Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Andrew Sullivan's Strange Theology

This line from Andrew Sullivan's recent post on ex-gay McClurkin's appearance at an Obama rally:

No, he doesn't say anything homophobic as such. He uses the usual formula of loving those he wants to be other than they are - which is a very funny kind of love.

Does Sullivan think that it is impossible to love someone and at the same time believe that they have flaws that need to be corrected? He seems to imply that either you condone everythign a person does, or else you do not love them.

Of course, maybe his disagreement is that he thinks that homosexuality is not a thing you do, but who you are. But even if we assume that to be the case, can only morally neutral or morally positive attributes define one's identity? Do not people with tendencies that Andrew would agree are destructive exist (e.g. alcoholics, pedophiles)? Are these tendencies not part of the identity of such people? Would he insist that we encourage them not to change who they are? Alternately, would he insist that they should change, but that in saying so, he does not love them, and furthermore that he only loves them when they do?

Or does his idea that it is strange to claim to love someone and want them to change only apply to homosexuality?

It is one thing simply to claim that McClurkin is wrong to consider homosexuality sinful. In such a case, there is nothing inconsistent of unusual about McClurkin's position. There is nothing unusual about him loving people and at the same time wanting them to change aspects of their identity he considers sinful. This is not inconsistent even if the things he wants to change are fundamental aspects of their identity. The only issue here is whether his belief in the sinfulness of homosexuality is accurate or erroneous. Even if McClurkin is wrong, it does not make his love "a funny kind of love," it just means that his good intentions and love are directed erroneously due to a doctrinal error.

However, Andrew has gone beyond simply disagreeing with McClurkin about one piece of doctrine; he is essentially saying that if you love someone, you must condone everything they do. This either means condoning all behavior or not loving people until they measure up to whatever moral standards you believe exist.

Andrew is the one who is defining "love" strangely in this post.

That is all.

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