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Factors in the homosexuality debate

by Jacob Ninan

The subject of homosexuality is controversial, to say the least. For Christians the temptation is to go to one of two extremes, i.e., either to declare an all out attack on homosexuality, or to concede that there is nothing at all wrong with it. But God has very clear views on both homosexuality and homosexuals. If He says that He loves the whole world for whom He sent His Son, that includes homosexuals, of course. He wants them to be saved just as anyone else. At the same time, homosexuality is not what He planned for human beings. It is a perversion of the norm that has come as a result of sin in the world. (I am not saying that a homosexual is like that because of his or her own sin, but that homosexuality is a departure from the God-created normal of heterosexual people.) Most people who take the Bible as the word of God recognise homosexual behaviour is a perversion and sin. Even for others, homosexual behaviour was once understood as an unnatural and perverse behaviour, as seen in the anti-homosexual and anti-sodomy laws that were prevalent practically all over the world. It is only comparatively recently that ‘gay’ activists have succeeded in turning much of public opinion in their favour, and many Christian leaders have also capitulated to accept homosexuals as ‘normal’ people. The themes of the attack from LGBT groups were that people like these are born that way and thus they are not to be blamed but to be accepted, and that what all they did with one another was entirely a matter of their own rights. They began to attack anyone who dared to state that homosexuality was wrong by giving them them the fearsome label of 'homophobic'. But depending on which part of the argument one comes from, it is likely that many are not aware of certain hidden aspects of the debate. Let us try to understand the context in its different dimensions and then form our opinion about homosexuality.

The word ‘homosexual’ actually refers to both men and women who are sexually attracted to people of their own gender, even though many times people use it to refer to men alone (synonymous with the word ‘gay’ these days), with ‘lesbian’ being used for homosexual women. Some people would like to use the word ‘homosexual’ to refer to those with such sexual ‘orientation’ or ‘preference’ without referring to any sexual act itself. But it is difficult to make that distinction in all contexts, and its meaning is to be understood in the context.

The ‘orientation’, ‘preference’ and the act
The phrase ‘sexual orientation’ is being used nowadays to refer to the ‘natural’ sexual attraction one person feels towards another person. A homosexual orientation thus refers to a natural sexual attraction towards people of the same gender and a heterosexual orientation is towards the opposite gender. A bisexual orientation is a sexual attraction towards both genders. The word ‘orientation’ has taken over from ‘preference’ which was in use earlier when it was not supposed that homosexuality is a natural condition. The significance of this change may be that ‘preference’ may be seen as something over which a person has a choice whereas ‘orientation’ may refer to something a person is by nature. The current push from the gay community is to let everyone think that a homosexual orientation is as natural for some people as a heterosexual orientation is to someone else.

A person with a homosexual orientation may never act it out physically, in which case he or she has managed to suppress their normal tendency. He or she may even live in a heterosexual relationship and have children too (because they have full biological functional capability as men or women), though their natural orientation (in their mind) is contrary to this. On the other hand, while same sex marriages may be there in theory only for companionship, in practice they imply rights for homosexual acts too. (This shows that if same sex marriages are to be made legal, it would be also necessary to repeal the anti-sodomy laws, which is what is being done nowadays.)

Is a homosexual act a sin?
‘Sin’ has everything to do with what God says about something, and very little with what people may think about it. What ‘great’ people in the world think about something or the fact that ‘everybody does it’ does not influence what God thinks about sin. ‘Christian homosexuals’ know this, and that is why they try to misinterpret the Bible in order to find justification for themselves. But if we know God as the Creator of everything, as the One who loves us and tells us to do what is good for us and avoid what is hurtful, we will trust everything that He tells us about anything.

The Bible is very clear that homosexual acts are sins. “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination” (Lev.18:22). “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them” (Lev.20:13). “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (1Cor.6:9,10). “Realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching” (1Tim.1:9,10). Till comparatively recently, people in every country and culture in the world would have agreed that any ‘unnatural sexual act’ was wrong, and they had laws that made it a criminal offence. (Sodomy was considered to be wrong according to the law even in heterosexual relationships because it is against nature and improper.) It is only now, after gay activism has spread its propaganda around and media have popularised it, that people have begun to think that perhaps there is nothing wrong with it.

Is a homosexual 'orientation' a sin?
The Bible also mentions that homosexuality is one of the outcomes when God gives up on people and hands them over to depravity because they would not acknowledge Him or even listen to their conscience (Rom.1:24-28). Note what is says in vv.26-28, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.” The implication of this for our discussion is that a homosexual orientation is actually a disorientation and an aberration from the norm. It is abominable in God’s eyes. At the same time, it does not imply that every homosexual person is in that condition because God has given up on him or her, or given them over to it. This is one of the consequences of the presence of sin in this world, such as sicknesses, natural calamities, etc. Many have become homosexual as a result of things that have happened to them at different stages of their life, including what others have done to them. This latter statement would imply that while homosexuality is a result of God's judgment on sin in general, it is not necessarily the result of God's judgment on the homosexual individual because of his/her personal sin.

One needs to make a distinction between a homosexual orientation and an act. A homosexual orientation tempts one to carry out a homosexual act, and just as in the case of any other temptation, it is only when one indulges in an act following the temptation that it becomes a sin. This may be qualified further by saying that just as a heterosexual person may commit adultery in the heart by fantasising in the mind about a sexual relationship, a similar act by a homosexual may also be considered as sin.

Some homosexuals go on to point out that a heterosexual person who has an attraction for another person of the opposite gender is considered to be normal, and it is only when that person indulges in an act that it becomes sin. They argue that in exactly the same way, a homosexual attraction is not itself a sin unless it is indulged in. But the difference is that a heterosexual attraction is natural, and a homosexual attraction is a deviation, abnormality and a depravity.

The Bible points out that homosexual attraction is 'unnatural' and is a depravity which is the result of God's judgment on sin. If the homosexual attraction itself is recognised as an aberration of nature, should we not make efforts to correct the condition and save people from it?

Can homosexuals be Christians?
Jesus came to save people, not to condemn any. Of course He invites homosexuals, just like He invites everyone else, to come to Him in repentance and faith and receive salvation. He does not keep them away as untouchables. But neither does He treat them as normal people. He knows their struggle, and He wants to help them to become normal.

Are people born homosexual?
There are different theories/opinions about how someone becomes a homosexual or acquires a homosexual 'orientation'.

1. The person is born homosexual because of mutation of his or her genes.

2. The person is born homosexual because of some biological accidents in the womb.

3. The person becomes homosexual because of severe psychological trauma caused by events such as childhood sexual abuse.

4. The person becomes homosexual because of sexual identity confusion in a severely dysfunctional family.

5. A person has a biological proclivity towards homosexuality which is exacerbated by psychological trauma.

To prove in a scientific manner that a person is born as a homosexual because of biological (including genetic) reasons, the right approach would be to identify physical features that are peculiar to homosexuals, identify infants born with those features and then show that they all (or most of them) turn out to be homosexuals even without any psychological disturbances in their development years. In case of genetic transmission it should be seen that it runs in families, like other genetic dispositions. Such hypotheses have never been actually validated. What some people have done is to identify some peculiar physical characteristic in some homosexual persons and straightaway claim that they were born that way. Also sample groups taken from people who have been practising homosexuals for many years have been used to make such claims without first ruling out the possibility that such peculiarities might have been acquired because of homosexual activity over years. Such researchers have not also bothered to eliminate the possibility that their sample persons may have had some psychological trauma in their developmental years, which could also provide the explanation for their condition. Another way of validating their hypotheses is to demonstrate repeatability, which is also lacking in these cases. A proper scientific research would have taken all such care. That kind of approach is necessary for any scientific observation to be validated. But no such care seems to have been taken in the case of homosexual research. In addition, several of the researchers have themselves been homosexuals which should place a big question mark on the veracity of their claims because of their desire to prove their innocence. But this kind of discrepancy in the 'scientific' claims has got overlooked in the presence of strong pressure (including physical threats) from the gay activists, with the support of media persons who are looking for sensational issues and politicians who want to be ‘politically correct’!

Some babies display congenital physical deformities related to their sexual organs. In other words, the deformity is physical, and they were born like that. It has not been shown so far, apart from conjectures, that homosexuals have any physical (biological) deformity at birth. On the contrary, physically they are born normal in every way with respect to their sexual organs. But when they grow up and show their peculiar sexual inclination, that can be attributed to their mind rather than body.

Many homosexuals have a clear history of childhood trauma coming from abuse, especially sexual abuse, or dysfunctional families. Other homosexuals need to check if they have overlooked considering the effect of such instances in their life. The impact of such incidents in the developmental years can be quite tragic. Unfortunately, children, who do not yet have the ability to process the experiences that they go through, misinterpret them and get ‘locked up’ in their mind on some aspects of their thoughts. For example, if a child was told by his father that he was useless and would never make it in life, that child is likely to believe it. And that is going to affect his self-esteem for the rest of his life unless he is helped through counselling. Another thing that happens is that Satan sometimes places ideas in the minds of those who are hurting from severe trauma that can be psychologically. (For example, a girl who has been sexually abused as a child may develop a thought that sex is altogether bad or that all men are bad.) These people can then form opinions about themselves and others that can shape their thinking and lives. If it is things like these that have happened to people and caused them to become homosexuals, it is something that can be addressed through psychotherapy, counselling and/or prayer. In such a case, it would be tragic if such help is denied to them.

Some argue that one does not really need to find out how a homosexual became like that, and all that needs to be done is to accept them as such and treat them as normal people. Some Christians even add that if God has made them like that (meaning they were born like that), we should just accept that. No, God "created them male and female." Due to the effect of sins, several abnormalities have developed, and this is one. If they became like this because of some trauma, or even if we assue for argument's sake that they had some genetic proclivity towards homosexuality, do we not still need to help them get back to normality?

Should homosexuals be given therapy?
The current propaganda is that since homosexuals are born that way nothing can be done to change them. In that case, they say, it would be cruel to tell them that something is morally wrong with them, or to make them feel guilty for something they cannot change. It would also be wrong, according to this propaganda, to tell them to change to heterosexual behaviour and offer them therapy when change is not possible. On the other hand, they say, it would be better to make them realise that they are normal in their own way without any need to feel bad about it in any way. Then the next logical step would be to de-criminalise and legalise homosexuality. Same sex marriages would then be a matter of their right.

However, even it is assumed that homosexuals are born that way, should we not attempt to correct what is an abnormal condition? Surgeons try to correct physical defects in the sexual organs babies are born with, as much as they can. They do not say that God made those children like that and leave them! Then how can one say that no attempt should be made to correct homosexual orientation or behaviour which are abnormal and aberrational? But the pressure from gay activists has become so strong that a judge in the US penalised a therapist for offering help because that was considered as working against the homosexual’s rights.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) prepares the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) for mental disorders which helps psychiatrists and psychologists all over the world to identify particular mental disorders and suggests approaches for therapy. When research papers began to proclaim that homosexuals were born that way, and pressures mounted from gay activists, the APA decided to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders from the DSM (starting from DSM-II in 1973). This took place under threats from gay activists and the need to be ‘politically correct’, in spite of the fact that till then therapy had helped many people.

Very recently Exodus International, a Christian organisation which had been set up to minister to homosexuals, closed down its activities, when its president, who acknowledged his own unsuccessful struggles with homosexuality, announced that it would be wrong to continue something that could not work, and to subject people to guilt and agony. Possibly he felt that what did not work for him could not work for anybody else. In any case, there was a lot of pressure from all around to fall in line with the current political thinking. Should he not have looked at many cases where people have changed over from their homosexuality and seen how the approach at Exodus could have been improved, instead of giving up altogether?

Those who believe that homosexuals are not created by God like that, or born like that, but have become like that due to some reasons, also believe that such persons can be helped to change their thinking through psychotherapy, counselling and/or prayer. Physical deformities babies are born with, may be handled through surgery to some extent, and disorientations of the mind may also be corrected to a more or less extent through psychotherapy or counselling. There are, in fact, many examples of people who have been helped in this way. While it must be admitted that not every homosexual who has been undergone therapy has succeeded, it has been also noticed that homosexuals who are serious about wanting to change have a much better chance of succeeding with therapy (one study has shown a success rate of around 30% for this group, which is comparable to the success rate for alcoholics who want to quit). It would be tragic if laws are made that prevent such deliverances from being offered to those who want them, when we know that there is some> possibility of success.

One approach which is commonly followed in counselling, when dealing with the effects of deep wounds in the mind, is to address the root cause of the problem. This helps people to realise that they are thinking, feeling and behaving as they do now because of the impact of what they have gone through in life, and not because of what they are in themselves. This gives them hope that they can change. In the case of homosexuals, this would give them hope that now they can change their way of thinking, and as a result change their feeling and behaviour. In the case of Christian counselees, the change is much deeper when they forgive those who have hurt them and caused them to suffer, accept God’s sovereign wisdom and love when He allowed them to go through the trauma, and then look for God’s power to change them. They can also expect God to cause the things of their past to work for their good. Instead of making them feel condemned, as the opponents of therapy claim, they can now accept themselves in truth and look for a renewal of their thinking and behaviour according to God’s ways. Should homosexuality be legalised?
Homosexuality has existed for a long, long time. Even though in some places like Sodom in Abraham’s days it was practised publicly, most homosexuals carried out their activities hidden from the public, till recently. Now people are coming out and declaring themselves as homosexuals publicly as they find more acceptance from society. As of this writing, 70 out of 195 countries in the world consider homosexual acts illegal even between consensual adults, and 40 of these ban only male to male sexual acts. Laws against sodomy were almost universally accepted earlier, but many countries have removed or restricted them in the recent times. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code called for a maximum punishment of life imprisonment for all carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal. However in 2009 the Delhi High Court declared much of this as unconstitutional saying that they violated individual rights for acts between consensual adults. The Indian Supreme Court held this judgment to be invalid since it was against the existing law, pointing out, however, that a possibility still exists for the parliament to remove Section 377 altogether from the law. What is happening nowadays is that concepts of right and wrong are being discarded in favour of individual rights.

‘Gay rights’ are being sought as rights for individuals to act any way they like. The general attitude of courts seems to be that the courts have no right to judge between moral right and wrong, and have no business to intervene if individuals or groups of individuals do what they agree to, as long as they do not infringe on the rights of others. In this way, the courts totally isolate themselves from examining whether the thing in itself is right or wrong in a religious or moral sense. They also avoid looking at the impact of individuals exercising their ‘rights’ on society in the long run, because that also is not within the court’s purview.

Courts do recognise that individuals should not be allowed to do things that are hurtful to others. For Christians, it is clear that homosexuality is a perversion in the sight of God, and harmful to the individuals and society overall. Sociological studies need to be conducted which may indicate the confusion that homosexuality can bring to society, and then courts may be prompted to consider how it can be curtailed.

Are same sex marriages OK?
Once homosexuality is ‘accepted’ as a legitimate position for individuals, can anyone interfere with their rights to have a relationship between homosexuals? Already we see this happening around the world, and same sex marriages are being accorded legal status equal to the normal marriage between a man and a woman.

Same sex marriages imply homosexual acts too, which some Christians who would like to ‘accept’ homosexual orientation but not an act are not yet ready to accept. But that is where things seem to be heading. Everyone recognises that same sex marriages are really not normal, because that is against nature, it cannot produce children, and there is no complementarity in the relationship that heterosexual unions can provide. However, when it comes to individual rights, who can prevent such marriages from happening?

Perhaps only time can show how same sex marriages will hurt people and society, if people are not willing to consider any aspect of morality.

Is it a sin for Christians to speak against homosexuality?
Gay activists have pushed their propaganda so much that others dare not speak out against their agenda for fear of being castigated or even beaten up. It even appears to be a ‘sin’ for Christians to talk against homosexuality because that would amount to lack of Christian compassion! In some parts of USA, it is illegal for Christian business people to decline to serve homosexuals in a way they (Christians) consider to be supporting of homosexual activities. But for those who recognise the Bible as God’s word, there is no option but to lovingly warn those who are going wrong. There need not be tolerance for a sin in order to be loving towards the sinner. And, at the same time, there need not be a hardness towards the sinner in order to show a hatred for his sin. The mistake some Christians make is to treat homosexuality as the unforgivable, unimaginable or untouchable sin, with no compassion or mercy towards the sinner. On the contrary, in wanting to show love and compassion to all sinners some Christians treat sin as if it was not a sin.

Many people consider warning against sin, calling for repentance and offering help in deliverance from sin all haughty, fanatic, or judgmental behaviour. Homosexuality is really just one of the many sins that people commit, even if it is one of the more gross forms. God loves the homosexual individuals just as much as He loves all others, and the blood of Jesus was shed for all sins. If only Christians can learn to take the path of compassion and humility without compromising on godly standards for life, perhaps more homosexuals could be helped.

If we are willing to start from a position of accepting God’s own standards for our life as good and mandatory, we generally become able to make some sense out of even complex situations. Problems come when we give much value to public opinion and side-line what the Bible says. Jesus came to save us from our sins (Mt.1:21), and no sin is there from which He cannot save. But we should know we are sinners, we want to be saved and we are willing to listen to Him.

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