How do we make homosexuality an agree-to-disagree issue in our churches?
By affirming two points, one less controversial than the other:
- There is a significant biological component to same-sex attraction.
- Same-sex love, therefore, is natural.
On the first point, no one would say biology or genetics fully explains sexual orientation; the causes are numerous and complex. However, studies have shown a significant number of physical differences between straight and gay men and women, and scientists largely agree biology is a major player in whether someone is gay. Or we could simply make it more basic and ask this: When did you decide you were straight? If your answer is, “I didn’t,” then congratulations; you’ve affirmed a significant biological component to sexual orientation.
The second flows naturally from the first. If same-sex attraction is natural, then same-sex love must be, as well. And if same-sex love is natural, then we should reassess how firmly we hold to our convictions about same-sex intimacy.
I encourage you to watch the video above. I have mixed feelings about it – mostly because it feels like a ripoff of the will.i.am “Yes, We Can” video from the 2008 presidential race, and it’s a little convenient for this message to be pushed by the Obama campaign after four years of mostly denying the rightness of equal rights for gay and lesbian couples – but as a quick glimpse into lives and loves of same-sex couples, it’s quite touching. Regardless of our views about homosexuality in general, it’s time to acknowledge that love is a natural outcome of attraction, and if gay people’s attraction has significant natural components, then their love must, too.
And what does God think about love? Well, he likes it quite a lot, obviously. The top two commands of the law, according to Jesus, are to love God and love our neighbors.
Then there’s 1 John 4, equating God with love, and the context makes clear the equality runs both ways:
Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love.
Everyone who loves knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God. God is love. And love, therefore, must be God.
This is a striking assertion. Using the not terribly scholarly method of searching for the English phrase “God is,” there is no other instance of God being equated with a character trait. He is described as many things – merciful and compassionate, for example – but he is not called “mercy” or “compassion.” Love is the only trait with which God is equated.
Likewise, in the second of Genesis’ two creation stories, after Adam is created, God creates a partner for him. Many have taken the verse that follows the creation of Eve – 2:24 – as a template for monogamous, heterosexual relationships: “This is the reason that a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife, and they become one flesh.” But the reason God creates Eve, found in 2:18, is far more basic: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It’s not good that the human is alone. I will make him a helper that is perfect for him.'” No gender is implied, and the basic premise is that people are meant to have partners.
Given the first point – that people generally do not experience a moment where they choose their sexual orientation – we are faced with some questions. Is the natural, genuine love felt by gay people not equal with God? Is the desire for partnership they feel less legitimate than the one affirmed by God himself in Genesis 2? Can we truly ask that they reject love when doing so would be rejecting God himself?
You don’t have to answer yes or no to any of these questions. You don’t even have to answer them consistently, so that you fall squarely on one side or the other of the debate. But recognizing their difficulty would go a long way to making homosexuality the agree-to-disagree issue our church needs it to be in order to truly model the God who is love.