In this post I’m responding to an excellent question by one of my Recliner Commentaries readers. John asked,
“Even if one believes that being gay is a sin, why do so many believe (or at least, act as if) it is a sin worse than all others? I don't understand the fixation on homosexuals - and I have been a churchgoer my entire life (although I obviously take issue with the politics of the Christian Right).”
His excellent question requires a long response. First, I will acknowledge that some Evangelical Christians are just self-righteous bigots who hate gay people. I have pointed out elsewhere in this blog that Jesus saves his harshest criticism for self-righteous religious leaders who looked down their noses at others (Matthew 23). If I had to guess, I would guess that such self-righteous arrogance is probably a more serious sin in the eyes of God than almost any other sin.
According to St. Paul, we’ve all sinned in the sight of God and none of us has any basis for self-righteousness (Romans 1-3).
Second, I would agree with many Evangelicals who believe that being gay is not sin—the sin is in the behavior, not the orientation.
Third, regarding why some of us believe homosexual sex is more serious than some other sins: I usually don’t engage in theological discussions on the front page of this blog since I assume that most of my readers are not Christians. But since you asked: Leviticus 18 lists a whole host of sexual sins—including homosexuality—and calls these sins “abomination,” perversion, and says that the land was vomiting out the inhabitants because of these sins. So Evangelicals don’t necessarily think homosexual sex is a worse sin than having sex with your father, mother, sister, brother, animal, neighbor’s wife or other behaviors condemned in Leviticus 18, but the writer of Leviticus definitely seems to be placing these sins on a more serious level than some other sins.
Some will argue that we don’t follow the Old Testament any more. It is, of course, true that not even Orthodox Jews follow all of the Old Testament today and it is also true that Christians believe that Jesus fulfilled or annulled some Old Testament laws. But just because some laws may have been temporary does not mean that all laws were temporary (fortunately, we still frown on murder).
I'll resist the temptation to engage in a lengthy theological discussion of this issue, but suffice it to say that for Christians who take the Old Testament seriously, it would seem that God takes these particular sexual sins (Lev. 18) seriously and in fact, I suspect that this is precisely why Paul, according to some interpreters, seemed to place sexual sin in general on a more serious level than some other sins (1 Cor. 6:18).
[One of my responders once provided links to a source that tried to argue that the Bible really doesn’t condemn homosexual sex. I majored in Hebrew and Greek, so I examined the arguments in some detail, and determined that the arguments were, in my opinion, simply examples of casuistry (i.e. arguments which appear to be scholarly on the surface, but upon further investigation are filled with illogical nonsense). People are certainly free to disagree with the Bible, but there can be no serious doubt that the Bible places homosexual sex, along with incest, bestiality, adultery, etc. in a very serious category].
There is another reason; however, that many of us are “fixated” on the homosexual issue. That is because many gay rights activists (note, I did not say all homosexuals) are not satisfied with tolerance. Some want nothing less than full acceptance of their lifestyle, and want their views forcibly imposed on everyone else. Already in Europe, Australia and even Canada, speaking against homosexuality may get you fined or even imprisoned. Even in America, homosexuals in Ohio filed discrimination charges against a librarian who simply recommended a book that was unfavorable toward gay activists. An adoption agency in Boston has to close down because its religious convictions are incompatible with pro-gay public policy. A Christian school in California is being sued because they have behavior codes against sex.
Other examples have been cited in this blog, but the point is that when same-sex marriage becomes part of American public policy, legal experts (also cited on this blog) predict that the coming war on religious freedom is going to be a “train wreck.” And unfortunately, we saw in the case of Bob Jones University, that public policy sometimes trumps the Constitution (I think Bob Jones’ University’s policies were not only racist and despicable, but terrible theology—but the Constitution gives people the right to have stupid theology and I think everyone should be concerned that the government would use tax laws to manipulate or censor religious institutions).
Anyway, some gay activists try desperately to deny or downplay this coming legal train wreck but the assault against religious freedom is already beginning. To argue that it will not increase when same sex marriage is official public policy is either very naive or just plan dishonest.
Finally, some of us are genuinely concerned over people’s lives and heath. Contrary to a very well organized PR campaign, AIDS is not a heterosexual disease. “Former Surgeon C. Everett Koop “admitted under oath in congressional hearings that only about 4 percent of AIDS transmissions worldwide could be traced to heterosexual contact, and that in the United States, only 2.3 percent of AIDS cases came from heterosexual contact, and ‘most of that is in sexual partners of IV drug abusers” (Coulter, Godless, 181). In a book that was largely ignored by the media, a researcher examined dozens of scientific studies on AIDS and concluded that AIDS was transmitted almost entirely through anal intercourse and IV drug use, almost never vaginally (Sex at Risk by Stuart Brody).
The whole idea that AIDS is a heterosexual disease is a PR campaign designed, among other things, to bring in more money for AIDS research. It is one thing if homosexual men want to have sex with each other—it is quite another thing when homosexual activists try to push homosexuality on “undecided” kids and try to make homosexual sex an accepted lifestyle. This is a lifestyle that is causing enormous suffering and is destroying human lives by the millions.
All of this is why some of us think this is such a big issue. Now I have a serious question for you (excuse me for being blunt): How is it that many Christians can seemingly ignore the Bible, ignore what seems to be a clear and present danger to freedom of religion, and ignore the enormous suffering and public health danger posed by the promotion of homosexual, i.e. anal sex? It appears to some of us that some Christians will do anything to be politically correct and to avoid being out of step with whatever happens to be accepted by contemporary conventional “wisdom.”