There are two common ways by which people deal with those who say that homosexual behavior is "wrong," "bad," a "sin," or something similar. As I noted in my last post, I often get as annoyed by fair-weather "traditionalists" as much as I get annoyed by pro-gay folk, but that doesn't really change the focus of this post. That is, regardless of how unsophisticated a suburban soccer mom's convictions may be, I think her underlying desires are important to analyze. I'll explain what I mean.
The first way is indifference. That is, a person will say, in so many words, "Why do I care what two grown men do in their bedrooms?" For some reason, this is supposed to come across as kind, altruistic, or at the very least, respectful. It is supposed to be a treating of the two men as "adults." Treating them "as adults" is, in its own way, supposed to be a good thing to do. I don't necessarily disagree with this. I think it is important to treat adults like adults, for various reasons that need qualification on their own. But it's not just doing this. It's also saying, "Even if what you are doing is immoral (and I don't want to comment on that to avoid being counter-cultural), I don't care."
This is, in my estimation, a sort of fusing of political theory with moral philosophy. That is, the general libertarian-individualistic principle of non-intervention "freedom" is being applied to complex moral issues. Since the government shouldn't have laws that stop people from having sex with one another, or so it goes (though they do all the time), normal people shouldn't stop others from having sex with one another or even tell them that they shouldn't. It is an obsession with "rights" and neutrality to the point of absurdity. And, of course, the conclusion doesn't even follow the premise. Just because one may have a right to have sex with someone of the same sex (assuming this true), it doesn't mean that it is good for him to do so.
And this, really, is what I'm trying to get at with this sort of approach. A person who says this is effectively saying "I don't care about your good." This is, for any traditionalist, the equivalent of saying, "I do not love you." (I'll get more to this in a bit.) Now, he could stretch this to mean not that he doesn't care about the gay person's good, but that he thinks the gay person is the better judge of what good is, at least for him. This, of course, is a desire to pull it back to the worship of individualism. Since we are all "individuals" we can figure out what's "good" for us. Almost like a sort of emotivism. As any traditionalists would argue, though, this is patently absurd. "Goodness" is an objective issue. And even at its most basic level, it's difficult to understand in practice. Why, if there is such a thing as morality as it applies to sexuality, would a homosexual have any better authority for determining what is good for him with respect to homosexuality? In my estimation, he would be a worse judge, as he has way more to gain or lose depending upon the answer to the question.
Similarly, the person wouldn't apply this principle to other things, generally speaking. He wouldn't say, if he knows anything about libertarian or individualistic principles at all, that I can decide it's "good" for me to steal from him or kill him. So, the best he could hope for is to say that goodness does not exist for sexuality or other personal issues. And this may be exactly what he's doing, as people with this mindset often think that the only thing that makes a thing "bad" is if it's a violation of a "right" (whoever gets to decide what these are). Why this is the case, that only the "violation of a right" is "bad" and everything else is off-limits, no philosopher I have ever read has sufficiently answered, but there you go. (Of course, they would have to bite their tongue when they are forced to admit that it is neither good nor bad for the alcoholic to keep drinking or the porn addict to keep clicking.) The other alternative, of course (and is probably most often the case), he just doesn't know if homosexuality is right or wrong (because he's spent no time with it), and he doesn't care about homosexuals in any real way (because the homosexual isn't him, and he's got to find his own way to get laid).
The second way is actually a bit of a counter-argument. That is, people will say that they are being more loving (or even more Christian) by encouraging the happiness of the homosexual person in letting the homosexual do what he wants. They implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, say that the anti-homosexual person who doesn't want the homosexual to fulfill his desires actually wants the homosexual to feel sadness. That is, that the anti-homosexual person hates the homosexual, as he wants pain, suffering, and loneliness for him. This strategy is nauseatingly popular. It is the root, I think, for the "STOP HATE" message. As most Western morals go, it is a perversion of an old Christian principle, that we are to love one another. This post was partially inspired by today's Gospel reading on the topic:
"I give you a new commandment: love one another.As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.This is how all will know that you are my disciples,if you have love for one another.”
The pro-homosexual person will say, "THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT WE'RE DOING, LOVING THE HOMOSEXUAL! YOU'RE DOING THE OPPOSITE!" This, for some reason, is really powerful for people. And I think it comes from the absurd, unreasoned, and unjustified sentimentality of the modern world (due in no small part to modern Protestantism). What's been lost, of course, is the meaning of love. Love has turned into something very strange, separated from both its metaphysical and religious roots. It has become, for the most part, just nice feelings. Loving someone then has become willing nice things for them, that they feel good. Reframing it this way has stripped the meaning of the word love in any context, as "feeling good" is based on the person doing the feeling.
But the traditionalist, whether the philosophically-sound one or the casual fair-weather one, says that love is to will the good of another. And they define the good, as best they can, in objective terms: what is good for a human being considering what it means to be a human being. And they recognize that goodness, whether it be in romance, war, work, family, or whatever, does not necessarily mean "happiness" or "good feelings." Goodness for Paul was torture. Goodness for Christ was sacrifice to the point of death. Goodness for a soldier is heartbreakingly leaving his wife and children to go fight and die for a good cause, never to see those who he cares about again. He would be a bad soldier in that he chose his feelings of happiness over his goodness. The same goes for any person, important or not. A good person seeks what is good for him, considering what he is (whether it parent, child, religious leader, or otherwise), which often means sacrifice, depending on the circumstance.
I want to emphasize that this is not an obsession with pain or an aversion to good feelings. It's not, at all. It is instead to aim at a higher good. Whatever consequences occur from that aim is incidental to the goal. It is similar, at least in some part, to the principle of double effect. That I seek goodness in remaining sexually pure but also, in the process of doing so, feel lonely, is not me aiming at loneliness. That I feel lonely sometimes is not my goal, and in many ways it would be a bit perverse to aim at loneliness. It is in this way that it is not consequentialist. It's not just that "more happiness" will ultimately result from temporary sadness, though it might. It's that, considering how life is, goodness often comes with undesired side-effects that we cannot control. Realizing that we cannot always control these side-effects, and realizing that life is not only defined by these good or bad feelings, is what it means to be a good person.
The counter, of course, would be to say that helping the homosexual to find sexual release through a partner is good. I think this is the only valid argument against the traditionalist. But it's not an easy argument to make. This is why, I think, it's usually focused on the emotions of the hypothetical homosexual. "He will be sad and lonely and unfulfilled if he doesn't get his partner!" Even taking this dubious claim as true (is he really going to feel more fulfilled considering his whole life?), this emphasis ignores everything the traditionalist brings up: that goodness is defined by nature, that humans are aimed at more than just sexual partnership, that feelings are only a part of what makes a person what he is, etc. As I said, a more developed and sophisticated approach to goodness that somehow includes homosexual expression would be the most compelling for the traditionalist, but I just don't see it very often. Emphasis is always placed on "completeness" and "oneness" and other such ideas.
The point I'm trying to ultimately make is this: if homosexuality is immoral, loving a homosexual means telling him that what he is doing is wrong, and more importantly, explaining why it is wrong. Moreover, loving a homosexual means providing him a way out of what he is doing. It means, in few words, willing, and making real, his good. Obviously this isn't easy, especially considering the fact that the homosexual (and others) will resent you for saying anything and that we should respect people as adults as much as we can, giving them room to grow and learn in their own way. I'm just trying to address the underlying issue when someone says that a Christian is not being a Christian by telling a homosexual that he is immoral or by rejecting his lifestyle. This is just not true. And even the most unsophisticated parent who can't articulate why homosexuality is wrong but says "No, stay away from that! It's bad!" is doing nothing but loving his child.