Nothing. That’s right – nothing. There is nothing about homosexuality that does this. Sure, some people who hold these beliefs are repulsed at the thought of homosexual relationships. They acted the same towards interracial marriage. They were similarly offended by women who wanted more of a place in the world. Our emotional reactions to these things is not what prompts our beliefs – I argue that it is rather the opposite. That because we have developed such strongly held beliefs against them, that our strong belief then produces the vitriolic emotional responses to them.
So where did the belief come from?
I could talk about sociological studies that investigate how in-groups are developed, cultural hierarchies made, and all of the reasons for those. I’m sure that plays a part. Even in those cases, the particular features of the “other” don’t really matter. You remember this teacher, right? http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/divided/ She created an in-group and an out-group based on eye color. This study, and others, just go to show that we can find any reason to create divisions in society, in order to insure that we remain in the in-group.
But I want to focus on this problem at the level of the individual. Maybe at the level of you. Definitely at the level of me. Perhaps my story will sound similar to yours.
I grew up in a church tradition in which it wasn’t really ok to ask questions. I was expected to believe what the pastor and my Sunday School teachers told me. “Doubting” was a sin to be repented of. Having ideas that were different from the ideas you were told to have was unacceptable.
Then people that I love started coming out. I watched them struggle with this “sin,” beg for God to take it away, and it became so clearly evident that this was not a choice they made. Who would choose this?
Then I started reading. I found churches and theologians that offered different points of view, who said things that I already believed, but made it ok for me to believe them. Lots of Christians don’t think that homosexuality is a sin. Not Christians who are “backslidden” or are “too influenced by the world.” Straight up biblical scholars. Mind = blown.
Now that I found some new answers to that question, I started looking into what these scholars had to say about a lot of other things, and what I found out was that there really isn’t much that “the Bible is clear” about. As I wrestled with each new thing, my desire to find the truth of what God had to say to humanity intensified. My love for God, my understanding of His love for me, my ideas of grace, mercy, forgiveness, sin, and basically everything – grew and got better.
This is what I think hinders the church from the willingness to have an open mind when it comes to homosexuality. The fact that it’s causing such rifts in the church should tell us that there is something more to the story. GAY isn’t the problem. The problem is questioning. The problem is doubt. The problem is that when we acknowledge that we’ve been wrong about sin – about God – it brings up so many other questions. If we give ourselves permission to ask one question, how will we make them stop? Questioning is scary. Insisting that we have all the answers is safe. Wrestling is hard. Doubt can be maddening at times. Questioning our faith puts us on shaky ground. For someone who grew up being taught not to do any of that, with the added threat of an eternity in Hell hanging over their head, it’s downright terrifying.
But, having walked through it, I believe that it is the ONLY way to have an honest, meaningful, personal relationship with God. I think that “the Bible is NOT clear” for a purpose. God wants us to wrestle with Him. It’s how we grow.
Now, I’m not saying any of this to insinuate that I have been exceptionally brave for being willing to go through this questioning. Not at all. I was forced. A friend that I loved came out to me, and I wanted to keep loving her, same as always. I wanted to understand how she could continue to have a relationship with God. A lot of gay Christians that I know have some of the best relationships with God. I think that it’s because questioning is hard – for all of us. Some people were blessed with such life-shattering circumstances that they were forced to re-examine all they had believed. Yes, I said blessed. If you were blessed with a loved one coming out to you, and your religion is the source of issues in that relationship, I encourage you to sincerely and openly try to understand a different point of view.
Here are some resources that I hope will help:
Resources and articles from a straight Christian woman working for full inclusion of gay, lesbian, and transgendered people into the church: www.canyonwalkerconnections.com
A network of gay Christians with various beliefs: www.gaychristian.net
A one- hour sermon offering an alternate view of Bible verses commonly used to condemn homosexuality: www.matthewvines.com
Atlanta-area therapy groups for people struggling with a loved one’s sexual orientation: http://www.outloudcounseling.com/services-and-fees.html