Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 9. 1967.
Christianity and Homosexuals
Christianity and Homosexuals
A Modern writer commenting on the Church and its relation to our society (Pierre Berton, The Comfortable Pew), has said that in the eyes of the Church the homosexual is the leper of today. In this he was saying less about the "disease" than about the reaction of people to it.
Traditionally the Church has looked upon homosexuality as "a shameful vice and a grievous sin" (Dr. Geoff Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1953) and the person indulging in it as an outcast—outside the Kingdom of God. The equivalent in the law of the Old Testament was death, by stoning or fire. Today we leave it to the law.
Though this attitude remains the predominant one, there are many signs that a greater understanding of the condition of homosexuality is now being accepted in the Church. In Britain in 1954 the Church of England Moral Welfare Council issued a pamphlet The Problem Of Homosexuality, putting forward a moderate view which sees homosexual acts not as a rule as destructive of the life of society, as "ordinary" adultery. Following from this they saw it as a matter more appropriately dealt with by the individual conscience than by law.
D. J. West in his book quotes also a French Roman Catholic priest, Father Oraison, who is both priest and doctor. Oraison condemns the ignorance of those who look upon homosexuals as monsters and sees their action as one of weakness rather than one of mortal sin. In New Zealand the Methodist Church in 1961 approved a report supporting the "Legal Toleration of Homosexual Practices" following the pattern of the Wolfenden Report, with this rider, that "to say that in certain circumstances homosexual behaviour should not be a criminal offence is not to condone or encourage private immorality."
The Presbyterian Church's Public Questions Committee, in the light of this discussion, drew up a preliminary report in 1962 agreeing with legal toleration but going further and trying to see the complex nature of homosexuality. Though this was not further debated, doubt was raised in accepting the usual view of many Christians today that homosexuality itself is not sinful but homosexual acts are. They asked the question: "Is it realistic to expect the true homosexual to lead a life of complete continence?"
In an attempt to begin to give an answer to this, I would want to refer briefly to the Biblical evidence and some principles which may be drawn from it.
In the matter of homosexuality, the Bible has little to say. One can only presume that this was no great problem. There is the story of Sodom (Genesis 19), the laws of Leviticus (20.13) and St. Paul making brief reference concerning lesbianism (Romans 1.26) and homosexuality (1 Corinthians 6.9). Here homosexuality is included with other sexual aberrations such as adultery and linked in a general list with idolatry, greed and thieving.
It is better to look at what the Bible says about sexuality and human relationships in general and see what place homosexuality has in this context rather than single out proof texts.
I would make two main points.
• That the basis of the created order is heterosexuality "male and female he made them"—in a state of physical complementariness for the sake of procreation. One might say that the difference between male and female is too great to have been a mistake. This is the normal order of sexuality.
• That even more important than this is the relationship of love between a man and a woman. This is the completing of life. It was not good that man should be alone —he needed "a helpmate for him."
This relationship is described in the simplest of terms "that the two become one," not only with reference to the physical, but as an emotionally fulfilling partnership. Procreation is not enough, nor is it the primary reason for human relations and sexuality, Rather the reason is love, faithful and constant, so that each person becomes the "property" of the other. In the service of Christian marriage, the first reason given is "the lifelong companionship, help and comfort that husband and wife ought to have of each other." Anything that breaks this, breaks the desire of God.
In stating these two points I have not been trying to avoid the subject in hand, but trying to find the Christian context of understanding it. Christian morality is not just a handful of unbreakable laws, such as "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, he shall surely be put to [unclear: de] but an effort to regulate [unclear: a] understand society and man [unclear: iety] so that he may enjoy the [unclear: f] possible experience of love [unclear: in] [unclear: an] relationships.
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To say [unclear: t] [unclear: s] in no way to countenance [unclear: p] [unclear: scuity] and perversion in [unclear: homose] behaviour any more or less [unclear: tha] [unclear: eterosexual] behaviour because [unclear: ir] [unclear: ese] ways, both frustrate [unclear: the] desired for us. But it does [unclear: a] that where people cannot [unclear: en] [unclear: he] fullness of human [unclear: relationsh] [unclear: the] normal way, the Church [unclear: sh] [unclear: help] them by accept ing, [unclear: with] [unclear: prejudice] or stigma, their [unclear: abn] [unclear: lity] and by finding ways for [unclear: n] to enjoy the com- [unclear: panionshi] [unclear: nd] love of another person [unclear: wh] [unclear: God] desires for everyone.