|TALKS-The Best Parent and Friend of Lesbians and Gays|
Dr. Ralph Blair’s Remarks to Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City, September 8, 2002
Turning to the Bible in a discussion of homosexuality, we don’t have to begin with those few verses that are misused to abuse homosexuals. (You may read my analysis of those verses in The Bible is an Empty Closet.) Instead, we can begin at the beginning.
For Christians, it all started when the Trinity of Love we Christians know as the Triune God said: "Let us make human beings in our image." [Gen. 1:26] That’s when we were given the gift of life and life together – life with God and life with one another. So, as a Bible scholar puts it, "The Trinitarian sociality of God is the basis for true creaturely sociality. The desire we have for union … -- whether the union of solidarity, or of friendship, or of intimacy, or of sexual intercourse – is a desire which expresses the divine nature within us." [Stephen Barton] That Divine Team who is the Trinity creates us for teamwork, too. And the gift of desire for a teamed togetherness is given to homosexuals no less than to heterosexuals.
Now as anyone knows from personal experience of sexual attraction – whether oriented heterosexually or homosexually – sexuality is more than body parts. We’re not erector sets. What fits is far more complex than anatomical logistics. As God’s very first word on sex informs us, it’s fundamentally a matter of a fitting companionship. God said: "It’s not good for one to be alone; I’ll provide a partner." [Gen. 2:18] As none of the other beings God created was found to be a fitting partner for the human being, God created a similarly human being, the same – "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" [Gen. 2:23] – and yet sufficiently different to be experienced as fascinatingly other. The two enjoyed each other in the wonder of sexual vulnerability – what the Scripture calls their being "naked and not ashamed." [Gen. 2:25]
These two human beings were sexually drawn to each other – even before their fall into self-centered sin. Their sexual desire and behavior was not in itself sinful. We, too, are sexually drawn to each other – and quite apart from, but now not uninfluenced by, our own self-centered sin. Each of us is sexually drawn to a human being because each of us finds such a person to be both the same and yet fascinatingly other. For some, the fascinatingly other is the persona of a particular man. For others, the fascinatingly other is the persona of a particular woman. It’s a psychodynamic mystery but it’s one that is familiar to us all. And our sexual attraction to another person is one of the strongest drives we know – involuntary and immutable. None of us decides to be attracted to this person and not to that person. It’s not a choice. We simply find ourselves attracted to this person and not to that person. That’s the common experience of both heterosexuals and homosexuals. So it’s an experiential common ground for understanding each other and each other’s needs.
Turning to the Gospel according to Matthew, we find some passages that may be applied to our discussion of homosexuality. Though as with all else in the Bible, these passages do not specifically address homosexuality as we know it today. Our own romantic sexual experience was not known in the ancient world of arranged marriages and socially constructed inequities between men and women.
At any rate, here’s the text of Matthew 7:9-12. Jesus asks: "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."
Parents get this, don’t they? But what of your gay son’s deep longing for a gay companion? Parents surely know what it is – or was – to long for a companion for sexual intimacy. So their demanding that a lesbian daughter or a gay son settle for a lonely life without a companion or a lonely life with a mismatched companion is offering stone-cold comfort for much-needed nourishment. Evangelical scholar Craig Blomberg says this about the parable: "No loving parent would try to trick his or her children into thinking their requests had been granted by such deceptive substitutions." And yet, when it comes to lesbian and gay children, that’s what many parents try to do – even with the best of intentions.
Jesus says we know how to treat others by knowing how we want to be treated. Think about it. He sums up all the Law and the Prophets of Israel on the basis of this-then-much-neglected text from Leviticus [19:18]. "On Jesus’ lips Lev 19:18 became a word which validated his concern for sinner and esteem for Samaritan (Luke 10:33-37). It was a word which broke through the boundaries which had become a feature of so much contemporary Judaism – boundaries within Israel, between ‘righteous’ and sinner,’ boundaries surrounding Israel, between Jew and Gentile." [James D. G. Dunn] As an evangelical Bible scholar says, "Love became the dominant and summarizing theme of the Christian ethic. To act in this manner, in constant deeds of love, is to bring to expression that to which the law and the prophets pointed." He says that "No other teaching is so readily identified with Jesus; no other teaching is so central to the righteousness of the kingdom and the practice of discipleship." [Donald A. Hagner] J. B. Phillips paraphrases Jesus’ words as "the essence of all true religion." Says Blomberg: "In view of God’s generosity to us, treating others in a manner we would like ourselves to be treated is the least we can do."
Here’s another text from Matthew. Jesus is speaking of those who are childlike believers in him: "Whoever welcomes such a one in my name welcomes me. But those who cause one of these childlike believers to trip, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things are inevitable, but woe to the person through whom they come!" [18:5-7]
Says Blomberg, this text is "focusing particularly on those who are most disenfranchised and deemed insignificant." They are those who are made to trip. Surely among such believers today are those who, as soon as they begin to try to make some good sense of their deep longing for same-sex companionship, are rejected as "abominations" and forced out of fellowship, and forced to wander off, away from the church, to who-knows-what and who-knows-where.
Jesus assumes that, because of the ways of this world’s perversions of power, such legalistic lording over others is to be expected. But he warns that those who perpetrate such exclusionary arrogance shall not escape the judgment. He reveals that the oppressed have angels on their side – even the angels of the Presence of God. Jesus says: "See that you do not despise one of these childlike believers. For I tell you their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father." [18:10] The Father Himself is the Friend in the Court of Heaven.
Then Jesus says: "Think about it. If someone owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered away? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander away. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these childlike believers should perish." [Matt. 18:12-14]
Blomberg says that "oppressed and marginalized Christians should find great encouragement here … regardless of how others treat" them.
If churches refuse to understand and love their homosexual sons and daughters, and thereby turn them off to the God of all grace, the God of all grace is like the good shepherd who goes out looking for the one who has wandered away. If even their parents refuse to understand and love them as they themselves want to be understood and loved, the God of all grace is like the good shepherd who goes looking for the one who has wandered away. And God is overjoyed to retrieve each one.
If you would like to learn more, write to Dr. Ralph Blair, 311 East 72 Street, New York, NY 10021. Dr. Blair is a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. He is the founder of Evangelicals Concerned (a national organization dedicated to assisting lesbian and gay men and churches better understand homosexuality and the Good News of God’s grace and peace) and Liturgist at The City Church, New York. He is a Fellow of the American Orthopsychiatric Association and a member of The Evangelical Theological Society.
Copyright © 2002 by Dr. Ralph Blair