Yesterday, I was catching up on some of what I missed over the last couple of days. I came across this post from Monday by Registered Runaway. It’s well-written, and I think the call for people to be honest about where they stand and what they mean is vital if we’re to keep this conversation going. I absolutely agree that we need to stop talking about merely “loving” our LGBTQI neighbors.
I do not want to take away anything from what RR has written. He’s at least 10 times more gracious and tender-hearted than I am, and he’s got a stake in this that I don’t. So if you’re going to only listen to one of us, please make it RR. But if you’re still reading here (after having read the post I linked, of course), then let me move this one step further.
There seems to be a tendency, particularly on the part of people who are unsure of where they stand or who are trying to be more progressive in their faith, to believe that sexual orientation (and sometimes one’s sense of gender, though usually that gets ignored) is not sinful. The sin is in acting on this orientation. Well, let’s examine that, shall we? What’s really being said here?
It certainly isn’t all about whether or not two people who love each other can or even should build a life together. So let’s be honest here. There are only two real things that people mean when they say “acting on” sexual orientation:
- Gay sex
- Gender roles/norms
That’s it. There’s nothing else it even could be. I think it’s time for people to just own that. (It’s not always the case, but it would also be helpful for some people to admit that they just find the idea of gay sex kinda yucky.) I’ve seen some conservative people come right out and say it, but I’ve never heard anyone with more liberal leanings do so. At this point, the conversation is–and will continue to be–stalled until everyone just comes clean about what the real issue is.
The reason it’s important to establish that sexual practices and/or gender roles are at the heart of the matter is that until we’re clear on that, all we’re doing is playing word ping-pong. One side says, “But the Bible says…” and the other side says, “No, it doesn’t,” until everyone is just fed up. So we need to examine why we believe the Bible is or is not clear in those passages and why we are driven to find Scriptural support for our respective positions.
I spent a lot of time examining Scripture on this one and reading on both sides of what at that time I considered a “debate.”* I eventually concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to support what I’d been taught at church. Once I made up my mind, I set to figuring out exactly why so many people are so desperate to hold on to the position I left behind. I determined that it all boiled down to one or both of the reasons I listed above. Since I’m not too particularly concerned with what people do in private, and I’m a raging feminist, neither of those reasons is particularly compelling to me. I suppose that’s why I found it easy to let go of my former beliefs.
Some of you are probably thinking, “But I’m not bothered by gay sex either! And I don’t believe in traditional gender roles!” Okay, then. Let me ask you this. If you still believe the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, then what do you believe the Bible says is wrong about it–the orientation or the action? If you believe that orientation is innate, then you must believe the sin is in “acting on” that orientation, right? So what exactly does that mean? Does it mean a failure to have a complementary relationship, or does it mean the sex act? If you can’t answer those questions with anything that isn’t a variation of one of the above, then you’ve proven my point. If you can’t answer those questions at all, then why do you cling to your certainty that it’s wrong?
We do this with other Scriptures, after all. We do it with things that appear black-and-white. We look for contextual cues to tell us whether there are situations in which even the Ten Commandments could be broken. We examine Paul’s letters and read his exhortations through a cultural lens. It’s not enough to simply repeat an English translation of the Bible, brush the dust off our hands, and say that settles it. That’s often used to admonish people for wanting to have their own way, and it silences anyone who has a personal investment in the matter.**
Until we can be honest about what’s underneath our deeply-held beliefs, we can’t begin to have any kind of reasonable dialogue about it. We have to break open the conversation about the meaning we ascribe to sexual behavior and gender. Otherwise, all we have are fruitless conversations in which we compartmentalize people’s humanity into “being” and “doing” rather than integrated wholes. That, or we reject the integrated whole entirely.
It’s time to be honest about what we mean.
*I no longer view this as a “debate,” because it involves not a discussion of right and wrong but a discussion of people’s humanity and what living life to the full means to them. It’s not fair to make people into issues.
**I am speaking of heterosexual Christians. Whatever journey an individual LGBTQI person is on is that person’s own and it isn’t for me to nullify/validate that.