I’m not a heterosexual anymore. That may seem strange coming from someone like me, but hear me out.
Let’s talk about what it means to “not be heterosexual.”
You’re probably thinking, “Oh boy…he’s gay.” But that’s not the case. I’m not gay, I’m very happily married to a woman. But I’m also not a heterosexual anymore…and neither is my wife, for that matter.
Here’s the thing: heterosexuality is a myth. By implication, this also means that homosexuality is a myth. In an article published in First Things magazine by future-monk Michael Hannon entitled, “Against Heterosexuality,” a case is clearly laid out against sexual orientation. Hannon writes:
First of all, within orientation essentialism, the distinction between heterosexuality and homosexuality is a construct that is dishonest about its identity as a construct. These classifications masquerade as natural categories, applicable to all people in all times and places according to the typical objects of their sexual desires (albeit with perhaps a few more options on offer for the more politically correct categorizers). Claiming to be not simply an accidental nineteenth-century invention but a timeless truth about human sexual nature, this framework puts on airs, deceiving those who adopt its labels into believing that such distinctions are worth far more than they really are.
Basically, what he is saying is that the idea of a sexual orientation is deceptive in that a LOT of people believe that heterosexuality is the norm, the eternally changeless state of how people “should be” and homosexuality (and by implication, homosexuals) is a giant mistake. It’s deceptive because the concept of sexual orientation is less than 150 years old.
Hannon argues that sexual orientation is something we should dismiss from our minds and vocabulary precisely because it goes about defining people and sexuality entirely backwards. Sometime in the 19th century, scholars decided to start defining sexuality, not by it’s obvious natural function (aka, having kids), but by the object of sexual desire. This short circuit of the old view of sexuality removed the motivation for chastity by removing the common good from marriage: children. Sex became purely about passion and feelings, and without a concrete tie between it and nature/reality, the very idea of “heterosexuality” began to lose its meaning. (See Hannon’s article for a deeper analysis of this thought.)
Perhaps the most powerful truth that Hannon unlocks is that when we think about people in terms of heterosexuality (or “normal”) and homosexual (“abnormal”), the sexual orientation lens we are looking through colors our view of people’s actions. Suddenly, we aren’t seeing sexual sin the way the Bible describes it, as equally damning no matter the sin (by that I mean that any sin, no matter how small, is enough to incur God’s holy justice). We see “heterosexual” sin as one thing, and “homosexual” sin as another. Do we see what has happened here? In essence, we are using categories that classifies one group as socially normal (“heterosexual”), and thus free from moral judgement, and the other group as socially unacceptable and the target of all moral judgement. As Hannon so succinctly says:
The most pernicious aspect of the orientation-identity system is that it tends to exempt heterosexuals from moral evaluation… Nevertheless, as a general rule, identifying as a heterosexual person today amounts to declaring oneself a member of the “normal group,” against which all deviant sexual desires and attractions and temptations are to be measured… Of course, we do have a model norm for the evaluation of sexual deviancy. But that model is not heterosexuality. It is Christ Jesus himself, the God-man who both perfected human nature and perfectly exemplified its perfection, ‘one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.’ For the self-declared heterosexual to displace our Lord in this position is the height of folly.
By saying we are heterosexual, we are putting ourselves into a special category that has a different standard of judgement than the homosexual category. Not to mention that the very idea of sexual identity removes responsibility from one’s attractions. We’ve all heard the refrain, “I was born this way.” It’s offered up as an excuse for one’s actions, but as Christians, we know that we are born sinful, and yet are still responsible for our actions. The sexual orientation idea clouds this truth.
In accepting this paradox of heterosexual vs. homosexual, Christians have given up their greatest weapon in combating sin and immorality. For years, people have said that homosexuality is sinful, when such a thing is impossible for the Bible to condemn, simply because the idea of sexual identity and “homosexuality” is less than 200 years old! What the Bible has always condemned is sexual sin outside of marriage, same-gender sexual acts included. By putting these acts into their own category, then inextricably attaching them to the individual performing them, we have denied the power of the Gospel to free sinners by denying that they really are sinning.
In light of this, the question, “What do you, as a Christian, think about homosexuality?” becomes meaningless because it’s the wrong question. The question is, “What do you, as a Christian, think about sexual sin?” We have had such difficulty answering questions about homosexuality, all while struggling to convey that the Bible has a message of love and redemption. We are seduced by the pridefulness of being “normal heterosexuals” because at least we aren’t “abnormal homosexuals”. It’s strongly implied that “homosexual” sin is worse than “heterosexual” sin. And that has been a fatal mistake.
We are all sinners. We need Jesus Christ and His redemptive blood covering our sins. It’s time to repent of being prideful because we’re “normal”. We’re not. We are broken and in need of healing, “heterosexual” and “homosexual” alike.
Because we’re all human.
I highly recommend reading Hannon’s article. It was incredibly enlightening for me and he covers a lot of ground that I didn’t. I hope I gave a good account of this subject; please let me know in the comments!