HOMOSEXUALITY AND RELIGION:
Homosexual topics covered in this essay:
||"I know that God created in me
a need to love, the ability to love. I cannot believe that God would be so spiteful to say
'Ha! you're gay, you can't do anything about it.'" Chris
Ambidge, co-convener of
Integrity's Toronto chapter, a support group for Anglican/Episcopalian gays and lesbians.
||"I think that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin,
but the Bible also teaches that pride is a sin, jealously is a sin,
and hate is a sin, evil thoughts are a sin, and so I don't think that
homosexuality should be chosen as the overwhelming sin that we are
doing today." Billy Graham, 20/20 program, 1997-MAY-2
||"I'm tired of people telling me that homosexuality is a
terrible sin. Homosexuality is not a sin. Heterosexuality is not a
sin. It is coerciveness, promiscuity, manipulation, lack of safety, and lack of
a prior commitment
that makes a sexual act sinful -- not the gender of the two people
involved." Anonymous posting to a gay mailing list.
Many points of great tension and debate in North America are related to gender, and
particularly to human sexuality. They include: abortion access, bisexuality, condom availability, erotic and
pornographic material, female ordination, free (clothes optional) beaches,
homosexuality, married clergy, power sharing within the family, premarital sex, the
roles of men and women, and sex-education.
Abortion access had been the topic of greatest concern, at least to
religious conservatives, for many years. However, homosexual rights
became the most important ethical issue by mid-2000. This may have been driven
by the decision by the Vermont legislature to create civil
unions for gays and lesbians in that state and the availability of same-sex
marriage in Massachusetts and throughout almost all
At the core of the homosexual issue is the concept of sexual orientation. It defines whom a person finds to be sexually
||Heterosexuals are attracted to members of the opposite gender.
||Homosexuals are attracted to members of the same gender
||Bisexuals are attracted to both men and women, but not necessarily to the
The beliefs of many North Americans about the nature of
homosexuality, fall into one of two patterns called "conservative"
and "liberal" in the table below. Because of space
limitations, some of the descriptions are necessarily very brief, and lack
Generally held by:
||NARTH the National Association for Research and Therapy of
Homosexuality -- a small association of therapists
||Most conservative Christians and their
||Religious conservatives within Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, etc.
||Some members of mainline religious denominations.
Generally held by:
||Human sexuality researchers.
||Professional mental health therapists and their associations.
||Gays, lesbians and bisexuals.
||Most religious liberals and their faith groups.
||Some members of mainline religious denominations
|Homosexuality is a behavior. It is what one does.||Homosexuality is an orientation. It is part of one's
|Attitude towards homosexuality is based largely on
biblical passages.||Attitude towards homosexuality is based largely on
scientific studies and personal awareness.|
|Homosexual behavior is intrinsically sinful, disordered, abnormal
and unnatural. It is an offense to God. God intends everyone to be
heterosexual.||Heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality are three normal, natural variations of
sexual orientation, found throughout all societies, cultures, and eras.|
|Individuals choose their sexual orientation at or
after puberty.||A person's eventual sexual orientation is determined
for them before school age.|
|Sexual orientation is determined by upbringing, not by genes.
Incompetent parenting skills by the parent of the same sex can cause
the child to become a homosexual later in life.||The tendency towards a particular sexual orientation
is genetically predetermined at conception. An
unknown environmental factor may or may not trigger
the "gay" gene(s) and determines the person's orientation.|
|Sexual orientation can be changed during adulthood through
reparative therapy and/or prayer.||Sexual orientation in adults is unchangeable.|
|Since homosexuality and heterosexuality are behaviors,
the concept of bisexuality is not really meaningful.||A continuum exists between homosexual and heterosexual orientation; a small minority of
people has a bisexual orientation.|
|Allowing gays and lesbians to have equal rights to
heterosexuals would encourage more youth to choose to become
homosexual.||Equal rights for gays and lesbians are fundamental human
rights issues similar to equality for woman, racial minorities, and the
|Sexually-active gays and lesbians should be refused
church membership||Sexually-active gays and lesbians should be welcomed
as church members|
|No sexually-active homosexual should be considered for
ordination.||No person should be ineligible for ordination because of their
However, within these two -- liberal and conservative -- viewpoints lie a
number of shades of belief. We have identified six specific points of view
which can be called
||Change is expected,
||Celibacy is expected,
About 75% of North American adults consider themselves to be Christian.
Christianity outnumbers each of the smaller organized religious groups in North
America by a factor of 50 or more. Thus, the relationship between homosexuality
and religion in the U.S. and Canada is almost entirely the relationship between homosexuality and
||Religiously liberal groups, like the United
Church of Christ, United Church of Canada
and Unitarian Universalist Association have
resolved the "homosexual issue." The denominations work
towards equal rights for gays and lesbians; they welcome homosexuals as
members; they ordain them as clergy.|
||Mainline denominations, like the Presbyterians
and Methodists are experiencing major internal conflict
over the issue. Disagreements are deep and appear irresolvable, at least in the short term.
There is a great deal of impassioned debate and little dialog.
Fault lines within the denominations may appear on many levels:
people may take a more liberal view; older members are often more conservative.
||There are often geographical divisions, with north eastern groups being
liberal and southern groups being conservative.
||An urban/rural split is also common.
||A major split is often between those who view homosexuals as a
group, and those who personally know a gay or lesbian as a close
||Religiously conservative groups, like the Southern
Baptists, the Assemblies of God, and other
Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christian denominations, have also resolved
the issue. They work towards maintaining special rights for heterosexuals,
defeating hate-crimes legislation that would protect gays and
lesbians, and promoting legislation to prevent homosexual marriages or
civil unions. Many denominations consider
homosexuality to be a special type of sin. Some teach, on the basis of 1 Corinthians 6:9, that gays are prohibited from
inheriting the Kingdom of God (heaven). They refuse membership and ordination
to sexually active gays and lesbians. They have no expectation of changing
their policy in the future.|
In theory, "there should be at least one place where people who experience
same gender attraction can expect justice & respect and thatís in a conservative
Christian church." 1 They teach that all people are
sinners. Thus, gays and lesbians should be accepted with open arms as fellow sinners.
However, in practice, it does not necessarily happen.
Justice and Respect, a conservative Christian group addressing the homosexual
issue comments: "Tragically, the knee jerk reaction
of 'shooting our wounded' is never more apparent than it is with SGA [same-gender
attraction] and these people who most need a sense of Christian love and community often
receive the least. We ...made our offer of love very conditional. It's time we
stop tolerating our own unChristlike behavior...It is time to become Jesus to the hurting
Many gays and lesbians remain partially or completely in the "closet". They
often view the church as the last place that they would want to "come out",
because of quite valid expectations of rejection and homophobia. This is a Catch 22 situation, because the most
effective way of changing a heterosexual's beliefs about homosexuality is for them to
befriend a homosexual.
We predict that over the next few decades, most Christian denominations will gradually
accept the following beliefs:
||A continuum of sexual orientation exists, from heterosexual to bisexual to homosexual.
||Adult sexual orientation is essentially unchangeable.
||The potential for Homosexuality is determined genetically in most or all people at the time of conception.
||Sexual orientation appears after puberty. However it is established,
and can be detected by skilled child psychologists, during early childhood.
||Since sexual orientation is not a matter of choice, homosexual and bisexual feelings
are not sinful.
Actions are a different matter. History has shown that whenever a minority
group becomes organized and demands equal rights, that they eventually attain
This was true of:
||African-Americans during the days of slavery.
||Women achieving the right to vote and to enter into any profession.
||Interracial couples seeking the right to marry.
If past precedents hold, then gays and lesbians will eventually attain equal
rights, including the right to marry.
By the year 2010, mainline Protestant denominations will probably catch up with liberal faith groups and will accept
sexually active persons
of all sexual orientations as members and clergy. They will eventually approve of same-sex
commitment or union services and adoption by homosexuals.
Fundamentalist and other Evangelical churches will probably make little or no movement
towards acceptance of homosexuality until 2010 -- probably much later.
Eventually, all churches are expected to follow the lead of the
American and Canadian United
Churches, the Unitarian Universalist Association, Reform Judaism, Neopaganism, some
traditions of Native spirituality, etc. They will accept
gays, lesbians and bisexuals as full members and as eligible for ordination (or
equivalent). The negative
references to homosexual rape in the book of Genesis, and to
temple homosexual prostitution in the Hebrew
Scriptures (Old Testament) will eventually be interpreted as being unrelated to committed homosexual relationships. St. Paul's apparent condemnation of homosexuality in
the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) will become regarded
as a criticism of heterosexuals engaging in same-sex activity and of men
sexually abusing boys -- again topics unrelated to consensual, committed homosexual
Perhaps by the middle of the 21st century, sexual orientation will follow race and gender by becoming a non-issue in
essentially all but the most conservative of churches and other religious groups. Discrimination against minority sexual orientations will be
perceived as institutional hatred, and totally incompatible with the Gospel message - much
as racism and sexism are today. Homosexuality and bisexuality will be recognized
simply as a normal and natural sexual orientation for a minority of people.
Religion, homosexuality, assault and death:
Denominations that oppose equal rights for gays and lesbians may be
contributing to gay bashing. Most teach that:
To their credit, Evangelicals and mainline leaders frequently mention that true
Christians should love the homosexual while hating the homosexual behavior. Unfortunately, this
message is often ignored by the membership; they end up hating both the sin and
the sinner. Pat Robertson has
stated: "We abhor violence against homosexuals. We would counsel strongly in
relation to homosexuality that you could hold your religious beliefs without beating
people up and being violent." As Cardinal Johannes Willebrands of Utrecht has
stated: "When religion sanctifies hostility, it erases the moral inhibitors and lends to
hostility an irrational ferocity." Much gay bashing can be traced to the
of minority sexual orientations by religious denominations. Some people
interpret their church's teachings as implying that it is always
open season on gays.
Hate crimes against
homosexuals occur at a higher rate than those based on ethnicity or national
origin. The are probably more common that hate crimes based on religion, and
second only to race-based crimes.
Suicide by gays and lesbians
As with so many other factors related to
homosexuality, people have different viewpoints about the relationship between
suicide and homosexuality:
||Some religious and social conservatives feel that the high suicide rate is caused by
the intrinsically sinful, disordered, abnormal
and unnatural nature of homosexuality. If society generally accepted
homosexuality as normal and natural, then more youth would choose to
be gay or lesbian. This would increase the already high numbers of
suicides among homosexuals.
||Religious liberals generally feel that the high suicide rate is caused by society's
oppression of gays and lesbians. Traditional church beliefs have gone a long way towards
marginalizing homosexuals and inciting hatred against them. If the churches are the cause of, say, 40% of
the systemic homophobia in North
American society, then religious denominations are currently
responsible for the deaths of many hundreds of American gay and lesbian
youth annually. This is a
rate greater than the churches exterminated "witches" and
other heretics during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Many religious
liberals feel that the solution of
this modern-day version of witch burning is for religious institutions
to promote acceptance of homosexuality.
This dichotomy of belief is unlikely to be resolved in the foreseeable
Related essays on this web site:
Justice & Respect is a conservative Christian site
that advocates "a just and respectful response to persons
who experience same-gender attraction." See: http://www.npiec.on.ca/~scalverl/justice.htm
US Department of Health and Human Services, "Report of the Secretary's Task
Force on Youth Suicide, Volume 3: Prevention and Interventions in Youth Suicide",
Rockville, MD, (1989) (This report has been suppressed).
Copyright © 1996 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on
Last update: 2004-MAR-19
Author: B.A. Robinson