Drawing the Line
There appears to be a movement among youth these days which involves tying one’s identity to their sexuality. One is either heterosexual (straight), homosexual (gay or lesbian), or bisexual (AC/DC). These are terms familiar to most of my generation; the tail end of the Baby Boomers. In our youth, we were aware of these sexual preferences; however, it wasn’t nearly so big of a deal as it is today. The history of the shift is a very interesting study. The latest trend we are witnessing is the “coming out” of transgenderism, which involves one being born with one set of sexual organs attached to the body (either male or female), but identifying one’s self as being the other.
While having a discussion about sexual identity, a teenager advises me that all his friends are bisexual, and he thinks he is bisexual as well. When I asked him what that means to him, he explains that he sometimes is sexually attracted to girls, but sometimes to boys. At different times, he has had a “crush” on either a male or a female. He seemed a bit taken aback when I asked him “what difference does that make?” I explained that in all my years, (being old by most age group standards), although I have never engaged in sexual activity with a male, I have also been sexually attracted to men as well as women at times. I explained that in my early twenties I also held the notion that my “sexual identity” (I guess it is appropriate to call it that) was to refrain from committed relationships and engage in as many sexual encounters with as many women as possible. I was a serious womanizer in those days. Although I don’t agree with this activity today, at the time I felt it was right to do so.
How do we determine what kind of sexual behavior is acceptable, and what is not? Obviously a “moral” question, the type which the world today teaches is not appropriate to put upon anyone. Again I find myself quoting G.K. Chesterton, who notably stated that morality, like art, involves drawing the line somewhere.
Thank God for His Church. It seems always His ways are the best, the right, the moral ways. No matter how much we feel our way best, or perhaps don’t want that Christian morality messing with our good time, the Truth stands fast, and we either learn eventually that His ways are the best ways, or we remain in denial.
So, my question to the young lad, “what difference does that make?” takes on a whole new meaning for the serious Christian. Because God really makes it quite simple for us. As Saint Pope John Paul II so eloquently explains in Theology of the Body, sex is a wonderful beautiful gift that God created for marriage, for which there are only two acceptable purposes. The primary purpose is children. Every sexual act must be open to the possibility of the conception of a new human being. The secondary purpose is the expression of bonding love and unity between a married man and woman. Any sexual behavior outside of these two purposes is sin. Marriage can only be between one man and one woman, and it is a lifetime commitment.
So, it really doesn’t matter if you find a same-sex person sexually appealing. Whether you identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or whatever. If you are not married, and you find yourself sexually drawn to any person of any sex, if you accept and love Jesus, you just don’t go there. It is not a sin to have sexual attractions. It is perfectly normal, regardless of your “preference.” It is not sinful to be attracted to someone, same or opposite sex, as long as we don’t give in to lust. The sin is in the behavior, not in the proclivity. Do we act out on our impulses or do we rise above them?
John Joseph Cardinal O’Connor served as Archbishop of New York from 1984 until his death in 2000. He was adamant concerning Church teaching on sexuality, and he received a lot of static from the society of his day about it. When he would come out with statements supporting the Church’s teaching, he got a lot of bad press, and sometimes hordes of protestors on his doorstep. Something that went unreported however, is how Cardinal O’Connor would visit the AIDS ward in the hospital, lovingly ministering to the suffering there. We are called to hold fast to Truth when it comes to sin. But, we recognize we are all sinners, and there can be no doubt that there are none among us who are free from disordered sexuality.
In our sexually overcharged society it is impossible to avoid the bombardment of sexual imagery. I am a man married and faithful to my wife for almost 22 years now. Thanks be to God! Don’t you think there had to have been times in those years when I was tempted to sin? Of course there were. And I’m sure having to put up with me all this time my dear spouse feels the same as well. But, you see, fidelity is not about whether or not you are tempted. It’s about not responding to the temptation with sinful and disordered behavior. Like Chesterton said, you have got to draw the line somewhere.