I graduated from Cedarville University in 2011 with a BA in philosophy and am currently a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Arkansas. I grew up believing and being taught that gay sex was sinful. It went without saying that since gay sex was sinful, all sorts of other things were sinful (e.g., the “LBTQ” parts of the “LGBTQ”). But I often felt compassion on LGBTQ persons because I was often mistakenly regarded as a gay person. While never embarrassed of this, I was wounded by people, many of them friends, who believed that I was something I wasn’t and, worse, something they believed was somehow defective or sinful.
My story, in brief, primarily concerned a friend of mine, S., who was a closeted lesbian for years before coming out to her husband. Her church excommunicated her and a member of the congregation physically assaulted her. While I knew few traditionalists who would act so cruelly, this incident prompted me to think more carefully about what I believed and, by extension, how I loved.
While my heart was behind the LGBTQ cause long before I said so, the biggest obstacles for me were intellectual ones. Both the Bible and natural law theory seemed to oppose gay sex. Dale Martin’s book Sex and the Single Savior(1) was instrumental in convincing me that traditionalist interpretations of certain biblical passages were dubious.(2) While I never quite accepted natural law theory, I never quite rejected it either. But the criticisms made me doubt two things: (1) that natural law theory is true(3) and (2) that natural law theory is incompatible with taking a progressive stance on gay sex (among other LGBTQ issues).(4) Additionally, I was persuaded by James Rachels’ compelling observation that demanding a restraint from gay eros would, for many gay persons, be demanding that they live unhappy lives.(5) This would hold less moral weight if what made persons happy was wrong, but I am unpersuaded that there is anything which makes gay eros wrong.(6)
I realize I’ve given something considerably less than a demonstrative case for the moral permissibility of LGBTQ “lifestyles.” But that wasn’t my goal. I simply sought to paint the broad outline of how I changed, how I came to love others differently – differently and better, I think. Occasionally, there’s disappointment in myself for the way I’ve behaved before, for the squandered opportunities to love better than I loved. Yet, though my full support is late, it is I hope loving, and love (being always good) is better shown late than never.(7)
(1) Dale Martin. (2006) Sex and the Single Savior. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. See esp. chapters 3, 4, 9, and 10.
(2) Here’s an excerpt from Martin’s book (ch. 3): http://www.clgs.org/arsenokoit%C3%A9s-and-malakos-meanings-and-consequences.
(3) John Corvino. (2008) “Homosexuality, Harm, and Moral Principles.” Laurence Thomas (ed.), Contemporary Debates in Social Philosophy. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing. 79-93. I don’t mean to suggest that this debate is over. (It isn’t.) I merely mean to suggest that I came to regard natural law theories as questionably true.
(4) Evan Fales. (2012) “Naturalist Moral Realism.” R. Keith Loftin (ed.), God and Morality: Four Views. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 13-34. See esp. Fales’ comment on homosexuality (32-33, fn. 20). While Fales falls short of explaining how a naturalist moral realist might account for such a possibility, he (as a naturalist moral realist) still endorses it, and how Fales might come to this conclusion might be inferred from more general features of his account.
(5) James Rachels. (2011) The Elements of Moral Philosophy (Seventh Edition). McGraw-Hill Publishing. I’ve neglected the page number as I currently lack access to the book, but here’s a link to the chapter: http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~stich/104MasterFile/104Readings/Rachels/Subjectivism%20in%20Ethics.pdf.
(6) See also Justin McBrayer. (2012) “Christianity, Homosexual Behavior, and Sexism.” Think (Summer 2012). 163-179. His essay is accessible here: http://faculty.fortlewis.edu/jpmcbrayer/ChristianityHomosexualBehaviorandSexism.pdf.
(7) If you want a copy of either Fales’ essay or Corvino’s essay, or if you’d just like to chat, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.