The Questions We Ask

P_questionShould governments recognize civil marriages between two people of the same sex?

This question has been on the minds of many Americans in recent years. Last week it became largely a moot point in the United States, as a result of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. My hope is that we can use this as an opportunity to rethink which questions we focus on.

There are many questions that Christians are asking about all things LGBT. Often, the focus has been on one particular question: Is sexual intimacy between two people of the same sex always sinful?

Clearly, this question is an important one, and its answer has many practical implications. Although I answer this question in the affirmative, I am frustrated when others who share that answer act as though this is the end of the discussion. This answer actually opens the door to quite a few further questions.

For the remainder of this piece, I’ll mostly be discussing the questions that arise from the belief that sexual intimacy between two people of the same sex is indeed unconditionally sinful. People who come to the opposite conclusion will have their own set of follow-up questions, some of which will be the same and some of which will be different. (However, for obvious reasons, I haven’t thought about those quite as much.)

When people have gone further than this question, they’ve often focused on political questions like the one at the start of this post. How we answer these questions really depends on our answer to some more fundamental questions. What is the role of Christian faith in a secular democracy? Does the fact that something is immoral mean that it should be illegal? How should the government influence the public good?

Although these questions are no doubt important, especially when it comes time to participate in an election, I think they’ve received too much focus. Far too often (not just when it comes to sexuality!), we look for political solutions to the problems of people’s hearts. We need to think more deeply about our calling as Christians in all of life, and not just Christians at the ballot box. I hope that having the same-sex marriage question behind us gives us the push needed to change our focus.

One important type of question that I have seen a fair amount of focus on is how we relate to those who profess faith in Christ but disagree with us on questions of sexual ethics. As in the case of questions about politics, our answers here will depend on how we answer some more fundamental questions. What are the essentials required for genuine Christian faith? How do we determine what is orthodox and what is heretical? What does God’s grace look like towards believers who take part in sin that they are misled into believing is not sin? How do we interpret specific passages like 1 Corinthians 5 that discuss immorality within the Church?

I think we could use additional focus on questions of how we respond to unbelievers as well. Of course, we ought to have interactions with our unbelieving neighbors outside of the ballot box. How do we show God’s love to our LGBT neighbors? When is it appropriate, and when is it not appropriate, to bring up our convictions? How do we discern whether we are really being motivated by love of neighbor as opposed to our own comfort, prejudices, or pride?

So far, most of the questions I’ve asked involve how we relate to people who believe that sexual intimacy between two people of the same sex can be moral in certain contexts. However, many of the questions I find most interesting and poignant involve those of us who have traditional convictions about sexual ethics.

Some people would like the answer of “no” to gay sex to simply be the final word. However, as Eve Tushnet points out, “you can’t have a vocation of not-gay-marrying and not-having-sex. You can’t have a vocation of No.”

Even upon believing that I should not have gay sex, there are many further questions I must ask. How do I deal with feelings of shame? How can I love and be loved? How do I navigate friendships with other men? Do I need to isolate myself to avoid sexual temptation? How do I deal with sexual temptation when it occurs?

These are the questions we have been trying to think through at Spiritual Friendship. These are also the questions that have far too often been ignored or sidelined in the zeal of conservative Christians to fight political battles. So I hope that Obergefell v. Hodges has provided the reality check needed to see the inadequacy of the questions we’ve focused on.

So there are many questions we can ask. How do we decide which are most important?

I think our best guidance comes from looking at the way Jesus summarized the most important commandments. The greatest commandment is for us to love God. So the most important question is:

What does it look like to honor God with my life and body, and what does that say about my relationships?

This question is actually not just an LGBT question. We all need to consider the implication of sexual ethics, as well as other aspects of personal holiness. For example, divorce and premarital sex are extremely common even among professing Christians, but are not usually denounced the same way as gay sex. Nearly everyone deals with sexual temptation, and we all would do well to ask ourselves about how we’re honoring God with our responses.

The other great commandment is for us to love our neighbor. The question that arises from this is:

What does it look like for me to love my neighbors, particularly my LGBT neighbors?

One major component of love, of course, is to address and repent of various ways that Christians have sinned against sexual minorities. Additionally, of course, we also need to consider positive ways to express love. In both of these respects, Christians have far too often failed. We would all do well to focus on repenting of our own sins and making an effort to show love to our LGBT neighbors.

Our other questions should hang on these.

Jeremy EricksonJeremy Erickson is a software engineer in Wisconsin. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

57 thoughts on “The Questions We Ask

  1. As a Catholic I believe that homosexuals should not suffer unjust discrimination. Same sex “marriage” does little to alleviate the very real unjust discriminations that the LGBTQIA suffer. My concern is that with marriage equality the law of the land, other more pressing needs in the areas of employment protections, mental health, and housing issues will be swept under the carpet.

    • I agree with you that this isn’t the end all be all. It is ironic you say you are Catholic when the Catholic Church has opposed employment protection and housing protection for GLBT people. For those of us in the GLBT community marriage equality was low hanging fruit because we have a Constitution that guarantees us equal opportunity to marry. It was something we were able to win in the courts. As for the others we will have to fight the church’s influence tooth and nail to win those rights.

      • There is no irony in my statement. I chose to become Catholic precisely because of her teachings on sexuality. I think you are decidedly mistaken on the issue of so called marriage equality. you can call it marriage, but it isn’t. That isn’t to say that the feelings and commitment between the participants is not real. I know it is.

      • Iam not a bigot because I don’t agree with what has happened to marriage. Is it bigoted to speak against polyamory? Underage consensual sex? Or is same sex “marriage ” the last moral right to enthrone?

      • It is bigoted to oppose same sex marriage. As for polyamory there are legal ramifications that would have to be worked out. As for underage sex children cannot give consent. It is amazing Christians like to go there.

      • I use it only to make a point. If marriage is only about whom I choose to love you now say I must _______polyamory. What if 2 same sex siblings of consenting age want to marry? If they can’t procreate and they aren’t harming anyone, whose place is it to decide? How far shall we go in accepting others legal right to marry?

      • Why are you fighting churches to change what some have believed for 2000+ years. It’s my understanding that part of your fight was to guarantee benefits to partners. You have that now, ministers are a dime a dozen that would be happy to officiate a marriage.

      • You’re like talking to a brick wall.

        Two questions:

        Does Lisa Diamond propagate SOME concept of sexual fluidity?

        Whatever her analogues between race and sexual orientation, does she believe in something like racial fluidity? Does she say it’s possible for someone’s race to flux over time?

      • Not picking a fight, but I’d be very interested to see what info you have. My understanding of the issues back then had more (read:everything) to do with “the intermingling of races” and less to do with the metaphysical aspects (which are directly related to the physical, procreative nature of the two sexes) within the Christian concept of marriage.

        It was also a relatively new idea. Anti-miscegenation laws were absent from European common law, and the segregationalist use of the Bible was preposterously thin on a textual basis. To my eyes, it all rested on the blatantly economic nature of white supremecy.

        To make this more interesting and productive, would you be willing to explain why you think racialist thought is similar to a sexual ethic that holds the inherently procreative nature of sex as a vital informant of any given sexual behavior’s moral worth? Again, not picking a fight, I’m just trying to understand your position.

      • My standing is very simple. Using the Bible to justify your particular form of discrimination is wrong. And in fact has nothing to do with civil law. Both are trying to justify their particular interpretation of religious text to impose their beliefs on law. Now you may question whether their interpretation was wrong but yours happens to be so right but the point is moot.
        Let’s turn this around. Let’s say it was Muslims who believe that women should not be educated trying to pass a law outlawing women from getting an education. This is their firmly held religious belief. Why is that not bigotry but the fact you believe that somehow loving same sex couples are icky should not have legal rights?

      • Using the Bible to justify morals and faith is not wrong. It is in fact very much appropriate.

        Just to verify I looked up “bigotry” in the dictionary:
        intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.

        Now, I tolerate your opinion about gay relationships. Can you tolerate mine?

      • Whiskey very simple both race and sexual orientation are immutable and you don’t get to force your belief that sex is wrong on people. Question answered.
        Rosamim as for you only one of us id trying to use their beliefs to deny rights to another group. You are free to have whatever belief you believe. People can believe that blacks are inferior. Where it becomes intolerance is when you take those particular beliefs and try to deny those who don’t believe equal rights.

      • Not good enough.

        If you’re looking for people to argue with that think gay couples are “icky” you’ve come to the wrong place. As I said below, I’m very open to policy that allows gay people access to civic rights. That doesn’t mean I agree morally with the specific actions, but I don’t see a compelling political reason to restrict those rights as I understand them.

        There are two issues, however. Just because I am open to the idea, it does not mean that I would accept any and all legal vehicles to make that happen. Obergefell makes me at least nervous because I’m generally wary of substantive due process rulings, especially in wholly new categories. So far, all I can see for justification of this ruling is “something something due process and equal protection something love wins.”

        This case is rather different from, say, Loving v Virginia, as that dealt specifically with a law that specifically cited concepts of “racial integrity” that CRIMINALIZED out of state marriage licenses for interracial couples. That clearly invokes equal protection and due process of law clauses. Also, the court’s opinion specifically rules that race is not a valid distinctive legal category. Hold that thought, we will come back to it.

        Criminalizing a marriage under threat of imprisonment is an exacting impingement of “liberty” as the law broadly understands liberty. Without getting bogged down in legalese, this is substantially different from not granting government benefits to any given arrangement of citizens.

        Now, mind you, this isn’t me sneaking in a “no” vote for civic gay marriage. My problem is, by equating gay marriage as civic law to anti-miscegenation criminal law, you hastily flatten the debate, and this is dangerous.

        Racialist thought is a scandal precisely because there is zero appeal to legitimacy outside of itself. Race has no identifiable function. It’s incredibly easy to imagine a world where race has zero impact on the decisions we make, just as we live in a society that has no social awareness of eye color.

        We cannot, however, imagine a world without sex, as it is the vehicle of the species. It is a fundamental way to be human. We know certain things about sex that place an inescapable need for moral reckoning with the subject. We know that sex can be abused and abusive just as much as we know it can be beautiful and transcendent. Sex is also where humans come from, and if humans have moral worth, a moral dimension is implicitly found in how we treat and arrange the factors involved in our sexual decisions.

        Now, I’m not going to try to convince you of the specific merits of my religion’s sexual ethic. That’s a whole different conversation. My point is, where there is an obvious category of moral significance, as there is with sex, as opposed to race, it is entirely reasonable in a democracy to ask a population what they think is best for society as far as a civil arrangement of that moral category.

        But now we can’t do that. Five unelected officials have ruled that the constitution does not allow an electorate to bring their reasoned moral views about sex into the governance of their state, town or country.

        I said that I would vote for SSM based on what I know now. But I specify “vote” because a democracy has the ability to adjust legislation over time as we learn more about the implications of our laws. The fact of the matter is, no one knows how this is going to shake out. Justice Sottemeyer asked point blank during the DOMA case that if marriage, as anyone anywhere can conceive of it is in fact a fundamental civil right, how can there be ANY restrictions on it?

        As it stands now, it would take the extraordinary judicial and legislative actions to adjust course if we ever needed to. And the fact that this was accomplished by employing unexamined arguments that equate race with sexual behavior as a sexed individual, makes me really, really nervous. If sexual orientation is immutable, it is not immutable in the same way as race is. If you disagree, tell me why, preferably in more than a tweet.

      • Whisky that is all well and nice but guess what. In our country we don’t get to vote on people’s rights. That is why we have a Constitution and as the majority found same sex couples are protected by the 14th Amendment. You may believe sexual orientation isn’t immutable. I will take my lead from every medical organization that says otherwise. But I am glad that your religion makes you an expert over every medical organization.

      • Well now you’re being daft. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Equal Employment Opportunity act of 1972, the 19th ammendment, the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, The Civil Rights act of 1991, and hell, Obamacare (establishing the “right to healthcare.”)

        All of these are legislated rights, enacted by Congress, where we elect officials to vote on our behalf. Come on dude. Where do you think Constitutional *amendments* come from? Have you never voted in a state election?

        Up until now, since the 14th Ammendment, the courts have universally held that the DEFINITION of marriage was the prerogative of the states. This VERY REASON was cited as to why DOMA was struck down by the court. The reason the supreme Court could end anti-miscegenation laws was because the offending states did not apply their own DEFINITION equally. Again, going back to loving v Virginia, the ruling was that RACE had nothing whatsoever with the state’s own legal definition of marriage, and thus was unconstitutionally denying equal access to its own civic institution to couples that matched the definition’s requirements (male and female). But the court never deemed itself worthy to decide what the definition of marriage must be.

        I also didn’t explicitly state that sexual orientation is full-stop not immutable, I simply said they are not immutable in the same way that race is. Unless of course you know someone who is “racially fluid” in the same way that some identify as “sexually fluid.” I could theoretically experiment with gay sex. I couldn’t begin to attempt to experiment with “black.”

      • Dissenters to LGBT orthodoxy are not bigots, just people with different views. People on both sides of this issue, need to give each other the space, they need, instead of the us vs them approach, they both need to learn to live and let live.

        I am not convinced with the arguments for gay marriage. But, I agree this ship has already sailed.

        I wish you the best.

      • Whisky that old canard that the ex-gay movement brings up that because someone is sexually fluid they can move from gay to straight. What that actually means is the person is bisexual. There is no such thing as ex-gay and the argument of sexual fluidity doesn’t strengthen your argument. Again sexual orientation is immutable whether that be gay, straight or bisexual. Just because someone who has had attractions to the same sex now have attractions to the opposite sex doesn’t change their orientation.
        Believe me talk to the many ex-ex-gay leaders like John Paulk, Randy Thomas, Michael Bussee, Darlene Bogle, John Smid to just name a few who are now living authentic lives. These people were the same people posting on here at that stage in their lives.

      • Who said anything about ex-gay? Stop putting words in my mouth. Sexual fluidity as something at least SOMEHOW distinct from bi-sexuality is an idea easily found in crazed right wing rags such as errr… Advocate. Oh that raging homophobe Lisa Diamond. I’d never say sexual orientation can be altered by external will, because that would be just as pigheaded as telling someone who says they have experienced an internal shift in their attractions that they actually haven’t.

        This says nothing of the existential differences between perceived sexual orientation and expressed sexual identity, which can be rather complex.

        All I’m saying is, as ontological and phenomenological realities, race and sexual orientation are not analagous categories.

      • Whisky you mean the same Lisa Diamond who says that sexual orientation is immutable and has smacked down her work being used to claim that it isn’t immutable like race? You mean that Lisa Diamond?

      • Reposted from above:

        You’re like talking to a brick wall.

        Two questions:

        Does Lisa Diamond propagate SOME concept of sexual fluidity?

        Whatever her analogues between race and sexual orientation, does she believe in something like racial fluidity? Does she say it’s possible for someone’s race to flux over time?

      • Whisky now you are the dense one. Dr. Diamond does not believe sexual orientation is fluid just like race isn’t fluid. She has said as much in his brief in the Windsor case but keep perpetuating the lie about her work.

      • Her brief never says a single thing about race. Again, I’m not saying sexual orientation isn’t “immutable.” Read that several times if you have to. I’m saying that the trait inherently functions in a different way than race, thus they are not “immutable” in the same way. Read those last four words again. IN. THE. SAME. WAY. As a matter of function. The simple fact that she says that the expression of the trait can and does change in individuals, as where we have no concept of this happening on a race basis, is my exact point. She defines same sex orientation as a “capacity” which is BOTH qualitative and quantitative. While the qualitative nature appears to be fixed, according to her brief, the quantitative nature (scales of attraction) is not. There is no “capacity” to “black.” There is no flux in “how black are you?” over time.

        Instead of a semantic pissing contest, let me illustrate.

        There is no conceivable ethical dimension of being black, in so far as “being black” in the sense that we are talking about is understood as being born with certain cosmetic traits. There is no “black decision” in so far as those traits do not compel or relate to any behavior unique to themselves. So, the immutability of being black is only relevant in PART to the scandal of racialist thought. A thorough and proper criticism of racialist thought is NOT merely “They can’t change their traits, so therefore racism is wrong” because that implies that they SHOULD if they COULD. The question with race isn’t “Should they change if they could?” because that very question invokes a moral category that simply doesn’t exist, and is thus ontological nonsense. Thus, the immutability of race isn’t even relevant to the question of racism as a moral evil.

        Since sex, as it relates to humans who have moral value, IS a moral category, the qualitative immutable trait of same sex attraction IS relevant to morality, even if the mere existence the trait is morally neutral. At the very least, the trait’s axiomatic relationship to an established and observable moral category elevates the question of “Should they change if they could?” into actually talking about something that’s coherent, as where that question as applied to race is literal nonsense. The reason I like this blog is because the writers engage with that question in fascinating ways that go WAY beyond a simple “yes” or “no.” But my main issue is, to offer a bald appeal to “immutability” as you did resolves absolutely nothing as far as a moral approach to sexuality and likening proscriptions against certain kids of sex to racism, and actually subversively legitimizes racialist AND potentially homophobic thought.

      • Please not you are being dense. Once again you play the I don’t support the gays can change then you go to well race can’t change but sexual orientation can. Let’s be clear. You are equating being gay with the choice to engage in sexual relations. Last time I checked sex isn’t required in a marriage whether straight or gay. So the fact that you try to make it about sex says much more about you and me. If I never had sex with my husband again he would still be my husband. The sexual acts have NOTHING to do with how my marital relationship is. Frankly it is insulting to reduce any couple to the sum of their sexual relationship.
        So once you throw out the sex part my relationship with my husband has nothing to do with it. So yes my sexual orientation is as immutable as my skin color. It is not who I have sex with or whether I have sex but who I am attracted to. The fact you reduce my relationship one you know nothing about to sex acts is frankly insulting.

      • “You are equating being gay with the choice to engage in sexual relations.”

        No I’m not, and I haven’t come anywhere close to it. I’m not ending this conversation because I disagree with you, I’m ending it because you don’t argue well, or really, at all. You put words in my mouth and don’t actually engage with anything I say.

      • “This case is rather different from, say, Loving v Virginia, as … government benefits to any given arrangement of citizens.”

        It is different, but marginally so. There are plenty of horror stories of gay relationships leading to huge financial and emotional problems when a gay couple moves to a state, builds a life, then finds out too late that everything they built together can be seized by the bitter family of the dead partner (or that taxes apply differently, like in the case with the lesbians and the house that was all over the news awhile back).

        Leaving marriage up to the States was well and good when you didn’t have Caesar involved but not that Caesar is involved, leaving it up to states would be foolish. Surely you can see the problems this may entail for the spouse of a gay service member who ships to Texas from New York and dies. Does the deceased’s spouse get to collect or get treated as a service members spouse? In this instance, not in Texas and through no fault of their own.

        “To make this more interesting and productive, would you be willing to explain why you think racialist thought is similar to a sexual ethic that holds the inherently procreative nature of sex as a vital informant of any given sexual behavior’s moral worth? Again, not picking a fight, I’m just trying to understand your position.”

        Give the people from the old days some credit. Many doctors, professors, and a number of intelligent people believed in the inferiority of black people and could prove it with statistics. You should read some of what American golden boy Thomas Jefferson had to say about them. White supremacists of the more clever bent do the same thing today, pointing out how black neighborhoods have more crime, blacks tend to have lower IQ, and so on. I could very easily make a “reasonable” argument if looking for statistics, as to why white people shouldn’t pollute their bloodline with black blood.

        And that “reasonable” argument would be no different then this Adam-and-Eve-not-Adam-and-Steve nonsense that feigns fear over the death of the human race if everyone was gay. No different that bringing up the monogamish stuff, the HIV, all of that. They are the same brand of argument. Granting 3% of people the right to marry is not a valid argument against gay marriage.

        As for the religious arguments, the Old Testament has some nasty things to say about intermingling outside of your own kind and it was believed by a goodly number of Southern Baptists (and still is by a thankfully diminished number) that darker skin people are marked as the Sons of Ham from Genesis. There are churches today whose websites you can go to to find them preaching against miscegation.

    • Roy: you ask about same sex, consenting-age siblings–why can’t they marry? Or for that matter why couldn’t I marry my brother, if I, say, have had a hysterectomy? It is because there are other reasons for the incest taboo than the elevated risks of deformed children and religious commands. There are secular reasons for the court to say relatives are not “equally situated” and hence not being denied rights granted to others equally situated.

      Were first degree relatives (parents and children, brothers and sisters) allowed to marry, it would change their relationships for the worse–even if they never married. When my brother or father suggested to me that one of my boyfriends was not a good guy, I could trust that his judgement was not related to his plan to have me for himself. In other words they could be more unbiased in their advice to me because they could not “groom” me for themselves. The possibility of abuse of power is salient between parent and child and between siblings of different ages, of course, but, even without a power differential (my brother is only one year younger than me and we are both in our 60’s), marriage would be problematic. That is because our relationship would be colored by that possibility all along. This is why a boy and a girl, genetically unrelated but adopted as infants into the same family, would not be allowed to marry. Their children would have no greater risk of deformities; what would be deformed is their brother -sister relationship–and from the start–because, again, when the possibility to marry is there, it changes the relationship even if there is never a marriage. [That is why people objected to the relationship of Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn; they were not genetically related–far from it–nor were they legally related. Woody had not adopted her. He had not married her adoptive mother, Mia Farrow with whom he had adopted other children. Nevertheless, there was a cascade of consequences. As one of Woody’s sons pointed out, “My father married my sister.”] Also imagine a sibship of more than two. The two sibs that get married would have a radically different relationship not only with their spouse, but the other sibs . Granted sibs can form all kinds of alliances already, but marriage would make this tendency much more powerful.

      All of the above objections to incest are secular. And they apply equally to straight and to gay marriages. (Eg. Two brothers marrying would undermine sibship as would a brother and sister marrying.)

      There are also the larger societal issues. Marriage binds people/families that would not normally interact. One usually feels obligations to one’s in-laws. Very unlike people can feel connected because they share grandchildren. This aids in coherence of society. It has been remarked that the large number of uncle-niece marriages in Iraq made it difficult for people to think outside the clan or tribe and did not help in creating a public square or civil sensibilities.

      Once again this applies as much to same sex marriages as to opposite ones.

      I hope this addresses your question of “how far shall we go in addressing others’ legal right to marry?”

      • I don’t think it does. Same sex marriage came about with arguments based on feelings of love and mutuality outside of what has been a very accepted norm. It pushes the idea that same sex marriage doesn’t harm society so why not? It will be used as ground work to further change what marriage means. It started with birth control and shifted the focus of the primary purpose of sex. Using arguments of same sex marriage you can’t “not” recognize other forms of expression including the one I outlined. People gave cogent reasons to the Supreme Court as to why same sex marriage is not an inherent right. Why do you think it would accept your reasons against sames ex siblings or throuples from creating a union?

      • “Why do you think it would accept your reasons against sames ex siblings or throuples from creating a union?”

        Because anit-incest rules are based on observable evidence like the uncle-niece thing she mentioned in Iraq. The arguments against gay marriage being a right ranged from lukewarm to out and out false. Science, both medical and psychological, backs up Hypatia’s point but does not back up your views on homosexuals. Why do you suppose that is?

        Because the facts aren’t, and never were, on your side.

  2. To a large extent, I think this has a lot to do with what one means by sex. Daniel Kirk (Fuller Seminary professor) recently commented on his own blog concerning Romans 1. Paul nowhere extols the virtues of heterosexual desire in the way that many evangelical opponents of same-sex marriage do. Thus, Paul’s use of the term “natural” is not referring to some kind of natural goodness to be found in heterosexual desire. Rather, Paul is likely referring to the simulation of (natural) procreative acts via (unnatural) non-procreative acts. In that sense, Paul isn’t necessarily condemning same-sex erotic desire, but is instead condemning acts that mimic or mock the act through which God brings life into the world.

    So, it would seem that anal sex–whether between a same-sex couple or an opposite-sex couple–is off the table for Christians. Beyond that, we just need to exercise godly wisdom.

    But I think it’s worth noting: The most reasonable reading of Romans 1 does not leave us with a Bible that condemns the experience of same-sex erotic desires. Nor does it leave us with a Bible that explicitly condemns any and all conduct that may flow from those desires. In other words, when the leading evangelical opponents of same-sex marriage proffer blanket condemnations of same-sex erotic desire, they are channeling Freudian social theorists more than anything particularly biblical. I think we’d be far better off if we came to accept sexual fluidity as natural, and simply maintained taboos against acts that mimic procreation. I fear that we’ve given Freud a bit more credit than he was actually due.

    • I find this an interesting comment. What exactly are you saying about sexual expression then? Is this a statement in support of same sex behaviour with the one exception that it should not mimic procreative sexual relations? It is not quite clear to me. Can you expand on your comment.

      • I don’t really have much more to say.

        I simply think that we have tended to read Paul through a fairly Freudian lens, and that we have therefore tended to discourage a fair bit of same-sex interpersonal intimacy that would fall nowhere within the ambit of what Paul refers to as “unnatural.”

        That’s not to say that it’s wise or desirable for two male friends to give each other hand jobs or to perform oral sex on each other. That’s just not what Paul is referring to in Romans 1. In that sense, it’s not same-sex attraction that’s problematic, but rather the conduct into which it’s channeled.

        For much of the past century, we’ve tended to associate Paul’s use of the term “natural” with the Freudian social theorists’ use of the term “normal.” Making headway on these issues is going to require us to deal with this, bearing in mind that evangelicals have invested millions of dollars and have developed entire institutions around cloaking Freud in the aegis of Scripture (See, e.g., Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood).

      • Thanks for the clarification, I agree with your statement,

        ` In that sense, it’s not same-sex attraction that’s problematic, but rather the conduct into which it’s channeled.`

        The most disturbing aspect to the evangelical traditional position on same sex desire, for me, is that they frame it as total depravity lumped in with all the other sexual sinful desires listed outside of marriage. They don’t make a distinction between erotic desire created by God which is good and lust which has components of excess and abuse. In my experience when I have had a romantic crush on a woman- which I experienced as normal attraction- it was always with the intention of wanting to share myself, to be close to her and to get to know her. Any thought of sex would be held aside as a relationship developed. For almost 18 years I was openly gay and dating women. For the most part once I officially came out shared with my friends and family that part of my life. I therefore can make the distinction between having lustful thoughts and repenting of them and having romantic thoughts and expressing them in a healthy way through honoring the one I exclusively loved and adored.

        My life was much more messy than that simple picture I’ve portrayed because I had the extra baggage of `religious` shame and fear lumped in with my desire to have a committed same sex relationship. Therefore I would flip flop and ended my relationships out of the fearfulness of judgement and condemnation. Although the experiences I had in a same sex partnership I believe were primarily normal I don’t believe they were aligned with God’s design or with what defines marriage. I have often struggled with that reality that `I believe` God would prefer I lived a single celibate life. The search for dignity and integrity as LGBT in the Christian community or church body is fraught with pain and a certain persistence to honor God in our relationships despite our orientation and because of our love for Christ.

        I wish evangelicals could understand that about LGBT christians !

      • Kathy,

        In my view, the biggest problem with evangelical thinking on these issues is to treat heterosexual desire–especially male heterosexual desire–as having some kind of spiritual and/or devotional quality. Take, for example, the following quote from Tim Bayly, a former leader with CBMW and the leading spokesman on these issues within my former denomination, the PCA: “Sex is a calling from God and is foundational to Christian discipleship, so the man who says he’s a celibate effeminate is a rebel against God.” Tim Keller wrote something analogous in his recent review of Matthew Vines’s book. To guys like Bayly and Keller, heterosexual desire is a kind of spiritual elixir, the partaking of which brings us closer to God.

        In my view, this is the clearest evidence that evangelicalism is not Christianity; it is merely a form of gnosticism that tends to borrow a lot of Christian symbols. Paul is rather clear in I Corinthians 7 that there is nothing spiritual and/or devotional about sexual desire. But that largely gets ignored.

        I no longer identify as gay. I found that most of the issues I had with my sexuality evaporated the further I distanced myself from my evangelical Reformed upbringing.

    • In the biblical worldview, everybody is reconciled in the centre point. The man-God Jesus Christ.

      Sexual difference helps point to this centre. Christ-Church, man-woman.

      Erasing this would be an inversion of the Creed itself.

      A sexless Jesus did not come to redeem sexless angels.

      This is why the churches that embrace gay marriage, are not going to be Christian for long.

      • If that’s the case, then why does Paul say that it’s better to be single? And what about the fact that Jesus was celibate and never married?

        You should work a bit harder to make sure that your “biblical worldview” actually makes sense in terms of the Bible. As it is, you’re channeling a lot more of Freud than St. Paul.

        Besides, refusing to reduce people to their sexual desires is not the same as erasing the differences between male and female. Only an unobservant dunce would conclude that the differences between men and women are reducible to their genitalia. Sure, it’s a facet of the male-female dyad, but it’s a mere facet of it.

      • Evan,

        Christian celibacy and marriage are complementary, not in opposition. But to understand Christian celibacy, we have to understand Christian marriage.

        While, Christian marriage points to the mystical marriage of Christ and the Church. Christian celibacy, is this marriage lived on earth.

        For instance, nuns are called brides of Christ, and live the mystical marriage on earth, where Christ is the only spouse-chasitity, poverty- the priceless treasure, obedience- to do the will of the Father, as Christ did the will of the Father.

        However, both marriage and religious life, require sexual difference.

        The Catholic church does not ordain women for the same reason. The distinction between Christ and the church would be lost.

      • Kathy and I were discussing these issues within the context of evangelical Protestantism. Yes, Catholics believe that marriage is a sacrament. I flatly reject that view. Consistent with Luther and Calvin, I believe that marriage is a pragmatic institution that has about as much spiritual value as the art of hair-cutting. If you want to dialogue about these matters on the topic at hand–the issues that LGBTQ people face in evangelical Reformed settings–then feel free to join. Otherwise, please refrain.

  3. This is difficult. As a straight “traditional evangelical” it was never a challenge to recognize that a just society does not leave people stranded on the ragged fringes intentionally. I never had an issue with “editing” policy rules as far as access to benefits that simply flowed from common sense: I cannot think of a political good that could be sustained by denying cohabitating gay men insurance and tax benefits, even if those benefits were originally designed to help naturally procreative heterosexual families. It also takes no special imagination to recognize everyone has to make a living. Take also the scandal of homeless gay youth left to the dogs, and a great deal of work must be done.

    What DOES bother me is how we got here. The national debate over these things has produced some of the most shallow, dead-end anthropologies of the modern era. The conflating of race and sexual behavior\arrangements has only the most superficially compelling moral force, and I’m terrified about where that kind of thing can go, and I’m NOT talking about “well what about pedophiles?” scare stories.

    I came across a YouTube video by a young gay man who was reflecting on his very recent HIV diagnosis. He was genuinely charming, and seemed like a really sweet guy. What really shook me was him quoting some writer, as a reflection of what his diagnosis means to him. He said “When your personality comes to serve your soul, that is true authentic power.”

    That broke my heart. THAT is what this poor soul is equipped with to approach the existential abyss? I know HIV is not the death sentence it once was, but my God. I’m not saying I’d prefer him to be wallowing in despair, and I recognize this person has to reconcile his self worth with a mountain of shame that’s been hoisted on him. But the obvious inanity of that statement highlighted to me the fact that we who share in the Gospel of Jesus Christ have such WILDLY wonderful news. We have the truth that lets us weep under the full weight of the tragedy of a ruined glory with the full expectation of joy to come. I think true authenticity is to open yourself up to the full morass of pain, fear and incompleteness inside and outside of our lives, but I don’t know how you could do that without the light and hope of Christ and stay sane.

    In this over-culture, I think my witness is to show that my broken body is still a little word of God. It is a gift to be made in His image in the way that we are as humans, and I celebrate it by and through His good instruction, in part because my pain and incompleteness cry out for instruction.

  4. If any sort of metaphysics is ruled out of this discussion a priori then how is there any justification for “immutability” talk when comparing sexuality to race? Caitlyn J and Rachel D certainly seem to challenge such triumphalistic conceits. It seems hypocritical (to me at least) to reject the conceptualities that could actually anchor the language of “immutability” but still put that rhetoric to use.

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