Last time we began to examine some of the factors which are helping to produce social unity, and pointed out that the women’s liberation movement is one social factor that has done much to strengthen the trend toward this unity. We concluded that this movement is one of the signs of the times in the area of society, and that the result of this phenomenon (and others) will be the antichristian kingdom.
Another social trend is the recent emphasis upon the rights, or lack of rights, of homosexuals. This emphasis, sometimes called the gay rights movement, is of recent date. It was only a few years ago that the subject of homosexuality was very rarely discussed, never written about in any respectable publication, and mostly ignored in the hope that it would go away. Whether from ignorance of its nature, or because of aversion to the unpleasant subject, the whole matter was not visible to any great extent.
But all of that has changed. No longer hushed up or avoided, homosexuality today is openly discussed and written about. With the rise of the gay rights movement in the last few years, homosexuals have been demanding what they consider to be rights and privileges that have traditionally been denied them. They want acceptance by and in the community, and the end to discrimination against them in the armed forces, and in many positions of social responsibility, such as the teaching profession. They press for equal treatment in matters of employment, and, even more, for public recognition that their life-style is a legitimate and viable alternative to that of the rest of the more conventional society. There have even been attempts to have homosexual marriages recognized in the eyes of the law, so far unsuccessfully.
The whole issue of homosexuality (and the church’s involvement with it) came to the fore within the last year by means of national publicity. In an effort to maintain community standards, officials in Dade County of Florida passed an ordinance that restricted homosexuals in employment opportunities, particularly in the educational field, thus in effect discriminating against them. The gay rights movement fought this ordinance, claiming denial of their rightful opportunities and asserting their rights to equality under the law. Opposing the homosexuals was a coalition of conservatives, including many church leaders. Well-known entertainer Anita Bryant emerged as the spokesman for this conservative group. After a protracted and sometimes bitter campaign the ordinance was upheld by a vote of the people and the gays went down to defeat. A similar event took place shortly after in Minneapolis, with the same result, and the same outcome is generally predicted wherever the rights of homosexuals are contested across the country.
Now all of this has affected not only our society in general, but also the church. The church has become involved in the issue of homosexuality. Without passing judgment on the correctness or wisdom of such involvement, and without expressing opinion concerning the sincerity of the people involved, I merely note the fact as such. Homosexual marriages have taken place, some with the blessing of clergy. A so-called “Metropolitan Church” has arisen, composed primarily of and ministering to homosexuals. According to reports, its membership runs the gamut from radical liberals to conservatives or evangelicals who profess faith in the fundamentals of the Christian faith. In addition, several major denominations have faced the issue on the synodical level, including the United Presbyterian Church. A task force assigned to prepare a report to the Synod agreed that society should not discriminate economically against homosexuals, and urged the repeal of laws governing sexual behavior of consenting adults. The task force also agreed that homosexuality was not a matter of conscious choice, but arises instead from a complex of psycho-social forces that are difficult to analyze. The majority of this task force endorsed the acceptance of practicing homosexuals into the offices of the church, basing their position on a rejection of Romans 1: 18-32 as being merely the teaching of St. Paul conditioned by time and place. The minority, however, rejected such ordination as being contrary to God’s intentions for man, though they urged the church to accept and work with homosexuals. The General Assembly adopted this minority report by a good majority, reflecting the sentiments of the members of the United Presbyterian denomination.
How did all of this come about? While the causes or origins of any trend or change in society are very complex, a couple of major factors can be pointed out. As far as society in general is concerned, the gay rights movement is a delayed result or corollary of the sexual freedom movement of the 1960’s, delayed because even the radicalism of the 1960’s did not extend quite so far as homosexuality. And in more recent times the so-called human rights movement has lent impetus to this phenomenon. After all, if the racial minorities and economically underprivileged can press for and obtain more rights, why not homosexuals? And in our technological society the media soon spread the word from one end of the nation to the other. The gays, after all, are but a small minority of our society. The latest and best figures place their strength (both males and females) at between four and seven percent of the population. But a vocal minority they have become, and society has reacted both encouragingly and discouragingly, so that the issue has become highly visible and controversial.
The church has become involved in the controversy mostly in reaction to what has taken place in society. Predictably, the response of the church has varied widely, depending on who is responding. Some wish to take the historical stand against homosexuality in any form, interpreting traditionally and literally such passages as Genesis 19, Leviticus 18 and 20, I Corinthians6:9-10, I Timothy 1:10, Jude 1:6-7, and the clearest passage of all, Romans 1:18ff. They point out that we must believe and accept the Bible for what it says and clearly means, and that practicing homosexuals are therefore excluded from membership in the church and surely from its offices. Others take exactly the opposite view, insisting that this sin is no worse than others which do not bar one from membership or the office, and argue away the clear teachings of Scripture by operating under the assumption that these are time-bound and culturally conditioned, and hence not binding on the church today, which has a much better understanding of such matters than did the Biblical writers. They rely upon the findings of modem psychology and proclaim that homosexuality is the result of social conditioning, and that the individual is not responsible for what he is. Still others attempt to find a middle ground. They condemn the practice of homosexuality, and insist that those who do practice it are ineligible at least for the offices of the church, and perhaps for membership in it. But they also distinguish between the condition and the practice of homosexuality; while condemning the latter, they are sympathetic to the former. While they feel that the practice is sin, and is clearly condemned in God’s Word, they also assert that the factors which go into producing a homosexual are very complex and that the individual cannot be held wholly responsible for what he is. There is disagreement on this point of responsibility, for the matter of social conditioning does not make the matter of homosexuality wholly involuntary, but must include choice as well; where the line must be drawn has not been determined by a consensus of the Christian community.
What then must we say about all of this? As far as society at large is concerned, this movement is undoubtedly part of the “leveling” effect of which we have spoken before. It is necessary to the success of antichrist that society as much as possible be made one. Most people would probably agree that if there is a fringe of society (at least regarding popular attitudes), the homosexuals constitute that fringe. It is then a mark of the progress of the development of antichrist that already now attempts are being made to incorporate this group into an integrated society. But at the same time, in light of the failure of this movement on the whole, it is also clear that the uniformity of antichrist has not yet been achieved, and that his time is not yet. How long it will be before a homogeneous society comes to pass is a matter of speculation; but that the clear signs are present is beyond doubt.
As far as the church is concerned, it is necessary to observe that, to the extent that the church justifies and supports this social trend, it is wrong and is proceeding down the road of apostasy toward amalgamation with the world as the false church. How the church can justify and support the homosexual movement in the face of the clear teachings of Scripture is impossible to understand, except to, say that the church has tom loose from its Scriptural moorings. The Scriptures are so clear and explicit in the condemnation of homosexuality, both the practice and the condition that to teach otherwise defies comprehension.
Our obligation as Reformed Christians is then to be aware of what is transpiring in the world around us so that we can read intelligently the signs of the times. But our obligation is also never to be swayed by the flood of publicity and arguments against the teachings of Scripture, and not to become callous or indifferent to the sins of the world just because we hear so much about them. Homosexuality is sin, and in the eyes of God it will remain so until the end of all time. And as both an incident and a result of sin (according to Romans 1), it and the society that allows it will fall under the wrath of God. Let us therefore be aware of the coming of the end, and in faithfulness to the Scriptures, keep our garments unspotted from the world!