At the beginning of July, New Church Perspective published an article I wrote on homosexuality, the first in a series on that topic from several different perspectives. My article and the following articles have started a lot of discussion in the comments, and I encourage you to read the comments as well as the articles.
If I had to re-write it, I’d change a few things. In my article I mention a few parallels between same-sex attraction and sexual attraction to children, while stressing that they are NOT the same thing and that there are a lot of differences. I wish I had introduced it a little differently than I did. I used the technical term for sexual attraction to children: pedophilia; and even though I tried to emphasize that I was using this term to refer to people who were attracted to children, not primarily to people who had acted on that attraction and abused children, the term’s connotations of active sexual abuse seem to have muddled what I was trying to get across.
Here is what I wish I had said: Many people are unaware of this, but there are people who, apparently through no fault of their own, find themselves sexually attracted to children. Some of them are attracted to adults as well, but many of them are exclusively attracted to children. It’s sad, but it’s a reality. The question is, how do we deal with that reality? What do we tell these people? Can we love them? I think it’s clear that we can love them, and yet not encourage them to act on their inclinations, or even to fantasize about their inclinations. We can offer them support in fighting those inclinations, and hope that they will change – even though statistically it seems that only a small percentage will be able to.
It seems wrong, it seems unfair, that they would find themselves in a place where their orientation does not allow them to be fulfilled sexually. But that does not mean we should encourage them to fulfill the sexual “needs” they do seem to have by giving into those desires. Even if it is not actively harming children – e.g., if they fantasize – it seems clear that it does them harm to promote that kind of sexuality.
Again, this kind of attraction or orientation has a lot of differences from same-sex attraction. But it does provide a counter-example to the common argument that if a person has an exclusive orientation toward one kind of sexuality, it cannot be wrong; or even that if it is less than ideal, fulfilling it is better than living a life of abstinence. And I bring it up also because it’s an example of a question that we all do have to grapple with – what do we say to people in that situation? How do we talk with them? Because they are real people, even if their numbers are small.
If a person believes that homosexuality is wrong – which I believe it is, for reasons I touch on in the article – then he has to struggle in a similar way with the question of how best to love people who have a same-sex orientation. I was hoping that bringing up another kind of sexual orientation that we can agree is wrong would offer proponents of homosexuality insight into that struggle over how best to love someone who’s attracted to something we find wrong, even if they continue disagree that homosexuality is wrong.
Still, I know this won’t satisfy a lot of people who think I should not have mentioned pedophilia at all. I respect that – I know that homosexuals have been smeared as child-molestors for a long time, and I want to make it clear that I am not trying to perpetuate that false stereotype. But I don’t know of any other “orientation,” so to speak, that is almost universally regarded as harmful, and so could offer that insight into what it’s like to hold an orientation as wrong and still love the person who is in it. That’s why I used the comparison, even knowing that it would turn a lot of people off to the article altogether.
(By the way, I do know that my struggle – how to hold homosexuality and to love people who are attracted to others of the same sex – pales in comparison with the struggle of those who are actually dealing with same-sex attraction and all the questions and decisions that come along with that.)