issue 201 - November 1989
Gay people get asked some pretty strange questions.
Often this is because their interrogators have a narrow, strictly
heterosexual view of what is 'normal'. NI turns the tables and
asks heterosexual people some strange questions too .
When did you first realize you might be heterosexual?
Have you told your parents? What do they think of it?
Are there others like you in your family?
Would you say that you had an inadequate mother or father figure?
Don't you think your heterosexuality might be a phase you are going through?
Are you afraid of members of your own sex?
Isn't it possible that what you need is a good gay lover?
Why do people like you emphasize the heterosexual qualities of famous people such as film stars? Is it because you need to validate your own condition?
Penetrative sex is most common among heterosexual couples. Aren't you worried about the risk of getting AIDS?
But how can people of the opposite sex really please each other when there are such vast emotional and biological differences between them?
Although society gives considerable support to the institution of marriage the divorce rate is spiralling. Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?
Is it because heterosexuals are so promiscuous?
There seem to be very few happy heterosexuals. Have you considered aversion therapy?
Why do you feel compelled to seduce others in to your sexual activities?
Why do you insist on making such a public spectacle of your heterosexuality? Can't you just keep quiet about it?
Not all Christians view homosexuality in the same way. Some who take the Bible as their basic authority in matters of belief and practices take a critical view of homosexual practice.
There is far from a consensus on this issue. Some theologians have argued that New Testament texts dealing with homosexuality really refer to cult prostitution or to homosexual relations with children, both of which flourished at the time of the early church.
But other theologians argue that there are enough clear biblical texts to conclude that homosexual intercourse, like enforced intercourse (rape), is abhorrent to God. It therefore should be abhorrent to God's people.
Christians who see no contradiction between their faith and active homosexual practices may argue that the Bible's writers had no knowledge ot the real nature of homosexuality, assuming that it was simply the result of a, 'perverted' will. They knew nothing about a homosexual orientation which is independent of the will. Others suggest that the most that the texts can be said to condemn is the deliberate violation by heterosexuals who dabble in same-sex relations.
Conservative Christians would suggest that even those who have a homosexual orientation have the freedom to decide whether or not they will engage in homosexual practice, just as heterosexual people have the power to decide whether or not to commit themselves to one partner, and greedy people have the power to stop stealing or stop putting profit ahead of people's welfare.
Another key area of Christian opposition to homosexual practice is permissiveness, which is seen to provide an ethos of promiscuity, which in turn has the capacity to generate a great deal of hurt and pain in personal relationships, as well as increasing health risks. Even those Christians who do not oppose homosexual relationships would still tend to oppose promiscuous homosexual relationships.
The Bible has a message which bears strongly and clearly on Christians' attitude to and treatment of gays. Gays, too, are our neighbours, whom Christians are commanded to love. Because of this, Christians should strongly oppose those who go in for crude name-calling, or social and physical harassment. They should also oppose discrimination against gays in employment, housing, or in the supply of goods and services. Gays are most surely loved by God, and rightly expect God's grace, mercy and forgiveness on the same basis as any of us. They are equally deserving of our love and compassion.
But love and acceptance of gays can be offered without supporting all of their practices.
Many gays neither want to change nor remain celibate Christians should still support them with understanding and compassion, especially when they enter into relationships of a permanent and loving kind. Christians would still possibly see their practice as part of the brokeness and imperfection of the world at present, which we all share in various ways.
Since we all share in the world's brokenness, and all of us err, sometimes repeatedly in the same way, we all stand in need of acceptance by God and the support of others. Fortunately God's love is greater than our failures, including our failure to regard the sins of others with the same degree of understanding that we extend to our own.
Dr Gordon Dicker is principal of the United Theological Seminary in Sydney.