Hourou Musuko and Loving the Sinner, But Hating the Sin

One of my absolutely favorite series of recent years is Hourou Musuko.  I love the characters, the art, the dialogue, and especially how it made me think (see here, here, and here).  But going further than drawing connections to spirituality, the series challenged me and how I view my faith.

The series (and even more so the manga, from what I understand) touches on ideas that are certainly touchy when Christianity is brought into the picture – namely cross dressing, transgender, and gay issues.

I’ll be perfectly frank – I believe that the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin and I believe scripture to be infallible.

Condemnation, acceptance, or somewhere in between? (Art by 田仲瀧)

I’ll admit, the position makes me feel uncomfortable at times, particularly in the face of popular western culture which says this way of thinking is bigoted and backwards.  And it’s increasingly unpopular – even the Presbyterian Church has recently decided to allow gay pastors to become ordained (note: my father-in-law is a Presbyterian pastor and I really wonder what his viewpoint is on this).

I think those that have similar viewpoints as me want to embrace homosexuals as much as anyone else, but it’s hard to do when a defining characteristic (maybe the defining one) of gay individuals is considered by us to be a sin.  I asked a question on Formspring about that old maxim about “hating the sin, but loving the sinner.”  That’s what I want to do – I want to remain true to my convictions and show the world that I can love you and disagree with you.  Some responders to the question thought it was possible; others didn’t; and some, like me, were just unsure.

And that’s the rub – if I had a close, gay friend (which I don’t think I do), I would want that friend to both know that I’m a convicted Christian and that I would love that person with all my might, even if I disapproved of his or her lifestyle.  But this topic has such strong and angry connotations and created such a sensitive spot in so many (and rightfully so with the violence and hatred that has occurred historically and with recent news about bullying and suicide) that I don’t know how possible this is.  I mean, is it too little, too late when the Southern Baptists (and this is how I was raised much of my life) call for and end to LGBT hate?  Does that mean anything to an individual in that group where acceptance is as key as anything in showing support and love?

And where is the balance?  I feel a bit like Anna, who waves from left to right when it comes to Nitori’s crossdressing – just where can I stand?

So, I’ll ask you, readers: is it possible to hate the sin and love the sinner?  Can one call homosexuality a sin, but still show true love toward a homosexual?  Or do you think I’m just a bigot, plain and simple?  I’m soliciting responses that enlighten, educate, and even criticize.

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About TWWK

TWWK, known to outlaws and lawmen alike as Charles, lives deep in the heart of Texas, where he drives cattle and boot scoots (not really - though he does sport a pair of rattlesnake boots). Somehow in this frontier, he also finds time for his wife, children, and church. Oh, and anime, too.

Posted on 07.27.2011, in Anime, Christianity and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 59 Comments.

  1. Since you asked: you’re just a bigot, plain and simple. Not sure if this enlightens or educates, but that’s how it is (in the sense that “a bigot” is exactly defined by this type of backwards thinking).

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    • A bigot is a person who treats others in a hateful manner – or at the very least, in an uncivil manner. Is it uncivil to support an individual in every other way, but believe that their choice/predisposition (word choice?) in love is a sin? What do you think?

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      • If “believing that their [whatever] is a sin” does not affect the way in which you interact with that person in any way, it is not uncivil, sure, though I’d still argue it is bigotry.

        If the extent to which it affects your interaction with that person is telling them that you believe their [whatever] is a sin, they are likely to shrug it off as they should, but people struggling with minority sexual identities really don’t need this type of negativity, especially from friends. Then again, I wouldn’t claim my telling you that you’re a bigot is more tactful that your telling a gay guy that homosexuality is a sin: if it’s not unsolicited preaching, fine, I guess.

        Now if your belief in the sinful nature of their [whatever] leads you to try and convince them to change their behavior, or to feel bad about being as they are, it certainly passes the bound of civility, or “tolerance” for that matter.

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        • Thanks for the comments. I agree – it’s action that makes a big difference here. Are you trying to convince that person that they’re wrong? Are you hurting that person? Are you angering him or her? Are you annoying that person? Or are you having an open and active conversation? This all makes a difference, and each situation and “set of friends” would be different.

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    • Bigot, eh? The definition of that one is based on ‘utter intolerance’. The Christian approach is usually that ‘they tolerate but not approve’. Whether you want to consider that a mere word game or not is obviously up to you, though.

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      • It’s easy and often unhelpful to get caught up in semantics. But in the case of a topic that carries so much emotion, I think it’s important to look at words, especially when many of these words carry heavy connotation in addition to simple meaning. For instance, “tolerate but not approve” sounds very demeaning. It would also be inaccurate as to how I feel about the topic.

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      • Steven P. Cornett

        The Christian approach is to love the person but not approve of what cannot be approved of. I don’t consider that a word game, but a key to real love.

        The apage love a Christian should have allows for us not to approve of the sins of another, indeed, to do so can itself be a sin upon us because then we might become an accessory to another’s sins. There are in fact nine ways one can do so, and many in this thread may want to read them.

        There may be circumstances where, in the expression of that love, I have to admonish you and tell you that the lifestyle you’re living is destructive. That is unloving not to do so, for if I loved someone, would I allow their death by my silence simply to win their human respect? Which is more important?

        As for myself, I am certainly willing to be called a bigot simply as the cost of following Christ. If that be part of the Cross I carry, so be it.

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        • Sorry it took so long for your comment to show – it got stuck in a spam filter!

          Thanks for the wise words. I wholly agree with you. Your comments make me think of the idea of acceptance and how it has become, maybe, the highest form of love in modern western culture. Be who you want to be, and accept others for who they are. It’s a beautiful concept, but it isn’t always right, especially when we talk about the consequences of one living his or her own way when that way isn’t God’s way.

          Unfortunately, the youth in our culture, for a large part, don’t believe in “God’s way.” The power of living one own’s life in anyway he or she wants is compelling, and I personally think this is rotting away our culture…it’s a sneaky form of selfishness that is more self-destructive than many realize.

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          • Steven P. Cornett

            There is not just the temptation of individualism, of living “your way,” that’s involved here as well.

            Within the core of the world’s solution for those with same-sex attraction is a type of fatalism. The core of the argument is that you are that way, you cannot change or be anything else so you must abandon yourself to it. You must wallow in the lifestyle to be “authentic.”

            Sacred Scripture and the Traditional teachings of the Church tell us something far different and far grander about ourselves. We are human beings that are made in the image and likeness of God, that is to say each one of us can be a “icon” (the Greek used for “Image ” in Genesis 1 is Ikonos) of God. This means we are moral agents that are capable, mainly with God’s grace, to be moral agents that know and live the truth. Christ Himself said, “the truth will set you free”; it is sin that enslaves.

            Thus, it is important to say that someone is not just, and not mainly, to be identified with their vice, but is meant for higher things so long as he or she does not block God’s guidance.

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            • Thanks for the words of wisdom – you’re right, we’re made for something more. We are made in the image of God, and are meant to strive to become like Christ. And when one realizes the beauty of God, that’s becomes a powerful statement indeed.

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  2. Cherish your doubt. It proves you think. Deciding to unconditionally believe the contents of two huge tomes is also the right of a thinking individual. But it makes it all the more important that you confront those contents with reality.

    That said…

    Jesus told his disciples to live without sin. It’s crazy difficult to live without sin. Actually, even the Bible admits its human nature to sin. All the saints were sinners, too. But Jesus wouldn’t say ‘sinning just a bit is fine’. He told his followers to do the impossible. Attempting the possible is rational thinking. Attempting the impossible is faith. You don’t really need faith for the easy things, right? It is good to acknowledge the difficulty of the moral dilemma before you. But this difficulty should encourage you all the more to rely on your faith, and not scare you.

    I’ve once been betrayed by a very close friend in a nasty way. My initial feelings were that of anger at being tricked. But because I knew that person very very well, I knew why they did what they did. To understand is to forgive. I soon found that I still loved that person as much as I ever did. And I thought it was sad that I couldn’t help my friend in a way that would make it unnecessary for them to betray me in the first place. That doesn’t mean my approach to being betrayed has changed any. But my anger towards a fellow human being quickly went ‘puff’.

    It’s doable, if difficult. Doing the same for thousands of people you don’t know, and not a close friend of yours, might even be close to impossible. But as I mentioned above, that might just be what faith is all about.

    I do not happen to be Christian, by the way. Just saying.

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    • Thanks for insight and the wonderful example. Even if you’re not a Christian, your example is a model, in a great many ways, of how Christians should live.

      I don’t think I have a fear or necessarily a problem with loving homosexuals. I hope that might post didn’t come out that way (that’s the problem with posting w/little proofreading!). If anything…perhaps I’m overthinking the topic. Having never been in their shoes, I wonder how gay individuals would feel about a Christian friend who loves them, but views their sexual orientation (and by extention, possibly much of their lifestyle) as a sin.

      Of course, every situation is different…

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  3. krizzlybear

    The idealist in me feels that true love is bidirectional. You can love the sinner, but only if the sinner accepts your love and returns it. If the sinner doesn’t appreciate your hating of the sin, then it can’t be helped. If the person doesn’t care what you think about his or her lifestyle, then bullocks to what other people think.

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    • You’ve got an interesting point (as usual).

      I would say, though, that love as presented in Christianity at least is often one-sided, or else heavily weighed toward one side. One doesn’t have to look further than one of the Bible’s most famous verses:

      But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

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  4. I believe it’s possible to “love the sinner and hate the sin” as you say, because, and I’m not talking only about homosexuality, you can’t love every part of a person right?
    For most if not all people you meet/know/love there’s always at least something you dislike in them, all of them probably have sinned during their life, that doesn’t mean you can’t love them despite everything.

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    • I agree, and on another level, if you love someone, you want them to avoid self-destructive behaviors and to be the person they can be.

      But I do think this topic is very different. It’s easy for an alcoholic who is an otherwise rational person to understand that a Christian can love them and hate their abuse, but it’s trickier when it comes to sexual orientation. I imagine it would be like someone loving me for who I am, but still thinking it’s sinful that I’m Asian.

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  5. More interesting to me is how you took a story about being transgender, and asked a question about homosexuality instead – even though LGBT issues get lumped together often, the G and T are actually quite separate. Just because you are transgender doesn’t mean you are homosexual – transgender is about being born having one gender but in a body that doesn’t correctly express your gender. (i.e. You feel like you are a female, born into a man’s body.)

    So maybe you need to have two separate questions here – 1) am I a bigot because I hate the homosexual lifestyle and 2) am I a bigot for hating trangenders? There is actually a difference.

    To answer your question though, about whether or not your stance is bigoted or not – just flip it onto yourself, I guess. Can you really be okay with someone who says “I like you, but your belief in God is utterly sickening and depraved, and OH MY GOD YOU ARE GOING TO HELL FOR BELIEVING IN THAT ONE GOD?”

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    • I definitely thought about that connection after writing the post. “LGBT issues” would have been a more appropriate way to connect the series to my own thoughts, although I did have Mako’s character in mind while writing the post. And to be honest, the series simply made me think about my feelings about homosexuality as I viewed it, regardless of the specific emphasis in the story.

      As for your two questions…I don’t hate either. But am I (and others) viewed as hating one or both because I feel that homosexuality is a sin? I think that’s an important question for Christians and for opening dialogue between Christians and non-Christian homosexuals.

      As for your last question…yeah, I know I’ve been loved by people who don’t believe in the Christian God and are even antagonistic to Him. I have a friend who is an unabashed Dawkins fan (a convert from Christianity because of him, if you will), but who is very important to me (and visa-versa). But I do think your example is very good, because I think that sexual orientation is as sensitive of an issue as religion – and perhaps one reason why conflict can so easily erupt when discussing homosexuality and Christianity is because of the explosiveness than encounter discussion about both topics.

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  6. I’m not sure if I can add anything constructive, but I just want to say that I do not see a problem with the way you think. As long as your beliefs do not get in the way with your interaction with that friend, why not? A beautiful relationship of mutual understanding can arise; you do not display at every opportunity your disdain for your friend’s sin, thus respecting his/her choice, while that friend does not overtly display homosexual behaviour, thus respecting your beliefs.

    If you’d like to know, I’m a staunch atheist. I believe that if you are not committing a crime, harming anyone or forcing your opinions on others, your morals and values deserve to be respected, regardless of religion.

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  7. To use a not all that helpful expression, in the end I think it’s something you can only answer for yourself. I think it’s possible to consider homosexuality a sin and to love homosexuals, but it’s certainly much easier to think homosexuality isn’t a sin and to love homosexuals. :)

    I’m also Christian, but I grew up in a more liberal denomination (ELCA) and don’t consider homosexuality to be a sin. As you would guess, this comes from an interpretation of the bible as inspired by God but written by man within a historical context. Most Christians nowadays don’t consider not keeping Kosher a sin, and divorce is widespread and widely accepted in comparison to homosexuality. People used to think that slavery was mandated by the Bible (the mark of Cain and all that), and they honestly believed they were doing the slaves a service by allowing them to work and by taking care of them. Today we would call these people bigots. I’m not trying to say this situation is at all analogous to slavery, but it’s certainly something to think about.

    Loving the sinner and hating the sin is hard. I’ll share a story with you that my bishop shared with me. He was meeting with some congregation that was voting to leave the church (because of gay ordinations, I think), and they were asking him questions. The president of the council asked him whether the church should allow in gay and lesbian members. He answered that it absolutely should. *Disapproving frowns and angry glares* Afterwards, an old woman came up to him, took his hand, and began sobbing. “We’re going to end up leaving the church, and I’ll join them, because they are my friends and neighbors,” she said, “but I wanted to thank you. This is the first time that anyone has told me that my son would have been welcome in the church.” My point is… it’s hard. Not a single person in that congregation made this woman feel that her son was loved. But keep up the good fight. Overall, I think the fact that you’re wondering if you might be a bigot suggests that you probably aren’t.

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    • Thanks for the thoughtful response. I appreciate your words and I’m encouraged by them. The story from your bishop is also powerful, and certainly provides food for thought – I think that the experience you mentioned, and others similar to it, are unfortunately all too common. Truth be told, I’m almost positive that a homosexual would not be at all comfortable in my church, despite the congregation consisting of young and mostly very kind members.

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  8. Well, after talking a lot with friends who do have LGBT issues/friends/whathaveyou and have seen this… most feel that Wandering Son actually deals with the issues in a fairly shallow way. To paraphrase one, he said that Nitori never really was confused about his gender, he just liked to cross-dress. They also mentioned that Aoi Hana was one that dealt with character’s identities in a far superior manner.

    I’m going to have to watch them both and take notes now. I stared Aoi Hana but was put off by how slow it was (that’s purely me, though, I was in a mood for an action series), and do some research beyond what these anime have in them to see how they mirror (or don’t) real-life issues.

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    • I haven’t read the manga, so I don’t know how much more in-depth it goes (though I do know that the anime only covers a portion of the series), but I would agree that on some level, the anime doesn’t delve too deeply into LGBT issues. But I think a lot of that has do to with its large cast of characters and the amount of time that’s spent with each – I felt myself ALWAYS wanting to know more about almost all of the characters. The series feels like it could be 52 episodes long, rather than 13.

      Anyway, I really hope that you’ll watch and review Hourou Musuko – it’s definitely one of my all-time favorites.

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  9. The problem I have with calling LGBT stuff a sin is that people are born with it. It’s like saying being left-handed or having curly hair is a sin. Sexual attraction is not really something we can control. If we try to work against it, we become crippled. Imagine a parallel universe where the old teachings say that heterosexuality is a sin and societal pressure would force you to go against your natural instincts. Could you live in such a world?

    The next point might be just me, but I don’t think gender is as important to sexual attraction as mainstream culture wants to tell us. People are attracted to people. For some they’re all of the other gender, for some they’re all of the same gender, for some it’s somewhere inbetween. (This is ignoring that the gender binary is rather questionable by itself.)

    I’ve heard there is a story in the bible where a farmer worked on a sunday and the priests didn’t like that. Then Jesus came and told the priests to calm down. I don’t remember how it exactly went and if it helps you in that regard, but maybe it could be helpful. (I don’t read the Bible that often, religion is not that important in my family.)

    I don’t know if you really want to argue about this, but as for the Bible being infallible, there are too many websites out there that point out stuff where it directly contradicts itself. Even books that are written by one author always have details and implications where they contradict themselves, and the Bible has many (non-divine, human) authors. I personally prefer an interpretation before the historical background. (This might just be the influence of my high school religion teacher, a Roman Catholic priest and former leftie. He was my favourite teacher and quite a chill dude.)

    With all that in mind, I’d have to call you a bigot and maybe some other things too, but at least you think about it. I rather dislike stereotypes, and one of them is that Christians just follow the Bible without thinking about it for a second. Thank you.

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    • Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

      I’ll provide a couple of responses. First, I think that LGBT attraction/tendencies/(fill in the correct word) being ingrained in us from the womb is a very important point – it would certainly make me think further about the nature of sin and what constitutes a sin. But from what I understand, there isn’t “proof” that a gay gene exists – it’s more of an understanding that genetics and environment both contribute to sexual orientation, with argument about which side is more influential and how much it is.

      Second, the idea of infallibility of scripture, context of scripture, divine inspiration of the imperfect writers, and weighing context in considering verses that seem to contradict one another have been long considered and debated. Obviously, I’m very conservative when it comes to these ideas, but I hope that I’m open and even handed.

      As for the Bible story – there are several along those lines, including the Pharisees getting on Jesus’ case for the disciples picking heads of grain on the Sabbath, and Jesus healing on the Sabbath, though in both cases the Pharisees claimed that Jesus and his disciples were breaking God’s commandment. Although I think you were getting at a different point, what I’m taking away by thinking of these events in context of the discussion is this: scripture can be interpreted in many ways, but one thing is true in every reading of the New Testament – God is presented as a loving and merciful God, who is concerned about the bigger picture of love and salvation than about nitpicking and manmade rules. Grace is of utmost significance.

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      • “But from what I understand, there isn’t “proof” that a gay gene exists – it’s more of an understanding that genetics and environment both contribute to sexual orientation, with argument about which side is more influential and how much it is.”

        It’s true that in the studies about genetic differences the results were approaching statistical significance at best. But other studies showed that gay and straight men respond to different sex pheromones, one found in male sweat, the other in female urine. This leads me to believe that gayness is a mix of many different genes (a quite common thing actually, e.g. for eye color) and the hormones we received in our mother’s womb, with the social influence leading them to discover it or not.

        There is also the Kinsey scale (and variations/extensions of it) which suggests to me that that sexual attraction is not like “this is here, that is there, and they are completely seperated”, but more like a flowing spectrum. I think it might be even better to measure the attraction to the different sexes on separate scales.

        Thank you for listening to me. /steps off the soapbox

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    • We are all born sinners, dead in trespasses. From the moment we are born we are steeped in sin. We are commanded to repent of our sins, whether they be sexual sins or any other sins, and be forgiven in Jesus’ name. That means being truly sorry and not wanting to commit those sins anymore, including the sin of homosexuality.

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  10. I think that, unfortunately, there’s been such an emphasis on homosexuality among conservatives who identify as evangelistic Christians that a major schism has developed. Personal experience or secondhand encounters, in addition to the shift of the culture in the west, has created an invisible wall between many or most homosexuals and even being open to the idea of homosexuality being a sin. The gospel message is powerful, and we’re willing to be humble and open to it, it can change anyone – but I dunno how many homosexuals would be open to it in this day and age. Somehow, it seems to be more of a miracle if a homosexual accepts Christ and changes their sexual orientation than if someone who was a felon did the same.

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  11. Late comment, but I’ll just add my two cents that yes, I think it’s possible to love the sinner while hating their sin. I base this on the story of Jesus and the female adulterer: Jesus protected her from being stoned, but also told her to “go and sin no more.” Of course, I don’t really connect this with homosexuality at all, as I no longer believe there is anything wrong with it (both the sexual act *and* the orientation; I used to take the Roman Catholic position for a while and only believe the act itself was sinful), so this may not be helpful.

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    • Thanks for the insight – it IS helpful!

      Can I ask why you don’t believe either the act or the orientation are sins? I come from a very conservative religious background – mostly Baptist while attended multicultural churches, and though the other churches I attended were from a variety of denominations, they were all Korean, which generally = conservative. Thus, I didn’t grow up hearing much about homosexuality in regards to the Bible except as sin – but really, not even much of that, either. I’m trying to gather information here.

      I find it interesting that you separate orientation from the act – this is not an idea I’m familiar with, but it’s one that makes logical sense to me, especially if homosexuals are born as such. I wonder why you don’t find the act sinful, though? I’ve read a bit on why some churches do not, and I just wonder what your two cents are and if your reasoning is similar to those churches/denominations.

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      • Ah, I’m glad then~ :)

        Hm, I was raised in the South, but in the Methodist tradition, so while people down there naturally just “knew” that non-Christians were going to Hell and homosexuality was wrong, it wasn’t ever advertised in the sermons or Bible studies. I sort of grew up absorbing this attitude, then when I learned about the RCC position I decided it made sense to me and adopted it (after all, we all come equipped with “thorns in the flesh” that tempt us to sin — for example, some people are predisposed to become easily angered and have to learn to control their temper — and sexual orientation seemed to clearly fall under that category).

        As for why I no longer find the act sinful, it was sort of a combination of personal experience (which I can’t really get into here for personal reasons, but it *hugely* affected my thinking) and an introduction to more “liberal” interpretations of Scripture in a new church that I had just joined. The change was very gradual, until one day I was thinking about Prop 8 and realized that I had no right to “vote” on whether two consenting adults who loved each other could get married or not. That’s more or less how I got to where I am today. :)

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        • Thanks for going into detail…it’s really interesting to read about Christians’ backgrounds and about how their faith changes (and why). :)

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  12. I’m a straight Episcopalian, and I go to church with several openly gay men, so I have some comments.

    First, I’ll just echo what others have said about homosexuality being ingrained. I’ve heard too many stories from LGBT men and women about knowing from a very early age that they were attracted to the same sex. I’ve also heard too much about how “ex-gay” therapies can lead to anxiety and depression. In fact, my understanding is that that’s why homosexuality is no longer considered a mental disorder by psychologists: they began to figure out that gays and lesbians had a far better quality of life if they accepted who they were than if they tried to change or deny it. Then there’s the fact that the suicide rate is much higher for LGBT people–including kids–when they’re not in an accepting environment.

    Which is not to say that the church should submit to the whims of modern culture. In fact, I doubt that our culture is as accepting of gays as it seems. Not when conservative churches help reinforce prejudices about gays, and both preachers and politicians demonize them on a regular basis. Nor when Hollywood still resorts to crude stereotypes; or when it’s so easy for gay kids (or even, tragically, kids perceived as gay) to be bullied by their peers. Nor when pro-gay ballot initiatives either get rejected outright or pass by the narrowest of margins. So to my mind, conservative churches are as guilty of following “the spirit of the world” as anyone else.

    No, what the church should do is conform to the pastoral needs of its members. This is why some churches ease the restriction on divorce: some marriages -can’t- last forever. If gays and lesbians are supposed to repent of a sin, they don’t have many options. Homosexuality isn’t something you can repent from. Sure, you can become celibate or risk anti-gay therapy. But it’s not about acting on a fetish or a fantasy: it’s about attraction. How do you repent from attraction? Love has to be the baseline. As Jesus said, that is the law and the prophets. If someone is in danger of hurting themselves or others, then yes, they should repent. Homosexuality, by itself, does not present that danger any more than heterosexuality. Gays can be just as chaste, promiscuous, and just plain freaky as straight people.

    One word in the original post stuck out at me: “lifestyle.” That’s a fallacy that cannot die soon enough. There is no one single gay lifestyle, any more than there is a single straight one. The whole reason there’s such a push for gay marriage is -because- of a desire for a better lifestyle. It’s one thing to talk about going to bars and having sex with everyone there. But I find nothing to condemn in a long-term, monogamous relationship between consenting adults.

    I’m afraid I don’t have time to go into any especially detailed biblical exegesis for this. I highly recommend googling Catholic scholar Luke Timothy Johnson’s essay on the subject for Commonweal.

    Ultimately, the reason I support gay rights is because I simply don’t know -how- to hate this sin -without- hating the sinner.

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    • Thanks for the great comments.

      You bring up a great point about the difficulties that LGBT individuals go through. That’s part of my discussion of the possibilities of “loving the sinner, but hating the sin” in regards to homosexuality. When individuals have to endure such difficulties and even violence in their everyday lives, can they possibly feel loved by someone who doesn’t accept them for who they are?

      As for the idea that homosexuality is ingrained and that one cannot “repent” from attraction – I’m going to bring up an idea to counter that. Celesma, an above commenter who does not believe homosexuality to be a sin, used an example that I’ll bring up here for my purposes, partly because it fits me. Some of us are more apt to anger than others (as I’m writing this I realize it’s not the best example in the world – does this have anything to do with genetics, or is it mostly/entirely environmental?). That anger itself may not be sin – but acting upon it in an unrighteous way would be. The same could be applied for homosexuality – even if its ingrained, one has to separate the act from the state. You may not be able to repent attraction, but you can repent action.

      By the way, I think this is an important point to make – I’m talking about avoiding temptation, and not de-gaying oneself. It’s interesting that this topic is hitting the new right now with its political implications on the GOP side.

      As for use the word “lifestyle,” that was a poor choice. I’m aware of the connotations of that word, and shouldn’t have used it – it’s a bit belittling and arrogant.

      Thanks for the Johnson recommendation. I’m planning on doing some reading on this to see if someone can change my mind.

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      • Thanks; I appreciate your keeping an open mind on this.

        As far as the biological aspect, I sometimes think of it like being blind or deaf. Not the nicest comparison, I know. But in a similar way, the blind and deaf are set apart biologically from the norm: they lack an ability the majority shares. In the wrong circumstances, these can be very debilitating. On the other hand, society provides tools for the blind and deaf to adapt so they can still live as full participants in society. And while there are cures, many blind and deaf people, from what I understand, aren’t interested: first, because they’ve already lived their entire lives one way, and would have to learn an entirely new set of tools to re-adapt to society; second, because experiencing a new sense for the first time can be an incredibly shocking and traumatic experience.

        That’s the thing, though: it’s easy to say you can repent action, but how does that wind up working out in real life? As I said before, not everybody is made for celibacy. It’s a very particular calling, and plenty of people, gay and straight, fail at it. To apply it to all LGBT Christians strikes me as an unfair burden.

        I’m not sure that the anger issue really fits. I find it kind of hard to articulate. I often think the usual discussion on homosexuality is too hung up on the “sex” part. Being heterosexual is about far more than just sex, and so is homosexuality. Likewise, you don’t need to be gay to perform a same-sex act: straight male pedophiles often prey on boys; men are raped in prison; and the practice of men and older boys keeping younger boys for sex crosses cultures, from ancient Greece to tribal cultures to modern Afghanistan to CS Lewis’s boarding school.

        By contrast, most conservative criticisms I’ve read have very little to say about same-sex romance–almost as if they deny its existence. Likewise, I don’t see the Bible as having much to say about it, more about cultic prostitution, pederasty like I mentioned earlier, and pagan wantonness. St. Paul also treats the matter as a consequence of sin–in the example I listed above, it can be, the sin of treating others as things to be used. But the attraction, the orientation, is not. That’s where I’m basing what I said earlier, about not being willing to condemn a committed monogamous relationship. Which is kind of what I see St. Paul getting at in 1 Corinthians. He says he’d prefer singles and widows to remain celibate, but permits them to marry if they have to, to prevent sin–specifically, porneia, that is, fornication, harlotry, so on. So my thinking is, homosexual acts may be sinful–they may miss the mark–but eros is such a strong urge, and by itself a blessed one, so to prevent an even worse sin, like promiscuity or prostitution, marriage or union is preferable. It does diminish the Biblical commandment, but I think it’s dangerous to treat the Bible as a checklist–the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

        To take it back to the issue of bullying and suicide, consider how the young depressed gay person may view it. They are attracted to other boys, or other girls. They are also told by priests, bishops, preachers, politicians, and family members that it’s wrong to act on this attraction in any way–they’ll go to Hell if they do. And it stands to reason that if every manifestation of this desire is sinful, then the attraction itself must be sinful. What do they do if they fall in love? Is being attracted to someone a sin? If they want to go to Heaven, they have to either turn straight or live and die alone. They may try desperately to change, but with no success. So they’re left with few options: act, and doom yourself to go to Hell; live a sad and lonely life with no intimate companionship; or just die and go to Hell anyway.

        That’s the other place I’m coming from. I’ve been through depression myself, and it’s something I would never, ever wish on anyone else. Everyone wants companionship. A few, commendably, can find it from God alone. But most need other people. I think that permitting committed monogamy among gays and lesbians would be a great help to them, just as (to go back to my flawed comparison) sign language helps the deaf.

        In addition to the Johnson essay, I’d also like to recommend two essays from the Orthodox tradition: Fr Robert Arida’s “A Pastor’s Thoughts On Same Sex Marriage” (http://ocanews.org/news/AridaResponse7.1.11.html), responding to the NY marriage law that just passed, and Fr. Vinogradov’s response, “New beginnings in community” (http://ocanews.org/news/AridaResponse7.1.11.html). Bear in mind that this is a very bold stance for them to take, since Orthodoxy is the most traditionalist church there is.

        I hope that clarifies things.

        Like

        • Alex, thanks for the thorough reply. I’ve read through it carefully, I appreciate your points. I’ll look at the sources you’ve recommended, along with others I’ve gathered, because I do want to look into this issue more and be open about the possibility that what I’ve learned and how I read scripture regarding this issue is wrong.

          As for bullying, depression, and suicide – honestly, that’s of primary concern to me. That’s why I go back to the whole “can you love a homosexual and consider homosexuality a sin” question – it’s difficult to answer “yes” to that question because of the guilt and pain associated with being of this sexual orientation. And I think in western culture, this question should be one of primary concern for all Christians who view homosexuality as I do.

          Anyway, thanks again for the responses – you’ve give me food for thought (and resources to read), and I’m very grateful.

          Like

  13. In our modern society, where we have open forums for the discussion of morality and a law system that barely resembles anything biblical, you’re kidding yourself if you think the bible is “infallible.” There are so many things in the bible that we no longer practice because society has grown more moral since the bronze age. We are much more empathetic and accepting of our differences today than the decrees of the bible would permit. Look at the things the bible says about working on the sabbath, adultery or slavery for examples.

    As we progress forward as a society, this age of gay rights debates will become a part of history that we look back on shamefully, like Galileo’s discoveries, abolition of slavery, evolution and the civil rights movement. It’s obvious to us now that Christianity was wrong on those topics and future societies will view it the same way.

    But to answer the question, no. I don’t think you can simultaneously say that you hate the sin but love the sinner. In the case of homosexuality at least, homosexuality is one of a person’s defining characteristics. To say you hate homosexuality but not homosexuals is hypocritical. You CAN hate someone’s lifestyle, but be tolerant of its existence through your actions towards those people. But are you truly “loving” them. I’d have to say, no.

    Like

    • As always, I appreciate your comments. Regarding “infallibility of scripture,” I have to say that really we need to define how we view that idea. I think we’re miles apart here, because even though we’re both considering context, I think that the contexts we’re thinking about are totally different, and we’d probably disagree about applying them to scripture.

      As for the events you mentioned…I think you’re making a strange assumption. Since when is Christianity against slavery? Or the Civil Rights movement? You’re talking about conservative Christian individuals who used the Bible to support their arguments, though you’re right in saying that we look back as those supports as shameful, and I think almost unanimously as interpretations of the Bible by those who would use it for their own aims, no different from any of a number of other writings. Remember that Christians using scripture were on the forefront of both abolitionist and civil rights movements. A bunch of redneck racists from the 60s and wealthy plantation owners of the 1800s did not have a corner on the scriptural market.

      Although I might agree with your ultimate answer of “no” in regards to my question…but I dunno about your support. As someone else mentioned (either here on Formspring), of course you can love someone, even if you’re tolerant (or even if you hate) their lifestyle. I don’t think you have to go further than looking at many typical American families. I look at my family – if my son became a greedy businessman whose goal in life was to make as much money as possible, I would hate his lifestyle and his choices – but I would love him with all my heart, nonetheless.

      What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think there’s any hypocrisy or any less love in hating the sin and loving the sinner (in fact, it could demonstrate a higher form of love) – but when it comes to homosexuality, I may agree with you that it’s not possible.

      Like

      • Something I didn’t think about when writing my initial reply was highlighted nicely when you replied to me. You pointed out that conservative Christians can twist scripture to support slavery and racism. But that fact in itself is a fine example of why the bible is so fallible as a source of guidance. When anyone can interpret the vagaries of scripture to suit their own agendas, the bible ceases to be useful.

        A fine example is right in the ten commandments. I’ve heard many Christians say that the sixth commandment should be translated as “thou shalt not murder,” which is how killing during wartime or killing in righteous causes can be moral and justified. Just one little word with a double meaning suddenly changes the value of life. That’s not something to write off as simply the bias of people or word games taken out of context or spirit. It’s something very serious that has far reaching effects.

        In the end, our source of morality is always from society and ultimately within ourselves. When we can own up to that, we are finally capable of truly taking responsibility for our actions and decisions.

        Like

        • Uhhh…huh? I’ve got to say…I think you’re really missing something here. ANYTHING can be twisted to fit ANYONE’s agendas. That doesn’t make the source infallible. Let’s take the Constitution for instance – not necessarily something Americans would call “infallible,” but as the backbone of democratic structure in the U.S., it’s as hallowed a document as any in the country. But it, too, can be interpreted in any manner. That doesn’t change the document – it is what it is. If the Bible is indeed infallible, it, too, “is what it is.”

          Or take a piece of literature. I’ve done so much analysis of literature in my life, and literally read hundreds (if not thousands) of students’ literary analysis papers that I understand one thing – you can make almost any piece of work mean anything. The author’s intent never changes, but the way it’s read can. That doesn’t mean what the analyst says is true – the book remains what it is, and our reflections often say more about ourselves than about the work.

          Your example regarding the “thou shalt not kill” commandment – again, this reveals something about societal values and individual’s values depending on how one interprets it (which is, as you say, of utmost importance). It has to be read in context of scripture, language, et. al. for one to determine the meaning of that particular verse, and even then, the world will never come to a satisfying conclusion about this commandment and other scripture. Infallibility, in this definition, does not mean the text can’t be debated or that we’ll even under the full truth of it. A document can be “perfect” even if its interpretation is not.

          As for societal morality…I get what you’re saying. And you’re right – we need to own responsibility for our actions. Going to the Bible and saying “this is what it says” is not the right way to live. Christians should not put their trust in the Bible without reason and justification. We believe we have a mind and soul for a reason, and all of us should be able to defend our belief. But everything comes from something – even society’s moral norms, if we accept them as true and right, came from somewhere (and we certainly both know that much of what is accepted in society today is based on Christian-influenced morals). Whether we believe fully in what society says, or what a faith says, or something else, or something in between, we all still have to take responsibility for what we believe, because we choose to believe it.

          Like

  14. Jesus tells us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44) and He commands us to love one another (John 15:12) but we are to abhore sin for sin separates us from God (Isa. 59:2). Sin, for the Christian is anything that is against the will of God and if we read Gods word we will see clearly what His will is. Any sexual act outside of marriage between a man and a woman is against the will of God and is therefore sin. (Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-12). Men being good close friends with men or women being good close friends with each other is not a sin but when the friendship becomes sexual and the desires are fleshly or sexual then that relationship becomes sinful and against the will of God. Yet God still loved the sinner caught in sexual sin (John 8:3-11) and so should we, even though we hate the sin or don’t condone it, we should let people know where we stand on the matter.

    Like

    • Thanks for bringing appropriate scripture into this conversation. I believe what you say and I think that from the Christian point of view, the idea of “loving the sinner but hating the sin” is true – after all, it is what God does – He loves us despite what we’ve done. That’s grace.

      The question is, how is that idea received on the other end? How can one show love to a homosexual if we believe the concept that they may most identify with is a sin? I think in this particular case, “loving the sinner but hating the sin” is not a concept most homosexuals would receive. And unfortunately, there grows a barrier.

      Of course, with Christ all things are possible.

      Like

  15. WS relates to transsexuality more than homosexuality, so why mention that?

    Then again Nitori is in a same-gender romance with Anna and Mako is gay.

    Like

    • Its too late to make this clear, but I should’ve said in my post that perhaps because of Mako, and possibly because of transgender issues and their connection to homosexuality, the latter idea was frequently on my mind while watching the series.

      Like

      • Mako isn’t gay, she’s transgender. I can’t think of any gay males in the manga. Nitorin’s lesbian but that’s about it

        Like

        • Hmm? Isn’t Mako dealing with feelings for males? Perhaps the manga differs from the anime on this point (or else this is emphasized at a point after which the anime ends).

          Like

  16. Here’s my basic question on this topic: do you think eating pork is a sin?

    If you do, OK, I can applaud you for your consistency. If you don’t, I wonder why you consider eating pork OK but being gay not. Neither hurts anybody, and neither prevents one from having faith in God. So if you’re going to skip over one ancient law that doesn’t seem to be there for any particular reason, why not skip over the other?

    Even in the Orthodox and Conservative Jewish communities, where most observant followers don’t eat pork, there’s debate over whether the verses in Leviticus always used against gay people are actually against homosexuality in general or just anal sex in particular. Seeing as at least a third of gay men don’t participate in anal sex, and practically no lesbians do, then it’s totally possible under that interpretation to be gay and even in a relationship without committing a sin, and why pry into someone’s personal life to check what they’re doing in the bedroom? Do you pry into straight couples whether or not they’ve have sex within a week of menopause (also a sin according to Leviticus)? That’s my answer.

    Like

    • Those are great comments. I do understand the debate about what the verses mean in the OT, though my feelings are more based on what Paul has to say rather than on the levitical law. I think one has to think about that and about the definition of what a marriage is to God to consider whether or not homosexuality is a sin. On these two points, I’ve done some research and considerable soul searching and haven’t yet reached a satisfactory conclusion.

      Thanks for the excellent responses. :)

      Like

  17. I was very curious about a Christian perspective on the themes presented in Hourou Musuko, and stumbled across your blog via Google. I applaud you thinking about and questioning your beliefs in such a manner, and being able to see beauty and value in subject matter that might not necessarily agree with your own world view. Reading your posts here, it is clear that you are a very intelligent, thoughtful individual, and though our beliefs might greatly differ, that is always something worthy of the utmost respect.

    As for your question, I believe I have something to offer to the conversation, late though my contributions are. Having struggled with gender issues my entire life, I finally found the courage to come out as transgender a number of years ago. And as I have a couple of close Christian friends, I’ve had to consider the point you raise from the other end of the pond. Can I continue to be friends with people knowing that they will never see me as the gender I feel inside? Can I willingly socialise with others knowing that even though my legal gender is changed and I am hormonally and to all physical observation female, they still see me as a man? And can I feel truly amiable toward those who I know deeply wish for me to renounce life as a sex where I am truly happy and comfortable with myself and return to one where I spent most days wanting to die?

    Ultimately I decided that no, I couldn’t be good friends with those who did not accept me as a woman, no matter how good their intentions and no matter how polite they were toward me. So to answer your question, no, I do not believe that one can love the sinner but hate the sin in this case. To me if someone genders me male or regards me as a gay man, even if they do not come out and say it, they are disrespecting me as a person, showing no compassion whatsoever for the crushing despair that I have struggled with for most of my life, and trying to plunge me back into a life that very nearly killed me because I disagree with their own personal values. And that to me is not any kind of love.

    Naturally I haven’t made a conscious effort to phase my Christian friends out of my life (outside of one who… really wasn’t very civil with me), and I won’t immediately reject or blank a person knowing that they believe in the gender binary. Still, I do not feel I can be truly close to anyone who does not regard me as a woman. To do so would be on some level compromising who I am. And like most transgender people, I’ve done enough compromising myself for the benefit of others to last me a lifetime.

    Like

    • Pippi, thank you so much for your comments! I really appreciate the time you took to give such a thoughtful response and the honesty with which you presented your own personal situation. And thank you, too, for being so kind toward my views, which might have been hurtful.

      Since I wrote this essay, I’ve gone on quite a journey into examining the ideas I presented here; actually, I’m still on that journey. Basically, I’ve opened myself up to the question of whether or not homosexual and transgender individuals are sinners because of their state of being (or choice, as some would say), and also to the question of how a Christian could demonstrate love to GLBT individuals.
      I’m still searching for answers to the first question, though for me and my generally conservative views, I would say I’ve taken quite a turn. I might blog about this at some later time.

      For the second question, I think it really comes down to Christians treating all people with humanity and respect. Jesus befriended those who were most unlike the religious people of the day and gave them back the value they’d lost as humans because of those who told them they were worthless and were sinners. I think Christians today need to do the same – love our friends and others with a fierce love.

      And the more I contemplate this subject, the more I believe that these issues are between the individual and God. It’s not a Christian’s place to condemn another for their beliefs about whether being transgendered, for instance, is right or not; from a Christian perspective, it’s up to that person to come to peace with God. Meanwhile, a concerned friend should just continue to love their friend and pray that s/he would grow closer in relationship with the Father.

      Like

  18. Sorry once again for dredging up an old (in this case very old) topic, but Hourou Musuko and Aoi Hana are two of my favourite manga series ever, because they address issues that are very personal to me. Currently I find reading Hourou Musuko somewhat depressing and reading Aoi Hana unremittingly exciting, both because of the relative positions and fortunes of my favourite character/figure of identification in each–Chiba Saori and Manjoume Fumi–and because I am a sad individual who is capable of finding Shimura Takako manga ‘unremittingly exciting’.

    I am, as it happens, a lesbian and of somewhat dubious gender identity. I’m sure I’d feel much more personally conflicted about this if I held an inerrant or sola scriptura view of the Biblical text; as it is I don’t see the Bible as the end of anything, but as a beginning–indeed as THE beginning, because He to whom it points is the beginning and the end. Even so I do feel some conflict within myself, not because I perceive my own identity or desires as themselves sinful or acting on them as any more sinful than acting on heterosexual desires would inherently be, but just because, a procreative view of sex based on heterosexual marriage being as nice and tidy and logical and concurrent with the standards of Biblical-era civilisation as it admittedly is, there hasn’t been much guidance as to how to recalibrate this taking into account a de-centring of gender coming from either the authorities of my church or from the general society around me.

    As someone who on issues not relating to gender or attitudes towards other religions is theologically quite conservative and traditionally Anglo-Catholic, I feel a bit left by the wayside in the haste that the leaders of my province of the Anglican Communion (Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America now, though I’m of Irish origin) and my diocese (Western Massachusetts) have taken in recent years to hurl the throttle to, not necessarily the theological left, but a theological calque of the political left–those do happen to be my political sympathies but I’m uncomfortable with the seeming desire to theologically reflect contemporary American liberalism. I was drawn to the Church in the first place after a not particularly religious upbringing in part because of its function as a repository of something transhistorical and, we dare hope, perhaps even eternal.

    I don’t necessarily think it’s bigoted as such to take a fastidiously traditional attitude towards these things as you express in your original post–though, reading through the comments, it appears that your views have shifted somewhat over the past year. I am after all somebody who is against premarital sex and I’ve sometimes despaired of the lack of guidance as to how this might apply normatively to gay couples in situations where they cannot marry or have their marriages blessed by the Church, so I’m far from a stranger to the experience of being uncomfortably impaled on divisions in common social thought. However, I’d be lying by omission if I didn’t say that I’m gladdened whenever (as I perceive it) a new Christian heart is opened to the possibilities that exist in how we look at this area of Christian ethics and the faithful life. As we move in our attitudes on this and other like issues we may find that we’re entering into areas where we’re a lot more confident and comfortable in our ability to truly love and support one another as Christians and as people. I’m especially gladdened when a wonderful story that I love and that’s meant a lot to me helps in that process.

    I do hope I haven’t gone on for too long or touched on anything I shouldn’t have. I’m also sorry for my clinical tone; when I don’t use it I tend to get very emotive about this subject.

    Like

    • How did I miss this comment?!

      I’m sorry to be so late in responding! I appreciate your thoughtful and personal commentary. I really, really am glad that you shared. As you’ve noticed, my stance has changed somewhat and is more in a state of “confused and gathering more information” at this point.

      I’d love to pick your brain more about this subject!

      Like

  19. hmm. sin sin sin
    Sorry once again for dredging up an old (in this case very old) topic, but Hourou Musuko and Aoi Hana are two of my favourite manga series ever, because they address issues that are very personal to me. Currently I find reading Hourou Musuko somewhat depressing and reading Aoi Hana unremittingly exciting, both because of the relative positions and fortunes of my favourite character/figure of identification in each–Chiba Saori and Manjoume Fumi–and because I am a sad individual who is capable of finding Shimura Takako manga ‘unremittingly exciting’.

    I am, as it happens, a lesbian and of somewhat dubious gender identity. I’m sure I’d feel much more personally conflicted about this if I held an inerrant or sola scriptura view of the Biblical text; as it is I don’t see the Bible as the end of anything, but as a beginning–indeed as THE beginning, because He to whom it points is the beginning and the end. Even so I do feel some conflict within myself, not because I perceive my own identity or desires as themselves sinful or acting on them as any more sinful than acting on heterosexual desires would inherently be, but just because, a procreative view of sex based on heterosexual marriage being as nice and tidy and logical and concurrent with the standards of Biblical-era civilisation as it admittedly is, there hasn’t been much guidance as to how to recalibrate this taking into account a de-centring of gender coming from either the authorities of my church or from the general society around me.

    As someone who on issues not relating to gender or attitudes towards other religions is theologically quite conservative and traditionally Anglo-Catholic, I feel a bit left by the wayside in the haste that the leaders of my province of the Anglican Communion (Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America now, though I’m of Irish origin) and my diocese (Western Massachusetts) have taken in recent years to hurl the throttle to, not necessarily the theological left, but a theological calque of the political left–those do happen to be my political sympathies but I’m uncomfortable with the seeming desire to theologically reflect contemporary American liberalism. I was drawn to the Church in the first place after a not particularly religious upbringing in part because of its function as a repository of something transhistorical and, we dare hope, perhaps even eternal.

    I don’t necessarily think it’s bigoted as such to take a fastidiously traditional attitude towards these things as you express in your original post–though, reading through the comments, it appears that your views have shifted somewhat over the past year. I am after all somebody who is against premarital sex and I’ve sometimes despaired of the lack of guidance as to how this might apply normatively to gay couples in situations where they cannot marry or have their marriages blessed by the Church, so I’m far from a stranger to the experience of being uncomfortably impaled on divisions in common social thought. However, I’d be lying by omission if I didn’t say that I’m gladdened whenever (as I perceive it) a new Christian heart is opened to the possibilities that exist in how we look at this area of Christian ethics and the faithful life. As we move in our attitudes on this and other like issues we may find that we’re entering into areas where we’re a lot more confident and comfortable in our ability to truly love and support one another as Christians and as people. I’m especially gladdened when a wonderful story that I love and that’s meant a lot to me helps in that process.
    ahh!

    Like

  20. out in here!
    I’ll admit, the position makes me feel uncomfortable at times, particularly in the face of popular western culture which says this way of thinking is bigoted and backwards. And it’s increasingly unpopular – even the Presbyterian Church has recently decided to allow gay pastors to become ordained (note: my father-in-law is a Presbyterian pastor and I really wonder what his viewpoint is on this).

    Like

  21. I know this is an old, old post that I’m commenting on, but you did bring it up in your recent post, and it looks like it is still very much an important topic. For the record, I do believe very much in “hating the sin, loving the sinner”, including with regards to homosexuality.

    That said, with regards to this line from your post: “I think those that have similar viewpoints as me want to embrace homosexuals as much as anyone else, but it’s hard to do when a defining characteristic (maybe *the* defining one) of gay individuals is considered by us to be a sin.”

    I think that one practical way we can be more loving towards homosexuals is to take our focus off their sexual orientation. Honestly, I wouldn’t consider homosexuality a defining characteristic of any given gay individual… it’s certainly not *the* defining characteristic of them. *The* defining characteristic of that individual is that he or she is a human being created by and loved by God.

    Of course, that’s all well and good to say, but perhaps a bit too nebulous for some as a concept to be practically effective. So I say, look for other traits in that person outside of their sexual orientation, especially ones you have in common. Maybe he is also an anime fan, or maybe she likes going hiking or playing tennis, or maybe he also came from a rough family background, or maybe she also struggles with deciding what to do in the future.

    There’s a lot more to an individual than just their sexual orientation, and by seeing that individual as an entire person, we can be better suited to love them the way Jesus loves them. And this can apply to any person, really; don’t identify them by their sin, but get to know their whole being.

    Like

    • Thanks for the wonderful words of advice and your wisdom, Frank. Always much appreciated!

      My worry, and I should have said this in my writing, is that the battles lines have been so clearly drawn, that homosexuality seems to always be the elephant in the room when one with that orientation is together with one who believes it a sin. And while I agree with you that we’re defined most of all as God’s creation, I think that perhaps many or most homosexuals would rather define themselves by their orientation, since it’s so connected to their culture.

      That said, I wholeheartedly agree with you about developing relationships and getting to know each other – loving each other despite our differences. What you wrote really needed to be said – thank you for sharing!

      Like

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