Should The Testimony of Practicing Homosexuals Change Our View?

testimony 1Why do you believe the things that you do? Why do you act in a certain? Why did you marry the person that you did? These are questions with which we are all confronted at some point, and often, we appeal to our own personal narrative. We explain how we have been personally affected. People will often say that they felt a certain way, that they had a certain unquenchable desire that overwhelmed them. Individuals with a proclivity toward homosexuality often appeal to their personal narrative, and it is often a heart-wrenching story. As I pointed out in my article, Christians: Imagine You Were A Homosexual, these personal narratives should alter the way that we approach the topic in the sense that we should allow them to tell their own story without downplaying it. But many people are tempted to go a step further. Is that justifiable? Should the testimony of practicing homosexuals change our view?

testimony 2I ask this question because it is often a testimony that causes people to rethink their position. You knew somebody, perhaps your child or somebody close to you was a homosexual, and their struggles caused you to realize that it was not a sin after all. There is nothing really wrong with it. How can we say that there is something wrong with it when that very message has caused so much pain and turmoil in the life of so many individuals? That is the sort of reasoning that has persuaded so many people. However, while I am sympathetic with the struggles of my fellow man, I remain unconvinced by this line of reasoning.

It Is Purely Emotional
This is an important distinction that is overlooked far too often in our culture. One might even argue that this is from where relativism has been derived. It is not nice to tell people that they are wrong, or that Christ is the only mediator between God and man. It is not nice to tell devotees that the object of their devotion is a false god. Of course, some people (even Christians) make an effort to maliciously tell people hard truths out of pride or just to hurt their feelings. This is undoubtedly wrong. But nonetheless, we need to separate the emotional objection from the intellectual objection. What do I mean?

We may have a very powerful emotion that leads us to have sympathy with individuals. In that pursuit, we could find ourselves justifying their behavior or telling them that they are not really doing anything wrong. But this could easily turn out to be nothing more than coddling. We could just be so overwhelmed with emotion that we are willing to overlook the rational element of an issue. While the intentions to have sympathy is good, that intention is often misused. Just because we might feel sympathy for an individual or have an emotional connection with their testimony should not lead us to change our views of their behavior. It should lead us to find a legitimate outlet for that sympathy, while maintaining the distinction between emotion and intellect.

Everybody Has A Narrative
The problem with basing your beliefs on the testimony of other people is that everybody has a narrative. Anybody can tell you a story of some trial that they went through. Even hateful people have a story. Perhaps they were abused as a child or they never made any friends. Individuals who rape little children were often the victim of a rapist. Individuals who abuse women were often abused as children. This is not to say that homosexuals are akin to these people, but it is to say that everybody has a narrative. Anybody can tell you a story of something bad that happened that will cause you to have sympathy for them. But that does not justify the behavior.

In fact, two people could share a powerful narrative explaining how they came to oppose conclusions about a particular behavior. One concluded that a behavior was wrong and the other decided that they wanted to live in bliss while practicing this behavior. This seems to expose the limitations of a narrative. They can help us to relate to other individuals, but they cannot determine the truth-value of a proposition. We need to appeal to our discernment so that we are not succumbing to every emotional force that pulls us.

Defending Against Objections
Unfortunately, when we engage with friends who are homosexuals or advocate for homosexuality, they are often not willing to engage with the intellectual aspect of what is being said. They will respond with something trivial, like saying, “How can you tell other people how they can live their lives or who they can marry?” and of course, this is a rhetorical question that does not have an answer or even want one. This is because the questioner has based their beliefs about homosexuality on their own experiences or the personal narrative of another individual. This has left the questioner without any rational defense of their position.

The only recourse that remains for them is to try to communicate the powerful emotions that they feel, almost infecting the objector so that they will lay down their objections, ceding them to the power of the emotion. When that fails, the objector is referred to as hateful and a bigot. Since the questioner has based their position on emotion, then the only thing that they can do is use emotionally loaded terms, such as bigot, which essentially shuts down communication. That is one of the central problems with basing your beliefs on a narrative. Since the foundation is emotion, rational discourse will be shunned.

Of course, that is not to say that all advocates of homosexual behavior have nothing rational to say. But it is often heavily-laden in emotion. Now, one might suggest that it is impossible to make a case for a moral proposition without appealing to emotion. But I do not think ethics are that poor of a science. For example, in my article The Biblical Case Against Racism, I argued that skin color is merely an extrinsic property that one possesses, and therefore if human beings are degraded for extrinsic properties, it would follow that they do not possess any intrinsic value. This is a rational argument for a moral proposition and follows a model that we all need to consider when making our case.

What About The Narrative of Homosexuals Who Are No Longer Practicing Homosexuality?
Advocates of homosexual behavior have very negative things to say about so-called ex-homosexuals. They will suggest that those people always come back. They are living a lie and their lives are unfulfilled. They have to change who they are in a fundamental way. This strikes me as exceedingly ironic. While advocates of homosexuality will argue that we need to respect the narrative of homosexuals and allow them to tell their own story, they disrespect the narrative of people who have abandoned that lifestyle and called their entire narrative into question.

This is really because it cuts to the core of their own personal narrative. As Christians, we all individually maintain [1] I am the worst of sinners, worse even than homosexuals (1 Timothy 1:15), [2] the Bible explicitly condemns homosexual behavior as a sin (1 Corinthians 6:9), and [3] Christ can set you and I free from that sin and give us new life. The testimony of the homosexual who is no longer practicing gives credence to [2] and [3].

But, if (at least [3]) is true, then that cuts to the core of the homosexual’s narrative. For central to their narrative is that they cannot change. They cannot alter their behavior and if they did, they would find their abode in a miserable existence. Ironically, they will try to impose their narrative onto other people. Everyone who leaves the homosexual lifestyle must be living a miserable existence. Yet the freedom to tell their own story is precisely what they are trying to maintain. Just as I should not impose my assumptions onto their narrative, they should not impose their narrative onto another person.

The Difference Between Bigotry And Criticism
Earlier, I alluded to the fact that in these dialogues, objectors to homosexuality are often referred to as hateful bigots. This emotionally loaded accusation should raise a few questions for us, primarily, what does it mean to be a bigot? A bigot is somebody who is utterly intolerant of opposing opinions. They are not willing to allow somebody who engages in homosexual behavior into their society. They will shout them down, cover their proverbial mouths and never listen to what they have to say. Now, I will be the first to admit that many Christians truly are guilty of bigotry. But, many who are accused of bigotry are not truly guilty of bigotry.

This is because anybody who objects to homosexual behavior or same sex marriage is hastily referred to as a bigot. But is criticism really bigotry? Being tolerant does not mean that we all agree. It means that we disagree and that we overlook those disagreements in a free society. We can have a debate. We can discuss the merits and demerits of a position, even if it is very close to the heart of an individual. Bigotry would be to refuse to overlook those disagreements and to not allow discussion.

Criticism is not bigotry. A criticism of an idea or a practice is not bigotry. It is also not hateful. It would only be hateful if it were an attack on the individual person, using derogatory names and smearing tactics. Again, I admit that many Christians truly have engaged in bigoted behavior. But it is a mistake to conflate all criticism with bigotry. In fact, if you do that, then you probably do fit the technical definition of what a bigot is. A bigot is not so broad as to include anybody who disagrees with you.

The Problem of Celibacy
This is problem one of the most significant challenges that derives from the testimony of our friends who advocate for homosexual behavior. There was a point that they were confronted with the reality that they will spend their entire lives alone, never to marry, never to have children, never to have a family. Men such as Matthew Vines, the author of God And The Gay Christian will point out that this was one of the most significant challenges that he faced. He knew that he could never love a woman. He knew that if he accepted that homosexual behavior was truly sinful, he would be alone throughout his entire life. This is perhaps one of the more emotionally daunting challenges that comes out of the testimony.

But there are three things that we say by way of response. First, again, we need to isolate emotion and ask what is true rather than how we are feeling about a particular topic. Nothing about this aspect of the testimony changes anything. Second, and critically, the homosexual is not condemned to live a life of celibacy. In his testimony video, filmed at Kennesaw State University a good friend of mine explained how he was once a practicing homosexual and now he is happily engaged to a woman. He struggled with the same fears as many other homosexuals, that he would be alone for his entire life. I once asked him if he ever thought that he would marry a woman, and he basically had the same answer that Matthew Vines did. While it may seem hopeless, if you commit yourself to righteousness, you will eventually meet the right person.

Third, even if you do live a life of celibacy, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Being alone and being lonely are two very different things. Of singleness, Paul the apostle wrote, “I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” (1 Corinthians 7:7). He referred to singleness as a gift rather than as a curse. There is nothing about a life of celibacy that is an intrinsic demerit.

It Is Who I Am
Often in the these testimonies, people will identify homosexuality as an intrinsic property of who they are. For somebody to suggest that they stop practicing homosexuality is essentially to suggest that they change who they are. That may be why it is that they see criticism of homosexuality as a criticism of them as people. We are attacking a fundamental aspect of them as individuals. They are homosexual. That is how they identify themselves. To disconnect from that is to disconnect from themselves.

But are people really defined by the proclivities that they possess? Are they defined by their desires? If somebody has a sweet tooth, they may enjoy eating cheesecake. Despite that, the property “eating cheesecake” is not definition to who you are as a human being. Similarly, if a man or a woman has a desire for multiple sexual partners, that desire is an extrinsic property. It is not part of who they are. It is something that can be altered and the “who” of these individuals will still persist. In the same way, homosexual proclivities and behaviors are not definitional. They are extrinsic properties, and if they are removed, the “who” of these individuals would obtain.

Finally, there is a sense in which we all have to lay ourselves down. That is not unfamiliar to any Christian who has been born again. We yield ourselves, everything we are, to Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 10:39, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” The apostle Paul wrote, “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives through me.” (Galatians 2:20). The old man is dead. He has been nailed to the cross with Christ. The new arises with the resurrection. His death is our death and his resurrection is our resurrection.

If you would like to read similar content, please check out my other articles about homosexuality.