Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Saturday, June 15, 2002  

A few thoughts on homosexuality

I don't understand human homosexuality. I understand how sexual depravity leads to homosexuality such as this article illustrates briefly about Hugh Hefner by Mercer Schuchardt:

"Hiding in plain sight in the June 2001 issue of Philadelphia magazine is Ben Wallace's essay "The Prodigy and the Playmate." In it Sandy Bentley, the Playboy cover girl and former Hefner girlfriend (along with her twin sister Mandy), describes Hugh Hefner's current sexual practices in just enough detail to give you a good long pause:

The heterosexual icon [Hugh Hefner] . . . had trouble finding satisfaction through intercourse; instead, he liked the girls to pleasure each other while he masturbated and watched gay porn.
Yes, you read that right. There it is, attributed to someone who ought to know, the stated fact on the public record. It may seem shocking or it may seem trivial, but it amounts to a significant confirmation that Hugh Hefner embodies what his detractors have been saying for years: All pornography is ultimately homosexual. All pornography stifles the development of genuine human relationships. All pornography is a manifestation of arrested development. All pornography reduces spiritual desire to Newtonian mechanics. All pornography, indulged long enough, hollows out sex to the point where even the horniest old Viagra-stoked goat is unable to physically enjoy the bodies of nubile young females. "

But this is a psychological descent of pure narcissism.

Biological homosexuality which is what we are asked to find acceptable is something different. Not only accept but endorse as equivalent to heterosexuality and the human desire for emotional intimacy and fertility. Thus we are asked to accept homosexual practice, marriage (and divorce), and acquisition of children either through adoption or in vitro fertilization for females.

I find these things completely unacceptable (but not all for the same reasons) even if we put aside the issue of God's will and various Scriptures, religions, and their disapproval. Homosexuality practiced in open defiance of normal human instinct and feelings, harms society and children. It is a decadence from which societies do not recover from except by the most painful means - destruction and later re-organization. In itself, this homosexual decadence doesn't cause destruction, but is part and parcel of a social emasculation which leads to death.

So purely on utilitarian grounds, I would oppose open expression and acceptance of homosexuality. That this might cause some folks a bit of suffering does not bother me. If you're not suffering in this world, you're doing something wrong. The fact that people are going to suffer from restraint of desire (or constraint) is not horrible in itself.

Andrew Sullivan and others ask, "What real harm is there in me doing as I please in this private area of life. Do I not have a right to both sexual and emotional closeness and intimacy with another human being? After all, what's it to you? Really? What does it have to do with you?"

Well, Andrew you can be right and still be wrong. I won't attack your argument with the worst case scenario of the pedophile who finds a willing young partner - why shouldn't he have his desire satisfied if it's acceptable to his object of desire? There is that argument, but it's not Andrew's or many others. (Even though some are beginning to make that argument.)

My universe won't go crash bang because you 'marry' your boyfriend and smooch your way through various dinner parties and teas. My daughter's universe will start to go bad (for reasons I mentioned above as to decline in one's civilization) but it's still moot even then. She'll get through from the cradle to her grave as we all do, anyhow.

No, the universe doesn't come to a halt because Andrew gets weird pleasure. Homosexuality is wrong (for one reason) because 98% of humanity is revolted by it; and we outvote homosexuals. I don't believe at all that same sex attraction is exactly the same feeling or experience as different gender attraction. I don't believe that a homosexual (for the most part and as children) are put off at seeing their loving parents kissing or sleeping together; or seeing males and females exchanging tokens of affection like kisses or imagining that they might have sex with each other.

I accept that the homosexual does not share the desire or attraction to the other gender, but I don't believe he or she is particularly revolted (unless they are suffering from serious psychological scars or abuse).

Homosexuality is a deviance and not an equal sexual alternative. The practice of it does harm to the person and society, whereas the abstention from it does no harm. The same is true of inordinate heterosexual desire and practice - it harms the person and others, and is worthy of disgust and revulsion.

As a person of faith, though, I must add that even though God does not often remove an affliction from a person, it is possible to live with affliction and bear it nobly and honorably. Intimacy, close friendship with another, and having children is not a right nor guaranteed, while communion with God is a certainty for those who desire it with their whole hearts. And God has ways of making up for all our other kinds of losses without fail.

No society or church is obligated to accept deviant and disgusting human behavior, but in fact has every reason to oppose and outlaw it. Compassion is not about approval, but empathy for suffering. But suffering, in this world, is not without merit, meaning, understanding, nor acceptance. Our suffering is acceptable to God, also.

When I hear homosexuals (among other kinds of folks) insisting on the goodness of their unnatural desires, I can only think - "You want what you want and nothing else is really the issue. You want to be your own God and not let God be God to you."

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:20 AM |

Lay on the lay people

There is much talk about lay involvement in the RCC in order to curb priestly blindness and misconduct, but that is not likely to be much help (though some help would be better than none).

In my parish we used to have open elections for the Pastoral Council. Then we got a new pastor. He didn't want that. So he now nominates a number of people and the laity then selects from his list those to elect. What is that then except a rubber stamp?

The bishops would do the same thing. Cherry pick their lay board members - docile and obedient types who are thrilled to be called by their first name by the holy, living apostle of God.

No, the situation cannot be altered. The hierarchy cannot bear to share power in any way shape, or form with the laity. To do so would endanger all their pious notions about themselves and the Church. They can't help but leave the laity two kinds of vote - the wallet or the feet. It is like asking the colorblind to see red - it just won't happen.

As many are pointing out, right now, throughout the nation, priests are molesting children and we don't know it because the nature of the crime is such that reports of it are so often long delayed by the abused and raped. The bishops, as far as I can tell, don't seem the least interested in making provision to discover its present criminals and prevent future ones.

Better screening? I don't think so. Predators are devilishly clever at disguising their pathologies.

The cover up by the bishops is being extended by this very conference and church process. Accountability? It will never happen. Sure, they'll turn over the criminals when they're discovered now to the police (except when they don't think it warrants police investigation by their lights), but they will alter nothing of the culture that produces and enables them.

The kind of reform that the situation demands is the kind of reform that the hierarchy simply cannot contemplate. It goes to the heart of their authority. Vatican II could change some forms of liturgy, rewrite certain positions viz other denominations and religious freedom, inter alia; but sharing of power with the laity in no way was ever contemplated or desired by any council. You might as well ask the priesthood to become Buddhists as to renounce attachment to absolute control.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:28 AM |

Friday, June 14, 2002  

A Hedonist

I was going to attack Steven den Beste's little essay on his hedonism (scroll down), but Minute Particulars did it.

Yet, Marc, didn't attack it in the manner I intended to although he did mention: "But I’ve never understood the teleological claims of anyone who asserts that upon death the self ceases to be. By teleological claims I mean using terms like happiness, goal, must be accomplished, and so on. "

Den Beste uses such words as happiness and goal which are entirely meaningless in his conception of life and the universe. Happiness must simply equate with animal pleasure and goal must equate with the merely instinctual.

But Steven is rather in the position of the American pacifist who decries war and violence yet enjoys a right to life and freedom only because other people don't agree with him. He lives by the tolerance of others.

A hedonist (one whose primary aim is pleasure) only lives because most other people are not hedonists (for the most part), but are dedicated to more selfless and altruistic principles of life - particularly belief in immortality which helps to hold their baser instincts in check.

Den Beste tries to make his hedonism seem more noble: "Once I arrived at atheism, it became clear to me that the best overall goal for life was not length, but happiness. My goal in life is to try to make the people around me happy."

He wants to make others, not himself, more happy. How noble. But the pleasure, is all his, so to speak: what pleases me is to please others. Pure selfishness in essence. Just another way to get himself an endorphin rush. Not noble, but merely biological - good deeds as addictive drug. He's still just a meat machine doomed to die and all he has done fade to nothing for no actual good since all those I helped will die and all their deeds fade away to nothing much. A tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:38 PM |

A Homily for a Sunny Day (written some years ago)

I saw a rare eucharistic meal with my daughter, Shana. We went out to go to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. As we neared the small shopping mall it was in, some people along the street held up signs offering free slices of pizza. Obviously it was a promotion for the opening of a pizza place there.

"Well, I want Mexican food, not pizza," I said to Shana, "but maybe you'd like pizza instead."

She did want pizza. We parked and went to the pizza place across the lot. There were many people: young people, couples, small children, a mixture of ethnic groups, and there was rampant joy! There was palpable delight on people's faces. Children beamed with glee at the festival, picnic atmosphere. Why? Because these were poor people. I can't say how I knew except that one who has been there knows. I'd never seen such people so happy! A free meal and drink! The air was giddy with delight. This, for them, was the loaves and fishes. This was a moment of healing eucharist, true eucharist - not churchy solemnity, not pious pretense, not indifferent reception or meaningless prayers. This was a miracle of a godsend, a momentary gift from God, and it was gladly, joyfully received as a blessing, a pure joy.

I have rarely seen such a sight. My daughter was amazed and awed by the spectacle of such human happiness. The adults stood smiling, laughing, talking - relaxed with one another. Teenagers sat and didn't mind being with their parents. The little ones simply beamed with radiant joy. They were so happy to be near to so much happiness that I thought they might burst in holy ecstasy.

As we ate, I told Shana - "this is Eucharist! This is what the kingdom of heaven is about." And she agreed. She could see and feel it for herself. Suddenly, we all knew what it was like to sit on a hillside in Galilee and have a meal with Jesus. We were transported in time and space. It was heaven.

This is what made the early Christians so delirious with faith - healing eucharist, the loving sharing of food, the fellowship of divine gift and grace in community with Jesus of Nazareth.

We don't have this in our churches. Let's not pretend anymore that we do, but it sure could be something we can rediscover if we want. We can do it, but to receive joy, we have to trade away fear. We have to share what we have, expose our deep need to love and be loved by each other and take some risks.

Some poor people can do it because they have nothing to lose in taking risks. It is the poorest churches that are often the happiest, most joyful places.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:22 AM |

Life as we know it

I was watching some TV program the other day that featured a story about medical research on geriatrics where the researchers studied centenarians and other older people who were still in excellent health and well being. Many of the old folks were people who had done nothing special to live long and had not tried very hard to take care of themselves. Many had smoked and drunk alcohol in large quantities for much of their adult lives.

The researcher wondered if, perhaps, their long lives and freedom from disease was because of genetic factors. So he began to study the genomes to see if he could find markers and sequences that might signal a genetic disposition for health and long life.

He claimed to have found such sequences and said we might expect drugs in the near future that would mimic the genetic effect of healthy old folks.

Then I heard Steven Spielberg promoting his new movie saying that in 50 years people might start to look forward to living 150 years or so.

All of that began to make me wonder - why? Why live 150 years when 100 years of it or so will be that of a wizened human being? Ever talk to old people? You don't generally find a lot of wisdom in old folks. You won't find any more in people fifty years older than the top age now. So what will these folks offer the rest of the world? How can they serve? They will be retired from work for longer periods than they ever worked as adults. (Hoped they saved for retirement.)

For me, the most joyous aspect of human life is raising a child, but creating such would effectively end for a faithful husband at around forty when the wife becomes infertile. I can't imagine what I would do with a hundred years of infertility. Grandchildren might be nice to have but nothing really takes the place of creating and raising your own.

I am looking forward to eternal life since neither age nor disease shall have any part of it - and whatever heaven is - it will be fruitful and creative. But to live on earth as an old man for a long, long time? That doesn't really appeal to me. It would take a special kind of either egotism or ignorance to look forward to fifty more sterile years, shambling gait, and watching the pretty girls go by one's decrepit frame - and doctor's appointments, more dentistry, lots of pills to take, and wanting to drive and be in the way.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:14 AM |

Thursday, June 13, 2002  

What God cannot do

Steven den Beste at USS Clueless posits various aspects of set theory that I had no desire to engage other than his conclusions. One conclusion he makes is that the statement - "this statement is false" also turns out to not be a manifestation of imprecise language. A rigorous mathematical representation of that sentence turned out to be the foundation for Gödel's work, the basis for his famous Incompleteness Theorem. That, too, is a real paradox.

"This statement is false" is not a species of imprecise language but is simply meaningless language no matter how you slice it. It is in reference to nothing. It is not imprecise, it is senseless. It does not constitute an actual statement. "This statement" is not a statement by any real definition. I might as well say "blue is green." That makes as much sense as the above.

If den Beste wanted to prove that there are things which God cannot do, why doesn't he just say so and prove it. It's very simple to prove. The statement or notion, though, that the old nonsense question - "If God is omnipotent, can he create a rock even he can't lift?" is meaningful is sad, for it's of pure illogic and senselessness, too. Apples and oranges, for one. God is not material so how could anything he create be other than himself? Clearly, matter and spirit cannot be distinct or similar in the way the question demands - thus it is absurd on those terms and definitions alone.

Also, the idea that there are things which God cannot do, has nothing to do with omnipotence. One aspect of God logically determined is that God is essentially changeless - eternal, absolute, unchanging. Thus, he cannot change his mind. That's something God cannot do. He cannot say "I love you" and later repent or alter his condition. Same with free will. His respect for free will (essentially that which is of himself, his own being) is such that he cannot alter ours, for that would be to alter his own and to change his mind. For God, though, to change his mind would be to change his being - another thing God cannot do.

So, yes, there are metaphorical rocks which God can't lift.

The real paradox which Steven can't seem to wrestle honestly with is his absurd atheism which depends on contradictions in terms, illogic, emotional resistance, and despair. He refuses to wonder how you can get something (a universe, life, being, intelligence) from nothing.


David Heddle at He Lives explains den Beste's error much more simply than I did.

He writes: "To ask the question “Can God create a stone that he cannot lift?” is to ask whether God can violate the Law of Contradiction. He cannot. One can safely say, without being sacrilegious, that this is a limitation on God. Not even God can be both A and not A at the same time and in the same relationship. It is a question of logic, not of set theory."

posted by Mark Butterworth | 4:22 AM |

Wednesday, June 12, 2002  

No Mas. No Mas.

Marc Fisher of WaPo has an article detailing why soccer is a waste of time to Americans who pay little attention to it. (The game stinks.)

He mentions: "But our sports do not celebrate futility as soccer does. Our sports include action on a fairly regular basis. And our sports reward rigorous study."

Prior to that he says: "That soccer inspires deep emotion cannot be denied. But there turns out to be little tie between that passion and the deep analysis of strategy that is commonplace in American sports. European sportscasters seemed stunned by the second-guessing so common in U.S. sports coverage. They cannot fathom such sweet phenomena as fantasy baseball leagues, football tailgate parties or our celebration of the purity of schoolyard basketball."

It is the celebration of futility, indeed, which is soccer. How fitting that so much of Europe and the world find such a sport most appropriate to their culture. Dead end societies where nothing of much good, originality, or excitement happen. And people going berserk regardless of the outcomes. Let their team score one lousy goal, and you'd think Jesus had returned to take everyone to heaven.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 9:23 AM |

Tuesday, June 11, 2002  

Even the Pope Smokes Dope (R. Crumb, for those who remember)

Marc at Minute Particulars (link on the right) has a blog on Pope JP II's situation. In passing, he mentions "the wealth of insight in John Paul II’s many encyclicals..."

I've read his encyclicals and apart from The Gospel of Life which gave us the phrase "culture of death" and which did a fine job illustrating it, I'd have to say most of JP's work has been spiritual boilerplate and unbearably dull. As a homilist (after reading a number of his homilies in his paper, The Roman Observer), JP is sleep inducing. As an encyclist (is that a word?), his writing is equally numbing. Which is disappointing in that he once fancied himself a poet and playwrite.

John Paul has been described as both an intellectual and a mystic, but I have never seen any evidence of the kind of wit, engagement, and insight that we might associate with such a description.

I hate to say it, but frankly, I can hardly wait to see who we get next. I keep hoping JP II will resign. The job is clearly beyond his ability now, however one thinks of him, whether favorably or not. But, I guess it can't screw up the Church any worse however long he hangs on. The train just keeps rolling.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:36 AM |

Divine Rights

I haven't got an agenda for the bishops and the priest sex scandals. Zero tolerance seems excessive (since it hasn't worked well in other areas of life), but where positions of trust and power are in play do we really want policemen who have been convicted of crimes returning to the force? Prison guards caught smuggling in drugs for inmates promoted as supervisors? Doctors caught killing a patient, reclaiming their license?

We could go on and on in the same vein, but I think most people's reaction is that abuse of power in such a manner wins automatic disqualification to such an office. No one is saying a discharged priest can't be a Christian anymore. Simply that he can't hold office. What's so horrible about that?

But when you believe that God picked you (anointed like the divine right of kings) and your fellows, the notion of losing office may seem to contradict God's will, and thus ought to be untouchable - once a priest, always a priest.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:51 AM |

Another Last Word

Jimmy Tomato at Louder Fenn (link on right) noticed I said some things about his A-bomb on Japan critique and makes brief reply. I have nothing more to add.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:42 AM |