The Battle Over LGBT

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Posted on: 04/04/2015 by Pat O'Brien

The events of the past week in Indiana and my home state of Arkansas have once again brought LGBT issues to the forefront. In general, that is a good thing. It is important to have a public debate on these issues. However, the past week has not been a high-minded debate in many respects. In fact, it hasn't really even been a debate about the core issues that are driving the battle over LGBT. Those issues are pretty straightforward but are easily lost in the shuffle because of the manner in which the public policy intiatives - such as state level Religious Freedom Restoration Acts - have been introduced. So, let's take a moment to reduce the emotion of the issues and clarify what we are really talking about.

First, the central question that drives the battle over LGBT is whether people are born that way - meaning it is an immutable quality - or whether people are choosing to be LGBT, and thereby it is a behavior. Without answering that question first, it is easy to get the arguments surrounding LGBT conflated.

Personally, I believe that people are born LGBT. That opinion comes from decades of observation, discussions with people that are LGBT and a certain amount of what I am calling "gut instinct" or "common sense". To be clear, I am not a scientist so I don't know that LGBT are born that way any more than I would know if someone that is autistic is born with the condition. However, I think I am making an educated guess. I have come to know hundreds of LGBT and each of them had attributes that convince me this is an immutable quality. My most classic example is Jon Huff. Jon was my best friend in Kindergarten at Pinewood Elementary. We remained friends throughout school, college and beyond. Shortly after he graduated from college, he came out as gay. When I heard, I immediately thought that made perfect sense. It explained everything that I had ever known about him. He was gay from age 5 on to adulthood. The only difference was that he was now admitting his situation/condition (I struggle with the best term). Jon was always gay. So, no big deal.

I could author a separate post on my experience with LGBT over the years. But, it would still come back to my opinion. My opinion, though, is a growing position. Most people of my generation, and especially people younger than me, have decided that LGBT people are born that way. I believe a lot of that opinion is driven by whether or not you have had much interaction with someone that is LGBT. Put another way, to interact with LGBT is to know they were born as LGBT.

For those of us that believe LGBT are born that way, any effort to restrict LGBT rights looks like discrimination to us. We view it the same way that restricting the rights of women, African-Americans, etc. looked to people of past generations. You are born black. It is an immutable quality. You didn't "choose" to be black. Therefore, it would be crazy to discriminate against someone because of the color of their skin - in my opinion. And, so many people came around to this position that the civil rights of various minority groups have been codified into law.

But, what about the people that don't think you are born LGBT? Is my opinion more correct than their opinion that being gay is a lifestyle choice?

There is no argument over the color of someone's skin. It would be absurd for anyone to try and make an argument about this fact. But, with LGBT, I at least understand that someone could have their doubts. Mainly, I can understand someone that was raised by reading the Old Testament Bible would start off believing that LGBT is a behavior - a choice. Again, I don't believe being LGBT is a choice, but I do admit that there are Old Testament passages that appear to define LGBT as a "sin". And, if something is a sin, then it is logical to believe that it is a choice. To sin, or not to sin.

Second, let's take a deeper look at what the Bible says about LGBT. One of the widely known passages addressing homosexuality is Leviticus 18:22. One translation reads: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." This passage is read by many Christians as the authority for stating that LGBT is a choice, and a sinful choice at that. In fact, they believe it is an abomination. Personally, it is hard for me to believe that LGBT is a sin. It doesn't compute that way in my brain based upon my decades of observation. Since I am not a Biblical scholar I will leave those nuanced debates to others. But, I am able to read and I can tell that there are many items in Leviticus that don't have much connection to modern life and are perhaps out of context now. 

One point that does not get made enough is that, to my knowledge, Jesus never discussed homosexuality. Why would Jesus not discuss homosexuality if it was such an important topic? Could he not foresee that Christians would need to hear from him on this issue? Or, is it possible that Jesus did not consider homosexuality a sin? Well, we don't know because he doesn't mention it. He mentions a whole lot of other stuff - just not homosexualiity. And for that matter, why does the Ten Commandments not mention homosexuality. It takes the time to state that adultery is a sin, that taking the Lord's name in vain is a sin, and even that coveting is a sin. Coveting - which means looking at and wanting your neighbor's wife basically. Coveting is a big sin. But, no mention of homosexuality in the Ten Commandments.

So, is the Bible really clear on whether homosexuality is a sin. I don't believe that it is clear. However, I understand, and even respect, that a person can read the Bible and perhaps determine that homosexuality is a sin. Which brings me to my last point.

Third, even if homosexuality is a sin (which I don't believe) why is it a more important sin than the others? Why is it more important than adultery or lying? Why is it more important than people that covet or take the Lord's name in vain? Why is it more important than disrespecting your parents? I mean, that one made the Top Ten. In other words, even if homosexuality is a sin why do people care so much about this particular sin. Well, I think it has something to do with the definition of marriage.

So, for review, even if you think that homosexuality is a sin that does not answer the question of why you want to place restrictions on individuals that are committing that sin. 

But, if you are really concerned about the connection between the definition of marriage and the status that this institution has under the laws of each state, then you probably do care a great deal about homosexuality. But, before we reach that point, let's back up for one second. What does marriage at your church have to do with the marriage laws of the state where you live?

NOTHING.

Let me make this point again. The definition of marriage at your church or religion has nothing to do with what the state is regulating down at the Courthouse. For example, the doctrines of the Catholic Church do not care what the laws of Arkansas are in regard to marriage. In fact, you cannot really get divorced as a Catholic. You have to get your marriage annulled. Or, you are not really a Catholic anymore. That is the doctrine of the Church. But that doctrine does not coincide with state law. State law is a separate thing. And, here is the important part. No one in the United States will ever pass a law telling a particular Church how to define marriage in that religion. It has never happened and it never will. The First Amendment protections of religion are way too strong for that to occur. That is separation of church and state. The church has its law and the state has its law. 

I think what is driving this whole controversy is that there is one group of people that believe you are born LGBT and therefore anything that restricts the rights of LGBT is discrimination. Then, there is another group that believes homosexuality is a sin AND they believe that this sin is "winning out" by gaining marriage equality under state laws. Not the law of God mind you, because individual religions are in charge of that law. But, state laws. In other words, some people see God "losing out" when bans on gay marriage are struck down. That is what I see as driving this whole controversy. Some people think the "gays" are beating "God".

I think that is an inaccurate descrition of what is happening today in America. I don't think God is losing. I just think that state marriage laws are subject to the equal protection clause of the United States and the bans on gay marriage are being stricken - as they should be because they are unconstitutional. That doesn't change God's rules or laws in any way, though. 

For review, I don't think being LGBT is against the law of God. But, there is a chance that I am wrong. And, God will make his own judgments on the issue in his own time. But, today, in this country, the laws of men are more and more treating LGBT as the equals of all other people. And, I believe that is a good thing. So, if you think homosexuality is a sin, then you're probably not going to be very happy in the future because the majority of Americans are about to disagree with you...or maybe that tipping point has already happened as a result of the events of this week.

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