The Homosexuality Debate is Not So Black and White

In a recent CNN article by special columnist LZ Granderson, the issues of Christianity and homosexuality hit center stage.  Granderson is gay and a professing Christian -an oxymoron to some believers.  But after reading his article, my first reaction is that I agree with him more than I disagree.  Allow me to first clarify that I believe that the current issue of homosexuality is a unique one.  Sure, we have historical references to the practice (as Granderson notes), and obviously it is a practice addressed in the Bible; but homosexual orientation is a relatively modern concept for Western culture.  Orientation makes the debate all the more complicated, because you’re not just looking at practice but rather the spectrum of one’s own identity.

That is why this issue is so polarizing when addressed from the faith perspective.  Heterosexual Christians (at least well intended ones) will simply note the practice as their target.  “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” they will say.  But an oriented homosexual will not likely be on the same page, but instead percieve any attack as an offense on their very identity as a human being.  Hence, the issue of love comes into the fray.  Granderson gives words that I often hear from the h0mosexual point of view: “…I am bothered by the continual mutilation of my religion’s basic principle of love…”  This is understandable from the homosexual viewpoint.  If you love me you will accept and embrace who I am, they will think.

The other side is just as understandable. 

Central to Christian belief is the premise that the power of Christ transforms us into the likeness of God, to die to the old self and take on a new self.  The faith journey from the Christian perspective is not about achieving a list of rights and wrongs, it is about becoming the person God desires us to be.  This implies that we’re not born the way God intends.  Through spiritual “re-birth” and the journey that ensues thereafter a person is continually transformed into Christ-likeness.  From the side of Christianity, being born a certain way (i.e. homosexually oriented) does not conclude that it is ordered by God.

Yet, none of these perspectives help us if we want to draw a line in sand and decide if homosexuality is right or wrong.  I agree with Granderson that using Levitical law is a slippery slope.  If you’re going take it literally, you need to follow through all the way and not pick and choose which ones to follow.  Then there’s the apostle Paul, who makes it clear in Romans that the practice is wrong.  But at the very least it is worthy to investigate whether or not Paul is addressing the same issue as we have in Western culture today in terms of practice versus orientation.

As for me, I am not homosexual and therefore will never fully understand or appreciate the complexity of who Granderson is as a person.  I will never understand his grieved heart when certain Christians deal out hate in the name of a loving God.  On one hand, my ignorance leads me to shy away from making an opinion on the matter.  On another hand, everyone is ignorant to some degree….that is why they call them opinions.  I believe that the practice of homosexuality is a moral wrong.  For those of you who have a hard time with this, please know that with all my heart this is NOT an indictment on the individual and unique identity of homosexual people.  This opinion does not change my behavoir in any way; who my friends are or aren’t, who I love and care for, who I respect and cherish.  Somehow for me, it just makes sense to separate the practice of homosexuality or homosexual orientation from the identity of the person her/himself.  I realize that’s convenient for a heterosexual.

I hope to continue to be confronted with this issue and wrestle with its complexity as a human being and as a Christian, and I challenge everyone to do the same.

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8 thoughts on “The Homosexuality Debate is Not So Black and White

  1. This is very interesting, and I have not heard of the distinguishing between the practice and orientation of homosexuality before. To your point about how we are not born the way God intends us to be: Again, very interesting, and I would add that if gay people are supposed to have their orientation changed spiritually to more conform to what God has planned for us, why wouldn’t some straight oriented people also have to be changed in this fundamental way? It seems to me that we are in EVERY way (I am only adding emphasis, not a tone here) we fall short of the glory of God, and He leads us to change…I don’t want this to be a long reply, but I’m trying to think of how to get this across succinctly…could it be that the orientations are not the thing that must change, but how each person, straight or gay, practices the gift of sexuality? For instance, a straight man can abuse his sexuality by being a whore or abusive to women, or rape etc, just as easily as a gay man or woman could. So I am now coming to the conclusion that all our of practices should more conform to the love of Christ as seen in the Bible, including our sexual practices. But like you said, it’s just my opinion.

    1. Communiosanctorum…I think Granderson was tyring to make the very same point, of which I completely agree. The over-concentration by modern evangelicals is inconsistent with Scripture in my opinion. In that way I think there needs to be more solidarity with homosexuals than separation, because we’re all on the same journey.

      In terms of conforming to Christ, I really cannot say whether it has more to do with practice versus orientation. I’m sure some homosexual Christians believe it is wrong and simply refrain from acting upon their orientation. Others seek to change their orientation altogether. This is a part of the complexity that many, including me, struggle to understand. I’m also sure there are other orientations such as alcoholism or other dispositions, so again, we’re all on the same journey.

      1. On conforming to Christ: it seems that he was not sexual at all, and thereby why are not all straight people abstinent except for procreation? I’m not trying to be provocative or anything, I’m just wondering if that is a line that could be drawn in this debate when quoting scriptures and trying to be more like Christ.

        To the orientation of alcoholism: I think this clearly addresses the point of what you started with and what I understood from that. I’m speaking just off the top of my head here, stimulated only by your post. It seems that the orientation of alcoholism would be parallel to that of say, “rapist”, not parallel to “straight” or “gay”. In each case, we have gifts that we abuse. The alcoholic can enjoy spirits without having them destroy their character and lives, just as a straight person can enjoy sex without objectifying women, or raping them. Just as the gay person can enjoy a union with someone sexually, without doing any of that either. But to directly parallel “gay” with “alcoholic” would mean “straight” needs that parallel too, if all things are being equally changed by God.

        Another way of looking at that distinction is to say, “Well, black people need more sanctification because they are more sexual or carnal than white people”, which is clearly racist and wrong, but on the same lines as “well gays must change their orientation because it doesn’t suit God’s plan…” while straight people never need to change that much of themselves. It’s like an entire class of people have to go that extra 100 steps to achieve what the rest start out with.

        Just to be clear, I’m not arguing with you or anything, I’m just thinking and writing things down as they come to me. I’ve found your post very stimulating in that regard, because I haven’t thought of these things this way before.

  2. It’s certainly a great question, and I believe it all begins with your foundational bias. If one views homosexual orientation much like they do race or identity, then you must hold heterosexuality to the same threshold, which many Christians do not. To say that we were not created in the way God intended is to simply say that we are created imperfect…or in theological terms we say that humanity is born into a corrupted world. Many Christians would say that homosexuality is a result of that corruption and heterosexuality is not. Certainly there are preversions of that heterosexuality, which again reflect the corruption. This corruption is not seen to originate from an individual (i.e. it’s their fault), but they are simply victims of the corruption. Either way, the individual needs redeeming. The homosexuality debate is centered around whether or not homosexuals need redeemed from it (i.e. if it’s even wrong at all).

    Your point is a good one about Christ-likeness. I would simply say that although we are not aware of Jesus’ sexual orientation in the Scriptures, it is fair to assume that he was heterosexual as it was the cultural norm, and Christ’s closest followers later led the church and wrote Scriptures that denounced the practice. Thus, Christ-likeness in many Christians’ eyes includes heterosexuality.

  3. What I was trying to get at with the “Christ-likeness” point was not that Jesus might have been gay. I agree with you there certainly he was not. But rather that he did not take a wife, and did not have children. Now if we were to be led by God in this path, perhaps only having sex for the sake of procreation so that the species would survive, I think it would be much more congruent with some who argue to ‘conform to the example of Christ’ or some such thing.

    To expand with a concrete example: 2 couples, one gay, one straight.

    1.) Gay couple is asked to refrain from sex so that they can become more Christ-like and walk in his path etc.
    2.) Straight couple is asked to refrain from sex for the same reasons, except to have 2.5 children.
    If that’s how the anti-gay folks laid out their laws, I’d have more respect for them intellectually.

    Besides all this, I myself have not made up my mind about the issue 100%. Certainly interesting to think about in one’s faith journey.

  4. Firstly, let me say Greetings and hello. I am Christian. Literally, my name is Christian. I was listening to the Erick erickson show on WSB and decided to call in on 6/21. I have a common thread with Erick… I was raised fundamental southern baptist so, please walk with me through this and let me know your thoughts. [the rest of this is written in the tense of me speaking to Erick as it was addressed to him]

    Where i caught the 6/21 show, you were talking about a Methodist minister who is female and now openly lesbian and has admitted to marrying other lesbian couples in her church.

    You stated that homosexuality is banned by the bible, against God’s approval, the doctrinal bylaws of her Methodist church and asked why a minister would knowingly admit to being homosexual and marrying other gay/lesbian couples when it is forbidden.

    You added that some of the mainstream, i guess more progressive churches, are straying away from traditional teachings like we grew up with and taking a more relaxed approach on homosexual relationships.

    This is where you said, and i understand this, that the way you were raised, “puts the fun in fundie.” ie., fundamental southern baptist and finished your point with [paraphrasing] “God says it clearly in the bible being against his wishes/commands and through the changing times and current opinions of a specific progressive Pastor’s view on the current state of things, it’s not okay and that “God does not evolve” as people’s changing opinions do.”

    So i call the show as I have some fundamental problems with what you said.

    I am not a homosexual, I have a wife and daughter, but here’s my thought… [which i was told by the call screener my thought would alienate too many people and i wholeheartedly disagree.]

    In all i know of God, humanity, and all of creation, homosexuality is evident and exists on every continent, in every culture, in every race, across all of man, around the entire globe, since all recorded time—with there even being occurrences of homosexuality in the animal kingdom.

    It’s common across our entire human existence.

    So, the reality is, regardless of what is written in the bible, it’s a fundamental Truth of our existence as evidenced by God himself through creation.

    On a biological level, heterosexual couples/families, Christian and non-Christian, give birth to homosexual children across entirety of the human race.

    Would homosexuality be so widespread of an occurrence across all of existence if it were just a choice?

    Really. Please put some serious thought into that.

    Do you and most Christians really believe that in another 2000 to 5000, say even the next 10 to 20,000 years of existence that, regardless of what’s written in the bible, God somehow didn’t plan for this piece of his creation and that it is our current job as the stewards of his creation to continue to live in the mindset of the authors of the bible denigrating and judging others to preserve some sense of romanticism with stories and morals of times long since passed—versus lifting our heads up, taking a look around, seeing and acknowledging this continuing to act like we live in pre-historic times and have an anthropological understanding equivalent to that of Sunday school 4th graders?

    Are we really that shortsighted?

    As to “God does not evolve,”
    it’s odd to me that Christians who follow the bible to it’s Nth degree believe that God is somehow stuck in the mentality of the times of pyramids when men worshipped men and that one of God’s tasks is damning all of these beings of his creation to hell for something most of the Christian community believe is a “choice.”

    I know that in talking you’re painting inside the lines of your listenership, but It’s also quite deplorably scary that the major majority of Christian’s read the bible and interpret it as to assume that the last thing God ever had to morally say was written and finalized with the last page of the bible. If God spoke through Jesus and the authors of the bible of those times, does he not still speak through us a whole?

    It’s also amazing to me that as a devout Christian, i assume you are, would make such a bold assumption as to know what God does and does not do in his own existence. Whether He evolves or not? Really?

    You know this because it’s in the bible? I think that is a very bold assumption on a believers behalf—and i catch Christians saying stuff like this all the time.

    We simply can’t assume as lesser beings that we “know” what the All Powerful can and can’t do based solely the writings of men from 2000 years ago—and, the evidence of reality all around us says exactly the opposite of what’s in the bible regarding homosexuality.

    This raises the question, are fundamental and conservative Christians so focused on the past and the teachings that they’re missing a piece of their own humanity?

    isn’t that missing out serving him?

    Why choose to turn a blind eye and claim that “well, It’s in the bible? ”

    Sorry, i do have to say, it is not me alienating themselves as the screener so told me.

    Most people believe the bible because it’s what they were taught and they never decided to look outside and peek into what is evident and fundamentally true across other cultures and the rest of existence.

    This isn’t controversial, it’s just common sense. I really wish that when people spoke about God, especially in/on a mainstream outlet, they did so responsibly and respectfully.

    I feel you completely stepped outside of your bounds in what you said regarding this even though it was short and in line with scripture, it makes me think that these were only talking points that you didn’t put much logical thought into…

    This may take some time to process and i hope it makes you think hard about the mainstream line of Christian thinking and I would love to know your thoughts on this as a Christian and as a commentator.

    Please don’t respond with biblical quotes to justify your thoughts. I know them, but thanks for your time and reading and i hope i get a response from you.

    I had this worded differently and thought about adding this to your diary/blog on redstate, but i figured it would be deleted before ever even making it to the light of day. I would love to post this there solely to see what kind of conversation it starts amongst your readership… guess that’s up to you…

    thanks, Christian Thomas =)

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