My first challenge in such a piece as this is to try to say what I intend to say as simply as I can, without bogging us down in too much philosophical jargon. On the other hand, one of the problems that Christians have faced is trying to describe their positions, or to combat harmful ideas contrary to them, whilst lacking the philosophical framework that makes various errors easier to see.
In practical terms, I often see phrases like, “gay people” or “LGBTQ folks” from more progressive Christians, and it begs the question in the philosophical sense, in that it implies that those labels are neutral. It implies that the actions related to the labels are also morally neutral. And then of course, the progressive Christian can tell a story of meanness or insensitivity toward those who claim the labels of homosexual or other identity, and either sacrifice the traditional teaching on human sexuality, or fail to engage it properly, because only the personal, on the level of friendship or outreach matters, with respect to the questions of sexuality.
In reality, the moral licitness of particular behaviors, and the labels which apply to them, are of first importance in deciding how to evaluate what we are dealing with.
I don't make a blanket statement that no label of gay identity should ever be used under any circumstances, but the question of which actions, thoughts, and markers of identity go together cannot be avoided. There is nothing positive to be gleaned from the language of homosexual and other related activism, if the behaviors, thoughts, and implications of the labels are attached to things that are wrong. The things which many people affirm as positive from their “gay” identity are often normal human things.
We can affirm those things, even if we do not affirm the language of gay activism. It is truly a pity that things like warmth, compassion, and creativity are associated in many minds with the gay lifestyle, because those traits of good character should be held in honor by all of us, and sought as virtues.
It is also a fact that some aspects of these questions cannot be disentangled from some of our political arguments, and that many “liberal” or “progressive” Christians are simply uncritically reacting to perceptions they have — true or not — of their politically conservative brethren.
However, in the end, we must ask if certain identities and behaviors are intrinsic to the human person as God has designed him or her. If those actions are not intrinsic to the human person and his or her destiny, then the attendant labels should not be fundamental to any person’s self-expression.
To say that there is a purpose or end for each of us, and for the parts of our bodies, is to fundamentally alter the conversation, directing it toward the purposes for which we exist, in both body and soul. This can help us avoid the false sentimentality that is focused more upon person-to-person interaction, and positive feelings associated with those interactions.
It is almost as if the outreach of mission has entirely engulfed dogma, systematic theology, and ethics. But if any Christian reaches out to the world with nothing, or worse, falsehood, in an attractive, sentimental package, he or she hasn’t saved anyone from anything. And he or she continues the project of re-making Jesus into the perfect expression of a postmodern, socially acceptable guy.
But surely we know that the true allure of Jesus is that he is not “just like us,” at least in our weakness, sin, and desire to be liked.
Jason Kettinger is Associate Editor of Open for Business. He writes on politics, sports, faith and more.