Sunday, August 7, 2011

What If?

What if almost everything our culture has said about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is wrong? How would that awareness change the culture? How would it change the lives of LGBT folks? How would it change the lives of straight people?

For example, what if the long-held belief by many people that being gay is a choice is wrong? Well, the science suggests that our sexual orientation is not something we choose. Common sense tells us that gay people don’t choose their orientation any more than straight people do. But even conservative Evangelicals are starting to acknowledge this is a lie.

Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently told delegates at the Southern Baptist annual meeting that they were practicing a “certain form of homophobia.” Mohler said, when speaking of sexual orientation, that it is “clear that it’s more than a choice” and “and not something that people can just turn on and turn off.”

For those of you not familiar with Mohler, he is no friend to the LGBT community. He is often a spokesperson for the Southern Baptists when they need someone to go to battle for them in the culture wars. Yet, even Mohler is recognizing how embarrassing it is to keep spouting the lie that sexual orientation is chosen. Mohler still thinks being gay is a sin, which makes for a curious theological stance given his belief it isn’t chosen, but he has decided the cultural assumption that being gay is chosen needs to be denounced. Can you imagine the implications when others come around to this viewpoint?

And since we are on the topic of religious views regarding homosexuality, what about the cultural assumption that the Bible spends a lot of time denouncing gay people. What if that is wrong, too? This assumption underlies most of the current political debate in our country. When Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly make their case for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, they don’t quote the state constitution. They quote the Bible. But what if the way they are using the Bible to undergird their viewpoint is flawed?

I won’t even address the fact that using one religious tradition’s scriptures to try to deny a whole class of citizens their basic civil rights is wrong; let’s just take the assumption about the Bible at face value. Jesus never addressed the issue of sexual orientation. How could he? The understanding of sexual orientation in the way modern culture interprets it was developed in the late nineteenth century.

What Jesus does address over and over again that is relevant to this issue is his distaste for how religious leaders try to use obscure scriptures to denounce people considered outcasts. In Jesus’ day it was lepers, Samaritans, blind people, women, and others who were marginalized by the religious authorities of the day. In our day religious and political leaders reach for a few obscure texts to reject LGBT people and deny them fundamental human rights.

What happens when people begin to wake up and see that not only is the Bible being misused in this debate, but it has been turned upside down?

Finally, let’s address the biggest cultural stereotype that has lasted through the ages. What if LGBT people are not sexual deviants who threaten our children and all that is good and pure?

We have a serious problem with child abuse in this country. I get to see the consequences of that problem regularly as a counselor. Few things do more damage to a human being than to be sexually abused as a child.

The problem is that in attempting to address this problem we have pointed in the wrong direction. The Catholic Church’s response to its sexual abuse scandal was to try and weed out gay priests. Yet, the credible social science suggests that pedophiles do not prey on children because they are gay or straight. There is a psychological disorder that exists in abusers that needs to be addressed, but we confuse the matter by suggesting it is an issue of sexual orientation.

What if we started telling the truth about LGBT people when it comes to sex? What if we acknowledge that like some straight people, there are gay people who don’t even care much for sex? What if we accepted that like some straight people, there are gay people who will form life-long relationships? What if we simply told the truth that being gay is about who you love, not just who you want to sleep with?

Yes, what if we let go of the stereotypes and cultural biases that have framed the conversation about what it means to be gay or transgender? The liberation would not just be felt in the LGBT world. We would all be freed from the cruel lies that have destroyed so many families and cost the lives of so many young people.

What if that could happen?

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About Me

former pastor who is now a pastoral counselor and consultant (mckinneycounseling.org); married with two teenagers; progressive in my politics and theology