One of the more vocal objections voiced by those who oppose living the gospel with same-gender attraction is encapsulated in three words.

Born that way.

The reality is that people are born into unique environments. That’s a given. “Was I born this way?” isn’t really a valuable question because I was born into unique circumstances in the first place.

Along with “Born that way” often comes a supposition: since you or I were born a certain way, that then should influence or direct how we live our lives.

This isn’t a new belief, and is actually pretty common within the world at large, depending on the characteristic addressed. The propagation of monarchies, social classes, poverty, inheritance, citizenship, gender roles, family ties, and dozens of other aspects of society center on the assumption that, with birth and the unique circumstances it provides, comes a set of blessings and responsibilities that are just as unique. Monarchies pass along the crown. Social classes pass along understanding of nuance, habits, and networks of people. Poverty begets poverty. Wealth begets wealth. Men and women have vital roles in society and family life. Families support their own.

Without the structure that comes from “Born that way”—if there were nothing determined by birth—society as we know it would probably fall apart. At least, it would lose the ties that pass from father to son, one generation to the next.

But on the other hand, societies that completely bought into “Born that way” on all levels have been just as dystopian. The concept of reincarnation within some religious orders traditionally emphasized the importance of being born the right way. If you were born into the caste of untouchables, you were destined to live a life far different from those born to the priest caste – disposing of public waste instead of living a life of refinement. And there was no way to change or ever move castes or classes. A major goal of mortality within that frame was to live your life with the goal of being reincarnated into a higher birth.

So, if both extremes result in dystopian societies, the easiest next question is “Which of the characteristics determined at birth can be changed, and which can’t?”

But that’s a misunderstanding as well. Nothing in life is immutable. The blind find ways to see. The lame learn to walk. Autistic kids like me can learn to care about people more than their own worlds. And the American Dream of building your own life has grown into the fabric of societies.
It’s still real.

So the question then is this: “So what?”

If I was born wealthy, what does that mean for me going forward? Did God intend me to live a life of luxury, or to give away all that I have to serve others?

How about if I was born poor? Deaf? Blind? Autistic? Gay?

The easiest answer to that question is to assume that God intended me to follow my inborn feelings… to live exactly the way I was born, or the way I want to inside my head at birth. But life is about change and growth—not stagnation—and claiming that I should simply follow my feelings as birth gave them to me is fundamentally flawed.

If I had simply lived as my bipolar emotions dictated, I’d be dead. Jumped off a bridge or down a set of spiral stairs. If I allowed autism to set my course, I’d live in my own world, oblivious to people on the outside.

A belief that God intended me to not change my feelings would have devastating consequences. Hence why He expects me to change. To “throw off the natural man,” and the resist the carnal, sensual, devilish natures that are a real part of mortality. And that’s the purpose of life – to grow and learn and change and repent—to come closer to God and to follow Him.

And that is why the Lord gives me unique circumstances—same-sex attraction, bipolar, autism, and everything else—because those are the experiences I need in life as stepping stones to build myself and my world. That they are there is real. The malleable part of that reality is what comes next.

If I’m blind, that doesn’t mean God intended me to never learn to read or write or paint or appreciate art or movies. It simply means I’m blind… and that He intended me to live blind for at least this part of my life. If I was born autistic, that doesn’t mean God intended me to never have friends or to ignore the world. It simply means I’m autistic… and that He intended me to live through this for this part of my life. And if I was born with same-gender attraction, that doesn’t mean God intended me to follow my feelings and find a guy, or to never fall in love with a girl and raise a family. It simply means I’m attracted to men.

I know I’m imperfect. I have a long way to go before becoming truly like Christ. But God has something better in store for me… and that’s why I was born into an imperfect world, with an imperfect body and imperfect mind. He wants me—the spirit inside everything else—to have the best chance of being changed and exalted… and that’s exactly why I was born that way.

Leave a Reply

10 comments

  1. avatar

    I love how you expressed the ideas in your post. I realize that some people will be a little offended that many of the parallels you have with being gay are all generally considered weaknesses (blind, autistic, bipolar, etc.) but you also included a few that aren’t (rich, royalty, family ties). We could compare having a gay orientation to being good at math. Is it inborn, or is it culturally developed? Either way, if we define ourselves by our math skills, it is not healthy. Sure, being good at math can be a great thing, but if you look down at others for having poorer math skills, or decide that because you are a math person you don’t have to (or can’t) learn to read or get physical exercise, it will lead to problems and becomes a weakness rather than a strength. To the person, it doesn’t really matter where the trait came from, but how they let the trait change and shape their development. There’s not just one way to develop, but there are definitely some unhealthy ways and some healthy ways.

  2. avatar

    GMP

    I love what you have to say in this post. “Born that way” is such a double-edged sword and the implications therein have been used to enslave the proletariat, enable criminal behavior and encourage stagnation, as you put it.

    But the only flaw I find with your reasoning (and the flaw that many people latch onto) is that straight people are also “born that way” and what you termed stagnation, the act of being who you were born as, is not a problem for straight people in the church. No one would say that a man getting married to a woman is being stagnant or refusing to progress, like some would say about gay marriage. Gays are being asked to live a double standard; where being “born that way” is no problem for straight people, it is an issue for gays.

    I’m interested to see how others reconcile that double standard, because if I’m being honest, it’s a difficult one for me to wrap my head around.

    • avatar

      GMP

      To be 100% clear, I love what you had to say and it jives with my own beliefs very well. I just am interested in refining it more.

    • avatar

      I think that a straight person can absolutely stagnate, and it is a big problem. Someone might get married because they are straight and start a family. But if they rely on just their attraction to their spouse as the foundation for their marriage, they will eventually fall out of love and get divorced. They have to work at marriage to make it grow, to keep it vibrant, or it will stagnate.

      As a side note, in a mixed orientation marriage, if this stagnation happens, I imagine it would be blamed on orientation problems. On the other hand, a mixed orientation marriage where the spouses are building their relationship because they feel the extra effort will help, might be better off than a traditionally oriented marriage where they don’t realize the need. In this case, you might even say the mixed orientation of the marriage provides extra awareness for the need to cultivate the relationship, and so adds strength to the marriage.

      Back to the point, what you see as a double standard, I see as just an unfairness. It’s not fair that some people are better at math than others. It’s not fair that some people’s relationship desires are easy to fulfill, and others are difficult, or may never be fulfilled at all. It’s not fair that some people are born into privilege and others into poverty. It’s not fair that some people have a natural gift for sports while others have severe physical limitations.

      I think what David is trying to say is that it’s not necessarily a good idea to passively let our circumstances define us, but that we should take more control in our own development. We all develop and change throughout our lives. Where we start is important, but it doesn’t ultimately decide what we become. Our own personal choices along the way contribute more significantly.

  3. avatar

    David Peterson

    I totally get your point, but I don’t think that it’s necessarily the fact that straight people don’t have things to change. I’ve met plenty of people who had issues with promiscuity, or pornography, who have had to get over their natural man. Is it different? Definitely. But it’s along the same spectrum – issues with the carnal man and the law of chastity that impede their progression.

    There are plenty of natural inclinations that are good. Like the guy who really wants to marry a girl and start a family, or the person who has an innate understanding of math and hence doesn’t need to work as hard at understanding math. But that person has other things he needs to overcome. Is chastity more complicated for those of us whose natural inclinations don’t match the Plan? Definitely. Of all the potential differences, is homosexuality one of the more complex? Yeah. But I don’t think it’s a question of something that one person has to overcome and another doesn’t.

  4. avatar

    Rex

    I think it has a lot to do with the very popular view of life as victims of the cosmos. We do what we do because God or some other regulator of everything has ordained it and we have no choice in the matter, in any matter, for that matter. What does it matter?

    People stagnate in their victimhood. Those who don’t stagnate are those who recognize that life comes with innumerable disadvantages and advantages. The choice is the individual’s to decide how to deal with them and what things to choose. I get along with anyone who says that his behavior is a matter of his own choices, even if I don’t agree with them. I find it hard to relate to people who say that everything that happens in life is as a result of being victim to one force or another.

  5. avatar

    Laurie Campbell

    Excellent blog. You make some unique points and present the concept of “Born That Way” in a new light. Great job. Your intelligence and the strength of your spirit/spiritual insight come shining through! Thanks for taking the time to write it.

  6. avatar

    Justin McPheters

    Thank you for this post. You beautifully articulated profound truth regarding what God intends for us to do and not do with our mortal circumstances. So applicable to our common mortal experience.

  7. avatar

    j4k

    I freaking love this post. thanks

  8. avatar

    Kerry Harding

    I found the following paragraph particularly timely and relevant for my own life:
    “And that is why the Lord gives me unique circumstances—same-sex attraction, bipolar, autism, and everything else—because those are the experiences I need in life as stepping stones to build myself and my world. That they are there is real. The malleable part of that reality is what comes next.”

    A couple of weeks ago, I was diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease. In anquish and disappointment, I cried out out to God, “What? Having to deal with sexual abuse and same attraction is not enough for one person? Why me? Why this? Why now?” Your paragraph beautifully answered that question. It is stepping stone to build myself in ways I don’t yet know or understand. Will it make me slow down? Be more patient? Appreciate the things I have taken for granted during the first 55 years of my life? Maybe. Maybe it’s something else. One of my friends suggested that, after spending my life being completely self-reliant and focused on serving others, it is a time to humble myself enough to allow others to serve me — because there will come a time when the things I did effortlessly for myself — tie my shoes, write, eat — I will longer be able to do. THANK YOU, David for your perspective at a time I needed it most. I feel much better now.