Sunday, June 26, 2011

Religion and Homosexuality

There!  I'll bet that title grabbed some attention!

These are just a few hurried, rambling thoughts sparked by a comment I heard an evangelical Protestant Christian make wherein he opined that the public acceptance of homosexuality meant a civilisation was only a generation away from collapse....

I doubt this is so, though I must admit I have not made a study of this.  Usually when statements like this are made, references to ancient Rome follow quickly [as they did in this case].  It is amazing actually that the fall of the Roman empire [in the West.......] still looms so large in our perceptions here in the 21st century.  

But, back on track, in classical Greece, homosexuality was an integral part of its culture -  not a sign of its end, or approaching end.  My reading on this is way out of date, but the last time I looked at the literature by specialists, heterosexuality was a viewed as a regrettable necessity to ensure children and the running of a household.  Love was properly confined to older male with younger male.  

Rome, on the other hand,  in its traditional morality was a warrior culture, a legalistic culture, an engineer's paradise - and homosexuality was not part of this schema.  The conquest of Greece by Rome brought not only philosophy, poetry, history, art... but also homosexuality.But for Romans this was delectable forbidden fruit - and may indeed have been a part of a long, slow decline.  It did not take a generation, however, but many generations - Greek culture entered Rome several hundred years before the collapse in the West.  

When Rome began to integrate Christian morality into public morality, I would guess [but simply do not know] that there were sparks flying.  I do know that part of the internal debate in Christianity in the ancient world, was whether to integrate Greek philosophy into Christian theology.  But, I suspect that the rejection of the homosexual component of Greek civilisation was easier for the Latin West to accept as it accorded more closely with traditional Roman morality.  I wish I knew how the cultural Greek Christian East handled this, but I do not.

Today, we have a rapid acceptance of public homosexuality -but this acceptance is a very different thing than the situation in ancient Rome. We have, not a kind of decadent, prurient pleasure in forbidden fruit, but the gradual construction of a moral system which integrates homosexuality as evidence of a positive 'good'.  There is an obvious irony here, or maybe not so obvious.......   This new moral code rests on individualism as the ultimate good in society.  The irony comes from this elevation of individualism to being next to godliness - for western individualism comes out of Christianity and its concern for the individual soul as a primary focus of a relationship with God, of preaching, of practice [taking communion, confession, evangelical conversion experiences, doing good, doing evil, strictures on speech, action] ... in short a profound individualism is integral to Christianity.  Being social animals westerners formed 'church' - but 'church' almost immediately split into factions, which grew out of individual thinkers disputing other thinkers.  Christians concerned about the fractiousness of their faith go on a lot about 1054, or 1517, forgetting those who rejected 325. or forgetting the churches that Paul spent a lot of time chastising......

I doubt [and here I am farther out on a limb] that Islam will ever accept homosexuality as Islam is not at heart an individualistic faith, but more essentially communitarian with its concern for the ummah, for example.  I wish I knew more about Hinduism in this regard, which is very different....Buddhism is popular in the West as it is highly individualistic......well, another thought strikes me as I go over different faiths in my mind - only Christianity, Judaism and Islam seem to care all that much about homosexuality.  

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