I have followed The Plainsman’s coverage of recent public remarks regarding homosexual and transgender students; I read the faculty responses to Dr. Bruce Murray’s social media posts and Dr. Murray’s rebuttal.
I have not seen, however, an answer to Dr. Murray’s argument. As a thinker, teacher and person of faith, I humbly offer one.
Dr. Murray makes two claims: first, that sex is an “unbreachable biological barrier between males and females,” and therefore, any effort by people or societies to do something else is immoral. Second, he suggests that there are only two perspectives in this debate — the “religious” perspective, which believes that gender is immutable and intercourse should be limited to heterosexual marriage, and the “secular” position, which believes anything else.
The first point falls squarely into what scholars call the “naturalistic fallacy.” Simply because something occurs naturally doesn’t make it good or bad. We are not born with an immunity to measles, but getting a vaccine is a good idea. No male child is born circumcised — but parents choose to alter their children’s physical form in this way for reasons of religion or health. Are we to condemn this as unnatural and “wrong”?
As to the second point: Dr. Murray spends much of his letter blaming secularists for dismissing his religious views, but he never actually provides his specific religious reason for opposing transgender and homosexual lifestyles. Instead, he merely states that “religious language and practices affirm the male/female binary.” This is, he claims, “the religious understanding of sexual ethics.”
That’s not true.
It may well be his religious practice, but it is not the religious practice.
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Dr. Murray conveniently ignores the thousands of members of the Auburn community who believe passionately in the resurrection and gospel of Jesus Christ and who also either accept or do not condemn homosexual and transgender people.
Some Christians have told me they oppose homosexuality because they believe in a literal interpretation of Leviticus 18:22 or a handful of other specific verses. Other Christians say instead that Christ’s love outweighs all Old Testament teachings, or that they literally believe Galatians 3:28 — “there is no longer male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Not all Christians read the Bible the same way. Despite what Dr. Murray claims, not even all Evangelicals read the Bible the same way.
In claiming that there is only one “religious” point of view, Dr. Murray is not only telling students and faculty what to do with their bodies, but also how to read their Bible. That I cannot abide.
But don’t be fooled: Dr. Murray is advancing a particular form of biblical interpretation as the only view to be recognized as religious. He reserves unto himself the right to determine what is and is not Christian, what is and is not religious.
Under free speech, that is his right — as it is my right to point out his errors and to express my abiding faith that Auburn students are capable of deciding for themselves how they will or will not read the Bible, and what they will or will not deem religious.
Adam Jortner is the Goodwin-Philpott Professor of Religion in the History Department at Auburn University.
The opinions expressed in columns and letters represent the views and opinions of their individual authors.
These opinions do not necessarily reflect the Auburn University student body, faculty, administration or Board of Trustees.
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