Straight or Narrow? Confused sexuality - Genesis 2:19-25

This is a sermon by Melvin Tinker from the morning service on 9th July 2000.

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It has been said that the first casualty of war is truth. And that is certainly the case with the war which raging all around us, although we may not be aware of it as such. What I am referring to is the ideological war which centres on the issue of sexuality, more specifically homosexuality.

Throughout this term we have been thinking of what it is like to live as Christians in what the Bible calls Babylon - that is a world which sets itself up in opposition to God and his ways. Now, if we are to be effective ambassadors for Christ, then like any ambassador on foreign soil we need to understand two things. First, we need to understand the King we represent, that is get our minds in tune with his wishes, his values, he aims and purposes and seek to promote them. For the Christian that means getting in touch with the mind of God through the Word of God - the Bible. This is where we discover our King’s manifesto. But the second prerequisite is the need to understand the culture in which we have been placed, a culture which, as we have seen, is essentially hostile to the Kingdom we represent. And nowhere is this more so than in the arena of the sexual politics which practically consumes our society. If you don't believe me, take out this week’s radio or TV times and just note how many programmes are given over to the topic of sex.

But we must understand that this liberalisation towards sex in the direction of almost anything goes, is part of a bigger shifting social landscape which may be leaving many of us feeling disorientated. It is a landscape where there are no fixed absolutes - everything is relative. It is a world in which we are told that truth is not so much discovered but created, we make our own truth. We live in a world of hype and spin. It is what the sociologists call a post-modern world - the old certainties are gone, everything is a quest for power - getting your own or your group’s way.

Now I would want to suggest to you that that is what has been happening to great effect during the last 30 years or so in the area of homosexuality. The change has been remarkable. In the words of the psychoanalyst Charles Socarides we have seen a shift, ‘ from the love that dare not speak its name to the love that can’t shut up - in barely 25 years.' In the early sixties it would have been political suicide for any cabinet minister to declare openly that he was a practising homosexual, he would immediately have become a social outcast. Such a thing seems ludicrous to us today. In fact the reverse is the case. To dare to raise a question about the moral legitimacy of homosexual practice brings with it public opprobrium and the charge of homophobia which ranks alongside racism and sexism as three great deadly sins in modern society.

Indeed, the most strenuous efforts are made to present homosexuality in the most favourable light possible. Not only is there ‘Gaytime TV’, or films like Four Weddings and a Funeral where the only deep relationship is the one between the two gay characters, but which soap, whether it be Eastenders or the Archers, is without its resident homosexual, creating the impression that homosexuality is both common and socially acceptable with no down side at all? The discredited statistics of Kinsey that between 1 in ten and 1 in twenty men in society are homosexual still persists, and the cumulative effect of all of this is to practically foreclose on any rational public discussion about the gay issue for fear that those of us who would take a more critical, but caring stance, are liable to be pilloried as homophobic dinosaurs.

What is more, it has to be admitted that on the face of it, the argument for homosexual union sounds so reasonable. After, all why shouldn’t two people who love each other and have a stable relationship engage in same sex union? What people do in the privacy of their own homes is their affair. Who are you to say it is wrong?

Well, before we look a little more closely at that question and see what light the Bible sheds on the answer, we need to remember some other words Jesus once said when he called his followers to be ‘wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.' Matthew 10: 16. And that is where we as Christians often fall down. We fail to have that shrewdness, that discernment of what is happening around us with the result that we get swept along with the prevailing culture, not realising what is happening before its too late.

So let us try and understand the big picture of where our society is coming from in order to see where it is going, and then contrast it with the big picture the Bible gives us of where creation has come from and where it is ultimately heading under God.

In her book ‘Sexual Politics’ Kate Millett writes: ‘The enormous social change involved in a sexual revolution is basically a matter of altered consciousness (i.e. slowly getting people to think differently), the exposure and elimination of social and psychological realities underlying political and cultural structures. We are speaking, then, of a cultural revolution.' That is what is a happening. Now this doesn't mean that every actively homosexual person wants to attack traditional sexual patterns and ethics, but there is a basic cultural drift. And it has to be said that some groups are deliberately out to attack the family. Here is Bill Johnson a practising homosexual clergyman and member of the Lesbian and Gay Christian movement: ‘as long as the Church is able to perpetuate the belief that marriage and the family are the highest form of human relationship it will be able to perpetuate itself as a heterosexual family - orientated institution.. heterosexual relationships and marriage as traditionally experienced are basically unhealthy.' In the 1979 Gay Liberation Front’s manifesto we are told bluntly ‘we must aim at the abolition of the family.' and then went on to point out that the greatest defender of the family was Christianity. Now of course it is possible to move towards the abolition of the traditional family in other ways than by outright suppression. It can be eroded by saying there are ‘alternative families, that the concept of family is more fluid, varied and open, as Joan Bakewell stated in her recent programme ’My Generation.' That is why section 28 must be kept, not because there will be an immediate move to teach in our schools that homosexual relationships are good or better than heterosexual marriage, but the pressure will be increased for it to be seen as a valid option and so adding to the moral confusion many are already experiencing and at a time when our young are so impressionable and vulnerable.

So what are the facts? Well, first of all, homosexuality is not as common as we are often led to believe. Surveys in both Britain and America show that only 1% of men are exclusively homosexual, not 10%. That is the perspective we must have. Secondly, the argument which is often put forward asking what is wrong with homosexual union in a loving stable relationship, is in reality somewhat abstract and a red herring, for very few such homosexual stable relationships actually exist. The 1992 SIGMA study funded by the Medical Research Council found that 56% of actively homosexual men had ‘open’ relationships, and although 44% claimed a monogamous relationship, the average length of the relationship was only 21 months. The majority also had ‘casual partners.' In any given year the number of casual partners was reported at between 0 - 300, with an average in the past year being seven, or to put it another way - one partner every seven weeks.

So, what harm is there? Far more than many would care to admit. Here are just some of the medical problems: A 25 - 30 year decrease in life expectancy, chronic, potentially fatal, liver disease - infectious hepatitis, frequently fatal rectal cancer, multiple bowel and other infectious diseases, a higher than usual incidence of suicide and the list goes on. But the general picture is tragically clear isn't it? There is very little that is gay or happy about such a list and our hearts must go out in compassion. To ignore such things would be the height of irresponsibility, worse still is to affirm a gay lifestyle as being of equal validity to a married heterosexual one, as even some of our church leaders are now doing - that is bordering on the criminal.

But the objection is often raised: ‘Surely, such same sex - attraction is normal for those concerned, whether it is the result of genetic or environmental factors is irrelevant, it is right for them.' Now here a distinction has to be made between what is normal and what is proper. To say that something is acting normally is a matter of statistics, to say something is acting properly is a matter of design plan and purpose. For example, I might say that my car is acting normally if it starts after three turns of the ignition, but that is not what the manufacture had in mind when he designed the car in the first place. So what is the Designer’s plan for human beings? This is where the book of Genesis comes in. You knew we would get there in the end didn’t you?

You see, the biblical view of sex and how we are to relate to each other isn’t to be reduced to a few moral prohibitions. Even if there weren’t any explicit passages which said that homosexual sex was wrong, and there are several, the Bible would still be just as clear on the subject because of all the positive things it has to say about God’s intention for sex, or if you like the general ethos or attitude the Bible has towards sex.

Here in Genesis we discover what that ethos is as well as some of the detailed specifications of how it is to be worked out. First of all, sex is linked to reproduction which God declares as good - 1: 28. Now this doesn’t mean that every sexual act must issue in children, but generally that is one of its primary purposes, what it is designed to achieve - all things being equal. In the second place, in the picturesque account of the creation of man in Genesis 2, in v18 we are told that there was something which was not good, namely for man to be alone without a helper, that is someone who would complement him, be one with him and yet different. And having scoured the entire creation to find such a companion, it is at that point that God acts to bring a woman into being out of Adam’s side - v20ff(read). Here we have the principle of unity in difference - the two becoming one, psychologically, spiritually and physically - the coming together of, as it were, two halves to form a whole. This culminates and is literally consummated in the act of sexual intercourse itself - v24 (read). In others words, this is the design plan for sexuality - male and female. The activities of our bodies must fit the way were made. Simply at the level of biological anatomy - the male and female were made for each other, not male for male or female for female. This is not an argument from biology to morality, but saying that biology testifies to the morality we have in the Bible, as well as in our consciences.

Now can you see that in the light of God’s design and intentions for us, homosexual sex is a disordered form of sex? It cuts across and frustrates the structures and purposes of God’s creation. It actually undermines the uniqueness of heterosexual marriage, as does all other forms of disordered sex - fornication, rape and incest. This disordering is both a result of our rebellion against God, and a expression of it. That is the thrust of the apostle Paul’s argument in Romans chapter 1. Homosexuality is against nature, not our own fallen, corrupted natures, but God’s original intention and design. Just think about it and you will see why it is disordered. The element of complementarity is missing - unity in difference, what we have in homosexuality is an impossible attempted unity in sameness - the parts simply don't fit. Also procreation is an impossibility - that is why surrogate mothers have to be sought for gay couples to have children - which ironically affirms all the more the abnormality of it all. One long standing test for deciding upon a course of moral action is this : would you want everyone in the world to do it? So would you want everyone in the world to be kind and generous? Would you will for everyone not to show hatred and prejudice and so on? The answer is yes. But, would you want everyone in the world to be homosexual. Well, the answer is obviously no, for at the very least it would mean the end of the human race in terms of the survival of the species. It is not a universal good.

But the God we worship is not simply the God who is our Creator and knows how we best function according to his design, he is also the God who is our redeemer and has intervened in this terribly disordered world to save us through his Son Jesus. Just listen to these words of the apostle Paul in 1 Cor 6: 9 and note that sexual sin is right up there with other more socially acceptable sins such as greed (read). Do you know what that means? It means that the church is not a no go area for those men and women who have a same sex orientation any more than it is a no go area for those of us who have greedy, or alcoholic or adulterous inclinations. Certainly there is no question of affirming any of these things as acceptable lifestyles, because in Christ we are called to an alternative lifestyle - a Christian one. Yes we will continue to wrestle with our fallen feelings and all the temptations they bring until we go to be with Christ in glory, but we do not wrestle alone. We do have God’s Spirit, we do have God’s Word, and we do have God’s people and we should be helping each other on.

Just let me end with some words from someone who was locked into a gay lifestyle, but then became a Christian: ‘We must not rewrite or water down the Scriptures. The Bible clearly states that heterosexuality is God’s intent for humankind. It also presents all sexual behaviour outside of marriage as sin and not God’s best for us. When I came out of the gay community I was looking for truth and direction. My gay friends said I was a fool. The church could only put homosexual people down and had no idea how to assist in the process of recovery. I found my direction from the Bible. It was the only safe place to go. The Bible gave me a true picture of God as a Father, his unconditional love for all his children, regardless of their struggles. My own father had not been able to parent me as I needed, the church had not been able to supply unconditional acceptance of me, but I found through the Scriptures that God would do these things for me. I learned healthy boundaries from reading the Scripture. It was there I learned the things I needed to function in a whole way... I shudder to think what may have happened to me if I had gone to a counsellor or church which had affirmed me in my homosexuality. If that had happened I may well have been dead from AIDS now. Many of the people I knew back then are now dead.' But the he goes on to say this, which I personally would want to echo: ‘To many Christians who are struggling with unwanted homosexual feelings, I would say to you: there is hope and healing for you.. you are not a second class Christian. Jesus’ death on the cross was for you as well. God is not ashamed of you. He is your Father and longs to lavish his love on you. You are not an unwanted child. Your life can be a testimony to the grace and healing love of your Father, so walk proudly into the glorious riches and the full inheritance that God has for all his children.'

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