According to a gay victim of the clerical sex scandal in Chile, Pope Francis told him, “You have to be happy with who you are. God made you this way.” It’s the conclusion reached by many Christians with same-sex attraction, whose stories share telling similarities.
They knew they were different at a young age. Throughout life, they struggled to hide their feelings and appear normal. After years of enduring rejection, low self-esteem, and depression, they learned to accept homosexuality as part of “who I am.” Eventually, they went public with their “true” identity.
In an editorial for The Huffington Post, country music artist and professed Christian, Chely Wright wrote about growing up in rural Kansas. As a young girl, she developed a love for God through the influence of her Christian home and community. It was also as a young girl—aged nine, as she recalls—that she realized she was gay.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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At age nine? When I was nine, I had some knowledge of the physiological differences between boys and girls, no knowledge of sexual orientation, and as for same-sex orientation … you’re kidding, right?
Nevertheless, over time Chely came to believe “that God had made me exactly as I was supposed to be.”
More familiar in Christian circles is Ray Boltz. After a two-decade career of no. 1 singles, gold albums, and Dove awards, Boltz tired of living “the lie.” The lie. Despite a 33-year marriage that produced four children, the Christian music superstar was gay. Says Boltz,
“I’d denied it ever since I was a kid. I became a Christian, I thought that was the way to deal with this and I prayed hard and tried for 30-some years and then at the end, I was just going, ‘I’m still gay. I know I am.’ And I just got to the place where I couldn’t take it anymore.”
Boltz talks of years in the hidden life, enduring depression, undergoing therapy, taking various psychiatric medications, and becoming suicidal. Then, on December 26, 2004, he disclosed the life-long secret to his family.
It was at that point, Boltz recounts “where I accepted my sexuality and who I was.” It was also the point where his marriage crumbled. (Within a year, he and his wife separated; three years later they divorced.)
Boltz eventually moved to Florida where, he says, he could be himself, free to date and live a “normal gay life.” “If this is the way God made me,” Boltz reflects, “then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.”
Common to Chely Wright, Ray Boltz, and Christian gay advocates is the belief that our desires are fundamental to our essence, part of our God-wiring. Since that is the way God created us, they reason, satisfying our desires is not only not sinful, but sanctified.
The truth is that while some desires come from God—the desire for transcendence, for example—others come from an unsettled combination of nature and nurture.
Orthodox Christianity holds that creation, as God made it, was originally good and later became corrupted by man’s rebellion. Today, the whole world bears the pathologies of a virus that has been infecting planet Earth for untold millennia. So, when a person claims that an unbiblical desire is part of “how God made me,” they are conflating dysfunction with design.
Form and Function
An axiom in architecture is “form follows function.” That is, the form, or design, of a thing depends on the purpose, or function, the designer intended it to serve. A John Deere tractor is designed for clearing and plowing fields. A Daimler Smart car is designed for high gas mileage and tight parking. Both products are perfectly engineered for their specialized purposes.
If, per chance, a person wanted to plow his field with a Smart car, or commute to the city in his tractor, it would be the desire of the owner, not the intent of the designer or the design of the product, that was disordered. Setting aside the moral arguments about same-sex desire, from physiological considerations alone, it is disordered because it is contrary to the function its “form” is intended to serve.
Human sexuality is uniquely designed to satisfy an essential biological purpose: reproduction. In a very real way, when a husband and wife come together they form a single biological unit through their “hand-in-glove” complementarity. It is a function that same-sex individuals are incapable of accomplishing. They can only transmogrify the sex act to indulge in sensual gratification.
Sex involves pleasure but, as C.S. Lewis once pointed out, that is no more the purpose of sex than it is the purpose of eating. In both cases, sensual enjoyment is the byproduct of functions that are indispensable to life and the continuation of the species.
Since form follows function, it is reasonable to conclude that God, as Master Architect, would not implant a desire within us that is inconsistent with our form and his purpose. What’s more, we can be sure that whatever causes same-sex orientation, even if it is ultimately traced to inheritance, it is not God, any more than he would be the cause of other congenital disorders, like club feet or cleft palates.
The book of Nature is clear: the “form, fit, and features” of a man and woman are complementary to fulfilling a basic function of life that no single individual, or same-sex pair, can. It’s a point that the Book of Scripture is clear on as well.
The Book of Scripture
In the opening chapter of Genesis, God forms two types of creatures—male and female—born out of his desire to create and fill the universe. God could have given Adam a male “helper.” Instead, he gave him one whose design was such that, when joined with his in perfect fit, enabled them to accomplish the first divine command given to man: “Be fruitful and multiply.”
Because of their harmonizing architecture, Adam and Eve were more than the sum of their parts. For when they came together, they became one; but in their oneness produced a third, and then a fourth. Such is the mystery of biblical math.
Same-sex couplings, by contrast, can never be unitive or multiplicative because they lack the complementary features to do so. Consequently, the biblical reproach of homosexual sex is not some religious relic proved false by modern science; it’s a timeless judgment against behavior that is contrary to our God-given design and purpose.
Jesus reaffirms the human design in the Gospel of Mark: “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one.”
That would have been an opportune time for Jesus to be inclusive and expand marriage to other constellations of relationships (man-man, woman-woman, groups, human-nonhuman, etc). Instead, he expands the reach of the Law. (Evidently, he didn’t foresee the revelations of twentieth-century science!)
In a series of “You have heard … but I tell you,” Jesus informs his audience that not only is adultery wrong, even lustful looks are wrong. Notice that Jesus does not limit this teaching to married people, but to those who entertain desires for someone other than their spouse. Since there is no biblical provision for same-sex marriage, all unrestrained homosexual desire would also be, in Jesus’s judgment, sinful. (But then, Jesus probably wasn’t aware of modern insights from “personal experiences” either.)
All that said, as sinners, homosexuals are no different from anyone else. Each of us is grappling with our own menu of sinful thoughts and behaviors. The church is to be a place where we are neither affirmed in our sins (whatever they may be) nor condemned for them; but a place where we are joined together on the life-long journey of transformation, overcoming sin’s gravitational pull, if incrementally and incompletely, through the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit and the caring community of faith.
Editor’s note: Pictured above is a detail from “Idyll, Ancient Family” painted by William Bouguereau after 1860.