God and the "Gay Gene"
Family North Carolina MagazineSeptember/October 2008
by Alan Chambers
I rarely go anywhere where the “gay gene” debate doesn’t come up in conversation. I guess that’s what happens when you hang out your shingle as an expert on the issue. I meet and talk with a lot of people who do not share my biblical worldview on homosexuality. Generally, they are ready for heated debate and subsequently disarm when they hear my heart for people, despite our opposing views on the politics or morality of homosexuality.
This is generally a topic that, for many, makes or breaks the validity of homosexual rights and serves as the determining factor on where being gay is right or wrong. My views on this issue have evolved over the years. I have realized two things: 1) We are all born genetically fallen; 2) The presence of a gay gene wouldn’t nullify the truth of the Bible concerning homosexuality.
I see the “gay gene” argument as nebulous, unnecessary and futile, in most cases. Don’t get me wrongI am not opposed to scientists researching homosexuality. The discovery of a gay gene or proof that there isn’t one and any other helpful information would be welcome news to this inquiring mind. How I am wired genetically certainly affects me, and any insight there would prove beneficial.
The discovery of a “gay gene,” however, would not alter my beliefs, shake my faith or rock my world. It would just be neutral information. In the midst of the “gay gene” debate of the early 1990s, I decided that homosexual life wasn’t for me. I found it fun for a season, lonely for a lifetime and incapable of meeting my needs. I chose, based upon all the information available and with all clarity and freedom, to pursue a life based on truth rather than sexual urges and emotion. After nearly 18 years, I am living proof that life beyond homosexuality is a viable option.
So, do I believe I have a “gay gene”? I have to answer an unequivocal, “I don’t know”followed by an equally unequivocal, “I honestly don’t care.” Was I born gay? No. That’s ridiculous to think that a baby is gay or straight. It is conceivable that there was some genetic or biological influence on sexuality. But, as my friend and author of My Genes Made Me Do It, Dr. Neil E. Whitehead, says, “Genes aren’t tyrannical. They weren’t meant to control us, just influence.”
Many things have been proven to have genetic influences: cancer, obesity, alcoholism and rage, to name a few. Those struggles are at work in most all of our families. So, it’s possible that we might all have some genetic predisposition or propensity toward them. Does that mean, then, if my dad was obese and I have struggled with weight issues that I am destined to be overweight forever and should just accept it? No. Diabetes killed my dad, and his weight impacted that struggle. He taught me early on to eat well, exercise and fight the urge to overeat. Today, I have to work very hard, harder than most of my friends, to stay trim and fit. Maybe I was born with the fat gene. I wasn’t born fat, though. And I don’t call myself fat or ex-fat, for that matter.
Furthermore, no one is out fighting for or against the rights of the alcoholic, or of persons affected by rage. We, as a responsible culture, are trying to compassionately help those affected by these negative behavioral patterns. Should someone be allowed to get drunk? As long as it doesn’t negatively impact another human being, yes. The same goes for people who want to engage in homosexual behavior. Sadly, both are negatively impacting humanity.
Just because something is genetic doesn’t mean it’s healthy, optimal or moral. The answer to the question of whether homosexuality is morally right doesn’t hinge on genetics. Similarly, gay rights should not be advanced on the basis of the genetic outcome or theory either.
Many social conservatives believe it is essential to tow the party line on the gay gene debate. A friend recently told me: “There isn’t one, and there could never be one. God could never allow for there to be a ‘gay gene,’ even though He can allow for there to be a gene that is linked to cancer.”
Why is it so unimaginable that part of being a genetically, physically, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and relationally fallen world [means that] some [individuals] might just have some genetic or biological factors that predispose them to the possibilitygiven a lot of other factorsof a struggle with homosexuality? Just because there may be a genetic component doesn’t make it right.
The biggest problem I find is that boiling this all down to genetics invalidates the complexity of someone’s struggle. I know families where cancer is common, but not everyone gets it. Why? More goes into having cancer than genetics. We have to take into account someone’s lifestyle and their environment. For someone to struggle with homosexuality, we must understand the developmental and relational factors that prove far more significant than genes. I have two adopted children, and every book I have read has confirmed the truth that the environment and family that they are raised in is far more influential than their genetic predispositions to psychological problems.
As Christians, we need to move the “gay gene” debate to at least a side burner, if not all the way to the back one. Our goal isn’t to win a debate. It is to win souls. This debate is often a distracting catalyst for more division and hostility. Now, I’m not saying that a respectful dialogue is out of order because logic can be used to change a heart as well as a mind. But be sure to pray and discern a situation and a person’s receptivity to such dialogue before you take all the time you might ever get with a nonbeliever to talk about something that is secondary to the cross.
Alan Chambers is president of Exodus Internation-the largest worldwide Christian outreach to those dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction. His personal story as a teen and young adult who struggled with and over-came unwanted same-sex attraction has inspired audiences around the world. This article originally appeared in the July 3, 2008 issue of New Man e-Magazine (www.newmanmag.com). It is reprinted here with permission from Mr. Chambers and New Man e-Magazine. For more information on Exodus International, visit the website at www.exodus.to.
2. Paul Overstreet, Hall of Fame Inductees, “Song Highlights,” Nashville Songwriters Foundation, http://www.nashvillesongwritersfoundation.com/ (scroll down to Paul Overstreet).
3. Olson, David H. and Amy Olson-Sigg, “Just the Facts: Marriage and Family Facts-2007,” Marriage CoMission, at: www.marriagecomission.com/go/justthefacts.
4. Popenoe, David and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, State of Our Unions, 2007, National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, 2007, pg. 24.
5. Institute for American Values, et. al. “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First-Ever Estimates for the Nation and All Fifty States,” April 2008, pg. 7.
6. North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics, “A Typical Day in North Carolina, 2006,” http://www.schs.state.nc.us/SCHS/vitalstats/2006/day.html#births
7. Kids Count Data Center, “Children in Single-Parent Families: 2006,” Profiles by Region: North Carolina, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Found at: http://www.kidscount.org/datacenter/profile_results.jsp?r=35&d=1&c=9&p=5&x=121&y=4
8. Wilcox, Bradford, et. al., Why Marriage Matters, 2nd edition: 26 Conclusions from the Social Sciences, New York: Institute for American Values, 2005.
9. In-person interview by author with Karen* (last name withheld for confidentiality purposes), 05/17/08, at ECU in Greenville, NC.
10. Institute for American Values, Georgia Family Council, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, and Families Northwest, “Marriage Breakdown Costs Taxpayers at Least $112 Billion a Year,” Press Release, 4/15/08, http://www.americanvalues.org/coff/pressrelease.pdf
11. Statement by David Blankenhorn, Institute for American Values, Press Conference, National Press Club, Washington, DC, April 15, 2008, http://www.americanvalues.org/html/coff_mediaadvisory.htm
12. Op. Cit., Taxpayer Cost study, pg. 5.
13. Ibid., Table A5, pg. 38.
14. Op. Cit. IAV Press Release.
15. Op. Cit. Taxpayer Cost report, pg. 12.
16. Ibid. pgs. 12-13.
17. Op. Cit., IAV press conference. See also Taxpayer Cost report
18. Op. Cit., Taxpayer Cost study, pg. 13.
19. Ibid. pg. 12.
20. Ibid. pg. 20.
21. Ibid., pg. 36.
22. Ibid., pg. 26.
23. Ibid. pg. 37.
24. Ibid. pg. 13.
25. Ibid. pg. 10.
26. IAV Press Release, cite.
27. Op. Cit. Taxpayer Costs study, pg. 36 and 38.
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