Human Reality

Human Reality

I recently received a thoughtful email from a young graduate student. He had been reading my weekly magazine columns and is now a reader of my blog. With curiosity he noted while I have clearly stated my understanding of what the Bible does and does not say about gender dysphoria, to the best of his knowledge I have not written about homosexual relationships. He is correct. The only thing in print is the written conclusion of a debate position I was assigned in my Doctor of Ministry program. While I never publicly circulated that paper, someone did. Copies have been floating around the Internet for years.

In today’s post I want to go on record on the subject of homosexual relationships. Over the years I have read dozens of books and academic papers on the subject. I have considered just about every theological argument proffered. A very long time ago I came to the conclusion “conversion therapy” was not only misguided, it was dangerous. I also knew sexual identity was not a choice. In fact, until I watched Ben Carson’s recent interview on CNN, I didn’t think there was anyone left who still thought it was a choice!

I have reached the conclusion the scriptural passages on same sex behavior do not address today’s long term gay relationships. I believe being in a committed gay or lesbian relationship is not contrary to the will of God.

I know many of you are Evangelicals who have not reached the same conclusion. I understand how you have arrived at your conclusions but I do not agree with them. (I do want to note that my conclusions are not necessarily shared by my previous employers. For their own views, you will need to speak with them.)

From a practical perspective, I believe the Evangelical church will change its stance on homosexual relationships in much the same way it changed its stance on remarriage after divorce. The Gospel of Matthew says remarriage after an unbiblical divorce is adultery. Until the last few decades most of those who were divorced (with the exception of those whose spouses had been unfaithful) were instructed by the Evangelical church to remain celibate. Some churches actually instructed those who remarried to divorce their new spouses and return to their first spouses.

Comparing divorce/remarriage and homosexuality, Lewis Smedes, the revered Professor of Theology and Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, wrote, “as long as (the church) read Jesus’ words with no regard for the devastation that its policy inflicted on the human families involved …the church could go on believing that it was only following Jesus’ own instructions. But once it factored human reality into its reading of the Lord’s words, it was bound to ask, Could Jesus actually have meant the church to cast away people?”

It has been a long time since I’ve heard of an Evangelical church that rejected a member who was divorced and remarried. The culture moved on and the church fell in line. I like Smedes’ term, human reality. The church realized these were normal people, no more or less healthy than their peers. They just happened to be divorced and remarried.

I believe the church will reach the same conclusion on LGBT issues. Again, these are normal people, no more or less healthy than their peers. Virtually every major medical and psychological association in the developed world has declassified them as mental illnesses. These are folks who just happen to be lesbian or gay or bi or trans.

Gay people are not going to abuse your children. Pedophiles abuse children. Trans women are not a danger to the women and children in a public restroom. We’re in there for the same reasons you are, nothing sinister.

The church will move on these issues because the church has never allowed itself to get too far behind the culture at large, sometimes even when scripture is clear (divorce and remarriage.) American culture has moved rapidly on gay marriage. I believe most Evangelical churches will not be that far behind, and I believe it’s a good thing too.

I thank the young graduate student for prompting me to address this issue on my blog. I have little doubt my readers will have opinions.

Copyright c 2015 Paul S. Williams. This document is not to be reproduced or conveyed in any media, neither print nor electronic, without express, written permission of the author.

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5 thoughts on “Human Reality

  1. Paula, this is thoughtful and well-stated. I’m curious, however. You say, “I believe being in a committed gay or lesbian relationship is not contrary to the will of God.” Please unpack the idea of faithfulness in same sex and bisexual relationships.

    I have long argued that the Christian emphasis on sexual purity, by which we generally mean technical (medical) virginity and adultery, is not productive. We would do better to focus on faithfulness in relationships, which would focus on character and virtue and avoid the kind of parsing people sometimes go to–“I did NOT HAVE SEXUAL RELATIONS with that woman.”

    How do the virtues of faithfulness, self-discipline, etc., relate to same-sex relationships, especially among bisexuals?

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    • Perry, I believe faithfulness (character, virtue, monogamy) are critical in any committed relationship, regardless of sexual orientation. And by the way, I am avoiding the term “marriage” because it is not available to all those who are in committed relationships.

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  2. Amen Paula! 🙂

    I’m reading ‘Unnatural; Spiritual Resiliency in Queer Christian Women’ right now and It’s a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about this subject.

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  3. This is why people need to come out! It was easy for the church to exclude divorced people when few people knew a divorced person. But then people’s sons and daughters started divorcing. When people find out their son or daughter or mother or father or brother or sister is any part of LGBTQ, it changes them. Come out!

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