Being vs. Behavior

The recent Supreme Court ruling establishing that gay marriage must be considered legal throughout the United States has renewed the heated arguments regarding homosexuality. Christians in particular continue to state that homosexuality is an “abomination” in the sight of God, while according to the law such statements can now count as “hate speech” and “bigotry.”

A significant part of the divide rests upon a core failure to distinguish between “being” and “behavior.” To make this distinction clear, let’s turn to the familiar argument regarding whether or not a gay person “has a choice” in being homosexual.

The mainstream now treats as “established science” that homosexuality is genetic and/or strongly influenced by early childhood events, such that essentially a person is “born gay” or “born straight.” The idea is that “being” homosexual or heterosexual is not a choice, which implies that a there is no moral weight attached to the “being” of one or the other.

Furthermore, similar reasoning ground the establishment of homosexuality as a “protected class” in a “civil rights” sense: In the same way that a person of color has no choice regarding their race, a homosexual has no choice regarding their sexual orientation. Both race and sexual orientation are, thus, viewed as a matter of “being” rather than a matter of choice, and in consequence a person should not be “discriminated against” just in virtue of “being” one way or another.

Both sides of the debate have failed to recognize the crucial distinction between “being” a certain way and “behaving” a certain way. And properly recognizing the distinction undermines much of the “pro-gay” agenda.

A person of color truly just is a certain race. Being black, however, implies no particular behavior. A black person just is black in their being.

By contrast, “being” gay implies certain behaviors, just as being heterosexual implies certain behaviors. To simply talk about “being” gay without coupling that talk with further talk about sexual behaviors fails to explicate. The same cannot be said about being black or a member of some other race.

Thus, when “civil rights” laws talk about not discriminating against members of a “protected class” in virtue of their being a certain race, there is no logical corollary with “being” gay or heterosexual. A person can simply be black and yet behave in no particular way. But “being” gay implies behaving in a particular way.

The fact of this conflation between being and behavior is clearly revealed by the fact that the “gay rights” movement would absolutely not be satisfied with being included as a “protected class” if that “protection” did not also include and validate certain behaviors. This fact can be seen with a simple example.

It is not enough that being gay is now considered a “protected class.” Gay behaviors must also be “protected,” such as gay marriage. No particular “black behavior” needs to be protected qua being black. Anything a person can legally do is protected, as blacks do not demand that they be allow to do anything other than what any other person may do. But gays demand protections of behaviors particular to them qua being gay; this is not protection qua person! This is protection qua gay. No other “protected class” insists that its particular behaviors be protected. Heterosexual behavior is demonstrably very different from homosexual behavior; the mere being is not what is demanding protection.

It is not that “marriage” is legal qua person, so “marriage” qua gay should also be legal. The behaviors within marriage are very different between homosexuals and heterosexuals, and these behaviors have been viewed as having a moral aspect throughout almost all of human history. Thus, even if it can be successfully argued that the being of a certain sexual orientation is not a matter of choice, it cannot be argued that the behaving is also beyond choice and has no moral implications. Behaviors (as opposed to mere events) are defined in terms of their intentionality, which implies choice. That is why behaviors can have moral (and legal) weight. So, yes, we can grant for purposes of argument that being gay is not a matter of choice. But homosexual behavior is a matter of choice and thus does fall into the realm of moral scrutiny.

No such being/behavior divide exists with other “protected classes.” There is no particularly “black behavior” that blacks demand protection of qua being black. There is nothing that blacks may legally do qua person that they should be denied the right to do qua black. But when a homosexual demands protection of specifically gay marriage, that is the demand that certain specifically homosexual behavior be protected qua homosexual, as marriage implies very particular sexually-oriented behaviors that are not behaviors merely qua person.

Christians can consistently make this distinction, as they decry “sexual impurity” even within the heterosexual realm. Just being heterosexual does not, according to Christians, legitimize all contexts of “sexual expression” of one’s being. Christians can distinguish between the being of heterosexual and the behaving as a heterosexual, and thus deny that not all sexual behaviors are morally-legitimate even qua heterosexual.

Thus, when homosexuals try to conflate the being and the behaving of sexual orientation, they beg the question at the most crucial and basic level of moral debate! And when a “civil right” is granted to include homosexuals as a “protected class,” that protection must not conflate the being vs. behavior distinction!

So, it would not be legitimate for business owners to post signs stating: “We reserve the right to refuse service to homosexuals.” That would be violating the “civil rights” of homosexuals qua sexual orientation alone. But it is a moral issue and a legitimate distinction to deny service based upon behavior: “We reserve the right to refuse service that will legitimize homosexual behaviors.”

Just as a pastor, for example, might refuse to perform a marriage between two heterosexual people that are living together as an unmarried couple (“living in sin”) until that “sin” is resolved, a pastor should be able to refuse to marry a homosexual couple, as he/she knows that the whole intention of that marriage will be to engage in ongoing “sin” as defined by the Bible. But if the being vs. behavior distinction is conflated fully, then no such behavior-based demarcation can be allowed, as the “protection” of homosexuality then implies that homosexual behavior must be protected, even from the moral compunctions of pastors who see such behaviors as morally wrong. Such moral compunctions are then cast as “bigotry” against a “protected class.”

The United States Supreme Court should never have received and then ruled upon the gay-marriage issue, as it then meddled in questions that should have been left to individual states. Regarding the states, marriage itself never should have been meddled with at the state level, which implies a conflation of church and state that never should have been allowed. This gay-marriage issue would never have emerged in the first place had church and state remained properly separated.

The proper way to handle this whole thing would be to distinguish between “civil unions” and “marriages.” Civil unions would be recognized at the federal level between any two consenting adults (or any number), as they would then be akin to any “company” or “corporation” in the sight of the law. Nothing sexual would be implied, and there would be no particular behavior express or implied in such unions. Then, as a “protected class,” gays could not be discriminated against qua persons in their right to enjoy civil unions. However, “marriage” has always had a moral and sexual component, and it is not the business of either states or the federal government to “sign off” on these components! People that are satisfied with entering into mere “civil unions” may obtain them and thereby have all the recognition and protection of such unions in the eyes of the government. Those that wish to pursue another level of recognition, namely particularly religious recognition, can obtain such recognition (that has no particular legal value) over and above the requisite civil union. So, being “joined” in the eyes of the government has exactly zero moral and behavioral implication, while being “joined in the sight of God” has profound moral, religious, and behavioral implications. “Civil unions” and “marriages” necessarily have different purposes and implications. By conflating them, the government has caused no end of problems and fundamental legal inconsistencies. Worst of all, this conflation has necessarily conflated the being vs. behavior distinction, which then treats as “protected” particular behaviors as having no moral weight that most certainly do have moral weight (being, after all, behaviors)!

Being homosexual does not imply that a person must engage in homosexual behaviors, any more than being heterosexual implies that a person must engage in pre or extra-marital sex. Christians can consistently uphold a position of sexual purity according to the Bible, which implies no pre or extra-marital sexual behaviors, and this moral code further indicates a prohibition on homosexual behaviors, which in turn disallows homosexual marriage and the sorts of sexual behaviors that would attend such marriages. Thus, Christians can consistently condemn all forms of sexual impurity, including adultery, fornication, and all forms of homosexual behavior. Non of this “calling of sin by its right name” is “bigotry,” and none of the condemned behaviors can properly be parts of a “protected class” qua being a member of such a “protected class.”

Homosexuals are “protected,” and the government may legitimately “protect” homosexuals qua persons, just as it “protects” members of different races qua persons. But when particular behaviors are “protected” that go beyond merely human behaviors, then the government gets into the business of defining morality in a particularly religious way (either establishing a particular religious code of behavior or by being explicitly anti some religious code of behavior). Thus, no sign may be legally legitimate: “We refuse to serve certain people born with a certain sexual orientation.” However, another sign certainly is legitimate for a Christian to post and uphold: “We refuse to serve the furtherance of certain behaviors, namely homosexual sexual behaviors.”

The being vs. behavior distinction cuts past the “born gay” assertion and instead properly focuses attention where it should be: Upon the chosen behaviors that actually do have moral weight. According to the Bible, sexual impurity may be engaged in by both heterosexuals and homosexuals. Christians can consistently condemn all sexual impurity as sin and refuse to engage in behaviors that will further sin. Thus, Christians can legitimately engage in what the government now calls “bigotry” by refusing to engage in any furtherance of homosexual behavior, particularly in behaviors that now fall under the “protected” category of gay marriage. In so doing, Christians do not condemn homosexuals qua persons any more than Christians condemn heterosexuals qua persons. A person is just a person, sexual orientation aside. But Christians may consistently condemn the behaviors of adultery, fornication, and homosexual behaviors, as the issue in sin is behavior not “orientation” or “being.”