Analysis-Evaluation Essays #1
Webpublished with Student Permission
Online Handout, WR 122, Winter 2002
Review of "The Madness of the American Family": Sue Baca (2002)
Review of "Confessions of a Heterosexual": Jason Graham (2002)
Two Reviews of "Everybody's Threatened by Homophobia":
Melinda Gorham (1999) | Jacelyn Keys (1999)
Two Reviews of "Homophobic? Reread Your Bible":
Andrew Elster (1998) | Crista Harrison (2001)
Essay #1 Analysis-Evaluation
15 March 2002
Decter, Midge. “The Madness of the American Family.” From Policy Review Sept./Oct. 1998.
Rpt. The Aims of Argument: A Rhetoric and Reader. Eds. Timothy W. Crusius
and Carolyn E. Channell. 3rd ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 2000. 440-449.
In the essay, The Madness of the American Family by Midge Decter, many interesting points were brought up concerning how Americans, who are so fortunate, have gotten themselves into such a predicament as to debate what ‘family’ means. Decter's main claim is that by marrying and raising a family in the traditional way, we will fulfill the destinies intended for us, which will give our lives full meaning (449). She explains that we can't fool Mother Nature and if we try to, we will end up with all sorts of problems (445). If we live solely for ourselves and not be part of a traditional family unit, then again problems are created (449). Finally she notes that we need to relearn the old lessons our forebears knew about time-honored limits (449). Decter's claim is narrow, as well as some of her reasons she puts forth in establishing her claim. Plus, she does not talk to a diverse audience and therefore I cannot recommend her essay.
One strength Decter brought to her essay was the background information on herself. Before the essays starts, an important fact is mentioned. The readers learn that she has a life outside of her deep family commitments. She is a writer, social critic. and a trustee of the Heritage Foundation, and these things are important to know as they added weight to her argument. Her character is seen as honorable because she is interested in the family unit, free enterprise, limited government, traditional American values, and a strong national defense, which are the same things most Americans are interested in too.
Decter's main claim about how life should be lived--that only by marrying and being "part of the onrushing tide of generations" can our lives have full meaning--is very limiting. This doesn't include the possibility that people may be very fulfilled living a single life. It also doesn't address other situations that create single life such as death of a spouse or divorce. After someone loses a spouse to death, they may not want to get married again, and the same goes for divorced people, especially if there is abuse present in the marriage.
One of the main points that Decter states is that we can't fool Mother Nature because our very bodily constitutions are aimed toward having a family (445, 446). If we try to change the natural order, problems will develop (445-446). Many people would agree with this reasoning because there is a vast amount of scientific evidence to support the fact that when one small component of creation is missing or out of sync, this causes a chain reaction of other problems. When looking at the common cold and what that small problem does to us, we can then reason that if our lifestyle is not in line with the natural order, havoc will also follow. This brings up the questions of whether people living singly are living out of the natural order. If people who are single know they don't want to get married, for any reason, they should not be forced because they are hurting no one, and in fact may become miserable, as well as their spouse, if forced to marry. Most people today are still interested in being married and raising a family in the traditional way, so if a small portion of individuals want to live singly or marry without having children, there is not threat to the extinction of the human race as she fears (445).
Decter notes that problems also follow people if they choose to live life concentrating on "Self" (446). Most people would agree that concentrating solely on oneself is selfish and not a desirable attribute, and that could cause problems, as no one enjoys the company of a self-centered person. What she implies about single people is that they are selfish for not being part of a family because she makes no exceptions to her idea that all people should marry and have a family, and if they don't, they are not fulfilling their lives (449). She does not seem to consider that single people can be unselfish, fulfilled, and happy. Her tone is rather light but serious at first, but as the essay comes to an end, her tone changes to be cutting as she describes men and women waking up to becoming "real" husbands and wives (449). Her view is very narrow at this point and I imagine that if there had been single people in her audience, they would have been offended.
Lastly, Decter passionately appeals to our sense of emotion as she talks about our forbears' sufferings and the age-old lessons that they learned about the limits of life (449). We do live in a day and age where the limits of living have been greatly enlarged compared to those of our forbears. The comforts we have, the choices we can make, and the health that we enjoy can be taken for granted, but this does not necessarily tie in with whether we are married or not. Decter seems to think that we have lost our thankfulness and respect for our easy way of life and that is all tied up in the fact that we are given too many choices (447, 449). She doesn't want marriage to become a casual choice, like deciding what to wear for the day (445), but rather the most important choice we can make. Most people would agree that marriage is a very important choice to make. But what they don't agree with is that it is the only choice to make. She believes we need to relearn to be thankful and to respect the wisdom of our forbears (449). She states that because of our prosperity and the choices before us, many young people are living "at bottom unnatural lives" (445), and that has created a dangerous swamp of "willfully defined individual freedom" (446). Also, this is the reason why single people are always running to therapy, doing drugs, mutilating their bodies, seeking phony excitements and emotions (446). Most people would not agree with her reasoning that these problems are all due to people being single. Some may be due to selfish individuals but those individual can also be married. In fact, the reason most people need therapy is because of relationship problems, married or not, not because of the lack of relationships. Today's problems are complex and do not have one answer.
In conclusion, I think Decter makes good points in her essay except that they're too narrow. Her goal was to not let the traditional family fade away because if it does, she fears all of human existence could fade away. I understand her urgency and the seriousness of the subject. But if she had realized that most people are still drawn to a traditional family life style, she could have viewed single people as less of a threat. As stated before, the problems of today's society are more complex than what she proposes. Most people of today, especially young people, do have problems directly because of negative family issues. So if more effort could be directed toward supporting families, not just having families, then our society could function at a healthier level, which would then give our lives their full intended meaning.
© Sue Baca, 2002
Essay #1 Analysis-Evaluation
22 February 2002
Struggling with Rights and Wrongs
Hamill, Peter. “Confessions of a Heterosexual.” Esquire, August 1990. Rpt. The Aims of Argument: A Rhetoric and Reader. Eds. Timothy W.Crusius and Carolyn E. Channell. 3rd ed. Mountain View, Ca: Mayfield, 2000. 505-508.
Upon I reading Peter Hamill’s “Confessions of a Heterosexual” I was impressed to find an individual who did not embrace or shun his faults, but merely exposed them. In Hamill’s essay he discusses how he has had to reconcile with his homophobic past, as well as his ever changing feelings towards gays. Even though Hamill’s views are changing and have changed, his crass description of his beliefs causes one to think just the opposite of what he is saying. I myself, like Hamill, am a heterosexual and a liberal. I too have had to truly confront my feelings toward homosexuals rather than hiding behind the concept of liberalism and denying emotions that need to be resolved. Like Hamill I am tired of violent and or abrasive “exhibition(s) of theatrical rage from the gay movement” (510). Even though I recommend Hamill to anyone interested in researching gay and lesbian rights, I can’t not say I liked Hamill’s description of his opinions finding him rude and even uncaring at times despite what he may be been illustrating verbally.
Hamill grew up in the forties and fifties, a time in our nation’s history when gays in America were not allowed to be gay, it was a time of depression in more ways than a financial one. Hamill’s initial experience with homosexuals was minimal and scary. The men in his neighborhood who were gay paid kids and young men for sex, not exactly an ideal way to be introduced into the world of homosexuals. As Hamill’s puts it, “sexuality was crude and uncomplicated: Men fucked women” (510). While this bit of information helps the reader see how Hamill perceived the world for part of his life, his blunt description causes the reader to believe that he is unsympathetic; as the reader finds out later this simply is not true. Still this statement does not allow the reader to identify as closely with Hamill’s particular view.
Hamill describes the frustration that he feels with the rash of gay pride protests, believing that these demonstrations only have a superficial effect towards bettering gay rights. Again I can say that I concur with the idea that a showy ruckus will do little but ignite contempt and enrage all those opposing homosexual views. Once again, however, Hamill lost his appeal by stating “I am tired of … people who identify themselves exclusively by what they do with their cocks” (510). How is the reader supposed to separate Hamill’s contempt for over zealous gay movements from gays themselves?
At one point in the essay the author explains how his recklessly homophobic past has hindered him greatly in the present . As Hamill saw it his youth and as an enlisted member of the U.S. Navy, gays were “predators and corrupters” (511). He did not realize that some of his friends were gay. Hamill uses this paradox as a kind of informative appeal; he befriended only those who had similar set of morals ; it was some of those same friends who turned out to be gay! The fact that Hamill has not only accepted his friend’s choices in life but ,has also asked for their forgiveness; reaffirms Hamill’s position on equal rights for gays once again.
Even though Hamill’s views have changed his fear of AIDS nearly brought him back to square one. Hamill, like the majority of people concerned with AIDS wanted an explanation, an answer even a scapegoat. Hamill confesses that he had to struggle with his earlier ideals and beliefs. Finally Hamill came to the conclusion that gays and straights should simply unite to fight the plague of prejudice; as everyone is plagued by AIDS. Ending on a somber note Hamill concludes with an excusing look at the amount of energy being wasted with ineffective demonstrations and accusations; As Hamill states, “there are sadder developments in American life, I suppose, but for the moment, I can’t think of one” (513).Hamill, like many Americans, is simply trying to struggle or even speed up the slow process of achieving equal rights for minorities. His disgust for needless demonstrations may come across as mean or angry, but it is merely the fact that we all reach a boiling point at which we tire of redundancy. It is important to recognize that Hamill, in his individual way, is truly making a difference; he is doing something that few have the courage or patience to accomplish; he is changing one mind at a time, starting with his own.
© Jason Graham, 2002
WR 122, Dr. Agatucci
Essay #1 (Analysis-Evaluation)
19 February 1999
Nickel, Jeffrey. "Everybody's Threatened by Homophobia." Christopher Street 17 Aug. 1992. Rpt. The Aims of Argument: A Rhetoric and Reader. Eds. Timothy W. Crusius and Carolyn E. Channell. 2nd ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1998. 527-530.
Jeffrey Nickel's article, "Everybody's Threatened by Homophobia" (527-530) will be analyzed in this essay. This piece was published in Christopher Street Magazine on August 17, 1992. Christopher Street is a literary magazine of which the readers and writers are primarily homosexual. In his essay, Jeffrey Nickel's main concern is to show his readers that a case can be made against homophobia that will appeal to the interests of heterosexuals. Nickel explains that humiliation, isolation, and even killings occur due to our country's problem with homophobia. He also educates us on what homophobia does to others, "those who are perceived to be gay, afraid they might be gay, and others who clearly aren't gay, but are forced to feel bigotry's nasty bite" (527). Nickel informs us of how young children have a difficult time discovering their own sexuality and how friends of the same sex feel uncomfortable expressing affection towards each other because of our society's problem with homophobia. He also introduces cases in which heterosexuals have been beaten because they were mistaken to be gay.
I recommend that everyone, no matter what their bias, should read this essay. Nickel's approach to this problem is presented in a way that both homosexuals and heterosexuals can relate to. His use of graphic stories in which heterosexuals are the victims of homophobic hate crimes awakens everyone. It proves to us that, like racism, hatred towards others hurts our society as a whole, those dispersing the hate, and those whom the anger is laid upon. One of his best examples of this type of hatred is the story of the two male heterosexual friends. The two men were walking down the street, one friend with his arm around the shoulder of the other, when a pickup truck struck him and seriously injured the man. The driver began to scream and curse at him yelling such things as "faggot" while the other occupant of the truck proceeded to beat him over the head with a beer bottle. The driver, set on hurting his victim, backed the truck up to where the man was standing, crushing his legs between the rear bumper and some nearby mailboxes. In the end, the victim's legs were so severely injured that muscles, tendons, and skin had to be grafted in order to repair them. Nickel finishes his story explaining that, "during the entire incident the men on the sidewalk were pleading with their attackers: 'We're just buddies; we're not gay'" (529), and explains that one of the men in the story was a married heterosexual father. This story clearly reveals how homophobia affects everyone, no matter who you may be. It is such an effective story because it shows heterosexuals that their homophobic comments or actions can come back to haunt them.
Although Nickel's essay is powerful, it may come off as being a little too strong for some readers. His tone used throughout the essay may only cause some homophobics to become defensive on the topic, rather than hearing out his ideas and points of view. An example of this tone is displayed when Nickel replies, "Kids in this country must not only be straight; they must make absolutely sure that they are not gay. They shouldn't have to make sure" (528). If Nickel intended for his essay to reach more than his usual homosexual readers, he might have wanted to consider writing for a larger, more diverse audience. This, in turn, would help people to be more willing to hear what he is trying to say.
Nickel does an excellent job of making his readers question their own actions and awkwardness towards themselves and their friends. Many individuals have never realized how homophobia affects their behavior towards each other. When two guys hug, they know inside that it feels uncomfortable and awkward; they just forget why. As Nickel puts it, "If there were no stigma to homosexuality, this stultifying paranoia just wouldn't exist" (529). He states that "Prejudice against homosexuality sharply limits how all men and women may acceptably behave, among themselves and each other" (529).
One problem Nickel doesn't consider in his essay is how he may be offending non-violent homophobics. After all, not all homophobics take part in gay bashing and yell profanities at homosexuals. Some of these people have just learned these beliefs from relatives, friends, or even the pastor of their church, and adopt these opinions as their own. They learn to believe that it is normal and acceptable to have negative opinions towards homosexuality. Nickel really should have considered who is essay might offend if he was planning on reaching out to a more diverse audience.
Nickel's essay does a good job of reminding the readers to reconsider the reasons for their own opinions. Those who are for the elimination of homophobia are reminded why they believe this with the help of Nickel's powerful stories. Everyone has opinions, but many often forget why they believe in something so strongly. Nickel's essay is able to bring such reasons to the surface, leaving readers with a better understanding of their own beliefs.
A weakness I noticed in Nickel's work is how he bases his essay on experiences, not actual facts. Nickel could have added in some statistics about the number of homosexuals assaulted by homophobics, or maybe some results from surveys based on why homophobics feel the way they do. It might not have been as powerful if facts were thrown in to support the negative affects of homophobia, but it might have opened some minds of those who are against homosexuality. They would have to take a look at the facts and consider them as relevant evidence, whereas the stories maybe easier for them to disregard as fiction.
I personally believe that homophobia is a definite problem in our society, and that those who suffer from this phobia could use a review on the "Golden Rule": "Do unto others as you wish to be done unto you." However, I do believe that change cannot be forced; therefore proper education, reasoning, and compromise must take place. And opinions of those on opposing sides must be considerate and reasonable to reach a solution.
In conclusion, I highly recommend Jeffrey Nickel's essay, "Everybody's Threatened by Homophobia." Nickel does a good job of reminding people about the opinions they hold while also presenting new ideas to be questioned. His tone used throughout the essay is strong and helps to grab the readers' attention. Although Nickel doesn't reach out to a more diverse audience, his essay still exhibits numerous supportive reasons for the need to eliminate homophobia in our society. We must remember that Nickel's essay was intended for the gay population which makes his focus on one type of audience more understandable. The strengths outweigh the weaknesses in this essay, resulting in an essay well worth reading.
© Melinda Gorham, 1999
WR 122, Dr. Agatucci
Essay #1 - Final Draft
19 February 1999
The Enemy - Ignorance
Nickel, Jeffrey. "Everybody's Threatened by Homophobia." Christopher Street 17 Aug. 1992. Rpt. The Aims of Argument: A Rhetoric and Reader. Eds. Timothy W. Crusius and Carolyn E. Channell. 2nd ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1998. 527-530.
Before reading Jeffrey Nickel's essay "Everybody's Threatened by Homophobia," I had never stopped to honestly evaluate my feelings toward the homosexual community. I willingly admit that everything about the essay made me turn a deaf ear towards its message. The fact that it was published in Christopher Street, a magazine that catered toward homosexual readers and writers, and Nickel's openness regarding his own sexuality only served to strengthen my resolve to merely "get through" this assignment.
Though I personally disagree with Nickel's beliefs and for the most part the reasoning behind them, I have come to appreciate the manner in which he presents himself and his beliefs. It is because of this that I have chosen to give his essay a favorable review. I am not, however, recommending it to the population as a whole. Though not abrasive or verbally abusive to those with differing opinions, this essay might not be well received by strictly conservative audiences because of the nature of the subject matter. I therefore recommend this essay to those honestly seeking to challenge their opinions and beliefs.
In the essay Nickel outlines the causes and effects that bigotry has on our children, nation, and future. First he examines the causes and corollaries that homophobia has on both individuals and communities. He then looks upon, with irony, the suffering inflicted upon heterosexuals because of homophobia.
I think this essay's strengths lie in the manner in which Nickel presents a very controversial matter, the emotional involvement that he clearly portrays, and the ability the author has of involving and challenging each of his readers.
Homosexuality has long been a divisive topic of this nation. From the political podium to the religious pulpit and every place in between, we see people divided on the moral and societal acceptance of homosexuals. In a world where hate spews forth from both sides, it has been refreshing to read a work focusing on promoting a solution, albeit one I do not agree with, but a solution nonetheless. I felt Nickel's essay was heartfelt and firm in his own bias, yet surprisingly devoid of the hateful accusations often read in many pieces of pro-gay literature. Nickel certainly gives the impression that the heterosexual community and their lack of conditional acceptance of homosexuality is to blame for homophobia and the resulting hate crimes, yet it is just that...an impression, not an "in your face" accusation. The manner in which Nickel bridles his passion for a topic obviously close to his heart is admirable. While strong and unwavering in his convictions, he is not belligerent or cruel.
That is not to say he is passionless in his portrayal of homosexual struggles, quite the opposite. The power of the emotion portrayed in this essay was a key factor for me. I believe it is very important for an author to be passionately engaged in his writing if he is to be effective in his purpose, whatever that may be. This is especially true of Nickel's type of essay, which is persuasive and defensive. He passionately persuades his readers, through personal experiences and heart wrenching stories, while at the same time fervently defending his position, in a non-threatening manner. I feel that Nickel wrote convincingly with passion, emotion, and dedication for his plight.
I was impacted not only by the emotional quality of his writing but how that was used to help the audience identify with his viewpoint.
Nickel, through his use of highly dramatic examples - such as the ridicule and subsequent embarrassment of a grade-school boy thought to have a crush on another male class-mate and the brutal murder of the heterosexual father thought to be gay - helps us in some way, identify, if not agree, with his cause. Only the hardest of hearts, upon hearing of these cruelties, could merely brush them aside without emotion. We have all probably been in the position of that child, ridiculed in public, and can understand the embarrassment he must have felt, and whose heart would not ache over the senseless murder of a father of four? Nickel brilliantly exercises the emotional power of the pen. He quite talentedly uses his readers' emotions and human compassion by giving them something to identify with.
It is this strength, the use of dramatic elements, that I feel also leads to one of Nickel's weaknesses. Nickel relays only the most horrific of stories. While I realize this was meant to paint homophobic attitudes in as dark a light as possible, a touch more realism would have made this a stronger essay. Examples from day-to-day life instead of the just the worst possible scenario would have perhaps given the essay a more concrete and unquestionable quality.
No matter what position you take on this issue, your enemy is ignorance - not other people. The ignorance of your own feelings and beliefs, and most importantly why you believe them, poses a greater threat to society than either homosexuals or homophobics. Ignorance causes people to lash out blindly in anger, hate, and fear. This essay might just be the tool to help people discover their beliefs and the reason behind them. I was personally challenged to discover for myself why I believed the way I do. I had to ask questions like "Do I believe the way I do because it is simply what my parents believe?" and "Am I afraid to discover a larger truth than what I was comfortable believing?" - these questions have no easily attainable answer but require a deep search of one's soul. If one is afraid of these questions, I suggest another essay.
© Jacelyn Keys, 1999
WR122, Dr. Agatucci
Analysis Evaluation Essay #1
28 January 1998
Analysis of "Homophobic? Reread Your Bible"
Gomes, Peter J. "Homophobic? Reread Your Bible." New York Times 17 Aug. 1992. Rpt. The Aims of Argument: A Rhetoric and Reader. Eds. Timothy W. Crusius and Carolyn E. Channell. 2nd ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1998. 538-540.
As a Christian, I was intrigued by Peter J. Gomes's essay "Homophobic? Reread Your Bible." The title grabbed my attention as an essay that was involving a basic tenant of the Christian faith. My expectations were also high because Dr. Gomes is a minister and professor of Christian morals at Harvard University. After reading his essay, I can say that it is clearly written and logically organized into three parts. In part one, Gomes introduces his case by presenting some of the current issues surrounding homosexuality. His case or main argument that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality is the second part. Thirdly, Gomes concludes with a discussion on interpreting the Bible, using it as support for his case. Although Gomes brings up many points, the primary focus of my essay will be aimed towards his main argument. Does Gomes effectively establish his case that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality? As Gomes puts forth his important challenge to Christianity by using the Bible, I will also use the Bible in analyzing his arguments.
By first inspection it would appear that he does a fairly convincing job of establishing his case. As corroboration for every point made, Gomes cites and quotes some Bible verses. Upon further analysis, however, I would have to conclude that he fails to establish his case.
Gomes, in presenting his case, casts doubt on what the Bible actually condemns. He lists Deuteronomy 23:17, I Kings 14:24, I Kings 22:46, and II Kings 23:7 as "simply forbidding prostitution by men and women" (539). The implication here seems to be that as long as homosexuality isnt practiced for money, it is permissible. However, Deuteronomy 23:17 is the only passage out of the list given that forbids prostitution as well as homosexuality. The references from I and II Kings explicitly involve Sodomites. God "simply" forbids both homosexuality and prostitution. Gomes fails to establish a basis for doubting what the Bible condemns.
Next, Gomes discusses what he refers to as the "Holiness Code." Gomes cites Leviticus 18:19-23 and 20:10-16, explaining that while it bans homosexuality, it also "prohibits eating raw meat, planting two different kinds of seed in the same field, and wearing garments with two different kinds of yarn" (539). He has arranged these items in such a way that he is comparing sins punishable by death to health and successful living laws. As a result of Gomess arrangement, the issue is confused and the Biblical position against homosexuality is made to seem absurd. This is similar to saying that our laws against murder are absurd because we have laws against jay walking. The Bible does not make the same presentation. In fact, the verses Gomes cites deal only with the perversions God calls abominations such as homosexuality, incest, beastiality, adultery, and child sacrifice. It is in the later chapters of Dueteronomy (Deut. 22-23:17) that God presents his laws for living healthy productive lives which prohibit the eating of raw meat, sowing two different seeds, etc. In this same passage, God also lists the blessings that come from obeying his law. The comparison Gomes made doesnt work because all parts of Gods law are important and intended for our benefit (II Timothy 3:16-17).
Professor Gomes then says that Jesus did not concern himself with homosexuality in the four Gospels (539). However, this ignores an important aspect of Jesuss ministry. Jesus himself said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17). In fact, he raised the standards from outward actions to an inward condition (Matthew 5:22,27,39). Jesus did not have to explicitly speak out against homosexuality because it was already covered in the law. The purpose of the law was to show us our sin and Gods unreachable standard of holiness. Jesus came to bridge the gap between our depravity and Gods holiness.
Gomes also talks about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. He states that Sodom and Gomorrah were not punished for "sexual perversion and homosexual practice," but "inhospitality and failure to care for the poor" (539). Luke 10:10-13 is the scripture reference he uses to support his claim. This passage is about the instructions Jesus gave to his deciples whom he was sending out. Jesus tells his deciples that if they are not received by a city it will be "more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city." (Luke 10:12) These verses are not about why Sodom and Gomorrah were punished. They are a comparison of the degree of punishment, rather than a comparison of actions. An analogy might help clarify the comparison being made: A father has two sons. One night the first son irresponsibly wrecks his dad's car and is subsequently grounded for a month. Later the father tells his other son that if he stays out past curfew his punishment will be worse than his brothers. Ezekiel 16:49-50 are Gomess next supporting verses. "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy." It looks like Gomes has a point about the inhospitality of Sodom. However, he neglects the very next verse which says, "Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done" (Ezekial 16:51 [emphasis mine]). The Bible is very clear that homosexuality is an abomination. Since the Genesis account portrays homosexuality as the problem, Gomes fails to establish his case about why Sodom and Gomorrah were punished. Gomess final thoughts deal with interpreting the Bible. Having seen that Gomes creates doubt, causes confusion, and misrepresents scripture, I wonder if this is what he means by "our ability to interpret Scripture intelligently?" (539). I agree with Gomes that we read the Bible with our "prejudices and personal values" (539). Gomes is correct that it is dangerous to "cloak" our views in the Bibles authority (539). But rather than trying to "interpret Scripture intelligently" (539), we should ask ourselves, "do we change the Bible, or does the Bible change us?"
To Gomess credit, his essay was logically organized, clearly written, and he consistently cites his sources. However, Gomes failed to establish his case that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. Gomes is correct that Jesus is the "liberating and inclusive Christ" (540) and that the Bible is about "redemption, renewal, inclusion, and love " (540). But these are conditional on our acceptance of Gods plan of salvation.
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (I Corinthians 6:9-11)
The Bible condemns much more than homosexuality. We are all in desperate need of salvation. Fortunately, Jesus came and paid the price that we might be liberated from the bondage of sin.
© Andrew Elster, 1998
WR122, Dr. Agatucci
Analysis Evaluation Essay #1
19 February 2001
The Hypocrisy of Misinterpretation
Gomes, Peter J. "Homophobic? Reread Your Bible." New York Times 17 Aug. 1992. Rpt. The Aims of Argument: A Rhetoric and Reader. Eds. Timothy W. Crusius and Carolyn E. Channell. 3rd ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 2000. 516-518.
In the last decade, American society has erupted with controversy over gay/lesbian rights and the effects of homosexuality, homophobia, and gay lifestyles on Americans’ success as a country. In the midst of this controversy stands Peter Gomes, a minister and professor at Harvard University. In “Homophobic? Reread Your Bible,” Mr. Gomes makes a valiant attempt to unravel some of the strangle holds of homophobia in Christian American society. He argues that Scripture is not a valid foundation for disapproval of homosexuals or their lifestyles. He states that the misinterpretation of Scripture is what causes homophobia and what leads to hate crimes committed by American Christians against homosexuals. He attempts to support his points by clarifying what scripture really says about homosexuality and by explaining that fundamentalism is dangerous to American society, both heterosexuals and homosexuals. He ends his argument by stating: “...the same Bible that…is used to condemn all homosexuals and homosexual behavior includes metaphors of redemption, renewal, inclusion, and love--principles that invite homosexuals to accept their freedom and responsibility in Christ and demands that their fellow Christians accept them as well”(518).
As valiant as Mr. Gomes’ attempt is at clarifying scriptural references to his readers, it is based on his own misinterpretation, lack of evidence, and a misleading argument for his readers. His points are not supported by enough evidence to make the argument strong in the face of controversy. Because of his lack of evidence, I do not recommend Peter Gomes’ article as valid or worth reading by any truth-seeking audience.
The first mistake Mr. Gomes makes is this: he does not back up his scriptural analysis with sound or logical evidence. He bases it instead on other scripture, historical context, and his own interpretation (which he himself claims is not a sound argument against homosexuality). One example of this lies in his analysis of the biblical account of the cities Sodom and Gomorra. In his article, Gomes states, “...lest we forget Sodom and Gomorra, recall that the story is not about sexual perversion and homosexual practice. It is about in-hospitality, according to Luke 10:10-13, and failure to care for the poor, according to Ezekiel 16:49-50...”(517). As a reader, I was curious about what these scriptural references talked about, so I located the references in my Life Application Bible. Luke 10:10-13 in the New International Version of the Bible states: “But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.”
According to just these three verses, it would seem that Sodom was destroyed for its in-hospitality, but Mr. Gomes fails to include the context around these verses. The context states that Jesus was instructing his messengers on what to say to the towns that refused to accept the Messiah (Jesus himself). It is not stating that Sodom suffered because of in-hospitality; it is just comparing that city to those that reject the Christ. It has nothing to do with sexual sin or in-hospitality, but everything to do with acceptance of the Messiah.
Mr. Gomes also cites Ezekiel 16:49-50 as support for his theory but fails to give a full accounting of what these verses say. In his article, he quotes verse 49: “‘Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and the needy’” (517). If he had continued to quote his reference verses, the readers of his article would see that verse 50 says: “They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Life, Ezekiel 16:50). The same terminology as “detestable” can be found in context with a New Testament reference to homosexuality in Romans 1:26,28:
…God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones…Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done [Italics mine]
Mr. Gomes’ second error lies in his own historical interpretation of St. Paul, who wrote the Book of Romans. He cites Romans 1:26-2:1 as being one of the “misinterpreted” scriptural references used against homosexuality. Mr. Gomes provides support for his claim in this quotation from the article: “...St. Paul was concerned with homosexuality only because in Greco-Roman culture it represented a secular sensuality that was contrary to Jewish-Christian spiritual idealism. He was against...sensuality in anyone, including heterosexuals” (517). Mr. Gomes fails to point out to his readers that Paul was raised in the strict code of the Pharisees, the Jewish leadership of the time. According to “Paul,” an article found in Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, Paul’s father and mother were prominent Jews. Because he was raised in a Jewish household, he logically would have been taught from the Old Testament scriptures, which include the book Song of Songs. Song of Songs is an entire book devoted to the joys of heterosexual, marital sex and sensuality. Paul was not against sensuality in heterosexual marriage relationships, but anything that was against God’s original design for that relationship, including homosexual sex, extra-marital sex, adultery, animal-human sex, and incest.
Mr. Gomes’ next mistake is his claim that “religious fundamentalism” is dangerous. He states that fundamentalism is intolerant, undemocratic, and defines “the other” (someone not like them) as deviant (518). However, he does not support his claim. Where is evidence that “fundamentalism” is dangerous? It is true that fundamentalist groups have been successful in defeating political causes contrary to their own, but isn’t that exactly what the “non-fundamentalists” do to the “fundamentalists”? His logic is unclear in this section of the essay. If he says that fundamentalists are intolerant, isn’t he in turn being intolerant of me, a person who believes that homosexuality is morally wrong, and who has based those beliefs on my own studies of the Bible? This cycle that he suggests is a vicious, illogical circle of intolerance. Instead of evening out some of the chaos in the gay rights movement, he adds to the confusion.
And his final mistake is this: his argument is misleading to his readers. When he states that “the same Bible that…is used to condemn all homosexuals and homosexual behavior includes metaphors of redemption, renewal, inclusion, and love…”(518), he does not give any scriptural references to these concepts. Not only does he not give any references; he also does not include context.
The strengths of the article lie in Mr. Gomes’ title as “minister” and his position at Harvard University. These two things give him an edge in the field. Because of his title, he is expected, or understood, to have a sound explanation of Scripture, and because of his position, he is to be highly respected. However, as with most topics, the most knowledgeable or respected person is not always right.
Mr. Gomes also gives strength to his writing in his qualifying statement where he says: “those who speak for the religious right do not speak for all American Christians, and the Bible is not theirs alone to interpret (518).” He must also include himself in this category. The Bible is not his “alone to interpret” just as it is not mine. Calling myself a “fundamentalist” does not automatically make me a gay/lesbian hater and calling himself a “minister” doesn’t automatically make Peter Gomes the authority on the subject he discusses in his article.
If Mr. Gomes had chosen to back his opinion with sound, cited, historical (or even logical) evidence, his article might be worth considering in the controversy over gay rights. As it is, it should have been published in the “Letters to the Editor” column of the New York Times with the rest of the opinions. I question the Times’ editor’s judgment in placing such an insanely ridiculous article in his paper at all. Mr. Gomes chose to speak out against a large and powerful group of people. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to expect his Christian readers to challenge what he said by looking at the context of his cited scriptures. This article only adds confusion and chaos to an already chaotic, distressed, and violent argument between homosexuals and the “religious right.”
Life Application Bible (New International Version). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991.
“Paul.” Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia. Vers. 2.01. CD-ROM.
Compton’s NewMedia, Inc., 1994.
© Crista Harrison, 2001
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