Today I read another Christian article alluding to a “same-sex lifestyle”. How we’re still talking like this as reasonable, intelligent adults in 2016 is fairly baffling in itself, but since some of us are let’s try to dig a little deeper and figure out just these folks are saying when they say it.
The implication in such terminology is that there are some physical behaviors that can be separated out from someone’s core identity; that a person can be authentically one thing as an internal reality and yet act very selectively in a way that runs in direct opposition to it.
Without fail, a Conservative Christian makes this assertion about an LGBTQ person, in an effort to say that their “homosexuality” is what they do, not who they are. They contend that these people can manage these outward behaviors and all will be well. A man who is attracted to men, they suggest, is really heterosexual and simply acting in a way that denies this (for reasons they usually can’t coherently name other than they hate their fathers or God).
This leads to the common Church concept of a person being a “practicing homosexual”.
Those lazily tossing around such terms usually have little regard for just how such an idea falls completely apart if they are asked to consider whether or not they are a “practicing heterosexual”. (Such an idea then becomes rightly ludicrous.) When it comes to their own identity and their own sexuality and their own sense of attraction and affection, they know full well that they act because they are a particular way. Their identity is not dictated by their behavior.
We all have a gender identity and a sexual orientation and these things all fall along a vast and complicated continuum. It is this specific combination of both how we see ourselves and who we are drawn to that form this essential part of who we are.
This is such a simple idea, but one the Church seems willfully intending to miss in order to still hold onto the prejudices and fears our faith inherited 3500 years ago when we didn’t know what we know now. These people are deliberately choosing to not know now; preferring religion to reality—and it’s ruining people’s lives and pushing them from the Church in droves.
The idea for any of us, that who we are internally and what we do with our bodies can be compartmentalized is plainly ridiculous, and furthermore it’s irresponsible and dangerous to perpetuate such falsehoods in the Church. These teachings compel people, out of some guilt-induced desire to please God or in an effort to fit into religious community, to curb any outward expressions of their gender identity and sexual orientation. Many go as far as getting married to people of the opposite gender in an effort to behave themselves right; to fake-it-till-they-make-it.
And one of two things invariably happens: They either die never being their most authentic selves, or they decide to stop suppressing their truth and it all blows up.
The trail of depression, addiction, self-harm, divorces, and broken families it leaves is one of modern Christianity’s greatest sins. It’s creating unnecessary suffering. It’s forcing people into duplicity. It’s applying a rule to the LGBTQ community that doesn’t exist for straight, cisgender Christians.
Whatever our gender identity and sexual orientation are, these things do not become less or more so based on our behavior or by what we choose to show to the world. The Church and its leaders need to allow this simple reality to inform our theology, rather than clinging to our theology even if it perpetuates an old lie. We need to allow time, Science, History, and Humanity to educate us so that we treat people with the dignity befitting them. If we are to rightly love others as ourselves, we need to agree that they operate the same way that we do.
There is no such thing as a homosexual lifestyle.
There is no such thing as a heterosexual lifestyle.
There are only lives.
There are only individual human beings who have completely unique identities and inclinations to love and be loved, and God has placed them there. There is nothing we can do to alter those things in ourselves by acting or not acting in certain ways, and we can’t change those realities in other people by forcing them to behave in a way that we desire.
People need and deserve to be the most authentic version of themselves; at home, at work, with family, in society—and especially in spiritual community.
We need a Church and Christians wise and honest and brave enough to admit this, and to move ahead with creating a bigger table where all people can gather as they are.
This doesn’t have to be difficult. Christians need to stop making it so.
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