Comments: SOR debate wrap-up

And +Winchester seems to have voted in favour.

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 10:58am GMT

Lord Alli's comment:

"Look outside this building tonight, listen to the small but vocal crowd, and imagine how it feels to walk through that crowd and see so much prejudice directed towards you simply because you are gay, simply because you are yourself, simply because you exist. It is rank hypocrisy to object to this order, having argued for the very same protection for religious groups only a few months ago."

Despite the technical inadequacies of the legislation and flawed governmental procedure in its rapid introduction - rightly criticised by the Lords - I am personally delighted that the challenge to the spirit of the legislation has been so soundly rejected by the House.

Perhaps it may make a few of those Christians who supported the challenge pause and reassess if they have been wise in their actions. And perhaps it just might make life a little more bearable for those Christians in the closet, marooned in churches filled with the prejudice that Lord Alli so emotively highlights.

Posted by Jimbo at Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 11:19am GMT

As soon as law ceases to equal right, then contradictions become inevitable:
(1) If the idea is to avoid discrimination, then to avoid discrimination against one is to create it against another. This could be avoided by rejecting the absolutism that comes from always affirming non-discrimination. Everyone can think of ways in which discrimination can be positive. A football coach knows that one of his charges benefits from reverse psychology, another from being verbally booted up the backside. He discriminates between them in his treatment of them, to the individual benefit of each.

I often think that a society can be judged by how many presuppositions it has. This one has too many (discrimination is always bad; liberation is always good; choice is always good), and very few of them are actually held by those who really think about it, since it is so easy to produce counter-examples. We are inclined to be uncritical/dogmatic/absolutist as a society, and relegate more nuanced thought.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 12:17pm GMT

I agree with your comments on the absolutism of society and the relegation of nuanced thought. We see it here as expressed in religious debate, but it is elsewhere too. It is prominent in American society, and, in so far as it is a worldwide thing, I wonder if it has spread because America is the dominant world culture. I sometimes wonder as well if it is as a result of the American political system. Two parties means "either/or" and it seems sometimes that Americans are incapable of a more nuanced poitical view. If one expresses a liberal or conservative view on one particular issue, one is expected to have similar views on all other issues, look for instance at the Conservative assertion that the "reassors" all believe the same group of heretical doctrines, which, incidentally, I have rarely heard "liberals" speak positively about. Most of the liberals I know have a very Incarnational faith for whom Christ's divinity is basic, yet they are accused of denying it, because some fringe weirdo has said it in conjunction with other more accepted "liberal" views. The same applies to Liberals for whom, for instance, even the use of traditional language in worship means one is a sexist homophobe and probably Republican (the horror!).

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 2:45pm GMT

' avoid discrimination against one is to create it against another...'


Does the work of the equalities ministry mean that gradually whites, women, the abled etc .,are be being rendered oppressed and harrassed ?

In the light of some speeches in the House of 'Lords' and writings elsewhere, I have decided for the present, to follow Biblical prcedent and re-name myself here,


specific sinner / pechadwr penodol

Posted by pechadwr benodol / specific sinner at Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 4:03pm GMT

Thanks to Jimbo, thanks to Lord Ali, and thanks to those who passed the vote in the House of Lords. Is this indeed cultural evidence in support of Darwin's views? Are we evolving before our very own eyes?

The central factual and discernment dilemma stands: Either all this negative religious definitional and presuppositional revelation stuff is accurate - and there is nothing good in a queer citizen's life, except as exclusively defined by those categorical and conservative revelation hermeneutics; or we are all being led fairly down the garden paths to assert a flat earth theory of what it means to be queer, with the religious right ever especially empowered and privileged to define ordinary hard-working queer folks as especially bad (for how can the behavior be so bad if the motivations and intents are not bad, too?).

Posted by drdanfee at Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 4:22pm GMT

In response to Christopher, discrimination in the legal sense is not to treat people differently, but to treat them less favourably, where such differences in treatment are disproportionate to a legitimate aim.

Discrimination in this sense is a completely different proposition because it is corrosive of that person's identity and standing within society.

The less favourable treatment in goods and services consists of a refusal of service or provision of a service on less favourable grounds.

This is a political question - do you want a society where it is acceptable to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation.

We don't accept nuance with racism and we shouldn't with homophobia.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 5:21pm GMT


Frankly, I think all Christians should delight that they are no longer lulled into the heresy of approving of/accommodating those who turn up (against Gospel imperatives) outside their establishments in big 4WD gas guzzlers while disapproving of those who offend (as Full Gospel Believers would have it) against the homosexuality imperative....

Hallelujah that we are no longer allowed to discriminate between Gospel-denying sinners other than by taking their cash:-)))

Or as Theophilus of Antioch puts it: "But to the unfaithful who disregard and disobey the truth but obey unrighteousness, when they are full of adultery, and fornication and homosexual acts and greed and awless idolatry, there will be wrath, tribulation and anguish and finally eternal fire will overtake such men"

I'm just ashamed so many bishops voted with the motion.

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 6:29pm GMT

Let me get this straight... The motion was to suspend the law passed by Commons. A vote in favor of the motion is a vote to suspend the law. The vote failed, so the law remains on the books.

Posted by ruidh at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 12:30am GMT

Also,note that Baroness Richardson of Calow, former leader of the Free Churches and the Methodists, voted against the motion

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 12:37am GMT

Not quite, ruidh. Your reading is correct except that...
This legislation was for Northern Ireland only, and had never come to either house of the UK Parliament in Westminster.
It had been brought in by the Northern Ireland government, but at present, for reasons that you may be aware of, the Northern Ireland Assembly is in suspension. Therefore it was brought in without a parliamentary debate there either.
It was in fact been debated once after that by the "Transitional Assembly" which I mentioned in passing earlier on TA, see

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 9:36am GMT

This comment led me cogitating "A football coach knows that one of his charges benefits from reverse psychology, another from being verbally booted up the backside."

I've known of priests, parents and spouses who knew that their charges, dependents and spouses benefited from reverse psychology and a good slap. I've known some souls who always wear long sleeves and sunglasses to hide the bruises. I've known many, many women who were bankrupted as their husbands applied "reverse psychology" to their wives' fear of not being able to pay the bills by taking all the family assets and squandering them.

Bit like desecration of the planet, isn't it. Maybe we are applying a bit of reverse psychology to Gaia? Perhaps if we keep booting her up the arse she'll produce petroleum quicker?

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 9:47am GMT

It does, however, set a precedent and suggest that the law in Northern Ireland will not be substantially revised for England and Wales. The arguments used by the Government were very much in response to the type of objections which have been raised by the conservative anti-gay Christian lobby in England and Wales. It is clear enough that there has been a decision made as to what the legislation should contain, or the Government would have recommended changes at this stage or announced the likelihood of revision. That isn't the case.

I think its well known that the Minister responsible is not exactly comfortable with this situation and it would not surprise me if her junior presented the debate in the Commons, or if there was a minor reshuffle in advance. Recent events have not exactly enhanced her internal standing in the Labour party.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 11:14am GMT

On a oblique point. If the proposed Covenant needs legislation to take effect in England it will be interesting to see how Parliament will handle it if it is anti-gay in character, if it seeks to 'unchurch' those who take a liberal or more moderate position. Will Parliament rubber stamp such a Covenant (as it usually does with Church legislation) or will it seek to amend or even reject it? It is remarkable that even the House of Lords now will have no truck with anti-gay rhetoric. Will Parliament allow the Church of England to fall into the hands of a narrow exclusive clique? It will certainly be interesting to see what happens!

Posted by AlaninLondon at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 12:33pm GMT

How right Cheryl is. I think I've commented before on the fundamental division between those who believe in the force of argument, and those who believe in the argument of force. TA by its nature attracts chiefly those who would accept the former. Those who accept the latter tend to gather around either conservative or extreme radical viewpoints.

I love the lines in the Address to Diognetus (7:3f): "Did he (viz. God) do it as a man might suppose, like a tyrant with fear and terror? Not at all, but with gentleness and meekness, like a king sending his son, he sent him as king, he sent him as God, he sent him as man to men; he sent as seeking to save, as persuading, not compelling, for compulsion is not the way of God."

Posted by cryptogram at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 12:44pm GMT

My experience at the demo was instructive. I did manage to get one guy to engage in reasoned debate as opposed to following his instincts like the rest. He updated me on one point, which was welcome, but as that concerned preferences for one sexual act over another it was neither here nor there. And even he jumped to conclusions before he read what I had to say. The remainder did that with knobs on - with the exception of a delightful guy with curly hair and glasses who I later saw being interviewed for the TV (what he said, I don't know), who said that he believed the correct context for sexual relations was [man-wonan] marriage, and stood with me on the point that homosexuals are not a special case over against the unmarried in the guesthouse situation. I was, however, concerned that he was apparently expressing solidarity with those who believed the very opposite.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 12:52pm GMT

There were two ways in which I felt the opponents of the demo were not pulling their weight, ie 'could do better' (dire words!!):
(1) Sometimes it reminded me of a situation where a lass or lad is learning to drive and bursts into tears saying 'My driving instructor hates me.'. The driving instructor is only trying to impart factual information as best they know how, and the net result will hopefully be beneficial for the candidate, which is in their mutual interest.
It is as though everything in life is about emotions, and how it makes us 'feel'. People are not allowed to be convinced by the stats; it all has to be reduced to 'fear' and 'hatred'.
Now: the opponents do know better than this. They know perfectly well that people can be academically convinced of something - even against their emotional inclinations. So why are they pretending otherwise? That doesn't reflect well on them. If the demo supporters can reason, or at least distinguish reason from emotion, why can't their opponents do the same? For sure, they can - but are not yet doing so.
(2) The more serious point is that they by and large show no inclination to familiarise themselves with the factual and statistical information on which any informed assessment of homosexual practice is based (regarding life expectancy, disease levels, promiscuity levels, levels of indulgence in unsafe acts). This being so, their opinions cannot be called opinions. Anyone can say what one *wants* to be the case. But how can one have an objective honest point of view unless it is based on scientific journal findings etc.? As between those who believe what they want to believe and those who are open-minded and go where the research leads them, it is clear which is better.
Should the opponents take these two steps I will happily debate with them. Till that time, they have not yet reached the stage of having any opinion at all on the matter - which would make any lifestyle decisions groundless.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 1:03pm GMT

But I don't think its up to us to prove anything, Christopher.

There should be an assumption of equal citizenship. Gay and lesbian relationships and identities have legal status - the conservative Christian view no longer predominates in terms of legal understanding. It is up to you to make the case to allow discrimination in civil society ie outside the confines of the church. Religious freedom allows you to practice discrimination within the Church, and whilst I disagree with such practice, I think the church does have the right to be bigoted within its confines. But - not outside.

I also think that you need to realise that we are not dealing purely with rational decisions which have no effect on people's lives. Institutionalising discrimination suggests that the State itself regards one's very being and identity as unacceptable, as second class. These are not matters about which one can be 'detached; if one is involved and directly affected by discrimination.

And I am afraid it is you who needs to familarise yourself with the actual facts - and that means binning everything which propagandists such as NARTH have to say. The fact is that we are NOT arguing about the rightness or wrongness of being gay. That argument has been heard, and you lost. The argument here is whether conservative Christians should have the right to withdraw goods and services to gay and lesbian people. Their opinion of gay and lesbian people is purely that - their opinion - and carries no weight in terms of this debate. Whether you think being gay or lesbian is beneficial is not the point. It is not up to you to try and re-introduce restrictions on gay or lesbian activity. That isn't the purpose of this legislation - although of course, it is the aim of conservative Christians, who would dearly love to re criminalise homosexuality.

You have to demonstrate clearly why you should be allowed to discriminate in this precise area, not use the debate as a trojan Horse to bring forward all sorts of other objections to being gay. That is what the opponents of change tried to do - and it did their cause nothing but harm. I have honestly never seen such a poorly conceived and amateurish campaign. Don;t you realise how your 'side' come over?

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 3:29pm GMT

"The more serious point is that they by and large show no inclination to familiarise themselves with the factual and statistical information on which any informed assessment of homosexual practice is based (regarding life expectancy, disease levels, promiscuity levels, levels of indulgence in unsafe acts)."

Meaning what? None of what you mention as supposed risks of being gay are actually as a result of being gay, the issue seems to be more one of promiscuity. Though I contest your implication that gay people are more promiscuous than straight people, let's suppose for the minute that we are. One could argue that if the Church and society in general gave more support to monogamous gay relationships, this would cease to be a problem. Just being gay doesn't make one promiscuous, indeed I know of not a few gay people I would consider to be prudes, actually. Where do you get your statistics, and how do you justify making the conclusion that the things you mention are purely as a result of being gay as opposed to other societal factors? Such an interpretation on your part hardly constitutes an "informed assessment of homosexual practice" and seems instead to be an interpretation made to suit your pre-existing biases using statistics the validity of which is not supported in your post. Your last allegation is the worst. HIV is spreading fastest among teenagers, regardless of sexuality, because of high levels of unsafe behaviour. Are you suggesting it is inadvisable, or worse, morally deficient, to be a teenager?

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 4:37pm GMT

There is a sad contradiction that those who accuse the gay community of promiscuity are often those seeking to make formalised and stable relationships most difficult to maintain (eg by discrimination in goods and services etc etc).

I can only assume that the mainspring of those who maintain such a mutually exclusive position is that ANY physical expression of same-sex love is wrong, so fidelity is morally not superior to promiscuity. To me that seems perverse, but it has a certain internal consistency within it. However, its connection with the outside world seems strained....

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 4:49pm GMT

I agree, Ford.

It is well known that statistics gained from studies of young gay men, active on the commercial scene, which have been carried out for the purposes of developing HIV prevention startegies, are regularly mis-used by anti-gay bodies such as NARTH and are used to represent the entire gay population. So, gay people are said to be promiscuous and not in long term relationships with reference to a totally unrepresentative profile of gay people

I wonder if surveys were done of heterosexuals in their late teens and early twenties who regularly use bars and nightclubs, the results would be very different? The answer is no, but of course this is conveniently forgotten

Thereareplenty of gay people in monogamous relationships,living in the suburbs, who rarely use the gay scene. I am one of them. Since when would we be part of surveys aimed at discovering the nature of high-risk sexual behaviour?

Not at all, because we don't partake in any!

Its just this sort of thing which makes the case put forward by conservatives so threadbare and betrays that they are actually homophobic in the older sense of the word - they are fixated on, and don't like, what they think gay men do in bed. Its a visceral thing - it isn't rational in the least.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 4:56pm GMT

Well, I've been strictly monogamous for the past 20 years. Before that, I was frankly envious of my straight friends, all of whom seemed to be able to get laid at the drop of a hat, while I was practically a hermit. Maybe that's why I resent being called promiscuous simply because I am gay. Believe me, in my younger days, I'd have been quite happy to be half as promiscuous as the straight people around me:-)

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 7:36pm GMT

Lord Morrow said in the Lords: “In most circumstances, the new laws will not be problematic. Homosexual people are entitled to be able to buy their groceries and have their bins emptied, just like everyone else…”

You mean that when the door bell tolls for me it’s the milkman? Who would have thought...

“… but the regulations go much further…. Christian old people’s homes will be sued for not giving a double bed to homosexual civil partners.”

Having some experience (including recent) of old people’s homes, I would suggest very few indeed in such places are put in double beds…

“Christians in business could even be sued for sharing their faith with customers.”

Harassment, if ever there was ;=)

“Worst of all, they require religious organisations to choose between obedience to God and obedience to the state.”

Well, in my book each and one of us have always been required to do so – Rend à César!

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 7:54pm GMT

Christopher Shell has a point (or two) -

When we meet with our friends and family we talk of our children's education, our eldests newest girlfriend, my mum's new antics of hiding the sugar bowl (on a diet again!) and then spending three hours looking for it.
We discus our mutual friends and absent family, what we saw at the theatre last week and what the preacher said in the sermon on Sunday, mortgage rates and of course the weather!
We say our prayers together and talk about scripture and laugh with Jesus then - let a silence come.
I don't think we have ever discussed the "statistics" he mentions, though we are watchful, careful and loving of each other and of each other's children and mindful of the many challenges we all face in the world.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 10:20pm GMT

The important thing about statistics is not to get them from any one 'source'. One should get them from combining the results of all the most large-scale and most scientific surveys, adn seeing what the big picture is and what the big trends are.
The only point is that if someone has not familiarised themselves with this data, then they are (as no-one could dispute) not yet in a position to adjudge homosexuality a viable (or for that matter non-viable) lifestyle choice. I have not yet heard an answer to this point. If, for example, life expectancy levels are worse than for alcoholism, then no-one has suggested that alcoholism is a viable lifestyle choice. The reverse, in fact. do the math.

Yet their lifestyle choice must be based on something surely? This is where I am struggling. If we are honest, in the absence of attention to large-scale surveys, it must be based on one or more of the following 'criteria' (if one can call them that):
(1) If it feels good do it;
(2) It is in tune with the Zeitgeist of this particular country at this particular date;
(3) Everybody should be allowed to do what they want (like stealing each other's wallets);
(4) The media types, being such a broad and well-educated cross-section of society (hem hem) are in favour.
(5) So are the politicians, who want the vote of a populace intent on having fun.
Facts and the real world can go jump in a lake.

But what do they have to lose by addressing the stats? Certainly not their honesty. Isn't the avoidance of attention to research a bit susp?

A broader, and more worrying, point. Of the homosexuals I spoke to on Tuesday, it seemed that all (even a grandpa who ought to have known better, and probably did really) were in favour of both pornography and promiscuity. Historically, of course, the gay agenda has gone hand in hand with the costly sexual revolution - but correct me if I'm wrong.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 12 January 2007 at 12:32pm GMT

Isn't the avoidance of attention to research a bit susp?

Not if the research is obviously biased from the start. I can come up with "research" that seems to show that conservative political beliefs are a kind of psychopathology, but that's just as biased. What research are you talking about? Of course gay rights have gone along with the sexual revolution. How else could it have happened? Even now, those who support us are in a minority. And what agenda are you talking about? The agenda that we will demand that society stop tying us to fences and pistol whipping us to death, that we will be able to have the same kind of job security as anyone else, that I should be able to comfort my partner when he is ill in hospital? You seem to think we have some sort of secret cabal to take over society or something. And "lifestyle choice"? Our choice is not between celebacy and debauchery, it is between fear, shame, and hiding, and a life lived free of those things. So you feel we are wrong to make a choice we are not even making. Given that any societal institution that could influence our behaviour is determined to make us choose fear over freedom, why are you surprised we don't follow your moral framework? A better question would be why are there so many straight people who lead lives of similar licentiousness, given that morally pure heterosexual behaviour is something they are encouraged to follow? Or do you think that the number of straight people who boff everything that moves are in a minority? Think again.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 12 January 2007 at 1:43pm GMT

No-one is avoiding research, Christopher.It is you who is actually failing to read otr understand the research in the context of which it was written, because you clearly believe the propaganda of organisations such as NARTH.

They both commission biased research which is not peer reviewed, and misuse the type of research I have outlined above.

If, for example, you use a survey of HIV+ men to adjudge the life expectancy of gay men as a total population, you will gain completely ridiculous results. Indeed, quantitative figures are suspicious, full stop, as there is no sampling frame to work on. No-one knows how many gay people there are, and there is no way of ever knowing.

We are addressing the research, Christopher. It is you who fails to do so. You simply believe the spin placed on it by those whose views you approve of.

And, similarly, I have only your word with regard to the final sentence. I don't believe you, and I don't think your bias produces anything remotely trustworthy. Or did you self-select again? Or ask questions in such a way as to gain the answer you wish? For example, I am not in favour of either of those things in the sense that I partake in neither, but I would not wish to advocate legal punishment for those who do. Similarly, I detest your religion, and regard it as harmful, but would not wish to prevent its practice.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 12 January 2007 at 1:50pm GMT

You are incorrigible Christopher !

One has only to go thru your piece replacing 'gay' with 'black', 'Jewish', 'female', 'Irish', 'Muslim', 'Welsh Calvinsitic Methodist' --and so on... YOU choose ! - to see how outragous it is.

CORRECTION it would be outragous from almost any other pen (keyboard) but yourn Christopher.

I suspect that your thinking is informed by the statistical imperatives of the Revelation of St John.

Still I am mindful that you and I belong to minority groups severally ...

BTW How did you come to adopt your particular lifestyle ? ...

Posted by laurence at Friday, 12 January 2007 at 2:34pm GMT

"Life-style choice" is perhaps where we might come apart here Christopher.

I notice that world-wide women are still outliving us fellah's by five years and more.

It's a bummer!

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 12 January 2007 at 2:53pm GMT

Thanks Cheryl. You speak my mind also.

Women and others bear the physical bruises and scars of such applied 'reverse psychology'(aka sadism, or abuse); and also the hidden psychological scars of such treatment( panic attacs, ptsd, anxiety, depressions, flash-backs, low self-esteem; and many other difficulties in life). And as Cheryl says Gaia too -and the very air we breathe, the oceans, the myriad creatures.

Life in the UK in the 50s was often dominated by this way of treating children, elders and other vulnerable groups. I do believe we have entered kinder and more enlightened times, in the education of children and the attempt to protect the human rights and dignity of all, especially those rendered vulnerable in some way. Secularism and the Enlightenment have brought much Good, and many are conscentiously seeking to apply this kind of wisom and love, rooted in relationship , reflection and participatory democratic cultures. Just listen to the radio 4 business programs of all things ! Often ethical and often reflective. Often doing the truth.

The JESUS of the sermon on the mount or plain clearly taught his own very diffferent applied pyschology. His was a true reversal of the psychology of brutalism and power domination. How he reverses the normal worldy order of things and values. The kingdom, or commonweal or oder-of-the-coming-age of which he spoke sounds very wonderful. Being in the small ways of human hearts, as shown by some secularists, entrpreneurs and hidden phil-anthropists.

Sometimes, I think 'what a good mother, must have been Mary. And Joseph's quiet fathering. A loving and together couple, perhaps.'Jesus turned out well.

And as shown entering our world at Helen House for children with life-shortening illnesses and in the social projects of Thich Nhast Hanh, and his teaching of 'engaged buddhism' by which he means 'understanding & compassion' of the rooots of hatred, despair, and brutality in our world and our hearts. And mindfulnesss & smiling. (radio 4, last night, Thurday 11th).

I find sustenance in a line from one of the scriptures -

'the fruit of understanding slowly ripening.'

Posted by laurence at Friday, 12 January 2007 at 5:17pm GMT

Christopher, I find myself wondering: are you much given to discussing 'sexual acts' on the streets of London with strangers-- curly headed or otherwise ? And why not I suppose if an other wishes to. HOWEVER, if one does this, then I guess one must be ready for (almost) anything ?

I AGREE with your argument for extending marriage to same-sex couples and only wish I had thought of it. But then I am rather lacking in the sphere of --shall we say --alfresco research !

(I did used to testify thru a loud-hailer in my teens, on street corners, but guess that don't count) : - )

Posted by laurence at Friday, 12 January 2007 at 5:25pm GMT

I am not aware of the research of NARTH. As far as I know none of the research findings which I rely on are produced by Christians. I use only three tests:
-how big is the sample?
-how up-to-date is the survey?
-is it approved by a recognised scientific/social-scientific journal/publisher?
In addition, I try in each case not to rely on a single survey but on the conglomerated findings of the main existing surveys.

Martin- not to mention those pesky left-handers who die so young. But you surely aren't denying that men live less healthily than women on average, and that lifestyle factors also influence the homosexual life-expectancy figure (a bit like the smokers' and alcoholics' figures)? Those are non-negotiables.
-I agree wholeheartedly with your description of your family lifestyle. But such a lifestyle and attention to statistics are not even remotely either/ors (mutually exclusive alternatives). It's a both-and.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 12 January 2007 at 6:20pm GMT


Thanks for the kind words and I liked your "value add".


Your comments about statistics providing insights into life expectancy and prognosis makes for some interesting contemplations. Is the homosexual lifestyle less safe and more likely to lead to injury? Yes. Do some souls have the ability to choose to eschew homosexual acts by either abstaining or choosing the other gender only? Yes - those who have low sex drives or at a point on the continuum where either gender is attractive to them.

But there are those on the continuum where opposite sex sex is simply unpalatable and celibacy impossible. If celibacy was so easy, then how come the AIDS pandemic has done such a good job of exposing how itinerate workers are such good vectors for spreading the disease? Sex happens.

Those on the "extreme" end of homosexuality are thus presented with the same conundrums that women and souls with inherited disabilities face. The prognosis of our quality of life, relative safety, health issues and other problems are higher than those who are born male, heterosexual and without affliction. Unfortunately (?), we are as the potter made us and have to make the most of whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.

A healthy society understands that not all its people can be perfect all the time. A healthy society does not set up unrealistic expectations and guarantees. What it does do, is do its best to improve the quality of life and relative safety for all its citizens. We continue to produce insulin for diabetics, do open heart surgery on infants, provide respite care for difficult children and their carers. A healthy society might not be able to eliminate every burden, but it can sure lighten the load.

Are our churches theologically healthy? Are they helping each citizen lead the fullest and safest life possible in their circumstances? Or are they into scapegoating and ignoring the needs of those they think they can justify dismissing?

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Friday, 12 January 2007 at 8:42pm GMT

Wow I am surprised to read that anybody is still trotting out bad science from the right in an attempt to convince us that a queer person decides to Come Out because they happen to fail to read the most damning - aka most accurate aka most traditional aka most obviously skewed and spindried - statistics somewhere.

No queer person takes a survey as they begin their journey into mature self-knowledge. Or, at least few that I know personally, or know about from any other source. Most begin by knowing the inner world of that special and good attraction feeling that draws one to other men or other women, pretty much just as heterosexual people are attracted (even though the rightwingers would have us make too much of the gender/anatomy differences) - and thus is opened out of self towards other humans.

None of this registers on the ready made radar screens of the dominant presuppositional negative frames so beloved of the right, secular or religious. And of course it should be that way, because the only way to condemn queer folks categorically is to maintain a damning definition from the start, and then make everything else - statistical spins included - fit into ones damning categories. We used to argue this way about people of color, Africans in particular; and all sorts of fake science was bandied about, involving brain pan measures and other data which is correct as far as it went in its details, but proved over time to be wrong factually and mean-spirited, besides.

Is the real force of all these rightwing points, simply the continued inferiority/incompetency alleged ahead of time no matter what by definitions drawing vigorously on legacy antigay prejudice?

Posted by drdanfee at Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 1:48am GMT

drdanfee's comments are not up to his usual incisive standard. Why?
Because it is simply impossible (by their very nature) that statistics will turn out as we would want them to turn out. The reason we have statistics at all is as a necessary corerctive to ideology and wishful thinking. Provided the necessary checks are in place (large samples, unbiased/neutral researchers, high-class accreditation, fully up-to-date contemporaneity) then statistics are the closest thing we have to facts.

Yet one would never guess from drdanfee's answer that any statistics which gave unwelcome findings on any topic under the sun could possibly be true.

They *will* be unwelcome sometimes - in any possible world, including (sometimes) this one.
It is a mark of integrity and of suitable academic detachment that people do not try to argue round unwelcome statistics, and/or are capable of criticising their friends' ideas etc..

But simplest would be to give references from scientific journals for the correct stats on these matters, if mine are incorrect.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 12:17pm GMT

Hi Cheryl
Don;t you think that the more you feed something (eg an inclination) the bigger it grows? This is certainly true of my daughter. For example, a pornography-permitting society thus turns into not a sated society but a pornography-obsessed society. And a homosexuality-tolerating society ends up with more homoseuxality. The power to conform to what is perceived as normal (as opposed to good and beneficial) is very strong. (Normal on a local/national not international level, that is.) People just hate to be seen as deviants by their peers, however deviant they are in their views historically or internationally.

Is that your famous irony? I certainly never approved gay marriage.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 12:23pm GMT

Christopher ; no, you are wrong.

Statistical analysis is next to useless when looking at gay populations, because there is no sampling frame. Any statistical survey can only ever be relevant to the specific population looked at. So, a survey of young gay HIV+ men will tell you about them - but not about the gay population in general.

You clearly have done no social research, or you would understand this elementary fact, which a first year undergraduate is usually able to grasp.

Posted by Merseymike at Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 1:51pm GMT

Christopher Shell wrote: “Yet their lifestyle choice must be based on something surely? “

Well… Try this one:

Being lesbian or gay is not a “lifestyle choice”.

Did it help?

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 2:15pm GMT

Christopher Shell wrote: “Provided the necessary checks are in place (large samples, unbiased/neutral researchers, high-class accreditation, fully up-to-date contemporaneity) then statistics are the closest thing we have to facts.”

I suggest you drop a few names, Christopher.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 2:15pm GMT

"And a homosexuality-tolerating society ends up with more homoseuxality. "

This equates sexual orientation with a lifestyle choice like (say) drinking alcohol. So far as I'm aware, the scientific consensus would not go along with that.

If sexual orientation is NOT a lifestyle choice,t hen the suggestion is as ludicrous as saying "And a (gypsy/aborigine/ethnic x)-tolerating society ends up with more (gypsies/aborigines/ethnic x." Or perhaps beyond ludicrous and heading towards offensive.

Mind, it'd go down a wow in Abuja, and Tunde could do with a bit of help from the sounds of it.

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 2:55pm GMT

Its probably true to say that a tolerant society ends up with more people able to be open about their sexual orientation

And of course, this is what Christian homophobes want - gay people back in the closet,living in fear.

But its not going to happen - which makes them even angrier as they see their rather nasty world slip away from them.

Posted by Merseymike at Sunday, 14 January 2007 at 12:04am GMT

And of course, this is what Christian homophobes want - gay people back in the closet,living in fear.' mersey

In fact they will be entering the closet themselves at this rate. Serves them right ! A short time in the naughty corner may make them more socially acceptable, skilled and pleasant to be around --and leave the wings of flies alone when the summer comes. -- surely they could find some other form of displacement activity that might bring a smile to their faces ?

Smiling is a great therapy !.....

Also i fear that many of the christian homophobes are themselves gay -- a warm welcome to reality --s not that bad !!!

Posted by laurence at Sunday, 14 January 2007 at 10:53pm GMT

Hi Mike-
I didn't get your point. Surveys of young male HIV+s refer only to young male HIV+s. Surveys of male homosexuals in general refer to male homosexuals in general. Surveys of homosexals of both genders refer to homosexuals of both genders. All three kinds of surveys have been done (albeit they ought not to be confused with one another).

Posted by Christopher Shell at Monday, 15 January 2007 at 12:38pm GMT

"lifestyle factors also influence the homosexual life-expectancy figure"

I'm interested what you think my lifestyle is, Christopher. What in my lifestyle shortens my life and is specific to homosexuality?
Also, what is the mechanism by which a society tolerant of homosexuality produces more homosexuality? I grew up in a society very intolerant of homosexuality, I also had this attitude and spent ten years of my life trying, praying, not to be what I am. Societal factors matter not a whit, even if you accept them, so how do you figure that being more tolerant will make more of us?

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 15 January 2007 at 12:55pm GMT

What do you mean by 'male homosexuals in general', Christopher?
Who were the sample? How do you know if they represent the 'general'? What sampling frame exists to compare with?

And what were the motivations and background of the researcher? For that can be a very important aspect of any sort of analysis of research.

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 15 January 2007 at 5:53pm GMT

Hi Ford-
As I mentioned earlier, it is a misunderstanding fo statistics to apply averages to every member of the subset. Dogs are on average bigger than cats, but Scrappy Doo is not bigger than Kitten Kong. Averages are averages. They still reduce to real individual people and real trends, and are therefore the best basis for assessing lifestyle options.

The point still applies: how better can we gain the large-scale facts except by use of stats? What is the alternative paradigm? Of course there will always be complicating factors - it would be far more surprising if there were none. But:
(1) there are no more complicating factors in this particular case than with any other stats, and you are not advocating abandoning stats on anything and everything.
(2) checks and balances like large scale and amalgamation of different surveys reduce the margin of error.
(3) It also helps if one limits oneself to statistics where the results are especially clear cut. In the case of things like comparison of married with cohabiting (re stability); abortion figures 1967 and 2006; life-expectancy/STD/promiscuity rates heterosexual vs homosexual, the ratios are so very far from being level in every large-scale general survey that there is no chance of the correct picture being a level one, let alone a reversed one. I'm not aware of any statistics to the opposite effect, though any number of surveys exist. If there are some, let me know.
The more important points, though, are:
(1) Do you accept taht it's ok for people to proceed into any lifestyle of their choice without being informed of the relevant statistics, so far as possible?
(2) Supposing that you were mathematically convinced that the picture painted by the existing stats is accurate, would that make you change your lifestyle?
(3) Would you ever accept a single (however unbiased) survey that had results that you didn't like? If so - great - and give me an example. If not - goodbye, scholarship and objectivity.
Direct answers would be good - hope that is not too fussy.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 12:42pm GMT

Surely you know that a very important part of the scientific method is that the methodology of a particular study be seen so that those who read the study, either for information or for peer review can critique it and look for sources of bias that might not have occurred to the researcher. Peer review of studies is also an important part of the process, as you are, I'm sure, aware. You have refused so far to tell us where your "statistics" come from. How can we engage this issue? We cannot assess the methodology of the studies to which you refer. We do know that there have been many studies carried out by groups like Focus on the Family that are dodgy at best, and show significant bias. If you do not allow us to assess the reliability of the studies you are quoting, many will assume it's because they are such studies and therefor not reliable anyway.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 1:43pm GMT

Christopher: you still don't get it. And I am bored with repeating myself.

I am gay and perfectly happy with it. As such, I really couldn't care less what those who follow your religion think, nor of their attempts to misuse research carried out for other purposes.

I don't think you have a clue about either scholarship or objectivity, or you wouldn't have been taken in by a view which is clearly not shared by the bulk of the medical profession, and you would understand that statistical research is not the only form of research and suggests an epistemology which fails to take account of context. Mind you, that's conservative Christianity for you!

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 6:34pm GMT

PS _ Christopher - as an example, perhaps you could inform me exactly what it is about MY 'lifestyle' that I should change and which place me.personally, at any risk?

Fact is, you haven't a clue how to answer that - because you don;t know anything about me. Which is the problem with your epistemology. You are applying the specific to the general, and failing to understand the importance of the micro over the macro.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 6:37pm GMT

A statistic like 'married vs cohabiting' looks like it should be straightforwrd (and a lot of pro-marriage groups report as such). But I am concerned that so many of these reports do seem to have been commissioned by folk with a somewhat vested interest!

In this debate (mercifully removed from the gay issue), I would need to know that the sample has successfully excluded/accounted for such factors as:

Poverty, employment and housing conditions. Are those who cohabit likely to be living in poorer quality housing and under greater external stress than marrieds?

How many 'failed' cohabitees are also 'failed' marrieds? How many 'failed' cohabitees are multiple failed cohabitees who distort the statistics?

I recall that wondrous research which indicated that peer-reviewed research suggested that moderate drinkers were healthier than teetotallers - and then someone realised they'd failed to account for the distortion of the statistics which arose from those whose existing ill-health meant they weren't allowed to drink! The rather excellent 'bad science' column in the (Manchester) Guardian recently did a good non-technical caveat on the naive use of statistics.

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Saturday, 20 January 2007 at 7:16pm GMT

A further thought on the acceptance of statistics. Every piece of research done suggests that European policies on sex education significantly delay first sexual encounters by young people and reduce teenage pregnancy rates etc etc. And yet the Christian Right in the UK (and in the States) hotly seeks to prevent such policies being implemented here.

Now why should this be when so many Christians are happy to splurge their research on how being gay/unmarried is bad for your health all over the tabloids.....

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Saturday, 20 January 2007 at 7:23pm GMT

Not to say that in these lands, officially sharing a home (to Honour and to Wife, to half Bed, to Lock and Key and to lawful Third & c), the presence of the father at christening (the mother was locked up at home for 40 days, remember) and so on, WAS marriage untill "marriage" was Neo Platonistically redefined (in two stages) in 1915/1918 ;=)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 20 January 2007 at 9:48pm GMT
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