I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Published on: December 1, 2009
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  • Amen. The secular world suffers for the loss of Advent. I like the way ordinary time ends with a bang on the Feast of Christ the King, but then has a winding down of six week days, then the First Sunday of Advent. The daily readings in the Catholic Church are all about anticipation. You build up slowly and quietly but steadily toward Christmas. The rhythms of the old world are still there if people want to take advantage of them. Restoring the old Prayer Book would do the Episcopalians a world of good. Now it seems the only way they can get it is to join the communities which are realigning with Rome. How odd that is. That collect is excellent. I hope that Cranmer, despite his many crimes, managed to grab hold of the last rung, and after whatever purgatory he may have merited I hope that (as St. Thomas More said of his own executioners) we all may be merry in Heaven together some day.

  • Gary Novak

    When Johnny Silence says that it is politically necessary for LGBT folks to talk AS IF they are a racial minority he displays an indifference to the truth of the matter. Does he worry that adopting
    talking points on the basis of the supposedly limited capacity of Americans to perceive injustice might backfire. It seemed politically expedient to edit the talking points on the Libyan embassy
    attack twelve times, but when it comes out that political advantage, not truth, was the goal, it hurts the administration.

    Berger notes that it was not long ago that gays were arguing for lifestyle freedom. If they now flip flop to biology is destiny, do they not deserve the moral respect of the politician who “will say anything to get elected”? Will Americans be more inclined to sympathize with the oppression of gays
    when the public perceives the unprincipled attempt by gays to manipulate public opinion? Sometimes there is not even a short time lag between flip flops. I recently criticized sociology textbook author John Macionis for taking the
    religion out of civil religion. Here is what he says about sex: (1) “Although there is a biological ‘sex drive’ in the sense that people find sex pleasurable and may seek to engage in sexual
    activity, our biology does not dictate any specific ways of being sexual any more than our desire to eat dictates any particular foods or table manners.” (2) “A growing body of research suggests that sexual orientation is innate, or
    rooted in human biology . . ..” Both statements occur in the same chapter. I was not satisfied with Macionis’ explanation of the apparent contradiction and concluded that the first statement was made in the context of defending social constructionist sociology from sociobiological reductionism, while the second
    was made as a political defense of gays.
    Indeed, he admits as much in his text: “There is also a political issue here with great importance for gay men and lesbians. To the extent that sexual orientation is based in biology, homosexuals have no more choice about their sexual orientation than they do about their skin color.” (“Sociology”: The Basics, 2006) Earlier in the text, Macionis presented politicized sociology as a legitimate form of sociology: “In making value
    judgments about how society should be improved, critical sociology rejects the scientific claim that research should be value-free.”

    I’m picking on Macionis here because I am familiar with his text, but, as Berger pointed out in his “disinvitation to sociology,” similar examples are easily found throughout politically correct sociology. (I accepted his disinvitation and retired!)

    It is quite true that although Berger prefers moral arguments against capital punishment, he does not turn up his nose at economic arguments (“Capital Punishment and the Deficit”). But he
    would not speak “as if” something were true just out of political expediency. That’s too close to
    Goebbels: Truth is what is good for the German (or gay) people. Berger is perfectly aware of the rationale for claiming that gays are a racial minority, but he doubts the truth of that claim. Johnny Silence is silent about truth.

    • Griffonn

      Your argument leads logically to the conclusion that homosexuality is like a disability.

      The analogy with race doesn’t hold up. Homosexuality isn’t like race in any significant way.

      The argument you are making suggests that gays need to be able to have special accommodations because their dysfunction makes them incapable of living a normal life without them. That’s disability, not race.

  • johnny silence

    Yep, me & same-sex marriage, just like Goebbels and the Nazis. Godwined in record time!

  • Gary Novak

    Let me see if I can paraphrase Johnny Silence’s sentence fragments: “You are ignorantly calling
    me a Nazi—don’t you know the Nazis persecuted homosexuals?—in record time—because knee-jerk hate doesn’t require time for reflection.” (I’m afraid “Godwined” is beyond my hermeneutic skills.) My point, of course, is not that Johnny shares Nazi values but that he may share Nazi
    epistemology: truth is what is good for our side. I don’t think Macionis is a Nazi, either, but he is taking a dangerous course when he recognizes politicized sociology as legitimate. He actually writes: “Generally speaking, scientific sociology tends to appeal to researchers with more conservative political views; critical sociology appeals to those with liberal and radical-left politics.” It’s bad enough that he is suggesting that one can choose a methodology on the basis of what “appeals” to one. But notice that he is also saying that even those (like Berger) who choose scientific sociology are actually politically [conservatively] motivated. Science, in other words, is a conservative ideology. Everything is politics.

    I don’t know if Johnny shares that view or not. My point was simply that he was silent about truth. Perhaps in the circles he travels in it is taken for granted that homosexuality is, in fact, innate. If so, THAT is what he should be arguing in his response to Berger, who has already articulated the view that the claim of innate homosexuality can be politically expedient: “If sexual orientation is not a choice but a given, it is like skin color, and therefore the movement can wrap itself in the mystique of the Civil Rights Movement.”

    Sociology texts often have “boxes” which allow previously “Silenced Voices” to speak. I wonder if
    Johnny Silence sees himself as one of those voices. Is that why he doesn’t notice that his point
    has already been made by the author to whom he is responding? Perhaps all he wants to do is stay “on message” and get more exposure for his persecuted perspective. It’s not too late to make a case (preferably in complete sentences) that he is concerned with truth, not just winning.

    I have no idea why Griffon is telling me that the race analogy doesn’t hold up. I completely agree with Berger that gays should give up trying to be a racial minority.

  • Freud was a charlatan who for a couple of generations gained intellectual ascendancy in the West and had best be forgotten. Sure, he made some acute observations here and there, but mixed in with a lot of meretricious nonsense. I am opposed to making him a cultural reference point any longer even though (or perhaps because) I grew up on him and read just about everything he wrote. Ditto for Nietzsche and Marx. They are blots on Western intellectual history.

  • Anthony

    It is no coincidence that the Rights Revolutions of 20th century helped homosexual orientation acquire greater majoritarian acceptance. Given that result and as Peter Berger stated, there should be no unneccessary dichotomy (nature or nurture) in a demand consonant with deeply rooted values of democracy (especially as moral judgments are catching up with American sense of fairness).

  • I love this post.

  • Kristof

    Homosex IS. It happens. With or without affection; developmentally, accidentally, situationally, habitually, punitively, reverentially, etc. Love-making is the kernel, core and gist of the “homosexual” as a variant of the erotic. Explaining how and why homosex occurs (to whichever end) ought to take all variables into account, including those that are involuntary. But when it comes to describing dispositions, matters are more complicated, largely because of the nature of dispositions themselves [logically: potentialities].

    At least as important as the distinction between innate and learned/chosen orientation, is the distinction between sex as drive-discharge and sex as the search for union/intimacy: the distinction between the base and ennobling, lower and higher concepts of the erotic; between guilt/shame and grace. This distinction plays into our evaluation of innate v. learned dispositions, subliminally coloring the conclusions we draw by influencing empathy, and, therewith, our identifications.

    Berger is right, the distinction between innate and however one conceives of the non-innate [as extrinsic, learned, conditioned, chosen, etc.] should be irrelevant to the demand for equal treatment by the law. The partitioning of ‘natures’ according to their degree of voluntary and involuntary ought not to be the decisive issue in justifying equal treatment. Nor, as I hope to show, can it be.

    To say “innate disposition” is surely a redundancy. While “innate behavior” sounds suspect; a blank check of indeterminate value. Since genes influence everything while determining nothing, the purported innateness of the disposition to homosex must be a matter of epigentics. But doesn’t that simply restate the dilemma “nature v. nurture” in positing environmental triggers?

    Surely innate can only mean basic. The burden is on those who would discriminate against homosex practitioners to show that their preference is an unconstrained choice, not on those who invoke innateness to demonstrate why they feel so constrained. For their answer can only be the general response that voluntary and involuntary elements co-determine sexual behavior.

    We are not adjudicating a crime here, though it often seems as if our first concern when addressing the subject of human sexuality is to prevent one. Understandable enough here, considering that not long ago homosex was a commission punishable by incarceration.

    Sexual desire per se is as ‘innate’ as any hunger. One can choose not to feed oneself, of course. But no one chooses what he thinks desirable or what is noxious. The excitement occasioned by the presence of beautiful bodies is pre-conscious and spontaneous. No one chooses to have an erection. (Ergo, they are “innate”.) A human being locates himself at the intersection of freedom and nature [necessity].

    The reason the innate-learned/chosen polarity is unnecessary is that it is not specific to instances of homosex, characterizing all instances of appetitive behavior. That dichotomy is valid [intelligible] only when spelled out, i.e., dialectically articulated, in the course of which its terms are thoroughly mediated/relativized and shown to be dependent variables [parts of a totality].

    Normatively speaking, sexual orientation ought to be socio-politically irrelevant. The whole point of not discriminating on the basis of object-choice is that sexuality per se is a non-negotiable variable, in itself morally neutral, of the person. The person being the totality relevant to the socio-political. What is good for the homosexual is good for every sexual being who can and cannot ‘help it’ and must seek rescue [deliverance] in the goodness of erotic pleasure.

    The idea that discrimination ought to be proscribed only because people cannot help “choosing” the object of their affection is preposterous. We ought to proscribe it because we’re all erotically super-charged human beings aspiring to the beautiful while feeding our hungers. It’s not a question of special protections, but of non-discrimination. The normalization of homosexuality is simply its restitution as an invisible potentiality of nature.

    It’s outrageous we should be debating rights for homosexuals at all. The only reason we have to legislate non-discrimination for the sub-group “homosexual” is because of our collective monotheistic [Judaic] cultural heritage and its totalitarian tribalistic regulations [as filtered through the Pauline demonization of the erotic]. Its habit of moralistic scrutiny of other people’s sex [sin] lives paved the way for science’s categorization [discrimination] of individuals according to preferred object-choice. This taxonomy of orientations entails the identification of a totality [the person] through one constituent part. The laws being implemented to protect individuals thus partitioned are in effect cancelling the salience of their reductive [and therefore degrading] categorization by way of democracy’s great equalizers: “human being” and “citizen”. They are correcting a distortion of the “nature of things” by a collective neurosis.

    The natural state of ‘the’ homosexual, as the example of our special affiliates in the animal kingdom teaches, is to be invisible. Not hidden away, but not discerned as a deviation either. It is to be present/visible as kinsman and neighbor. No more and no less.

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