The first person I met who told me he was homosexual was finishing up a doctoral degree at Fuller, a well-known Christian university, in the 1990s. (I was there for a couple of months). He had become sexually active while there, due to all the opportunity for sexual encounters in the LA area. He frequently used 1-800 numbers to meet people. This man and I sort of dated for a bit. He liked me, but, he just wasn’t attracted to women as much as he would have liked to be. It must have been so hard to live two lives, as it seemed he was doing—a day time life and a nighttime life. He told me one time that he would have sexual encounters in bathrooms with men he had just met, and that he longed to say “I love you!” during orgasms sometimes. He wanted, I think now, a long-term commitment with one of these men, but felt constrained by the Christian graduate community of which he was a part.
My comfort level with homosexuality has slowly increased in the past twenty years (see my post “Middlesexed: One Christian’s Incarnational Journey from Fear to Acceptance”), but I have never been able to get comfy with the idea of any one having multiple sexual encounters with strangers, of any sexual orientation. I know that this approach to sex is increasingly common among young heterosexuals, as well. But it’s not healthy for any one, either physically, emotionally or spiritually. So for those people who long to be married, deeply desire to be committed to one person over their life time, I’d like to give my full-on support. Marriage is hard for heterosexuals or homosexuals alike, but nothing like a lifetime of emotionally empty one-time encounters, as my friend was aware of experiencing.
I think if heterosexual Christians want to increase the level of morality in our human community, we would do well to fully support civil unions or marriage rights for homosexuals. And if Christians want to be welcoming to those in the gay community, why not start with affirming their basic rights to stable, committed monogamy. Don’t some Christians still say that heterosexuals who live together are “living in sin”? Well, this is what we are encouraging among homosexuals when we say that two people who deeply love each other cannot have the legal rights of married couples. No one can change their orientation by controlling laws, that’s for sure. But a society in which homosexual people are finding deep and meaningful commitments which enjoy the protection of the law and the support of citizens can only be a more moral one.
Maybe we could bring some healing to people with varying sexual orientations just by acknowledging their basic human rights in this matter. I think about how I would feel if I were homosexual and were continually told by the church that I was sinful due to something I could not change, and that I should not be allowed to have the same legal rights as heterosexuals. I’d be very angry and I wouldn’t listen to anything the church had to say. Wouldn’t you feel the same? What if the issues were reversed and heterosexuality was considered the sin? I can’t see too many celibate-heterosexual-males-for-Jesus banging on the church door, that’s for sure.
Recently, George Barna found that “overall, heterosexuals are twice as likely as homosexuals to attend a church service, read the Bible, and pray to God during a typical week (31% vs 15%)” (http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/13-culture/282-spiritual-profile-of-homosexual-adults-provides-surprising-insights). Yet 58% of homosexual people in the survey “had made ‘a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in your life today.’” It seems to me that people with a homosexual orientation have been pushed out of the church, left out of opportunities for spiritual growth, and forced into an individual rather than community-oriented faith.
I think Jesus wants everyone to come to him alongside other believers, to know they are welcome at the table of faith, and to be accepted as they are. As Christ-followers, why not begin by supporting homosexual people in their desire for a moral, legal, monogamous commitment to another person? To do otherwise is to unwittingly encourage a 1-800 number approach to love.