Thursday, March 22, 2007

Rev. Albert Mohler's article

I can't tell whether the uproar over Rev. Albert Mohler's blog post has more to do with how he upset fundamentalist Christians or how he upset the gay community. I guess it is a little of both.

Here's what upset the Christians:

We sin against homosexuals by insisting that sexual temptation and attraction are predominately chosen. We do not always (or even generally) choose our temptations. Nevertheless, we are absolutely responsible for what we do with sinful temptations, whatever our so-called sexual orientation.

Christians must be very careful not to claim that science can never prove a biological basis for sexual orientation. We can and must insist that no scientific finding can change the basic sinfulness of all homosexual behavior. The general trend of the research points to at least some biological factors behind sexual attraction, gender identity, and sexual orientation. This does not alter God's moral verdict on homosexual sin (or heterosexual sin, for that matter), but it does hold some promise that a deeper knowledge of homosexuality and its cause will allow for more effective ministries to those who struggle with this particular pattern of temptation. If such knowledge should ever be discovered, we should embrace it and use it for the greater good of humanity and for the greater glory of God.

Here's what upset gays:
If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin.

If you read the entire article, I think Mohler's overall position represents a notable triumph of reason over past fundamentalist irrationality, and I wish the gay community would pause for a moment and realize that. For a prominent Southern Baptist leader to exhort evangelicals to open up their minds to the possibility of a gay gene, and draw direct implications to 1) the ways Christians have sinned against gays and 2) how Christians can better minister to gays in the future, is huge. Huge. The social implications. The political implications. The ministry implications. All these would be profoundly affected if Christians would just realize that the possiblity that homosexuality isn't chosen does not undermine the teachings of the Bible.

Do I know for sure whether there is a genetic origin? No, I don't. But I have found, interestingly, that when I view and treat people "as if" their homosexuality were genetic, it ends up making the most sense out of their feelings and actions and choices. It is just an interesting observation I have noted as I await further developments from the scientific community.

Now what about Mohler's other, rather off-handed comment that if sexual orientation could be reversed in utero, Christians should "unapologetically" support such treatment. I would say that two things come to mind. First, his comment was brief and somewhat out of the blue, so he would need to explain what he means by "support." But given that not everyone in society agrees that homosexuality is a sinful/fallen condition, Christians should definitely not be out there rallying in favor of such treatment in our usual loud-mouthed way, because we would come off as if we were advocating the eradication of gay and lesbian people from society. This message is not merely offensive. It is personally threatening to gay people in a way that the rest of us can't imagine or appreciate.

Plenty of gay and lesbian people think their gayness is a perfectly natural part of who they are. Plenty of gay and lesbian people who are Christian think that God created them to be gay. I disagree with them. But there is a chance I may be wrong. And because I may be wrong I am not going to go around advocating a means to achieve their non-existence. Even if I was completely convinced I was "right" I wouldn't do it, because it is not my place to try and implement an orientation make-over on the human race.

That said, my second reaction to Mohler's comment yanks me back in the opposite direction when I consider this question privately as a parent. What if the decision about my own child's sexual orientation rested upon me alone, and this decision had to be made while the child was in utero? What would I do?

I should say first off that as a parent I am prepared to handle a situation where any one of my children might turn out gay. I am not upset, distressed or panicky over the thought. I have given it quite a lot of consideration. So my concern in this hypothetical scenario would not be for myself, but for my child.

Now suppose I were to decide that I can fully accept a gay child and I let things take their natural course. But suppose that child grows up and is not able to love and accept him- or herself as I do. My love and acceptance is simply not enough to counteract the hostility and rejection they feel from the church and society around them. Then they find out that I could have had them turn out straight, but I chose not to, and they tell me, "Why did you let this happen? You've screwed up my life." I'm telling you, if my kid were to say that to me, I think the sadness and guilt would kill me.

I am not interested in exterminating gay and lesbian people from the human population. They have enriched my life. Yet if a decision regarding my own child were placed solely in my hands as a parent, then I would be forced to guess about what my child would want me to do, and I would feel safer guessing that they would want to be straight rather than gay.

I know a lot of the readers of this blog are gay. What would you have wanted your parents to do for you in that situation? Would you resent them if they could have changed your orientation but didn't? What if you had to make a decision regarding your own child? As a parent I'd be interested to know.