Many Christian arguments against marriage equality are rooted in flawed — even heretical — assumptions. Though perceived as hateful, these Christians often claim that they “hate the sin but love the sinner.” It is this very statement that indicates the reliance on the heresy of dualism. Our Christian hesitancy to talk about sexuality within churches is also victim to this flaw.
The Heresy of Dualism
Heavily influenced by Greek thought, Christianity developed a strong sense of the goodness of the spirit and the sinfulness of the body. One group of early Christians, the Gnostics, even thought that Jesus did not really inhabit a human body. The divine could not be divine within the profane human body. By the end of the second century, this hatred of the body was declared outside of the Christian faith. Yet, it persists in the mindset of many twenty-first century Christians.
In Christian thought, human beings are created as Imago Dei, or in the image of God. “Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness” (Genesis 1: 26a NRSV). Human beings are spiritual. Human beings are physical. Human flesh is inherently of God. Our self-perceived physical imperfections and our sexuality are the image of God. In our sexual expression within covenantal, loving relationships human beings are Imago Dei. In sexuality, we mirror God.
Yet, an attitude toward our bodies as profane has permeated Christianity throughout the centuries. The Puritans are an American example of groups who have taken this heretical dualism to the level of self-hatred. Modern churches are also places where the belief that sexuality (the body) is so profane that we don’t even talk about it. In the church, we have allowed a culture of titillation to define human sexuality.
The Sin of the Church: Dehumanizing Non-Heterosexuals
Within this context churches and individual Christians weigh in on the morality of homosexuality. When many hear the word heterosexual, “hetero” stands out. When they hear homosexual, “sexual” stands out. For too long we have viewed heterosexuals as whole human beings while viewing homosexuals as only about sex. The common heresy of flesh as evil further dehumanizes our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
In the dehumanizing of and refusal to accept homosexuals as Imago Dei, we allow fanatics to spew words of hatred and violence. In our refusal to accept our lesbian and gay sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, fathers, and mothers as made fully in the image of God, we commit sin. This is the great sin of too many contemporary churches.
Dualistic Thinking in Arguing Against Homosexuality
The argument that one can love the sinner while hating the sin when applied to homosexuality is dualist thinking. The separation of orientation from practice regarding homosexuality leads to a separation of the spiritual from the physical. My heterosexuality is intertwined with my spirituality, with my sense of who I am as a child of God. In the words of theologian Christopher Morse, “The way God makes us in creation, including our sexuality, is [n]ever a cruelty joke. . . .No gift of God’s grace is to be held in dishonor.”
When Christians let go of the dualism, we are no longer afraid to view the gift of human sexuality along its created continuum of homosexual and heterosexual orientation. We are free to let go of our fear of the body as less than “of God.” We are free to accept that each human being is uniquely gifted by God with a physical way of expressing love with another human being.
The first testament is littered with examples of God’s loyalty and compassion within covenant to God’s people. In Judges 10, after years of idol worship, the Israelites seek God’s help when under threat from the Ammonites. God is rightfully angry with their newfound faith: “Go and cry to the gods whom you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress” (Judges 10:14 NRSV). Despite rightful frustration, God “could no longer bear to see Israel suffer” (Judges 10: 16b NRSV). God responds in compassion and honors covenant. It is this covenantal relationship that serves as a model for our human relationships, including our sexual relationships. When we express our sexuality–homosexual or heterosexual–within the covenantal relationship of marriage we are living more fully into the image of God.
God’s model of covenantal fidelity has been institutionalized by both the church and secular culture. Though not guaranteeing faithfulness, marriage supports stable, covenantal fidelity in American culture. By rejecting same-sex marriage we are denying homosexuals a tool that supports loving covenants. Americans have a duty to defend equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians. Doing so is consistent with our highest American ideals. We each will benefit from the stabilizing influence on our society.
Followers of Jesus have a moral imperative to advocate for marriage equality. Embracing the wholeness of body and spirit in the Imago Dei, Christian faith is rooted in covenantal fidelity and the love-ethic of Jesus Christ. Supporting marriage equality is fully and wholly consistent with the Christian faith and lifestyle.
Your entire premise is based on the assertion that homesexuality is natural and God given. This is where the core of the argument dissolves. If you accept that homosexuall attraction is an inborn trait then your argument is solid and the merits undeniable. If you believe homosexual attraction is a choice based on various psychosocial determinents, many of which we are aware of but refuse to examine in a rigorous way, then your argument can be dismissed easily. As long held ( in this case, thousands of years) Traditions should not be dismissed based on generational choices. Why would a God who created homosexual attraction as normal allow his people and church to be this cruel for so long. The argument lver slavery ks the best one to justify God intervention. However, slavery was overturned when people of faith, motivated by prayer that understood the moral wrong being done here. Do people of faith see the same here with equality of sexual orientation. If homosexuals were treated as property or tortured the conscience would easily be raised. However currently homosexuals enjoy allthe rights as heterosexuals. Civil unions are the comprimised position in a pluralistic society. The core of western religions (judaism, Christianity and Islam) do not see a moral wrong here that God i tended and we have ignored. The moral equivalnce argument is not as strong. Is there morally unjustified hated here? Absolutely. Should it be condemned? Absolutely. Does seculr society have a deeper moral insight here and religious thinking blind? That is the questioned to be answered.
Thank you for taking the time to comment. I apologize for my slow reply; I was involved in Holy Week and Easter activity. I’m just now catching up.
I don’t know how to reply to your post without writing two or three others. You seem to be throwing many arguments at me at once. Regardless, from your tone, I doubt I will change your mind. I simply leave you with this: what is the most loving response to our LGBTQIA sisters and brothers? That is the litmus test for following the teachings of Jesus. And, so, my response ultimately must be to strive to love my neighbor — whoever that may be — as fully as I can. Denying others rights that I enjoy is not loving.
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27 CEB
I have loved ones who are so precious to me that I have had to take a step back and rethink my stance on homosexuality. Now, about a year and a half later I still am conflicted. I have a fear of grieving the Spirit in the event that interpret scripture incorrectly, but I have a love and appreciation for LCBTQIA sisters and brothers that has grown exponentially.
Ever since 1999 I have strongly held a belief that Christians have dual-nature or possess a twofold nature. This belief has brought me much relief from the fear that I was not a genuine born again child of God, because I still sinned in my thoughts, my words, and my deeds. Prior to learning that teaching I had thought (like many Armenians) that salvation was not always permanent…that some saved people might become unsaved and go to hell. I had thought that my continual sinning proved that I was not truly a new creature because the “old things” were still there. Then I learned about the dual nature and it helped me to see that Romans 7 and 8 were explaining the conflict with which Christians wrestle rather than the contrast to the nature of one who has not yet been regenerated with one who has been regenerated.
I share the same convictions as you expressed in the above response to Merton’s comment, and glad you quoted Luke 10:27 I also appreciate Merton’s effort to rightly divide scripture, although there was one statement he made that suggested a type of logic that didn’t quite make sense to me. Here it is:
“Why would a God who created homosexual attraction as normal allow his people and church to be this cruel for so long.”
I am thinking about the use of the word “normal” in that sentence. I know that normal can mean both “appropriate” and “commonplace”, and even some other related words. Here is one way of looking at that statement:
“Why would a God who created homosexual attraction as commonplace allow his people and church to be this cruel for so long.’
Poverty and disease are commonplace, and always have been throughout the history of mankind. However, if one were to say:
“Why would a God who has allowed poverty and disease to be commonplace allow his people and church to be this uncharitable, or in other words cruel for so long.”
I must confess, I am not a theologian. Some of the content in both the post and the comments that followed went over my head. I am just a wife and mother of two children. My daughter will be 19 in June and is also a believer who “came out” in the fall of 2011 to her father, and me, and to the whole world. I had always been very conservative,.homeschooled my kids, and trained them up to embrace the most conservative Christian views that a Christian in a small town in Arkansas could possibly keep. Then the moment she told me my heart was changed in an instant. The only words I was able to utter were ” I love you and you are “fearfully and wonderfully made. Since then I have learned much about love that I previously had not known.
Thank you, Moore to Ponder, for taking the time to respond. You witness powerfully to the active Spirit in our time when you write, “Then the moment she told me my heart was changed in an instant.”
I think that parental love at its best is like that of God’s love for humanity. Again, thanks for your comments.
I want to clarify something. When I mentioned poverty and disease in my comment I did not mean to make it sound like homosexuality was in the same category as negative undesirable things. I was just trying to point out that although the church has done many wonderful things like build hospitals an orphanages and things like that they ever since the very beginning have also at times been guilty of committing horrible injustices. There are many passages in the New Testament, many epistles that confront churches for wrong doing and instruct them to change there ways. I, myself am a Christian, and at times have had a really lousy attitude. I continually catch myself thinking wrong thoughts, and have to say, “I’m so sorry Lord. Please forgive me. Please wash me, renew my mind, and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” (See Psalm 51 and Romans 12)
I am so thankful that I found this blog. I have been reading here a lot lately, and the Lord has been using what I am reading to help me as I am re-thinking my stance on many issues.
I need prayer. I have felt very much despised, the object of scorn and condescending remarks…have seen what is in people’s hearts as they pour out their speeches on facebook. People have shared links to statements that referred to gay people as animals. The latest thing that has set them off has been “Duck Dynasty”.
Tho I am just now responding, you have been in my thoughts and prayers over the last several days. Sometimes it is hard to be a voice of love in our fragmented culture. On this Christmas Day I offer the hopeful words of the prophet, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.” (Is.9:2 CEB).