Isaac Bailey, in his Aug. 1 column, “Celebrating love on a unique day,” expressed a clearly heartfelt problem: “I can’t, for the life of me, understand why an all-loving God would be against a relationship in which each individual is loved and cherished and respected, a relationship in which each individual is made whole.”
I believe Mr. Bailey’s difficulty results from a misunderstanding of what God’s love is. He rightly characterizes God (at least the God of most Jews, most Christians and all Muslims) as all-loving. Mr. Bailey then characterizes something else, a homosexual relationship, as an act of love. If both propositions were true, his implied conclusion would also be true: namely that God could not disapprove of homosexual relationships.
Here’s the problem with Mr. Bailey’s analysis. It is not an established fact that a homosexual relationship is an act of love. In fact, Catholic Christianity (as well as Islam, and some elements of Judaism and Protestantism) can present rational reasons why homosexuality is not an act of love. This is why a loving God would oppose homosexual relationships.
I can hear the anger boiling: “This is outrageous, ignorant and bigoted!” And I think I understand why the anger exists. The fact is that many homosexual relationships include deep emotion, great affection, steadfast commitment, respect, kindness, generosity, self-giving, support, care and concern. The list could go on. And many homosexuals, several I know of for certain, are better human beings than I, a heterosexual, will ever be. So how, in God’s name, could such a relationship not include “love,” not be a “loving” relationship? Because God’s love is not a feeling or an emotion; it is a very precise action. Love is a commitment to the good of another person. God is indeed love, but God – and love – is also good. For those who believe in God, love is inseparable from the good.
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Without denying the many good things that are undoubtedly involved in a homosexual relationship in which a life-long union is desired, the homosexual act itself has consistently been declared to be a wrong act for thousands of years. Wrong in the eyes of billions of believers in God. Wrong as expressly delineated by the word of God. Wrong according to Jesus, who directly proposed to all people only two types of sexual relationships: marriage between a man and a woman, and celibacy (the giving of one’s life wholly to God). Anyone may disagree with these assessments of wrongness. Mr. Bailey does; a great deal of Americans and Europeans do. But Mr. Bailey is asking the deeper question, how could God possibly declare homosexuality to be wrong? Not whether God has declared it wrong, but how can God be justified in this?
One reasonable answer is that God is all-knowing; He is infinite intelligence. Simply put, we don’t know everything that he knows. Therefore, compared to his, our conclusions are suspect. This doesn’t mean that we abandon reason, thought, and analysis. But it does mean that we should humbly recognize the limits of our knowledge. This is an argument based on authority. And it is the reasonable response of one who is relatively ignorant, a student for example, to another who is relatively knowledgeable, such as a teacher. God, who is the teacher of those who believe in him, believes that our sexual relationship should be expressed only in marriage between man and woman. The question then for believers is whether to listen to him, which often means struggling with our own opinions on this or any other issue; or to abandon God and listen to ourselves. As Jesus cautioned us, the first way is hard; the second way is easy.
God also allows our reason alone to see how homosexuality could be “wrong.” When contrasting the homosexual relationship with marriage between a woman and a man, do differences exist between the two which might justify preferring one over the other, declaring one to be good for those involved and the other to lack that good (thus being harmful)? One very fundamental difference is the natural, biological difference. This should not be discounted. Nature is not a whim. Even those who do not believe in God recognize the elaborate, complex harmony of our natural world, developed over hundreds of millions of years. It means something that a man is “made” for a woman and vice versa. Together they form a physical and psychological union that is not possible except in marriage between a woman and a man. This is not bigotry; this is natural fact.
So what is really behind Mr. Bailey’s dissatisfaction with God’s unmistakable, reasonable, and loving prohibition of homosexual relationships? Assuming Mr. Bailey believes in God, his problem is the same one that Job had. The same one I often have. It amounts to one simple question: Why God, why? And in this particular instance, the very real problem is: God, I do not understand why you would allow two good men, or two good women, to experience deep sexual attraction for one another and then forbid them to act upon that attraction.
I do not pretend to know God’s mind as to exactly why he allows same-sex attraction. But he gives our intellect some very good reasons to prefer marriage and to resist same-sex attraction. I trust that he has good, loving reasons for allowing any temptation, harm or pain to occur in this world. He is God, he is good, he is love, and he knows what we do not. Perhaps there is an absolutely necessary attribute he is building up in people who experience same-sex attraction (and in those of us who love them). I can only trust that his plan, which so greatly transcends this planet and my short little life on it, somehow pieces together sorrows as well as joys, difficulties as well as mercies, all in order to achieve a state of love and grace that we cannot imagine. Our intellect and God’s reasonableness carry us so very close to him in so many ways, but when we lack the exactness of his knowledge, we must choose either trust or rebellion.
The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.