This is post nine in a twelve-part series reviewing and critiquing Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality. Read more: Intro / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 /Chapter 6 / Chapter 7
For this post, I'll address Dr. Boone's answers for each of the questions he poses.
“Why is same sex behavior wrong?” (93)
In answering this question, Boone bases his argument on “the reality that the overwhelming occurrence of male same sex behavior is neither monogamous nor intended to establish a God-honoring lifetime relationship” (94). Barring the fact that he cites no sources to back up this “reality,” and that he assumes that monogamy is an inherent good, it seems clear here that the “wrong” behavior we’re talking about is not homosexuality, but is, again, objectification and abuse of another person. To continue to equate homosexuality and objectification is incorrect and problematic. They are not the same thing. Boone even points out that this kind of objectification occurs in heterosexual relationships as well. So indeed he is not explaining why homosexuality is wrong at all, but why objectification is. Which may lead one to believe that homosexuality in itself is not wrong after all.
“But what about the monogamous, devoted, faithful, same sex couple whose marriage has been legally approved by the state and officiated by a minister of the gospel?” (95) And “‘I’m a practicing homosexual Christian.’ How do we respond?” (96)
Boone answers these questions in essentially the same way: he will not argue with a person’s testimony of Christianity, and he respects that individuals and congregations have reached the decision that homosexuality is not sinful. I appreciate this admission, because it’s important to identify that LGBTQ+ Christians and Christians who affirm them exist, but what Boone does not recognize is that these people exist in the Church of the Nazarene.
“What does the Bible have to say about the practice of homosexuality?” (97)
This question is far too big to discuss here, and I am not a biblical scholar, so I’ll leave this to the professionals. Boone cites Robin Scroggs , John Boswell and James Brownson as scholars who “have concluded that the Bible does not oppose the practice of homosexuality” (98). Boone gives some reasons why he disagrees with such an interpretation. But given that there are learned, faithful people of God who lead us to two opposed interpretations of Scripture, I will side with that interpretation more concerned with grace and love and openness than the one concerned with drawing lines of “in” and “out,” and “right” and “wrong.”
“Can a person who is same sex oriented be reoriented to heterosexuality?” (105)
Boone is right that “when Christians assume that re-orientation is possible for all same sex attracted persons, we place a burden on them that is unfair” (105). It’s worth pointing out here that “gay reparative” or “conversion” therapy is opposed by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and many other professional organizations. It has been found to be psychologically harmful to those subjected to it, particularly young people. That is, children have killed themselves as a result of attempts to reorient them to heterosexuality. The severity of this cannot be overstated.
“How do we show God’s grace to same sex attracted persons without condoning their lifestyle?” (106)
Boone’s method of loving gay people is to help them live a celibate lifestyle. While he makes many good points about how to do this, and I agree that the church should do better to support and live life alongside our celibate friends—gay and straight—Boone must recognize that not all LGBTQ+ people are called to a life of celibacy. And the church has to figure out how to love those who aren’t just as well as it tries to love those who are. And this means “condoning their lifestyle”—a lifestyle that, barring the issues of objectification and un-love discussed earlier, is just as faithful and life-giving and good as any heterosexual lifestyle. “Love the sinner; hate the sin” is not loving the sinner. And even if one is still convinced that homosexuality is wrong, it is not our job to convict people; it is not our job to change people; it is our job to show grace. As Thomas Merton said, “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.”
“Is gay marriage a social justice issue?” (115)
Boone’s answer is no. He says he is “in favor of basic civil rights” and in favor of “laws which prohibit violence against same sex oriented persons,” but that it’s more important that the church remain a “faithful witness,” which, to him, means keeping marriage between a man and a woman (115). It’s sad to me that Boone does not think one can be a faithful witness while supporting the right for anyone to marry whom they choose. I do. And while honestly I believe everyone should be able to access the governmental and legal benefits given to married couples—that is, all people, not just married people—I certainly think gay people should be able to marry if they so choose. If Boone wants to hold marriage up as a relational ideal that makes people fully human, it’s cruel that he would then deny that to some.