Is Homosexuality a Sin?

So, just to start off: I have been a card-carrying member of the GLBTQ community since sexual impulses first started for me. I had my first girlfriend at 16. And I spent 8 continuous years in two separate (4 year) long-term relationships with women. I am practically a gold star. And now I am a devout Christian. I go to an Anglican church, and I believe that my relationship with God is the most important relationship I will ever have.

So, given all of that, I am finally wading into this discussion. Is homosexuality a sin?

I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately. Not because it worries me so terribly much. I am quite sure of two things: 1) God loves me–he’s shown me this over and over by picking me up and treating me gently when things in my life have been awful, 2) I am a sinner many times over–I eff up pretty much everything there is to eff up. So this question has never really been one that kept me up at night. Neither, I admit a little sheepishly, has the question of Gay Marriage.

But at 32 and single, with my biological clock ticking fairly loudly, with all my friends getting married and moving away, etc. I have been thinking a LOT about love, marriage, relationships, family, and friendship. I have just been thinking a lot about people and how we interact with them. And I’ve been thinking about God and how to live life right.

Tonight I read a thoughtful piece on this topic: “Yes, Homosexuality Absolutely is  a Choice.” The author makes many good points that anti-Gay Christians do not seem to consider. Chief amongst them is that none of us does choose who or how we love. Nor do we consciously choose our desires. These things fall naturally out of our authentic expressions of ourselves. I think people who don’t see this really aren’t thinking seriously enough about human sexuality, period. Your heart responds to the people your heart responds to. Your body responds to the people your body responds to. The rational mind is not in control of these things. At all. Period. You love who you love. You want who you want.

OK, so far John Pavlovitz and I agree. But there is a difference between desire and action. And while we don’t choose what we want, we do choose what we do with that desire. And I’m not going to say that engaging in sexual activity with someone of the same gender is a sin or that forming lifelong partnerships or marriage is a sin. But I think it’s at least a possibility.

Here’s a hard truth I’ve been realizing: I believe that love is a gift from God, but in our daily lives, in practice, the way we handle love and act on it often hurts ourselves and others. I have watched one friend behave unconscionably cruelly to her husband for the past three years. And she behaves this way in front of her children. I have watched another friend carry on an affair with a married man that has driven her back to an eating disorder and him back to alcoholism. And another friend finally left her church and her family behind to follow her truth and marry the woman she loves. But, though they are together and are building a life that is beautiful in many ways, I have noticed that this friend has lost her moral compass. Her relationship with her wife has neither made her a better person, nor has it brought her closer to God. The opposite, at least so far, seems to be true. In each of these cases, love is the gift, but actions are the choice. And if our actions don’t make us better people and don’t bring us closer to God, then I think they are wrong.

Pavlovitz glosses over another issue. He says that anti-Gay Christians condense the sexuality of GLBTQ people to the physical act of sex while ignoring the emotional context of a person’s life. While this seems true, he uses the statement to gloss over the question of whether sex between two people of the same gender is wrong. Perhaps he assumes that if it is not wrong to love or desire someone of the same gender, then it can’t be wrong to physically act on that love or desire. But that conclusion doesn’t necessarily follow. And I’m going to say, I’m not sure.

I think it’s possible that we use our bodies wrongly nearly constantly in our post-modern society. But if so, it isn’t a problem that’s limited to GLBTQ folk who engage in sex. The bible seems to pretty clearly assert that sex is an act that takes place between a male husband and a female wife. But the point, that many people seem to gloss over, is not that they are male and female. It is that they are engaged in a sacred creative act that is meant to bear literal fruit. The partners are married, thus signifying their intention to live together as a unit and join in the creative act that brings new life into the world.

Two people of the same gender cannot engage in this process. It does not biologically work. So, if we take this as the deep and true purpose of the sexual union, then sex between two men or two women is a sin. It is wrong. But then, premarital sex is also a sin. Masturbation is a sin. Affairs are sins. Any “casual” sex is a sin. And this might be true. It might be that we are far too free with our bodies and that by “liberating” sex to a post-modern “right” to be enjoyed by all, we have cheapened it. We have robbed it of its power and the true sacredness that belongs to it. But if that’s true, then it’s a sin that nearly everyone in the modern world shares.

So, is homosexuality a sin?

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7 thoughts on “Is Homosexuality a Sin?

  1. Very thought-provoking, Pam! I love the way you raise questions. Thank you. You’ve got me thinking about my understanding of sin. The word gets used in different ways. I tend to think of sin as separation from God. We (human beings) are not gods. The state of being human is the state of not being a god, and we call this state “sin.” We’re imperfect, mortal, flawed and yet aware of perfection and immortality, always aware of our shortcomings, our less-than status.

    The word “sin” also gets used to refer to actions or choices that we make that are selfish and/or hurtful to others. We give god-status to material things. We do bad things. We’re messed up in a lot of ways, and therefore we sin, or we are sinners. I think the Bible uses “sin” both ways, but often when people talk about sin, they don’t draw these distinctions. They lump all sin together into the “bad” category, but I would say the first usage — the state of not being a god — isn’t inherently bad. It is what it is. We are who we are: human, imperfect.

    When it comes to sexuality and procreation, parts of the Bible read like a manual for survival in a hostile environment. Anything that didn’t encourage people to be fruitful and multiple (such as eating shellfish, which made some people sick) was called an abomination. Now that we live in an overpopulated world, what is the “deep and true purpose of the sexual union”? Might you consider the sense of oneness that a couple finds in a sexual union to be a beautiful thing? A profound expression of love? Purpose-filled? I’m hesitant to label the sexual union a sin (meaning “a bad action”) when it allows for and encourages two people who love each other to communicate intimately even when they don’t intend or hope for their union to produce life.

    If we’re able to view sexuality as a beautiful thing between loving partners, regardless of its ability to produce children or not produce them (in the case of a homosexual union), why get caught up in asking whether this is a “sin” in the “bad action” meaning of the word? It is what is it. We are who we are. When we enter into a sexual union that is not cheap and that we treat as sacred (regardless of whether our actions might produce life), it’s a beautiful thing. It’s enormously fulfilling. If two people of the same sex happen to fall in love with each other, and are committed to treating their relationship sacredly, I don’t see why some would call their sexual union a “sin” in the “bad action” sense of the word.

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  2. Thank you for this thoughtful reply, Anne! I think if two people are committed to each other and their commitment brings them closer to God and makes them better people, then it isn’t a problem. And if sexual union cements that, well, then that is what it is. It may be that a sense of the sacred and the beauty in sex is enough to make it a good action. And that may be the case even outside of a deep, loving commitment. (And I agree with everything you say about the problematic usage of the language of sin.)

    I have experienced a lot of harmful sex in my life, and that may be where this question is coming from in me. But the one time it didn’t feel harmful, in fact where I might consider it to have been a true gift and Good, was during a one night stand with a young woman, whose name I do not even remember, in a hostel in southern louisiana many years ago. But that one experience that one night made me feel like maybe my body wasn’t a horrible thing. Maybe it might even be something I might come to love someday. That to me does seem like a gift. And not like something that harmed me or her or anyone else. And that just maybe brought me closer to God, though I was many years away from admitting a belief in Him then.

    But I also question whether every deep, loving, committed union has to be sexual. And I question whether just because that urge is there,that it needs to be acted on. I’m not sure it does. And I think in some instances not engaging in the action predicated by the impulse might bring us closer to God. And I think there are probably other times or for other people when not engaging in the action would distance someone from God.

    It’s not a relativistic morality I’m advocating here. And it’s not an absolute one based on an arbitrary and societally based set of rules, either. But I think that we can feel when we are drawing nearer and farther from God. We may not know what to do with that sense or how to put it into practice. But I think we all have it, anyway. And I think it’s our job to hone that sense and to use it to try to draw near God. But I also think these are deeply personal questions that must be answered on an individual basis. And I don’t believe it is our job to judge others.

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    • I love your honesty, Pam! Being honest is a gift that has tremendous potential to encourage healing and reconciliation and atonement, helping us find a spiritual place where we might be “at one” (atoned) with our Creator. In the moments (we call these “coming of age” moments, don’t we? But why? That’s a topic for another time…) when we experience the sort of love that assures us that our bodies are not horrible things, that we are loved, that we are lovable — these moments have a sacred quality.

      You ask if every deep, loving, committed union has to be sexual. No, I don’t think so. Does NOT engaging in sex bring us closer to God? Well… not necessarily. If sex gets in the way of your connection with God, then it’s good that you’re asking these questions. But I think you can ask them independent of issues like sexual orientation and gender identity. You’re not really asking “is homosexuality a sin?” but instead are asking “is it a sin for people to engage in sex without the intention or hope that the union will produce children?” The Biblical writers would say, “yes,” but they’d also say “yes” to all sorts of practices such as the right to purchase, sell and own another human being.

      I think it’s essential for us to struggle with the Bible, and I think you’re asking good questions. I like your follow-up post, too. Struggle forward, Sister!

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  3. Pingback: A Follow-up About Sex | The Forum For Discourse

  4. Thank you for being part of this discussion with me, Anne. And for having done so in the various discussions I’ve started over the past several years. I really appreciate it.

    I also think it’s very interesting where this discussion has gone considering where I was in my mind when I started it. There are several lessons embedded here for me about how other people think and work.

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