How to Tackle the Issue of Same-Sex Attraction
Our culture has been confused about same-sex attraction for some time, and never more so than right now. For the past few decades, we’ve seen our foundational understanding of marriage evaporate before our very eyes to the point where most people are wholly unequipped to even define it. If you’d asked just about anybody from any culture or civilization in human history up to about twenty years ago, you’d have gotten the same answer: “a lifelong bond between a man and a woman.” Now, after only a very short period of time, our culture is totally lost. The best that most dictionary searches will get you is a litany of vague phrases such as “two souls in love” and “a similar union of more than two people.”
The cultural confusion is understandable, to say the least. There has been an intentional shift over these few short years with the aim of upending the institution of marriage. Growing up during this turbulent time, you could see everything changing; all of a sudden, you were called words like “homophobe” and “bigot” if you believed marriage had something to do with the sexual difference between man and woman. It became a social thing; in order to be a “tolerant person” that could be acceptable to polite society, you had to abandon everything you knew and go along with it.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in this confusion today as a person trying to be compassionate. People in and out of the Christian faith alike agree that compassion is a deeply important standard towards which we’re all called. For years, you’ve been told that the only way to love people is to agree with their every choice. Love and tolerance have been equated; the only way to truly care for somebody is to never challenge him and, functionally, get out of his way. Any notion of a truth that could inconveniently cut against somebody’s “personal truth” is condemned as an imposition of one’s values on another and likened to bigotry, even oppression.
Moral relativism, however, can never promise true justice and true happiness. There is no such thing as “your truth” or “my truth.” Right and wrong are not decided by committee; the truth is not democratic. Right and wrong are not decided by human beings, but by a higher power. The truth comes from God alone, who is our only possible source of justice, joy, and meaning.
Now, we have the frame of mind necessary to talk about same-sex attraction fruitfully, let’s address how God has called us to see it.
Is a romantic relationship between two people of the same sex ever moral?
No. It goes against God’s design for romantic love, and for that reason, it can never be moral. Romantic love is something very specific–it can only truly make sense in the union between a man and a woman. It was designed by God for our own holiness; men and women, who are starkly different, are drawn to each other in a special way and learn to see things from the opposite sex’s perspective. In doing so, they become more selfless, understanding, and capable of love–all of these things help them grow in holiness. Through the sexual union, God has given the power to create new life out of a loving union between a father and mother who complement one another and give this new child, whom they adore, everything he needs. This is why romantic love is reserved for only men and women; every family should have a mom and a dad. Mothers and fathers provide very different but equally needed things to the table; mothers can nurture as no one can, and fathers can provide needed guidance and set a sturdy example to kids as no one can. No child should be deprived of that. Romantic love has to be geared towards the family. Without a complementary union between a man and a woman, that can never make sense.
Does that mean we get to look down on people with same-sex attractions?
Absolutely not. All human beings, regardless of anything they’ve done, are children of God. Every human being has infinite dignity that can never be taken away. No action a person commits could ever be an excuse to see another human being as less than you. People who have same-sex attractions are worthy of love, just as anyone else. Nobody should ever be made to feel like he doesn’t belong and like he’s somehow less of a human being than his peers. Everybody belongs in the Kingdom of God, and we have a moral responsibility to remind people of that.
Can I love my friend if I don’t think his same-sex relationship is okay?
Yes! If it were impossible to disapprove of somebody’s actions and love him at the same time, it’d be impossible to go on living in any normal way. Our identities go much deeper than our actions in this life. Underneath everything we say and do, we will always be children of God. That fact will never change. Unconditional love is all about that; we’re supposed to will the good of other people even when it’s hard. This is no different when it comes to offering guidance about same-sex relationships. In our culture, we’ve been taught that we won’t have purpose or meaning in life without the identities by which the world defines us. It’s why you see so many people today, especially in the media, obsessed with their race, gender, and sexual attractions. We’re taught that life will not make sense without self-definition. As a consequence, we’ve been conditioned to believe that nobody’s self-definition can be challenged. Our culture doesn’t believe we have any deeper identity than the one we give ourselves, so any push-back against these self-identities is seen as a total rejection of the person. We know better than this; think, for instance, of any other situation where you needed to say something to a friend. Our culture has told him that there are no real or objective limits and that it was all up to him. Do we think this is true? Do we think it would actually be loving to go along with that philosophy? The reality is that “you do you” is not love: it’s just tolerance. “Tolerating” someone does not sound like love at all. Would you feel cared for if someone said “I tolerate you?” Tolerance is easy; love is not. Tolerance requires no effort or sacrifice from us; love asks us to give everything we have if that’s what it takes to make another person that much better off. When a loved one told you a hard truth, even if you didn’t want to hear it; were you ever worse off in the long run? Of course not! The truth sets us free, and because we’re human beings that are worthy of love, we all have a right to hear it. It will never hold us back, and it will never push us away; the truth will always remind us in the end that we’re children of God.
I’m experiencing same-sex attractions. Does that make me bad?
No! Nothing you experience will ever change the fact that you are made inherently good by God. Your dignity as a human being is a constant that can never be taken away from you. It’s also important to remember that attractions and actions are different things. If you’re feeling attractions towards someone and haven’t done anything, that’s very different from going out and acting upon it. Our culture leads us to believe that we have to act upon every impulse and attraction we have, which is a demonstrably faulty premise. There’s no way we could go on living if we immediately acted upon every impulse and attraction we have! Our desires are not so set-in-stone as our culture may have us believe. It tries to entrench us into deterministic camps, labelling us as “gay,” “straight,” and so on, as if the attractions we have towards people define us totally. Life is so much more complex and has so much more to offer than that. Remember that you are defined not by the definitions the world gives you but by your identity as a human being made in God’s image.
What should I do if I’m feeling same-sex attractions?
You should first and foremost know that you belong. Do whatever it takes to remind yourself that, no matter what hurtful things you may have heard about who you really are, you are loved by God and have a place in His plan. Secondly, you need to know that you are still worthy of and capable of love. Just because you’re feeling drawn towards a relationship that the Lord does not desire for you does not mean you’re incapable of knowing His profound love. Love is so much more than just romantic attraction. Romance, just like friendship, mentorship, and parenthood, is just one piece of the puzzle. It’s one of the many forms of love in life that ultimately share the same goal: reminding us of how God sees us. Lastly, I suggest you talk to someone. There are loving and holy people that care about you and want to help you. Your struggles matter to them and don’t exclude you from the love and care that you deserve. There are also fabulous resources that help people experiencing same-sex attractions discover the joy and love that God has in store for them. I’d recommend two great ministries to get started: Eden Invitation and Courage International. Both of them make it their mission to remind you of your dignity and empower you to live the bold, holy life you deserve to live.
While we live in an undoubtedly turbulent time, rife with conflicting messages about our dignity and what’s right, we can rest in the fact that God loves us and will never lead His children astray. He reminds us of His love in the many forms of love we express to each other as human beings, and He never hides the truth to which we have a natural right. Even though our culture tells us that we’re not any bigger than our desires and interests, the truth is much more profound. Since our culture believes that our identities don’t go beyond skin-deep, it treats us like we can’t handle the truth; any objective teaching is treated like an affront to our very being. Because we know who God is and how He looks at us, we know better. I hope that everyone reading this knows that God has a plan for you. No matter what you’re going through, you have a critical role in His divine plan. Holiness is for you just as much as it is for me or anyone else. You have a right to the truth, even if it’s difficult to take in at first. It may seem jarring to hear that same-sex relationships are immoral; it may even seem like an affront to your dignity. Know that your worth will never be tied up in anything from this world. You have the right to be called to live according to God’s plan and pursue a holy life. Striving to live in union with God will never give you dignity you never had, but reveal to you the dignity that already defines you, and always will.