This is the third 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.
Sexuality is not an aspect of our existence which simply confines itself to the bedroom. Even further, sexuality is not just some weak desire we humans have. Our sexuality, rather, is a potent complex of desires that permeate, drive, and in many ways define our life. Perhaps more than most, homosexuals, who as a whole are marginalized as a result of their sexuality, understand this truth. At the very least, I feel this to be true of my own experience. Undoubtedly, part of if not the reason many people are so repulsed by the traditional Christian sexual ethic, Christians included, is because of the daunting demands it places on this potent complex of desires called sexuality.
The traditional Christian ethic regarding sexuality itself isn’t complex at all. In fact, on the surface it’s simple enough. When it comes to ethical principles, though, the complex part usually isn’t stating the principle, but bringing it to life in the real world. According to Christian tradition, the only place where sexuality can be expressed in all its fullness and richness is in the union of man and woman called marriage. This principle is flat out unacceptable to many people. While most people can readily agree with traditional Christian ethics when it comes to the golden rule or murder, the traditional Christian take on sexuality is undoubtedly an epicenter of controversy. Even among Christians the issue is highly contentious with legions of Christians challenging the traditional stance. Much of the intense controversy doesn’t even include homosexuality specifically.
But when the issue of homosexuality is added into the already volatile mix the controversy becomes almost violently impassioned. The fangs and claws come out. There are certainly numerous reasons why this is the case. A particularly paramount reason is the fact that unlike their heterosexual counterparts, homosexuals don’t have the option of at least finding someone they naturally find attractive to marry. Homosexuals must spend their entire lives reigning in their sexuality. That, though, is just one part of it.
Perhaps the greater part of the issue lies with the questions inevitably raised by it. Chief among them is the question, “If God is a loving Heavenly Father then why did he create homosexuals; why did he create people with strong, compelling desires for the same sex only to command them to deny these desires for the rest of their lives?” It’s a sensitive question. For homosexuals considering or committing to traditional Christian teachings it’s a weighty one that requires either the punch to be taken out of it or an equally weighty answer. The issues around this question hit the heart of it for numerous people. Needless to say, I can’t settle every problem lurking in this region in one blog post. Nonetheless I hope to at least provide a few insights many people overlook when wrestling with this question. As an indicator of the potential breadth of this topic, allow me to flag the fact that in this post I am going to be addressing the problems primarily with folks in mind who already have, and are committed to, an essentially Christian worldview. I hope that if you’re not within that category then you’ll still get something from reading what follows, but I appreciate that for some this post won’t address their most burning issues and may even raise some new questions; I know and I ask you not to think that I am therefore unaware of where you’re coming from. I am; this article is just heading in a different direction, forgive me. Now caveats aside, we’ll continue.
Every year around six thousand babies are born with Down syndrome; a genetic disease which leaves its victims with chronic severe physical and mental problems. Alongside this every year around one thousand five hundred babies are born with Spina bifada. Like Down syndrome, Spina Bifada is a genetic disease which can cause a person to be wheelchair bound for the rest of their life. Finally, according to UNICEF’s 2005 report on the state of the world’s children, over one billion children live their lives under crushing poverty. These are all heartbreaking statistics, yet they make a point. Many Christians argue that God, as a loving Heavenly Father wouldn’t deny homosexuals the pursuit of their romantic and sexual desires, because the denial of such paramount desires would lead to homosexuals having an unfulfilling life. Furthermore, since homosexuals don’t choose to have same sex desires this would make any command against these desires even more “cruel” and “out of character” for God. This argument is compelling to scores of people. Given the above statistics, however, it shouldn’t be. It is inconceivable that any Christian would seriously argue that God would allow children to be born into horrific poverty and squalor, to be born with debilitating diseases like Down syndrome and Spina Bifada, and yet argue that what God commands of homosexuals is too cruel since it would lead them to have unfulfilling lives. People who use such arguments need to take a serious look at the world around them. God allows plenty of suffering, oppression, and unfulfilled desires to occur in our fallen world; much of it beyond the control of the people experiencing it.
The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that in Christ we are children of God (Gal 3:26). To be children of God is no minor privilege. According to Bible passages such as Galatians 3:23-4:7, being children of God means being heirs to the promise of Abraham and subsequently the Kingdom of God. Based on our exalted status as children of God, some argue that God, wanting his children to be happy like any parent, wouldn’t deny homosexuals the fulfillment of their same sex desires. As common as such thinking may be in some quarters of Christianity, however, it shatters when thrown against a wall of sound exegesis. First, anyone who thinks along these lines needs to read the book of Job. The entirety of the book of Job is a rebuttal against this very notion. Through the course of the book, Job is allowed to endure the pain of losing his wealth, family, friends, and even his health. His blameless character before God doesn’t spare him from suffering. If the Old Testament example of Job isn’t enough to explode the above notion, then the New Testament offers an infinitely more poignant example. In the New Testament Jesus Christ is portrayed as the Son of God. Furthermore, the New Testament also portrays Jesus Christ as being harshly abandoned and ultimately crucified by the very people he was supposed to bring salvation to. If being a child of God means God wanting us to be “happy” then the New Testament offers us a doozy of a problem. Those who adhere to such a notion must inevitably ask themselves, “If God allowed his sinless son, Jesus, to face a life of such grievous hardship then why should we believe that we as sinners should receive any better than him? Why should we believe it beyond God’s will to command homosexuals to deny their same sex desires when God commanded obedience unto death from Jesus?”
It is difficult to overstate just how powerful our sexual desires can be. Not a few, balk at the demands God makes on our sexual desires. Arguably, even more recoil in disbelief at the harsher demands God makes of homosexuals. Some to the point of questioning the very idea that God as a loving, gracious Heavenly Father would even command homosexuals to live with their sexual and romantic desires unfulfilled. When we examine the evidence of the real world and Scripture, however, we find such a conclusion to be profoundly unwarranted. In our fallen world, intense hardship and suffering is a ubiquitous, brute fact. As the New Testament consistently says, Christians may have to suffer more not less than unbelievers. With these things considered, those Christians who argue that God’s commands against the expression of homosexual desires is inconsistent with his gracious, loving nature need to be consistent themselves. If they argue God’s commands regarding homosexuality are too “cruel” and “unfair” then they must take the logical step of rejecting God’s handling of all of Creation.
As a necessary final point, many people while accepting the basic rational of the arguments presented both in this and the last article may find themselves still wondering how Christianity can possibly be presented as an appealing option to any homosexual. It’s certainly a fair point. In both articles we have dealt with some of the obstacles people have concerning homosexuality and Christianity. It, thus, falls to the next article to build an actual bridge between homosexuals and Christianity. For the next article we will be dealing with the insight which radically changed how I lived out my life as a gay Christian; we will finally be looking into the Gospel for Homosexuals.
. "Facts about Down Syndrome." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 08 Jun 2011. Web. 16 Nov 2011.
("Centers for Disease Control and Prevention")
. "Spina Bifida Facts." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Mar 2011. Web. 16 Nov 2011.
"Childhood Under Threat The State of theWorld." UNICEF. UNICEF, 29 Oct 2005. Web. 16 Nov 2011.
by Rolo Baez
Since the above brought us into contact with the problem of evil and suffering, you can find a couple of articles I wrote on that topic here and here.