Post #10 Understanding Homosexuality meets Straight Into Gay America, a dialoge between Pastor David Glesne and Pastor Lars Clausen.
Dave Glesne takes a look at some of the agreements and disagreements in our dialogue so far, including listening, distingushing between personhood and behavior, and loving the sinner but hating the sin.
I continue to value our dialogue. I do admit, however, it is getting increasingly more difficult to decide what aspects to focus on since more and more issues are arising – from ourselves and others. I am trying to guard against becoming overly frustrated with not being able to respond to all concerns and I hope that others will guard themselves also.
I do have a particular concern in making this post. What I am attempting to do is to put forth a reflective and reasoned argument that is informed both by science and Scripture and I am concerned that emotional responses might prevent some from seeing into my thinking and following that thinking through to its end. At the same time I am hopeful that the concern is unwarranted.
I am going to focus here on a few important themes that I see reoccurring in the first and third sections of your most recent post. (I am currently in San Diego, the capital campaign is cresting back home, we’ll be hosting a national conference next week, and so time does not presently allow me to give an adequate response to Tim’s concerns. Therefore your call to devote a post solely and extensively to answering Tim will have to wait for another day.)
One of the keys to a good conversation is the willingness of the participants to listen attentively to one another. Thanks for being a good listener, Lars. As I listen to some of the comments of those who have joined the discussion, I hear pain and frustration and anger at what is perceived to be injustices and discrimination against same-sex persons. The anger and pain and hurt is very real. I have heard it time and again in the voices of same-sex persons.
At the same time I am struck by how much agreement there is in this discussion. The charge is made that there is discrimination in society against same-sex persons. I agree and believe it is an injustice we need to fight against. The charge is made that there is homophobia and ill-will shown against same-sex persons in the church. I agree there are such attitudes and behavior and believe it is sin and must be condemned. I would like to think that we equally support the call in my book for the church to repent of its attitude and behavior toward same-sex persons and to amend its ways toward them. I believe we both agree that the Christian’s call to love one’s neighbor unconditionally includes one’s homosexual neighbor. I believe we both agree that we are to fully accept one another as God accepts us, to have compassion for one another as God has had compassion on us, to show humility before one another. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think we are in full agreement on these matters.
Where then are the disagreements? Let me try to flesh out a root of the disagreement between us as I see it – and I look forward to whether or not you see it the same way.
Might not a major difference stem from not distinguishing between personhood and behavior? For example, when same-sex couples – because they cannot legally marry – are denied a number of significant benefits available to those who may legally marry, that is, opposite sex couples who fall within certain restrictions set by law, e.g., age, relationship, etc., it is called discrimination.
In response I would say that while the complaints are true, they are legally frivolous and irrelevant because same-sex persons are defined by their behavior, not by any identifiable state of being. Since there is no scientific, medical, or biological evidence that homosexuality is inborn or unchangeable, no one can authenticate that he or she is homosexual. It is only declared. In their declaration, such persons only lay claim to being a practitioner of sodomy in one of more of its many forms. As such, any claim that same-sex couples are entitled to certain rights granted to a legally married husband and wife has no more legal merit than that of persons engaged in such similarly aberrant sexual behaviors as consensual adultery, incest, or polygamy.
When society discriminates against black people or women by denying them equal rights, it is wrong because it denies them rights granted to other persons on the basis of their state of being. Black people and women are defined by their state of being. As such, discrimination denigrates them as persons. This is wrong. But, I would argue, homosexuality is not a civil rights issue because skin color has no correlation to sexual behavior. Same-sex persons are not identified by any identifiable state of being, but by their behavior. If it is good for society and public policy to conjoin truth, righteousness, and compassion, then honest public policy will not discriminate against persons but it will have a vested interest in the behavior of its people for the good of society – whether that be the destructive effects of homosexual behavior or even perhaps second-hand smoke.
(At this point the objection often rises, “But you can’t legislate morality?” But to say that “we cannot legislate morality” is disingenuous, illogical, and contrary to historical fact. All law is based on someone’s moral code, on someone’s understanding of right and wrong. Except in cases of arbitrary power struggle, morality is the only thing we legislate.)
“Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
The comment is put forth that “love the sinner and hate the sin” is really anti-gay. I would agree IF the distinction between personhood and behavior is not made. But it is precisely this distinction that I am making.
There is a reality of which I am absolutely certain and that is that I am a sinner. There is just too much empirical and logical evidence for me to deny it. That is my condition and because this condition is real, I commit sins. But when I ask myself, “Because God is holy and therefore hates my sin, does that in any way diminish his unfathomable and radical love for me? As a parent, when I disapprove of my child’s sinful behavior, does that in any way diminish my love for my child?” I have to answer “no”. God hates my sin while simultaneously loving me the sinner. I believe this is the very reality that God teaches us in the Scriptures and in the person and life of Jesus Christ. God hates my sin but God loves me and so sent Jesus to the cross that my sins might be forgiven.
Jesus demonstrated this attitude of love and acceptance one day while sitting at a well with a woman of Samaria. (John 4:4-26) The woman had been married five times. Jesus never approved of her multiple marriages, but he didn’t allow them to disqualify her from receiving Living Water from him. He accepted her. He accepted her without approving of her behavior. And this woman’s life was drastically changed when she realized she was accepted. Jesus shows us there is huge difference between accepting and approving. We are to be as accepting of others as Jesus is accepting of us.
I believe it is therefore also my calling to hate sin (first of all in myself and then when appropriate in others) but to love the sinner, to accept myself and others but not necessarily approve of my and their behavior. Given the compulsive and addictive nature of homosexuality and its destructive and lethal consequences, would a loving person – be that God or a compassionate legislator – approve homosexual behavior, or reject and forbid it? If love seeks the welfare of the beloved and not emotional bondage, then it seems to me that love speaks the hard truth even when it causes pain and it will not allow a person caught in bondage to define the diagnosis. I contend that a loving and compassionate person would say “no” to the behavior.
Love not based on objective truth is no love at all. It is betrayal. A loving response does not condemn persons, but gives a candid assessment of behavior. “What we do” is different from “who we are”. I believe we are required to judge behavior, whereas only God can judge persons. The truth does hurt. It does cause pain. That is why we are to speak it in love. A loving response condemns sin precisely so that the sinner will not be condemned, neither by God nor by the behavior itself. Tough love just says “no”.
While I believe “love the sinner, hate the sin” is good advice, then, when done the way Jesus does it for all of us, I must admit, I often cringe inside when I hear it spoken. It is often spoken so flippantly and casually by religious people with very little reality behind it. If it is spoken when in fact the sinner is not loved, it is dishonest and hypocritical. If it is spoken when in fact the sinner is loved, it conveys the same reality as Jesus loving us while at the same time hating our sin.
Before going on, I want to say something else anecdotally which I think is important. I really like my homosexual friends. Some months back I developed a friendship with a young lesbian woman here in the area. We agreed to meet monthly for lunch and did so for many months. We got to know each other, our backgrounds, our families, our interests and hopes and dreams. I have grown very fond of her as a friend. She is fun to be with and has so many great qualities. We disagree on certain matters, but we are comfortable with and like each other – at least I like her (I’d better not speak for her!) This is true of my relationship with other homosexual friends as well. This distinction between “who we are” and “what we do” is critically important, it seems to me, in all our relationships.
Difficulty in accepting love. I have been asking myself as I have been reading this blog and its comments, “Why is it that same-sex persons have such difficulty accepting a person’s love for them? I am saying – and hopefully demonstrating in practice albeit ever so imperfectly – that I have compassion and love for same-sex persons, but some don’t seem to be able to accept it. They don’t believe me.” Could the reason again lie in their not making a distinction between personhood and behavior? When I speak against homosexual behavior, there is an intimation that I don’t really love and am not really compassionate toward same-sex persons. I am anti-gay. My words are taken as showing hostility and hatred for same-sex persons.
Here is my question. “Is hostility and hatred often wrongly attributed because same-sex persons tend to identify ‘what they do’ with ‘who they are’?” In doing so it becomes impossible to criticize their behavior without it seeming to them to be an attack on their personhood. Becoming free of a behavioral addiction requires that one separate “what I do” from “who I am.”
When I feel the sadness of loving a same-sex person and that person not accepting or receiving that love, I wonder if that is just a small glimpse into feeling how God feels when He loves sinners so much that He sent His Son to die for them and then they turn their back on that love and say they don’t want his love or forgiveness.
Created gay. A variation of this failure to make the proper distinction between “what we do” and “who we are” is to assert that gay people are created gay. As such, it is argued, homosexuality is a person’s true identity because God created them gay. With all due respect to Dr. Cameron, his assertion that same-sex people are created gay finds no support in science. Therefore, no “gay-identity” can be established on the basis of genetics or biology. As I state above, since no scientific, medical, or biological evidence exists that homosexuality is either inborn or unchangeable, no one can authenticate that he or she is homosexual – it is only declared.
If my understanding of recent history is correct, it was not until the 1990’s that advocates discovered the “PR” value of getting people to believe that their condition was “genetic” or “biologically determined”. During the early and middle ‘90’s several studies were alleged to prove such. (I refer you to pp. 23-25 of Understanding Homosexuality) The claim was false. Those studies have not survived scientific peer review, and few, if any researchers today will support that claim.
It is important to realize that prior to the 1990’s, no researchers on either side of the fence said either that homosexuality was genetic, inborn, or otherwise “hardwired”, or that one could not change one’s orientation. Alfred Kinsey, John Money, Masters and Johnson, all pansexual proponents, said that persons could change, and that it was their own business – difficult, but possible. Recently, Robert Spitzer, the chief decision-maker in the 1973 APA decision that removed homosexuality from the official diagnostic manual of mental disorders, has changed his view on homosexuality. He says, “Like most psychiatrists, I thought that homosexual behavior could only be resisted, and that no one could really change their sexual orientation. I now believe that to be false. Some people can and do change.” (Page 31).
Disease-causing behavior, coupled with denial of lethal dangers, provides strong evidence that gay orientation is a compulsive and addictive condition – with practitioners looking for self-justification in a pseudo-identity.
That is why I state on page 59 that many prefer not to talk about “homosexual people” as such. They believe that designation tends to define persons by only one small, particular, aspect of their identity. Rather, they prefer to talk about persons with homosexual thoughts and feelings and desires just as they talk about people who struggle with anger and pride and covetousness.
This got longer than I anticipated. My apologies. Yet, I believe it gets to a root issue in our discussion.