Back in what I suppose you could call “Phase I” of my conversion, when I had been looking into Christianity for a while and, to my great surprise, found it more and more compelling, there was one concern that weighed heavily on my mind: what would this mean for my relationships with my gay friends?
Three of my husband and my very dearest friends and many of our acquaintances are gay, and live gay lifestyles. And though I didn’t know many of the details, I knew enough about Christianity to be pretty sure that if I were to become a Christian I would be part of a belief system that said that there was something wrong with the homosexual lifestyle. It gave me pause. On the one hand, so much seemed true about this religion’s teachings. It seemed on so many different levels that I was on the right path here. But I just didn’t see how I was ever going to make sense of the teaching that homosexuality is wrong. The gay couples I knew didn’t seem to be doing anything all that different than the straight couples I knew. It didn’t feel right to say that Julie and Tom’s relationship was somehow superior to David and Mark’s when the sole difference between them was that Julie and Tom are of opposite genders and had a piece of paper from the state saying they were “married”. Who cares?
Something about the whole thing felt wrong. It seemed that what I would essentially need to say to my gay friends based on my newfound belief system (as I understood it) was, “As a person who is attracted to the opposite sex, I get a sort of ‘get out of sin free’ card as soon as I commit to sexual monogamy through marriage. Sex is a gift God gave us for pleasure…but only heterosexuals can indulge in that pleasure.” Based on that view, it made heterosexuals sound like some kind of chosen people. If God’s law is such that sexual acts between two people of the same gender are always wrong, even if those same acts might be committed by a heterosexual couple with no problem, it kind of makes it feel like God has something against people who are attracted to the same gender.
All of this nagged at me for months, and was a real sticking point for me in moving forward with Christianity.
Meanwhile, on a seemingly unrelated topic, I was just beginning to realize how amazing it is that we really do have eternal souls. As I’ve said before, I always knew it somewhere deep down in my heart, but it was just amazing to realize that it’s true, and to think about what that meant. Coming from a background of seeing human as advanced animals, a mere set of chemical reactions, this whole “soul created by God” thing was just mind-blowing stuff.
One thing about it all quickly jumped out to me: if all this soul/God/eternity stuff is true, then human sexuality is a very, very grave matter. I thought of sex, that same ‘ol thing I’d seen bandied about in the media and in pop culture all my life, and suddenly realized: Whoa! Hey! This is the process through which human beings — people with eternal souls, dearly precious to God — are created! What a profoundly miraculous, sacred thing this is. What an unbelievable, undeserved honor that God would allow us to take part in co-creating lives with him!
After I let that huge concept sink in, I began to explore Christian teaching on sexuality more. It just seemed like this was an area where we really needed to bow our heads in humility before God, where we must tread with the utmost care and respect. I wanted to know more about how we could do that. I had been interested in Catholic theology for other reasons, so I read up on the Theology of the Body and Humanae Vitae. It was an easy sell.
The Catholic idea about how we can give human sexuality the respect and honor it deserves is one of those things that just sounded right to me. I actually didn’t even need to read too much about the reasoning behind it (though I did, and found it to be solid), because it just felt true. The theory that God would like for us to respect this sacred process by keeping our hearts open to the creation of life with every single sexual act, just kind of clicked for me. It seemed pretty plain that the great pleasure that accompanies the soul-creating act we call sex is just too perfect a tool for the devil to use to lead us astray, and that the only way for individuals and society as a whole to keep that in check is to never, ever intentionally sever the pleasure of sex from its life-creating potential.
And as I’ve said before, I was surprised at how far-reaching the implications of this worldview were. I suddenly saw practically every area of my life, my marriage, and the world in a different light — and one of those things was the issue of homosexual lifestyles.
Though the implications of this philosophy on sex were weighty and required great sacrifices, perhaps moreso for people with same-sex attraction, it didn’t strike me as unfair. It made sense to me that God wants sex to occur exclusively between a man and a woman not for some arbitrary “because I said so” kind of reason, but because that’s the only way we can leave our hearts open to the idea of creating life with every sexual act; that to commit a sexual act solely for the purpose of experiencing the pleasure it brings, to mentally compartmentalize the physical sensations from the amazing purpose for which God has given this to us, is a dangerous thing — whether done by two men, two women, or a man and a woman; and that when it comes to carrying crosses in the name of respecting human sexuality, heterosexuals don’t get to say, “No thanks, I’m straight.”
As I have learned from my own relatively small trials and stories of others who have faced far greater challenges, heterosexual couples often have to make great sacrifices to live this teaching. Does it compare to the sacrifice that this worldview would ask homosexuals to make? I don’t know. I’d imagine it’s different for each individual. But certainly, great selflessness is required of everyone.
A quick disclaimer: I know that this post touches on a lot of hot topics, and that many of the readers of this blog see this issue from a different perspective. I hope my tone here is clear that I offer this in the spirit of a personal reflection on an important area of my conversion. I wouldn’t be sharing the full story of my path from atheism if I left this part out. But it’s not my aim with this post prove that I’m right or to criticize people who don’t see the world this way — certainly there is no shortage of people who use contraception, practicing homosexuals, or practicing homosexuals who use contraception who are better people and better Christians than I am.