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Born that way

If it comes naturally, does that mean it's not sin?

Issue: "Post-party election blues?," Nov. 6, 2004

"Is homosexuality a choice?" was the devilishly simple question posed by debate moderator Bob Schieffer, and the country held its breath. The president's "I don't know" was the best you can do under the circumstances, under a clock. Of interest to me was the poisoned premise embedded in the question, a premise so universally accepted, by friend and foe alike, as to be invisible-that if something is not a choice, then it is natural; and if something is natural, then it is not to be denied. But let's think about that.

Let's begin by conceding, for the sake of argument, the whole genetic ball of wax. Let's not even contest studies claiming that INAH-3 hypothalamus cells of homosexual male cadavers are statistically larger than those of their heterosexual counterparts. (But is that size difference a cause or an effect of homosexual activity?) Let's say there is an Xq28 genetic marker for homosexuality. Then let's apply this to John Kerry's assertion that the person living a lesbian lifestyle is "being who she was born as."

(Parenthetically, it must be mentioned that not all proponents of homosexuality are thrilled with the argument that they are genetically hard-wired. Some are astute enough to see the disturbing implications of this for their humanity, and want to claim instead that they are gay by choice. Mr. Schieffer's question may already be passé as the gay movement moves on.)

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Genetic studies also show correlations with alcoholism and with violence. No one, as far as I know, is saying the active alcoholic is "being who she was born as." We direct her to a 12-step program-and fast. Neither do we give a pass to violent offenders on the basis that "biology is destiny."

Or what if, rather than genetics, it's environment that drives a person toward violence or alcoholism (or homosexuality)? Do we then give those conditions a blessing? No, neither for chromosomes nor for abusive fathers do we excuse the human moral agent from being in the driver's seat.

What is sin? Is sin only the acts I commit with full volition or is sin even things about myself that I was born with and that I loathe (Romans 7; Psalm 51)? Mr. X is saddled with a tendency to distemper-right from the get-go. Ms. Y is born with a proclivity to gambling, something she's been aware of from her first nickel bet on a hop-scotch game. These things come "naturally," but given their way, they land us in crime or debt or neglect of family. No drunk or serial killer marches in a parade crying "Free to be me!" Indeed, are not these predispositions the manifold ways that the Fall falls on us?

Revulsion to this idea is nothing new. Jonathan Edwards encountered it when teaching that we all sinned "in Adam" inasmuch as we were all "genetically" (he wouldn't have used that concept) present in Adam. "I don't remember consenting to eat any apple!" mocked his critics. We all have sympathy for the notion that no blame should be assigned where there is no prior consent to the act. And what a small series of specious steps it is from "I was made that way" to "God made me this way" to "It is natural" to "It is good."

Does a just God punish a tendency I was born with? Well, if not, then how can God punish any sin, since all sin is like that? I have a theory that we are all born addicts of some kind or other, all battling (or not) our private besetting sins. We must all fight temptation by petitioning for grace.

"Fair is what a state has," our local Ms. Wagner tells her first-grade kiddos. And annoying as that is to the alleger of unfairness, the point is well taken. What's fair is what God says is fair. What's sin is what God says is sin. And whether it's difficult or it's easy, and whether it's curable or the battle of a lifetime, and even if it means never marrying and satisfying your physical yearnings (which is a big if), God's words leave no wiggle room as He censures "Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire" (Jude 7).

We conclude then that the fact that homosexuality (or greed, or laziness) is with you from the womb, far from letting you breathe easier, makes your plight all the worse! It means that sin runs deeper than we thought! It goes deep in the fabric, like the mildewed cloth that Mosaic law threw on the pyre. "Wretched man that I am!" Paul exclaims upon discovering this (Romans 7:24-25). "Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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