Sunday, November 27, 2005

Fulfillment and Idolatry

It is not good for man to be alone. So said God shortly after He created Adam - and, since Genesis 1-3 was written not as a narrative to explain where we came from, but as a prescription to tell us exactly what everyone's life must look like (or so some theologians would tell us), far be it from me to say anything positive about singleness or any other state of being other than heterosexual marriage. [/sarcasm]

Not that most of us need a biblical command to drive us to seek out our fellow human beings. Our need for companionship is hard wired into the deepest part of our being; even those who genuinely have no desire to get married still have a need for human interaction, to be known, understood and affirmed.

For the rest of us, that need takes the form of longing to find that one person that we can share our lives with - our soulmate, a companion who will be with us through the good and the bad from now until death. Which creates the ultimate catch-22 for those of us unlucky enough to only be attracted to members of our own gender. We possess this God-given drive to seek out a life companion, only to be told by the church that we can never, ever have one (at least not with someone we're actually drawn to beyond the friendship level).

And who knows, maybe it really is for the best. After all, true fulfillment ultimately comes only from God and not from other human beings. Randy Thomas shares, as part of his testimony, a vision God showed him in which Jesus was weeping over the fact that he (Randy) was seeking fulfillment in the arms of another man. I see no reason to question the veracity of his experience, given how limited human relationships are in their ability to meet our needs.

What I do question, however, is the unspoken implication that Randy could have found the level of fulfillment he was seeking in a heterosexual marriage. As any of my married friends would be quite happy to remind me, it's impossible for any one person to meet all of another person's emotional needs. However inappropriate it may be to seek sexual fulfillment outside of one's marriage, it's entirely appropriate (and important) to have other relationships that are intimate in nonsexual ways.

And yet many in the church, both single and married, have an idolatrous view of marriage as the ultimate state of being, without which one can never be a truly whole individual (which is the logical conclusion of viewing Genesis 1-3 as prescriptive rather than descriptive). Is it any wonder, then, that we have a 50% divorce rate within the church when people enter marriage focused on how it will meet their needs instead of on how God wants to use them through that relationship?

So where does that leave those of us that are same-sex attracted? Most ex-gay groups are so caught up in worshiping at the altar of heterosexual marriage that they offer little beyond false hopes of orientation change, and most churches are too prostrate before that same altar to notice what's wrong with that approach. I'd really like to be married, yes (and I say that without any illusions about marriage being some idyllic state), but I don't want to live a lie - and that's exactly what I'd be doing if I bought into the ex-gay notion that I can grow into my natural heterosexuality and tried to marry a woman. So where does that leave us?

Assuming that all gay unions are unconditionally wrong (and that is an assumption, not a given), the real question becomes whether our churches are willing to be the communities they were intended to be and play caretaker to the millions who are being forced to go through life without ever marrying and building a family that could take care of them in their old age. Of course, that would require a lot of Christians to leave their comfort zones by confronting the reality that we really are here and won't be going away anytime soon, which would in turn require them to open their eyes to a world that doesn't fit neatly into prepackaged little black-and-white boxes, which would forever burst their happy little suburban bubbles -- oops, I guess I need to close that sarcasm tag again...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


It's practically trite to post about the things one is thankful for at Thanksgiving, to the point that it's probably more cool to not do so. Of course, if that's true it means that the majority will do the 'cool' thing of not posting about Thanksgiving, which in turn makes it nonconformist (and therefore cutting edge) to post about Thanksgiving. So I guess I'm safe.

For all the complaining that I've done in the month and a half or so that I've been blogging, I do have a lot to be thankful for.

-A job that pays the bills and even leaves me a little free time to feed my blogging habit.
-A warm, quiet, (relatively) clean apartment with running water, working appliances, cable television and a high-speed internet connection.
-A car that runs well and gets me where I'm going.
-An incredible mom that I can always count on to be there for me, and a family that's generally supportive even when they don't always understand me.
-A surprisingly large circle of close friends that I seriously don't deserve.
-A church that I can feel comfortable attending even on days when I'm questioning whether "Christian" and "Evangelical" are really compatible terms.
-A country in which, despite its flaws, I enjoy more freedom than 95% of the people who have ever lived.
-A general abundance of everything I need (and quite a few things I don't genuinely need).
-A God who loves me exactly the way I am, no matter what his self-appointed spokespeople may say to the contrary.

So thanks, God. I know I don't say it nearly enough.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Parable

I only wish I could take credit for this; it's beautifully written and drives its point home in a way the comments I made last week about legalism can't.

A Parable

I have hope that the emerging church will continue to develop without becoming shackled by the legalistic systems that are quietly strangling modern evangelicalism. While there are positive elements to be salvaged from that older system (which still appears to be at the peak of its power), there's a lot of old baggage that needs to be left behind if the church is to continue to prosper.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Flying Fish

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to watch Fish Can't Fly, a documentary that presents the stories of several ex-ex-gays and their experiences in Exodus-affiliated programs. I could definitely relate to much of what the speakers shared - the false expectations about "change", the shame, the denial, and the ultimate realization that the real lie is the pretense that we're all just repressed heterosexuals who haven't properly affirmed our masculinity (or femininity, as the case may be).

Peterson Toscano summed it up best with an analogy that his father came up with (and I paraphrase): you can throw a fish across the room and make it think that it's flying, at least until it smashes against the far wall. Hence the name of the documentary.

For a number of years I psyched myself into believing that I was "growing into" heterosexuality and developing an attraction toward women. I even tried the dating scene. Ultimately, though, while I could certainly enjoy the company of women as friends, there was never any spark there, nothing that could compare to the tumultuous feelings that I continued to experience around certain male friends and acquaintances (and that I desperately fought to shove down as far as possible).

And I'm not just talking about lust, though I certainly struggle with lust as much as anyone. My feelings for other men run far deeper than the physical; in fact, the handful of times that I've really fallen in love it had little or nothing to do with the other guy's looks. In short, it's every emotional dimension that I'm supposed to experience (the key words here being "supposed to") in a heterosexual relationship.

Granted, Fish Can't Fly only presents one side of the story. There are individuals who have positive experiences in ex-gay programs and stick with it for the long haul, and their stories need to be acknowledged too (as Exodus would be quick to point out). But good luck getting Exodus to acknowledge that there are people who come out of their programs with legitimate grievances.

In fact, good luck getting Exodus to acknowledge anything that doesn't advance their agenda. I can understand why Exodus spokespersons avoid admitting the fact that they (and/or many of their affiliates) have perpetuated false stereotypes about gays, promoted obsolete psychological theories, employed questionable counseling methods and even engaged directly in what could be considered spiritual abuse. After all, in the political arena you simply don't ever admit when you're wrong; such a display of weakness would be a field day for your enemies.

But Exodus is also supposed to be a Christian ministry and, by extension, an arm of the church. Last time I checked, honesty and humility were still regarded as Christian virtues - and it's in those "weak" virtues that the church's true power lies. By engaging with the world as a political entity, Exodus has lost its true power and become just another special interest group swimming in the Washington, DC cesspool.

Exodus could once again become relevant to the people it was created to help, if its leaders were willing to humble themselves, admit the mistakes they've made and apologize to those that they've hurt along the way. Such a move would most likely crush their political ambitions (and they'd quickly find out which of their religious right "allies" were merely fair-weather friends), but ultimately they would gain far more than they lost.

Will it ever happen? Certainly not under Exodus' current administration. And so those of us who seek real answers to life's difficult questions will continue to look elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Defending 'Truth' By Telling Lies, Part 2

It's very telling how the rallying of evangelical Christians into a voting bloc has, over time, led to a willingness to play fast and loose with the truth when doing so is perceived to be in the best interests of advancing God's kingdom. Why religious right spokespeople seem to think that God won't mind if His kingdom gets built on a foundation of lies is a question we're apparently not supposed to ask, but all the same it's a question that needs to be asked.

Perhaps the most egregious example of this dishonesty is in the relentless campaign to equate homosexuals with pedophiles. Christian activists repeatedly proclaim that one third of all child molestations are committed by homosexuals.

And on the surface it's easy to see how they get away with making this claim. It is true that approximately a third of sexually abused children are boys who were molested by men. But are all of those men gay? Even without concrete evidence to the contrary, that would seem to be a questionable assertion. A few salient points to consider:

-The majority of men who abuse boys are in heterosexual relationships at the time. While that doesn't prove that they're straight, it at the very least means that they aren't going to be counted on any survey among the 3% that self-identify as gay.
-Many of the above men report being attracted to the 'feminine' attributes of prepubescent boys. By definition gay men are attracted by masculinity, not femininity.
-Rape is often more about domination and violence than it is about sex (just ask a prison inmate who's been on the receiving end). A man who lashes out in that way isn't necessarily going to be picky about the gender of his victim.
-Many pedophiles are exclusively attracted to children. A person who has no interest in adult men or women cannot meaningfully be categorized as either heterosexual or homosexual.

As for what the numbers actually say, Jim Burroway has done an excellent job of compiling the available studies to demonstrate that gay men are in fact no more likely than heterosexual men to abuse children.

All of this information is publicly available, yet apparently conservative Christian groups find it too inconvenient to investigate the truth for themselves. Then again, if they were to stick to the facts, they'd be forced to admit that the only basis they have for opposing gay rights is their interpretation of the Bible; the sociological data does nothing to support their case. Unless, of course, they do have evidence that they simply haven't shared with anyone else - but it would make little sense for them to withhold such information.

So how do we get back to valuing truth above our personal agendas?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Closeted Away

I watched the proverbial sunrise
Coming up over the Pacific and
You might think I'm losing my mind,
But I will shy away from the specifics.

'Cause I don't want you to know where I am
'Cause then you'll see my heart
In the saddest state it's ever been.

This is no place to try and live my life.

Stop right there - that's exactly where I lost it.
See that line - well, I never should have crossed it.
Stop right there - well, I never should have said
That it's the very moment that
I wish that I could take back.

I'm sorry for the person I became.
I'm sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I'm ready to try and never become that way again
'Cause who I am hates who I've been.
Who I am hates who I've been.

I talk to absolutely no one.
Couldn't keep to myself enough.
And the things bottled inside have finally begun
To create so much pressure that I’ll soon blow up.

I heard the reverberating footsteps
Syncing up to the beating of my heart,
And I was positive that unless I got myself together,
I would watch me fall apart.

And I can’t let that happen again
‘Cause then you’ll see my heart
In the saddest state it’s ever been.

This is no place to try and live my life.

-Relient K, "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been"

I know Relient K probably didn't have gay and lesbian individuals in mind when they wrote this song, but it works pretty well as a theme song for anyone coming out of the closet. There's simply nothing healthy about spending your time and energy putting on a false front in order to protect yourself from a hostile world - and yet that's exactly what the church requires of many of us, lest we come under the condemnation of our "brothers and sisters in Christ."

Why? Because we've allowed our faith to become straitjacketed by a rules-based system. Our churches have become so focused on codes of conduct that grace is more a Christianese buzzword than it is a reality in our day to day lives, and the real rule that most people live by is "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Bury your problems as deep as possible, learn how to say the right things at church and otherwise give the appearance that everything in your life is perfect because you've got Jesus, or else.

That's slowly changing in some churches as more people begin to openly address such widespread problems as pornography addiction and substance abuse, but even so there's still a heavy focus on external behavior and conformity. And really, that's the best that a legalistic system can hope to offer.

The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes that we are no longer under the oppression of the Law, and that all of its requirements can be summed up in two simple commands: Love God and love others. A lot of lip service gets paid to this idea, but it never lasts long. "Ah yes," our leaders say, "but you mustn't overlook all of the commands the New Testament gives us to illustrate what loving God and others looks like." And from that otherwise valid point they proceed to rebuild that lengthy list of rules and regulations and place us right back under a system of legalism.

Why? Because it's dangerous to allow individual believers to live their lives guided by the Spirit without a detailed set of regulations to govern their every step. Church isn't quite as tidy when people are allowed to freely disagree. It's messy and scary. Kind of like real life.

But returning to legalism always leads us back into the "don't ask, don't tell" trap. Being human, we will inevitably fall no matter how hard the church tries to micromanage our behavior. The real question is, who will be there to pick up the pieces afterward?

Legalism brings with it a feeling of safety. But ultimately it's a false security; however comfortable the closet may feel now, it eventually suffocates you. True security flows out of the knowledge that you're loved unconditionally, no matter how many times you fail, no matter what you disagree on, no matter how poorly you conform to the majority.

Legalism is rooted in fear: fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of losing your salvation. Perfect love casts out fear.

Imagine how a church that truly loved could turn the world upside down...

Friday, November 11, 2005

Friday Humor

This gave me a good chuckle, so I thought I'd pass it along:

10 reasons why gay marriage should be illegal

Whatever side of the debate you fall on, you've at least got to laugh at #5. Well, okay, you don't have to, but honestly...

Thursday, November 10, 2005


This seems to be the theme of the day within my little blog network, so now that it's on my mind too, I'll go ahead and continue the trend.

Outside of my involvement with ex-gay ministries, I've never had a place in any of my Christian circles where I could talk honestly about my attractions. And even within ex-gay contexts, you only talk about your attractions so that you can psychoanalyze them and uncover your underlying brokenness (apparently homosexuals are nothing more than walking bundles of pathological dysfunction). Any feelings I experience for another guy, according to the literature, are all rooted in either envy or narcissism, and can never amount to anything deeper than base lust.

It was quite a surprise then, as I began honestly examining myself, to discover that my attractions ran far deeper than mere surface impressions, and that ultimately I was drawn to the whole person and not just to his looks or to particular traits that I envied.

One of the common ex-gay myths is that once you start to get to know a guy, any physical attraction you feel for him will fade away. Sure, it works sometimes, just as a heterosexual guy will sometimes find that there's no spark beneath the initial 'zing' that he felt for that pretty girl at the other end of the bar. Other times, though, getting to know a guy only intensifies my feelings for him. Looking back over my life I can think of several instances where getting to know an attractive guy only made me fall in love with him all the more. And I can think of several other times where I developed an attraction to a friend I hadn't initially thought of in that way.

Not that I would have ever in a million years told them, of course. Even with my straight friends that I'm not attracted to, talking about those feelings in more than the broadest and vaguest terms is simply out of the question.

At work there's a guy who can turn me into a puddle with a single glance. Our offices are far enough apart that we don't cross paths very often (a fact that leaves me with very mixed feelings), but I thought he was incredibly cute even before I found out what a nice guy he is. Whenever we do cross paths he's always friendly, and when he smiles at me my heart practically bursts from wanting to tell him just how beautiful I think he is.

Of course, even if there were a reasonable chance that he would take that revelation well, there are some things you simply don't say in the workplace regardless of your orientation. Out of respect for him I never let my thoughts about him turn to fantasy of any sort, but all the same I find myself putting off errands that would take me too close to his office.

I suppose it's asking too much to expect that most churches will ever become safe havens where people can talk honestly about such unspeakable things. But hope springs eternal all the same...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Defending 'Truth' By Telling Lies, Part 1

For more years than I care to remember, I was blindly loyal to the Exodus party line. I'm not just talking about their simplistic "Change is possible" slogan - which is technically true (change is an inevitable part of life) yet thoroughly dishonest (they know their audience assumes that they specifically mean orientation change, and one has to dig deeply to find the fine print that clarifies that they really mean change in behavior). I'm talking about nearly everything that Christian political groups say about gays.

At the lay level this is primarily an issue of misplaced trust. For my own part I have to take responsibility for all the years I unquestioningly accepted everything I was told about how irredeemably horrible the "gay lifestyle" was, without investigating any of those claims for myself.

At the leadership level, however, it's long past time for Christians to begin taking responsibility for the myths, half-truths and outright fabrications that they've spread (and continue to spread) about gays throughout the evangelical community and beyond. Individuals in positions of authority, especially those with a national audience, have a greater degree of responsibility to investigate the claims they're repeating. As such, it's no stretch at all to refer to such people as liars when they insist on regurgitating information that is widely known to be false.

Take, for example, the 'research' of Paul Cameron. Cameron's work (which paints a very dismal picture of the gay community) has been thoroughly debunked by the scientific community, to the point that even many evangelical leaders have publicly backed away from him. And yet his statistics still show up all the time in Christian articles, books, speeches and websites. Even supposedly scholarly theologians like Robert Gagnon uncritically parrot his statistics, either directly or by citing secondary works that quote Cameron without qualification.

An in-depth analysis of Cameron's claims can be found here. Another good expose was published recently by The Boston Globe (note: registration is required to view the full article).

(For his part, Cameron seems to sincerely believe that his research is credible. I'll leave that between him and God.)

As an example of the quality of Cameron's work, consider his most famous statistic, the life expectancy myth. In coming up with his claim that gay men have an average life expecancy in the early to mid 40s, he examined the obituary pages of a number of gay newspapers and compared the ages he found there to numbers for the general population. It doesn't take a trained researcher to understand what's wrong with his methodology. Many deaths never get reported in any newspaper, and many gay men and lesbians aren't active enough in the gay community to get a mention in the local gay newspaper.

In short, nothing meaningful can be concluded from a survey like this. The flaws in Cameron's methodology are no secret. And yet Christian activists still repeat his life expectancy estimate as though it were a scientifically verified fact.

So to those leaders I pose this simple question: If the truth is on your side, why do you feel the need to tell lies?

Monday, November 07, 2005

If Only They'd Had a Holiday Inn

If there's one thing I'm certain of in all of this, it's that the Sodom story has been misapplied as a weapon in the debate over homosexuality. A careful reading of the passages in question (Genesis 18-19 and a number of other verses throughout the Bible) reveals nothing that can be used to condemn same-sex relationships. If anything, the term 'Sodomite' seems to be more applicable to Christians who ostracize 'sinners' and drive them away from the church.

To help support that conclusion, here's an analysis I wrote a while back.

Genesis 19 - the Sodom story

The story is very familiar. God pronounces judgment on Sodom and then sends two angels to see if there are any righteous men in the city. Lot takes the visitors into his home, the men of Sodom surround the house and demand to rape Lot’s guests, and the city is destroyed the next day.

But was Sodom’s sin homosexuality? The other biblical authors didn’t seem to think so. With the possible (but unlikely) exception of Jude 7, no reference to Sodom in the Bible says or implies anything about homosexuality. Consider the following major passages: Jer. 23:13-14, Ezek. 16:48-50, Matt. 10:11-15. Wisdom 19:15-17 (from the apocrypha) even more clearly links the sin of Sodom with inhospitality.

Inhospitality? Doesn’t sound like much of a sin, does it? But consider: in the ancient world (and even into more recent times) travelers depended heavily on the hospitality of the homes they came across; finding a safe place to sleep for the night often meant the difference between life and death. The ancient world regarded hospitality as one of the highest virtues, and Jewish and early Christian tradition elevated it above all other spiritual disciplines. If a stranger showed up on your doorstep, you were morally obligated, without exception, to take him in and place his needs above your own.

And what did the people of Sodom try to do? This was no mere proposition; they clearly intended to rape and most likely kill Lot’s guests. Rape is, in general, more about domination and humiliation than it is about sex. In ancient times it wasn't uncommon for warriors to humiliate their conquered (male) opponents by publicly raping them. Such behavior has nothing to do with sexual orientation or, indeed, with sex, period. Such violent mistreatment of strangers would have been regarded as the ultimate violation of the code of hospitality.

Furthermore, if an instance of attempted homosexual rape can be used to condemn all homosexual relationships, then the heterosexual rape recorded in Judges 19 (see below) can, by the same logic, be used to condemn all heterosexual relationships.

And yes, it was the "people" of Sodom, not necessarily just the men. The word enowsh found in Gen. 19:4 most commonly refers to people in general, regardless of gender, as in Exodus 10:7 and numerous other Old Testament passages. In other words, everyone in Sodom – men, women and possibly even children – turned out to assault Lot’s visitors.

Additionally, if Sodom was plagued by roving bands of sex fiends, how did Lot and his wife and daughters escape being raped all the time they were there? Why would Lot locate his home inside the city if he was placing himself or his family in direct danger?

Jewish folklore includes stories of how the people of Sodom brutally mistreated the vulnerable (widows, beggars and travelers). In Genesis 18:20 God speaks of the "outcry" against Sodom. The term used here for "outcry" generally refers to the cry of the oppressed, not to moral outrage over sexual sin. Sodom’s fate was sealed well before God sent the angels to investigate. And Lot escaped that fate because he, by extending hospitality to these visitors and doing everything in his power to protect them, demonstrated that he was the one righteous man in Sodom.

A parallel story can be found in Judges 19. In this instance, the inhabitants of Gibeah threaten a visiting Levite in the same fashion that the men of Sodom threatened the angels. But in this case, the Levite’s concubine is offered to the crowd as a concession. The crowd accepts, raping the woman repeatedly so that she dies the following morning. Hardly the reaction one would expect from a 'gay' mob. Indeed, the theme of inhospitality is just as strong as it is in Genesis 19.

Judges 20:5 sheds further light on the true intentions of the mob, as the Levite reports, "During the night the men of Gibeah came after me and surrounded the house, intending to kill me." In other words, this mob wasn’t out looking for a good time - they were violent men and murderers, plain and simple.

Addendum: It's been brought to my attention that I never went back and explained why Jude 7 is an "unlikely" support for the anti-gay interpretation of the Sodom story. Here's my reasoning behind that statement:

Jude’s passing comment about the people of Sodom going after “strange flesh” is used as proof that their sin was that of homosexuality, even though it is the only biblical reference to Sodom (outside of Genesis 19) that could possibly support such an assertion. And the term "strange flesh" would be a very odd way of referring to homosexual lust. The word used here for "strange" is heteros (literally "different" – i.e. heterosexual). Placed in the context of verses 6, 8 and 9, all of which make reference to angels, Jude is apparently referring to the fact that the people of Sodom tried to rape angels.

This verse could also be a reference to Jewish legend, which states that the people of Sodom had a fetish for angels. This would make sense, since verses 6 and 9 are also taken from Jewish folklore, and Sodom is sometimes associated in Jewish writings with the Watchers (the angels who, according to the Book of Enoch, impregnated women in the pre-Flood era).

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Debate Rolls Along

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy the gay marriage debate has continued, this time with Dale Carpenter arguing in favor. He's made a number of posts over the course of the week, so here is a link to his first entry.

I like how he gets away from the "end-of-civilization vs. civil-rights-for-all rhetoric" (as he puts it) and frames gay marriage as a conservative cause. I haven't taken the time to read through the feedback comments (which number well into the hundreds), but it's been a very lively and interesting debate. Well worth a glance no matter which way you lean on the matter.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Implications of Design

I recently heard Joe Dallas speak at a seminar. He's a good speaker, though like so many evangelicals he seems to have reached his conclusions before even beginning to interact with the data.

He did use an analogy that I thought worked pretty well, when he compared sexual promiscuity to fast food. Fast food, though filling, lacks many of the nutrients that a body needs to function healthily; likewise, promiscuous behavior satiates the sex drive for a time but ultimately leaves unmet a person's need for genuine intimacy. Of course Joe would lump all gay relationships in with heterosexual promiscuity, which seems to have more to do with his pre-drawn conclusions than it does with any actual evidence, but in terms of promiscuity (on either side of the aisle) his analogy works well enough.

Of course, it also works pretty well as a case for categorizing the consumption of fast food as sin. After all, God designed our bodies to work a certain way, and that design extends well beyond the sexual aspects of our being. Sexual sin may get considerably more attention in the Bible, but then again how much attention can we expect people to pay to nutrition in an era when most people lived at (or just slightly above) subsistence level? When the New Testament authors declared that all food was 'clean,' they were commenting on the Old Testament's purity laws, not on whether all foods were equally beneficial to one's physical health.

Our bodies, after all, are temples of the Holy Spirit, and as such we have a moral duty to treat them properly and with respect; to do otherwise can only be sin. And what are some of the ways in which we sin on a habitual basis?

-We routinely consume 'junk' foods (chips, burgers & fries, soda pop, candy bars, etc.) in large quantities, even though these substances are largely or entirely devoid of nutritional value and are a major source of many of the health problems our society faces today (heart disease, obesity, diabetes and a host of other illnesses).

-We spend our days sitting at desks, driving cars, watching TV and otherwise being largely inactive for hours or days at a time. Our bodies need the daily workout that comes from frequent walking and physical labor, and few of us adequately make up for it through our leisure activities.

-We fly around the globe on a regular basis, traveling distances in hours that used to take weeks or months to cover. As miraculous as this ability is, the sudden change in time zones is disruptive to our bodies’ internal clocks and deleterious to our health. We can bounce back quickly enough from the occasional long-distance flight, but those who travel those distances on a routine basis risk damaging their health in a very real way.

-We deprive our bodies of sleep, getting to bed late and then forcing ourselves to get up before we’re fully rested, and then we make up for that deficit by jolting our bodies awake with caffeine. Even if we sleep in on the weekend we never fully make up for that lost time.

-We fill our minds with an overload of information on a daily basis through television, radio, newspapers and magazines, and now the internet. As a result we seldom take the time we really need to pause and reflect on all of this new data.

-We treat every ailment by reaching for the latest pharmaceutical drug, going for the 'quick fix' instead of giving our bodies what they need to heal themselves. What we gain in short-term relief we more than pay for in long-term side effects.

-Our environment is filled with toxins: air pollution, pesticides, heavy metals, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, synthetic hormones and many other unnatural substances. Over time these things build up in our bodies and cause (or compound) a host of health problems.

Our bodies are wondrously designed to tolerate and compensate for such things, within limits, but when they become part of our regular lifestyle, we eventually overwhelm the body's ability to protect itself.

One can argue that the above activities are not specifically prohibited by the Bible while same-sex relationships (allegedly) are, but all the same we are polluting God’s temples with each one of them. The damage we do to our physical bodies spills over into our mental and emotional states and ultimately limits our effectiveness for God’s work. How can we not categorize such neglect as sin?

The design argument cuts both ways. If God's standards hold us to acting only within the strict parameters of His original, ideal design for our bodies, how can we say that this standard doesn't apply across the board? What makes us think we can compartmentalize activities whose effects spill out into every aspect of our lives? What makes us think that a God of absolute purity wouldn't care about all the ways we pollute our physical bodies?

Of course, such a call for holiness wouldn't go over very well in most churches...