What are we REALLY asking?
It's no surprise, in light of all the events over the past couple of weeks, that the “debate” about homosexuality has reared its ugly head once again. As I said before, I view the topic as a non-issue - it is not something I even acknowledge as something worth debating anymore. Some people are straight. Some people are gay. Some people are all sorts of layers in between. Some people have no sexual drive at all. All of that, to me, is fine – it’s part of the created order. Get over it. I hear, all the time, that Christians are called to "love the sinner, hate the sin." I am told that homosexuality is like alcoholism - one can still love an alcoholic while encouraging them to stop sinning. Or, homosexuality is like murder - you don't have to commit it to know it's a sin and you don't have to know someone who has murdered to know that they're a sinner (this is a real thing I've really been told).
But being gay is not destructive (personally, professionally, or socially) like alcoholism, nor is participating in a consensual, loving relationship with a member of the same sex anything like murder. "Love the sinner, hate the sin" is completely meaningless when it comes to the LGBT population.
And, though I feel like a broken record, here's why.
I'm heterosexual. I'm as certain of that as I am that I am 26 years, 2 months, 24 days old. My heterosexuality is not an act external to me. Even if I were to live my entire life as a virgin, and never kissed (another) man, I would still have no doubt that I am heterosexual.
Beyond that, my heterosexuality directs the way I live my life in subtle and not so subtle ways. It changes who and how I love, and who I invest in, and who I grow close to in certain ways. There are things my past and future boyfriends know (or will know) about me that no one else will, and this happens, in large part, because of my personal sexual identity. When I go out, I'm more likely to notice an attractive man before an attractive woman, and I will react to them in differing ways.
And in my lonely moments, when I am honestly sad about being single, my heterosexuality still directs what I long for. When I want to cuddle, I'm not looking for someone with boobs. I long for a man's shoulder to lean on when I'm watching a movie, a man's arm around my waist when I'm out doing fun things. My heterosexuality is a major part of how I live and interact.
Even if I remained single for the rest of my life, I would still have these attractions to the opposite sex. My heterosexuality would still inform how I interact on a day-to-day basis with men, and would continue to color how I view the world. It is something that is impossible to divorce from who I am as a person, though it is not what defines me in total. It is a vital, important, part of the sum that is me.
And this is why "love the sinner hate the sin" is utterly incoherent to me. It is impossible to affirm for a homosexual friend that they are human and yet insist that their desires, their attractions, their longings - a large part of their being - are sinful and an affront to God. If I am to affirm that my own sexuality is an intertwined part of me, a vital building block in the created order that is my being, then I must do the same for those friends and neighbors who are gay.
Many churches skirt around this issue of identity by insisting that it is merely the act of homosexuality that is sinful, and therefore, you can be gay, if you just refrain from ever acting on it.
This, too, is incoherent, for what is “acting on it”? Surely it cannot simply be the act of one being engaged in sexual activity with another, because I do not have to have sex in order to “act” on my heterosexuality.
Sure, one can be celibate for the rest of their lives. People do it all the time. I've gone 26 years, 2 months, and 24 days without having sex. But that doesn't mean I haven't had relationships in which affection was shown in other ways. I've a sneaking suspicion that this is not how "refraining from homosexual acts" would look for our homosexual brothers and sisters.
It's not merely sex that we are asking our homosexual brothers and sisters to refrain from when we tell them not to "act" on their desires.
We're telling them that they cannot form romantic attachments because that might lead them into the "sin" of acting on their desires (in every heterosexual relationship, even one that is celibate, the possibility and eventuality of sex exists).
We're assigning them to a life of being alone - never having someone who understands them in all the ways that heterosexual couples understand each other. It is a priest-like vow of chastity that is assigned rather than chosen, which makes all the difference. An external imposition, rather than an internal desire and calling.
It is asking them, for the entirety of their adult life, to sleep alone, to never fall in love (because that could lead to the sin of sexual act!). They will never walk down the street hand in hand with someone they like. They will never raise a child with their partner. They will never watch that child move from grade school to middle school. They will never watch their child walk across the stage in an ugly hat and a black robe. They will never turn to their partner in that moment and shed a tear of pride, glad to have someone along in the journey.
It's asking them to never know what it's like to ignore another person's morning breath because you just want to kiss them that much. It's asking them to never sit on the couch reading a book in silence with a person they’re growing to love on the opposite end, legs covered in the same blanket. It's asking them to live a life of lonely night after lonely night, never able to escape for fear of committing a mortal sin, never to entertain the possibility of finding someone to share their life with.
It is asking them to do something that most heterosexuals cannot dream of choosing to do, much less be forced to.
When we say, "it's okay if they don't act on it," it sounds clever. It sounds like a nice way around the conundrum of identity and sexuality being intertwined and intermeshed. But, really, asking that a gay person - who did not choose to be gay - be celibate and alone simply because they like men instead of women or women instead of men is asking too much. It is placing upon our brother or our sister a burden we would never choose for ourselves. Rather than helping to make the yoke of their life easy, we set them an ultimatum – we make the burden so heavy that it is little wonder that many run screaming from our churches and our lives.
And this is how we love the sinner and hate the sin? If that’s what love looks like, I want no part in it.