Friday, January 30, 2009

Searching Issues: What is the Christian Attitude Towards Homosexuality?

In my last review, I pointed out the difference between tracts that sow hatred and fear towards others, and those that are just trying to 'help'. Jack Chick's The Birds And The Bees instructs children to fear gay people, so I call it a work of hate. This Searching Issues booklet, written by Nicky Gumbel and published by Alpha North America, falls into the 'help' category, fortunately. It's still a load of crap, but Nicky's heart, while not in the right place, is at least in the right place's general vicinity.

It starts well, I have to say. Rather than condemning or judging, Nicky Gumbel advocates understanding and compassion "toward those for whom their homosexual orientation is a daily struggle." I doubt many in the gay community would consider their orientation to be any more of a struggle than their straight counterparts, but I'll let it go. After all, he acknowledges that "the church's attitude to (gay) people has often been one of prejudice, ignorance and oppression."

However, he goes on to say that "love does not involve condoning sin." Does Nicky consider being gay a sin? Not exactly. He points out the difference "between homosexual orientation and homosexual behavior", and makes clear that only the behaviour is sinful. In other words, if you are gay, you'll be fine as long as you pretend not to be. "The biblical writers clearly disapprove of same-sex sexual practices," Nicky tells us, adding that the few scriptural references to such practices "are brief but uncompromisingly negative."

So, as with most tracts, we are caught between the rock and the hard place of supposed biblical inerrancy; if the Bible says so, then it is so. Not a surprising view, especially since this booklet seems to have been written for Christians and not secular readers. There is no cause to question the Bible's 'truth' for such readers; Nicky only seeks to remind them of their devotion, then tell them what those 'uncompromisingly negative' biblical passages mean.

Where Nicky really gets into hot water with me is when he discusses the causes of sexual orientation, and whether said orientation can be changed. "Some people believe that homosexual orientation is innate or inborn," Nicky says, then he tells us "there is no conclusive scientific evidence" to support that claim. But, "it is possible that homosexual orientation is something that may be acquired or learned." Nicky tries to seem as if he is giving both sides of the argument equal weight, but it soon becomes clear where he truly stands. First he compares homosexuality to congenital disease, arguing that "even if there is a scientific basis," it's still not necessarily good. Then he cites a survey by the British Medical Association in which 14 gay people "were totally released after Christian conversion." I checked the end notes to see when that study was done... 1955. Not exactly recent data, Nick.

Perhaps Nicky realized that a study from the fifties might not be enough, so he tells a story of some gay men he converted, one of whom "had an extraordinary vision of Jesus" in his bedroom before giving his life to Christ. He broke up with his boyfriend, who went on to have his own "amazing vision of Jesus." Nicky doesn't give us their names (or, for that matter, any "conclusive scientific evidence"), so we have to take his story on faith.

This booklet ends with a plea to Christians "to love people and welcome them with open arms into the church." That would be great, if Nicky didn't also advocate speaking out "against the practice of homosexuality." After all, according to him, "it is wrong to promote a homosexual lifestyle in schools," and "it is wrong to ordain unrepentant, practicing homosexuals into Christian leadership." Those last two statements seem to have come from nowhere, and I wonder if he squeezed them in at the last minute.

"Love is the key from first to last," Nicky writes, and I believe him. Which is to say, I believe that he believes it. As such, I don't consider this to be a work of hate. I do, however, believe it is dangerous. In spite of the many appeals to love the gay and hate the gayness, this booklet seeks to convince with flimsy logic and data that his intended readers are unlikely to question. It is also clearly biased, despite its attempts or desires to be otherwise. At least it doesn't contain the hatred on display in so many other works of this nature. It's a step forward, but too small a step in an age when we really should be running.

Likely to Convert - N/A
Likely to Convert Gays - 1
Artwork - 3
Ability to Hold Interest - 7
Unintentional Hilarity - 2
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 7


OpaHmar said...

Interesting? I have always been very staunched in my stand on homosexuality til recently when a friend of mine confessed that he is gay. It was then I relised how tactful one has to be in dealing with this delicate issue.
However, the Bible also says the message of the cross (the Word) is foolishness to the world, which means christians' view will be mocked and ridiculed , but we have to make our stand.

DiTHL said...

This has given me much insight to the mind of a religios novelist and their subtle ways of influencing your judgement. I have cited many of your quotes for my assignment and they will play a large role in my arguments on this exact topic. I, myself am bisexual but also quite religious, so this helped me personally aswell.

Timothy Carter said...

OpaHmar, glad to hear you were 'tactful' with your friend. What's this stand you feel you have to make? And regardless of what 'the WORD' says, is it ever necessary to get in the way of someone's happiness and identity?

DiTHL, I'm delighted to hear I've had an influence on your assignment and on your general well-being. And I'm always happy to find more Transformers fans! Please keep reading.

Matthew said...

There are a few problems with your argument Timothy. Firstly, you said that you doubted that many gay people found their sexual orientation a "daily struggle". You are forgeting that when a gay person realises they are gay, it can be a difficult struggle and some may not want to come to terms with the fact they are gay, so it is a struggle. Secondly, one can also be gay, and openly gay, but they do not have to act on this. Therefore they will not "pretend not to be" but will simply not participate in homosexual behaviour, which Scripture says is wrong. Thirdly, although 14 gay people were "released" in 1955, despite not being recent, it still happened. The fact that they were released is what is important. Fourthly, you seem suprised about having to have faith in Nicky to believe his story of how he converted some gay men, when the whole concept of Christianity is about faith. Lastly, "it is wrong to ordain unrepentant, practicing homosexuals into Christian leadership" because of what Nicky mentioned earlier, how Scripture says that homosexual practice is wrong. Therefore Christians can accept gay people, because it is the homosexual behaviour that is shown to be wrong. However, I hope and pray that God will reveal Himself to you and show you the truth, so you might be converted as well. God bless you Timothy.

Timothy Carter said...

Thank you for your comments and blessings, Matthew! I'm delighted to entertain all points of view. I do, however, have a few problems with the few problems you have with my argument.

You say that, when a person first realizes they are gay, it can be a struggle coming to terms with it. I agree. And I would suggest that the reason it can be such a struggle for those who have just realized they are gay is largely due to all the religious people telling them that being gay is evil.

Plus, I said that I doubted that many "in the gay community" struggle with their orientation on a daily basis. The word 'community' here suggests those who have already come to terms with their orientation, not those just realizing it.

As to your second point, you say that simply not participating in homosexual behaviour isn't pretending not to be gay. Whoa, a lot of negatives in that sentence. Let me take another crack at it...

If a gay person doesn't have sex with a person of the same sex, he is in the clear (scripturally speaking) and need not pretend anything. No, they just have to ignore a very basic part of who they are. Which is a lot like pretending not to be who they are, isn't it? It may not be exactly pretending, but that's really just an apples and oranges argument that attacks my word choices rather than the point I was making. I could do the same to you and ask how one can be openly gay without acting on it.

Besides, I really don't care what scripture says. I'm a secular person, Matthew. If you want to sway me to a different point of view, you have to do more than just refer to a book written 2000 years ago when people thought the Earth was flat. And speaking of the past...

Back in 1955, doctors still thought being gay was a medical condition. Today's doctors know better, just as today's scientists know about the Earth's roundness. A study based on 1950's knowledge doesn't carry nearly as much weight as something with today's knowledge. Yes, those 14 gay people were released after the doctors of that era determined their gayness had been cured. I suppose I can't prove that those 14 people weren't completely converted to heterosexuality; you have me there, Matthew. I would suggest, however, that since we know being gay isn't something that can be cured, that data from 1955 needs to be given another look.

I don't mean to be rude, Matthew, but your fourth point is one of the stupidest things I've ever read. We should believe what this one Christian claims to have done because all of Christianity is based on faith... seriously, that's your argument? There are so many things wrong with that statement of yours, Matthew. I'm letting that one go.

Judging by your last point, you clearly didn't take in what I was saying at all. My point was that... oh, never mind. My explaining it isn't going to help.

I appreciate feedback, Matthew, yours included. What I don't appreciate are arguments from someone who either didn't understand what I was really saying or intentionally misinterpreted what I did say for the sole purpose of scoring points.

Oh, and I was converted by your god. Several times. It didn't take.