The new age of Heterophobia
(No, you read right, "The vicar on Radio Four..").
In other words there are now only two kinds of people in the world. Those who agree with homosexual behaviour, the good guys, and those who don't: the bad guys who hate gays.
There is no longer a place in that vicar's world for people who believe, in good conscience and on solid grounds, that heterosexual behaviour between one man and one woman in marriage is the only right sexual behaviour.
In other words, we have entered the new world of, let's call it heterophobia, where we who only agree with heterosexual behaviour are the new hated enemy.
My own guess is that persecution of Christians in the West will soon arise from this quarter; that we will be persecuted, prohibited, fined or/and imprisoned one day for holding the sincere view that homosexual behaviour is sinful and wrong.
The vast difference between homophobia and a Christian attitude to homosexuality
It was convenient - but completely wrong - for the gay vicar to suggest that if you are against homosexual behaviour you hate gays. My guess is that he knew full well what he was doing and that it was a manipulative attempt to lump everyone who disagrees with him into a hate bracket, where they become an easier target for the different but more obvious sin of hatred. Tar those who disagree with homosexuality with a "hate" brush and you have produced an easier (not to mention nastier) target for elimination.
Tragically in the US there are some isolated groups that call themselves "Christian" who wear the hate badge proudly, but they do not represent the Jesus of Nazareth, portrayed in the Scriptures.
The Jesus of the Bible is just the opposite. When he meets someone whom he believes to be in the wrong, his heart is filled with love, not hate. In fact, he got himself in trouble for hanging out with the "bad guys" and had to defend his reputation by telling everyone that he came to "seek and to save the lost".
On one occasion when religious zealots brought before him a woman accused of adultery expecting him to damn her, he forgave her (but told her to go away and sin no more). Exactly the same attitude was to be found in his followers who had compassion on those they viewed as in error.
A Christian holds in her or his heart no hatred whatsoever towards those who practise homosexuality; exactly and precisely the opposite, they love gays. But they do believe that homosexual behaviour is sinful.
Why homosexual behaviour is wrong
Why? Why do Christians believe homosexual behaviour is wrong? Because it is the clear witness of Scripture, not to mention the witness of nature.
(1) God created men and women heterosexually
In the beginning God created a man and a woman (Genesis chapters 1-3) and throughout the Bible this is viewed as God's way of people living together in intimacy. Jesus pointed back to this as God's plan and ideal (Matthew 19:5-8). There are plenty of examples of men (for example marrying more than one wife) and some of women (for example prostituting themselves) moving outside of these boundaries in thought or deed (and who reading this blog hasn't been tempted to go outside God's boundaries in thought, at least?) but God's ideal and God's way from the beginning was always one man and one woman for life. And when you look at the history of the world, this pattern is borne out as the norm: nature teaches the same as Scripture.
(2) The fall of mankind has messed all of us up sexually
Once the fall of mankind (Genesis 3) took place, though, sex - like everything else - became distorted. In some cases the servant becomes a master, enslaving people. In others cases sex itself becomes twisted, and as Paul puts it, men become captive to "shameful lusts" (Romans 1:26) and "abandon natural relations with women." Relations between men and women are natural, and relations between men and men are unnatural. The same is said for women who "exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones".
We are all messed up sexually. For heterosexuals this twistedness will show itself up in unwanted temptations of lust and desire. For others, they may discover an attraction to their own sex, either 'from birth' or perhaps through the corrupting influence of someone else. Both kinds, all kinds, of sexual messed-upness are wrong.
In a sex-mad world, we must all watch out for sexual temptation. Perhaps that is one of the misleading imbalances of the debate today. We must not as churches focus on one kind of sexual sin - perhaps giving the misleading impression that we are targeting homosexuality. Instead we must speak against every form of sexual twistedness, whether hetero or homo, and pray for repentance across the board.
Not surprisingly, since homosexuality is wrong, it involves significant health risks. In a report by Dr J R Diggs, he says that "sexual relationships between members of the same sex expose gays, lesbians and bisexuals to extreme risks of sexually transmitted diseases, physical injuries, mental disorders and even a shortened life span." See the whole article here: The Health Risks of Gay Sex by Dr J R Diggs. If we love people, we must tell them the truth (but the truth in this article is not pleasant reading: you have been warned).
(3) The Scriptures make it clear that homosexual behaviour is as wrong as heterosexual sin.
Adultery is wrong (Exodus 20:14) and so is homosexual behaviour (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13). God judged Sodom and Gomorrah for this sin (Genesis 19). Men who practise homosexual behaviour have become "inflamed with lust for one another" and are committing "indecent acts with other men." (Romans 1). No-one who practises this kind of behaviour will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
The Scriptures Jesus commended (the Old Testament) and the Scriptures his apostles would write in his name (the New Testament) all point in the same direction: all sexual behaviour outside of one-man-one-woman marriage, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is wrong and sinful.
So how should we respond in life?
(1) Let's not isolate one kind of wrong behaviour. Let us speak out against all sexual twistedness and speak out against all deviations from God's norm.
(2) Let's understand why there is so great a concern, though, about this sin. There is a reason why Christians speak with heightened voice and deeper sadness about homosexual sin: the apostle Paul teaches that it as an indication of a culture moving even further from God and standing under the judgement of God: if heterosexual sin is step 1 away from God (Romans 1:24), homosexual sin is step 2 (Romans 2:26-27). The indecent acts men commit in homosexual behaviour, explain why Paul calls it 'unnatural' and why even natural unaided reason speaks against it.
(3) Let us love the Christian struggling with gay tendencies. Because we are all twisted sexually, some will find they are naturally drawn to their own sex. Although many of us may find that kind of attraction strange, it does happen. (A man with the gift of singleness once told me he found relationships with a woman strange!) Let us treat such fellow Christians with great kindness. In our love for them, we must insist that practicing homosexual behavior is always wrong and the struggle they face may be THE STRUGGLE of their whole lives. But God will come to their aid, as he does for all who struggle. To those who were sinners of all kinds - including practising homosexuals - but who were then converted, Paul writes:
"that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:11)
(4) Let us not magnify this issue out of proportion. I have written over a hundred blogs. One on this issue is probably enough.
(5) Let us love the gay community. There is no place whatsoever, in Christian thinking, for rejecting gay people. Like all of us, they need the Good News of Jesus Christ too.
Answering some common objections
How do we answer common objections to the Scripture's stance?
(1) "But most people in our country now think it's OK." The media, who are populated by a greater proportion of people who hold this view, have done a thorough job of popularising gay relationships and making them look 'natural'. Gay relationships appear on the soaps, on game shows, and so on. At this year's BAFTA awards (2013), Stephen Fry made it clear he likes men. Prime Ministers and Presidents have joined the cue to approve of this sin. But a sin's acceptability or popularity does not make it right. In fact the rapid reversal of popular opinion on this matter in our country is the result of a tragic ignorance of God's Word and a sign of God's judgement upon us.
(2) "But don't gay people love each other?" By portraying gay couples kissing one another and having "weddings", gay relationships have hijacked the norm previously rightly reserved for heterosexual relationships. But, again, it is possible for a human being to love what is unnatural and wrong. The world is filled with examples of human beings sincerely loving what is wrong. Any one of us can love what is wrong. The fact that we love something is not an argument for its rightness. Drug addicts love drugs, alcoholics love alcohol. The love of a thing is not an indication of its propriety. In a twisted world we will discover many wrong loves.
(3) "But aren't we are being anti-equality denying marriage to gays?" This is perhaps the most subtle argument of all, because it appeals to our sense of justice. And the gay lobby have successfully used this argument to place the gay marriage issue in the same category as that of the slave trade and equality between the sexes in the work place.
But it is a confusion (a clever confusion, no doubt) to place these issues in the same category for the following reason. Men and women of all colours and races, are made equal in the sight of God, and deserve equal treatment. Equality in this case is right and proper, it is equality among equals. But it is a confusion to equate equality between people to equality between relationships. Not all relationships are in point of fact equal. Some relationships are right (heterosexual marriage) and some relationships are wrong (gay 'marriage'). Some relationships can produce children, some cannot. Homosexual and heterosexual relationships are not, in point of fact, equal, so it is a simple category mistake to lump the gay 'marriage' issue with the slavery issue. The reason for this identity is simple politics: it cloaks the gay issue with words such as "justice" equality" etc., which all people believe in, and therefore draws in the unwary and unthinking.
Homosexual people are equal to heterosexual people - we are all sinners in God's holy sight. But homosexual relationships are not equal to heterosexual relationships.
A word to the church
We who love the Lord Jesus Christ and love the lost world he loved, must now brace ourselves for opposition - and for deliberate and sustained misunderstanding. In particular, we will be accused of two crimes: (a) hating gays, which we do the opposite of, and (b) treating them unequally, which again is false: we treat the people the same, but don't regard all relationships as equal. But this is not at all surprising or new. In the first few centuries of the church rumours of all kinds about Christians went around unchecked. Some said that Christians ate babies at their initiation ceremonies. Others said that Christians worshipped the head of a donkey. Still others that they partook of orgies at their love feasts. None of these were true, of course.
In spite of the persecution (because of the persecution?), the church grew dramatically. Tertullian, the African Christian leader put the growth like this:
“We are but of
yesterday, and we have filled every place among you – cities, islands,
fortresses, towns, market-places, the very camp, tribes, companies, palace,
senate, forum – we have left nothing to you but the temples of your gods.”
Perhaps through the persecution that surely looms ahead of faithful Christians, we too will see the church of Jesus Christ grow, flourish and deepen.