Heterosexual Idolatry?

In the light of the debate about banning Gay Conversion therapy, I observed a few comments to the affect that evangelicals had made heterosexuality into an idol.

This links a little into something that Sean Doherty said in his article on the Living Out site “about why they disagree with conversion therapy too. He writes:

“We believe that heterosexuality as we encounter it in this world is just as fallen as homosexuality. If a person changes from lustful desire towards people of the same sex to lustful desire towards people of the opposite sex, that is in no sense an improvement. So, attempts to change sexual orientation could be a distraction from the real goal, which is sexual purity expressed either in fulfilled marriage or in fulfilled singleness. We do not believe that marriage is a preferable outcome to singleness and indeed in 1 Corinthians 7:32-38, St Paul teaches that singleness is in some ways ‘better’ than marriage.”[1]

I’m supportive of what the people at Living Out are trying to do and I think I can see the point Sean is  making. There’s a specific risk with the therapy approach that people assume the problem is simply that someone is gay and they need their sexual orientation re-orientated. If we can simply get them to like girls instead of boys then the job is done. This does not pay serious enough attention to the problem of sin because the person who is heterosexual but sleeping around, the person watching pornography and the person who has left his wife for another woman are just as much in sin as the person who is engaging in a same sex-relationship.

Indeed, the person who experiences same-sex attraction but chooses to resist and to live faithful to Scripture is showing sanctification just as much as the person who is monogamous in heterosexual marriage, more so than the heterosexual fornicator.

So far, so good but here’s the problem. Whilst sexual orientation is not a sin and whilst heterosexual attraction is not sin free, that does not mean that the two orientations are equally valid.  This is important.  It is one thing to say that orientation may remain as one of the challenges of living in the now and the not yet, it is another to say that change of orientation isn’t a good and desirable thing. It is one thing to say that someone can experience amazing grace through their struggle with their orientation but that does not mean the orientation itself is grace.  This is why a Biblical Theology of sexuality that takes full account of all the key themes of redemptive history is important.

  1. Creation – God makes man and woman -woman is the suitable partner for man. This is God’s creation purpose so that 1 man and 1 woman in faithful lifelong marriage is what we expect.
  2. Fall : The Fall mars relationships and brings corruption into creation. We see the effect of this in sexual immorality. We see the effects of this in our distorted desires whether heterosexual or homosexual
  3. The Cross: Jesus has died and been raised so that we are forgiven from our sin. We live in the now and the not yet, forgiven but still living in a world where the consequences of sin exist including sickness and ongoing temptation
  4. Christ’s Return -New Creation fully realised and the effects of sin no longer have a hold in God’s presence.

The other issue I have is with the original statement. To be sure we can be obsessive and put the wrong emphasis on things but the accusation of “heterosexual idolatry” sounds a little similar to the accusation of “Bible idolatry.” This argument claims that by treating Scripture as God’s infallible word, evangelicals place it on a level with God and worship the book. Of course, we know that this is nonsense. We take Scripture seriously because we take God seriously and want him to speak to us. We know that the Bible isn’t God but we also know that his word matters.  So, I think the accusation of heterosexual idolatry is offside too. Recognising God’s creation ideal does not make us idolaters.

[1] http://www.livingout.org/does-living-out-support-gay-cure-or-conversion-therapy