GLBT Persons in the Church: The Case for Full Inclusion, 3
This post should be the one on the Sodom and Gomorrha story and I hope to get to that before the weekend is out. But comments from my last post have led me to decide first to map out current theological/ethical views on “homosexuality,” so that people can see the range of views “out there,” and what I mean by arguing for “full inclusion.” This might help with some questions asked about what kind of treatment GLBT people should receive by those who, nevertheless, consider their behavior sinful. I’ll return to these issues after we examine the biblical texts used most often in these arguments.
There are five (5) typical positions or views about “homosexuality,” in the churches, each comparing this analogically to another issue. These range from the most punitive judgments to the most affirming. In this 5-fold scheme “homosexuality,” as a sexual orientation is:
- Deeply Immoral: a paradigmatic sign of the brokeness of the Creation. Same-sex sexual orientation is evil and the gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual person is personally culpable for not only their actions, but their desires, attractions, etc. A complete sexual reorientation is required as part of repentance and conversion. The church should not bless same-sex unions nor ordain homosexuals at all. Same-sex orientation reflects hatred of the opposite sex, is a perversion of natural (created) behavior and both legal and social discrimination is justified.
- Like Alcoholism: a greater, but not paradigmatic sign of the brokeness of the Creation. Same-sex orientation is a disease, so there is little personal culpability for desires, etc., but is culpability for actions. Gay or lesbian unions are more evil than enforced life-long celibacy/abstinence. The church should not bless same-sex unions and should ordain only closeted and totally abstinent gays or lesbians. Like alcoholism, homosexual orientation is incurable, so gays and lesbians must abstain from sexual activity (like being sober). This is viewed as morally identical to forbidding sexual activity to single heterosexuals. Since only homosexual ACTIONS are sinful, glbt persons should not be punished through discrimination in housing, workplace, etc.
- Like Blindness: a lesser sign of the brokeness of the Creation. Homosexual orientation, in this view, is a defect, so there is no culpability–any more than someone born blind or lame would be culpable. Since sexuality is deeply a part of the human person and celibacy a special spiritual gift and calling, gay or lesbian unions are less evil than enforced lifelong abstinence, which is an unreasonable expectation. Holders of this view vary regarding whether the church may or may not bless unions (or simply tacitly accept them) or ordain chaste, closeted gay people. This perspective views closeted unions as a way of coping with the defect–like learning to live with blindness. This is a compromise with the broken or fallen nature of the world– a recognition that the full healing of New Creation has not yet come.
- Like Color Blindness (that’s colour blindness for British or Commonwealth readers): not quite the fullness of God’s blessing; an imperfection. There is no personal culpability for the orientation. Both same-sex unions AND abstinence fall short of God’s ideal. The church should bless unions privately and ordain chaste, closeted gays and lesbians. Homosexuality is a minor manifestation of fallenness/brokenness–not the ideal. Just as color blind people choose to see rather than close their eyes, so gay or lesbian people choose to engage in imperfect expressions of sexuality rather than repress such a vital part of their humanness. Celibacy requires a special gift of the Spirit. People who hold this view believe God calls people to an appropriate fulfilling of their sexual identity–so abstinence cannot model appropriate sexual behavior for those not specially gifted and called. Small, private blessings (like some churches do with second marriages) are allowed. All forms of discrimination in society are opposed.
- Like Left-Handedness: part of God’s original blessing; a variation. The issue of culpability is as irrelevant as for left-handedness. Same-sex unions for gays or lesbians are good and should be publicly blessed. The church should ordain those called to ministry, including chaste, uncloseted, non-celibate glbt folk. “Homosexuality” is a natural variation in the created order–and found in other animals than humans. There is nothing wrong with being gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgendered. It would be unnatural and immoral for gays or lesbians to engage in heterosexual behavior.
Over my lifetime, I have moved from the first position to the fifth–passing through each in turn, although I stayed longest in positions 2 and 3 before coming to believe in full inclusion (5). It is the last position for which I am arguing in this series of posts. I’ll start on the biblical texts before the weekend is up.