Last week, a bunch of flyers were seen on campus at my alma mater, Biola University, advertising an underground LGBTQ group (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer; for those unaware), whose purpose is to “share our life struggles, as well as our love and support for one another” (see the full self-description here). For those of you who don’t know, Biola is known to be one of the more conservative Christian educational institutions in the English-speaking world and have a firm statement regarding biblical sexuality: “sexual intimacy is designed by God to be expressed solely within a marriage between one man and one woman” (here‘s the full statement). The fact that this happened is both shocking and unsurprising: shocking, because of where it happened (on the campus of a conservative evangelical institution), and unsurprising, because the LGBTQ lifestyle is becoming more and more accepted even among Christians. This advertisement of sorts may have been spawned in part by Obama’s recent statement regarding homosexual marriage, and my guess is that this underground group found enough solace from the President’s affirmation to take a step forward. Unsurprisingly, the Christian community has issued various responses to Obama’s statement, including the insightful post by Michael Horton. But I just want to briefly identify what I consider to be an important methodological distinction in this discussion.
The LGBTQ issue is more emotional rather than rational, so to try and convince someone in that community of your position based on rational grounds seems to be futile–not to say there aren’t exceptions to this generalization. In other words, one does not identify him-/herself as LGBTQ one day because he/she has weighed the options and has decided that on rational grounds that one is more beneficial than the other. In that case, heterosexuality has far more “benefits” than homosexuality–a major one being procreation–so why would someone rationally choose the latter? Rather, it seems to me that one makes the decision based on deeper levels of attraction. And as psychologists have pointed out, attraction isn’t a choice (just think of someone you know who’s tried in vain to break up with their abusive boyfriend but can’t because she still “loves” him). In fact, most people I know who identify themselves as LGBTorQ have (severely) struggled with making their identity public, in fear of possible persecution, ostracism, rejection, or ridicule. This is especially true if this person was raised in a religious context. LGBTQs will admit that theirs wasn’t as much a choice as a consequence. Identifying the source of this attraction is beyond the scope of my post. But the mistake I see many make, including well-meaning Christians, is to speak rationally with a self-identifying LGBTQ instead of emotionally. Instead, I would suggest it’s more fruitful to discuss this issue at the deeper level of attraction and impulse (I use the word “impulse” to refer, not to sudden involuntary forces, but to a general influence or urge). What this specifically entails will depend on the direction and end goal of the discussion, but if a fruitful dialogue is to take place, it seems beneficial to be aware of this deeper, emotional level.