Explaining Your Beliefs About Homosexuality (with commentary)
Jehovah's Witnesses published a worksheet titled "Explaining Your Beliefs About Homosexuality," that teaches young teens anti-LGBT apologetics by training them to respond to three criticisms their peers might give regarding the church's homophobic position. I do have to give the authors credit because, for each of the three criticisms, the worksheet invites students to consider what factors may influence their peer's point of view and to contemplate which questions could be asked of their peers to better understand their beliefs. Trying to better understand someone else's view is always good advice, but when you realize why the worksheet encourages the student to ask questions, you'll realize how awful this worksheet really is. So, let's look at the three criticisms.
1.) Bible Standards Are Out-of-Date
I've never actually heard anyone word an argument like this, but in the description, the authors clarify that the argument should really be formulated as, "[the bible's] standards differ from [the arguer's]," which I think is a valid correction. As a response, the worksheet suggests asking the person if they also think their standards differ from the bible's prohibitions of theft, adultery, and murder which entirely misses the point.
The argument isn't that all of the bible's positions are out-of-date, but that many of them are. Condoning slavery, for example. However, it seems like the authors of the worksheet are trying to create a binary world view, where, if you don't agree with every aspect of the bible, then you don't agree with any aspect.
This is a useless point of course because it doesn't matter what is written in the bible, but how a Christian interprets it. When you ask enough questions, every Christian eventually disagrees with every other Christian about how to properly interpret the bible. For example, nearly every denomination of Christianity believes the bible clearly states that Jesus is God incarnate, but Jehovah's witnesses disagree. Or, consider how the official Jehovah's Witness Web page defends their out-of-date position on evolution. It contains so many misleading statements and contains factual errors so blatantly wrong, I can only presume they're intentionally being dishonest.
At the bottom of this page, students are expected to fill in the blank after the sentence, "…I believe differently because…" This is especially awful because, in order for students to complete the worksheet, they're forced to agree with it. What if the student can demonstrate that the bible really is out-of-date? Will a JW teacher mark such a correct answer wrong?
2.) Homosexuals Can't Change the Way They Are — They Were Born That Way
The worksheet begins, "The Bible doesn't say whether homosexual desires are inherited or not." Well sure, but the bible doesn't tell me how my computer works either; facts are not made factual because the bible says so. If evidence shows that homosexuality has a biological component (and it does), then the criticism is valid. But, rather than face the facts, the worksheet suggests changing the subject from the causes of homosexuality to what the bible says about homosexual sex. In doing this, the worksheet offers a shockingly insulting analogy: some people are prone to wrath, but does that make violent outbursts acceptable? Wrathful outbursts are wrong, not because the bible says so, but because they hurt people. For that same reason, this analogy fails; homosexual sex between two consenting adults doesn't hurt anyone. The worksheet then asks, "Must we always act on the urges that we feel?" Of course not, just like how the authors of this worksheet have the urge to police what goes on in the bedroom's of strangers, and they shouldn't act on such cruelty.
This page ends by inviting the student to list what the bible says about homosexual desires, but this is an invitation for cherry picking without comprehension. The bible says all sorts of activities are evil like mating a horse with a donkey, planting wheat and barley in the same field, wearing clothes blended from wool and linen (Leviticus 19:19), and dozens of other bizarre prohibitions. Modern Christians believe these old laws were done away with by Jesus, but they're never encouraged to ask why the god of the bible called such actions evil in the first place. There is perhaps a hint in Leviticus 18:22-23, when the author forbids men from having sex with other men or animals, he explains the practice is, "confusion," or, depending on your translation, "perversion." But that means the only reason not to do it is because it's different than what people are comfortable with. Could it be that the Abrahamic prohibition of homosexuality is the same as the prohibition of wearing a shirt blended from wool and linen? If so, preservation of tradition is not a good reason to hate someone.
3.) You Should Change Your View of Homosexuality
It's a bit disheartening that the first approach the worksheet considers is to suggest those who want you to treat homosexuals with dignity are doing so because they have an LGBT friend or relative. It's as though the authors can't comprehend the practice of treating with respect those who are different from you unless you already know someone who is similar. Such is the mindset of a bigot.
The worksheet continues by reminding the student that they can reject homosexual sex without rejecting homosexuals; the old "love the sinner, hate the sin" approach. Of course, Jehovah's Witnesses are well known for disowning their own children if they disagree with the church, which gives you an idea of their capacity for love.
An additional point is asked, "Are others being tolerant if they expect you to change your view to match theirs?" Ah, the old being intolerant of intolerance gambit, surely they'll be victorious now! The problem with this argument is that it only works if someone accepts a cartoonish definition of tolerance. Being tolerant doesn't mean allowing people to hurt others, it means allowing people to do what they want as long as they don't hurt others, and people who believe that homosexuality is evil, tend to hurt homosexuals by demanding laws that criminalize or marginalize them.
It's great when people are encouraged to ask questions for better comprehension, but this worksheet seems to teach children to question their peers only to better understand how to dismiss criticism, and like most religions, Jehovah's Witnesses don't encourage their followers to question the church's dogma at all. Instead, students who do this worksheet are required to defend their church's homophobic position as though they agree with it, even if they don't. This worksheet is propaganda, plain and simple, right down to how it depicts outsiders: the Jehovah's Witnesses children look persecuted while those evil secular children are dismissive, ignoring their teacher, and pointing accusatory fingers.