Why Doesn’t The Church Accept The LGBTQ Movement?

Rev. Lyndan Syiem

This question has repeatedly been asked of the Christian Church over the past few days and it is a valid question. Because it is indeed true that as a whole the Church in Meghalaya does not accept or approve of same-sex marriage or relations. In fact, the overwhelming majority of church leaders are strongly opposed to any departure from the traditional monogamous, heterosexual marriage and many individual church members have clearly expressed this on social media. At a time when the Honourable Supreme Court has made its judgement very clear, the church too needs to articulate its position on this matter. I write this article with a deep sense of responsibility, knowing that it broadly reflects the views and position of most of our local churches, Protestant, Catholic and Pentecostal/Charismatic.

“Why doesn’t the Church accept the LGBTQ movement?”The question has repeatedly been asked by supporters of the movement, over social media and other fora, and it is only fair to them that we give a clear, honest answer. The question has also been asked by concerned members of the church, seeking a word of assurance that the church has not deviated from its traditional position. The answer in one sentence: Because the Bible does not allow anything beyond monogamous, heterosexual marriage and the Bible is our ultimate authority on faith and ethics. In the same breath I must add that we humbly recognize the Supreme Court as the final authority of the law in India. We therefore recognize that certain activities formerly prohibited under Section 377 of the IPC are now decriminalized. Herein lies the difference between secular law and religious ethics. What the law allows does not necessarily mean that religion accepts or approves of its members. There are many, many activities allowed by secular law which the various religions of India do not accept of their members.

One distinctive belief of churches that still adhere to the orthodox biblical teaching on marriage, sexuality and family is this: Marriage is a sacred union between a man and woman, within which sexuality is expressed, and within which children are raised. Yes there are people who, for a variety of reasons, either by choice or circumstances or vocation, remain unmarried and celibate for life. They too have an honoured place within the fold of orthodox belief and ethics. Anything else is not according to traditional church teaching. But in light of the recent changes in law and public morality, why doesn’t the church change its ethics with the times? Because we cannot go against clear Scriptural prohibition!  The issue here is not just gender identity, sexuality and marriage. The larger issue is the authority of Scripture over believers. If we deliberately go against the clear teaching of Scripture on any matter, it means we have lost our distinctive identity as People of the Book. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, there are so many clear and consistent passages against same-sex practices, which for reasons of space I will not quote here but which readers can easily Google.

Very often Christian teaching on the LGBTQ issue focusses on the above prohibition passages. But we must begin with the biblical ideal of a family: Genesis 2:24:For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh;”the biblical ideal on sexuality: I Corinthians 7:3-4:“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife;”and the biblical ideal on singleness: I Corinthians 7:32-34:“An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs –how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world –how he can please his wife– and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world –how she can please her husband.”

There is a line of argument nowadays based on the question, “What would Jesus do?” In their opinion, Jesus would have shown unconditional love and accepted straight and gay people in the Heavenly Father’s Kingdom. However the one thing I’m sure that Jesus wouldn’t do is to contradict the same Scriptures that he consistently upheld throughout his earthly life. If in speculating what would Jesus have done, we dare defy the clear teaching of Scripture, then we have traded our faith for political correctness. Because our faith and ethics are not derived from the changing trends of the world. The present world places great emphasis on personal identity and sexual freedom, the Bible places greater emphasis on faith identity and chastity. The world demands full expression of sexuality, the Bible advocates sublimation of certain desires. On this point, I realize conflict is inevitable. It’s either the way of the world or the way of the Word.

At this juncture, LGBTQ people may legitimately ask of the Church, what do I do with my desires, concerning sexuality and identity? It has become popular nowadays to advance the ‘Born this Way’ argument. To which certain Bible passages like I Corinthians 6:11 would say you don’t have to remain that way. Everybody struggles with certain desires, even deeply committed Christians, I know for certain. But the ultimate arbiter in our struggles is not personal choice but Scripture. This is the heart of the conflict in most of the issues concerning personal Christian morality and social behaviour: Scripture versus personal choice. There are many people who struggle with certain desires and yet choose to sublimate personal desires for higher ends. Above all, Jesus taught that sexual desire is not an eternal factor but a temporal condition that we will outgrow in eternity (Matthew 22:30).

As we close, I would point out two wrongs and one inconsistency in the Christian response to the LGBTQ Movement. One is homophobia, which is a sin. The Bible forbids us from hating anybody, from sending hate mail or posting hateful comments on social media. Instead we should as Ephesians 4:15 enjoins us, “speak the truth in love.” Second is to demonize same-sex practices as if they are the worst acts, for which there is no hope and restoration. The Bible teaches that everyone, including this writer, is a sinner but that we can find forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Finally, the inconsistency among some Christians is that we can secretly view pornography that is graphically multi-sexual and yet criticize others for openly and honestly stating their choice. Repentance needs to begin from our own smart phone closets.