This is the second article in the guest series by Rolo that began here. As before, while I acknowledge that this is a sensitive matter, I ask that potential commenters respond to Rolo with respect, recognizing that he doesn’t approach it as an aloof academic.
Amongst some Christians, especially more fundamentalist protestants, there is an understanding that the terms Christian and gay are oxymoronic. In other words some Christians see the Bible as not only condemning homosexual activity, but also as condemning simply having a homosexual orientation thus making it impossible for anyone to be both gay and Christian. This is no minor issue. The fact that many gay people see it as impossible to reconcile their sexuality with the Christian faith has unfortunately led many Christians who struggle with same sex desires to feel overwhelmed by guilt and shame. Even worse, it’s led many gays to reject Christianity altogether. With the stakes of the issue in mind, in this article we will be examining probably the most common arguments typically given by Christians to claim gays are damned. By the end of the article hopefully one more barrier to a full appreciation of the Biblical view on homosexuality will be knocked down.
The central argument given as to why a Christian can’t be gay goes something like this.
The Bible condemns homosexual desires
Homosexuals have an inherent predisposition towards homosexual desires
Christians should repudiate any sinful desires
Therefore it is impossible to be both gay and Christian since homosexuals have an inherent predisposition towards sinful desires
As pervasive as this sort of thinking may be amongst many people, its underlying logic is actually deeply at odds with central Christian convictions.
To illustrate one reason Christians should reject this way of thinking, take into account the issue of genetics. According to many scientists, genetics play a role in many behaviors most Christians would call sinful. For example the Bible condemns drunkenness yet there is evidence that the tendency to alcoholism has a genetic basis. This leads to a major problem for a Christian wanting to accept the argument’s logic. First, if having no inherent predisposition to sin is a requirement to be a Christian then that would mean that anyone who simply had a genetic makeup that predisposed them to some sinful behavior would be excluded from the body of Christ. How they actually deal with their sinful predisposition wouldn’t even matter. One could carry his or her cross every day and continuously deny their desires yet the fact that they even have them is enough to secure their eternal damnation. Few Christians would dare even imply this conclusion.
The entire argument assumes an understanding of what it means to be a Christian which would be anathema to Jesus, Paul, or any of the New Testament writers. Nowhere in the entire New Testament is it taught that one must have no inherent predisposition towards sin in order to be a Christian. In fact the New Testament implies the opposite. The New Testament makes clear man’s inherent predisposition to sin as most explicitly stated by passages like Romans 3:23 and John 3:19-20. Beyond a few passages, there are much more central themes in the New Testament that speak against such an understanding. One could, for example, easily ask of someone who held to the above argument the following question, “If having no inherent predispositions to sin is even a possibility then why do Christians need the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit and why did Jesus have to incarnate and die for our sins?” As should be clear the premise of the entire argument is unbiblical to its core. The Bible teaches in no uncertain terms that mankind as it exists in its preresurrection, flesh and blood state is thoroughly infested with inherent predispositions to sin. Ultimately the argument that many Christians use to deny the ability of gays to be Christians is one that would inexorably lead to all people being denied the ability to become Christians. Most Christians would hopefully agree this is incompatible with the message of Jesus.
Last, but certainly not least we have a third argument many people see as highly convincing. In several places in scripture we have passages like the following,
I Corinthians 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God.
I Timothy 1:9 realizing that law is not intended for a righteous person, but for lawless and rebellious people, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 1:10 sexually immoral people, homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, perjurers – in fact, for any who live contrary to sound teaching.
The message of these passages seems perfectly clear; homosexuals aren’t eligible for salvation regardless of whether or not they’re repentant. Undoubtedly, this is the interpretation many Christians and homosexuals walk away with. It, however, simply isn’t a justified interpretation. To begin with, the passages don’t just condemn homosexuals, but also liars, thieves, the verbally abusive among many others. Consequently, if we take this passage to mean even repentant homosexuals are unable to receive salvation then logically we would have to include liars, thieves, the verbally abusive, and everyone else the passages condemns. According to such logic, if one were to tell one lie and thus become a liar, steal something and thus become a thief, or call a friend a F!@%er in a fit of anger then such an act would make one completely ineligible for participation in the Kingdom of God. This is obviously absurd. Just as with the argument dealt with in the previous paragraph, the present argument commits the same flaw of making salvation virtually impossible. A far better way to understand the passages is to see them as relevant to people actively or unrepentantly engaging in such behaviors as lying, stealing, slander, and of course homosexuality. Salvation is available for all who repent and put their faith in Jesus as the following passage make evident,
Acts 3:19 Therefore repent and turn back so that your sins may be wiped out.
Throughout this article I’ve concerned myself with some of the issues Christians have with accepting gays into the Body of Christ. In this concluding section I would like to even more directly address any fellow Christian reading this article. For most Christians being called a Pharisee, as if you resemble a member of the strict religious sect that opposed Jesus, is not a complement. After all, as indicated in verses like Luke 11:40 or Matt 15:1-10, Jesus did not have a very high view of the Pharisees. In particular, Jesus took issue with the Pharisees blocking people from salvation. This is explicitly stated in passages like Matthew 23:13 and Luke 11:52
Matthew 23:13 “But woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You keep locking people out of the kingdom of heaven! For you neither enter nor permit those trying to enter to go in.
Luke 11:52 Woe to you experts in religious law! You have taken away the key to knowledge! You did not go in yourselves, and you hindered those who were going in.”
Whereas Jesus made it a point to reach out to tax collectors, prostitutes, and other grievous sinners with an offer not of cheap forgiveness, but salvation through sincere and costly repentance, the Pharisees saw fit only to condemn people. When it comes to the issue of whether or not gays can be Christians, it is safe to say that many Christians have behaved more like Pharisees then like Jesus. We have made our condemnation of homosexuality clear, while slamming the door in the faces of gay people who want to come to Christ. Few can deny the damning opinion most people have on the orthodox Christian view of homosexuality. If we are to have any hope of reversing this adverse opinion of Christianity then we must take seriously Jesus’s example. We must open not close our doors.
From personal experience, I can say while for the most part my experience as a gay Christian has been more than blessed there have been times when I’ve felt the engrained chill many Christians have for homosexuals in general. On the one hand, I hear plenty of pious affirmations that Christians should love everyone. On the other hand, to this day I can still remember how awkward the conversation between me and the head pastor of the church I currently go to became when I told him I was gay. Like so many Christians he too believed it was impossible to be both gay and Christian. My only piece of advice to those longing to join the Kingdom of God, yet encountering hostility is to do what I and many other gays do. Follow Jesus.
by Rolo Baez