Homosexuality is not merely a religious issue.
But the immorality of same-sex relations is not just a religious issue. Homosexual activity is wrong not because the Bible forbids it. Rather, the Bible forbids it because it is wrong. Why is it wrong? Because it violates natural law, which is based on reason, not faith.
Natural law has to do with the fundamental goods we humans naturally incline to and the principles that govern our pursuit of them. These goods, which are essential to our personhood, include life, truth, community and creativity. By engaging in them, we fulfill our human mandate. Both civil and religious authorities endorse natural law when they rule against murder, which attacks life, or perjury which attacks truth. They also endorse natural law when they rule against sexual irregularities, which attack community, life, or both.
Chastity has long been treated as both a moral and a civic virtue. In different times and places, leaders of Church and State have recognized that chastity supports the family and contributes to the common good. Caesar Augustus, a pagan, attempted to restore chastity in a decadent Roman society to strengthen his newly founded empire. He outlawed adultery and sodomy and encouraged marriage and procreation.
At the basis of natural law is a recognition of the difference between good and evil. God conveys a sense of what ought to be. Evil conveys the opposite. The notion of what ought to be arises from our awareness of completeness versus incompleteness.
When, for example, we appreciate that we can see, that we are visually complete, we recognize that this is as it ought to be, because seeing is what humans are naturally able to do. If, however, we are blind, visually incomplete, we recognize that this is not as it ought to be, because it negates what humans are naturally able to do. To be sighted, then, is good, physically, not morally. To be blind is evil, also physically, not morally. Evil is not the mere absence of good. Evil is deficiency, the absence of good that is required. We do not consider it evil when we cannot fly. Although flight is good, flying is not something humans are naturally able to do. Our lack of flight is not the absence of a good that is required. It is not a deficiency and therefore is not physically evil.
Morality is about duties and rights. When these are at stake, good and evil become right and wrong. "Ought" becomes a moral, not simply a physical, imperative.
Ethically speaking, our first duty is to do good and shun evil. This is what we call a self-evident principle. No reasonable person holds that we should do evil and shun good.
Vision, to return to our example, is not only a human faculty but, in a sense, it is the object of a right. We claim a right to see because vision affects significantly our ability to complete our human mandate. Consequently, for someone to deliberately blind us would not only be physically evil but also morally wrong.
What has this got to do with homosexual activity? Well, as I indicated, the goods fundamental to sex are community and life. In its very nature and meaning, human sexuality is both relational (community) and procreative (life). Only the heterosexual union, however, is capable of affirming both the relational and procreative goods.
The homosexual union, on the other hand, is not open to the procreative good. Although it engages procreative organs, it does so in a context that is alien to procreation. Not only particular homosexual acts but the entire relationship denies this fundamental human good.
In doing so, it renders human sexuality incomplete. But as we saw, incompleteness, the absence of a required good, is the definition of evil. When fundamental human goods are at stake, evil is something we ought never to choose.
The point is that you recognize that a rational (i.e. secular) argument exists. That makes it inappropriate to talk about imposing religion or violating the separation of Church and State. There is such a thing as public morality, including the civic virtue of chastity. Emperor Augustus saw this, but it was too late to overcome the sexual licence of the late Roman Republic. That was the real reason why it collapsed.
Joe Campbell writes from Saskatoon SK. His last article on the same topic in our magazine, "Reason versus homosexuality," appeared in May 1998.
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|Date:||Oct 1, 2004|
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