Here are some thoughts regarding potential thorny questions I may be asked on Wednesday night:
Is homosexuality wrong?
What is your position on Gay Marriage?
Let me begin by saying that I have no interest whatsoever in getting non-Christians to live Christianly. The good news of Jesus is not a set of rules about behaviour it’s the proclamation of His loving rescue for sinners.
I’m not trying to get anyone to “behave”, I want people to “believe” – and to believe in the Lord Jesus who loves them to death.
The heart of Christianity is not adherence to a code but a relationship with a Person. Therefore homosexuality is not even close to being a central concern for Christianity – Jesus Christ and His death on the cross is. The bible centres on Jesus – not on us and our sex-lives!
Having said that, our relationship to Jesus is described as a marriage-relationship. Marriage is a portrait of our relationship to Jesus. So marriage and human sexuality does matter. It proclaims who Jesus is and how we are related to Him. So for Christians who think it’s important how we proclaim Jesus to the world, we need to think through marriage and sexuality carefully. We need to resist the assumed sexual morality of our age and make sure we are shaped by Jesus.
But that would remain a peripheral, in-house matter if it weren’t for the fact that human sexuality is a massive issue in our culture. Homosexuality is not big in the bible, but as a test-case for the defence of our personal liberties, it’s huge in our culture. That’s where the heat and light is being generated. Wherever Christians resist the cultural myth that “what I do with my body is no-one’s business but mine”, there will be a clash. Wherever Christians say “There is a higher authority than the ruling libido of our time” there’ll be trouble.
Today our culture regards it as common sense that “what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home is for them and them alone to decide.” To even think about questioning that assumption is to invite frowns of incomprehension at best and angry revulsion at worst. This is a sacred cow we must not touch.
But in the interests of free thinking, in the interests of liberating ourselves from unquestioned allegiance to cultural myths, let’s ask:
- Doesn’t my gender matter a great deal to my identity, or do we think that it’s incidental?
- Doesn’t my gender matter in my relationships to others, or is it a matter of indifference?
- We acknowledge that the number, the age, the degree of family separation and the species of our sexual partners are all vital factors (though perhaps these too will become less important over time). Is it really so outrageous to suggest that the gender is also vital?
- If we say Yes, what are we saying about our gendered and bodily existence?
- Can I really split my ‘true’ self from my bodily and gendered existence without damaging myself?
- Can I really unite my body to another without uniting my person to them?
- Is it really true that what consenting adults do in private is of no consequence to society as a whole?
- How would we know if these cultural myths were ‘true’ or not? On what basis are we asked to swallow them? Can they be questioned or are they moral absolutes?
In all this we see how this issue centres around authority. Who has the right to pronounce on these matters of identity, freedom and choice?
Christianity, at its best, invites people in to look through another set of lenses at questions of sex, relationships, gender and identity, etc. It sees all things as made by Jesus and for Jesus and therefore has a very different take on these issues. Therefore Christianity has the temerity to question the deeply religious commitments of our so-called ‘secular’ society.
But once again let’s be clear, this is not about enforcing a sexual morality on those who don’t see things through the lens of Jesus Christ. The point is not monogamous heterosexuality, the point is Jesus. First we invite people to Jesus and then to live out the reality they see in Him.
By the way, Christianity has a lot more to say on the subject of sex and marriage than a simple insistence on the gender of the participants! But that’s for another time.
But finally, perhaps an analogy will help to show the Christian position on human sexuality. From a biblical point of view, homosexuality is like an eating disorder (see here for more). It’s a disordering of a person’s relationship to sex, the way anorexia is a disordering of a person’s relationship to food. Are there environmental factors? Loads of them. Are only some people weirdly disordered and others ‘normal’? No, we’re all weird in different ways. Does the disorder present itself as a straightforwardly chosen lifestyle? Very often. Is it? No, it’s more complicated than that. Do Christians also struggle with the disorder? Indeed they do. Do they slip into this disordered behaviour, sometimes for long periods. Yes. Can all Christians expect ‘total healing’ from the disorder? Difficulties will often remain throughout life, though some may know large degrees of freedom. Should we approach the issue with an attitude of fear and condemnation? Please no. But – here’s the thing – can a person be an active champion for the disorder and claim Christian justification? No. That would be a like holding a pro-anorexia Christian support-group.
On the issue of gay marriage, I’d rather preserve the term ‘marriage’ for the exclusive, monogamous, lifelong union of a man and a woman. Once you expand that definition you have to start asking why ‘three blokes, a dolphin and the Eiffel Tower‘ isn’t also a ‘marriage.’ But I can’t get too worked up about the name. And I’m not interested in creating more heterosexual marriages. I am interested in people meeting Jesus.
Something to add?
Let me know…
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