look at western society today and they barely produce kids, they have cut down on who is family and have a lot of open promiscuity. Is something wrong here because they did not follow the traditional biblical principles?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          There’s a lot here to respond to.

          The need for hierarchies, dominance, submission, and government in general is the result of the Fall of Humankind, and our continuing in a fallen state for many thousands of years. It is only when selfishness, greed, and lust for power rules in the human heart, and in human society, that we need governments, hierarchies, laws enforced by police, military forces for protection (though they’re used more often for aggression), and so on.

          Similarly, as detailed in my article, “Man, Woman, and the Two Creation Stories of Genesis,” it was when humans fell away from God’s original plan that first inequality, then dominance and submission, entered into human marriage relationships.

          This means that inequality in marriage need last only as long as our fallen state lasts.

          Some cynics would say that humans will always be driven by greed and the desire for power and pleasure. But I think that we can be better than that. And I believe that what we see in the world today is a mix of people who are driven by greed, power, and pleasure and people who are driven by a love of God, a love of their fellow human beings, and a desire to make the world a better place for everyone in it. Of course, no one is perfect. We all have our blind and selfish spots. But I believe that in today’s world many people are traveling the path out of humanity’s fallen state, and are seeking, whether consciously or not, to move toward God’s original plan for humanity, which was a human community driven, not by greed, power, and pleasure, but by love for God and for the neighbor.

          This, I believe, is because we are now entering into the spiritual era of the New Jerusalem predicted symbolically in the final chapters of the Book of Revelation. See “Is the World Coming to an End? What about the Second Coming?

          And this is why, I believe, we are now seeing a return in human marriage to something like the equality between man and woman for which God originally created us male and female.

          However, as I just said, we are living in a mixed world, in which some parts of human society, and some individuals within society are moving into the New Jerusalem, while others are still firmly embedded in the various earlier, fallen states of humanity. That is why I wrote my earlier article on gender roles, “What are the Roles of Men and Women toward Each Other and in Society?” with a recognition that even today various marriages will reflect the various spiritual levels of humanity, from the very low state in which man rules and woman submits, through an intermediate state in which the woman revolves her life around the man, to the highest state in which man and woman are fully equal participants in the marriage relationship.

          So yes, there are still many women who want a man who will be the boss. And there are still many women who want a man who will be the primary breadwinner while she has her part-time job so that they can afford some enjoyable extras. And these women will indeed look for the types of traditional men who will fulfill those roles in the marriage.

          What’s different now is that there are also many women who do not want to submit to a man, nor even revolve around a man, but who want to stand on their own two feet with a man who also stands on his own two feet, each being equal to the other in the relationship.

          This, however, is a relatively new development in human society—at least, in recorded history. And it is harder to achieve because we are only gradually developing a social structure that supports it, and there aren’t many examples or role models to look to for those who are ready and willing to enter into that sort of fully equal relationship. We’re traveling new ground socially and interpersonally, and that requires time, effort, trial, and error.

          In the meantime, it may seem like a destabilizing development to many who are still stuck in one of the older paradigms, and who believe that society will disintegrate if there aren’t strict hierarchies, and if man doesn’t lead and woman follow in marriage relationships. That is to be expected. Every major paradigm shift, every major change in anything, has its earthquakes and dislocations. There is often a very messy chaos before things settle into a new and better order.

          And that, I believe, is where we are right now: in the midst of the dislocation and chaos that always accompanies the transition from an old paradigm to a new one.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          A few more thoughts in response to your comment:

          I’m contemplating writing a post or two on the men’s movement, and especially the MGTOW and “red pill” end of it, which I see as a mirror image of, and a reaction to, the more radical end of the feminist movement. There’s a lot of black and white thinking on both ends of that spectrum.

          You mention “eastern matriarchal societies” and “western patriarchal societies.” I don’t see any evidence for such a polarity. If anything, eastern societies today are more patriarchal than western societies. It is the West that is making the greatest strides toward equality between men and women. And despite the popular mythology, to my knowledge there is no actual evidence for any matriarchal society in the past or in the present. Essentially, the entire world for as far back as we can look has been somewhere along the scale of near equality between the sexes to heavy patriarchy, with nothing on the other, matriarchal end of the scale.

          About promiscuity, that has been a problem from time immemorial. And though it may seem like there is an increase in promiscuity in today’s society, much of that is the result of the aforementioned chaos in the transition to a better paradigm. Promiscuous sex is unsatisfying by nature. I believe that as time passes it will be increasingly rejected in favor of faithful, monogamous relationships. There are many people who are fully aware of this and who value and strive for that ideal. Ironically, that is what the gay and lesbian community is also striving for when it demands the right to same-sex marriage, while being opposed by the very forces that claim to value marriage, faithfulness, and monogamy.

          And it is true that Western society, especially the more financially comfortable part of it, produces fewer children. This, I believe, is not so much a factor of Western society as it is a factor of prosperity. People who are financially secure tend to have fewer children. Strange but true. It is the poorer segments of humanity that commonly have large families. (This, of course, is a generalization, not a hard and fast rule.) And though there are many physical, social, and psychological factors at work, one very basic one is that when people are insecure, life is uncertain, and infant and child mortality is high, people will have many children to ensure that at least some of them survive to adulthood to continue the family line and to care for them in their old age. As we are able to raise the social and financial level of societies around the world, I believe the numbers of large families will go down, and the earth’s population will stabilize at a sustainable figure.

          And robots will never replace flesh-and-blood human beings when it comes to building meaningful and satisfying relationships. Robots lack heart, and they lack soul—and they always will.

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Lee I really look forward to your future post on the MRA/redPill movement. I am keen to hear what the community will say of your post.

          From my extensive reading of the the redPill, they seem to be a loose group of self-improvement theologians.

          Women and relationships make up a sizeable portion of their theology but it extends on to fitness, career and overall attitude.

          Regarding women, they essentially see men as either blue pill or red pill. Blue pill being who they were originally.

          Many of them have gone through rejections from women for being ‘Christian’ i.e. Being mr. Nice guy, forgiving of bad behaviour, providing money and validation to women and providing proof of commitment to their women. They see blue pillers as people who are insecure and incompetent.

          They all seem to have been burned at some point or the other as the women they dated tended to upgrade them for ‘bad boys’ or ‘Chads’. Men who were physically fit, showed no commitment, put their women through a rollercoaster of drama and thrills and treated them like cattle.

          So blue pill ‘mr. Nice’ guys have realised that in order for them to gain the respect and commitment, they had to become like ‘Chad’.

          Their strategy seems to have many followers and I cannot help notice myself that it does provide results.

          I don’t like to share this with non-Christians, I have observed that sometimes a woman has to be subjugated in order to gain her commitment. In the OT, the rapist often had to marry their victim and we see even with Muhammad in the Quran, he forcefully ‘consummated’ his marriage to a 9 year old. This is similar to what at you wrote about homosexuality of the past where one victorious king would sodomize a defeated king to gain a dominance over him. Somehow this strategy produces submission.

          I know this is in opposite to Swedenborg theology where servanthood is valued over submission.

          That a man must be opened to being abused for being ‘blue pill’ in order to gain long term results.

          Red pillers essentially see that a man must earn his masculinity. This is uplifting for many young men.

          It is hard to explain to the red Pill communtiy who value short term gains (hence their hatred for marriage and long term relationships).

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          My experience so far of the Red Pill and MGTOW end of the men’s movement is not particularly positive, to say the least. It seems to consist mostly of insecure, self-centered, and immature young men who for some strange reason haven’t had good experiences with women, and who, instead of recognizing the flaws within their own character that got them into those unhealthy relationships, blame it all on women, whom they demonize into a caricature.

          I don’t think a single one of ’em knows what being a man really means. And that’s why they spend so much time in an echo chamber of other young men who are also insecure in their masculinity, and take it all out on women.

          What you’ve outlined above is their mythology. But I don’t think it’s the reality. And if by “providing results” you mean that some of these men manage to have more one-night stands with women than they previously did, then I suppose you could call them “successful.” However, I suspect even that is more brag than reality. Mostly they strike me as selfish jerks that no self-respecting woman would go anywhere near. Which is probably why they’ve never experienced a real, healthy, loving, mutual relationship with a woman.

          As for “a woman [having] to be subjugated in order to gain her commitment,” this, too, is more myth than reality. Yes, there are some women who want to be dominated by a man. But for the most part they’re not mature, psychologically healthy women. And neither are the men who dominate them. That is not a recipe for a good and stable relationship. As I’ve covered in the other articles here on man, woman, and gender roles that I’ve linked you to, this dominance and submission arrangement is what happens when humanity hits its spiritual low point.

          I don’t know when I’ll get around to writing about the Red Pill and MGTOW thing. Meanwhile, you might be interested in this post, which is an edited version of a sermon I preached 18 years ago, in 1999: “A New Model of Manhood.”

          Men do need to develop their own sense of self and masculinity. But that’s not something that happens by hating on women all day in the Red Pill locker room and then going out at night and trying to manipulate them into having sex with you. It’s something that happens by developing one’s own character, resolve, and goals in life. Being a man does not depend on “success with women.” It is an internal matter of developing character and maturity, which is then expressed in work and accomplishments in the world. That, and not some false macho braggadocio, is what “high-quality women” want to see in men.

          A man who is mature and secure in his masculinity doesn’t worry about whether he’s dominant (“alpha,” in red-pill-speak) and women (and everyone else) are submissive to him. He’s too busy getting things done. And he values a partner who also gets things done.

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Hi Lee

          Yes I agree with you that most of these groups are made up of arrogant and hateful individuals.

          I wouldn’t outright say that all of their theology is rubbish but they recycle many old ideas. As the book of Ecclesiastes states, ‘there is nothing new under the sun’.

          You take the concept of submission. One can either beat their child into submission or love their child into submission. The Red Pill will boast of the former with women (e.g. You can hold a woman by her neck, be a bit rough, make her feel small, etc.).
          Most of their ideas comes from ‘evolutionary psychology’. A study of the human character that identifies that we are still all cavemen in behaviour.

          I know you have said that this all originated from the fall but it just seems very apparent today that almost all of us are driven by carnal cavemen traits though we have substituted caves for houses and sheep skins for suits.

          I get what you are saying that we are moving away from a physically driven existence into a new spiritual driven existence.

          But yes I really want to be a part of the community of God that you have written about.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          The focus of my future article on the red pill movement came to me this morning where all good ideas originate: in the shower. 😉 But I think it was probably prompted by this comment of yours. The red pill movement doesn’t really have a “theology” because the movement has nothing to do with God. Rather, it focuses on our animal nature. It seeks to build the life of a human animal. Hence its (rather faulty) appeal to evolution and to our “carnal caveman traits.”

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Lee,

          I have just thought over it again. It seems like man wants to love perfectly but grows weary of being returned a ‘less than perfect’. love. E.g. You may give 100% of yourself to someone but you keep getting back 50% of someone else to you.

          Man when he is young is trusting and full of love but then grows weary of it and devises evil schemes.

          I look at all these groups like the red pill and the Christian fundamentalists. They have all come up with less than perfect strategies to get the other side to love them back 100%.

          What does Swedenborg say of consistently giving love and only being returned scraps of love. Must this continue for long periods of time before the other side turns from their ways and responds with 100% or do we just go about our entire lives giving and not expecting back like Jesus?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          250 years ago Swedenborg wrote, “There is a real marriage love that is so rare today that people do not know what it is, and they hardly even know that it exists” (Marriage Love #58). Though I think it is somewhat less rare today, it still seems to be quite rare. Achieving real, spiritual marriage remains an unusual accomplishment on this earth.

          Specifically to your question, a marriage in which one gives 100% and the other gives only 50% is not a real marriage. Unless something changes radically in the one that’s giving 50% or less, that marriage will inevitably end in breakup, either here on earth or in the spiritual world after death. Real, spiritual marriage is by nature a fully mutual relationship. It cannot exist where the love and commitment of one greatly exceeds the love and commitment of the other.

          However, here on this earth we may stay in such marriages for various reasons, such as not believing that anything better exists, or for the sake of raising the children that came from the marriage, or for business, financial, and social reasons, or even for easy access to sex. And though some spiritual growth is possible even within these non-marriage “marriages,” since we must still face and overcome the challenges and struggles of life and of faulty human relationships, such “marriages” do not have the deeper potential for spiritual growth that a real, spiritual marriage, in which both partners are in 100%, has.

  4. Rami says:

    Hi Lee,

    I want to emphasize that at no point have I concluded homosexual relationships to be inferior, nor have I have I characterized homosexuality in any way as inferior to heterosexuality- as I said, I have no definitive attitude on the matter as a whole, so when I refer to idea of inferiority it is entirely within the context of honestly exploring different ways of looking at the issue in order to make sense of something we both admittedly find confusing.

    That said, I know from one of our pervious discussions that you don’t believe conscience to be something that is infallibly connected to a larger seat of wisdom and truth, but is rather informed by our upbringing, experiences, and who knows whatever other earthly influences. At the same time, I don’t believe the human conscience to be *disconnected* from the wellspring of truth, and is something that God communicates through so as to guide us onto the correct path.

    It’s for that reason that I think what we view of as following our conscience can often be a resisting of our conscience, so I think we need to discern between listening to our inner voice, and self-deludedly rationalizing our behavior as though we were following its guidance. Where does homosexuality fall here? I honestly don’t know. But I think we might need to have a more nuanced conversation on the idea of a conscience before we rely on it as a standard for our behavior, especially since, for Christians, there’s already a standard for *all* behavior: The Scriptures.

    • Rami says:

      Hi again Lee.

      I just realized I mistakenly submitted a standalone reply to your article with my last post, instead of one that responded directly to your last response to me, and so I apologize for how broken up this is. In any case, I wanted to come back with some additional thoughts following some reflection I had done since your reply.

      Forgive me if I’m misrepresenting your viewpoint here, but I wonder if your remarks about childbearing simply being a temporary aspect of marriage comes across as too materialistic an attitude- that the *physical* reproduction of physical children is almost an incidental facet of marriage (from a spiritual perspective). If no children are produced in the spirit world, and reproduction exists as a kind if spiritual offspring, then might we liken that to children in terms of an outer/inner relationship? That children are the outer expression of- or earthly correspondence to- Heavenly spiritual activity? If so, then it would seem to me that physical childbearing is, spiritually speaking, far more than just a temporary aspect of marriage, but rather an essential node of correspondence. If that’s correct, then it would again spell problems for homosexual unions that have no possibility of producing children, but, again, also problems for heterosexual couples who are unable to have children, so that’s something that would have to be worked out.

      Changing subjects a bit, I feel as though maybe your articles on contentious topics rest too much on spelling out negative truth statements- what the Bible does *not* say- and perhaps not enough on positive truth statements of what the Bible *does* say. Even if the Bible says very little about homosexuality, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have far more to say about *human* sexuality and human relationships, and from that we can draw inferences about homosexuality by seeing how it lines up. Outside of explicit condemnations, I think those positive statements of what is *good* and *best* for us are more helpful in evaluating right and wrong when it comes to human behavior than by emphasizing that the Bible does not explicitly condemn such and such. I hope I’m not mischaracterizing your efforts, or overlooking the positive moral affirmations you make in your articles, and if so I do apologize.

      All that said, does this summary you posted reflect a shift in tone from the article you’re summarizing? You remarked in your first that you ultimately didn’t know whether homosexuality was evil, but your concluding remarks here appear (to me) that you’re at the very least further away from believing it to be than you were when you wrote your article.

      • Lee says:

        Hi Rami,

        Conversations in these comment sections inevitably get a bit fractured. Reply chains follow a nested order under the comments to which the particular reply is being made rather than a strictly chronological order. It’s just the nature of the beast.

        About physical childbearing, yes, it is a correspondence of spiritual childbearing—and a very important one, since it is the basis for the existence of a heaven of angels, which is God’s primary purpose in creating the universe. Without new children being born, there are no potential new angels.

        However, spiritual childbearing is still primary, and physical childbearing is still secondary in the overall scheme of things, because spiritual childbearing is part of our spiritual rebirth, which is our primary purpose for living out a lifetime here on earth.

        As you suggest, if we made homosexual relationships inferior because they do not produce any physical births biologically, then we would also have to consider childless heterosexual couples to be in relationships that are inferior to those of heterosexual couples who do have children. And though even this is a common attitude in conservative religious circles, it is really a rather cruel attitude. Many heterosexual couples would dearly love to have children, but are unable to do so through no fault of their own. Telling them that their marriage is “inferior” because they have no children is insensitive, heartless, and cruel.

        Besides, it’s just not true.

        As I said, spiritual childbirth is primary, and physical childbirth is secondary. Spiritual marriage is, first of all, a union of hearts, minds, and souls. And as I said in my earlier comment, that union produces spiritual children in the form of new developments of love, understanding, compassion, and kindness to one another and to our fellow human beings. This is the core and essence of spiritual rebirth, and of becoming angels. And it can take place within a childless marriage just as it can within a marriage that produces physical offspring.

        Having physical children and raising them to be angels in heaven is certainly a good and excellent thing. And yes, raising children does also contribute greatly to the spiritual growth of parents, if they are willing to grow spiritually.

        However, our primary purpose here on earth is to be spiritually reborn and grow into angels. And that can and does happen for people who are married with children, for people who are married without children, and for people who are single for their entire lifetime on earth. None of these is “superior” or “inferior” to the others in an ultimate sense, because all of these human situations can lead to our becoming angels in heaven—which is God’s ultimate purpose for putting us here on earth in the first place.

      • Lee says:

        Hi Rami,

        About focusing more on “negative truth statements” than positive ones, consider this: Most of the Ten Commandments, which form the core of the practical teachings of both Judaism and Christianity, are in the form of negative statements. Most of them start with, “Thou shalt not.”

        Why?

        Because until we root out the evil and falsity that current occupy ourselves and our society, we cannot live a life based on what is good and true. The very first chapter of Isaiah states this principle very clearly:

        Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
            remove the evil of your doings
            from before my eyes;
        cease to do evil,
             learn to do good;
        seek justice,
            rescue the oppressed,
        defend the orphan,
            plead for the widow.
                              (Isaiah 1:16-17)

        And in the New Testament, the first thing that John the Baptist, Jesus, and Jesus’ disciples all preach to the people is “repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (see, for example, Mark 1:4; Luke 17:1–4; 24:44–48; Acts 2:38; 5:29–32).

        Rooting out what is false and evil must always come first. Only then will there be room in our mind and heart for what is good and true. That is why I spend a great deal of time here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life breaking down false beliefs and assailing evil and destructive attitudes and practices. But I do also provide better and truer beliefs, attitudes, and practices to replace the evil and false ones that I attack and seek to eliminate from human minds, hearts, and society.

      • Lee says:

        Hi Rami,

        And finally, yes, the current summary does go a little farther than the original article in its ninth and final point. It brings to its logical conclusion many of the things I said in the main article.

        What I said in the main article was that in an abstract, philosophical sense I don’t know whether homosexuality is evil. But then I went on to say that in a practical sense it is not, as far as I can tell, evil because it does no demonstrable harm to gays and lesbians themselves or to society.

        Yes, of course, the perversions of homosexuality do harm, just as the perversions of heterosexuality do harm. Adultery, promiscuity, sexual predation, and so on are highly destructive whether they are heterosexual or homosexual in nature. But so far I have not seen any convincing evidence—or really, any evidence at all—that faithful, monogamous homosexual relationships and marriages do any harm to anyone. On the contrary, they seem to bring about a great deal of good in the lives of gays and lesbians themselves and in society as a whole.

        Not the least of that good is that societies that accept same-sex marriage don’t push gays and lesbians into sham heterosexual marriages that cause all sorts of heartbreak and harm. But more than that, when gays and lesbians are free to form same-sex marriages, they can have a much happier life, and can become full participants in and contributors to the wellbeing of their community than they can if they are forbidden this closest and most basic of relationships.

        So yes, this summary does go farther than the original article on that key ninth and final point. And though I’ve contemplated revising the original article, that one is aimed at moving the minds of people away from the traditional religious condemnation of homosexuality and toward an acceptance of it. So my current thought is to leave it as is, and let it do its job. I am, however, happy to have this summary of the original here not only because it gives a shorter version of the original article, but also because it extents the original article on that critical point, bringing it to its logical and heart-based conclusion.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rami,

      I would simply be careful about throwing around such terms as “inferior” in relation to homosexuality. It’s a very short step from that to prejudice and bigotry against gays and lesbians. Even if you may be able to intellectually avoid such bigotry while holding such views, it reinforces the bigotry of those who are prejudiced against gays and lesbians by supporting their justifications for their bigotry against and abuse of LGBT people. And even intellectually thinking of gays and lesbians as in some way “inferior” will inevitably pull your own mind in the direction of valuing them less as human beings, even if that’s not your intention.

      LGBT people are children of God just like everyone else. No one is “inferior” in God’s eyes. God loves us all equally, and exactly as we are.

      About conscience, I think you’ve picked up on its general dynamics. It is, indeed, developed individually, and is not infallible. And yet it is also developed within the context of family and cultural standards of right and wrong, which are heavily influenced by religion, and in Christian cultures, by the Bible. So conscience is not purely arbitrary. In most people it conforms to religious standards of right and wrong because religion is a major influence in its formation.

      The conscience of homosexuals is for the most part indistinguishable from the conscience of heterosexuals. The same societal and religious influences are at work in the formation of homosexuals’ consciences as heterosexuals’ consciences. And today, in Western society especially, the trend is strongly toward heterosexuals not seeing homosexuality as an evil either. The younger the generation, the more likely it is that homosexuality is accepted as equal to heterosexuality—as simply a variation in the overall human condition. There is no separate “homosexual conscience.” Just people developing their sense of right and wrong in the context of the unfolding culture and its moral, ethical, and religious viewpoint.

      • Rami says:

        Hi Lee,

        I feel inclined to believe that your conception of the human conscience might need to be a bit more expansive, as the way you’ve described it here makes it sounds like a mere function of our intellect- which is too materialistic, as far as I’m concerned.

        I don’t deny that it’s molded from the earthly influences we both mentioned, but why doesn’t it appear that you’re allowing for a connective spiritual component to something outside of those material moldings? This matters, because it determines to a large extent whether we are culpable for our erroneous beliefs and for the destructive actions that follow.

        It would seem rather cruel if God left it up to us and our flawed intellect in order to figure things out for ourselves, at least when it comes to that which is essential for our salvation. Either we have no intuitive way by which to connect with and live out essential truths, in which case we’re doomed to stumble around innocently blind, or we’re accountable for being led astray by the unreliability of a conscience that’s only as good as the experiences that shape it. That’s why I would argue for an idea of conscience that, yes, takes shape through our experiences, but also is an avenue through which God reaches out to us, even if it’s not a direct portal to absolute truth about right and wrong. If this conception stands, then it brings me back to my original point: that it’s not enough to just assume that any old voice inside us is that of our conscience, and that we need to discern between our conscience *urging*, and *resisting* the urge of our conscience. And again, when it comes to homosexuality, I just can’t say which of the two it is.

        On that note, I wish to repeat that I have not called homosexuality or anything related thereof inferior. It is neither a spiritual or intellectual position of mine. I meant it when I said I was an agnostic on this issue. The context in which I used the word was in a hypothetical scenario in which it would be true. That if the only appropriate relationship existed between a man and a woman, and was one that lent itself to children, than any relationship that was deliberately closed off to these requirements would thereby be an inferior one. And that would logically follow, if it were true. And I’m not saying it is. It’s just a necessary turn to take as you explore this issue from all relevant sides.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          Excuse my bluntness, but you’re really treading on dangerous ground in continuing to throw around the word “inferior” in relation to homosexuality. You protest that you have not called homosexuality inferior, but you keep talking about it, and you keep using the word inferior in connection with homosexuality. I would encourage you to examine your own thoughts on this subject, because it certainly appears to me that you are suggesting that homosexuality is inferior to heterosexuality, and that childless marriages are inferior to ones that produce children, even while protesting that that’s not necessarily what you’re saying.

          And you’re treading on even more dangerous ground when you throw around the word “deliberately” in relation to these things. Homosexuals are not deliberately homosexual. They do not choose to be homosexual. It’s just a fact about themselves. Using the word “deliberate” in relation to homosexual relationships is a perpetuation of the false notion among conservative Christians (and presumably conservatives in other religions as well) that homosexuality is a “lifestyle” that gays and lesbians choose. But long experience shows that this is simply not true.

          It’s all well and good to talk about “exploring this issue from all relevant sides.” But the words we use do reveal the particular side from which we are “exploring the issue.” And the words you are using here, and your general treatment of the subject, suggest very strongly to me that you are not just objectively exploring the issue, but that you come from a pre-existing viewpoint that homosexuality is inferior to heterosexuality, and that it is a choice and a “lifestyle” on the part of gays and lesbians.

          If that’s the case, and you’re moving away from that viewpoint, I do understand. But I hope you understand that any gay or lesbian person reading your comments will see your continued use of “inferior” in relation to homosexuality, even theoretically, and your use of such words as “deliberate” as major red flags marking you as someone who is internally prejudiced and anti-gay even while orally protesting and professing not to be.

          You, of course, will ultimately have to make up your own mind what you think and believe about homosexuality, and what your attitude will be toward it. But words can hurt. And some of the words you are using are very hurtful to LGBT people, even if that’s not your intention.

        • Rami says:

          With respect (as always) Lee, I’m not sure where and how I’m so badly misrepresenting myself, but my choice of words is *only* intended articulate a *possible* conclusion if one set of facts is true. This discussion began with me coming forward with an objection to gay marriage- and homosexuality in general- in which I, myself, was hung up: namely that relationships without the features I mentioned were inferior to ones that had them. That’s the objection. And if all relationships needed those features, then such a conclusion would be true

          That is *only* context in which I’ve used the term. It’s unavoidable that I would use the word ‘inferior’ when laying out an argument that calls gay marriages inferior that I, myself, have not been able to adequately answer. And I’m here as part of seeing if that’s an argument that *can* be answered, for as far as I can tell, it’s part of the traditional religious objection to gay marriage (they would probably call those relationships ‘evil,’ but they’re in the orocess calling them ‘inferior’ to heterosexual relationships).

          I hope I’ve clarified why that word has gotten so much use from me, and I admit that I’m most *familiar* with this line of reasoning against gay marriage than I am with lines of reasoning for it (after all, I’m not coming to you with being stumped by pro gay marriage arguments).

          As for ‘deliberate,’ I admit that was careless on my part, as I was only attempting to describe a relationship that is unconducive to reproduction. For instance, birth control and infertility both preclude reproduction, but birth control is mechanically at odds with reproduction, whereas one can be unable to conceive yet sexually behave in a way that is open to reproduction.

        • Rami says:

          Looking at it more closely, it seems I’m putting forward my own more optimistic theoretical spin on the a traditional line of reasoning that would just call gay marriage flat out evil. Whereas the traditional objection would look at gay marriage as being closed off to a certain relational dynamic and to childbearing and call it evil, it could also just be a relationship that, at best, can never be as full as heterosexual ones (though that opens up a whole other can of worms).

          Like I said, most of my exposure has been to arguments against gay marriage, arguments that I admit are very difficult to answer. But far from allowing that to cultivate prejudicial attitudes within me, I’ve just set them asyde until such time that I would one day address those objections in light of any counter-objections. I didn’t expect to get any closer to one side or the other than I already am following a discussion like this, but I’m still very interested in what you have to say.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          Once again, I don’t think it’s helpful or useful to analyze heterosexual vs. homosexual relationships in terms of “better” and “worse,” “superior” and “inferior.” Practically speaking, neither heterosexuals nor homosexuals have any choice in the matter. If heterosexuals are going to be in a marriage, it is going to be a heterosexual marriage. If homosexuals are going to be in a marriage, it’s going to be a homosexual marriage. So what’s the point in saying that one is “better” or “worse” than the other? There is no practical usefulness in making such judgments, because none of the people involved can actually use those value judgments to make any actual choices in life.

          About the only group that such value judgments could have any usefulness at all to would be bisexuals, who actually can go one way or the other. However, in my experience and judgment, most bisexuals aren’t going to make their choice based on whether it is “better” or “worse” for them to have a same-sex or opposite-sex partner. Yes, some may do so for reasons of social pressure and acceptance. But in this day and age, when there is less such social pressure, they are most likely to make their choice based on a sense of the quality of the person, whether male or female, that they may be attracted to. If they have to choose between a potential opposite-sex partner who is less sympathetic and less congruent with their own character and values, and a same-sex partner that is more sympathetic and more congruent with their own character and values, they’re likely to—and really, should—choose the one who is closer to them in mind and spirit. In short, their choice is going to be based more on the quality of the person’s character than on the person’s gender. So even with this group where value judgments of “better” or “worse” regarding opposite sex vs. same sex relationships theoretically might have some actual bearing, in practice it is less useful than it might seem.

          So once again, I think it is best just to drop the whole “superior” vs. “inferior” line of thinking, because practically speaking it has little or no value in the real world.

          The more intellectual among us like to think about and spin abstract theories about the essential nature of things. And while that may not be totally useless, much of that sort of thinking is just building castles in the air, with no real foundation underneath it. In other words, it has little or no basis on or usefulness in the actual world as we actually experience it around ourselves.

          That is why although, as I said in the main article, I don’t know whether homosexuality is, philosophically or in an abstract sense, good or evil, I no longer bother myself with those speculations. Instead, I pay attention to the experience and realities of actual gays and lesbians, and learn from how things work out in real life. Eventually, if we learn from external reality without applying heavy filters of philosophical notions about how things are “supposed” to be in an abstract sense, we’ll learn something solid about the actual nature of things.

          As I said in my immediately previous comment about conscience (which appears below this one), we humans, for the most part, no longer have the ability to directly perceive, by internal intuition and direct communication with God and heaven, what is true and what is false. Instead, we must learn by an external way, through religious texts and teachings, but also through experience in the world around us. Swedenborg speaks also of our conscience developing as we apply it in our life. Everything here on earth expresses something spiritual by way of correspondence. So learning about the physical and human world here on earth on the basis of actual experience can form a basis for correct thinking about spiritual things.

          No, correspondences and a knowledge of physical and social reality doesn’t actually teach us spiritual truth. Rather, it provides a foundation on which God can build a superstructure of spiritual truth. And as with conscience, that superstructure of spiritual truth will be only as good and true as the foundation on which it is built.

          All of this is why, when it comes to homosexuality, I no longer try to figure it out in a direct philosophical and abstract way. Rather, I learn from the realities on the ground, attempting to see what homosexuality is actually like in practice, without imposing a lot of preconceived notions of what homosexuality is “supposed” to be.

          And what I have found so far is that in general homosexual relationships closely parallel heterosexual ones. Faithful, monogamous, loving homosexual relationships look very much like faithful, monogamous, loving heterosexual relationships. And the corruptions of homosexual relationships are very similar to the corruptions of heterosexual relationships. Based on these practical realities, I have no basis on which to pronounce homosexual relationships “evil” or even “inferior.” Not from a spiritual standpoint. They seem to have all the spiritual benefits of heterosexual relationships, and all the potential pitfalls and negatives too.

          And these days, many gays and lesbians are parents, sometimes of their own biological children conceived from heterosexual sex—and for women, also by in-vitro fertilization—and sometimes through adoption. So even the spiritual benefits of child-raising are not closed to gay and lesbian couples.

          In practical reality, same-sex marriages are marriage for homosexuals, just as opposite-sex marriages are marriage for heterosexuals.

          Beyond that, I would simply recommend that you carefully read and contemplate on the three primary articles on the subject that I have written and published here so far:

          1. What is the Sin of Sodom?
          2. Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity
          3. What does Emanuel Swedenborg Say about Homosexuality?

          Most of my thoughts on the subject of homosexuality are contained in these three articles, and in their comment sections.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          About conscience:

          Among the earliest humans, before the events symbolized by the Fall of humankind in Genesis 3 took place, there wasn’t a “conscience” as such. Rather, there was a direct intuition and inner perception of what is good and true based on open communication with the spiritual world and with God.

          However, after the Fall the human mind changed. The earlier direct communication with the spiritual world was mostly closed off due to humans focusing their attention more on external, physical things than on internal, spiritual things. This is the symbolism of being tempted by the serpent, or snake, which represents the outer, physical, sensory aspect of a human being and human mind.

          With the inner route of direct perception and intuition of what is good and evil, true and false, largely closed off, God provided another, external route. Instead of engaging the heart or will first, as had the earlier route, this new mode of spiritual guidance engages the head, or intellect first. This new mode is conscience.

          Conscience is not formed by a direct perception or intuition of what is good and true, because that was corrupted and closed off in us when we turned away from God’s presence from within and toward the presence of the external, physical world, and our own reasoning based on it, instead.

          At that point, God began providing us with “external” revelation, first in the form of stories and myths passed down orally from ancient times—from the time in which humans had direct communication with heaven—and later in the form of written revelation, which Christians know as the Bible. Other religions also have their sacred books and their oral stories, myths, and legends that connect them to the ancient wisdom that originally came from God through heaven in the earliest days of humanity.

          Now, instead of being taught and led directly by God, we are taught and led indirectly, by a more external and intellectual route, which is a conscience formed from the things we learn from our religion and our sacred texts. And yes, God is present within the person, building a coherent conscience for the person to follow, and guiding the person by means of that conscience.

          However, the conscience is only as good as the religious teachings of the church or religion in which the person grows up. The more there is of genuine truth in that church or religion, the more true and sound is the conscience. The less there is of genuine truth in that church or religion, the less true and sound is the conscience. So, for example, it was common for Christians of a century or two ago to believe that such harmless things as dancing and playing cards were evil and sinful. So for those Christians, dancing and playing cards was contrary to their conscience, even though there is actually no harm in either one—and in fact, dancing is fairly common in the Bible.

          Those two examples are of relatively trivial things. But some false teachings of the church are more serious, and lead to greater corruption of conscience. For example, believing that all people who don’t believe as our church does are damned to hell can easily lead to persecution, conflict, and war between different religious groups. And that has actually been quite common not only in the past, but right up to the present. Even though people who have been taught this believe that they are acting according to divine truth, they are in fact acting from falsity. But since that falsity has become a part of their conscience, it is very difficult to root out.

          That is why it’s important to break down false religion and false teaching, and replace it with true religion and true teaching. I say more about this in the article, “Does Doctrine Matter? Why is it Important to Believe the Right Thing?

          So yes, the Lord is present in conscience, and also builds conscience in us. But ever since the Fall, it has been necessary for the Lord to build our conscience out of things we are taught by an external and intellectual route, through our religious leaders and sacred texts. The better the materials the Lord has to work with in building a conscience, the better will be the quality of the conscience. The worse the materials, the worse will be the conscience, and the farther away from genuine truth.

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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