thoughts on homosexuality, tolerance & christianity

A while back I sat and had coffee with an 18-year-old boy who had huge questions about gay_marriage-wedding_cake11life.  He had been thrown out of his house, his mother had died and he had been neglected and abused by his father.  With tearful eyes he told me that his treatment by his father caused many questions in his sexual orientation and that he now considered himself gay and was dating a man.

That same year I was working with a single mother who was suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder because she grew up homeless.  She routinely had little sleep, feared for her life and was robbed and beaten.  When she found herself pregnant and eventually with a toddler, she found herself zoning out as a result of her posttraumatic stress disorder.  Her child was placed in foster care for the safety of the child.

I dedicated a lot of time to helping the young mother.

While this woman eventually got her son back, I am now faced with a dreadful question of my own morality.  Why did I rally more around this single traumatized mother than the 18-year-old kid who was hurting just as bad?  Neither of these people chose the state of which they were living, rather, admittedly it was from their experience in life.   Both were abused.  However, some would feel compassion for one and judgment for the other.

It is both bad science and bad theology to say that people are born gay.  It is bad science because science relies so much on proof and bad theology because we place a limiting factor on God when we assert this.  I believe that having posttraumatic stress disorder and being sexually confused are both distortions of God’s intention for us.  Both are a result of a fallen world.

Being a pastor at a church I get asked all the time what my position is on gay marriage, and more in general, homosexuality.  My position is that first I have some repenting to do for treating this young man any differently than the young woman.   While I never ditched him, my fear of dealing with the issue paralyzed me.  PTSD just seemed so much easier to deal with.

I will always handle anyone with the dignity that their humanity demands.  Regardless of the cultural labels people pick up along the way, people deserve to be loved.  This is a truth that I believe to be self-evident.  Gay or straight, your humanity means that you have dignity and deserve love.   I cannot tolerate the poor treatment of the homosexual community by anyone in the church.  It seems unthinkable to me that someone who had their mind centered on Jesus would offer hurtful and judgmental words to someone who doesn’t think like them. Unfortunately the organization that I am a part of has made mistakes over the years.  However I believe in the beauty and redemptive potential of this organization because ultimately Jesus is the head of this group.

Just as much as I feel sex outside of marriage is not God’s design for marriage, I also believe that homosexual unions are not God’s design for marriage.  As I have studied the entire narrative of the Bible I think it is exponentially clear that God’s design for marriage is between a man and a woman.  Not only does the original marriage highlight God’s love for us but also a biblical marriage will put the gospel on display.  While traditional marriage is failing at an alarming rate I have also seen the statistics that show that marriages between very committed evangelical persons who report a personal relationship with Jesus have about a 75% success rate.  Traditional marriage is still failing at an alarming rate and will fail for the same reasons why gay marriages will fail.  Because, love is not all that you need (Sorry, Paul, John, Ringo & George).  You need trust, commitment, consistent belief, a growing selflessness and a host of other things.  Either way you slice it, people are flawed in their humanity and when two selfish people get married, they are going to have problems.

I believe that what the gay community wants me to say as a pastor is that homosexuality is not sinful.  I can’t say that.  Because I think that homosexuality is not God’s design for human relationships, I know what is in store for me, I will be branded as a bigot and as someone who hates. I think that many have bought into a cultural lie that says if you don’t fully accept everything about me then you’re hateful.  This is simply a juvenile way of thinking.   There is no logic or reason attached to this argument. I love and want to include anyone.  Jesus himself did not tolerate sin, he ate with sinners, met with them, healed them and loved them, but when it came down to business, he had an agenda, he said go and sin no more.    An encounter with Jesus changed everything about who these people were.

I reject the notion that supporting traditional marriage is somehow hateful or discriminatory.   This kind of thinking is the opposite of tolerance.  Tolerance is the ability to listen to another person’s beliefs, respectfully disagree and still love someone.  I think that in order for any healing to be done between the church and the homosexual community, there needs to be more real tolerance and repenting on both sides.  Being called a hateful person because of what I believe to be true is just as intolerant as being called a slur because of one’s sexual orientation.

My aim in this post is not to start a fight or to alienate people.  I simply want to respond to all of those who have candidly asked me what I think on the issue.  Know that if you are reading this post and cooking up a firestorm of a comment, I probably won’t respond.  I don’t want a fight and I don’t need the last word.  I hope you can tolerate my beliefs.  However if you would like to have a civilized conversation, please leave a comment and I will be happy to reply.

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  • Rocktilwepapa

    A very well thought out and honest essay! God’s blessings on your ministry,

  • LB

    I see what you are saying but I think it is very generalized to use one person as an example. The boy who had been sexually abused is not the case in most people’s lives who are homosexual. In fact, a lot of them would probably tell you that if they could choose, they would not be gay as it is a difficult thing to be in this society. I disagree with you on multiple points but your weakest argument is using one person as an example to generalize an entire population.

    • reclaimbeauty

      Hi LB,
      I agree with you that the “case study” approach is too narrow to prove a broad point. I used it not to make generalized statements but to show my personal struggle with the issue and to repent for the way that I handled pastoring these people. I avoided the issue because I didn’t know how nor did I have the desire to deal with it. When I look back on these two, I wish I would have done some things differently.
      Thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate your comment
      Dave

  • Tyler E

    well said

  • nrs17

    Very well said. Thank you for putting this together. Do you have any numbers supporting the abuse theory? As a Christian it makes perfect sense that God’s plan for a human could be skewed by sin (abuse), but people are often skeptical and defensive, and I suppose rightly so, as this would solidify that homosexuality is a result of sinful behavior rather than simple preference. I have always wondered if a study exists that would support the argument.

  • Steven Kwok

    Hi David. God bless you and your ministry. I too suffer a lot of conflict over how to handle this, but because I am not a pastor or a deacon, I have more latitude in my opinion as it does not set the example for my congregation or the church body. In this way, I am on the opposite side of where you stand. I wish Prop 8 had never hit the ballot. Then I would have never had to vote No on it, and the greater Christian body wouldn’t have received so much public condemnation for pushing the yes vote (which also gave a closer association between Christians and Mormons, which is another topic entirely).

    I think the most key thing that we agree on, is that the Christian community needs to stop this image of hate. Unfortunately that is probably not possible. There will always be a loud subset of people who will spew hate. They cannot be silenced, and in this case, are going to be almost undoubtedly associated with Christians regardless of who they are or what they believe. But in this way, show more love, care, etc towards homosexuals who come to us in pain is the way to go. I’d, however, like to toss important case studies for your consideration.

    1. Personal: I have a friend who grew up in a Christian family and in a good biblically based evangelical Christian church. A couple years ago he tearfully came out to me and my (now) wife. He explained how long he’d been fighting his same-sex attraction and struggling with it. Then he asked us if he was an “abomination”, if God “hated him”, and if he was going to hell. Is his sexual orientation a result of his life? I cannot know, but I am not aware of any traumatic experiences or other driving factors. He is simply attracted to other guys, not girls, period. In many ways, he felt forced to make a choice: his identity in his sexual attraction or his identity in Christ. We did our best to counsel him that the two were not mutually exclusive. God’s love for us (despite his hate for sin) and Christ’s saving grace on the cross covers all sin. Christ’s desire for us to know and experience the superior and greater life lived the ideal sinless way does not, in my opinion, supersede the fact that we are to believe and be saved of our free will and choosing (I am not a 5 point Calvinist, if that’s not already clear).
    What then? I would say that his same sex attraction is not the ideal. Is it a sin? I have grappled with the key verses myself and I have come to the conclusion: I cannot make a conclusion. There is good evidence that homosexual acts are inherently a sin. I would also say there is good evidence that homosexual acts were also a cultural association with paganism, not love. I say the same about shaved heads for women and wearing head coverings (cultural association with prostitution). And the same about permitting women to speak in church (no idea why Paul said this). Given the two possibilities, why do I choose “not a sin”? Because it grants me greater love. Because I believe it removes a barrier to sharing the Gospel. Because I will not let one possible interpretation block souls from an eternity with God. If indeed homosexuality is a sin, then God will convict gay Christians and perhaps they will repent. But if homosexuality is a sin, how will I explain to Christ at the Bema seat that I studied the Pharisees and yet acted like them?

    But homosexuality is not the ideal. I would say that it is not ideal to have a gay pastor. It is not ideal to have a gay deacon. Shawna (God bless her) is a pastor. Praise God for her and her ministry, but even this could easily be seen as “not ideal”, could it not? But is it a sin? Surely not. I say gay marriage is not the ideal, but it will not be me who stands in its way. Christ did not work to abolish prostitution. He defended the sinner, and said simply “go and sin no more”. The prostitutes own immorality convicts her of her sin. Christ had no need to say “go and prostitute no more”. I feel the same way about gay marriage. I also feel the church has no right to dictate it at the legislative level.

    2. Exodus International: Have you read the recent article about Exodus International disbanding? The president had some interesting words: http://exodusinternational.org/2013/06/i-am-sorry/. But on top of that, he himself has same sex attractions. This has not changed over the course of his marriage, children, and years in ministry. It is, however, his choice to go 180 against his own nature and choose the ideal marriage than pursue something less than ideal. Why do I bring this up? Sexual attraction is a desire, much like other desires (though typically stronger than say… a desire to eat cake). Is this “genetic”? Is it hereditary? Is it environmental? Is it developmental? Is it a mutation? Does it really matter? It is a base desire, like all sexual urges. God gave us something good and ideal to fulfill each of our desires. There are good foods to eat. Good words to read. And there is love and marriage and sex. I believe fast food is less than ideal. I also believe violent movies are less than ideal. I also believe gay marriage is less than ideal. But I will also not legislate OR call sinful any of these things. If someone eats fast food (to the point of gluttony), or watches violent movies (generating wrath), or indulges in multi-partner homosexual relations (succumbing to lust), then I will point it out and God will convict them of their sin. But otherwise, Christ freed us from the chains of the law and I will not submit myself or another again to the yoke of slavery.

    Can someone choose to abstain from a homosexual lifestyle even when they feel homosexual attraction? Yes, it is possible, by God’s grace. Do I demand it of non-Christians by writing it into law? Certainly no. Do I demand it for a ‘true Christian’, no.

    God’s power and grace can cover all things and can help us overcome all things. But I no more demand the homosexual live a heterosexual life (or a chaste one) than I demand anything of any Christian. I will counsel those who are immersed in sin. I will advise those towards God’s ideal. I will encourage discipleship in Christ. And I will love.

  • Kj

    Hi. Thank you for posting your stance. Do you have anyone in your family that is gay? My sister believes she is, and it is a whole new world and a tough can of worms when the issue hits so close to home. I have told her the same thing: that I love her but I don’t believe this is God’s design. What more should I say or do? She sits next to me and cries because she doesn’t want to be rejected. But even when I tell her I love her no matter what she still feels a little rejected. I have a young daughter, and am concerned about that as well. How can I fully love my sister, welcome her and support her even though I don’t believe it is Gods design???

  • Marynn

    Thank you for writing this post, I really appreciate it! My husband and I lead the youth group at our church, and while I’ve thought pretty much the same things that you say here, I’ve had difficulty finding a way to express those thoughts clearly and coherently. I’ll definitely reread this post before we have our next youth group meeting, as the kids are always talking about this issue.

    On a separate note, I’m also trying to start a healing ministry/program for survivors of sexual abuse. I’d thought of calling it Reclaim the Beauty – Fredericksburg before finding your blog. Do you mind if I keep that name, or would you prefer for me to change it? I really like what you have to say on this blog, so I definitely wouldn’t mind being associated with your site, no matter how incidental, but I also don’t want to steal away any of your online “hits.” Let me know what you think!