Is the message itself offensive?

I want to ignore those (often unintentionally) hateful Christians who cannot accept homosexuals for a little while. Let us talk about those Christians who

  1. Truly believe homosexuality is a sin, but
  2. Do everything in their power to love their homosexual neighbours.

There are not many such Christians, but they should not be judged along with the rest. They are sincere and honourable. But I am not convinced that their stance is not ultimately harmful.

Katy Faust, a prolific blogger on the subject of homosexuality, is, I think, one such person. She has the unique perspective of having been raised by gay parents. This effectively removes any argument that her feelings come merely from prejudice. In her posts she mentions the practical aspects of love: being a friend, a comforter, being there when they are in need, helping people move, having coffee, etc. etc. She won’t compromise on her faith, which for her includes that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, but also that you should love your neighbour.

But is this enough? If all Christians acted like this, would homosexual people be willing to walk into a church without fear of condemnation? Would they feel welcome? To quote Katy from this post (brackets are mine):

“But some feel that the above message [against same-sex marriage] in and of itself is offensive.”

A church that considers homosexuality a sin tells homosexuals, either directly or by implication, that they must quash an integral part of their identity (which they did not choose) and either

  1. Be celibate or
  2. Act the part of a heterosexual

To do the former, if you are gay, and you believe to act out that nature is incorrect, is noble. The latter is horrible and no less disturbing if someone “convinces” themselves that they can be heterosexual. I think enlightened and loving Christians would not encourage option 2.

But that leaves option 1: because you cannot love someone of the opposite sex, you cannot experience romantic love and marriage. Other people can experience this, but not you. God says no.

Is the gay community, and those who support them, wrong to balk at this?

We must recognise that Christianity says “I love you” and “The way you live is sinful” to everyone. Adulterers, thieves, liars, and murderers, of course. But you too live a sinful life and must restrain your sinful impulses (all fall short of the glory of God). Is homosexuality any different?

For Christians like Katy Faust, it is not. It is as harmful and alluring and worldly as any other sin. But for the gay community, many who call themselves Christian, it is impossible to reconcile a loving God with one who condemn an expression of love which seems to do no harm to anyone, not even God.

The harm that the loving, homosexuality-is-a-sin, Christian or church is doing is this:

  1. The very belief that homosexuality is sinful fuels the argument that religion is irrational and the Christian God is capricious and hateful. The unfortunate truth is that only religion can find a reason to condemn homosexual relationships.
  2. People who may have been passionate and faithful members of a church may feel that they cannot join a church precisely because the church will always want them to give up a part of their identity, an identity they feel that God gave them. This is in many ways a loss to the church.
  3. These people, without a Christian community to support them, may lose their faith entirely and end up living lifestyles that include far more sins than just homosexuality.
  4. The lack of homosexuals in these churches will tend to increase prejudice and misunderstanding simply through limiting the exposure of its members, particularly young children, to the gay community.
  5. Some Christian homosexuals who accept these views will forsake partners or give up on ever finding a partner. This may be noble. But there is joy and fulfilment in a committed marriage, dedicated to God, that these people will never be able to experience (this experience is probably possible even if homosexuality is indeed a sin).
  6. Homosexual children, growing up in a Christian home, even a loving one, I imagine must still feel the desire to suppress their (unchangeable) identity in this respect. It must be so hard to tell your parents that actually you are one of those broken homosexuals they have been trying to love and dissuade from an immoral lifestyle. What a hard choice for these children to make: accept their parents’ faith, choose a more open faith of their own, or reject faith entirely.

I think the world will be a better place if more Christians would treat their faith as sincerely as Katy Faust. But I do not know if this will be enough. In an earlier post I argued, on social grounds, that either the church will change and accept homosexuality, or it will die out. That is still my prediction.

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  1. #1 by Akriti on 18/04/2014 - 10:26 pm

    BRILLIANT POST 🙂
    Every single individual on this planet has the absolute right to live the way she/he wants to. I’m straight myself but even then i see no reason for some weirdos to consider love of any kind as sin. Those people are retrograde.

    If you feel like , check this out – pic.twitter.com/pGONQ5BLW8

    Its the ultimate B***h slap on the faces of all the hypocrites 😀

    • #2 by johandp on 18/04/2014 - 10:44 pm

      Thank you for the enthusiasm :). Certainly, many opponents of homosexuality are hypocrites. But not all. Its not your beliefs that make you a hypocrite, but rather whether you act in accordance with them. The sincere Christian who considers homosexuality a sin (particularly the ones that are themselves gay – yes they do exist) are not hypocrites in this. We can challenge their belief, we can question whether propagating it is not harmful. But we must be weary of calling everyone who disagrees with us a hypocrite.

      • #3 by Akriti on 18/04/2014 - 10:50 pm

        U know according to Sigmund Freud – A lot of people who are publicly homophobic are actually Homosexual but prefer to stay in the closet.

        As for hypocrisy, agreed – maybe not all..but mostly yes.

  2. #4 by johandp on 19/04/2014 - 9:53 am

    I am sure there are such homosexual homophobes in existence. But I reckon they are the exception rather than the rule.

  3. #5 by Thomas Jones on 19/04/2014 - 6:56 pm

    There’s a fundamental other way out for christians you haven’t considered yet. I can imagine you probably won’t agree since it’s very much not in the spirit of the times, and it has made a lot of christians quite unpopular with the world around.

    It goes something like this:

    1. Homosexuality is a sin
    2. Homosexuality is NOT a part of who you most fundamentally are
    3. Homosexuality, like any sin, is something you can come to live without quite happily (perhaps more happily).
    4. This is not necessarily an easy process

    The world sees your sexual orientation as something that is utterly fundamental to who you are. Our culture has decided that you are born with it and will never ever be rid of it. Something that you must never, ever seek to change or surpress because it is ‘who you are’ and you should ‘be yourself’. These are the world’s mantras right now, for better or for worse. The church is often dumb in its own way but I”m glad it doesn’t always uncritically accept the spirit of the times.

    If you see homosexuality as a sin you don’t believe it is part of a who a person is supposed to be. Any more than lust is part of who you are meant to be, or anger issues or whatever. Sure they can be naturally present inclinations, but they don’t define who you are. If I am naturally a straight guy with an over-the-top libido that doesn’t mean that I am surpressing my person by not trying to sleep with all the attractive women I meet. If I am such a person, getting married and being faithful to the one person for the rest of my life doesn’t mean I am being untrue to my sexual orientation. It may not be easy, but it may still be the right thing to do. In the same way it is possible to see homosexuality as a natural inclination some people have, but something that may nontheless have to be overcome in the pursuit of a righteous life. This might require discipline, and struggle, and divine intervention, but so be it.

    Note that the very idea that you sexual orientation can change is actually offensive to a lot of people I know. Isn’t that funny?

    • #6 by johandp on 19/04/2014 - 8:55 pm

      This seems to come dangerously close to suggesting option 2, above. It seems highly unlikely that sexual orientation, barring miraculous intervention (which is rare by definition) can be changed. The idea that it can has led people being convinced if they prayed and applied all kinds of other measures, they could change. This does not work. And it can lead people to go into marriages lying to themselves or their spouses and do a great deal of (objective) harm to themselves, their spouses and their children. This is in contrast to living a (monogamous) homosexual lifestyle, where the harm done, if any, is far less clear. (Also, homosexuality is at least partly, but not wholly, genetic. There is evidence for this from studies of identical twins separated at birth. Even though not wholly genetic, there does not seem to me be any reason to think it is malleable, rather the opposite).

      Now you are of course correct that if practicing homosexuality is sinful, one can choose to stop and can find fulfillment in this sacrifice, as with discontinuing any other practice you consider outside of God’s will. Another analogy: if I consider eating anything with sugar sinful, I can choose to stop. I won’t stop liking the taste of sugar. But I should only be expected to stop if eating sugar is harmful to me or others (or to God). We assume we know this too easily, perhaps.

      • #7 by Thomas Jones on 20/04/2014 - 3:17 pm

        Perhaps this is a matter of perspective/opinion, but it is an important one: I would be very slow indeed to say that prayer does not work or miraculous intervention is rare per definition. I think it’s fair to say that it might not happen (or that it might not happen as we expect it to?).

        But I think that fighting any kind of sin on your own strength alone is never going to work. You can by discipline overcome some of the outward expressions of a sin perhaps but not the root. (In that sense I think you’re right that ultimately, if surpression is your only long term strategy, it’s not a very attractive option because it relegates you to a life of only hard work and probably not so much joy). In that sense homosexuality isn’t unique.

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