The Tuesday Ear Tickler award is Solemn Charge’s weekly recognition of teachers who “Tickle the Ears” of those who “no longer endure sound doctrine”. In the spirit of 2 Timothy 4: 2-4, this award serves to identify theological or doctrinal errors, dissent or hostility toward the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, or writing that undermines the purpose of each human soul – to know love and serve God so as to enjoy eternal happiness with Him in Heaven. I make no judgment of the writer’s intentions. Usually the winner of this award was raised in the 60’s so that right there is a mitigating factor toward their culpability for their actions. I do judge concrete actions and the quality of ideas, however…

Today’s winner is Nathaniel Frank (absolutely no relation to the keeper of this blog), who is a gay rights pusher and apparently, a Bible distorter. He tries to claim that homosexual activity is a social taboo and that it is only wrong in so far as it is not a customary thing for the culture at the time, naming his article, “Is Homosexuality a Sin?” His article is quite long and filled with error, so bear with me as I take it apart piece by piece. It takes many words to correct the many errors in his work. (Mr. Frank’s comments in the red quote boxes, my comments in black.)

When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said last week that his faith teaches that homosexuality is a sin, he was clearly speaking to social conservatives. But with the 2016 election in mind, he was simultaneously moderating his rhetoric, so he also said that while his faith "informs" him "as a policy maker," he would never use it "to pass judgment on people."

It's a logically dubious position. If a set of judgments about people informs you as a policy maker, then how can you avoid judging people, and equally importantly, why should you? Casting further doubt on his sincerity, Rubio has indeed judged gay people as unworthy of equal protection under the law, opposing letting them marry, adopt or serve openly in the military.

Rubio’s point, which is aligned with Catholic teaching is that judgment is passed on concrete acts. For example, arson is wrong. There could be factors involved with the arsonist’s decision-making process that lessen his culpability for the arson, such as mental illness (pyromania) or societal acceptance or promotion of arson that causes the arsonist to believe that the arson is morally neutral or even desirable. These circumstances prevent a person from judging the reasons behind the arson, but it is still possible to clearly identify certain actions that are wrong without condemning the actor. Frank’s argument is based on emotion, as is generally the case with moral relativists, and seems to conclude that a person cannot separate the act of identifying evil behavior from the act of condemning the actor. This is perhaps the case with a great many people in our society, but it should not be, and indeed, many people are able to make this distinction.

Rubio, who has called for Republicans to appeal more to minorities and immigrants, was trying to soften his moralizing as part of a new brand of Republican thinking after the Party's White House bid failed decisively last month. The brand takes the one page from the George W. Bush playbook that the GOP still finds useful: the so-called "compassionate conservatism" embodied by the principle of "hate the sin, love the sinner." As Rubio put it, "there isn't a person in this room that isn't guilty of sin."

This is small consolation for gays (and their proliferating supporters), who shouldn't have to feel that expressing their love sexually is a shameful transgression that's tolerated merely because other evil things are, too. But Rubio was trying to walk a fine line that's increasingly tough for Republicans to pull off: salvaging their coalition of evangelicals and more moderate conservatives by moralizing and not moralizing at the same time.

Rather than evaluate the truth and wisdom of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, Frank is more concerned with the way homosexuals “feel”. If an action is evil, and society has embraced it, that society turns on the messenger that has denounced it, claiming that they are insensitive, old-fashioned, outdated, or too legalistic. We see in these statements that Frank, like many in the gay rights movement have moved beyond simply trying to convince society to tolerate moral depravity. These statements are a direct assault on the sacred right of Christians to proclaim their faith and its moral teachings. This is pure moral relativism at its worst. These statements are a prime example of why Pope Benedict (while still Cardinal Ratzinger) called out the “dictatorship of relativism” in April of 2005:

Having a clear Faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching", looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.

 

The Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, actually contains two different kinds of sin. One is an act considered morally wrong because it's hurtful or dangerous. This includes obvious violations of the social contract, such as murder and theft, as well as sentiments that are discouraged because they can lead to unfairness or harm: greed, envy, idleness and arrogance. It also includes violations of more minor rules that can seem like mere rituals but which evolved to keep a population safe or healthy from perceived dangers, such as rules about diet and sanitation.

The second kind of sin is a violation against social conventions. This is where the word "moral" comes from, as in "social mores." These refer to practices and beliefs widely shared by your community, but which are not intrinsically beneficial or harmful. These mores exist as a way to bind the community together, often in opposition to another group.

Which kind of sin is homosexuality, according to the Bible? Certainly in an era of tribal rivalries and high infant mortality, procreative sex was encouraged as necessary to population growth, making alternatives potentially harmful to group survival. This, at least, is a popular explanation of how both masturbation and homosexuality became taboo in biblical times and would place them in the moral category of intrinsic harm.

Yet this explanation for the origin of anti-gay sentiment is unconvincing. Only in recent times has homosexuality become such a distinct identity that it implies forgoing procreative sex, and scholars believe that, as in many non-Western cultures today, those who engaged in same-sex behavior in the ancient world often married and slept with members of the opposite sex, too.

Instead, what becomes clear from actually reading the Bible on homosexuality is that the anti-gay taboo is, above all, a badge of team membership -- of a piece with opposition to outsiders and nonbelievers. Leviticus appears to condemn same-sex desire unequivocally, forbidding "lying with a man" as an "abomination." But the word normally translated as "abomination" is more properly understood as simply "taboo" -- something forbidden by custom, largely because it's associated with other groups. Indeed, the literal meaning of "taboo" is "set apart."

This explanation is complete balderdash.  In many passages in the Bible, the word “abomination” is used and it applies to all varieties of sin from the most serious, such as idolatry: “Cursed be the man who makes a graven or molten image, an abomination to the LORD” (Deut 27:15) and murder all the way down to arrogance and deceit: “There are six things which the LORD hates, seven which are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19). There is no distinction between sins which are an abomination and those that are not. All sin is an abomination to the Lord.

Furthermore, we know that the most serious sins are punished by death in the Old Testament. In Leviticus 20: 13, God commands that “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.” Not only is homosexuality punished by death in this chapter of Leviticus, but also anyone who “gives his child to Moloch” (v 2), “turns to mediums and wizards” (v 6), “curses his father or his mother” (v 9), “commits adultery” (v 10), or commits any other sexually immoral act (v 11-21), will be put to death, “cut off from his people”, or “die childless”, all of which are generally considered to be the most severe punishments.

The Old Testament taboo against homosexuality appears in a passage that's all about the duty of Jews to honor and obey God, meant to set them apart from pagans. It begins with God telling the Israelites to worship only him and follow only his rules and not those of the whacky Egyptians and Canaanites just because they may pass through their lands. In other words, when in Rome, do not as the Romans do, or you'll mark yourself as a member of the wrong team. The so-called "abomination" really denotes a non-Israelite cultic practice, like the worship of foreign idols. It's an act that the Israelites were forbidden from doing because others did it, not because it was intrinsically bad.

I’m not sure if Frank is deliberately misleading his readers or if this is an oversight, but he claims that the taboo against homosexuality appears in “a passage that’s all about the duty of Jews to honor and obey God, meant to set them apart from pagans.” This is true – of one instance of the prohibition against homosexuality. There are a multitude of other passages, such as the one I quoted above from Leviticus 20, which forbid homosexual depravity and lumps it together with other offenses punishable by death – the most serious offenses. He gives the impression that it is only forbidden in one passage. That is patently false.

Like the Hebrew scriptures, the New Testament appears to condemn homosexuality in no uncertain terms, most notably in Paul's letter to the Romans, which bemoans men who relinquish their natural function and "burn in their lust" for each other. But it turns out that this desire is not so much the cause of harm but the punishment for a much greater violation: denying God. "Even though they knew God, they did not honor him," writes Paul. "Therefore, God gave them over" to such desires -- along with a long list of others. Like the Jews, Christians threw homosexuality into a bucket of no-nos (along with gossip, insolence and apostasy) to solidify their team membership against nonbelievers and outsiders.

Sometimes things are exactly how they appear. I’m not sure how he claims that homosexuality was not a sin, but merely a punishment for denying God. Clearly something that is “shameful” and “indecent” is sinful. They “received the due penalty for their perversion”, which indicates that they were punished additionally for the acts they committed which “God gave them over to”. God allowed them to fall into other sins because they rejected the graces He gave them. Here is the full quote from Romans 1:26-27:

Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.

We know that without God’s grace, we fall further and deeper into sin. One sin leads to another. A man cannot maintain a particular level of evil. He always looks for the next and greater evil unless he returns to God, in which case he opens himself to God’s graces.

Looked at in proper context, the biblical taboo against same-sex desire was a product of one key fact: that foreigners and apostates practiced it. That fact, above all else, appears to be what made it unacceptable, more than anything intrinsic to same-sex acts, such as their association with depopulation.

This conclusion is based on false assumptions, therefore, it cannot be maintained. Homosexual acts were clearly forbidden in both the Old and New Testaments and included with the most grave sins.

What a Christian ought to say when asked if homosexuality is a sin is whatever he says when asked if an atheist is sinning by denying God or failing to attend Church on Sunday, which is also how an observant Jew or Muslim should answer if asked if it's morally wrong to eat pork. Homosexuality is only condemned in scripture for adherents of Judaism and Christianity (and it's actually debatable whether condemnation is the only interpretation of those texts -- increasingly, people of faith are showing strong support for LGBT dignity and equality).

This also is a false conclusion based on bad logic. Homosexuality is a violation of the natural law, like murder. It was punished by God among the “foreign people” as well as the Jews to whom the law was given. God destroyed the entire cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for the sins of homosexuality in the book of Genesis. It was not simply a cultural guideline that only the Jews should follow, otherwise the heathens in Sodom and Gomorrah wouldn’t have been scorched to death with holy fire.

The distinction between moral rules designed to prevent harm and moral rules meant solely to mark team membership is critical, and blurring it -- as the religious right has done for decades -- is itself a moral transgression that creates more harm than it prevents, and not only for those who are wrongly judged but for politicians like Rubio who continue to think they must square a circle instead of reexamining the shape altogether.

The laws of God require no “reexamination”. They are the eternal Truth. They have lasted throughout the history of man and will continue to endure long after Frank and other moral relativists have been brushed aside like every other heretic in the history of the Church. The blurring is done by liberals who feast on confusion and moral equivocation, sowing doubt and dissent among the faithful.

I hereby award the Tuesday Ear Tickler Award for Tuesday, December 11, 2012 to Nathaniel Frank, who is again, no relation to the author of this blog.