Homosexuality: Dividing Christendom

By: Wolfgang Vondey
Monday, May 17th, 2010

There is no other issue more church-dividing than the debate on homosexuality. Christians, churches, and entire denominations are divided, separating with much the same speed as Christendom in the aftermath of the Reformation. In some places, it is a loud and most visible separation as different groups shout at each other mantras of mutual disgust. In most cases, the separation is far less visible. It is a silent division, often supported by those who have not made up their minds and who think that the problem will simply go away. From a Christian perspective, any of these behaviors is unacceptable.

Where do we start? In light of my previous posts on the subject of sexuality, and given my emphasis throughout that Christians keep God out of the bedroom, it seems to me that the correct starting point is the location of sexuality in the context of the human relationship with God. In other words, as long as Christians discuss the issue without theological concerns, there is little distinction between the Christian and the non-Christian debate. My concern here is what a Christian debate would look like.

In principle, homosexuality is a term that refers to one thing only: the sexual act with a person of the same gender. The euphemistic terms “gay” or “lesbian” do not distract from the core of the issue. The ultimate concern is not with love, civil union, human rights, social acceptability, or genetic dispositions, although any of these issue have come to impact the debate. The ultimate concern underlying all discussions on homosexuality is the sexual component. Homosexuality is sex with a person of the same gender.

The Christian contribution to this discussion should engage the precise issue of sexuality in light of its involvement of God. The consequences of the homosexuality debate add great urgency to the need to bring God back into the bedroom. In some way, my previous posts have illuminated some of the aspect of this path.

  1. The debate on homosexuality cannot shy away from a debate that includes God. As Christians, the first question is how homosexuality engages God’s presence, involvement, and intentions for our lives. As with all actions, the sexual act should direct us toward God. A debate about homosexuality that avoids the fact that this debate is ultimately about sex, and from a Christian perspective therefore about sex and God, such a debate exacerbates the gap between God and the bedroom.
  2. The debate on homosexuality has become pornographic. Regardless of which language we use and what concerns we add to the debate, homosexuality confronts us with the sexual act between persons of the same gender. Open and loud-mouthed advocacy of gay and lesbian rights as well as the sometimes equally harsh reactions of the so-called “straight” alliance are ultimately a public depiction of the sexual act.  The growing popularity and publicity of ”coming out” is a pornographic act that confronts the public with the graphic reality of the homosexual behavior. There is a place for this kind of discussion, but it does not belong in front of the eyes and ears of children and teenagers or anyone who cannot yet responsibly deal with their own sexuality. A pornographic debate about homosexuality continues to separate sex from the rest of the human life and the human relationship with God.
  3. Like masturbation, homosexuality is in some way directed toward one’s own sexuality, albeit represented in the other. Theologically, this is a complicated point, since homosexual behavior involves more than one person. Yet, in the sexual engagement of the other, and I am only speaking about the sexual act,  one’s interaction ultimately reflects back on oneself. The sexual act between two persons of the same gender has no means to escape the gender boundaries of that sex. Homosexuality is the engagement of another person on the basis of one’s own sexuality. A debate about homosexuality, which avoids the significance of a sexual act that cannot transcend one’s own sexuality avoids the foundational questions of the function, purpose, and goal of the human body and its male and female forms.
  4. Until homosexual marriage was legalized in some locations, all homosexual behavior was extra-marital sex. In this sense, it is a separation of sex from marriage, thereby separating sex from its purpose. The legalization of homosexual marriage does not change the consequences of engaging in sexual behavior that excludes the physical and spiritual union of husband and wife, the importance and the joy of the consummation of the physical and spiritual union in the heterosexual sexual act, the possibility of the procreation of another human being as a result of the openness and commitment of husband and wife to become father and mother. A debate about homosexuality that avoids the question of marriage as it relates to sex isolates the reality of marriage as an abstract idea from the reality of marriage as the purpose of sex between two spouses of different gender.

These considerations are directed primarily at the nature of a Christian debate. How do we carry out such a debate in a manner that preserves human dignity? How do we avoid further separation? How do we educate Christians on both sides of the debate? How do we integrate a holistic image of sex into a world that separates sex from the life of the mind, the soul, and God? How do we bring God into the debate without bringing in the idea of judgment and condemnation but preserving the integrity of the biblical words on sexuality? All these and more remain unanswered questions. But the first step can be taken by asking them!

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Wolfgang Vondey
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4 Responses to “Homosexuality: Dividing Christendom”

  1. William says:

    The work of Stanley Grenz on this issue is a good starting point for these discussions:

    Sexual Ethics (1st ed 1990; 2nd ed 1997): http://www.amazon.com/Sexual-ethics-Stanley-J-Grenz/dp/066425750X

    Homosexuality: http://www.amazon.com/Welcoming-but-Affirming-Stanley-Grenz/dp/0664257763

    • Indeed, William. Grenz’s proposal of the church as a “welcoming but not affirming” community is both biblical and theologically sound. The question of holiness and sanctification, although not as explicit in Grenz as one might wish, is the central connecting point between the hospitality of the Christian community and its response to any behavior of its members (whether affirming or not affirming). What Grenz shows is that we need both to take the time to engage the other, in the first place, and to find a learned, pastoral form of engagement that continues to invite the neighbor to the table even when not affirming his or her behavior. The crux of the matter is what “not affirming” looks like when it remains in the context of “welcoming.”

  2. Sally says:

    It seems to me that the primary starting point for such a discussion is the question of what sources may be used to determine how marriage is to be defined and what the God-ordained purpose(s) of sex is (are). Among the sources to be considered are the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, Christian tradition, and natural law as revealed in the creation.

    • Mom says:

      Interesting how many folks spend so much time on this subject instead of spending time helping those less fortunate! Perhaps homo’s were protected by the church when they became priests and secluded themselves? Look how corrupt ministers, priests and religion has proven to be over the centuries! Why would men go against God’s original intention to procreate? Too many religions and too many opinions! What does the Bible say about men who prey on little girls? So many ministers/men hiding behind such evil!! So many men with this terrible sin weighing heavenly on their hearts and few ever get noticed! I am more worried about pedophiles than homosexuals! I have a gay son. I love him unconditionally. I was raised Baptist by some really messed up parents who were more interested in their own happiness instead of paying close attention to what the Bible said! Now that they are old and preparing to meet their maker they have found their way back into the Church! Their example was what I remember and all the hypocrisy! Now they worry about what the Bible says and spend so much time judging everyone else! I don’t take my children to visit because they are too nuts with their beliefs! Who wants to hear from their grandparents that they are going to hell? When did God give the right to Christians to condemn one another and judge? I don’t trust religion and I don’t trust people who spend so much time deciphering what the Bible says! I don’t think God appreciates the mass confusion religion has made with their own religious interpretations! Stop building churches and build homes for those who need places to live! Truly how many ‘words’ in the Bible are spoken from God? What would happen if it could be proven that the disciples were homos?? I love God..and would like to read the true Bible and not some ‘version’ of it which suits the needs of the times! Churches are corrupt just like governments. I choose to attend a Church which welcomes All Sinner’s and not just people who share the same beliefs. The day of judgment will arrive (if we choose to believe this!)and God will allow each one of us the opportunity to redeem ourselves and ask His forgiveness for our sin’s. Only then will He decide and not the Churches of the world who is worthy of His Kingdom and eternal life with Him! I do hope that all religious leaders, minister’s included get judged first! I pray that I can be a witness to this! lol