In so doing, we have tried -- imperfectly though such a difficult exercise inevitably is -- to walk in the delicate balance that firmly addresses sin and advocacy for what is objectively in error, whilst gently respecting the person. However imperfect our actual behaviour, the underlying intent is: to respect and love the person, but refusing to condone sin and self- or socially- destructive behaviour and advocacy - indeed, to call to repentance, renewal and transformation through the gospel and the power of God.
Now, too, last time, we looked at some key evidence on the "our genes made us do it" model of the cause of same-sex orientation and behaviour.
Dr Robert Spitzer in particular provides significant evidence that through counselling and morally directed effort, often in a context of firm but loving spiritual disciplines, a two- to five- year effort has a significant track-record of helping many caught up in homosexual behaviour and feelings to overcome their unwanted affections and behaviour.
Our task today is to look at some additional evidence on the impact of cultural context on the prevalence of homosexuality, especially in the context of closely-related people-groups.
This becomes significant, as a key issue now on our agenda is the likely effect of the ongoing attempted homosexualisation of our culture and wider civilisation under what has been called the Western Model of homosexual conduct. [There is a classic Greek-Roman model in which pederasty is part of the initiation into manhood at the hands of a mentor; indeed with Jupiter and Ganymede as divine exemplar. Third, there is a Melanesian model in which it is believed that boys can only become men through taking semen into their bodies; so that there is a compulsory homosexual period (in passive and active phases), leading to marriage and exclusive heterosexual conduct.]
In this task, an excerpt from Chapter 6 of My Genes Made Me Do It by Dr Neil and Briar Whitehead of New Zealand will prove helpful:
. . . . If homosexuality were significantly influenced by genes, it would appear in every culture, but in twenty-nine of seventy-nine cultures surveyed by Ford and Beach in 1952, homosexuality was rare or absent. It was very rare in the Siriono, even though there were no prohibitions on homosexual relationships in that culture. The researcher observed only one man displaying slight homosexual traits but apparently not sexually involved with another man. Homosexuality appears to be rare among Orthodox Jews [Orthodox Judaism forbids homosexuality], so much so that learned rabbis, the interpreters of Jewish law, usually allowed men to sleep in the same bed, because likelihood of sexual contact was considered negligible. Kinsey also found very low homosexual incidence among Orthodox Jews.In short, the decisive correlations are plainly cultural, not genetic.
Some anthropologists have questioned Ford and Beach’s findings, believing that irregular sexual intimacy is not something foreign researchers can easily get information about. One sexual anthropologist, Whitam, thought homosexuality must be genetically enforced because he found it practiced in some isolated groups in South America and East Asia who knew nothing of the practice elsewhere.
But evidence from other remote tribes in New Guinea-all genetically related-suggests differently. This evidence comes from missionaries who commonly spend 25 years of their lives living in one culture, far more than almost any anthropologist. The anthropologist will argue that the sexual practices will never be told to the missionaries and they will get a biased perspective; on the other hand it could be argued that they will be unusually sensitive to practices which transgress Christian norms. Overall they can be considered as reliable witnesses. For example, in contrast to groups like the Sambia in the New Guinea highlands, where homosexuality was compulsory, only about 2-3 percent of Western Dani (also in the New Guinea highlands) practiced it. However, in another group of Dani who were genetically related, homosexuality was totally unknown. Missionaries report that when they were translating the Bible into Dani for this group, their tribal assistants, who knew their own culture intimately, were nonplused by references to homosexuality in Romans 1; they did not understand the concept. Another missionary, with the same group for 25 years, overheard many jests and sexually ribald exchanges among the men, but never a single mention of homosexuality in all that time. When Dani went to help with missionary work among the Sambia, they were astounded at some of the homosexual practices they saw for the first time. Although it is always difficult for a foreigner to be completely sure whether a rare and stigmatized behavior exists, it is certainly true that if three such different experiences of homosexuality can occur in groups of people so closely related genetically, genetically enforced homosexuality is an impossibility. [HT: Conservaspedia article, "Homosexuality." ]
Homosexuality is obviously possible in all cultures, but it is much more prevalent in those cultures that in one form or another condone or encourage it; even among genetically very close cultures such as related people groups in New Guinea. It shows up in culturally -- and even institutionally [so-called situational homo-/bi- sexual conduct] -- distinctive patterns, and in only some cases is the Western, genetic/ inborn nature rationale/ view predominant.
Thus, it would be wise to look a bit more closely and critically at the predominant view among elites and advocates in our own cultures; especially given that we see clear evidence through Spitzer etc. that people can, with significant effort, change their sexual behaviour and associated feelings.
This raises the issue of the ex- ex-gay, the former ex-gay who relapses into his former ways. [In a Christian context, the broader phenomenon of the backslider is very familiar; indeed it is recognised and strongly deplored in the New Testament.]
Such a phenomenon, however, is not at all surprising, once we see the significance and difficulty of choice involved in leaving the homosexual lifestyle. Thus, it is wise -- even if one ultimately disagrees with substance or tone -- to listen to some sobering remarks by Peter LaBarbera, in response to an attempted rebuttal of the story of "John," a sophomore [~ 15 -16 y.o.] US high school student who was moving towards homosexuality but then pulled back and became a born again Christian:
. . . We live in a world in which “the experts,” often with impressive sounding credentials, dismiss healthy change yet put their stamp of approval on homosexual and gender-confused identities . . . Science has been politicized and is being used to guide young people into harmful and unnatural behaviors.So, too, let us consider the testimony and remarks of Black American Pastor (and former homosexual), Darryl L Foster in a Charisma Magazine article:
To most Americans, religious or not, leaving homosexuality or gender confusion behind is a good thing. To homosexual and gender-bending activists, any ex-”gay” testimony threatens their central propaganda myth that some people are intrinsically (born) “gay,” bisexual or “transgender.” Some homosexual activists . . . have dedicated themselves to discrediting ex-”gay” change by hyping the cases of people who have returned back to homosexual behavior. (Yes, change is difficult, but why focus exclusively on failed attempts? Imagine if someone tried to “prove” that overcoming drug addiction was impossible by popularizing only those cases of addicts who tried to go clean but fell back into their drug-abusing lifestyle.) [HT, Conservapedia, article "Ex-homosexuals." ]
Pastor Foster then goes on to note:
. . . At the core of arguments about homosexuality and various moral issues of our times is whether or not the Bible is a credible authority to govern our lives in light of new "scientific revelations" about humanity. In question is the veracity of the Scripture and its application to human living . . . . In a world in which the winds of societal change blow erratically, our security lies in knowing that the Word of God is forever settled in heaven. Knowing that God's Word is an unchanging source of truth, we should courageously contend for the faith.Answers to modern attempts to affirm, tolerate and portray homosexuality as a valid expression of the human sexual picture can be found in the Word of God . . . .
In our society there is a prevailing assumption that individuals are "born gay" or that homosexuality is a genetic trait. I believe that my life and the lives of thousands of other former homosexuals and lesbians are in direct contradiction to such an assumption.
Besides, this argument is irrelevant if we take into account the Scripture's clear teaching on transformation and change (see Rom. 12:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:17; Matt. 16:24). Transformation and change, along with freedom from the penalty of sin, are the key fruits of a life submitted to Jesus Christ.
If we cannot expect change from the oppressive Adamic nature that enslaves us, then what need do we have of Jesus? His advent, coming, death, burial and resurrection all guarantee that the new birth is a new start. If it is indeed a new start, how can one continue to practice without remorse something so repugnant to the holiness of God?
We must also take into account where these theories of being "born gay" originated. They did not come from the Bible. They are not part of the historical concerns of the early church fathers. They have not been revealed by any credible prophet of God.
The truth is that in 1991 homosexual activists touting their flawed "studies" began spoon-feeding the notion to the media, who without any critical analysis bought it and began preaching it as fact.
We can see the devastating effects of such cultural lies on the church. Now, less than 15 years later, many prominent churches and church leaders are calling for "full inclusion" of unrepentant homosexuals based on this false premise . . . .
Thus, in Foster's Biblically-anchored view, the issue in the end is fidelity to the Word and our confident standing on the gracious, life-transforming, loving, purifying power of God. That shifts our focus of attention:
Foster then lays out the foundational biblical context for sexuality [cf the more detailed discussion in ch 2:18 - 25, and Jesus' reference to these texts In Matt 19:3 - 6], and remarks on his own life story:
In any case, the focus should be the forgiveness and healing Jesus freely offers to every homosexual sinner who will accept it. It is an offer no one can afford to pass up.
The church must shift the dynamics of the discussion to what matters most--Jesus saves! Prolonged debates about genetics will save no one, but the powerful, life-transforming, good news of the gospel will accomplish what God pleases . . . . Prolonged debates about genetics will save no one, but the powerful, life-transforming, good news of the gospel will accomplish what God pleases . . . .
God created humanity male and female and encouraged them to enter into a sexual relationship. God pronounced that good. There is not even a hint that two males or two females were created and encouraged to have sexual relations together (see Gen. 1:26-28).
Genesis 1:26-28 is the official historical record on the original intent for human sexuality. In other words, God created a "gold standard" for human sexual relationships. Whether you or I reach it, that standard will never change.
People who struggle against same-sex attractions, desires and behavior are not living by this standard. But they can be delivered and healed to live productive and fruitful lives.
I intentionally use the phrase "struggle against" as opposed to "struggle with" because the connotations are important. "Against" says I do not want this as a part of my life. "With" says I am resigned to having it dominate and sidetrack me.
Former homosexuals joyfully point to one definitive Scripture that mentions them and the redemptive process they are embracing: "Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites ... will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
When I met and married my wife, Dee, almost 12 years ago, she and I both were clueless about what my post-homosexual life would be like. As painful as my past sin was to me, my wife was not the cause of my change; rather, she was the fruit of my change.
She was the gift of God to a lonely man yearning to please his Deliverer. Now, with our four children, we are living testaments to the wonderful benefits of living life submitted to Christ.
Our responsibility as Christians is to pour love out without measure on those who struggle to overcome homosexuality. Compassion was the hallmark of the Chief Shepherd, and as His disciples, we should be characterized by it too as we encourage them to embrace the freedom Christ offers.
A sobering challenge, from one who has had to walk a very painful path. But one not without hope.
UPDATE, June 17: Clarification that I am citing Foster [and accepting his credibility to speak, in light of the testimony of the scriptures], and provision of links to key biblical texts.