Speaking in a vacuum

Jolyn said she believed gay sex is sinful. I responded:

“OK, you can believe homosexual sex is sinful. However the problem is that many teenage gay people believe it is sinful too, because they have been told so by others, and are damaged by the distress they suffer, even to killing themselves. People are bullied because of homosexuality or perceived homosexuality.

“We could agree to disagree, even worship together, because what we share- the desire to follow Christ- is so much more important than what divides us. But if you state your belief in public, however gently, you give aid and comfort to the bullies, and heap distress on the heads of the gay people who are bullied.

“I hope you accept that homosexual desire is so deep-seated that it cannot be said to be a choice. The choice, then, is between celibacy and a loving gay relationship. You can decide that you do not want to have gay sex. I am fine with that. I am less fine with you telling others that you think they should be celibate. What right have you to say that?”

We do not speak or write in a vacuum. What we say has an effect on others. The thing is, I have some sympathy with people who wish to show respect to the Bible, and not just ignore what it says, and people who take their religion seriously. I can understand Jolyn being upset to be called a “hater” for her honestly held religious views. I have no respect for people who deny reality and claim that homosexuality is a choice, but a commonly held reading of the Bible is that it condemns gay sex, and people have lots of reasons for adhering to Christianity.

I have less respect after her response. Why, she asks, is bullying for sexuality considered so much more important than other reasons for bullying? It isn’t, actually. People take body image issues more and more seriously. I have sympathy for her being bullied over being studious at school, but if that could not be prevented, encouraging bullying of gay people hardly makes things better. She does not want her children “confused” by “displays” of her friends’ homosexuality- so we must all pretend to be straight. Having adults pretending all the time, never saying what they really feel, confuses and harms children. It teaches them feelings are something to be ashamed of.

If a gay friend tells Jolyn of his great night out with a new boyfriend, and Jolyn says she disapproves, I don’t think that does huge harm to that friend- but it does no harm at all to Jolyn. People disagree. We think differently and feel differently, and we still rub along together OK.

What harm does Jolyn suffer if she sees a gay kiss on a TV drama, or reads about an out gay man in a magazine? She learns that other people think differently from her, even that they have different disgust reactions. It may be more comfortable if everyone appears to think and feel the same way, but it is more mature to tolerate difference. Which of us is going to Hell is God’s decision, not Jolyn’s.

And- have a look at Neil’s video. You might say that it is crude and manipulative- the music takes you inside the emotional world of the victim, rather than the bully or a bystander- but can you conceive of any circumstances in which you are on the side of the bully, rather than the victim, and his many courageous supporters?

12 thoughts on “Speaking in a vacuum

  1. Now I really do feel like you’re bullying me, You have really misrepresented me and my message.

    If you have an inkling of respect in you you would put the entire post in there fore people to read and decide my motives for themselves instead of selectively twisting my words to slander me.

    Here is the post, in all it’s entirety:

    “I have many homosexual friends I consider close to me; one of my bestfriends is bisexual. I am also Christian. Explainably, this has always been a hard topic for me to talk about, or to figure out for myself. But I think I’ve finally found a way to put it into words.

    I think the act of homosexuality is wrong. And I have as much right to think it so, as you do to think I am a prick, or to decide for yourself that it is right. A girl is allowed to decide if she would like to keep her virginity for marriage or if she would rather not. Doing one no more makes one a snob than the doing the other makes another a slut. I don’t understand why this cannot be applied to everything else. Just because someone supports gay marriage doesn’t mean I harbour any hate or disrespect for him, and I hope that just because I disagree, will not result in them labelling me as judgemental lowlife. We simply have different views and I don’t see any need for war about it. We all do the things that we think is right or natural. The sad truth lies in that variation as to what is right have always, and always will exist in every aspect of life, from morality to literal action; Why should sexuality be any different. Why does there have to be a universal right to it.

    I will not even attempt to go into the aspects or marriage law- I understand that in every legal and federal decision, a ‘right’ will be granted more favour over another party’s perception of ‘right’. And I don’t lay claim to knowledge in solving problems like these. But you don’t need law telling you who you can love, why do you feel the need legal papers to show your love. My personal stand is that people should have the right to love whomever they prefer, regardless of gender; because that is what they think is right- even if I don’t share the view. But likewise, I think churches should be spared being forced to marry them; because that is what they think is right. Lawyers are perfectly capable enough. If we all just allow that different people will have different concepts of right and that really, who’s to say which is the universal ‘right’, I think there would be a lot less hatred in the world. I don’t understand why there is literally a war regarding love.

    In the simplest way that I can put it;
    I have the freedom of religion just as anyone else has to a religion to nilhism, or a different preference for gender. However just because you sin differently from me doesn’t give me the right to judge or prosecute you.

    I don’t think there is a need for hatred simply because we all share different views. A war to love, really guys?”



  2. Also Clare, I think you are an incredibly self-righteous, prideful and hateful Christian. And I don’t understand how you could have so much anger in you. But you have twisted my words and really hurt me, simply because you disagreed or misunderstood the message I was trying to put across- that though we have different views we still ought to love each other, and not attempt to silence, prosecute or judge the other. But you have done all 3 things to me. And I may mean nothing to you, but you are just, the hardest person to respect, harder so than me- a person who thinks homosexuality is immoral but has and loves her gay friends and would never tell them to think otherwise. By the way, the guy you were arguing with on my page- he is bisexual and my best friend. We just understand that we have different views but love each other anyway. I accept that people’s perspectives of what is right differs from mine, and it doesn’t make them wrong, but you can’t seem to see that, or practice the love and equality you preach. It is all one-sided for you. Just because I think it is wrong doesn’t mean I am going to try to convince people of it, it doesn’t mean I am going to judge them and it certainly doesn’t mean I am going to stop loving them. I have never asked a gay person to pretend to be straight, and I will never dare or want to do so. You though, have tried to silent me for having different views, and then when I refuse to further argue, take it upon yourself to slander me on your page. You are an incredibly hateful person, Clare, and I wish you weren’t. I will not further partake in any dealings with you, your page, your slandering or your reply- I wonder if you would even approve this comment.

    God bless you.



    • Hello Jolyn. Thank you for taking the time to respond.

      I did leave a link to your post, but I am glad that you have quoted it in full. It lets people decide based on what you say rather than how I summarise it. The link will still be useful to access your comments thread.

      I never asked you to change your belief, and I said that I have some respect for people who hold that belief. What I asked was that you did not express that belief, because expressing it gives aid and comfort to bullies, and distresses gay people.

      I did not fully appreciate your distress. It does not gratify me, and I am glad that you have expressed it here. Would you mind having a look at this article, considering that distress from the point of view of gay people?


    • I know straight people don’t understand why it hurts when they say to a gay friend “I love you even though I think being gay is wrong,” but let me try and explain it. My personal feeling is that by you rejecting my gayness (which cannot be separated from any other part of me) you’re rejecting me. I am a lesbian, not “a person experiencing a lesbian identity” as if I could suddenly shrug it off tomorrow, so by believing that homosexuality is immoral, what you are saying is that I AM IMMORAL. What kind of person wants to be friends with someone who thinks they are immoral? Personally I don’t.
      I know many times this “Love the sinner, Hate the sin” is seen as a loving, Christian attitude, but in reality, all it does is hurt the people you are calling sinful. Whether or not your gay friends admit it, they’re not being totally honest with you. There’s no way they can be when you continue to wound them, however slightly, by denying ALL the goodness that they are.


      • And, in saying that, one need not reject the other’s Christianity, or morality, or respect for the Bible, certainly not their whole person- I only reject that particular moral view. I do not even reject the fact that the other finds gay sex disgusting- Well, don’t think about it, then, but I do not judge the feeling, only what the other makes from it.

        I am still looking forward to the wedding photographs.


  3. “If a man lie with another man…they shall be stoned” Gay sex and marijuana legalization.
    Oh if elections for social change and such were simple as that.

    Believe it or not, this last election was using lack if acceptance as a moral argument, when in reality it was a financial one. Bain Capital Investments (Romney) had many investments in counseling centers for marriage and troubled teens.
    They could give two shits less about God in any sense when they are just wanting to create laws that support their own financial future to be guaranteed.
    Oppressed people suffer more, and as a result spend more money.

    I think a matriarchy would be better.


    • Commenting on the argument of sin and gay sex:

      I think religion is an old institution that had put labels on things, just like a store would put on a can of beans.
      A new store is opening up and decides to call these cans of beans something like legumes (or fagioli) based on their properties that are similar to other legumes rather than the old term as beans.
      I think it really is an argument that is that simple.

      Now if there is a label gun where the stickers have “SIN” printed on them, I should run rampant labeling many things, such as:
      -over population by people who make babies simply because they are lazy
      -developing seed crops that simply will not grow from a common seed
      -anything that destroys the planet with the assumption we all go somewhere else when we die
      Those are a good start to pin the moniker “sin” across with big red letters.

      Labeling something a sin, to me is like when someone is labeled “brilliant” when they are really a “wanker” in sheep’s clothing.

      Clare, you heart is always in the right place, without a question. ❤


  4. I try to always go to the source, so when I read about your exchange with Jolyn, I clicked on the link. It sent me to the above painting site so I’m appreciative that Jolyn posted her entire comment.

    I come across this argument all the time, that to think something is immoral is a religious right and freedom, which allows me to express it… without earning criticism… without earning the various labels that come with such criticism, like bigotry, misogyny, and discrimination!

    Sometimes it helps cut through the emotional baggage by changing the identifying term held to be immoral when acted upon. For example, if we move away from the term ‘gay’ and substitute it with the term ‘smart’, then we can plainly see how bizarre a notion it is for someone to suggest that because acting smart is believed to be a sin, or immoral, or what have you, that it’s very tolerant of me to say that it’s okay for you to be smart. But this is disingenuous; the reason why acting smart is considered immoral in the first place is because it’s not okay to be smart, that being smart is a curse or a punishment or a debt incurred, and so acting on it releases it upon the world and makes the world that much worse a place. Saying it is okay if not acted upon defeats the argument for it being immoral to express it. (That’s equivalent to suggesting that it’s not okay to go out and rape but it’s okay to hold the desire to rape.) It’s a bizarre rationalization rooted not in compelling reasons to show negative effect against the public good but an a priori assumption that it is wrong because an other-wordly-but-sometime-interactive supernatural authority says it is.

    Again, when we make a claim about the world – in this case acting on sexual impulses – why is it so difficult for people to hold personal beliefs to their person and leave it at that? Why must this belief be extended and imposed on others? Why can’t Jolyn be satisfied to not act on any sexual impulses she may have toward another and think herself moral for doing so? Why must she feel it is her place, her duty, to hold others to her accounting and let them know she finds them wanting?

    Well, this is what religion does: it tries to impose its authority on all and excuses this bullying, this discrimination, this bigotry and misogyny because its followers believe/assume/presume that it has divine sanction to do so. Jolyn doesn’t see herself as such an agent in this light; she sees herself as ‘respecting’ what she believes/assumes/presumes is god’s wishes in the matter. And this is the rub: she’s giving more respect to her belief in god (and her belief in his nature, intentions, desires, wishes, commands, rules, authority, and so on) than she is willing to grant to the rights and freedoms of her fellow (fallen and sinful) creatures. Yet she will use the notion of equivalent rights and freedoms with her fellow (fallen and sinful) creatures to have her say judging their actions to be moral or immoral according to her beliefs. It’s just another case of intellectual hypocrisy in action motivated by mistakenly respecting faith as a legitimate source of knowledge. It isn’t; it’s a source of foolishness, ignorance, injustice, inequality, and privilege played out where ever faith is respected.


    • I think tradition is a legitimate source of morality. Just as I do not need to work out that F=ma for myself, it is worked out already, so I can rely on others’ moral codes. And I do. Insofar as I have a moral code of my own, to a huge extent it is absorbed from my culture. So while I agree that women should dress modestly, I have a British Christian view of what “modestly” means rather than an Afghan Muslim view.

      Further, I think that my morality is mainly to assess my actions. Other people may moralise about their own. It is not for me to judge unless asked- so I dress modestly myself, rather than getting disapproving at others. Life is too short for such disapproval, generally.

      We can discuss morality usefully. And- I really was not expressing my moral view that gay sex is only objectionable in situations where straight sex would be- sex by force, for example. I was arguing that the expression of a view can have a bad result.

      This is what I want to get over.

      Even if being gay is entirely a choice, and people could be straight if they wanted to be-
      and even if being gay is immoral, because it perverts the human method of procreation to sterility, repels right-thinking people, and causes AIDS and Alzheimers, or merely because it is wrong in itself
      even then, given that people are bullied for being gay, saying these truths would be a bad thing, because it would encourage the bullies.

      I think I have the link working now.


  5. I have to say that I have such strong feelings on this, it’s hard for me to comment or be understanding about the other point of view. This is the civil rights issue of our times, and It does seem to me that people tend to pick and choose what they want to take away from the bible in order to justify their feelings and declare other people sinners. That said, I admire both you and Jolyn for being honest about your feelings and brave enough to express them publicly. I do think there is value in that however much I disagree, and what I read from both of you was respectful. If we don’t all keep talking, we will never find our way to common ground.

    I smiled when I read that Jolyn wondered if you’d even post her comment. Of course you would. You are badass, Clare – a smart, searching badass – and I’m glad you’re out here writing about your search. xo


    • Congratulations on your beautiful new site, which I recommend to anyone.

      I read that marriage is a less important issue for the gay community than, say, homelessness- but it is the symbolic issue. There is progress. Exodus International now promotes celibacy, and that is a great improvement from its former false claims that it could induce heterosexual feelings. With equal marriage in Spain, coming in France and the UK, with the four State referendum victories, we approach the state of acceptance we deserve.


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