By: Hendrik van der Breggen
Lady Gaga’s popular song “Born This Way” (sometimes described as a “gay anthem”) affirms and celebrates various diversities as good, including sexual diversity—homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgender sexuality. Why? Because, according to Gaga and many of her fans, this is how one is formed at birth, and, according to Gaga, “God makes no mistakes.”
Is this good moral reasoning? I think not. I have two arguments to support my view: one philosophical, one theological.
A philosophical argument
Here is some philosophical reasoning—which applies whether one believes in God or not.
Lady Gaga rightly encourages us to respect and accept all people, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. After all, each person has great intrinsic moral worth (Christians would say that this is so because each person is made in the image of God, but one needn’t be a Christian to recognize this worth). So far, so good.
But at this juncture Lady Gaga’s thinking become problematic.
Respecting and accepting all people doesn’t automatically also mean that we should accept and affirm all the behaviours of all people. Nor does it also mean that we should accept and affirm all their (our) dispositions and urges to behave in various ways.
Why not? Because not all urges and behaviours are good—some urges and behaviours are harmful to one’s self and/or others.
Think about it.
Think about serial rapist and murderer Ted Bundy. He may have been born with his peculiar sexual propensities and urges. But, surely, Bundy’s behaviour is bad. Note: This is not to say or imply that people who identify as homosexual, bisexual, or transgender are serial rapists or murderers; rather, it is simply to illustrate that the mere having of a propensity or urge isn’t enough logically and morally to justify choosing to indulge it or to act in accordance with it—nor to celebrate it as good.
Pedophiles have propensities and urges, too. So do people who are prone to alcoholism, temper tantrums, lying, thievery, greed, gluttony, etc. (It’s possible that we’ve been born with, say, a genetic predisposition that inclines us in these diverse directions, though the biological situation is probably more complex than this; and no doubt there are social factors, too.)
Again, the mere having of a propensity or urge isn’t enough logically and morally to justify choosing to indulge it, act in accordance with it, or celebrate it.
In other words, there’s a gap in Gaga’s philosophical reasoning—more argument is needed.
A theological argument
Does Gaga’s theological reasoning bridge the philosophical gap? Apparently not.
If we’re talking about the Christian God, i.e., the God described in the Bible, then it’s true that God makes no mistakes. But we should also notice that on this view the first human beings God created used their freedom to choose against God—they sinned.
(Note: Only if this freedom were perfect, i.e., only if God made no mistakes in creating this freedom, could the first humans have the power to choose against God.)
The result: the human race has “fallen.” That is, all of us are now morally broken—we have an inclination to sin—and this inclination has been passed down to us from our ancestors.
This means that we are born with propensities not only for good, but also for evil. We are born self-centered, and we tend to reject the good.
In other words, even though we might be born with diverse inclinations—and even though on the Christian view God loves us in spite of any inclinations we have—being born this way this doesn’t mean God automatically accepts and affirms our indulging in or acting on any or all of these inclinations. Significantly, the God of the Bible calls us to (a) repent, i.e., turn away from our sinful inclinations and behaviours, plus (b) accept Jesus—God come to earth as a human being—as Lord.
We should agree with Lady Gaga, then, that “God makes no mistakes,” but we should also disagree with Lady Gaga by realizing that being “born this way” doesn’t automatically mean that “this way” always meets with God’s moral approval.
Maybe Lady Gaga isn’t talking about the Christian God. But, assuming Lady Gaga isn’t God, maybe God and Gaga disagree? Again, more argument is needed.
Clearly, the appeal to “born this way” as a moral justification for choosing to indulge in or act on a propensity or urge requires further argument. We should ask: Is affirming and acting out a propensity or urge good for one’s self or others? Or not?
Is it sin? Or not?
With all due respect to Lady Gaga and her philosophical fans, “born this way” doesn’t automatically mean we ought to affirm, celebrate, or act this way.
- For help for those who struggle with sexuality issues, see the websites for Journey Canada or Living Out or Restored Hope Network.
- For a look at some science-based arguments that question the wisdom of promoting sex (heterosexual sex as well as non-heterosexual sex) at an early age, see Miriam Grossman’s book, You’re Teaching My Child WHAT? A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex-Ed and How They Harm Your Child. See too the book The Health Hazards of Homosexuality: What the Medical and Psychological Research Reveals.
- For a careful philosophical as well as scientific look at the transgender issue, see Ryan T. Anderson’s book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment. Plus see this 59 minute video which, refreshingly, shows pros AND cons concerning the transgender issue: Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best? Also see Gender Dysphoria in Children: Understanding the Science and Medicine, which is a video discussion (1 hour, 8 minutes) with Michelle Cretella, MD (President, American College of Pediatricians), Paul Hruz, MD, PhD (Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Endocrinology, Cell Biology and Physiology, Washington University School of Medicine), and Allan Josephson, MD (Professor and Division Chief, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Louisville), hosted by Ryan T. Anderson, PhD (Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy, Heritage Foundation). For a gay man’s argument against banning conversion therapy for transgender children, see Marcus Gregory’s article, “How Conversion Therapy Bans Will Trap Transgender Children.”
- On the Bible and the transgender issue, see Andrew T. Walker’s book, God and the Transgender Debate: What Does the Bible Actually Say about Gender Identity?
- On the Bible and homosexuality, see Joe Dallas’s book The Gay Gospel? How Pro-Gay Advocates Misread the Bible and Sam Allberry’s book Is God anti-gay?: And other questions about homosexuality, the Bible, and same-sex attraction. Plus see this 2 hour debate between Matthew Vines (pro-gay interpreter of Scripture) and Sean McDowell (pro-traditional understanding of Scripture): What Does the Bible Say about Homosexuality?
- On the question of same-sex marriage, see my talk/article Is Same-sex Marriage Like a Subway Sandwich?
Note to critics: Please take a look at least a few of the above suggested readings/videos before commenting. And please keep in mind that the following are not mutually exclusive: (a) truth-seeking via the careful use of reason and evidence and (b) showing respect and love to those with whom one disagrees. Thanks.
Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Providence University College, Manitoba, Canada. The views expressed by van der Breggen do not always reflect the views of Providence.
Image: Lady Gaga in Maine, Portland, holding her speech against “Don’t ask, don’t tell”. via Wikipedia
Image: Discrimination – Highlighted Words and Phrases, from The Blue Diamond Gallery