Let me first thank all of you who responded to last week’s post about my gay brother John–I heard from many family and friends who knew him. You helped me to recognize that I need to say a little more about John. I was so focused on my relationship with him that I failed to mention that he was quite successful; he traveled around the world in his early career and worked as a high level manager at AT&T towards the end of his career. He was quite popular as an adult and had a multi-cultural group of friends. He was smart and well loved by many. His life was a blessing to many people, not just me.
I said last week that one of the things John’s life taught me is that he did not choose to be gay. This is important because many in the church have characterized a homosexual lifestyle as a sinful choice that can be reversed. And while some church folks are changing their minds on this, many still use it as an excuse to discriminate against people in the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgendered community.
I have seen African American religious leaders become furiously indignant at the mention of equating the gay community’s struggle for equal treatment with the black civil rights struggle. More moderate religious leaders may welcome gays into their churches– as long as the gays will recognize that homosexuality is a sin and repent, and that means to me that they will be expected to change. Others take a “don’t ask, don’t tell” position. Many do not want them to marry in the church. All of these positions view the gay life as less than acceptable.
But John’s life proved to me that God made him just like God wanted him. God formed John in my mothers’ womb. His sexual orientation was as natural to him as my brown skin is to me. I don’t know about all people who are LGBT’s, but I do know about John. And if homosexuals (at least some of them) were made the way they are by God, how dare we judge them?
That’s the question my brother John’s life begs to be answered. And for all of my friends who knew John and his friends from the time they were young boys, you know that they did not choose to be different. And I suspect that all of you reading this can remember children who you knew were gay when they were young, before they became sexually aware. They didn’t choose to be gay–they just were, despite any efforts their parents’ may have made to make them “normal.”
Neil Swidey wrote an informative and detailed article for the Boston Globe in 2005 entitled “What Makes People Gay?” He provides an in-depth review of several scientific studies of how human sexuality develops, highlighted by the story of a mother and her identical twin boys, one of whom exhibited female characteristics and claimed to be a girl when he was a small child. Here are some excerpts:
“Canadian researchers have consistently documented a “big-brother effect,” finding that the chances of a boy being gay increase with each additional older brother he has. (Birth order does not appear to play a role with lesbians.) So, a male with three older brothers is three times more likely to be gay than one with no older brothers, though there’s still a better than 90 percent chance he will be straight. They argue that this results from a complex interaction involving hormones, antigens, and the mother’s immune system.” (I didn’t know that!)
“Still, no matter how imperfect these studies are, when you put them all together and examine them closely, the message is clear: While post-birth development may well play a supporting role, the roots of homosexuality, at least in men, appear to be in place by the time a child is born. After spending years sifting through all the available data, British researchers Glenn Wilson and Qazi Rahman come to an even bolder conclusion in their forthcoming book Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation, in which they write: ‘Sexual orientation is something we are born with and not `acquired’ from our social environment.”
Doesn’t it feel good when science catches up with our own experiences and proves to us what we already figured out?
I believe that God made my brother John to be just who he was, and there is scientific proof to back up my belief. And I see even better proof in my gay friends, some of whom are the nicest, smartest, most spiritual and dedicated Christians I know. How dare I judge any of them? God doesn’t make any junk! And God doesn’t make mistakes! A God who is love (see my post two weeks ago) would not make children only to reject them. God would simply love them with an unlimited, unconditional and permanent love.
And I believe the church ought to accept what God has done and not discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation, which includes allowing them to marry in church. (This obviously does not imply my support for any behavior that violates, hurts or harms others, especially children– but that’s true for everyone, gay or straight, including clergy.)
I can hear some of you now– “But the Bible Says…..”
I love the Bible. It is the most important, inspiring, life-changing book in my life. My own experience with the Bible has helped me to learn to explore it deeply. The deeper my understanding becomes, the more I love it. Biblical interpretation is my all-time number one favorite thing to talk about. I’ll share my thoughts about the Bible on this issue with you next week.
If you’d like to comment to this post, you can click the little balloon at the top of the post for the comments section. Contact me if you’d like to receive these posts by email. Please know that I always wish for you to know and feel the love of God and thereby be filled with peace, joy, and hope.