Read in a news article about Governor Rick Perry of Texas:
Governor Rick Perry, of Texas was recently speaking at an event in San Francisco when he was asked by a member of the audience about the Texas Republican Party’s platform language allowing Texans to seek voluntary counseling to be “cured” of being gay. Perry remarked that he did not know if such therapy worked. He was further asked by the event moderator if he thought homosexuality was a disorder. Perry responded, “Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that. I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.” There was a murmur of disbelief in the crowd.
It puzzles me that there would be a murmur of disbelief. Do people actually think they have no control over themselves? On reflection, I do not think the murmuring was in not believing they have a choice in how to behave, but rather a disbelief that Governor Perry would even suggest they should choose not to act according to their orientation. There are several issues in this story that I want to address.
The first issue is more an issue of fact. The fact is that regardless of our genetically driven inclinations, we do have choice in what we do. This is what Governor Perry was saying. Let me give you a personal example. I am heterosexual. Over my lifetime I have encountered many women I found attractive. Under differing circumstances I might have pursued them with the hopes of getting to know them better and more intimately. However, as a married man I chose not to, choosing to maintain fidelity towards my spouse, whom I love. Some men, whose moral code is different from mine, will choose infidelity. In either case, fidelity or infidelity, it comes down to choice, even though the genetic inclination is the same. Catholic Priests have the same genetic code as other men, but take a vow of celibacy. That is a choice they make when choosing to enter the priesthood. The bottom line, while sexual orientation may not be a choice, engaging in sexual behavior is a choice.
The next objection one would hear on this point is “why should I deprive myself of sexual gratification, if I am gay?” To this I would reply, “It depends on your professed moral code.” If homosexual sex is not a violation of your moral code, then you do not deprive yourself. On the other hand, if you profess to a moral code that would not approve of homosexual sex, then you should not so engage.
As an aside, when I mentioned the moral code of other men, I specifically avoided using language attaching moral value. Instead I referred to a moral code as “different” from mine. For many men who would pursue infidelity, they are not merely differently moral but immoral, a violation of morality. Let me explain. In most marriage vows, the parties pledge fidelity to each other. Fidelity becomes a sacred promise, meant to be kept. Morally, when we make a promise, we have an obligation to keep the promise. The moral obligation to keep a promise is so strong in our society that it has even been codified in common law. The bottom line is that, for many men and women, infidelity is immoral, being a violation of their professed moral code, i.e. their marriage vows.
The second issue I want to address is the “murmurs of disbelief” from the audience. What the “murmurs of disbelief” tells me is that those doing the murmuring did not like what they heard. To this I say “so what?” Governor Perry has every right to express his beliefs.
Freedom of speech does not mean you have freedom of speech only when you say things people want to hear. I do not dispute that gays have the legal right to be openly and freely gay. But their rights do not trump my freedom of religion and freedom of speech. The problem, as I see it, gays are not only asserting their right to be gay, but also demanding that everyone else, not only accept them, but also vocally validate their sexual behavior as morally acceptable and participate in their lifestyle choices. This is where the conflicts arise.
We have read the news story about the baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. Unfortunately, a judge said he had to bake the cake. In a related story, a Tennessee owner of a print shop refused to print T-shirts for a gay customer who wanted slogans promoting the gay lifestyle printed on the T-shirts. The owner of the print shop has been accused of being a bigot and a hater, when he is neither. He just did not want to print something that he believes violate his Christian principles because printing the T-shirts would make it appear that, by association, he supported what the slogans communicated. He was not discriminating against gay people. He was discriminating against printing material he found offensive. For this same reason, I believe the judge in the baker’s case was wrong. The baker was not discriminating against gay customers, but was discriminating against making a product that would cause it to appear, by association, that he supported gay marriage. The gay couple’s rights were not violated. There were other bakers in the area who would be willing to bake the cake for them. The government should not be forcing a person to violate his religious principles. As a concerned citizen, gay or not, we should not be asking people to do things that would violate their Christian principles when it is not an issue of discriminating against a person.
The gay community needs to quit labeling Conservative Christians as haters, intolerant, or bigots, merely because they express a Christian viewpoint. It is the gay community that appears to be intolerant. Not long ago, the head of a large corporation was fired because he had supported California’s proposition 8 a few years ago. When the gay community learned he had once given money in support of prop 8, they created an uproar, demanding his ouster, and got it. That is intolerance, especially when there was absolutely no evidence that the man had ever discriminated against gays in the workplace. He merely supported a piece of legislation in which he believed, which is his right to do.
Christians have a right to be Christian as much as you have a right to be gay. If I say I believe it is against God’s law to engage in homosexual sex, I am merely stating what I believe. I am not hating you or being intolerant of you, or being a bigot. My stating that has nothing to do with how I relate to you professionally or as a friend, or as a Christian. Your being gay is not the sum total of who you are. It is only a part of who you are. If you tell me you are gay, it does not offend me and I am not going to try to belittle you for what you are. But I will be offended if you ask me, or expect me, to make statements supporting gay lifestyle, or do anything that would contradict my religious convictions. If you ask me my opinion, I will provide it honestly and courteously. I will treat you with respect and dignity and I expect the same in return.
When Rick Perry was asked a question, he gave an honest answer. He should not be expected to do anything other than that. If you don’t like the answers, don’t ask the question.