What does John Barnts think about this Supreme Court ruling? That’s the question we should be asking ourselves. If we could only creep into that mind, explore the depths of that heart, we would have that North Star we need to unite the Church and stabilize this great country. I mean, he has a seminary degree and everything. He even plays piano.
[mad cheering, shouts for a speech, the feedback of a single microphone]
John hesitates, then picks up a ten-foot pole.
I have friends on all sides of this discussion. Good friends. I’m not going to say anything demeaning like “I love my gay friends,” because I don’t think of them as “gay friends.” These are my friends. And no one wants to insult a friend.
I’m sure that certain people are hoping I use this ten-foot pole to poke at the finger-pointing conservatives, or the Bible-ignoring gays, or at a boundary-overstepping government. What I really want to do is use this pole to poke “Play” on the DVD player and watch Empire Strikes Back. But I guess I’ll wait until after this post.
When I was half my age, I lost a good friend because I didn’t know how to communicate my thoughts and feelings about homosexuality. He told me that if we were going to continue being friends, he needed me to be happy that he was gay. That locked me up.
If he could have just let it be about preferences—I like women, you like men—we could have continued eating pizza, playing video games, and going to the movies. At least that’s what I thought. I didn’t realize that homosexuals think of their orientation as an identity, not a preference. If you reject homosexuality, you are rejecting them, body and soul.
If you say “love the sinner, hate the sin” to a thief, he will understand that you are talking about the potential for change, the hope of making an honest living. Say the same thing to a homosexual and you might as well be saying, “love the black man, hate the black skin.”
I was startled by what I perceived as a sudden change in my friend. One week he was talking about mundane things like cars and music, the next he was ranting about George Bush, Christian fundamentalism, how certain Bible verses have been misinterpreted, and on and on. I was so flustered by the change that I didn’t even try to imagine what he must have been feeling.
How could he tell his Christian, heterosexual father that he was gay? Would his father be embarrassed of him? Disgusted? Condemning? How could he tell the rest of his family? What about his friends? How could he worship a God that, unless the Scriptures were mistranslated or misinterpreted, had knit him together with a certain orientation that put him on a list with damnable sinners?
What would other believers say to him? God doesn’t make you gay. You chose that lifestyle. You want to shake your fist at God and stain his good earth with your filthy mind and flamboyant prancing. You just sit there and simmer in your sin until you finally sizzle in hell.
Aside from a lack of empathy on my part, I also didn’t like the thought of my friend having a crush on me, or any other human male. It made me squeamish. I think a lot of heterosexuals get squeamish when they see two men or women kissing or holding hands. They look at it, feel disgusted, and mistake their feelings for righteousness.
When I tried to explain my hesitations, drawing outlandish and hurtful analogies, hoping he could understand how my hardwiring makes the thought of homosexuality turn my stomach, he basically heard “you turn my stomach,” and that was it. We were done.
When I hear Christians rant against gays, I wonder if they’ve ever had a meaningful relationship with one, or really talked to one. I once had a Christian co-worker that was abused by her father and brothers when she was a child. Later I found out she had started a relationship with a woman. I really loved my friend. I was happy that she had found companionship. But a part of me hesitated. Was God not happy?
To find some sense of resolution, it was important for me to realize that sexuality is an invention. Let that sink in for a second. An invention. God is a spirit. “He” is not a he. Not in the natural sense. If God creates male and female, then claims to be a “he” and not an “it,” we need to ask ourselves why “he” is using that pronoun. We should study maleness and femaleness objectively, asking why sexuality was invented in the first place.
If you really believe in a Creator, you have to believe that there is a design and purpose to things, and none of us are independent of that design or purpose. We are locked into certain realities. If we don’t eat, we die. If we don’t like Empire Strikes Back, we’re mentally unstable. Cosmic law.
If you don’t believe in a Creator, you can skip the rest of this blog. I don’t expect you to resonate with the concepts, or be obligated to seriously consider them. Make your personal choices. Make your legislation. Live your life. Embrace the consequences.
However, if you do believe in a Creator, it is important to take a step back and consider the grand scheme.
If God creates a male, gives him a female, and encourages them to make babies and share life together, one could assume that the male/female connection was always the plan. God actually uses the nuptial concept to illustrate his relationship with the world, calling himself “male” and certain humans “female.” He talks about his “marriage” and “divorce” and even about the “fruit” of the Spirit. The physical runs parallel to the spiritual, allowing the unseen to be seen.
Why does God support heterosexual marriage and childbearing while the earth is rampant with things like homosexuality, adultery, divorce, barrenness, miscarriages and abortion? The story arc of the Bible is very clear. God made things the way he wanted them. Sin screwed it up. God has been working through history to restore it, and will ultimately do it.
Here’s the snag: If we call homosexuality a sin, we are telling a homosexual that their identity is a sin. It’s not like lust, or adultery, or divorce. We need to be sensitive when we talk about sin in this context. It becomes personal. I don’t even like saying it.
At the same time we have to acknowledge that homosexuality was never part of the original plan. In the context of Scripture, homosexuality must be called a sin. It misses the mark. If we don’t call it what it is, we don’t have a true vision for the trajectory of God’s redemptive program. Our entire focus is on the “now” instead of the “not yet.”
So how is a Christian supposed to respond? Can we just ignore homosexuality under the banner of “love”? To each his own? Or should we pull out our righteous foam fingers and start pointing? I suspect that God has made certain allowances for this age, giving grace to all of us who are born off-line while moving us toward a reality that has become available through Christ, a resurrection life that works to restore our spirits now and bodies later.
I’m still conflicted about the best response. There is nothing easy about it. So many people are leading this discussion with their hearts, muddling the grand scheme with personal feelings and experiences. I encourage a little perspective, a little objectivity.
I believe that God is good and wise and truly does love all of his creation, not just the heterosexual parts. His posture is always toward redemption, toward the original plan. I want to embrace what he embraces, and reject what he rejects, even if that means shining a spotlight on the unwelcome parts of me. I want to take each moment as it comes, each relationship, trying to live with humility in an age of grace, looking forward to an age where the “now” meets the “not yet.”