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Note: This post contains frank content of a sexual nature.
Note 2: This week, the Christian world has been abuzz about the World Vision decision and the reversal of that decision. Tomorrow, Mike Bell will address that issue specifically. Today’s post grows out of some self-examination that came as I thought about various articles and comments I read about the WV situation, which were often strongly worded and even inflammatory. Why do Christians seem to be so obsessed with this issue of homosexuality?
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“Gay” and “homosexual” are polite terms for an ugly practice. They are euphemisms. In all the politeness, we’ve actually stopped talking about the things that lie at the heart of the issue–sexual promiscuity of an abominable sort. … And I think it would be a good thing if more people were gagging on the reality of the sexual behavior that is now becoming public law, protected, and even promoted in public schools.
– The Importance of Your Gag Reflex When Discussing
Homosexuality and “Gay Marriage”
by Thabiti Anyabwile
Let’s get real.
The most basic reason many Christians and other cultural conservatives are opposed to homosexuality is not because the Bible teaches it, because they have high moral standards or an exalted view of marriage. At its root, their disapproval is not about ideas. It is not first about values, family or otherwise. It is not primarily about social concern or the welfare of children.
These are the things people talk about. These are the reasons people give. These are the talking points in the debates and articles. But they are secondary to the real issue.
The real issue, the one no one wants to talk about, is that many Christians and moral conservatives are repulsed by gay sex. It’s a visceral thing, not an intellectual thing. It’s about what they feel in their gut, not what they find in their Bibles. When they say it’s an “abomination,” what they mean is not that homosexual practice is worthy of judgment, they mean it makes them gag. When they say it is “unnatural,” they are not advancing a natural law argument, they are saying “Yuck!” They find gay sex repugnant, sickening, gross.
Gospel Coalition Council member Thabiti Anyabwile admits and actually advocates this when he writes:
So what are we talking about? (Warning: Obscene descriptions follow. If sensitive in conscience, skip the block quotes below and go to the conclusion)
We are talking about one man inserting the male organ used to create life into the part of another man used to excrete waste. We are talking about one man taking the penis of another man into his mouth, or engaging in penis-to-penis grinding.
We are talking about a woman using her mouth to stimilute [sic] the nipples, vulva, clitoris or vagina of another woman, or using her hand or other “toys” to simulate sexual intercourse.
We are talking about anilingus [sic] and other things I still cannot name or describe.
That sense of moral outrage you’re now likely feeling–either at the descriptions above or at me for writing them–that gut-wrenching, jaw-clenching, hand-over-your-mouth, “I feel dirty” moral outrage is the gag reflex. It’s what you quietly felt when you read “two men deep kissing” in the second paragraph. Your moral sensibilities have been provoked–and rightly so. That reflex triggered by an accurate description of homosexual behavior will be the beginning of the recovery of moral sense and sensibility when it comes to the so-called “gay marriage” debate.
Despite what he says, this is not “moral” outrage. Anyabwile’s words describe a physical and emotional reflexive reaction to something he finds shockingly distasteful, as though someone set a plate of stinking, rotting food in front of him.
In case you are wondering, I find Thabiti Anyabwile’s words and attitude repulsive.
But on the other hand, I am going to confess something here.
I will admit to having some of this reaction myself — not to the extent Anyabwile describes, but an aversion nevertheless. I’m not attracted to gay love stories. I have no interest in seeing films like Brokeback Mountain, and my chest still tightens a bit when I see a same sex kiss on television. It wouldn’t be honest for me to write this and not come clean. I try not to let my unease influence the way I treat others, but it is there nonetheless. I have gay friends. I get along with them great, but I find we don’t talk about such things the way I might talk with my heterosexual friends about intimate matters. It’s too uncomfortable.
Maybe some of this just means I’m your run-of-the-mill heterosexual, wired to respond to women, not attracted to members of my own sex and not interested in the experience.
However, I wonder. Where does the visceral reaction in me come from? The reflex? The discomfort? Was it a part of my upbringing? I don’t consciously recall being taught or influenced to feel this way. Was it an invisible, essential element in the moral atmosphere I breathed here in the U.S. heartland? Was it something I absorbed from the examples of people around me? Or am I so out of touch with my inner world that I can’t recognize my own innate prejudices or realize why I might feel threatened by homosexual practice? Am I just immature? Too small-minded and constitutionally weak to overcome my biases? Sometimes I wonder if my gay friends can see right through me and if they consider me a closet homophobe.
What bothers me most is that, as a follower of Jesus, my most visceral reaction to my neighbors should be grace, kindness, love, and forbearance. That is the reflex of the Spirit, right? I mean, it’s okay if I don’t agree with someone’s lifestyle or consider their ideas foolish or don’t think their choices are good. It is also all right if I don’t find things they do stimulating or take interest in their private behavior or enjoy depictions of their subculture.
But for God’s sake, I’m called to love my neighbors, to serve them, and even lay my life down for them. That’s the Jesus-shaped reflex. And Jesus calls me to do that even if, for whatever reason, I find myself in a position where they are my enemies. I fail to see how anyone can love like Jesus while harboring the kinds of feelings people like Thabiti Anyabwile promote.
I don’t trust myself (or anyone else for that matter) to nurture “moral outrage” within when it comes to relating to others. Mainly because I don’t believe it reflects genuine “moral outrage.” And I for one want to own up to my weakness here.
Maybe, if we can start talking honestly about what we’re really feeling instead of covering all that up with talk about ideas, principles, values, and “biblical” standards, we might actually come to understand each other a little more and make some progress in promoting genuine love and respect.