Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lust or love?

I was talking to some friends last night who would consider themselves to be more liberal-minded than most Christians with regard to social issues. Sure enough when they spoke of homosexuality, they were quick to acknowledge that it is no different than any of the other sins out there. But I was surprised to learn that their reasoning was that they characterized homosexuality as essentially "lust." One of my friends, a passionate Democrat, said, "It would be unfair to single out homosexual lust as if it were a special kind of sin, since heterosexuals lust too. Lust is lust."

Now, I'm glad that people are coming around to the idea that it's wrong to vilify homosexual people as some special category of sinner. But my understanding of gay and lesbian people is that their experience of homosexuality is not about being caught up in a continual state of lust. To say so is to characterize their homosexual feelings as fundamentally sordid and self-serving. It leaves no room for any of the feelings or impulses that belong to the higher order of human sexual experience such as emotional and spiritual bonding, mutual respect and admiration, the urge to give oneself to another, the desire to sacrifice oneself for another, or the conviction that you have found a "soul mate."

To say that homosexual people are all about the baser impulses of sexual attraction, minus any of the nobler feelings, is essentially saying they are less human than the rest of us. In other words, it is saying they are incapable of human love.

I think the reason the idea of homosexual love makes some Christians uncomfortable is that it doesn't provide much basis for their negative reaction to homosexuality. It would seem more justified if homosexuality were about people who are of a fundamentally lower moral quality. But to say that there are people who are capable of the exact same kind of sexual attraction as everyone else, except that they find themselves attracted to people of the same sex for reasons even they can't explain, is a more disturbing idea. It turns a part of your universe upside down. How can something as sacred and sublime as love take on this orientation? How could God allow this to happen? What is he doing? What does it mean? Why am I feeling so freaked out by it?

As much as Christians like to talk about "the homosexual agenda" and their righteous anger over "perversion," at its root this is really about the deep issues regarding our own personal faith, isn't it? As Christians we know we're not supposed to despise people. Everyone knows that. So we look for reasons to justify our uncomfortable feelings instead of just admitting we have them. Maybe that's why we make up stuff about how homosexuality is "lust" and "sex addiction" instead of just listening to what gay people have been telling us plainly about themselves until they are sick of saying it. Believing the made-up stuff is easier than having to accept the truth of the matter, than having to confront our own fears and phobias and doubts and questionings of God. We want to believe this is about "them" when it is really about us.