“It wasn’t Adam & Steve!”
“Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!” the Southern Baptist congregation of my youth roared in laughter in response to the preacher’s joke even though they had heard it a million times. Even as a teenager I was turned off by this ignorant reduction of a complicated issue. But at the end of the day I agreed with him.
First of all look at the biology. Men have a penis and women have a vagina. Together they produced pregnancies essential to the continuation of the human species. Parents and children together created a family which was the building block of communities and culture. And there are no homosexual tigers or gorillas or parrots. There was no evidence in nature of natural homosexuality.
Second of all, if I thought about men having sex together I found it repulsive. It was inconceivable to me that any emotionally and physically healthy male would be sexually attracted to another male. It was self evident that traditional gender rolls should be cultivated and supported. While I believed effeminate men and masculine women should be treated with respect, I found the mockery they experienced understandable and joined in when they were not present. I can remember advising some women I was friends with that had some masculine characteristics that they would have difficulty attracting a boyfriend or a husband unless they were willing to cultivate their femininity. Especially in their appearance.
Third, the Bible had several ‘clobber’ verses addressing homosexuality.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Romans 1:26-28
Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. Leviticus 18:22
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Matthew 19:3-6
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
I was an Evangelical. The Bible was the Literal Word of God. These sentences were crystal clear. Settled Truth.
But then I began to witness the consequences of this belief system for fellow sincere Evangelicals who had a same sex orientation. In my twenties I attended a Southern Baptist church and became friends with a young man who had been in ministry and married but was now divorced. He was a bright, kind, sincere Christian but had become involved in extra-marital homosexual activity and his wife divorced him. Public Scandal. He repented and tried to leave behind his homosexuality. He worked multiple jobs just to stay busy all the time. He went in and out of active homosexuality. He was racked with guilt and deeply conflicted. Tormented.
My view of homosexuality began to shift from repulsion and judgement to compassionate repulsion and judgement. I think this is where many of my Evangelical friends are today. Homosexual behavior and orientation were morally repugnant, but I thought there were factors out of their control that caused this orientation. It was like alcoholism or drug use or mental illness. With the right treatment, the right support, and with God’s help they could leave behind their sexual orientation and behavior.
But then I got to know sincere, kind Christian men with homosexual orientations who were in demanding programs and therapy to change their same sex orientation and behavior and they were very active in their churches – and their same sex attraction was still an ongoing struggle. They fell in and out of same sex sexual activity. One friend declared that he heard God’s audible voice say, “I have something better for you” and he was then delivered from homosexuality. But then on Facebook I followed his pendulum swings. At one point he was in Exodus, a Christian group that claimed to deliver people from homosexuality. He would post the homosexuality ‘clobber verses’ on his Facebook timeline. A few months later his post would declare that he didn’t care what anyone thought, he was gay and he was enjoying living an open gay lifestyle. Then Back. And Forth. The guilt and the pain and the conflict were so difficult to watch. The Resolutions. The White Knuckles. The Self-Destructive Binge. The Self-Hatred.
I watched these good men and several others go through these agonizingly ineffective processes and saw the wreckage they left behind – broken engagements, divorces, and ministry scandals. I began to question: “Is Evangelical Christian teaching on homosexuality right? Is it good?”
And then the question that led me to reverse my position on homosexuality and began the Deconstruction of my Evangelical Christian faith:
“What is the HARM of same sex relationships?”
My eyes were opening to the carnage strewn across the Evangelical landscape by Conservative Christian dogma on homosexuality. Evangelicals demanded that those with same sex attraction reverse, or at least repress, their sexual orientation. Any discovery of same sex behavior would result in public condemnation, social isolation, excommunication, and put one’s Eternal Salvation in serious question. The horrific level of psychological and emotional trauma experienced by children and teenagers with same sex attraction who were raised in an Evangelical sub-culture should concern us all. We have generations of people with same sex attractions walking around with Evangelical PTSD.
In light of the of the horrific experiences of these good sincere people that I knew personally, I had to ask: “What is the harm of same sex relationships?” All I heard was crickets. What harm results from two men or two women falling in love with each other and deciding they want to spend their life together? None. And not only is there no harm there is tremendous good that results. Two people have the opportunity to grow together and learn to love each other and support each other. It is no different than the good that results from two heterosexuals marrying each other.
Love is Love.
Marriage is Marriage.
Family is Family.
Full Disclosure: I was one of those Evangelical Pastors teaching that people with same sex attraction deserved to be loved and treated with compassion. But they were sinning and they needed to find support and a relationship with God in order to change. It is so obviously wrong now. It is so morally repugnant. It is so bigoted. Why couldn’t I see it? I cannot excuse it. I can only say that I repent of those beliefs, attitudes, and actions. I support and encourage those with same sex orientation and those in same sex relationships. I support their full access to all aspects of life and a full opportunity to pursue happiness.
And I hope I might reach some people who believe now as I once did.