Al Mohler presents us with a conundrum

Rev. Al Mohler, who lately has been calling evangelicals to speak honestly about homosexuality, seemed to defend religiously based orientation change yesterday in a column on his website.

Much of what he writes about sin and redemption most evangelicals would agree with, but then he says this about Christians and same-sex desire.

Christians with same-sex sexual desires must know that these desires are sinful. Thus, faithful Christians who struggle with these desires must know that God both desires and commands that they desire what He wills for them to desire. All Christians struggle with their own pattern of sinful desires, sexual and otherwise. Our responsibility as Christians is to be obedient to Christ, knowing that only He can save us from ourselves.

Earlier in the column, Mohler said that “…those whose sexual orientation is homosexual face the fact that they also need a fundamental reordering of their sexual attractions.” Correct me if I am misreading him, but he appears to be arguing that orientation change is required for believers who are attracted to the same sex.

This appears to be at odds with Mohler’s statements that evangelicals have “lied about the nature of homosexuality” and that same-sex attractions is “not something that people can just turn on and turn off.”

I sense a problem.

Last Friday, I pointed to a study Mark Yarhouse’s team at Regent University in the Christian journal Edification which found no change in orientation on average for married gay and lesbian people. Behavior changed modestly, but same-sex orientation remained the same. Gary Welton and I are now writing up a report of a study that found same-sex attraction actually increased on average in a similar group of married GLB people. Religious affiliation is associated with a smaller increase in SSA but these changes could not be considered a “fundamental reordering of their sexual attractions.”

At this point, I can’t satisfactorily reconcile what counseling and study participants* are telling us with what Rev. Mohler teaches in this column. Perhaps we are dealing with semantics when it comes to defining what orientation is, or what “a fundamental reordering” looks like.  When Rev. Mohler says that God commands that gays desire what He wills them to desire, that sounds a lot like turning desires on and off - in short choice. I hope he will address this in a future column. I feel sure that the emphasis on orientation in Mohler’s column will be discouraging to GLB men and women who have entered heterosexual marriage, but remain attracted to the same sex.

I suspect this will not be the only column on this matter, but for now I wanted to raise what looks like a conundrum for evangelicals raised by research and Mohler’s column.

*Here I refer to my recent study, Yarhouse’s report and the longitudinal study by Jones and Yarhouse. Even in that study of Exodus participants, reports of a “fundamental reordering of their sexual attractions” were infrequent. Even the small number of people who reported categorical changes reported ongoing SSA.

  • Bernie

    It just sounds to me as if Mohler is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He should run for the GOP, he would do quite well. He has become more a politician than a Reverend. Let us not forget his constituency. I think that has a lot to do with it. I feel that he is trying to appease one and all. I sorta got the feeling that his previously progressive posture that he was leaning towards was nothing more than a mere mollification of sorts.

  • Kyle

    It sure sounds like he is referring to a categorical re-ordering of desires, that is, replacing a homosexual orientation with a heterosexual one. Sure, God may desire this I suppose if we are intended to be heterosexual, but if it is a biological or early childhood thing, it cannot be expected to happen this side of the eschaton. Not to compare the moral statuses, but aren’t evangelicals familiar with alcoholism, and how though people’s behaviors may change in managing it, the desires remain for their whole lives? Sure God wants this to be changed, but the reality is that it often is not changed in this life, and alcoholics surely are not to be faulted for something they cannot change, or be expected to change it.

    In these studies of married homosexuals, do these gay mean experience any sexual attraction with their other-sex spouses with whom they have fallen in love? I know that they remain basically gay, but do they develop any sexual attraction to their spouse in addition to their general gay orientation?

  • Bernie

    Kyle, to even suggest a parallel between an addiction like alcoholism, with sexual orientation, is, I feel, a piss-poor analogy, and severely fallacious.

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    Gee… it looks more like one false step forward and over 100 steps back.

    Even if someone believes that same sex sexual activity is sinful and that the desire to do so is temptation .. I still see no reason to call temptation “sin”.

    Afterall .. concerning Jesus Christ ..the scriptures say: .. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Heb 4:15)

    No one has tried to play judge and jury with Jesus and claim him to be a sinner just for having temptations. So why do it now?

    Dave

  • Kyle

    Bernie:

    I think the analogy sticks in that both drives likely have a genetic component, both are in some sense unchangeable, and both drives are considered sinful by traditional Christians when put into action. I made it pretty clear that I’m not drawing a moral equivalency between the two. I was making a point against evangelical Christians who say that homosexuals must change their orientation to be faithful Christians; if so, then alcoholics must also change their tendency to alcoholism, which they cannot.

    Believe me, the statement was not made out of homophobia,

  • Kyle

    All analogies, of course, break down somewhere. The only three parallels I wanted to draw were the ones I just laid out. It was not intended as a moral parallel.

  • Teresa

    Even if someone believes that same sex sexual activity is sinful and that the desire to do so is temptation .. I still see no reason to call temptation “sin”.

    Afterall .. concerning Jesus Christ ..the scriptures say: .. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Heb 4:15)

    No one has tried to play judge and jury with Jesus and claim him to be a sinner just for having temptations. So why do it now?

    Dave, excellent, excellent statement, with a lovely quote from Scripture to support it.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  • Bernie

    @Kyle, I respectfully understand that your statement had no homophobic connotations implied with it. I am not offended the least. At the same token, I would never intentionally offend you.

    The premise of your argument suggests a genetic predisposition, and, as in some cases, a learned behavior for alcoholism. That has been proven across the board.

    Yet, there are not enough studies to suggest the same holds true for same sex attractions. All studies that have drawn a theory that is genetic, or boasted defunct attachments to one parent or the other, are inconclusive at best.

    The lobbyists for the Religious Right, and deemed hate groups have a grievous habit of using patently false arguments when describing the nature and origin of SSA. They egregiously quote from people like NARTH, and the American College of Pediatricians, neither of which are recognized by their peers.

    They will debate, or at least just get their soundbites on TV, saying that the ‘Gay Activists would suggest that it is genetic, which “Social Sciences” clearly show this to be untrue. And that it is not innate and immutable.’ At which point, conversely, the Gay Activist should rightly respond with, ‘The AAP, the APA, and the AMA have yet to determine that it is not or otherwise.’

    My simple point is that we just don’t know. All I know is that I am, and I can’t change what Almighty God has deemed for me.

  • Kyle

    Although I do think with Jesus, he was only tempted to indulge desires that are themselves good, in the wrong way and at the wrong time. As fallen human beings, we are often tempted by bad or evil desires that are not themselves desires for something good – like a desire to lash out and hurt someone when they hurt you, etc. I don’t think Jesus was tempted by those such desires.

    Still there is a difference between temptation, sinful desires, and sinful actions. Just because we are tempted does not mean we have sinned, although the nature of the temptation may say something about the sinfulness of our characters and desires. And sure, God wants to change the parts of our character and being that ar wrongly ordered, but the evidence seems to be that for most homosexuals, this will not happen until the eschaton. For such persons, resisting those desires is all that can reasonably be asked of them by God, I think.

  • Kyle

    Bernie: that’s fair, we don’t know the causes of homosexuality. My guess would be that it is a mix of genetic and environmental factors, like just about anything else. But let’s take the origin component out of the equation. Alcoholism and homosexuality at least share two similarities: they are usually unchangeable (in terms of the disposition), and they are considered sinful by traditional Christians when indulged.

    So, my point was, a traditional Christian should not expect a homosexual to change orientation in order to be faithful, anymore than they should expect an alcoholic to change their proclivity to abuse alcohol. They can expect them to manage these desires, but they cannot expect them to change them if the evidence shows that this usually does not happen.

    Of course, sometimes it does happen I imagine. But it cannot be the norm or the standard for traditional Christian discipleship. That would just be cruel.

  • Kyle

    And I also wonder how many homosexuals experience smaller change: like experiencing sexual attraction for an other-sex person they fall in love with. With all of the talk of “changing orientation,” I feel like we sometimes miss the fluidity of sexual attraction. Perhaps replacing one orientation with another is not very likely, or eradicating SSA to a great degree, but what about changing to the degree that you have satisfying sexual experience and attraction with your spouse? I wonder how often this happens.

    Of course all of this is predicated on the traditional Christian belief that heterosexual marriage is the norm. Not all Christians, and of course not all people agree.

  • Bernie

    Kyle, Now we’re on the same page.

    I can get polemic, and debunk the old canards regarding homosexuality, but that would take weeks of typing, plus it wouldn’t be germane to the topic at hand.

    I would just like to add that I reject the proscribed notion that I should be condemned to a life of solitude. That, in of itself, is a cruelty beyond words, biblical or otherwise. Such an imposition is incongruent with the social and gregarious nature of humans, which are innate qualities.

    God Bless, and Peace

  • Kyle

    Bernie:

    The traditional Christian church, at least in its Protestant variants, has not done a very good job lifting up and explaining a calling to celibacy, which need not at all be a life of solitude. I think we glorify sex too much in the church such that people believe there are no other equality valid means to intimacy and bonding with other human beings. I’d go so far as to say the evangelical church idolizes family and marriage.

    I do think there are other means to deep intimacy, bonding, partnership, and the like with other human beings beyond sexual relationships. Jesus, to give an example, did not have of a sexual relationship, but He was a deeply communal man. Paul too, and many other figures describe relationships with other humans that are very intimate, but that are not sexual in nature. And of course David and Jonathan have such an affectionate and close relationship that some feel compelled to think their relationship had to be sexual. In reality, I think they just had an extremely close friendship, which can in many senses be romantic, filled with longing, excitement, passion, and the like, I think. In the church, and perhaps in the West, we have a hard time understanding this, but I really think sexual connection is only one means among many to intimacy, and I think there are equally powerful means to intimacy with other human beings beyond it.

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    Kyle# ~ Jul 20, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Although I do think with Jesus, he was only tempted to indulge desires that are themselves good, in the wrong way and at the wrong time. As fallen human beings, we are often tempted by bad or evil desires that are not themselves desires for something good – like a desire to lash out and hurt someone when they hurt you, etc. I don’t think Jesus was tempted by those such desires.

    Your interpretation of the Hebrews 4:15 passage IMHO disarms it and renders it useless and irrelevant to me. (Just FYI .. I am a straight pastor and I am approaching this as such)

    Let me add another passage to the one I quoted earlier concerning Christ and temptation…

    Hebrews 2:18

    18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

    To claim that Jesus only had good temptations and not bad ones is a rather difficult claim to support. The power of this aspect of Jesus is that (per the text) He was “tempted in every way” (Heb 4:15) as we are not just in some ways .. yet did not sin. Tempted in ‘every way’ means just that .. ‘in every way’. . There are no qualifiers on it.

    Thus He is able to help to the uttermost those of us who are tempted .. no matter what the temptation is.

    Blessings,

    Dave

    P.S. Note to Theresea .. glad you found my comment helpful :)

  • Frank

    A heterosexual Christian who demands that gays change their orientation to be acceptable to God and to have full citizenship is not only idolizing heterosexuality but is also justifying the ethical argument behind Christian persecution, that for the sake of order a state may eradicate freedom of thought itself. This is fascism.

  • Frank

    In Christian terms Mohler’s call for even celibate gays to change their orientation is like Satan’s temptation of Christ in the Desert. Prove that you have faith; jump of this cliff and the Angels will carry you to the ground. Perhaps, angels (and God) will provide only help that’s truly needed. Perhaps, they are not there to run a side show for the amusement of someone who fancies himself a god who can order them around at will.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Warren said,

    Earlier in the column, Mohler said that “…those whose sexual orientation is homosexual face the fact that they also need a fundamental reordering of their sexual attractions.” Correct me if I am misreading him, but he appears to be arguing that orientation change is required for believers who are attracted to the same sex.

    I can’t correct you because I am reading this the same way. And not only that, I think his overall “tone” is quite, hmm what is the word (?) authoritarian, dictatorial,

    thus, faithful Christians who struggle with these desires must know that God both desires and commands that they desire what He wills for them to desire.

    Yup, he is on a mission from God alright. Everybody st8ten up and fly right. Warren I hope you drop Mohler a line and let him know how feasible his ideas are.

  • Bernie

    @ Kyle, ” Jesus, to give you an example, did not have a sexual relationship”, how do we know this??

  • Lynn David

    Yep, Mohler is telling those still with homosexual orientations who are either celibate or married heterosexually (what I guess you call mixed-sexuality marriages) are still in a state of sin and cannot gain the kingdom. Though I bet Mohler comes out and backs off that which necessarily follows from his statements. He will likely state that those in marriages that at least outwardly look like they are heterosexual have nothing to fear (what, god doesn’t see your heart?). However, Mohler will likely leave celibate homosexual singles swinging in the wind.

    Exodus should be in a tizzy.

  • Frank

    Lynn David writes:

    “However, Mohler will likely leave celibate homosexual singles swinging in the wind.”

    It certainly will keep us out of Southern Baptist churches for fear of being invited as guests of honor at necktie parties – figuratively speaking, of course.

  • Kyle

    Dave,

    I just do not believe Jesus had sinful or evil desires. Jesus certainly was tempted, to be sure, and that temptation was every bit as real and difficult as our temptations, but I assume you do not believe Jesus had a sinful nature (comprised of sinful desires and inclinations) as we fallen human beings do, do you? In addition to this, there already have to be some reasonable qualifiers to that passage – was Jesus tempted to molest a child? Was He tempted to commit rape, or X, or Y, etc. – Jesus was not tempted with every temptation human beings are tempted with, although He was certainly tempted as we are tempted in a real sense.

    This is what I think passage means when it says He was tempted in every way like us: His temptation was every bit as real as ours. I don’t think it means the content of that temptation was the same as ours. He was tempted to use his otherwise good desires for evil, but we as fallen human beings are often tempted to indulge the evil desires that already spring from our fallen natures. But Jesus’ temptation still very much serves as a model for our own, because His temptation was every bit as real and powerful as ours.

    I make this distinction because there is a sense in which our sinful inclinations and desires can be called “sin” – part of our sinful nature. They are still to be distinguished from actual sin, or committed sin, of course! God wants to change our sinful inclinations as well as our acts of sin, I believe, but for many this may have to wait until the eschaton. Someone can be a fully committed Christian while still having certain desires that are wrongly ordered, but that are beyond our control. So long as they are resisting temptation via these desires, they are being faithful (contra Mohler).

    Bernie,

    I suppose I gather Jesus was celibate from the facts that He was never married, and that He was morally perfect. I suppose it is possible that He had a secret marriage, but I find that to be extremely unlikely, for if it were true, I believe it would have been mentioned or alluded to in the New Testament in some way.

    But even apart from Jesus, I think there are plenty of Biblical characters that had deep intimacy with others while remaining unmarried and celibate. I recognize that this is a hard thing to imagine, especially in the West, but love, passion, companionship, an even romance and longing of a real kind can exist apart from marriage and sex. And of course there is also the company of God Himself, which has its own erotic (though non-sexual) overtones. We have a hard time conceiving of close relationships apart from marriage and sex in our culture (“So you are going to remain unmarried; you want to be alone for the rest of your life??”), but I think they can be very real and powerful.

  • Teresa

    Kyle,

    Your definition of ‘sin’ and ‘temptation’ is so broad, so all encompassing that everyone on the planet, all the time is committing sin. What a tough way to live life; but, if it works for you, that’s all that matters. But, please, don’t expect your definition of ‘sin’ and ‘temptation’ to match what others believe.

  • Kyle

    Teresa -

    You might know this: In Christian theology, there’s a difference between original sin and actual sin. Original sin are those desires we feel that are not in line with God’s will. It is our sinful nature. Actual sin are those times when we put those desires into action; it is when we “commit sin.”

    As for where our responsibility comes in: it comes in our actions, and it comes in to the degree that our actions have contributed to our nature or character.

    So no, I don’t think everyone everywhere is committing sin all the time ;) And most of us do not choose the hand that is dealt to us: we are just handed a set of desires, some of which are sinful. We are responsible in managing them, and to the degree that it is under our control, changing them. For homosexuals, it usually is not in their power to change them, so they are not responsible for that.

    What I was saying was that there is a sense in which we can call wrong desires sin – original sin. This does not necessarily mean it is our fault for having those desires, or that it is within our power to change them; but it does mean that those aspects of our being are not as God intended them to be. And temptation is when we are elicited to do the wrong thing, whether through an evil or a good desire; it may say something about our nature that we are tempted to do a certain thing (whether it is our fault or not that we are that way), but we have certainly not sinned ourselves just by being tempted.

    Is that at all clearer?

  • Kyle

    I actually made the original point to show that, while I do believe there is a sense in which wrong desires can be considered sin in that they are in contradiction to God’s will (original sin), this does not mean that it is at all the faithful believer’s FAULT that he or she has those desires. He or she may realize that this is not how he or she was intended to be by God, without feeling any sense of guilt or responsibility for that condition, precisely because it is out of his or her control. A believer in such a circumstance is being 100% faithful to God in resisting those desires.

  • Kyle

    …even if they cannot be changed.

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    Hi Kyle,

    While I agree that Jesus did not have a sin nature to deal with He still had to live as human in a world with many temptations . These temptations would tug on the many amoral (morally neutral) desires we have as humans … the desire for food .. (Satan’s temptation in the wilderness) … the desire for intimate companionship (both sexual and non-sexual) .. the desire to avoid pain and/or find a less difficult way to accomplish God’s will (Jesus’s prayer in the garden) and so forth.

    We could get rather deep here into various denomination’s theological views on sin and sin nature and whether sin nature can be dealt with in this life. Some denominations believe that we sin in thought , word, and deed daily .. others .. such as the Wesleyean/Arminian denomintion that I come from view sin very differently. Rather than get into all of that I will just say that my denomination .. for the most part … views thoughts and feeling as morally neutral. It is what we do with those thoughts and feeling that matters. Now there is some question as to when or where sinless thoughts and feelings cross over into being sinless temptations and when or where do sinless temptations become sinful lust? And that is a valid question .. but the key here is that people are not sinning just for having feelings .. or even for having temptations.

    Additionally .. a careful read through the Psalms reveals some rather powerful feeings, some intense questions to God. and even thoughts of vengence .. none of which were apparently viewed as sinful by the Jewish people of that day. Suffice to say that people should not feel condemned just for having feelings .

    Again .. different denominations have rather different deeply philosophical and theological views on this .. but if nothing else .. there is not absolute agreement among them. This .. to me .. gives people room to explore their inner thoughts and feelings while resting securely in the grace of God.

    Blessings,

    Dave

  • Teresa

    Is that at all clearer?

    Yes, Kyle, your comment did clear this up. Your prior comments actually said something quite contradictory than these recent comments. At least, that’s how I understood them.

    You were, in fact, saying that homosexuals ‘sinned’ just by having same-sex attractions, if I understood correctly. I’m glad you cleared this up.

    Thank you.

  • Kyle

    I’m glad to clear that up – in no way do I think (or was I saying that) homosexuals have committed an act of sin by being homosexual, nor do they do anything wrong by remaining that way, since it is not under their control. Only broadly speaking is homosexuality part of original sin – the brokenness we all experience as fallen human beings. Homosexuals are being totally faithful to traditional moral Christian teachings by refraining from temptation.

    Dave – I’m actually a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary, so I love that theology stuff! :) Let me just state simply that I definitely believe Jesus’ temptations were very real, and that they absolutely serve as a model for our temptations, even if ours arise from our sinful nature in a way they didn’t for Jesus.

  • Kyle

    Oh, and I too am a Weseyan/Arminian! Wesley distinguished between original sin and actual sin as well: original sin are our inbred sinful desires, and actual sin is what we do when we choose to indulge them. We are only held accountable for the latter.

    But you are absolutely right: we are not guilty of committing sin just for having even sinful feelings, or by being tempted by them (or by morally neutral feelings, as you aptly described Jesus as having). Jesus was indeed tempted as we are, with very human desires, and His model serves for us – and temptation is not sin.

    I was just lifting up the fact that there is such a thing as moral character, and that can have a sinful “bent” to it as well. But still, we are only guilty or condemned when we indulge that bent.

    I guess that’s my theology fill for the day ;)

    Kyle

  • http://realgrasshopper.wordpress.com realgrasshopper

    Warren, I might be wrong but is Mohler not simply saying that in the next life SSA will not exist? As in people who struggle with SSA will no longer have to? So in the same way that, lets say, my eyes cause me to sin (gay or not) and I should gouge them out because of that, my eyes in my new body will no longer cause me to sin?

  • William

    Let me just state simply that I definitely believe Jesus’ temptations were very real, and that they absolutely serve as a model for our temptations, even if ours arise from our sinful nature in a way they didn’t for Jesus.

    So are you saying, Kyle, that Jesus’s temptations, although very real, arose from his sinless nature and must therefore have been temptations to do non-sinful things?

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    @ Kyle .. Cool .. I thought we were close to saying the same thing.

    @ William …I’m sure Kyle can answer this for himself .. but I am not sure what you are talking about here.. You might consider that Adam and Eve had no sin nature but still made the sad choice that they knew better than God. Not all sin rises from the sin nature .. the term ‘sin nature’ just refers to an inward tendency to sin that we are all now born in to. We still have desires that God gave us that are morally neutral unless we allow them to rule us or lead us in ways that God does not desire for us.

    Blessings,

    Dave

  • Kyle

    William -

    Dave did a great job explaining what I would say. I think it is clear that Jesus did not have a sinful nature (an inward bent in our desires to choose sinful actions). However, neither did our first parents, Adam and Eve, however we understand this story (a literal couple, the first humans with souls, however many there were, etc). Nevertheless, we can be tempted through good and natural desires to do sinful things.

    So, the desires for food, influence, comfort, avoidance of pain, sex, etc. are all morally neutral or even good in themselves, but we can be tempted to use them in the wrong way, to the wrong degree, at the wrong time, etc. – in some way contrary to God’s will for us. When we use a natural desire in the wrong way, we have sinned. And when Adam and Eve sinned, this created a sinful nature, because sin affects our characters and the world around us (i.e. those who came after them). But it is perfectly possible to be strongly tempted to do the wrong thing, even with desires that are themselves good and natural.

    A good example of a desire tor feeling that is itself evil: hatred and bitterness (not hatred of sin, but hatred of a person). A desire for an inherently sinful action is an evil desire, whereas a desire for an inherently good action is a natural or good desire, which can be used in the wrong way in an act of sin.

  • Kyle

    realgrasshopper -

    I guess the critical question is whether or not Mohler believes SSA will be changed here or hereafter. It sounds like he believes it must be changed now. But while we can agree with him that SSA is a kind of brokenness or sinfulness of our nature (it is not how we were intended to be by God), this does not mean it can be changed now, nor does it mean those who fail to change are being unfaithful simply for having SSA and being tempted by it, since changing their nature is out of their control.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Kyle,

    But while we can agree with him that SSA is a kind of brokenness or sinfulness of our nature (it is not how we were intended to be by God),

    I don’t agree with this AT ALL.

  • Kyle

    SG – I know. But traditional Christian morality does teach this (that same-sex desires are part of the brokenness of our fallen world, and that to indulge them is against the will of God). Celibate gay Christians such a Wesley Hill seek to find congruence between their faithfulness to traditional Christian sexual morality and their gay sexual orientation.

  • Teresa

    @Kyle, how far can we take this ‘same-sex attractions’ are part of the brokenness of our fallen world? Here’s what I’m saying: attractions are not the whole of homosexuality? Is that understandable? There’s a substantial difference between attractions and orientation. I’m sure you know that as a str8 man (I’m assuming you are), that ignoring your attractions to women, doesn’t in any way change your orientation.

    Are you saying that simply being a homosexual makes me a ‘broken human being’? More so, than you are as a str8 man? Am I still ‘broken’ in your theological view whether I’m chaste or not?

    This is much the heart of this whole issue, at least for me. In a nutshell, same-sex orientation as seen through this theology is, in my opinion, saying that no matter what homosexuals do, say, become (unless we’re in the closet) … attractions or not … we’re just not equal to str8′s. We somehow need to be treated like sick people (broken). We become someone’s project, so they can feel oh so good about themselves, for being kind to ‘sick’ (broken) people.

    Is this what’s happening, Kyle? I’m not saying it is, or isn’t, right now, that’s what I believe is occurring. I’m certainly happy to be disabused of this notion, if I’m wrong.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Theresa,

    Here is where the discussion is going to get tricky for Kyle & Company. Somewhere along the line they need to say that everyone is heterosexual, and that gays, lesbains, bi-sexual and transgender people are simply “fallen” heterosexuals. In other words, your sexual orientation is your “choice.” They love to say that perhaps you were abused as a child or your mother was either to strong or to weak(take your pick), or your father was to distant or to smothering, anything, any silly thing at all, that proves that every single person was born heterosexual. You are either gay because you were not raised right as a child, or as an adult you are simply rebelling and choosing to be gay.

    The have to say this, because to admit that some people are innately, through no choice of their own, or the fault of others, gay, lesbian,bi-sexual or transgender, makes the Christians out to be monsters for calling all gays EVIL. There is no difference between calling all the gays EVIL and saying all black people are EVIL. You really can’t call all people in a class EVIL over something they have no control over. Therefore they HAVE to say sexual orientation is a choice or else the Christians themselves are monsters. This is why they will fight tooth and nail to INSIST that gays “choose” their sexual orientation.

    Kyle- Do gays, lesbians, bi-sexual and transgender people “choose” their sexual orientation?

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    Hi Teresea,

    I hear you very clearly in what you are saying .. I, personally, do not believe that being gay/ same sex attracted is part of the fallen nature simply because scripture does not say that it is. … I have been going through a time of reconsidering just what the world would be like had Adam and Eve not sinned. Would everyone have blond hair and blue eyes? Would everyone be a perfect singer? Would everyone be able to play the piano perfectly? I am being a bit silly here but we really do not know what variety of human beings there would be .. had sin not entered the world.

    Coming at this from a biblical perspective I have been looking at John 9:1-3 .. see below..

    John 9

    1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

    3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

    Typically we believe that disease, death, blindness and other handicaps/characteristics came into the world when Adam and Eve sinned. However .. I have noticed in the above passage that apparently someone forgot to tell Jesus about this .. He blames the man’s condition .. not on his parents (nor our first parents) and not on the man .. but says that this has happened so that God can be glorified by it. I think this is a unique answer… an answer that is different than our simplistic understanding. I am not sure that it applies to everyone and everything. But it shows us that at times our theology oversimplifies things. I think too of people who have autistic children .. or ADHD children. I doubt these folks look at their children and say they are a product of the sin nature. I think they most likely have a more positive view. I also doubt that they believe their children are somehow less able to be holy and acceptable to God. Just something I have been pondering.

    I would also refer you to part of a statement made by my denomination .. the Church of the Nazarene ..This is part of an, at times, very clunky document in its use of wording .. nevertheless I think you might find this portion to be encouraging…

    What about the person who wrestles with an orientation they did not choose?

    Our biblical and theological understanding of sin suggests that it is both personal and corporate. We personally choose to sin and are responsible/accountable to God for the willful choices that we make. Sexual orientation is not usually a willful choice. (Can the heterosexual point to a time they chose their sexual orientation?) It is amoral, neither moral nor immoral. Sexual behavior is a moral choice. Scripture clearly addresses homosexual behavior, but does not address homosexual orientation. Choosing not to say more than Scripture, you notice that the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene and the Official Statement of the Board of General Superintendents makes a clear distinction between behavior and orientation. One is sinful, the other is not. We also recognize sin as corporate. The fallen world in which we live affects us in multiple ways. Americans tend to be greedy as an influence of our consumer society. We didn’t wake up one morning and decide to be greedy. We were born into a greedy world and this sticky sin stuck to us. In this corporate way of thinking about sin, homosexuality is sinful because it reflects the fallenness of our world. Like greed, it is something that we are called to respond to by grace according to the character of God. The person who is homosexually oriented does not need a church that condemns their orientation, but rather a church that calls for a response that is in keeping with the character of God. The church should not be a place of ridicule and condemnation, but a place of love, of grace, and of redemption.

    Let me know what you think of this .. Those here who are affirming will probably find this less that appealing. But what the denomination is saying is .. in a nut shell .. that it is not sinful to be gay .. I think they could say it better .. and I would like to see us be more welcoming to those who do not hold to a conservative viewpoint. But is does IMO represent steps in the right direction.

    Blessings,

    Dave

  • Teresa

    Dave, I think the statement from your denomination, Church of the Nazarene, is certainly far more realistic, gracious, and welcoming.

    It’s not altogether clear to me about the ‘corporate’ nature of sin, except insofar as Original Sin.

    We also recognize sin as corporate. The fallen world in which we live affects us in multiple ways. Americans tend to be greedy as an influence of our consumer society. We didn’t wake up one morning and decide to be greedy. We were born into a greedy world and this sticky sin stuck to us. In this corporate way of thinking about sin, homosexuality is sinful because it reflects the fallenness of our world.

    However, at least, for me, I don’t get any message of homosexuality as being a ‘mental illness’, or that somehow just being a homosexual excludes one from from full membership as a Christian, or that just being gay means we’re ‘sin’. I heartily agree with their statement, sexual orientation is not a choice. Certainly, I understand about the difference between behavior and orientation, as your denomination does.

    Overall, I think your denomination’s views of homosexuality are quite enlightened. I understand walking the fine line between being accepting of persons as they are, and yet not affirming certain behaviors. That is quite a difficult road to navigate.

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    I suppose I gather Jesus was celibate from the facts that He was never married, and that He was morally perfect. I suppose it is possible that He had a secret marriage, but I find that to be extremely unlikely, for if it were true, I believe it would have been mentioned or alluded to in the New Testament in some way.

    Actually, some people have argued that the absence of any NT reference to Jesus’s marital status suggests that he HAD been married at some point (perhaps he was a widower).

    I mean, if you imagine a short biographical sketch about an American man with normal eyesight and average intelligence who lived from 1960 to 1993, and the biography never mentions whether the guy had a driver’s license and knew how to drive a car, most readers would assume that he had knew how to drive and had a license, and probably that he owned a car as well — because that’s the norm for an American male of that era, while those who never learn how to drive and never get a license are the rare exceptions.

    So, the argument is that it would’ve been quite unusual for a Jewish male of in 1st-century Judea to have remained a bachelor into his 30s, and that therefore the Gospelists would’ve mentioned this odd fact had it been true of Jesus.

    But on the other hand, you can argue instead that, as a young man in his 20s, Jesus had been involved with the Essenes, a somewhat fringe-y Jewish sect that actually did emphasize voluntary celibacy. (If so, this probably would’ve been mildly distressing and perplexing to Mary and Joseph — who were presumably Pharisees, which was typical for “blue collar” Jews of that era. And Pharisaic Judaism did not ascribe any special virtue to celibacy, unlike Essene Judaism.)

  • Kyle

    Theresa and SG,

    It sounds like I have hit a nerve with both of you, and I’m sorry about that (however sincere that can sound over the net). Let me clear a few things up straightaway:

    No, I don’t think homosexuals are any more broken than anyone else, including myself. No, I don’t think homosexuals choose their orientation, nor do I think they are to be blamed for remaining homosexual in orientation. However homosexuality originates, I don’t believe it usually can be changed, nor do I believe that everyone is just heterosexual on some deeper level of their identity. And I do believe a chaste homosexual is being as faithful as she or he can be to traditional Christian belief, and ought to be allowed into full membership and privileges of the church.

    All I was saying is what that excerpt from the Church of the Nazarene said (which is from my own Wesleyan tradition, by the way): that homosexual orientation is in some sense part of a fallen and broken world. Perhaps I wouldn’t put it in the same category of sinful inclinations (original sin), but I do think at least it is a consequent of a broken world that was not meant to be by God. This does not mean it is the homosexual’s fault or anything of that sort, or that they have personally sinned, or less holy or acceptable to God, or anything of that sort. We all have various infirmities that are out of our control, and that are not the way things are supposed to be – we are all broken in some way, many ways. We cannot be condemned for such things: we are to wait for full redemption from God (whether here or hereafter). I do think God desires to redeem us from anything that was not as it was intended to be, for whatever reason (and I do think things like Autism are not how it was intended to be; God may permit it for His glory, and it may not be because of this or that person’s sin, but it is part of a broken and fallen world).

    I hope all of this makes it clearer, again.

  • Kyle

    As for the distinction between attractions and orientation: from what I understand, homosexual orientation implies that one is both emotionally and sexually attracted to members of the same sex. Is that right? Were you trying to make the point that homosexuality is more than about sex? I certainly agree with that. And I personally see nothing wrong with finding emotional satisfaction in member of the same sex.

    I do believe that we are intended to be emotionally intimate with both sexes, equally so actually – and of course sexually intimate (which should always have an emotional dimension to it) with the other sex. I wonder if we connect sex with intimacy too much in our culture, and if we have a hard time conceiving of emotion intimacy with the same sex, especially if we are straight. Other cultures don’t have these same issues.

  • Kyle

    BTW, I do NOT think homosexuality is a mental illness, either. At any rate, it seems like communication is not happening very well for me here, so I’ll bow out for a while. blessings to you all

  • Teresa

    No need to bow out, Kyle. Please accept my apologies if I’ve been less than Christian in my comments. And, yes, some of my comments ‘are less than Christian’. There really is no excuse for my not following the Golden Rule no matter what is transpiring. Homosexuality is a very personal issue with me, being that I’m a homosexual. So, I tend to get overly sensitive at times, and need to put a little space between my comments and hitting the ENTER key.

    Actually, Kyle, the subject really revolves around do people see, believe, want to believe (for whatever reason), are forced to believe, that homosexuality is a mental illness. If that ONE piece has been laid to rest, if persons of faith can actually move out of the paradigm that homosexuality is mental illness, which often means ‘sin’ to them, then the subject becomes easier to talk about.

    Anyway, Kyle, you’ve brought a welcome perspective, and often it takes several comments and the willingness to be misunderstood at times, to continue the journey, in person or in the virtual world.

  • Kyle

    Throb -

    Interesting perspective to be sure. I think a typical American biography would probably at least mention a spouse if she/he were part of the narrative, if not much more about the spouse. A spouse is of much more importance than a driver’s license, usually to biographers too! :)

    I’m inclined to think Jesus’ wife would have been at least mentioned had He had one, even if in passing, given that the Gospels are ancient biographies. In the biblical tradition too, I think celibacy is more common than in wider culture.

    At any rate, there are still other biblical characters that remained celibate without living lonely lives. I do believe real, powerful, intimate emotional connection is possible outside of sexual relationships. Sex is a powerful means to intimacy and companionship, to be sure, but by no means is it the only one. In Christian belief, the Church is the place for wholeness and community, not necessarily marriage, but we idolize marriage in the church (and yet our marriages are all falling apart!). This was the point of bringing in Jesus’ celibacy.

  • Kyle

    Teresa – thanks for the charitable interpretation. With all of the distinctions that are drawn and differing definitions (complete with perceived connotations) that are used in discussions like these, misunderstandings are almost inevitable. I tend to hope the best is meant until proven otherwise! ;)

    I cannot and will not pretend to understand your situation and struggle, and would never want to feign empathy. I am here to understand, and I suppose to bring a theological perspective to such issues.

  • Kyle

    whoops I mean, I am hear to learn* to the degree I am able as an outsider. :)


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