Sunday, 27 April 2008

Outing myself as a straight gay sympathizer

OK. Having thought about it and wrestled with it for a long time, the time has come to make a stand. Guess it's pretty cowardly to put it on a blog that practically no people read, but one has to make a start somewhere.

Let's get "straight" to the point. I think it's time evangelical Christians took a long hard think about their attitude towards gays. There are a range of attitudes prevalent, and while I think there is some evidence of evangelicals acting in a compassionate manner, I think few people take it far enough.

There is the out-and-out homophobia element. The kind of person that says homosexuality is "disgusting". Yes, in some ways this is understandable - there is a natural revulsion that people feel for certain physical acts, sure. But people who think that way should really try to remember what they felt when they first found out about sex. When you're very young and you first find out about what your parents did to make you, your reaction is one of disgust (well, mine was, anyway, I mean at first it seems pretty gross, doesn't it?) Until you get the same feelings yourself, it is hard to imagine how such an act could be the beautiful thing that it is.

Then there's the element that says it's a sin but we must be compassionate towards homosexuals. Because it is believed by these people that homosexual acts are a sin, then gay couples are encouraged to split up, and are encouraged to seek spiritual help, support, guidance, prayer for "healing" and so forth. Much of this is well-meaning, of course, but flies in the face of evidence.

The plain evidence we have to face is that homosexuality isn't something people choose; it's a given. It is not hard to find on the web testimonies of gay Christians who desperately didn't want to be gay - who tried with the greatest earnestness to seek healing, to change their orientation. In the overwhelming majority of cases it doesn't work at all, however much they want it to.

So, as a Christian who believes in healing, one has to ask the question "So why doesn't God heal gays who earnestly seek healing?". The only logical answer I can come up with to this is simply that they don't need healing.

Well, in fact they do need healing, but not in the way you might think. To be gay and unable to accept that you are gay is to be at war with yourself - perhaps it even implies that you have an inbuilt homophobia that is preventing you from accepting yourself for the person you are. Such people often descend into self-loathing, depression, and suicide attempts. This is the seriousness of the situation we face. The attitude of well-meaning evangelical Christians is a direct cause of depression and suicide. Evangelicals have to ask themselves - are we really so sure we're right on this? What if loving gay relationships are in fact not sinful?

Ah, but wait a minute, you are bound to be saying; what about all those troubling passages in the Bible that condemn homosexuality? A notorious one is found in Leviticus, which says "A man shall not lie down with a man as with a woman - that is detestable". Surely you can't argue with that? Well .. not as it stands of course; but what about the context, the text, and the culture of the time? Again, it's not hard to find expositions of these on the web. It appears from these, that the Leviticus passage may well have been referring to cult temple worship, and in particular to the use of male prostitutes as a part of the worship of pagan Gods.

Another notorious passages is in Romans Ch 1. Again, Paul appears to be condemning homosexuality as "perversion". But how about reading it more carefully in context? What is being described is the general slide into debauched behaviour that results from idolatory (v25). It talks about exchanging natural relations for unnatural ones. It seems clear from this that the indecent acts described were being committed by people who were naturally heterosexual, but tried out homosexual acts for kicks. But gay people I've spoken to never had that natural feeling of attraction to the opposite sex. It always felt unnatural for them, and the natural attraction they had was for the same sex. The Romans passage doesn't seem to apply to them.

Now, of course you might say I got this from a gay commentator, and you might want to comment "Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?". In actual fact, I got it from a detailed and scholarly analysis from a "straight" evangelical. To read more see George Hooper's book "Reluctant Journey - a pligrimmage of faith from homophobia to Christian love" It's available in its entirety for free on the web, and should be required reading for evangelicals.

So that's it. I've "outed" myself. I don't think we should be trying to get homosexuals to change their orientation, but we should welcome them as part of the body of Christ, and affirm their sexuality. In a famous passage in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul shows how all parts of the body are important - the eye should not say to the hand "I don't need you!".

As I said at the start, this is a pretty timid beginning, writing all this on a blog that practically no-one reads; but just in case you are reading this, and you happen to be gay, I would say to you "We do need you - you are a part of the body of Christ, a part that is suffering, and because of that, we all suffer with you ( 1 Cor 12:26).