Writings by Cole Huffman

Race, Gender, and Snakebite

Observing the speed and traction of the homosexual revolution, I’ve been pondering a way to frame the raison d’etre for why homosexuality in practice is incompatible with an apostolic sexual ethic. More precisely, where do I start when biblically set sexual convictions are equated to racism? This is done a lot now, and I have no illusions that intelligent or winsome arguments will always outmaneuver. But again, where is a good place to start when opposite someone who sincerely believes resistance to gay marriage is bigoted (an example of “moral prejudice” I heard one psychologist call it)? Even some inside evangelicalism believe this.

Whatever else is said, I think a good place to start is here: Race and gender are both sacred. If race is sacred then racism in practice desacralizes race because racism makes superficial differences fundamental. Such desacralizing is immoral and as such rightly labeled sin. If gender is sacred, then homosexuality in practice desacralizes gender because it makes fundamental differences (designed for compatibility) superficial. Why hold race sacred but desacralize gender?

A person may pushback with the “born that way” argument but it’s not a slam-dunk. Someone can shrug, “Well, morals evolve,” but morality, like art, must draw lines someplace (a Chesterton insight). Sexuality is moral in scope but those who tell us morals evolve prefer a blank canvas. As Dale Kuehne writes in Sex and the iWorld, the idea that sexual fulfillment is fundamental to being fully human is a late historical phenomenon, an idea one doesn’t find in recorded human history before the twentieth century. That is a staggering thing to consider!

“Evolution” is almost always invoked to designate progress. In naturalistic evolution, when something is lost—like snakes’ legs—it’s considered a recessive step, either progressive or regressive depending on function. In moral evolution, what a generation considers “evolving on issues” later generations may call a recessive step. Something was truly lost and are we the better for it? The “right side of history” is full of rewrites.

Until recently I’d never heard of mithridatism. It’s self-immunization from the effects of poison by self-administering toxic concoctions in gradually increasing amounts. The goal of the mithridatist is to become impervious to neurotoxins and hemotoxins such as found in snake venom. The mithridatist I read about collects poisonous snakes from around the world and goads them into biting him in his quest to become the one person alive (still!) who is immune to everything, although he bears multiple bite marks on his body, discolorations and dead spots on his extremities, and a permanently ossified finger or two. One cannot be unaffected by toxins.

The moral evolution that is the homosexual revolution is an experiment in cultural mithridatism. The serpent still promises what he fork-tongued at Eve long ago: You will not die. Immunity. The moral evolutionist wants to be his own antidote. But one cannot be unaffected by toxins. This is why many who defend and encourage homosexuality cannot tell they’re desacralizing gender even as they uphold the sacredness of race.

Appealing to John 13, Francis Schaeffer called the church’s observable love “the final apologetic.” The failure of culture warring as moral strategy is that our love isn’t that observable. Indeed, some gays feel hated by Christians because of it, devalued as people. But neither is our love observable in the failed strategy of cultural chaplaincy (accommodation). Love covers over a multitude of sins not by belittling the sinner (and we all are sinners) or redefining the sin (and we all sin).

Love is not what we do because it’s the most strategic way forward. God’s sexual ethic doesn’t change, and no amount of bridge-building winsomeness makes it more structurally sound to someone setting TNT around its perimeters. Our dedication to the final apologetic is because we’re commanded by Jesus to love God and love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

Many of our neighbors—6 in 10 in recent poll results—favor gay marriage. Some are becoming less tolerant of the four of us in every group of ten who don’t. Nevertheless, fidelity to Jesus requires we work at loving those who think the worst of us. Love is not warmth of feeling but applied desire for them to know the same deep goods God has graciously opened to you and me in outfitting us to keep to His way and will. Love may never see tangible results (mind or heart change) but still we work at it.

Moral evolution is snakebit. Even so, two verses before His famous words in John 3:16, Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Not to strike us but be struck for us because of what we each of us have done with sacred trusts like race and gender, and more besides. What is lifted up is for drawing the self-administered poison out. To adapt a Stanley Hauerwas observation, the present task of the church faithful is not to make the gospel intelligible to the world so much as help the world understand it is unintelligible—and concepts like sacredness unintelligible—without the gospel.

Posted by Cole Huffman at 10:04 AM
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