“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Genesis 1:27
“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” Luke 18:11
A few months ago I found myself seated among people whose conversation transgressed against intellectual rigor. To my right was a certain deacon of the Episcopal Church who was still just beginning ECUSA withdraw (we call them “recovering ECUSAns”), and to my left was a layman who had yet to begin his own withdraw. Speaking of one of the bishops of the Episcopal Church, the layman said, “I think he’s really gay, but just doesn’t know it yet.” The recovering “deacon” answered, “I agree.” I tried to explain to both of these men that they had just invented a category of human being that does not exist. My words were wasted on them. Finally, the “deacon” said, “I don’t understand homosexuality.” Then he emitted a nervous chuckle.
I suppose he meant that he could not empathize with it. Neither can I; but I have considered it my duty to try to learn all that I can from genuine psychology, that is the rare and now censored kind that studied human behavior scientifically rather than attempting to fit everything into an overarching theory. How else can I, a priest, minister to “all sorts and conditions of men” in the real world? So, in terms of reading and study, as well as observations in the field when talking to real people of every stripe, both in my ministry and in my former work in hospitals and among discharged patients, I have come to understand the homosexual as well as I possibly can. And, I am not impressed by clergymen who fail to make it their business to study the real world in which sinners live and die. I have had to understand others too, such as drug addicts. The fact that I have never even used illegal drugs, and the fact that I have never had any sort of “same sex attraction,” does not stop me from doing the best I can to know the facts about the sins that enslave people. A real priest knows that the streets are always part of his parish.
These two men assumed that the man of whom they spoke could be “gay” and not know it. Their first mistake is in using the word “gay.” They mean that he is a homosexual. But, most such people are by no means gay, or happy in any way. The folks who have been using the word “gay” are the militant sinners who have “come out of the closet” to boldly proclaim their life of sin and to demand that the rest of us approve, if not applaud. Furthermore, the word “homosexual” is also a word that cannot fail to deceive. There is no such person as a homosexual, since “male and female created He them.” We will return to this point.
What the two men assumed only proved that they had fallen for the lie that pervades modern society. They assumed that a person could be what they call “gay” by nature. Modern people have been pondering the possibility of a “gay gene” for years. But, the idea that same sex attraction is the actual nature of any person remains a bit of fantasy that has no scientific basis, and for which there is no evidence. Much theory has been promulgated, but no facts have been established to support the idea. Far more plausible is the older belief that was based on the only kind of science available to the world of psychology, namely observation of human behavior. Simply put, the causes of this attraction can be explained scientifically only in terms that are psychological, not physical. Furthermore, if a man old enough to be a bishop in ECUSA felt this kind of attraction, he would have known it long ago (and maybe he does). To believe that this disorder is part of human nature denies the teaching of scripture. God made two sexes, not a multiplicity of “genders.”
Their shallow theology matched their shallow science. The major reason that one had left ECUSA, and the other was disgusted with it, was the open acceptance of homosexual sin. The “deacon” had spent years sending children into a Sunday School class taught by a woman who proudly and openly lived with her Lesbian lover and their adopted child. And, he spoke of the children returning every week from Sunday School in time to watch two men from the choir (the recipients of an ECUSAn blessing on their “same sex union”) walk up to the communion rail holding hands. The state of his mind puzzles me. He disapproved of something he thought to be an expression of their true natures, rather than willful sin. In the shallowness of this kind of theology, was he assuming that people are in danger of damnation due to their nature, instead of their sin? Did God make them to be this way, and furthermore in order to damn them, whether or not they committed the acts of sin that would be the fruit of such an alleged nature?
I have said there is no such thing as a homosexual (or Lesbian), because God has made only two sexes, male and female.* However, it certainly must seem to the person who experiences same sex attraction that the feelings come from nature. In one sense they do. The male who feels these things feels the same kind of attraction as all other men, and it is stimulated by what he sees or what he thinks, as with all other men. The female also feels the attraction according to the same impulses felt by other women. In both cases the feelings are natural to men and women; what is not natural, however, is the source of the attraction itself, the attraction to one’s own sex instead of the opposite sex. Furthermore, the psychological state that produces this disorder is not a sin in itself, but rather a temptation experienced by a minority of individuals. The temptation itself is never a sin.
Accordingly, the Church has never taught that individuals who experience such feelings and temptations are somehow special objects of God’s wrath, or that they cannot live by God’s grace in such a way as to rise above the temptation and overcome it. The moral consideration is always a question of behavior. Obviously, a person can acquire culpability by placing himself in a state of temptation rather than avoiding it, as is the case with everybody living about every kind of sin there is. The saint is the one who loves God and so overcomes temptation by resisting it, and often the saint has had to repent and be forgiven for past sins before learning to stand firm. In this sense, the person with same sex attraction is no different from the person who has to fight temptations to adultery or fornication, or perhaps pornography and self-abuse. But, it is here that everyone must consider the promise our Lord made repeatedly in the opening chapters of the Book of Revelation to the one who overcomes.
When we speak of homosexuals and heterosexuals, we abuse language and imply that different natures exist other than the two sexes. For this reason, modern people use the word “gender” incorrectly. This word applies to the use of language, specifically articles as they are in most languages other than English. It is not a word with biological, but rather linguistic definition. The purpose in using the word “gender” for human beings is to avoid the fact that we come in only two sexes. No man is a homosexual, but some men are sodomites; and this speaks to the only genuine issue of morality, namely behavior. The Bible does not speak of people in this category, but of acts. People are always “male and female.”
The fact is established that many people claim that their same sex attraction has been cured. For others, such an approach has not worked. From a moral perspective, if someone is cured of same sex attraction only to become an adulterer or fornicator, nothing good has come out of it. One sin is traded for another, one life of sin for another. On the other hand, if someone seeks such a cure and receives it in order to enter into a true and valid marriage, to have children and take a godly place in that vocation, then something good has been achieved. However, to treat such a cure as good in itself, without moral improvement, or without the grace of the marriage sacrament, is not acceptable and orthodox moral theology.
Finally, my colleague Fr. Matthew Kirby made a statement that seems to have been misunderstood. In recent comments he wrote: “all human sexuality is disordered from the Fall onwards, like everything else.” This was a theological statement, and a true one at that. When his position was criticized, I defended it with these words:
“When Fr. Kirby speaks of disordered sexuality as a universal condition of the Fall, his theology is completely correct. It was a theological statement, not a theory from psychology. If not for this general disorder, each man would have the grace to want only his own wife, and no other woman, even in the most random thoughts and the most involuntary and fleeting urge. So, too, the woman for her husband. The Fall was the Fall from Grace **, and without that grace our urges fell from the perfect goodness of the image of God to something more basic and more of the nature of the animal. Fr. Kirby is quite right, therefore, in what he wrote.”
* Rare cases of the biological androgyne, where both kinds of genitalia (one inside, hidden and very small) are present in the same person, do not qualify as an argument against this teaching, any more than a person born blind indicates that it is the nature of human beings not to see. Furthermore, the biological androgyne really is one sex or the other, with extra genitalia probably due to a twin that never separated into a distinct person, and it can be corrected surgically. There have been other findings of deceased embryonic twins inside of a person.
** In a future post, I mean to explain the word “grace” as the Church has always understood it (a bigger subject than many Protestants have understood.)