That got your attention, didn’t it?
Father Jim Tucker has a post with that title up on his blog today. In it he links to a few other article on the topic of possible genetic roots of homosexuality.
First, let’s discusses Harold Meyerson’s Washington Post Editorial “God and His Gays.” As you might expect from a Post editorial, he doesn’t get it. Myerson writes:
But once you recognize homosexuality as a genetic reality, it does create a theological dilemma for the Mohlers among us, for it means that God is making people who, in the midst of what may otherwise be morally exemplary lives, have a special and inherent predisposition to sin. Mohler’s response is that since Adam’s fall, sin is the condition of all humankind. That sidesteps, however, the conundrum that a gay person may follow the same God-given instincts as a straight person — let’s assume fidelity and the desire for church sanctification in both cases — and end up damned while the straight person ends up saved. Indeed, it means that a gay person’s duty is to suppress his God-given instincts while a straight person’s duty is to fulfill his.
There are a few issues with this excerpt. One, just because a person has a longing or instinct to do something, doesn’t make it acceptable for that person to do so. For example, I have a longing to stuff myself full of pizza everyday, but I don’t because it’s harmful to me and wrong. I have an instinct to hit managers over the head who think they know everything and refuse to listen to me when I am more knowledgeable on a subject than they are, but I don’t because it would be wrong. But God made me gluttonous and impatient, so wouldn’t be right for me to a violent pizza-holic? Of course not.
Second, and this may be a Catholic difference, but it’s not necessarily a straight person’s “duty” to procreate. After all, God may have other plans for them. Perhaps the person in question is called to the priesthood or come other celibate, consecrated life. Perhaps they’re single and therefore shouldn’t have kids right now. Meyerson, like so many in our society, confuses sexual orientation with a person’s destiny and therefore believes it has to be acted on.
Third, it turns out that genetics, while playing a role in which sex a person is attracted to, is not the sole determining factor. Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, has stated that “Homosexuality Is Not Hardwired.” He argues: “[T]he likelihood that the identical twin of a homosexual male will also be gay is about 20% (compared with 2-4 percent of males in the general population), indicating that sexual orientation is genetically influenced but not hardwired by DNA, and that whatever genes are involved represent predispositions, not predeterminations.” There is a genetic factor, but it is not only non-conclusive, it’s apparently a small factor.
Meyerson closes with this paragraph:
After all, there are few American believers who don’t profess at least some faith as well in the verities of proven science and the rightness of our national credo’s commitment to human equality. By effectively insisting that God is a spiteful homo-hater, his followers saddle him with ancient phobias and condemn him to the backwaters of American moral life.
Who, other than morons who protest at funerals, believes God hates homosexuals? Don’t Christians teach that God is Love? Don’t we teach that God loves all of us, no matter what he does? Meyerson is attributing a biased, straw man view to Christians, virtually all of whom reject such a view of God. But it makes things easier for him to feel superior about himself, so he apparently feels free to do so.
The article that Meyerson is apparently responding to can found on Albert Mohler’s blog. (I’d never heard of Albert Mohler before this, but he’s apparently president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary-the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention, so he’s a Baptist bigwig. Maybe Jeff’s heard of him. Anyhoo, Dr. Mohler discusses the findings that there may be a genetic source of homosexuality and ponders what the Christian response to it should be. He outlines ten points that he argues Christians should abide by (his writings in italics, mine responses are not):
1. There is, as of now, no incontrovertible or widely accepted proof that any biological basis for sexual orientation exists.
As I quoted above, there does seem to be a basis for same-sex attraction in a person’s genetic makeup, so I’ll have to dissent from this one.
2. Nevertheless, the direction of the research points in this direction. Research into the sexual orientation of sheep and other animals, as well as human studies, points to some level of biological causation for sexual orientation in at least some individuals.
3. Given the consequences of the Fall and the effects of human sin, we should not be surprised that such a causation or link is found. After all, the human genetic structure, along with every other aspect of creation, shows the pernicious effects of the Fall and of God’s judgment.
Exactly. Whatever caused The Fall and our inclination towards sin, it’s not unreasonable that it could be written into our genetic structure as is our tendency to overeat, which is of course gluttony.
4. The biblical condemnation of all homosexual behaviors would not be compromised or mitigated in the least by such a discovery. The discovery of a biological factor would not change the Bible’s moral verdict on homosexual behavior.
Correct. Just because something is genetic, doesn’t make it right as with gluttony.
5. The discovery of a biological basis for homosexuality would be of great pastoral significance, allowing for a greater understanding of why certain persons struggle with these particular sexual temptations.
Yes, knowing the root cause of a sin is of great aid in overcoming it. It’s why in Catholic confession and examination of conscience, we’re not expected just to identify our sins, but figure out why we do them.
6. The biblical basis for establishing the dignity of all persons — the fact that all humans are made in God’s image — reminds us that this means all persons, including those who may be marked by a predisposition toward homosexuality. For the sake of clarity, we must insist at all times that all persons — whether identified as heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, transsexual, transgendered, bisexual, or whatever — are equally made in the image of God.
7. Thus, we will gladly contend for the right to life of all persons, born and unborn, whatever their sexual orientation. We must fight against the idea of aborting fetuses or human embryos identified as homosexual in orientation.
Definitely, killing someone in the womb just because of their sexuality is no different than killing someone outside the womb just because of their sexuality. They’re both murder.
8. If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin.
I have to disagree here. Genetic therapy is a little too close to playing God for my tastes. I don’t know that we should “drug” people to remove same-sex attractions.
9. We must stop confusing the issues of moral responsibility and moral choice. We are all responsible for our sexual orientation, but that does not mean that we freely and consciously choose that orientation. We sin against homosexuals by insisting that sexual temptation and attraction are predominately chosen. We do not always (or even generally) choose our temptations. Nevertheless, we are absolutely responsible for what we do with sinful temptations, whatever our so-called sexual orientation.
Yes, we don’t condemn people for have same-sex attractions, but we do expect them not to act on them. We judge actions, not people.
10. Christians must be very careful not to claim that science can never prove a biological basis for sexual orientation. We can and must insist that no scientific finding can change the basic sinfulness of all homosexual behavior. The general trend of the research points to at least some biological factors behind sexual attraction, gender identity, and sexual orientation. This does not alter God’s moral verdict on homosexual sin (or heterosexual sin, for that matter), but it does hold some promise that a deeper knowledge of homosexuality and its cause will allow for more effective ministries to those who struggle with this particular pattern of temptation. If such knowledge should ever be discovered, we should embrace it and use it for the greater good of humanity and for the greater glory of God.
So what’s this all mean?
Ultimately, I don’t care whether same-sex attraction is genetic or environmental or handed down through pixie dust. If an action is immoral, we should avoid doing, not make excuses for why it’s okay for us to do so. To the extent that I care if same-sex attraction is genetic, it’s so we can understand better how to help people overcome this attraction and direct their energies towards more spiritually helpful actions. It’s like with alcoholics: if there were a genetic link to alcoholism, we wouldn’t say “Well, it’s in your genes, have a beer!” We’d help them overcome it and figure out how to deal with this harmful long they’ll always have to deal with. So it is with same-sex attractions: we need to help people learn to resist those sinful temptations, not indulge in them.
NOTE: I prefer to refer to “persons with same-sex attractions” rather than “homosexuals” because the latter term ultimately defines the person by one of their characteristics rather than a unique individual, ultimately defining them only by their sexuality which is demeaning and denies them their true dignity as a whole human person.