Thursday, March 12, 2009

homosexual Christians

I came across this article today by Wesley Hill.

There is also an interesting discussion of the article in the comments here.

Misty Irons has an interesting perspective on the whole conversation.

This is a particularly critical conversation for me as the InterVarsity chapter at my university has been getting more involved in collaborative events with the Gay Alliance here.

I'm not sure where I fall on these things.
  • Is there still a debate about whether homosexuality is something you're born into/with?
  • What do I think about the label 'homosexual Christian'? Actually, it probably doesn't matter what I think about the label -- I think there's a better question here that I haven't found a way to express.
  • Loneliness. What is it, and what does it mean in the context of a Christian longing for companionship with someone of the same sex?

Through all of it, I think Misty's conclusion is applicable, whether I agree with her other reasoning or not:

If every straight person were to stop for five minutes and truly consider the extent to which their own heterosexual orientation has permeated every aspect of the way they have been thinking, feeling and relating to the world since the second grade, and then imagine what it would be like to struggle to suppress every aspect of their heterosexuality all day, every day for years on end, no one would be asking homosexuals questions like, "Why can't you get a grip on your loneliness?" "Can't you ever get over labeling yourself 'gay' or 'homosexual'?" "Why can't you just turn to God for love?"

Instead more people would be saying, "Tell me what it's like to be you." "What can I do to help you make it through today?" "Do you have a free evening to go grab a burger with me?"


Elliot said...

I like Misty's conclusion, however I think my view is a bit more liberal than most of these posters.

It's taken several personal experiences over the past couple of years to come to this conclusion (which is vastly different from what I thought before), but I am increasingly convinced that practicing homosexuality cannot be a sin because of how ingrained it is into the psyche.

What makes me want to exclude practicing homosexuality from the ranks of sexual immorality is the fact that a homosexual person has to torture himself to avoid it. There's being predisposed to a particular genre of sinning, and then there's being born with no way to do anything but sin. I don't like thinking that people would be set up to be that lonely.

Is homosexuality what God originally intended? I think not. I think it's a product of our fallen world. But I do not think that can be extended to mean that homosexuals are fallen or less good in any way. I also think that God did not originally intend for people to have physical disabilities or genetic diseases. All of these things are products of a fallen world. But that does not make the people afflicted by these conditions anything less than good. (Note: I am not trying to imply that I think homosexuality is a disease or that one can be "healed" from it, but we'd all be lying to ourselves if we didn't say that homosexuals are afflicted--especially with loneliness and persecution these days.)

I have a heart for homosexuals. I long for the day when my friends have all the rights everyone else enjoys. I pray that I might live to see an era in which "homosexual Christian" is not thought of as even slightly oxymoronic.

jonts said...

So I did a little internet searching for an answer to the question on whether or not one is born homosexual.

This article by the head of the Human Genome Project says that twin studies suggest that there may be a weak genetic link to homosexuality. Early childhood development probably plays a bigger role in homosexuality.

From a lot of the talk I hear, many people are beginning to just assume that someone is born gay or straight. The typical argument from a gay person would be that they just always knew they were gay, therefore they were born that way. In light of the article it would seem more likely that early development caused an attraction to the same sex that has been with them since they started noticing their sexuality.

Either way it seems homosexuality is not a conscious choice that someone can just change one in adulthood.

jonts said...

Elliot: The difference between homosexuality and other 'products of a fallen world' is that homosexuality is explicitly talked about in the Bible as being wrong (Romans 1:26, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Now I'm not trying to disagree with you. My current views on homosexuality are up in the air as I re-evaluate the whole issue. You have an interesting position on the matter and I just wanted a little more elaboration.


inos said...

jonts - thanks for the link. I think the important thing illuminated here is your conclusion, that homosexuality is clearly not a conscious choice.

Elliot - I'm very intrigued by your position. How do you justify it in light of Romans 1?

Elliot said...

@jonts, @inos:
There is debate about the translation of the words of those verses. The original Greek is not as explicit as the English, and so while it appears cut-and-dry in English, it wasn't originally. Also in Romans, Paul mentions homosexuality as more of a punishment rather than a sin. In my mind this gives more credit to the "product of a fallen world" theory.

I did a quick search online and found this site which has various arguments for separating homosexuality from sin. Most notable is the second responder, Bishop John S Spong. I've seen other arguments elsewhere too, but I don't remember where.

Also, Paul was writing in a different culture. Culture has changed and I would argue that the world has become more fallen. They didn't worry about AIDS or cancer at the time either.

So, basically I think those verses are mistranslated and/or written in enough of a different cultural context to be speaking of something else.

I should note that removing practicing homosexuality from the ranks of sexual immorality does not mean that anything homosexual is not a sin. I would just put it on par with heterosexuality. There are pure forms and corrupted forms.

Matt Marsh said...

with regards to the link jon provided, i think that there is a choice involved, but that choice is not necessarily the choice of homosexuality versus heterosexuality. the choice as i see it comes down to how one handles it and acts on it, particularly as a christian. i think this is closely related to the relevant portions of romans 1 you are referring to matt. the text makes mention of the "shameful lusts" and "indecent acts" committed with other men. this language, as i see it, is not much different than other passages regarding heterosexual relations outside of appropriate marriage.

Matt Marsh said...

sherwin damdar wrote a series of essays regarding the changing interpretations of the Bible with respect to shifting cultures. one of them covered homosexuality and the passage from romans. i have a copy and id love to post it, but i think i should ask first. or maybe i/we can just pass along the link and he can share his thoughts himself.

Elliot said...

@Matt Marsh:

Are you asking them to choose celibacy? Or just saying that they should not do "indecent" things like heterosexuals should not do "indecent" things?

I would love to read Sherwin's perspective on the passage.

Matt Marsh said...

elliot - i am not asking anything of them, that is not my place. it is just that i have always thought that the passage matt referenced speaks more to the sexual acts than it does the sexual orientation and viewpoint. i could be way off base with that interpretation, but that is how i read it. personally, i think the view actually relates well to the point you made in the third paragraph of your original response.

michael said...


I agree with you Marsh. I think the New Testament is full of comments on actions.

While the foundation of the faith is belief in Jesus Christ, a faith without any work behind it is dead per the Epistle of James.

Actions reflect our faith and faith should reflect our actions.


You always seem to have the more intriguing perspective. I have two questions for you.

-What is your view on homosexuality when the book of Romans was written? On people such as Nero or perspectives such as those written by Ovid.

Can following God result in loneliness? By denying ourselves daily, do we forgo the right to have companionship? (Is marriage or life time romantic commitment the solution to this?)

Elliot said...

(@inos: sorry for hijacking your article...)


I don't know anything about Nero and I haven't read anything by Ovid, but I don't think the morality of homosexuality is something that has changed. Jesus was radically progressive in his time and I don't find it in his character to deny people their identities like forcing a homosexual to live alone for the mere sake that he is a homosexual would.

Following God can result in loneliness. We live in a broken world. Some people are called to celibacy, which hopefully will not mean loneliness, as those people usually band together in monastic groups to fend off that loneliness.

Paul said, though, that celibacy was a gift bestowed on few. I don't believe that all homosexuals should be required to be celibate for God. That doesn't flow in my mind. Celibacy is a gift, and I'm sure you can find just as high a percentage of homosexuals as heterosexuals who say they don't have it.

The way I see it, homosexuality is our modern-day hurdle that circumcision was in the early church. Circumcising gentiles was a very hotly debated issue at the time, with Paul advocating for the finally adopted decision voiced by James, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Similarly, I believe that we should not make it difficult for modern-day outsiders (as many homosexuals feel they are categorized by the church) to follow Christ. If they have faith in Christ, and follow him, what more can be asked?

michael said...

Thanks for the response.

@Elliot, Inos, and the other brothers: It has been far too long. I keep you all dearly in my prayers and close to my heart.

inos said...

Elliot - the intention was to spark discussion, so I'm glad you've spoken up. If I accept your argument that homosexuality is not a sin, then the rest clearly follows. It is a strong argument. But I'm not ready to make the leap yet. You've challenged some of my basic thoughts on the matter. Please have patience.

To be critical on a particular point, I must disagree with Bishop Spong's first argument, when he writes
"Our prejudice rejects people or things outside our understanding. But the God of creation speaks and declares, "I have looked out on everything I have made and `behold it (is) very good'." . The word (Genesis 1:31) of God in Christ says that we are loved, valued, redeemed, and counted as precious no matter how we might be valued by a prejudiced world."

God declared everything good before the fall. His creation was corrupted by the fall. We can certainly not look at all that now is and say, "It's good."

Elliot said...

@inos: Correct, and that is why I do not say that homosexuality was ever intended by God. It is not what God intended for our relationships with each other.

However, I believe that homosexuality is a result of past sin, in much the same way that diseases, disabilities, suffering, and other pains are, even back to Genesis 3, when God first punished Adam and Eve.

I believe that deafness is a product of our fallen world. And yet, we still call our deaf friends "good" and do not fault them for the past sins which brought deafness into this world.

All of these pains and evils were introduced into this world after the fall. But if a pain is bestowed on people out of no fault of their own, we cannot fault them for it.

One of my underlying assumptions is that homosexuality, or the preference for companionship with the same sex, is not chosen by an individual. I believe there is sufficient evidence for this.

If that is the case, we must say that homosexuals, as people, are "good." They did nothing wrong to cause their attraction to those of the same sex. How, then, can we hold them to heterosexual standards? It is natural to love another. It may have been intended for that other person to be of the opposite sex, but homosexuals weren't given the choice to be attracted to those of the opposite sex. If the only thing that's different between a homosexual relationship and a heterosexual relationship is the gender of the two parties involved, and homosexuals did not choose their homosexuality, I believe that is good--not perfect, not the original "good," but as good as we can get in this fallen world.