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Are Homosexuals God's Children?
by Kate McLaughlin (aka Carrol Grady)
A parent learns of her son's orientation and struggles to understand.
If you had asked me nine years ago what I knew about homosexuals, I would have replied emphatically that they were disgusting men, depraved and perverted, who were obsessed with sex, and furthermore, that the Bible said they would not enter heaven.
My dogmatic opinion was based on a lifetime of absorbing subtle messages from society and the church. I had never really given the subject a great deal of thought, and why should I? I didn't actually know any homosexuals, and as a minister's wife I certainly didn't think I would ever come in contact with anybody like that.
And then, one dark day, I discovered that my own son is a homosexual. That made all the difference in the world. Why? Because I know my son. And he is not at all like what I thought I "knew" about homosexuals.
Danny is a gentle person, thoughtful and considerate of others. He is intelligent, articulate, and talented in music, writing, and art. Most of all, he is deeply spiritual.
How could a person like Danny be a homosexual? Reeling from the shock of this discovery, I kept wondering,What has it been like for Danny? In the midst of my confusion and grief, I was driven to learn the truth about homosexuality, because, obviously, my preconceived ideas were not right.
Weighed down with the shame and stigma attached to homosexuals by society and church, I felt I couldn't talk to anybody about it. Instead, I began reading everything I could find about homosexuality. I read books by Christians and non-Christians, psychiatrists and scientists, parents and homosexuals themselves. I left no stone unturned And what have I learned, after years of reading, observing, and eventually talking to people?
First Steps to Understanding
For starters, I have learned that homosexuality is a condition, not a behavior. Whatever may cause a homosexual orientation, it is not something a person chooses.
Danny told us that from his earliest memories he knew he was "different." In his eighth-grade Bible textbook he read a definition of homosexuals and recognized that this was "how" he was different. For the next eight years he prayed desperately that God would change him, and spent hours agonizing over his problem with a few trusted teachers.
Danny dated girls--always hoping to feel what other boys felt, always disappointed. And then, in college, he met a girl that he did feel something special for and thought he had at last found the answer. He asked her to marry him and waited hopefully for more of the right feelings to come. They never did. After two and a half years he faced the fact that it wasn't going to work, and he broke the engagement.
I have since learned that many homosexual men, especially Christians, do get married, hoping this will help them get over their orientation. When this does not happen, the marriage usually breaks up, bringing heartache to the whole family. Although I had mourned the loss of a prospective daughter-in-law that we dearly loved, I am now able to be thankful that she and Danny did not marry.
One of the greatest fears many people, including Christians, have about homosexuals is that they cannot be trusted around children-that they will try to lure young boys or girls into this lifestyle. I learned that this fear results from confusing homosexuals with pedophiles. These individuals -- usually men -- are sexually attracted to children.
Praying for Change
The typical Christian answer to the dilemma of homosexuality is to pray that God will "heal" the homosexual and restore him or her to heterosexuality. A number of Christian "change" ministries testify to this widespread "solution." But, as the well-known Baptist sociologist and minister Tony Campolo points out in a video interview (From This Moment, Love), the hope that these ministries offer to homosexuals sets up most of them for disillusionment and despair.
On rare occasions God may change a person's sexual orientation, just as God may occasionally heal a person of cancer But this is not the way God usually works. When homosexuals are told that if they just come to God they will be "delivered" from homosexual feelings, but find this doesn't happen, they feel God has rejected them. The most frequent result is that they give up on God and the church and turn to a promiscuous lifestyle. Sometimes their despair is so great that they commit suicide.
What, then, of the successes these change ministries claim? Campolo suggests that most individuals who claim success are probably bisexuals who also have a strong religious motivation. As bisexuals they are able to choose to limit their romantic attachments to persons of the opposite sex. Change ministries, however, are unable to point to a convincing long-term success rate among those who are exclusively homosexual.
Having learned that a person's sexual orientation has nothing to do with whether or not a person is a Christian, I realized that there must be many people in our church who struggle with this dilemma. With this new awareness, I soon began to find them. Friends we had known over the years had heartaches like ours but had kept them carefully hidden.
The extent to which this hidden pain exists in our church is illustrated by a survey conducted by the Southeastern California Conference in which 45 percent of the respondents said they have a close friend or relative who is homosexual (Adventist Review, Aug. 18, 1994).
With this realization, I felt compelled to tell our story, to let other parents know they are not alone, and to share what I have learned about homosexuality with those in the church whose understanding may be at the place mine was seven years ago. My book, My Son, Beloved Stranger, was published in 1995.1 have been amazed at the response. It seems that almost everyone I talk with has a friend or relative who is homosexual. Parents have called and written from all across the country, grateful finally to have someone they can talk to, someone who understands.
Are homosexuals God's children? Did not Jesus befriend prostitutes, including Mary Magdalene? He cast out Mary's demons not just once, but seven times. It was to Mary that He first appeared after His resurrection.
I feel sure that if Jesus walked our earth today, He would reach out in love and understanding to those struggling with a homosexual orientation.
As caring Christians, we can make special efforts to include homosexuals as warmly loved and appreciated members of our church family. Since the Seventh-day Adventist Church teaches that God asks them to give up hope of fulfilling their desire for sexual expression, we need to surround them with loving support and acceptance. If they occasionally lose a battle, we should demonstrate the same patience and tolerance for them as we do for ourselves and fellow Christians who slip in their struggle with pride, selfishness, or temper.
I long to see our church take the lead in demonstrating Christian love and compassion for homosexuals, neither condemning them for an orientation over which they have no control, nor encouraging them to accept something less than God's best for their lives, but supporting them with prayer and understanding as they seek to follow God's plan for their lives. I invite you to join me in helping to make this happen.
Kate McLaughlin is a pseudonym.
Adventist Review, April, 1997