Straight from the Heart
Q: Several years ago, Eloise, a member of my family who had previously been heterosexual, began to live as a lesbian. How can we show love toward her and yet not appear to condone this decision? She was raised as a Christian, and must know this choice is not what the Lord would want. But even though we don't agree with Eloise's behavior, we still love her and want to spend time with her and her daughter.
—Susan Hammock, via e–mail
A: The current momentum in our society is to not merely tolerate but celebrate homosexuality. If you don't say anything, it looks like you affirm it. But it's not as easy as just saying you disagree. While the mainstream opinion is assumed to be enthusiastic affirmation, the alternative is assumed to be hatred. That's not the case for you, either. You love Eloise; you're just worried about her. There doesn't seem to be a category for the way you feel.
Just a few decades ago, the general impression of homosexuality was that it was an ugly and bizarre lifestyle. In that era, gays and lesbians kept hidden their inner desires and chose to live publicly as heterosexuals. In recent years, the gay and lesbian community has achieved an image makeover. They created a third way between the previous alternatives of enforced heterosexuality and "depraved outcasts," and established an identity that mainstream society accepts as responsible, likeable, and "normal."
If Christians are to engage this culture with the love of Christ, we must adjust our perspectives as well. We don't have to accept the socially imposed alternatives of either endorsing homosexuality or being seen as hateful. Look at your own feelings, for example.
You don't loathe Eloise; you love her as a family member and enjoy visiting with her. You want the best for her, which is why you're worried about her turn to lesbianism. You know it's wrong. Whatever disappointment or loneliness afflicted her previous heterosexual life, this is not the way to perfect healing. You recognize that Eloise is not powerless to change her "orientation"—she's already done it once. So you insist on seeing her as a full and complex human being, one who needs Christ's healing as much as anyone else, rather than as someone who can be completely explained by the label "lesbian."
You deserve to have the culture respect your Christian convictions without stereotyping you as hateful and intolerant. How to do it?
One gay rights slogan goes: "We're here, we're queer, get used to it!" National Review columnist John Derbyshire returns the challenge: "We're here, we're mildly and tolerantly homophobic, get used to it!" It's false, he says, to label everyone who resists affirming homosexuality as a dangerous lunatic. We just want to be permitted to live by our convictions.
I doubt Derbyshire can succeed in re–appropriating the term "homophobia," but I admire his attempt to offer a third way between the forced alternatives of celebration and hate. There are a great many of us who share this position.
It's not unusual for there to be a gap between what people say and what they do, but usually the weakness is on the doing side. Here it's the reverse: we're already walking the walk, feeling love toward homosexuals yet prayerfully wishing to call them to wholeness in Christ. Now we have to learn to talk the talk.
Frederica Mathewes–Green is the author of The Illumined Heart (Paraclete Press).
Copyright © 2004 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian magazine.
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