Sunday, March 17, 2013

What Makes it Wrong?

I read a comment on another blog recently that got me to thinking about how people reach the conclusion that homosexuality is wrong. In this particular comment, the commenter suggested that he sort of instinctively knew that he was doing something wrong the first time he engaged in homosexual activity. Others have told him that they didn’t know there was anything wrong with it until they came to their faith and accepted Christ.

What other means do people come to this belief? In all, I have thought of five means total.

One: the bible tells us so. As simplistic as that sounds, some people really do accept morals singularly from this source. From my own perspective, the bible does hold a lot of weight with me. It is one of the greatest works of the Holy Spirit ever. So, to deny or prevent its influence, I believe, is foolhardy at best.

Two: God teaches it is wrong through conviction of the Holy Spirit. I believe this could be true. If we are saved in the faith, I have no doubt at all that God will use the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sins (I would argue that He would do this even if we are not yet saved as well). If homosexual acts truly are sinful, then I am positive the Holy Spirit would try to convict us of that in order to enlighten us and spur us into changing our ways.

Three: Our nature’s fight against it. If we are truly designed as human beings only for heterosexual expressions of sex, then our nature will work to make us comply; when we go against it, it will let us know. For instance, if we chew on broken glass, we are likely to experience pain because our mouths are not designed in such a way to handle chewing on anything as sharp as that. Upon first bite, and that first puncture of the flesh, most of us would instinctively spit out the glass and never try to chew on it again. Our nature has cried out to us not to do that thing again. It could be the same for homosexuality. When we engage in homosexual acts, our bodies may in some way try to warn us against that. We may, too, be convinced by the functions of our design. Even though it is possible for two men or two women to engage in sexual acts together, their bodies are not designed for that function—the ultimate [note that I do not say only] goal of sex being procreation, something that only man and woman together can achieve. So we may be convinced that homosexuality is wrong simply by the designs of our bodies, the very nature of our biological design.

Four: We are taught that homosexual acts are wrong through environmental influences. When we see heterosexuality being the norm, see others make fun of homosexuals, and hear others preach against homosexuality, it only stands to reason that we may be influenced towards those ways of thinking, or allow those ways of thinking to influence our decisions. If we are raised in an environment very gay friendly, however, we may be less inclined to have any real problems, or concerns, about homosexuality. We may, in essence, view it more favorably, having fewer instances of its rejection or disapproval to model after. So, in those ways, I believe our environments can influence us into either believing it more or less acceptable.

Five: It is a personal decision. Anyone who decides that homosexuality is wrong must of course come to this decision, in the end, on their own. That is to say that no one can make this decision for you. This personal decision could be that homosexuality is wrong in the immoral sense, but also something determined wrong for one’s life, or course, as well. Many gay men and women do choose to pursue a life outside of homosexuality. There can be many reasons for this. They may want children, they may not want to be outside the norm, and/or they may have personal convictions through their faith. On that last, I do know many gay men who have told me that they never have felt any inner feelings of homosexuality being wrong. They resist homosexual desires purely out of their wish to adhere to the teachings of their faith, or the authority of the church (I commend them for this act of faith and submission, regardless if said authority or teaching is wrong).

Of the five means to determining homosexuality is wrong (and there may be others of which I am just not thinking about at this moment), I honestly am not sure which ones, if any, fully apply to me.  I know I am not nearly as inclined to believe homosexuality is wrong as I used to believe.

The bible does hold a great deal of weight on my decision making. However, I realize it may not be fully inclusive to God’s desires for us, having been written by flawed men with differing interpretations, perspectives, and even in some cases a lack of understanding (remember the disciples didn’t even fully understand Jesus’ teachings a great deal of the time, and Jesus himself expressed frustration about this—perhaps some of that same lack of understanding was at times translated or transferred into the Bible).

There have certainly been some strong occasions in which I believe the Holy Spirit has pressed upon me to either do or not do a particular thing. I have often felt led by Him, and accepted His direction for my life. At times, I have felt inclined to do certain things concerning homosexuality, which the Holy Spirit has discouraged me from doing. At other times, however, He has not discouraged me—at least in any way in which I could comprehend. And upon examination, I realize it is far too often those desires to rush out and into something probably pretty dangerous that He helps prevent, whereas those more loving, thoughtful desires to want to be with a particular person or another have not been so discouraged—a great many times there has been no discouragement that I could tell at all, but in fact an almost prodding to go ahead (I usually question these urges, in both regards, for rather long periods of time).

Concerning nature, I have to admit that I am influenced by the designs of our bodies to a great degree. It does not make sense to me that we would be designed for anything outside of heterosexuality. However, my nature has seldom, if ever, really called out against such activity. It has actually been those times when I did engage in heterosexual acts that felt in the strongest of ways to be unnatural [on this point, I want to make clear that I am not talking about masculinity, but sexual desires alone]. With this in mind, perhaps we are, to some extent, allowed more freedom over our bodies to interpret their functions than we would expect and allowed to oblige them. Even though we may not have been designed for homosexual engagements in the creation, our bodies may indeed be susceptible to them and may even be, at times, in favor of them. I will note on this point that even the animals, at times, engage in homosexual acts. If homosexuality is sinful, then I have to wonder whether or not even the animals are prone to sin as well. On this point, I have never heard of any teachings that that is the case. So, if the animals are free to express homosexual acts as a part of their nature, rather than sin, then is it not likely that human beings, too, may engage in such activities not as sin but of their nature? And if this is true, then could God really have such objections to it (granted that they are expressions of love rather than lust)? Could it not also be that animals, and the rest of nature, are stained by the fall just as much as we have been though—their very natures being just as twisted as ours as a result of the fall? I’m not sure.

This leads me next to consider our environments. I have for a very long time believed that one’s environment may prove to be, more than anything else, the root cause of their homosexuality. I can look at many environmental factors in my own life to at least suggest that this may have been the case for me (I have picked up on other noticeable environmental factors in the lives of others, too, though). This does not, however, prevent me from recognizing certain strong biological implications that may also play a part in the causation of homosexuality. But when I look at how I was raised and the things I was taught (whether academically or as life experience), I do see great reason to believe that my environment, even though perhaps causing me become homosexual, most likely also taught me that homosexuality is wrong more than anything else. I have certainly felt guilty or ashamed many times by the thought of going against those things I was taught, or raised to believe in. When I have been attracted to other men I have been reminded that other men think that is wrong, that the church preaches against such thoughts, that many in my family have openly disapproved of homosexuals, and that many others, in my presence, have far too often made fun of homosexuals. I have, to a great degree, been taught to feel ashamed and guilty of having such desires for other men. I do believe this was wrong, and in the last few years I have rejected such teachings and ways of thinking (maybe not entirely, but definitely for the most part). I have come to believe that these feelings, unless prompted by the Holy Spirit, are simply not of God, but rather manmade and sinful in themselves. That is not to suggest that people cannot believe as they see fit and proper on the matter—I do not wish to discourage anyone of their convictions—but just to say that a great many are lacking in their approach to others. One can believe that homosexual acts are wrong, and even discourage people from engaging in such acts, but I believe they should not do this by applications of guilt, shame, carelessness, anger, disregard, neglect, hate, or pride. Likewise, a person tempted to homosexuality, believing it is wrong, I believe would do far better to try to adhere to their beliefs much more from an academic acknowledgement, or response, of their faith, rather than as a response to poor emotion (again, I say this is proper unless otherwise pressed by the Holy Spirit, which may be difficult for a person to discern at times, I admit).

As a personal decision, I have accepted more than not that homosexuality is wrong for me to engage in. That is not to say that I have decided I am anything but homosexual based on any personal decision—I do not believe that is possible. However, anyone can choose, or make a decision, on how best to live their life. Just because I am gay, does not mean I have to be with another man. Nor does it mean I have to be with a woman. I can choose to be with no one if that serves me and the Lord best. At this time, I have chosen the latter. I have done this because I do not wish to rush into anything of which I still do not believe I fully understand; I have not yet fully been able to interpret God’s desire for me in this regard. Perhaps His desire is exactly for me to be of the mind, or opinion, I currently have, not wanting me to be with anyone at this time.

I do believe, regardless of one’s teachings, one’s nature, one’s urging of the Holy Spirit, or one’s understanding of the Bible (or anything else), that each person has to make up their own mind on the matter of homosexuality on their own. Is it right or wrong? Does God approve or disapprove? Is it good for me or bad for me? Each of these things must be decided upon by the individual. With free will, we must make our best decision. Some of us may make the wrong decision, and some may make the right decision. But it has to be a personal decision. I do not believe anyone can make it for us, nor should they try, nor should we ever fully accept any other person’s decision without having first given a great degree of thought about it on our own.

Let me know what you think. I’m curious to see how others believe, and to know just how a person does come to a belief that homosexuality is wrong—I’m curious to see if there are any overwhelming factors of similarities about this.

7 comments:

naturgesetz said...

In the first place, I think you have made the right personal decision. I'd like to support that decision with a couple of considerations about some of the other bases for decision you discuss.

First there is scripture. I believe in divine inspiration of the scripture. Yes, the authors were sinful, erring men. But the Holy Spirit guided their writing so that what they wrote would be "the word of God in the words of men." There is much more that can be said about the implications of this belief. Suffice it to say here that I don't think we can disregard what we understand to be the teaching of scripture on a particular point simply because the authors were human, and therefore sinful and personally fallible.

Second there is nature. If our bodies are designed for heterosexuality, I think it is fair to see in that design the will of the Creator of the design. (As for animal homosexual behavior, I'm not sure that we can justify our behavior on the basis of what we see animals doing. But I recently saw an article which said that what is happening there is an assertion of dominance by one male over another, not an expression of love.)

As for how I came to the conviction that homosexual behavior is wrong, I can't recall specifically when I heard that all forms of sexual activity outside marriage are included in the Ten Commandments' prohibition of adultery, but it came as no surprise when I was taught in my Catholic college philosophical ethics course that homosexual acts are contrary to human nature. That teaching appeared to me to be self-evident. Whether it was the Holy Spirit convicting me of the truth or simply human reason I won't speculate. But one way or another, the religious and philosophical teaching on the point have always seemed to me to be unassailably true.

Mark 10:6 said...

Hi Brandon thanks for this thoughtful post. I agree with your criteria. One I would add is whether a person does experience homosexual attractions. This can influence whether or not one thinks it is wrong because these feelings are so intense that most people tend to find rationalizations to believe they are not wrong, since they are difficult to resist anyway. Just a thought. This is a topic that is very rich and could be explored in many ways.

Brandon said...

N,

Thanks for commenting. I understand what you are saying about scripture, and I agree that it was written with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. However, I do not believe it is a fully perfect guide, and I need only point to the discrepancies in the accounts of the four gospels as an example; if it were perfect, they would be completely aligned. I can also point to the fact that the church has changed over time in numerous ways, being led—hopefully—by the Holy Spirit in such changes. I think the Holy Spirit can and does work through us regularly, and we cannot, or should not, allow our wanting to adhere to the bible to limit that. Just as some of the disciples got Jesus’ teachings wrong at first, so, too, may some of the bible have initially been written with the wrong beliefs or understanding in certain regards. All I say is that it is a possibility, and we should not allow the bible to be our only source for knowing God’s will.

As for nature, I know we cannot justify our actions based on what animals do, but I think we can definitely look at animal behavior to help us understand our own behaviors at times. I only meant to suggest that if homosexuality is naturally occurring in animals, then it may be naturally occurring in us as well, and if animals are not held accountable for said natural behaviors, then there could be a chance that God neither intended for us (humans) to be held accountable for such behaviors either. I’m not sure. But I do believe that animals (despite some only wanting to assert their dominance over others) can be in loving, homosexual relationships—one need only look at the relationship of those two penguins (I forget at which zoo) to see that.

Mark,

Thank you, too, for commenting. I think you are right that people do tend to try to rationalize wrong behaviors a lot of the time. I am sure I try to do this at times as well. In this matter, however, I really just want answers. Certain arguments for homosexuality being okay really do make perfect sense to me, and so I have to question why I ever thought it was wrong in the first place. At present, I have to err on the side that homosexuality is wrong only because I do not wish to act in favor of it based on doubt.

Mark 10:6 said...

This post really still has me thinking, Brandon, and I do think it's a good topic.

I think the answers come quickly once we decide what our criteria for analysis are - essentially "who do you trust". I don't think anybody can really figure it out themselves.

In this area I am grateful to be a Catholic. I know you said each person should think it over for themselves, but for me the Catholic faith makes it plain: homosexual sex acts are always displeasing to God - they can never be right. I know it sounds harsh and a bit arrogant perhaps to non-Catholics and gays. And I want to point out that we all need love, and this is much of what gay people need, things like hugs, handshakes, and other genuine expressions of friendship and Christian love. But homosexual sex is off limits, for Catholics at least.

To me, I actually am very grateful for this. It reduces the confusion. It was difficult to accept at first. But once I accepted it as the will of God, I feel He made it clear to me and gave me grace to be sure it was true.

Mark 10:6 said...

I hope you don't mind I leave this video here, which I think is a good answer to the question:
God is love

Kevin said...

For me the Holy Spirit does not allow me to have peace when I'm engaging in homosexual activity or lust. I have found that I, ME, Myself, cannot live a holy life under my own power, or behavior modification. Only when I choose to submit to Him and rest in His grace is He able to live His Holy life out through me, and I'm just along for the ride. However, to do that one must have a right understanding of grace from the Holy Spirit, and not take advantage of it, and learn to submit to Him. It is a very easy thing to say but it is really hard to rest in God. When one is a baby Christian it is very natural such as breathing but when you allow yourself to wallow in sin after you know better it gets harder to and harder to do allow God to live in you.Thank God we are under grace now and not under law!

Gal 2:20-21

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”[a]

Brandon said...

Kevin,

I like what you wrote. Thanks.