The cultural battle over gay rights has taken on a renewed energy. A decade ago the gay rights battlegrounds were the military and increased exposure in television and movies; now the battleground has extended to society's acceptance of gay marriage's equality with traditional heterosexual marriage and family.
Some U.S. political leaders are busy trying to garner support for a new law that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. At the same time, other lawmakers are lobbying for expansion of gay rights including the legalization of homosexual marriages. Even President Bush got into the act when he publicly declared his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman and equated homosexuality with sin.
Gay rights activists have scored some impressive victories in recent years, both culturally and politically: the Supreme Court's striking down a Texas antisodomy law as unconstitutional, a leading retail chain's public statements about protecting the rights of gay employees and public homosexual parties at Disney World to name a few.
A USA Today /CNN/Gallup Poll shows some backlash against the gay agenda in the general public. While 48 percent of Americans polled said they supported legalization of same-sex relations between consenting adults, 46 percent said that same-sex unions should be illegal. This is the highest number of people taking a stand against homosexuality since 1996.
History of U.S. views toward homosexual behavior
To understand the intensity of this debate we must know a little of its history. The early settlers of the United States were nearly all Christians. They belonged to various denominations but overwhelmingly agreed that homosexual acts were morally wrong.
All of the original 13 states passed laws declaring homosexual activity punishable by death. Thomas Jefferson felt that capital punishment was too strict and proposed it be replaced with a lesser punishment. The last state to remove the death penalty for homosexual acts from its books was North Carolina in 1869.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s many in the medical profession, especially in the field of psychology, considered homosexuality a mental illness. The cultural revolution of the 1960s created a new sexual freedom that included acceptance of same-sex relationships.
Today, the country is split over the traditional Christian view of homosexuality and a secular outlook rooted either in the rejection of the teachings of the Bible or in a radical reinterpretation of biblical statements.
The secular position is founded on the argument that the health of a democratic society is dependent on the acceptance of minority behavior like homosexuality. On the surface that seems like a legitimate argument, but the real issue is this: What criteria determine moral behavior that is beneficial both for the individual and society?
There was a time when most people in society believed that pornography was demeaning to women and contributed to unhealthy attitudes about sex in men. Under the guise of tolerance, pornography is now argued as a right of free speech even though the negative influences of pornography on male perceptions of women are well documented.
The real issues are vital to the future of Western civilization and the United States. Are there standards of conduct that are intrinsically wrong? Who determines right and wrong? Are good and evil simply a matter of subjective feelings so that what might be wrong for me is not wrong for you, or are right and wrong founded on objective laws designed into creation?
Growing cultural acceptance of deviant behavior
More and more movies, television sitcoms and daytime soap operas feature gay or lesbian characters in positive roles. It was not that long ago that it would have been inconceivable for a network to air a television program like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a big hit for the cable network Bravo.
Where homosexuality was once considered a mental illness, today a person rejecting it is criticized for being homophobic. Christians who oppose the gay lifestyle are in danger of being labeled as bigoted, hatemongering or even mentally ill themselves.
In an opinion column appearing in the San Antonio Express News, author Ira Issachar describes himself as an avowed "heterosexual agnostic." He claims to have "no quarrel, issue or discomfort with people who are gay."
Mr. Issachar goes on to ask a question that he says is a "fundamental point of the struggle. Who is the real source of the Bible? God or man?" He finishes his editorial with these comments: "The Bible, to me, is just another religious book, written by a culture thousands of years ago.
"But I am intelligent enough to know that my views are fallible. Who knows? Maybe God does exist. Maybe God is the author of the Bible. If that was the case and I was involved in active homosexuality, I would no doubt need to soberly reassess my theology."
Does God exist, and does it matter?
Mr. Issachar hits on a number of important points. First, there can be no compromising between those who believe in a traditional, biblically based view and the homosexual agenda. If one accepts the Bible as inspired by God, then homosexual activity is intrinsically wrong and unacceptable in a truly Christian society.
In the New Testament the apostle Paul writes to the church at Rome: "Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened" (Romans 1:20-21, New Revised Standard Version).
Paul says that the obvious design, intricacy and grandeur of the creation unmistakably declare the existence of God. If there is a Creator, then He must know how His creation is supposed to function. But human beings want total self-determination and reject the Creator's instructions.
Paul continues: "Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature [i.e., the creation] rather than the Creator ..." (verses 22-25, NRSV).
Human beings may reject the revelation of God in His creation, and His instruction book on how to live life, but because of the spiritual aspects of human nature we still desire answers to the meaning of life and death. So we create our own religious standards and values. But hollow religions built on human opinion not only fail to fulfill our need for God, they allow, or even promote, destructive behavior the Creator never intended.
Paul writes next: "For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done" (verses 26-28, NRSV).
Here gay and lesbian sexual activity is clearly condemned as sin. Paul also lists other sins condemned by God like murder, hatred, envy, violence and many other human actions that the Bible says are sin, or rebellion, against the Creator. Homosexual behavior isn't the only sin, but it is definitely on the list.
A good example of how even professing Christians are divided on this issue is the election of an openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. An Associated Press story highlights the confusion over this issue by stating that "the Episcopal Church has no official rules—either for or against—ordaining gays." A paragraph later the same article states, "In 1998, Anglican leaders approved a resolution calling gay sex 'incompatible with Scripture.'"
Of course, it's impossible to have it both ways. If a church claims to be biblically based, then it must follow the Bible's teachings. The sad reality is that many churches are more in tune with societal trends and political correctness than following the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Some radicals claim that to brand homosexuality as a sin is to violate Jesus' instruction not to judge one another. But Jesus taught against murder, stealing and dishonoring your parents. Is anyone prepared to say that murderers should be allowed to freely kill because Christians supposedly aren't to judge between right and wrong?
How should Christians react to homosexuals?
When discussing homosexuality, many Christians immediately think of God's punishment on Sodom and Gomorrah. The Genesis account describes God destroying with fire a populace that reveled in its acceptance of homosexuality.
Under the theocracy of ancient Israel, death was the penalty imposed for homosexual activity and other sexual sins. Jesus Christ didn't give that same judicial authority to the Church. Christians do have the commission to proclaim the gospel, which includes a call for repentance from rebellion against the laws of the Creator—including those that forbid homosexual behavior.
This is an important question for both Christians and homosexuals to consider: Does God love homosexuals?
The Scripture says that God sent Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for the sins of all people. This includes the sins of homosexuality, lying, hatred, adultery, greed, lust and all other destructive behavior that goes against the way God intended for human beings to live. Christians should then reach out to homosexuals with the message of hope and forgiveness that would bring them spiritual healing and strength to abstain from any form of sinful behavior.
The battle over gay rights is more than a democratic discussion over tolerance. The future of any society depends on the strength of its families, and homosexuality strikes at the very foundation of marriage and family. The gay agenda also strikes at the very heart of Christianity, which rests on the validity of the Bible and the sovereignty of the Creator over His creation.
Christianity is more than simply professing Jesus' name or belief in Him. It is being His disciple, a follower of what He taught. If you claim to be a Christian, it's time you studied what God really says about issues like homosexuality. GN