[Another outtake from my correspondence with "Linus." I've edited it somewhat, so it is not identical to the email I originally sent Linus.]
Can someone believe that God is against people having homosexual sex, and still treat lesbian and gay people with substantive dignity?
There are three issues here, I think.
First of all, can you hold the view that lesbian and gay people within your particular faith should be celibate, while treating them with substantive dignity?
On the surface, it seems like you can — after all, people make the choice to join your faith, and if they freely choose to be celibate, who am I to question it?
But I’d argue you cannot, because it’s inherently cruel for lesbian and gay children (by which I mean, all children who will grow up to be lgb, regardless of if they’re aware of their sexual orientation during their childhood) to be brought up in a faith that teaches them that their own sexuality is so “disordered” that it’s against natural law/God’s plan and they must never, ever practice it. Many of their deepest desires are — they are taught — immoral and against God.
For many people, sexuality — including expressing sexuality — is an important part of their self. There is nothing more cruel than a child being raised to believe that part of their core self is inherently unworthy of love. Many children raised this way take years or decades to grow beyond the self-hatred that they are taught; some will turn to drugs or alcohol to dull the pain; some will commit suicide.
You may believe that it’s possible to bring up children to both believe that they are fine, lovable, and worthy, and that for them to ever have sex is disordered, immoral and wrong. I think it wouldn’t take much time listening to lgbt people raised in traditional Christian families to learn that for many, that’s not so. Most will spend huge portions of their live plagued by internalized self-hatred, arguably the worst pain of all.
Raising people in that way is unjust and cruel. I don’t think it’s compatible with substantive dignity.
The second question is, can you hold your beliefs and avoid devaluing those lgbt people who aren’t members of your church?
Again, I’d argue the answer is no.
When a traditionalist Christian says in effect “God considers your family and love life wrong, and the only acceptable way for you to live, in God’s opinion, is as a celibate,” of course that Christian is devaluing lgbt people. It’s saying that a core element of their being is inherently immoral.
No matter how sincerely the words are meant, no matter how kindly they’re put, telling someone that their love is immoral devalues them.
Now comes the third question: Can you treat lgbt people with real dignity while calling for them to be legally second-class citizens, by banning them from equal treatment under civil law?
I think here, the answer is self-evident: No. Without legal equality, we cannot have real dignity of treatment.
I know my answer may seem hurtful to those who oppose marriage equality, yet think of themselves as a friend to lgb people. To those readers, I say: I don’t doubt your intentions or your good will. But there is no substitute for equality. Someone treated unequally — no matter how kind the heart or sincere the intent of the person treating them unequally – is still, at the end of the day, being treated unequally.
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