Formerly “I May Be Going to Hell”
DISCLAIMER: I am no theological expert. My knowledge comes from very informal research, reading what interests me, and talking with and listening to people. Feel free to let me know if I have misunderstood something or not added enough nuance. I love learning and I’m not afraid to say I was wrong. Okay, let’s go.
I don’t know how to religion. I think God exists, but I don’t believe anyone can possibly know all the answers about his existence. The claim that one has figured out how God works presupposes one of the touchstones of most religions I am familiar with: that God is unfathomably great. How can any person or group know how he works? Which is why I can’t fall into the drawn out lines that religion sets. I’ve formed my own belief system with my own personal morality, and from which stems my views about a lot of issues, including homosexuality, which I find to be absolutely, unequivocally morally neutral. I’ve held these ideas for awhile, but a Facebook thread today compelled me to share my thoughts. Shall we begin?
I woke up this morning, and – as always – checked my phone before even sitting up in bed. I scrolled mindlessly through Facebook, giving my brain and my blurry eyes a few moments to say their goodbyes to dreams and slumber. As I skimmed through pointless ads and statuses I cared nothing about, the phrase “I’m so tired of the ‘gay debate'” caught my eye. Huh. So I propped myself up on my elbow to read the long rant by one of my Facebook friends, and I could feel the fires of debate welling inside me *insert dramatic gesture*. So ready was I for a good debate that I actually got out of bed and moved to my laptop for easier typing. Let the jousting begin!
To summarize, he claimed that to simultaneously be homosexual and a Christian was “oxymoronic,” that because the Bible forbids homosexuality, a Christian cannot be homosexual as these two states contradict each other fundamentally. I commented about my lack of trust in the Bible as a rulebook for daily living: what, then, of the “arcane” and “obsolete” rules we ignore – like mixed-breed dogs, polyester, haircutting, not eating shellfish or pork, tattoos, and selling your land - while cherry-picking passages like the ones that forbid homosexuality? Who picks which rules remain relevant and which fall to the wayside? And how? The whole deal makes no sense to me, to be perfectly honest.
I suspect that when the men who contributed all the various books of the Bible were writing it, that – though they may have been inspired by the Holy Spirit with the knowledge needed – they added in their own cultural ideals, norms, and biases like dietary restrictions and a fear of homosexuality. See, I don’t believe God dictated the Bible word for word, and if he did, it’s been translated hundreds of times over a millennia – what we read today isn’t the original version, even if every word was originally correct. Meaning that even more people had opportunity to insert their ideals into the text, knowingly or unknowingly, and so the weird rules we ignore – and the bigger ones we don’t – tend to crop up.
We debated back and forth a bit, finally landing on an agreement to disagree. He does not claim Christianity but just cannot reconcile homosexuality and the faith since the faith directly denounces gayness. I believe a sin is a sin and if one person can commit any sin and still be a Christian, then anyone can, despite the sin. Christianity celebrates love and peace and forgiveness over sinlessness, in my eyes.
So, what is the answer? I don’t believe homosexuality to be a sin, in practice or theory. In fact, I don’t think pre-marital sex is a sin either. Let’s take this through its steps.
The Vatican defines moral sex as procreative and unitive. I’ll start with the second. Unitive simply means to create a union, meaning sex should bring people closer emotionally and spiritually. In my experience, this trait does not reserve itself for marriage. The Victorian era, for instance, was hugely repressive, believing sex in any form but strictly reproductive to be vile, even sex within marriage. There was no union there. In countries around the world today, arranged marriages with young girls serve only to help the man’s family and feed his sexual hunger. There is no union here. Celebrities wed and divorce according to their daily horoscope, assumedly having sex within whatever small window of matrimony they inhabit. There is no union here. Yet, no one would (possibly excepting the child-bride scenario) tell a married couple their sexual activity is immoral, even if it yielded no unity or love between the two. Today, marriage constitutes a fancy piece of paper and a public commitment that is just as easily broken as it is made and does not guarantee any degree of closeness. If that union can be achieved without marriage, then I don’t think marriage is necessary. Only the unity.
Now, procreative. This is the reason given by the Church as to why birth control is a no-no (which I heartily disagree with, as this paragraph will tell you). Historically, sex for procreation’s sake (or for the sake of makin’ babies) was necessary for the survival of humanity. At one point, there were not enough humans to keep the species alive, and so things like picking mates based on favorable features for survival and birthing as many children as possible were important. Today’s population of seven billion people makes this hardly necessary. I don’t know when the Catechism was last updated or how far back this moral trait has stretched in Catholic sex philosophy, but I would bet that it originated hundreds of years ago when man’s survival was the priority and just has yet to be revisited, and/or became a norm that hasn’t been questioned. Since our survival as a species no longer depends on the rapid reproduction of our current population, I don’t think procreative is necessary for moral sex.
So, if sex need not be procreative and if spiritual union can be achieved without marriage, then sex outside of marriage (assuming you’re not a cheating bastard) seems pretty morally neutral to me. Homosexual sex is denounced as immoral because it cannot be procreative, or so I’ve been told. But if that requirement is stripped away, then what other reason is there? The “unnaturalness” of two men or two women doesn’t seem to be solid ground to stand upon, either. We only hate “unnaturalness” when it comes to people and sex, but not processed foods, artificial intelligence, weight loss pills, medical vaccinations, in vitro fertilization, or any of the millions of unnatural facets of our everyday lives? Unnaturalness simply means that we aren’t used to it yet, not that it shouldn’t exist.
Finally, even if homosexuality IS a sin according to this one sect of religion – so what? I could go on about the other Christian sins that are rampant in our society yet receive no legislation and for which people receive little or no daily persecution. I think it’s more to-the-point to recognize that we should not be dictating how other people live their lives if their ways of life do not affect anyone else. Being gay in and of itself affects no one but the person feeling that emotion. Sexually active (so long as all is consensual) negatively affects no one else in a psychological, emotional, or spiritual way. I cannot wrap my mind around so many people caring who is sleeping with whom – when we begin telling people how to live their lives when their ways of life do not affect anyone else, it is very easy to start throwing stones at glass houses, and I know mine would crumble far too quickly to pick up even a pebble.
Now, it’s four in the afternoon and I’m writing this post so that I could more fully articulate my thoughts on this subject and bring up some points I couldn’t get to on a Facebook thread (at least not without making all the other commenters want to shove the hundred notifications down my throat and up my ass). I think people are people and love is love. I think marriage is defined as it is – one man, one woman – because of our own cultural inclinations and not because of some innate inability for men and women to find love within their own gender. And I think that sex in general needs to be un-demonized and pulled out of the dark, musty cave where it’s been hiding for generations.
What are your thoughts? How do you think about sex and homosexuality? Do you agree, disagree? I welcome civil discussions and was so thrilled to start the day on that note – let’s not end it in harsh words or disrespect.
*edited to clarify a few points.
I wanted to append a note. I rewrote a large portion of this post for a few reasons. One – I realized that a 300-word blow-by-blow of my Facebook debate was not only uninteresting but didn’t really serve my larger purpose. It inspired this post, sure, but I had two different aims in both conversations, and they were not meshing together well. Two – I found a paradox in my Facebook post that was another reason this article wasn’t reading very well. I was debating my friend and I was of the position that the Bible is not authoritative for x reasons, but then I used information from the Bible. I actually don’t really know if this was a problem in the FB thread, but it certainly became a problem here.
I apologize for this big fustercluck around this article. Please, in the future, if you ever read something I’ve written and it just isn’t jiving, comment and let me know. I welcome discussion and debate, and it was only through a few comments on another site and from my boyfriend that I was able to see my huge mistake here. Thanks for your loyal support! :)