You can read Part 2 of my review here. Part 3 rejoins the discussion at 13:00 into the debate.
At this point we’ve just returned from a commercial break as Roys takes a call from a listener. Very late in the interview she takes one more call from a listener. This is unfortunate as listener’s questions and comments are rarely succinct and well articulated and tend to disrupt the flow of the debate. Regardless, this listener, Alice, shared her testimony that she’d been a lesbian for 35 years but she was delivered from same-sex attraction. Her message then is that while homosexuals like Vines should remain celibate so long as they are homosexual, they nonetheless can maintain hope that they too may one day be delivered of same-sex attraction.
Vines’ response is that he never denied “sexual fluidity” (i.e. the changing of sexual attraction over time) but that “there are many people for whom that does not happen.” True enough, but in a sense that misses the force of Alice’s point which is that gays for whom it has not happened may still hold out hope that it will. And even if it never does, presumably that hope can, in retrospect, help them to adjust to a life of celibacy.
Vines then notes that Alan Chambers, former head of Exodus International, admitted previously that in 99.9% of cases Exodus had failed to change an individual’s sexual orientation.
At this point Vines attempts to reframe the debate by insisting that he is not overturning “2000 years of church history” because the conversation and context are new and were previously unaddressed by the church. To hammer home his point he makes the following observation:
“And I think the best evidence for that claim is the fact that until the mid-twentieth century all Christian writings pertaining to same-sex behavior there is no recognition of the fact that mandatory life-long celibacy would be the consequence for anyone of a total rejection of same sex relationships. Once we realize that that’s the consequence, even for some people, that puts us in a new interpretive environment ….”
Vines really places a lot of emphasis on this point. But it is difficult for me to see why. I find it very hard to see why this fact alone should be sufficient to introduce “a new interpretive environment”, at least based on the evidence provided. Vines seems to assume it is inconceivable that a person should be denied the ability to live out a fixed orientation but that is most doubtful. There are innumerable cases where the discovery of previously unknown fixed orientations is clearly not sufficient to introduce a new interpretive environment.
Here’s an example. Today we know that some people have a deep desire to eat human flesh, so much so that they will risk their entire lives for the chance to do so. In the last thirty years high-profile cannibals from Japan to Germany to Pakistan have fascinated and horrified the public. One of the most recent high-profile cases involves a couple of brothers in Pakistan who have been arrested more than once after disinterring cadavers and cooking and eating parts of the corpses. In some cases the desire for eating human flesh could be so great in some individuals that their quality of life is greatly diminished for their lack of being able to do so. In light of this fact, we could lift the taboo against cannibalism and undertake actions to enrich their quality of life (e.g. initiating a program where those sympathetic to their plight could arrange to donate their bodies at death to the cannibal community). But I take it we are all agreed that this is not sufficient to introduce a new interpretive environment.
My point is not to compare homosexuals to cannibals (though whenever you raise a provocative analogy there are always those who seem determined to miss the point). So let me be clear. My point is this (and this is a mouthful so get ready):
the discovery that (i) certain taboo desires are borne of a fixed condition, and that (ii) the individual with the fixed condition strongly ties life satisfaction to the fulfillment of the desires, does not necessarily provide a morally sufficient reason to lift the taboo on the satisfaction of the desires.
It may be sufficient, but it cannot be assumed that it is, as the cannibalism case makes luminously clear.
Consequently, for Vines’ argument to have force in persuading those with whom he disagrees, he must be able to show that in the case of homosexuality, (i) and (ii) are sufficient to warrant lifting the taboo.
Here ends part 3 of my review.