True Identity and the LGBTQ Movement
Say the guy next door doesn’t like your spouse, your house, your children, your profession, etc. In all likelihood, you would say, in as many words, “Who cares?” You’re comfortable with the choices you’ve made and are unconcerned with whether they meet a cranky neighbor’s approval.
Why is it, then, that so many people who now identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender insist not only that society accepts them but also affirms and even celebrates their lifestyle choices? Why do they care so much?
One answer is that such persons can experience cruel rejection, bullying — or worse. They want protection and tolerance, and understandably so. Christians should revolt against anything that diminishes the dignity of another image-bearer of God. Whether people are, to quote the apostle Paul, “Greek and Jew, circumcised (or) uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free” (Colossians 3:11) or have diverse racial or religious backgrounds, respect and courtesy are the norms of decent social behavior. This extends to a man who asserts he is a woman or a woman who is drawn sexually to women.
However, LGBTQ activists demand something that transcends a reasonable desire for safety and civility. It’s become common for those who believe homosexual conduct is immoral to be called all manner of despicable names. Hater, homophobe, and bigot are among the tamer ones.
This assumes that disagreement about the morality and wisdom of certain sexual practices is intrinsically impossible. To argue that homosexual conduct is immoral and/or unhealthy and/or a violation of human morphology is to make claims grounded not in theology, medical science, or natural reason but in — one more time — hatred, homophobia, and bigotry.
This approach to public discourse is anything but honest, courageous, and thoughtful. It is fascistic in the truest sense of this term. Fascism “promotes the idea of a forcibly monolithic, regimented” ideology, sometimes compelled by a nation’s leadership (Italy under Mussolini, Germany under Hitler). In today’s America, though, this approach is taken by cultural and political forces in the media, entertainment, and academia that, working together, brands dissenters as ignorant, biased, and unfit for participation in the common experience of society.
Examples of this approach are legion. The many lawsuits imposed on various craftspeople, professionals, and academics by those demanding not tolerance but salutation for their sexual expressions are well-known. Churches that uphold biblical standards of sexual conduct are hateful; one gay writer has written an article titled, “When ‘Non-Denominational’ Really Means ‘Homophobic,’” in which he argues that a church he attended used the Bible “to justify their discriminatory denouncement” against homosexual behavior.
Discriminatory? Of course. Bible-believing churches do discriminate between sin and righteousness. This is, or should be, axiomatic. It’s why the use of Scripture to defend biblical sexual morality is not hostile. It is faithful.
Yet critics of traditional Jewish and Christian teaching — teaching still upheld by the major Christian traditions worldwide and by Orthodox Judaism — are unwilling to acknowledge that its adherents are anything but hateful and, therefore, should be outside the boundaries of mainstream culture.
This takes us back to my original question: Why the anger, the rage, the endless insistence by the sexual activists that LGBTQ-ism be welcomed as if the dawn of a new era of beauty and goodness? If I disagree, am I to be shunned, driven like a Mosaic scapegoat outside the national camp?
The reason that advocates of extreme sexual autonomy want society-wide celebration is that their sexuality is not just a matter of preference or even a biological disposition. It is their very identity.
This is why they can’t simply shrug-away cultural indifference or disapproval. To disagree with someone’s sexual expression is, for the activists, not about strong but relationally innocuous dissent. It is to deny the validity his very being.
The late sociologist Robert Bellah identified something he called “expressive individualism.” In his book “Habits of the Heart,” Bellah called this “a unique core of feeling and intuition that should unfold or be expressed if individuality is to be realized.” Applied to human sexuality, this implies that not just defining oneself and having the freedom to live accordingly is the right of every person, but also that to challenge this identity is to threaten another’s existence.
Not all LGBTQ people and their allies militate accordingly. Many people who identify as gay or lesbian live quietly and unobtrusively. But many march, banners high and voices loud, demanding not tolerance but triumph. They do not want only social acceptance or even legal protection. They want to silence those of us who believe what the Bible says about human sexuality, quashing opposition with ferocity. Our continued opposition is an affront to their self-created identities.
This presents enormous challenges to Christians standing for biblical truth and ministering biblical grace. One thing we must do better is challenge the narrative that one’s sexual desires define his being. Every person bears God’s image and likeness and possesses capacities for intimate relationship and moral reflection. This, not romantic or sexual attraction, composes the core of one’s identity.
We also need to express great compassion and be mindful of who we were prior to Christ. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:9b-11).
Greed. Theft. Heavy drinking. Swindling. All included right in with homosexuality. God’s promise is that these things can be done with — “such were some of you.” So, as we contest the idea of LGBTQ celebration, let’s remember that the good news of Jesus can transform even our staunchest opponents. After all, if He can save sinners like us, no one is outside the circle of His mercy.
Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Lecturer in Regent University's Honors College.