The Lost Opportunity to Preach Homonormativity
One of the things that befuddles me about traditional Christianity (and also Mormonism) is its morality about sexuality. Ostensibly, one of the sells about these religions is supposed to be their fruits. A life transformed by Jesus Christ is supposed to look like something, but more specifically, it’s supposed to look like something good, and as has been discussed at LDS & Evangelical Conversations, certain Christians should agree on what that life should look like.
I asked what a life transformed by Jesus should look like, since from my view, Christians seem just as petty, judgmental, spiteful, rude, angry, inconsiderate, as everyone else (it’s as if….contrary to the claim that religion is obviously decisive in one’s life…that instead, religion is irrelevant.) (But it’s worse than that…it’s as if religion is not just irrelevant, but also sometimes harmful…as some of the fruits I see from Christians are self-denial, self-rejection, inauthenticity, lying to oneself and to others, fearfulness, and so on. It is these sorts of things that cause people to have faith crises, I think.)
Some people answered that Christians sin just like everyone else, so one shouldn’t expect Christians to be perfect. Then someone gave me the standard Biblical answer for what sorts of things should be manifesting in a transformed Christian life.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
The fun thing about this scripture is how generic it is…how…it doesn’t seem to fit the moral code that Christians want to enshrine in law, and how it isn’t even unique to Christianity.
That being said, for the most part, I think that I can recognize that there are some human ills and deficiencies. So, you know, I can see how lying is bad…I obviously can see how stealing is bad, how murder is bad. These things produce worse outcomes — even if those outcomes don’t come immediately. (Of course, there’s room to argue on whether these things are bad in every situation, or whether there are justifications. Ethics is not a solved problem.)
I don’t think Christianity is unique to recognize these things as bad, and I don’t think one needs to be Christian to recognize these things as bad. I think that many people can often be “unaware” or “unconscious” about things they are doing that are harming their lives, and that frameworks or concepts or ideas or worldview that can help people be more fully “awake” are helpful. However, I think that some things that Christianity is adamant are “bad” just…don’t make a lot of sense.
I think that homosexuality is a clear example.
The argument typically goes like this: sexuality is given to humanity for expression in marriage between a man and a woman. Homosexuality falls outside these boundaries, therefore it is sin. It is like alcoholism or a propensity toward violence because it is a natural urge of which God has forbidden expression. Like other impulses of the “natural man,” we might feel drawn to certain behaviors, but that doesn’t make acting on the impulse justifiable or correct.
This is an argument I myself espoused for many years. But then I took a closer look and realized that I had failed to take note of some critical differences.
First, consider the nature of sexuality itself. I think we can all agree that sexuality is not inherently evil; at worst we might say it is morally neutral, a power humanity has been given to exercise for good or ill. At best (and I think a strong argument can be made for this), it’s inherently good.
Contrast this with urges toward addiction or violence, or other urges symptomatic of the “natural man,” such as avarice, hatred, or judgment. These natural inclinations necessarily lead to destructive ends. There is no situation where addiction is healthy. There is no situation where violence is the best answer. There is no situation where hatred can be used positively. There is no situation where it’s correct to envy or condemn. That’s not the case for sex. Sexual urges are something fundamentally different from these other urges (which I like to call “diabolical” vices).
Please note that, in and of itself, this doesn’t make homosexuality right — it just makes questions of sexuality DIFFERENT from cases of addiction or violence. We can all think of circumstances where sexuality is used in destructive ways. But a closer examination reveals that this tends to happen when sexuality is tied up in one of the diabolical vices: sexual coercion is violence; sexual addiction is, well, addiction; lust is the de-humanizing of someone made in the image of God and reducing them into an object for personal gratification; infidelity is dishonesty and betrayal. The list goes on.
Which of the diabolical vices is homosexuality attached to? Dead serious question. Because I can’t find one.
Not only that, Jesus said, “By your fruits ye shall know them.” When I examine committed, mature homosexual relationships, I see the same kind of fruit emerging as in committed, mature heterosexual relationships. I see people who are willing to sacrifice, work together, and grow together to become something greater as a couple than they could be alone. I see stability and peace. I see the transformation that comes from sharing a life with others.
Yep. See, the way that Christians and Mormons want to lump homosexuality itself with things like lying (see the comments to this article) just befuddles me — like do they really not see the categorical difference between the two? Do they really not see the inherent destruction in some things that don’t exist in others?
(Then again, some people argued that from a sinful perspective, what may be evil may look good and what may be good may look evil…but doesn’t this really undercut the idea that we will know based on fruits? If moral intuitions actually cannot be trusted, and everyone doesn’t necessarily recognize what is moral as moral, then doesn’t this actually put us close to relativism?)
I mean, it feels like some Christians only see out of homosexuality a particular form of promiscuous hedonism. One person in one of the discussions seemed to think that the discussion on homosexuality was an open and shut case because to him, the fruit of homosexuality is AIDS. In these comments and others, there doesn’t seem to be an acknowledgement that 1) straight people can be promiscuous, can catch diseases, etc., too, and 2) gay people can live their sexuality in non-promiscuous ways.
I just feel like if Christians want to espouse a sexual ethic of commitment and monogamy, they are missing an opportunity to preach that ethic consistently to homosexuals. I mean, as some of the most heteronormative people — in the sense of espousing the father and mother, 2.5 kids, and white picket fence is an ideal — Mormons in particular have a really easy way out of their LGB conundrums: espouse homonormativity. (P.S., I think LDS ideas about eternal gender vs fallen bodies gives them an easier out on transgender issues, but that’s a different post.)
To be sure, homonormativity is not without its critics; after all, one could make the claims that the sort of standards around heteronormativity are a perfect storm of classist, racist, consumerist, sexist, and all sorts of other bugaboos. But hey, it just goes to show that someone could advocate for particular expressions of heterosexuality (hetero, homo, bi, or other) without moving to an “anything goes” standpoint. And the thing is: lots of people who are raised in Christian or Mormon homes would *love* if this were an option open to them. Many already want to do this — they want mother + mother + 2.5 kids + white picket fence, or father + father + 2.5 kids + white picket fence. But what do we do instead? We insist celibacy. For some people, it isn’t better to marry than to burn with passion. They can just deal with it or gtfo. And that’s what people do. They gtfo, and they actually do engage in a lot of the destructive behaviors because they were taught that their sexuality in and of itself was wrong (so if you’re going to be wrong, why not go all the way?)
…I understand that this will probably always be too much to ask of the Christians who enshrine sexuality to being about a penis entering a vagina with the hopes of producing babies — they will not be amused or satisfied. And I guess it is true that there are still people who think that even *contraception* is sinful, so it isn’t even enough to point out that most straight people aren’t doing that. (Oh, they are just fallen sinners too…)
But I dunno, people seriously and unironically discussing how committed, monogamous gay relationships are comparable to lying or how they should be included in lists of moral deficiencies…yeah, that just doesn’t seem like great fruit to me.