A Better Conversation about Homosexuality (Part 3): Not About an Orientation

Photo Credit: Umayyr
The conversation that the church is having is not about homosexuality as an orientation.  

     In a statement on homosexuality, my own denomination puts it like this:
The Bible says nothing about homosexuality as the term is often used today. Homosexuality is often used today to describe a person’s sexual orientation. The Bible does not address homosexual orientation.  What the Bible does talk about are homosexual acts. … Sexual orientation is not usually a willful choice.  …  It is amoral, neither moral nor immoral.  Sexual behavior is a moral choice.

     Being gay is not sinful.  Having the sexual orientation toward the same sex is not sinful or evil.  It is amoral.  Sin is in the action or intention, not in the desire or tendency.

True Confession: I am oriented to eating donuts by the dozen.
And whole pizzas, and vats of guacamole, and entire pecan pies.  I could eat an entire half-gallon of ice cream without flinching.  I am oriented to destructive overeating.  That orientation is not sinful in itself.  Camping out in Krispe Kreme is.  Sin is not in the desire.  Sin is in the action.  Holiness and health come in disciplining the desire for the sake of right action.

True Confession: I am a raging heterosexual.

I really, really like women, and not just my wife.  Like most men, I am sexually oriented to "sew my seed abroad."  The simple truth is that I desire to have sex with lots and lots of women.  I desire the conquest, the adventure, the padding of my ego.  Along the same lines, I battle my urge to look at porn almost every day.  I just really, really like women, and I want to look at them and medicate my wounded ego through voyeurism and fantasy. 
     But still, my heterosexual orientation is neither sinful nor evil.  I'm a straight guy with a healthy sex drive and a healthy sex life with my wife.  If I act on my desire to have sex with other women, that is sin.  If I dig in the gutters of the internet to look at other women, that is sin.  The desire itself is not sinful.  Sin comes in the action.  Holiness and health come in disciplining the desire for the sake of right action.

     This distinction is crucial.  When we say things like, "The Bible says homosexuality is wrong," that is misinformed, inaccurate, and untrue.  In 6 or 7 texts, the Bible does talk about homosexual sexual activity, but that is significantly different from homosexuality itself.  The Bible talks far more about heterosexual sinful activity, but that doesn't mean the Bible condemns the heterosexual orientation.
     We need to be extremely cautious about our vocabulary as we have this discussion about homosexuality.  We can easily misrepresent the Bible and God with our careless wordage. 
     Many gay people associate their orientation with their identity.  When a Christian condemns homosexuality, people in the LBGTQ community feel condemned as a person for who they are.
     Consider this: many gay Christians remain celibate.  Out of a desire to remain faithful to the Bible as they understand it, these brave Christians forgo marriage and sex for their entire lives.  (One prime example is the great spiritual author Henri Nouwen.)

     No matter our stance on gay marriage, I hope that all Christians can agree on this:
A celibate gay guy can be just as holy as a celibate straight guy.  

     Understanding and accepting this is extremely important.  There is a great injustice in straight married Christians condemning celibate gay Christians as morally corrupt and hell-bound.  I hope we can agree here no matter where we stand in the conservative/liberal spectrum.  This simple and minimalistic square foot of common ground changes the tenor and the vocabulary of the whole conversation.

     So be careful when you are having this conversation.  Be extremely cautious of your use of the word "homosexuality."  You could easily say something you don't really mean and something the Bible doesn't really teach.

    Join this conversation about the conversation by writing your thoughts or questions in the comments section.