A former student recently asked me why so much of the Christian community has gone silent in face of the growing acceptance of homosexual behavior in our culture. The reasons are no doubt complicated and multifaceted, but let me venture to take a stab at one of the factors I believe is at heart of it.
For at least a generation or two, Christians have been winking at premarital sex, and tacitly accepting it as normal, if not inevitable, even for their fellow believers. One article I read indicated that 80% of contemporary unmarried Christians aged 18-29 admit to having premarital sex.
Now here is one obvious– and telling–point we can immediately draw from this reality. Christians who condone premarital sex, either explicitly or tacitly, have no principled reason to object to homosexual activity. If they are at all reflective, they realize that if they ignore scriptural teaching on premarital sex, and the clear consensus of the Church that such behavior is sinful, they are hardly in a position to get too worked up about the Biblical prohibition of homosexual behavior. Christians cannot consistently sleep with their girlfriends/boyfriends, or wink at their friends who do, and then turn around and insist on drawing a line in the sand when it comes to homosexual behavior. Indeed, to register loud opposition to homosexual behavior while turning a blind eye to fornication easily gives the impression that one’s opposition is more a matter of personal distaste or discomfort than it is of serious Biblical or Christian conviction.
So the practical logic that emerges from this matter is fairly simple: if it’s okay to give a pass to premarital sex, there is no good reason not to do the same for homosexual behavior.
To be clear, most Christians do not overtly approve of premarital sex. To the contrary, at this point, the acceptance is typically only tacit or implicit. But my point is that the tacit approval has no doubt blunted the resistance to homosexual behavior and encouraged many to explicitly defend it as a viable Christian lifestyle.
But this is hardly the end of the story. Indeed, there is another implication that will likely be drawn: if it is legitimate to explicitly advocate homosexual behavior as acceptable, even for Christians, then it is legitimate to explicitly endorse premarital sex (especially if it seems to us the couples love each other). Again, I emphasize that this step has not yet been taken forthrightly by large numbers of Christians, but it is all but inevitable that it will be with increasing frequency. Nor am I saying that it follows that this will happen as a matter of straightforward logic. But as a practical implication, it is highly likely. Only time will tell, of course, but I will predict that more and more Christians will explicitly defend premarital sex as the dynamic of this situation continues to play out in the days ahead.
So here is the main point at which I am driving. Christians have no chance whatever of challenging homosexual behavior with integrity unless they start with the sexual sins of heterosexuals. We cannot take a morally credible stand against the sexual sins of the small minority of the population if we condone the sexual sins favored by over 90% percent of the population. If fornication is okay, if casual divorce is no big deal, then it rings utterly hollow to try to take a loud (or even a quiet) stand on homosexual behavior.
Of course, challenging heterosexual sin is no simple matter in contemporary culture. For the fact of the matter is that the non-marital sexual practices of many persons, including Christians, flow quite naturally out of the worldview in which they have been steeped (unfortunately many Christians are shaped more by pop culture than they are by Scripture). To have any realistic chance of countering this will require a serious recovery of the Christian view of sexuality, which requires even more fundamentally a substantive Christian view of human persons and their place in the great drama of creation and redemption. In short, that will require that we persuasively teach Christian morality as an integral component of the entire Christian vision of reality. And we must convey the beauty and goodness of this vision, and how it conduces to human flourishing, as vigorously as we argue for its truth. But nothing short of that has any real hope of bringing genuine renewal in the realm of sexual morality.