It has been a while since my last post in this series about Christian attitudes concerning Homosexuality. In my first post I presented a discussion I had with a stranger about Christian’s supposed bigotry toward the LGBT community. I apologize about the sloppiness of that post; I have since cleaned it up. In my second post I went on to discuss my reactions to the conversation and offer clarification where needed. In this post I want to go on to discuss how Christians should approach homosexuality, meaning how we should view members of the LGBT community. This is going to be a discussion solely on Christian ideas; I am not going to address in any way the question of State sanctioned Gay Marriage. Perhaps another time.
Let me first state bluntly my religious views concerning the question of whether or not homosexuality is a sin. I want to do this for two reasons: to answer the question about my position which will come from other Christians, and so that people who do not agree with me will not feel I am setting them up for some sort of rhetorical trap. I want to “show my hand” you could say. It is my understanding and belief, based on the teachings of the Holy Scriptures and the counsel of Holy Tradition, that homosexual acts are to be viewed as sin. Also, based on these same sources, I believe it is in no way some sort of special sin, worthy of greater disgust or judgment. If this turns you off to what I am about to say, I apologize. This post is not for you.
I want to offer a personal account. There is something, an inclination, I have always struggled with. It is anger. Everyone who knows me on a personal level will understand that anger is an emotion that has caused much grief in my life. It has affected my relationships and shaped my personal identity. As far as I can tell, my propensity toward reacting to undesirable situations with anger is mostly a genetic trait. Obviously there has been some cultural conditioning, but I have four siblings who do not struggle with this emotion the same way I do. It is my gift.
I often want to shout at the world and say, “This is who I am! Deal with it!” Honestly I have a right to do so. Why should I be kept from acting out perfectly natural and rational emotions? I could make the case that my anger is absolutely justified; when someone infringes on “my space”, whether it is my emotional or physical space, don’t I have the right to remove them from that space? When someone tells me I am worthless, can’t I hit them with a dose of “worth” to prove them wrong? In fact, it is only till recently that society has deemed this approach to solving problems as some sort of abomination. Now society is telling me I have to rewire my seemingly natural inclinations. I could even make the case that my emotions are justified by the God of the Bible. This would be easy actually seeing how the Old Testament is full of God’s righteous wrath. I have a history of Christian violence to back me up as well. Of course, I would be wrong. Those Christians were wrong. Reading the Bible as a justification for violence is absolutely wrong. What do I do?
Let me settle some immediate misconceptions. This touching little story I have just told is not an allegory for how homosexuals should understand their sin. It is a story about how I personally have struggled with sin. All I want to illustrate is the fact that I am a sinner, who has sinned much, and has had to come to grips with the consequences of that sin. So what does it have to do with homosexuality? My natural inclination toward this sinful emotion is a gift from God. What I do with this gift will determine how I will understand all other sins and the people who struggle with them.
What do I mean when I say my sin is a gift? I will reference a well-known story from the Bible—the temptations of Christ in the desert. Jesus was/is the Son of God; He is God in the flesh. He is perfect and has no sin. Yet He took on a body in order to commune with His creation and this is perfectly represented in His spiritual battle with Satan in the desert. Here Christ was tempted by the devil, but they were not temptations you or I necessarily have to face. The God of creation had to struggle with the temptation to subjugate all the Earth. He thought about putting His powers on display for all people to see. He was asked to give everyone exactly what they wanted despite what they needed. In the Gospel according to Luke, immediately after Christ was baptized, He went out into the wilderness and fought against temptation. Even the waters of Holy Baptism did not wash away temptation. Most importantly, it was through those offers from the devil that we know Christ was truly and fully man while truly and fully God. Christ’s temptations are our gift.
Are they still a gift if we succumb to them? The answer is yes, as long as we are fighting. God knows that we will fail yet He continues to allow us to face those thoughts. As Christ was deemed worthy to experience thoughts of sin, we are also deemed worthy to suffer through these thoughts. It is only through temptation that we are purified. It is only through continuously falling and then asking to be picked up where we will ascend to meet our Divine potential. Each personal sin, like those of Jesus, defines us in a unique way. It is by recognizing the purpose of my temptations, and how God wants me to react to them, where I reach the apex of the Image of God in which I was created.
My anger is not innately wrong, as long as it is directed in the proper way—mainly towards my own sin. I was created with a heightened inclination toward sinful anger, when purified through the Holy Spirit, that inclination has the potential to become the virtue of serenity and forgiveness. The same goes for our gay and lesbian friends. Their desire to love, to commit themselves to another person, is a beautiful and God given character trait. It also must be directed in the proper way. Yes, acting on homosexual urges is still a sin and this may turn people away, but this is the teaching of Christ’s Church. I do not have time now to go into the reasons why, but perhaps later.
My struggle with anger, both victories and defeats, have all had a significant influence on the type of person I have become. It has allowed me to see where God is guiding me and has given me the opportunity to suffer for the sake, or Glory, of my Creator. For this reason alone they are a gift. It has also provided me with the single most important gift of all—humility. Struggling with my own sin and understanding how it is a call for true suffering allows me to experience compassion towards others as they fight with their own personal sins. We pray every Sunday at the Orthodox Liturgy that God “came into the world to save sinners, of who I am the first.” This realization can never be forgotten when approaching other people, including and especially those who experience same-sex attraction. Their sin is not greater than my sin, in fact, the opposite holds true. That is how the Church has taught me to approach the issue of homosexuality and I must follow this teaching before any discussion on the definition of marriage can take place.
In later posts I will discuss why the Church believes that homosexuality is a sin and if I find time, I will write about the issue of same-sex marriage.