I want to ignore those (often unintentionally) hateful Christians who cannot accept homosexuals for a little while. Let us talk about those Christians who
- Truly believe homosexuality is a sin, but
- 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
- Be celibate or
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.