The Theological Implications of Being "Born This Way"

Over the last few weeks, I've written in this column a small bit about what queer theology is; with any luck, the present article will be queer theology proper, in the sense that it will address theological questions in terms of the experience of queerness.

Recently, Star Foster posted a Pantheon blog entry on Minnesota State Representative Steve Simon, and in particular drew attention to his statement in a debate on an amendment to define marriage in the Minnesota state constitution as being between one man and one woman: "How many more gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves whether God actually wants them around?" Rep. Simon argues (as many do) that gay and lesbian (and I would hope, by extension, bisexual and trans) people have their sexual orientations as inborn, innate states from birth—to put it in Lady Gaga's terms, we are "Born This Way."

(Star also reflected in recent months as to whether or not Lady Gaga exhibits certain goddess-like characteristics or spiritualities in her "Born This Way" video . . . but I leave that matter aside for the moment!)

There are (at least) two conclusions that can arise from these suggestions, and I would like to spend more time on the first than the second in the present discussion: either the gods do like queer people, and thus more of us are being born; or, the gods have nothing to do with whether a person is queer or not, and it's simply a matter of natural genetic and general biological variation. Let us look at the first, most certainly theological, suggestion at some length now.

In the final decades of the 20th century, even Roman Catholics had doctrinal documents suggesting that sexuality (and its sexual orientation component) is a divine gift, and is unchangeable. However, in Catholicism's doctrines around homosexuality, the adopted position is that homosexuality is "intrinsically disordered" and even inclined toward evil, and thus celibacy is the only option for those who are homosexual. The question that few Catholics (or others) have asked about this, but which Rep. Simon expressed beautifully, is the question of what, if this teaching is true, it says about the Christian's deity?

If that deity creates every person with an inborn sexual orientation that cannot be changed, but likewise frowns upon the practice of particular sexual orientations, then one cannot likewise argue that the deity in question is fair, or loving, or just, since the agency for the existence of homosexuality is not the soul of the person who is homosexual, but the deity who created it to be that way. In other words, the Catholic interpretation of the Christian's deity suggests that the deity is not only omnipotent, but also completely irresponsible and capricious, and would punish people for behaving in a way in which they were specifically created to act. It seems to me that this is like suggesting that the Christian's deity created starfish to be a certain way, but then decided that starfish, just as created by that deity, are evil and will be damned!

I am not in favor of blaspheming the intentions of any being that qualifies as a deity, so as a polytheist I must reject this notion as in any way accurate of or fair toward the Christian's deity, if for no other reason than that it suggests that a being who is worthy of worship (never mind for the moment the matter of whether there are other such beings in the universe) and who is said to be all-loving, all-forgiving, and all-just would behave in this manner. No arguments about the ways of divine entities being different from those of humans, or of divine logic trumping human logic, can excuse such nonsensical lapses. (If divine logic cannot be understood by humans, then how indeed are we to have any idea of what is appropriate and what isn't? Christians, of course, would say that the "revealed Scriptures" indicate the answers; but that also doesn't work from a polytheistic viewpoint, or even from general logic, since there is no way to know with any certainty whether those "revealed" texts that are understandable by humans really do reflect the ineffable logic of a divine entity.)

Instead, I would suggest—along the lines that Rep. Simon suggested, and that Lady Gaga declares in the words (though I don't necessarily agree with the sentiment) "God makes no mistakes"—that the distaste for homosexuality evinced by these statements in Catholicism (and many other denominations and religions) are, instead, human in origin, and thus not necessarily correct.

If a creator deity does not impart our sexual orientations, and disapproves of them, that would be one thing, but that's not what the doctrine seems to state; however, it does seem to be what certain other denominations seem to believe, in terms of homoeroticism being a choice and a willful deviation from the heterosexual norm.