Friday, March 27, 2009
CHAPTER 4: THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE
This section has one or two good points to make. "The church must repent of its pharisaic attitude toward confession of sins" and "of hostility toward homosexual people." Of course, those points would sound better if the first paragraph didn't contain this gem: "Strong marriages would go a long way to preventing more children being exposed to the confusion and dangerous health risks involved in homosexuality."
Still, they are trying. The writers want Christians "to show compassion to the homosexual community" so that gay people might eventually be "won into the Kingdom of God." To do this, Christians "should be aware of three different groups within the homosexual community: the militants, the moderates, and the repentant." They give descriptions and advice on how to approach each group, and to their credit they advocate love in each case. They even take a stab at humour when describing 'militant' gays, who have "rigid viewpoints" and are "intolerant toward opposing viewpoints" - "sounds like a description a homosexual might give of a Christian!" Ha, ha. Nicely placed joke, in that it distracts readers from the authors' own rigid and intolerant viewpoints, such as stating repeatedly that their view is 'the truth'.
"Repentant homosexuals need a tremendous amount of support and encouragement" when leaving their 'sinful' lifestyle, because they may be "frightened, vulnerable and lonely" when they leave their "network of support and identity." The authors urge readers to "encourage, love and support" repenting gays, and "not allow our distaste for an unnatural behaviour to get in the way." Gee, thanks.
"Moderate" gays "share the same dreams and worries as everyone else." Wow, it's like they're human beings or something! "We need to approach them just as we would anyone else: offering Jesus' saving grace." After all, "unless the Holy Spirit is at the centre of a person's life, change in sexual orientation is irrelevant."
CHAPTER 5: WHAT YOU CAN DO
This section encourages readers to write to the government, to newspapers and other media outlets to express "your views on marriage" and "promote culture-saving values in society." Included are several (now outdated) MP addresses and emails, and advice on how to write and prepare letters (such as removing "unnecessarily aggressive words and phrases"). Readers are also asked to "reach out to homosexuals," and the authors provide names and websites for "ministries that are equipped to help homosexuals change their orientation."
Other suggestions range from making presentations at churches and supporting changes in government policies. Also, readers should try and strengthen their marriages and encourage young people who are considering marriage. Wouldn't want any gayness to sneak in, would we?
CHAPTER 6: RESOURCES
CHAPTER 7: RECOMMENDED LINKS
CHAPTER 8: BIBLIOGRAPHY
These last few sections end the book, for which I (and, I imagine, you) am profoundly grateful. This has been a long , grueling review, and I'm glad to be almost done.
The Resources section advertises books and booklets on related subject-matter. Titles include "Bringing Up Boys," "Someone I Love Is Gay," "A Strong Delusion: Confronting the 'Gay Christian' Movement," and "A Parents' Guide To Preventing Homosexuality." I had no idea such books existed, but I can't say I'm surprised. All books are available from Focus On The Family (again, no surprise).
Following the book advertisement, the book provides a list of Recommended Links, contact information for Focus On The Family, and a bibliography with end-notes. The lack of surprise again comes to the fore, as three of their listed references are books advertised in the preceding section. Interestingly, "A Parent's Guide To Preventing Homosexuality" was published by InterVarsity, the same guys who published "Homosexual Struggle", the last booklet I reviewed.
The booklet doesn't actually have a concluding section, but it doesn't really need one. It presents itself as a helpful guide for Christians who are concerned about the definition of marriage, and it advocates love and compassion while condemning bigotry and hatred. No doubt the authors feel they are on the side of good. After all, they do have THE TRUTH, don't they?
Well, no, they don't. They have their truth, and the arrogance to insist it applies to everybody. The conclusion I draw from this book is that change is happening, and many Christians (the authors among them) feel scared and threatened. This book wasn't published to protect families, but to protect an old and outdated way of seeing the world that is under bombardment from present-day reality. Plus, the sneaky playing around with terminology (like Basic Human Rights) and raising of irrelevant subject-matter (the freedom of speech issue) add to this book an air of desperation that is just pitiful. I can't quite call this hate literature, but it comes awfully close.
The booklet opens with this question: "How are we as Christians to respond?" My answer: leave gay people alone. Please. We've all had enough of this. Just leave them alone.
Likely to Convert - N/A
Likely to Convert Gays - N/A
Artwork - 2
Ability to Hold Interest - 6
Unintentional Hilarity - 3
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 9
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Parts 1 & 2 dealt with the uncredited authors' discussion about marriage (Chapter 1) and homosexuality (Chapter 2), along with their dubious attempts at 'facts' and 'truth'. One of their tactics involved something I call linguistic gymnastics, whereby they attack a word (like homophobia) and tell readers the definition of that word isn't quite what they think it is. This has the effect of distracting the reader from the actual topic at hand. The linguistic gymnastics continue here, and the true purpose of this book (in my view) is revealed.
CHAPTER 3: THE CHALLENGE TO MARRIAGE
First, there is this statement: "Canadians who speak out against redefining marriage to include same-sex couples are not denying anyone their basic human rights." The authors devote half a page to 'proving' this statement, and they start by pointing out that the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights "makes no mention whatsoever of any rights based on sexual orientation," even though "Article 16 clearly establishes that men and women of full age have a right to marriage." Oh, so... gay people have a right to marry, just not to each other? I don't get it.
For me, it comes down to an issue of semantics. Can straight people get married? Yes. If marriage hadn't been redefined in Canada, would gay people be able to get married? No. It may not be a 'basic human right', but it is something one group of people can do that another group should also be able to do. Saying they aren't being denied something when they are, because the word chosen to define that denied thing isn't necessarily the right one, is slippery, sneaky and underhanded.
Since "there is no proof (gays) have been denied their basic human rights," the writers ponder, what is the real reason they want the definition of marriage changed? "It seems what gay activists are looking for is acceptance and affirmation of their behaviour." Why is that a problem? "Changing the definition of marriage will further erode the freedom of people who view homosexual behaviour as morally wrong to express their views and act on those views in everyday life."
In other words, if gay people gain more acceptance, it will be a lot harder for bigots to express their bigotry. "It's already happening now," the authors warn, citing seven examples in which Canadian religious freedoms were done harm over the gay issue (including a situation from 1999 when "Focus on the Family experienced a similar form of discrimination").
The seven examples are thought-provoking, and raise intriguing issues. Have Christians, in fact, been discriminated against? Is their freedom of speech threatened? After all, if I have the right to write this blog, don't they have the right to produce the material I critique? All very interesting, and fodder for another Focus on the Family book. However, when it comes to this book, all seven examples are irrelevant. This book is about marriage and homosexuality, not freedom of speech. I suspect this section was put into this book simply to score points with devout readers.
The same can also be said for the next couple of pages, where the authors examine a few social experiments (such as the no-fault divorce laws of 1968) that played around with the definition of marriage. In the author's opinion, the experiments were failures. Therefore, they seem to be saying, society will crumble if further changes are made (or kept in place) regarding marriage's definition. "If the opposite-sex definition of marriage is eliminated, what assurances are there that the monogamous definition of marriage will not be next?" Oh, PLEASE!
And "what about the children?" Yep, they have two pages blasting gay people's ability to parent. Luckily, their efforts lead to the best unintended laugh. They quote MP Svend Robinson telling a 2003 House of Commons Justice Committee that you don't need a man to create a family because "a turkey baster will do just fine." The authors actually respond with: "The obvious reality is that in the life of a child, a turkey baster cannot replace a father." I don't know Svend personally, nor was I present when he made the 'turkey baster' remark. However, I feel confident that he was not suggesting a turkey baster could teach kids to ride a bike, help them with their homework, go to PTA meetings, or walk a daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.
For me, the entire discussion on whether a man and a woman are the best possible parents is kind of moot. There are plenty of husband and wife teams that suck, where one or both are alcoholics or abusive, or they just plain get it wrong. Okay, I have no studies or statistics to back this up, but I have many friends who've told me of the abuses and neglect they've suffered under the so-called perfect system of one man and one woman. There are no perfect parents out there, but there are plenty of them who do the best they possibly can.
That's it for Part 3. In Part 4 I'll look at 'The Christian Response'.
Monday, March 23, 2009
In Part 1 I introduced this book, and looked at the section dealing with Marriage. Chapter 2 deals with the author's ideas about gay people, and it is here they start to get nasty.
CHAPTER 2: HOMOSEXUALITY
"Homosexuality is in violation of God's plan for humanity," the authors tell us, offering four verses that confirm this view (without actually providing the text for those verses, nor the context that goes with them). Then they proceed to give us "the facts about homosexuality." It's the usual Christian stuff: nobody is born gay, gay people can be 'cured', "homosexual male relationships are rarely monogamous," the gay lifestyle is "intrinsically more risky than heterosexual practices," etc...
The writers cite studies and books that agree with them, naturally. A few of those studies and books were even published recently. Nine of them, however, were published over fifteen years ago, and one source goes all the way back to 1972. Call me crazy, but I'd be a lot more convinced if all their sources were published within five years of this book's publication date (which isn't given, but I suspect it came out in 2004 or 2005). Also, given the obvious bias of this book, I'm extremely wary to take the authors' word on what those studies say.
What's worse are the things the authors say without any kind of supporting material, like this statement: "Homosexuality is intrinsically misguided and sinful, independent of anyone's response to it." The authors' attitude seems to be that anything a gay person tells you is wrong, but we don't need to prove we're right because you probably already agree with us.
The writers also demonstrate a knack for something I'll call linguistic gymnastics. When addressing the issue of homophobia, the authors say "the word 'homophobia' confuses the issue," because it implies "that all opposition to homosexuality stems from bigotry and irrational hatred." No, they tell us, "the vast majority of people" oppose same-sex relationships because of their "deeply held religious, moral or philosophical beliefs." Oh, that's so much better.
Similar wordplay is used to say that their condemnation of the gay lifestyle does not incite hate crimes. "Simply arguing against certain behaviour does not incite violence," they say, adding that "no one kills liars, even though most preachers argue against it." Yeah, but no one tries to deny marriage to liars, or drum them out of the military. And while it's true that "bigots need no sermons to motivate them to hatred," anti-gay sermons and scriptures certainly do not help matters. "Most Christians never commit or condone violence against gays," the writers say, and one hopes that this statement is true. However, the authors do not back that statement up with any study or fact.
I remain thoroughly unconvinced by the flawed methodology used to describe what a 'homosexual' is, and I hope most thinking people will be, too. Chapter 2 seems slapped together, relying on highly questionable data (or nothing at all) to provide "a Biblically based understanding of homosexuality." I suspect this chapter was intended to make non-thinking readers feel they've been informed about things they already believe, so they'll be more willing to accept what comes next. In Part 3 I'll look at Chapter 3: The Challenge To Marriage.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
This is going to be a long one. So long, in fact, that I've decided to split it into four parts. The book itself, published by familyfacts.ca, an initiative of Focus On The Family Canada, contains eight sections, two of which I'll deal with in each post. Part 1 will focus on the Introduction and Chapter 1.
Marriage And Homosexuality was written to help Christians "counter the carefully crafted arguments of same-sex marriage advocates" so they can "confidently respond in a Christ-like manner." The Introduction talks of "having to defend marriage," an institution that "has changed little over the centuries." In fact, "Christians are rightfully alarmed" now that same-sex couples are can marry in Canada. Scary stuff, huh? But "what is so important about marriage that it is worth protecting?"
CHAPTER 1: MARRIAGE
The writers of this book (who aren't credited) let the reader know early on that they believe the Bible is the literal Word of God. They call marriage "the foundation for every civilized society" since "time immemorial", and state that "marriage is God's creation." They say the Bible "describes various harmonious relationships within nature - night and day, land and sea, male and female," as if the issue at hand were really that simple.
When Adam and Eve got the boot from Eden over the whole tree of knowledge thing, "evil entered the world" and "marriage moved away from its ideal". God had to give humankind "specific laws to provide parameters for appropriate expressions of sexuality and marriage." The no-nos? "Adultery, incest, homosexual intercourse and intercourse with animals." Nice company for gay people to be in, huh? These condemned acts "provide a definition of the form of marriage that cannot be put aside." This kind of reasoning only holds up if readers believe the Bible really is The Truth, and the authors assume they do.
After all, if you believe as they do, the authors can get away with all kinds of sweeping generalizations and statements of supposed 'truth' without having to back them up with anything resembling hard evidence. Marriage, they say, "is essentially a part of natural law" and that "marriage has changed very little over the years." Which years are they talking about? And which culture? I don't remember getting a dowry when I married my wife, nor did I solidify any business dealings or gain vast tracts of land. Arranged marriages still take place in some countries, but if anything that shows the diversity still present in the institution.
The authors aren't above using a 12-year-old's words to further their agenda, either. "I want a mom and a dad," an orphaned child named Shelby told reporters at the public launch of a website designed to help children like him find adoptive parents. The authors claim that the kid's words point out how universal a male-and-female marriage is. After all, Shelby said "what every child instinctively longs for." Was that really what the kid was saying, or is that merely the authors' conclusion?
The book goes on to point out the benefits of marriage, and makes more sweeping statements. They also talk about marriage in history, and seem to say that since marriage "has changed very little" there's no reason to change it now. It's not as if anything else has changed on this flat world of ours.
That's it for Part 1. Join me next time for Chapter 2, where the authors display their 'knowledge' about homosexuality.