A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF HOMOSEXUALITY
Christianity does not single out homosexuality as if it cannot be forgiven and overcome. The power of God’s grace is greater than the power of any sexual sin.
Rev. Matthew W. Rueger, Author
Jan. 1, 2020
Discussions on Homosexuality - Part 1
Blaming the Christians
On April 3, 2009 the Supreme Court of Iowa made a ruling allowing same sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court did the same in 2015. In their ruling, the Iowa Justices gave voice to a very commonly held but very wrong understanding of how this issue relates to religion in general and Christianity in particular. They wrote:
“While unexpressed, religious sentiment most likely motivates many, if not most, opponents of same-sex civil marriage and perhaps even shapes the views of those people who may accept gay and lesbian unions but find the [pg. 63] notion of same-sex marriage unsettling. Consequently, we address the religious undercurrent propelling the same-sex marriage debate as a means to fully explain our rationale for rejecting the dual-gender requirement of the marriage statute. Religious objections to same-sex marriage are supported by thou sands of years of tradition and biblical interpretation. The belief that the “sanctity of marriage” would be undermined by the inclusion of gay and lesbian couples bears a striking conceptual resemblance to the expressed secular rationale for maintaining the tradition of marriage as a union between dual-gender couples, but better identifies the source of the opposition. Whether expressly or impliedly, much of society rejects same-sex marriage due to sincere, deeply ingrained— even fundamental—religious belief.” [pg. 64]
The court’s puts the burden of opposition to homosexual marriage onto religion. Specifically they single out Christianity as footnote #30 in their ruling shows:
Schuman, 96 Geo. L.J. at 2109–12 (discussing the religious arguments against same-sex marriage found in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, supporting a conclusion that homosexuality is considered to be a sin and same-sex marriage to be an extension of that sin).
These statements need to be examined critically.
Is the observation correct that Christianity sees homosexuality as sin and same-sex marriage to be an extension of that sin?
The short answer is yes. Historic Christianity sees homosexuality as being contrary to the Divine will, and has throughout its history. Only in recent years has this been challenged.
For many, the Bible is nothing more than ancient mythology. However a great many people do consider it sacred and do seek to follow it. I’m one of them. The following passages from the Bible directly address homosexuality.
From the Old Testament:
“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” Leviticus 18:22
“If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.” Leviticus 20:13
From the New Testament,
“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.” Romans 1:24-28
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
“..Knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine...”
As shown in these verses, the Bible doesn’t single homosexuality out for special treatment. In fact it speaks of heterosexual adultery more times than homosexual acts. It also groups sexual sins with other sins, making them all of the same caliber. They are all against God’s will. But, as the 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 verse above shows, they are all forgivable and can be repented of.
There is no question that these verses of the Bible are an important element in defining how Christians look at homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Christians who follow the Bible do see these as sinful and contrary to God’s will.
Is the Court correct when it says that religion is the source behind the county’s argument?
The court said,
“Religious objections to same-sex marriage are supported by thousands of years of tradition and biblical interpretation. The belief that the “sanctity of marriage” would be undermined by the inclusion of gay and lesbian couples bears a striking conceptual resemblance to the expressed secular rationale for maintaining the tradition of marriage as a union between dual-gender couples, but better identifies the source of the opposition.”
Lutherans believe in the separation of Church and state. The state should not be run by church doctrine, nor should the Church be run by state policy. Long before there was a 1st Amendment which provided a Constitutional basis for the separation of Church and state, Martin Luther was championing the idea of the separation of Church and State in 16th century Germany. He called it "the doctrine of two kingdoms". To quote Luther:
“These are two kingdoms: the temporal, which governs with the sword and is visible; and the spiritual, which governs solely with grace and with the forgiveness of sins.” LW 35:164
He taught that the secular kingdom should not be ruled by the spiritual kingdom or vice versa. If in fact it is only religious doctrine behind the opposition to same sex marriage, then the courts would be right – Church doctrine should not drive secular court decisions.
But just because the secular state and the religious Church agree on a matter of morals does not mean that the state is adopting church doctrine (thus crossing the line of separation between Church and state). The Church and the State can come to the same conclusions about morality from completely different places. Many of the laws of our country mirror Christian values with regard to such things as stealing, murder, slander, liable, conspiracy, and many other laws. Just because there is common ground on what is right and wrong or good and bad does not mean there is necessarily a common source – as the Iowa Supreme Court seems to say in their ruling.
If these laws did not arise from the Bible, then what is their source? Is it merely majority opinion? Is it merely tradition? Is it purely individual choice? Or is there such a thing as an innate sense of right and wrong shared by most human beings?
Historically, there has be a recognition of a shared sense of right and wrong shared across cultures and times. It is known as natural law. Consider the well-known words of the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The idea that certain truths are self-evident is a core and accepted doctrine of American civil law. Where did these truths come from? Not from the Bible – though they are not odds with the Bible. They are self-evident and true on their own. That’s natural law.
Natural law has been, not could be, appealed to in the debate about same-sex marriage. During the debate on creating an amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman, Senator Jim Bunning (a Republican from Kentucky) said the following:
“Only a man and a woman have the ability to create children. It is the law of nature. No matter how much some might not like it or want to change it or push for technology to replace it, this law is irrefutable. It is upon this law that so much of our society and our cultural institutions are based... ”
The same observations about nature have been made by certain gay activists. Consider the following from Camille Paglia, a noted lesbian activist:
“Homosexuality is not ‘normal.’ On the contrary it is a challenge to the norm. Nature exists whether academics like it or not. And in nature, procreation is the single relentless rule. That is the norm. Our sexual bodies were designed for reproduction . . . . No one is born gay. The idea is ridiculous...”
Camilla Paglia:, Vamps and tramps. (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), pg. 70.
Both sides of the debate recognize that laws of sexuality do involve nature and natural law in some way. They may not agree on how to apply it, but they do recognize natural law as a valid argument to bring to their case. The Iowa Supreme Court got it wrong when they accused the county of adopting a religious argument biased by Christianity just because it said heterosexual marriage is a tradition worth preserving. It is wrong again when one considers the many other religions of the world and how they also object to homosexuality. The major world religions like Judaism and Islam also object to homosexuality and believe it to be a sin.
The court’s ruling ignores these facts and showed its bias against Christian teaching and belief.
Discussions on Homosexuality - Part 2
Are people born that way?
The Iowa Supreme Court also voiced the common claim that homosexuality is "immutable." The claim of immutability is the belief that people are born homosexual and cannot help their sexual orientation. This is a common argument used by proponents of homosexuality. From a legal perspective, something is 'immutable' when it cannot change. It is what it is, and cannot be something else. Immutability becomes a legal concern and a matter subject to inclusion under anti-discrimination laws. Such laws protect immutable conditions. Thus, there are laws against discrimination because of race, sex, age, or disability because these are immutable conditions. No one can change their race, or age. Sex can be changed outwardly but not on the genetic level, and disabilities – even if treated – remain problematic.
Of immutability the Iowa Supreme Court said:
“A human trait that defines a group is “immutable” when the trait exists “solely by the accident of birth,”
Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677, 686, 93 S. Ct. 1764, 1770, 36 L. Ed. 2d 583, 591 (1973) (Brennan, J., plurality opinion),
"or when the person with the trait has no ability to change it."
Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265, 360, 98 S. Ct. 2733, 2784, 57 L. Ed. 2d 750, 815 (1978). [pg. 42]
The court goes on to say:
“The permanency of the barrier also depends on the ability of the individual to change the characteristic responsible for the discrimination. This aspect of immutability may separate truly victimized individuals from those who have invited discrimination by changing themselves so as to be identified with the group.” [pg. 43]
The two citations above reference 'case law' for a definition of immutability. In both quotations the definition supports the conclusion that something is 'immutable' when it cannot be changed.
One would expect that because the Iowa Supreme Court found that homosexuality is immutable that they were convinced that homosexuality was unchangeable (since that is what “immutable” means). Instead, the court redefined immutability to include conditions that can change.
The courts said:
“Accordingly, because sexual orientation is central to personal identity and ‘may be altered [if at all] only at the expense of significant damage to the individual’s sense of self,’ classifications based on sexual orientation are no less entitled to consideration as a suspect or quasi-suspect class than any other group that has been deemed to exhibit an immutable characteristic.” [pg. 44]
Immutability, as the court now defines it, is that which is “central to personal identity” and may in fact be altered. This is a new, and frankly, dishonest way of defining immutability.
What does it mean that something is “central to personal identity”? That is not an objective category like race, gender, age, or disability. Objective categories can be proven by clear evidence and are indisputable. The court’s rule, however, is based on a purely subjective opinion which cannot be scientifically proven. It also opens the door up for anyone to claim their condition is immutable and therefore should be protected under anti-discrimination laws since it is “central to their personal identity.”
One could argue that bestiality was “central to their personal identity,” or prostitution, polygamy, incest, or any other sexual perversion. The court rules should allow legal protection for those engaged in such things. There is no objective standard for saying these behaviors are any less central to one’s identity.
Damage to one’s sense of self
The courts claim that homosexuality can be changed “[If at all] only at the expense of significant damage to the individual’s sense of self." There is a mountain of evidence contrary to this claim by the courts. People do turn away from homosexuality and embrace a heterosexual life. A number of legitimate and well-accepted studies have claimed that the movement from homosexuality to heterosexuality is greater than in the other direction.
There are many people who are very troubled in their conscience because of homosexual urges and acts. They have repented and turned away from their a homosexual life to find peace through forgiveness. There are groups out there who offer their services to recovering homosexuals.
The courts simply dismiss claimed by professionals who do not support their narrative. Gay Rights supporter Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, one of the main forces behind the 1973 decision of the APA (American Psychiatric Association) to remove homosexuality from its diagnostic manual, concluded:
“I am convinced from the people I have interviewed, that for many of them, they have made substantial changes toward becoming heterosexual . . . I came to this study skeptical. I now claim that these changes can be sustained.”
Press release from the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, May 9, 2001, “Prominent psychiatrist announces new study results – some gays can change."
When Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling, a biologist at Brown University and lesbian activist, was asked about the argument that homosexuals are born that way said:
“It provides a legal argument that is, at the moment actually having some sway in the court. For me, it’s a very shaky place. It’s bad science and bad politics. It seems to me that the way we consider homosexuality in our culture is an ethical and a moral question.”
Dreifus, C., New York Times, Science Section, “Exploring what makes us male or female” Jan. 2, 2001.
The Iowa Supreme Court ignored this evidence and instead made a statement regarding the effect of changing one’s sexual orientation based wholly on the propaganda of the gay community and not on the verifiable facts of science or the many cases of successful “re-orientation” therapy.
There simply is no indisputable science that proves people are born as homosexuals. The more recent studies have actually admitted that sexual orientation is a complex component of one’s development heavily influenced by one’s social context. It is much more a matter of nurture than nature. As such, homosexuality cannot be said to be immutable.
As far as Christianity is concerned, homosexuality is a sin that can be repented of and turned away from. People can be forgiven and their lives reordered in God’s forgiveness. As with any sin, a person may have to fight their sinful urges for the whole of their lives. But this fight is not unique for those who once had homosexual tendencies. Heterosexuals who are apt to lust have to learn to control their lusts and not give themselves over to a "debased mind." Alcoholics need to learn to control their urge for booze, drug addicts for drugs. Every human being will have their own sinful propensities that need to be controlled.
Christianity does not single out homosexuality as if it cannot be forgiven and overcome. The power of God’s grace is greater than the power of any sexual sin. He can and does lead people away from sinful desires, including sinful sexual desires. God gives us His Holy Spirit through His Word and in His Sacraments to strengthen us in the struggle against such desires. Our Triune God is a God of Love who doesn’t want any to perish but all people to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Homosexuals can repent of their homosexuality and can be forgiven and re-oriented through God's grace the same as any other person with any other sin can be. What may seem impossible to us human beings is not impossible to God.