(Picture: Drafting of the Declaration of Independence)
On Identity--Part of the difficulty of this debate is that our modern culture has accepted a theory of human nature which views sexual attraction as an essential element in what we call "personal identity." So, when Christians attempt to say that certain forms of sexual attraction are erroneous in view of natural law and Christian doctrine, and certainly ought not to be enshrined in such a sacred institution as marriage, it comes across as an attack on those people's very identity. It sounds to them as if we are saying that they themselves are hopelessly corrupt, perhaps even worthless. But that's not at all what Christians are saying. We are arguing from a tradition that begins with different premises than the ones accepted by current culture. The Christian tradition has never accepted sexual attraction--even heterosexual attraction--as an essential part of personal identity. Sexual attraction is part of human nature, certainly, but the Christian tradition views human nature as corrupt--not just in a small subset of the population, but in everybody. Thus, sexual attraction is something that is touched by that corruption, again, not just in a small subset, but in everybody. Further, sexual attraction is under the control of a person's reason and will--one need not follow it; one can dissent from one's own attractions and not follow them through into action. This means that it is not an essential part of personal identity, not on the same level as reason and will, spirit and soul. Sexual attraction is a natural appetite, given to us for the very good, God-given reasons of procreation and union. But we have other natural appetites, too, such as for food--again, an appetite that serves good purpose. Like sexual attraction, appetites for food can run in multiple directions based on which individual one is looking at. And, as all modern culture knows, appetites for food can also run awry from their natural purpose. And yet no one argues that a proclivity for fast food, leading to obesity, is an essential part of one's "personal identity"--not even if those proclivities are based in the ineluctable determinism of one's genetics. The Christian tradition has consistently held this very realistic position on human nature: most people have sexual attractions for the opposite sex, a few have sexual attractions for the same sex, and many people have sexual attractions, driven by their own human natures, toward pursuing multiple partners rather than practicing strict monogamy. And yet Christianity has never seen these trends as part of "personal identity"--rather, they are natural appetites which the person can either pursue or renounce, according to their reason and will. In fact, early Christianity felt that a person actually became more truly human--more truly oneself--when one submits one's attractions and appetites to the law of reason and divine commands. But unless the modern view of personal identity rediscovers the wisdom of natural law regarding human nature, we will unfortunately be fated to speak across one another rather than to one another; we will be operating under distinct premises, and, thus, we will be speaking different moral languages.