Friday, May 25, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday #2

Thank you Jennifer for hosting at Conversion Diary!

1. We are away this weekend, visiting my husband’s family. I just went to ask him whether he had anything he wanted to mention in this post, and found him kneeling with most of his arm behind a radiator. He looked pretty funny. He is helping his dad to clean the wall behind the radiator so that the wall can eventually be painted.

2. This morning my husband and his dad took a walk over to his old Catholic grade school (actually, they both went there). It closed a number of years ago, sadly, is now being demolished. The land was sold. My husband says, “I can see the future of Catholic education in [this city]. It is a Mormon Temple.” That’s who the Diocese sold the land to.

3. He and his dad were also working on fixing one of the front headlights of our car. Why do the lights keep going out? It still seems like the brake light being replaced was recent. Sigh. The light burned out, and the thing was filled with water for some reason. It looked pretty crazy when they took it off and showed me. Then they dried it out in the oven. Pretty funny to put a car part in the oven, I think.

4. The other day when we were on our evening walk through our neighborhood, we saw three deer! I think it is so cool to live in a neighborhood where we can sometimes spot random deer, either in someone’s yard, or a small wooded area. Unfortunately, we didn’t have our camera on us. We missed an awesome shot. We were in the street looking into the woodsy area, at this deer that had it’s head turned and was looking right back at us! And there were two others in the background. It was totally awesome.

5. This summer, we are doing a reading group with some Catholic friends of ours. We are reading The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. I have never read these before, but have seen the movies. I am interested in actually reading these books.  

6. My husband’s family has a metal fire pit in their back yard. Today we made a fire in it. It was pretty nice to look at. I enjoyed poking it and making sparks too. Yes, I was playing with fire. No, I never did as a child.

7. I was tempted to roast marshmallows.  A few of us did, but I don’t eat marshmallows because I’m a vegetarian, and I avoid gelatin. Marshmallow-roasting does tempt me to make an exception, though.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Harm of Homosexual Practice: A Medical and Moral Argument

As President Obama has declared his support for “marriage” between members of the same sexes, supporters have warned opponents of gay “marriage” lest they should find themselves on “the wrong side of history” (on which see my previous post here).  As the debate has progressed, however, the quality of arguments on both sides have been disappointing.  Many Christians are not well equipped to explain their objections to same-sex unions, and many supporters of such unions rely on cheap slogans and absurd caricatures of actual Christian reasoning (1).  To them, no rational person could oppose same-sex unions, and opponents are little better than racists or those who once opposed inter-racial marriage.

Yet, to a Christian, one does not oppose same-sex unions and homosexual practices for the same reasons that some people in the past opposed the marriage between a black man and a white woman.  On the contrary, Christians oppose homosexual practice for the same reason that they oppose giving alcohol to an alcoholic or cigarettes to a nicotine addict. 

This line of thinking will be unfamiliar to many whose primary image of same-sex relationships is smiling faces of such people on the evening news, but as is often the case, the cameras do not tell the whole story.

Three Moral Principles

This post will assume three points:

1. It is wrong to engage in self-destructive behavior.
2. It is wrong to encourage others to engage in self-destructive behavior.
3. It is wrong to engage in behavior that harms others. 

I will not argue or defend these points at length; a person who denies them is more in need of moral help than rational argument.  In short, we think it wrong to become an alcoholic because such behavior is harmful to oneself.  As such, we think it wrong to encourage or support others in their alcoholism.  Finally, we all admit that a person’s right to smoke may be curtailed if they risk harming others through their second hand smoke.

The substance of this post, then, will be dedicated to summarizing briefly some evidence for this fourth point:

4. In homosexual practice, a person hurts himself and others.

Presenting the Evidence: There is substantial evidence that homosexual practice is harmful.  Some is summarized below.

1. Promiscuity and short-term relationships (2).  Homosexual behavior involves what one writer called “an almost compulsive promiscuity.”  75% of homosexual men have had more than 100 partners in their lifetime, most of them strangers (3).  A Los Angeles study found that male homosexuals averaged over 20 partners per year (Schmidt 107).  Lastly, only 7-8% of homosexual men and women have ever had relationships lasting more than three years.  This differs vastly from heterosexual sexual practice.  As Schmidt writes: “Promiscuity among homosexual men is not a mere stereotype, and it is not merely the majority experience- it is virtually the only experience” (Schmidt 108). 

2. Increased incidence of drug use.  Researchers also report significantly higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse among male and female homosexuals.  They are more likely to use marijuana (89% vs 25% of heterosexuals), cocaine (50% vs. 6% of heterosexuals), poppers (72% vs 2% of heterosexuals), as well as other drugs including tobacco and abuse of alcohol.  Another Boston study from 1985-88, 81% of homosexual men had used marijuana, 70% poppers, and 60% cocaine (Schmidt 111).

Second, there is a correlation between the number of partners and person has had, and their tendency to use drugs and engage in unsafe sexual techniques (Schmidt 111).

3. Physical damage and complications.  There is no need for explicit details, but mens’ and womens’ bodies are designed for sexual intercourse with each other in a way that mens’ bodies are simply not designed for sex with other men and the consequences are often physically traumatic.  As a consequence practicing homosexuals are at greater risk of prostate damage, ulcers and ruptures, and chronic incontinence (Schmidt 118).  (4)

4. Sexually transmitted diseased and AIDS.  Besides physical trauma, many viral and non-viral infections trouble the homosexual population.  Non AIDS diseases include Amebiasis (affects 25-40% of homosexual men), syphilis (30% of homosexual men), and hepatitis B (65% of homosexual men).  As Schmidt says, even compared to the most promiscuous segment of the general population, the 75% STD incidence rate among homosexuals in remarkable (p.121).  This is to say little of the AIDS epidemic, to which homosexual men are especially vulnerable.  A Canadian study found that half of people living with AIDS are homosexual men (5).

5. Lower life expectancy. As a consequence of these medical issues especially (but not limited to) the AIDS epidemic, homosexual men have a life expectancy that is significantly lower that heterosexual men even, as one Canadian study acknowledges, according to the most liberal estimates (6).

6. Increased incidence of mental illness, depression, and suicide. Lastly, homosexuals suffer from a severely higher incidence of some types of mental illness, especially depression, and suicide (7).  Schmidt gave that number that 40% of homosexual men have a history of major depressive disorder compared to 3% of men generally.

It might be objected that homosexuals are only at greater risk of depression and suicide because they suffer discrimination.  This is implausible for two reasons.  First, as the twentieth century has progressed, society has only become more accepting of homosexual practice, yet these problems remain as big as ever and may even be growing (8).  Second, surely the other factors we have discussed here provide a much clearer and more plausible understanding of why homosexuals are in such greater danger of depression, mental illness, and suicide.  More drug abuse, short-term relationships, numerous medical problems, and a far lower life expectancy surely provide a much more likely explanation of why homosexuals suffer from higher rate of mental illness and suicide. 

In fact, greater acceptance of homosexuality might even make the problem worse!  In encouraging homosexual practice and thereby possibly increasing it, homosexuals will be more likely to suffer from these medical problems and thus more likely to suffer mentally because of it. 

The Practical Conclusion

This has easily been the least pleasant blog post I have written.  I prefer to write about my interests and this is one topic I would prefer to avoid.  Second, much material here will come as a surprise to many and even seem harsh to say, but it is far harsher not to.  The material here should always be presented cautiously and never triumphantly. 

Nonetheless, we cannot refrain from drawing the conclusion that homosexual practice entails many harmful behaviors including medical and mental health problems, promiscuous behavior, increased incidence of drug use, and lower life expectancy.

Because we recognize that drug use harms self and other, we agree that it is wrong to use drugs or to encourage others to use them.  In the same way, we cannot avoid the conclusion that because homosexual practice is harmful, it is wrong to practice homosexual behavior or to encourage others to do so.  It would be like giving alcohol to an alcoholic.

I end with the obvious remark that Christian engagement with people struggling with homosexuality must always be with respect and charity, though this will not entail acceptance of their homosexuality any more than loving an alcoholic entails acceptance of his alcoholism.  Second, there is help for homosexuals who do want to live a chaste life in different Christian ministries ( 

Further Reading

William Lane Craig, “A Christian Perspective on Homosexuality.”

Thomas Schmidt, Straight and Narrow?  Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate, (1995).


(1) Such as that Christians oppose same sex marriage because gay people are more likely to raise gay children; that opponents of gay marriage fear allowing it will lead people to wish to marry their dogs; and that gay marriage is not “natural” in the same way that high fructose corn syrup is unnatural.

(2) Much of this information is taken from chapter 6 of Thomas Schmidt, Straight and Narrow?: Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexual Debate (InterVarsity, 1995).  I will not cite every study to which he refers, the reader is referred to his footnotes for the specific studies.

(3) Schmidt p.106.  Among others, he is citing A.P. Bell and M.S. Weinberg, Homosexualities, (New York, 1978).
See also,

(4) Another study confirms this as a problem to which physicians must be particularly attentive in young homosexuals: "Medical problems of the homosexual adolescent." Journal of Adolescent Health Care. 6(4):278-85, 1985 Jul.

See also Schmidt (122).  He points out that approximately 30% of homosexual men are infected with AIDs (123).

(7) Schmidt 112-126.  He also points out that homosexuals are more likely to suffer from alcoholism (30%) than heterosexuals (10%).  Second, thought homosexual men make up not more than 2% of the population, 35% of pedophiles are homosexuals.

See also: , which found that LGB people are at higher risk of substance abuse, depression, and suicide.

(8) In a previous post, I observed that the problem of bullying and youth suicide has only gotten worse over the twentieth century.

Friday, May 18, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday #1

First time joining in and doing "7 Quick Takes."  Thank you Jen at Conversion Diary for hosting.

1. So we began this blog while we were engaged and he was away in Italy doing research for his dissertation. We thought a blog would be an interesting outlet for expressing various observations and opinions, and would give us a collaborative activity.

We intended to have a post once a week, and alternate posting. That way, we would each do a post every other week. That was a good intention, but, well, at least it was a good intention.

So, the main "scope" of the blog is to share our viewpoints of various things, and for the most part it is not really about us personally. I will use these quick takes to share some random tidbits about us.

2. I have two betta fish. Well, I guess I need to start someplace, and they are on my mind since I just changed the water in their tanks. Their names are Pontos and Nereus. I have had them for about a year and a half. They have been doing well for the most part. Pontos's fins have been shrinking lately for some reason, though. Taking pictures of them is fun, and using the flash makes them look as if they are glowing. Pretty cool.



3. We try to go on walks around our neighborhood regularly. We like hiking occasionally. Ok, I like hiking occasionally, as long as it's not too difficult. My husband would probably hike almost every day if he could. We are going hiking this Sunday with a few friends. I finally now have a proper pair of hiking shoes. I wore them on our walk today to get used to them.

4. Over the summer we will go on an annual week-long extended-family vacation with my husband's family. We will be staying in rented cottages near a lake. He actually missed it the last three years for various reasons, so he has been looking forward to it.
I have never done this before. To me, going on vacation involves at least a motel. Air conditioning mandatory. Continental breakfast appreciated. So I am nervous about staying in a cottage, especially without air conditioning. Other than that, I think it will be a fun time.

5. This summer we are going to learn to be catechists. We are going to take a catechist training course to be certified by our diocese. We are not yet sure if we will teach kids or adults. Our diocese is beginning to require that parishes do "whole family catechesis," which I think is a great idea. I am looking forward to helping others learn about our faith.

Something we would really like to do at some point is to teach engaged couples the "God's Plan for a Joy-filled Marriage" class. Our diocese requires that for engaged couples, along with the regular pre-cana class. It is based on John Paul II's Theology of the Body, which we are interested in studying more formally at some point.

6. I am going to be taking a graduate-level Church history course this fall. This is a course at the institution that I am a librarian at. I work part-time, and was not eligible for tuition remission until now. It's pretty cool. I hope to eventually pursue an MA in theology. For now, I'll just take courses here one at a time, since I can.

7. My husband is now (for all intents and purposes) ABD. This means he has finished coursework, passed the relevant exams, and has done "all but the dissertation" for his PhD.  Yay for him!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bullying, Relativism, and Youth Suicide

In September 2010, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington bridge after a roommate video-taped him having an intimate encounter with another older man.  He became a nationwide symbol of the problem of bullying, especially among homosexual youth, and youth suicide.  The nationwide reaction included anti-bullying campaigns and calls for greater tolerance of homosexuality. 

It was not only Clementi; in the preceding year another thirteen year old girl hanged herself after bullying from peers that included sexting, text messages of a sexual nature.  The problem is not only homosexuality, but bulling and youth suicide more broadly.  The philosopher Peter Kreeft has recently pointed out that since the 1950s, we have seen a 5,000 % increase in youth suicide (1).   Increasing intolerance toward homosexuality simply does not explain this. 

Since the 1950s, American society has only become more tolerant and accepting of homosexual behavior, not less.  Until 1973, the American Psychiatric association classified homosexuality as a mental disorder.  So did the American psychological association until 1975 (which caused my grandfather to leave the APA in 1975).  In the 1950s movie, The Road to Bali, starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, a character commented that the gods would never allow the abomination of a marriage between two men.  Today, however, homosexual practice is widely accepted and surely had no stronger supporters than Hollywood itself.  So, on the contrary, as homosexual practice has become more widely accepted, the rate of youth suicide has not decreased, but has actually increased.  Why is this so?  Why has youth bullying and suicide become more of a problem, not less?

Clementi did not commit suicide because he felt bullied because he was gay.  He committed suicide because for some reason, he decided that there was nothing in the world worth living for.  If decreasing tolerance cannot explain youth suicide, what else can?  What else changed at the same time?

The answer is secularism and increasing moral relativism.  If I asked a class of my students today whether objective moral values existed (by which we mean moral values that exist independent of what people think), their answer would nearly be identical.  Most students would reply that of course objective moral values did not exist “because different societies thought different things.”  I do not dwell here on the disastrous lapse in logic, the confusion between moral epistemology (perception of moral values) and moral ontology (existence) of moral values.  Obviously to say that a person does not believe in x is not proof that x does not exist.  Otherwise we would have to say that the fact that 12th century Europeans did not believe in America was proof that American did not exist, which is absurd.

What really concerns us is the terrible consequences that follow when the youth become convinced, as they are today, that moral values are wholly subjective.  If a person thinks that moral values are subjective, then he thinks that they are wholly dependent on what other people think.  If a person thinks that moral values, including his own moral value are wholly dependant on what other people think, then what other people think becomes of paramount importance.  If moral values depend on society, and if one’s society, whether American, college, fraternity, or high school peers decide that a person does not have moral value (through bullying), then it necessarily follows that that person does not have moral value.  If subjectivism is true, then what is left to such a person save to throw himself off of a bridge?  If moral values are subjective, they depend on what other people think, and if everyone else thinks that that person is worthless, then he really is!  Second, moral subjectivism also provides an enormous incentive to be the bully.  Better to bully other people into thinking they are worthless than risk being thought worthless oneself. 

The cries for greater tolerance will not solve the problem.  Society is more tolerant and accepting than it ever has been, yet the problem of bullying and youth suicide is worse than ever.  The only hope is for people to begin to recognize again that human beings really do have objective moral value.  Modern secular society provides no basis for this.  Having denied God, it has denied any basis for objective moral values.  Without God, morality is just the result of evolutionary conditioning or societal norms- there is nothing objective about it.  As secularism and denial of God has increased since the 1950s, so has bullying and youth suicide. 

Hope for the youth lies not in more secularism, but in less.  For in Christianity a human being knows that they have objective moral value, no matter what anyone thinks.  They know that they have been created by a perfectly good, loving God, who made them in his image, suffered and died on a cross for them, and wants them to enjoy eternal union with Himself.  What bully could have a chance against such knowledge?


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Gay Marriage and the Wrong Side of History

As president Obama has recently proclaimed his support for same-sex “marriage,” supportive commentators have labeled his action “historic.”  One news anchor warned lest opponents of such unions should find themselves on the “wrong side of history.”

The expression is magnificent rhetoric.  Proponents use it to conjure up images of those who opposed civil rights for blacks or resisted the abolition of slavery.  Yet like many slogans in a culture that thrives more on rhetoric than reason and more on emotion than evidence, it is hollow at heart. 

Presumably such  people who warn the backward amongst us not to be on the wrong side of history think that we should make history our moral guide.  History says thus and we must obey.  The tide is flowing and we must follow it, lest we be caught like children in sandcastles.  Where the tide of history goes, so must we.  But this is not sound, for the tide may sweep us out to sea.  In following the tide, we may find ourselves drowned.

 In plain language, history does not always move in a positive direction.  It is not a safe guide for a man’s moral decisions.  The modern world may (or may not) have moved toward greater democracy and civil rights, but it also moved to world war and genocide.  The Middle Ages saw neither world war nor holocaust.  It was left to the modern world to discover those.  Nor should we think that history will always move in a positive direction in the future.   It has not always done so in the past, why should we think it will do so in the future?   History is a fickle mistress.  One century she may command freedom, the next genocide. 

Further still, history is no guide of morality because it is morally neutral.  This is the fallacy of seeking to derive an ought from an is.  History tells us what has happened.  It does not tell us what should happen.  Those who would try to derive their morality from history are in the same position as those who would derive it from science.  Both tell us what is, not what ought to be.  There is no rational inference from the claim “in history, x happened” to “x should have happened,” or “we should do x.”   

Indeed, making history out moral guide would put us in the absurd position of trying to anticipate what will happen in the future and then make it happen faster.  Perhaps, we project greater freedom in the next century.  Then we must work to make this happen even more quickly.  Yet, perhaps we anticipate a move to greater slavery two centuries hence.  If our mistress History commands it, I suppose we must work for it.

This brings us from the absurdity of history as a moral guide to the evil of history as  a moral guide.  If we are to always follow history, to not be on the wrong side of history, then we shall never be able to resist her.  There will be no room for the last desperate stand against the tide, no heroic resistance against inevitable onslaught. 

Only if morality is something beyond history and even beyond society, if it is something transcendent and what is more, divine, will we ever have a firm ground on which to stand, to plant our flag, and to cry “maybe thus far, but no farther.”   

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Into the Fire: Towards a Life Worth Living

“If [Jesus] is what he claimed to be, a Savior, a Redeemer, then we have a virile Christ and a leader worth following in these terrible times; One who will step into the breach, crushing sin, gloom, and despair; a leader to Whom we can make totalitarian sacrifice without losing, but gaining freedom, and Whom we can love even unto death.  We need a Christ today who will make cords and drive the buyers and sellers from our new temple; Who will blast unfruitful fig trees; Who will talk of crosses and sacrifices and Whose voice will be like the voice of the raging sea.  But He will not allow us to pick and choose among his words, discarding the hard ones and accepting the ones that please our fancy.  We need a Christ who will restore moral indignation, Who will make us hate evil with a passionate intensity, and love goodness to a point where we can drink death like water.”
            --- From The Life of Christ (p.8), Archbishop Fulton Sheen

For years in his radio and then television show, Fulton Sheen insisted to American audiences that life was indeed worth living.  It was a message  needed as much then as it is now. 

Sheen wrote in a time of continuing industrialization, consumerism, and materialism in both senses of that terrible word.  As man denied God, either by the fast route of outright and immediate denial taken by the atheist or marxist or the slow route of increasing apathy, non attendance at mass, and increasing deism, modern man found there was nothing left to lend meaning, purpose, or value to his life.

Nietzche, one of the earliest prophets of the God-is-dead movement proclaimed that since God was dead, nihilism, the destruction of all meaning, value, and purpose in life was the consequence.  Others proclaimed the absurdity of life as well.  Heidegger wrote “If God... is dead... then nothing more remains to which man can cling and by which he can orient himself.”  The French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre  spoke of the “nausea” of existence. Camus (The Stranger) has the hero of his novel realize in a flash that the universe had no God and hence no meaning.  Indeed, to Camus the only serious question in life was whether or not one should commit suicide. 

Unfortunately, our world today followed these thinkers in denying both God and hence any meaning or purpose in life.  Nietzsche was right, the death of God leads only to nihilism.  Confronted with an apparently pointless and meaningless life, many choose to leave it.  Thence the current problem of suicide among the youth.  It is hard to live in a world where everything means nothing and nothing means anything.  After a century of world wars, genocides, ethnic cleansings, abortions, how is man to look on life without despair?

I can think of only one way out and one hope for the world.  It was given by St. Augustine when he said “you have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  It was given by Thomas Aquinas, who when told by God that he might ask for any one thing replied, “I will have thyself.”  It was given by St. Francis when he proclaimed “My God and My All.”  And it is given above by the Archbishop Fulton Sheen. 

In Jesus there is a leader Who we can follow into the fire, because He went through it first.  In Him is someone not only worth living for, but worth dying for.  In Him is hope not only for the sunrise beyond the veil of this world, but hope for the world itself.  In Him the world becomes a place of meaning, purpose, and value.  In Him is hope that suffering and death will not have the last word.  And, in Him, is our Captain, and banner, and Resurrection.