Monday, December 31, 2007

My Christmas

Earlier this year, in response to my saying last year how much the Christmas Holidays and I don't agree, Dale Price invited me to his humble abode for Easter and I'm afraid I didn't take him seriously. So he reupped the invite for Christmas, and I made the flight to Detroit.

I had a great time with the Prices, and apparently I was a hit with their children (3-year-old Rachel reportedly asked "is the funny man coming back?"). But I also learned a few salutory lessons and had a few highlights along the way:

-- Within just one day of frequently holding their newborn (Dec. 19) son Louis, I had learned to tell the difference through the diaper between the feel of a fart and the feel of a crap. But the Prices trusted me with Louis after I assured that I did know how to hold a baby, having seen it often on television.

-- Children determined to run around a church will not be dissuaded, even if their brother is being initiated into the Kingdom. I warded off a threat to the dignity of Louis's Baptism on Christmas morning by dealing with a restless D3 while the Parental Units were otherwise occupied. (Here's a picture from another Price Baptism.)

-- I showed The Boy 1.0 how to grip a football to throw a perfect spiral (the football was made of cushion material but it worked well enough) so I could catch his throws every time. He said he and his Dad like the Lions and hate "the Green Packers." But note to self: Never de-facto dare a 4-year-old boy to hit you as hard as he can by saying "you hit like a girl." Eye tissue is delicate and those buggers are stronger than they look.

-- Shopping for children for the first time in your life can be both utterly mystifying and nostalgia-inducing. For example, I had never heard of "the Littlest Pet Shop" and had to call to ask what the reading levels of the Pricelets were before deciding to get the "Cat in the Hat Dictionary." That book was one my aunt bought for me when I was 6 and thumbing through the book, I realized how much of it was still stuck in my memory (the four J-boys named Jack, James, Jerry and Joe, e.g.)

-- Hockey tickets will make you very popular in Detroit, even to the point of The Wife overlooking the perfect male-to-male Christmas gifts: 100 episodes of The Man Show one way, and a Borat book the other way.

-- Dale hates the song "Brother Louie" by Stories. Or at least got sick of it after hearing me sing the chorus to Louis. I switched to the Kingsmen's "Louie, Louie," but couldn't remember the lyrics.

-- Letting me loose in a multi-storey bookstore, such as Detroit's John King Used & Rare Books, and expecting restraint is like ... well ... Paris Hilton at a nightclub, Marion Barry at a crackhouse, Rosie O'Donnell at Krispy Kreme. I bought so much that I had them ship most of my purchase UPS Ground to Washington, to arrive in three weeks. Northwest Airlines was no doubt grateful to avoid the fuel costs.

-- Although I'm nobody's idea of a trained athlete, there is nothing like suddenly remembering that you've left your cell phone at the cash register in an airport store while descending an escalator that will take you from the secured area of an airport to the unsecured. You will turn suddenly into Steve Austin running up the down stairs (and rip your best jeans in a stumble) to the amusement of a passle of DTW passengers. Trust me.

-- Heather and I bonded over our shared hatred of "Catcher in the Rye." I denounced this paean to EMO teen self-indulgence, to contempt for adulthood as hypocrisy, this orgy of self-righteous whining about phonies, as the most vile novel ever written, at least for us in our current context. I said that given the choice between giving a 15-year-old a copy of that book or a subscription to Playboy ... "my money's going to Hef. Playboy merely encourages an existing vice that can hardly profit from encouragement in a teen boy; Salinger creates new vices in the guise of virtues." At those words (close as I can recall), a grateful smile came over Heather's face. "I thought I was the only one," she said, coming close to tears as she hugged a fellow comrade in Salinger-hate. While in her arms, I said to her, "let's you dump him and run off together." She said ... "you know ... there's at least one major issue with that." And Dale chimed in: "I really can't work up much jealousy right now."

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Seriously, thanks Dale and Heather for your hospitality and making 2007 a Christmas to remember rather than forget.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Under the Tuscan Sun

An Italian regional government will be starting a campaign to put the weight of the government behind one of the key Dogmas of The Church of Gayness: that babies are born gay.

Talk about sexualizing the youth.

Personally, I would have put on the tag "escaped the abortionist." But maybe that's just me.

The Vatican, of course, tut-tuts, and so that makes that the lead on the ANSA report, while the openly gay philosopher's skepticism is at the bottom of the story. (There's more details of what Gianni Vattimo said here, but I can't find the original article in Corriere Della Sera, in Italian or English).
Gianni Vattimo described the campaign as “excessive” and said the slogan included “is too biology-centric. Of course for a homosexual it is natural to be gay, but I'm not too sure it is determined by genetics.”
The text on the poster -- "sexual orientation is not a choice" -- actually would be defensible if not for that ridiculous image, which pushes you to take a radical (and absurd) reading of the various ways that sentence can be parsed.

As I never tire of pointing out, there is in fact not a single shred of evidence -- yes, not a one -- that says homosexuality, even as a disposition, in determinedly inborn, which is the only way it can be meaningful to label newborn babies "homosexual" (and why not bisexual or transgendered).

Still, there is some suggestive evidence for much-more-modest claims -- that genes or hormone levels in pregnancy dispose toward homosexuality; that psychological events prior to puberty and/or conscious sexual agency affect one's sexuality; that an adult "sexual orientation" can be very difficult (in some cases impossible) to alter. While, on a moment's reflection, all serious people know that there is *an* element of choice involved in sexuality (not the same thing as saying it's fully and consciously chosen) and that change is *possible* (not the same thing as saying it's likely) ... certainly these facts do not make homosexual attractions a full-blown choice comparable to, say, what career to have.

Where there is not willful lying, obscurantism, ignorance, unwillingness to listen ... I think part of the reason so many people believe the "born gay" or "sexual orientation is not a choice (in any sense)" falsehood is the tendency to view one's own life and others' lives in narrative terms, i.e., in teleological terms. In other words, people reason from "how I am" or "I have XYZ features" (you'll notice I'm not talking specifically about "sexual orientation" yet) to "I am supposed to be this way." And then, since all forms of personality formation are two-sided processes, the "present" becomes retroactive justification, baptizing the "past," while the "past" ("present") continues to create the "present" ("future") that does the baptizing. You justify what you become and you become what you justify.

I am 40 years old and never had a sexual thought for a woman in my life and have had some thoughts about men for more than 30 of those years. It would therefore be very easy for me (and I doubt I'm alone in this respect) to assume that this was how it was meant to be. As the Italian gay MEP notes above, it even becomes, in a certain sense, "natural" for you or for that class of person. It's a thought that even comes in religious flavors, gussying up everything in your life with providential labels like "God's will" and "this is how God intended it." And it's no leap at all then back to "God made Mary Cheney gay."

Theodicy is a thorny question obviously, particularly if "God doesn't make mistakes." But keeping their eyes too focused on the present, the "gay-friendly" Christian says "and since God made me gay, being gay cannot be a mistake, ergo homosexual acts are good." And if all Scripture and 2,000 years of tradition say otherwise ... well ... hmmm ... "God is still speaking." Because to justify how far along the "gay-friendly Christian" already is, and cannot go back on, He has to be.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Signs O the Times

In the People's Republic of Ontario, the Toronto Catholic School Board (i.e., not the Toronto Public School Board) has adopted rules that bar all teachers and staff from objecting to "same-sex partner status," "marital status" and "sexual orientation."

In Mexico, left-wing activists send death threats to Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City over his opposition to abortion and gay "marriage." Apparently he's recieved them daily over the past year, to the point that he wants federal-government protection. (The city government is in the hands of the leftists.)

California's governor signs into law an effective ban on the use of terms like "mom and dad" and "husband and wife" in California textbooks (we can't engage in heteronormativity). This governor is a Republican -- you know them. The party of homophobic bigots.

Britain threatens to take away a family's foster children -- not on grounds of substantive neglect, but because they will not agree to teach the children that the gay lifestyle is equal to marriage and that homosexual acts are morally peachy.

The Archbishop of San Francisco gives the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. He apologizes, but his spokesmen don't understand the fuss.

A California Catholic Church promotes Bondage/S&M outreach for gay teens. Not exactly -- it has a Gay Lesbian Outreach program whose newsletter thanks all who participated in the Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade. With. All. That. Involves. (Nope ... no pix or links. The pervs know where to find them.)

It's a further Sign O The Times (and I'm not doing horse, nor is it June) that I really can't think of anything worthwhile to say. This is what passes for a normal couple of days in this day and age.

Black vs. pink

Oh ... me love me the cases of "let's you and him fight."

Sen. Barack Obama committed the capital offense at the weekend of associating with bigots, homophobes and other leper types. Well, not really. He had a gospel-music fund-raiser in South Carolina and one of the performers was Donnie McClurkin, an ex-gay who says God saved him from the gay lifestyle that grew out of a case of homosexual-seduction/statutory-rape as a boy.

There was a pathetically small picket. But the news/blog reaction was amazing. Obama associates with such vile sinners -- crucify him!!! The pharisaic gay left went ballistic for a week and beyond. The intellectual value of those links is essentially nil, but their entertainment value is enormous. It's been like a contest to see who could say the most inane thing.

(You wanna know how bad it was: Andrew Sullivan was an island of sanity, calling himself "a little taken aback" by the reaction.)
  • Earl Ofari Hutchison calling McClurkin a "gay basher" (really? has the definition of "gay bash" stretched to the point where no "bash" actually has to occur)
  • The Washington Blade calling him a "vote whore" (maybe he can took out a listing in the Blade's classifieds. There's a whole section.)
  • Mother Jones stating that the "black masses" are ignorant enough to fall for anything set to music (whoa ... aren't liberals supposed to be the ones *against* racial stereotyping)
  • James Hannaham at Salon compared the McClurkin invite to a situation involving "a Holocaust denier" (I call a "Godwin")
  • The very excitable John Aravosis compared it to "if Hillary invited David Duke" (ditto)
  • The arrogant Wayne Besen, calls it "most offensive" to call Obama's disagreement "a mere 'disagreement.' It’s not just a disagreement. It’s repugnant." (so he gets to decide what issues there are legitimately two sides on; this is not the first time he has said this)
  • The MyDD commentator who compared it to "OJ Simpson ... sing[ing] the national anthem at their event" (take it away Chris Rock at Track 9)
  • Gay_Blog makes the ultimate low blow -- "taking plays from the campaign [of] Karl Rove" (is there no limit?!?!? Nazis I can take ... but Karl Rove?!?!?!)
Obama himself gave an interview to the Advocate, and was admirably forthright in defending his invite to McClurken without trimming his sails on gay issues (as the Advocate likes them). The best part:
One of the things that always comes up in presidential campaigns is, if you’ve got multiple supporters all over the place, should the candidate then be held responsible for the every single view of every one of his supporters? And obviously that’s not possible. And if I start playing that game, then it will be very difficult for me to do what I think I can do best, which is bring the country together.

Look, when I went to Rick Warren’s church at Saddleback, he was under enormous heat because, among his constituency, my position on LGBT issues and my position on abortion is anathema. So his position could have been, we will not have Obama speak because he does not subscribe to our views on these two issues. To his credit, he allowed me to speak, in his church, from his pulpit, to 2,000 evangelicals. And I didn’t trim my remarks, I specifically told them, “I think you guys are wrong when it comes to issues like condom distribution.” And by the way, I got a standing ovation.

My views on gay issues and on choice issues are well-known. I did not trim my sails in the conversation I had with them. And I think as a consequence of appearances like that, I am helping to encourage understanding that will ultimately strengthen the cause of LGBT rights.
The. Guy. Is. Good. Regardless of the merits of his stance, Obama was actually willing to go to the Advocate and defend it to an audience not primed to hear it. One struggles to think of the gaseous shroud of verbiage Hillary Clinton would have covered, assuming that she'd have stood up to the Gay Establishment as Obama did (which I doubt).

Probably the best comment was this pro-Obama blog that tracked down the reactions from the same leftists yelling "anathema sit" when Warren was taking heat for inviting Obama. The comparisons are ugly. The blogger concludes:
There is no way to unify this country if people on both sides refuse to be in the same space as those with whom they disagree.
Bingo.

But at concert night itself, guess who was the biggest hit of the night? McClurkin. So says the Washington Post:
In Columbia last night, a crowd of more than 3,000 in a packed auditorium cheered and clapped during speeches from Obama aides and taped videos of the Senator and his wife, neither of whom attended, but leaped up for applause and cell phone pictures when McClurkin was introduced.
And he even addressed the issue of homosexuality directly:
After another song, he specially addressed the issue of homosexuality, saying he had been "touched by the same feelings."
"Don't call me a bigot or anti-gay,' he said. "Don't call me a homophobe, because I love everybody. . . Let me tell you something, the grace of God is given to all men," he said to loud applause.
Preach it, brother. Anybody who calls me or McClurkin homophobes is an idiot. We know of which we speak. If we "feared" homosexual persons, why would we be around them. We have the same feelings in our genitals as gay people do. If we've acted on it, we've probably enjoyed it as much as they do -- at least in the moment. The Fred Phelpses and Cavemen of the world detest as much as they do you (probably more; we're pretend-Christians, false prophets, etc.) We are part of the same culture, the one that tells us homosexuality is just fine, and might even make us more special or chic.

But we also know that it's possible not to give in to it, if we put God first in our lives and seek out his grace, however intermittently or stumblingly. And with whatever result, whether legitimate marriage or chaste celibacy.

He then went ahead and touched the third rail (video available at the link)
Don't tell me that I stand up and I say vile words against the gay community because I don't. I don't speak against the homosexual. I tell you that God delivered me from homosexuality.
There's just something aesthetically pleasing about people not backing down from political pressure from the Gay Mafia, be it Obama or McClurkin. Perhaps it takes being black and so getting a lot of "must not be a racist" eggshells surrounding you to be able to preach it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More on the Mad Scientist

Well, like John Cleese hanging upside down from a building in "A Fish Called Wanda," Jim Watson has "apologized unreservedly" for calling Kevin Kline stupid blaspheming The Equality Establishment.
To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief.
It's hard to see what else he *could* have meant by his remarks, and he doesn't exactly say he was misquoted. I guess he realized he bumped up against the limits of religiously-permitted thought for the freethinking secular scientist.

I also found the original remarks he made about aborting homosexuals, and they're even more interesting than I could glean from the indirect quote in the newspaper account from earlier today and from the CNN account of his recantation above.¹ Anyway here's the original direct quote:
"If you could find the gene which determines sexuality and a woman decides she doesn't want a homosexual child, well, let her" abort.
Which he elaborates on here (HT: Dale)
I remember him turning to me the day the headline “Abort babies with gay genes, says Nobel winner” appeared in a British broadsheet 10 years ago. Eyes wild and voice uncharacteristically strained, he asked: “What should I do about the press?” He refers to the incident again at lunch. “It was a hypothetical thing,” he explains. “If you could detect it pre-natally, could a woman abort a child who was homosexual? I said they should have the right to, because most women want to have grandchildren, period. We can’t do it, but it’s common sense. Anyways,” he says, shaking his head wearily, “it was a bad day when that headline hit. I was just arguing for the freedom of women to try and have the children they want, not what is right or wrong.”
I'm curious about what he meant by "we can't do it" presumably meaning "we can't stop women" from aborting pre-gay children -- which is on the face of it, nonsense. (It may be unwise to do it, or some people may get around such a law, but we certainly *can* ban abortion for gay selection. Society uncontroversially bans certain medical procedures for certain purposes.)

After libel-suit threats, he "clarified" his remarks, but leaped even deeper into worship of The God Choice.
But when asked where society should draw the line over abortion, he replied:
"Society shouldn't. I think women should have the right to an abortion if they want one, irrespective of whether there is a disease. I am pro-choice and I believe men and committees should play no part in women's decisions.
"I don't see where you can draw the line. Some people might not want a child who is dyslexic. A woman could say that some day, if a gene were discovered for musical ability, and her child didn't have it, she might want to abort.
"Someone else might say, I do not want my child to be short because I love basketball and he'll be too short to play. There could be 1,000 different reasons and many of them we would consider absurd. But I believe a woman should be able to walk into a clinic for an abortion and not have the state interfere."
This 1997 article in the Independent shows that this distinction apparently didn't mollify gay groups, for no rational reason I can discern that is compatible with the pro-choice attitudes commonly held among homosexuals, too many of whom see opposing abortion as one of those evil things that horrible religious fundamentalists do.

Watson is simply correct: if you are pro-choice, you can have no moral qualm about aborting babies that test positively for a predisposition to homosexuality. None. And if the specific, repeated disclaimer that one is pro-choice himself doesn't prevent one from being tarred over it, then what the Cultural Elites are indicating by their reaction is that -- well, they're just gonna plug their ears and say "tralalala, lalala. I'm not listening. You're evil. I'm not listening."

When a reasonably reliable pre-natal test of that sort becomes available (that's "when" not "if," assuming that "nature" plays any role in same-sex attractions in the first place, and it's an Article of Faith among gay groups that they do), I want to be around to see whether the gay-rights establishment is really about protecting homosexual persons or just a tool of the Democratic Party and the kulturkampf left. If past is prologue -- the latter.

UPDATE Friday: The excommunication continues. Watson is suspended from his lab.
LONDON - A prominent American scientist who set off an international furor with remarks about intelligence levels among blacks canceled a book tour of Britain and returned home Friday, after his employer suspended his administrative duties.
James Watson, 79, is chancellor of the prestigious Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. Late Thursday, the lab's board said it had suspended Watson's administrative responsibilities pending further deliberation.

UPDATE 2: The Bigot Is Dead. Long Live ... The Other Bigots (I guess). Watson is forced to resign from his lab outright.
Nobel laureate James D. Watson, the renowned co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, resigned Thursday as chancellor of the prestigious Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the aftermath of an uproar over racial comments he made recently. ...
Watson, 79, said in an e-mail statement that the change in leadership was "overdue."
"The circumstances in which this transfer is occurring, however, are not those which I could ever have anticipated or desired," he continued.

Further proof that no scientist will ever find any differences in group intelligence. Any who say there are any will be defrocked and turned into "nonscientist." The progress of reason is a thing of beauty.
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¹ "In 1997, Britain's Sunday Telegraph quoted Watson as saying that if a gene for homosexuality were isolated, women who find that their unborn child has the gene should be allowed to have an abortion." It's feminism-blasphemy to say "be allowed to"???

Poor scientist

Apparently James Watson, the discoverer of DNA has put his foot in it again, suggesting that Africans may be less intelligent than whites (HT: Mark Shea). And in the great tradition of open-minded discussion that science provides and of which secular scientists are the living repository, a planned speech at the London Science Museum has been canceled, for thinking Badthought about The God Equality.

In the guts of the AP story, there's one bit that caught my eye.
The Independent catalogued a series of controversial statements from Watson, including one in which he reportedly suggested women should have the right to have abortions if tests could determine their children would be homosexual.
Why is that statement controversial?

If a woman has the right to an abortion for any reason or no reason, or because child-bearing is such a personal matter that no Other (whether person or state) may pronounce on her motives -- then why doesn't she have the right to abort if tests determine a predisposition to homosexuality (or any other predisposition, in principle)? Any reason is as good as any other reason, and who are YOU to judge ME, right?

And frankly, if the Darwinian muthos is true, that man is merely a pretty smart and/or uniquely rapacious animal with no divine purpose, then our "purpose" defaults into what is that of the other animals, i.e. to reproduce. And if one were a mad scientist (let's follow precedent and name him Yakub) asked to invent a dysgenic feature to introduce into the human race, it'd be hard to come up with a better one than homosexuality. So in that way, it makes entirely good sense that a leading Darwinist would support aborting the homos, or even, stepping back in the manner of Robert Wright, construct "homophobia" as an adaptive psychological emotion that evolved through natural selection to favor reproduction. My only question is "why aren't the others?"
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Icon credit: PLAGAL is the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, a group that does good and necessary work.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The sniping

Despite my general skepticism of "ex-gay" therapies, the one reason I will always defend them qualifiedly is that the attacks on them from the pro-gay people are so devoid of merit, so self-serving, so hypocritical, so self-righteous that ... one shudders.

For example, here is an execrable rant by Truth Wins Out and its leader Wayne Besen, released the same day as the study was, i.e., before it could have possible to digest it if one's motives were truly scholarly or scientific. Here are the problems:
  1. there is no "Pat Robertson University," a phrase used repeatedly, indicating that Besen's is really motivated by prejudice and a desire to demonize. Plus "pray away the gay" is sound-bite lingo that has nothing to do with anything. (Aren't liberals supposed to be the intelligent discerning ones, with conservatives the knee-jerk simplifiers?);
  2. the researchers did in fact do a bit more than "telephone professional ex-gay lobbyists and ministers from Exodus International and ask them if they had 'changed'." And not a few told them they had not;
  3. A series of quotes attempting to show that Yarhouse and Jones have beliefs pertaining to homosexuality is nothing but a vulgar attempt at anathematization, at declaring Christians ritually impure, as if Besen or Truth Wins Out don't have beliefs;
  4. "Any 'ex-gay' study that does not include physical components that measure truth are essentially meaningless ... It is folly to suggest that telephone interviews can be considered genuine research." Really?
Warren Trockmorton quickly pointed out that the very most-prominent study used to "prove" that "anti-gay therapy" has harmed people had exactly the same (if not worse) methodological shortcomings as Jones and Yarhouse did -- personally interested parties; an explicitly stated desire to prove a thesis at the start; sponsorship by an agenda-driven lobby group; soliciting participants through non-random organizations where members self-select according to one side of the issue being studied.

In an article for Planet Out from the Advocate (in which the story was folded into a sex-abuse charge against an ex-gay former leader), Besen continued his attack, with this claim:
"Exodus should be embarrassed that even their hand-picked participants in this hoax of a study showed such a meager success rate."
One suspects that if Jones and Yarhouse had claimed a higher success rate, this would have been chalked up to their "hand-picked sample." A serious person with scholarly motives can attack a study for having a hand-picked sample, or for showing little success, but hardly both (the teeth of the former charge presupposes a high success rate). There is no doubt that samples for this sort of study are not random, but they cannot be because no therapy in principle can ever work if the subject resists the therapy or thinks his condition is a good thing to have. You will always need a motivated and "primed" population.

Further, what would Besen consider an acceptable success rate. Keep in mind that psychiatry is largely unsuccessful when it cannot chemically mess with the brain. The standard has to be compatible with the success rate for similar non-drug therapies, otherwise the carping sniping is merely equivalent to noting that Ted Williams didn't get a hit about 2/3 of the time. Jones and Yarhouse anticipated this objection, by showing that the success rate was comparable to "results shown in a recent, reputable study of drug therapy for depression."

Then Besen continued:
"It was created to suit their political agenda, which is spreading myth that if one person can change, anyone can change."
Is there no lie to which gay propagandists will not stoop? This is simply a lie. L-I-E. The studiers quite specifically say the very opposite, as I cited in the post below, in the quote about the four-minute mile. And this was supported by their acknowledged figures -- some people even embraced the gay lifestyle. If anything Jones and Yarhouse's "point" is the mirror image -- debunking the myth, spread by gay propagandists, that absolutely nobody can ever change (which is nonsense that nobody who gives the matter a second thought can believe).

In other words, Besen is just drooling.

The Washington Blade had an article that was somewhat more reasonable, though it "led with the reaction" rather than the facts (and wasted column inches on Besen). But most of the criticisms were from someone sober, if biased, and the researchers were even quoted rebutting some of them.
Sociologist Christine Robinson, a professor at James Madison University who focuses on social control of deviance and sociology of sexualities, said she has two major concerns about the study, which she has not yet read. The first is that some will abuse its findings and the second is the methodology.
“The authors are right to say that one limitation … is the lack of independent/objective measures of sexual attraction beyond self-reports,” Robinson wrote in an e-mail. “This is a major weakness of the study. In addition, and even more problematic to me, is that the study is being touted as evidence to counteract the claim that reorientation therapies are not inherently harmful, but the study doesn’t examine reorientation therapies of Exodus ministries.”
At the Throckmorton link I give above, Robinson expands on what she means by it, and she apparently told the Blade that what concerns her is "how this study, like Robert Spitzer’s study a few years ago, will be used in the culture wars over homosexuality. I’m concerned that ... this study will be misused to shame people into seeking out ex-gay therapy."

I'm glad she's acknowledging what really counts. Not what a study actually says, but its use in the culture war. One rather suspects that if it showed no change was ever possible, then its use in the culture war would perturb Robinson rather less. And Throckmorton quickly points out the double standards regnant in pro-gay discourse.

The Blade continues:
Critics note that anything that relies on an individual’s perception is not scientifically sound. Some “ex-gay survivors,” say they convinced themselves, at times, they were straight but later acknowledged those feelings as wishful thinking.
The double standard noted above about anti-ex-gay studies is not only here presented again, but done so even more baldly in consecutive sentences. If relying on an individual's perception is not scientifically sound, then not only does practically every study on sexuality fail, but so does the testimony of "ex-gay survivors" because that is merely their perception and self-presentation (albeit their current, and thus privileged, one).

This points to why, at the end of the day, I doubt that the scientific study of "sexual orientation" is even possible in principle. The very category "sexual orientation" is suspect, as something the slips away from objective measurement or scientific definition. Even if one weren't to go as far as I do and dismiss sexual orientation as mere reified discourse, there can be doubt that it is not separable from self-understanding and self-consciousness. As such, an innocent subject-object relationship -- no observer bias, no confirmation bias, no expectancy effects, no observer effect -- is simply not an option in principle. Add in such other problems as deformation professionnelle (accepting the conventions of a profession), the impossibility of random sampling, and the impossibility of objectively measuring sexual response in a moral way, and it's simply hard to take the "unscientific" charge seriously, even if it's true.

In fact, the level of scrutiny given to the ex-gay studies is itself a perfect example of one such particular example of confirmation bias -- the Tolstoy Syndrome.

Therapy shown *somewhat* effective

The most encouraging news last month from the study by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse of ex-gays was how realistically it was reported, in some quarters at least. In the words of Christianity Today, it's "an older, wiser, ex-gay movement" that
... is certainly clearer about what it has to offer. Early hopes for instant healing have given way to belief that transformation occurs through a lifetime of discipleship.
...
Alan Chambers, the low-key opening-night speaker, emphasizes that there is no step-by-step formula for overcoming homosexuality. "Hear me loud and clear: You're not going to get cured this week. … We don't choose our feelings, but we do choose how we are going to live. I choose every day to deny what comes naturally to me. … I have to rely on Jesus Christ every day."
The companion article at CT makes it clear that this research cannot be dismissed as simple advocacy research, precisely because the results were relatively modest and in some ways cut against whatever biased interests the researchers may have.
Jones and Yarhouse emphasize the imperfections of their research, carefully noting points at which their method could be criticized. For example, they had hoped for 300 or more participants, but found many Exodus ministries mysteriously uncooperative. In the end, they settled for 98 people in their initial sample.
...
As Jones and Yarhouse themselves note, both skeptics and true believers will find evidence for their arguments.
...
They found that 38 percent could be described as "Success: Conversion" or "Success: Chastity," with another 29 percent continuing hopefully, even though they could not yet demonstrate convincing change. They compare this "success rate" to results shown in a recent, reputable study of drug therapy for depression.
...
Jones and Yarhouse found, contrary to professional consensus, that change is possible. But they did not find that change is possible for everyone. They write, "The fact that some human beings can break the four-minute-mile barrier establishes that running a four-minute mile is not impossible, but that same fact does not establish that anyone (every human being) can break the four-minute-mile barrier."
Here's the relevant breakdown, in my opinion, from a more-laudatory Baptist Press article (the source of the pie chart up top):
At the end of the study, the subjects were placed in six categories, in order from success to failure:
-- 15 percent reported their conversion was successful and that they had had "substantial reduction" in homosexual attraction and "substantial conversion" to heterosexual attraction. They were categorized as "success: conversion."
-- 23 percent said their conversion was successful and that homosexual attraction was either missing or "present only incidentally or in a way that does not seem to bring about distress." They were labeled "success: chastity."
-- 29 percent had experienced "modest decreases" in homosexual attraction and were not satisfied with their change, but pledged to continue trying. This category was labeled "continuing."
-- 15 percent had not changed and were conflicted about what to do next.
-- 4 percent had not changed and had quit the change process, but had not embraced the "gay identity."
-- 8 percent had not changed, had quit the process and had embraced the "gay identity."
Understand that these are the success rates that *already presuppose* the strongest factor disposing toward success -- a religiously-motivated desire to be rid of same-sex attractions. That applied to everybody in this study. And still, the chances of little or no change were acknowledged to be greater than the chances of satisfactory change (29+15>23+15). Also, the chances were only 1 in 6 of "substantial" conversion. And note the word is "substantial," i.e., not "total."

To be sure, these subjects were not broken down by age and (the Baptist Press notes) they tended to be well-experienced sexually. It simply makes sense that the more ingrained a habit or pattern of behavior is, the harder it will be to unlearn.

I've generally been critical of ex-gay therapy, largely because I think it gets oversold and misses the ultimate point, which is not becoming "straight" but living chastely (whatever that means according to our state of life). But this is a well-designed study within the limits the subject matter inherently imposes, if not a very large one. And its modest conclusions give it credibility and show what scheisse the sniping against it really is.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rule, Brittania

Not content with squashing the right of the church to teach in its schools that its doctrines on sex are true, Britain is moving toward Thoughtcrime territory on homosexuality. The Times of London reports that "inciting hatred" against homosexuals will be punishable by up to seven years in jail.
Leading gay rights campaigners insisted that the proposed offence would not lead to the prosecution of people expressing religious views. “It will not apply to those who temperately express religious views,” a leading campaigner said.
Well, that's reassuring, isn't it? An anonymous gay-rights advocate's assurances? Even Molotov got better assurances from Ribbentrop than that. And even that was tempered by the word "temperately."

I was quite surprised to see in Mark Shea's comboxes, a "don't worry about it too much" comment from my friend Ron Belgau.
I agree with your worries about excess state power being turned against Christians. I also am not naive enough to think that "inciting hatred" will always be interpreted rationally by judges.
However, this law does not criminalize saying homosexual acts are sinful. It criminalizes inciting hatred on the basis of sexual orientation, which is not quite the same thing.
In societies that respect the freedom of religion, I can write a book that explains my convictions or critiques others' convictions. I can't try to whip up a mob to go burn down the local synaogue or lynch the Mormon bishop.
As I read it, this rule is the equivalent of telling me not to incite others to burn the synagogue or lynch the Mormon bishop, not a restraint on theological debate. We shall have to see how it is applied, of course. But the problem, if any, is not in this law.
If this law gets interpreted to prosecute my writings, for example, then we are dealing with a corrupt judiciary, and a corrupt judiciary can find an excuse to prosecu
te whether they have this law or not.
Ron has two points:

(1) The law doesn't criminalize Church teaching;
(2) If the law will be stretched to cover that, the judiciary or executive is so corrupt that they don't need this law.

Obviously (1) is literally true as stated, but I just think Ron is being impossibly sanguine given the context. There *already is* (as I noted above) precedent for the British state (i.e., not some rogue judge) to refuse religious freedom in the name of gay liberation. There *already is* precedent from other countries of ministers being prosecuted or brought before tribunals under similar laws for preaching as the Church does on this topic.

And, as Ron surely knows, many if not most practicing homosexuals, and an increasing number of sympathetic liberals and leftists think the Church stance is, by definition, inciting hatred. I honestly don't believe that the homosexualists think it is possible to oppose their cause temperately. Some have even gone so far as to say a devout Catholic woman stabbed to death by a gay man brought it on herself, and the lawyer made the claim in open court that "it happened because she wouldn't leave him alone." I know I have been accused frequently of inciting hate, and I would be *stunned* if Ron has not. To cite one of numerous personal experiences, in one private forum, not devoted to politics or religion, I used the phrase "I believe it to be wrong." This was compared (and seconded thus) to the medieval blood libel with the specific qualifier "no matter how delicately said."

Which bring us to (2) ... and here again, I think Ron is thinking too rationally. Of course, it is the case that a thoroughly corrupted institution doesn't need legal niceties. But there's corrupt and there's corrupt. Ron's point would be correct if we were fearing literal "Gay Blackshorts." But the post-Christian West is not vulnerable to hard totalitarianism of the Hitler-Stalin kind, or to the "l'etat c'est moi" (or "la loi c'est moi") principle of arbitrary rule by an all-wise Ruler (think Kim Jong-il for a modern example). In those cases, yes, what the law says on paper is of little consequence.

But that's not what's happening. Instead, Christians in the post-Christian West face a kind of soft-tyranny -- marginalization under the law, underscored by and justified by cultural contempt. What these laws do, what they're designed to do, is give lawyers "words to work with," i.e., provide a legal basis for acting on conclusions already drawn morally (in this case "to silence the hatred coming from the christofascist godbaggers that is killing us oppressed LGBTs"). Yes, it can only be for what people may want to do in the darkest recesses of their hearts anyway. But soft-tyranny is still soft, and jurists and the legal class are not willing to act without the backing of the law. After all, "we're a society of laws," right? But if the law provides a legal basis, words to work with, to lock up those who incite hate, and in that society, Christianity is commonly constructed as "hatred" ... well, the conclusion hardly needs stating.

Further, these laws incentivize accusations of hatred, by rewarding them in the currency of silencing one's opponents. Economics teaches us that everything a society rewards, it will get more of. And as night follows day, rewarding accusations of "inciting hatred" (especially if there's no cost for unvindicated complaints, as there won't be) will result in a lot more complaints of "inciting hatred."

The British gay group Stonewall (see point 10 here) already has stated that Christians protesting gay-rights laws are "inciting hatred" and it called on those grounds for denying a permit to march on Parliament. The Stonewall Web site defines a "homophobic incident" as "any incident which is perceived to be homophobic by the victim or any other person." This is rather broad and open to easy abuse, no? Not to mention completely incompatible with the classic mens rea standard for intent-to-commit-a-crime. But it's what these people say when they're free to speak among themselves. This will become a self-reinforcing loop with, in principle, no end point, because people (homosexuals and their advocates in this case, though the point is generalizable) will become thinner- and thinner-skinned as disapproval in any form becomes a rarer and rarer experience, like groups that had no exposure to viruses or pathogens have no immunity to them and become sicker quicker. The principle of passive immunity applies to more than the body.

Larry Craig, please go

I took your side last year, in the initial "outing" fight with a despicable gay blogger and the leftist moonbats that hate men like us. And I avoided comment on your legal troubles when they were reported, partly because I wasn't blogging at the time, but also because you quickly fell on your sword and because the sin of anonymous sex is not something on which I have a clean rap sheet.

But last week, you went back on your word to resign if a judge didn't let you withdraw your guilty plea, to disorderly conduct in a bathroom-sex sting. You say you can effectively represent Idaho (after being stripped of your committee leadership assignments?) and because staying in the Senate will give you an opportunity to "prove my innocence" or "clear my name."

The problem is that you don't have evidence that proves your innocence beyond reasonable doubt. If you did, we'd have heard about it long ago. I can only imagine two kinds of things that would suffice at this point, with a guilty plea entered and so the de-facto burden becoming "prove your innocence": (1) a videotape from that Minneapolis airport bathroom that shows the officer accosting you, and you saying "no, I'm not interested in your homosexual come-on, sir. I am not gay"; or (2) proof that your guilty plea was forged -- handwriting samples, letters between the judge and the cops saying "let's frame Larry Craig," proof you were in Australia on the day of the Idaho-postmarked personal note through which you pleaded guilty in Minnesota.

Quite apart from their inherent unlikeliness, we know from the absence of their mention during the hearing where you tried to withdraw your guilty plea that such evidence does not exist. So in the presumed absence of dramatic new evidence, we know that all we'll hear in any attempt to "prove your innocence" is "I was misinterpreted"; "I'm not gay / I love my wife"; "my plea was just a hush bid"; "this was not a crime," etc.

Any Senate ethics commission hearings, which you say you hope to use as a forum to clear your name, will not clear you. (1) There's the inherent evidentiary problems already mentioned; (2) you lack Republican-colleague support or supportive local clamor; (3) three Democratic enemies will be judging you; (4) these panels aren't really investigatory panels in themselves¹; and (5) what they have a tendency to become is a political circus, grist for sordid tabloid headlines about games of hide the cigar or kick the toilet paper.

Your only hope was a plain factual injustice, firmed up by overwhelming support in your own party and doubts in the other. You have neither. In short, if this was false, you had your chance to deny it before the Minnesota court and you chose not to. Bathroom-cruising is now a fact about you, true or not.

As the Los Angeles Times article I linked to above indicates, you have little support in the Senate. And you have become a national punchline even outside the context of political junkies, like Howard Dean's AGHGHGHGH moment made him "that weirdo that growled a lot" and sank his 2004 campaign. You're now, as this ABC News icon indicates, "the gay bathroom senator." Just today, at my job, a coworker said to me, completely outside any homosexual-related matter², that "you look as happy as Larry Craig in a bathroom."

If you have any loyalty to the Republican Party or to conservative principles, you'll simply get off the national stage now, and give your state party and the Republican successor whom the governor will appoint a year to let your 15 minutes of fame fade away, live you down, and keep your seat that you're already planning on giving up. (You are gonna follow through on THAT promise, right?) Republicans should not have a tough fight to keep Idaho Senate seat. Your continued presence assures that we will.
----------------------------------------
¹ They are more expert at judging and weighing facts given to them by outside investigators, whether the FBI, the Capitol Police or special prosecutors like Ken Starr or Patrick Fitzgerald. Or in legalese, they are like an appeals court in that they defer to other fact-finders, where they exist.
² Well, not exactly. I was expressing my delight at Camille Paglia's latest Salon column being up.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Capping the 'T'

John Aravosis has a piece up on Salon detailing some good news, though not from his perspective. He says that the insistence of some gay groups of including Transsexuals¹ in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)
[T]his year is also the first time that ENDA actually has a real chance of passing both the House and Senate -- but only if gender identity isn't in the bill. So the bill's author, openly gay Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., dropped the transgendered from the bill, and all hell broke loose. Gay activists and 220 national and local gay rights groups angrily demanded that gender identity be put back in the bill, guaranteeing its defeat for years to come. Many of them, suddenly and conveniently, found all sorts of "flaws" with legislation that they had embraced the previous 29 years. They convinced House Democratic leaders to delay action on ENDA till later in October. They'd rather have no bill at all than pass one that didn't include the transgendered.
Aravosis makes all kinds of arguments in favor of a bill that doesn't makes transsexuals a protected class, but they all boil down to pragmatism and they are entirely persuasive, stipulating the good of his ends -- "we can pass this now and cover most sexually-discriminated against persons; half a loaf is better than none, etc."

But, as he later realized, that didn't matter. The transsexuals were hearing none of it. One hardly thinks that Barney Frank can be denounced as a wet who "doesn't get it" -- but there it is. Or rather, the transexuals said they would win the persuasion battle. Here's the amusing quote.
If Barney can't get the bill passed, then he should leave it to Tammy to get the job done. I can speak to the wavering Congresspersons in half an hour and give them enough of an understanding to respond effectively to any hate speech from the Republicans. Instead we show our cowardice again and run.
To which my reaction is "hehehehe." Trans-sexual rights means this sort of thing.
The dispute centers on transgender patrons and the use of the club's restroom facilities.
Last year, [club owner Tom] Anderson asked Michele deLaFreniere and some other patrons to leave the nightclub because they "freaked out" female customers by using the women's restrooms.
When the transgender patrons tried to use the men's room, they complained that male patrons harassed them.
"It was determined that the safest course for the protection of all was to exclude these particular individuals because their conduct was creating tension at the nightclub," Anderson said.
DeLaFreniere said it was a matter of discrimination and filed the complaint.
DeLaFreniere, 52, has lived as a woman since 2004.
(There's more of the same here.) It was "bathrooms" (along with "women soldiers") that sunk the ERA 30 years ago, and "bathrooms" is just as potent a weapon as ever. Oh ... I'd kill for the right to be the ad-copy writer for the RNC.

But who cares, right? We're right and better to stand on our rightness and get nothing rather than compromise on a compromise a principle, move the ball downfield and fight for the rest later. (But then "maybe some folks in our community are afraid that trans people will highlight the gender nonconformity in the gay community and drag straight-acting gays into the sunlight.")

This sort of politics, expressive rather than instrumental, is what the inherent fractiousness of identity politics and what the inclusivity-uber-alles left produces. The transsexual's comments about discomfort are also an example of what happens when a group of people take anathematizing psychology as a norm of public argument ("you're self-loathing," "gay panic," "why are you so obsessed" ... the whole panoply). The weapon will be deployed in civil wars too.

I remember seeing years ago on CSPAN some gay-rights umbrella forum, and the members of a Hispanic group Llego² seized the microphone and staged an ostentatious walkout over their not being included in the ethnic ragout of the panel. Other people started yelling at them ("you have been invited!!") A yelling match live on CSPAN??? Yep. But when politics is presumed to be based on identity and demonstrative expressions therein, this is the logical result.

Later at the same panel, a Filipina dressed down the representative from the Log Cabin Republicans, who was trying to make a point about gay groups respecting intellectual diversity (the only kind worth anything, BTW) among homosexual persons. Close as I can recall, she said: "for me, the struggle for gays is inseparable from struggling against the attacks on my community" (she was referring to the immigration debates of the 90s). "I don't know, maybe you agree with those attacks and want to degrade my people as long as others don't degrade you white gays," etc. On another CSPAN show, a Booknotes interview, bell hooks criticized the Million-Man March (and Cornell West's participation in it), on the grounds that it was a march for patriarchy and against women. So it didn't matter what it did for blacks. Quoting from memory: "if we learned anything [from the past], it is that the struggle for liberation, and against white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, is indivisible. The parts are inseparable."

The best thing about being a conservative is that liberals are so marinated in their own self-righteousness that they do half your work of demonizing them for you.
-------------------------------------------------
¹ I do not use the word "gender" in the context, where it is a biased, prudish codeword for social-constructionism. French nouns have a gender; human beings have a sex.
² As an aside, while searching for some art for this piece, I learned that Llego had since gone defunct and a group called Unid@s was trying to become the Hispanic gay group of choice. But what I couldn't stop laughing at was the rationale in the Blade article for the "@" character. It's a combination of "o" and "a," the respective typical markers for the masculine and feminine cases in most Spanish nouns, adjectives and pronouns.
“Unid@s means ‘everybody together,’” Serrano said. “We use the ‘at’ symbol because when you want it to refer to females you use ‘unidas’ and males, ‘unidos.’ We use ‘unid@s’ to show our diversity, unity and inclusivity.”
But ... but ... it makes the group's name unpronounceable in English, Spanish or any other language, kinda like Prince's. You still have to make a vowel sound, a single sound, between the "d" and the "s." There's no way around that fact, so you'll either say "unidos" or "unidas." And be exclusive and sexist. Sigh.

Christ on Bourbon Street

[Judy Tenuta voice]
Yeah, it could happen
[/Judy Tenuta voice]

I went down to Louisiana a few weeks ago to see a friend take his first vows with the New Orleans Province Jesuits. And I did what every devout Christian would do on the subsequent Friday night before my plane left for Washington on Saturday -- spent it in the French Quarter, specifically one street. (Hey ... I did spend the early part of the day doing the respectable tourist stuff like the D-Day Museum.)

Over the space of about five hours -- well, I drank and ate and drank and drank some more as I walked down America's most famous 24-hour orgy for the second time in my life (the other was a New Year's Eve when I was there for the Sugar Bowl). Hand Grenades, Hurricanes, Jell-O shots, a seafood dinner (it being Friday and all), $1 beer, $3 shooters from street vendors. But even there, God was watching.

Practically the very first thing that happened to me in the Quarter, before I was even on Bourbon Street proper, was that a strip-club owner invited me ("sir," he called me) to come in for a free drink with a lap dance, while an exaggeratedly sexy young thang was spilling out of her T-shirt next to him. I politely said "not interested" as I walked past him. It was all I could do to avoid saying "are you ever barking up the wrong tree."

After dinner, I headed northeast along Bourbon Street, away from Canal Street, when I reached the end of the carnival-light section of Bourbon and, having just finished my drink, I went into a bar for another. And for the second time in my life, I unwittingly went into a gay bar -- Cafe Lafitte. I didn't see the rainbow flag walking in (this end of Bourbon Street was quite dark) and the clues didn't register with me until after I had ordered and started drinking a bottle of beer and so couldn't leave easily. Needless to say, I was still pretty uneasy just sitting there, trying to maintain my usual unflappability and sangfroid.

It wasn't the objective behavior of the clientele, at that time anyway (though to judge from the pix on their site, I must have caught them on Chaste Night). There were lots of queeny mannerisms on display, of course, plus diva dance remixes (Bananarama, Gwen Stefani, etc.) on the video screen and sound system. But as randy as it got that I saw was having a condom stretched over the lips of a cup of carbonated soda. Nobody was shirtless; I saw no PDAs stronger than a peck on the cheek; nobody propositioned me; nobody was garlanding beads as rewards for gawdknowswhat. I saw much more (and much-more) wanton sexuality elsewhere on that street. But, at least personally, I can consume as campy comedy, e.g., a woman sashaying her hips as she stands on top of a bar while her husband/boyfriend takes her picture. Precisely because it doesn't threaten me because she doesn't interest me. I slinked away as soon as I finished my one beer. I wonder if the bartender or the two guys sitting on either side of me noticed how queasy I was.

Going back the other way down Bourbon Street, I happened to look down a side street to my left and I saw an obvious shadow -- a Jesus statue on the wall. Probably looked very like this image (photo taken by a St. Louis architecture buff from his trip to New Orleans from about the vantage point I would have had). I was near the Cathedral of St. Louis.

I can't not go there, so I do ... grenade in hand (no, not THAT kind ... this kind), but with no particular plan. The Cathedral is locked up, so I can't go in. Which I understand somewhat -- the adjoining well-lit square had an interesting cast of midnight characters. I had been to confession a couple of days previous and, for complicated but good reasons, had yet to actually say my penitential Rosary. This seemed a perfect time and place, and so I go to one of the park benches before the main door (at the back edge of Jackson Square; this poster here shows where I was) and say it under my breath and keeping track on my fingers. I'm only interrupted once that I recall, by a street person sitting next to me on the bench who asked if she could have a swig of my grenade ("sure").

Then, walking back toward Bourbon Street, with more drinking on my mind, I'm convinced God sent me an angel. A man stopped me as we passed each other while walking in opposite directions on one of the side-street sidewalks. He stopped me and said, "excuse me, sir, but can you spare me some money?" At that moment, I really couldn't say no. I had just come from church (sort of) and was heading for a site of orgiastic consumption. I did ask him if he needed me to buy him some food, and he said he wasn't really hungry but might be tomorrow: "I live day to day," he said (and his appearance let me believe him very easily). I reached into my pocket, and as it happened, the outer bill on my fold was a ten. Which I gave him automatically. He thanked me, and I said, looking him in the eyes, "God bless you." He returned those words and then said something I've never heard in such situations.

HIM: Would you pray for me?
ME: Sure.
HIM: I mean right now.
ME: Yes.
HIM: I'm from Arkansas and having a run of bad luck.
ME: Sorry.

I put my arms around his shoulders, and he puts his around mine. If he had harbored ill intentions (a thought which did occur to me), I'd have been completely at his mercy. But I trusted. I said a simple "Our Father." He didn't say the words, but at every one of the natural pauses in the prayer as I went through it, very slowly per my custom, he let out a soft ejaculation, in the Charismatic style -- "praise the Lord!" "hallelujah!" or the like. Our faces were touching, we were locked in an embrace, a block off Bourbon Street. In prayer. And at that moment, nothing else mattered to me. Or to him, I suspect.

When I finished, he asked me, "are you a preacher?" It was all I could do not to laugh as I said "no." I repeated my offer of food. He said he was fine, and nodded his assent when I said "well, just use well the money I gave you." We hugged again before parting.

Somehow, after this encounter, another few hours of drinking no longer seemed so attractive. My confessor, who has warned me about my drinking in the past, was a bit disappointed (I am inferring) that I didn't get this man's name when I told him what had happened.

I met him by pure coincidence and the confluence of a hundred accidental factors of timing, but the most immediate of which, though, was my side journey to the Church upon seeing Christ's shadow. To send me in the direction of His shadow again. My night began by being accosted by a strip-club owner after my money and ended by being accosted by someone else after my money some, sure, but after something more also.

I walked backed to the edge of Bourbon Street to Canal, stopping only to browse and buy a couple of gifts for friends. Driking some soda. And going home for the night, praying for this down-on-his-luck man, and making a mental note to do it often. Whatever his name.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Wishful thinking about the past

If I were limited to one reason why "I detest the gay-lib movement," I wouldn't refer to the sinfulness of homosexual conduct (sodomy has been around forever and didn't particularly need Stonewall to justify it). But I would instead choose the way that it has poisoned same-sex love, which takes many forms including loyalty and friendship, by injecting the aura of sex into them.

Consider the execrable articles from last month on a paper in the Journal of Modern History that was widely reported (and positively so, on that grounds) as providing a model for homosexual relationships. Predictably the usual suspects got aroused by it: Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish (though not Sully himself); National Public Radio; Live Science; and very silly student journalists.

Here is Gay.com (customary warning here; article is fine, whatever the dangers the broader site may hold)

Same-sex civil unions, while seemingly new and radical, appear to have existed 600 years ago in late medieval France, a professor writes in the September issue of the Journal of Modern History.
The term affrerement, or "brotherment," referred to a certain type of legal contract that provided a marriage-like foundation for non-nuclear households of many types, according to Allan Tulchin, an assistant professor of history at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.
What utter balderdash ... (CM rolls up sleeves and readies fisking muscles) ...
The model for the arrangement was that of biological brothers who inherited the family home on an equal basis from their parents and continued to live together, Tulchin wrote.
But in cases where the affreres were single, unrelated men, the contracts provide "considerable evidence that the affreres were using affrerements to formalize same-sex loving relationships," he wrote.
The $64,000 question here is the phrase "same-sex loving relationships." What does that mean? And what does it communicate?

To answer the latter first, it communicates to a modern audience homosexual "marriage" (see the very silly student journalist). But literally, of course, it doesn't "mean" very much at all. Or rather it means nothing at all new or controversial or anything having to do with marriage law. I have a "same-sex loving relationship" with my father. I have one with my confessor. I have ones with my best drinking buddies, Courage brothers and other friends. We are all of the same sex. We do love one another. And we have relationships.

Well, let's all toodle off to Massachusetts then. (At least, once the consanguinity taboo has been suitably demystified as the irrational prejudice future generations will see it as, so my father can join the fun.)

What never ceases to raise my wrath with these sorts of scholarly articles is precisely that the writers will never say "gay marriage," because they know their scholarly credibility will be shot to hell if they do. Instead they use "same-sex loving relationships," which doesn't exactly "say" gay "marriage," but will be heard as saying it. And also cooperate with news articles that puts that spin on their work sotto voce. Even to me, who cannot be called someone who speaks French, "affrerement" is an easy word to translate -- "brothering" ("frere" is the uncontroversial translation of "brother"). Obviously "brother" has to be somewhat metaphorical in this sort of case, but prima facie, "brothering" someone is not evidence of sexual interest.

Nor is there no precedented for this very problem with this very term. There was the 1990s flap over John Boswell and adelphopoiesin (the Greek term for "making brothers"), which has been roundly dismissed, me saying that "his books' account of social approval and gay marriage are incompetent fantasies based on tendentious eisegesis."

"I suspect that some of these relationships were sexual, while others may not have been. It is impossible to prove either way and probably also somewhat irrelevant to understanding their way of thinking," Tulchin wrote. "They loved each other, and the community accepted that."

In other words, there is NO evidence at all, merely Tulchin's supposition ("I suspect"). This is rather less than persuasive.

There is a difference between primary evidence and corroborating evidence, and "affrerement" and "adelphopoiesin" rites can only be corroborating evidence of social tolerance of same-sex sex. I agree that Tulchin is making a reasonable surmise if we were dealing with a society in which there were good pre-existing reason to think homosexuality was widely tolerated. But as evidence for such toleration in the first place? Not even close ... that's the classic case of Nietzsche's critique of scholars "who dig up what they themselves buried."

Yes, of course "the community accepted that." But if "the community" were a bunch of homophobic Catholics who understood same-sex love as perverted if it involved sex (while having no difficulty with ritualized friendship, fraternity, paternal love, etc.), then said tolerance would be evidence of nothing whatever.

American academicians comes across as simply incapable, for reasons I dare not speculate, of imagining any form of love that is not sexual or a sublimated pale-substitute for sex. Inevitably, they read sex where it isn't (or rather there is no evidence that it is). To quote from Shaw's review of Boswell:

Such agreements and rituals are "same-sex" in the sense that it is two men who are involved; and they are "unions" in the sense that the two men involved are co-joined as "brothers." But that is it. There is no indication in the texts themselves that these are marriages in any sense that the word would mean to readers now, nor in any sense that the word would have meant to persons then: the formation of a common household, the sharing of everything in a permanent co-residential unit, the formation of a family unit wherein the two partners were committed, ideally, to each other, with the intent to raise children, and so on.
Although it is difficult to state precisely what these ritualized relationships were, most historians who have studied them are fairly certain that they deal with a species of "ritualized kinship" that is covered by the term "brotherhood." (This type of "brotherhood" is similar to the ritualized agreements struck between members of the Mafia or other "men of honor" in our own society.) That explains why the texts on adelphopoiesis in the prayerbooks are embedded within sections dealing with other kinship-forming rituals, such as marriage and adoption. Giovanni Tomassia in the 1880s and Paul Koschaker in the 1930s, whose works Boswell knows and cites, had already reached this conclusion.
That point stands essentially unchanged against Tulchin's work. Back to the Gay.com article:
Before a notary and witnesses, the "brothers" pledged to live together sharing "un pain, un vin, et une bourse" -- one bread, one wine and one purse.
The "brothers'" goods usually became the joint property of both parties, and each commonly became the other's legal heir.
Evidence of a formalized union, even especially one involving property, is not, never was, and never will be evidence that said union included affective ties.

Otherwise what would some Tulchin or Boswell of the 30th century be able to make of documents showing the widespread practice of "fraternities." Such scholars could even find, in addition to proof of collective living, deeds showing that it was a common practice for two or three "special brothers" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, saynomore) to live together, by themselves, away from the community? Add a few "original documents" of fraternity rites and oaths, including all these Greek letters (more winking and nudging).

There will also be all the references to "loyalty" and "bonding in brotherhood" and the like (it'll help if these Tulchins and Boswells do not speak English and so will need to translate "loyalty" and "brotherhood"). And if there are references to "fellowship" and "camaraderie" (all these four words are species of the genus "love") ... do I need to say more?
"Western family structures have been much more varied than many people today seem to realize, and Western legal systems have in the past made provisions for a variety of household structures," wrote Tulchin, who studied documents and gravestones of the affreres to arrive at his conclusions.
And now we get to the other thing that pisses me off when I read these sorts of articles. Those of us who oppose gay "marriage" really are quite aware that a range of family structures is possible, and that all societies acknowledged plurality, within the limits that define the society's understanding of family. We don't need to be talked down to and told this. We really don't. But the mere fact of diversity on points A, B, and C is not a reason for accepting structures that differ on points X, Y, Z. Not in itself. Indeed, social norms operate precisely on the how difference is constructed between ABC on the one hand and XYZ on the other.

Friday, August 10, 2007

CM at others' comboxes -- 1

I have decided that I post so much at other people's comboxes that I should start putting up here the more substantial posts, those that in my judgment make broader points that can stand up on their own, outside the particular context (none of my debate polemics or smart-aleck comments, IOW).

I will post them unedited except for the grammar, clarity or spelling burps we all occasionally make. I posted at Closed Cafeteria earlier today in response to this comment:
why the claim that temptation toward homosexual activity is greater than [it is for] heterosexual persons? I often hear comments like those offered by John Hetman, that homosexual persons grapple with a "struggle with oftentimes overwhelming temptations."
Comparing the weight of crosses is in some sense a futile endeavour, I agree. But I don't think there can be any comparison at all between homosexuality and heterosexuality in this respect (in other words, we are talking about a difference in kind, not of degree). So I responded:
Strictly biological-drive speaking, it probably isn't. But there are still some quite fundamental differences:
(1) Marriage and children are vocations and are always a possibility for the straight person; chastity is both carrot and stick, in other words. For the homosexual person, it can be easily seen (and almost all do see it at times) as all stick and without real vocational value.
(2) No straight person really sees his heterosexuality per se (as opposed to particular features of it) as a curse, a cross.
(3) Straight people really don't have anything comparable to the contemporary "gay rights" movement, which sets up both an alternate temptation and a group of people who despise you. (Nor are there Caveman types among Catholics ready to assume the disgusting worst of one at the drop of a hat.)
Check here for any continuation.

More about the conference

Smile ... you're on Closed Cafeteria. (That should be a line in my opinion.) Thanks for linking, Gerald, and sending my hit count through the roof.

Thanks to everyone else who linked to my post on the Chicago Courage Conference -- the British Catholic Mom of 10 (watch your Americanised spelling there, Mum); Tony at Catholic Pillow Fight; Terry Nelson at Abbey-Roads2; and TJIC and Father Tim Finigan really liked Father Groeschel's comment on the recent atheist books.

Also, Terry posted correspondence he got from Jeron (a frequent commenter here too) about his recollections of the conference. Jeron's memories and Terry's comments are way way WAY more spiritual than mine. There is a reason some people discern monasteries while others play Clown Prince.

Also, the ex-Protestant hypersectarian and reader CW ("who-can-quote-the-croaking-chorus-from-The-Frogs-of-Aristophanes") has apparently decided to start blogging about certain topics (presumably including Topic H) anonymously. Oh ... what hath CM wrought.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

This year, in Chicago ...

I just got back yesterday from last week's Courage Conference, which was held in Chicago at Mundelein Seminary. And as I've said about previous conferences, it was like an oasis in the midst of the desert:
To put it in the most crass way possible (moi?), I enjoyed 10 days of chastity -- before during and after. It was the anticipation and later fact of a holy environment, with daily Mass and availability of confession, *despite* the temptations of the people surrounding me. The whole weekend was just ... hopeful. It was more than fellowship, more than the holy environment and daily sacraments, but my just being able to *be* for four days without any fear or shame or worry or Angst. To breathe easily with everybody always already knowing the thing I hate most about myself and most fear others knowing/guessing/finding out. I hate the word "liberating" (it carries the aura of Che Guevara posters), but that's what it was. I was not sunk in my customary gloom, trapped in the whirlpool of frustration, anger, acting out, despair and depression.
Damascene episodes are not my experience here, but the simple ease of a life of submissive grace is. It happens the same way every year for me, with the worst thoughts coming upon leaving, to the effect of "why can't the other 361 days of the year be like this?" Even before going, I was touched by grace.

The previous week, as I finished my assigned hours at my parish's Perpetual Adoration, I told the man who shares my second hour that I would be gone the next week "for a church conference in Chicago." So he needed to make sure he was either there or lined up a substitute. Nodding his understanding, he then innocently asked me "what's the conference about?" I thought about it for a half-second and decided that, though I hardly know the man at all, there need be no fudging in the Presence of Our Lord. I told him it was a Courage conference and he said "oh ... do you know Father Harvey." Turns out the man's wife is a former student of his, and he asked me to say hello to Father Harvey for her. I was relieved at being able to handle The Awkward Question truthfully and without a hitch.

So I go up to Father Harvey during the conference and said "do you know a Mary Constantine?" He responds, without further prompting, "yes. I taught her at Dunbarton College 30 years ago. She was in my moral philosophy class" (exactly what the woman's husband told me). I told Father that her husband and I share an hour at my parish's Adoration Chapel, and he told me to send the former Miss Constantine his blessings and prayers. Here's a man nearly 90 years old (born 1919) and showing it in some ways -- but still having the presence of mind to remember a student from decades ago.

At the end of the conference, I've checked out of my room and am returning the keys, packed baggage in hand. Father Harvey is doing the same at the same time. I grab his hand and thank him for the conference, for Courage, for everything. He responds in the socially normal way but then, he puts his hand on my head and says a blessing on me and my trip home. Without my even asking him.

There was some broader good news in Father Harvey's keynote address, in which he said there were about a half-dozen new chapters, including one astonishing example (albeit quasi-underground) of official approval from one of the most-liberal and least-St.-Blogs-loved of U.S. prelates. He also mentioned that Courage had started the process of incorporation. I don't pretend to understand the subtleties of what this means under either secular law or canon law, but Father said it would make the group's mission more secure and its means broader and deeper. He said Courage International Inc. would be sending out solicitations to us and to others in the Catholic community to raise its projected budget.

Father Benedict Groeschel gave the main address on Friday night. The man is simply amazing, able to hold an audience in the palm of his hand despite having very little physical strength and not too much voice (he had to sit to give his speech and needed assistance from one of his brother friars just to walk from place to place).

But he has so much wisdom and self-assurance that he gave his whole speech, a critique of conventional psychiatry and the turn to virtue, without notes and overflowing with epigrammatic and surprisingly scalding wit:
  • "Freud's mother would repress anybody."
  • "That's like the Communist secret police publishing the diary of St. Faustina."
  • "Why would Mother Teresa want an honorary degree from Harvard? That's like making Jesus a monsignor."
  • In reference to some of the recent atheist tomes: "I am deeply insulted that atheism can be so badly represented. I am tempted to write a book defending atheism in response."
But even when tossing off bon-mots, Father Groeschel understood what is relevant to the audience in front of him. In reference to the celibacy vow and the sexless life, he said, "whatever we missed, it's not the secret to happiness; 98 percent of the world's great literature and drama are about problems brought about by sex," presumably referring to works like "Madame Bovary," "The Red and the Black," "Oedipus Rex" and "Don Giovanni." Men like myself tend to think play "if only" ... thinking that all would be well if we were straight or married or whatever. But Father reminded all of us Courage members that "God is not a psychiatrist" and "calls both the healthy and the ill," citing his own namesake, St. Benedict Joseph, as an example of the latter, as someone who exemplified being "poor in spirit."

Amazingly, he ended his talk with the line "my apologies for taking so much of your time." Yeah, you're forgiven for such an affront all right, Ben. Father Groeschel will also be in the Arlington Diocese this weekend for two talks — one at St. Mary's in Old Town Alexandria on Friday night; the other at Blessed Sacrament on Saturday (can't find a mention of it on that parish's site).

We also saw a nearly-finished version of a one-hour profile documentary on Father Harvey, called "Profiles in Courage." I was surprised how much I enjoyed it, particularly the early parts about Father Harvey's boyhood (he was a Phillies fan ... apparently into long-shots at an early age) and the early years of his work with Catholic priests struggling with homosexuality, which dated back to 1953, a decade-and-a-half before Stonewall. The latter parts, particularly after the founding of Courage, is a bit heavier on testimonial and a bit lighter on history and narrative (including the difficulties the apostolate has faced) than I would have liked. There's one really sweet moment, which brought down the house, involving Father Harvey, his sister and a Miraculous Medal. To say more would spoil a moment that really relies on unexpected spontaneity. Besides Father Groeschel, the film also had an appearance by Archbishop Edwin O'Brien (now in charge in the Baltimore Archdiocese; hopefully to effect some changes there).

Some highlights I remembered from other talks, in addition to two strong testimonials, including one from a married couple whose daughter is practicing the lifestyle but who themselves had the Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara bit down pat:
  • The ebb and flow of spiritual tides is like the ebb and flow of oceanic tides in that low tide is God enabling us to see the muck that high tide covers up. (from one of my Courage brothers and a reader of this site, on "The Meaning of Companionship")
  • The Lord, upon His Resurrection, calls Mary Magdelene by name. Not my a slur or a descriptor, but by name because He knows her most fully for who she is. As He does all of us, whom He calls by name.
  • The woman caught in adultery is not named. Which means it's the reader (or listener). You. And that moment -- Jesus bending down, writing something and then rising up -- is the whole sacramental economy in miniature. God descending to the earth, revealing Himself and then arising from the earth. As is the woman's arising from the dirt.
  • "The only failure is to see yourself as nothing but a sinner with no hope. Not to say 'I did something wrong,' but 'There is something wrong with me'." (all from Father Richard McAlear on "The Healing Presence of God")
  • "Hell is not going to let go of you easily."
  • Even if you've stumbled a thousand times, that means that 1,000 times in Confession, "you've committed yourself to Christ. Whether it lastest 3 hours, 3 days or 3 months is of little consequence."
  • " 'Firm purpose of amendment' doesn't mean 'I'll never do it again,' but 'I'll get up again next time'."
  • "Why does suffering happen? So love can reveal itself."
  • "You cannot live in this society without an adult understanding of the faith." (all from Father Donald Timone on "The Critical Problem of Pornography")
Other things overheard:
  • "If you're not doing it for Christ, you're a fool."
  • "My SSA is a permanent inoculation against the sin of Pride."
  • "Know what OSFS stands for? Old Shoes For Sale."
  • "If anyone finds a missing Roman collar, it's mine."
  • "Homosexuals did not start the sexual revolution. They were simply too few ... But then they asked 'if it's OK for everyone else, why not us?' " Why not indeed?
  • "I have made all things new -- including you."
  • "Father Timone's presentation on porn would have been better with visual aids."
  • "His penis is fine; he's just too fat."
As for myself, I met three readers of this site who didn't know me by name, including one who's discerning the religious life and another who left not merely Protestantism, but a very specific type that he could rattle off like the Very Model of a Modern Major-General. (I think his leaving reduced their remnant rolls by 20 percent.)

As I noted above, one of the best things about these conferences is simply the easy fellowship. And sometimes, some of it is not edifying in the purest sense -- like my teasing Ryan about his mere-wannabe status as an opera queen (the boy didn't even know the ending of "Aida" fer pity's sake); or my doing my world-famous Eric Cartman** imitation one lunch and leaving my whole table in stitches; or my noting that it was OK for me to by wearing white sneakers since it wasn't yet Labor Day, only to have one of the other guys look at the well-worn pair and contemptuously and say "those haven't been white for a LONG time." Holiness is obviously first and last, but fellowship also means the ability to not be serious and have some fun. To let oneself breathe easily, in other words. That ability enabled me to hug the guys in parting or at Mass unselfconsciously and freely, even if they were men to whom I might be attracted under other circumstances.

Next year in Jerusalem. Or if that isn't an option, Boston will do.
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** Image of Father Cartman swiped from Father Erik Richtsteig.