Friday, November 21, 2008

"The Tedious Confines of One's Own Skin"

Once again a post has become so long as to raise a number of peripherally related topics, and to mitigate against trying to pierce to the heart of any one issue (See "Open Topic Tuesday" and following thread). I wanted to lay down a few musings especially concerning "not the other anon's" observations. And I fancy that my comments may spark enough subsequent debate to warrant starting a new thread. As always, I stand ready to be corrected.

Not the other anon: The attempt to interpret our personal experiences is one of the most meaningful things we do as humans. There's nothing wrong with anecdotal evidence--in fact, it's possible to argue that all evidence (even "research" that we personally engage in) is subjective-anecdotal. Your experiences are instructive, certainly for yourself, and, I think, for all of us.

The fact that you feel more acceptance among your gay friends is a real phenomenon, and one that probably has a number of explanations. The first is connected with your thoughtful critique of American "Christian" pseudo-manliness. I think all guys, somewhere in the depths of their beings, desire significant friendships with other guys--friendships in which communication about real thoughts and struggles occurs. Think of David and Jonathan, or the countless examples from antiquity: considering the way these people communicated and felt about each other, it's safe to say they would be laughed to scorn by most American "men." I think if genuine, meaningful man-to-man friendships were not so derided, a lot of people who think they'd like to dabble in homosexuality would realize that's not what they're looking for. (Hat tip to Zach Franzen for suggesting the need for a return to manly friendship).

After cleaning our own house, though, I have to observe that another reason for the easy communication is that homosexuality is a species of narcissism. I do not say this is homosexuality's only appeal, but, as Erich von Kuehnelt-Leddihn writes, "Homosexuality has an aspect of sameness to it along with the refusal to establish the sometimes difficult bridge--intellectual, spiritual, and psychological--to the other sex. In this respect, homosexuality is a form of narcissism, of immaturity." K-L goes on to paraphrase Dr. Marcel Eck to the effect that the "hell of homosexuality lies precisely in that it avoids genuine dialogue; homosexual love is not a quest for another but merely seeks the self." Heterosexual love constantly reminds us of the near impossibility of transcending ourselves, and yet we push and stretch against that veil. Homosexual love, at the risk of over-generalization, may feel accepting at first, but that's because it's actually self-love, and this comes out in the wash.

You want to really mix things up? Try something really radical? Just go crazy? Find a guy who can be a "soul-mate" (I'm not kidding), but then try to really get to know a woman. She'll blow your mind. I promise.

Your thoughts?

34 comments:

  1. It's interesting that homosexuality was classified by the psychological community to be pathological behavior until the early seventies when the APA gave in to threats from the homosexual community and the postmodern philosophies of the sexual revolution. No new scientific research, just a new philosophy.

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  2. Like many sins, the common person will try to think of ways to justify their sins. They want to continue in that sin without feeling guilty so they try to reason with themselves on why it is OK. I think the homosexuals are in that same type of scenario. They want to now force society to say it's OK when they know that it is unnatural.

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  3. I Joshua Sahl wrote that last comment for some reason my id credentials were not verified.

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  4. "You want to really mix things up? Try something really radical? Just go crazy? Find a guy who can be a "soul-mate" (I'm not kidding), but then try to really get to know a woman. She'll blow your mind. I promise."

    This sounds a bit trite and condescending and a quick fix for a complicated problem. Have a heart! God deals with the issue of people's sin in many ways. In some, he takes the desire for it away completely. In others, he chooses to keep them dependent on Him for deliverance. While I think that your solution may very well be a path that can help our friend with his struggle, I think it trivializes the sincere struggle that he is faced with.

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  5. The last paragraph was obviously intended to be a little trite--a friendly lightening of the debate after a little heavier fare. Obviously, for someone who is sincerely struggling with homosexual urges, just "trying to get to know a woman" is not going to "fix" the problem. The paragraph refers to people who might turn to homosexuality solely because they are "narcissistic," or unwilling to make the attempt to transcend their own selves. Let's each give some respect to the other's literary intent.

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  6. Being a woman, I do NOT understand the difficulty of getting to know us! We are the verbal and communicative sex! You just try it the other way around!

    On a more serious note, the "attraction" of homosexuality, is, in my lesser deep-thoughted mind, the connection and understanding more easily found within your own gender. For example, when I am sick, is it a male friend (or husband, for that matter?) who comes and helps me? No, it's a girlfriend, or mother, or sister, or even daughter. Can a male do it? Yes, and SOMETIMES they do . . . but as a more general rule, no.

    I am assuming that men can more easily understand and meet each others' needs in similar ways.

    The next step from communicative and well-being/psychological needs being met is the strong desire of unmet physical/sexual needs. If other needs are being met by someone of the same sex . . . the next step might be seeing if the sexual need can be met by them as well????

    I am NOT excusing or condoning this, just thinking and pondering the path of degeneration we see.

    OK, so now you have a female perspective. MUCH more rounded!

    And by the way -- things that come easily are not necessary the best and most vauable. Thus marriage is a TREASURE and only becomes more precious as time goes by (because we work and invest so much in it!)

    BTW, you can tell me NEVER to post again!

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  7. Paula,
    Amazing insights!!! I have often thought that a female perspective is definitely what this blog needs. Please don't stop posting!!!

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  8. Welcome aboard Paula.

    Anon: Dayzeegirrl has posted here a few times ;)

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  9. melodie is also female.

    and all these anonymous posts... who knows?

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  10. Oh, they're female Bob. Very female. You might be too for all we know? You seem to have a pretty sensitive and feminine outlook on things.

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  11. you know what I mean...like a girl.

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  12. alright you got me. My real name is Beverly. I just like the name BOB.

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  13. Ahhh . . . So that explains how we women felt such a kindred-spirited-ness toward you in your posts, Bob.

    You just make us want to start humming the theme song to Anne of Green Gables . . .

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  14. If I don't respond to anymore posts, its because I'm too busy watching "Steel Magnolias"

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  15. Thanks for the plug, John!

    Hey, Bob, when you're done watching Steel Magnolias, wanna go shopping?!? I know the perfect store for the perfect dress!!! LOL! JK :P

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  16. I love Steel Magnolias -- it makes me cry. Annelle is my favorite, but I like Truvy, Oiser, Shelby and Clairee, too!

    Anne-with-an-E-Shirley is also another one of my favorite characters.

    But the original post, which I'm still digesting, isn't about our favorite stories. There is so much to comment on the original post! Hopefully I'll have time to comment before the weekend starts.

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  17. Not the other anon:

    We look forward to hearing your comments (or I do anyway!) :)

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  18. Some further clarifications: first off, I want to apologize for using the word "obviously" twice in my response to "Anonymous." I'm not always a pompous windbag, really. And I don't fundamentally disagree with the spirit of his words.

    Just so there's no further confusion, I was very careful in the original post to qualify (several times, in fact) that there are undoubtedly lots of causes of and aspects to the homosexual psyche. You have my permission to insert into that gap whatever more specific considerations of sexuality or genetic determinism you like (which considerations I was likewise careful to avoid). In pondering these explanations, and my post, keep in mind that thinking people are always suspicious of monocausal interpretations of phenomenon.

    My post was also not about "curing" homosexuality. I didn't even say it was wrong (unless by implication, if narcissism is wrong).

    What I'm suggesting in the second half of the post--and what I thought it would be interesting for everyone to think about--is that, perhaps one reason why homosexuality is attractive (again: completely divorced from considerations of sexual desire) is that it contains inherent within it (among many other things, got it?), not a desire for diversity and dialogue, but a very natural human rejection of diversity in favor of a banal, identitarian uniformity.

    This is why my last paragraph is not some sick joke about homo- vs. hetero- sexuality (actually didn't cross my mind until later), but a joke about how different women and men are, "intellectually, spiritually, and psychologically." In general, it is good for us to try to communicate with people we can't naturally understand.

    I apologize if I offended. And I hope you have the good sense, "not the other anon," to know I was talking very generally for the whole last two thirds of that post, and not addressing you to "cure" you. Personally, I don't think any of the things you said about yourself in the previous thread are worthy of reproach.

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  19. Hi Joe,
    I revealed myself as the anonymous poster who took you to task in the other thread, so I might as well come clean here. I just thought that you might take the constructive criticism better if it didn't have a 'face'. I did not take offense to your dual obviouslys, so no worries there!!! :) My main concern was that I did not want the fantastic content of your post to be lost over the last paragraph, which could be perceived as a marginalization of the problems homosexuals face.

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  20. Let me start by saying that my goal of posting here is not to justify homosexuality. The Bible (in Romans 1:18 - 32, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10 and Leviticus 18 - 20) is clear that homosexuality is wrong.

    At the start of this conversation, we absolutely must make sure that we are talking about the same thing or else we will end up missing each other’s ideas and reasoning.

    Homosexuality is same-sex genital intimacy.

    The information in the Sermon on the Mount indicates that sin can occur either in action or thought, so I would include doing and thinking about engaging in same-sex genital intimacy as homosexuality. Please use another term if you are not specifically talking about this type of action. (For this conversation, I will try to include gay and queer as an equivalent term to homosexual although I use them in the more general sense of someone who has same-sex attractions, abbreviated SSA, but may or may not indulge them.)

    Next, I understand the limitations of blogversation. I take what people say with a grain of salt. And I know that none of us have the time (and probably the skill) to write a complete treatise covering all the complexities of the issue. Some things will get left out and will need further clarification. I’ll ask for it when I need it, otherwise I hope I am understanding accurately the author’s intent of a post.

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  21. Saying that homosexuality is necessarily narcissistic is making a huge generalization that doesn’t fit. A generalization that might fit is that a homosexual’s temperament leans toward the feminine side more than the male side.

    I have done no research on Erich von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, but I would cross him off your list based solely on this quotation: “[Homosexuality contains] the refusal to establish the sometimes difficult bridge--intellectual, spiritual, and psychological--to the other sex. In this respect, homosexuality is a form of narcissism, of immaturity.” Umm, I may be mistaken, but homosexuals tend to find the intellectual, spiritual & psychological bridges to the other sex already well established. I don't have to work very hard to make connections with the opposite sex; gay men tend not to have a problem relating with women in all three of those areas.

    I see the quotations given as someone trying to vilify homosexuality and exalt heterosexuality based on extra-Biblical reasoning.

    When talking about homosexuality, most people start with saying it’s sin which they take to mean that it is wrong at every level and in every way. For example, they say homosexuals cannot truly love one another, they can only lust for one another. Tell that to the gays in the 80s and 90s that stuck by a dying a lover.

    To me, all the additional negative ideas that are attached to homosexuals is what really stiff-arms them/us. This includes accusations of narcissicism, self-centeredness and immaturity.

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  22. I maintain it's an idea with some worth. I guess you could call narcissism an "accusation." I take K-L's words to refer to the very natural, excusable human instinct to only relate to people that are like oneself. It happens in all kinds of relationships to a certain extent. The opposite instinct, to embrace diversity, is even more human, and, in my opinion, the less base drive.

    The interesting kernel in both quotes is that perhaps the balance between these two instincts is not, as we might think, more in favor of diversity in the homosexual mind.

    One other anecdotal observation: "The tedious confines of one's own skin" is a line from Marcel Proust's monumental, semi-autobiographical novel, "In Search of Lost Time." One of the major themes of the work is the impossibility of escaping one's own consciousness. Proust, who was a homosexual, makes all the Narrator's love affairs heterosexual, because (many tolerant, modern critics think)it better communicates this theme. Albertine, Marcel's main girlfriend, turns out to be a lesbian, and this drives Marcel crazy--more than if she had cheated with a man--because he thinks the other woman can understand and satisfy Albertines' needs much better than he can. I maintain K-L's is an idea with some worth.

    Thanks for clarifying your terms. If the physical act is all there is to homosexuality, then I am among the least qualified of all men to think or write about it. (I'm poorly qualified as is, but perhaps there are some thoughts or ideas that might contribute to homosexuality that everyone can make an effort to understand).

    Please don't stop posting: I'd like to know and understand you better.

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  23. "blogversation"

    Good word. I like it. :D

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  24. By the way, I don't think suggesting that homosexuality is more closely related to uniformitarianism than heterosexuality is is comparable to accusing all homosexuals of loveless, lust-driven relationships.

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  25. Since I have what I would refer to as feminine inclinations (albeit no one has ever considered me effeminate -- not to my face anyway), seeking relationships with women would be seeking "the same" -- perhaps you would say that I need to seek relationships with OSA men. Therein lies the rub -- OSA men tend to revile SSA men.

    Homosexuality has many layers beyond the physical, but I think the wrongness of it is mostly contained within the physical. The other things that get lumped in based on its concurrence with homosexuality are not necessarily wrong.

    May I purport here that the rejection that I have received based on an extra-Biblical definition of masculinity AND the impending castigation and revilement I would receive were I to admit, "It is I," are what have backed me into accepting SSA?

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  26. Just speculating, but it seems to me that K-L may not be off entirely, in that every phenomenon has many angles.

    “[Homosexuality contains] the refusal to establish the sometimes difficult bridge--intellectual, spiritual, and psychological--to the other sex. In this respect, homosexuality is a form of narcissism, of immaturity.” Isn't entirely wrong all the time. It is however a generalization as you suggested above; and a very narrow one at that. For example, like Joe suggested, not all gay men are feminine. Not all lesbians fit the term "butch." It would be hard to assume just these factors as alone applying to the motivations of those of either sex in the SSA category when they all exhibit such a wide range of traits. But it is possible that a good number do fit those molds. It is possible that some seek this sort of relationship because of narcicism.

    "Mold." I hate that word. Nobody really fits anybody else's "mold" anyway. But labels are so easy. That's just it. We find them so simple to assimilate into our casual thought processes. So we become lazy in our assessments. Whether dealing with homosexuality or teen pregnancy or internet porn or . . . the list goes on. Our labels protect us from having to really help these people since we can just write them off and throw a few Bible verses at them which have been categorized for just such occasions.

    NtOA:

    I can see your point. We are so susceptible to boxing folks into our narrow perspectives that we often just look for a few well documented "clues", compare them to the stats, and feel we have sufficiently tagged the problems. It takes too much work to think about the nuances of inconsistency that might lead to another conclusion. Nobody really wants to make himself vulnerable to another person that he does not understand easily by caring enough to really discover the whole truth behind the differences he sees. And such behavior on the part of those of us who are considered "normal" corners the "distinct one" into relationships he would not otherwise have chosen. It is thus our own laziness that limits our scope of influence and drives otherwise defenseless people into positions of compromise.

    Proverbs 29:11 A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.
    According to Proverbs, we prove ourselves to be fools when we do this.

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  27. Not the other anon:
    I am not looking for "extra-biblical" reasons to "vilify" homosexuality. One of the presuppositions of my original post is that, while all moralities must be finally reduced to some religious system, we can from a political-pragmatic standpoint draw conclusions about "right" and wrong" without immediate recourse to religion (and with attention to more facts than what gender you actually have sex with).

    In that spirit, it is, in general, "wrong" to only ever dialogue with people that are like you, and, you certainly should try to get inside the head of a masculine, heterosexual male if that's the psyche that you least understand, naturally. It is "right" to not let the instinct for uniformity prevent the embrace of diversity.

    Your experience is meaningful and instructive, but, whether you're unique or not, could not on its own invalidate K-L's generalization. Neither could the fact that I have some relationships with females that are much more "narcissistic" and self-seeking than ones I could have with many males. We have established that your original generalization about unthinking stereotypes in churches is legitimate, and I hope we all understand what "generalization" means.

    Even if you're correct that the majority of gay men are more like women and understand women easily (which generalization is at least as offensive as K-L's, and probably less true), and that being naturally more feminine these men would have to dialogue with heterosexual males in order to experience diversity and "consciousness-stretching," do you see that for all these men to get together and primarily dialogue with each other is still necessarily more uniformitarian, more self-affirming than what usually goes on in the heterosexual community? (Yes, in general. Again, the established fact that we all know people that these ideas may not apply to is not a legitimate invalidation. And everybody should dialogue with everybody.)

    I think it's a shame that your hasty dismissal of K-L puts you in defense of the position that there's no meaningful content or truth to his suggestion at all--especially since the most psychologically perceptive homosexual author of all time thought there was some truth to the idea.

    I turn to the Biblical literature because I think it's something many of our readers can understand. I apologize to any who aren't as familiar with this literature. Again, this is not primarily a place for dissecting verses and debating doctrinal niceties. But here goes: I see the Biblical perspective on the tension between uniformitarianism and diversitarianism as one of perfect balance. According to Jeremiah, heaven-dwellers "shall all know Him, from the least to the greatest." So there are definitely gradations of excellence or singularity, and yet somehow all are "levelled" through their knowledge of God. See also Revelation 2: God will give each heaven-dweller a "name that no man knows except him that receives it." In perhaps the most collectivist society we could ever imagine, each individual has a personal relationship with his God, and, by implication, may even know some contour of that God's character that no one else in heaven knows. Hopefully this clarifies my feelings on the necessity of both human instincts--the one that connects us to the animals, and the one that separates us from them.

    These are all just ideas... I regret having to defend K-L and Proust's suggestion at such length, but hopefully this is a profitable exercise for all. By attempting to falsify the central content of each other's ideas, we can all get closer to the truth.

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  28. I would suggest that the gay male doesn’t exclude himself from the opposite as much as he is excluded by the opposite. Narcissistic or otherwise, he has little alternative.

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  29. There is a good chance that's the case. I'm sorry that has been your experience, at any rate. If there is a certain collectivism-uniformitarianism to homosexuality, that fact would certainly make it harder to conclude whether it's conditioned by something inherent in the individual mindset or something inherent in the culture.

    Still, I'm no determinist. It's up to all individuals to attempt discourse with those that are "wholly other," whatever nature or nurture has done to them.

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  30. Definitely. I could be gay because I was neglected by my father OR I could have been neglected by my father because I am gay.

    I guess I don’t accept the assumption that building relationships with an opposite is necessarily the only right thing to do. There are single people and the widowed.

    I suggested in the previous post that OSA males do not honor diversity themselves because they revile the SSA male mindset to the point of avoiding most contact. In fact, OSA males are so OS minded, that they have little meaningful SS interaction. (That’s based on my observation and what I define as meaningful. I find that it is much more apparent in church than outside of it.)

    Here’s a single instance in a point in time that illustrates something that happens generally: I was talking to a guy after church. We could have been talking about anything from the weather to discovering the cure for cancer. Right in the middle of what I was saying, he left. He just walked off. I turned around to see what happened & what did I see? Him fawning over some woman. He didn’t say goodbye -- just a minute -- let’s talk later. Nothing.

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  31. Since we're talking about the more abstract assumptions of the post: I tried to make it clear that dicoursing with and including those that are unlike us (again, not just sexually) isn't the only right thing to do. When the opposite instinct totally eclipses this effort, though, I would say that is wrong. Now, no one is one hundred percent one way or the other, but everyone falls on the continuum somewhere. These points on the line-graph are microcosmic examples of different kinds of political relationships, and, I think, worthy of discussion.

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  33. "In fact, OSA males are so OS minded, that they have little meaningful SS interaction. (That’s based on my observation and what I define as meaningful. I find that it is much more apparent in church than outside of it.)"

    Talk about generalization!

    On a couple of occasions you have passed judgement on your church or your pastor. We need to be careful not to justify our actions by condemning other people's actions. We have established that all of us on occasion wrongfully pass judgement on others based on our biases. Just because we are wronged does not give us liberty to condemn others but rathers it should give us opportunity to return evil with good. (Something of which I will always have to work on until Christ calls me home.)

    That being said, It is very hard to give advice when I can only see one side of the issue. Every story has two sides. My advise to you is still the same. Find a Godly man to council you. I don't know your pastor. Your assesment of him was one sided. He, like we all do, may very well add some biases to his preaching but you did say that he is very adamant about preaching expository sermons. I think that that is an excellent start. Just because he always has a side point about Salvation, witnessing, titheing, or going to church does not mean that he does not have an understanding of Scriptures. I'm happy to hear that he desires to study the Scriptures wholly. I've known many a church that preaches only a social gospel. Your pastor may have an insite to both sides of the story. He may be aware of how various people in the church treat others who are different. On the other hand, he may not be aware that there is a problem in the congregation. Whatever the case, if he is a man of the Word, he will be able to give you the best advice.

    Ephesians says that God gave pastors to the church for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry. Your pastor is a gift to you as someone you should follow. He is your shepherd. Be careful not to "heap up to yourself teachers" because you have "itching ears", but "endure sound doctrine." (II Tim 4:3)

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  34. Another thing. Your pastor should not be your pastor on Sunday's only but everyday. He should be your spiritual mentor. I encourage you to develope a stronger relationship with him. Let him guide you into righteousness. Follow him as he follows Christ.

    When you put Christ first in your life, all other issues fall into place. The bottom line issue still seems to be of concern for yourself. You seem to be saying, "People reject me because they don't understand me. They should have the Christian love to accept me for who I am." That is true but on the other hand, maybe your attitude should be, "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24). To make a friend you must be a friend first. If the other person responds negatively, you can rest assured that Jesus Christ is your all in all.

    Jesus told Peter not to worry about the other guy. He said, "You follow Me." When you seek first the kindgom of God, all of your needs (not wants) will be added to you (including the need for fellowship). "The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not [be in] want."

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