Recently, someone I care a lot about told me, “I’ll take you to task on that! Just go back to the beginning in Genesis Chapter 2.”. Their comment was in response to my statement: “There is a Christian theology of human sexuality that includes a love (not lust) based monogamous committed relationship between same-gendered persons.”. In spite of the available scholarly work supporting my perspective, the conservative evangelical Christian’s traditional anatomical and complementary view of marriage prevails. And, this traditional perspective denies gay Christian men and women the opportunity to experience and express romantic love in a faithful and committed marriage relationship with someone of the same sex. In order to be accepted in this traditional Christian theological paradigm, one must either remain celibate (single and chaste) or enter into a mixed orientation marriage (i.e., marry a straight person).
It is important to note that a mixed orientation marriage does work for some people. While I am not sure it was the best option for either of us, my mixed orientation marriage to Nancy was successful for 35 years. (Note, I have written about that elsewhere).
Yet, in my current phase of life, my engagement and same-sex marriage is met with disdain by many, if not most, of my conservative evangelical Christian friends. The friendship relationships that remain intact with people among this group are with those who have known me and who have been close to me for many years. The more casual friendships among the conservative evangelical Christian group seem to have disappeared. My interpretation of this is consistent with Peplau (1996) who noted that the experience of gay persons as real people is impaired by the lack of personal contact with them. Peplau went on to conclude that without such personal contact, gay persons are thought of as “abstract symbols who challenge conventional roles for women and men and who threaten traditional religious and family values” (p. 250).
I submit that traditional religious and family values should be challenged:
- In light of the fact that there is evidence supporting the existence of sexual orientation in persons;
- In light of the fact that there is evidence supporting the permanency of a person’s sexual orientation;
- In light of the fact that there is evidence supporting the existence of persons with a sexual orientation towards same-gendered persons;
- In light of the fact that there is evidence supporting the existence of same-sex oriented (gay) persons who are Christian – with Christian being defined in a way that is consistent with the conservative evangelical religious views and interpretations of Scripture;
- In light of the fact that there is evidence supporting the existence of gay Christians who love Jesus;
- In light of the fact that there is evidence supporting the existence of gay Christians who do not have the gift of celibacy;
- In light of the fact that there is evidence supporting the existence of non-celibate gay Christians who want to live life in a way that honors Christ and the Scriptures – by the way, I am one of these persons.
Of all the things I might write about that is wrong in our culture – whether it be concerning homosexual or heterosexual behaviors – there is one thing I think should be seen as good and right. It would be good and right for gay identified persons who love Jesus and want to honor Jesus in their way of life to be allowed to do so – they should be allowed to be active in participation with the body of Christ and also they should be afforded the Church sanctioned freedom to be married, just like anyone else.
Recently, I was reading an article by Dr. William Lane Craig (n.d.) concerning Christianity and homosexuality. One conclusion he made is that gay and lesbian couple relationships are not as satisfying nor are they as stable as heterosexual couple relationships. In reading his report, I was once again struck by just how biased any of us can be in our writing to support our position on an issue.
Interestingly, there is research evidence today suggesting that same-sex partnered couples do in fact create stable and durable relationships. I go to church with a gay couple who have been together for 30 years. Recently, I met a another gay couple who have been together 36 years. There are gay couples who have durable and long-term relations and who experience high relationship quality. Scientific studies making inquiry about the factors that contribute to relationship quality suggest that “the factors that predict relationship satisfaction, relationship commitment, and relationship stability are remarkably similar for both same-sex cohabiting couples and heterosexual married couples” (xx).
The most recent study that I reviewed was a doctoral dissertation by Rosenfeld (2014). He employed a new longitudinal dataset of N=3009 samples designed to compare the stability of relationships in two groups, homosexual and heterosexual. According to Rosenfeld, his study measures the association between marriage (by several definitions of marriage) and couple longevity for same-sex couples in the United States. Rosenfeld concludes that the reports of same-sex relationship instability in the past were due in part to the low rate of marriages among same-sex couples. After controlling for marriage and marriage-like commitments, the break-up rate for same-sex couples is comparable to (and not statistically distinguishable from) the break-up rate for heterosexual couples. In addition, Rosenfeld found that same-sex couples who had a marriage-like commitment had stable unions regardless of government recognition.
A major focus of Rosenfeld’s (2014) study was to explore a variety of predictors of relationship dissolution, for heterosexual and for same-sex couples. He shows that while same-sex couples in the United States more likely to break up than heterosexual couples, the difference in longevity is explained by the lower rate of marriage among same-sex couples. In other words, in the study, when married (and married like commitment) couples were compared, there was not a statistically significant difference in the break up rates among couples in the two groups.
Rosenfeld goes on to demonstrate support for the conclusion that the association between marriage and couple stability was similar for same-sex couples and heterosexual couples. Based on his study, Rosenfeld concluded that married couples in either group are more likely to stay together than unmarried couples – both at all levels of relationship quality and also at all relationship durations. In addition, he concludes that despite the declining universality of marriage in the US for heterosexual couples marriage is a uniquely important predictor of couple stability, for both heterosexual and for same-sex couples.
So in response to Dr. Craig’s (n.d.) article, I would suggest that the conservative evangelical Christian community is in part responsible for the dilemma that Dr. Craig writes about. In addition, the conservative evangelical Christian community could be a part of changing the very predicament that Dr. Craig complains about as a negativity that demonstrates why homosexual couples in relationship do not work.
Rosenfeld’s (2014) research outcomes suggest that allowing Jesus loving and Jesus following gay persons to marry would positively impact the breakup rate in gay and lesbian couples. And in fact, denying them the opportunity to marry actually contributes to the problem that Dr. Craig identifies. Maybe conservative evangelicals, can stop being a part of creating the problem that is then used to justify their position.
So if you are gay, I want you to know that God loves you. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life”. No matter what the conservative evangelical religious community has said to you, the only thing you have to be is a whosoever that believes in Jesus.
P.S. I am making recommendations for resources on my website for those who are interested in the things I have read that have helped shape my thinking on these matters: http://royablankenship.com/recommended-books-on-scripture-theology/
Craig, W. L. (n.d.) A Christian perspective on homosexuality. Downloaded 1/28/2019 from https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/practical-issues/a-christian-perspective-on-homosexuality/.
Peplau, L. A., et al. (1996). Gay and lesbian relationships. The lives of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. R. C. Savin-Williams and K. M. Cohen. New York, Harcourt Brace College Publishers.
Rosenfeld, M. J. (2014). “Couple longevity in the era of same-sex marriage in the U.S.” Journal of Marriage and Marriage and Family 76: 905-918.