Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Homosexuality and the Christian Community

"I have come to the conclusion that the sin of homosexuality-and it is a sin- is not a condition you are born with, but a choice. It is a temptation to people who have been rejected. They have sought for love and are finding it in a counterfeit way, which is lust. In a cruel paradox, rejection leads them to homosexuality, which in turn becomes bondage. Homosexuality is a powerful bondage...”

My initial reaction to the very first sentence was anger, honestly. I felt so immediately indignant and saddened, I almost didn’t want to read the rest. Truth be told, I am completely put off by almost all contemporary Christian publications or speakers regarding the subject of homosexuality. Although it's done often these days, I think associating the word "choice" or "unnatural" with sexuality is insensitive and judgmental.

First, calling sexuality a "choice" implies simplicity, like it's strictly a mental decision and people just pick one way or another. In actuality, our sexual behavior is a complex part of our makeup, effected by numerous factors and not definitively resulting from any one thing. It certainly has more to do with instinct and upbringing than our objective mental faculties. A good deal of how we act sexually originates from innate physical attraction, and no one has a "choice" in that. While I agree that engaging in homosexual behavior is a choice, same sex attraction, a catalyst for the outward behavior, is not. Attraction is not voluntary or decided by intellect.

Also, calling homosexuality a choice implies that one would deliberately choose to be gay rather than straight, which is ridiculous. Assuming people did have a choice in whom they were attracted to, why would anyone choose to be attracted to their same sex? Who would want to admit that to their mom, or choose attractions inherently more difficult and prone to discrimination? My point is, I think gay people usually exhaust many efforts in trying to change their same sex attraction before they give in to acting on it. Homosexuality usually involves a high amount of shame, self loathing, and despair before eventual acceptance. So, even though I am still not disagreeing that acting on homosexual attraction is a choice, it usually does not come readily or easily to the homosexual. If it were a simple choice one way or another, most gay people would certainly choose to be straight.

And calling homosexuality “unnatural” is pretty insensitive as well. If you’re straight, do you feel naturally drawn to the opposite sex? It is the same way many gay people feel about their same sex. Besides, there are instances of homosexuality amongst beings that are going purely on natural instinct. Male mallard ducks are notorious for sometimes mating with each other, and there is also one well documented case of a mallard committing homosexual necrophilia. How “natural” is that?

All this talk, "it's a choice" or "it's unnatural" contributes to the judgmental, insensitive image the church has been showing on this issue ever since it began to be a public issue. Christians put blame on the homosexual for choosing his/her lifestyle rather than sympathetically acknowledging that he/she might feel helpless to change it. We alienate homosexuals and call them "unnatural." It makes total sense why gay people would resent Christians--they've already been through enough emotional turmoil with homosexuality without being told it's their fault!! We don't blame alcoholics for being sick, or tell them it's their choice whether or not to drink even though it ultimately is--we show sympathy for them through their struggles and help pick them up when they fall. How can we not have the same compassion for homosexuals? The last thing motivating anyone to turn from sin is the accusatory finger.

Do I think people are born gay? Not exactly, since "being gay" is an outward expression of sexual behavior. Do I think some people are born with a predisposition for same sex attraction? Absolutely!! The Bible says we are sinful at the moment of conception, and no one would argue that people are born with genetic or inborn predispositions toward all kinds of sin, "natural" or not--alcoholism, gluttony, violent temperament--what makes same sex attraction different? All of us are broken from the start, sinful from the moment of conception. Having a predisposition for same sex attraction is just another sin, and I don't blame gay people for getting angry when Christians think they can authoritatively say that same sex attraction doesn't start from birth. In fact, no one can really testify about another person's attractions, saying whether or not they were born with them. It's downright rude to make assumptions about another's personal experiences.

What about environmental factors? The "rejection theory" this author mentions? I would not disagree at all that circumstances in our upbringing and environment can dramatically influence our sexuality. Many lesbians have been raped or abused by men, it's a no brainer why they would rather be with women. I have heard the "rejection theory" before and think it could be true for some people...I have also heard the theory that a faulty relationship with the same sex parent can contribute to homosexual tendencies. There's also the theory that homosexual attraction is more of a subconscious envy than a genuine attraction.

The fact is, there are numerous different theories and explanations about the cause of homosexual tendencies, any of which could apply to an individual in his/her specific circumstances. It leads me back to what I said earlier: human sexual behavior is complex and influenced by numerous factors. It most likely results from a combination of nature and nurture, and homosexuality can't be attributed to any one thing. We cannot use blanket statements and say that all homosexuals are suffering from a rejection complex or that none of them are born with gay tendencies.

I wonder why Christians lack so much sensitivity when it comes to this issue. We don't look at each individual person, we make general assumptions about the gay community as a whole. We make declarations about a very personal matter without being in those shoes. It's no wonder the gay community thinks we have no idea what we're talking about. That's a pretty accurate assessment, and even if there is truth in what we say, it being said in such an insensitive way makes it null and void to them. They get put off by us, which is terrible, but the unforgivable thing is that they get put off by Jesus, too. When we misrepresent the gospel and the love of Christ, we misrepresent Him!!

Things must change in our Christian community. We've got to love homosexuals and view their "choice" for what it really is--a complex and powerfully addictive yoke. We’ve got to quit fighting against what we think is wrong, making ourselves out to be jerks in the process, and just support candidates that fight for what we think is right. We need to speak out less about homosexual marriage being wrong and make sure the bulk of our talking has to do with why we believe Biblical marriage is right, and do so with love, compassion, and sensitivity for people who do not feel the same way as us. We've got to remember that we are all sinners who need the redemptive work of Christ, and this sin should not have any special stigma. We've got to allow them to feel comfortable talking about it so that they can break free of it, IF THEY WANT TO. Only when we start exhibiting the love of Christ will we minister effectively. Love is the most powerful tool in conquering sin, and we undoubtedly need to show more of it in this area.