O’BRIEN: You make it clear that you think that homosexuality is a sin…
OSTEEN: When I read the scripture, that’s what I believe; that the scripture condemns it or says it’s a sin. But it also says that you know, lying is, and that being prideful is…
O’BRIEN: Right, so then you shouldn’t lie. But for people who are gay, you’re saying so then you shouldn’t be gay?
OSTEEN: Well, I think that’s the big debate. The scripture says you’ve got to work out your own salvation…
SOCARIDES: Do you think you can choose to be gay or not gay? You think you choose to be straight?
OSTEEN: I know I have not chosen to be straight, I feel like that’s who I am…
HOST: Well so how can I choose to be gay?
There are several problems with Osteen’s position. The first is the unwillingness to discuss Christian theocracy in any kind of meaningful manner. The second is the fact that the admonitions against same-sex partnering only dates to within the last thousand to twelve hundred years, and outright bans on homosexual behaviors really only came into force within the last five hundred or so.
The first secular law banning male/male sexual intercourse would not be written into Anglo-Saxon Jurisprudence until 1533. The Buggery Act banned anal intercourse between men and bestiality. Prior to that, cases covered by this law were handled by the church courts. It is important to note that the law covered one and only one form of sex between two men. Oral intercourse was not banned under the law until 1885.
For those who do not know, Anglo-Saxon Jurisprudence is the system of laws that the American legal system grew out of.
The problem for Osteen is that, until fairly recently, oral intercourse between men was not banned, and, thus, homosexuality was not banned. There are hundreds of reports across the centuries of men who lived exclusively with other men in what were likely homosexual relationships, and there are even a few cases that we know of explicitly.
It is rumored, and probably true, that King Edward II of England was gay. He was never prosecuted for any ‘unnatural’ or ‘sinful’ offense, but was rather deposed and eventually killed. Let us, though, go back to the first point of order. What is a sin? A sin is, basically, something that a religion believes is wrong. The problem for Osteen is that he commits numerous sins according to the Bible that he simply ignores.
Many Biblical sins were designed to protect people from being stupid while living in a desert climate. For instance, why is it wrong to eat pork in the desert? Pigs are, by and large, scavengers. In fact, every animal on the prohibited list for Judaism and Islam is a scavenger or goes rotten quickly. Scavengers tend to have more parasites than non-scavengers, and at a time when cooking meat was a bit hit or miss, eating a scavenger was not a good idea.
In places where pigs could be cultivated and fed relatively clean foodstuffs, this prohibition was never put into place. A lot of ‘sinful’ things were put into place to make sure that people stayed healthy and clean. Many Greek city-states banned anal intercourse because of the hygiene aspects involved, but they certainly weren’t shy on same-sex relationships.
A lot of the notions of there being something wrong with being lesbian or gay came about only within the last 500 years or so. Being attracted to a person of the same-sex was not a problem until the social-sexual hangups began to really infest the minds of the Europeans.
And, as a final point, if Osteen can’t choose to be gay, then he should realize that we cannot choose to be straight.