On one side of the argument, Stuart Walton wrote that “sexuality is mostly, perhaps even wholly genetic”. On the other side Michael Davidson quotes research referring to “the weakness of genetic links”.
But are both merely blind alleys for Christians trying to understand how to respond to same-sex attraction and relationships?
The causes of homosexuality have been notoriously difficult to pin down. Scientific studies into nature and nurture theories have each produced results which claim to point (albeit inconclusively) to one conclusion or another.
In the same way, inclusive and conservative Christians have each pointed to Scripture with the same inconclusive results. It would be great if we had a story in the Gospels of a man with a ‘demon of homosexuality’ being brought to Jesus, to see how he would have reacted – but we don’t – and no amount of Biblical extrapolation can prove conclusively how he would have responded.
Stuck in the middle are gay people, particularly gay Christians, constantly being debated over, talked about, preached at and prayed over – not to mention researched over.
The danger of this continued argument is that gay people (whatever their understanding of their sexuality or their moral framework) are dehumanised as a result. They merely become subjects to be studied, debated or fought over. Their voices become marginalised – their needs become secondary – their cries go unheeded.
It reminds me of the account in the Gospels where Jesus is asked why a man was born blind. Was it his sin, or his parent’s sin, which caused his blindness? Jesus, of course, cut through this blind alley of speculation, as he always did, to the person who was before him. He simply made a paste for his eyes and the man was healed.
And yet even this story has the potential to elicit a thorny question in relation to homosexuality. Is it a disability which needs healing, or a created state which needs embracing? The evidence on this is similarly inconclusive. For every group that claims to be able to heal or re-orientate those with same-sex attractions, there are others who claim that they were damaged by such ‘reparative therapy’.
All of this should make us profoundly uncomfortable. When we lose our focus on human beings created in God’s image in favour of treating them as mere subjects of debate and controversy, they simply become a problem to be solved. There is nothing more dehumanising.
I know gay Christians who believe their sexuality is ‘God-given’ and to be enjoyed and celebrated as part of the fullness of life which Jesus promises. I also know gay Christians who feel that God calls them to celibacy as part of their discipleship of Christ. Both have grappled with their sexuality and faith in a way which I can never fully appreciate or understand, as I have never had to walk in their shoes. Both deserve to be listened to, not judged. Both deserve to be embraced in the love of Christ without being ‘told’ that they are wrong and should change. Both are part of God’s beloved creation who he loved so much that he gave his Son to die a slow and agonising death on a cross for their salvation.
We would do well to rediscover Jesus’s love and concern for the individual rather than getting carried away in inconclusive arguments which, at the end of the day, are as helpful as counting the number of angels on a pin-head, but much more damaging.