Is it Good for Gays and Lesbians to be Alone?

On a long drive, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with my wife and our niece, Dana, about homosexuality from a Christian perspective. In the discussion, a few points came up related to the interpretation of Genesis 2 that I want to share.

On the one hand, many have asked why, if homosexuality is perfectly acceptable, we are given a story about God creating a man and a woman. I think the answer is pretty simple: the narrative logic of the story requires it. If a story was told about a first couple who could not have offspring, say two men or two women, then that first story would also be the last story.

This means that the story being about a man and a woman may be due to narrative constraints rather than concerns to offer a normative model.

On the other hand, the very same story asserts that it is not good for the human being to be alone, followed by the creation of another person so that the two can be life partners with all that entails, including sexual intimacy.

Many conservative Christians have said, in effect, that it is good for gays and lesbians to be alone. Let’s take a closer look and consider the options. If we accept (as the evidence indicates pretty unambiguously) that there are human beings who are sexually attracted to people of the same gender and not to those of the opposite gender, then their options seem to be the following:

1) They can enter into a relationship with someone of the same gender to whom they are attracted.

2) They can enter into a relationship with someone of the opposite gender in spite of not being attracted to them.

3) They can remain celibate.

The pertinent question for those reflecting on the relevance of Genesis 2 to their view of homosexual relations seems to me to be which of the above options you consider to be appropriate for someone attracted to people of the same gender. If you choose #3 or even #2, are you not essentially saying that it is good for such human beings to be alone, to be lonely, to lack the sort of intimacy with another human being Genesis 2 says is good? And if so, aren’t you disagreeing with what are supposedly the words of none other than God in that passage?

 

  • http://anziulewicz.livejournal.com PolishBear

    I’m reminded of a commentator on a Southern Baptist website who wrote: I can’t reconcile how someone could feel he or she was born with strong homosexual feelings, love Christ and yet take on the limitations of what seem to me to be straightforward biblical teachings. That’s agonizing, and I don’t really understand it.’

    And this is the weird thing: ‘Straighforward biblical teachings’ should at least be understandable to the average person. So often I hear it said, ‘our ways are not God’s ways,’ as if God were some sort of inscrutable alien being.

    Consider The Golden Rule: We do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
    Put all the religious dogma and ritual aside, and this is what our laws boil down to. We don’t lie or bear false witness because we won’t want people to lie to us. We don’t steal from other people because we do not want people stealing from us. We don’t betray the trust of our spouses because we wouldn’t want them doing the same to us. Same goes for killing and a variety of other ‘bad’ behaviors.

    And yet somehow there seems to be this sheepish adherence to a double standard for Gay and Straight people. If you’re Straight, it’s all so wonderful to be able to find a compatible person of the opposite sex, court and get engaged and marry and live happily ever after. But if you’re Gay, all of that is completely out of the question. Don’t even bother trying to find a compatible person. Lesbians and Gay men are precluded from any hope for romance or commitment. Gay people are simply told: Gosh, sorry about that. You make us uncomfortable; acknowledging your existence means we might have to revise what we’ve been teaching all these years – meaning, Whoops! No infallible Magisterium or ‘literal’ Bible … so you’ll just have to sacrifice your life and any hope of finding somebody to love. Tough luck, kid. God said it, I don’t necessarily understand it, but there it is.’

    I wish more conservative Christians would at least try to wrap their minds around why this makes so little sense to Gay people.

  • http://youtu.be/fJ1Z6hWzfsA Keika

    I agree with your statement that “Many conservative Christians have said, in effect, that it is good for gays and lesbians to be alone.” And because of this, the liberal media and Hollywood have wished, just the opposite. They have raised the exposure level of gay pride to make it seem that there is a plethora of homosexual activity in this country. Asked in polls what percentage they believe the gay population is in America, the average citizen replies 25% to 35%. When actually the true number is somewhere around 3.8%.

    http://gaylife.about.com/od/comingout/a/population.htm

    As a person who openly confesses to be a flaming heterosexual, I have walked into the face of another male and both of us, suddenly blush, feel uncomfortable and cordially separate until there is a parsec of space between us. Yet, we glance around to see if the other is still in the building. Is it sexual attraction or a need for togetherness to not be alone, that makes a bonding feel eminent?

    • Nathaniel

      Is there a point somewhere in your comment?

      • http://youtu.be/fJ1Z6hWzfsA Keika

        Yes. Don’t force homosexuality on me.

        • http://anziulewicz.livejournal.com PolishBear

          DEAR KEIKA:
          I don’t anyone is capable of “forcing” homosexuality on you. But consider: You have never had to worry about being fired from your job, or subjected to violence of vandalism, or denied the right to marry the person you love, solely on the basis of your sexual orientation. Gay people shouldn’t have to worry about it, either. Sorry if it makes you uncomfortable.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lynette-Cowper/100000495679777 Lynette Cowper

          Unless someone is making you date or marry a person of the same gender, no one is forcing homosexuality on you.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/comingoutchristian/ Kimberly

    Nope, not even close. Hopefully some of your readers will also visit my blog on Pathoes and talk with some of us who are living Christians lives of faithful commitment with spouses of the same gender.  

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/comingoutchristian/

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Hi Kimberly! I am a big fan of your blog, and am curious what your statement “Nope, not even close” is referring to. Are you saying that in what I have written here, which is an attempt as a liberal Christian to offer a case for same-sex relationships that might persuade even more conservative Christians, I have failed miserably? Or did you mean something else?

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/comingoutchristian/ Kimberly

        Sorry, sorry, sorry – no I was answering the question of the title of your blog. Your content is right on. I point people toward my blog because I am feeling a little grumpy today with the naysayers who turn up to talk about gays and lesbians instead of talking with us. You are NOT one of those but I imagine a few will crop up anytime a Christian has anything kind and generous to contribute to conversations about the lives of LGBT folks. Very sorry my Nope came across wrong!

        • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          No problem! I am happy to hear your clarification, and glad to hear that I (probably) wasn’t responsible for contributing to your feeling grumpy today! :-)

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/comingoutchristian/ Kimberly

            :) – you most certainly were not the one responsible.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Those of you who frequent Reddit may also want to see the conversation about this blog post that is taking place there: http://www.reddit.com/r/Christianity/comments/wfweb/is_it_good_for_gays_and_lesbians_to_be_alone/

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

    If you choose #3 or even #2, are you not essentially saying that it is good for such human beings to be alone, to be lonely, to lack the sort of intimacy with another human being Genesis 2 says is good?

    I think #3 is the most consistent with the Bible’s teachings. To be celibate, however, is not the same as being lonely. Jesus and Paul note that celibacy can be good.

    And if so, aren’t you disagreeing with what are supposedly the words of none other than God in that passage?

    No, since woman is created for man. You may reply that this is due to a narrative constraint but I find this reply lacking. If God is behind both creation and revelation then, as an omnipotent being, He was not constrained in what He created. He could have created two “men” (or something very close to a human male) that could reproduce with each other.

    Moreover, your question cuts against your position. To embrace #1 is to disagree with the word of God when it states homosexual intercourse if not to be practiced.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Thank you for your comment. Let me start with the end of your comment. Trying to short-circuit discussion by claiming that one view (unsurprisingly your own) is what “the word of God…states” is unhelpful and unpersuasive. The “word of God” allowed for divorce, yet Jesus managed to attribute that Moses and suggest that it wasn’t an expression of God’s ideal. If the principles of scripture lead us to disagree with what some passages say, there is plenty of precedent for that, going back to Jesus himself but also to a variety of authors before and after.

      Second, the story as understood in the Jewish tradition depicts a human being as being split into two halves. Anyone who has found that special someone may well have used that very language of “finding one’s other half.” To insist that the story has to be about the gender of the person who fulfils that role is to allow a tangential element of the story trump the central one.

      Finally, Jesus and Paul both view celibacy as a calling. Not all people who are attracted to people of the same gender feel called to celibacy. And my post nowhere excludes the possibility that some may be so called, but it rightly assumes, I think, that not all are so called.

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

        James:

        Trying to short-circuit discussion by claiming that one view (unsurprisingly your own) is what “the word of God…states” is unhelpful and unpersuasive.

        Your question already assumed that the one who replies to your question believes Genesis 2 is the word of God. I’ve merely applied that assumption to the entire Bible. Anyway, take the following as assumptions on my part in answering your questions:

        (1) The Bible is the word of God.

        (2) The Bible prohibits homosexual intercourse.

        The “word of God” allowed for divorce, yet Jesus managed to attribute that Moses and suggest that it wasn’t an expression of God’s ideal. If the principles of scripture lead us to disagree with what some passages say, there is plenty of precedent for that, going back to Jesus himself but also to a variety of authors before and after.

        I am aware of attempts to interpret the passages in the Bible that seem to deal with homosexuality as prohibiting only temple prostitution, pederasty, or the like. I would like to find them convincing but I don’t.

        To insist that the story has to be about the gender of the person who fulfils that role is to allow a tangential element of the story trump the central one.

        I’m not insisting that Genesis 2 is about gender and not about other things (it has many layers obviously). I tried to consider the Bible as a whole and that seems to rule out option #1.

        Finally, Jesus and Paul both view celibacy as a calling. Not all people who are attracted to people of the same gender feel called to celibacy. And my post nowhere excludes the possibility that some may be so called, but it rightly assumes, I think, that not all are so called.

        I agree that Jesus and Paul’s comments about celibacy are not a perfect parallel. My point is that #1 violates the teachings of the Bible, #2 may (or may not) put the homosexual’s spouse in a bind, and #3 is fully consistent with the Bible’s teachings. Not having intercourse does not require that you be lonely.

        • Lily

          > Not having intercourse does not require that you be lonely.

          So it would be acceptable then for a same-sex couple to engage in a romantic relationship that for all intents and purposes is identical to a heterosexual relationship, just without intercourse?

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            “So it would be acceptable then for a same-sex couple to engage in a romantic relationship that for all intents and purposes is identical to a heterosexual relationship, just without intercourse?”

            Yes, assuming the term “intercourse” covers sexual contact in general.

  • Straw Man

    Not commenting specifically for or against homosexual relationships, but the fact that it’s an inborn orientation, unchangeable, and choosing celibacy instead makes one miserable, while all true, has no direct bearing on whether it is moral or immoral.

    Observe that we illegalize consensual adult-child sexual relationships, even though (as far as we can tell at this time) attraction to children is inborn, unchangeable, and choosing celibacy instead makes one miserable. We justify it on grounds like suggesting that it’s inherently coercive, because children can’t consent (and I agree with this)–but some of the children claim that they are in fact consenting, so it’s at least arguable.

    Yet everyone would agree (I assume) that there’s something wrong with adult-child sexual relationships, and that it’s appropriate to prohibit them, despite being (arguably) consensual expressions of an orientation that is inborn and unchangeable, and whose prohibition makes individuals lonely and miserable.

    (Straw-Man alert: nowhere did I state that homosexual relationships should be prohibited, nor even that they’re immoral; nor did I in any way say or imply that homosexuals are [more likely to be] pedophiles; nor did I liken homosexuals and pedophiles in any way shape or form, *except* in the sole respect that both are [as far as we know] born that way, both are unchangeable, and both would be miserable and lonely living a life of enforced celibacy. Also note that “child” is defined in many jurisdictions as “under 18,” so this prohibition affects people who are only attracted to sixteen year olds; it would also be a straw man to assume that I’m talking about old men “dating” toddlers.)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/comingoutchristian/ Kimberly

      Still a slippery slope argument that has nothing at all to do with consenting adult relationships.

    • Kubricks_Rube

      We justify it on grounds like suggesting that it’s inherently coercive, because children can’t consent (and I agree with this)–but some of the children claim that they are in fact consenting, so it’s at least arguable.

      A child can claim they are consenting, but when doing so they are not using the word “consent” in the legal or moral sense. You are right to say they cannot consent in any meaningful way. Further, children are denied the right to consent because they are emotionally and psychologically immature. So comparing homosexuals and pedophiles even in this sole respect fails as an analogy, as depriving gay and lesbian people of truly consenting adult romantic relationships goes way beyond “enforced celibacy.”

  • Charles

    So how do you view Richard Hays’s picture of staying celebrate as a form of faithful suffering entering into a facet of Christ’s own suffering while simultaneously being supported and given deep fellowship with the church to help comfort them in their loneliness? In other word not being lonely isn’t the most important thing just as some choose to be celebrate for a greater purpose.

    To be honest, this set up you gave seems reductionistic and simplistic.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Charles, I didn’t address celibacy in more detail because it seems clear to me that both Jesus and Paul regarded celibacy as a calling. And it also seems clear to me that not all gays and lesbians have that sense of calling.

      I appreciate Richard’s work on this topic – I’ve read his treatment of it in The Moral Vision of the New Testament – much as I appreciate his perspective on most things related to the study of the New Testament. On this particular point, however, it seems to me that even if the New Testament seems to be fairly clear on the subject, one can make a case for adopting a different practice today, and that’s the key point at which his hermeneutic and mine diverge. Paul argued for the inclusion of uncircumcised Gentiles in the people of God, despite of the clear requirement in Scripture, based on the experience of God giving his Spirit to uncircumcised Gentiles. One can make a similar argument based on one’s experience of encountering Spirit-filled gay and lesbian Christians. And since it is following the principles and mode of argumentation used by Paul, that approach, in my view, has as much claim to be “Biblical” as one that focuses less on principles and more on individual passages.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    There’s also discussion of this blog post over on Richard Hall’s blog:
    http://theconnexion.net/wp/?p=12685#axzz20T13QVQY

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    is it possible the author of geness just did not conceive there was a such a thing as a homosexual? How long did it take for any one to comne to the conclusion that soime men simply don’t like women, its isn’t becasue they are behaving in an abherent way out of spite or ignorrence. I think the bible address homosexuality as it does becasue the writers are ignorent of the issue. It merely was codifing local taboos. It would be like a norwegian assuming everyone likes the flavor of pickled herring and any one who doesn’t like the flavor must be screwy.

  • Seriously Speaking

    Well what about us Straight Guys that are Very Seriously looking for a Good Woman today?, especially since most of them are either Gay and or Bi Now?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Well, even if what you wrote were true, bisexual women can be attracted to heterosexual males. So it must be something other than your gender or sexual orientation. Perhaps they are looking for someone intelligent, considerate, decent and kind, and by making comments like the one you left on this blog, you persuaded them that you are not the kind of person they are looking for?