Mistaken identity: a rare political rant

I remember a classic moment in Canucks history last season when Kevin Beiksa was mistakenly identified as Ryan Kellser by a news-radio station in LA, and he (Bieksa) then went on to give a hilarious interview pretending to be Ryan Kessler (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjOHQwbLBlo).

That particular instance was funny, but there are literally millions of examples of mistaken identity today that are not funny at all, but rather, tragic.

I had some of my ‘buttons’ pushed today when i read a blog post that suggested that, as Christians, the well-worn axiom “love the sinner, hate the sin”, was somehow not so easily applied when dealing with the issue of homosexuality.  The reasoning implied was that homosexuality is so closely tied to the identity  of homosexuals – nay, is their identity – that by hating their sin we are actually, in fact, hating them.

Is that a correct view?  Without being overly simplistic or crass about it, does who i desire sexually define who i am as a person at my core?  It’s all well and good to retort that homosexuality is more complex than sexual desire and practice, but then we immediately move from the definition of something, into cultural or ethnic concerns.  Homosexuality is, by definition, sexual desire towards – including practice with – someone of the same sex, just as heterosexuality is defined in the exact same way only towards someone of the opposite sex.  Desires for companionship and deep relationship then don’t fit neatly, in my view, with either of these views, but are rather a separate category unto themselves (though related) which reflects the Trinitarian, relational Imago Dei in all of us, and, thus, cannot be ‘claimed’ by either side.

So where does that leave us as confessing evangelical Christians? Must i abandon the idea of ‘loving the sinner but hating the sin’, in this one, specific case?  Am i truly hating who a person “is” by claiming that their sexual practice is sinful?  I would like to suggest the answer is ‘no’.  Furthermore, i would like to suggest that even using the term homosexual as anything other than a categorical distinction, is misguided.

To illustrate, consider the grapes pictured above. There is a single grape in this cluster that stands out for at least two obvious, categorical reasons: a) it is a different colour than the others b) it is slightly larger than the others.  The question that must be asked in light of what has been said to this point, however, is, ‘Is it still a grape?’  Look at the picture once again now and, considering the distinctions we just mentioned, add to that green grape now a personified voice which might say, perhaps, ‘I am not a grape at all, but an apple.  I know this because i am green, tart, and – while most others who look just like me enjoy making grape juice – i like making apple juice.’

With the personification added especially, we could rightfully place this green grape in a different category than the others, both for it’s appearance’s sake as well as its stated desires.  But at the end of the day, it is still biologically and functionally a grape.

Bringing the discussion back to the realm of sexual desire, consider someone who’s committed adultery, someone who has committed pedophilia, and someone who’d committed necrophilia.  What is one obvious common denominator in each of these?  They’re all people!  Human beings with various degrees of sexual dysfunction, but still people.  And so while we may categorize these people in different ways, even calling them ‘Adulterer’ or ‘Pedophile’ or ‘Necrophile’, no one loses the distinction in their minds that these are still just messed up people with dis-ordered desires.

So where’s the disconnect?  Why in this specific instance of homosexuality has all the world (even the Christian world to some degree) bought into this idea that category distinctions define personhood?  That if i’m a guy who sexually desires another guy, i’m not just ‘a guy who sexually desires another guy'(adjective) but rather a ‘Homosexual‘ (noun)? Huh?!?  Is there anywhere else in the world where this works?  No, because – even just in each of the three earlier examples (Adultery, pedophilia, necrophilia) – we see a person behind the sexual desire.  Looking back historically, slavery was finally seen as wrong (on a human level) because we finally stopped looking at African-Americans (for instance) as categories – like skin colour – and saw instead a person worthy of equal rights and dignity.  Women were finally allowed to vote and get better jobs because (on a human level) we stopped seeing them as categories as well, and saw them, rather, as fellow human beings with inherent worth and dignity.

But now we’re all being asked to change the rules (just this once) and go back to defining people by categories again?!? The message often presented: DON’T see me as just another fellow human being with differing opinions and values and desires than you – see me, and define me, by who i like to sleep with.  That’s who i am.  And if you disagree with that or are uncomfortable with that, you don’t just dislike what i do, you dislike ME.

When we passively allow categories to be made into persons and adjectives into nouns, it stands to make ‘bigots’ and ‘slave-traders’ of all who won’t toe the line, even though their only ‘crime’ is seeking to stem the tide of this mis-guided thinking and pernicious nationalism.

In contrast, one of the flashing neon signposts found in Scripture, that speaks to this issue plainly, is the doctrine of man.  That a loving, Creator God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” (Gen. 2:7) That we reflect, as human beings, the very image of God. (Gen. 1:27)  And the refrain after each day of creation and thing that was created was a resounding, “And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31)  Later, Psalm 139:14 tells more: that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and that God himself “knit us together in our mother’s womb.”

The implication of Scripture is this: that you are not what you eat or don’t eat (‘Vegan’ or ‘Meat eater’); that you are not who you do, or do not, sleep with (‘Homo’ or ‘Hetero’ sexual); and no (despite all the marketing to the contrary) we are not “all Canucks”.  What you are at the very core of your being is God’s special creation, made in His image, to display His glory, to worship Him alone, and to have dominion over the rest of His creation.  That is your identity and the source of your great value and worth.

Everything else beyond that is just category.

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4 thoughts on “Mistaken identity: a rare political rant

  1. I do see a few things here that it seems like you don’t fully understand. For one, even if we define homosexuality or heterosexuality specifically in reference to sexual desires in particular (which is a reasonable thing to do – neither label makes sense in the absence of sexual desire, even though both encompass more than it), they do not require sexual behavior. You were heterosexual from when you first experienced sexual desires, not from when you first had sex. Similarly, I’m bisexual despite being a virgin. The label does not reduce to what someone does.

    The main thing I’d argue, and I think it’s what Tim was arguing as well, is that loving the sinner but not the sin may be a helpful way for us to think, but that it is an unhelpful thing to tell the sinner. A lot of LGBTQ people (who, in my experience, use adjectives like “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual,” “transgender,” and “queer” far more often than “homosexual”) do see their sexuality as being at the core of their being, so loving them but not their sin seems like a blatant contradiction. What I was trying to get you to see at the other thread is that, while there are problems with seeing homosexuality as being at the core of someone’s being, it is pretty understandable why they do. It’s not often obvious to heterosexuals how they flaunt their heterosexual identity by describing themselves as “husband,” “wife,” “boyfriend,” or “girlfriend” to someone of the opposite sex. In the extremely common case that a person does not see homosexual practice as wrong at all and is in a homosexual relationship, he or she would like to be able to identify the same way. From the testimonies I’ve heard from LGBTQ people that become Christians, homosexual practice is usually not the sin the Holy Spirit first uses to convict them – it’s too counterintuitive to them to think there is anything wrong with a loving relationship. (As part of discipleship that sin does need to be addressed, and the Holy Spirit often does later bring conviction in that regard.)

    Another point I want to make is that, although some people certainly do identify their sexual behavior too closely with their identity, the use of labels (including those in the form of nouns) is not necessarily doing the same thing. There are all sorts of nouns that can be used to describe someone – he or she _is_ a student, a carpenter, a prostitute, an adulterer, a pastor, a husband, a man, an African-American, etc. Some of these labels have moral implications, while others do not. Rather than getting into a fuss about labels, we need to focus on what people mean by those labels on a case-by-case basis. I think every LGBTQ person would like to be seen as a human being – they often report feeling like they’re not perceived that way by evangelicals. It is true, though, that they do often have wrong ideas about identity.

    I totally agree with your statement about what we are at the core of our being. I just wouldn’t expect unbelievers to track with me if I told them that.

    • Appreciate your interaction here very much. I think i see more of what you;re saying from what you wrote here. First, i agree that ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ is not a phrase we should use when speaking to un-believers, alomst especially in this case. Too much to work through to properly nuance for sure. I agree that i was hetero from birth, long before i experienced sexual desire, but, again, i don’t see that aspect of my nature as being at the core of my being but, again, a category distinction that society uses to describe the focus of my desires. Scripture, conversely, operates from the assumption (explicit and implicit) that opposite sex attraction is God;s created design, but we must see that even that ‘good’ desire has been affected and distorted by the fall.
      It’s interesting to me to think that God might actually call someone through a different place of sin then their seen identity of homosexuality; feels like Al Capone being caught finally on tax evasion and not murder; ironic and fascinating all at once. I’ll admit a true lack of understanding here and say, from where i stand, HOWEVER< someone is called it is glorious, and we all have residual flesh we still need to shed even after we're called so i'd want to offer much grace here.
      It is a point well taken that we all often use nouns (dad, pastor, wife, queer, bi) to define ourselves and yes, some more than other carry moral implications. My take is simply that all labels (however meet and fitting) should be seen as just that: external descriptions placed on something already formed viz. core identity given by God/ My worth is not in how well i father or pastor or love my wife – as important a those things are – but rather only in the Christ in me cf. Rom. 7:18.
      I am truly instructed and grown by my interactions with you – i know there is much more for me to learn here and elsewhere. I'm thankful for that and pray God would sustain and strengthen you in your SSA struggles. We all war with the remaining flesh in differing ways and degrees and i pray His grace will be enough for you and be perfected in your weakness.
      God's peace –
      W.

      • I agree with what you’ve said here about our identity and the way that heterosexuality is God’s original design. A big part of what I’ve tried to get across is that SSA is one of the ways the Fall affects some people’s sexuality, but not one that is consciously chosen in most cases. I think we’re on the same page here at this point.

        I’ve appreciated the dialogue as well. I do have the benefit of having thought through a lot of this for years, but I’m certainly not infallible either. I do appreciate your gracious responses. A lot of times when discussions about homosexuality happen online, I see a lot of unnecessary attacks on, and unwillingness to listen to, Christians who have dealt with SSA personally. You’ve had a much more Christlike approach.

        All the best in Christ!

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