This is a question I often throw out for discussion in small groups, at church seminars or at Bible Colleges – “Are people Born Gay?” You won’t be surprised to learn I’m yet to come across a group who simply sit in silence in response to that question, struggling to offer an opinion!
The nature/nurture debate has raged fiercely for a number of years, and undoubtedly it’s an issue many of us will have wrestled with on a personal level too. Where did my same-sex attractions come from? Did God make me this way, or was it my environment and upbringing and my relationships with others that made me this way?
Although the ever-elusive so-called “gay gene” has yet to be discovered, I think it would be fair to say that the jury is still out on the question of whether there may be some more general genetic influence on the development of our sexuality. So perhaps one day it will be proved that certain people are born with what we might call a “genetic predisposition” to developing exclusively or predominately same-sex attractions, under certain environmental conditions.
I’m not a scientist, but I am a lover and student of God’s word, so the question which I think is more important is “would it make a difference theologically if people are born gay?” Imagine that tomorrow morning we wake up to find that every newspaper around the world, every news bulletin is reporting that scientists have discovered beyond doubt that our sexual preferences are hard-coded at birth, that people are born either “gay”, “straight” or “bisexual” (to use the culturally acceptable terms). Would that then provide us with justification for entering into a same-sex sexual relationship?
The answer is no, not that is if we’re allowing God’s word to be our ultimate authority on all matters of faith and lifestyle. Yes it’s true, of course, that each of us can say to God “you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13) and we should all praise God, “because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). But, if I can put it this way with reverence, God is no longer doing his knitting from the comfort of His Genesis 1 and 2 favourite armchair, i.e. we’re no longer created in the context of a perfect world. Each of us are Genesis 3 children, we’re born into the pain and struggle and brokenness of a world which, until Christ returns, remains under God’s curse or “groaning as in the pains of childbirth” as Paul puts it over in Romans 8:22.
This all means, of course, that genetically each of us is flawed by nature. We are all born with imperfect genes, passed on down to us through the generations from Adam and Eve. “Surely I was sinful at birth”, writes David, “sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5) So a “gay gene”, if it exists, would not be God-given, not an indication that God made me this way and wants me to live a gay or lesbian lifestyle. It would rather be just one reflection amongst many of what it means to be born into and living in a broken, fallen world that is crying out for rescue and restoration.
The great news, of course, is that for those who are trusting in Christ, our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Struggling with unwanted same-sex desires and swimming against the cultural tide is extremely tough, let’s not pretend otherwise. Knowing whether the cause is genetic, environmental or a combination of both is not particularly helpful. What is helpful is knowing that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:1), that is when Christ returns to complete our redemption. What a great day to look forward to!
(first published in the Summer 2010 newsletter)