Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Knee-Jerk Reaction

Just a quick post before I head out to class. I knew I couldn't say "no" to the blog for too long. :)

I was looking at Warren Throckmorton's blog earlier this week and noticed his links to these pieces by both Peter LaBarbera and Matt Barber. I've written about Barber before, and I don't much care for him. I don't know much about LaBarbera, but I doubt I'd be too much a fan of his, either. Both of the men seem to be so virulently opposed to homosexual people that any possible logical arguments they have are overshadowed by polemical statements and sheer ignorance of what it means to be gay (i.e. It's not about sex!)

However, I think there might be a reason behind their negativity that goes much farther simple adherence to Scripture. Here was a quote by Barber late in his piece that caught my attention:

"The sheer mechanics of homosexual conduct very naturally elicits revulsion in most rational folk."

That seems simple and unsurprising, but it got me thinking. For one, he pretty much implies that if you don't have "revulsion" towards gay sex, then you most likely aren't "rational." I guess that means he thinks if one is actually attracted (or maybe simply tempted) by gay sex, and certainly if one participates in it, then that person is inherently irrational. Seeing your opponents as inherently irrational is nothing new, and both sides of the political arena do it. However, I don't think it's really Christ-like. More than that, I don't think one should hold up their "knee-jerk" reaction to something as the starting point for their belief that it is wrong.

It's not hard to see something as wrong when you naturally are grossed-out by it. But to build a variety of political, Scriptural, and ethical arguments around that "knee-jerk" is irresponsible. I've happened to notice that pundits who admit to being repulsed by homosexuality tend not to be the most tempered or nuanced about the subject. Whereas people like the folks at Exodus -- like them or not -- do seem to guard their words a bit more, despite the fact that both groups disagree with homosexual behavior for the supposed same religious reasons.

Like I said, just a thought. I don't think we should disqualify folks with a "knee-jerk" reactions towards homosexuality from commenting on GLBT issues, but we don't need to be holding up those reactions as the basis for good political or religious argument. People, at best, need to be calm, cool, respectful, and objective. Maybe I'm just hoping for too much here. :)


Peter O said...

Well said!!!

The Christian argument isn’t sociological or biological or psychological. It’s theological and every time a Christian says “It’s not natural” or words to that effect, they actually undermine the argument against same-sex practice. Complain about promiscuity and I’ll show you a monogamous gay couple. Argue about the grossness or medical dangers of sodomy and I’ll show you a gay couple who don’t practice it.

Ultimately this is a conversation in the church which needs to be theological and scriptural. What does God say, not what do people think.

kurt_t said...

I don't think I could say it better than Peter O.

If the reason you're opposed to something is "the Supreme Being I believe in says 'Don't do that.'" then that's your own personal, spiritual issue. That's not a public policy issue.

And as far as the revulsion issue, you know what fills me with revulsion? Skiing. Roller coasters. Ketchup on a hot dog. All those things make me want to barf.

You know what? The purpose of our government is not to eliminate things that people find distasteful. Otherwise, the cast and crew of every reality show on TV would be in jail.

Especially "Project Runway"!

MR said...

We definitely need to base our beliefs on logical arguments, not emotional ones.

I think we all would agree, though, that emotion is secondarily important, too. If I state my logical argument with deeply felt passion and conviction that appeals to what both sides share in common, people are much more likely to listen and "get it". What we need to avoid is the kind of polarizing emotion that appeals to one side but not the other.

Robert said...

"The sheer mechanics of homosexual conduct very naturally elicits revulsion in most rational folk."

Hee. Hee. -- I remember watching my parents kiss full on the mouth as a kid, and I thought that was the grossest thing on the planet. Then, I actually saw the grossest thing on the planet when I walked into my parent's bedroom at a regrettable time. (Uggh!!! Those breeding heteros! Do they really put their mouths in those areas?!!)

tilts_at_windmills said...

There are psychological researchers who suggest that social conservatives place more moral value on intuitive and visceral reactions than social liberals. Liberals see moral issues as defined by harm and fairness, while conservatives also value in-group loyalty and purity (ie, disgust).

I think there may be some truth in that. I know there have been times when I've tried to talk to a conservative on moral issues, and felt like we were speaking different languages. My natural reaction to an argument from disgust is, "But that obviously has nothing to do with morality!" To a social conservative it's just as obvious that it does. We start from different a priori assumptions about what's relevant. It makes it easy for us to talk past each other.

Jay said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. Yes, Robert, catching the folks doing "the deed" is indeed nasty, but look at it this way. Without that, we wouldn't be here. :)

Tilts, that's an interesting study. Would you happen to have a link to it? I think Christians do put too much emphasis on emotion rather than logic, but emotions can be easily fooled, too.

shell said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tilts_at_windmills said...

Hey! Here's the researchers' website:

They've also set up a questionnaire that'll supposedly tell you where you fall on the five factors:

Suffice it to say, my purity factor is basically nonexistent.