A Better Conversation about Homosexuality
The majority typically answers these questions for the minority, but O’Donovan entrusts them to gay Christians like Hill, who is admirably free of the liberal gay movement with its emancipation narrative and victim mentality. From a worldly perspective, the Bible’s no to homosexual practice is viewed as the impossible demand of a sadistic God and pharisaical church. We’re told that “being sexually active is the way to be most alive—to be fully, truly, beautifully human,” as Hill observes. But perhaps the Bible’s no to same-sex behavior is actually a yes to something even greater than sexual expression, which is good, no doubt, but also potentially idolatrous, especially in our oversexed culture, and certainly not our summum bonum (or highest good). Hill quotes philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, “I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’” It’s this prior question that gets ignored in the debate on homosexuality because the church has mistakenly given primacy to ethics over the narrative functions of doctrine and ministry.
Hill is learning to struggle well as a celibate gay man because of his embeddedness in “the true story of what God has done in Jesus Christ.” That story, which gives context to the particulars of his own life, promises the forgiveness of sins, reminds him that all Christians undergo a painful and yet glorious transformation of their affections, proclaims that our bodies do not belong to ourselves but to God and the church, and commends “long-suffering endurance as a participation in the sufferings of Christ.” Where others might regard his abstinence as “choosing to prudishly, pitiably shelter [himself] from the only life worth living,” Hill celebrates the yes of the gospel story over the yes of sexual fulfillment: “Imitating Jesus; conforming my thoughts, beliefs, desires, and hopes to his; sharing his life; embracing his gospel’s no to homosexual practice—I become more fully alive, not less. According to the Christian story, true Christlike holiness is the same thing as true humanness. To renounce homosexual behavior is to say yes to full, rich, abundant life.” If “Jesus is the model of the fulfilled human being,” as biblical scholar Walter Moberly writes, then the absence of sex in our Savior’s life means an absence in ours is not an impoverished existence—far from it. On the contrary, “eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” are blessed, even when it’s painful and lonely to bear up under that burden in our fallen condition (Matt. 19:12).