Thursday, 26 January 2012

Is There Gospel For Homosexuals? (Is God Cruel And Unfair To Homosexuals?)


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.

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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.

Work Cited

. "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.

("UNICEF")

by Rolo Baez

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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.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Is There Gospel For Homosexuals? (Can Someone Be Christian And Gay?)


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.

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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

Monday, 9 January 2012

Is There Gospel For Homosexuals? (Introduction)

As I said in the first post of the ‘Christianity and Sexuality’ series, the topic of homosexuality and Biblical teaching is one that raises tempers. And as I also said, I won’t be addressing it. Rolo, however, will. 

Rolo got in touch with me quite a while ago after reading the blog and from there we got Skyping and have become good friends. He is himself an aspiring young apologist, and his background prior to finding faith in Christ, as well as his continuing spiritual walk, gives him a unique and valuable perspective on this issue.

While I’ve acknowledged 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.

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We are not born into a vacuum. On the contrary, barring an extremely unusual set of circumstances most of us are born into a particular social or cultural context.  Within that context there are almost always general expectations for what should occur in the life of an individual. Even in America where individualism reigns supreme, the average person in some way has their general destiny defined by these societal expectations. For someone born in American or most any culture, finding someone of the opposite sex to love and expressing ones sexuality are paramount among these expectations. Parents don’t usually raise their children with the expectation of either being gay or celibate.  Growing up I was no exception to this general rule. In fact before the age of 15, I simply never questioned the expectation that one day I would find a girl, marry her, and then maybe even have kids with her. 

At the age of 15 during my first semester in high school, however, I realized something was wrong.  My sexuality wasn’t developing like the other boys. Whereas most boys were busy discovering how attractive girls were, I was busy trying to convince myself that I was the slightest bit attracted to them. “Am I gay?” I wondered for the first time in my life. The answer was obvious. Nonetheless, I spent months trying to convince myself I wasn’t gay or that I was at least bisexual.  

Despite the fact that I’d grown up in a fairly secular gay-accepting home, being gay was still not an option in my mind for numerous reasons. Chief among them was the idea that I was a normal kid. In my mind being gay was one of those unfortunate things that happened to other people, but certainly not me. Discovering I was gay meant discovering I wasn’t normal. I was different from other people in a very profound way. No one prepared me for this. During those months when I battled accepting my sexuality, I was anxious, confused, but most of all scared since I didn’t know what to do. Before I could accept my sexuality, I had to figure out what it meant to be a gay man.

It took me several years, but eventually I found my footing again.  While this article isn’t the place to describe that long arduous process in detail, it basically involved me slowly but surely adjusting those same expectations I’d been raised with to incorporate my homosexuality. What this meant was not so much abandoning the idea of finding someone to love and expressing my sexuality, but simply recognizing that as a gay man these things would be somewhat complicated by the fact that I wasn’t attracted to people of the opposite sex. That’s all my homosexuality meant. Of course, with the ever increasing acceptance of homosexuality in the media and in American society in general, this idea of regarding my homosexuality as nothing more than a minor complication became easier to accept. Of course, this was before I became a Christian.

When I became a Christian at the age of 19 one of my main concerns was how my homosexuality fitted with my newfound faith. My stance on homosexuality when I first converted was the typical one assumed by people who had strenuous difficulty reconciling the idea of a loving God who would restrict who a person could love. In other words, I believed God condoned committed monogamous homosexual relationships. Studying the Bible my hope was to find support for my initial position. I didn’t. The more I studied the firmer drawn I was to the traditional Christian stance that participating in homosexual relationships is a sin. This meant for however long I lived I wasn’t going to be fulfilling all the sexual and romantic expectations I’d simply taken for granted as a normal part of a life. Celibacy was my fate now.

Few people are raised to believe they’ll be gay. Even fewer I imagine are raised for a life of celibacy. Yet with little warning, life thrust both of these things upon me. As a result during my first year as a Christian, I had to ask myself three major questions; questions most gay Christians undoubtedly ask themselves. First, “Can someone have a homosexual orientation yet still be a Christian?” Second, “Is it unfair for God to prohibit homosexuals from expressing their sexual and romantic desires?” Finally, “Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ Gospel for homosexuals?” None of these questions were particularly easy ones to answer. All of them required diligent and patient study of the deceptively simple religion called Christianity. My intentions for the next post are to briefly share some of the answers I’ve come across in my short time studying. While it would be extremely presumptuous to say a mere twenty one year old college student has fully and definitively answered these three crucial questions related to the issue of homosexuality, I nonetheless hope to provide both to those interested in the Christian perspective as well as to those who are like me personally affected by this issue, proof that the Christian perspective is much more than “God hates fags.” 
by Rolo Baez