Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Curious Observation

Albert Mohler, the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY wrote an interesting article on his website March 2nd. As a result, countless blogs and news folks have picked up on the story and have run with it. And, as you might expect, most progressives are furious with him.

Mohler wrote an article that basically asked with the question, 'What would you do if your baby was gay? What would you do if you could change the sexual orientation of the baby before he or she were born? I found the summary about the article here. You can go here to read his own words about it. You'll need to scroll down the embedded window to the March 2 entry to find it.

What I found very curious about this particular article is two-fold. One, that for the first time, he acknowledges that a gay sexual orientation may indeed have genetic influences; even more so, he writes to prepare readers that science may very well prove this to be so. One has to give Mohler credit, I believe, to even suggest this possibility given the hoopla against such an idea that has been in the minds of many gay and straight professionals for a long time. He offers a few caveats in his article, namely that he finds it interesting the gay and lesbian groups feel the necessity to fund such studies to prove the genetic influences. However, if it weren't for the tenacity of such groups, we might not ever realize the biological influences associated with sexual orientation (regardless of sexual preferences). Mohler even goes so far as to imply that transgender folks have biological traits that may contribute to their gender identity. That takes guts, even if he is being a tad condescending in reporting it. Maybe that's his shield from a conservative backlash. Rather than suppressing such information or discrediting it; Mohler is actually naming it--even if he does so in a skittish kind of way.

The second curious thing I find in his article is his justification for gene manipulation, when the time comes that the genes and biological associations are discovered that cause it. It really isn't hard to follow his line of reasoning. If your child harbored a serious illness, say Polio for example, and you could eradicate it from your as yet to be born child, wouldn't you do it? Of course anyone would. To suggest that a person wouldn't is silly. But Mohler goes one step further and suggests that even a bona fide liberal parent who "says they support homosexuality" in other people, wouldn't actually be so carnal as to allow their own children to become that way and would, as any concerned parent do, apply the gene modification to make their children's orientation conform to what is natural and God ordered (e.g., heterosexual). And then, he goes on to criticize those fictional liberal parents in his mind as hypocrites. He sets folks up, then strikes them down. What a tacky and immature way to stress one's point of view.

But what I really take odds with is that he actually approves of such modifications. It wasn't that long ago when Mohler wrote about the discontinuity of faith and reason behind the stem cell debate. Arguing that even the life of a stem cell that doesn't grow to form a baby should still not be used because that stem cell is life and it is sacred. To be more exact, he said, "The argument that the human embryo should be protected as fully human is based upon foundational worldview commitments. So also is the belief that the embryo is not deserving of full respect and protection." In effect, he is saying that the embryo must be protected in its form, regardless of its form. My question, then, should not the genetic makeup of a baby be protected (illness notwithstanding)? Is a person's sexual orientation not held to the same standard of a "foundational worldview commitment"? Of course he doesn't think so but I would suggest that this is where others and myself disagree with him. He is picking and choosing the genetic codes and makeup he chooses--keeping the ones he thinks are God-honoring, and changing or distorting the ones he thinks are not. When his critics charge him of playing God, this is one example they are pointing to.

At the end of his article, he makes a strong case that while homosexuality is a sin, the homosexual is still created in God's image. While that is a great sentiment, he stops short of following through with it. While I applaud the language that we're all created in God's image, it sounds like he doesn't really mean it if he then, in his next breath, seeks to find a way to change that image.

In a way, Mohler is caught in an awkward position: he admits that science is about to betray his and other's long held belief that sexual orientation is a choice. When it may soon be proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that sexual orientation is tied to the almost certain reality of a person's genetic biology. However, given this development, he like the Roman Catholic Church, have come to separate homosexual acts from homosexual orientation. Once separated, not even biology can justify its continuation. It wasn't that long ago when separating the two was unthinkable. But he is doing so, and in my opinion, he is doing so while also taking a risk.

As Dr. Jack Drescher, a New York City psychiatrist critical of those who consider homosexuality a disorder, commended Mohler's openness to the prospect that it is biologically based. "This represents a major shift," Drescher said. "This is a man who actually has an open mind, who is struggling to reconcile his religious beliefs with facts that contradict it."

And so we're left with an article that he says was only meant to start a conversation. When in reality, he gives a response to where that conversation ought to lead. That really isn't what a conversation is, right? Still, what he says his important and he illustrates the dynamic shift that conservative Christians must start considering when science reveals what everyone else has felt for quite some time: That sexual orientation is not all about choices--sometimes, and more often that one might realize, it's as much a part of a gay person as their eye color or eventual height.


Paul said...

Interestingly he has taken quite a bit of heat from conservatives as well for his willingness to "play God" with genetics.

Bo said...

Paul, I am glad you point that out. From what I read, conservatives were only angry that he was agreeing with scientists that suggest sexual orientation may be biological.