Homosexuality: The One Sin that’s Different?
Thanks to the Club Unicorn post that’s been making waves on Facebook, I’ve been involved in several (hopefully) positive conversations about the nature of homosexuality and the predicament Mormon LGBT folks find themselves in. Whatever you think of that post (I have mixed feelings), I think it’s a net-positive that it’s sparked so much discussion among LDS people.
So here’s another conversation to add to the pile…
If homosexuality is sin, why is it sin — and how?
The argument typically goes like this: sexuality is given to humanity for expression in marriage between a man and a woman. Homosexuality falls outside these boundaries, therefore it is sin. It is like alcoholism or a propensity toward violence because it is a natural urge of which God has forbidden expression. Like other impulses of the “natural man,” we might feel drawn to certain behaviors, but that doesn’t make acting on the impulse justifiable or correct.
This is an argument I myself espoused for many years. But then I took a closer look and realized that I had failed to take note of some critical differences.
First, consider the nature of sexuality itself. I think we can all agree that sexuality is not inherently evil; at worst we might say it is morally neutral, a power humanity has been given to exercise for good or ill. At best (and I think a strong argument can be made for this), it’s inherently good.
Contrast this with urges toward addiction or violence, or other urges symptomatic of the “natural man,” such as avarice, hatred, or judgment. These natural inclinations necessarily lead to destructive ends. There is no situation where addiction is healthy. There is no situation where violence is the best answer. There is no situation where hatred can be used positively. There is no situation where it’s correct to envy or condemn. That’s not the case for sex. Sexual urges are something fundamentally different from these other urges (which I like to call “diabolical” vices).
Please note that, in and of itself, this doesn’t make homosexuality right — it just makes questions of sexuality DIFFERENT from cases of addiction or violence. We can all think of circumstances where sexuality is used in destructive ways. But a closer examination reveals that this tends to happen when sexuality is tied up in one of the diabolical vices: sexual coercion is violence; sexual addiction is, well, addiction; lust is the de-humanizing of someone made in the image of God and reducing them into an object for personal gratification; infidelity is dishonesty and betrayal. The list goes on.
Which of the diabolical vices is homosexuality attached to? Dead serious question. Because I can’t find one.
Not only that, Jesus said, “By your fruits ye shall know them.” When I examine committed, mature homosexual relationships, I see the same kind of fruit emerging as in committed, mature heterosexual relationships. I see people who are willing to sacrifice, work together, and grow together to become something greater as a couple than they could be alone. I see stability and peace. I see the transformation that comes from sharing a life with others.
I can’t think of any other sin that allows people to thrive like this. And I’m not just talking about succeeding in a material way. I mean gay people thrive in a holistic, mature, spiritual way when they are free to love and form life partnerships analogous to heterosexual marriages. Can you think of another “sin” that produces such good fruit? Because I’ve wracked my brain over this and I’m coming up blank.
Please note that I’m not arguing that sexual sin doesn’t exist, nor am I arguing that homosexuals can’t commit it. We’re all capable of lust, sexual aggression, and infidelity. But what is it that makes homosexuality sinful by definition?
Because, as far as I can tell, we’re either supposed to believe that homosexuality is its own mysterious category of evil that, against all accepted understanding of evil, somehow helps people become better, but is still wrong…
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time to reconsider some of our conclusions.
Thoughts on Compassion and Change
(Image source here.)
I interrupt your regularly-scheduled gratitude blogging for a post I’ve wanted to write for some time now but haven’t gotten around to. Yesterday, though, I read something that brought it to the forefront of my mind — and I figured now was as good a time to address it as any.
First, a bit of background on what inspired this post now. The church recently updated its handbook of instructions — the official guidebook that outlines all its procedures and policies — and among the more interesting changes were revisions to the way it speaks about homosexuality. No longer are homosexual thoughts and feelings considered “sinful” (homosexual behavior still is), and advice to send gay people to reparative therapy is gone. They’ve also removed language that refers to homosexuality as a “distortion of loving relationships.” In other words, this reflects and solidifies the shift we’ve seen in the church over the past 5-10 years — acknowledgment that homosexuality isn’t necessarily chosen or changeable and that gay people aren’t inherently vile in the eyes of God.
I am glad for the official change. As a people, I believe that if we can truly internalize this message, it will lead to greater love and acceptance of our LGBT brothers and sisters. And that will reduce the suffering they experience as they grow up Mormon and gay, torn between two worlds that, at the moment anyway, are pretty much irreconcilable.
But my post today isn’t about homosexuality.
It’s about the nature of change and the value of accepting people exactly the way they are.