Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What About Homosexuality? Part 2

The question about homosexuality is linked more to the issue of morality than to that of fitness. Is homosexuality wrong in that it runs counter to a moral standard? In order to think about this, I have to explore in what ways homosexuality might be framed in a category of morality.

1. Sexual practices that are predatory or forced upon an unwilling person would be considered, generally, immoral. If homosexual behaviors are acted out in such a way, most societies would consider them immoral. However, most societies would consider heterosexual activity immoral as well, if acted out under the same circumstances.

2. Sexual practices that use another person without regard for that person's well-being or dignity, even if by mutual consent, would be considered by many to be dehumanizing at the least. Again, that would apply to both homosexual and heterosexual behavior.

3. Obsessive sexual behavior (sometimes labeled "sexual addiction") of any nature is generally considered aberrant (note the recent celebrities whose treatment for sexual addiction has made the popular press).

I suspect that the question moves beyond even these categories and into the realm of the transcendent. In other words, is there a higher moral law that is breached when a person claims to have an innate attraction to people of the same gender?

The three Abrahamic religions--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--have within their scriptures prohibitions against homosexual behavior (Islam is probably the strictest in this regard, with capital punishment as a legal consequence in certain middle-eastern nations). This is not to say that all adherents of these faith traditions denounce homosexuality, but rather that their sacred texts do not support such sexual behavior.

So, as a Christian, a former pastor and now a theological educator, what do I think? Again, my thinking on this subject cannot be purely objective--I bring my own history, learning and biases into the analysis.

1. I am heterosexual. I do not desire a sexual relationship with another man. It is not a matter of choice--I simply have no inclination in that direction. It is, therefore, difficult for me to understand that inclination in others since it has not been my experience.

2. I was raised in an era when homosexuality was considered aberrant behavior by the psychological community2 and immoral behavior by most religious groups. The possibility of the acceptance of homosexuality as normative has some significant imprinting to challenge, as it probably does for many boomers and their ancestors.

3. I have had (and have) relationships with co-workers, business associates, and friends (both inside and outside our common faith communities) who were or are homosexual. Only one of those persons would be characterized as sexually aggressive toward others, myself included. The rest I have considered as valued relationships.

For me, this creates a paradox. On the one hand I have sacred texts that I deeply value which speak against homosexuality3; on the other, I have texts in those same Scriptures that call me to love all people--those who are like me and for me, but also those different from me and even antagonistic toward me.4  I combine this tension with friendship and love I have shared with homosexual people in my life and I find abstraction to be an impossibility.


2In 1973, homosexuality was moved from DSM-II's category of mental issness and into the category of sexual disturbance., accessed 11/23/08.

3Even if all the texts of the Old and New Testaments that specifically refer to homosexuality were eliminated as culturally obsolete, the Bible would still teach that the image of God is reflected in men or women individually, but also in the relationship between a man and a woman in the bond of marriage (see Genesis 2).

4See Jesus' words about the completeness and perfection of God's love in human relationships in Matthew 5:43-38.

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