I’m going to embark upon a topic that is fraught with emotion for most folks: Christianity and homosexuality. Few topics anger, confuse, and sadden more than this one. And what I have to say will merely flow into the larger spectrum with little impact one way or the other. I have not touched this subject in three years of blogging for that reason. Still, I feel that I am at a place where I can speak frankly, yet in a balanced and gracious way. In other words, I’m gonna make everyone angry by not making anyone happy. So, here it goes.
I really like the gay people I know – the friends and the acquaintances. They are hysterical and fun-loving. I find them to be quick-witted, open, honest, and real. Often times, much more authentic than the straight folks I know. They embrace a life of artistry and humor and make me laugh out loud at their clever perspective and charming love of the finer details of life…once again, something often missed by my straight friends. I love their take on the arts, particularly music. In fact, some of the musicians I listen to most often are gay (I’m actually listening to Rufus Wainwright as I write this). One of Beth’s best friends in college was gay – while waiting tables at a restaurant, their friendship began when they both broke up with their boyfriends on the same weekend. Misery loves company I suppose. They have names, live accomplished lives, and their sexuality is merely one aspect of their rich identities. I don’t label/group them anymore than I would call all Germans Nazis or all whites imperialists. And they don’t label me. Neither am I for banning gay marriage - refusing to allow two people to marry insults the dignity of two people in love and denies equal rights that are vital to the civil fabric of our nation.
At the same time, I am a minister. Many of my Christian friends are anti-gay. Although the Methodist Church desires to create and open and welcoming atmosphere for the gay community, other friends of mine who are also in ministry take a very hard line on the issue of homosexuality. And that’s understandable. The Bible really is fairly strict about homosexuality and anyone attempting to call his/herself a Christian must deal with that. Sorry - there’s no way around the biblical passages that condemn that sexual orientation. No, David and Jonathan weren’t in a relationship. The intimate language associated with those passages has to do with the covenantal context that we also see in the biblical language God uses towards humanity. Though it hinges upon unconditional love and acceptance, there’s nothing sexual about it.
So, what’s a minister to do? I made myself a promise several years back that I would not make a doctrinal point at the expense of someone else. I believe that I can uphold a scriptural position without sacrificing the dignity and individuality of others. So, here’s my solution. For Christians, the issue of homosexuality shouldn’t be addressed in the area of conversion (“You’re a Christian, therefore you can’t be gay”). For me, it seems to be more of an issue concerning sanctification. What’s sanctification? It’s the idea that as part of our journey with Christ, there is a slow and gradual change in our behavior. Our likes and dislikes begin to reflect our Maker.
So, how does that work in the gay debate? Well, let’s take a heterosexual male. The New Testament is pretty clear that all sin (though having different ranges of consequence) is equal in spiritual significance. That means there are no “pet” sins that separate us from God more than the others. More significantly, all sin stems from our unwillingness to yield our individuality to God…including the area of sexuality. So for a heterosexual male, Christians celebrate the transformation of his sexual identity using concepts of abstinence, selfless acts of romance, and monogamy. Often times, it takes time for these traits to fully take hold of the male sexual identity – they are entrenched in genetic disposition as much as anything else that makes us human. From what I can tell (and this is going to sound simplistic), the propensity to be gay can be seen in the same way…whether you believe it’s a lifestyle choice or DNA-driven. If God is able change the heart of someone in any area, then over time God can also change the parameters of their sexual orientation.
People are always messing around with the core element of Christianity. Most people say that the good news would be “forgiveness.” I’m not so sure that’s the case. I think the core of Christianity is “change.” It’s the chance to allow God to transform your predispositions towards something more like him. I don’t think homosexuality is any more “wrong” than pride and judgment – which is what most gays hear from the church. But it’s important for anyone who wants to change in any area to know that Christianity promises they can. Now, notice I didn’t say anyone had to change. That’s different than wanting to change. I also didn’t say it was easy to change. But that’s the beauty of the Christian message: unconditional love and acceptance surrounds those who decide to undertake change.
My title is slightly misleading…actually, I just love people. And I love watching God change people as they fellowship with him. We all need God to bring change in our lives. For me, sexual orientation/identity is just as subject to sanctification as gossip, gluttony, or legalism. It falls within the scope of a loving God who sees his reflection in our faces.