The truth that dare not speak its name (1)

We were reading the second half of Romans 1 in Bible study the other night, and I asked the group what they thought would happen around the water cooler at work if they actually expressed out loud what Romans 1 says about gay sex.

There was an awkward silence.

“I’d be ostracized”, someone said. “It would be the end of any respect from my colleagues”, said someone else. “I’m not sure that I would be able to remain at my workplace”, said another.

Best to keep quiet then.

But the trouble with burying what we know to be true, for the sake of retaining people’s respect or regard, is that the truth has a way of rising from the grave. And when it does, we are shown to be shifty and insincere, which apart from being bad in itself, also tends not to be so good in the respect-and-regard area.

So in the interests of not “practising cunning” but making an “open statement of the truth” (2 Cor 4:2), I thought I would post a few things that I know to be true about homosexuality but which I am not really allowed to say in polite society, and which therefore I am very tempted not to say.

The first is that homosexuality is a modern invention. I don’t just mean the word ‘homosexuality’, which was coined in the late 1800s, but the concept—the idea that within a minority of the population there is a fixed inner homosexual essence or identity, which can be embraced or suppressed but never successfully changed.

As numerous secular scholars (such as Foucault, Halperin, and  Greenberg) have argued at considerable depth, this ‘essentialist’ view of homosexuality is hard to defend, and is quite novel historically speaking. There is no equivalent term or  concept in other cultures, even in those where sexual activity between males was well known (such as in ancient Greece). According to these scholars, having a  ‘homosexual’ or ‘gay’ identity is a social construct, and in historical terms a very recent one.

This rings true to me, not only for biblical reasons (further below) but because I have seen the construct change significantly even within my lifetime. In the mid-70s, for example, the talk from gay activists was very much about sexual ‘preference’ (your right to choose who to have sex with) not sexual ‘orientation’ (your innate sexual nature). In fact, gay rights advocates at that time were opposed to any talk of homosexuality being a biologically-determined state or ‘orientation’, because if that were the case it might be regarded as a disorder to be fixed or cured. However, after the AIDS crisis of the mid-80s, gay rhetoric swung decisively in a ‘born that way’ direction.

Now I am not really qualified to judge the strength of secular scholarship on the origins of ‘homosexuality’ as a concept, but their argument certainly accords with the Bible’s categories of thought. If you were to ask me whether the Bible is against homosexuals or homosexuality, I would reply that the Bible says nothing about either. It says quite a bit about people of the same gender having sex with each other, but nothing about the modern social construction of identity we call ‘being a homosexual’ or ‘being gay’.

Which leaves us with numerous questions, but the next one I want to ask is: If it is not an innate sexual essence or identity that prompts some men to want to have sex with other men, then what does drive that behaviour?




10 thoughts on “The truth that dare not speak its name (1)

  1. Pingback: Speaking Freely | Something More Seemed Promised

  2. Hi ‘Peter’

    I’m sorry, but our comments policy requires that commenters use their full and real name.

    I’ve contacted you privately asking you to confirm that ‘Peter Turegum’ is in fact your name, but you have not responded. Until you clarify this, I’m afraid that I will need to remove your comments.



  3. Tony,

    I don’t seem to have any email from you. I filled my email address to the previous (and to this post) so you should have it. Check the spelling from my name. And yes ‘Peter’ without quotation marks is my name. I just checked my passport.

  4. Jesus’ words in Matthew 22 might have some bearing here.

    In response to a question about marriage and the resurrection age, Jesus says “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” That (coupled with Jesus’ endorsement of traditional Jewish morality, where sexuality is to be expressed solely within marriage) suggests that sexuality is a human attribute for this age, but not for the next. While the resurrection body is physical, it is not burdened with the need for reproduction or sexual intimacy. That’s probably frustrating for the young but a perhaps a relief for the more elderly!

    Jesus is telling us that sexuality is not at the core of who we are but is to be enjoyed in this age, and put off in the next.

    I wonder whether Jesus’ words offer an opening when discussing the gospel with gays? If we have a genuine desire to share in that resurrection age, Jesus’ words encourage us to put off sexual ‘distractions’. For me, that includes lusting after women; for others it might be homosexual sex.

    It could be that our gay friends might see Jesus’ resurrection promise as a barren future (all puns intended). That would be a shame, but consistent with Jesus’ warning that we should ‘count the cost’ of following him.

  5. Many years ago the Briefing published an article (a reprint from another magazine if I recall correctly) that went something along the lines of “I am a Christian… and I like taking other people’s things”.

    Basically it used all the arguments that this lobby uses “I was born that way”, “God put these desires in my heart” etc. but to justify stealing.

    Anyone got a link?

    With all the endorsement in society, it seems, to legislate for gay marriage, what are the stats in terms of monogamy (or otherwise) and impact on health. Two issues I think need to be solidly aired as part of the public debate.

  6. I have never been able to understand how anyone could simultaneously believe in a “gay gene” and that our existence is completely explained by evolution by natural selection. The gay gene should have been eliminated millions of years ago, as it would put its holder at a distinct reproductive disadvantage! A bit like believing in seances and reincarnation at the same time.

    • Peter
      There are a number of feasible theories as to the adaptive advantage of homosexual genes. You can find a brief discussion of them on the Wikipedia page ‘Biology and sexual orientation’.

      Currently, perhaps the most powerful theory is that genes which predispose to male homosexuality may be associated with relatively higher fecundity in female maternal relatives. Thus male homosexuality is a case of ‘sexual antagonistic selection’ – genetic characteristics spreading by conferring a reproductive advantage to one sex while reducing that of the other. Such mechanisms likely contribute to the preservation of genetic variation.

  7. Last week I was stumped on the question “Show me a quote where Jesus speaks out against homosexuality!” I could only draw on Bible verses against “same gender sex” and the pattern/order from Creation, which even for me didn’t quite lock into the gay activists rhetoric of today.
    But reading this article has help clarifed how the homosexuality = identity has developed (as brief as this article is). thanks

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