“Did God make them gay?”
What a whopper of a question. I groaned a little bit inside as my inquisitive 13-year-old asked me this.
He was peering over my shoulder at the computer screen. I was looking at pictures on Facebook of recent wedding pictures—two women holding hands in brides dresses.
“That’s an interesting question,” I replied. “What do you think?”
This prompted a discussion—as you can imagine, a little more than I had bargained for—about same-sex attraction.
So, are they born gay?
Our children are going ask themselves questions about sexual orientation.
And if you’re lucky, they’ll want to talk to you about these questions. Yes, this is a good thing. It means you’ve fostered a good relationship with your kids, and they want to discuss complex topics with you.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock on another planet, you know in recent years same-sex attraction has been a topic brought to the forefront in both media and politics. (Of course, in reality, same-sex attraction has been around for millennia—it’s nothing new.)
And the “Why” question is a pretty natural question to ask: Why does someone experience same-sex attraction when the most of the world doesn’t?
There’s been a lot of ink spilled over this question—many nature-vs-nurture debates:
- Are people gay because it was merely their choice to be so?
- Does someone become gay or lesbian because of some kind of trauma?
- Is it because of upbringing?
- Do genetics or brain development have to do with it—are people born gay?
People often turn to science to answer these questions, and, of course, there’s nothing wrong with good scientific research.*
But Christian parents don’t need to get bogged down trying to unravel the mysterious origins of same-sex attraction for their kids.
Why? Because there are better questions we can teach our kids to ask…
Better Question #1: Does science teach us what’s right and wrong?
This is the question behind the question. It’s a question about ethics.
When our kids wonder if a person is “born that way,” often they’re asking because they assume, “If someone is born gay, it means there’s nothing wrong with it.”
But here’s the critical truth we need our kids to grasp:
Science can only reveal what is; it can’t tell us what should be.
Of course, we can use scientific data to help us make moral decisions. But its never the data alone that determines right or wrong.
- Science can tell us how to repair a damaged heart, but it doesn’t tell us whether we ought to operate.
- Science can tell us that a fetus is human life, genetically speaking, but it can’t tell us a fetus should have a right to life.
- Science can tell us how alcohol damages a liver, but it can’t tell us we ought to stop drinking.
But we live in a world where culture pushes a twisted narrative: if you’re “born” with an attraction to your own sex, it must be right. This is ridiculous. If my genetics predispose me to alcoholism, is it right to become a drunk? We don’t apply this logic to anything else.
Better Question #2: Aren’t we all “born this way”?
If there’s some kind of genetic or hormonal component to same-sex attraction, it shouldn’t surprise Christians at all.
For centuries, Christians have taught the doctrine of “original sin.” Because of our first parent’s (Adam and Eve) sin, we have all corrupt hearts—impacting the way we think, what we desire, and even corrupting our physical bodies (Matt. 15:19; Rom. 5:12,19; 7:21-23; 8:7-8; Eph. 2:1-3).
Ed Shaw, Associate Pastor of Emmanuel City Centre in Bristol, England, has experienced same-sex attraction for most of his life. He explains what original sin is and how it impacts his understanding of his own homosexual desires:
The Bible clearly teaches that all human beings sin naturally. But the Bible also clearly shows that all human beings have a propensity to sin differently. Moses had an anger problem. For David his weakness was sex. For Peter it was pride. For Ed Shaw it is (amongst other things), same-sex sexual immorality.
To quote Lady Gaga, we are all “born this way.”
As Christian parents we need to explain to our kids how the Fall brought brokenness into our bodies, minds, and souls—and that shows up differently for different people. There are some temptations that appear to be nearly universal in scope: all of us are tempted to selfishness and pride. There are other temptations that only seem to afflict specific people.
And yes, there are all kinds of sinful dispositions that may have some kind of hereditary or genetic component. But, even if same-sex attraction is somehow undergirded by genetics, Shaw comments, “At the same time, God holds me responsible for how I respond to it and whether I act upon it”—just as he does for every person with sinful desires.
Preparing Christian Kids for an LGBT World
We know there are a lot of questions Christian parents have about this subject…
- What’s appropriate to say at what ages about LGBT issues?
- Should I wait for my kids to ask questions, or should I initiate some discussion?
- What exactly does the Bible say about same-sex attraction—and how do I make that make sense to my kids?
- How can I model love to the LGBT community for my kids?
That’s why we’re doing a training on Monday, March 19 called “Preparing Christian Kids for an LGBT World.” We welcome anyone who wants to take a proactive approach to helping their kids be in the world and not of it.
* As far as the science is concerned, the American Psychological Association sums up the research fairly well: “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation.”