Books Culture

“What Does It Mean to Be Welcoming?” is a Book about Navigating LGBT Questions at Church


It’s true that surveys demonstrate generational differences on lots of topics, including gay orientation and behavior. But to suggest that different convictions regarding LGBT topics are primarily generational is arrogant, lazy, and an insult to all generations!

It makes younger generations seem naïve, impulsive, immature, and not yet capable of a well-thought-out decision. It makes older generations seem obstinate, dense, and unable to change their minds even if confronted with new information. It is more helpful to set aside age differences and have a kind-but-candid conversation about biblical evidence and interpretation.

Of course, I regret the assumptions many people make about those who do not affirm same-sex intimacy (“They are bigots, homophobes, and Neanderthals”). Yet, as one who holds a Traditional view of marriage and sexuality, I want to acknowledge the unfortunate assumptions about gay people made by many who share my position. Stereotypes have not been helpful in our consideration of LGBT topics, so let me try and correct a few.

• Same-sex attracted people are not all on a crusade to force their opinions on to everyone else. There are those who simply want to live their lives without changing mine. It is wrong to assume every gay person is a militant activist.

• The relationships of gay couples are not, as some would claim, inevitably unhappy. I know gay people who are in monogamous, long-lasting, committed relationships who are as happy as many straight couples I know.

• It is wrong to assume that children of gay couples are more maladjusted than those of straight couples. I do believe a mother and a father together provide the best potential for an ideal home, and I do believe that is God’s design. But I know sons and daughters of gay couples who are well-adjusted people.

• All gay people don’t hate or even resent people like me who have a Traditional view of marriage and sexuality. They don’t all think that I, and people like me who share a Traditional view of sexuality, are bigots, homophobes, and Neanderthals.

A debate still rages over the reasons behind same-sex attraction. And whether or not one believes the root of same-sex attraction is nature or nurture often depends on which side of the debate one is on.

Affirmers point to what they say are innate physiological reasons, such as hormonal or genetic influences, behind same-sex attraction. They contend that God created some people as same-sex attracted and if that is how God made them, we should bless same-sex relationships. Surely, Affirmers contend, we don’t expect people who are made gay by God to miss out on the joys of intimacy.

Most Traditionalists argue that same-sex attraction is not inborn. They contend that it is a matter of arrested sexual development, some irregularity in one’s upbringing, or pure choice. After all, if God “made them this way” it would be necessary to explain how God would then not expect gay persons to live out their God-given sexual orientation.

The evidence actually points to a confluence of factors. Same-sex attraction almost certainly results from a combination of nature and nurture, some convergence of genetics and environment. Certainly, the evidence points to strong, innate factors. What seems absolutely clear is that the attraction is not the choice of the person. The behavior is a choice, but not the attraction.

Frankly, we don’t know all the reasons why someone is same-sex attracted. And it would solve nothing if we could know.

To me, it seems most prudent to acknowledge our ignorance regarding the why someone is same-sex attracted and focus on what people do with that same-sex attraction. As a Traditionalist, I won’t be in the least surprised or deterred if, one day, some irrefutable proof is offered that the neurology and biology of straight people are somehow and slightly different from that of gay people. I still will want to include them in the circle and encourage their abstinence (more on that later). After all, I know some people clearly have a genetic inclination toward alcoholism and that has not dampened my efforts to help people live sober lives.

Remember the story from John 9 of the man born blind:

His [Jesus’] disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:2‑3)

I believe we cannot speak definitively to the origin of same-sex attraction. We can, however, live a life in which the powerful and grace-filled work of God is displayed and lovingly encourage others to do the same.

*Taken from What Does It Mean to Be Welcoming by Travis Collins. Copyright (c) 2018 by Travis Collins. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.