• 25 June 2019

Is Being Gay A Sin?

Is Being Gay A Sin?

Is Being Gay A Sin? 150 150 eSwatini Minorities

One can never claim to know more about what is sin, or what is not sin. However the characterisation of sexual orientation, as social construct attributed to the physical, emotional and mental attraction of two or more sexes to any other, as debauchery, is rather troublesome.

You see, the term sin in Hebrew has several other words, each with its own specific meaning. The word pesha, or trespass, means a sin done out of rebelliousness. The word aveira means “transgression”. And the word avone, or iniquity, means a sin done out of moral failing. One has to wonder which category the sin of being gay (or should we say homosexuality, as the term gay quite too often refers to) falls under.

I have read only two of the scriptures referenced in your response, the letters of Paul, addressed to the Corinthians and the Romans. In neither of them the words ‘being gay is a sin’ appear – I would find it odd if they were. The basic argument is that, as a servant of Jesus Christ, he had an issue with men expressing affection to other men. This I find to have been a denial of the words of John, who says God is Love.

We cannot pretend for a second that Paul knew what he was talking about when he said men ‘… who have sex with men… will not inherit the Kingdom of God’ (NIV). For one, there is only one who is the mediator between man and God, which is his beloved Son, who is interceding to this day, on our behalf. Jesus Christ.

Firstly, not only was Paul misguided to assume that men showing affection suggests sexual intercourse, he actually might have fallen short of the word himself: Thou shall not judge.

Not once are we told that the affection, as Paul had clearly attested to ad nauseum in both his letters to the Corinthians and the Romans, between these men led to sexual intercourse.

Secondly, if the affection of men and of women towards each other was so wrong, then the question of what love means come to the fore. My issue is that if we make an assumption or an interpretation of one thing, we must then explain the other. Mine here is to seek clarity, Pastor Bakhe. Perhaps I am missing the mark. Which I must add, is a Greek definition of sin, missing the mark.

How is loving someone, especially loving them in a natural way that requires no work or force, neither does it harm or hurt anyone, missing the mark?

Gender Identity

Now, let us delve into the issue of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as a social science. One must bear in mind that it is not only politically incorrect to say there is ‘normal’, which denotes the existence of abnormality, but it is also inconsistency, with regards to the fact we live in different areas of the world and there are different cultural and social attributes that are a direct contrast to what we might know as a norm.

In a sense, there is nothing that is normal, only what is common. This would explain why Paul writes of men showing expression to other men as something that was not common at the time, in the land of the Corinthians and/or Romans.

One cannot divorce the fact who we may call a man in Swaziland, could be someone completely different in other spaces in the world. Not to draw it further than necessary. There are Trans Diverse identities, which Paul seems to forget when he writes of ‘men having sex with other men’ in his letters. We are not given context to understand the gender identities of these persons he might have seen, or heard of. It might have been a woman and a man, only the gender expression mimicking what he thought was masculine.

We are entering a very different terrain, and I understand. Bear with me Pastor Bakhe. I need your clarity here.

I have seen many before, as I have too, mistake gender identity and expression, by virtue of the normalisation of what is considered masculine and what is considered feminine.  To understand whether or not what Paul saw was what he recorded, we would need some background. Alas, we don’t have any.

I am not a scholar to try and untangle these issues, nor am I a theologian to pretend to understand the ins and outs of the construction of the bible as we know it today. I have not the slightest idea of what is sin, and what is not. I am not that wise.

I do know one thing though, love is universal, love the language that transcends all races, all genders, all sexes, all ages, all divides, and everything in between. Love is the answer to everything. Loving a man as a man is not something I would be advising people against, using the bible to defend my stance. In fact, I would be glad there is so much love to go around. The bible speaks of the human body having one mandate, and one mandate alone, which is to praise and worship the grandeur of god.

What better way to do so, than to use love. Love. Genuine love.

Natural Law

Perhaps we should get scholastic with the conversation around LGBTIQ individuals. Let us look at the natural law debate. Today natural law theory offers the most common intellectual defence for differential treatment of LGBTIQ persons, and as such it warrants attention. This should also explain the stance on homosexuality being sin. Here is how.

The most influential formulation of natural law theory was made by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. Integrating an Aristotelian approach with Christian theology, Aquinas emphasized the centrality of certain human goods, including marriage and procreation. While Aquinas did not write much about same-sex sexual relations, he did write at length about various sex acts as sins.

More recent natural law theorists, however, have tried a couple different lines of defence for Aquinas’ ‘generative type’ requirement. The first is that sex acts that involve either homosexuality, heterosexual sodomy, or which use contraception, frustrate the purpose of the sex organs, which is reproductive.

The two most important for the argument against homosexual sex (though not against homosexuality as an orientation which is not acted upon, and hence in this they follow official Catholic doctrine; see George, 1999a, ch.15) are personal integration and marriage. Personal integration, in this view, is the idea that humans, as agents, need to have integration between their intentions as agents and their embodied selves. Thus, to use one’s or another’s body as a mere means to one’s own pleasure, as they argue happens with masturbation, causes ‘dis-integration’ of the self. That is, one’s intention then is just to use a body (one’s own or another’s) as a mere means to the end of pleasure, and this detracts from personal integration.

Yet one could easily reply that two persons of the same sex engaging in sexual union does not necessarily imply any sort of ‘use’ of the other as a mere means to one’s own pleasure. Hence, natural law theorists respond that sexual union in the context of the realization of marriage as an important human good is the only permissible expression of sexuality. Yet this argument requires drawing how marriage is an important good in a very particular way, since it puts procreation at the centre of marriage as its “natural fulfilment” (George, 1999a, 168).

Natural law theorists, if they want to support their objection to homosexual sex, have to emphasize procreation. If, for example, they were to place love and mutual support for human flourishing at the centre, it is clear that many same-sex couples would meet this standard. Hence their sexual acts would be morally just.

There are, however, several objections that are made against this account of marriage as a central human good. One is that by placing procreation as the ‘natural fulfillment’ of marriage, infertile marriages are thereby denigrated. Sex in an opposite-sex marriage where the partners know that one or both of them are infertile is not done for procreation. Yet surely it is not wrong. Why, then, is homosexual sex in the same context (a long-term companionate union) wrong (Macedo, 1995)? The natural law rejoinder is that while vaginal intercourse is a potentially procreative sex act, considered in itself (though admitting the possibility that it may be impossible for a particular couple), oral and anal sex acts are never potentially procreative, whether heterosexual or homosexual (George, 1999a).

But is this biological distinction also morally relevant, and in the manner that natural law theorists assume? Natural law theorists, in their discussions of these issues, seem to waver. On the one hand, they want to defend an ideal of marriage as a loving union wherein two persons are committed to their mutual flourishing, and where sex is a complement to that ideal. Yet that opens the possibility of permissible gay sex, or heterosexual sodomy, both of which they want to oppose. So they then defend an account of sexuality which seems crudely reductive, emphasizing procreation to the point where literally a male orgasm anywhere except in the vagina of one’s loving spouse is impermissible. Then, when accused of being reductive, they move back to the broader ideal of marriage.

© Mathias Wasik / mathiaswasik.com

What now?

Over time, there has been a slippery slope on what is, or is not morally acceptable. One can go at length explaining how the LGBTIQ identity has evolved over the past centuries. For instance, the central distinction in ancient Greek sexual relations was between taking an active or insertive role, versus a passive or penetrated one. The passive role was acceptable only for inferiors, such as women, slaves, or male youths who were not yet citizens. Hence the cultural ideal of a same-sex relationship was between an older man, probably in his 20’s or 30’s, known as the erastes, and a boy whose beard had not yet begun to grow, the eromenos or paidika.

Do not get me started on the rich cultural acceptability and tolerance that existed in the Sub – Saharan region. Of course, you have used the Bible to defend the mistake of deeming LGBTIQ identities as a sin, so we will stick to the Greek and Hebrew history. For obvious reasons of course.

Too many times, the LGBTI community has been maligned and marginalised for the mere misunderstanding of our identity, both sexual and gender. We cannot continue to labour under the illusion and/or suspicion of criminality. We cannot continue to labour under the wilful misinterpretation of scripture that was written under very specific circumstances that don’t prevail today. We cannot continue to apply context specific anecdotes, which really convey messages and guidance on how to be treat fellow human beings better, to modern contexts without thinking about the consequences.

The central theme of Christ, at resurrection, is love and very little else. If we are finding messages contrary to this, we may need to question our comprehension skills. If we claim to be followers of a loving God and are at any point not spreading the love He gives, then perhaps we should question who we are following. Too many times, the LGBTI community has been the target of hatred manufactured out of misunderstanding. Spirituality is also about literacy, not just evangelism. I wonder, would it hurt to see human beings in those who a different to us? Wouldn’t Jesus do the same?

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