This is the sixth in a series of articles on sexual diversity.
If God’s handiwork has a trademark, surely it is diversity.
“I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree” wrote Joyce Kilmer. There is a wealth of diversity in our treescapes, from fragile dogwoods to tenacious piñons, giant redwoods and ancient olives, pecans and oaks that shield our homes and yards from a blazing sun.
Given the indescribable diversity and generativity of nature, I find it difficult to comprehend the deafening silence — and often defensiveness — of Christian leaders in response to questions of sexual diversity. As a clinical sexologist, I am continuously reminded of the diversity of our common humanity. Sexuality itself is a diverse continuum of sexual preferences and behaviors, common to all our predecessors since the beginning of time.
Whether or not you are aware of it, you are diverse in your own sexual interests, how you want to be loved and what is uniquely arousing to you. Couples discover as they grow in emotional and sexual intimacy with each other how different they are in what interests each has, and the unique needs each has to discover and respond to on their way to a truly intimate relationship.
Much of this sexual “brain mapping” is in place before we even fully recognize it. The origin of our attractiveness to each other remains a mystery. That’s what makes the journey of intimacy, emotionally and sexually, exciting.
The need to love and be loved is a common human condition. In the emotional dimensions of their relationships cisgender and diverse couples have more similarities than differences.
Early in my mental health career, a serious dissonance developed in my soul between my childhood beliefs about sexual diversity and my research and discoveries in counseling. It was in my years-long discipline of contemplative prayer that I sought direction in what needed to change. Over time, God removed my doubts and I was able to reconcile God’s gift of diversity in creation with sexual diversity and gender identification.
More recently God has called me to speak this truth publicly: All are acceptable in God’s sight, and we should remove barriers and embrace each person wholeheartedly without restraint.
When you view humankind through the broad lens of love, as did Jesus, there are no strangers, no rejects, no part of God’s creation that is unacceptable — although Jesus did have a hard time with religious leaders.
Even more incomprehensible to me than the deadly silence of Christian leaders are the stipulations for inclusion that so many contemporary followers of Jesus impose directly or indirectly upon sexually diverse followers of the same Jesus. Some of the more onerous stipulations imposed upon the sexually diverse are these:
- If you are lesbian, gay or bisexual, you must deny the emotional, romantic and sexual attraction that most lesbians, gays and bisexuals recognize as a given with no choice. Both scientific research and clinical experience, however, agree that sexual orientation is predominantly developed prenatally as a biological given. Unbiased research reveals that a child’s environment plays no significant role in sexual orientation. There is no question that denial and repression of this orientation has the potential for serious emotional, physical or spiritual consequences.
“Unbiased research reveals that a child’s environment plays no significant role in sexual orientation.”
- As a lesbian, gay or bisexual you are required not only to suppress your attraction to someone you love, but to avoid social contact with anyone you might have the opportunity to love. If you do not accept these stipulations, then under no circumstances, including the vow of a lifetime commitment, will you be allowed to join your loved one in holy matrimony.
- If you are a transgender or queer person, you must live in denial, accept your biological birth condition and never seek relationships or practice behaviors that deviate from the gender ascribed to you at birth.
- Your decision to follow Jesus and his teaching is deemed invalid. In order to become a member of a church, you must accept the church’s judgment that your sexual diversity is willful sinfulness, judgment based on that church’s generally disputed interpretation of a few selected passages of Scripture. Furthermore, you must participate in sexual conversion therapy or a church-supported conversion program by some other name. Finally, you will not be allowed to serve in any ministry of the church until you conform to what that church considers the sexual norm of its members.
- If you fail at conversion therapy then you must pretend to be heterosexual, or “normal,” adopting the behaviors accepted by the church. Otherwise you will continue to be refused fellowship of the congregation.
What is most irrational about the silence, defensiveness and outright damnation of LGBTQ individuals by Christian leaders is the obscure and hard-to-interpret Scriptures used to defend their positions — and the ones they choose to ignore.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment,” Jesus said. “And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Then he concluded, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
In our book Celebrating Sex in Your Marriage, my late wife, Sandra McGee, and I introduced the “Three A’s of Emotional Intimacy,” the progression of accepting, appreciating and finally affirming differences between marriage partners. Those differences are to be celebrated as strengths created by diversity. As I studied human relationships and pondered the boundless variety and abundance of God’s creation, my understanding and appreciation of human emotional and sexual diversity expanded.
First is acceptance. I had to accept the facts of what I was beginning to understand. Diversity in sexuality and gender identity is a fundamental given and not a personal choice. This understanding must be accepted as true, whether it is a welcome truth or not.
Second, there is appreciation. Just as we have come to understand the value of diversity in the natural world, we must learn to see the gift of diversity in human sexuality and gender identification also as God’s good gift, both in our culture and in our churches.
Ultimately, there is affirmation. With time and humility, we come to celebrate this diversity and affirm our acceptance of Jesus’ invitation to all of us to follow him, to love God in all our diversities, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves..
Dan McGee is an author, blogger and consultant on spiritual issues with an extensive background in psychology and ministry. He is an ordained Baptist minister with a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University, master’s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Ph.D. from Texas Woman’s University. As a clinical sexologist and director of the Hardin-Simmons University Graduate Program in Family Psychology, Dan directed the Family Psychology Center and was responsible for clinical supervision of all interns in practice there and at satellite centers across West Texas. He is the author of Celebrating Sex in Your Marriage and Experiencing God’s Presence.
Related articles in this series: