Lady GaGa’s first single off her latest album has turned into a kind of gay anthem, or rather, the song was already a gay anthem and Lady GaGa is just the one who gets paid for singing it. You do have to give her at least that. Not everyone can take something a whole demographic is thinking and reap material rewards for voicing it.
Now, far be it from me to question the logic of pop song lyrics. I mean Lady GaGa is a popstar, and I just have a masters degree specializing in philosophy and clear, systematic thinking. But since she is basically putting to song an argument that many people implicitly think, I thought it was worth some deeper examination. Philosophy is after all (or should be) wisdom for living. Let’s see if there’s any wisdom in the “born this way” line of ethical thinking.
The typical argument is that some people are born a certain way and therefore off the hook for certain behaviors. There is a certain level of truth in this. People who practice homosexuality do appear to be different, certainly not anatomically, but they certainly have drives and desires that place them in the minority of our culture. We can’t really hold them responsible for following their “natural” instincts can we?
For the sake of argument, let’s say that “of course people who practice homosexuality are born different, maybe not anatomically, but definitely different.” Even in light of the complex nature of how desires develop and how in general people don’t feel forced to behave in certain ways but act out the desires of their heart in every day life, let’s say people who practice homosexual behavior are born that way. In other words, they are born oriented toward the same sex rather than to the opposite sex in their search for orgasmic pleasures.
According to the Lady GaGa song, God doesn’t make mistakes which means she is taking both a theistic view of the matter and a creationist perspective. We may want to think of this as a kind of a “Christianity Lite” view, because it is a) affirming there is a God, and b) attributing creative causation to him. However, if you are going to drag God into the picture like this, you might also need to examine what he says about the way people are born (not the semantics mind you, but what their nature is). It is true that God doesn’t make mistakes, but he does not create each new person from scratch like Adam and Eve. God providentially oversees the conception of each individual person, but there are, ahem, natural means involved in how we are born. Without getting into these, we should just note that people being born under God’s providential care does not entail that have a free pass to live however they please.
A further problem arises when we examine the doctrine of God a bit further. How do we know God doesn’t make mistakes? Well, because the Bible tells me so. It also tells me other things and many of them conflict with Lady GaGa’s overall views on the matter. It seems like if I want to be consistent in saying that “God made me this way,” then I have to also accept what God has to say about how I behave in light of how I was made. Since I only know that God exists and has certain attributes because it is revealed to me in Scripture, to know what God says about my behavior I’ll have to look there was well. Luckily, (providentially?) along with the revelation of God in Scripture comes ethical directives and a story about the creation of the world, its purpose, its fracture, and its ultimate restoration. Since certain behaviors and lifestyles do not fit comfortably into that story, it may best to drop God out of the picture if we want to argue that we are just “born this way” and therefore not ethically responsible for our actions before a holy and righteous Creator God.
This is all well and good, but in rejecting a Christian theistic view of being “born this way,” we are left with an atheistic evolutionary one. If evolution is true, then no one is ethically responsible in any kind of ultimate sense for their actions. Homosexuals, pedophiles, rapists, and people who fancy animals are all born that way, and therefore not “wrong” or any silly kind of category like that for behaving in a certain way. Backwards, intolerant societies may prosecute people who have sex with children or animals or with people who’d rather not participate, but since they were really just born that way, it would be best to just let them do their thing and wait and see if it proves to be advantageous for their survival. If closeminded bullies choose to brutally murder someone who say, practices homosexuality, well, those bullies were just born that way and have proven themselves to be much more fit.
I think we can all agree that this is a very dismal view of how things are, how people should behave, and how being responsible for our actions work. Almost no one I know of would agree that the last paragraph is an acceptable way to approach ethics. Yet, it follows very logically from the evolutionary paradigm. If people who practice homosexuality think that Christians have it in for them, they just haven’t explored the implications of evolution yet. It is hard to imagine a more hostile worldview toward homosexuality than the evolutionary paradigm.
Philosophically, this puts the idea of being “born this way” on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, if people really are “born this way” in a theistic sense, then they are accountable to the God who created them and does not make mistakes. His Word on how people should live in the benchmark for critiquing behavior. A cursory glance of the NT shows that people are born sinners, yet they are held responsible for their sinning. This implicates not only people practicing homosexuality but all of us as well. On the other hand, if people are just “born this way” in an atheistic sense, then they are accountable to no one and free to live how they see fit. However, if others see fit to oppress and brutalize them, then there isn’t really an argument against that sort of thing since those people were just born that way themselves. Some people may be born to practice homosexuality and others may be born to exert their physical fitness in slaughtering people they don’t like. That’s just the way it is in an evolutionary paradigm.
This certainly can’t be on the right track. Not to be a drag, but if that’s really the way things are, I think we’re all in trouble. But, looking at the “born this way” mentality, its either this, or submitting to what God says about how we live, and we know that people don’t want that now do they?
In the end, there ain’t no other way…