That could be answered by asking this question: why are there No Exit, No Admittance, No Smoking, No Trespassing, No Through Road signs throughout the land. There are some areas of life which are off limits, and in most cases for good reasons: they are dangerous. I grew up with a tradition and order based worldview which is now not just rejected but despised. One in which homosexuality, the main subject of this post, was not approved by society. It was one of those no! do not go there prohibitions. Of course many did, a No Exit sign to some people is an invitation to take a short cut, but there are consequences. Over the last half century there have been many breaks from tradition and with cultural norms, some of which involved breaking the law; others were just disapproved of such as promiscuity, rebellion, bad language, lack of consideration for others and so on. All of these, even if not necessarily approved of by everyone are now either tolerated or actively encouraged. Tolerance is the new virtue; let it all go by and ignore the resulting chaos because everyone has the right to be themselves and express their individuality more or less as they see fit.
What could possibly go wrong?
The law as it once operated, say sixty years ago did many things badly; but nevertheless, in theory it at least upheld centuries old concepts of right and wrong. Society once disapproved of many things we now accept as enlightened. This includes homosexuality which was once limited to acts done in private, acts considered sinful in an age that believed sin was real and serious and detrimental to society. It was not just a religious question it impacted on society. However we have moved on from thinking such things sinful, we have moved on from thinking about sin at all. But just for a moment lets put sin to one side. Even if I were not a Christian I would still regard this issue as being of concern, primarily for health reasons. Homosexuality is associated with increased suicide rates, mental and physical disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, relational instability and the lowering of life expectancy. All of these tragic side effects are well documented which is why it so strange that this lifestyle is being encouraged from primary school age upwards, making it one of the oddest causes celebre ever to have entered Western culture.
It is easy for a Christian to be seen as judgemental and unforgiving on this matter. However this I do know, a Christian who excuses sin cannot speak for God; but a Christian who forgets he or she is a sinner, quite likely worse than the person he or she accuses, is in no position to judge anything. So it’s a tricky and humbling position to find myself in. Here is the writing of St Paul in Romans ch 1. Homosexuality is mentioned earlier in the chapter but does not figure in this following list of named sins.
‘God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.’
From that quote you can see that sin is not one dimensional or hierarchical, but is a multi-faceted reality.
All I know for sure is that Jesus desires above all to bring us sinners into a state of grace, and he does this by forgiving and restoring on the basis of repentance. We have to acknowledge our sin. We have to turn to Jesus and say sorry. A Christian cannot say a sin is anything less than something which separates us from our Maker. We are asked to love, we are told to weep with those that weep and we should be there to carry one another’s pain and sorrow. We should offer prayer, comfort, hospitality, kindness and understanding. What we cannot say is it is OK to make an idol of ourselves and our opinions or to change a commandment of God in order to make us feel comfortable in our already genetically and biologically ordained body plan. I realise there are rare exceptions to this general rule. Allowing for exceptions does not change the unremitting norms imposed not by theologians or right wing fanatics, but by nature.
Over matters such as homosexuality I can think of no one better qualified to speak on the subject of sexual ethics as they relate to the Christian Faith, than Rosaria Butterfield. She earned her PhD. from Ohio State University in English Literature, served in the English Department and Women Studies Programme at Syracuse University from 1992 to 2002. During her academic career, she published the book The Politics of Survivorship: Incest, Women’s Literature, and Feminist Theory as well as many scholarly articles. Her academic interest was focused on feminist theory, queer theory and 19th century British literature. She achieved tenure in 1999, the same year that she converted to Christianity. She is far more qualified than I to discuss the question as to whether or not homosexuality is a sin, and answer the question why we should say no, this is not a lifestyle choice that should be recommended.
‘Christians can, and sadly do, fall into all kinds of sin. But if Christians call what God calls sin a grace, we are calling God a liar, and, as 1 John warns, God’s Word and His truth are not in us (1 John 1:5-10). Some say you should love the sinner and hate the sin. I think we should love the sinner and hate our own sin. If we spent more time hating our own sin, we would be more responsible in our dealings with others. But we want to be clear about what God calls sin. God calls any heart that is not submitted to Jesus sinful. You are a Christian if you have been redeemed from sin by the blood of Christ. Do we all struggle with sin? Yes, and some struggle more than others. Do some people have to give up more than others? Yes. The Christian life is not democratic; some have one cross to bear and others ten. Can someone be a Christian who struggles with homoerotic desire? Yes. There is no sin of temptation. The question is what you do with the temptation. Repentance is the ground zero of the Christian life. We who are Christians are citizens of a new country, and there is no dual citizenship for the believer. Christians exchange all unholy affections for Christ, and this requires daily repentance.’
This is a short video clip but well worth watching. There are many full length videos by her to watch on You Tube should you choose to do so.