Posted on: July 18th, 2011 Breaking Down the “Gay Issue”

Are you trying to figure out what you think about how to respond to the challenge which our “progressive,” modern, enlightenment culture poses to the church in terms of the gay rights movement?

Here are three (of many) sub-issues which must be studied and mastered. I suggest that when these issues are understood (when it comes to dealing with this issue within the church, not in terms of our secular culture and our modern nation-state) the “gay issue” to some extent dissolves and vanishes.

1. The “buffered self” versus the “porous self.” See Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self and A Secular Age, and also here.

2. The rhetoric of individual, “human rights.” See Milbank’s article “Against Human Rights,” here.

3. The idolatrous, vicious character of market-driven determination of individual preference and identity construction. See William Cavanaugh’s Being Consumed. Cavanaugh is also interviewed by Ken Myers here (much recommended).

Note that all three sub-issues above presuppose, on the “revisionist” side, a commitment to liberal philosophical individualism.

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5 Responses to “Breaking Down the “Gay Issue””

  1. Marjie Says:
    July 25th, 2011 at 8:29 am

    From another blog I read this morning: “This broken world will not embrace the message of Jesus in the form of theological arguments, but in how I live my life.”

  2. matt Says:
    July 25th, 2011 at 6:53 pm


    Thanks! Pl give us the blog link.

    Interesting thought.

    I like the idea of “a life lived” as opposed to “abstract theology,” but … I still think there is great value in asking, “How, intellectually and culturally, did we get to the place where it seems obvious that people have an individual right to create their own identities in terms of sexual preference?”

  3. Collins aka Boo Says:
    August 15th, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    I didn’t get the point Taylor was trying to make. Or how it deals with “The Gay Issue”.

  4. matt Says:
    September 24th, 2011 at 9:16 pm


    Notions of selfhood are assumed on “both sides” of the issue. For example, many ppl on the left presuppose that a same sex orientation is:

    1. Verifiable by scientific analysis.
    2. Essential to identity.
    3. Part of the “fixed nature” of the individual human person.

    Add all these up, and it makes for a powerful argument for many (secular minded) people.

    However, Taylor’s point is (in part) that tge very idea of individual selfhood is an arbitrary modern construction. In this way his point coheres nicely with Graham Ward’s “transient ontology.”

    Does that help?

  5. matt Says:
    March 7th, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Looking back on this post, and having taught a Christian Formation class on it recently, I would now add two additional sub-issues (at least for Christian believers):

    1. how to read the Bible (hermeneutics).
    2. the nature of the Church (ecclesiology).

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