Gay Pride, Christianity, and Mental Health
With Gay Pride Month in full force, a friend of mine wrote an article last week about pride and conviction. She poses this question: “How am I, as a follower of Christ, to interact with Pride Month 2018?”
From a nondenominational Christian standpoint, she discusses the nature of pride, and calls for each of us to undergo a self-examination of the prides that keep us from exercising full conviction in Christ.
For the full article, click here.
It was clear from the comments she received, that there was misunderstanding and disagreement regarding her article, which is to be expected whenever covering a controversial topic.
Today, I’d like to throw my hat in the ring as a fellow disciple of Christ, as a friend to those who identify as LGBT, and I would like to cover a bit about why mental health informs my beliefs on this controversy.
Controversy you say?
Yes. I think we are all well aware at this point that a level of animosity exists between what is known as the gay community and Christendom. Not in all cases, but overwhelmingly so in the media. Legalization of gay marriage is viewed by many Christians as an attack on faith, while gays feel constantly attacked by the those who call them immoral and sinners. While the disagreement about what constitutes as right and moral will not go away any time soon, I think we can address the way we treat each other and interact with each other as human beings.
The problem with pride, as McLaren points out in her article, is that it often stems from allowing one part of ourselves to inform our entire identity. We label ourselves. In other words, we allow an activity or tendency to become more important to us than our divine identity as children of God.
This principle applies to our jobs, our hobbies, our political affiliations, our dietary choices, our relationships, everything. If we identify as Christians, then Christ must be the most important piece of our lives.
Exodus 20:3 – “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
Basically, the problem with pride is that it often distracts from truth. Our desires cloud our faith. The anger and resentment that fuel pride leave no room for compassion or understanding. Is it possible to be proud of something without being prideful? Yes, but we have to watch ourselves continually, to make sure we are observing the difference.
We are children of loving Heavenly Parents, who have a plan for each of us. Although we now live in a fallen world, that is full of atrocities, Jesus Christ suffered for each one of us, and made it possible for all of us to overcome our trials, and to return to our Heavenly Parents after this mortal life is over, to receive endless blessings, on the condition that we will follow the teachings and commandments that He gave to us.
This applies to all people, no matter race, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else. We are first and foremost children of God.
So what did Christ teach about sexuality, and how would He have His people treat gays?
This is where disagreement usually ensues. So please remember, this article expresses my viewpoint, my belief, and my personal interpretation of scripture. I would love to learn from your insights if you feel prompted to comment below.
There is a difference between feelings and actions. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, I know firsthand that we cannot always control the way we feel. But we can control what we do. Our actions are our choice.
God has given us commandments, to direct us between right and wrong. The famous Ten Commandments are listed in Exodus 20, and are better understood when accompanied by the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament. Christ summarized the commandments in Matthew 22:37-39 as follows:
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
So, which commandments have to do with sexualtiy? Well, we are instructed not to commit adultery, and not to covet anything, specifically other people. Other passages of scripture also touch on the subject, such as Leviticus 18.
(Feel free to read the chapter and come back.) Basically, this chapter talks a whole lot about “nakedness”, and the need to respect other’s “nakedness”. The Lord spoke to Moses about the children of Israel, instructing them to stop doing all the nasty things recorded in the chapter. The “nakedness” section makes it sound to me like there was quite a bit of sexual activity going on that should not have been. That people were “uncovering [so-and-so’s] nakedness” simply for the sexual pleasure, which the Lord condemns as wrong. Children were being sacrificed to a god called Molech, in a ritual where they were passed through fire. (How the heck could anyone feel like that was okay?!?) Verses 22-23 touch on homosexuality and beastiality, denouncing them as abomination and confusion.
This is one of many similar examples in the scriptures, when a group of people are berated for their immoral actions. Not for their feelings or attractions, but their actions. Yes, there are scriptures that talk about thoughts, and the intentions of the heart, and how important those are in shaping our actions, but that’s not what I’m getting at here.
I don’t believe God will be angry with us because we feel an attraction towards a certain person. However, we cannot use attraction as an excuse to pursue carnal rewards, heterosexual or otherwise. We must learn to respect the sacred nature of our bodies, as well as the sacred powers of procreation.
Now, stay with me for a second, because I’m going to explain this from a Mormon point of view. In the LDS Church, we teach the importance of families, the reality of eternal families, and God’s plan for our salvation. We believe all people are children of God. We believe we lived with God as spirits before coming to Earth. We believe God has a physical body, and that it is important for each of us, as His children, to receive a physical body and learn how to govern its natural tendencies, so that we can become more like Him. That is possible only through the power of procreation, which is why God commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:27-28). When a man and woman come together in marriage, under the power of God, and create bodies for Heavenly Father’s children, they participate in connecting the eternal family of God. After this life, we will be able to continue in the same pattern of families, as we progress and continue to become more like our Heavenly Parents.
If you are not of the Mormon faith, all of this might sound strange to you. Maybe you heartily disagree, and you are welcome to do so, but it is what we believe, and why we hold the viewpoints we do.
We believe sexual relations must be reserved for marriage between a man and woman, husband and wife, with the intention of creating a family. That means a sexual relationship outside of marriage is not acceptable. Furthermore, any abusive sexual conduct, in or outside of marriage, is highly unacceptable. Anything that portrays sex in a less than sacred manner is inappropriate, because it defiles the divine responsibility we have as children of God to respect the bodies He has blessed us with.
All that said, and getting back to the point of this article, I understand that for some people, same-sex attraction is a very real part of life. The Church website has a fantastic essay regarding same-sex attraction here.
It mentions that while we may not understand why such attractions exist, God has a plan and purpose for everyone. The Church has also created a website dedicated to providing resources for those struggling to reconcile same-sex attraction with their faith: https://mormonandgay.lds.org
As a church, Mormons have no problem with those who experience same-sex attraction. It is expected that everyone tries their best to live in accordance with God’s commandments. Everyone’s journey will be unique, which is why we should join together and learn from one another.
Is there anything good about the Gay Pride movement?
Totally! It marks a new beginning for a large group of people who have been belittled, mistreated, and abused for years. It provides community to souls who have felt alone and confused. It sheds light on a subject that needs attention if we intend to really and truly love our neighbor.
The Book of Mormon says this about secret organizations:
“For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that man should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man. . . And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not.” (Ether 8:19&22)
No good comes of hiding in the dark. It would be much better to openly disagree, albeit with kindness and understanding, than to sneak around in the shadows. No one should feel they have to lie, or hide, or repress their beliefs. If we want to build a strong nation, we must all be willing to stand up for our beliefs, as well as be educated on the beliefs of others, working together in love to find the best solutions. God cannot support a nation that refuses to keep His two great commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor.
If you’ve read any of the other content on my site, you know that I have to bring up the subject of mental health.
The LGBT community has had to deal with a lot of hate. This hate can cause pain and loneliness, and worsens what can already be a confusing and difficult situation. Many of this community suffer from depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
As disciples of Christ, we must be “willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort”(Mosiah 18:9). To quote President Thomas S. Monson, 16th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I hope we “never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.”
How am I, as a follower of Christ, to interact with Pride Month 2018?
Back to the original question, posed by my friend.
My answer: With love, open arms, questions, and a strong foundation and conviction in Jesus Christ and His teachings. With disagreement, but never with contention. With an intent to understand, as well as to be understood. With kind words, and without fear.
I hope that as we all stand for our beliefs, we can do so kindly, and that we can work to improve ourselves and our society, rather than merely to wave our respective flags and let pride rule our feelings.