For the fundamentalist Christian trying to make sense of a sexual orientation he or she knows is counter to the interpretation of Scripture preached from the pulpit, the cognitive dissonance that arises from the collision of personal experience and self-awareness with the dogma and received wisdom of the Biblical inerranist position often causes bewilderment and depression. The notion that the Bible both presents a clear picture of sexual orientation as we understand it in modern life and simultaneously condemns it is a cut-and-dry one in the fundamentalist world-view. Yet, scholars versed in the ancient languages of the Bible’s origin find far more nuance in the texts than the most popular English translations afford. Further, certain misconceptions arise when certain passages are ignored in order to prove a predetermined point. It is always important to understand these ancient texts in their context, not just of their surrounding texts, but also of the literary and cultural milieu in which they were written; i.e. their historical and sociological context. Historic Christianity places the words of Jesus in the Four Gospels as the ultimate focal point for all Scripture: all other Scripture is properly read in the light of the Gospel.
To our collection of scriptural views that counter the arguments of fundamentalism we add this excellent resource by SoulForce co-founder Mel White, mentioned in Sunday’s blog post. Dr. White argues here that being gay and being Christian are not mutually exclusive, as is often claimed. He gives a verse-by-verse analysis of the scripture passages that most trouble gay Christians and those trying to make sense of sexuality in light of Scripture.
There is a lot of talk in the national political conversation right now from people who loudly and vigorously claim that sexual orientation is not innate and that people can become heterosexual as they were “meant to be.” When considering these views, it is important to also consider the positions of the scientific community, particularly with those in position to authenticate those claims. The American Psychological Association’s website contains comprehensive answers to the key questions raised by those who claim to be able to change sexual orientation, for example:
- According to current scientific and professional understanding, the core attractions that form the basis for adult sexual orientation typically emerge between middle childhood and early adolescence. These patterns of emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction may arise without any prior sexual experience. People can be celibate and still know their sexual orientation-–be it lesbian, gay, bisexual, or heterosexual.
- There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.
- Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships are normal forms of human bonding. Therefore, these mainstream organizations long ago abandoned classifications of homosexuality as a mental disorder.
- All major national mental health organizations have officially expressed concerns about therapies promoted to modify sexual orientation. To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective. Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons. This appears to be especially likely for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals who grow up in more conservative religious settings.
- Sexual orientation discrimination takes many forms. Severe antigay prejudice is reflected in the high rate of harassment and violence directed toward lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals in American society. Numerous surveys indicate that verbal harassment and abuse are nearly universal experiences among lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.
The experience of romance and love expressed within the context of committed relationship is at the core of a major issue in our national politics today, that of marriage equality. In this moving article, columnist and pundit Andrew Sullivan makes the conservative case for marriage equality, as he has been doing for more than a decade. A noteworthy quote:
“marriage equality is, to my mind, the distillation of America. If you’re a heterosexual reading this, have you ever considered for a millisecond that your right to pursue happiness did not include your right to marry the person you love? And that is why, over the centuries, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the right to marry for everyone, citizen or even traveler, as a core, inalienable right, bestowed by the Declaration of Independence itself. The court has ruled that the right to marry precedes the Bill of Rights;”
Last, but not least, if you want to talk to someone who understands you, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If your questions are causing you so much doubt and pain that you feel you cannot go on, please give the good folks at The Trevor Project a call. Their number is toll free 866-488-7386. You are not alone.
That is today’s food for thought.