Yesterday I attended an engaging, funny, and dangerously wrongheaded three-hour presentation about the Bible and homosexuality by Dr. Robert Gagnon, a professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Dr. Gagnon argued, convincingly, that Scripture prohibits homosexual activity. What he didn't do was explain why that supposedly settles the matter.
In his presentation, Dr. Gagnon brilliantly spun a few phrases from Genesis, and a number of subsequent scriptural passages, into a detailed account of the alleged story of God's dividing the first "earthling" into male and female halves. He argued that "humans are an example of sacral architecture," and that homosexual activity does violence to the Creator's design. His presentation was clearly based on an article, "Why 'Gay Marriage' is Wrong," in which he summarized that part of his thesis:
An originally binary, or sexually undifferentiated, adam (“earthling”) is split down the “side” (a better translation of Hebrew tsela than “rib”) to form two sexually differentiated persons. Marriage is pictured as the reunion of the two constituent parts or “other halves,” man and woman.
Unfortunately, Dr. Gagnon's argument is built on sand, namely the unstated assumption that the author(s) of the Book of Genesis got the history right (to say nothing of the biology). From everything I've ever learned in school and elsewhere, we have no reason to regard the scriptural tales of Adam and Eve as anything more than speculation. And yet, on the basis of this ahistorical, pre-scientific speculation of 3,000 years ago, we have the effrontery to direct present-day gay and lesbian adults to remain alone and celibate throughout their lives.
This is no small matter; we're talking about peoples' lives and happiness here. There may well be valid reasons for discouraging, or even prohibiting, consensual same-sex relationships. But to do so because Genesis supposedly evidences a divinely-ordained, "sacral architecture" of gender? That's
preposterous difficult to understand.
Thirty-two years ago, in his historic Roe vs. Wade opinion, Justice Harry Blackmun did much the same kind of argument-spinning with the Constitution, to arrive at a so-called constitutional right to abortion, as Dr. Gagnon does with Genesis to arrive at a so-called prohibition of homosexual activity. When Justice Blackmun did it, the traditionalists (rightly) screamed bloody murder, and still do to this day. Yet when one of their own engages in similar reasoning for “right-thinking” purposes, somehow it becomes perfectly OK.
(Footnote: For the record, I think Justice Blackmun reached the right result in Roe, but by the wrong path. I'm against abortion as a convenient method of ex post facto birth control. But I also think that in the first trimester it ought to be up to the mother and father (and the grandparents, in the case of a minor mother) to balance the competing considerations and make the decision. In the early stages of a pregnancy, it ought to be none of the government's damned business. I'm sure many conservatives will excoriate me as a squishy, lukewarm waffler; so be it.)