This is the last post I will write in response to readers who have asked questions about a piece that I co-wrote with Rosaria Butterfield for The Public Discourse titled “Learning to Hate our Sin without Hating Ourselves.” You can read my answers to the first two questions here and here.
The third question is about the tenth commandment in Exodus 20:17. Here is the reader’s question in his own words:
In your reference to the desire of the 10th commandment (different than the action of the 7th), isn’t the sin desiring something that another person has? I could desire a piece of cake, and that would be fine, gluttony aside… But if I want your piece of cake, that’s sin. Or, to change the object, if I desire my wife – no problem. If I desire your wife, that’s the 10th commandment. The real question is what if I desire an unmarried woman. Either way, that’s not breaking the 10th commandment, which is about desiring something another person has. It seems that Exodus 20 doesn’t contribute to the argument of whether or not desire itself is sinful.
I think this is a great question. After all, weren’t we all taught that coveting is basically a synonym for envying? On that understanding, coveting seems to be more concerned with wanting other people’s stuff than with desiring evil in general. If that were so it may not tell us much about the ethics of desire, much less same-sex desire. Continue Reading →