“Is God anti-gay?”
Many people expect the answer to this question to be a simple binary, either yes or no. If you’re a conservative (in the totalizing sense of the word), the answer is absolutely yes: God must be anti-gay, because same-sex sexual behavior is forbidden in the Bible. And if you’re a progressive (in the equally totalizing sense), the answer is absolutely no: God can’t possibly be anti-gay, because God loves all people. But the assumption shared by everyone across the board seems to be that we know what the question means—that a simple answer, yes or no, ought to suffice as a response.
For me, though, the question of whether God is “anti-gay” has never been a simple one. I’ve heard it asked so many different times, in so many different ways, by so many different people (myself included). And each time, it seems to mean something slightly different. When someone asks, “Is God anti-gay?”, they might mean, “What does God have to say about same-sex sexual ethics?” They might mean, “What is God’s stance on the politics of same-sex marriage?” Or perhaps they mean, “Does God desire to turn gay people straight?”
But I find that when people ask whether God is anti-gay, what they’re most often asking is, “What does God think about gay people?”
And for those of us who are oriented toward the same sex, the question becomes that much more personal: “What does God think about me?”
Classifying God as “pro-gay” or “anti-gay” only works if we’re willing to flatten all these aspects of the conversation down to a single answer. In the simplistically “pro-gay” progressive view, God loves all people, is therefore fully in favor of all forms of sexual expression, advocates for the legality of same-sex marriage, and has no interest in making gay people straight. In the simplistically “anti-gay” conservative view, God sees same-sex sexual expression as sinful and therefore advocates against the legality of same-sex marriage, views gay people with disgust, and wants to redeem them by making them straight.
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I’m not fully satisfied with either of these options. I’m too obsessed with nuance to accept the premise that sexual ethics, sexual orientation, politics, and the nature of God’s love can all be reduced to a single line item on God’s agenda.
For now, then, I want to leave aside the political question and the orientation question and even the question of sexual ethics. These are all important questions, of course—but I want to address instead the question that I think most often lies at the heart of the matter when people ask whether God is anti-gay:
“What does God think about gay people?”
I used to believe that, because I was gay, God’s primary view of me was one of distaste or consternation or condemnation. I was a screw-up, a factory reject, a slip of the divine chisel. When I pictured God thinking about me, I pictured him sighing and rubbing his forehead disappointedly. “Oh, Coles,” I imagined him saying. “That one didn’t turn out at all like I hoped. What a waste of genomes.”
I thought, at the time, that God’s prohibition of same-sex sexual expression was synonymous with God’s rejection of gay people. And thus, my inclinations in that direction were indicators of God’s rejection of me. It wasn’t until much later that it occurred to me that gay people aren’t the only people inclined toward sexual behaviors that God calls us away from. As my friend Bill Henson is fond of saying, “That’s not a gay thing; that’s a human thing.”
Perhaps it’s easier to say with confidence what God thinks about gay people once we’ve expanded the question a bit: What does God think about people who are products of the Fall, people whose sexuality is rendered imperfect by our Adamic genetics? What does God think about people who bear his image imperfectly and love him imperfectly?
In short, what does God think about humanity?
For those of us who trust Jesus, the answer is very simple indeed: God loves people. He loves us enough to create us, to die for us, to redeem us, to rejoice over us. God sees remarkably beauty in the particular genius of our design, and he recasts our particular weaknesses as occasions to show off his remarkable strength.
And what does God think about gay people? That answer ought to be equally simple.
God loves gay people. He loves us enough to create us, to die for us, to redeem us, to rejoice over us. God sees remarkably beauty in the particular genius of our design, and he recasts our particular weaknesses as occasions to show off his remarkable strength.
If the God you think you know (or the God you’ve heard about) is too “anti-gay” for all that, then you’ve got the wrong God.