Part 2: Are People Born Gay?

The bible doesn't say. We, all of us, are born in sin. Because of Original Sin, the human nature that each human being inherits is disordered, which is to say there is none righteous, no not one [Roman 3:10]. Original Sin is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, our nature wounded and subject to ignorance, suffering, the dominion of death and inclined to sin. How we approach our response to LGBT persons is predicated upon our conclusion to this question, even if that conclusion is, "It doesn't matter: this is what the bible says and that's that," which is the typical anti-intellectual conservative party line.

And they're wrong: it does matter.

We Hate Gays

Most churches I've known have an automatic response to the LGBT community: go away. This response is not the result of prayer. It is not the result of consecration. Not the result of erudition or study. I have never seen a "No Gays" clause in the church's bylaws. It is a strict, unwritten rule with serious consequences for breaking it: No Gays Allowed. More progressive ministries have a more enlightened rule: gays are allowed but only if they renounce their homosexuality, admit their homosexual orientation is sin (specifically: a sin of commission; an operative or conscious decision or habit on their part) and are determined to stop being gay. Most doctrinal statements I've seen issued from black churches were not the actual product of a consecrated effort by the church to express the tenants of their faith. They were not seriously considered or developed with any course of study, teaching or prayerful evaluation. They were usually xeroxed from other statements of faith, the order juggled a bit, "Holy Ghost" changed to "Holy Spirit" (or vice-versa), re-typed and hung on a wall somewhere where they are usually ignored. I haven seen only one doctrinal statement from an African American church that made any mention at all of LGBT persons, the prestigious Riverside Church in New York City.

Most Church Folk could not tell you why We Hate Gays, but We Do. They could show you neither chapter nor verse, nor would they have much in the way of theological or historical context in which to place those words. People will doubtless review this essay series and conclude our focus is gay apologetics, which is not true. But there is, to my experience, a consistent truth: liberals tend to deal in facts, conservatives tend to deal in rhetoric. The most conservative views posted here (thus far) are based on rhetorical arguments and present no objective or empirical data. "God said it, I believe it, that settles it." The very first line of noted theologian Dr. Lehman Strauss's anti-gay treatise is, "The Apostle Paul..." But there is no examination of who Paul was, who Paul was talking to in his letters, or why our church doctrine should be based upon a plain-text reading of those letters, absent any foundation or context. Well, Paul was writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit. So am I. And I still  get things wrong, and my experience and point of view inhabits every line. I would be horrified to discover, centuries after my death, that some idgit decided to include my ignorant little opinions into the biblical cannon. Studying Paul, who Paul really was historically and biblically, I believe Paul would be absolutely mortified to discover we've taken the equivalent of his first-century emails and present them as God talking. To Paul, such a thing would be blasphemous; he is not God, he is not speaking for God. He is teaching, yes, under God's influence and at His command. And yet, this is the crux of our persecution and hatred, God said it, I believe it, that settles it. God said what? No, Paul said that, about this situation going on at this time and in reference to this other thing. But I never get that from conservatives, I get that from liberals. Conservatives do not tend to ask questions. Conservatives tend to present prepackaged answers and repeat slogans and talking points. Liberals tend to ask questions and challenge us to discover answers—to discover truth—on our own.

And, this is our task: to ask you to think. To pray. To learn and to grow. I am not denying any conservative viewpoint or necessarily trying to change anyone's mind. I have met few pastors who have ever asked me to think. Most pastors I've ever met tell me what to think and how to think about it. I don't believe God wants us to be robots. I believe God wants us to be like Him. Don't accept my answers, find your own.

The Church's Response To Homosexuality

In order to begin any discussion about this issue, we must first understand the difference between scripture (God's Word) and doctrine (our response to it). Most churches will tell you their policy concerning gays is taken from scripture. It is not. There is no scripture that says a gay man can't be a church deacon. Look all you want, it's not there. What these people mean is their response to LGBT persons is part of their church doctrine.  Doctrine is something that is taught; a particular principle, position, or policy taught or advocated, as of a religion or government. The Word of God is inerrant. Doctrine is not. Which is not to suggest the church's doctrine is in error, but it is to separate scripture (God's Word) from doctrine (our response to it).

The church's response to homosexuality must be based on the bible. The interpretation of the bible, what those words actually mean, is where all the fistfights break out. Regardless of our interpretation of those words and/or of our conclusions based upon them, our application of that truth should be determined by the answer to what is the central question of the matter: are people born gay?

The bible doesn't say. There is no biblical model of a man or woman waking up one morning and deciding to be gay. Or even of a man or woman being molested as a child and thus becoming homosexually oriented (a common believe among ignoramuses: all homosexuals have been sexually abused as a child and are therefore homosexually oriented and prone to pedophilia). How we approach our response is predicated upon our conclusion to this question, even if that conclusion is, "It doesn't matter: this is what the bible says and that's that," which is the typical anti-intellectual conservative party line.

And they're wrong: it does matter. It should matter. If our conclusion is that homosexuality is behavioral, then we look at it like a crime which engenders God's wrath. If we look at it as genetic, that people are born so oriented, then we need to look at it as a human condition—like near-sightedness or, for that matter, freckles— that deserves God's love and mercy. Either choice on our part determines who we receive  God's word and how we act upon it.

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.
—1 Corinthians 5:9-11

These are strong words: don't associate with Christians who promote false doctrine. The sexually immoral (or, more accurately, sexually impure) are on that list. But so are a lot of other behaviors, most of which manifest themselves within our churches as a matter of routine. Sunday buffets are bursting with tables crammed with church folk who think nothing of parking themselves at the trough for hours (while routinely haranguing the pastor about preaching too long), gossiping, scheming, whining, bragging on their material wealth and planning sexual hook-ups later that same day. We all know Christian alcoholics. We all know who's shacking with whom. These are Christians. Believers. They behave like reprobates. And we routinely, without giving it a second thought, hang out with these people, singling out especially if not exclusively LGBT persons.

If homosexuality is genetic, if people are born gay, from that perspective we might conclude that homosexuality is an aberration, like a birth defect. I have offended gay friends with this doctrinal point of view, but I believe God's plan for His creation was perfection. I believe imperfection came into the world through the first man—Adam. And even that imperfection is God's will because he could have made us robots, animatrons like the angels who have no real opinion of their own, no real choice of their own. God made us, all of us, gays included, like Him: sentient beings of free will. That choice comes with a price—the imperfection that entered the world when Adam sinned:

In creating the world, God inscribed a certain order in it.
Thus, the true nature of things and their fulfillment can be understood only in light of God’s design. This is especially salient when we are speaking of desires that arise within the human heart for Christian revelation recognizes the reality of original sin. At the start of human history, our first parents rebelled against God’s plan and by their action, brought disorder into the world: “Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state” (CCC, no. 404). The Fathers of the Church taught that human nature is one and thus all human beings participate in the same nature. Thus, when our first parents marred their likeness to God through sin, the whole human family was affected by it. Thus, the human nature that each human being inherits is disordered. Original sin is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it; subject to ignorance, suffering, and the dominion of death; and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called “concupiscence” (CCC, no. 405). ... Thus, the inclinations that arise in the human heart must be tested according to objective moral norms because the human nature we encounter in this age of history, though wounded by sin, is still called to the same norms of behavior intended by God “from the beginning.” 
Causes of Homosexuality: A Christian Appraisal of the Data by Andrew J. Sodergren

Liberals and LGBT-Christian apologists tend to push too far and too hard, insisting homosexuality is a part of God's plan, is God-breathed and blessed by God. That homosexuals are created just like bees and bunny rabbits. Well, bunny rabbits are a rodent mutation, but we could thumb-wrestle about that all day. There is simply no biblical foundation for this assertion, that homosexuality exists as part of God's perfection. There is, however, a case to be made for homosexuality existing, along with bunny rabbits and nearsighted writers, as a consequence of man's imperfection. As such, they deserve to be accepted, affirmed, blessed by God, used by God, welcomed and embraced by God's people as legitimate and equal to any other Christian. Loved by God, just like bunny rabbits. The conservative view, that these folks are evil, deceived, demon possessed, etc., would then require us to kick out the nearsighted folk and the folks with freckles as well. Oh, and kill all the bunnies.

Are People Born Gay?

Nobody knows. There are people who will tell you they know. There are pastors who will insist that they know. But the truth is: nobody knows. Anybody who tells you they know, for certain, about the origins of sexual orientation is lying to you. Any opinion expressed on the matter should come with some disclaimer: Here's What We Think. Most gay people I’ve known arrived at the acceptance of their sexuality through extended periods of misery, isolation, denial, emotional pain and efforts to change. These people cried. These people suffered. Being gay, being hated and rejected, was the very last thing they ever wanted in their lives. "If there was a pill I could take to change this," one gay friend told me, "I wouldn't hesitate."

It seems obvious to me that the church’s response to the LGBT community is logically predicated upon the answer to a fairly simple question: are people born gay? Is homosexuality genetic or environmental? Nobody actually knows. The overwhelming weight of scientific research and empirical evidence suggests homosexuality is not strictly behavioral, but owes in some part to human genetics—that people are born that way. But the simple question has no simple answer because everyone’s experience is unique.

Most Christians and, to some extent, society at large, view and relate to homosexuals as if they were heterosexuals choosing to engage in behavior we consider obscene or perverse; like prison inmates who commit violent acts of sodomy on the inside simply to satisfy their lust but whose conduct is otherwise heterosexual when released. Society’s condemnation of gays stems from some form of biblical osmosis, something just in the air, or perhaps an oral tradition passed down from Christian doctrine condemning homosexual activity.

I’ve excerpted the following from Pastor Bruce Lowe’s brilliant “A Letter To Louise.” which addresses the salient issue of the nature of sexual orientation. I do not wholly agree with all of Pastor Lowe's conclusions, but I can't help but be struck by his transparency, sincerity and the love of Jesus Christ which exudes from his words:

Homosexuality is an unchangeable nature; it is not a lifestyle choice.
Louise, this is an essential basis for understanding homosexuality. There may still be a few knowledgeable people who do not believe this, but practically all behavioral scientists now accept this statement as a fact. Down through history same-gender sex was universally considered to be acts by (heterosexual) people who had chosen to engage in perverted sex. Advances in the sciences, particularly psychology, in the last 100 years have shown that not all people are heterosexual; some are homosexual, and their homosexuality is an unchangeable nature, not a choice.

The concept of a homosexual nature first appeared in print in Europe in 1869 and in the United States in 1889. Acceptance of it spread slowly over the next 100 years. Freud accepted it and discussed homosexuality rather extensively in the first half of the twentieth century. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) officially recognized it in 1973 when it declassified homosexuality as being a mental illness. The American Psychological Association followed with similar action two years later.

Helmut Thielicke, a theologian conservatives respect highly and quote often, recognized in his work, The Ethics of Sex, written some forty years ago, that at least some gays and lesbians have "constitutional homosexuality," and therefore we must "accept" the fact that it is "incurable," that "our attitude toward [it] changes" [his italics]. and that it is "a divine dispensation" and "a talent that is to be invested (Luke 19:13f.)."

Evidence that homosexuality is unchangeable includes: (a) ten thousand suicides each year of young homosexuals unwilling to face life with that orientation; (b) the high percentage of homosexuals who go to psychotherapists desperately wanting to change their orientation, and then (c) the very small percentage of them reportedly being changed after hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars being spent in psychotherapy; (d) the millions of homosexuals who remain "in the closet," not acting like homosexuals and not wanting anyone to learn of their orientation; (e) the thousands who are reported as coming to pastors and counselors devastated to have to recognize their unchangeable orientation and wanting assistance in dealing with it.

A few, after psychotherapy, report successful change. It is believed that most of these are not true homosexuals, but because of some trauma in childhood they adopted homosexual traits; with these, psychotherapy can often do away with the results of the trauma and lead the person back to his or her natural heterosexuality. The results of extensive psychotherapy with homosexuals who desperately wanted to change their orientation have been studied, and several books document the disheartening lack of success of their time, money and efforts. In 1998 the APA adopted a position opposing any therapy designed to change a person's sexual orientation. The APA President stated, "There is no scientific evidence that reparative or conversion therapy is effective in changing a person's sexual orientation. There is, however, evidence that this type of therapy can be destructive."

Scientists and sociologists do not know what causes homosexuality, just as they don't know what causes heterosexuality, but virtually all are convinced that whatever the cause, it is unchangeable. Homosexuals are homosexual by nature; it is never something they choose.

Part 3: Homosexuality & The Bible

Christopher J. Priest
24 July 2011

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