The voice inside: Who is listening?
by Kim Goebel
Every couple of years we see articles published and discussion arising about homosexuality and the Church. With the recent acceptance of practicing gay and lesbian ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) reiterated its stance on the issue: homosexuality is not what God intended for His creation. However, I am left wondering if we ever intend to look at this issue from a more personal perspective—something less rule-oriented and more people-supportive. For me, the message we too often seem to send is this: “If you’re gay, don’t come to our church.” The articles always talk about hating the sin and loving the sinner, but that message is not really comforting when condemnation of the person seems to be on the tips of so many tongues.
I’m not a pastor, nor a theologian; I am not a DPS, nor do I hold any theological degree. I have a BA and a BEd. I attended Concordia University College of Alberta, sang in the choir, and am currently actively involved in my congregation. I grew up in LCC guided by faithful parents who took me to church almost every Sunday, and I thank God regularly for their guidance—my faith is strong today because of it. But I am gay.
The human side
There is a human side to the homosexuality issue. Gay LCC Lutherans exist, and I, for one, would like to feel safe and accepted in my own synod.
As a Christian struggling with same-sex attraction, I often find the tone of the ongoing discussion offensive. It sounds very magnanimous: “love the sinner, but hate the sin”—as if this is a concession the Church makes on behalf of gay people. It’s fine to believe that being a practising homosexual is wrong, but offering to love us anyway is not some favour the Church extends—it’s the Church’s responsibility to offer access to God’s Word and Christ’s forgiveness.
Gay LCC members are hesitant to come out. Why? The answer is as simple as it is disheartening: many Christians do not truly distinguish between the sinner and the sin. It is not the act that is condemned; it’s the person. Even if we are non-practising homosexuals who accept the Scripture’s teaching on same-sex relationships, we still feel that condemnation. It is the fact that we are gay that is the problem—we must “repent of our desires,” we are told, and “not be gay” anymore.
But which desires?—the desire to be loved, to have a family, to come home at night and have someone ask, “How was your day?” The desire for companionship?
Much of the discussion simply labels all desire as sin and “the lust of the flesh” (Romans 13:14). However, whether straight or gay, the desire to be with someone special is as human as it gets. Even God recognized it is “not good for [people] to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). How are these desires any different from those of a straight Christian? God ordained from the beginning that we need partners in this life—physical beings with whom to live our lives.
Homosexuality is not a choice. I did not wake up one day and decide to prefer women.
The people perspective
Let’s look at it from the “people” perspective. The way many Christians condemn homosexuality does not reflect “loving the sinner and hating the sin,” because many cannot separate the two. There is also an implied expectation that this sin, above all others, must be eliminated to be assured salvation. Are we therefore required to recognize and control every sin to gain salvation? This is one of the things Martin Luther fought against in his struggle with the Roman church almost 500 years ago. If every person must sit down and name every sin they’ve committed and then stop committing them in order to be assured a place in heaven, it’s fair to say heaven will be a lonely place.
Paul’s comments about the “lust of the flesh” aren’t limited to sexual immorality. He discusses many sins such as idolatry, slander, drunkenness, swindling (1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 6:9-11) and he doesn’t rank them. That’s not to say we don’t try to stop committing the sins we recognize, but failure is a regular part of our daily routine. It is God’s grace that holds us up and assures us of salvation—not our ability not to sin.
Homosexuality is not a choice. I did not wake up one day and decide to prefer women. Likewise, I cannot wake up tomorrow and decide to prefer men. I cannot change who I am. (God can, but so far, He has not).
A lonely place
I admit to spinning between believing that to actively pursue a physical relationship with another woman is wrong in the eyes of God, and really wishing I could find a loophole somewhere. I struggle with the choice daily because, like most people, I desire an intimate, physical, loving relationship with another human being. And this at times is a lonely place to be—something both straight and gay people can understand.
For me this isn’t an issue about ordination or a question of whether my sin is worse than someone else’s; it’s about recognizing that there should be a place for all sinners to come to the cross in safety and love, warts and all.
The Church should be a place where I can find others who share my struggle and can support me in my journey. If I have to be sinless before coming into the Church, then I don’t really need the Church, do I?
Let’s try looking at this issue from a different perspective: seeing homosexuals as people who want the same thing as everyone else—people whose wish is not to be alone. Maybe that’s a place to start.
Kim Goebel is a member of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Edmonton, Alberta.