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.
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.
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.
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!