A Matter of Choice

Being the proud son of the South that I will always be (to think: Lee wins at Gettysburg, and you’re eating grits for breakfast!), and particularly of Roanoke, Virginia, the “Star City of the South”, I sat up and took notice when I found out that my hometown was to be featured on “Nightline” four nights running. Ted Koppel’s topic was “A Matter of Choice?”, and was designed to address the question of whether homosexuality is a genetically-determined practice, or if it instead entails a choice. Roanoke was chosen for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being the fact that, two years ago, a crackpot drifter named Ronald Gay, teased all his life about his name, walked into a Roanoke gay bar and opened fire, killing one and wounding several others. The Roanoke Times ran a nine-part series on the subject “Living Gay”, prompting angry readers to cancel subscriptions, and “stirring the pot” in this normally tranquil southwest Virginia railroad town.

So I watched “Nightline” all week, a week which culminated in a live town meeting in Roanoke on Friday evening which lasted until one in the morning. I won’t be too hard on our friend Ted; he handled himself about as even-handedly as could be expected, I suppose. Unfortunately, though, the series did little to answer the question it posed: is homosexuality “a matter of choice”? Truth is, Ted left a host of hard questions unasked, and it is in asking and answering some of these that the answer to the question might be found, or at least the real issues clarified.

Question 1: What is a homosexual? This question was never asked; answers were taken for granted. May I be so bold as to suggest that, until clarity is found on this question, we will talk past each other. The homosexual party line would be that a homosexual is one who has feelings, inclinations, a “sexual orientation” (more on this later) toward members of one’s own sex. I’m personally not buying it; I personally do not believe that a person can be spoken of as being homosexual until one, perhaps even as a matter of course, commits homosexual acts (would one homosexual experience in a lifetime of heterosexuality qualify a person? Hmmm…). Am I a thief because I have an overwhelming, regular urge to steal? Am I an adulterer because I am enticed to be unfaithful? I’m loathe to assign an identity based upon inclinations.

Question 2: Is “sexual orientation” even a valid category? I’d expect funny looks from the psychological community in even raising this question, and from a good many folks in the general populace. But what does the term mean? It is used as a justification of homosexual behavior, as in “I discovered I was a homosexual, and therefore…” One, so it is said, “awakens” to his/her latent sexuality discovering, alas, that all is not according to the norm of society’s standards. But as a Christian, I’m ready neither to accept the category itself as valid, and thus by so doing to take a first step toward placing homosexuality on an equal moral plane with monogamous heterosexuality, nor to accord to said inclinations any word other than “temptation”. Sure, some dainties that entice me toward immoral behavior are surely different than the pretties that beckon to others, but the general category is aptly labeled “temptation”, not “orientation”.

Question 3: Does the existence of these particular temptations, whatever their source, justify acting upon them? Teddy never challenged the notion that the existence of a temptation justifies acting upon that temptation; rather, it was granted as a given that, if one “found” himself to be homosexual, carte blanche was then granted to do as one might wish. The unspoken notion was that, “you ‘heteros’ can always act in keeping with your inclinations, so why can’t we?” This, of course, is nowhere found in Christian ethics, there being only one situation in which sexual behavior is a moral good, that being monogamous marriage. It is a moral evil for the unmarried to act upon their sexual impulses, whatever those might be, in a sexual relationship outside the bounds of marriage. It is no more “unfair” to insist upon chastity as the standard for those tempted toward homosexual practice than it is to insist upon the same for those with healthy heterosexual sex drives who live outside the context of the marital relationship. A. C. Green, the veteran basketball player, has lived as a virgin amid the moral cesspool climate of professional sports, and is now engaged to be married. He has chosen to live chaste; it can be done.

Question 4: Ted Koppel, in speaking to pastors interviewed for the show, asked, “Aren’t we all sinners?” The answer, of course is “yes”. But he has not said nearly enough on the subject. The question is, is there a difference between struggling with a particular temptation (all the while acknowledging the evil of the action) and justifying the same action? The answer, of course, is that there is all the difference in the world.

Question 5 (posed by Koppel several times): Isn’t it true that homosexuality cannot be a choice, because people don’t choose lifestyles which would so likely subject them to lives of ridicule and persecution? I’ve heard this question asked many times, and it seems to hold water, until one thinks just a tiny bit deeper than the surface. When one does so, he realizes quickly that there are plenty of instances in which people willfully choose particular lifestyles, knowing full well that those choices might well lead to social disapproval, ridicule, and/or even death! A quick sampling to get you thinking: Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, and Rosa Parks; NYPD beat cops and FDNY firefighters; anyone who has ever taken up arms to defend this country; kids who dress as “punks”. Oh, and maybe the 100,000-plus Christians worldwide this year who will die for having done something as offensive as claiming to be a follower of Jesus Christ—it, like homosexual behavior, being a matter of choice.

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