Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sexuality and the Bible, Part 1: Getting Personal

When is something considered a sin? When you do something that hurts someone? When you momentarily don't want to do the right thing? When you have ongoing, long-term desires to do something you know is wrong?

Some questions don't have easy answers. This is one of them: is homosexuality sinful?

The issue of same-sex attraction has been mostly dismissed by the church. Many Christians call intercourse between two people of the same sex sinful and leave it at that.

"Being gay is about being in love. It's not about sex."~Hannah Hart

Queerness isn't a clear-cut issue. It's not all about sex, firstly. What would you say to the Christian lesbian couple who live chastely together in a sex-less relationship, offering companionship and support but not the physical side of intimacy? Is it right, wrong, or just okay? Why?

If it's just the sex that's wrong, then is it still okay for me to fall in love with another woman? Is it okay for two people to love each other, share their lives together, financially support each other, live together, go out together...as long as they're not having sex?

Queers are no different from straight people in that 99% of our time isn't spent having sex. One married gay man was asked by someone at his church, "What do you do in bed?" His answer: "The same thing you do: we sleep."

Which isn't to say sex isn't a part of their marriage. But straight married couples have sex, yet we don't define their marriage based on that fact alone. There's a whole lot else that goes into a relationship. In addressing same-sex issues, the church needs to address all these aspects.

More and more I'm hearing Christians say that it's the general act of sexually engaging with a person of the same sex that is sinful. That definition makes more sense in light of what we now understand scientifically about sexual orientation. Some of it is a result of our genes, but it's also affected by factors in the womb. We're born already programmed to fall in love with who we'll fall in love with, and we cannot change that orientation. Understanding the sex act as a sin makes sense of why God doesn't change our same-sex attractions.

You've noticed by now I haven't brought up any Scripture. Today I wanted to get us thinking and asking questions. I want us to take care we define our terms. It could determine someone's future.

Let's say you believe same-sex desires aren't in themselves sinful. Acting on them is the sinful part. In theory, this sounds alright. All of us have some time or another where we really want to punch someone in the face or cuss them out--express our anger violently. The desire rises up, but if you squash it down and don't act on it, you haven't done anything wrong. You're not guilty of any sin.

But the difference is this urge to violence isn't a pervasive emotion. You don't prefer violence, you simply get the urge every now and then, quickly subsuming it beneath other desires.

If every time you get angry, you struggle with the desire to punch someone, we'd say you've got deeper problems and send you to a psychologist. If every time you saw a married person, you wanted to sleep with them, we'd say you've got a problem. If someone constantly wanted to murder people around them, we'd say they've got issues. Not acting on the murderous desire isn't enough; there's something else that needs to be fixed.

You can say that it's the sex act, not the desire, which is sinful, but queers still hear the message: "You want the wrong thing. You're desires are wrong. If you wanted the right thing, you wouldn't have to repress your sexuality. You have a problem. And it will never go away."

This is why so many gay, bi, and pansexual individuals in the church come to hate themselves. These messages tell us that how we are built is inherently flawed. And because we know we cannot change, we end up despising ourselves.

God never designed us to hate ourselves. Just look at "Love your neighbor as yourself." This verse presumes you accept, appreciate, and take care of yourself. People who loathe themselves tend to hate others too. They struggle with anger and bitterness. God designed us to love and appreciate ourselves, because we are his beautiful, beloved children.

Self-loathing is an epidemic among queer Christians. It's the main message heard in well-meaning churches and the effects are devastating. Thousands of queers commit suicide every year. That need to change.

We need to take a look at whether or not same-sex attraction and behavior are sinful. And if they are, we need to understand what and why, and be very careful how we dialogue about this. We need to be educated and find a better way to share God's love with those who are hurting.

Word count: 996.