As you know, kids can be mean, and kids who don’t fit the mold know this more than most. Confession time: I got picked on quite a bit as a child at certain points along the way. At one point around grade 9 and 10 there were a gang of kids who crowded in on me and would call me gay. Here are the facts: I didn’t play sports or like sports very much. As a guy this put me out a bit. Furthermore, I preferred to hang around with girls than with guys. This is probably because with girls I didn’t feel the ever-present testosterone driven competition in which I always came up short when I hung out with guys. I didn’t like getting my hands dirty. I didn’t do drugs (which, at the school I went to, was frowned upon by most of my peers). I never fought. I had a slim build and my hair was always slicked with gel.
You might read over that and think, so what? But the kids in my grade saw it as an opportunity to call me gay or queer. I felt constantly threatened. Scared to walk certain hallways. Terrified to attend certain classes. And I was angry that they would call me gay. I was angry because it just wasn’t true. I wanted to scream back at them, ‘I’M NOT GAY!’ But I knew it wouldn’t help.
Yet here’s the thing. This was in the mid-90’s. Being gay was far more a taboo back then than today. And I’m sad to say, I reflected the prejudice of my day just as much as my peers. First, I thought being gay was a terrible thing in and of itself. Second, by wanting to scream ‘I’M NOT GAY!’ it’s as if I was saying, go find a REAL gay kid to pick on and leave me alone.
I carried this with me into my late teens and early 20’s. At youth group it was fun to joke and tease with my friends about “who’s queer” or “who’s acting gay.” But I didn’t know any gay people. They were like an abstract idea. It was as though they lived some time in the distant past, another point in history or some remote place on earth far away from my cul-de-sac world. I had, in a word, dehumanized them in my mind.
Overcoming this prejudice has not been easy. When I see a gay person today it is a challenge not to think about them in purely sexual terms, with revolting images coming to my mind. But slowly, and with ever-increasing success, I am able to see a gay man as a human. As someone who has had a difficult life. Who has had challenges I’ll never fully relate to, and never fully understand.
In 2011 I received an email from a gay man through my blog. I’ve decided to not publish it in full, but here’s a snippet:
Put the shoes on your feet, Derek. What if you were not able to be with your beautiful wife. If it was considered a ‘sin’ and your only options dictated to you were to either have a same-sex relationship (of which you have no desire because it goes against your very nature) or celibacy… No matter how much you love Christ. You would spend most of your life not in grief because you are heterosexual and you are told the bible clearly states it’s wrong, but in grief because you are not accepted and other Christians have interpreted and decided for you what the verses mean and placed conditions on what you can and can’t do. Try to imagine it for a bit.”
I’m not saying I agree with this man’s line of reasoning. That’s not the point. This emailer, for whatever he intended to say (the email was quite long), helped me understand that how a gay man may feel about another man is the same as I do about my wife.
What if the Bible seemed to say that I could not be with the woman I loved. That I could not be intimate with her. That I could not know her. Yes, I am a heterosexual. Yes, that means that a gay man’s challenges in this life will not be the same as some of my challenges. But the more I thought about this email, the more it occurred to me that the Bible does not allow a heterosexual person to be with whomever they love.
Sometimes people fall in love with people who are not their spouse. In today’s world this practice of leaving your husband or wife on the grounds that you’ve fallen in love with another person is common practice, even in the church. But it’s a sin. And having sexual relations with that person is just as much condemned in the Bible as gay sex. And yet our churches run ramped with divorced and remarried couples. Sometimes it occurs even in our pulpits. The Bible seems to classify that as a, to use contemporary language, lifestyle of adultery.
So if we’re going to talk about a “homosexual lifestyle” – by which is usually meant a gay individual who has chosen to engage in or prowl for gay sex, or has been united as a family in a homosexual relationship – we should also talk about the “adulterous lifestyle.” This is where non-gay individuals have chosen to engage in heterosexual sex or be united as a family in a heterosexual relationship in which one or both parties has left their husband or wife for their new lover. In Matthew 19 Jesus explicitly condemns this sin (and in the process, it can be argued, he implicitly condemns polygamy and homosexual marriage).
So why are Christians so tolerant toward adulterous lifestyles and so intolerant toward homosexual lifestyles?
I have a friend online. I haven’t connected with him to ask if I could point you to his story, so I’ll leave it out. What I will say is that this man is a strong, very conservative evangelical Christian. Much more conservative than I am. His blog posts are riddled with scripture references. He has a sharp mind and clear understanding of what he believes the Bible teaches as right or wrong. He’s never afraid to call a sin, sin.
It came out last year rather dramatically that he has an orientation toward homosexuality. But here’s the thing. His zeal, his passion, his conservative standards, they have not changed. Here is a man who is orientated toward homosexuality who has chosen to live a celibate life because he believes that giving in to the desires of his nature would be sin.
I’ve seen studies that have shown that most men are orientated toward multiple partners. In other words, it seems natural for men to want to plant their seed (if you will) and then move on to their next mate. Yet It is society that dictates to us the immorality of this type of lifestyle. So we’ve found ways around that, for example, through divorce and remarriage. But God has called us to deny ourselves, deny these naturally orientated desires and inclinations for multiple partners, and to be a man or woman of but one spouse.
I think the homosexual issue in the church needs a little perspective. We need to think clearly about these issues and above all, we need to remember that we’re not talking about abstract ideas. These are real people faced with difficult lives. The church needs to be a better answer than it has been so far.