Homosexuality in light of the Chick Fil-A controversy and all the other debate about it
In light of all the uproar over Chick Fil-A and Gay Rights, I figured I would toss out this thought I had awhile ago, on how really to explain why the Bible seemed to be so hard on homosexuality, in light of Comprehensive Grace. (The doctrine that the condemnation of the Law, which is what is often leveled at homosexuality by religion, completely ended at the destruction of the Old Covenant Temple in AD70).
People today who veer into same sex practices from being jaded from a life of heterosexual overindulgence are generally what religious folk think of when they think of gays. Such people will better fit the description of what the Old Testament and Romans 1 are talking about. Likewise, prison rapists would be more in the vein of Sodom and Gomorrha (Which has been the basic argument that says the Bible doesn’t really condemn all homosexuality).
But none of these people are truly “gay”.
(When you listen to people’s stories, and having to “come out” among family and even in Christian communities, with all the ostracization they face ⦅in even the secular world of kids I grew up in, it was the absolute worst thing a man could be, and even today, gays are still being attacked in the black community⦆; often even being thrown out of the house by parents, they are not simply indulging in some [pleasure-oriented] “choice” they made.
Neither is it something they were simply swayed or indoctrinated into; nor for most, just some reaction from being molested, etc. Most really struggle with the identity from growing up, often as far back as elementary school! I doubt seriously they are all making all of it up —you know, as part of some conspiracy to bring down God’s judgment, or whatever, to “destroy America” (which is what these sort of things always seem to come down to. It’s all about their “exceptional” nation, which was not even around in Bible times!) In this vein, we’ve always heard about “the homosexual agenda” in the typical fashion of rhetoric, and while the way some have carried out “Gay pride” may go along with that assumption; it really looks like the “agenda” of the majority of them is simply to be accepted, as they work out and live with their own preferences).
Now, our problem is that in scripture, no such distinction is allowed between different people engaging in same sex practices. This is what those who insist with some justification that those scriptures are not really addressing them have been missing.
Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace? has a whole chapter “No Oddballs Allowed” which seeks to answer the question “What did God have against Lobster?” regarding the Levitical laws. While there are various explanations (health, pagan practices, etc), he cites a Jewish writer who points out “kosher” means “fit“, it seemed to boil down to whatever was “odd” was ruled out.
This would be the same reason why such conditions such as menstruation and even leprosy were considered “unclean”; something that has cast more disrepute on the Bible itself by the modern world, than anything else, as it’s universally known that these things are natural and not “bad”, let alone that the people suffering from them can’t help it!
I’ve hardly even heard the Church really address, let alone come up with a good answer for these issues, so the world’s judgment of the Bible stands, in the world’s minds!
But these things were simply regarded as “unfit”, under the Law (Torah); which was based on the “knowledge of good and evil” that marked man’s “fall” into “sin” in the first place. Man’s perception of life and especially things sexual was totally distorted by this (hence, the “shame” of being “naked”), and the Law that was given to address it reflected this by casting things as “unclean” and restricting man from them.
So as for sexual “orientation”, the “base” purpose of sex (including romantic attraction) is reproduction, and reproduction (of the organisms that have developed a differentiated sex division) relies on heterosexual union of some sort (a male sperm and a female egg; even if reduced down to test-tube fertilization or intra-uterine insemination). So homosexuality is “odd” or not “fit” in that sense. (Sorry for any offense, but can gay rights advocates admit at least this much? It is kind of acknowledged in the embracing of the term “queer” by the community, which originally meant “strange” or “odd”. It had become a pejorative epithet for gays by the time I was growing up, but at some point became integrated into LGBT’s own nomenclature).
The issue before us, regarding religion and the CG perspective, is whether God is still condemning what is “odd”; especially if there are people who genuinely couldn’t help it (neurological/hormonal disposition, which is how I see it).
That, I believe, was a part of the Law, just as every nonsectarian evangelical will readily acknowledge for the dietary laws (which, as I’ve seen noted, happen to issue from the same book, so it is remotely possible that they stand and fall together!) The same with a forbiddance of “shatnez”, the mixing of wool and linen in a garment, also from Leviticus (19:19), and frequently cited by gay rights advocates.
The entire point of the Gospel is that this Law renders EVERY single person “unfit”! No matter what we do, or how hard we try to be “fit”. Christ was the only one who could “pass” under it, and he, with His clean slate, was able to take the condemnation for everyone else’s “unfitness”.
So the answer to the issue, just like everything else regarding the Law, is Grace. Though that may still irk gay rights people, since it implies a sort of “guilt” they won’t want to accept. I believe we must keep it in the context of this “fit” principle in light of the heterosexual nature of reproduction.
The hermeneutical definition of “sin” is “missing the mark” (the Greek word “hamartos”), and what is missing the mark? The direct scriptural definition: “sin is transgression of the Law” (1 John 3:4). So when judging by the Law, (which defines marriage as heterosexual), homosexuality “misses the mark”.
So the question then becomes whether we’re under the Law. Most of the virulent anti-gay Christians are Sunday-worship observers who will then claim “we’re not under the Law but under grace (Rom. 6:14)” when confronted with the actual Sabbath (seventh day of the week) specified in the fourth commandment (or Levitical dietary laws, the pagan origins of Christian holidays, etc. The sabbatarians will themselves say this when explaining why they don’t go further and keep sacrifices or circumcision. And they will of course all agree the shatnez law is not in effect).
There’s also the mistaken belief that salvation or “sanctification” is about behavior modification, which is another way of placing salvation on keeping the Law, even though most won’t see it in those terms. (Those who profess “grace alone” usually will point to God’s Spirit “changing us” ⦅which still ends up connected to the self-effort of “daily choices”⦆, and that will be their prime argument against homosexuals). But sanctification is being “declared holy” despite our unholiness (2 Cor. 5:19), and the behavior change regiments they advocate (whether for homosexuality or any other problem people struggle with— addictions, anger, depression, etc.) are just regular human efforts (hence, them emphasizing “choices”) that are not exclusive to born again Christians. So many testify to it not really working.
They’ll also appeal to teaching on “death of the self” (or “old nature”, which would supposedly include “urges” that are contrary to the Law). But the “Death of the old self” as used in scripture actually points (especially as used by Paul) to our own attempts to keep that Law (for that was in fact Paul’s “old life” as he described it). This is what’s actually deemed “the flesh” because it’s the same source of those urges (e.g. the “fruits”), thus, why it becomes a “struggle” in the first place. Your very effort at combating certain thoughts, feelings and actions springs from this same “nature” producing them! Even with the Spirit “helping” you. (Which is generally interpreted in terms of “conscience”, which is basically reiterating the Law, which would then hopefully produce more of a motivation to change. But this ends up in practice becoming “works”). It negates grace, which is really what’s needed.
[Edit: Regarding the supposed “reparation” of a gay Christian, and another one criticized for still identifying as such, see also: https://erictb.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/why-im-critical-of-christian-self-help-teaching-part-2/#comment-2328 ]
The next objection will be that this position “allows anyone to do anything they want, and will destroy society” (and so there’s that motive of “saving society” again). But while you could argue that was the purpose of the Law in the first place; much of the Law was “added because of transgressions until the Seed [Christ] should come” (Gal. 3:19).
There is of course some sort of rules needed, for basic human society and relationships to be able to function, in addition to man’s relationship with God, and the best place to start with that is what rabbinic Judaism has termed the 7 “Noahide laws”, which, preceding Moses and the nation of Israel, are deemed universal for man; while the rest of the Law was only for Jews. The rabbis’ list of scriptures the “Noahide Laws” were drawn from: (Idolatry: Gen. 31:19-36; Blasphemy: Gen. 3:1-4, Murder: Gen. 4.8-10-16, 6:11, 9:6, Theft: Gen. 3:6, Gen. 31:19, Forbidden sexual relationships: Gen. 19:5-7, 20.3, Establishing courts of justice: Gen. 19:1-9. [The Gates of a city were where Judges sat to convene Courts of Justice], Eating the Limb of a Living Animal: Gen. 9.4-5).
Most of these things, most people, including the LGBT community, will agree with. They are also what were pretty much reiterated in Acts 15, when the apostles were summarizing which aspects of the Law new gentile Christians should be held to, against the more judastic element in the Church, arguing for the whole Law.
One of the scripture references for “Forbidden Sexual Relationships” is the Sodom and Gomorrah story however, which the rabbis will interpret as male homosexuality (and addition to them fanning out the 7 laws into 66 ‘principles’ that rule out a lot of things, just as they fanned out the rest of the Law into a tedious 613 points, for themselves). But as has been pointed out, this is not portraying consensual relationships, but rather rape, as part of a general culture of lust and violence, and as I said earlier, would be more comparable today to the prison environment, where normally “straight” men, cut off from women for years, now go after the other men, in a rage of lust and most importantly, power. (And the other reference, in the following chapter, is about regular adultery. I’ve noted it seems the gay community is more into monogamy than the straight community now!)
Of course, stuff like pedophilia, incest and bestiality would be included. These are more universally repulsive to the human conscience. People will think (as I even did), “oh, that will be next, once this is accepted”, but children and animals are not consenting people you can have any meaningful “relationship” with, so it’s not really the same thing.
Sex is about intimacy and exploration, so close relatives should also be naturally repulsive, and if you “fall in love” with them, something’s wrong there. Unlike a whole other gender, this would specify certain individuals as objects of one’s affections, but since they are so many other individuals out there to choose from, there are so many other options besides relatives. (And according to the most conservative Bible readers, who take everything in Genesis absolutely ‘literally’, God even once allowed incest, when there were only a few people on earth; i.e. “Cain’s wife”. But it is not necessary now).
All four practices similarly fall into the “odd” category, but gender preference between consenting human adults is different from the other three.
The Law was summed up in the great quote from Hillel that Jesus adopted, “Therefore all things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them” (Matthew 7:12). You cannot accuse consenting adults of violating this, unless they personally force it on you.
So in that light, you can’t even call it a “disorder” (like I once assumed it was). “Disorder” means “a confused or messy state: a lack of order or organization”. “a state or situation in which there is a lot of noise, crime, violent behavior, etc.” From there, the medical definition: “a physical or mental condition that is not normal or healthy”.
The people are able to live and function in society, while “disorder” is something that would hamper that ability (like “autism spectrum disorders“, “borderline personality disorders“, “dissociative disorders“, etc.
From here, people may think of AIDS, but while that is believed to have started from a particular homosexual practice, its spread (like all other STD’s) is from sexual profligacy (which not all homosexuals engage in; many are monogamous; and AIDS spreads just as much among heterosexuals), and homosexuality is not just about that one male-on-male act.
(People often try to prove God’s Law by arguments on “health”. Like sabbathkeepers argue the Sabbath and especially the Levitical dietary laws promote “health”, which most other Christians don’t agree with; but the shatnez law shows clearly that the whole focus of the Law was “oddness”, as that one command has no bearing on “health”).
So in my view now, what other people struggle with or who they’re attracted to is really their own business, or “between them and God”, as they will often say (just like if we shouldn’t be watching others having sex in a porn film, we shouldn’t be so ‘in these other people’s beds’ regarding who their partners are either!)
Since most conservative Christians will see all gays as “outside the Church” (including those who still identify as Christians), then Paul goes as far as to say “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” (1 Cor. 5:12).
In Matthew 10:14, Jesus tells us that if anyone will not welcome us or listen to our words, we are to leave the place and “shake the dust off your feet.” (and leave them to whatever judgment is set befall them). But Christians stay and badger, which is opposite what Jesus tells us to do. (And this not just with homosexuality, but with all the “sin” they decry in the nation. If they really followed this instruction for “evangelism”, they would have left the nation by now, as much as they complain it has turned completely from God!)
So why really are they doing this?
They’ll say they’re actually “loving” the people by trying to save their souls from Hell (or to be more accurate, get them to turn from a path to damnation), but (aside even, from the often unloving hostility spewed forth in the process) it is clear in most people’s objection that there is a more selfish motivation; that they think these people’s lifestyles are not only damning their own souls, but also taking something from them (the conservative Christian) as well; and this is tied into the whole “saving the nation” goal. That the nation was “chosen”, leading to it’s “exceptional” morality and politics, but the sins of gays and others is bringing it down, and causing “judgment” in the form of various calamities, (and probably also the economic downturns).
But scripture makes it clear that there is no such “exceptional” physical nation (this is based on a misguided Puritan conception of “covenant theology”, even though not all hold the whole theology), and all have sinned. This betrays pride and not love for the people’s souls, and so that cannot be used as an excuse for discrimination.
And we should not be trying to hit them with the Law (when we don’t even meet its requirements), but instead love them or at least get along with them regardless. We are to “Follow [live in] peace with all men” (Heb.12:14), not be “contrary to all men” (1 Thess 2:15. And “be holy” in the first scripture is for the reader to practice himself, not to try to force on others, and thus become the excuse to being “contrary” to them).
All of this may seem like such a “liberal” cliché, but it is in harmony with the principle of grace (i.e. that God is the one who administers and enforces ⦅—and can withdraw, if He chooses⦆ the Law, not us, even if He did once use people to preach or enforce the Law).