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Teaching about homosexuality in North American public schools

Topic 2:
Six Different Beliefs about Homosexuality.

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Overview:

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.

  • Their understanding of the nature of homosexuality. and

  • Their expectations of homosexuals.

They range from the Abomination position to the Liberation position.

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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.

bullet 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.

bullet 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:

bullet 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 relationships.

bullet 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.

bullet 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.

bullet 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.

bullet 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.
bullet 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.

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More information is available in other parts of this web site:

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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:

bullet 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.

bullet 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:
bullet Young people may take a more liberal view; older members are often more conservative.

bullet There are often geographical divisions, with north eastern groups being liberal and southern groups being conservative. 

bullet A liberal/conservative split is seen between urban and rural areas.

bullet 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.

bullet 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.

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Site navigation: Home > Conflict > Homosexuality > Religious impact > Teaching > here

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still valid today.

  1. 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.

  2. There is no consensus on the total number of Muslims in the U.S. Estimates range from 0.5% to over 2%.

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Copyright © 2005 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-MAY-8
Latest update: 2017-JAN-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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