Straight & Narrow Thomas E  Term Paper

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He also discusses certain terms, these being epithymia, pathos, and orexis, terms that denote "the inclination of the will that leads to same-sex acts." Paul uses the terms in different passages, showing negative connotations. Other words are also examined for what they say about Paul's meaning and the view he takes toward homosexuality. The passage is thoroughly explored in this chapter, leaving the reader with some question as to how much emphasis the different ideas should really have and how much weight should be given to those statements in terms of creating and enforcing a moral code.

Chapter 5, "From Sodom to Sodom," discusses the scriptural references to Sodom and the fate of Sodom, presumably destroyed because of unnatural sex. Revisionists see the Sodomites as guilty not of homosexuality but of inhospitality, though Schmidt cites evidence that their sin was sexual in nature. The fate of Sodom has been given a lot of weight by Christians as showing God's displeasure with homosexual acts, though the fact that there is some doubt as to what precise acts are being cited in the Bible raises questions about the meaning of the destruction of Sodom and of the lessons that should be taken from the events. Schmidt considers the textual evidence and the meaning of the terms used to the people of the time, recognizing as he always does that what is most important is the meaning when the scripture was written and not the meaning imposed on the text by later generations who may be distorting the original message. Much of that message has been treated as if it had been received clearly and distinctly, when in fact it has been subject to differences in translation and interpretation over the centuries and so might not be as definitive as believed.

Chapter 6 is called "The Price of Love" and offers a medical analysis of sex acts. This chapter delves more deeply into statistics and other data regarding homosexual acts and their consequences, though in this chapter, Schmidt seems more biased than he has in other parts of the book. He presents a lot of ideas about homosexuals and their mode of life that might be questioned, concentrating more on male homosexuality than on lesbianism. He also brings in a number of related but not necessarily just homosexual behaviors, such as sadomasochism, bondage, and child molestation. He says that these practices are more common in the gay community than among heterosexuals, though it is not clear if this is true. He also describes a number of medical complications that might follow from anal sex and considers a large number of sexually transmitted diseases and their effects on the body. Again, these disease are not just homosexual diseases, but they are treated here as if they were more common in that community than in any other. Schmidt is clearly aware that most heterosexuals find homosexual acts to be distasteful, and his descriptions and discussions of these acts plays on that response to bring out a degree of revulsion in the reader. The diseases are described as if they were a penalty visited on homosexuals by God, though heterosexuals also get these diseases and even engage in many of these practices, between the sexes instead of between people of the same sex.

Chapter 7 is called "The Great Nature-Nurture Debate," a long-standing argument applied here to homosexuality but commonly raised over a variety of behaviors. The issue is whether behavior is inherited or learned, whether it is genetic or caused by experiences in life. Schmidt discusses the issue in terms of whether or not homosexuality has a genetic component and is biological or whether it is learned and so could be eliminated with retraining. He has already raised this argument in considering how many of his friends who are homosexual have despaired at how they are treated because they cannot help but be who they are, but here he explores the view that they could help it if they wanted to and if they were given the proper motivation and training. He also separates the issue entirely from the moral question, stating that the moral issue would be in place even if the behavior were innate and compelled. Many immoral behaviors might be compelled, but that fact cannot eliminate the moral factor. Schmidt considers many of the biological explanations for homosexuality and relates several of these to other compelled behavior that the reader would see as immoral, such as the tendency to do violence to another person. Some of the explanations involve animal studies to show homosexual behavior elsewhere in the animal kingdom. Schmidt also considers other human cultures that have involved homosexuality, finding that none has ever approved of homosexuality in long-term relationships as we see them today. Of course, the fact that no culture has accepted the practice does not in itself mean it is learned and unnatural. Biological causation theories begin with many recent efforts by researchers to find brain structures indicating homosexuality, or hormones that might be implicated, or a genetic cause. Some of the results are suggestive, but none are yet definitive.

A different cause is considered under the heading of social constructionism, the opposite of biological essentialism. These studies are also suggestive but not definitive. The research shows how an individual homosexual identity may be formed. The most common nurture theories hold that the early childhood environment creates patterns of behavior leading to homosexuality, and these are also explored for what they suggest about homosexuality and what might be done about it. The moral environment is also examined for how it might affect homosexual behavior either promoting it or discouraging it.

Chapter 8 is called "Straight and Narrow," and this chapter is a summary of the rest of the book and brings together much of the information offered throughout by Schmidt. In the rest of the book, he has offered both sides in the argument and has seemed to vacillate between them at times, more often tending toward the view of homosexuality as a moral question. In this chapter, he seeks to find more common ground between the two and to bring the two closer together around the view that homosexuality is not simply a choice and has a moral dimension for homosexuals in being true to themselves and in expressing the sexuality they have been given.


Schmidt, Thomas E. Straight and Narrow? Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1995.

Thomas E. Schmidt,…

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