Saying yes to the sin?
For six months I’ve conducted research into the situation of LGBT-people in the Christian church, especially in the context of their possible coming-out. One part of this research consists in interviews with ‘not-out’ and ‘out’ LGBT-Christians. Many aspects articulated by them in these interviews deserve the attention not only of pastoral ministers, but also of Christian theologians. For the needs of this paper I decided to mention only one of them.
Working on this topic I’ve encountered people with similar experience based on the same position presented to them by representatives of the pertaining Christian denomination. The mentioned experience stands in a direct connection with the event of coming-out, which can be interpreted as the main experience of transition, a kind of rite of passage sui generis of LGBT-people. Specifically in the Christian context, this psychological and social crisis of coming out involves ethical features, which should be theologically and ethically reflected upon.
A fifth of respondents (7/34) testify that they had to face a similar position, as I will quote from a response of one young man (32) coming from an active evangelical Christian family:
Since 17 I’ve done many sexual experiences. And if I’m saying man, I really mean many. Till today I have had sex with over than 500 men. Most of them I met only in account of having sex with them, I even haven’t known their name. Doing sex was for me something like doing sport. I have done it just for fun, because it’s very pleasant. Now I am in a relationship with a man, who I met a half a year ago. He was one of my anonymous partners. For me this is a new kind of experience – we try to create a stable partnership. And ‘stable’ means faithful and exclusive.
I told about this man and about our love to the representative of my church, who has known me for many years and who is familiar with my personal history. But I was very surprised by his reaction. He was really upset and angry with me. He told me, with this step I’ve confirmed my bad way, I’ve said yes to the sin and opened the door for the evil. He told, I had accepted my homosexual identity, which is forbidden by the Bible. In an argument I had with him, he told me, for God it was better if I have various sexual partners than a stable gay relationship. Promiscuous behaviour could be understood as a failure, unwanted fruit of weakness. This couldn’t be affirmed about a relationship planned to be for the whole life. The many acts of my previous sexual behaviour were for him only physical, only body-related, and instinctive. But in the relationship I was involved with my mind, my emotions, and my will too. I really can’t accept their positions, because I can’t stay alone – without another man and without sex, neither I won’t back my ‘old life’, my promiscuity. With my boyfriend I feel very happy. But I am not accepted by my own Christian assembly.
I have to admit, I was shocked hearing that. But I find in such testimonies a great possibility of reflecting on our positions, of being confronted with their effects.
Aren’t we Christians not too easily used to understanding human sexuality (whether homo- or heterosexual) too materialistically – mainly in connection with body, with flesh? Everybody knows, that the flesh is weak (Mt 26,41), so that these ‘small imperfections’ like promiscuous sexual behaviour, could be indulged and easily forgiven. We all are imperfect. Who we are to judge other people?!
We are used to seeing sexuality in the frame of marital relationships: “Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament” (CCC 2360). The idea of a connection between sexual behaviour and the creating of a long-life relationship is known. But the field is very clearly restricted, so that many numerous groups of people are excluded.
Another question is the reason for the division of the body and emotions in cases of sexual activity? Why should the anonymous sexual behaviour find more acceptance than a faithful and exclusive gay partnership? I’m afraid we are still not able to see and evaluate the human behaviour in the context of personal history. Our thinking is too deeply rooted in a common estimation of single ‘acts’ (so called actus humanus), despite a very vague alignment of them. Are we able to see them as parts of a special dynamics included into the person’s own narrative? Are we liable of some kind of vulgar Platonism?
Many questions, much more than answers. But one is clear: the consequences of this interpretation are unwantedly destructive: a support for promiscuity or quitting of the church community. We are obliged to pay attention to the reality of human ways of living at least with the same intensity as we pay to the tradition of our own doctrine.