Matthew Vines continues to play the news media like a well controlled musical instrument, while continuing to spread incorrect notions about homosexuality and the Bible.
Some of the latest victims are the people of Alabama, who this month were presented with propaganda in the form of an ‘article‘ in AL.com which, online, included no cross examination of his heresies, promoted his website, and had a photo of his book that was so large, that you might mistake the piece as an advertisement.
Vines is quoted as making one of his most shockingly false statement ever, saying –
My main argument is not that [St] Paul was wrong, but that the very conception of what long-term, committed same-sex relationships are now did not exist in the ancient world. … The concept of same-sex relationships between social equals was not conceivable. … Paul in Romans 1 is condemning sexual excess, the use of sex for lustfulness. He was talking about lust and self-seeking excess.
The dubious nature of Vine’s claim is revealed by the historical record. The book A Little Gay History, from the British Museum, informs that even before Jesus, in Athens in the 5th to 4th centuries BC, sexual relationships between men were celebrated. The book explains (p. 46) that –
Like most social relationships there, these were structured by age, and the ideal beloved was a young man around eighteen or nineteen years old, but there is also evidence for lasting relationships between older men.
Note the section “there is also evidence for lasting relationships”. The book also cites a fictional story from that era, called The Symposium, which includes homosexual references, including references to homosexual couples as “lovers and loved” – a portrayal that seems far more than the simply lustful understanding that Vines says was on St Paul’s mind. The book also cites the second century Greek writer Lucian, who wrote in one of his fictional dialogues, of a woman named Leana where Leana’s friend says to her –
we’ve been hearing strange things about you Leana. They say that Megilla … is in love with you just like a man, that you live with each other, and do goodness knows what together.
The book says Leana blushes and admits to having been seduced by a woman who had married a woman. Again, the ancient authors portray homosexuality as involving ongoing relationship and even marriage, contradicting Vines’ claims.
Historian Flavious Josephus, like St Paul, lived in the first century and being Jewish, is likely to have shared the same cultural perspectives as Paul, the writer of much of the Bible. In Against Apion, Book II (section 25), Josephus wrote in the context of a section about marriage, that a relationship between males is rejected by Jewish society. That the possibility of such a relationship is raised by Josephus, suggests that Jewish people were aware of the concept of men who wanted such relationships. The concept of a man marrying a man was later also raised in the Jewish Babylonian Talmud of the 3rd to 5th centuries, where it states (in Chulin 92a, b);
Ula said: Non-Jews [litt. Bnei Noach, the progeny of Noah] accepted upon themselves thirty mitzvot [divinely ordered laws] but they only abide by three of them: the first one is that they do not write marriage documents for male couples, the second one is that they don’t sell dead [human] meat by the pound in stores and the third one is that they respect the Torah.
In the AL ‘article‘ Vines is also quoted as saying –
Committed, long-term same-sex relationships were not an issue in ancient times. It’s a new issue that Christians have not faced before.
This too contrasts with the content of the book A Little Gay History, which seems to allude to historic homosexual relationships that were restricted by celibacy. The book states –
‘Ganymede’ is found as a term describing same-sex relationships in monasteries, where some writers celebrated passionate male-male friendships, but not sexual activity, which was a crime.
Many readers of AI.com would not realize these historic facts though. Because of irresponsible journalism, some would likely assume Vines statements are accurate.
Is your church only telling half the story?
Originally posted on umc holiness:
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything on the topic which threatens to split our denomination apart. I do so today only as a response to a clergy gathering conversation that occurred yesterday at our pastor’s convocation in Holston Conference.
The conversation itself was great. We split into groups of four or five and spent an hour responding, each in turn, to four questions pertaining to homosexuality. It was refreshing to share openly with colleagues about our own experiences, traditions, interactions with scripture and reason regarding this pivotal issue facing our global church. It was a fine example of how people of differing opinions on a crucial matter can dialog responsibly and charitably.
The conversation itself was not a problem. What concerned me was how only half the story was told when introducing the conversation.
Prior to our splitting into groups, a video was shown telling the story of…
View original 336 more words
Yes, according to reports about a former senior adviser of his –
Others have long made similar comments – http://www.robgagnon.net/ObamaWarOnChristians.htm
Such are the findings of a study, according to Psychology Today –
This post is probably going to raise less general interest than most posts on this site. It’s a critical analysis of a 2014 Master of Arts thesis from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, entitled The Rhetoric of Gay Christians: Matthew Vines and Reverend Nancy Wilsons as Exemplars, written by one Joshua Miller. You have been warned.
The second half of the thesis centres around Vines’ infamous 1 hour Youtube clip. The thesis is notable for various reasons, including its numerous grammatical errors, bias, and audacious claims. But in my opinion, the most notable problem is the lack of critical analysis of the exemplars’ rhetorical arguments. Such a flawed thesis raises questions about the quality of education provided in America’s universities today.
So does the thesis actually fail? In assessing whether the thesis fails in its goals, one first must ask what the goals were. The rear of the thesis reveals that it was written for a “M.A., Communication Studies (Rhetoric) ‘14″. The title suggests the goal is basically to explore the rhetoric of two gay Christians. Surely this means the thesis should include evaluation of the strength of their rhetorical arguments? On p. 182 Miller almost states this, writing “Because both Vines and Wilson identify as gay Christians, my evaluations of them are also evaluations of rhetoric produced by gay Christians.” And on p. 188 Miller talks of his thesis; “… illuminating the debate between traditional, liberal, and queer readers of the Bible…”. The most damning statement though, is the final sentence of the abstract (p. iii). The abstract in full, states –
There is a view of gay rights debates that pits Christians against gay rights advocates. According to this perception, Christians oppose gay rights, because the Bible condemns homosexuality as a sin, and those who support gay rights do so using purely secular arguments. However, this perception of the gay rights debate is flawed and overly simplistic because not all Christians oppose gay rights. In fact, there are multiple interpretations of biblical texts that support homosexuality and have caused a gay rights debate within the church that is as complex and intricate as gay rights debate outside of the church. This thesis examines the gay rights debate within the church and, specifically, investigates the biblical arguments used by two individuals, Matthew Vines and Reverend Nancy Wilson, to convince others that homosexuality is not a sin.
A reader might wonder whether Miller changed his mind about his goals, mid-project, and forgot to update his title and abstract. In his “final remarks” on p. 187, Miller wrote –
Too often, the discourse surrounding gay rights pits Christians against homosexuals and precludes the possibility of gay Christians. By examining the rhetoric of gay Christians, the proceeding chapters illustrate that the discussions concerning gay rights are more complex than the simplistic assumption that Christians believe the Bible condemns homosexuality. This thesis has enhanced rhetorical understanding of gay rights rhetoric by examining queer and liberal interpretations of the Bible and how individuals deploy those two interpretations publically.
The final outcome is that Miller omits to critically evaluate whether his exemplars’ claims are valid. Rather, Miller looks at Vines’ approach in terms of how he delivered his arguments, EG by considering genres of rhetoric, consciousness-raising etc and by evaluating whether Vines meets the definition of a prophet. I believe that Miller did not fulfil his goals adequately.
Miller’s Poor Analysis of the Critiques of Vines Video
Miller does reflect on some of those who sought to refute Vines (pp. 161-169), however only briefly and superficially, and tending to mischaracterise or misunderstand them. Alluding to one critic, Miller writes for example (pp 161-162);
… members of Vines’ audience resisted his message. In particular, because this poster did not believe that homosexuality and Christianity were compatible, he claimed that Vines’ arguments were incorrect and immoral. This poster foreclosed the possibility of the gay Christian, instead of allowing for it.
On p. 161, Miller makes reference to Dr James White’ 5 hour audio critique of Vines’ video (Miller refers to him as Rev. James White, rather than using his usual honorific). In the referenced work, White points out numerous flaws in Vines’ presentation, yet Miller lists none of them specifically.
Miller is somewhat dismissive of Vine’s critics, characterising them as requesting the impossible (pp 162-163) –
While indicating that his evidence was biased, individuals who refuted Vines’ speech also demanded more evidence. This left Vines in an impossible position. On one hand, if he provided evidence, he would be accused of subjectively searching for evidence. On the other hand, if he did not provide evidence, he would not be able to prove his argument.
Miller surmised (p.163) during this analysis that –
All of these responses [from Vines’ critics] indicated [they felt] that two years of research were inadequate for Vines to be able to gain an understanding of the Bible in relation to homosexuality.
For the traditionalists, Vines’ two years of research was not significant to generate any new claims in the biblical debate about homosexuality.
This is an illustration of Miller putting words into the mouths of the critics, who tended not to state that 2 years is insufficient, but rather had other objections. In fact, in his book, Vines later addressed this very question of whether he generated new claims, writing “I am not a biblical scholar, so I have relied on the work of dozens of scholars whose expertise is far greater than my own. My goal has not been to break new ground, but to bring credible, often-overlooked insights to light, and to synthesize those insights in clear and accessible ways for a broad audience.” (God and the Gay Christian, pp 2-3). Vines is basically in agreement with his critics on this point, yet Miller seems to miss this.
Miller continues in his reflection on Vines’ critics, claiming (p. 164) they complained that Vines –
… had done too little and too much research to make an argument about what the Bible said about homosexuality.
Too much research? Miller offers no direct citations of such criticism. Has anyone claimed that Vines did too much research? I suspect not. Miller chooses to ignore claims from Vines’ critics that he was factually incorrect on various matters. Miller has tended to dismiss the critics based on the dubious claim that Vines would never be able to escape their criticism.
Miller’s Unsubstantiated Claims
The charge that Vines’ critics say he had done too much research, and that 2 years research is insufficient, are not the only unsubstantiated claims Miller makes.
Miller makes another poorly substantiated claim on p. 56 when he writes “The sole purpose of the Christian anti-gay movement was to prevent the lesbian and gay movement “from gaining any more political ground.” Miller neglects to consider Christians who are not politically inclined, and who simply wanted to obey their God as they saw Him, or who were seeking to avoid God’s judgement. Again such a claim was inappropriate for a thesis. Miller makes much the same mistake again on p. 65 when he writes “… gays and lesbians were punished for it [AIDS] via anti-sodomy laws.”
One of his more outlandish claims is found on p.154; “Vines demonstrates radical commitment to God and the biblical text.” This controversial claim looks rather weak if the reader reflects on Miller’s statement on p. 167, that Vines “questioned the assumption that the God believed homosexuality was a sin”. Assumption? The Bible presents heterosexual relationships as the Christian norm. The Bible repeatedly portrays homosexual practise as sinful (Leviticus, Romans etc), and never presents it in a positive way. How then does Vines demonstrate “a radical commitment to God and the biblical text”? He doesnt. Rather Vines claims that St Paul – the author of much of the New Testament didnt really know what he was talking about, and Vines rips the soul out of the core Christian belief that the Bible is God-breathed. And is it appropriate for Miller to use the word ‘assumption’ in this context? No. He has not taken the neutral position that would be expected from someone conducting such an analysis.
This bias also shocks me. I thought such an analysis should at least pretend to be impartial. Miller has a tendency to voice the thoughts of others in a framing of words that sound like his own thoughts. This can be confusing in terms of knowing for sure whether he is merely citing what someone else thinks, or whether he means to imply he agrees with them. EG p. 164, or p. 22 where Miller writes “King David was also bisexual.” In such examples it’s not crystal clear whether Miller believes the claim himself, or whether this statement simply reflects the context, which is the opinions of the person he is referencing at the time. But even when it’s clear that the writings are Miller’s own thoughts, the bias is jarring and seems out of place. Also confusing is that rather than following convention by using words such as ‘argues’ or ‘claims’, to refer to the controversial statements of others, Miller tends to prefer the word ‘indicates’. EG on p. 23 Miller writes of the (unlikely) suggestion that Bible characters David and Johnathan had a gay relationship, writing that “Wilson tells her queer narrative of David and Jonathan. She indicates that for David and Jonathan, it was love at first sight.” Since when do we write of what a controversial statement as being what someone has indicated, unless we trust their judgement?
We see more of this bias on p. 154, when Miller writes that Vines “invites his audience to understand that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality.” Invites them to perceive? Invites them to believe? Invites them to imagine? No, Miller appears to take Vines’ word as Gospel! How can Miller properly evaluate rhetoric, if he doent look at it objectively? On p. 159 Miller is even more blatant. He writes –
In the beginning of his speech, when he shifted between the traditionalist and the gay man, Vines certainly presented fluid understandings of his own identity. … Once Vines enacted several, seemingly, competing and contradictory identities, he showed his audience that identities that they previously thought were incompatible in fact were compatible.
Note the use of the word ‘fact’ to refer to something so controversial, and something that lies at the heart of the thesis itself. This is known as begging the question, and is a critical logical flaw.
Miller’s Factually Incorrect Statements
And this leads us to another problem – Miller making factually incorrect statements. On p. 189, Miller alleges that “Vines … was excommunicated from his previous church …” Miller repeats this assertion on p. 158 and 182. Miller perhaps reached this conclusion from a misleading NY newspaper article, which stated that Vines was “forced” to leave his home church in Kansas. But a newspaper more local to Vines, the Wichita Eagle (2014/06/07), indicated that he was not forced to leave. And in his book (cited above, p. 164) Vines implied that it was his choice to leave, after ongoing civil discussion with church members and making no mention of excommunication; “After it became painfully clear that our church wouldn’t be a supportive community for me anytime in the near future, my family and I reluctantly left.”
Update: A Response From Miller’s Institution
In early 2015, I raised the above concerns with the University, pointing them to this blog post. They replied in part –
I believe that his work in his thesis titled “The Rhetoric of Gay Christians: Matthew Vines and Nancy Wilson as Exemplars” is very well-written, thoroughly researched, and makes a unique contribution to the field of rhetorical studies. His study uses historical research and close rhetorical analysis to show how gay Christians such as Matthew Vines and Nancy Wilson use language persuasively to reconcile homosexuality and Christianity, two aspects of identity widely assumed in American culture to be diametrically opposed.
Yes, Miller undertook a lot of research. Yes it makes a unique contribution. Well written? That last one is a matter of opinion – what about all the typos? So to gain a Masters degree, do you simply need to write something unique that is well researched, and that has elements of being well written? Doesnt that mean a high school student could do it? What if it’s deeply flawed or deeply biased or doesnt really reflect the title? Does that not matter? They continue –
Although Mr. Miller’s work exhibits several strengths, one of the most notable is the charity that he exhibits towards all “sides” in this debate. The high quality of this work has been recognized by others in the Department of Communication Studies, including his committee members and those who named him the 2014 Outstanding Graduate Student. Work from Mr. Miller’s thesis has been accepted for presentation at national-level conferences as well, further evidence of its quality and intellectual integrity.
Yep, so long as it has some good elements, it seems they are not bothered by the flaws. Sigh…
Some, such as one Matthew Vines, have portrayed the human race as being comprised of people are either gay or straight. Those who know more about the topic might point out that there are others who are in-between. IE who are attracted to both genders, and who tend to be called “bisexual”.
And others who know even more about the topic, might point out that there are some who at one point in their life, regard themselves as straight, but at another point regard themselves as gay. This change in orientation tends to happen more during the teen years. Beyond that, it happens to women rather than men. After the teen years, a man’s sexual orientation tends not to change.
But even less commonly known, is the phenomenon where orientation is affected by drug use. Yes, there are claims that some people – including males – become more bisexual when they are high, as reported here –
Some will have you believe that homosexual sex has nothing to do with debauchery. And when applied some homosexuals, that argument can sound reasonable, because there are a minority who mate for life in monogamy. But then there are the other cases…
Every now and again you will hear a gay activist claim that the motivation of a given leader (EG religious or political) in portraying homosexual relations as sinful or just not optimal, is financial. Typically the gay activist will say something like “he’s just being homophobic for fundraising purposes.” These accusations parallel the same accusations liberals make against conservative leaders like Sarah Palin, where they claim that educated conservative leaders dont actually believe their own statements. Conservatives roll their eyes at these claims, recognising them as the false conspiracy theories that they are.
So it is interesting to find a gay activist concede that the Christian position on homosexual relations isnt a great financial “(or profit-making) strategy.” You can read his post here.