Across the Worldview Divide
There’s an awful lot of bafflement these days over why, supposedly, Christians hate gays, that is. It goes both ways. Christians are bewildered over the charge that we’re haters, and gays and gay-affirming people have trouble understanding how it isn’t obvious that we are. The problem isn’t just what’s communicated. It isn’t just perception. It’s the way we view reality. It’s a worldview problem.
Christians Are Haters, Right?
Consider the logical sequence here:
Gay is wrong. It’s a sin, an abomination to the Lord.
John is gay.
Therefore John is wrong, an abomination to the Lord, sin personified.
That sounds pretty hateful to me. I can see why you think that’s our attitude. There’s a huge difference, though, between the way Christians view “John is gay” and the way most others view it. And it makes all the difference.
Let me make a couple of disclaimers to start with. First, everything I’m saying here about “gay” and “gayness” could be said just the same for “lesbian” and “lesbianism,” or transgenderism, or any other sexual orientation or identification. The reason I’m not specifying each one each time is just because it would take too long to write and too long to read.
Second, what I’m saying about the Christian viewpoint is the way things ought to be. I think a lot of us practice it most of the time. I know we all fall short some of the time, and a few who call themselves Christian are just plain hateful and there’s no covering over it. Whether they themselves are Christian or not, I’m in no position to say; that part of what they do isn’t.
Third, I’m addressing most of this blog post to gay and gay-affirming persons. Christians, you can learn from it, too. I’ll come back to you at the end.
Different Views On “John Is Gay”
So what are the differences between a Christian view of “John is gay” and the way most others view it?
First, Christians distinguish between “is gay” and “practices same-sex physical intimacy.” Being same-sex attracted isn’t sin. It isn’t an abomination to the Lord. It’s wrong in the sense of being aimed in a wrong direction, not in the sense of being morally wrong. An arrow’s being inadvertently/unintentionally pointed in the wrong direction matters little, except to the extent that it might be released in that direction. Ultimately it’s the release that’s the problem, not the aiming.
So where the phrase “is gay” refers to the idea, “same-sex attracted,” we say, “that’s not sin and it isn’t sinful.” Where it means, “practices same-sex physical intimacy,” we say, “that sexual practice is wrong.”
That’s important, but so far it probably doesn’t help a lot. We have more ground to cover. Most gay men practice gay sex, and this doesn’t do anything to relieve of the charge that we hate those men. The answer to that goes a whole lot deeper and it requires a lot harder work of putting yourself in another’s shoes. Gays ask Christians to empathize with them; now I’m going to ask gays to try to think along with us.
Gay Is What I Am/Who I am…
For many if not most same-sex attracted persons, gay is who they they are and what they are. There’s an inescapable identity connection there: if they weren’t gay, they wouldn’t be who they are, they’d be someone else instead. Their gayness is part of their identity. It’s impossible to separate the orientation from the practice. Commonly they’ll say that being straight is part of a straight person’s identity, too, it just doesn’t come to the surface because straights aren’t in a minority situation. Everyone’s sexuality is a major part of what defines them, and it cannot be extracted from anyone’s identity.
On that view it makes sense to think that Christians are hateful when we call homosexuality a sin. Here’s where I’m going to ask LGBT persons to try to understand us, though, as I have also tried to understand you. It’s going to require of you the effort it takes to step into another person’s shoes.
… Or, The You That You Are Goes Down Deeper Than That
Here’s how Christians actually understand the situation to be.
If you say John is gay, you take that to be a statement regarding his fundamental identity. We don’t. We recognize it as part of his identity, but based on our worldview there’s a truer, more fundamental part of his identity, a person John whom God loves and we can love, regardless of his sexual orientation.
The difference between your worldview and ours, you see, is that your picture of where humans come from, and who we are, results in a mindset of, “what you get is what you get,” or, “what you are is what you are.” Whether you’re born same-sex attracted or you grew up that way, either way that’s who and what you are. There’s no other “you” beneath the surface to make you anything but that.
We see humans coming from a different source. God created us as loved persons in his eyes. He created us with free will, the ability to make morally significant choices, and the opportunity to relate to him and to each other in genuine love. This means we have incredible worth: we stand at the pinnacle of creation (Psalm 8). This is our most fundamental identity: we’re specially created and full of worth in God’s eyes.
He created us originally in perfect relationship with him, but we messed that up (Genesis 3). That had all kinds of negative effects: alienated relationships and a whole host of human failings and imperfections. What it didn’t do, however, was change our fundamental identity as individuals specially created, full of worth in God’s eyes.
God sees the person and the person’s failings. He regards the former (the person) with the same love and the same sense of worth as always, even as he regards the latter (the failings, the sin) with grief and horror. Yes, horror: because in his nature he is purely good, and whatever isn’t purely good is a stain on pure goodness; and also because whatever isn’t purely good isn’t good for us, the creatures he loves. I’m talking about every sin committed by every person. But God is bringing us back around to becoming the fully human persons he intended us to be — every person who says yes to him in that process.
We See You as the You That You Are Down Deep
Christians are steeped in this view of humanity. It’s the way we view you. Whether John is gay, straight, or whatever, John is worthy of love in God’s eyes and in our eyes, because John is one of God’s most special creations, a fellow human. John is a person loved in God’s eyes; that’s John’s fundamental identity. Being gay is more of a surface attribute. John could be John with or without his same-sex attractedness. He’d be in different relationships with other persons, but he’d still be the same person in relation to himself and to God.
So we can love the gay man as the man he is deep inside: the place where he is the man loved by God.
The One Main Reason Christians “Hate Gays” Even Though We Don’t
There’s a worldview divide here. There’s hardly anything harder than seeing the world the way someone different from you sees it. It’s the reason we’re not understanding each other — the one main reason, I’m convinced.
I’ve tried to express what I understand to be your side of the picture. You can let me know if I’ve gotten it right or wrong. I’m here to listen to you on that.
If you believe in empathy, respect, and treating us as human beings — which I think you do — then I think it’s fair to ask you to give a go at understanding us, too. You might think we’re lying, hiding, being hypocritical or whatever when we say we’re not haters. We’re actually living in accord with what we believe, and we’re trying to regard you in the same way our loving God regards you.
A Final Disclaimer
I’m trying to represent a worldview divide here. There’s a pretty high likelihood I got some of it wrong. I ask you to treat my attempt with respect, which includes telling me where I could have done better, but does not include snarls of contempt (which I have too often heard when writing on this subject).
That includes fellow Christians, by the way. You’re not as prone to snarl, for which I thank you. I hope you’ll take the time to walk in other people’s shoes here, too. It might help you and me both be more patient with the bafflment over whether Christians hate gays.
Image Credit(s): BihnX.