Preston Sprinkle republished a 2017 essay by Greg Coles: “You don’t need to pray that God makes me straight” at the Center for Faith, Spirituality, and Gender. Coles boldly rejects the idea of heterosexuality.
Coles’s message joins an enormous genre of books and conferences exhorting Christians to engage LGBT issues by speaking the “truth in love.” Key players in the discussion hail from Christian institutions, most notably Mark Yarhouse of Regent University.
Sprinkle’s Center resembles Love Boldly, Faith in America, the Reformation Project, Revoice, Spiritual Friendship, New Ways Ministry, and LivingOut, not to mention the Metropolitan Community Churches. They partner often with Christians like Jackie Hill Perry, Rosaria Butterfield, Karen Swallow Prior, Wesley Hill, and Sam Allberry.
These groups aim to bridge clashing worldviews. One worldview adapts Biblical exegesis to postmodern culture. In noting homosexual culture today, this worldview condones homosexual identity, homosexual desire, or even sodomy itself (see here for “Side A” versus “Side B”.)
The other discerns today’s cultures according to the Bible. Based on what the Bible says, it deems today’s homosexual identity, desire, and intercourse wrong (see here for an argument linking postmodern sexual movements to the Sodom story.)
Coles equates heterosexuality and homosexuality as equally broken and sinful, stating, “Gay or straight, we are all drawn to lustful behaviors.” He offers an either/or choice:
- reject all sex as equally sinful or
- offer the same grace to all sexual inclinations.
The first would deny Christians the pleasures and procreation of normal sex. Since this is impossible and conflicts with Jesus (who glorifies male-female intimacy within marriage in Matthew 19:4-12 and in Mark 10:6-12), readers must choose #2.
Consequently equal grace to all sexuality becomes a de facto endorsement of homosexual desire. This is rhetorical but not Biblical.
The leveling between heterosexuality and homosexuality reinforces LGBT tenets:
- the desires are “normal,”
- the desires form an “identity,” and
- it is “bigoted” to ask that homosexuals repudiate their desires if we do not ask heterosexuals to abandon theirs.
These tenets make it difficult to uphold chastity, even with the best intentions. Study the case of Julie Rodgers at Wheaton College.
Catholic and secular, homosexual and heterosexual contexts all provide grounds for evangelicals to approach such reasoning with caution. The Catholic Church faces catastrophic fallout over sex abuse by clergy, of which 85% was same-sex. A MeToo movement spotlighted heterosexual abuses resulting from the loss of sexual boundaries. Clear limits matter. Yet the “truth in love” movement grows in appeal.
So what’s going on? Rather than scan the Christian responses to homosexuality, one can gain greater insight by examining evangelicals’ failure to understand heterosexuality.
In Jephthah’s Daughters (2015), I included a chapter called “Problem of Women.” In America, fear of sex has often led to a male fear of women and a female fear of men. In response, men avoid women and women avoid men through social arrangements that become sex-segregated. Nathaniel Hawthorne did not construct the Puritans’ fear of sexuality from nothing. From “Rip van Winkle” to Walden, one finds a long history of Americans dreading heterosexual domesticity (I explore this conundrum at length in The Colorful Conservative as well.)
While Coles appears to present a new idea it is actually old. His starting premise, like the premise of most others in this movement, errs: the major challenge facing Christians is not how to respond to homosexuality, but rather how to cultivate a Biblical heterosexuality.
In Genesis 1-2 God designs males and females to fulfill each other through sexual intercourse. The fifth commandment in Exodus 20:12 places “mother” and “father”—roles based on intercourse and procreation—as figures whose respect bestows flourishing on “the land.” Rejecting one sex goes against God’s design in scripture.
God did not create sexual orientations. He created sexes. God gave each sex a body equipped to provide physical pleasure and children to the other sex. Everybody is heterosexual because everyone is either male or female, regardless of what feelings they may grapple with. Homosexuality has nothing to do with heterosexuality and cannot be cast as its corollary.
Some people feel powerful same-sex desires, as Greg Coles narrates in his column. This does not change the fact that they are heterosexual already, because God made them that way, as the Bible tells us. Men in his situation need to stop self-analyzing to see if they can become straight—that is a moot point. They need coaching to help them date marriageable women.
Ministries should help people prepare themselves mentally, physically, and spiritually for deliberate courtship of the opposite sex. Coles relates his own failures to feel desire at random images of women. That misses the point. God created his body to be desirable for a woman, so he has a gift to share. Ministries should encourage Christians to use their God-given anatomies. Their sexed anatomy grants them a pleasurable talent to be shared according to its purpose rather than denied the opposite sex.
The focus on whether Christianity forbids homosexuality has taken too much energy. For 2019, we need to begin a new discussion of heterosexuality as:
- a good in itself, provided that it is not abused,
- incomparable to homosexuality, and
- the necessary end of any ministry for Christians who identify as LGBT.
Males and females—indeed all humans—have equal right and duty to engage in such discussion. People should stop saying “heterosexuality is not holiness.” That statement is vague and misleading, a non-sequitur. God’s design for us is holy and His design is heterosexual. Even a celibate person has to acknowledge the beauty and intrinsic value of the opposite sex. Nobody can live life believing that the opposite sex does not deserve affection and pleasure.
To people like Greg Coles, I can only say, stop thinking about homosexuality and apply your male body to its God-given purpose. If your thoughts go back to dark places, pray and fill your mind and heart with the Holy Spirit.