Monday, November 23, 2009

A Healing Salve for my Temper

A website that you love as well as I prompted me to read up on the Salvation Army, courtesy of their own website.

Here is what they have to say about homosexuality:


The Salvation Army holds a positive view of human sexuality. Where a man and a woman love each other, sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage. However, in the Christian view, sexual intimacy is not essential to a healthy, full, and rich life. Apart from marriage, the scriptural standard is celibacy.

Sexual attraction to the same sex is a matter of profound complexity. Whatever the causes may be, attempts to deny its reality or to marginalize those of a same-sex orientation have not been helpful. The Salvation Army does not consider same-sex orientation blameworthy in itself. Homosexual conduct, like heterosexual conduct, requires individual responsibility and must be guided by the light of scriptural teaching.

Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.

Likewise, there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for reason of his or her sexual orientation. The Salvation Army opposes any such abuse.

In keeping with these convictions, the services of The Salvation Army are available to all who qualify, without regard to sexual orientation. The fellowship of Salvation Army worship is open to all sincere seekers of faith in Christ, and membership in The Salvation Army church body is open to all who confess Christ as Savior and who accept and abide by The Salvation Army's doctrine and discipline.

Scriptures: Genesis 2:23-24; Leviticus 18:22; Mark 2:16-17; Romans 1:26-27; Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 6:9-11; I Corinthians 13; Galatians 6:1-2; I Thessalonians 4:1-8; I Thessalonians 5:14-15; I Timothy 1:15-16; Jude 7

One ought to expect that when an organization begins its commentary on homosexuality by claiming a positive view of sex that the remainder of the commentary will reveal just the opposite. I am confident that the contradictions in the above are clear enough for an attentive reader.

Here is an excerpt from their stance on abortion:

It [The Salvation Army] is opposed to abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection or for any reason of mere convenience to avoid the responsibility for conception. Therefore, when an unwanted pregnancy occurs, The Salvation Army advises that the situation be accepted and that the pregnancy be carried to term, and offers supportive help and assistance with planning.

The Salvation Army recognizes tragic and perplexing circumstances that require difficult decisions regarding a pregnancy. Such decisions should be made only after prayerful and thoughtful consideration, with appropriate involvement of the woman's family and pastoral, medical and other counsel. A woman in these circumstances needs acceptance, love and compassion.

Neatly bundled, this passage carries all the apologies of sexism and the dislike for women as intellectual and moral beings. First, "the responsibility of conception": one does not ovulate with premeditation. Given the persistent efforts of christian organizations to limit access to birth control (for example, cutting funding to and protesting Planned Parenthood; and advocating for abstinence-only education), equating conception with responsibility--and limiting this, too, by physiological necessity, to the responsibility of women--is at best patronizing, certainly and flagrantly underestimates the complexity of pregnancy, and at worst constitutes a violent appropriation of the bodies of women by the church. This holds even if the Army does not itself actively discourage birth control; objective political reality denies any scrupulously made argument which equates responsibility to conception.

The second maneuver that acts to cut women off from agency with respect to their bodies is played softly here; while it is true that I may be over-reading, the point I would like to make here is surely applicable to other anti-choice arguments. We may notice that, after patronizing the woman whom they fully intend to speak for, she is directed to be sure to seek first the council of God and her family, pastor and doctor. Two of these people are men, one of whom likely doesn't exist and likelier still will not answer even the most sincere calls for help and advice, and the other is bound already to a dogmatic and unsympathetic refusal of consideration. The other two are surely great resources (I ought not to sell pastors short in advance, but I'm being polemical, so indulge me) and I would of course suggest to anyone considering (and I mean that term strictly) and abortion to turn to just such people for sought-after advice. But to suggest to know that a woman is incapable of deciding for herself what best to do with her body, after you yourself have already told her there is only one legitimate option (bearing the child) reveals the unspoken assumption that women--especially those irresponsible enough to have sex before first offering themselves up as a man's property, I mean getting married oops--lack the capacity for intelligent moral deliberation, and more specifically are stupid enough to hear you say "no never do this" and then take you seriously when you follow that up with "but if you want to anyway, be sure to ask for advice first" (This followup ought more properly to read: but be sure to give me enough time to guilt you into doing what you already have decided is wrong).

I recognize that my tone is a little strong; I'm cranky today and this is a good way to cheer me up. I will happily acknowledge that the Salvation Army has done a great deal to help a great many, and that the policy stated on their website is to aid even those whom they feel behave immorally (like by having sex with the loved ones you won't let them marry). There are surely better targets for my anger and frustration, and I will gladly indulge in being mean to them--I'm looking at you, Mark Driscoll, you misogynist, ignorant tool--and I apologize for making a charitable organization the object of my ridicule...though I'd be much happier if they'd also apologize for being bigots. The ethical dilemma, dear reader, is yours to resolve: do you withhold your funding on the grounds of principle, or do you compromise by funding the good actions of an unethical organization (we all pay taxes after all). I have the advantage of being too poor to worry about whom I give my money to.

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