Many communication barriers exist between some Christians and some gay people—not all. It is unfortunate and has cost both sides wholesome relationship and understanding of one another and their ideas. But I find this odd—to speak of the two as though they are perfectly incompatible and as if homosexual and Christian do not describe the experience of some persons, especially when the apostle Paul says, “And such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:9, 11).
We all understand how consuming a topic this has become. We have watched the news stories, heard from hardliners in both camps, drawn our opinions on the politics, and questioned our own prejudices when things have turned tragic. Particularly, there is tension from a moral and religious aspect and perhaps it is understandable.
In a nation that has been overwhelmingly Judeo-Christian in its outlook, orthodox definitions and interpretations of love and theology are being challenged. Many Christians are affronted that their scriptures should be reinterpreted to allow for a position they say God condemns; many gays love God or want the embrace of the church but feel scolded and are in search of acceptance.
I believe there are two major communication barriers that exist between many Christian and openly gay people we all know—a real reason why dialogue turns into emotional blowouts or frustration that leads to irreparable relations. I will explain them succinctly and without the charged nuances that often sideline discussion.
First, Christians inflame gays when they claim that their sexuality is a choice. Many Christians do not care to believe that same-sex attraction is anything other than a person’s choice; some have never given deep thought to it. There is no scientific evidence validating same-sex attraction, but there is no proof to the contrary either, biblical or otherwise.
Yet I wonder if Christians listen with their hearts. Personally, I do not believe that men and women who express knowing their difference from an early age and who grew up altering part of their identity by suppressing their feelings would choose a life that is oftentimes unavoidable of much personal pain and scorn. It is not fair to dismiss their feelings by claiming they are not real. Such is a deep insult to gays, many who believe God made them as they are. Christians strip gays of part of their personhood when they say their feelings are chosen.
This is not merely about what Christian theology teaches, which is not necessarily wrong. This is about human emotions and not knowing why they work differently for two men or two women that love each other. Furthermore, what if a gene is discovered that indeed proves same-sex attraction in some? There are only 10,000 gene functions currently known of the 80,000 genes in the human body.
The conversation about choice from a Christian standpoint is a valid one but not pertaining to homosexual feelings. There are things all people refrain from doing simply because it is not the proper thing to do, whether there is inclination or not. For instance, there are many heterosexuals, single and married, that, against their better judgment, would freely bed other persons but do not for several reasons. A Christian might steer clear of questionable behavior solely to avoid offending God. Although feelings and temptations may flare, however, it is the behavior that ultimately condemns.
So we would have to be just as reasonable with homosexual individuals and ask whether people with same-sex attraction can also be chaste and refrain from what Christians believe God deems immoral sexual behavior, just like heterosexual fornication and adultery, especially when it concerns God-fearing Christians that may struggle with homosexuality. This is the real conversation about choice.
This is important because many people denigrate homosexuals and feel they are people fully given to philandering and are pedophiles and should be kept away from children, which is simply not true. This is a stigma. Homosexual people are not monsters. We must learn that mere same-sex attraction, although it stems from spiritual depravity, like all sin, is not condemning. Many people may experience these feelings to some degree, but just as many people, indeed more, feel inclined to do drugs and steal and do violence. All of these feelings are bad and must be curbed; however, it is the act that convicts.
Christians must avoid risking becoming graceless and unloving for lack of real dialogue and opening their hearts to hear another’s.
Second, gays inflame Christians when they attempt to reinterpret the scriptures to be more condoning of their feelings or behavior. Christians have 2,000 years of developed teaching and doctrine—and more counting Hebrew tradition—that have already been challenged in numerous ways, from lifestyle to heresy. But there has generally been consensus about God and what godliness entails based on what he has revealed to his people through his prophets and preachers and, ultimately, through his words, now contained in the Bible.
When some gays and scholars opt for new or amended revelation from God on the matter or say that the scriptures, as have always been understood, are inconclusive or not meaning what they have always meant or attempt skewed and lackluster study and build arguments by pitting scripture against scripture—this is high offense to Christians, often seen as coming from those who have determined to live as they desire and twist God’s arm to bless it.
Specifically, the insult to Christians is the challenge made to a stalwart tradition and the sacred scriptures, even the “makeover” of a holy God.
Christians would argue that if gays wish to be part of the theological and scriptural discussion—and their insight is fully welcome—it should be inclusive of a grapple with biblical, historical, and cultural norms, customs, and definitions and not accomplished with alterations and appendages.
Gays must understand that they don’t get to glibly pass over two millennia of solid tradition and teaching.