We all face the same choice, to be authentic and true to your heart and mind, or pretend to be someone you are not.
To all of my Christian brothers and sisters who insist that homosexuality is a choice, I need to break down and finally admit something: I agree with you.
I believe that it absolutely is a choice too, only not in the way that you may have meant.
But I guess that’s largely the crux of the problem we have here. I think you use your terms too loosely without really thinking them through. When you say quite matter-of-factly that homosexuality is a choice, I’m not sure you really know in that moment, just what you mean by “homosexuality”.
Far too often Christian, when you make the statement that being gay is a sin, what you’re really doing without realizing it is reducing all LGBT people down to a sex act; as if that alone defines sexuality.
You’re denying any emotional component in their lives; any capacity to feel real love or show genuine affection toward someone else.
In a gross oversimplification, you’re labeling a complex, fully formed human being as merely a performer of intercourse.
That’s something you would never do with heterosexuality, and especially not with your own sexuality, because you understand implicitly that your sexual orientation is about much more than a physical act. It’s a much deeper part of who you are than that.
It’s about far greater things than just plumbing and gymnastics.
You know that in your own life, the physical act of sex isn’t the totality of your sexuality; that it is also about affection and companionship and the desire to love and be loved. It’s about who you are drawn to and attracted to and compelled to be close to.
In your own story, you experienced those things firsthand before you ever thought about or experienced the act of intercourse. In those moments when you first began to understand your own sexual identity, it snuck up on you and surprised you. There was likely no internal battle, no great wrestling, no real conscious choice to be made.
It was not a decision that you came to, but a realization.
As a third grader, I remember we used to play tag on the school playground during recess; the boys against the girls. (They, after all had “girl germs”, so you had to avoid them lest you be touched and immediately infected). One sunny afternoon, a girl named Lori chased me across the steaming blacktop. Something hit me as we ran breathlessly through the school yard. I suddenly started to realize that I didn’t want to get away from Lori that much anymore. In fact, I sorta wanted her to catch me!
In that moment, there was no decision (other than the decision to start running a whole lot slower).
After that, the journey of the coming weeks and months and years was about more and more being revealed and uncovered over time—never a bit of it chosen.
Christian, you probably recall this in your own story of sexual identity and self discovery don’t you? You simply felt naturally and quite involuntarily, the impulses you felt.
By following those impulses you were making a choice, too. You were choosing to be authentic and true to your heart and mind’s leading. You were choosing to agree with the truth about how you loved. The alternative would never have been an option.
Why is it so hard for you to believe that LGBT people are operating any differently?
Many Christians like to say that a gay person is “struggling with their sexuality”, but that is usually incorrect. In most cases, they are only struggling with the way Christians are treating them because of their sexuality. They are struggling to avoid condemnation, struggling to stay hidden and protected from the bullies, struggling to remain in faith communities where they are mistreated and shunned.
Their conflict is usually not with their sexuality or with God, but with the people of God.
It’s rather careless to treat the gay community as if they are choosing their path of orientation, because what you’re implying when you do so, is that they are naturally wired to be straight but are making the conscious decision to act in direct opposition to this. You are charging them with the most profound emotional treason.
Does that line of thinking work at all if you superimpose it onto your own life? That would mean that you could just as easily be gay as straight; that you could, with enough cajoling and suggestion and support and prayer—choose to be attracted to, desiring of, and aroused by someone of the same sex.
Do you bristle at that idea? (Especially you super manly heterosexual Christian men) Do you find the concept offensive, even?
Good. You should.
It makes no sense and it’s an insult to your personal integrity. It simply defies any logic that you, me, or anyone chooses the way their hearts work.
I know that some of you are champing at the bit to ask the hypothetical, (because you ask me every day), “Well, what if someone says that they are naturally a pedophile; is that OK too?”
If you really want to compare two consenting adults finding mutual affection, companionship, and love in relationship with one another; to one adult preying upon a child purely for sexual satisfaction, that’s up to you but I find the comparison frankly ridiculous; one that shows a worrisome disregard for the greater humanity of LGBT adults.
The same goes for religious folk’s habit of equating the LGBT community with those who feel compelled to murder or steal or abuse drugs, and the reason is quite simple:Those things bring destruction and violence and damage. They are about one person desiring something inherently harmful. (And simply replying, “They damage themselves in God’s eyes” doesn’t quite cut it, I’m afraid).
Regardless of many Christians’ attempts to claim otherwise, two LGBT human beings involved in a committed loving relationship are not damaged by one another. They are, as with loving heterosexual relationships; encouraged, challenged, enriched, and supported by one another. (If you don’t want to take my word for it, ask them).
We can no longer ignore this critical distinction when we toss around our blanket statements about the gay community. It’s time that we who claim both Christianity and heterosexuality, ask some very difficult questions about what we really mean when we say that homosexuality is a choice, and that this choice is a sin.
When we use these words in this very limited and narrow way, we’re also assuming that our own inclinations, toward not just sex; but affection, intimacy, companionship, romance, and love, are all within our control and alterable; that they involve decision on any level.
We’re also assuming that anytime we have sexual relations with someone, that it is always an activity disconnected from and devoid of love. If we choose that path, we’re opening up our own expansive sexuality up to the prospect of being reduced down to solely the act of intercourse.
Further, we need to look at the Scriptures we so easily throw at the LGBT community and ask whether those handful of verses really refer to a person with beautiful inclinations toward love and affection and companionship, or whether they just refer to someone doing something with their body parts, and also ask how we apply those verses to actual flesh-and-blood human beings seeking authentic relationships.
What did the Bible writers reference when they used the words translated as “homosexuality”? (No such word existed when it was written, so this is a crucial question to ask and seek to answer well).
In this very important conversation where words do matter, we also need to jettison useless ones.
There is no such thing as a “heterosexual lifestyle”, just as there is no homosexual lifestyle. These terms have no real meaning or value. They speak no truth about anyof us. They serve no purpose but to demean people and insult them and avoid respectful dialogue.
We should throw them in the garbage and dare to ask the much more difficult questions about how love and affection and intimacy and sex are connected—in all of us.
As straight individuals, we can’t demand to be drawn with great detail and precision, while simultaneously grossly caricaturing the LGBT community. Their hearts are as vast as our own, and their stories filled with all the nuance and complexity that we have experienced in ours.
Yes, LGBT people are absolutely making a choice.
They are choosing to be the most honest, authentic versions of themselves. They are choosing to be led by the unfiltered direction of their hearts, just as you and I are. They are choosing to relent to the things that in all of our lives, never can be chosen.
The only relevant choices for straight Christians, are whether or not we will treat the LGBT community as fully complex, intelligent, emotionally intricate human beings, and whether or not we will be willing to examine both our personal opinions and our theology accordingly.
The choice, is ours.
Originally published at JohnPavlovitz.com
Photo: Flickr/Purple Sherbet Photography