We’re All Born This Way
If you haven’t heard it from Lady Gaga, you’ve heard it from those who struggle with (or embrace) homosexuality: “I was born this way.”
Do you believe them?
The catchphrase might match your theology more than you think. In a Christian worldview, the “born this way” theory fits squarely into the doctrine of original sin—the belief that we all inherited a sinful nature because of Adam’s sin. King David sings of being “brought forth in iniquity” and conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5). A thousand years later, Paul sings the same tune: “sin came into the world through one man,” spreading sin and death to all men (Romans 5:12). The Bible makes no exceptions. When Adam’s lips touched the fruit, sin bled into every part of our being—sexuality included.
But somewhere along the line, sexuality seems to have slipped out of the equation. And believers have had a tough time reeling it back in. Does sexual orientation have a place in the doctrine of original sin? Let’s work through a few issues before we move on. Here’s what we know for sure:
1. Science has yet to give solid answers in the gay debate. People on both sides generally agree that studies on the biological causes of sexual orientation have been far from conclusive, or even flawed. Back to the drawing board. The quest for the gay gene continues.
2. Most people who identify as gay claim to have experienced same-sex attraction from an early age, for as long as they can remember. In essence, they were born that way. Whether or not that’s true scientifically, it’s certainly true experientially, as in most cases they don’t remember having ever been attracted to the opposite sex.
So those are the facts. How does the church react?
On one side of the spectrum we have Christians who (thanks to the silence of science) insist that sexual orientation is a choice. Sometimes this claim is accompanied by suspicions of a gay conspiracy—some public relations ploy to convince Christians to accept homosexuality. “If they really are born that way,” the Christian thinks, “then I might have to amend my moral standards and compromise the plain teaching of Scripture.” Fear not, dear conspiracy theorist. If the elusive gay gene were discovered tomorrow, we’d have no more grounds to alter our beliefs on sexuality than we do today. The metaphor still stands. Furthermore, simply being born with a homosexual orientation does not negate God’s will for human sexuality, just as being born a sinner does not negate God’s will for us to stop sinning!
On the other side of the spectrum we have Christians who believe that because we have little to no say in our sexual orientation we’re free to pursue a same-sex relationship, even if that means reinterpreting (or ignoring) biblical principles for human sexuality. This group, too, is mistaken. They assume that having a homosexual orientation determines what we ought to do with it. They may assume that because it’s innate, it’s also good. “Rejoice and love yourself today,” sings Lady Gaga. “’Cause, baby, you were born this way.” Of course, that turns original sin on its head. Born this way or not, we cannot toss out human responsibility and obedience to God. Like everything under the sun, our sexuality (homo, hetero and everything between) is subject to our sovereign Creator, who sets sexual boundaries both for his glory and our good.
If we’re talking science, I think it’s safe to say sexual orientation develops as a result of both biology and our environment—a combination of nature and nurture. It’s OK to acknowledge both (and many people do). But if we’re talking theology, the “born this way” debate seems to me a secondary issue, and even a roadblock to the gospel. It’s easy to get lost in the peripherals and forget we’re dealing with real people, real problems, real needs. Far worse, we forget to share the real good news.
So here’s the biblical balance: no matter our orientation, no matter where we fall in the gay debate, everyone’s greatest problem is sin—our ancient, inborn enemy. We live in the wreckage of a post-Eden world. Each of us is born with a nature that bends toward sin. (That includes the heterosexual orientation, which, although it lends itself to God’s design for marriage and procreation, is not any less stained by sin than the homosexual orientation.) Whether attracted to men or women, we come into this world as sons and daughters of the Fall. Adam’s blood flows through our veins. Yes, we’re all born this way.
That’s the bad news. But it comes with extraordinary hope. When we accept that everyone is born in sin (whether or not yours is the same as mine), it places us all on the same page of the redemption story; it poises us to receive the gospel with joy and humility; it points us toward sin’s great remedy: Jesus saves sinners of all kinds! But if we continue to cloud our conversations with fruitless “born this way” debates, we’re sure to miss the beauty—and the reach—of the gospel.
Instead, let’s agree that we’re all born this way—the marred images of God—and move on to a greater question: How will we choose to live?
Bryan can be reached at The Happy Alternative