It turns out that mindless Facebook lurking can uncover some pretty fascinating blogging material. Yesterday I stumbled across a fairly innocuous Rick Warren quote posted by a friend of a friend:
“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”
Immediately below this quote, someone had left a scathing comment, accusing Warren and “the Religious Right” of bigotry and homophobia for wanting to ban gay marriage and deprive homosexuals of equal protection under the law. He argued that true compassion would require compromising convictions, since the convictions of people who oppose gay marriage are based in hatred and prejudice akin to that of the Ku Klux Klan.
(I should briefly interject to point out that the quote makes no mention of homosexuality, and is applicable to an enormous range of behaviors and lifestyles. But given that this was posted during the Supreme Court hearings on Proposition 8, I think the commenter can be excused for jumping to that conclusion.)
What I found particularly interesting was the problem that this individual had with the phrase “someone’s lifestyle”. He argued that this was a belittling phrase, since it failed to recognize that practicing homosexuals are unique and diverse, and shouldn’t be reduced to a single “lifestyle”.
I found his objection interesting because it’s one that I’ve encountered a couple times before, and I want to take a shot at clearing up the confusion surrounding the word “lifestyle” in the context of homosexuality.
I’ll illustrate with an analogy.
Two of my biggest hobbies are backpacking and ultrarunning. At times, my mother is convinced that I’m going to die of exposure, fall off a mountain, or get eaten by a grizzly. One might say that she disapproves of my “outdoors lifestyle”…but this clearly says nothing about her love and acceptance of me as a person. She isn’t defining me by (or reducing me to) my “outdoors lifestyle”, but she does voice her disapproval of what she regards as high-risk behavior.
In the same manner, I think most Christians who express moral disapproval of certain sexual “lifestyles” are trying to delicately affirm Scripture’s moral teachings on sexual ethics. Many Christians might even find the Bible’s teachings on sexual ethics in conflict with their own preconceived ideas, opinions, and desires…but are nonetheless willing to conform their views to Scripture (rather than twisting Scripture to conform to their own views).
Furthermore, since the Bible doesn’t condemn “homosexual orientation” (defined as “being tempted by attraction to the same sex”), it should be noted that the only moral issue at stake here is voluntary sexual thoughts and behaviors, not a person’s innate or acquired predisposition toward same-sex attraction. Ironically, it is the very people who insist on combining sexual orientation and sexual behavior into a single, legally-recognized “identity” who are guilty of pigeonholing.
[Footnote: The legal question of gay marriage goes beyond the scope of this post, but I’ve written on it previously.]