There is little doubt that Christianity and Homosexuality seem to be at odds with one another. The Christian belief that homosexuality is a sin and their refusal to advocate same-sex marriage has the Christian church dubbed zealots, bigots and homophobic by the homosexual camp. The rhetoric is loud and divisive on both sides. There is a massive chasm in both beliefs and mutual understanding. This makes a toxic environment to say the least. This toxicity begins to spill into the public forum with the debates, discussions and voting on the legality of same-sex marriage.
For a few decades now, Christians have congregated in churches and taught the Bible. Homosexuals formed like-minded communities and in like manner were built up in their beliefs. These two groups spent little time intersecting or interacting. But with the rise of the discussion about same sex marriage and its national exposure, these groups are now intersecting all the time. The problem seems to be that they aren’t interacting much. There is much bigotry on both sides of this very complex issue. What is most needed is mutual understanding. This short paper is an attempt at beginning a civil, although packed with emotions, dialogue on the discussion.
I am a pastor of a Christian church. I believe that the Bible is God’s word and that it is both inerrant (without the capacity for error) and infallible (without error). I believe that God says what He means, using human authors, and means what He says. Because of this, I believe, and the Bible clearly teaches, that homosexuality is an action that is in rebellion to the plans and purposes of God. In other words, it misses the mark of God’s view of perfection and it is properly termed a sin. I also have many, many friends who have same sex attractions. Some, because of their beliefs, have chosen not to act on those attractions and would say that they live lives of joy. Others, because of their beliefs, have chosen to act on those attractions and would say that they live lives of joy. These men and women are people whom I love and respect. We work hard, albeit uncomfortably at times, to maintain relationships although we disagree on fundamental things. There is love and mutual understanding. We love each other but we do not agree with each other on different things.
My goal is to write this out in such a way as it can be read in one sitting. So my aim is not to be exhaustive but to bring out the most basic questions. It is my hope to facilitate discussion and mutual understanding between the two groups. It is also my hope to give a nuanced view of why Christians view homosexuality as a sin and to propose a way to navigate the lack of civil rights afforded to those seeking government approval for same sex unions.
The Bible and Homosexuality
There are extensive writings about the Bible and homosexuality. From Genesis to Revelation, spanning the entire Old and New Testaments, homosexuality is portrayed as ‘a sin’ (an act that misses the mark of God stated perfection in how humanity should conduct itself). No one denies this. Many people seek to handle these verses in different ways but no one can deny that ‘homosexuality is a sin’ is in there. Whether in Genesis with the narrative of Sodom, in Leviticus with homosexuality capital punishment laws, or in the writings of Paul or the Revelation, the Bible says what it says. So I don’t think it is time worthy to go into each of these passages and discuss them because, at least for me, it is a foregone conclusion as to the Biblical teachings on the subject.
So what are we to do with such a teaching? Most often the attempt is to argue away the validity of the teaching based on personal experience or accusations of judgmentalism. So let’s look at each of the most basic arguments.
Argument #1 – The Natural Affections Argument
This argument looks something like this. “For as long as I can remember, I have always been attracted to people of the same sex”. In essence, the argument is that my natural affections have always pointed that way. Because this way comes naturally then it should not be a problem. This is also extended to the “I love this person”.
Biblically speaking, this argument is exactly the reason that Jesus came to the earth, died on a cross and rose again. The teachings of the New Testament make the case that our natural affections are by default in rebellion against God. Sin is the norm. Sexuality is morally neutral in a vacuum. Humans are sexual beings by nature (whether by design or evolution depending on your viewpoint). The problem is not sexuality but how a human heart handles sexuality. Homosexuality and heterosexual immorality are handled the same way in the Bible. So sexuality is not the problem. The problem is that if humanity’s default is be in rebellion against God then humans tend to handle their sexuality in a way that is in rebellion against God as well. So the Bible teaches our natural affections are exactly the problem. People are naturally selfish (ever see two two-year olds fight over one toy in a room full of playthings). Selfishness is a sin as well. No one teaches a child to be selfish. That comes naturally and is exactly the problem.
Argument #2 – The Judgment Argument
This argument looks something like this. “Who are YOU to tell me who I can and cannot love?” This is the natural affection argument is used in regards to someone’s ability to limit the activities of someone else. This is where laws come into play in this discussion (and we will look at that separately in a moment). But the idea here is that it is wrong and judgmental for someone to tell someone else how to live. There is both validity and absurdity in this argument. I will discuss in a moment the validity side of this argument because in a free country, as long as the country deems that no one is being hurt, you cannot tell someone who they can and cannot love. Again, more on that in a moment. But the absurdity side of the argument is this. Freedom with the absence of any constraints is anarchy (which is radically constraining). True freedom is not living with an absence of restraints but living only with enough restraints to let them be truly free. A simple example is this. If a family lived in a house where their backyard is adjacent to a major highway, would the parents just let their children go out and play anywhere they want? No, they would put a fence around their property. Their children are then free to go and play in the backyard and express their childhood curiosities. But, the parents made a judgment to limit their children’s freedom (by putting up a fence) so that their children can have true freedom (the ability to express themselves without being harmed). So true freedom is not the absence of all constraints but instead enough constraints that there be an absence of destruction.
Argument #3 – The Loving God Argument
This argument looks something like this. How can a loving God not allow people to express their love in a way that seems natural to them.
Now on the Christian side of the discussion, other than using the Bible teaches it argument, there is two major arguments.
Christian Argument #1 – Natural Law
This argument is simply that homosexuality is against nature. This point is argued in a few ways. 1) Men have penises and women have vaginas. Penises emit semen. Ovaries produce eggs. The semen meets the egg and fertilizes it. You get the picture. This biology works simply and effectively. 2) That if took every homosexual and put them on an island (which I would NEVER advocate), without the help of technology or partner swapping, there would only be the present generation and no additional generations. The act itself goes against the evolutionary impulse of natural selection. There are other nuances to this argument but you get the picture.
Christian Argument #2 – Spiritual Blindness
This argument is that humans do not know the extent of their errors until God’s Holy Spirit illuminates it in their hearts. This argument is not specific to homosexuality at all, but is general to all of humanity. Humanity does not know the extent of their depravity until God’s light shines into man’s darkness. For me, I didn’t realize how selfish and destructive my sexual relationships with women were until God’s Spirit revealed them to me. I was a ‘normal’ American teenager; enjoy all the excesses of collegiate life. I was just doing what everyone else was doing. But when God’s Spirit illuminated my heart, I realized how wrong I had been. My conversion only began the process of my realizing the extent of my spiritual blindness. All humans suffer from spiritual blindness and lack an authentic understanding of the spiritual, social, emotional and physical implications of our decisions.
Homosexuality, Religion and Politics
Now we come to what has brought this issue into the forefront – the intersection of homosexuality, religion and politics in the American public square. The touch point for this issue is same-sex marriage. Most often this is seen in light of the separation of church and state. Even the language shows how much America has changed since the writing of our constitution. Today it would have to be seen as the separation of faith and state (or else you could argue that you don’t have to separate mosque or synagogue and state). In essence, the government is not allowed to impose a state mandated faith belief on the people. We are all excited about this. The government can not impose itself on a person’s personal interiority.
Here’s the problem though. This has become more of a debate about traditional religion and the state. But so many moral judgments, from whatever camp it comes from, are faith-based beliefs. Sure, they may come from non-traditional sources but they cannot be scientifically verified. Even secularism is a faith-based belief. The reality is that no one divorces his or her ideas about morality from some sort of faith-based belief (even if it is the faith-based belief against having faith). So in essence, everyone brings his or her beliefs into the public square. Not just the religious but the irreligious as well. No one ever leaves his or her religious (traditional or nontraditional) beliefs outside of the public square. So any side of any argument is the seeking of people to legislate their faith-based assumption on the morality of any issue.
With that being said, we have a level playing field. All people argue the validity of their position from a position of faith, seeking to win over society to their way of evaluating and seeing the world. Because of this, we have a divided nation.