July 19, 2009

Part IV: Antihomosexual

Too Political

Homosexuality is an issue that I've given a lot of thought to, since I have had a lot of interesting experiences with gays and especially lesbians. These experiences are complex, as are my views, and I hope that I'll give an accurate account of what I believe a biblical response to this issue should be.

Losing A Foolish War

Many "outsiders" see Christianity as declaring war on homosexuality, and to be fair, much of it has. Though it is important for us to remember that the Bible is not obscure about what it thinks about same-gender sexual intercourse, I do believe it has been foolish for American conservative Christians to have approached the issue the way that it has. Here are some stats that the book states that I found very sad1:
  • 91% of Mosaic (born between 1984 and 2002) and Buster (born between 1965 and 1983) outsiders considers "antihomosexual" as the primary descriptor of present day Christianity
  • 2/3 of total outsiders voiced very strong criticisms of Christianity on this issue
  • While 39% of born-again Christians reject divorce, the vast majority reject homosexuality
  • Only 14% of born-again Christians feel motivated to help overseas children AIDS victims.
  • 2/5 born-again Christians feel more sympathy toward cancer victims than AIDS victims, most having the reason that AIDS victims "sorta deserve it".
Apart from that, Kinnaman also points out:
  • Many Christians see 9/11 and Katrina as punishment for homosexuality
  • Public comments from Christians on the topic have seemed crass and berating
  • Many Christians oppose homosexuals taking offices in government and schools
  • Many Christians believe that Romans 1 teaches that homosexuals are incapable of good (which is not what it teaches at all BTW).2
  • Many see homosexuality as an organized movement designed to subvert Christianity
  • Many think that the issue is simple
  • Many believe it proper to avoid homosexuals completely.
I found all of this really disheartening and unchristian. Christianity is a faith of redemption, and as such, we need to be acting in love for the redemption of all, regardless of their sin.

It is also not helping. On page 99, Kinnaman starts addressing how many of the outsiders are viewing homosexuality outside of Christendom. He points out that for young people today, they define their worldview and morality based mostly on their experiences, especially in terms of social interactions. This is part of what makes many of them so morally relative, since their friends are sort of moral by default, and many of them will have radically different standards that they are living by, especially different from Christianity. It is difficult to say that homosexuals are evil, and then have your best friend come out of the closest.

I admit to have had this same issue. Having had many lesbian friends in the past (I don't know why, it just happened), I have never been able to conclude that they are more evil than other sinners (a view that I see as completely foolish). Instead, I have witnessed a unique struggle that they have, which much of Christian rhetoric seems to oversimplify. Indeed, I find that most of Christianity's response to this issue to be inadequate, and it is little wonder that the culture doesn't trust what we have to say on the matter.

Kinnaman's Solutions

Actually, I don't think that solution is so much the right word. Rather, he attempts to state the way that Christians should respond to the issue. He lists several concepts which I think are worth mentioning:
  • Acknowledge the Complexity: All too often we believe that we just need to stand on our basic understanding, and that should be enough for everyone. But each person is different, and we cannot reach people through simple answers and cliches.
  • Converse: It is more important to establish a meaningful relationship with someone to foster healing instead of trying to make the other person's problem go away with a single speech.
  • Don't live in fear of judgment: It is not the job of a Christian to maintain our respectability by showing we believe the right things to other Christians. We need to give our brothers and sisters in Christ the respect they deserve by being open and honest about what we think and feel about certain issues.
  • Don't back down: Just because there are many Christians that approach the topic irresponsibly, and just because the public view of the Christian stance has a negative image, it doesn't mean we should back down from our goals. Instead we should strive to better communicate exactly what our stance is, and act and move in a way that helps to achieve those goals, rather than just be demonstrative that we have them.
  • Having Compassion: They will know we are Christians by our love, not our judgment or holiness. We need to show compassion, and real compassion: compassion that is truly interested in the other person's pain.
My Thoughts
Distinguishing the Act from the Person

One of the biggest problems in dealing with this issue is that the nature of sex itself is in debate in our culture. This debate is unspoken, but it is definitely there.

Mosaics and Busters primarily see most of their activities as expressing their inner-selves. This leads to a very hedonistic type of morality where self-expression is a legitimate moral standard. With many, it seems the highest. This leads to hedonism mostly because our "inner-self" is rarely seen as larger than our impulses (since we are linking activity to the inner-self, this is natural).

Very naturally, this affects sex since sex is an activity. Therefore, sex is often done out of a sense of expressing one's self. Many begin to define themselves by their sexual impulses and are therefore compelled to act on them. To abstain is to deny their true selves, in their minds.

Christians, clearly, do not agree. Our standard is God, believing not only that He is the most moral being in the universe, but that He has built in His standards of truth and justice into the very fabric of reality. Furthermore, we recognize that we are fallen from our original design and that many of our impulses actually run counter to our true selves, which is truly defined by God's design.

As responsible Christians then, we need to see homosexuality in the same vein as any other kind of sin: the expression of man's fallen nature. Also, as such, we need to separate this view of the activity with the person themselves. A person is more than the total sum of their actions. God loves each person, and many homosexuals are in a significant amount of pain. We need to reach out to them, and demonstrate to them that we love them.

It is also important that we don't single them out in any way. We shouldn't be less accommodating to them, but we shouldn't be more either. We should deal with each as a legitimate person, and if that person happens to be committing homosexuality, then we treat it as that person. Going out of your way to be kinder to someone is merely another form of prejudice.

Identity Crises

Probably the biggest issue that we have is that we fail to consider the unique aspects of homosexuality in our culture today. I think there is an aspect that is misandrist (which is ironic because in Paul's time in Greece it was misogynist), but this is not true in all cases. For instance, many lesbians fall into lesbianism out of abuse received from males, and thus only find security in the arms of another woman. Many males fall into homosexuality out of a self-loathing in terms of viewing themselves as unmasculine. However, it is my experience (and this is experience here, not fact) that the more general movement is indeed misandrist and this needs to be kept in mind when dealing with those in the movement.

I believe that many homosexual men are simply men who were different and thus undervalued by the other men around them, especially their fathers. I first started developing these thoughts from a lecture from Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, and since then, my thoughts have been going down those lines. If I am right, then in many cases when we attempt to explain that we are differentiating them from their behavior, we are being nonsensical since their behavior is seen as their self-expression.

My theory is that out of a loss of purpose, value, and masculinity, the people around them begin calling them gay (I have definitely seen this happen from both Christians and nonChristians). This usually happens with any boy who is more in touch with their feelings, more sensitive, nonathletic, and often artistic (which is why there is an improportionate number in the media). At first they reject the label, but then begin to interact with the homosexual community. Here they find acceptance and value, and come to believe that being homosexual is what they are.

What is important about this is that when we are telling them that homosexuality is wrong, then we are saying that what they are is wrong, and that their entire world is evil. We are completely unaware that this is what we are communicating, but this is what they are receiving, especially since many of them didn't want to be "homosexual" to begin with, and accepted it as their final means of self-acceptance.

If we are to reach out to these people, we need to do more than "love the sinner and hate the sin". We need to give them a different answer to their inner-questions of identity. We need to communicate that God has made them into something special, and has designed them for a purpose.

Furthermore, we need to check our motivations. If our desire is to simply "ungayify" them, then they'll catch on to that, and won't believe us. Instead, we need to recognize ourselves that God hasn't designed anyone to be homosexual, and that the homosexual lifestyle is damaging. We need to approach with the desire to help, not correct. They may still reject that from us, but it is the only attitude we can have that can truly be called Christian.

1Pages 92-95
2Page 97-98


Kevin Jackson said...

Good thoughts on a thorny topic! I'll try to listen to the Nicolosi lecture, it sounds very interesting.

bossmanham said...

I hope this message's tone doesn't come off as combative. That isn't what I'm aiming for.

Since Christians are supposed to be salt and light to the world, if we put our feet down on certain issues, isn't that going to make people angry by default? I'm not sure we should worry a lot whether the world approves of us. Any conservative Christian I have ever talked to does not hate gays or thing homosexuality is a worse sin than others, we just think it's a sin and feel we should say so unabashedly; just as we say heterosexual fornication is sinful.

I speak out of partial ignorance since I have not read unChristian, but it seems sometimes the modern church relies too heavily on "statistical data." I think we should speak the truth in love and be there for all sinners to help them understand their sin and the love of the One who wants to save them from it.

Jc_Freak: said...

Well, that's essentially what I said. My only additional point is that if we are going to reach out to them, we need to do more than tell them what is right. We need to also take their lives and situations seriously and really care who they are. This doesn't subtract from your stance. Indeed, I think such an attitude strengthens it and makes us more effective.