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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Homosexuality as Explored by Pastoral Counseling Experts

Bolding, emphasis, and insertions are mine and not the work of the scholar (one of nearly 600 experts from Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, and Jewish contributors) to the Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling: 

Historical Context

There have been extensive studies on homosexuality since WWII. Among the important findings to date are the following:
  • There is no evidence to suggest that homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to seduce minors or to engage in coercive or violent sexual behavior.
  • A person does not become homosexual (or lesbian) either by exposure to homosexual role models or by being seduced or raped by a homosexual. A homosexual teacher in any setting cannot make your children homosexual (repeat that, please). 
  • The origins of heterosexual and homosexual (and bisexual) preference are not clearly understood but appear to be deeply rooted and, for the most part, unalterable
  • There is no evidence of increase in recent years in the relative size of the homosexual population, but a number of factors have contributed to the growing visibility of homosexuality in our culture (5 to 10% of Western culture is homosexual). The expert postulates these contributing factors may include urbanization, democratization, effect of various civil and human rights movements, and increased attention to sexuality and to the availability of diverse sexual expressions. The result is a changing perception of the status of homosexuality in our culture, not an overall increase in the population. Again, homosexuality is not catching. 

Biblical Scholarship:
Let's get down to brass tacks ...
  • Homosexual orientation is not mentioned in biblical literature, although variety of forms of homosexual behavior are occasionally made subject of narrative or legal instruction. 
  • The narrative concerning the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah includes a scene of threatened homosexual rape of God’s representatives. Contemporary scholarship suggests that most and perhaps all other authentic references to homosexual behavior in the Bible refer to the practice of homosexual cultic prostitution. Apart from rape, cultic prostitution and unbridled sexual self-aggrandizement, no specific references to homosexuality are to be found [although the word is used in the NIV translation where the NRSV uses sodomy ... interesting.]. [Leviticus 18: the reference to men and women sleeping with each other is found among various prohibitions of heterosexual family members against various sex acts with others that would violate the security of the family; Romans 1:26: degrading passions: Paul’s Jewish contemporaries criticized a range of sexual behaviors common in the pagan world. Although widely read today as a reference to homosexuality, the language of unnatural intercourse was more often used in Paul’s day to denote not the orientation of sexual desire, but its immoderate indulgence, which was believed to weaken the body. The debasements God gave them up to in verse 28 immediately following include: every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, gossip, slander, God-haters, insolence, haughtiness, boastfulness, inventors of evil, rebelliousness toward parents, foolishness, faithlessness, heartlessness, ruthlessness. The author seems intent on making sure none are left who could claim to be spotless of heart and free of sin in this situation.] 
Theological Ethics:
Two points of view: 

  • Traditional view: perceives homosexual behavior as a more or less serious departure from divine will. This position does not maintain that homosexual orientation is itself sinful. [The next part refutes the more vitriolic language some extreme organizations use and needs to be used whenever this happens ...] Concerning salvation, sexual orientation is as irrelevant as race, gender, or even hair color. What is in question is homosexual behavior, rather than orientation. Since this view holds that the only appropriate form of sexual behavior is that which occurs within the context of a relationship of love and loyalty sanctified in the marriage of a man and a woman, it follows that homosexual sex acts have the same standing as premarital or extramarital sex (or sex acts within marriage which violate the covenant of love between two spouses). Such acts although by definition sins, by no means exclude one from the covenant of grace, but rather must be made the subject of confession and repentance. Not all sexual acts outside the sphere of marriage are on an equal footing either. Rape is not the same as sex between unmarried but mutually caring lovers. [Now comes one of the most important notes in this review of the traditional view] A traditional theological ethics that characterizes homosexuality as sinful is thus to be distinguished from the caricature of this position, which uses religious language to express an extreme hostility toward homosexuals. 
  • Revisionist view: with the growth of the social scientific understanding of homosexuality, there is a growing body of theological opinion that rejects the a priori classification of homosexual activity as sinful (Pittenger, McNeill). Instead, sexual orientation is understood as a gift that is to be expressed in ways that embody the values of commitment and mutuality characteristic of genuine love. This means that all persons, whether homosexual or heterosexual, are called to form a style of sexual behavior exemplifying these values and to renounce styles of manipulation, depersonalization, self-aggrandizement, and destructiveness. Marriage and celibacy remain paradigms of appropriate sexual style, but are not taken to be the only possible ways of living out this commitment.
  • The debate between the two sides goes on ...
  • As the debate goes on, suffering ensues: Homosexuals regularly encounter from church and society the judgments that their sexual orientation (and especially any acting on this orientation) is sinful, shameful, pathological, or maladjusted. This collision between a homosexual orientation and an anti-homosexual ethos produces a condition of conflict, which is apt to color other conflicted or painful situations.
Please see the following post for a powerful perspective on those with differing views from your own in the following post:

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