This one is long, but I hope you find it an interesting read. Two days ago, I learned of a flyer that was recently distributed around the Happy Valley, Goose Bay Area of Labrador, Canada. Labrador is near to my heart, as I have many friends there and it is culturally and provincially connected to the island of Newfoundland; where one half of my family originated. Today, my heart goes out to the LGBTQ community of Labrador because of a hateful 7-page flyer delivered en masse through Canada Post. The flyer is titled “Same-Sex Marriages and God’s Word,” it is published by ‘The Peoples Gospel Hour’ out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and it is stamped with the name Arthur Riche. Inside, the names Pastor Perry F. Rockwood and Dr. Verle S. Ackerman are listed as authors. I am unsure if any others contributed to the writing.
Within the 7 typed pages of this flyer, one will find all manner of misinformation and biblical conjecture. The arguments posed against homosexuality are not factual or honest, nor do they suggest that the writers know the first thing about what homosexuality is. There are 10 points of discussion that I would like to touch on in regard to this piece, and then I have some additional things to say. I will itemize the 10 points for simplicity’s sake.
1. “The dictionary defines marriage as ‘the relation between husband and wife.’ It says that marriage refers to ‘a state of, or relation between a man and a woman who have become husband and wife.'”
First of all, barring Wikipedia, the dictionary is the worst thing to use if the goal is to make a valid argument. Dictionaries are written with the aim of directly defining a given word, and they are heavily reliant on societal understandings of that word (this is why words are consistently being added to the dictionary as our cultural vocabulary grows). As for the definition of marriage, the dictionaries will soon change with the times. Heterosexual marriage has been the majority norm, and therefore the only form of marriage known aside from polygamy, for a very long time. With no knowledge or recognition of same-sex marriage in Western history, it is no surprise that the dictionary definition cited by Pastor Rockwood only defines the man-woman relationship. The fact that the dictionary says it does not support the idea that the argument is correct.
2. The next piece of the argument is Genesis 1:27, particularly the words “male and female he created them.”
Okay, so Genesis says that God created both men and women. So what? That says nothing about sexuality, it says nothing about romantic love, nothing about relationships, nothing about anything other than the fact that men and women both exist and that they were created. To be fair, his point is that men and women were put here and they are to procreate in order to build a human population; but this doesn’t suggest that homosexuality is unnatural. Reproduction is one of the many functions of humans beings, it is not our sole purpose, and it does not impact our sexual orientation. There is a complexity to humanity that is entirely ignored by using Genesis in arguments against the LGBTQ community.
3. “Homosexuality is going to prevail and be the normal way of life.”
This, like every other argument in the flyer, is a common line towed by many evangelical Christians. Some go a little further and say that normalization of the so-called “lifestyle” is the goal of the “homosexual movement.” Biologically speaking, heterosexuality is likely to always be the majority norm. In every species where same-sex relationships happen, it is always in under 10% of the respective population. Although this may fluctuate within 1 or 2 percent, it isn’t likely to occur in majority numbers. It is a natural part of our world, there is nothing to worry about or be afraid of. People who are homosexual are just like everybody else. It’s not a way of life, it’s not a lifestyle, it’s not a sickness, a condition, or a disease. It is a sexual orientation just like heterosexuality, and it is every bit as natural. If there were such a thing as the “homosexual movement,” the goal would most probably be to change the laws so that LGBTQ people could live happily and freely. Nobody has any interest in indoctrinating society or squashing the heterosexual community into submission. To suggest otherwise is both ridiculous and extremely childish.
4. “You will find in the Bible that the sodomites, called homosexuals today, flourished under the reign of wicked kings and they were removed by good kings.”
Pastor Rockwood is referring here to the book of 1 Kings where the kings Asa, David, and Jehoshaphat were all said to have removed the sodomites and idols from their land. Not suprisingly, Pastor Rockwood has been quite sneaky in deceiving his faithful readers here. Translation from ancient languages is a tricky thing, and many of the words in the Bible have been translated from context rather than actual meaning. In his citation of the actual verse, he uses the word “sodomites,” but in other versions it is translated as “shrine prostitutes.” Shrine prostitutes were an integral part of the Canaanite fertility religion, a false religion from the ancient Jewish (and current Christian) perspective. The thing for which these people were expelled was not homosexuality, it was for their involvement in the practice of a false religion, and therefore the worship of false idols. If the word used is “sodomites,” the argument still holds no merit. That word comes from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, where the condemned sin was rape (see my Think page). An act of extreme violence in which human dignity is stolen, rape violates the 2nd, 8th, and 10th commandments (you shall have no other idols, you shall not steal, you shall not covet).
5. “It is wrong for a court and nation to give special status to any group of people who are identified in the Bible as sinners under the judgment of God.”
If this were the case nobody would be safe, but that’s not the problem. The problem here is the dangerous idea that church and state should be linked together. If our government were to use the Bible to inform how they ran society, we would suffer greatly; for there are many immoral things in the Bible that are condoned (the God-sanctioned genocide against the Amalekites, for example, or the most “righteous” man in Sodom offering his virgin daughter to an aggressive mob of rapists). In addition, the state must not promote any one religion. To do so would violate the very idea of freedom in this country, and the imposed moral norms would be catastrophic. Canada is a country known for hospitality and acceptance. We welcome people from other nations, many of whom are fleeing their homelands because of oppressive governments and archaic laws. If our government were to make Christianity the state religion, these people would lose all religious rights. Those of us born here would also have to adhere to Christian-based laws despite our moral objections. Freedom, inasmuch as freedom exists, is vital to social cohesion and democracy. For the state to impose one religion, any one religion, would be a devastating blow to that freedom.
6. Dr. Verle S. Ackerman, in his section of the piece, offers up three definitions.
i. “Sexual Perversion: Any sexual practices or social mores which are a deviation or distortion from God’s blueprint revealed in his word.”
ii. “Free Love: Sex with no laws or moral restraints of any kind, Biblical or otherwise.”
iii. “Homosexual/Lesbian: A person who has sexual desire or love for one of his or her own sex.”
The first two definitions serve no real purpose other than to impassion evangelical readers to the cause. The third definition is quite problematic. Dr. Ackerman fails to realize that same-sex attraction is not merely physical. The misconception that homosexuality is all about sex has become so common that I cringe every time I hear it. LGBTQ people have relationships based on emotional, romantic AND sexual attraction, just like heterosexual people do. Dr. Ackerman, and everyone like him, should not offer definitions for things he does not understand. To do so is intellectually dishonest, misleading, and unbecoming of a person who has supposedly earned the right to use the letters “Dr” before his name.
7. “The practice is a shameful sin, and act of flagrant rebellion against the natural order and law of God.”
“The homosexual is at war with God. Homosexuality is the culminating sexual practice of man’s apostasy and hostility towards God.”
Again, the misconception that homosexuality is all about sex rears its ugly head. The second quote is something that I would presume Christians who are LGBTQ would be offended by. At war with God? I am astonished that anybody actually had the audacity and unbridled arrogance to make this claim. The second part of that, that homosexuality has resulted from our apostasy, is a cultural claim. With all due respect, an author who demonstrates a misunderstanding of both his Bible and the thing that he is speaking out against, does not exactly strike me as the kind of person who would know what he is talking about in regard to cultural causes and effects.
8. “The defenders of homosexuality like to reason as to whether homosexuality is a sin or a sickness.”
I laughed when I read this. No we don’t. This debate may still exist in evangelical circles, but not where it counts. It’s neither a sin nor a sickness, and no “defender,” as the author so ignorantly puts it, is left scratching their head trying to figure it out. This debate occurred many many years ago. We are long past it.
9. “I want you to observe another truth about homosexuality. It is almost always violent. The men of Sodom were full of threats and violence. Homosexuality is still associated with violence.”
I am uncertain as to whether Dr. Ackerman wrote this section, but the author is right about two things here. The men of Sodom WERE full of threats and violence; most rapists are. It is also correct that homosexuality is still associated with violence. LGBTQ people the world over are being hunted, raped, tortured and killed. Others are being forced into hiding and driven into despair until they take their own lives. Many do not feel safe walking down the street at night or going to places that the rest of us take for granted. Yes, homosexuality is still very much associated with violence – the kind encouraged by the propaganda written by people like Pastor Rockwood and Dr. Ackerman. This, of course, was not the violence the author was talking about. He was talking about a violence that does not exist. Once again, we see an author trying to claim truth over something he hasn’t the first clue about (I use the pronoun “he” because the majority of literature produced by evangelical organizations is penned by male authors).
10. “The defenders of homosexuality teach that this state is natural to a certain number of people.”
It’s not a “state,” and again we see the ignorant “defenders,” but yeah. It IS natural! I’m not going to hash this one out any further. If a person can’t believe that homosexuality is natural then they have chosen to close their eyes and shut out everything we know about humanity and nature. A person like that has decided to be ignorant, and the decision to become enlightened must also be theirs.
Canada Post has accepted accountability for distributing these flyers, but in all fairness they were paid in full and did what a postal service does. I believe that the authors should be held accountable, but unfortunately that is impossible in at least one case. Pastor Rockwood, who wrote his piece in 2004, apparently died in 2008. When questioned, ‘The Peoples Gospel Hour’ stated that their values have not changed. It is up to all of us who are impassioned to this cause to contact them and ask some tough questions. Fortunately, they have been kind enough to make their contact information public on the front page of the flyer. To avoid any possible legal issues, I am not going to post them here, but you may write to me at the email address on my “About” page and I will be happy to send you the information. If you choose to write or call, keep in mind that anger and outrage are only effective when used appropriately. Yelling, making threats, cursing, and personal attacks are unacceptable and ineffective. In dealing with either side on this issue, we must always remain calm, rational, and respectful. We are all human, after all.