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A few thoughts on the “yuck factor” discussion

In case you’re not already caught up: the discussion started with Thabiti Anyabwile’s post on TGC, “The Importance of Your Gag Reflex When Discussing Homosexuality and “Gay Marriage””. One-line summary: “Return the [gay marriage] discussion to sexual behavior in all its yuckiest gag-inducing truth.”

Then yesterday Richard Beck posted a response: On Love and the Yuck Factor. Two-line summary: (1) “I don’t think it’s healthy to use disgust to regulate moral behavior.” (2) “When disgust is involved any purported distinction being made between persons and behavior is… a verbal obfuscation of the underlying psychology.”

There have been a bunch of other thoughtful responses (to both men), including a long comment on Beck’s piece from “dmr5090” (sheesh, people, can’t you use real names at least?). Key points in those rebuttals to Beck have often been along the lines of (1) Shouldn’t sin gross us out?, (2) “Aren’t you just trying to argue that ‘homosexuality isn’t a sin’ without admitting it?” and (3) “The words ‘gag reflex’ and ‘yuck factor’ aren’t Anyabwile’s – he’s just quoting a gay journalist.”

To be fair, I have grossly simplified, hopefully not unfairly, all the posts I’ve linked so far. If you want to dig into this argument, go read them all.

So here’s the thing: I know there’s a battle raging among various flavors of Protestants and even evangelicals over homosexuality. But I can believe on one hand that homosexual acts are sinful, and on the other hand still respond with revulsion to Anyabwile’s post. Here’s why:

1. Inconsistent application of the tactic.
Why do we not hear preachers like Anyabwile use this “gag reflex” topic when addressing other, more “acceptable” sins? Let’s hear a few sermons on gluttony that try to gross me out with discussions of sweaty mounds of obese flesh before you try to claim that the “gross out” strategy is really one you think should be used across the board.

2. The encouragement to revulsion at the act quickly leads to revulsion of the person.
Yes, sin is revolting. All sin should be revolting to us. But to encourage a “gag reflex” response to homosexuality will very quickly lead a person to have that “gag reflex” toward the homosexual person. And that’s the furthest thing from what Christ calls us to. I know that Anyabwile says in his post that we “should not be mean and bigoted”. But I don’t understand how you can encourage a gag reflex when you hear “homosexual” and not end up that way. (Beck made this point in his post far better than I’m saying it here.)

(Observation: while writing this I was about to say that Anyabwile said we should still love the sinners, but he never actually says that in his piece. All he says is that we should not be mean and bigoted, and that we should ‘speak the truth in love’. And the truth, he says, is that homosexual relationships cannot properly be called ‘love’. Not sure it’s fair to draw a conclusion from that, but it’s bothersome.)

3. This is the old “culture warrior” position again.
Have we not learned yet that sin is not going to be defeated by us making the right arguments to those in privileged positions in the halls of power? Anyabwile seems to think that if he’d just managed to gross out the right people in powerful positions, we wouldn’t have legalized gay marriage. I say that’s baloney. We’ve had the evangelical attempts at political power for at least 30 years. Buchanan, Falwell, Dobson… How’s that worked out for us?

4. The Gospel is not “sin is icky”.
The Gospel message is that we are all sinful, all equally in need of Christ’s grace and forgiveness. That God is in the process of making all things new, of drawing people to himself. That’s the message we need to be spending our time on.

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