Love’s Purpose

Love’s Purpose

(Listed under Rantings)

19 Feb 2022 (modified 22 Jul 2022)

This article arises partly from a discussion on Premier Radio’s ‘Unbelievable’ program concerning moves to introduce a ban on so-called ‘Conversion Therapy and partly from my post on ‘Why the Conversion Therapy Ban Must Be Stopped.‘ In the former, a persistently-asked question was, “Why do you say that active homosexuality is harmful?” And in the latter, when discussing the question, ‘Should Children be encouraged into LGBT lifestyles?’ I commented, “But if someone believes that their physical form is meant to reflect God’s purpose for their life: then it is necessary to start asking some much deeper questions about the relationship between real love and sexual attraction. Note that I will be discussing these issues from a Christian context. If you are of the opinion that you have been born into a world without purpose, then I recognize that you will have difficulty seeing any valid reason why you should not simply do whatever gives you the most pleasure in the short time that you (and others) are alive.

Sense, Instinct and Learned Behaviour

We commonly hear talk of the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch: but the reality is that these are not the only senses that we posess. For example, there are our kinaesthetic senses, by which we are aware of the physical orientation of our bodies, our sense of direction (much better developed in some than others!), thousands of internal stress and pain sensors, etc.. The sheer quantity of data that our senses take in and our brains process and interpret every second is mind-numbing; yet our conscious minds have an incredible system of priorities whereby, most of the time, we are scarcely aware of all these goings-on. Our brains are hard-wired to perform these tasks and learn to do so more or less automatically. Yet even seemingly trivial things can suddenly become the absolute focus of our attention, with an importance that far exceeds their real significance, such as a minor pinprick or a buzzing fly. In the days before compact zoom cameras I remember taking photos of fascinating people and scenes only to discover that the item was little more than a distant speck in an almost empty frame: but my attention had zoomed in so that it filled my whole awareness. Each sense involves different conscious sensations; some pleasurable, some not, and some difficult to define, such as the ‘this way’ feeling of the sense of direction. Pain, especially, acts as the body’s emergency override; compelling us to stop what we’re doing and take action to avoid further damage.

And then there are instincts – the mysterious sense that, somehow, it just ‘feels right’ to do – or avoid – a certain thing. Most of us are well aware that our senses can be deceived, whether by external factors such as optical illusions or internal ones caused by sickness or drugs. But so, too, can our instincts: though we are often less experienced at recognising these situations – especially if something is feeling so ‘right’ at the time – and we often fail to recognize when our instincts are coming into play.

Arising out of the combination of sense and instinct are learned behaviours, whereby our brains learn to automatically respond to certain combinations of sensory stimuli until we react to them almost without conscious awareness or control; finding it difficult to distinguish between instinctive and learned behaviours and sometimes finding ourselves slipping into habitual behaviours which we may subsequently regret.

What Makes Humans Special?

Pretty much everything we have said about ourselves so far is potentially equally applicable to animals, but for one thing; we don’t really know to what extent an animal experiences consciousness, because we don’t know how to to ask them. Language requires an assumption of shared experiences; and our life experiences are so different from those of animals that it is exceedingly difficult to communicate with them at a sufficiently profound level to be able to understand whether their lives operate primarily at the same kind of level as the sub-conscious mechanisms that control the bulk of our everyday lives. But the more closely we study the most intelligent animals, the fewer fundamental differences we find. After all, the fact is that, whatever else we may be, we are animals. Nor are we all equally intelligent, or all equally inclined to philosophical thought, etc… So what is it that really makes us so special?

I’d like to write about this in far more detail: but it is one of the hardest questions in the world to answer fully. Instead, since I am primarily addressing folk who are prepared to consider the possibility that their physical nature is some kind of expression of God’s purpose for their life, I am going to turn to the book of Genesis for further insight. In chapter 1 we have the first of two passages describing the creation of man. What is particularly interesting about this passage is the close similarity of the expression used 5 times to describe both human and animal nature; which in Hebrew is ‘chay nephesh’ (or ‘nephesh chay’); which basically means ‘breathing and alive.’ But both accounts include some detail about the creation of man which indicates a difference between man and animals. In Genesis 1:26-7 God says, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness and let them have dominion… So God created mankind in his own image … male and female he created them.’ Then, in Genesis 2:7,15 & 18 we read, “God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a ‘chay nephesh.’ … and put him in the garden of Eden to work and guard it. … [and] said, It is not good that man should be alone…’ Both passages point to a very personal and intimate relationship between man and God. God himself is not just a single person, and man is made to be like God (N.B. not the other way around) and manage the earth as God’s representative.

The most exceptional attribute of humanity is that, although at the apex of the animal kingdom, we also have something that no other animal posesses: the capacity to know God and understand His will. And with that comes a very high capacity for deep thought and understanding – even to the point where we are learning how to look back through time towards the dawning of the present universe and project our thoughts forwards to its potential end. Perhaps more remarkable still, we have the capacity to change the future that we foresee; overruling our own genetic and psychological programming when we deem it necessary (though this is not an unlimited power.) At the same time, being animals ourselves, we also have the capacity to understand the feelings and instincts of the animals for which we have been made responsible.

The Four Loves.

The problem with the English language is that we only have the one word for love: whereas the Greek language, in which Jesus’ teaching is presented, has four: storge (affection), philia (friend/companionship), eros (romantic/sexual) and agape (the greatest love of all). The first three are natural, instinctive loves that are essential to our proper functioning within the family, within society and in our ability to come together and reproduce. All three involve a combination of a felt need to receive such love from others and a strong sense of satisfaction when sharing. But agape is different. We feel an even deeper need for it, certainly: but it involves a strong element of altruism; of being prepared to endure hardship and disadvantage for the sake of others. Agape goes on loving even when it hurts — even when instinct tells us it’s time to cut and run. That is not to say that these more instinctive forms of love never involve self-sacrifice. A mother may fight to the death to protect her young when seized by the instinct to do so: but this is not the norm.

Agape was formerly translated by our word, ‘charity;’ but that is sadly so devalued nowadays that most people on hearing it think mainly of collection buckets and voluntary service organisations. But for a real definition of agape, we need to think in the terms expressed by 1 Corinthians 13 and the sacrifice of Jesus, expressed in laying down all his privileges, rights – and even life itself – for the sake of valuing others more even than our own desires. So, whereas the teaching of Jesus and his disciples values and honours all four forms of love; it is agape that forms the primary challenge of the Old and New Testament teaching, together with Jesus’ own example of what it means to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” This is a seemingly impossibly unselfish love. After all, if you give all your love to God, what is left for others — let alone for you?

The answer is really suprisingly simple. You pour out whatever love you have to God: and he will pour out His love through you.

I had been married for 3 years before I really began to understand how this worked. By that time it was apparent that there was nothing at all wrong with my fertility: but I was, frankly, tired of normal sexual relations and would have been happy to give it up; because it seemed to me that I could get more direct satisfaction by other means. But by then I had come to understand that sexual relations were not just about reproduction. That was one part of it: but the other was about strengthening the pair bond – the sense of partnership – between a man and his wife. I had observed that, when we made love, my natural priority was to reach climax (completing the task of fertilization); whereas my wife was in no such hurry; because her natural priority was to deepen and strengthen our sense of belonging to one another, which is so essential for the development of a stable, long-term environment in which to raise our children. So, finally, I made a resolution — that from then onwards I would no longer seek my own satisfaction: but focus all my effort on ensuring that her needs were met. At the time, this seemed almost like a death sentence: but within a matter of weeks I found my attitude changing, so that I was delighted by every occasion when I was able to meet my wife’s needs, irrespective of what I myself felt. And very soon I found myself getting more pleasure from our time together than ever before. For nearly 50 years now, our love relationship has grown deeper, more tender and more satisfying, in spite of the limitations of increasing age.

What is Sexual Love, as God Intended It?

God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.” (Gen 1:28)

From earliest times, the primary purpose of sexual relationships has been reproduction. But in the last hundred years increasing concern has been expressed concerning the earth’s diminishing resources and the threat of overpopulation. Yet, at the same time there has been an increasing emphasis on sex as a form of entertainment and self-indulgence (though this is by no means new); and this has gone hand-in-hand with the increased use of contraception, sexual stimulants and, worst of all, the mass slaughter of unborn children. As a result, we are now close to a population tipping point in the reverse direction, with economic experts predicting that we are approaching another crisis due to an increasingly elderly population, with too few younger people able to sustain the burden of caring for the old. China, for example, has now abandoned its ‘one child’ policy and is seeking to encourage larger families.

In wildlife management, the ultimate solutions to population control are (a) to restrict the opportunity to breed and (b) to cull excess numbers, particularly of the elderly and infirm: but do either of these look like acceptable approaches to the human population problem? Of the two, the contraceptive approach looks the most promising: but even that is posing an increasing biological hazard via the escape into the environment of increasing quantities of artificially-produced sex hormones; which are already having seriously detrimental effects on wildlife in our ponds and rivers.

Even assuming that population control were implemented, how could it be regulated? If sex is a free-for-all, how does one compute breeding rights or monitor compliance? Ironically, the best potential mechanism is via the traditional family unit; where parents have the opportunity to determine the number of children they will have, according to their ability to care for them and the children’s ability to support parents in their old age. This approach encourages a sense of mutual responsibility in our decision-making, whilst at the same time leaving individuals with the freedom to make their own choices.

But there’s another natural regulatory mechanism that we haven’t yet considered: the timing of our sexual maturity; especially that of women. Humans are one of relatively few species that have a menopause, causing them to cease to be fertile and have a reduced desire for intercourse as they grow older. This pattern of behaviour is of particular value for those species which are characterised by a very long period of adolescence; as it then becomes disadvantageous for a mother to bear children in older age; which makes huge demands upon her physiology when her natural strength and vitality are on the wane: but she has the most experience to pass on to her young. And, of course, puberty in both men and women prevents early breeding. Early biblical histories suggest that people lived much longer than they do today; but also that they began having children later and remained fertile for longer. Does this mean that they had intercourse less frequently? We don’t know. But, curiously, puberty seems to be getting earlier in our present society. Whether this is due to better nutrition, increased sexualisation of children or other factors is a matter of debate. But we see that nature has not found it advantageous to promote reproduction at every stage of our lives; whilst the effective loss of fertility in older women testifies to the probability of continuing engagement in sexual activity.

Early Biblical marriage laws were relatively lenient. Although the original pattern set in Genesis 2:24, was for marriage of one man to one woman, for life, we find polygamy practiced, and not criticized, from Gen. 4:23 onwards; and divorce permitted by God through Moses in circumstances involving shameful attributes or behaviour on the part of the wife. No special marriage ceremony was required once consent of the wife and parents was obtained (see Gen. 24:50-67). Neither do we read of any special restrictions for the Hebrew people on sexual relations with close relatives prior to their time with Moses in the wilderness (c.f. Lev. 18:9; Gen. 20:10-13). But Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets, roundly condemns the Jewish people’s treachery and covenant-breaking in their lax attitudes towards divorce: a point re-emphasised by Jesus in Mt. 5:31-32,19:3-9, Mk. 10:2-9 & Lk.16:18; (Note that, in 2 of these cases, Jesus specifically cites and endorses Gen 2:24 as God’s intended pattern of conduct).

Repent – Go and Sin No More

One of the most misunderstood aspects of Jesus’ ministry concerns the balance between forgiveness and repentance. The Bible presents Jesus as incredibly loving and forgiving even to the worst of people, including his own killers. But many misinterpret this as meaning that Jesus simply overlooks our faults; which is certainly not the case. Jesus himself sums up the purpose of his ministry of deliverance by saying, “Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mt.9:12-13, Mk.2:17, Lk.5:31-32.) When it came to outward religious or hygienic practices, such as handwashing and sabbath day observances, Jesus’ focus was always first and foremost on the practical needs of people. But on every true moral issue, we find Jesus raising the standard expected of us: not relaxing it. He began his ministry by calling people back to righteousness. ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.’ (Mk.1:15) ‘Except your righteousness shall exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.’ (Mt.5:20). “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery;’ but I tell you that everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Mt.5:27-8) And when dealing with the woman caught in the very act of adultery, his first response was to shame her accusers into silence: but then to tell her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way. From now on, sin no more.” (Jn.8:11.)

What of Homosexuality?

Polygamy and divorce, although revealed by Jesus as being contrary to God’s original plan, were nonetheless tolerated because of mankind’s chronic inability to love with the constancy and singleness of heart that God intended. Yet, despite the fact that homosexual practices are depicted throughout both Old and New Testaments as being widespread amongst the surrounding nations, there is not one place that they are mentioned except in a context of very clear disapproval.1 For the Jews, this was an ‘abomination’ punishable by death (Leviticus 20:13). We have already seen that Jesus’ practice was to raise and reaffirm God’s standards of moral conduct rather than to relax them; and with regard to his general policy on matters concerning which he gives no specific direction he states:

“Don’t think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill. For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished. Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mat 5:17-20)

But Jesus did say something else on this subject that is relevant to this issue. Jesus’ warning concerning adultery in Mt.19 continues with the following:

His disciples said to him, “If this is the case of the man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.” But he said to them, “Not all men can receive this saying, but those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. He who is able to receive it, let him receive it.” (Mat 19:10-12)

The disciples, faced with the strictness of Jesus’ teaching on adultery, begin to wonder if it is (or was) really a good idea to get married at all! (Bear in mind that, under Jewish law, sex outside marriage wasn’t a viable alternative. The penalty was either compulsory marriage for life with a very large fixed-penalty dowry or, if the girl’s father refused consent, whatever amount the father demanded. See Ex.22:16-17, Deut.22:28-9.) And, as already mentioned, homosexuality in Jewish society was punishable by death: so, as far as they could see, a young man’s options came down to marriage or staying single. This is the context of Jesus’ response.

Jesus starts by saying, “Not all men can receive this saying, but those to whom it is given.” He then goes on to discuss 3 kinds of ‘eunuch:’ those born that way; those who have been made incapable of marriage; and those who have chosen to forgo marriage ‘for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake’ (such as himself). The first 2 have no choice: but in most cases will not have to deal with the sexual urges that most men feel. But the last group do still have their natural urges to contend with: and Jesus is acknowledging that the option to remain celibate only really works for those whose priority is to live ‘ for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake.’ For other men, who are subject to normal sexual urges, Jesus is indicating that heterosexual marriage remains God’s intended pattern and the best option to pursue.

So am I denying the reality of the problems faced by those suffering from same-sex attractions? No. I have already acknowledged that I personally found those problems insurmountable; and that, having found freedom, there remained a long road to healing and restoration. And I am still on that road. But there is hope in Jesus’ words, “Not all men can receive this saying, but those to whom it is given.” God’s gifts are not a one-off deposit given at birth or not at all. Jesus said:

“Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened. (Mat 7:7-8)

Non-sexual Love

But it is vitally important to keep in mind that, of the four loves described in the Greek language, only sexual love between same-sex couples is deprecated. There is no reason at all why there should not be deep affection, lifelong friendship and self-sacrificing love between same-sex couples. The biblical relationship between David and Jonathan is a classic example; marred only by the insistent claims of some that, “Surely, they must have been gay” — in spite of the total lack of any such evidence.

The Hazards of an LGB Lifestyle

What was the Generations Study?

The Generations Study2 is a US-based survey, conducted by a team of LGB-affirming scholars and led by Ilan Meyer, of the UCLA Williams Institute, using a randomly-sampled qualitative data set gathered in 2015-2016 under the supervision of Gallup, with quantitative follow-up data gathered at intervals of one and two years between 2016 and 2019. It was the first long-term study to examine trends in health and well-being across multiple generations of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals (LGB); and explores identity, stress, health outcomes, and health care and services utilization in three generations of LGB adults who came of age in different historical contexts. The declared study objective was as follows:

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals continue to suffer disparities in health outcomes compared to heterosexual peers. Social changes have significantly altered the developmental trajectories of today’s LGB peoples, requiring we re-examine our knowledge of stress and health in this population. Documenting generational differences in identity, stress, and health will help improve provision of health services and achieve the public health service goal of reducing health disparities related to sexual orientation.

The data-collection methods are methodically and exhaustively documented, and the anonymised data is available for examination by researchers, making it a highly valued research resource.

An Unexpected Discovery

One particular analysis, ‘Minority stress, distress, and suicide attempts in three cohorts of sexual minority adults: A U.S. probability sample,’3 was organized by the lead researcher of the Generations Survey team, in order to test the prediction of Minority Stress Theory — that improvements to the social environment for LGB persons resulting from 50 years of legal reform and improved medical and psychological care should have resulted in a significant improvement to their quality of life. But the actual results shocked the researchers.

As expected, they “found significant and impressive cohort differences in coming out milestones, with members of the younger cohort coming out much earlier than members of the two older cohorts.” Also, as expected, quantitative measurements showed a clear decline in exposure to external stress factors for the youngest cohort of LGB youth. This is illustrated by the chart below, which displays the percentage of respondents in each cohort who reported various types of anti-LGB incidents.4 (The upward blip in the centre of these graphs covers the period of the AIDS epidemic.)

Graph of Reducing External Stress Factors

The shock came when examining those factors which indicated mental and psychological wellbeing. Minority Stress Theory predicted that the improved external environment should have resulted in greater contentment. Instead, ‘Felt stigma’ showed no significant change: but all other indicators point to increased distress in the younger cohorts.5

Graph of Increasing Distress

The researchers were forced to conclude (emphasis mine) that:

“… we found no signs that the improved social environment attenuated their exposure to minority stressors—both distal stressors, such as violence and discrimination, and proximal stressors, such as internalized homophobia and expectations of rejection. Psychological distress and suicide behavior also were not improved, and indeed were worse for the younger than the older cohorts.”

“We found a clear disadvantage to the younger cohort that seems unique to sexual minority people. Research has also shown that no significant bias in reporting patterns to this scale could explain the pattern of our results.”

Our findings are clearly inconsistent with the hypothesis.

How Bad is the Suicide Risk?

In my article, “Why the Conversion Therapy Ban Must be Stopped,” I pointed out that campaigners for a ban on ‘conversion therapy’ insist that this is essential because of a claimed doubling of the suicide rate amongst those who had undergone such therapies. This claim is based upon another analysis of the Generations Survey data, entitled, ‘“Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, Adverse Childhood Experiences, and Suicide Ideation and Attempt Among Sexual Minority Adults, United States, 2016–2018” conducted by John R Blosnich et al..6 However, this analysis is fatally flawed for 2 reasons: (1) The Generations Survey only includes people who identified as LGB, so anyone who successfully abandoned their former LGB status is automatically excluded; and (2) the Generations Survey includes data revealing when suicide ideation and therapy took place — and in the majority of cases suicidal thoughts came first, so therapy could not have been causative. However, a subsequent re-analysis revealed that, in most cases, even these failed therapies resulted in some reduction in the overall risk of suicide.7

But if a threatened doubling of the suicide risk was considered serious enough to necessitate a ban on conversion therapy, how significant is the increase in suicide risk for LGB youth seen in the diagram above? This is how the researchers themselves describe it…

“We also found that 30% of members of the younger cohort had attempted suicide. This is an alarming figure that was even higher than the high proportions of lifetime suicide attempts reported by the middle and older cohorts. By comparison, the proportion of young people aged 18–24 in the general population who have attempted suicide has been less than 4%.”

The suicide rates for the older and middle cohorts were 21% and 24% respectively. So, in the period under study, the suicide rate amongst LGB youth has risen by another 9%, from just over 5 times greater than peers from the general population to 7.5 times greater! Clearly, this is a major disaster; current legal reforms appear to be moving things in the wrong direction and causing more harm than good.

50 years of pro-LGBT laws have failed

The researchers attempt to explain these findings by suggesting that they, “speak to the endurance of cultural ideologies such as homophobia and heterosexism and accompanying rejection of and violence toward sexual minorities.” But, whilst it is true that LGBT-inspired government interventions may well have induced a sense of public resentment in some quarters, in the main there is a greater sense of public tolerance than previously. It is high time we began to face the possibility that, in spite of social improvements and greatly improved medical care, many practising homosexuals have simply not found the fulfilment they were hoping for.

Is Homosexuality ALWAYS Harmful?

This is one challenge question I have heard more often than any other during recent discussions. It’s a popular question because it is so misleading. Let me illustrate by asking a very similar question: “Is Smoking Always Harmful?” Most doctors would unhesitatingly answer, “Yes!” They would go on to cite damage to the heart and lungs, risk of lung cancer, addictive effects of nicotine, etc.. But what of the lifelong smoker who gets all strung up and bad-tempered when he is deprived of his regular supply of cigarettes. How might he answer? Maybe he has a mild smoker’s cough or maybe has been smoking for years and has no serious health problems: but against that there is the fact that it helps calm his nerves and lets him relax; so that he is altogether an easier person to get along with. Could he not rightly claim that smoking has been good for him? Well, yes it has, in a way: but the doctor would still advise him to give it up as soon as possible, knowing of all the other risk factors associated with the practice. In the same way, there is no shortage of practising homosexuals who will testify to being happier since they decided to adopt an openly gay lifestyle. But, as we have just seen, the suicide and psychological distress figures present a different story.

What is ‘Internalized Homophobia?’

This is a very popular euphemism: but what does it really mean? Based on the normal manner in which Greek words are used in English, ‘homophobia’ should mean ‘fear of, or aversion to, man’; but in practice it has come to mean ‘aversion to homo[sexuality].’ However, extremist campaigners have amended the meaning of ‘phobia’ from ‘aversion’ to ‘hatred;’ so that nowadays homophobia is portrayed as an active hatred towards homosexuality and homosexuals. The adjective, ‘internalized,’ implies something that has been taken within; creating an impression that the hatred of others towards homosexuality has been absorbed by the homosexual to the extent that they eventually begin to hate themself. But what is seriously misleading about this expression, apart from the shift in meaning from ‘aversion’ to ‘hatred’, is the assumption that the problem starts on the outside and works its way in. That could be true: but it is equally possible that it starts on the inside and works its way out, depending upon how an individual comes to an awareness of being homosexual and forms their own opinion as to whether or not this is a good thing.

The actual ‘Internalized homophobia’ measure from the original ‘Generations’ survey was designed by the ‘Generations’ researchers and represents the responses to 5 statements, scored 1 to 5, with 1 or 2 indicating disagreement and 4 or 5 agreement. These were repeated in all 3 phases of the survey, as a measure of the subject’s current mental state.

Statement Affirmative %
I have tried to stop being attracted to people who are the same sex as me. 27.21%
If someone offered me the chance to be completely heterosexual, I would accept the chance. 11.13%
I wish I weren’t LGB. 9.82%
I feel that being LGB is a personal shortcoming for me. 7.18%
I would like to get professional help in order to change my sexual orientation from LGB to straight. 0.79%

But note that there are 2 glaring problems with this measure. Firstly, Question 1 is historical, so is unlikely to ever reduce. Secondly, each response is assigned equal weight (the total score is a simple average); whereas, as is evident from the percentage of affirmative responses shown above, the differences in response frequency between the first and last questions are hugely significant. This means that the significance of the less frequently affirmed responses (which are probably indicative of deeper distress); is being under-estimated.

The Problem of Shame

If we look at the statements above, all of them share a common theme: “I wish I wasn’t the way I am.” Despite all efforts to affirm that being LGB is perfectly normal, over a quarter have been so unconvinced by this claim that they have actively sought to suppress their same sex attractions. Why?

Biological Structure

The most obvious evidence is physical structure. Children are aware of differences in male and female physical structure from a very early age: although understanding of the biological purpose of those structures comes much later, with the exact timing dependent on social and educational factors.


Again, children are taught from a very early age about the importance of personal hygiene, particularly with regard to faeces: so revulsion will be a natural response when confronted with the practice of sodomy. On the wider health front, sexual acts involve close contact between moistened body parts; creating particularly ideal entry points for bacteria and viruses. The two other main entry points (breathing and eating) are under such constant attack that they are heavily defended: but the excretory systems less well so, as materials are normally being expelled rather than received. And in the case of heterosexual relationships, the traditional practice of marriage for life dramatically reduces the opportunity for transmission.

Loss of Control

Pre-puberty, children are seldom (if ever) exposed to strong, instinctive sexual urges. But at puberty these instincts are awakened, and can be triggered by various stimuli, such as intimate contact, visual and verbal cues, dreams, memories of past events, natural variations in hormone levels, physical discomfort, badly fitting clothing, etc.. For men, particularly, erections can be extremely embarrasing and uncomfortable. Once triggered, these instincts cause attention to be focussed on the physical feelings to the near exclusion of all else; often leading to masturbation and climax as a means of relieving tension; which can very easily become habitual. And, as with addictions to alcohol and drugs, there is an ill-defined point at which a liking for the addictive behaviour crosses the line into a full-blown dependency, with accompanying loss of self-respect.

Desire to Have Children

Although not equally important to all, homosexuals frequently do have a deep desire to become a parent: but that is only naturally possible for heterosexuals. It is possible by artificial means such as artificial insemination or surrogacy: but this results in partnerships where one parent is not the real parent, and the child is deprived of a normal relationship with their father or mother. This makes the parent’s desire an essentially selfish one: which is not good for parent or child.

Public Disapproval and Religious Condemnation

The above factors do not only affect a person’s opinion of themself; they also affect the opinions of others. The HIV outbreak had a decidedly negative effect on public perceptions of homosexuality, for example; and overly-aggressive promotion of LGBT ideologies hasn’t helped either. But historical experience of more sexually-liberal cultures, such as those of the ancient nations surrounding the Jewish people, as well as Greece and Rome, has served to justify rather than contradict the condemnation of homosexuality by Judaism, Christianity, Islam and many other moral and religious teachings.

Shame as a Motivating Factor in the Pride Movement

All of the above lead to a deep sense of shame. And for those who feel trapped in an LGBT lifestyle few things hurt as much as being reminded of these feelings of shame. In many personal encounters and other occasions over the years I have seen the need to cover this inward sense of shame as a primary motivating factor in the gay community. The very meaning of the acronym (‘Good As You’) and the promotion of ‘Gay Pride’ events tell the same story. Especially if someone does have some kind of belief in God and/or an ultimate purpose for life; and also if they have tried and failed to abandon this lifestyle, then to be told that they are living in violation of God’s design for life will naturally be deeply distressing. Inevitably, therefore, they will desire to silence those who proclaim such views and promote variant teachings that seek to justify the lifestyle they are following. On the other hand, those who have not experienced the strength of homosexual or transexual urges, depression, or addiction to drink or drugs, have little comprehension of what it feels like to be bound in this manner and tend to look down on those who are suffering as being merely weak-willed or self-indulgent. But all that such polarised attitudes accomplish is to sharpen the conflict, ultimately leading to less sympathy, more stress and more suicides.

Live and Let Live

But there is another aspect of Jesus’ teaching and example that offers a way forward. Consider these sayings of Jesus:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Mat 5:43-48)

He set another parable before them, saying, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while people slept, his enemy came and sowed darnel weeds also among the wheat, and went away. But when the blade sprang up and brought forth fruit, then the darnel weeds appeared also. The servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where did this darnel come from?’ “He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them up?’ “But he said, ‘No, lest perhaps while you gather up the darnel weeds, you root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and in the harvest time I will tell the reapers, “First, gather up the darnel weeds, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ‘ “

… His disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the darnel weeds of the field.” He answered them, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world; and the good seed, these are the children of the Kingdom; and the darnel weeds are the children of the evil one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. As therefore the darnel weeds are gathered up and burned with fire; so will it be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather out of his Kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and those who do iniquity, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be weeping and the gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Mat 13:24-30 & 36-43)

Notice how Jesus clearly recognizes some people as good, and some as bad – even as enemies. But having said that, he points out that God, our Father, desires us to display the same love towards both groups. In the parable of the tares, he also explains that the evil is ‘the work of an enemy, the devil.’ We are the field; and the fruit we bear in our lives depends upon what kind of seed has been sown in us. But the good and the bad in our lives are so intertwined that no final separation can be made until harvest time. Until then, they must be allowed to live and grow together, and we must learn to treat everyone with the same degree of love and respect. But Jesus also makes it clear that there will be a final reckoning; and those whom Jesus rejects will be condemned.

Jesus was certainly not afraid to criticize the behaviour of his enemies – even to the extent of taking forceful action to drive the crooked tradesmen out of the temple. But in his personal dealings with the Pharisees, even when they were trying to trap him, he treated them with courtesy and was quick to commend them when he could (cf. Mat 22:34-40 & Mark 12:28-34).

So, whether you consider it’s OK to be gay and a Christian or whether you don’t; you still have a responsibility to show as much acceptance, love and understanding as you possibly can. You may, by your love, win your enemy over to your side: or you may not. But remember that Jesus did not force his views on people, even though he knew he was right! He encouraged people to follow him and he warned those he saw following the wrong path: but if people wanted to walk away, he let them (Mark 10:17-23; John 6:60-71). So, if you don’t like my views on sexuality and I don’t like yours, neither of us is entitled to take away the freedom God has allowed us to choose for ourselves. We both have a responsibility to follow our consciences, and say what we think. If you want to start a ‘gay church,’ you can do so: but you do not have the right to compel those who wish to promote traditional Christian teaching to conform to your standards of inclusivity. Those who seek to follow Jesus don’t have to agree: but neither do they have to belong to the same party.

John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he doesn’t follow with us.” Jesus said to him, “Don’t forbid him, for he who is not against us is for us.” (Luk 9:49-50)

Reasonable Accommodation

If we are to build a truly just society, we need to re-establish a balance between rights and responsibilities — of ‘reasonable accommodation’ to one another. ‘British values’ used to be based on a principle of tolerance: not protest; free speech: not censorship; protection of the vulnerable: not unregulated licence to do as you please.

There will come a day of reckoning, when all of us will be judged. It is important that, in the meantime, we seek to be obedient to all that we understand to be God’s will for us.

Therefore be ready also, for the Son of Man is coming in an hour that you don’t expect him.” Peter said to him, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everybody?” The Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the right times? Blessed is that servant whom his lord will find doing so when he comes. Truly I tell you, that he will set him over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My lord delays his coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken, then the lord of that servant will come in a day when he isn’t expecting him, and in an hour that he doesn’t know, and will cut him in two, and place his portion with the unfaithful. That servant, who knew his lord’s will, and didn’t prepare, nor do what he wanted, will be beaten with many stripes, but he who didn’t know, and did things worthy of stripes, will be beaten with few stripes. To whoever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked. (Luk 12:40-48)


  1. Some pro-LGB commentators have attempted to argue that the centurion’s ‘servant’ whom Jesus healed (see Mt.8:5-13 & Lk.7:2-10) was actually a sex-slave: but this is very fanciful. The default meaning of this word, ‘pais,’ is that of a young child, especially one’s own immediate offspring: but it was also commonly used to describe a particularly highly-valued and well-trusted servant. In some cases ‘pais’ might be used euphemistically to describe a catamite or similar. But in both accounts the term is used — publicly and in the presence of Jewish elders who were supporting the centurion’s petition — to describe the value he attached to this one, particular servant (whom Luke explicitly describes in 7:2 as a ‘doulos’ (slave) who was valuable to him). Now, in the unlikely event that this servant had actually been a sex slave, I daresay that Jesus would still have wanted to help him: but it would be incredibly unlikely that the Jewish elders would have supported such a request! ↩
  2. “Generations. A study of the life and health of LGB people in a changing society”, an online resource by Ilan Meyer, et al., accessible at ↩
  3. Meyer IH, Russell ST, Hammack PL, Frost DM, Wilson BDM (2021) “Minority stress, distress, and suicide attempts in three cohorts of sexual minority adults: A U.S. probability sample.” PLoS ONE 16(3):e0246827. ↩
  4. The graph lines correspond to the following % entries in Table 3 of the research article. (But note that results are presented with youngest cohort last.)
    • Verbal – Someone verbally insulted or abused you since age 18 (once or more)
    • Threat – Someone threatened you with violence since age 18 (once or more)
    • Assault – Hit, beaten, physically attacked, sexually assaulted since age 18 (once or more)
    • Pelted – Someone threw an object at you since age 18 (once or more)
    • Property – Robbed or property was stolen, vandalized, or purposely damaged since age 18 (once or more)
    • Foiled – Someone tried to attack you, rob you, or damage your property, both didn’t succeed since age 18 (once or more)↩
  5. The graph lines correspond to the following entries in Table 3 of the research article. (Note that, for ease of visual comparison, results are calculated (as shown below) to yield an index, 0-1, with youngest cohort last.)
    • Discrimination (1-4) – Everyday discrimination (M / 3)
    • Felt stigma (1-5) – Felt stigma (M / 4)
    • Internalized (1-5) – Internalized homophobia (M / 4)
    • Distress (days/mth) – Psychological distress (M / 30)
    • Suicide (x100%) – Suicide (% who have attempted suicide once or more in their lifetime / 100)↩
  6. “Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, Adverse Childhood Experiences, and Suicide Ideation and Attempt Among Sexual Minority Adults, United States, 2016–2018”, published online by American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), 10 June 2020. ↩
  7. Sullins, Donald, “Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) *REDUCE* Suicide: Correcting a False Research Narrative” (March 16, 2021). Available at SSRN: or ↩

Page creation by Kevin King

N.B. As this is a highly contentious issue, and to prevent hate or deliberately offensive speech or unnecessary repetitions, all comments will be strictly moderated and I cannot undertake to print all comments, whether in full or part, But I welcome reasonably-argued comments both for and against this posting. If I am slow in approving or responding to your comment, please excuse me. I will endeavour to get around to it as soon as I can and not unreasonably withhold publication.

1 thought on “Love’s Purpose

  1. I am aware that there are issues arising out of this article that are not yet adequately covered. One particularly important issue is the ‘unfairness’ of those born in adverse life circumstances, whether sexuality, physical handicaps, sickness, injuries, poverty, etc… This question merits a whole article and discussion in its own right. Thoughtful comments on the issue will be greatly appreciated.


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