Tag Archives: Sexuality

Normalizing Homosexuality: How Should Christians Respond?

November 2018 Pulse

Reader’s Question: How should Christians respond to the attempts to normalize same-sex relationships?

Without a doubt, the LGBT advocacy movement may be said to be one of the most successful in modern history. Within a short space of fifty to sixty years (slightly beyond one generation), we have seen the seismic shift in cultural sensibilities, from viewing homosexual behaviour as a reprehensible taboo to legalizing same-sex marriage.

These winds of change are not only blowing in liberal societies in the West, but are also felt in more conservative countries in Asia. The ruling of the Taiwanese Constitutional Court on 24 May 2017 that same-sex couples have the right to marry is a case in point.

LGBT advocates have exerted influence in different sectors of society – education, business, media and even religion – taking full advantage of the internet and social media to advance their agenda. Some have tried to repeal prohibitive laws against homosexual conduct by challenging the constitutionality of such legislations.

The main strategy of these advocates is to convince the world that homosexuality is normal, that people who are same-sex attracted are born that way. Many have appealed to the modern concept of sexual orientation and insist that the genetic and neurological basis for homosexuality is well supported by science.

If homosexual orientation has a biological basis, then discrimination against people with same-sex attraction amounts to bigotry and the infringement of their fundamental rights and liberties – so goes the argument.

How should Christians respond to the obvious agenda of LGBT activists to normalize homosexuality in society? Because of the multi-faceted nature of the LGBT strategy, the Christian response must take different forms and be made at various levels of society.

Church

 We begin with the Church. A recent study conducted by the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity revealed that the majority of church leaders and young adults think that not enough is being done to educate Christians on the LGBT issue.

Pastors and leaders could do more to help members appreciate what the Bible and the Christian tradition teach about sexuality, marriage and family through sermons, seminars and discussion groups. They must also be aware of the work of revisionist scholars who try to show that the Bible only prohibits certain forms of homosexual acts but not faithful homosexual relationships. And they must be able to show how these arguments are fundamentally flawed.

In addition, the church must also engage members who are struggling with same-sex attraction, and create an environment of trust where they can receive prayer, support and encouragement to choose obedience.

The National Council of Churches of Singapore has also played an important role in addressing this issue, and will continue to do so. In 2003, the Council issued a statement that clearly articulates its position on homosexual behavior and current legislations (377A) against such behavior. It also urged the government not to put in place liberal policies that would promote the homosexual lifestyle.

The Council has continued to intermittently address the issue since its 2003 statement whenever it has been necessary to do so.

Parents

Parents have a special responsibility to nurture their children in such a way that they would take the teaching of the Bible and the Church on human sexuality seriously. A number of studies have shown that the home environment and parental guidance play an important role children’s understanding of sexuality.

Parents should be willing to discuss with their children the liberal notions about sexuality that they may encounter in social media and in popular TV networks such as Netflix. They should also take an interest in the books and website articles that their children might be reading.

Education

One of the strategies that LGBT activists employ to normalize homosexuality is to influence public education – its curriculum, policies of inclusivity and ethos. Here, Christians involved in public education at various levels – from ministers to policy makers to principals and teachers – must be especially vigilant.

Parents should also take a special interest in what their children are being taught and the books they are required to read, especially on topics like sexuality and the family.

In Singapore, vendors are engaged by the school or the Ministry of Education to provide sexuality education in public schools. Christian principals and teachers should be aware of the background of the vendors and their views on human sexuality. Parents must likewise be aware of the assumptions and values of the vendors engaged by their children’s schools.

Social Policies

Christians involved in shaping policies should try to prevent the promotion of radical views on sexuality or the gay lifestyle. This includes, for example, granting licenses to operate explicitly gay bars or clubs or to organize big public events that promote the LGBT cause.

Much of the rhetoric for allowing LGBT to organize themselves in ways that make their presence more prominent in society revolves around cherished ideals and values such as inclusivity, equality and rights. For Christians, these values are important, but they must always be tempered by other considerations that are of no less importance, such as morality and the well-being of society.

Here, Christian politicians and civil servants can also play a crucial role in checking the information posted on government websites. For example, in 2014 the Health Promotion Board of Singapore posted its ‘FAQs on Sexuality’ that encourages readers (mostly youths and young adults) to explore their own sexuality.

The FAQs used the Kinsey Scale that originated from Alfred Kinsey, a controversial sex researcher who argued that human sexuality is fluid and therefore cannot be neatly classified as either heterosexual or homosexual. This theory has been refuted by a number of studies that show that human sexuality is not as fluid as Kinsey would have us believe. They indicate that the majority of adults are distinctly heterosexual while a small minority has homosexual or bisexual tendencies.

The National Council of Churches of Singapore flagged this with the authorities. Unfortunately, the reference to the Kinsey Scale has not been removed from the FAQs and the document still promotes a version of the Kinseyan theory of sexuality.

Christian civil servants should try to prevent the publication of materials for public consumption if there is cause to believe that they are either based on dubious science or promoting liberal theories about sexuality.

Politicians

Christian politicians play an important role in preventing the normalization of homosexuality in society. For example, in 2007 when the status of Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes male homosexual sex was discussed in Parliament, a number of Christian (and some non-Christian) MPs argued against its repeal.

In his speech in Parliament Christopher de Souza argued that a ‘repeal of 377A will not merely remove an offence. It is much more significant than that. Because of the concept of negative liberty, the removal of section 377A puts homosexual lifestyle on par with heterosexual life. It is to accord both lifestyles a sense of parity’.

De Souza goes on to show the undesirable consequences that the promotion of this lifestyle would have on marriage, spousal rights, adoption, and education. Christian politicians must have the courage to make such arguments even in the face of domestic pressures and global trends.

Conclusion

Much more could of course be said on this important subject. What is offered here is merely a sketch of how Christians at various levels and playing different roles can respond to this threat.

However, Christians must always assert their influence in a civil and respectful manner. Ours is a religiously and ideologically plural society that is subjected to numerous influences. In this multicultural and multi-religious context, the Christian position on this issue (on any issue for that matter) is often reduced to one viewpoint amidst many conflicting and competing opinions.

The church, however, must never be cowered by this. She must always speak the truth clearly, courageously and without compromise. But she must always do so with gentleness and love. But above all, the church must pray for those in authority so that they may always seek the welfare of the nation and not simply act for the sake of political and economic expediency.



Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor for the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.

 

Clarity on Sexuality

November 2017 Credo

Without a doubt, human sexuality is one of the most controversial issues that the modern church faces. Insofar as the church is situated within a cultural milieu, it is in some sense influenced and sometimes inadvertently even shaped by society’s strongest sentiments. This is especially true with issues surrounding homosexuality.

Buffeted by unrelenting pressures from all sides, Christians have sometimes come under considerable stress to simply acquiesce to their demands. And recently, a number of conservative Christian thinkers and leaders appear to have buckled under the strain.

For example, in a recent public lecture, Nicholas Wolterstorff shocked those who have always known him to be theologically conservative by expressing his approval for same-sex marriage. ‘I’ve listened to these people’, says Wolterstorff, ‘To their agony. To their feelings of exclusion and oppression. To their longings. To their expressions of love. To their commitments. To their faith. So listening has changed me’.

In an interview conducted by columnist Jonathan Merritt of Religion New Service, Eugene Petersen, the celebrated author of The Message also affirmed same-sex marriage. He told Merritt that the ‘debate about lesbians and gays might be over’ and that he would conduct a same-sex wedding if he were a pastor.

Soon after the interview was published, however, Petersen retracted his statements. ‘To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm the biblical view of everything’, he said in a subsequent statement.

Amidst these episodes of capitulation and flip-flop by some of the most prominent conservative Christian leaders, the Nashville Statement on human sexuality is refreshing, timely and welcomed (https://cbmw.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/The_Nashville_Statement_Initial_Signatories_List.pdf).

The Statement is uncompromisingly faithful to Scripture, and provides a reliable compass to help the church navigate safely through the fog of confusion about sexuality and gender.

In its preamble, the Statement underscores the fact that Christians in the 21st century inhabit a period of ‘historic transition’. As Western culture drifts from its Judeo-Christian heritage, we witness ‘massive revisions of what it means to be a human being’.

This has brought about radical changes to the way in which we understand human sexuality. ‘It is common to think that human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences’.

The Statement presents a series of affirmations and denials (in 14 articles) concerning human sexuality based on the teachings of Scripture. In the rest of this article, I will briefly highlight some of its most salient points.

The Statement begins by clearly articulating its position concerning marriage (Article 1). Everything that it has to say about human sexuality and sexual relations in subsequent articles is framed by its biblical view of marriage.

The Statement eschews the view that homosexual, polygamous and polyarmorous ‘marriages’ are part and parcel of God’s design. It states categorically that marriage as God had intended it is a ‘covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, husband and wife’.

Against the prevailing secular understanding of marriage as a contract, the Statement insists on the covenantal nature of this union.

Sexual relations between a man and a woman are appropriate only within the covenant of marriage. The Statement clearly affirms ‘chastity outside marriage and fidelity within marriage’, and rejects all forms of sexual immorality, including sexual intercourse outside marriage (Article 2).

The divine institution of marriage is established on the doctrine of creation, especially that creation of human beings as male and female (Articles 3 & 4).

The Statement affirms that God created human beings as male and female as bearers of his image and ‘equal before God as persons’ (Article 3). In addition, sexual distinctions – male and female – are not the tragic results of the fall. Instead, they are ‘divinely ordained’, that is, they ‘reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing’ (Article 4).

God has created humans as sexed beings. Sexual difference – being male or female – is therefore not a social construct, but a biological reality ordained by the loving Creator for human flourishing. This means that human sexuality cannot be re-defined according to the temper of the times, the whims and fancies of the prevailing culture.

Articles 3 & 4 set the stage for the more complex issues surrounding human sexuality. They include the dissonance that some people experience between their biological sex and their self-conception as male and female (Articles 5–8). These articles deal primarily with homosexuality and transgenderism.

Article 5 makes clear that neither physical anomalies (inter-sex?) nor psychological conditions (gender dysphoria) ‘nullify the God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception as male and female’. The Statement rejects the claim that ‘adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption’ (Article 7).

Article 6 maintains that those with sexual disorders are bearers of the divine image and ‘have dignity and worth equal to all other image-bearers’. Article 8 in turn gives the assurance that people who experience same-sex attraction ‘may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ …’

Sin receives its first mention in Article 9. The authors of the Statement judiciously avoid singling out homosexual acts alone, but include both homosexual and heterosexual immorality in this brief article. ‘We affirm that sin distorts sexual desires by directing them away from the marriage covenant and toward sexual immorality – a distortion that includes both heterosexual and homosexual immorality’.

The remaining four articles of the Statement address a number of different issues. These include attitudes towards homosexual immorality to the efficacy of divine grace in conquering sexual temptations and sins.

Article 10 states that ‘it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism’. Such approval, it notes, can never be seen as a ‘matter of moral indifference’ but rather essentially as a ‘departure from Christian faithfulness and witness’. Article 11 underscores ‘our duty to speak the truth in love at all times’.

Article 12 affirms that the grace of God in Christ has transforming power that enables Christians to ‘walk in a manner worthy of the Lord’. This same grace enables ‘sinners to forsake transgender self-conceptions’, states Article 13, and to see the connection between biological sex and one’s self-conception as male and female.

Article 14 is a summary of the Gospel.

Like most documents of this nature, some passages are lacking in clarity and issues that are either left out or given just a cursory mention should be given more attention.

For example, it would be helpful to make clear the distinction between experiencing same-sex attraction and having homosexual sex. It would also be helpful to clarify that while the Bible categorically prohibits homosexual sex, it does not address the issue of sexual orientation.

The issue of sexual orientation, so important in the current debate, is totally omitted by the Statement.

Article 6 appears to be most problematic because of its lack of clarity. Who exactly is the Statement referring to by ‘those born with a physical disorder of sex development’ – the homosexual, transgendered or inter-sex person?

Since inter-sexuality is not mentioned at all, the unfortunate impression is that the Statement affirms the biological basis for homosexuality and transgenderism. But if Article 6 refers to the inter-sex person (which I think it does), it should make this more explicit.

But these minor glitches aside, the Nashville Statement is a clear and robust articulation of the Christian vision of human sexuality. It is thoroughly biblical and in harmony with the orthodox teachings of the Church throughout the centuries.

Since its publication, however, the Nashville Statement has been heavily criticised. This should not surprise us.

Some of the most venomous criticisms come from Christians who appear to have become subservient to the very culture to which they were called to exercise a prophetic witness.

For example, Brian McLaren (of ‘emerging church movement’ fame) scathingly opines that theologically the Statement ‘is based on the same regressive way of reading the Bible that was used to justify slavery, anti-Semitism, apartheid, the suppression of women, the rejection of good science, and the slaughter of native people’.

On the social front, McLaren says, the Statement ‘plays into the same virulent scapegoating that has encouraged the KKK and other white supremacists to take off their sheets’.

Finally, he adds that politically it ‘perfectly serves the purposes of Trumpism by creating a pristine and pure “us” who need to push the dirty “other” to the margins’.

Some Christians may no doubt find such rhetoric compelling. But these sweeping harangues are in fact vacuous and ludicrous. They only show how far some Christians have capitulated to the prevailing culture.


 


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor for the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.

Sordid Science

April 2016 Pulse

In its ‘FAQs on Sexuality’, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) of Singapore seems to base its understanding of human sexuality substantially, although not exclusively, on the studies conducted by Alfred Kinsey in the middle of the last century. HPB not only appears to accept Kinsey’s portrayal of sexuality as orthodox; it also seems disturbingly oblivious to the serious criticisms that these studies have come under.

Alfred C. Kinsey, a zoologist from Indiana University, has been dubbed the ‘father of the sexual revolution’ because of his provocative studies on human sexuality: Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female (1953). These reports were allegedly responsible for turning conservative middle-class values upside-down in American society in the mid-20th century.

Here are some of the shocking findings in the Kinsey Reports: 85 per cent of men and 45 per cent of women had premarital sex; 50 per cent of men and 40 per cent of women had been unfaithful in marriage; 69 per cent of men had been with prostitutes; and 17 per cent of farm boys had sex with animals.

However, the Kinsey studies were seriously flawed, making their findings dangerously misleading.

For example, most of the 5,000 men surveyed were prison inmates, many of whom were sex offenders. The participants were mainly volunteers who were sexually adventurous and therefore out of the mainstream. Other participants were recruited via organisations and magazines that promoted homosexuality.

Stanton Jones and Mark Yardhouse point out that “this is obviously not the type of methodology a person would implement if he or she were trying to get a representative outlook on the sexual behaviour of the general population”.

Some writers opine that no other person in the 20th century has done more to bring homosexuality into the public forum than Kinsey.

Kinsey tried to normalise homosexuality in society by devising the Kinsey Scale and by insisting that 10 per cent of men between ages of 16 and 55 were homosexual. Ronald Bayer has perceptively observed that at the time, “for homosexuals who were just beginning their efforts at organisation and the struggle for social acceptance and legal rights, the findings were emboldening”.

But Kinsey’s findings are wide off the mark!

According to the nationwide studies conducted by the Battelle Human Affairs Research Centres in Seattle, only 1 per cent of the population was homosexual. In 1993, Time magazine reported that “recent surveys from France, Britain, Canada, Norway and Denmark all point to numbers lower than 10 per cent and tend to come out in the 1 to 4 per cent range”.

Kinsey’s materialistic philosophy of sex also profoundly skewed his studies. Sex, for Kinsey, was simply an animal response to physical stimuli and has nothing to do with love or procreation. According to anthropologist Margaret Mead, Kinsey was a radical sexual relativist for whom there is no difference between a man having sex with a woman and an animal.

Kinsey also attempted to normalise paedophilia and child abuse. (The Reports were obsessed with homosexuality and paedophilia.) In his 1948 book, Kinsey chillingly insisted that what most people would consider child rape was in fact “sex play” with children, which was harmless, especially when consent was given by the child.

In his 1953 work on female sexuality, Kinsey wrote: “It is difficult to understand why a child, except for its cultural conditioning, should be disturbed at having its genitalia touched, or disturbed at seeing the genitalia of other persons, or disturbed at even more specific sexual contacts.”

In 1990, Judith Reisman and Edward Eichel exposed the Kinsey Reports as malicious deception in their book, Kinsey, Sex and Fraud. In a review, The Lancet states: “The important allegations from the scientific viewpoint are imperfections in the (Kinsey) sample and unethical, possibly criminal, observations on children … Dr Judith Reisman and her colleagues demolish the foundations of the two (Kinsey) reports.”

The Kinsey Reports are in reality propaganda for libertine pansexuality masquerading as a work of science.

Nevertheless, because they promote tolerance and sexual liberation, the Kinseyan myths continue to mesmerise the masses. Their influence in America over the decades is disturbingly evident in the legal system, education, psychiatry and culture.

But bad or bogus science is never good for society!

“Demythologising the Kinsey Reports,” insists Christian ethicist Sister Reneé Mirkes, “is absolutely essential” if we are to “stem the humanly destructive tide of sexual revolution”.


Dr Roland Chia


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity. 

Transexuality

Should Christians endorse Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS) as an option for transsexuals?

I think it is best if we begin with a working definition of transsexuality. A transsexual person is someone who is uncomfortable with the behaviour required for his or her chromosomal gender. In other words, a transsexual is someone who rejects his or her biologically and genetically determined sex, and prefers to live as a member of the opposite sex. Studies conducted in the US show that the incidence of transsexuality is relatively low: about 1 in 30,000 males, and 1 in 100,000 females. In the UK, the incidence of transsexuality is less than 0.003% of the population.

There is no consensus on the cause and origin of transsexuality. Most studies maintain that feelings of discomfort, known as gender dysphoria, begin from childhood. Studies have also indicated that transsexuality could possibly be associated with clinical, behavoural and family factors, but none of these is conclusive. No clear reproducible sex hormone abnormalities are found in transsexuals. That is why those undergoing GRS must be treated with adequate sex hormones for the target sex. Studies conducted on identical twins seem to indicate that transsexuality has no genetic basis either.

Historically, transsexuality has been considered as a psychiatric condition. But since GRS became available in the 1970s, transsexuality has been relabeled as a medical condition.

Can the Bible provide guidance on transsexuality? We must begin with what the Bible has to say about human sexuality and reflect on the specific issue of transsexuality from that standpoint. Genesis 1 provides the clearest statement regarding gender, that human beings are created as male and female (v 27). This basic statement also means that a person’s sexual identity is biologically determined and part of who he or she is. Genesis 2:18-25 sets out God’s ideal for sexual relationships: they should be monogamous, heterosexual, and open to the possibility of procreation. This is the creational ideal with regard to human sexuality, and God’s people are expected to live according to this ideal even in this fallen world. That is why any breach of sexual differentiation, like cross-dressing, is an abomination to God (Deut 22:5).

This ideal, as we know, is disrupted by human rebellion which led to the Fall. Sin did not only alienate human beings from their Creator; it also brought about a perversion which touches human nature in every aspect. In the case of transsexuals who feel that their bodies and sexual identities are at variance, the distortion is more pronounced, making their struggle more intense. But the distortions, contradictions and ambiguities brought about by human rebellion touch every single human being.

Should transsexuals seek therapy for their condition? Of course they should, but much depends on what sort of therapy is sought.

Since the emergence of sex-change surgery in the early 1970s, many transsexuals have undergone this almost irreversible procedure, in which extensive plastic surgery is performed, and extensive preparation and follow-up required. In the past, the accepted medical wisdom is that GRS should be the absolute last resort. But more recently, ‘transgender’ activists, who are often allied with gay liberation movements, have argued that transsexuals are entitled to whatever surgery they want. GRS has also become more common because of medical centres in countries like Thailand, which would perform the surgery with ‘no questions asked’ for anyone who can pay for it.

GRS is not an option for transsexual Christians seeking therapy because it transgresses the divine creational ideal for human sexuality and sexual relationships. The Bible appears to favour the view that human sexual identity is determined biologically. Put in modern scientific terms, human sexual identity is built into our constitution mostly by the genes we inherit and the embryogenesis process we undergo. According to this view, transsexuality is not deterministically enforced genetically or biologically, but rather has a psychological origin. This means that transsexual operations will not correct the profound psychological disquiet experienced by transsexuals.

Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Jon Meyer at Johns Hopkins found very little change in the psychological condition of post-surgical transsexuals, despite their claim of being happier and more fulfilled.

On the basis of such research, hospitals like Johns Hopkins have stopped performing gender reassignment procedures in adults with sexual dysphoria. Similarly experts in the field at the Portman Clinic in London no longer make such procedures available because they believe that offering GRS to transsexuals is preying on their delusional fantasies. For these doctors transsexuality is a form of psychiatric condition called ‘autogynephilia’, a kind of sexual misdirection which is manifested in cross-dressing, and which eventually leads to the surgical option. To provide surgical alteration of the body is therefore to collaborate with a mental disorder rather than to treat it.

Christians suffering from sexual dysphoria should seek psychiatric help. The Christian community should never agree that transsexual operations be allowable for Christians. But it should at the same time be willing to support the Christian transsexual who is willing to work patiently through the issue.


Dr Roland Chia


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.
This article was originally published in the Methodist Message.

Morality, Democracy and Marriage

September 2015 Pulse

On 24 May 2015, the citizens of Ireland voted to legalise same-sex marriage, making the predominantly Roman Catholic country the first in the world to do so by popular vote. 1,201,607 or 61% of the voters said ‘Yes’ to same-sex marriage in a landmark referendum, while 734,300 voted against.

Ireland’s political leaders of every stripe were united in welcoming the decision. Prime Minister Edna Kenny said that the vote ‘disclosed who we are – a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people.’ Deputy Prime Minister Joan Burton agreed and called it a ‘magical, moving moment’, while Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said that it was ‘a huge day for equality.’

The Irish referendum has much to teach us about religion, culture, morality and public opinion.

But the one important lesson that stands out is that this incident makes clear that, despite its obvious merits, the democratic process does not guarantee that morality will be upheld and that democracy in and by itself is unable to provide a clear moral compass for society.

One glaringly obvious weakness of the democratic process and indeed of democracy itself is that it is premised on opinions. Voters may feel that they are in control because of their active participation in a process that allows them to determine the outcome by choosing from an array of options and viewpoints. But in reality, it is those who set the agendas – sometimes by reducing complex issues to simplistic sound bites – that are in control.

In a sense, voting is akin to the capitalist economic system that is often allied to democracy. The producers dictate the agenda, and the consumers are simply taken up in choosing from the different opinions available in the competitive marketplace of ideas.

In addition, the sloganeering that sometimes accompanies the democratic process often obscures and obfuscates important issues even as it impedes rational deliberation on these issues.

For example, supporters of same-sex marriage portray themselves as passionate and uncompromising champions of equality. Same-sex marriage is all about equality, they emphatically declare. It is about allowing two people who love each other to enter into this union called marriage regardless of their sex or gender.

The traditional view of marriage, they insist, violates the principle of equality because it discriminates against same-sex couples who wish to get married. They therefore often compare laws against same-sex marriage with antimiscegenation laws that support the unjust system of white supremacy by prohibiting interracial marriage.

But the analogy to antimiscegenation, and with it the appeal to equality, fails on a fundamental point. Antimiscegenation has to do with whom one is allowed to marry, and not with what marriage is essentially about. The issue with same-sex marriage, however, concerns the essential meaning of marriage.

Put differently, antimiscegenation laws are not put in place to change the fundamental definition of marriage. They are there in order to prevent the possibility of a genuine interracial marriage from being realised or recognised.

The same-sex marriage debate is different. By insisting that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, the proponents of same-sex marriage are not simply expanding the pool of people eligible to marry; they are redefining marriage itself.

In using the analogy of antimiscegenation, supporters of same-sex marriage are in fact implying that race and sex are equally relevant to the essence of marriage.

This assertion is simply false! Race is never relevant to the intrinsic nature of marriage. Sex, however, always is.

In addition, if equality is the only basis for determining who can marry whom, then proponents of same-sex marriage must also support open, temporary, polygynous, polyandrous, polyamorous and incestuous unions as long as they are between or among consenting adults who love each other.

Rational argument and sound judgement are sometimes submerged under the loud sloganeering, aggressive lobbying and charged emotions that many times accompany the so-called democratic process.

For the Christian, marriage is not a social or legal construct. It is a special covenantal relationship between a man and a woman instituted by God (Genesis 2:22-24). In this union called marriage, the man and the woman are permanently and exclusively committed to one another.

Marriage provides the proper relational context for the man and the woman who have become ‘one flesh’ to bear and rear children. It is not only a union that makes procreation possible, but it also provides the natural social order for children to be raised and nurtured.

The structure of marriage is so basic that it is found universally across cultures and religious traditions. As Robert George has rightly pointed out, ‘the demands of our common human nature have shaped (however imperfectly) all of our religious traditions to recognise this natural institution.’

If this is indeed the case, the question that must be put to modern societies is whether the meaning and structure of marriage can be radically revised by a ballot box? Or, to put the question differently and more generically, can morality be democratized?

The answer must surely be ‘No’. The Christian understanding of human sinfulness suggests that morality must be based on more impeccable foundations than the fleeting views of the majority. Human sexuality, marriage and the structure of the family must be established on the design and purposes of the Creator.

As Robert Kraynak has so perceptively put it in his intriguing and provocative book, Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: ‘We must face the disturbing dilemma that modern liberal democracy needs God, but God is not as liberal or as democratic as we would like Him to be.’


Dr Roland Chia


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.

Gay Rights?

On 6 December 2011, the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered what has been described as her historic speech on LGBT rights in Geneva. Clinton spoke eloquently and passionately about the unconscionable atrocities that LGBT people have suffered due to societal discrimination. She spoke of lesbian or trans-gendered women who were subjected to ‘corrective rape’ or hormone treatments against their will. She spoke also of gays who had to flee their nations in order to save their lives and forced to seek asylum elsewhere. And she spoke movingly of people who are denied equal access to justice and banned from public spaces because they are gay. ‘No matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we are’, she asserted emphatically in this wide ranging speech, ‘we are all equally entitled to our human rights and dignity’.

These unjust and cruel acts against men and women because of their sexual preferences must never be countenanced by any society. They are gross human rights violations that must be condemned, and their perpetrators must be brought to justice. The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights promulgated in 1948 unequivocally states that ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood’ (Article 1). In Article 3 of the same document, we read: ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person’.

These principles are universal in that they should be applied to all human beings, regardless of race, gender, status, nationality, and sexual preferences. As I have argued elsewhere, Christians should have no difficulties embracing these principles because they resonate with the biblical teaching that every human being is created in the image of God, and must therefore be valued and respected (Genesis 1:26-28).

In her speech Clinton parrots the rather tired slogan that gay activists have repeatedly employed: ‘gays rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights’. There is, however, some truth in this slogan. Looked at from one angle, it simply states that gays have rights because they are human beings. But if this is true, why is there the need to speak of gay rights at all? Why not just speak about human rights? Why the need to make this distinction when gay rights and human rights mean the same thing and is nothing but a tautology? As it turns out, when gay activists speak of gay rights, they wish to emphasise certain rights that must be accorded to gays or LGBT people that society does not ordinarily recognise as a universal human right.

A case in point is the ongoing and often bewildering debate on gay marriage. For the Christian, the biblical and theological response to this issue is clear (or at least it should be). The Christian faith maintains that marriage is an institution ordained by God, and that everyone should have the right to marry (or the freedom not to). This principle is enshrined in Article 16 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which clearly states that: ‘Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family’.

Although the Christian understanding of human rights may be somewhat different from secular accounts, the Christian should have no problems with concurring fully with Article 16 of the Declaration. This basic principle surely applies to gays and lesbians.

But the Christian is opposed to replacing the traditional concept of marriage, which is the union of a man and a woman, with same-sex marriage. In the context of the discussion on human rights, we may put it this way: while everyone of full age has the right to marry, no one has the right to change the fundamental structure of marriage. The confusion in current discourse on gay marriage is that the redefinition of marriage itself – not just marriage – is presented as a right.

Thus, according to the Christian view, homosexuals have the right to marry members of the opposite sex. But no one has the right to redefine marriage, either for themselves or for a whole society. Many gays and lesbians have indeed married members of the opposite sex. No state or legal system has hitherto barred people with same sex preferences from marrying people of the opposite sex. In the same way, until very recently, no society throughout history has recognised or legalised same-sex marriage.

The traditional structure of marriage as the union between a man and a woman is older than the Church and the state. It is found in ancient societies, and, according to the Judeo-Christian tradition, it can be traced to the earliest history of man (Genesis 2:23-25). Revisionists have often failed to appreciate or ignored the fact that marriage has to do with more than the love and commitment of two people. It has primarily to do with its basic structure, namely, the union of a man and a woman.

As a result the debate on same-sex marriage is often obfuscated by invalid arguments, non sequiturs, and misleading analogies. They give the wrong impression that marriage is only about commitment and equality when in fact it has to do with much more. Just two examples of such erroneous approaches would suffice to bring this out.

The first is the argument that two adults who love each other and who have pledged their commitment to one another should be allowed to marry, even if they are of the same sex. This argument is often very persuasive, and when supplemented by the observation that heterosexual marriages sometimes end up in divorce because of lack of love and commitment on the part of the parties involved, the argument is made all the more compelling. But this argument fails because marriage is more than just love and commitment, important though they are.

The second example is inter-racial marriage, which was once despised because of racism and discrimination. Gay activists have often used this as an analogy, sometimes with good rhetorical effect. Just as the prohibition of inter-racial marriage is an inexcusable act of discrimination, so the argument goes, so is the ban against same-sex marriage. But this analogy fails because inter-racial marriage does not transgress the basic structure of marriage in the way same-sex marriage does. As Robert George, et el point out in their excellent article, ‘What is Marriage?’, in the case of inter-racial marriages, the ‘antimiscegenation was about whom to allow to marry, not what marriage is essentially about’. In both cases, the fundamental nature of marriage as the union between a man and a woman is ignored.

To conclude, if ‘gay rights are human rights’, as Clinton and many others have insisted, then there is a sense in which it is superfluous to speak of ‘gay rights’ at all. Its persistent use by gay activists, therefore, must signal that some else is afoot, a surreptitious agenda. It appears that gay activists are attempting to push the envelope through the language of rights. This is seen in the debate on same-sex marriage, where the goal is nothing short of the redefinition of marriage. Christians – and many outside the Christian community – maintain that no one has the right to do this.


Dr Roland Chia


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity. 
This article was first published in The Bible Speaks Today (June 2013).

Have scientists discovered the gay gene?

Perhaps the most frequently cited study that maintains the connection between genetics and homosexuality is that conducted by molecular biologists at the National Institutes of Health under the direction of Dean Hamer in 1993. By examining DNA samples from self-identified gay men and other gay male family members, Hamer and his team claimed to have discovered a DNA segment, called a ‘marker’, on the X chromosome. Men inherit this chromosome only from their mothers, not from their fathers. By defining this marker more closely, Hamer and his team of scientists hope to identify a ‘gene for gayness’ on the X chromosome. In his report Hamer, who is a gay man, concludes that there is a strong genetic basis for homosexuality, although he admits that the environment also has a part to play.

Scientists have found Hamer’s methodology questionable and his conclusions unconvincing. In the first place, Hamer did not check if straight men also share the marker in question. His theory would be disproved if only a few straight men were found to have the marker. The second and perhaps more serious flaw has to do with Hamer’s definition of who is gay. Hamer only studied what he considers to be ‘real’ gay men, that is, men who have never veered from the preference for men in their sexual activities. But because Hamer ignores the large population of men who have sexual relations with men but who do not identify as gay, his research is seriously compromised. It simply fails to account for the diversity of sexual identities. According to an article by the Council for Responsible Genetics, Hamer’s study is ‘currently under investigation by the Federal Office of Research Integrity for possible scientific misconduct, because one of the study collaborators alleges that Hamer suppressed data that would have reduced the statistical significance of the reported results’. Unfortunately the outcome of the investigation is not available to me at this writing.

Another study, conducted in 1991 by neuropsychologist Simon LeVay with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California also argues that homosexual orientation is genetic. By examining the brain structures of gay and straight men, Le Vay concluded that a specific structure in the brain of gay men is smaller (about the size of the brain structure in heterosexual women) than in straight men. Le Vay concludes that there is a certain connection between homosexuality and biology. Le Vay’s study, however, is seriously compromised for two reasons. Firstly, his observations were made on cadavers, and his evidence about the sexual orientation and practices of the people in life were at best circumstantial. And secondly, the ‘gay men’ all died of AIDS, which is known to affect brain structures. Thus scientists have generally found Le Vay’s conclusions unconvincing.

Space does not allow me to discuss the studies by Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard at Northwestern University and the Boston University School of Medicine that argue for a biological basis of sexual orientation. But many scientists have also found these studies problematic and inconclusive. Furthermore, most scientists reject the one-gene-one-trait theory as naïve because of its reductionism and determinism. Such theories fail to take human freedom seriously due to its simplistic correlation between genes and human behaviour. Human beings are such complex creatures (profoundly different from the other animals) who interact creatively and meaningfully with their environment. Even Dean Hamer admits that it is ludicrous to reduce human beings to their animal prototypes. ‘Pigs’, he writes, rather humorously, ‘don’t date, ducks don’t frequent stripper bars, and hoses don’t get married … Animals don’t speak, write love songs, build churches, or do a lot of other things that we consider worthwhile’. Human sexual behaviour, in other words, cannot be simply reduced to genetic predisposition.

But what if one day the one-gene-one-trait theory is proven to be true? What if scientists can demonstrate that homosexual orientation has a genetic basis? What if the scientific community and society at large accept the view that homosexuality is ‘natural’? Must the church abandon her traditional position concerning homosexual behaviour and revise her teaching?

Here we must clarify what modern culture means by ‘nature’. From the time of the European Enlightenment, the concept of nature has been increasingly secularized, plucked out of its original context of a theistic worldview and the Christian doctrine of creation. ‘Nature’, according to this view is defined by science and no longer by a religious metaphysics. Nature, then, is that which can be subjected to empirical observation and the scrutiny of modern science. According to this view, it follows that if a certain behavioural trait is the result of the presence of a particular gene, that behaviour must be ‘natural’.

For the Christian faith, however, what is natural, and nature itself, cannot be gleaned from the scientific study of the world. It is disclosed only by revelation. What is natural is not based on the way things are but on God’s original intention for the creation. The empirical study of the world cannot yield knowledge of the created order as God had intended it to be because ours is a fallen world. The world as we see it is denatured due to the Fall. In addition, the scientific instruments, methods and concepts that we use are also affected by the Fall.

When Paul argues that homosexual behaviour is unnatural (Rom 1:26-27), his assertion is not based on a secular understanding of nature or a particular social convention. Rather it is based on the doctrine of creation. Paul is referring to human sexuality as God had intended it when he created human beings male and female. In the same way, the Christian’s conception of what is natural cannot be based on scientific research but on God’s revelation in Scripture.


Dr Roland Chia


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity. This article was first published in the Methodist Message.