The three greatest controversies the church has to deal with today are probably something like homosexuality, abortion and evolutionary theory. I’d dismiss the third as relatively unimportant because it’s mostly intellectual, whereas the first two have a large bearing on the lives of real people. It’s still important though!
There is a plethora of thinking I need to do on this subject, homosexuality, before getting off the fence and actually making some sense in what I believe about it. But I don’t want to leave you with a head full of questions. Rather, I’d like to explore a metaphor of possible real-life examples of gay people in a way that should challenge the way you live out your faith.
The only gay eskimo
The queer world does present a problem for the Church. After overcoming fundamentalism, or pretending it’s not there like some embarrassing parent that tells inappropriate jokes to your friends, we still haven’t said all there is to be said on homosexuality. Sure it’s narrow-minded to say that being gay is a sin.
This stance leaves no room for people who are born gay. According to these people, whom you attract yourself to is just that, a decision made on your part. But let’s dismiss this for now. If someone tells me that as they grew up they discovered their homosexual identity, or some similar story, what right do I have to discredit them? To support my own theological position I could say that they were lying because God obviously doesn’t create people to be gay. I think a more valid theological position would actually be to love people, meaning that we trust them, and if we trust people then we consider what they say as truth. What is more, to say that people are not born gay is unscientific.
But this is baby-food. Let’s examine two positions that arise from the aftermath of the first. Firstly, a more progressively minded friend may point out that our goal is not to define what sin is and sin isn’t, but to love people despite their sin. How much relevance does this have for Gay-Church relations? Maybe homosexuals are treated better but what they do is still sinful… So the Church may say that if people are born gay then clearly God created them this way. There should be no reservations in the Church. Gay Christians have the right to marry someone of the same sex and enter into a leadership position in the Church. I really haven’t nothing to say on this view but what the view is itself.
Secondly, a more moderate position (that I’d like to optimistically¹ guess a lot of Christians adhere to) is there is a distinction between being homosexual and acting on your homosexuality. We see no problems with gays converting. Hey, perhaps the Lord may work through them and heal them of their attraction to people of the same sex. But if not, they can continue as gays, even serve in the Church, as long as they remain celibate or marry someone of the opposite sex. Let me illustrate the point with a joke I remember being told to me when I was in my early teens:
A bear is chasing a mouse through the woods, when they casually come across a magic toe. When the toe offers them three wishes each, the mouse is thrilled at the chance to possibly take the bear’s mind of him being lunch. The bear, greedy for the possibility of wishes snatches away his first wish. “I wish that every bear in the wood, except for me, were female”. Without hesistation, the toe wriggles, grants the wish and turns to the mouse. “I wish that I had a truckload of cheese”. The bear, exercising a little imagination, extends his last wish. “I wish that every bear in this country, except for me, were female”. Patiently waiting for his turn and slightly inspired by the bear’s imagination, the mouse announces his second wish. “I wish that every mouse in this country had a truckload of cheese”. The bear cannot take it; he is overcome with greed. No other bear but him will ever make love again. “I wish that every bear in the world, except for me, were female”. The mouse smiles from ear to ear. “I wish that this bear was gay”.
Some may find it funny; some may find it offensive. But the gay bear, the only gay eskimo², is a picture of the converted gay. In the same way the bear was punished by the mouse for his greed, the converted gay is punished by his or her church or theology for being gay. The prospect of true love is no longer possible. Sure, the gay bear can be celibate, but can anyone actually prescribe celibacy for another unless they themselves know how much of a sacrifice it is? It is different if God speaks directly to a converted homosexual and asks them to be celibate for the sake of the Kingdom. But if Christianity truly is universal, as in open to everyone, how can such a stringent requirement be in place for everyone who is part of such a large proportion of the population, the gay community? If there is a lesson here for the straight Christian, who expects the homosexual convert to deny one of the most important parts of human existence, the expression of their sexuality, this straight Christian needs to consider these words, even put them into practice, in relation to their own life: “You can’t always get what you want”.
* * *
¹This is optimistic in light of the view that to be gay is a sin. I realise that many will see it as pessimistic that many Christians see gay actions but not gay feeling as sin, when they should really see gay actions as not sin at all.
²This is a reference to a song that mum used to have on tape when we were kids. I looked it up recently and didn’t realise how rude it was, ha!
Image from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/14/Eskimo_Family_NGM-v31-p564-2.jpg