Are “Homosexual Acts” Sinful?

In humble prayer, I approach this blog post despite my own fears. But in trust and obedience to God, my love, here it goes.

Homosexual sex can be a sin, but so can heterosexual sex. Neither is inherently sinful. Sin does not come from our actions but in our intentions behind our actions. Allow me to explain through experience:

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Much to my surprise, I fell in love my best friend, a fellow woman. When I told her with wet red eyes, she responded with true friendship. “Rach, I thought you were going to tell me someone had died or something! You don’t have to be worry about me. This doesn’t change how I feel about you, honest to God. You have taught me so much about friendship this year. I’m not going anywhere.”

Although she said she could not reciprocate love for me in the form of physical intimacy, I did not love her any less. What wondrous new love this was for me—something truly unconditional. I thought, “This is the healthiest love I’ve ever felt.” But before the thought had a chance to settle, I grabbed it and tried to smother it. I lay awake for hours that night, disgusted that I could call these feelings healthy. I was confused at my disgust because I always supported the LGBT community. If it wasn’t wrong for them, why did I think it was wrong for me?

The next morning, I remember stepping in the shower and thinking, “God, it would be so much easier if I were just dead and did not have to deal with these feelings.” God scolded me with hot water and slapped it in my face. He washed me, purified me, and quenched my thirst. When I turned off the shower, the noise of my mind was silenced and all was quiet. I stepped out of the tub and vowed never to turn back to that place.

I allowed myself explore why I thought this love was healthy. I processed it they best way I knew how—writing. I wrote this:

“In the past, my physical attractions to men have been greedy and lustful. It was not about love. Now, I see it less as something that I want to receive and more of something I want to give… I want to show her that I trust her with all of myself, the good and the bad, the physical and the spiritual, the past and the future.”

I could not define that kind of love as sin. The devil does not have dominion over love. The devil was tempting me with suicide, not sexual attraction.

About a month after I told my best friend I had feelings for her, God sent me to a Bible Camp for a week of scripture reading with other college students. It certainly was not my idea. I thought I was far too fragile to be trapped in a room with Evangelical Christians reading the Bible that I they used to condemn me. But I trusted God to take care of me.

We read through the first half of the Gospel of Mark. Homosexuality was never specifically mentioned in the scripture. Instead of condemnation, I found a lot of affirmation. As Christ said,

“Whatever goes into a person from the outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer… It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mark 7: 15-20).

Jesus went on to list things that defile including fornication and adultery. I sat by a creek to process this passage. What was God saying about sex? As I watched the water, noticed its clarity. As I listened to it dance, I realized that God was saying that what makes sexual acts sinful is the evil intentions behind them. The acts are actually made clean by God and beautiful as this water, but we make them murky by bringing our dirty intentions to it.

Although I never physically acted on my attraction to my friend, I could not say that act would have been inherently sinful. It could be sinful if I touched her without her consent or tried to pressure her into becoming physical. Even if she did consent it could become sinful if we used each other for selfish gain. But just as God blesses a married husband and wife when they honor each other through sex, he blesses a committed same-sex relationship when they honor each other through sex.   

Sex can be sinful if it comes from a place of lust. Love that is unconditional, selfless and pure is not sinful. May Christians recognize that same-sex relationships are not any different than opposite-sex relationships; they both face the same temptation for evil and potential for good.

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For more posts like this, please read my blog “Christian Bidentity” about my experience as a bisexual Catholic woman.

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When does the bad outweigh the good? (Gettin’ Giglio with it)

“It matters very little to me what you, or any man, thinks of me – I don’t even value my opinion of myself. For I might be quite ignorant of any fault in myself – but that doesn’t justify me before God. My only true judge is the Lord.

The moral of this is that we should make no hasty or premature judgments. When the Lord comes he will bring into the light of the day all that at present is hidden from darkness, and he will expose the secret motives of men’s hearts. Then shall God himself give each man his share of praise.” – First Corinth 4:3-5 (J.B. Phillips)

Many of the culture war salvos of the past week have been launched in response to evangelical pastor Louie Giglio’s withdrawal from president Barack Obama’s inauguration. Giglio, who heads Passion City Church in Atlanta, stepped down after liberal activist website Think Progress posted a link to a mid-1990s sermon with some less-than-flattering statements about homosexuality.

Did this have to happen? Was this a case of the president appointing a bigot or censorship of conscience?

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Sexuality Obsession Impeding Action against World Poverty

Recently, Anglican Archbishop and South African Nobel peace laureate, Desmund Tutu, was addressing a conference of church leaders organized by the Christian charity Tearfund where he accused the church of allowing its “obsession” with homosexuality to come before real action on world poverty.

“God is weeping,” Tutu said, to see such a focus on sexuality when “the world is hurting. The world is hungry. The world is diseased. The world is riddled with corruption and conflict, and we ought to be where our Lord would be. Our Lord would be constantly moving in this world, doing acts of kindness [and] healing.” As a result, the Archbishop said, the Church is “quite rightly” seen by many as irrelevant on the issue of poverty.

Desmond Tutu went on to say “I am ashamed to be associated with a church that persecutes people who are already persecuted,” specifically referring to sexual minorities. He said that “it is not a matter of theology; it is a matter of justice” that the church “accept that we agree to differ” on the issue of homosexuality and focus on the 30,000 people who die each day of poverty. Yet, he believes in justice for sexual minorities and says “I will stand up and say for myself that I oppose homophobia.”

Though Tutu has already used his voice many times over and been honored as one of our era’s great prophets, this speech rang especially true for me. He may have been talking specifically about the Anglican/Episcopalian Church’s now long battle over homosexuality, but his message really speaks to the wider Church, that is all of us who are striving to be modern disciples of Christ. In this election season, we will hear about the conservative’s list of “non-negotiables” that Catholics are supposed to vote by according to their ideology’s theology, but most of these issues are about personal morality. I believe governmental laws should focus much more on our communal wrong doings and welfare. Like Tutu, I am appalled that poverty, disease and war are not “non-negotiables.” I become ill when I hear lifelong Catholics say they have never heard of Catholic Social Teaching. It is OUR SIN as a Church that these tenants are “the best kept secrets” of Catholicism. We continue to let people die of famine, curable ailments, and war but are obsessed with issues of sexuality that have no bearing on our communal lives.

I am often asked by other social workers, feminists, and community organizers how I can be Catholic. They rightly see so much oppression, injustice, and hurt within and caused by the Church. It seems more often than not that I, like the Anglican Archbishop, am ashamed of being associated with a church that continues to add to the hurt and “persecution” rather than being where Christ was in his day and where he most certainly would be today. A few weeks ago, I wrote about a few reasons that keep me in the Church, but it is almost a daily struggle to keep turning back to those greater and richer reasons of why I must be Catholic while remaining associated with a hierarchical organization that adds to people’s pain. Like Tutu, I realize that it is only by staying an active and faithful disciple in the Church and working for change, both in the world and Church, that I will help to bring about much needed healing. I just pray that my association with the church isn’t adding to the persecution.

Becky Schwantes, a Minnesota native, is currently a Master of Social Work candidate at Washington University in St. Louis. She earned her M.A. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame in 2008 and has worked as a parish faith formation minister, social worker and in college campus ministry. Becky also holds a B.A. in Theology and Social Work with a minor is Social Justice and Peace Studies from the University of Portland, Oregon. Her primary areas of interest are Christian Social Ethics, Eco-Feminist Theology, Mental Health and issues of Aging. In her free time, she enjoys traveling the world, walking labyrinths, singing, and laughing with friends. Her favorite saints are Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal.