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Flaws in media praise of Boy Erased

My gosh the media is fawning over the new movie Boy Erased. Fawning. Well some media anyway. But those who are talking about it, are doing so with passion. Passion, but not always with accuracy.

Take the following clip –


Here are 3 inaccuracies that annoy me.

  1. When defining conversion therapy, they characterise it as being achieved by “coercion, violence or even shock therapy.” Violence? No. Shock therapy? Not this century! Coercion? Not so much. What a demonising description. Where is the journalistic balance?
  2. They play a line from the movie, where it’s voiced that “God will not love you the way that you are.” Nobody says that. Do they? No. Gay people have often said they dont feel loved by God. But I never hear anyone in the church say that God doesnt love. However I have heard people say that God loves everybody.

  3. They say “at least 77,000 are being held in these programs.” Held? Of the 2 living examples in this story, of those who have undergone the practise, one is described in other reports as having “put himself through years of anguish with so-called gay conversion therapies.” Put himself. It says even his parents accepted his sexuality before he did. The majority are not held. Ive heard some of the therapists say that they will not treat those who are not willing participants.

Many of the media reports speak of conversion therapy as leading to suicidal depression. And yes I suspect it has contributed. Im not saying it’s all good. But the reality is that those who are depressed while doing the therapy, tended to be depressed before they started the therapy. That’s partly why they entered into it in the first place!

 

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Richard Bell’s essay on Same-sex Marriage

I came across Richard Bell in mid 2018, in the comments section under an article on a webpage. In multiple entries, he recommended that people read his theological essay about same-sex marriage, to which he provided a link.

And I took the bait.

The .doc file I downloaded was 47 pages long, consisting of an essay titled God’s Moral Law and Same-sex Marriage. A header on each page stated EARLY DRAFT; LIMITED AND CONFIDENTIAL DISTRIBUTION. The final words at the end were
Richard Bell, 9 October 2015.
rsbell@ameritech.net

So I guess the essay had been on hold for 3 years, and was not yet complete. When I googled his email address, I found that he was circulating it back in 2015 too. Since then, others have released similar works as books. But still, his 47 pages is a fair amount of text already. Given his unreserved public promotion of the essay, I feel at liberty to quote and respond to it. So here is what I found to be the more notable elements.

As he sums up at the end, he writes –

Alas, I have offered my foregoing interpretation of Scripture to many conservatives without convincing them. I point out that there is not one text in Scripture that clearly prohibits same-sex marriage. The conservatives point out that there is not one text in Scripture that clearly permits it. The conservatives insist that same-sex marriage is prohibited unless God clearly states or shows by at least one approved case that it is permitted, and so all my reasoning about the Moral Law and the natural order and the ground of Paul’s judgments and so on comes to naught. I insist that a benefit God does not clearly forbid he permits, and that people who find same-sex marriage clearly forbidden are confused. Conservatives and I arrive at this impasse.

So by his own admission, his reasoning has proven to be not very persuasive. But anyways…

In his second paragraph, he summarises his overall argument. Writing of the commandment against adultery –

Here, in a nutshell, is my thesis. God’s will for human sexual conduct is fully expressed in the Seventh Commandment. So, there is one sexual morality for all. Specifically, there is one sexual morality for heterosexuals and homosexuals, and its most general principle is that full expression of sexual desire is permitted only within marriage. God has provided the institution of marriage for all who need to express their sexual desires fully, and God wills that they all avail themselves of marriage. Therefore, it is God’s will that homosexual persons, not only heterosexual persons, marry if they do not have the gift of sexual continency. The Church should implement God’s will by treating homosexual marriage just as it treats heterosexual marriage.

And from towards the end of the essay –

The authors of the New Testament made moral judgments of homosexual conduct. They judged it sinful because it was fornication, a violation of the Seventh Commandment. And they judged homosexual conduct sinful in categorical terms not because it is categorically sinful but because those engaged in the conduct were all (necessarily) unmarried and so fornicators.

So not an unusual argument from a gay apologist. A traditional view, on the other hand, notes that in all the spots in Scripture where homosexual practise is condemned, it never indicates that the problem is that the participants were not married. And in fact in Leviticus and Romans 1 it seems to say the problem with homosexual practise is the gender mix of those involved. Furthermore, Scripture portrays Christian marriage as orchestrated by God and consistently as heterosexual. Jesus seems to portray Christian marriage (Matthew 19) as inherently heterosexual.

But how the author negotiates scripture is unusual. As alluded to above, a central theme of his is, as he wrote –

Do the Ten Commandments express all of God’s moral law for mankind? I submit that they do. That the Ten Commandments are complete is implied by Paul’s commendation of the written law as a reliable basis for moral judgment and teaching.

It still seems odd to me that he regards the Old Testament law obsolete other than the 10 commandments. And it still seems odd to me that he sees the 10 commandments as more important than the New Testament. The author admits that most evangelicals disagree with him, and he spends much of his essay explaining and defending his view.

He says the 10 Commandments are moral law, and –

The rest of God’s commands recorded in Torah are what specialists variously classify as Purity Law, Agricultural Law, Governmental Law, Ceremonial Law, and so on. Call them collectively the Additional Commandments.

He says

I submit that all or most of the Additional Commandments were limited by obsolescence.

And under his framing, he writes –

it is obvious that the Moral Law makes no distinction between male and female, no distinction between techniques for satisfying sexual desire, no distinction between heterosexual desire and homosexual desire.

All of which makes the cynic within me wonder whether his overall construct is simply designed to portray homosexual practise as permissible. He makes almost no mention of 1 Cor. 6 or 1 Tim 1, as though their condemnation of homosexual practise doesnt matter.

When discussing Matthew 19, the author argues that the heterosexuality of Jesus’ illustration of marriage is irrelevant. But then is it relevant that the marriage was 2 people rather than more? Could Jesus’ teaching apply to a woman marrying a sibling? Will they become one flesh? The author’s view of what is relevant and what isnt, simply seems to suit the outcome he wants.

In his Introduction, he describes himself as a conservative evangelical Christian. Although Googling finds that he attends a Presbyterian church. He cites many Scriptures, Calvin and Brownson the modern gay apologist, at various points. He also cites and critiques Gagnon on many occasions. He is also often refreshingly critical of other gay apologetics. At times he delves so very deeply into philosophical meanderings that it’s hard to know whether it is reflective of reality or not. EG “to suppose that morality is all created is to suppose that God created himself”. I mean, who knows whether that’s valid. He cites and dismisses various arguments of those who disagree with him, as ‘implausible’, when I tend to see them as plausible. And he tends to refer to his own arguments as certain truth, when in my view he tends to provide insufficient rationale.

At some points I think he’s plain wrong. EG when he wrote –

Stott is right to infer from Jesus’ comment on the creation story both that marriage is a divine institution and that fidelity in marriage is divine will; Jesus was driving to the conclusion that marriage is an especially thorough and permanent union made by God. But Jesus’ comment does not imply God’s exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution of marriage.

I would say it does imply that.

Its interesting to consider whether the author is consistent. His footnotes declare bestiality as sinful. But Im not sure why the author regards what Genesis says about that, as still valid, while he rejects Leviticus as no longer valid.

And at one point he writes –

Stott’s understanding of the metaphor “become one flesh” as join in coitus finds no support in the comments of Jesus and Paul.

But then the author contradicts this on the next page –

I would not deny that the biblical metaphor “become one flesh” may be used also for coitus. It seems Paul used it that way. 1 Cor. 6:16.

At one or two points, the author sounds silly. EG his proposal that –

if, as Gagnon says, God told us a story of splitting the adam into two creatures with desire for reunion in “one flesh” just to teach us God’s will for sexual conduct and marriage, then God taught us that any identical twins who want to be sexual partners and spouses are, in his judgment, perfectly matched, homosexual and incestuous though their relationships may be.

This is a ridiculous understanding of Gagnon’s argument. Likewise it’s odd for him to claim that –

The conservative tries to support the conclusion that Jesus taught marriage is only for a man and a woman by making reference to an unexamined collection of Scripture texts that manifest a negative attitude toward homosexual relations.

Having read Gagnon, how can he say that such texts are unexamined?

Towards the end, the author writes –

The conservative has implausibly projected his personal views about marriage on the creation story and Jesus’ comment.

Gosh, I was thinking the same about the author!


How did the Uniting Church of Australia Succumb to Support Same-Sex Marriage?

In July 2018, the Uniting Church of Australia, became the first major Australian denomination to officially allow its ministers to perform and support same-sex marriages and the associated ceremonies. Their ministers can now choose to adhere to the traditional Christian perspective, or to endorse and officiate at same-sex weddings.

So what went wrong? Scripture consistently portrays Christian marriage as heterosexual. Scriptural records of when Jesus explained marriage and divorce, show that he portrayed Christian marriage as inherently heterosexual. Homosexual relations are repeatedly and consistently portrayed in Scripture as sinful. Doesnt this imply that a gay mmarriage is a commitment to sin? So how could this Australian denomination drift so far from Christian policy?

Well they have given us some insight into how they went so wrong. They have issued a 63 page report named B23 Assembly Standing Committee Report on Marriage and Same-Gender Relationships (copy attached), which covers the findings and conclusions issued by the committee named in the title, who oversaw the study of the issue over some years, as the primary body to advise the denomination on the topic. Lets explore some of the elements of the report that I found most insightful.

Claims They Were Not Superficial
They are careful to say (P. 21) that –

The views of those unable to accept same-gender marriage are not to be explained away as homophobic or bigoted, even if homophobia and bigotry are not absent from the church. Their views reflect plausible – if contested – readings of the Bible and the Christian theological tradition. They also reflect the way different cultures have honoured and experienced marriage as well as different understandings and experiences of the relationship between culture and the gospel. At the same time, the views of those who desire to see the Uniting Church celebrate same-gender marriage cannot simply be explained away as a capitulation to the spirit of the age or a failure to take the Bible seriously, even if an uncritical acceptance of cultural norms is not absent from the church. These views also reflect plausible – if contested – readings of the Bible and defensible developments of and changes to Christian teaching.

So, yes, there is some wisdom there, other than that last sentence. And yes, that last sentence explains a lot! How could they possibly conclude that such a view is plausible? Well, the report reveals that the denomination didn’t have a great foundation on which to come to this decision. Although at times they say very Christian things like (p. 12) –

… the Uniting Church … directly links … to the Methodist tradition with its emphasis on Scripture as the supreme guide for the Christian life, personal conversion leading to a transformed life, and a commitment to personal and social holiness.

and on P. 22-

is to this task of seeking the will of God and consulting together in the light of the Word of God, that the remainder of this Report is oriented.

They contradict this with comments that the denomination already includes ministers who are in same-sex relationships (p. 20) and ( on p. 19 and 49, but compare with p. 31) statements such as –

The Uniting Church does not accept the doctrine of male headship according to which the man is the head of the woman; nor does it subscribe to complementarianism, in which men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life and religious leadership. Both these understandings support a power imbalance in the marriage relationship, and can nurture an environment in which violence and other forms of abuse are present.

So they were not entirely committed to Scripture anyway. EG Ephesians 5 –

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her …

Liberal Sources Favoured

The footnotes and citations of the report suggest that the authors preferred to be informed more by liberal experts than by conservative experts. They cited the gay-affirming James Brownson twice and Robert Song several times but never Robert Gagnon, James White or Michael Brown. James Brownson is cited for his highly dodgy claim about the Biblical notion of “one flesh” on p. 31 –

The reference in Gen 2:24 to “one flesh” is also echoed in other New Testament passages, e.g. Matt 19:3-12, Mark 10:2-12, and 1 Cor 1:6. These New Testament references seem to be making a strong claim that women and men are created to complement each other. Historically, this has been understood to be the basis of heterosexual marriage and its high status in human community. Yet there is more going on in the text of Genesis 2:24 which warrants being noted. Scholars have shown that the Hebrew term for “one flesh” (basar) means ‘relatives’. In other words, being “one flesh” is about one’s network of family relationships and how those networks change through marriage.

But 1 Corinthians 1:16 suggests that the term “one flesh” really cant be reduced down to mean network of family relationships irrespective of gender. Ill leave you to look that up yourself.

Swayed By Contemporary Secular Trends?

But that quote that I cited earlier from page 21 of their report, does raise how not only are they double minded about Scripture (and lets not forget what James 1 says about being double-minded about faith) it also raises the question of whether their decision can “be explained away as a capitulation to the spirit of the age”. As I listened to the introductory videos which were linked to on page 6, I did suspect that might be what happened. They seemed to preach inclusion, inclusion, and more inclusion. Thats a popular secular priority these days. But did Jesus ever preach thou shalt be inclusive? Did the 10 Commandments include one that said thou must be inclusive? Not that I recall. Yes there were elements of Jesus ministry that were radically inclusive; of women, of groups other than Pharisees etc. But his 12 disciples were all men, and he said some were not fit to be his disciple (Matthew 16:24), so he didn’t promote inclusivity in every way, or even as though it was a key priority. And when Jesus was asked what is most important, he didn’t mention inclusivity. The Uniting Church should ask themselves where their drive for inclusivity comes from, if it’s not from Jesus.

They perhaps attempt to address this on page 7 of the report, writing –

In reading his own scriptures (the books of the Old Testament) Jesus gave first priority to love for God and neighbour, and challenged Biblical laws when they were used to exclude people from worship and community life. The Church can learn from Jesus to read the scriptures in this same way, giving priority to love of God and neighbour in the way we read and teach. When we read scripture this way it is harder to say that Bible verses like Leviticus 18- 20 and Romans 1: 27 give us rules to follow.

And yes Jesus was big on love. Huge on love. But did he overturn the rules of Leviticus? No, his morality enforced elements of Leviticus such as the sexual ones (Leviticus 18, cf. Matthew 5). And did Jesus overturn Romans 1:27? Hardly. The book of Romans came after Jesus ascended from earth. The report authors seem to be reading the Bible to fit their own views. They seem to forget that a large section of the Bible was written after Jesus. EG when they wrote on page 24 that –

In the light of the unfolding revelation of God as a God of holiness and grace, it becomes increasingly clear that where there is no mutuality or respect for the full personhood of the other, earlier accepted practices are no longer appropriate.

They even go so far as to say on page 39 that –

Identifying what makes a marriage ‘Christian’ has never been a matter of simply following biblical models.

Sometimes they simply state unsubstantiated speculation, as though it was fact. EG on p. 27 –

For Jesus, male and female are not treated as binary opposites or as a hierarchically ordered pair

And on P. 28 –

They [that is the early Christians] hadn’t (until this letter from Paul) included in their understanding of pornoi the issue of a believer being in a sexual relationship with his stepmother.

And on P. 42 –

A key reason that same-sex acts are consistently prohibited in the Bible is that they do not contribute to procreation.

Sometimes the authors simply misrepresent what Scripture says. EG a footnote on p. 28 about the sins of Sodom & Gomorrah, which ignores Ezekiel 16:50. Or on P. 29 where they write –

The word malakoi in 1 Cor 6:9 reflects this …Translations include “adulterers” (NIV).

or where they wrote (p. 31) –

Ephesians 5:31-32, … is not a gendered account …

or where they wrote (P. 48) –

This more complex notion of the image of God therefore retains the social dimension implied in the ‘creation of male and female’, but the image is not defined either by the complementarity between gender differences or by any particular gender. It is defined by Christ.

Or on p. 33, where they make a strange argument that that just as the jews invited gentiles into the church, supposedly without Scriptural direction to do so, so should GLBT people be invited in even without clear scriptural direction to do so. But the flaw in their thinking with this is that there is scriptural direction to invite in gentiles! IE Mark 16:15-16.


And if the authors are even pretending to follow scripture, why do they put such priority on limiting marriage to only 2 individuals, rather than to polygamous arrangements? Scripture is far more open to polygamy than to gay marriage. Yet they wrote on page 49 that –

In the light of the extensive work undertaken within the life of the Assembly since 1997, the WGD [Working Group on Doctrine] proposes broadening of the Uniting Church’s definition of marriage: Marriage is a gift God has given to humankind for the well-being of the whole human family. For Christians, marriage is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of two people to live together for life. It is intended to be the mutually faithful life-long union of two people expressed in every part of their life together. In marriage two people seek to encourage and enrich each other through love and companionship, experience the fruitfulness of family, contribute to the well-being of society and strengthen the mission of the church.

Ultimately, despite all their creative arguments, Im still stumped by how they can say yes to something to which Scripture so clearly says no. Here is their summary of rationale for this, from P. 47 –

We have argued that the Uniting Church’s discernment, guided by the Basis of Union, involves us in a process of listening to Scripture as well as engaging contemporary knowledge and insights. We set out the nuances of this process in some detail (Section 3.1). With regard to Scripture, we have come to the view that the prohibitions on same-gender sexual activity contained within the Bible are not central to the Christian faith. As set out in Section 3.2, we have discerned that such passages are part of wider theological frameworks and are not definitive of those frameworks.

We also acknowledge that exegesis of these passages is diverse and that the other exegetical judgements deserve to be honoured and respected. In the end, however, exegesis alone does not determine theological discernment. Whatever the judgements made on particular biblical passages, we believe that the various ideas about relationships, the body, marriage and sexuality in the Bible are framed by larger claims about the work of God in creation and redemption, frameworks which are not defined by marriage or by male-female relationship. These frameworks are constituted by Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God, the purity codes of Israel, the distinctive value placed on the body in the New Testament, the destabilising of various social categories by our union in Christ, and the biblical witness to the goodness of creation which is not defined by any immediately visible order.

Accordingly, we find ourselves unpersuaded by the claim that the “unique man-woman relationship is … the precondition of every form of relationship and foundation of the covenant which God has established with Israel and the Church for the salvation of the world”.89 We believe that in response to such a claim it is necessary to affirm that God’s self-giving, freely-willed love revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of creation’s very existence, the precondition of the human capacity for relationships, the calling of Israel and the mission of the church.

Are you speechless, like me?

Various Supporting Arguments

Some of their reasoning is based on denominational documents. EG they wrote on page 50 that –

Paragraph 14(d) of the Basis states that the Uniting Church “allows for difference of opinion in matters which do not enter into the substance of the faith.”91 In insisting that ministers “adhere to the Basis of Union” the Uniting Church requires its ministers “to live and work within the faith and unity of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church as that way is described in [the] Basis”.92 This means that in the Uniting Church, appeals to the faith and unity of the church must be made through the lens of the Basis of Union. To include marriage or any definition of it as essential to the substance of the faith would go beyond anything the Basis says or implies about the essentials of the Christian faith.

And the report also includes unsubstantiated and specious claims such as the following from page 48 –

Accordingly, same-gender attraction, for instance, shares no less and nor more than heterosexual attraction the capacity and propensity for joy and sorrow, fulfilment and disappointment, sin and selfishness, sanctification and redemption.

This claim seems to imply that there is no real difference between homosexual and heterosexual. Not only is that false, but it seems to be begging the question, to some degree.

Strange logic also appears on p. 37, where they dont seem to recognise what ‘honour’ means, and they have a strange perception that gay relationships are life-long and monogamous –

To treat [gay] relationships as suitable only for legal recognition or for a service of blessing, not for marriage, does not validate or honour their life-long monogamous commitment.

Some statements in the report, are more one-eyed than others. The following one is a shocker, from P. 7 –

“In our time, scientific research generally supports the view that people who are attracted to someone of the same gender were born that way. This knowledge supports the view that samegender sexual attraction can be understood as part of God’s good and diverse creation rather than unnatural. If the Church accepts this understanding of science then the WGD believes that the Church should offer the covenant of marriage to same-gender couples.”

Historically, faults in God’s creation, have been explained as having arisen from the Fall. No such explanation was offered here though.
Being Open-Minded

In the introduction on page 2 they write –

Among other important findings, the process of consultation and study reflected in the Working Group on Doctrine Report on Marriage and Same-Gender Relationships has confirmed that:
• The diverse understandings identified by previous Assemblies are all able to be justified biblically and theologically y – even though they are mutually exclusive interpretations;
• That diversity of understanding is itself explicable in biblical and theological terms, and can be recognised as a gift and a sign of health in the Body of Christ;…

And on P. 3 –

They are not asking the rest of the Church to agree with them, but allow [each] to follow their conscience in this way. The Working Group on Doctrine Report on Marriage and Same-Gender Relationships confirms the biblical and theological legitimacy of this request.

But the experience of the Episcopal Church probably to be followed closely by the ELCA suggests that the ‘open minded’ approach of the UCA probably won’t last long, before the Biblical perspective is disallowed (details).

Overall it’s quite sad. Why dont good people in this denomination protest? Surely if knowledgable people read through the report, they would see the flaws. Or is the report too long for people to read? Is it true, as James Dobson pointed out decades ago, that we have reached a time where people are simply too busy to have the time to read these things?

B23-Standing-Committee-Report-on-Marriage-and-Same-Gender-Relationships


But Christian Gay People are Monogamous, Right?

If youre well informed about gay culture, you know that it doesnt match heterosexual culture. And you know that gay men are often not very keen on monogamy.

Yet many who call themselves “gay Christians”, tend to talk of gay Christians as a group, as being monogamous. But are they monogamous?

One of the first significant gay Christian movements in the west, was the denomination called the Metropolitan Community Church. It was founded and led for many years by the man described here as having been prosecuted multiple times for public sex. And according to this video, the current leader of that denomination is in an open relationship. The male presenter in that video, who leads a separate gay-friendly church, speaks approvingly of open relationships. Some gay Christians even have a theology of polyamory; https://m.facebook.com/groups/136299309789666?view=permalink&id=1941343805951865

Yes some “gay Christians” are in monogamous gay relationships. But many are not.


The Gay Children of Prominent Evangelicals

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favour to the humble.”

So says both the Old and the New Testaments. And if you dont maintain your own humility, it seems that sometimes God will humble you himself! One classic avenue for this, is to give a proud conservative evangelical, a gay child. This family situation is actually quite common!

The first case of this that I noticed, was the very effeminate man of a similar age to me, who was the son a nationally known preacher. I never heard the preacher mention it, but he must have been worried. Since then, Ive become aware of many similar cases. One of earlier ones of note, was Randy Roberts Potts and his uncle, the son of famous televangelist Oral Roberts.

Another case is of a son of big name pentecostal preacher T.D. Jakes.

And then more recently, I became aware of the situation of a son of former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, James Merritt.

I bet there are more.


I’ve Been Blocked at the Miami Herald

Long term readers of this blog may recall the scandal that involved feedback repeatedly disappearing from Baptist News Global some years ago.

Today I found that the same has happened at the Miami Herald. I’d posted a facebook comment below this article, adding feedback that had been left by others. My full message and wording were;

Im surprised to see this article refer to Matthew Vines as though he has answers. His book has been refuted by many.

24 hours or so later, Facebook notified me that someone had replied to my comment –

MiamiHerald

So I clicked to see what Luis had written. But the page reported –

0Comments

As was the case at Baptist News, not only was my comment gone, but all comments were gone. At first, I assumed that all feedback had been deleted. But later, after I received more notifications of replies, I realised that someone at the Herald must have blocked me from seeing the comments.

USA used to be the land of the free. Free press, free speech. Not any more. It’s now the land of restricted speech.


Plato’s Symposium – A Summary

Plato’s Symposium is notable for it’s ancient references to sexual and romantic relations between males, including the practice of pederasty. But towards the end, you get the impression that some of the seduction is basically between male equals. As such, it dispels some urban myths about sexuality around 400 BC. Here is my summary of Symposium, based on my reading of a translation by ‘Benardete’.

Symposium is a piece of fiction, written by the famous Plato. Or is it fiction? A central character within it, is ‘Socrates’ who is portrayed as a mighty philosopher. Sounds like non-fiction there, since Plato knew the famous Socrates. It’s written in the voice of one Appollodous, and centers around him reminiscing about a party that he didnt actually attend himself, but which he heard about from others. At the party, attendees decide to speak odes to the god Eros, and this is basically the theme of Symposium. These lengthy, poetic, meandering and sometimes cryptic screeds are described in the text as being “erotic speeches” (though not using the definitions of ‘erotic’ tham Im accustomed to), and long sections of these are recounted apparently verbatum. Elements of Symposium relevant to homoerotic and homo-romantic relations are as follows.

The sentiments expressed (eg p. 265), seem quite different from what you would read in Scripture – this work is clearly not from a devoted follower of Yahweh, yet there is evidence of monotheism at (p. 274) and polytheism at other points (p. 278) and even nature worship (p. 283).

The dating of Symposium puts the author in his mid 40s to late 50s. Appollodous and other characters in the text refer to their contemporaries at the party, at times as boys (p. 234, 275), and at other times as men (p. 276, 277, 283), and they are easily interpreted to be mature men. At the latter part of the party, they consume alcohol. At another point a distinction is made between men and lads (p. 278). On p. 281, it’s said that there are “house servants” present, which might complicate our understanding, if those servants were boys.

On p. 240, it’s suggested that warriors who are also lovers, are better at their job. The speaker doesnt specify whether he’s referring to gay or straight lovers. Then on p. 241, a specific reference is made to homosexuality, with one partner being described as “far younger” than the other. This section also has a reference to the Lliad. Also notable is the use of the term ‘uranian’ (p. 242), which translates to queer in my understanding, but not necessarily so at the time. Also on p. 242, there is seemingly a specific reference to pederasty along with a comment about only being concerned with the act, irrespective of whether it’s noble. This page also refers to a kinda bisexual orientation, under the banner of the ‘Pandemus’ god and then this is contrasted on the next page, with an orientation towards pederasty only, under the banner of the ‘Uranian’ god. Questions about whether ‘pederasty’ is a reasonable translation, are put to rest, when on P. 243, they talk of boys who begin to grow beards. However, such relationships are presented as possibly life-long, and presented in contrast to fleeting ‘Pandemus’ relationships (also p. 245).

Thought is expressed about whether pederastic relationships are improper or not, and whether they should be bound by laws to discourage impropriety. Then they note on p 243 that pederasty is shameful in some locations but not in others such as Athens. It seems that those present at the party, are all inclined to pederasty, given that at times, the term ‘lover’ is simply used to denote a boy as a lover for the males present.

P. 246 says a relationship undertaken for the sake of acquiring riches is not noble. IE prostitution would not be noble. But a relationship undertaken for the sake of virtue, is portrayed as good. On p, 247 it says “it is a fine thing to gratify those who are good among human beings and disgraceful to gratify the intemperate”. Then on p. 249 “the love of the decent must be preserved. And this love is the beautiful one, the Uranian”.

Then on p. 251, Aristophanes describes androgynous human beings which he refers to as a ‘race’ where each body was basically 2 people, seemingly a male and a female. He says this ‘race’ has ceased to exist, and are now only remembered as a term of ill repute. But he says manipulation by the gods resulted in this ‘race’ being transformed into other beings including women who “hardly pay attention to men but are rather turned towards women, and lesbians arise from this genus.” I wish I could quote p. 253 basically in full, for what it says about love between men. It says that boys that go after men, do it not out of shamelessness, but out of boldness. I think the same can be said today. The author says that such boys mature into the only men who enter politics. And says that they become pederasts who pay no attention to marriage and procreation, other than as per the law forces them to. He says they would be content to live unmarried with one another. He portrays pederasts as being “wondrously struck with friendship, attachment, and love, and are just about unwilling to be apart from one another even for a short time. And here you have those who continue through life with one another …”

Interestingly, on p. 257, Agathon goes to lengths to describe Eros as moderate. This contradicts sources outside of Symposium which refer to homosexuality as an excess. In fact on this page, Agathon attributes to Eros justice, moderation and being courageous, and then on the next page, fairness, peace, goodness and much more. In fact Agathon’s report of Eros is so glowing that he says that since Eros arose, “all good things have resulted … from loving the beautiful things.” Though there is perhaps a cold Darwinian-type streak evident when he also says that there is no Eros present in ugliness (p. 258 etc). Agathon finishes his speech by saying it was spoken partially in playfulness, but the others applaud it enthusiastically (p. 259).

Socrates then contrasts this by citing someone who claims that Eros is not a god but rather his nature is part way between god and mortal; a being that they refer to as a daemon rather than a god (p. 264). There is mention of boys again on p. 273, in the midst of Socretes speech that argues that the beauty of the soul is more honourable than the beauty of the body. His speech also makes reference to those who come to such a perspective  “through the correct practice of pederasty”! Then on p. 274 he talks of the beauty of boys; “… not to be compared to gold and garments and beautiful boys and youths at whose sight you are now thunderstruck”! (that last word is repeated on p. 278, associated with great emotion). And soon after on p. 274 he talks of a desire to simply ‘behold’ a loved male; “And you and many others are prepared in seeing the beloved and always being with him, neither to eat nor drink, if it were somehow possible, but only to behold him and be with him.” This contradicts those who say that male-male relationships at the time were only abusive.

Then on p. 275, Alcibiades exclaims that Heracles has positioned himself “beside the most beautiful of those in this room.” An interesting comment given that it seems that there are only males in the room. And later (p. 285/6) we again see conflict about lying next to males. Socrates replies, saying that he loves him (though he speaks of lovers plural) and seems to accuse him of jealousy. On p. 279/280, Alcibiades talks of his own youthful beauty and indicates he thinks that Socrates appreciates that beauty and would speak to him like a lover. But Socrates didnt. So Alcibiades stripped, and convinced Socrates to do likewise, and they wrestled (p. 280), but he says it came to nothing. Then Alcibiades invited Socrates to dine with him, and then sleep in the bed next to his. It’s all sounding like an attempt at seduction. Then on p. 281 he tells Socrates that he is “the only deserving lover” of his, and recommends that he ‘gratify’ Socrates. Alcibiades even climbs in Socrates’ bed. But he says this too came to nothing, as if sleeping with a close relative. He writes with great admiration of Socrates, noting that Socrates is very self-controlled and moderate (p. 282) and lists several other males (their gender identified by his reference to them as sons of others) who misperceived Socrates as a potential lover for themselves. On p. 285 the narrator says “… it was thought that he [Alcibiades] was still erotically inclined toward Socrates.”

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