A RESPONSE TO DON MITCHELL
By Gordon Hazell
An Expert Publishes a Paper
The altogether egalitarian society that comprises of Anguillian people and those who have joined us from beyond our shores has afforded us the freedom to express our thoughts freely without fear of governmental victimization or prosecution. Mr. Don Mitchell has definitely taken advantage of this ideal on many occasions as he has publicly voiced his disdain for ideas pertaining to Christian faith and particularly his displeasure regarding the traditional Christian worldview. This is no less true in his recent published piece, “Homophobia Runs Rampant in Anguilla.” Mr. Mitchell has yet again taken up arms in his struggle to rid Anguilla of what connection it has to traditional moral values.
Needless to say, this is no surprise that he has taken this opportunity to attack the faith and ethics of Christians in Anguilla; especially Evangelical Christians who hold to a conservative theology and code of ethics. What is surprising, though, is the fact that this piece, for one of Mr. Mitchell’s credentials woefully lacks the poise and scholarship expected in dealing with such matters as was attempted in his paper.
From an overarching viewpoint, the sentiment of the paper wreaks of vitriolic tone, sarcastic satire, tremendous misunderstanding of the terms and ideas concerning Homosexuality, gay marriage, and worst of all an unfair treatment of the Biblical material explored in trying to make his point. In this response, the ideas and sentiments of Mr. Mitchell’s paper will be addressed and countered, as they fail miserably to conclusively show that the truly Christian response to the advance of the GLBT agenda is at best unfounded and at worst case problematic. There are so many angles of attack that may be attempted in order to deal with the matters expressed here, so the readers patience is requested.
Homosexual Men and Women
Mr. Mitchell wasted absolutely no time in setting his point. He laid out his definitions and proceeded based on such definitions to make his case. He posits,
Homosexual men and women are those that love another person of their own gender. Homosexuality is the natural inclination to be sexually aroused by a member of the same gender. It is not an act as such, nor is it a state of morality. It is a state of being, a state of nature.
Assuming that these definitions are settled in the lexicons which guide our semantic directions, Mr. Mitchell did nothing to actually interface with the conservative Christian position where this is concerned. He fails to realize that based on normal ethical considerations neither the “love” felt for someone of the same sex nor the “natural inclination to be sexually aroused by a member of the same gender,” gives grounds for pursuing and identifying with the behavior associated with such tendencies. In fact, the very foundation of conservative Christian thought expresses the fact that Sin, emerges first, not as an activity, but as a condition of the heart. It is first an arousal of attraction and stimulation of intrinsic motivation toward what opposes divine order (See Biblical passage James 1:14-16). Conservative Evangelical theology does not side step the natural inclination toward sin, regardless of what sin is addressed. What it does tell us is that following through and identifying with such inclinations and purposefully engaging in such a lifestyle is an affront to the creative purposes of God.
Furthermore, homosexuality, both as a concept and experience, cannot be explained as simply an attraction or arousal (though they may very well be involved in the process). If the actual sexual activity is not involved, such cannot be called Homosexuality. The acts themselves solidify the tendencies. What is it without the act? Nothing more than a state of mind or emotion. Therefore, the conservative Christian position is that while the tendencies may exist, the person experiencing such attraction is called upon to deny self, exercise self-discipline and esteem the commands of his creator above his own feelings. He/she is called upon to resist the temptation to engage in such activity.
What we see here is a principle throughout Scripture regarding any and all sin. All sexual urges toward Premarital Sex, Sex with a partner that is not with one’s heterosexual spouse, Pornography et al, are to be treated this way; resistance to such temptations and control of our emotions. But there seems to be a growing trend over the decades which promotes a serious lack of discipline among our people. We have grown weak and have determined that our feelings, urges, attractions, etc. should be accepted without question. This has bred an increasingly lazy society in general and most definitely when it comes to handling our personal passions. This is no less true for the almost climaxed situation of sexual chaos among our people in our present time.
Mr. Mitchell, for some reason, seems to misunderstand the concept of “natural” in a few ways.
1) One’s hand dexterity is not natural. It is learned as the child grows into his first 18 months and utilizes the one hand that is trained to be the dominant hand. Parents (as much as most do not do this) can focus the activity toward one hand or another. So if what he means by natural is that a person can without training emerge with one hand or the next as dominant then we can perhaps agree that homosexual tendencies are not as natural as he might want to let on. Where do I begin citing the many studies that have been conducted which show sexual orientation as learned behavior, stimulated by many various circumstances which trigger sexual motivation toward the same sex? Where do I begin citing the millions of persons who have lived the homosexual lifestyle who have at one point permanently rejected it for a heterosexual monogamous marriage?
2) Butterflies, dogs, and cows are not human beings. The distinction has to be made clear. The concept of moral volition can never be applied to the animals in the same way we human beings operate. But of course, as will be underscored later, Mr. Mitchell has no basis for this concept, even as an expert in law. There is, in his overall worldview, no place for a transcendent moral foundation for mankind. He has been known for his vocal opposition to the existence of a creator and the Christian worldview at large. So obviously an a priori acceptance of neo-Darwinism may be in play here. But Mr. Mitchell knows that there is no human law court governing the animal kingdom nor does animal norms dictate human morals. There are no human ideals and moral judgments among Cows. Only Human beings claim a moral standard (whatever that is) that is objective and stands above our own societal moorings. When we assert the legal or criminal nature of a particular act or lifestyle we are not asserting something that was simply agreed upon by the majority or society at large. We are saying that this is the law for everyone, regardless of his or her agreement or disagreement. This is not animal behavior. Furthermore, why are we even encouraged to view human moral behavior in light of what the animals do? Since when do the animals behavior serve as the standard for ours?
Finally, Mr. Mitchell in his use of “Men and Women” overlooks a major point in the conservative Christian ideal. We are men and Women, and that for a reason. We are formed in the way we are (under normal biological processes) for a particular purpose between us. With all his focus on homosexuality being “natural”, he has forgotten (or neglected) the fact that men are naturally formed with penises for sexual interfacing with women who are naturally formed with vaginas in order to exchange reproductive fluids for the possibility of conception and bearing of children. This is the natural purpose for men and women being what they are biologically. Of course, there are those who in some genetic anomaly are born as intersex or dual sex. But these cases are so sparsely rare that their existence does not negate the normal biological reality.
Right, Wrong, or What?
In addition, Mr. Mitchell claims that sexual expression is not a state of morality. This sentiment obviously comes from a system of thought which casts off any objective, transcendent moral foundations and places ethical conclusions at the mercy of the individual. But this is a no brainer. Of course sexuality is a state of morality and Mr. Mitchell clearly understands this as he writes his paper (or so it seems). The only problem is that he writes out of two sides of his mouth (if that is possible), contradicting himself in the most principled forms. Mr. Mitchell’s entire paper brings with it the idea that it is wrong for conservative Christians to express their opposition toward the advancement of Homosexuality among us. He is thus making a strong statement of moral persuasion; a moral judgment that there is nothing wrong with Homosexuality and that it need not incur the dissent of those who disagree. So his claim that it is not a state of morality simply does not hold up. Why would he even write a paper if he did not sense some moral motivation for doing so? If it is not a state of morality then Mr. Mitchell’s rant is unnecessary. His is simply a false idea easily debunked.
Moreover, one need not look around very far before the pandemonium of failed families due to sexual infidelity becomes apparent. One need not look far to observe generations of children growing up without the stability and character building experience of both parents married with children under one roof; not to mention the degradation of these children’s role in our community. One need not look very far to see the emotional damage and numbing experienced by the many men and women who have been irreparably broken by reckless and fruitless sexual pursuits. And that is just a sample of the issues pertaining to heterosexual relationships. The concerns regarding homosexuality are just as or even in some cases more serious. The high rates of domestic abuse among same-sex couples (according to Centers for Disease Control and US Department of Justice Studies in 2010), the increased risk of diseases (not even remotely related to HIV/AIDS), the high rates of depression and anxiety, the doubling of suicide rates, low lifespans etc. (See CARM online article Homosexuality Doesn’t Harm Anyone). It is a tremendously moral issue and to ignore its moral character is to be naïve at best or at worst case, willfully ignorant.
The feet of Homophobia in Anguilla
The title speaks loudly. It was meant to. Its hyperbolic intention is evident. But Mr. Mitchell well knows that the unaware will gasp at such a claim thinking “What a horrible situation. How can these people be so homophobic?” So allow for some clarification.
First, let’s be honest. Let us calm down the exaggeration. Let us clear up the confusion and think with a level head. What is homophobia? According to Mr. Mitchell, it is
an irrational hatred felt towards homosexual men and women. It is an exaggerated, irrational or extreme fear of gay men or lesbian women. It is a mental state most commonly found in backward, rural areas, and not tolerated among urban and more thoughtful persons. It is best viewed as a form of mental illness, appearing strongest among persons who secretly doubt their own sexuality.
This is Rampant in Anguilla? Really Mr. Mitchell? A few questions are in order here. Do you know anyone in Anguilla that feels “an irrational hatred” toward homosexuals? Have you interacted with anyone that possesses an “exaggerated, irrational or extreme fear of gay men or lesbian women?” Perhaps you know of one or two persons who exhibits such. Perhaps it is just one person’s actions over the past few days that have caused you to think so. But this hardly amounts to “rampant” doesn’t it?
Additionally, what actions or speech or interactions among Anguillians have you equated with your above definitions? Does simply expressing disagreement with or opposition toward homosexuality or Gay marriage constitute this exaggerated, irrational, or extreme fear? If the majority of Anguillians take the position against homosexuality, is this what you mean by homophobia? Is this “mental state” diagnosed because of a normal espousal of conservative biblical ideals?
And to my fellow conservative Evangelical Anguillians who stand with the traditional sexual ethic, do you realize that in this piece you have been labeled ‘mentally ill’, ‘unthoughtful’, ‘backward’, and that many of you doubt your own sexuality? Is this the kind of scholarly treatment of the conservative sexual ethic that we should be taking seriously in thoughtful consideration of our own views on the homosexual controversy?
Mr. Mitchell, your ax to grind against the Christian worldview is well known, but we would have at least appreciated it if you would have actually taken the time to engage in meaningful argumentation rather than mudslinging. This would be much more helpful to the conversation than the ridiculous ad hominem attacks in this paper.
The Eye of the Typhoon
Paragraph 3 cites a few statistics showing the minority status of the homosexual population. All this to assert that “Everywhere that 100 Anguillians are gathered, somewhere between 1.5% and 4% of them are guaranteed to be gay or lesbian.” No, Mr. Mitchell, such statistics do no render that conclusion true. There might be a few persons identifying with and engaging the Homosexual lifestyle, and there may be a few experiencing same-sex attraction, but that in no way leads to the conclusion that this identity must be embraced or promoted. What is and what should be are two opposite things.
The balance of the “paper” truly demonstrates the deep angst felt by its author. The shocking first statement of the following paragraph still has the stun effect for those familiar with the worldview of the author. “God made us all, both homosexual and heterosexual.” Is that so? Has Mr. Mitchell finally embraced the existence of God? If so, which God? And if it is not Yahweh the creator described in the writings of the Bible, who? And what does he know about this god? Where does he gather this information about his creation of homosexuals and heterosexuals? Did they have a conversation about this? If the first question is no, then, again I would ask, why the use of insult to the conservative Christian’s intelligence?
Furthermore, as have been alluded to above, If Mr. Mitchell believes that we are created by God, hasn’t the creation of male and female in each of their biological anatomy settled the matter? “Have you not read that in the beginning God made them male and female?” (Matthew 19:4). This is the word of Jesus, the Creator in the flesh. He did not create any homosexuals and affirmed this in his teachings the creative reality. If he did, their biological and genetic construction would reflect such. Now one may not want to positively appraise the words of Jesus written by Matthew (obviously based on the rest of the piece Mr. Mitchell does not), but nonetheless conservative Evangelical Christians take it seriously and have the Bible as the particular source giving us our assessment of this matter. Where does Mr. Mitchell gather his ideas concerning the creation and human sexuality, the wind, the ground, the fire?
Once again, I wonder where is the scholar Mr. Don Mitchell in this hit piece? These matters have been argued at per-reviewed journal and book length by many top scholars in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, anthropology, sociology, law, religion, and theology the world over. The best of minds taking apart the issues without attacking the people holding the position they oppose. They look realistically at the situation, conduct real studies (which show different statistics and conclusions from study to study because of margins of error and other statistical factors that may give differing results) they don’t simply make up claims based on an immediate emotional response. Mr. Mitchell’s paper does none of this, even when citing statistics, no analysis of the stats to bring out a relevant conclusion is done. This is a hit piece with literally no weight of argumentation undergirding it.
His question, “Why then do some of us in Anguilla, who call ourselves Christian, get so worked up at the thought that a few among us naturally love another person of the same gender?” demonstrates a major deficiency in his knowledge of the conservative Evangelical worldview.
First, some of us might be passionate concerning this matter but that does not equal hatred, fear, nor does it signal whatever mental illness he would have us labeled has suffering from. Second, not all sins are equal in weight, though they may all be equal in essence as sin. All sexual relations apart from monogamous marriage covenant is a violation of God’s purpose for sex. But Homosexuality directly flies in the face of the fundamental created precedent. While sex before marriage, or with someone other than the marriage partner is definitely decried in Christian Scripture, Homosexuality violates in ways that the aforementioned sins do not. It goes a step further in distorting the normal purpose for sexuality regardless of whether legal marriage is involved or not.
One may not want to take the Biblical writings seriously, indeed one may dismiss them as invalid for whatever reason, and one may want to accept a revisionist interpretation of them, but that they speak of homosexuality as abomination such as is not spoken of with premarital sex is very clear. Does that make it excusable? Absolutely not. In fact, the fact that the heat surrounding fornication has simmered so much and that it has become such an accepted norm in our society is a shame. Regardless to what is legal, the Christian worldview gives no place for such behavior to be accepted. “Marriage is an honorable thing among all and sex between the married couple is not a defiled thing. But sexual perversion and adultery God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4). So if one wants, he/she can hurl the charge of hypocrisy at that case, but by no means does this mean that because one sin is not attacked that the other is to be accepted. Both need to be dealt with.
But let us answer the question. “Why get so worked up?” The answer is so simple it’s embarrassing. Evangelicals, by and large believe that if such an embrace of and identity with homosexuality is in reality a cause for judgment by the creator, it would not be in the best interest for the few to be left alone to continue in the very thing that brings judgment on them. Furthermore, if we take the biblical principle of Gods judgment upon nations seriously, it would not be in the best interest of the nation to accept into law what God regards as unlawful. Surely Mr. Mitchell would understand this, given the thoughtful scholar that he is. It’s that simple. The opposition of the Evangelical community is inherently oriented toward protecting our people from the impending judgment of God against all who engage in such perversion of his creation. Mr. Mitchell should know this, being the scholar that he is.
But let us not get too excited. Let us at least acknowledge Mr. Mitchell’s feeble attempt at mentioning a couple of the pieces of Biblical material that are the typical targets of such revisionist attack. But not before taking him to task yet again for his ad hominem insults. “Evangelical Christian Cultists?” He surely has not taken the time to look at the many treatments of these passages from an Evangelical standpoint. All of which have shown that there is no discrepancy in the Christian ethic between the prohibition of sexual perversions and food, clothing, and agricultural practices.
Let us admit the colossal failure of the 20th/21st Century Evangelical community to address the issue of homosexuality on the popular level (as opposed to the scholarly) such that the normal street-level thinker can understand these matters. To our shame we have not spent the time in our church communities to tease out the seeming contradictions and address the questions arising out of the Biblical thoughts. This our pastors and Bible teachers must come to terms with and repent of our laziness and neglect of serious biblical and theological exposition in general and specifically with the matter of Homosexuality and Scripture. But having done that, we bust return to the task of addressing the passages pertaining to Homosexuality and build our theology of sexuality from a thorough yet comprehensive exegesis of all the Biblical material on the matter.
Let’s face it. Turning to Leviticus and simply citing passages in the Holiness Code as basis for prohibition of sexual perversion (specifically homosexual practice) without dealing with the pertinent theological concepts that settle it as universal and timeless principle, is a bad idea. The Bible is not one book. It is a collection of writings. A library of sorts which, when handled correctly across its spectrum and considering the biblical authors intention for his statements, will produce the conservative viewpoint. Only reading our own ideas into the text will produce the kinds of postmodern revisionism that is so prevalent.
It is certainly more than the Leviticus Holiness Code and the Romans 1 description of the depravity of man. It is a description of Old Covenant and New Covenant, the New being better than the Old (That’s what the writer to the Hebrews conveys). The Old covenant laid the foundation in very specific ways for life as part of the Israelite nation as a people. The New Covenant comprehensively synthesized the entirety of Old Covenant theology, the essence of which is the person, incarnation, and atonement/resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, who is called the Messiah. All of the ethical considerations in the New Testament are focused on the Gospel; the Good News of God’s redemption from Sin’s penalty, power, and presence, the very sins that include sexual perversion of God’s created purpose.
So while the New Testament carries forth the fundamental principles of sexual morality, there are other specifics that have been absorbed into the gospel in ways that render them fulfilled in Christ. The entire holiness Code of Leviticus was ordered with the purpose of distinguishing the Israelite people apart from their pagan, idol worshipping neighbors, who committed all forms of debauchery as part of their religious rituals (including human sacrifice and temple prostitution (including homosexual prostitution)). The Holiness Code set the precedent to totally distinguish the Israelite practices from that of their pagan neighbors. The gospel of the New Covenant has taken the Holiness code and moved it deeper toward the motivations of the heart and not just the outward actions. Sexual lust alone is seen by Christ as equal to the actual sexual act though not divorced from it.
Also, the focus of the gospel is not the people of ethnic Israel. It is the entire world of peoples. Its ethic is not specific to food and clothing and agriculture which are rendered clean in God’s sight (See Acts 10). Yet the sexual ethic of the Old Covenant has been carried through as a fundamental part of the human norm in the new covenant as part of God’s holiness ideal for all people. And this is just the tip of the iceberg (for a comprehensive, concise treatment of the holiness code and homosexuality see Matt Slick’s online article “A man who lies with a man”).
Continued Insults and Bad Scripture use
Mr. Mitchell seems to thrive on belittling his opponents. I wonder why, throughout the paper, does he continue to resort to this tactic. Perhaps whatever arguments he can muster up, he knows they cannot stand up to scrutiny. He seems not to realize that for many centuries the vast majority of intellectual, scientific, and sociological development came from the Bible as motivation for such inquiry. The good scholar even takes a definite stab at the writings of the Apostle Paul. Has he actually read and understood Paul’s thoughts on the place and role of women? Does he truly take the time to grasp the contextual thrust of what Paul is saying? If so, where does he come up with the charge of Misogyny?
And yet again, Mr. Mitchell quotes a passage of scripture to make his point without considering that there is a whole Bible to interpret. And he is walking lock-step with the postmodern redefinition of love without actually looking at the intention of Paul in his writing. Love in his mind is one that accepts the actions of someone unconditionally regardless of conscience. 1) If that is love in Mr. Mitchell’s eyes, then where is the love that is to be shown to the misguided, mentally ill Evangelical cultists he is so vehemently attacking in this paper? (Love is not proud nor rude, Mr. Mitchell). 2) Did he actually read the passage? As much as Love is Kind and patient; Love is not irritable (Mr. Mitchell? Are you there?). “Love does not get joy from evil (Homosexuality – along with other vices – according to our faith is evil) but gets joy from the truth.” The problem with our postmodern concept of love is that it has no place for truth. But Love cannot exist without truth. If I am honest with my conscience I cannot say I love someone and simply allow them to do what is against God and incur judgment to him/herself. I must be honest, or I would be lying if I say I love that person. So Even when attempting to use our own scriptures against us Mr. Mitchell fails to think through it correctly.
Mr. Mitchell continues attempting to address the Biblical material, claiming that “Jesus had very little to say in the Gospels on the questions of human sexuality and morality.” To this, I counter, “So what?” If Jesus had one statement concerning human sexuality it is a weighty statement and binding on us just as if he was quoted many more times. This is a logical fallacy that says that something must be repeated in the Bible many times by the same author for us to take it seriously. Also, why would Jesus have to address Homosexuality to the Israelite people who had already solidified the Holiness Code in their community? It would have been silly for Jesus to address something that was a non-issue.
Mr. Mitchel continues his terrible use of scripture to justify calling us homophobes and recommending us to the psychiatric ward citing the John 8 account of the woman caught in adultery. Setting aside the important textual critical discoveries that have shown this passage to be a late forger’s addition to the text, rendering it a fictitious insertion and not an authoritative apostolic passage, if Mr. Mitchell was even the basic of biblical students, were he to take this passage seriously he would have had to take it as a whole, including Jesus final words to the woman “I don’t condemn you either. Now go and discontinue your sin.” This is the essence of the gospel message.
Whoever inserted this seemingly apocryphal story into the gospel of John, whether it is to be regarded as fictional or not, knew that this is summary of Christ’s teaching and that it is what he practiced. Jesus didn’t condemn the woman. He forgave her. The very fact that she needed to be forgiven and not condemned meant that she was guilty of sin. Jesus by his statement acknowledged that she sinned. But he instructed her, by virtue of his forgiveness, to discontinue her sin. This is no different to the message Evangelical Christians proclaim. Repentance (turning away from sin) and acceptance (forgiveness in Christ) and continual life of pursuing God’s will.
Is this what ministers of the Christian faith must burn in Hell eternally for? Is not this the message we are called to proclaim? We do not wish the damnation of sinners. We wish for and call for sinners to be reconciled to God by forsaking their identity in their sin and finding eternal identity in Jesus Christ and his Cross, Resurrection and Intercession before the father.
Mr. Mitchell’s paper is filled with more contradiction than what he perceives the Old Testament sexual ethic to contain. It lacks any meaningful argumentation that actually addresses the Conservative Evangelical concern regarding Homosexuality as a social norm. Yet it is full of the vitriol and mishandling of both statistics and the Biblical material in pursuit of his conclusions. He purposely insults those of us who take the conservative treatment of the Bible at least seriously enough to defend our belief in its teachings even if some of us have done a shabby job at explaining it.
We are not Homophobes, Mr. Mitchell, we simply exercise our right to disagree with the revisionist sexual ethic that is fast becoming the norm and headed toward legal adaptation in Anguilla. I have not even discussed the ramifications of gay marriage which has practically destroyed religious liberty in the United States and Canada. I somehow wonder if this paper is a preamble to the silencing of us mentally ill cultists by means of legal statute in the future? Does this signal the gagging of our freedoms of speech? Will Mr. Mitchell (the former judge) and those of his persuasion champion the implementation of the gay rights and gay marriage laws of our mother country insomuch that they will force Christians to support what has long been held as abomination among us? Will our photographers, florists, Bakers and caterers be muscled into submission in support of a lifestyle that we oppose as a matter of conscience? Perhaps in another paper the scholar will engage this matter with some form of maturity as he actually thinks through the issues that rise up out of the homosexual controversy.