As one who has grown up immersed in a strongly Christ-centered family and community, I find that I exhibit the tendency to adhere to the received, orthodox Christian tenets I absorbed during that time. At the same time, I have a faith that I can call my own, which is entirely personal in origin, and which is based on just that: faith, my faith, which I deeply feel and which is the expression of my understanding that I ultimately need God, that I need Him to love me and help me, that I need Him to do the same for others, and that all of us need Him to hold the world together and ultimately to redeem it. My walk in faith is defined by reconciling Christian principles with the faith I know. Christian principles are the basis of that faith, for without the Gospel I would have no knowledge of Christ’s redeeming power and His love for mankind, nor could I trust in it or feel it. And my faith, now established, is a lens through which I now look at those same principles.
I say this because I fear that I and many other Christians have had the misfortune of leaving our knowledge and our faith in separate categories. If “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1), why do we treat the written Word as separate from the living Word? The two are one and the same, and it is fruitless to consider the one without the other. One literal message of the Gospel, for example, is to give sustenance to the needy (e.g. Mark 10:35-45). This is just an objective command. But unless this practice cultivates a loving and generous heart, it is worthless, for Christ’s greatest commandment with respect to other humans is to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Christians’ responsibility to add faith to their knowledge can be illustrated using the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Just as the master gives money to his servants to protect but also wants them to invest it to make a profit, Jesus gives us commands and examples about bringing people out of degradation, but would also have us use those commands to develop our own convictions about the importance of doing so. This is the point of all of Jesus’s acts of healing and generosity on Earth. Moreover, all of the most forceful Christian moral movements have worked towards this goal, including the anti-slavery movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s suffrage movement, and the work of inner-city black churches and Christian missionary-aid workers today. People with non-straight orientations currently suffer from all the aspects of ostracism, dehumanization and social poverty that Christ condemned, and many are struggling with HIV/AIDS. Countering these evils is a necessity for all who would live by the convictions of their faith in Christ.
If it could be shown that living according to a non-straight orientation keeps people in a state of degradation, then it would follow that Jesus would want people to deny these orientations. But by no means can such an assertion be proven with scripture. The oft-quoted passage of Romans 1:24-27 states that homosexuality is connected with the moral decline of humanity, and from this Christians derive the notion that homosexual acts and thoughts should be discouraged today. Yet many forget that this passage is part of a thematic overview of the decline of man, which is described in much greater detail in the opening chapters of Genesis. Here, the story of Adam and Eve paints an overwhelmingly clear picture of the connection of heterosexual sexuality with humanity’s decline. Adam and Eve ate the fruit given them by Satan in violation of God’s wishes, and immediately “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Genesis 3:7). It was only the result of Adam and Eve’s sin that they even had a heterosexual drive that would make them aware of their sexual characteristics. Sex until that point could only have been pleasureless and absent of a heterosexual drive, or they would have had to cover themselves earlier. Moreover, the gender traits that some assert make males and females necessarily “complementary” are in fact punishments as a result of the fall: the tendencies toward female subordination and male bread-earning are created in Genesis 3:16-19. Procreation in Eden is itself doubtful, since Eve was not given her name (“mother of all the living,” Genesis 4:20) until after the fall. Yet as modern humans we do not condemn heterosexuality; we recognize sexuality as a mortal condition, yet we celebrate our humanity, our healthy enjoyment of physical pleasure, and the romantic relationships that sex engenders. Condemnation of other orientations based on their connection with the moral fall of man overlooks our lenience toward heterosexuality, and implies that we should avoid romance and sex altogether.
We do not do so, and for good reason. Adam and Eve’s human response to their downfall is to create a family, “with the help of the Lord” (Genesis 4:1). Cain worked the fields and Abel tended the sheep to provide for their parents. The family is the social unit that enables humanity to survive the dreadful state of decay in which it currently finds itself. Sex, to the extent that it helps form a family, is good. Only heterosexual couples can reproduce, but sexual attraction facilitates the romantic bonds that encourage any two people to start a family, and sex helps keep the family together once it is created. Those who believe in the sanctity of the family are absolutely correct; their failure is in their false assumption that heterosexuality is uniquely blessed.
Stephen Dewey ’07 is a Government concentrator in Wigglesworth. He welcomes comments at email@example.com