Linguistics, Homosexuality, and Friendship

Back in 2005, I wrote the following for the monthly newsletter I’m charged with producing:

Touchstone recently dedicated its cover story to the disintegration of male friendships in American society. In the article, perceptive cultural observer Anthony Esolen noted that the unceasing thrust for the normalization of homosexuality in America has pushed boys into heterosexual promiscuity (lest they be accused of homosexuality) and out of healthy male friendships. Men, too, simply could never express—and rarely have reason to anymore—what David did regarding his friend Jonathan: "Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women." Even in the 19th century, Esolen shows, thoroughly heterosexual men knit their souls together. Today that sentence is difficult to write. "What do the paraders achieve, with their public promotion of homosexuality?" asks Esolen. "They come out of the closet, and hustle a lot of good and natural feelings back in." (Touchstone, 9/05)

I just re-read that essay, available here, and I must say that my rather pedestrian summary does no justice to the beauty of Esolen’s style and the power of his argument.

I’m thankful I grew up in a culture which still let me have close male friends, and I’m trying to hang on to that culture and maintain it for my now-gestational son.

Incidentally, Esolen also has some thoughtful objections to the idea often touted on this blog that usage determines meaning—at least the idea, not touted on this blog, that this statement is sufficient to describe the world as it is. Vern Poythress, in a book I’ve been reading on language, has made a similar point: usage may determine meaning, but God is still ultimate. He’s the one who guarantees that words have meaning and that we can understand one another at all. That’s a point from special revelation, and it’s one parallel to the Bible’s assertion of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. Esolen, as a Catholic might be expected to do, makes his point from general revelation: the world is set up in such a way that some syntaxes and some syllables won’t work, and some meanings will never exist in language because they don’t exist in real life. That’s another pointer to God’s ultimacy, because He’s the one Who made the world as it is.

I encourage you to read the whole thing.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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