Category Archives: Homosexuality

Homosexuality: A Question of True Joy and Flourishing

I’ve always felt like it would be much easier to support same-sex relationships if they looked more like what you see in modern television shows and movies. As a kid, I loved watching Will and Grace. I remember thinking that gay men like Will and Jack were artistic, funny, and had attractive personalities. I didn’t see anything wrong with the lifestyle they were living, even though it did seem a bit strange to me.

Through my involvement with theater and debate in high school, I spoke with several people who were gay (and gay-affirming), even became good friends with a few of them. Overall I didn’t see what the problem was. My friend’s relationships seemed different than my basic intuitions, but I figured this was something I needed to get over.

Yet, there was a nagging problem I couldn’t ignore: why was the Bible so critical of homosexual behavior and relationships?

It was only much later that I realized God’s prohibitions against certain behaviors and relationships were not arbitrary, but actually rooted in his love for humanity. I didn’t realize that God’s design for human relationships is an extension of his desire to see humanity flourish.

A New Starting Point
In my opinion, this question of design and flourishing is something we often don’t think about when we discuss the big question of homosexuality. Even worse, I don’t think this is something Christians have communicated effectively.

Instead, what our friends and culture often hear from the church is a group of people who are quick to call something a sin, but who forget the reason why we want someone to repent. We often forget that the goal isn’t merely to create a greater awareness of sin, but to help someone see the joy of walking in step with God’s design for them.

By this I don’t mean we tell people who have same-sex attraction that God’s design is for them to be in a heterosexual relationship. Instead, what I mean is that God’s design for all people is to enjoy a relationship with him that isn’t so hindered by a willful pursuit of sinful behaviors.

In other words, God’s design is for all people—gay and straight—to surrender themselves to the good authority of Jesus and live according to His ways, because only he will truly satisfy our souls.

Our ultimate goal then, is not simply to make someone aware of how much they’ve sinned before God, but to help them experience the freedom that comes from trusting in Christ. The reality of sin needs to be discussed, but it is a means to a greater end, not the end itself (see Colossians 1:28; 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:24–26; Titus 3:1–7).

Jesus Himself spoke most accurately about people’s sin and the righteousness of God’s judgment, but He also invited sinners to come close to Him no matter how rejected or lost they were. Jesus was the most accurate commentator on people’s sin, and yet sinners often felt welcome and comfortable around Him. Is the same thing true of us?

In light of this, I think we must look beyond the basic question of: is “X” a sin? More often than not, people living in sin know they are doing so, they just don’t care that much because thye believe their sin will result in their happiness. Repeating the obvious won’t help very much.

Instead, I think a question we must continually ask ourselves and put before others is: will our pursuit of sin deliver on it’s promise? Said differently, is it possible that God’s commands are intended to produce joy rather than remove it?  To be more specific, could it be that God’s sexual ethic is something that leads to joy and flourishing?

In other words, we must begin making the question about joy and fulfillment rather than judgment and condemnation. Not because these latter realities don’t exist, but because the former matters give us a better starting point that demonstrates both compassion for the person and the truth of what life is like outside of God’s design.

Moreover, when we lead with this sort of question, we are inviting the person to think more carefully about how self-defeating their pursuit of joy apart from God may (will) actually be. In doing so, we are inviting them to see for themselves how empty their pursuit of sin is, rather than just hearing us preach to them. In effect, we invite them to see how Jesus is the true and better joy they were meant to experience, because at His right hand “are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

The Goodness of God’s Design
Trusting in God’s design for us begins by recognizing God as the fountain of wisdom and love, submitting to Him in faith, and believing that His path will satisfy our hearts more than our own paths ever could. In other words, trusting God’s design means that we follow His heart, not our own.

As the Psalmist reminds us: “Blessed (happy, fulfilled) is the man who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods” (Psalm 40:4 NIV). Yet, if we choose to rebel against Him, even for things that promise instant gratification and make us feel good, the end result will be that our souls shrivel and our hearts are empty.

Indeed, “God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land” (Psalm 60:4 NLT). In other words, the heart that rebels against God is the heart that is empty, unsatisfied, and feels like a wasteland.

It’s interesting, yet tragic to note that this is not simply a biblical perspective on human flourishing, but is one that is increasingly  confirmed as researchers study the effects of same sex behavior and relationships. We could point for example to the 2009 study by the National Association for Research and Therapy for Homosexuality (NARTH) in which they found the following:

  • Despite knowing the AIDS risk, homosexuals repeatedly and pathologically continue to indulge in unsafe sex practices.
  • Homosexuals represent the highest number of STD cases.
  • Many homosexual sex practices are medically dangerous, with or without protection.
  • More than one-third of homosexual men are substance abusers.
  • Forty percent of homosexual adolescents report suicidal histories. Homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to have a mental health concern, such as eating disorders, personality disorders, paranoia, depression, and anxiety.
  • Homosexual relationships are more violent than heterosexual relationships.[1]

This particular study comes from a comprehensive review of 100 years worth of literature on the subject. The sad reality is that those who act on their desires for the same sex typically suffer drastic and personally damaging consequences that rob them of joy, separate them from God, and cause their hearts to live “in a sun-scorched land.” What these specific details provide is simply confirmation of what the Bible means when it says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12).

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that every same-sex relationship experiences these sort of realities—there are exceptions to every rule. But that’s just the point: the rule—or norm—for same-sex relationships is the sort of consequences reflected in the findings above.

Now, when I watch shows or movies that depict same-sex couples being happy, wholesome, and flourishing, my heart grieves for the false picture being placed in front of many who either struggle with same-sex attraction or who support the relationships of those who do.

If we truly love our gay friends and want them to flourish, we must lovingly and graciously help them see the better way of following Jesus. To be clear: this may not mean that they turn from a same-sex relationship and enter into a heterosexual relationship (although that does happen), but it does mean that when they embrace God through Jesus Christ, they will experience the one relationship designed to forever satisfy their souls more than any human relationship ever could.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 4:19

Sources
[1] Joseph E. Phelan, Neil Whitehead, and Phillip M. Sutton, “What Research Shows: NARTH’s Response to APA Claims on Homosexuality,” Journal of Human Sexuality 1 (2009), 87.

Some would say these side effects are really the consequences of a homophobic society in which homosexuals are rejected by their families, bullied as children, and ostracized by their community. Let me be transparent for a moment: I personally loathe the sort of behavior I’ve seen from professing Christians toward those who identify as homosexual. It’s true, homosexuals have been treated without the dignity, grace, and respect they deserve. But, there are a few things we need to point out:

First, many of the sexual practices and consequences of homosexual behavior cannot be attributed to homophobia, because these are realities that are because of sexual, not social, behavior. Secondly, the NARTH study researches concluded there is in fact no direct link between these side affects and one’s cultural upbringing: “Specific attempts to confirm this societal discrimination hypothesis have been unsuccessful… Societal bias and discrimination do not, in and of themselves contribute to the majority of increased health risks for homosexuals.”

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Does Same-Sex Behavior Hurt Anyone?

When we think about the current debate regarding same-sex marriage, one of the questions that is often asked is, “How will affirming same-sex marriage hurt anyone?” That’s a good question, but what is often left out of the conversation is what the research tells us about the tragic consequences of same-sex behavior in general and same-sex marriage particular. In this research, two key elements stand out:

Same-Sex Marriage Hurts Children
When children are taken out of the equation, ‘marriage’ simply becomes a legal sanction for sexual behavior. On June 26 of this year, the Supreme Court affirmed same-sex marriage as a constitutional right—not because the well being of children was at stake, but because two people who love each other, regardless of gender, were considered to be those who are entitled to the right of marriage. The message was loud and clear: if you have romantic affection for someone, then you should be allowed to marry them.

Logically, this has a number of problems. What if the romantic affection I feel is for my sister? What if a mother has a romantic affection for her 18 year old son? To be clear, this is not a comparison of behavior (incest vs. homosexuality), but of reasoning. If there is unhindered access to marriage for two people who love each other, then why should we place any limits on who is eligible for marriage?

But practically, what sort of consequences should we expect from this ruling? In Norway, where there has been a default sanction of same-sex marriage since the early nineties, the number of children growing up without two parents in the house has soared. In Nordland, the most liberal state in Norway, nearly 80% of women giving birth for the first time in 2004 did so out of wedlock.[1]

Why is this happening? Because the law is a great teacher and when laws are passed that exclude elements of responsibility (like raising children), they promote renegade personal freedom and sexual behavior is seen only as a means to personal fulfillment, not as a serious act of consideration.

More specifically, telling the public that marriage is not about children sends a specific message: sexual freedom is the new law of the land. This in effect tells people they don’t need to go through the trouble to get married, because they will be engaging in the same behavior as what was traditionally reserved for marriage. In an effort to encourage greater access to marriage, the Supreme Court has decisively signaled that marriage is obsolete; sexual coupling is all that matters.

This is interesting, because one of the main platforms in the pro-gay community is the right for same-sex couples to adopt and raise children. The argument being that children raised in same-sex households suffer no real consequences. But the evidence suggests otherwise.

Back in Norway, the number of illegitimate children soared from 39% to 50% during the first decade it affirmed same-sex marriage as a legal sanction of the state.[2] Why? Again, the law is a good teacher. When marriage is reduced to romantic affection and personal desire, there are no limits to the sort of relationships this applies to. Note this especially: According to this example, children from opposite-sex couples were indirectly affected, because the moral principles of sexual freedom affirmed by the state were adopted by their parents and the broader culture.

But the problem is even worse for children with same-sex parents. On the one hand, these children will naturally and necessarily grow up without a mom and dad. On the other, these children are not likely to witness a committed, long lasting relationship from their parents, but quite the opposite.

What the research tells us is that same sex couples are more likely to pursue multiple sexual partners, even when engaged in a relationship. Studies show us repeatedly that a majority of same sex couples are not living in monogamous, committed relationships. In the 1984 volume The Male Couple by D. McWhirter and A. Mattison, themselves a gay couple, the researchers found:

“… of the 156 couples studied, only seven had maintained sexual fidelity; of the hundred couples that had been together more than five years, none had been able to maintain sexual fidelity. [3]

Infidelity is sadly the norm for same-sex couples, attributed largely to excess sexual behavior outside the bounds of the two-person relationships. This behavior is admitted by gay sex columnist Dan Savage when he says, “Gay people know more about sex that straight people do, have more sex than straight people do, and are better at it than straight people are.”[4] Even more directly, gay activist and author Michael Bronski has stated, “homosexuality offers a vision of sexual pleasure completely divorced from the burden of reproduction: sex for its own sake…”[5]

The sentiments expressed here are reflected in case after case documenting the nature of this behavior. For example, A.P. Bell and M.S. Weinberg noted in their 1970s study of male and female homosexuality that 43% of white male homosexuals had sex with 500 or more sexual partners, while 28% said it was over 1000.In the late 1990s, a study of sexual profiles of around 2600 older homosexuals in Australia published in the Journal of Sex Research found that only 2.7 percent claimed to have had sex with one partner only. The most common response, given by 21.6 percent of the respondents, was of having between 101–500 sexual partners over the course of their life.[6]

This gives a grim picture: affirming sexual freedom in general creates a problem for children in particular. In same-sex relationships, the children will necessarily grow up without a mom and dad. In opposite-sex marriages, the culture will tend to absorb the moral principles of the state and adopt them as normative. Multiple sexual partners witnessed by any child of any relationship affects the child’s moral reasoning, but when the government sanctions same-sex marriage in particular, it creates a legal sanction to witness such behavior by the children in these relationships.

Rather than a child being likely to witness the virtues of commitment, loyalty, discipline, and self-sacrifice, they are more likely to be taught how to indulge their romantic desires, rather than restrain them, because that’s exactly what they see their parents doing. When the government sanctions this behavior, it sanctions a tidal wave of hedonism that leaves moral reasoning and behavior unchecked by anything beyond a person’s pursuit of pleasure.

Same Sex Behavior Hurts Gay People
This is important, because one of the chief assumptions of the pro-gay movement is that sanctioning marriage for same-sex couples will produce greater joy and flourishing, but that is clearly not the case. Sex was never intended to satisfy our deep needs for relational connection. The excessive sexual behavior of most homosexuals tells us very clearly these people are hurting, broken, and in search for what they can only find in the arms of God.

But we don’t have to look to Scripture if someone won’t listen to biblical reasoning. We can point to the physical and psychological affects that are well documented. For example, according to the Center for Disease Control, more than 82% of all known sexually-transmitted AIDS cases in 2006 were the result of male-to-male sexual contact. In addition to this, gay man accounted for 60% of all new syphilis cases, even though they only made up roughly 3–5% of the  population.[7]

More recently, we could point them to the 2009 study of the National Association for Research and Therapy for Homosexuality (NARTH) which found the following:

  • Despite knowing the AIDS risk, homosexuals repeatedly and pathologically continue to indulge in unsafe sex practices.
  • Homosexuals represent the highest number of STD cases.
  • Many homosexual sex practices are medically dangerous, with or without protection.
  • More than one-third of homosexual men are substance abusers.
  • Forty percent of homosexual adolescents report suicidal histories. Homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to have a mental health concern, such as eating disorders, personality disorders, paranoia, depression, and anxiety.
  • Homosexual relationships are more violent than heterosexual relationships.[8]

And this particular study comes from a comprehensive review of 100 years worth of literature on the subject by NARTH researchers. The sad reality is that those who act on their desires for the same sex suffer drastic, personally damaging consequences that rob them of joy.

But some would say these side effects are really the consequences of a homophobic society in which homosexuals are rejected by their families, bullied as children, and ostracized by their community. Let me be transparent for a moment: I personally loathe the sort of behavior I’ve seen from professing Christians toward those who identify as homosexual. It’s true, homosexuals have been treated without the dignity, grace, and respect they deserve. But, there are a few things we need to point out:

First, many of the sexual practices and consequences of homosexual behavior cannot be attributed to homophobia, because these are realities that come about in virtue of sexual, not social, behavior.

Secondly, the NARTH study researches concluded there is in fact no direct link between these side affects and one’s cultural upbringing:

“Specific attempts to confirm this societal discrimination hypothesis have been unsuccessful, and the alternative possibility—that these conditions may somehow be related to the psychological structure of homosexual orientation or consequences of a homosexual lifestyle—has not been disconfirmed. Indeed, several cross-cultural studies suggest that this higher rate of psychological disturbance is in fact independent of a culture’s tolerance of—or hostility to—homosexual behavior.”[9]

Speaking even more directly, the researchers concluded, “Societal bias and discrimination do not, in and of themselves contribute to the majority of increased health risks for homosexuals.”[10]

From this research, it seems we can conclude the personal consequences of same-sex behavior is something intrinsic to the behavior itself. This is nothing sort of tragic and should move us to our knees in prayer.

How to Respond
In seeking to turn back the philosophy of sexual freedom that permeates our culture, one of the things we must do is pursue sexual purity in our own lives, believing that Jesus is truly more satisfying than sexual pleasure. Sexual atheism is epidemic in Christian circles and it needs to stop. We are sending people a message about Jesus when we indulge our own sexual desires outside the guardrails of God’s design.

Namely, we are telling people sex is more satisfying than the grace of God revealed in Jesus. As long as we do this, we are functionally affirming the same reasoning used by pro-gay advocates when they seek to legitimize same-sex behavior. In both cases, Jesus takes a back seat to our romantic feelings and our hearts remain empty and searching for what only He can deliver.

Moreover, we must understand the role of natural marriage in proclaiming the good news of God’s design for human relationships (Eph. 5:25–33). This will include training men and women to see their roles in marriage properly and specifically training men to lead well in their homes. Godly men will need to lead, love, and serve their wives and model for the world what Jesus is to his church.

And it needs to be said, heterosexual marriage has often failed our children too. The divorce rate among natural marriages is incredibly high, sadly even in the church. But this is not because the union itself is inadequate. Largely, this is because men have dropped the ball in being the spiritual, emotional, and personal leaders in the home.

But some may ask, “Doesn’t heterosexual marriage fail just as often as it succeed? What about the high divorce rate in the church?” These are legitimate questions and needs to be admitted: professing Christians have done a poor job modeling the faithfulness, commitment, and the love described of marriage in the Scriptures.

But it is here that a key distinction must be made: In heterosexual divorce, it was not the union itself that was destructive, but the two people involved. However, with same-sex marriage, the union itself is inherently destructive, because of the sort of behavior it entails and produces by nature. To argue in favor of same-sex marriage because of the high rate of divorce among opposite-sex couples would be to judge something by its abuse, not its true form. Not so with same-sex marriage, in which its true form naturally produces the sort of consequences listed above.

In the end, the world already has enough excuses not to believe in Jesus. We don’t need to give them another. Our lives and our marriages will speak very loudly in the coming days and the question we need to ask ourselves is simply: what message are we sending? As Christians, our response must be of sincere compassion coupled with an honest conversation with those of our friends who are gay or gay affirming.  Jesus was full of grace and truth (John 1:14), and so must we be.

[1] Stanley Kurtz, “The End of Marriage in Scandinavia,” The Weekly Standard, February 2, 2004

[2] Kurtz, “The Future of Marriage in Scandinavia”

[3] Cited in Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 55

[4] Dan Savage, Savage Love: Straight Answers From America’s Most Popular Sex Columnist (New York: Penguin Group, 1998)

[5] Michael Bronski, The Pleasure Principle: Sex, Backlash, and the Struggle for Gay Freedom (New York: St. Martins Press, 1998), 9

[6] See Paul Van de Ven, Pamela Rodden, June Crawford, and Susan Kippax, “A Comparative Demographic and Sexual Profile of Older Homosexually Active Men.” Journal of Sex Research Vol. 34, No. 4, 1997

[7] Center for Disease Control, Cases of HIV Infection and Aids in the United States and Dependent Areas, 2006 HIV/Aids Surveillance Report, Volume 17, April 2008

[8] Joseph E. Phelan, Neil Whitehead, and Phillip M. Sutton, “What Research Shows: NARTH’s Response to APA Claims on Homosexuality,” Journal of Human Sexuality 1 (2009), 87

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.