Friday, October 07, 2005

Perceptions

One thing I've noticed as I have begun studying the issue of homosexuality and Christianity in greater depth is that everyone who's taken a side seems to have, at some point, made an assumption of some sort - a leap of faith, if you prefer. My own examination of the relevant issues and my times of study, prayer, contemplation and dialogue keep leading me back to the same impasse. Both sides have very good points to make, and both have glaring weaknesses. Both sides have their share of sincere, godly people with stories of their encounters with God - which leads me to wonder if we're not asking the wrong question altogether. But that's a topic for another day.

Most of the theologians I've read on this subject, both liberal and conservative, seem to have reached their conclusions before they even got as far as the Table of Contents in their Bible. All of the evidence they present for their respective cases has already been filtered through the lens of their personal bias. The exceptions I've found to that rule tend to be people who are themselves same-sex attracted, and even they look at the exact same evidence and end up at diametrically opposed conclusions. Why? At some point they took a leap of faith.

I think of two individuals in my life, both people I love and respect, who took their own leaps of faith that landed them on opposite sides of this question. The first spent years in various Exodus programs trying to change his orientation, until he came to understand how unlikely it was that he'd ever develop heterosexual attractions. After a considerable amount of soul searching he came to the conclusion that God wouldn't equip him with such powerful drives - not only for sex, but for deep emotional connection - only to tell him that he could never act on them under any circumstances.

The second, the mother of a gay man, came away from her examination of the issue frustrated by how vague the scriptures really are in relation to this issue. Her turning point came when she came to the realization that if the relevant verses (the "clobber passages") didn't speak to the issue of gay relationships as we understand them today, then the Bible was silent on the issue. Finding that to be unacceptable, she concluded that homosexual behavior must be wrong under any circumstances.

While I deeply respect both of these friends and the journeys they have been on, I can't reconcile myself to embracing either of the assumptions that they made. With regard to the former I would simply point out that God doesn't promise us happiness in this lifetime, apart from the joy that comes directly from Him and that transcends our cirumstances. The only fulfillment we are guaranteed comes from Him and not from other people.

To the latter I would say, since when are we supposed to treat the Bible like an encyclopedia? The Bible gives us important principles that we can use to discern right from wrong, but its books were written thousands of years ago to people who lived in vastly different cultures. There are many pressing contemporary issues that it does not directly address: abortion, contraceptives, democratic elections, Christian participation in wars, euthanasia, artificial insemination, bioengineering, deforestation, etc.

We can extrapolate answers to these questions from what God said to our spiritual predecessors, but good Christians still end up disagreeing on all of these issues in a myriad of ways, and I believe that God gave us the freedom to do so. Ultimately I believe He is more concerned with the condition of our hearts than He is with whether we advocate the 'right' answers to any of these questions.

So why can't I make my own leap of faith and choose my side? Maybe I already have...

3 comments:

detrevni28@yahoo.com said...

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.

Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address

As one of those "liberal" gay Christians, I totally agree that most people make up their minds before even starting. Homosexuality seems to be the center of the next great debate within the church, and I fear that many schisms, hurt feelings, and bad blood will follow. Let's pray that people remember to focus on God's will.

Christine said...

You are a really great writer, E. I'm enjoying reading your thoughts. Thanks.

Ash said...

Hey E, good stuff. It's always good to read honest opinions about the whole "sexuality & faith" question.

If you don't mind, I'm gonna link you on my own blog. Drop by if you ever have the time. http://oddpsalms.blogspot.com/

Keep up the posts. It's an encouragement to know there are others going through the same experience.