Homosexuality in Western Culture: a new and reasonable perspective for Christians (Part 3 of 3)

Like many Christians who seek authenticity within their faith, I have struggled to make sense of the issue of homosexuality within our culture as it relates to the biblical worldview. Authenticity within the Christian life means nothing if does not coexist with honest self-reflection. I believe most people are delusional when it comes to what they believe. They have a pre-existing idea as to what something should be and then conform their beliefs to that presumption. Honest self-reflection is messy, and it’s not always easy.

Christians have a right to hold firmly to their convictions, but that does not require they be oppressive.

A few months ago I started a series titled Homosexuality in Western Culture. I have been amazed by the overall response, and pleased with the incredible discussions that have resulted from this series. Since the start of the series I have had great exchanges with all sorts of people from different walks of life and diverse perspectives.

As one who appreciates the intellectual journey of learning, I have appreciated how much these individuals have contributed to my overall understanding on this topic. These sorts of conversations tend to teach me more about myself and the topic than they affirm my preconceived ideas. Moreover, I would like to share some further thoughts on the issue and present what I believe to be a reasonable and honest perspective regarding this issue.

My hope is that Christians will see this as a way of understanding the larger picture while also providing them with a vocabulary that will help them be respectful to the LGBT community without sacrificing their moral beliefs.

Brief Summary:

Before we begin it would be prudent to provide a very brief summary of the main points of the first two articles. In part one I looked at the “cultural perspective”. First, I argued that cultures have understood the role of homosexuality differently throughout history. That is, homosexuality was a “preference” and not a “lifestyle”.

Second, we addressed the false perception the general public has regarding the biological sciences. The general perception is that the biological sciences “prove” that homosexuality is not something an individual chooses. I concluded that the biological sciences have not proven any such claim. However, in the forthcoming article I will revise that conclusion by providing clarity by what “choice” means.

Finally, we looked at how “natural selection” seems to contradict the idea that homosexuality is natural. Not only are male and female the only way to reproduce a civilization, but those who are unable to contribute to the overall stability of the species would be eradicated. Moreover, natural selection seems to contradict what the biological sciences claim to prove.

In the second article we explored the theological dimensions of the issue. First, we looked at how the Old Testament treats the issue with special attention paid to the law. We concluded that those passages that are commonly used to speak against homosexuality have been misunderstood. Second, we looked at the most commonly used passage in the New Testament (Romans 1) and performed a brief study.

Our study rendered two unique conclusions: first, the point of the discussion in Romans 1-2 is how Christians treat those within their culture. They are to practice kindness, tolerance, and patience. This is what will convert people; not condemnation. What’s more, those who do condemn are committing just as egregious a sin as those they condemn. Second, while having the aforementioned discussion Paul does say that the physical act of homosexuality is a sin.

When Christians call people sinners

It has been a hallmark of Evangelicalism to use the term “sinners”. This term, of course, is used as a way of condemning those in the world who are in need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. However, there is a problem with this; namely, the word “sin” is a theological term. It’s not meant to be used “in the world”, but within the language of the Church.

Evangelicalism is not only guilty of using the term in the wrong context, but in so doing have painted an inaccurate picture of what it means. When Evangelicals use the term “sin” in this way, even though they are not explicitly stating it, they are implying that those in the world are sinners, and those in the church are not. In addition, it makes those who are not a part of the church feel like they are evil, which is also untrue.

As is very common within Evangelicalism, this is their starting point for conversation regarding the gospel. The fact that the LGBT community and the church are not having a conversation regarding this is not surprising. The perception of non Christians is that the church views them as horrible people. Why would anyone want to participate in a conversation that begins that way? Sure, you could argue that it’s their false perception, but Evangelicals have planted the seed of false perception by using the term improperly.

Is homosexuality a choice?

Perhaps one of the most significant outcomes of the many conversations I have been involved in was getting clarity on what we mean by “choice”. You may or may not realize this, but when Christians use the word “choice” regarding the homosexual lifestyle, they are using it differently than when biologists use it. Let’s illustrate this by asking two questions: first, have you ever fallen in love? If the answer is yes, then ask yourself if you chose to fall in love with that individual? The answer is probably that you didn’t. The reason for this is because it wasn’t a choice. Why then do we assume that homosexuals do have a choice with who they “fall in love” with?

When Christians use the word choice, they are referring to “being homosexual” in general. When biology refers to “choice”, it’s in reference to attraction. Both are talking about two different things. The reason for this is because the issue is not as simple as “you are either homosexual or you are not”. In our society this issue really needs to be divided into three parts.

The three parts to the issue

A significant reason as to why this issue is so complicated, is because it blurs the lines between the separation of Church and State. This results in the issue being incredibly political. A secondary reason (yet still very significant) is that many Christians view America as a modern day Nation of Israel. That America is God’s chosen country and if our country fails to live up to God’s decrees, then we will be cursed (sound familiar? Think blessing and cursing). This is not just untrue, but perhaps a delusion created by far right radicals whose only desire is to rid this country of liberal ideas (not for the glory of God). It’s vitally important for Christians to understand this because these beliefs may be acting as presuppositions which blind us to the reality of the situation.

There are three questions we must ask in order to have the correct perspective on this issue. We have to consider the cultural, ethical, and moral questions associated with the dilemma. I believe properly understanding these questions will allow Christians to maintain their convictions without being oppressive.

The Cultural Question: Should a person be allowed in our country to cohabitate with another person of the same sex? The answer to this should be yes. This is the very definition of what it means to exist in a free society. It is the best attribute of our nation and if we continue to deny fundamental liberties to American citizens, then we will sacrifice the thing that makes us great.

The Ethical Question: Should a person have the right to cohabitate with another person of the same sex without fear of oppression and persecution? Yes. “rights” are those freedoms which are protected by our constitution. But, they are meaningless unless they are accompanied by protection from oppression and persecution. The same right that protects Christians from persecution and oppression should also protect other subcultures within our society. Christians would be furious (and rightfully so) if the government began enacting laws restricting their “right” to worship freely.

“Being gay” is not an infringement on your right not to be gay (or to be a Christian). In fact, it has nothing to do with you!

This is directly related to the healthcare issue. Should not homosexual couples be entitled to the same health care benefits as heterosexual couples? A heterosexual couple does not have rights to health care because they are a Christian, or because they are heterosexual. They have them because quality health care is a fundamental liberty that all Americans should have. Imagine a law where Christian married couples could not get health care because they were “Christian”. Sound absurd? I agree.

The Moral Question: Does a Christian have to hold to the belief that the homosexual lifestyle is morally acceptable? No. This question is often confused with the other ones. I think too often we lump all of the aforementioned questions into one, and it causes unnecessary conflict.

I firmly believe that because many Christians have acted irresponsibly regarding this issue that we have lost whatever witness we could have had with the LGBT community. It should make us grieve that our political ideologies have caused the message of Christ to go unheard. I am certain it does God!

 

Comments

  1. Bryan Jones says

    Science has not discovered that being gay is completely biological, yet there is sufficient evidence to say that some biological factors can and do lead to homosexuality. Science has a very high bar to use the word 'proof' but that does not mean a growing body of trustworthy evidence exists. It may be many years before there is consensus on the exact mechanism, but that does not discount the biological predisposition argument.

    On the opposite side , there is currently no evidence that being gay (the innate attraction to someone of the same gender) is a voluntary choice: all attempts to convert gays to be straight are merely exercises of prejudice and discrimination. Conversion or reparative therapies are unethical and have caused people harm. Prejudice and discrimination against gays (labeling them sinners, kicking them out of churches and homes, etc) is equally harmful- in fact, those are the factors that lead directly to increased rates of illness among gay individuals. While it may be that a person can hide their innate sexuality and not act upon it, there is no evidence that they can willingly (or be forced to) change it permanently. I will provide peer reviewed, empirical evidence for the biological basis of sexuality if asked, however I will ask for the same evidence to support the 'choice' conclusion. I am more than capable of evaluating and changing my views based on evidence, but I have never seen anything close to valid science that supports that being gay is completely a choice.

    Further, if you truly believe that being gay is a choice, you should be willing to describe what factors about your current life would have to change for you to choose not to be straight and to adopt homosexuality as your preferred sexual orientation. If you make the claim that it is a choice, then there should be something that promotes that choice to occur. It's a purely hypothetical scenario that many people refuse to answer- but if you truly believe that it is a choice, then logically you could choose to be gay. I propose that most straight individuals cannot come up with a scenario where they would willingly forgo their heterosexual lifestyle, as it is just as innate to them as homosexuality is to a gay person.

    The problem with allowing this debate- of whether or not homosexuality moral and acceptable- is that it ignores that sexuality is an innate, immutable part of a person. It is part of someone's identity- and to tell someone that they are immoral because of it is wrong. For a better discussion, see this blog: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2011/02/why-loving-the-sinner-but-hating-the-sin-is-not-an-option-when-dealing-with-gay-people/

    Sin: Outside of the church, sin has a very specific connotation: if you are a sinner, you're going to hell. It's always used as a cudgel to correct behavior. To tell people that they shouldn't be offended when they're called sinners is equivalent to telling someone they shouldn't be offended when they're called a racial or sexist slur, particularly when the label of 'sin' is being applied to a minority group who is struggling against institutionalized oppression. It doesn't matter how the individual using the word wants to redefine it- the common use prevails, and is not likely to change any time soon. To tell someone they shouldn't be offended because you didn't mean to use a word 'that way' is

    I'm not sure that I understand the final point of this article. Perhaps the word 'acceptable' is also different in the church (similar to redefining 'sin')? Acceptance and tolerance is the bare minimum a christian should offer someone who doesn't follow their form of worship- that those outside the church are not subject to the churches rules. This should be even more important when the individual is a member of a minority group that faces hateful behavior from other members of your majority.

    Further, I would remind the audience that there are churches who not only accept gay members, but welcome them without calling them sinners for their sexual preference. These churches accept gay members without the condition that they hide their sexuality. Unlike being gay, attending a church is a choice- and if your church chooses to use it's pulpit to attack minority groups, you can choose to walk away and find a new one. Vote with your conscience, vote with your feet.

  2. says

    In regard to the issue of what is a "choice", you ask the question "Why do we assume homosexuals have a choice in who they fall in love with?" I can respond by saying that I make no such assumption. However, acting on that love, or attraction, is an entirely different thing that applies equally to everyone. A single man may naturally be attracted to a married woman, but when he acts on that attraction, he is committing adultery. Simply put, who we are attracted to and how we act on it are two totally different things.

  3. Bryan Jones says

    @Steve: Easy solution, a number of states will allow gay people to get married, and many churches will perform the ceremony. Thus, they would be no longer living in sin. Right?

  4. says

    What? Just because some states allow it and some churches will perform the ceremony doesn't mean it's not a sin. That's like saying that an alcoholic is okay as long as he's just drinking the communion wine

  5. says

    I will say this though, so that this doesn't become a big argument. I am free to identify (generally speaking) what is or is not a sin using scripture. I am not free, nor will I ever be, to say that someone is going to hell. It's a BIG difference that many christians do not understand.

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