Some questions and answers about homosexuality
Olof Edsinger recently participated in a one-day conference organised in Oslo. He talked about homosexuality both as a theological and a communicative challenge.
Edsinger is the author of fifteen books, including ‘Gud og sex’ (God and Sex), and a book about homosexual ideology in Sweden. ‘There aren’t many people talking about this, but at the same time it is a very central question in our culture. Therefore, I feel that it’s my job to do it. We mustn’t be silent,’ he says.
He highlights some examples
Edsinger has devoted a lot of his life to work with children and youths. He knows quite a few homosexuals who live in celibacy, and says that the church has to recognise that they are there, instead of making them invisible. ‘There’s a stated goal in many Christian contexts that everyone will get married and have children. This is not Biblical. There are heterosexual singles and also homosexuals who are not in a relationship. Usually there are no activities to offer them as all the church work is focussed on families, children and youths.’
‘What do you think the church can do to make them visible?’
‘In certain areas the Catholic church has managed to do this better, by giving them central roles as priests, monks and nuns. However, in the Protestant context we don’t have the last two roles. So we need to highlight examples who are single and give a clear signal that we don’t expect that everyone will end up in a nuclear family. There are other ways to serve God. It’s important that we state this in our preaching and attitudes,’ he answers.
‘Don’t Christian homosexuals who live in celibacy want to remain hidden?’
‘Yes, but this is part of the problem. In the revival movement we’ve not been good at making a distinction between homosexuality as an orientation and homosexuality as a lifestyle. We have to stop making generalisations about homosexuality as sin. Everyone’s sexuality is damaged. If people don’t dare to say that they are homosexual, even though they live in celibacy, then this is a sign that the church has failed.’
No ‘homosexual gene’
‘Why are some people homosexual?’
‘There’s a lot of research been done on this, but there’s no consensus. This just shows that there are no easy answers. If there had been a homosexual gene then we’d all have known about it. It would have been on the front page of all the newspapers. The best research indicates that homosexuality occurs in the interaction of social and genetic factors, where the social factors are often the most important. There’s no clear research that shows that it is strictly genetic.’
‘How should we talk about Christian homosexuals? Are they homosexuals, or have they got homosexual feelings?’
‘When I talk to Christians who have chosen to live in celibacy, then as a rule it is clear that they have homosexual feelings, but they are not homosexuals. There are more fundamental things to say about them than which sexual orientation they might have.’
‘Are gender distinctions too sharp, so that some people can be misled into thinking that they are different and therefore homosexual?’
‘Absolutely. I think gender roles are often too stereotyped. There are certain traits that are overrepresented among women, while other traits are overrepresented among men. This tells us something about the masculine and the feminine, without us categorising too much.’
The pendulum has swung
Edsinger introduced his lecture by talking about how rapidly things have developed in Sweden from 1944 till the present.
‘Back then it was illegal to live in a homosexual relationship. The pendulum has swung so far now that people think it’s better to be homosexual than heterosexual. It’s exalted as something especially good.’
He underlines that it is our sexual identity that defines who we are, to a great degree.
‘As a trans person I can even decide my gender. What we see in Sweden is that the trans ideology draws with it young people who are confused about their identity. Today we’re being encouraged to experiment to find out who we are.’
Research from Sweden shows that there are many people who identify themselves as bisexual as teenagers. On that basis Edsinger says it is a bad idea to encourage young people to experiment too much.
‘Something to remember is that emotions will stabilise as you mature. Then you will also know more about your long-term sexual identity,’ he says.
During the conference Edsinger listed ten trends which make it hard to communicate a Biblical view of homosexuality. Individualism and narcissism (self-obsession) were two of them.
‘Previously, we thought that it was families, or even couples, who built society, but this is no longer the case. Now we live in a corner where everything is about me and my feelings. This of course impacts how we tackle the question of homosexuality. In addition we’ve become very inward-focussed. We’ve moved from a guilt culture to a shame culture, and we ask ourselves the questions, ‘“Am I good enough? Do I fit in? Does anyone love me?” We’ve become dependent on other people’s affirmation, and the distinction between the issue and the person is erased.’
‘We’ve learned that we should love the sinner but hate the sin, but that doesn’t make sense in a narcissistic culture. If I have a point of view about your sexual orientation, then people in Norway today interpret this as “I hate you. You are worthless.”’
The view of love
Edsinger thinks that lots of young people are taught to believe that it isn’t possible to have a meaningful life if you are not sexually active.
‘The author Magnus Malm writes that the word “love” has been totally distorted. Previously it meant to give your life for someone, but today it is about you being satisfied. According to the Bible, love is about going the extra mile with someone. We, on the other hand, think that if something feels good, it must be love.’
Edsinger says that in general, Christians have not been good at highlighting the good things the Bible says about sexuality.
‘Sex is never just a state, where two bodies meet. When a man and a woman are united, then spirit, soul and body are all involved. In addition, new life can be created. Thus sexuality can be part of something much greater than it is in our society today. Christians have a trump card to play here,’ he says.
Originally published in the Norwegian newspaper Dagen on 14/3/2018.