Although they are no longer being covered in mainstream news cycles as often as they used to be, outraged parents are still showing up at public school board meetings to protest the presence of sexually explicit books in public school libraries. However, it was during a school board meeting in Dearborn, Michigan back in September that highlighted an aspect of this ongoing debate that I fear is being totally overlooked.
At the hearing a father spoke passionately against some truly disgusting and pornographic books that were available to his child at their school libraries. He was clear that such books should not be in a school and that the purpose of school was to teach kids, you know, how to read and do math. Ahhh…the good ol’ days. In all seriousness though, God bless this man for standing up for his children! But, his words revealed the degree to which titularly Christian men have already bought the gay narrative. He said, “We’re not against the LGBTQ community, as some are trying to portray. When they turn 18, be my guest. They can read all the books they want.” But…keep it out of the classroom.
In offering the caveat that at 18, children become adults and can do whatever they like, he let slip what many Christians have come to accept: that the only objection Christians have to homosexual acts and the gay lifestyle (to say nothing of trans issues), is how public they all have become. Seinfeld could not possibly have known how perfectly it would describe how Christians in 2022 would deal with homosexuality. In essence, we would declare that while we are not gay, “there isn’t anything wrong with” that lifestyle for others.
Except, well, there is. And conservatives need to stop ceding territory on this issue. God never did; why should we? After all, it is always us who makes exceptions and caveats. “Grown ups can make their own decisions.” “I don’t care what people do in their bedroom.” “At 18, we can do whatever we like.” (Except drink or smoke, but I digress.)
It seems that conservatives are still afraid of being labeled homophobic, so they hedge their bets by saying they are only against the public celebration of homosexuality or gay books in their child’s classrooms. Of course, it is a fool’s errand. Even with the caveats and the reasonable ask that pornography not be taught to middle schoolers (well, reasonable in the country we used to live in), these cavemen will still be labeled haters.
No matter how impersonally or objectively the thoughtful parent tries to frame the argument, the entire episode will become deeply personal. The homosexual collective who wants the world to celebrate their sex acts - or at least accept them as equal to heterosexual acts - will make it personal. In the tradition of Saul Alinsky, they will “pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it” and remember that “ridicule is man's most potent weapon.”
So I want to try to reframe this conversation in five ways so conservatives learn how to stop caving and ceding terrain on this issue. The main point of attack is to keep the focus where the Bible does: on the acts, not the person. Yes, the person will experience the consequences that come with depraved acts, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. But this is ultimately about certain acts always being wrong, acts that cannot be contextualized into being right or good.
1. This is about acts, not people.
We need to stop accepting the narrative that to oppose homosexual acts is to oppose people. When the accusation of being judgmental is inevitably made, we have the Bible’s clear teaching on our side when we say that it really isn’t about judging people, but the acts they are committing.
What is perverse, abominable, and shameful are the acts which desecrate the body and mock God’s creation. In the Bible, just as the acts of stealing and adultery are to be shunned, so, too, are the acts of sodomy, bestiality, and incest. (Romans 1 would bring acts between women into that fold as well.) While there is a penalty for sinful acts, the judgement is against the acts, not the person.
2. This is about acts, not orientations.
In the modern age, judgement even against these acts is sought to be limited by insisting that the acts are part and parcel of the identity of the person. So the person and their acts end up above reproach because the acts are simply the outworking of a person’s authentic self. For what it’s worth, this is certainly not how the Greeks and Romans would have seen things. Even those who had prepubescent male lovers were married with children of their own. They were not “gay” and probably would have thought of the idea of being “gay” as weird or even gross. The practice of pederasty was far more desirable than sex acts with mature men. Indeed, to attract the wealthiest patrons, the young boys would act as feminine as they could, putting on an open display of feminine traits for all to see.
So they certainly did not argue for an orientation. For Christians though, orientation is irrelevant. It is a cliche, but a true cliche: we are all oriented towards sin. If, for example, one is oriented towards adultery - and the Bible seems to assume we all pretty much are - that does not justify the act. So one can, with a very clear conscience, oppose the acts even of those who insist that they possess an irresistible orientation. Orientations do not justify sins.
3. Privately celebrated acts will inevitably become public.
This is perhaps the most dangerous aspect of caveating-to-death our insistence that we don’t care what people do in private. By adopting moral libertarianism, we give away our moral authority. Eventually, because they want the world to remove the stigma from their private acts, those who sin will make their private acts public. (Pride parades, anyone?) And when they do, if we do not know exactly why we oppose certain acts even in private, then we will not know why we should oppose them in public, either. By then however, as we are seeing in public school libraries, it will be too late and all of our action will be reactive, not proactive.
4. We should care about private acts that degrade a person.
Homosexual acts are as corrosive as all sins, private or public. Adultery that is kept a secret is corrosive. So is theft, even theft that is never discovered. So is self-righteousness. So is blasphemy said in one’s own hearts but never uttered aloud. Christians do not celebrate any of those things, even if they remain private. The difference with homosexuality is that the “LGBTQ community” has demanded public celebration of their actions while, as of today, adulterers, blasphemers, and thieves have not. (Don’t worry…they will soon catch up.)
5. We should oppose, in principle, sins committed even in private.
While we may have a politically libertarian view that we should be free to do what we want in private so long as consent is given, that should not be a Christian’s personal view. Therefore, if we are to make any caveats at all in that direction, perhaps instead of saying, “If two adults want to be gay, that’s fine,” we can say, “I understand that freedom will allow consenting adults to sin.”
The beauty of what the Bible has to say about this issue is that it is never personal. We are all sinners. No one escapes and there are no excuses or justification for sin. We are all held to the same standard so none of this can be said to be personal. While we can certainly recognize the danger of a government imposing a morality (like Wokeism) we don’t want, treating all sex acts as equal makes it much harder to keep them out of the public square.
The fact is that the Bible does not treat all sex acts as equal. There is a reason some merit the death penalty and some do not, for example. There is a reason that particular words are used to describe certain acts. The Hebrew word toebah is used to describe homosexual acts in Leviticus, and is the strongest form of an “abomination.” It may sound harsh to say that homosexuality and beastiality are in the same category, but the fact is, in the Bible, they hold the same degree of abomination towards God.
Avoiding those thorny issues and declaring that adults can do what they like has gotten us where we are. It is time to start saying what God says about certain acts so even the private committal of those acts is not something we are cavalier about. Rather, we understand that to ignore or celebrate abomination in private will eventually lead to their celebration in public.
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