June 6, 2009

Hate the Sinful Lifestyle, Not the Sinner

This week, I received an email from President Barack Obama.
Yes, it's true! But not because I am friends with him, but because I work full time for a government contractor for the National Institutes of Health, and thus, emails from the White House go to all government-related email addresses. The subject line-- "A Message from The President: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, 2009" My response was not a positive one. As a disclaimer up front, I do not hate people who are homosexual. I care very much about them and love them because they, like all people, are living images of God. I also have compassion for them because the type of lifestyle they live harms both their physical and spiritual health. And furthermore, the type of research I do involves looking for the cure for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This illness is highly prevalent among homosexual men (53% of all new cases). The President's message spoke about the historical roots of the "LGBT rights movement" and how he officially proclaimed June 2009 as the month where Americans are called to "turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists." Basically, he is telling us to accept sin, and to allow people to continue doing it toward their detriment, so as to not discriminate against them.... Biologically speaking, it has not been scientifically proven that people who live a homosexual lifestyle have a gene or any set of genes that make them 'born that way'. There is also the 'maternal immune hypothesis' which suggests that the mother makes antibodies against a portion of the Y chromosome and that those antibodies affect the areas of sexual preference in the developing child's brain, and that the more older brothers a boy has increases his chances of becoming a homosexual (Blanchard, R. Hormones and Behavior 40, 105–114; 2001). The study referenced above is one of the least scientific studies I've ever encountered. The immense lack of evidence is balanced by the over-abundance of 'hand-waving'. It is a good example of the introduction of bias to a discipline that by nature has been defined as 'objective' and based on the observation of data. I will not spend time here to enumerate examples from this paper about how it exemplifies bad science. Because we have no proof to tell us that homosexuality is genetically determined, as if it were a trait like the color of one's skin, we cannot assume that it is something a person is born with, but rather, it is a choice of lifestyle, and this choice is guided by human weakness succumbing to passion, or to take it further, possibly to the wiles of the evil one. Please note that, contrary to popular belief, as Orthodox Christians, we are not to condemn any PERSON. In fact, we are called to love everyone, because each person is made in the image of God. We are called to suffer with everyone and to have compassion on them, because we all are sinners. But what is sin? Sin (αμαρτία, Gr.) literally means to miss the mark, and the mark is simply doing the will of God, and so, we all sin because we fail to do what God wants us to do. We are called to recognize sin, and similarly, sinful ways of living, and to hate it, but not the people who execute it. And, after calling it out, we must stop it and change our way of thinking and doing (μετανοία, repentance). In order to destroy sin, it must be clearly defined as such. Otherwise, we will not know it is sin, and will remain in it. This is where it is harmful to the health of our souls, and many times, harmful the health of our bodies. It makes it even worse when our society and our leaders refuse to be truthful about sin, to cover it up by saying that it is an unchangeable trait that must be accepted, and to censor the reality of sin's consequences by exhortations to stop so-called discrimination against the people doing it. And so, upon seeing the email from the President, I asked, 'are you saying that we should stop discriminating against SIN?' I'm sorry, Sir, but I respectfully decline to adhere to your order. Hating sin is quite different from discriminating against people because they have inherited (and not chosen) traits that make them unique, such as their skin color, their ethnic origins, class status, intelligence, or gender. In the case of homosexuality, it is not an inherited trait (at least no scientist has proven such), but a lifestyle that is sinful. It is sinful because it is contrary to God's will. God's will for human sexuality is for a man and a woman to become united in one flesh, in a most loving and sacred way in the context of the mystery of marriage, with the openness to co-create sacred life with God. Taking human sexuality out of this context disfigures it and sullies the image of God in the persons who participate. As our President desires, let us not discriminate against people in the 'LGBT community', but rather, let us pray for them and offer them our unconditional love. Loving them, though, means to be truthful with them, not allowing them to make lifestyle choices which are detrimental to their spiritual and physical well-being, all under the guise of so-called tolerance and official declarations against prejudice.

3 comments:

  1. As a fellow scientist, I do not think you should discount the theory that homosexuality is chemically or genetically based. There are many different scientific opinions as to why homosexuality exists in more than 1500 different species. One theory is that species produce homosexual individuals to cut down the population number. As a species, we have never had so many people inhabit the earth and it makes sense that we would respond to these large numbers as other species do in that we produce homosexual members of our species. I really don't see evidence to disprove this. I do not imagine there is much NIH funding for studying the basis of homosexuality. However, there is a lot of money funding Autism research and we still do not understand if it is caused by the environment or genetics or both. So then, if we do prove that homosexuality is genetically or environmentally induced, then as Christians, a lot of time and energy would have been wasted discriminating against people for the wrong reason. As a Christian, why would you assume "the worst case scenario" that homosexuality is not biological? Part of being a Christian is to have hope and I really don't see the hope with such a negative view. If we are to make no exceptions that God wants man to be united with woman, then those who do not unite must also be leading a sinful lifestyle.

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  2. Amanda, where did demetra say anything about a "worst case scenario?" To suggest that she has done so is disingenuous. She has stated, and rightly so, that the claims that homosexuality has a genetic basis have so far gone unproven.

    But let's suppose for a moment that there comes a study that can be unequivocally accepted throughout the scientific community as proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is a genetic or prenatal developmental cause for homosexuality. Does this mean, then, that what the Church has taught and required is null and void, and that homosexual behavior is to be accepted and supported by the Church?

    If, indeed, there is some such determination, why can it not be said that this is one manifestation of the defect introduced into human being by the disobedience of our first parents in the Garden of Eden? If we take it that original sin, as it is taught by the Orthodox Church, consists of being separated from the will of God, and so having a will that hesitates between choosing what is permitted and what is not, because of a flaw in our very nature, then the fact that someone is "born that way" is not a license to engage in a forbidden activity, but simply the shape of the Cross that person is meant to bear. This is said not merely with regard to homosexuality, but to all forms of sexual expression outside the bounds of marriage as defined by the Church, and to all actions that the Church recognizes as sin.

    We are called to overcome whichever passion or passions afflict us, to the glory of God, and with the help of God. We do no one any favors by teaching them to say, "It is my nature that makes me do this" than to accept as an excuse that, "The devil made me do it." We must be truthful, even as we are also to be compassionate. All that demetra has done here is express what the Church has always known, taught, and done.

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  3. I find it interesting that the predominating theories on the biological basis of homosexuality are being ignored because they have not been "proven". This despite there being abundant evidence showing the inborn nature of sexuality. The existence of God has not been "proven" either, yet it is blindly accepted based on words written by man generations ago. You note that all Demetra has done is express what the church has always known, taught, and done. That is not her job. She is a scientist (and I use that term loosely as her scientific reasoning is deplorable). If she were a nun (or a priest in the Episcopalian church) then what she was saying would be more acceptable. She would then be preaching theology, not biology. Instead you feel it is the job of the Christian church and the Christian people to change the will of God and nature. He created us in His image. No man on Earth knows the true will and word of God. We can only hypothesize, have theories. To assume that it is the will of God to cast out those He created is tantamount to blasphemy. The Christian God I was raised with tells me to love and accept all people. If it is eventually proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that homosexuality is indeed biologically based, then then condition would be the will of God. He would have created it. Who are we to question His creations and change them to make them more acceptable in our eyes? It is not up to man to condemn or judge. Rather than doubt the will and reasoning of God, accept the fact that he put love into the hearts of all His creations (regardless of the form in which He chose to place it there).

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