Preference or Orientaion?

13 Aug

I was driving around yesterday and was listening to NPR on the radio. There was a week in review news show on at the time and one of the hosts began a mailbag segment where he responded to emails from listeners about past shows.

The host referred to a previous program where he had given a report about the death of Sally Ride, the first US woman in space. Noting that Ride was a lesbian, the host said that in his previous report he had twice referred to Ride’s lesbianism as her “sexual preference.” The host then said that in the past week he had been blasted by countless emails and messages for his word choice. He had been called ignorant, bigoted, part of a conspiracy and many other unspeakable things. He apologized and said that his words were not fueled by hostility or ignorance but simply by “carelessness.”

The problem the host faced was that he did not use the acceptable phrase “orientation.” In our culture, we must now refer to homosexuality as a sexual orientation, not a sexual preference. The word “preference” implies choice and the one thing almost no one who supports homosexuality wants to say is that homosexuality is a choice because once it becomes a choice then the equivalency between homosexuality and race is erased or at least greatly diminished. The power of the argument for homosexual rights is deeply linked to the establishment of the idea that all homosexuals are “born this way” and are thus subject to the same protections from discrimination as the protections established for race or gender. A minority powerless to choose their orientation garners much more sympathy than a group of people acting on their preferences. The public is much more sympathetic to homosexuality when it is linked purely to biology rather than choice.

The problem is, the evidence that homosexuality is purely biological is far from clear. Certainly there may be biological markers (and my, how some scientists are working to establish such markers) but the truth is that the argument of nature and nurture will probably be never fully resolved. With this in mind, is it really such a stretch to refer to sexuality as a preference? Why such vitriol against the host’s statement when the science is not clear? For every biological link, there are social scientists who point to nurture links. It seems as if protecting ideology has become everything, regardless of the real data. This points to a disturbing trend in our society.

From a biblical view, homosexuality is a deeply rooted issue of the heart, but it is not an orientation in the way society views orientation. Instead, on a deep level, our bodies and minds are corrupted by the entry of sin into the world, so that our preferences and desires are often out of step with what is right in God’s eyes. So we are oriented toward all manner of sin, which manifests in our lives in different areas of sinful behavior. After the fall, we all have a sinful orientation (Romans 3:23) and we express that orientation toward sin through various sinful behaviors, homosexuality being one of those expressions for some. So when the issue of sexual orientation arises, Christians can take the opportunity as an open door for sharing the gospel, as we speak of the reality of our orientation toward sin which leads to preferences for certain sins in each of us. At the same time, we can point to God’s solution in Christ’s death on the cross to set us free from the penalty, power and, in the end, presence of that sin and to restore us to right relationship with God.




One Response to “Preference or Orientaion?”

  1. onegivengrace August 13, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    Excellent article! Thank you for targeting the reality of the sin without diminishing the power of the Cross to address EVERY sin that so easily entangles. Soli Deo Gloria!

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