Teaching about homosexuality in North American public
Six Different Beliefs about Homosexuality.
Homosexuality and bisexuality are often described in the media in black and white terms. Often, the authors of articles and books either present themselves as either being solidly in favor of full rights for sexual minorities, or absolutely opposed to equality -- particularly marriage equality. However, some authors describe as many as six popular viewpoints. They differ in:
- Their criteria for truth.
- Their interpretation of passages from the Bible and similar books in other religions.
understanding of the nature of homosexuality. and
- Their expectations of
They range from the Abomination position to the Liberation position.
Religiously based beliefs about homosexuality:
Throughout most of the essays in the homosexual and bisexual
section of this web site, we have stressed the two extreme positions which
are commonly shown in the media.
||The position taken by many social and religious conservatives: They
define homosexuality in terms of behavior. They consider homosexuality to be an
abomination -- a serious, immoral, chosen, changeable, abnormal, unnatural
addiction that is hated by God and is destructive to the individuals who
decide to follow that lifestyle. They often relate a person's choice of homosexualtity to be related to their poor parenting, or being the victim of sexual abuse during childhood.
||The position taken by most therapists (with the exception of those
therapists affiliated with the National Association for Research and Therapy of
Homosexuality [NARTH]), social workers, human sexuality researchers,
human rights organizations, liberal students, liberal parents, gays,
bisexuals, and lesbians about homosexuality: They define homosexuality in
terms of sexual orientation -- one's feelings of sexual attraction,
fantasies, and self-identification. They view homosexuality to be one of
three unchosen, fixed, and morally neutral sexual
orientations, which is natural and normal for a minority of adults.
While these two positions do reflect the beliefs of the most vocal activists, there appears to be at least
four other well defined viewpoints about homosexuality. Author L.R. Holben describe these in his book: "What Christians think about homosexuality."1 The four intermediate viewpoints appear much less frequently in newspapers, periodicals, during church sermons and on TV. But some of them are held by substantial numbers
of North Americans.
From the most conservative to the most liberal, these are:
||Abomination: Homosexuality is a profoundly immoral behavior
whether it is in the form of casual sex or within a committed relationship. It is
to be condemned and perhaps criminalized. Homosexuals are driven by lust and are
intrinsically unable to enter into meaningful, long-term, faithful
||Change is expected: Homosexuality is a broken, disordered
condition. Gays and lesbians can be healed by being converted to
heterosexuality through prayer and/or reparative therapy. However, this may take a great deal of effort over a long time interval to achieve.
||Celibacy is expected: Homosexuality is a fixed condition for all,
or almost all, gays and lesbians. God expects them to remain celibate
throughout their lives.
||Marginally acceptable: For those gays and lesbians who are unable
to become heterosexuals and cannot remain celibate, the least awful
option is for them to enter into a committed same-sex relationship.
||Equality: Homosexuality and bisexuality are two fixed, normal, natural sexual
orientations for a minority of adults. Both same-sex and opposite-sex
behavior can be moral or immoral, depending upon the safety of the act and
the nature of the relationship. Persons of all sexual orientation should share the same rights
and protections. They should all be allowed to marry the person that they love
and to whom they are committed.
||Liberation: Assessing the morality of all sexual behavior -- same sex or
opposite sex -- is to be primarily based on its ability to generate joy,
love and emotional growth. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and their supporters
have a special role to liberate society and the church sexually. The Bible's six "clobber passages" as they are
traditionally translated into English and interpreted by conservative
theologians, do not reflect the will of God.
More information is available in other parts of this web site:
Statements by various faith groups:
Christians outnumber the membership of each of the smaller organized religious groups in
North America by a factor of about 50. Thus, the relationship between
homosexuality and religion in the U.S. and Canada is almost entirely the
relationship between homosexuality and Christianity.
According to the ARIS study of 2001, about 75% of
American adults identify themselves as Christian. The next largest organized
religions are Judaism at 1.3% and Islam at 0.5%.
Within each major religion, there are conservative, mainline and liberal
faith groups. For example, within Christianity:
||Religiously liberal groups, like the United Church of
Christ, and the United Church of
Canada have resolved the "homosexual issue." The
denominations promote equal rights for gays and lesbians; they welcome
homosexuals as members and ordain them as clergy.
||Mainline denominations, like the Presbyterian Church
(USA) and the United Methodist Church are experiencing major internal conflicts 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 true
dialog. Fault lines within the denominations may appear on many levels:
||Young people may take a more liberal view; older members are often
||There are often geographical divisions, with north eastern groups
being liberal and southern groups being conservative.
||A liberal/conservative split is seen between urban and rural areas.
||There is a major division between those who look upon homosexuals as
a group, and those who personally know a gay or lesbian as a close
friend. The latter are far more accepting of sexual minorities.
||Religiously conservative groups, like the Southern Baptist
Convention, the Assemblies of God, and other Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christian
denominations, have also resolved the issue. Some commit significant effort
to defeat hate-crimes legislation that would protect gays and lesbians in
accommodation and employment, and promoting legislation that will prevent
same-sex couples to enter into marriage or civil union. Some denominations
regard homosexuality as a special type of sin. Some teach, on the basis of their interpretation 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.
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 they would expect to experience 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.
More information on the beliefs of individual
Christian denominations, Jewish traditions, and other religions.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still valid today.
L.R. Holben, "What Christians think about homosexuality: Six representative viewpoints," Bibal Press, (1999). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com
online book store.
- There is no consensus on the total number of Muslims in the U.S. Estimates range
from 0.5% to over 2%.
Copyright © 2005 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally posted: 2005-MAY-8
Latest update: 2017-JAN-23
Author: B.A. Robinson