Human Sexuality –
another look and a wider view
Human sexuality, that is our maleness and femaleness, is an extraordinary and wonderful creation of God which we have begun to appreciate more fully in the last hundred years. This is in contrast to many centuries in which the church held a negative view of sex and sexuality.
(Christians) interpret their feelings as telling them that sexuality is not a sweet gift of creation, but a bitter fruit of the fall.1
But things are changing, and we owe a great debt to the psychologists and sociologists who have explored this area for us in detail, giving us a much fuller picture. Whereas Christians have often assumed that sexuality is only about sexual intercourse, the social scientists have showed us that our sexuality is far greater, wider and deeper than that. They have opened up a dimension of life which lies at the heart of what it is to be a human being.
Sexuality is the way of being in, and relating to, the world as a male or female person …the mode or manner by which humans experience and express the incompleteness of their individualities as well as their relatedness to each other as male and female. 2
In our preoccupation with keeping sexual desires under control and keeping order in the church, we have somehow missed two important facts: that God has deliberately made us as sexual beings (it wasn’t a mistake) and that our maleness and femaleness are as much about who we are in society, as about what we do in our private relationships.
A negative view of sexuality
In many religions including Christianity, sexuality has been perceived as a negative aspect of human life, either to be tolerated so that it does not get out of control, or seen as evil.
In our past tradition, sexuality was understood to be basically evil. This ethic grew out of and was sustained by the Gnostic, Greek, Jansennist and Puritan influence on the developing church.3
Later influences from Augustine and others, reiterated this belief that sexuality is dangerous and to be feared, and for many centuries the Church has accepted this view without question. The conviction that the body is evil and the spirit is good, was prevalent in the early centuries of the Church, and is still held in religious communities all over the world.
In our tradition, the Old Testament laws are a good example of this. In addressing sexual and moral behaviour, they speak of a strong need not simply to direct our sexual desires into the legitimate channel of marriage, but they lay down excessive punishments for sexual offences. In Leviticus 20, there are ten categories of sin for which the punishment was death by stoning, and seven of them are for sexual sins, e.g. having sex outside marriage. It is certainly true that God puts a great value on the exclusiveness of the marriage relationship, but Jesus challenged the harshness of the punishment for adultery in John’s gospel4, by not punishing the woman further, but telling her to go and sin no more.
It is not surprising therefore that many Christians still have a negative view of the body, and particularly the desires for love and sexual intimacy.
But if we look at the human person as a whole personality as the Bible does, created by God as an intricate and complex union of intellect, mind, heart and passions embodied in a physical form, we can see a broader picture. Psychologists have suggested some of the basic characteristics of males and females:
Ordinary expressions of maleness and femaleness
Characteristics of males:
- An isolated sense of self
- The need to be in competition with others
- Feeling threatened by intimacy
- Feeling the need for territorial boundaries
- Being attracted by the abstract
- Emphasising the rational
- Liking to take risks
- Relating through taking action
On the other hand female characteristics are very different:
- A self that wants to relate
- A sense of being connected to others
- Threatened by isolation
- Feeling responsible for others
- Feeling rooted in the physical environment
- Emphasising emotion
- A preference for security
- A facility with verbal and linguistic skills
However, these qualities are not fixed and unchangeable, but infinitely fluid within each person and within both sexes. For example, it is simplistic to say that all men are inclined to be rational and all women are inclined to be emotional. Men are just as emotional as women but they may prefer not to express emotions freely. Women are just as capable of rational thought as men, and they are equals intellectually, but they may prefer to use their emotions more freely in connecting with others.
These qualities which are there from our conception, will ebb and flow and develop throughout our lives as we mature and relate to others, and they affect all our thinking and behaviour, whether we are in an intimate relationship or not. In this very wide sense, all our relationships are sexual.
Present from birth
The striking thing about these basic qualities is that they are evident from birth, and are clearly seen in very young children in the way they play, or learn, or fight or relate to their parents or siblings. For example, quite small girls are observed to be sociable and collaborative in their play, and are attracted to groups and networks of others. In some of the earliest games that they play together, they are acting out the need and desire to look after others, e.g. dressing, feeding and putting their dolls to bed, or being the nurse who does similar things for a patient in hospital.
Boys are often content to play alone or with one other, and feel themselves to be more in competition with others. There is a strong need to achieve, and be seen as competent. Many boys are attracted by competitive sport, and by speed and efficiency, using machines like cars and computers which are designed for the individual and not for the team. They are drawn more to ideas and concepts, the world of the mind rather than the world of people.
All these characteristics arise directly from the child’s sexuality, long before he or she has any understanding of being in a sexual relationship. In a similar way, there are significant numbers of adults who are not in an intimate relationship, but who are functioning as sexual beings: the not-yet married, the widowed, the celibates, the hopefuls, monks, the elderly, single parents, the disabled – all of them are rounded human beings whose sexuality is being expressed every day through the interactions of work and family, e.g. discussing new ideas, caring for others, forming friendships, engaging in a cause, planning projects, doing business – all of these activities and a million others, are driven by the human need to relate, survive and succeed in society.
Essentially good and God-given
These qualities are essentially good, if we choose to use them positively, and learn from each other. For example, a man’s sense of solitude is an important part of his inner self and his power, and he may teach a woman to give more time to developing her own solitude and autonomy. On the other hand, the woman’s strong sense of connection to others, may help the isolated man to develop this more in himself to bring him into deeper relationships.
The man’s rational mind is a positive benefit in shaping beliefs and ordering life for society, and the woman’s ability to experience and handle emotions is vital. When men and women work together as equals, there is a healthy balance which spreads outwards to the local community, and into education, the caring professions, politics and the ordering of society.
A complex mixture of both male and female
When we look more deeply into our potential as sexual beings, we find an even greater diversity. John A. Sanford who is a priest and Jungian therapist, discusses the concept common in many cultures, that we have both male and female in our make-up:
Men are used to thinking of themselves only as men, and women think of themselves as women, but the psychological facts indicate that every human being is androgynous (andros – man, and gynos – woman) … God is an androgynous being, and the first human beings, being created in his image, were therefore likewise male and female.
He also points out that Eve was made out of Adam’s body indicating that he had both the male and the female within himself. He quotes the Russian philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev:
Man is not only a sexual but a bisexual being, combining the masculine and the feminine principle in himself in different proportions and often in fierce conflict. A man in whom the feminine principle was completely absent would be an abstract being, severed from the cosmic element. A woman in whom the masculine principle was completely absent would not be a personality. It is only the union of these two principles that constitutes a complete human being.
This idea of man’s androgynous nature is an old one that has been often expressed in mythology, and by the great intuitive spirits in the past. In the 20th century, C.G.Jung is the first scientist to observe this psychological fact of human nature, and to take it into account in describing the whole human being. Jung called the opposites in man and woman the anima (the feminine component in a man’s personality) and the animus (the masculine component in a woman’s personality). He derived these words from the Latin animare which means to enliven, because he felt that the anima and the animus were like enlivening souls or spirits to men and women.5
These ideas help us to see something of the significant range of ‘colour’ and variety within each person, reflecting in a unique way something more of God’s character.
Sexuality is good and God-given
In recent years however, there has been significant development in Christian approaches to sexual ethics…this view states that human sexuality is profoundly good. It involves the person at all levels of existence – personal and social, psychological, biological and spiritual.6
If we return to the creation accounts, which is surely a good place to start, we find that far from being an embarrassment to God, and a regrettable mistake, our sexuality is deliberately planned by him, and even more startling, it specifically expresses his glory and character.
Then God said, ‘and now we will make human beings: they will be like us, and resemble us’ … So God created human beings, making them like himself. He created them male and female, and blessed them … and God looked at everything he had made and he was delighted!7
In commenting on this account of our creation, the theologian Karl Barth opens up a whole new world for us, when he says that ‘Our sexuality is the part of us which most reflects God’s nature.’
This statement directly challenges our negative assumptions about sexuality and brings us back to the blessing of creation, where God makes his good purposes known for humankind. A creation-centred theology takes us back to the ‘Original Blessing’ described by Matthew Fox in his book of that name, and lights up for us the wonder and glory of what it is to be a human being made in God’s likeness. It means that males and females together in community and in society express some of the facets of God’s character and being. You could even say that every human being who has ever lived has shown a different aspect of God, and may be part of God’s sheer pleasure in creating more and more small versions of himself who are like him, and therefore reveal something of himself to the world. It is part of his nature to reveal himself to others, and to relate to them, and the Genesis account clearly shows how much this gives him pleasure and delight. Man is not the image of God on his own and neither is the woman the glory of God on her own, but as they interact with each other in the ordinary events of life, the two sexes complement each other, balancing one against the other and revealing a richer picture of God’s nature.
And so we can see that sexuality is not simply a case of men and women leaping into bed with each other in order to have sex, though the media often presents it that way, but all human beings are interacting with each other in distinctive, interesting and creative ways.
Longings for intimacy and sharing
Our human sexuality is at the centre of our true humanity. We exist as male and female in relationship, our sexualness – our capacity to love and be loved is intimately related to our creation in the image of God.8
A key verse in the creation story is Genesis 2 verse 18 ‘The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a suitable companion to help him”.’
We can take this to mean that it is not good for a woman to be alone either, and this underlines a vital truth for us. Not only was the man incomplete because he was alone, but God was not satisfied either. His creative work was not finished until he had made the woman and thus created a partnership of two, who would be lovers and workers together on his great project. They became a dynamic team.
If some of our Protestant forebears of three centuries ago were right in believing that companionship not procreation is central to God’s design for sexuality, then the human hunger for physical and emotional intimacy is of enormous spiritual significance … sexuality is crucial to God’s design that creatures do not dwell in isolation and loneliness but in communion and community.9
We need relationship
Why do we need each other so much? Isn’t there a case for the contented introvert to be happily self-sufficient and absorbed in his work for the Kingdom without needing other people very much? Undoubtedly there is, and God blesses and uses such a person.
But for most people, the need for intimacy is deep and real, and it seems to have three good purposes. Firstly, we can only discover and know ourselves by being in relationship.
Intimacy is derived from the Latin intima, meaning ‘inner ‘ or ‘innermost’. Your inside being is the real you, that only you can know. The problem is that you can know it only when you are being intimate with something or someone outside yourself … This sense of touching our innermost core is the essence of intimacy.10
Another reason why we need to be in relationship with others is to train us away from our sinful self-centredness. The discipline of caring for the needs of the other, putting their interests above our own and sharing decisions and responsibilities is the best way of curing us of our innate selfishness. Any close friendship will bring demands and commitments as well as joys and pleasures, and these are often uncomfortable. But we learn to give and share and this is one of the most powerful ways in which God humbles us and shapes us into better people.
The third reason is that our need for the other shows us clearly how much we need God himself. He is the Lover who waits outside the door of our hearts, until we feel our need of him. And it is often at the crucial times of loss of a beloved person, or times of crisis and desperate loneliness and need that we finally turn to Him and admit that he is the ultimate source of love and that in the end, it is God himself whom we desire. ‘There he stands outside our wall, peering in at the windows, gazing through the lattice.’11
If the heart of our sexuality is the need and desire for communion and sharing with another, then it will push us all the time to reach out to others and draw others to us in relationship.
This infinite complexity in human beings means that there is an astonishing diversity of sexual preference.
Generic sexual arousal describes the almost universal phenomenon of small degrees of sexual interest to many persons of both sexes. Personal interest, involvement, attraction and intimacy are the psychological bases for any close personal relationship. We learn to inhibit. Such responses are usually ignored. Rarely are they acted upon to any degree, but this does indicate the ubiquitous nature of our capacity to respond erotically to many persons, regardless of gender, age or relationship.12
It seems to be the case that many people are bisexual. Dominic Davies speaks of:
… people who experience an erotic attraction to those of their own sex, although not exclusively so. The last clause recognises the fact that only a minority of people are over a period of time exclusively lesbian, gay or heterosexual, in terms of both their behaviour and of their sexual thoughts and feelings. However, because of societal prejudice and the need to defend one’s own identity from external judgements, the majority of people adopt an identity – a label – to describe their sexuality. People are becoming increasingly open about their bisexuality, but the prejudice from within both the homo and heterosexual communities, means that bisexuals risk rejection from both groups.13
Marc Oraison, a priest and therapist picks up the same theme. While society and the Church like to have these differences in black and white, i.e. you are either one sex or the other, he suggests:
There are not two kinds of people – ‘the homosexuals and the others’. Reality when carefully observed cannot in any way be reduced to this simple dichotomy.14
Listening to those who are different
In his fascinating and moving book, Marc Oraison describes the 20 years of listening to hundreds of individuals sharing their struggles with their sexuality. His clients were male and female, and of all ages and backgrounds, and some of them kept in touch with him over long periods of time. What is striking in his vivid accounts of their lives is the fluidity of their desires and attractions. Many of them are bisexual, able to enter into an intimate relationship with a same-sex partner, and one with a person of the opposite sex at different times in life. Some enjoyed long and happy marriages after one or two early same-sex relationships. Some enjoyed same-sex relationships late in life having lost a much loved spouse, and others found fulfilment in ministry and celibacy.
Throughout his book, his warmth and compassion and interest in each person comes through. His godly wisdom was clearly sought out by scores of people who were troubled by the conflicts which arose because of their sexuality and yet could not find help in the church.
He comes to the conclusion that ‘Homosexuality does not exist: it is a word. People exist – human beings who have homosexual feelings and who live with them as best they can. They are individuals as diverse as the rest of humanity.’15
All kinds of odd arrangements
It is true that the words ‘heterosexuality’ and ‘homosexuality’ are new words in the history of human societies. Perhaps this indicates that these are new concepts for us? In many cultures over the centuries there has been a wide spectrum of sexual behaviour, ranging from polygamy and polyandry to monogamous marriage, and all kinds of informal arrangements outside the rules of any particular society. Some of these ways of being sexual were to ensure the continuation of the tribe, or to share resources evenly for the whole tribe and make sure that everyone was cared for. In more primitive cultures it is almost unheard of for anyone to be ‘alone.’
More recently in Christianised countries, monogamous marriage became the norm. These marriages were not based on romance and love, so much as social suitability in terms of class, family management and business, and therefore there was not much room for individual choice or preference. As a result people who were attracted to members of the same sex were expected to marry, and were obliged to fulfil their marital responsibilities. If they longed for intimacy with a person of the same sex, they either repressed their feelings, or made a discreet relationship outside the marriage. There was no official way of describing people in this category and it was only in the nineteenth century when people had more choice about who they married, that we coined the words that we use today.
Incidentally, having a discreet homosexual relationship while being married was not uncommon, just as many heterosexual men had a mistress, when sex at home was under severe strain. (One of the major reasons for the latter was the physical danger to the wife of repeated childbearing over a period of 20 years, which caused many deaths of mothers and babies and led to chronic exhaustion and ill-health for the women who survived.)
The same was true in biblical times. Marriage to one, two or several wives was the norm, and it was assumed that everyone was attracted to the opposite sex. The only exceptions would have been the idealisation in Greek society of man/boy relationships, and members of extreme pagan religious cults who engaged in orgies of lust and cross-dressing, in the course of idol worship, to which Paul may have been referring in Romans 1.16 The latter behaviour is correctly translated in more recent versions of the bible as ‘perverted.’
It seems that there was no concept at that time of single ‘ordinary’ homosexuals who wanted to live in a loving, faithful and committed relationship together.
The dilemma of same-sex attraction
It is easy to see that people in this situation today, especially those who are Christians, are faced with a deep dilemma. On the one hand, the vast majority of them feel that their sexual orientation lies at the core of their being and identity. They have not chosen to be like this. In fact, as one writer says, no one in their right mind would choose to be a homosexual in this century because of the condemnation and rejection they experience in the church and in the world.
Alone and childless
On the other hand they have the same deep longings for companionship and intimacy as everyone else, and if they seek for intimacy with a person of the same sex, they are propelled unwillingly into a conflict with the church. As soon as their sexuality becomes known, there is a welter of conflicting feelings on all sides. On the one hand, the church may be making an effort to welcome such a person, but often gives the message that in order to be accepted by God and the church, the homosexual must change and become a heterosexual person. If this proves to be impossible, and it usually does, then the message is that they must live alone and be without children or family. This lies at the heart of the current debate: the decision of the church that those who love members of the same sex should deny themselves love and intimacy and the possibility of home, family and children. In stark terms, heterosexuals are encouraged to find fulfilment, intimacy and companionship in marriage, and homosexuals are told to be alone, celibate and childless.
We need to explore some of these issues in more detail to get a better understanding.
Get rid of the stereotypes
As usual the media gives us strong stereotypes which have a powerful effect on our perceptions. Films, plays and television programmes have traditionally caricatured homosexuals as loud, promiscuous, mocking, provocative and flagrantly flaunting their difference, and seducing people on every possible occasion. (More recent films have been more sensitive and thoughtful, and perhaps this stereotype is changing.)
But we need to remember that in the media, heterosexual love is also presented in a grossly distorted way. From the content of many popular films, a person unfamiliar with our society would come away with the perception that all heterosexuals will leap into bed at the drop of a hat with an attractive stranger, with a complete disregard for the boundaries of marriage or a faithful relationship.
Promiscuity is more widespread among heterosexuals
There certainly is promiscuity in our culture, among singles and married couples, but it is more common in heterosexuals, especially in the 18–30 age group. Although some gay men have a reputation for being promiscuous, there is an increasing trend for gay people to look for one partner with whom they can have a faithful, loving and committed relationship for life.
Five to ten per cent of the population
Peter Coleman estimates that homosexual people form at least 5–10 % of the population.17 The true figure is hard to estimate because of the huge risk of condemnation if homosexuality is revealed. That means that in a church or fellowship of 50 people, there will usually be 3 or 4 people of a homosexual orientation. In a church of 100, there will be 7 or 8. In your extended family, or in the place where you work, or study, there will be several people that you know who have a homosexual orientation.
But you don’t know who they are. You would be very surprised if you did know, as they are just like everyone else. We treat them like everyone else, as friends and acquaintances, and we do not know that they carry a terrible burden of fear and loneliness. If they were to share their burden with anyone in the church, they run the risk of being condemned, ostracised and loathed. They would be told that God does not accept them, and neither does the church.
Have they chosen their sexuality or is it innate?
Although it is true that a bisexual person may choose which relationship they develop, i.e. with a man or with a woman, it seems that the predominantly homosexual person, like the heterosexual, has no choice. They grow up feeling different from others, and cannot change their feelings of love and attraction to members of the same sex. They may long to be free of condemnation and hostility, to be accepted for who they are, to live a peaceful life, but they cannot.
Can sexual orientation be changed?
Not for the predominantly heterosexual or homosexual person. Strenuous efforts by evangelical Christians to exorcise, deliver, pray for, indoctrinate and otherwise ‘change’ Christians who are homosexual have yielded only meagre results. In fact Jeremy Marks, who founded the organisation ‘Courage’ in 1988, in order to help gay people to conform and cultivate a heterosexual orientation has openly declared that this was a sincere mistake. He and his colleagues are now concentrating their ministry on building fellowship with gay people and their spouses and families, working through many complex issues of faith and discipleship and spreading the gospel among gay people in evangelism. He writes:
While recognising the social pressure to become ‘normal’, (i.e. heterosexual), fifteen years experience has revealed that God’sprimary concern is not to change the sexual orientation of his gay and lesbian disciples, but to help them find wholeness in Christ – becoming secure, assured of his love and acceptance, set apart to follow Jesus faithfully and responsible in building relationships with one another.18
What are the causes of homosexuality?
There seem to be three possibilities:
- that it is an evidence of the natural diversity of life.
- that it is a biological flaw in human nature as a general result of the fall.
- that it is a sin.
If we believe that homosexuality is a sin, as most evangelicals do, then we will expect them to repent and change their behaviour. But if we believe what homosexuals say, that they were born like that, cannot change their deepest nature without doing deep violence to themselves, and are sincere and godly disciples of Jesus Christ, then we may come to believe that their homosexuality is not evil in itself, but possibly an aspect of flawed human nature, or simply an example of the diversity within the created order. As in everything else in life, what we believe about something will inform our reaction to it.
Have we understood the Bible passages we quote so freely?
Roy Clements has helpfully explored the relevant passages. He comments on the Leviticus passages:
As far as the two texts in Leviticus that are held to prohibit homosexuality are concerned, there are at least two possible rationales which accord with the general Holiness Code. The first is that homoerotic behaviour was associated with paganism in the ancient world and that the prohibition is basically cultic. Alternatively, the intention of the two texts may have been simply to prohibit anal intercourse (literally: lying with a man ‘in the same way’ as with a woman). The rationale for this could have been public hygiene or a general antagonism to non-procreative sex in a situation where population growth was vital for the nation’s survival. Leviticus displays a general concern for the preservation of patrilinial inheritance of the land which probably informs much of the legislation covering the use of the male seed.
Commenting on Paul’s words in the epistles:
The Pauline references in 1 Corinthians 6 v 9, and 1 Timothy 1 v 10, hinge on the meaning of two disputed words; malachoi and arsenokoitai. The first meaning literally ‘soft ones ‘, does not necessarily relate to sexual behaviour at all. It could for instance, refer to effeminacy in dress or manner. The second may well be a deliberate echoing in Greek of the Hebrew text of Leviticus 18 v 21. It is a very rare word, but always seems to be associated with sins of exploitation and abuse rather than sexual immorality per se. There are strong grounds, then, for believing that these two words are heavily laden with cultural connotations specific to the first century pagan world where for instance, male prostitution and pederasty were widespread. Certainly to translate them as ‘homosexuals’ begs an enormous number of questions, and is in any case thoroughly anachronistic since the notion of sexual orientation did not exist before modern times.19
Romans chapter 1
The passage most frequently quoted by those discussing homosexuality runs from verse 18–32, and contains strong language.
For example, the following words occur: wrath of God, godlessness, wickedness, suppressing the truth, futile thinking, foolish hearts, sinful desires of the heart, sexual impurity, degrading of bodies, shameful lusts, unnatural relations, inflamed with lust, indecent acts, penalty, perversion, depraved mind, wickedness, evil, depravity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossips, slanderers, God- haters, insolent, arrogant, boastful, disobedient to parents, senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
As Paul begins his presentation of the gospel to the Christians in Rome, he starts with a graphic description of human sin and the anger of God against it. He describes the wickedness of the human heart and the temptation within all of us to rebel against God and deny him the worship he deserves. In that sense it applies to all of us in our rebellion against God.
But God’s strongest wrath is shown against those who deny the greatness of God (verse 18) , reduce him to idols (verse 23), and approve of others who do the same (verse 32). This flagrant denial of God leads to all kinds of excesses, which were commonly seen in idolatrous religions e.g. drunkenness, temple prostitution, rape, sexual abuse of children in the name of religion and perverted sex between people of the same sex, all of which are still seen in some religious cults today. These practices are indeed evil and must be condemned.
But the problem is that we have taken the references in verses 24–28 to perverted idolatrous practices within pagan religions, and the gross wickedness of depraved unbelievers, and applied them to Christian homosexuals who worship with us in our churches. Elizabeth Stuart quotes an interesting speculation by Richard Cleaver who wonders:
… what would happen if one day the gay people were spirited away from the Church: organists vanish from their benches, singers from their choir lofts. Readers, preachers, priests, altar servers – even an occasional bishop … It would mean that orthodoxy, which in its primary sense is right worship, would be plunged into crisis … The point rather mischievously put is that lesbian and gay people are to be found in the heart of the body of Christ. We know them as good, faithful servants of Christ …
She adds: ‘You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?’ (Matt. 7 v 16.)20
Is it possible that we have got this wrong?
The agony of the double bind
James Alison, a Catholic priest has vividly described the double bind in his paper Unbinding the Gay Conscience, and it goes to the very heart of the dilemma for Christians who are gay. He first of all describes the double nature of the gospel as it is preached to homosexual people, and the mixed messages that Christians give:
You have probably met people as I have, who tell us that they love gay people, and that is why they are so keen to change us. In other words, their ‘ love’ does not include the word ‘like’. It means something like, ‘I feel that in obedience to God’s love for sinners, I must stop you being who you are’ or ‘My love for you means that I will like you if you become someone else’. It is teaching us that God will only love us if we start from somewhere else.’
He goes on to say:
Well, it seems to me that the doctrine of the incarnation of Our Lord, the image of God coming among us as the likeness of human beings is a strong statement that the divine regard is one of liking us, here and now, as we are. Glad to be with us. And this means that the one who looks at us with love is not just looking at us with a penetrating and inscrutable gaze of utter otherness, but is looking at us with the delight of one who enjoys our company, who wants to be one with us, to share in something with us. Sure, as we learn to relax into that being loved we are going to find that we are quite different from what we thought we were…But the regard does not first knock down so as then to build up, as we so often imagine it, rather as though Jesus was a sergeant major whose job it is to give hell to the recruits and make them feel awful so that later, after they have lost their identities, they’ll start to feel good new identities as soldiers, and then they’ll discover that he has a heart of gold. No, our faith is that the eyes of God that are in Christ, and thus the divine regard through which we can receive new being, are eyes that like us, from alongside, at the same level as us. Which means do not control us, do not try to ‘know better than us ‘ who we are, but want to participate in a discovery with us of who we are to become.21
Let’s keep on exploring this dilemma. We are only just beginning to listen to our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and we need to continue.
Click the footnote number to return to its place in the text of the article.
1 Smedes, L. Sex for Christians Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977 p.17
2 Thatcher, A. Liberating Sex London: SPCK, 1993 p.2
3 Lebacqz, K. & Blake, D. ‘Safe Sex and Lost Love’ in Thatcher, A. & Stuart, E. (eds) Christian Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996 p. 266
4 John 8:1–11
5 Sanford, J. A. The Invisible Partners Basingstoke: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1980 pp.3,4,6
6 Lebacqz, K. & Blake, D. ‘Safe Sex and Lost Love’ in Thatcher, A. & Stuart, E. (eds) Christian Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996 p. 267
7 Genesis 1:27, 31
8 Foster, Richard Money, Sex and Power London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1985 p. 92
9 Nelson, J. B. ‘Reuniting spirituality and sexuality’ in Thatcher, A. & Stuart, E. (eds) Christian Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996 p. 215
10 Thomas & Patrick Malone The Art of Intimacy New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987
11 Song of Songs 2:9
12 Benner, D. G. (ed.) Encyclopaedia of Psychology Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985 p. 520
13 Jacobs, M. (ed.) The Care Guide London: Cassell, 1995 p. 199
14 Oraison, M. The Homosexual Question London: Harper & Row, 1977 p. 11
15 Oraison, M. ibid p. 11
17 Coleman, P. Gay Christians London: SCM, 1989 p. 14
20 Stuart, E. ‘Dancing in the Spirit’ in Bradshaw, T. (ed.) The Way Forward London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1997 pp. 81–2
21 Alison, J. On Being Liked Darton, Longman & Todd, 2003 p. 107
© Sarah Longford 2004