Homosexuality: Identity and/or Behavior?

Greg Strand – November 19, 2014 3 Comments

Wesley Hill writes about why addressing the homosexuality and same-sex morality is acutely challenging today, which is wrapped up in identity and behavior:

After spelling out a number of other moral issues with which Christians must grapple, e.g. divorce, Hill writes,

Why aren’t these kinds of moral commands and decisions treated with the same level of dismay that Christianity’s judgment about gay sex is?

Here’s the key, I think: It’s because gay and lesbian people perceive Christianity as not just asking for a certain modification or a certain disciplining of their behavior but rather for a suppression or erasure of their identities.

One of the ways this influences Hill is in nomenclature. He continues to refer to himself as a gay Christian. I am not yet convinced it is a good move, but I am willing to consider this further in light of my understanding of biblical anthropology, hamartiology and soteriology.

This is the assessment of Michael Schulman, “Generational ‘LGBTQIA’,” StarTribune (January 19, 2013), E.4-5, who writes: “Those who feel they don’t identify with traditional gender roles are creating their own.” Here is the main point of that article, which reflects Hill’s assessment above: “If the gay-rights movement today seems to revolve around same-sex marriage, this generation is seeking something more radical: an upending of gender roles beyond the binary of male/female. The core question is not whom they love, but who they are – that is, identity as distinct from sexual orientation.”

I think making sexual orientation the core of one’s identity is a significant misstep, a step away from the Scripture’s teaching. One’s sex – male and female – is part of what it means to be created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), but that is quite different than gender (which is considered a social construct) and orientation (which is affected by the fall).

I have learned much from Hill, have much respect for him, and continue to hear, ponder and reflect upon what he writes. Though he does not necessarily agree with the statement made above, i.e. it is more a descriptive assessment than a prescriptive pronouncement, my sense is that making the heart of this one’s identity, and not just or primarily behavioral, continues to cloud and confuse the issue. But I also believe it is important to hear this because it is how others hear Christians!

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

3 responses to Homosexuality: Identity and/or Behavior?

  1. Hey Greg, it has been a while!

    The identity question is something that is being debated between those of us who are Christian, traditional, but struggle with same-sex attraction.

    There is Hill who calls himself a “celibate gay Christian” and there are those like myself who prefer to keep our identities in Christ.

    But I agree with you though, that there is a lot to be learned from Wesley Hill and others on this!

  2. I wouldn’t say that sexual orientation is the core of my identity. I wouldn’t say that sexuality is the core of any healthy person’s identity. I would say, though, that sexuality is part of a healthy person’s core, that it goes to the core of the person. This has two ramifications: 1) the various aspects of one’s personality, when you drill down to their core, become fully intertwined, interdependent, and integrated. You couldn’t affect change at the core of one aspect of personality without having an effect on the personality as a whole. 2) “Gay” is not a branch grafted onto a person’s “straight” trunk. A tree is recognized by its fruit. Gay behavior is the fruit of a gay tree.

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