Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, Jul/Aug 2013.
Several years ago, the philosophy department at Franklin & Marshall College invited me to be a featured guest on a panel discussing gay marriage. They wanted to pick up on the significant community focus on a column I wrote for our local newspaper.
In a large room of full of college students, professors and community people, I was drilled with questions and comments for two hours. The panel included a professor from a liberal seminary, a visiting law professor (whose lesbian partner was in the audience), a gay German professor and a liberal campus minister. God granted me grace the entire evening to patiently respond with kindness to those who questioned me. The students were exceptionally polite but a bit confused as to why I would be opposed to gay marriage. The professors were rude and belligerent.
The evening ended with the German professor looking over at me and asking how I could respect him if I consider him immoral for being gay. Although panelists were not directing questions at each other, I assured the professor that I would always treat him with the utmost respect as a fellow human being even if I disagreed with his sexual behavior. After the event concluded, about 20 students remained to discuss my views with me for another hour.
Despite the pervasive wrongful accusations of militant homosexuals, I am neither fearful nor hateful of those who live a gay lifestyle. But the popularity of such accusations makes it important for us to tone our debate and discussion with true concern and compassion. When we place the discussion in the general context of sexuality, we find important perspective for shaping the tone of debate.
The Christian viewpoint acknowledges that God created humans male and female and His original intent was for heterosexual marriage (Matthew 19:4-6). Yet we also confess that we are all fallen, sinful beings who are capable of distorting every part of God’s will. Distortion of sexuality is but one expression of our sinfulness.
We’ve all been guilty of deviant sexual behavior—if only in our minds.
A call to repentance and ministry
We also all must acknowledge with humility and repentance that we in America face a national crisis regarding sexuality. The statistics are alarming. In what we pledge as one nation under God, there are at least 750,000 registered sex offenders. (How many unregistered ones are there?) Equally alarming and no doubt closely related, each year we generate a multi-billion dollar pornography industry. We produce more pornographic material than any nation in the world. Associated with sexual problems is an alarming personal and cultural crisis due to abortion and its after effects. We now have well over 13 million single parents in our nation. Disregard for the primacy and permanency of marriage has left a sad trail of shattered lives (for evidence, see The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce by Judith Wallerstein). We must not merely shake our heads in dismay but view these realities as a call to ministry.
Christians recognize (for themselves as well as others) a need for laws to restrain some types of sexual behavior. All civilized people agree on this point. Laws forbidding rape and incest are two prominent examples. We have laws forbidding marriage between adults and children; laws against polygamous marriages, and Megan’s Law requiring sex offenders to register. All civilized people believe that some boundaries are needed to restrain certain sexual behaviors. God revealed His boundaries to protect us.
I am grateful for the many local and national ministries helping those who face crisis related to sexuality. It’s possible to stand for God’s will compassionately. We can oppose sexual sin while helping those affected by it. We must remember that God forbids homosexual behavior just as He opposes adultery, fornication and deviant heterosexual desires.
Life is full of passions that must be yielded to God. The goal is to submit our sexuality to God’s will. For someone tempted by homosexual desire, the answer is not: “You must become heterosexual.” The answer is the same for all sexual temptation: resist temptation and obey God. Of course, this begins by experiencing God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Those who acknowledge their sin to God and their need to be forgiven and made right with him receive his grace and salvation as a free gift. They become God’s sons and daughters (see: John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Prepare for a storm
Although Christians must continue to demonstrate compassion, they should brace themselves for what is coming. Examples continue to emerge that suggest we will have no choice on the rapidly escalating agenda of gay marriage. If we do not actively accept homosexuality, we will likely face social scorn and legal consequences. A growing number of homosexual activists are working tirelessly to normalize their lifestyle in society. They want to force everyone to honor their lifestyle. They want your children to see the “gay way” as a choice equal with heterosexual relationships. They want school curriculum to teach this to your children. They demand full endorsement, or else! If you do not fully endorse gay marriage and homosexual behavior, at the very least, you will be told to keep your opinion to yourself. If you actively resist their agenda, you will be labeled homophobic, small-minded, discriminatory and a hate-monger engaged in hate speech. Some may try to legislate against such “hate speech.”
I’ve been writing thoughtfully and compassionately about homosexual behavior for many years in all sorts of publications. One reader referred to my beliefs as “deviant and small minded.” He also told me (in the spirit of tolerance, of course) to keep my viewpoint to myself. Then he characterized my view as “a despicable message of hate and divisiveness.” This response has become predictable. Unless my viewpoint fully approves the homosexual agenda, I am told to keep my mouth shut.
Ironically, I receive more hate-mail on this subject than any other. Many letters I receive come full of venom. I have been called a hate-monger, a homophobic religious bigot, and other names inappropriate for publication. One point made repeatedly is that my view should be kept to myself and other “small minded people like me.” By implication, only one viewpoint about homosexuality is permitted—the affirming one. Those who choose a homosexual lifestyle used to repeatedly say, “All we want is to be left alone to live the way we desire.” This is not all they want today.
Militant homosexual activists
A manipulative tool used by homosexual activists on an undiscerning public has been a comparison of their agenda with civil rights causes of the past. We repeatedly hear comparisons between inter-racial marriage and gay marriage. This is a false comparison. But they will continue to insist that you buy the line that homosexuals are an oppressed minority group. It is misguided (and an offense to actual minorities) to compare homosexuals with previous groups who fought for civil rights.
Wrongful discrimination (in actual civil rights cases) injured people for what they are by nature, not for their sexual preferences. If we start protecting lifestyles from discrimination, we will find ourselves on a slippery slope. We can be certain that others will line up and demand special protections and provisions for their lifestyles. Although we have laws to protect human rights for all people, activist homosexuals want special laws to protect their way of life.
Simply put, homosexuality is a kind of behavior people choose. Two men could live together and deeply care for each other without being homosexual. Homosexuality only becomes part of the equation when they commit sexual acts with each other. As a result, “homosexual” refers not to one’s nature or disposition but to one’s behavior. Although it is possible that some struggle with sinful sexual desires due to biological inclinations or past abuse, these factors should not be used to legitimize sinful behavior or define one’s person. Biological and circumstantial factors can make people vulnerable to many forms of behavior.
If I care about society, I cannot withdraw into silence on this issue. The endorsement of homosexuality involves significant shifts in societal understanding of marriage, family and sex. History has repeatedly held that support or promotion of homosexual behavior is harmful to society. Such behavior has been considered immoral by every civilized group of people throughout human history.
On another level, love compels me to speak because I do not believe that those who practice homosexual behavior genuinely accept that they were meant to live this way. I am not fooled by the voices of radical homosexual activists. If they were honest, they would admit that their efforts are merely a cover up for their frustration, resentment and despair. And deep down inside, they know that changes in legislation or public opinion will not remove the alienation they feel.
The homosexual lifestyle robs people of both dignity and freedom. Court decisions and marriage licenses will not give these people the dignity or freedom they desire. By turning to the God who created them, they can find the true forgiveness and release from guilt—a need we all share in common.
Steve Cornell is Senior Pastor of Millsersville (PA) Bible Church. He has a wide-ranging ministry on radio, in newspapers, among university students, and at Bible Conferences. See more of his articles at thinkpoint.wordpress.com.