By Douglas Jones and Douglas Wilson
Something seems fundamentally awry in the way the Christian Church interacts with the homosexual movement around the nation. Christians so easily fall into default assumptions, usually of a secular, conservative brand. Our most immediate response is almost always in terms of “Here is evil; let us condemn it,” without a thought to, “Here is evil; let us confess it.” We tend to view the struggle in a morally mechanistic manner rather than in conventional terms.
We denounce homosexual sin and understandably want to reject same-sex legislation, yet we too often fail to ask about the meaning and purpose of homosexuality in a covenantal world of dynamic curses and blessings. By ignoring this line of questioning, we can easily find ourselves in the odd position of resisting God’s judgment on numerous fronts.
In the observations below we hope to express a consciously covenantal pattern for understanding our interaction with the homosexual community, with particular focus on the developing issues of same-sex marriage.
Homosexuality is a judgment from God.
Homosexuality is not a typical sin that cultures face like theft, lying, or murder, but it is apparently a very symbolic sin through which God reveals His anger. The Apostle Paul described homosexuality as what happens when God gives up on a nation’s normal idolatries: “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful” (Rom. 1:26,27). Widespread homosexuality is a sign that the society in question is not living under normal chastisements; it is the sign of God’s abandonment of us—Ichabod.
Homosexuality is primarily a judgment against the Church.
This is our problem, the Christian Church’s problem, not someone else’s. God gave the Christian church the responsibility of leading culture, and the Church did this in the West for many centuries. We are the light of the world; we are the salt of the earth; we are the kingdom of priests; we are Christ on the earth; we represent Christ to the world around us; we are the Watchmen on the wall; we hold the keys of the kingdom. The things that happen in our time and in our country are therefore our responsibility. Consequently, when society sins in this way, it is because the Church has sinned, has failed to lead— “their” sin stems from our failure to lead in a godly manner. The ethical circumstances would be different in a purely pagan culture, with no dominant Christian culture. But in our North American and European context, with its deep Christian roots, God’s curse of homosexuality is a special judgment against His people, not against typical secular idols. As long ago as the 1830’s, the apostate Ralph Waldo Emerson could observe about orthodox Protestantism that “their creed is passing away, and none arises in its room. I think no man can go with his thoughts about him into one of our churches, without feeling that what the hold of public worship had on men is gone. . . . In the country, neighborhoods, half parishes are signing off, to use the local term. . . . I have heard a devout person, who prized the Sabbath, say in bitterness of heart, `On Sundays, it seems wicked to go to church.'” Yet how much farther would the American church fall after the 1830s? The American Church’s compromises with idolatry are deep and dated, and God appears to be sending us a highlighted curse.
Curses are removed by our repentance, not denunciations of “them.”
To focus on “them” as if homosexuality were primarily a secular problem is to miss the issue in a large way. Denunciations of homosexual sin tend to place the speaker in the position of cleanliness: “we are judge over you.” But if this is our curse, then there is no corporate room for such a stand. If we are the cause of the curse, then we need first to confess and repent for whatever brought it on. Anything short of this risks missing the purpose of the curse.As we repent, one of two things will happen: repentance in the Church will bring about a lifting of the curse from our national life, or it will bring about a final rupture between a self-conscious secularist America and a self-consciously Trinitarian America.
We should, therefore, “own” homosexual sin.
Our nation’s chastisement is the Church’s responsibility; we Christians are the cause, not the secularists. And as our problem, we must seek to remove the curse by ecclesiastical means, namely, confession and right worship. Our focus in this situation is not preaching the law to secularists. It should be searching out the cause of the curse in our own hearts, and in our own traditions.
Homosexuality is about resentment.
At its root, homosexuality is a love of sameness rather than difference. Jehovah teaches us to love difference, and in this fallen world obsessed with finding ways to deface God, homosexuality rejects difference in order to spite God.
In a theological context, we understand that homosexuality is a deep longing for communion with the masculine, a longing that has been trampled by neglectful or abusive fathering. This breach with the masculine produces a resentment so deep that it will violate the cosmos to get it. Testimony from homosexuals (male and female) often points back to a sinful father or husband, either in some form of neglect or bitter domination. A twisted form of heterosexual fatherhood lies at the root of homosexuality, and tragically, this form of twisted fatherhood is not rare in the believing Church.
Christian fathers are a primary cause of the curse of homosexuality.
One of the leading promises of the New Covenant is, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:5,6). But in the American context, we are seeing a very stark reversal of this promise, unlike, it seems, anywhere else in the world. Our uniqueness lies, not in the rise of homosexuality, but rather in the fact that this is happening in a nation with millions of conservative, evangelical, believing fathers, now and in our past.
Can we not say, at this point, that the primary cause of this multi-generational break appears to sit squarely with Christian fathers? For generations, we, as fathers, have lied about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through our refusal to live self-sacrificially. Even in our own congregations, fathers are provoking their children not only to sin, but into patterns of resentment, into the patterns of homosexuality.
Homosexuality will only pass when Christian fatherhood is pleasing to God.
How does the Church clean up this mess? Obviously it starts with confession, but not just in our circles. What if we confessed publicly before the non-Christian community that we are the problem? What if we concede that the American Christian tradition is largely responsible for the resentment that expresses itself, in part, in homosexuality? This should be the starting point, and it may take generations. Repentance is the key to lifting any curse, and repenting for our fathering is the first step toward freeing people from resentment. For various reasons, the homosexual community cannot applaud this move; in fact, they will be furious. But, deep down, they’ll know the truth; they know the problem far better than we do. Their resentment actually focuses on it; our sin has been that of looking the other way.
Our repentance lives under a curse.
Instead of duplicating the sins of the past by dealing with fruit rather than with roots, i.e., denouncing the spread of homosexual marriage and culture, we need to own the cultural curse. By this, we mean we must accept the fact of it as just. Pointing to “their” corrupt fruit does not address our corrupt root. This is the core failure of neglectful/domineering fathers and husbands. Given these circumstances, we ought live in exile, as Jeremiah’s Israel did, until God Himself lifted the curse. Jeremiah said to “seek the peace of the city” (Jer. 29:7), not protest pagan legislation. Under a curse, we should own the curse of same-sex marriage and not fight it so far as it concerns them. That is not our calling.
The calling of Christian men is to be godly husbands and fathers, within the family and within the Church. In a public sense, we ought to acknowledge the curse of same-sex marriage as a just judgment on us and our culture. In the brewing culture wars, we ought not to stand with those seeking to ban same-sex marriage (or with those seeking to impose it). We ought to declare publicly (frustrating both sides) that we embrace this curse. If the civil authority demands our political tunic, we let him have our political cloak also. We own the sin in the first place.
Our repentance must defy all attempts to make our repentance illegal.
Some observers argue that the true goal of homosexual activists is not to come alongside heterosexuals in the institution of marriage but rather to destroy the institution of marriage. If this is so, we must also accept the duty of submissively defying any law that requires us to not repent of our sin. This means that within the boundaries of faithful families and churches, the absolute authority of Scripture over sexual and marital matters must be held inviolate and must be publicly acknowledged, taught, preached, and practiced. Holiness is joy, and repentance begins with delighting in Triune life within our families and churches.
We must have reformation in the Church.
At the same time as offering no resistance in the civil realm, we increase the fight within the Church. Worship is the key to reality, and we lead with our confession of failed fatherhood followed by protections for those Christians within the church who are threatened by this disintegration of the civil order. False and corrupt worship brought sodomy to us, and genuine worship leads to national reformation. This reformation includes the necessity of preaching that the nation as a nation must submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Side issues about science:
For the sake of argument, we should readily grant homosexual genetic claims. God controls everything, and so we can grant any and all scientific claims about the genetic bases of sin. Accept it all in the providence of God. Every sin is genetically grounded, and yet, in a Christian cosmos, we are still responsible. We should also add the warning that those who trust in science are doomed to be refuted; genetic scientists two hundred years from now will laugh at our current, cutting-edge discoveries.
The Christian Church is not a “conservative” or “right wing” frat house that denounces “fags.” The antithesis is not between left and right but between faithfulness and unfaithfulness—between faithfulnes and sodomy, but also between faithfulness and gay-baiting. We welcome refugees from the homosexual lifestyle into the Church; indeed we actively seek to point them to glorious life in Christ, the gospel of liberation. The apostle Paul points to homosexuality and addresses those in the early church: “And such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:11). Yet at the same time, with biblical language, we must also defy all apostles of that fruitlessness as rebellious “dogs” (Dt. 23:18).
Naming is crucial in all of this. In the secular left/right naming battles, both sides have granted homosexuals the central ground. Homosexuals say they are “queer” as a point of pride, while outsiders use it as a taunt or insult. But they both agree that homosexuality is in fact queer. But our charge against those who promote this sin is that they promote a dull and monotonous love of sameness, and the last thing we may call this is queer. The homo in homosexual is the Greek word for same, and the English in “same-sex marriage” is the same. A resentment of true difference and dogmatic insistence upon sameness is the sine qua non of homosexuality. However desperate the attempts, this tenacious loyalty to sameness cannot be obscured or hidden by odd mannerisms, paper hats, grease paint, outlandish outfits, and Mardi Gras style parties. Under all the odd and outlandish clothing, when the couple have disrobed, everything is the same and not queer at all. What God did at the beginning is truly queer—male and female created He them. So just as we avoid calling them gay when they are miserable, so we avoid calling them queer when queer is precisely what they are refusing to be. But this, too, is the responsibility of the Church, and we confess our disobedience in refusing to see the world in Trinitarian ways.
The destruction of our civil order:
In true repentance, we should invert as many contemporary categories as we can—own the curse of homosexuality upon our parenting, grant the science, and explicitly embrace God’s transformation of our civil order. True repentance in the Church, not trust in civil coercion, will either restore that order or establish a different order. So we openly accept homosexual marriage in the civil realm as God’s means of undermining that civil realm, and we accept that He has done this in judgment for wicked fathering within the Church.