Message to a Conservative Christian About the Homosexual Morality Issue

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A thought for our conservative Christian friend, who writes of several people he’s known who are homosexual and regarding whom he concludes, “One of the big surprises is what good people, in so many respects, many of these people seem to be.”

Over the years, I had a somewhat similar experience, knowing both gay and lesbian people and being struck with how thoroughly decent most of them are.

This led me to rethink the attitude about homosexuality that I’d imbibed from the culture as I grew up, and imbibed also (in a somewhat different form) from my training in clinical psychology in the 1960s. I’m wondering, my traditionalist friend, if you also would consider following this evidence to the truth toward which I believe it points.

If one thinks of homosexuality as an “immoral choice,” or otherwise connected with immorality, then one would anticipate that there would be a correlation between that bad choice and other aspects of a person’s character. (Was it Trent Lott who linked homosexuality with alcoholism and some form or other of thievery?)

But, as you’ve observed, that correlation is strikingly lacking. Aside from the question why anyone with an ounce of sense would ever CHOOSE to be homosexual in a society in which homosexual people are denigrated and persecuted, and sticking with this evidence you and I have both observed: it would seem that whether or not a person is gay is NOT any reflection of a general defect of character.

One gay man that I know –and a person who in terms of his general character (kindness, consideration, unselfishness, devotion to the good, the true and the beautiful) is a real prince– once said in my presence: “I’m not gay because I choose to be. I’m gay because that’s how God made me.”

And the accumulation of evidence –not just your and my anecdotal evidence– suggests that this is true.

And if it IS true –if, though most people are made heterosexual, some are made homosexual– what would that mean regarding the appropriateness of regarding homosexual relationships as immoral?

My answer to that question is that it’s a mistake to treat homosexuality as a moral issue. The question of promiscuity vs. monogamy may be a moral issue, but the issue of straight vs. gay seems to be one in which the majority has unjustly come from prejudice against the minority.

It might be asked, if indeed some people are made homosexual, what is the “good” of forbidding or condemning a loving, committed homosexual relationship? Some seem to say that if God said it is bad, then that is answer enough. But shouldn’t there be some good that is served, other than simply some presumed obedience to a Being that, we are told, being perfect, has no unmet needs whatever?

Do you not agree that for some moral law to be a good one, some GOOD needs to be served by it? Shouldn’t our morality serve the good of those creatures who do have needs, and upon whom our moral beliefs will have –for better or for worse– an impact?

Let me propose a perspective on our cultural condemnation of homosexuals. In this condemnation, the mainstream culture has acted very much the way societies for centuries dealt with the matter of right-handedness vs. left-handedness. As seems to be the case with sexuality, the great majority of people are born one way (right-handed), but a minority is born the other (left-handed).

And are you aware of how harshly various societies in our civilization often treated those who were born left-handed? The ways in which left-handedness was condemned can be inferred from the language in which words for left (like sinister and gauche) were equated with evil and wrong.

Now, I know that it’s a lot easier for me to talk about cultural prejudice in this matter of the moral condemnation of homosexuality than it would be for you to do so and then to revise your assessment of those moral judgments. We come back to the idea that the condemnation of homosexuality is the position of God Himself, as I gather that for you these moral judgments appear to come with the authority of God Almighty expressing his position in the book of Leviticus.

For me, the question of whether something in the Bible is valid is a matter that’s open to being tested by evidence of various kinds. I don’t know if you feel compelled to ASSUME the validity of every single thing you find there, and therefore to reject any evidence –such as your observation of the generally good character of your gay acquaintances– that would call that conclusion into question.

What I believe is that some of the people who wrote the Bible did have real contact with the transcendent realm, but that what people bring back from such experiences is inevitably contaminated by the limits and defects of those people. All the more so when a whole culture molds the heritage from such revelations over the generations.

So it is very easy for me to believe that the Bible contains not only deep truths perhaps divinely inspired, but also cultural prejudices. Indeed, the issue at hand is not the only place where that seems to be so.

So I invite you to consider whether your own experience of these good people you write about points to a more open and humble view of how inerrant and unquestionable a guide to morality is the sacred text of your tradition.

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