Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Defining Deviancy Down and the Wrath of God

In the alliterative words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “defining deviancy down,” is what authorizes the mother of one of the high school lesbians to say, ““They had a lot of courage.” and “Look how far we’ve come.” Defining deviancy down has the effect of inverting courage and virtue. As deviant behavior contends to become the new normal way of behaving, deviants are praised as being courageous and their conduct is commended as virtuous.

Defining deviancy down gives the illusion that our society is progressing, upward of course, even as it is sliding ever so quickly downward into the abyss.

Defining deviancy down intoxicates our society so that parading deviant behavior in full public view, after suing for the right to do so, is called “courage” instead of “shameful” and “wicked.”

Now, if you desire, read the story. "Two Lesbian High School Students Sue to Accompany Each Other to Dance." It is about a couple of teenage high school girls just a short drive from our home.

CHAMPLIN, Minn. (AP) — Two lesbian high school students who fought for the right to walk together as part of a royalty court made their entrances Monday to the cheers of hundreds of classmates.

Sarah Lindstrom and Desiree Shelton wore matching black suits with pink ties and held hands as they entered the Snow Days Pep Fest at Champlin Park High School in Minneapolis’ northwest suburbs.

The reaction came as a relief to the couple and school administrators. The district has been stung by criticism of its policies toward homosexuality and the alleged bullying of a gay student who killed himself.

“It felt amazing,” said Shelton, adding that she was too nervous to notice dozens rise to give her a standing ovation as she walked in with Lindstrom. “I think we were too focused on getting to the stage.”

If there were any boos, they were drowned about by supporters. “I feel so much better,” Lindstrom said while surrounded by friends after the rally.

Sarah’s mother, Shannon Lindstrom, camera in hand, joined the other mothers of children in the royalty court after the rally.

“They had a lot of courage,” she said Shelton and her daughter. “Look how far we’ve come.”

Finish reading here.

We Christians need to understand that female to female and male to male sexual relations, now made respectable by our perverse society and culture, is not the greatest, the most terrible, and the most wicked sin for which our nation will be punished by our God and Creator who designed sex as the human delight to be enjoyed in the bonds of holy matrimony between a male (husband) and female (wife). Indeed, God's judgment will fall upon all who engage in sexual perversions, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Perversion of the sex act by same sex individuals, whether male to male or female to female, vile as it is, is not, according to the apostle Paul, the bottom of the barrel variety of sinful behavior which God will surely, at long last, punish, including humans who accommodate such wickedness. Instead, if we read Romans 1:21-27 correctly, we will realize that sexual perversion, but particularly male to male and female to female sexual perversion, IS God's punishment for the primal human sin against God, namely, idolatry. What am I saying? What do I mean? Consider the passage.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Romans 1:21-27 is not instructing us about God's wrath that will come because of male to male and female to female sexual perversion. Instead, the passage instructs us that male to male and female to female sexual perversion IS THE DISPLAY of God's wrath for another more primal sin, the sin of idolatry. In other words, God's judgment and wrath already has fallen upon our society in the form of his turning human beings over to their vile, lustful passions as they turn to one another to delight themselves in their perversion of the sex act with same sex partners. God's turning humans over to same sex perversion is highly significant. Why? It is because humans are made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, humans are obliged to worship God who is Other than themselves. Yet, to what do humans turn to worship? Instead of worshiping their Creator, they have turned to worship the creature instead of the Creator. Therefore, God abandons them to their fondness for the creature so that when they engage in the most intimate of human actions they engage in that act with same sex partners. Thus, male to male and female to female sexual attraction and sexual engagement is God's wrath in ironic form. It is God's wrath on display for all to see. It is the rawness of God's wrath among a people who have become idolaters, people who repudiate the one true God, their Creator.

Fallen human fondness for and affection for the creature rather than the Creator has become the very form in which God now displays his wrath for human idolatry. Yet, what do fallen humans do with the display of God's wrath manifest in rampant sexual perversion? Humans glory in their sexual perversion. They regard it courageous when formerly secret sexual perversion, hidden in the closet, dares to emerge with public announcement, fanfare, and press releases. They regard it virtuous when sexual behavior, once regarded as shameful perversion, benefits from society's defining deviancy down. Suddenly, what formerly looked so vile and wretched takes on an air of virtuosity, especially if the relationship can be honored as "monogamous," engaged in with "fidelity," and socially labelled "marriage." Is this not precisely why those who engage in homosexual and lesbian relationships and their advocates sue for society's stamp of legal approval called "marriage"?

In my essay here, I make the following observations with the aid of comments by my scholarly acquaintance, Simon Gathercole, of Cambridge University.

Humanity’s exchange of “the glory of God for the image of the likeness of corruptible man and birds and animals and reptiles” received God’s ironic measure-for-measure punishment, one substitution for another, the exchange of natural relations for those that are contrary to nature (Rom 1:26, μετήλλαξαν τὴν φυσικὴν χρῆσιν εἰς τὴν παρὰ φύσιν). “God handed them over to dishonorable passions–their women exchanged the natural use of their bodies for that which is against nature, and likewise the men” (Rom 1:26-27).

Simon Gathercole adeptly identifies the concept of God’s ironic “measure-for-measure punishment” when he contends, “The action of the sinful human beings itself has an ironic element—a reversal whereby their desire is for the exact opposite of what it should be:
  • their exchange consists of getting ‘a likeness of an image’ . . . in place of ‘glory,’ . . . the contrast being between what is insubstantial–indeed, being ‘an image of a likeness’, it is doubly removed from the reality of the object of an already misguided worship–and what is ‘weighty’;
  • in place of the immortal one, they choose mortal objects of worship . . . 
  • in place of God, they serve people, birds, animals and snakes. . . (162).”
The primal sin of humanity, namely, idolatry, “turning in on itself toward self-worship, then, leads to sexual relationships which mirror this same turn in se” (164). Gathercole accurately identifies this measure-for-measure punishment this way: “Humanity should be oriented toward God but turns in on itself (Rom. 1.25). Woman should be oriented toward
man, but turns in on itself (Rom. 1.26). Man should be oriented toward woman, but turns in on itself (Rom. 1.27)” (164).

Concerning Paul’s use of παρέδωκεν (he gave them over, 1:24, 26, 28), Gathercole convincingly shows that “God’s ‘handing over’ here is his personal action whereby, without withdrawing his presence, he gives the condemned what they want—with the reward ironically corresponding in some way to the sin of idolatry–but with the result that it ends up compounding the divine judgment” (164).

See Simon Gathercole, “Sin in God’s Economy: Agencies in Romans 1 and 7,” in Divine and Human Agency in Paul and His Cultural Environment (ed. J. M. G. Barclay and S. J. Gathercole; Library of New Testament Studies; London: T. & T. Clark, Continuum, 2006), 158-72.


Bill said...

“God’s ‘handing over’ here is his personal action whereby, without withdrawing his presence, he gives the condemned what they want—with the reward ironically corresponding in some way to the sin of idolatry–but with the result that it ends up compounding the divine judgment”

From time to time over the years as I have thought on sin and judgement in general, I've had a picture in my mind of God saying to the unrepentant sinner, "OK... If that is the way you want it, have it your own way..." Ironic indeed...

Also, if we make sexual perversion "the sin of all sins" we are focusing on what man does (anthropocentric). When we recognize the "sin of all sins" is idolatry, the issue has become one of who God is (Theocentric).

Good post. Thank you.

Steve Scott said...

It is interesting how the sexual revolution started out as opposition to that stupid piece of paper. Now it demands it.