By Dr Lazarus Castang
I will shrink wrap Dr Newton’s article
for closer analysis. Dr Newton’s article expresses or implies that:
1. The Caribbean church should love the homosexual, but hate the sin (of vile forms of homophobia).
2. The church should accommodate or tolerate sexual diversity in the society by protecting the human rights of homosexuals and not suffocate their sexual identity, and
3. It must stop sinning by the ripple radiating far-reaching effects of hating homosexuality and/or the homosexual.
Dr Lazarus Castang is a licensed psychotherapist and an ordained SDA Minister of Religion. He holds a PhD in Old Testament, a Masters in Psychotherapy, and has completed studies in basic medical science. He has ministered to several communities in St Lucia, Barbados and the US and has provided therapy to individuals, couples and groups. He is a graduate of University of Southern Caribbean in Trinidad and Andrews University in Michigan. He has written two theological books and several articles on social relations. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Recognize that such pertinent well-intentioned reasoning subtly backs the Caribbean church into a unilateral guilty corner of suffocating intolerance and far-reaching homophobia, and leaves homosexuals as innocent victims in the fray.
Dr Newton and I agree that, by precept and example, the Caribbean church should love homosexuals. However, Christian love is directed toward the person of the homosexual, not homosexual behaviour. It is the love-mission of the church to provide a therapeutic pathway and welcoming environment for the conversion, salvation and rehabilitation of homosexuals, without affirming homosexuality.
Dr Newton’s first article
intimates homosexuality as sin, but his second article speaks of the negative far-reaching effects of homophobia as church sin/injustice against homosexuals. I have reread his second article several times to capture its gist. His moral burden is not to elevate homosexuality to moral parity with heterosexuality within marriage, but to address the “callous practices and vile forms of homophobia.” For this I think he makes a case.
Verbal, mental, emotional, and physical abuse (threats, alienation, insults, ridicule, beatings, and killings) of homosexuals to shame them into giving up their practice creates anguished overt or covert enemies, not truly converted Christians. Neither Christian conversion of nor peaceful coexistence with homosexuals is served by mistreating homosexuals. On the flip side, it cannot be fairly argued that the Caribbean church intentionally encourages or quietly teaches victimization of homosexuals.
Since it is argued that homophobia drives assaults on homosexuals, then it can also be argued that homosexuality is an assault on the traditional concept of family and heterosexual role relations in the Caribbean. Homosexuality is an obvious moral shock to and a moral revulsion in Caribbean social conscience.
Though homosexuality is sin, the Bible does not isolate it as the unpardonable sin. The church is not called by God to sin in order to correct sin. The church is called to have a healthy form of sin-phobia (hamartophobia), a strong and sharp aversion to all forms of sin (including homosexuality) in the home, church, school and society, as well as against all forms of injustice (including those against the person of the homosexual). Notice, it is an aversion to or hatred of sin, not of individuals. The Bible is hate literature only in the sense that it insists on hating sin, not other humans, or God, or self.
That the Caribbean church should accommodate or tolerate sexual diversity by protecting homosexual rights and not suffocate their sexual identity is a more knotted issue to argue in a blanket way. By sexual diversity, we mean gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT). Currently, the Caribbean church lives with such sexual diversity but recognizes them as moral perversions.
The Caribbean church cannot push the state or join the state in any legal and social muscular enforcement of laws for the protective promotion of GLBT sexual preference without appearing to publicly condone sexual sin. Involvement in extraordinary measures to protect sexual sin is moral impropriety for the church. There are moral limits to any accommodation of homosexuals by the Caribbean church.
If in the secular judgment of homosexuals, homosexuality is a human right, then in the sacred judgment of the Caribbean church, it is sin. Their sin, called “human right” cannot be publicly defended, corporately supported, and morally justified by the Caribbean church. The church is a divine institution with the mission to save sinners from sin, not in sin. The sinfulness of homosexuality is affirmed by the order of creation (Gen 1:27, 28; 2:24, 25) and divine injunction (Lev 18:22; 20:13; Rom 1: 26-27; I Cor 6:19).
The term “homosexual” has been mainly used to refer to gays and lesbians. Since homosexuals are first humans before they engage in homosexual behaviour, then it is more appropriate to call them “persons practicing homosexuality” rather than “homosexuals.” However, in the interest of word limit, I use the latter.
By assuming that homosexuality is not their choice, but their birthright or natural identity, homosexuals claim that their orientation is nature, not nurture, or both. This argument, when accepted, erodes free moral agency by erasing their responsibility for their homosexuality. There may be prenatal predisposing factors to homosexuality, but presently they are unobservable and poorly defined. While biological influences are involved in homosexuality as in other sins, biology does not excuse such behaviour. Moreover, the contribution of nurture, that is, learning and experience, must also be considered.
It is biological reductionism to explain homosexuality only in terms of the body, leaving out the mind and the soul. The biblical doctrine of sin teaches that the Fall of humans affected body, mind and soul, and the salvation of humans involves body, mind and soul. That our fallen biological nature serves as a source of tempting thoughts and feelings is not a new idea of science to challenge the Bible. The Bible indicates that we have to contend with “a body of sin and death” (Romans 7:24).
That the Caribbean church must stop sinning by the far-reaching effects of hating homosexuality and/or the homosexual is a problematic assertion. The church is not called by God to abuse homosexuals in order to save them from homosexuality. It must never camouflage its moral stance on homosexuality in order to guard against unchristian mistreatment of homosexuals by churchgoers or non-Christians. Biblical sexual morality must not be abandoned or compromised for fear of the precipitation of vile forms of homophobia.
Vile forms of homophobia and homosexuality are sins that should be hated and condemned by the Caribbean church with equal force. The church must call sin by its right name and it must not sin in its efforts to correct sin. The church is to love the homosexual, but hate homosexuality. Since homosexuals claim homosexuality as their sexual identity from birth, let the church show God-likeness as its moral identity from birth.
Finally, Dr Newton, the moment homosexuals recognize and confess their relations and practices as sin to be repented of and overcome, we no more have a moral divide, but the pathway to repentance and rehabilitation is open. Short of repentance, the moral divide is unbridgeable and intractable.