This is something I’ve been wanting to say something about for a while, because it comes up so often, but never think to bring it up. So, I have to thank Pat Robertson for giving me the opportunity this time.
Countries that “embrace homosexuality” go “down into ruin” and “end up in the garbage heap of history.” Ominous sounding words, particularly if your one of Pat’s believers. But they don’t actually mean anything.
Yes, there have been many cultures that have not so much “embraced homosexuality” as have found some way of incorporating homosexuality and same-sex oriented persons into their societies. As William Naphy wrote in Born to Be Gay: A History of Homosexuality.
…[H]omosexuality is clearly a very real characteristic of the human species taken as a whole. The presence of gay people is, in other words, a natural part of humanity — it is a normal feature of the human condition. Most societies throughout history have accepted this with varying degrees of toleration, albeit with similarly varying degree of disapproval. Most cultures have found a way to construct some sexual interaction between members of the same sex in a way that allows for some scope of sexual activity and real emotional bonding.
Now, one might ask (as I’m sure Robertson would) “Well, where are those civilizations now? They didn’t last, did they?”
There are many different problems here.
First, if I had time I’d construct a timeline of human civilization. (Like this one.) I’d do it just to make a point that shouldn’t have to be made.
Every human enterprise ends.
Every human civilization ends. They end for any number of reasons. It could be that they are limited by the resources available to them in their areas. It could be that — like the lost civilization of Easter Island, they destroyed their ecosystem. Ours will end, too. (When it does, it will probably have more to do with our failure to take care of our ecosystem.)
Did some of them find ways to fit same-sex oriented persons into their cultures? Yes. Did some recognize or sanction same-sex relationships? Yes. Is that why they came to an end? No.
At least, not in any way that can be objectively proven. (And, no, to date there is no record of any culture in which every single person suddenly “went gay” and everyone stopped making babies.) Robertson might say, as he and Jerry Fallwell did after 9/11, that they fell because “God removed his protective hand” from them, because of their “embrace” of homosexuality. But that only counts as “evidence” in the mind of the believer.
Or maybe someone who doesn’t know the difference between causation and correlation.
“Correlation does not imply causation” is a phrase used in science and statistics to emphasize that correlation between two variables does not automatically imply that one causes the other (though it doesn’t remove the fact that correlation can still be a hint, whether powerful or otherwise).
There are many civilizations that have come and gone. Some of them accepted homosexuality. So, must that be why they ended? Well,they all had language too. Could that be it? In many of them, people wore some form of clothing. Could that be it? Pretty much all of them developed religion. And they all fell. So why couldn’t that be it? Come to think of it, every one of them had some form of heterosexual marriage too. Now, that’s got to be it, right?
Human institutions and enterprises fail because they are human in origin. They end because everything ends. Sometimes their actions hasten their demise. Sometimes circumstances beyond their control hasten their demise. Either way, they end because they end. They end because everything ends.
What’s going on with Robertson and others like him involve a couple of things. One is the typical western linear view of time, in which there has to be a beginning and an end. That lends itself to a typical American sense of exceptionalism. Not only is history a straight path, but it’s on a upward incline for “us.” We are different, thus our culture, our civilization will never end.
That is, until it does. And then someone else will speculate on why we “fell.”
If we do, it will likely be due to tripping over our own wreckage, as what we think is a straight path into a glorious horizon, but is really the winding, well-worn path of history, bringing us back to our past, to trip over it again.