Friday, February 01, 2008

Homosexuality, Part 1

I've been struggling lately with homosexuality.

Wait, that didn't come out right. What I mean is that I've been struggling lately with what my stance, as a follower of Jesus, should be on homosexuality. Over the years I have had gay friends and acquintances. It is difficult to see gay people as an "abomination" when you know them personally. The gay people I have known have been wonderful people yet, in most cases, deeply wounded people. Whether their woundedness is a result of being gay or a contributing cause of it, I do not know.

Why has it recently become important to me to examine and define my views on homosexuality? I'm not sure. I believe it is a prodding by the Holy Spirit, so I'll try to follow where He leads. I am troubled by the possibility that I have contributed to the marginalization of a group of people whom Jesus dearly loves. That possibility, in and of itself, is enough to warrant reflection. Lately I've been reading and researching and listening to viewpoints from various sources. I'm already quite familiar with the conservative Christian view, since it is the view I have continuously heard and subscribed to for 25 years. But I'm also giving a fair hearing (for the first time) to other viewpoints from other Christian voices. For example, I recently read What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality by Daniel Helminiak, Ph.D. It's a good book and very thought provoking in it's affirmation of homosexuality from a Biblical standpoint. But it is also very flawed. I intend to blog specifically about it in the near future.

One of many very helpful sources has been Michael L. Westmoreland-White's blog, entitled Levellers. He has written a series of blogs examining GLBT (Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender) issues. The thoughfulness and thoroughness of Westmoreland-White's blogs on the topic have given me much cause for reflection.

In one of his entries Westmoreland-White lists the 5 typical positions that churches have regarding homosexuality. Each of the 5 positions compares homosexuality to something else in order to provide an analogy. The positions range from the most "punitive" to the most "affirming". Here they are:

1. Deeply Immoral: a paradigmatic sign of the brokeness of the Creation. Same-sex sexual orientation is evil and the gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual person is personally culpable for not only their actions, but their desires, attractions, etc. A complete sexual reorientation is required as part of repentance and conversion. The church should not bless same-sex unions nor ordain homosexuals at all. Same-sex orientation reflects hatred of the opposite sex, is a perversion of natural (created) behavior and both legal and social discrimination is justified.

2. Like Alcoholism: a greater, but not paradigmatic sign of the brokeness of the Creation. Same-sex orientation is a disease, so there is little personal culpability for desires, etc., but is culpability for actions. Gay or lesbian unions are more evil than enforced life-long celibacy/abstinence. The church should not bless same-sex unions and should ordain only closeted and totally abstinent gays or lesbians. Like alcoholism, homosexual orientation is incurable, so gays and lesbians must abstain from sexual activity (like being sober). This is viewed as morally identical to forbidding sexual activity to single heterosexuals. Since only homosexual ACTIONS are sinful, glbt persons should not be punished through discrimination in housing, workplace, etc.

3. Like Blindness: a lesser sign of the brokeness of the Creation. Homosexual orientation, in this view, is a defect, so there is no culpability–any more than someone born blind or lame would be culpable. Since sexuality is deeply a part of the human person and celibacy a special spiritual gift and calling, gay or lesbian unions are less evil than enforced lifelong abstinence, which is an unreasonable expectation. Holders of this view vary regarding whether the church may or may not bless unions (or simply tacitly accept them) or ordain chaste, closeted gay people. This perspective views closeted unions as a way of coping with the defect–like learning to live with blindness. This is a compromise with the broken or fallen nature of the world– a recognition that the full healing of New Creation has not yet come.

4. Like Color Blindness (that’s colour blindness for British or Commonwealth readers): not quite the fullness of God’s blessing; an imperfection. There is no personal culpability for the orientation. Both same-sex unions AND abstinence fall short of God’s ideal. The church should bless unions privately and ordain chaste, closeted gays and lesbians. Homosexuality is a minor manifestation of fallenness/brokenness–not the ideal. Just as color blind people choose to see rather than close their eyes, so gay or lesbian people choose to engage in imperfect expressions of sexuality rather than repress such a vital part of their humanness. Celibacy requires a special gift of the Spirit. People who hold this view believe God calls people to an appropriate fulfilling of their sexual identity–so abstinence cannot model appropriate sexual behavior for those not specially gifted and called. Small, private blessings (like some churches do with second marriages) are allowed. All forms of discrimination in society are opposed.

5. Like Left-Handedness: part of God’s original blessing; a variation. The issue of culpability is as irrelevant as for left-handedness. Same-sex unions for gays or lesbians are good and should be publicly blessed. The church should ordain those called to ministry, including chaste, uncloseted, non-celibate glbt folk. “Homosexuality” is a natural variation in the created order–and found in other animals than humans. There is nothing wrong with being gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgendered. It would be unnatural and immoral for gays or lesbians to engage in heterosexual behavior.

Although there are many different types of GLBT persons, I find this list of 5 views very helpful. Westmoreland-White says he has moved, over the course of his life, sequentially from the first position through to the fifth position.

As much as I would like to be at position number 5, I can't get beyond position number 2. What holds me in check is Romans 1:18-32. I've read various "gay-affirming" explanations of what Paul meant in these verses, but so far these attempts have left me unconvinced. Paul seems to be clearly stating that male-male and female-female sexual relations are sin. Paul also seems to see homosexuality as one among a plethora of other sins that Christians (including myself) struggle with. As such, I cannot judge my gay brother or lesbian sister. But as much as I can't judge the sin of another (due to that darn mote in my own eye) I also cannot affirm the sin of a brother or sister; regardless of what it is.

I intend to gradually blog my way through the various scriptures that address homosexuality. For now, where are you on Westmoreland-White's scale?


Anonymous skip said...

I have really had to think this one over for a few days. First, I am proud of you for tackling the topic. I understand it’s a controversial topic amongst many “Christians” and I believe in asking the questions, it’s the hard questions that bring us insight and growth. It makes me sad though, that the topic of sexuality and sexual identity is such a focus of American Christian life. I truly don’t understand it and I think this is what people like me can find so unappealing about Christianity.
I think it’s a cop out that many Christians so wholly embrace the opinion that sexual identity is a choice and therefore being gay is a chosen lifestyle and therefore a sin. It’s a nice neat little package. I’ve never met a homosexual who made a conscious decision to be gay. And if you consider that sexual orientation is innate then you have a problem reconciling that with the neat little Christian package. If I come from God then God made me this way so why can’t I be accepted the way God made me? Why would it be more acceptable for me, less sinful for me to pretend to be something I am not, living the lie is less sinful? Why would it be more acceptable and less sinful for me to live a life of abstinence? Why is “who” I love more important that the fact that I am a loving and caring person? Why must I spend my life being disavowed for being nothing more that what God made me?
I believe you are right that many gays and lesbians are wounded people. They’re wounded by years of struggling with their internal feelings having little guidance, support and resources. They’re wounded by the rejection of friends, family and church when they come out. By our often-intolerant society that is quite openly hostile towards gays. I don’t know that any gay person can come through that process completely unscathed. I refuse to contribute to that persecution in any way.
On the Westmoreland-White's scale I would be a 6 (He needs to add that to the scale). I don’t care what your sexaul orientation is. I’m not revolted or disgusted by who you’re having sex with, because it’s not something I really think about. As with most of my friends, their sex life is definatly not the most intersting thing about them so it warrents little of the conversation. Throughout my life I have known many people as friends before I know them as gay and that’s the way it should be.
If there is a God that made us all, then I have no doubt that God loves us all.
I hope you get some more feedback on this one, it could be an interesting dialogue.

10:25 PM  

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