Homosexuality: Know the Truth and Speak It with Compassion
- Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Our new approach incorporates two key elements: truth and compassion. Truth speaks to the content of our message. Compassion addresses the manner in which it's conveyed. It's a winning combination based on principles found in 1 Peter 3:15—defend the truth with gentleness and respect.
Truth starts with a biblical understanding of homosexuality. Although there are six main passages on the subject, for strategic reasons I recommend using Romans 1:26-27 as your primary text. It's in the New Testament, so you sidestep the challenge that the Old Testament verses don't apply to us today. Romans also addresses both male and female homosexuality and outlines the real problem: rebellion against God and rejection of His created order. This makes it difficult to argue that the behavior condemned in the passage is something other than homosexuality.
Knowing the biblical truth about homosexuality is important because many people deny that God condemns homosexual behavior. Indeed, they go to great lengths to reinterpret those six passages. Although they're not successful, their claims sound appealing to people who don't carefully interpret the Bible. If we learn and understand these verses, clearing up this distortion is easy.
Religious arguments, however, are often immediately dismissed by non-Christians. So knowing the truth doesn't mean we learn only biblical arguments. An effective strategy also incorporates secular arguments. This includes appeals to natural law, the common good, and public health. If you can base your views on evidence that make sense even to nonreligious people, you'll be able to speak with anyone.
Getting them to consider your ideas can be difficult though. That's why it's critical to present our views in a conversational manner. We're not typically trained to do that. Too often we try to persuade by making statements instead of asking questions. This immediately raises defenses. Suppose you're discussing whether homosexuality is genetic and say, "Even if being gay is genetic, that doesn't mean that it's right."
Your friend replies with, "Sure it does! I can't deny how I've been created." Now what? Another statement? Their defenses are up, and the conversation grinds to a halt.
Questions, on the other hand, are friendly and more engaging. They invite discussion. Rephrase your statement with a question: "I'm curious to know your thoughts on this. Can you tell me why you think if something is genetic, it must be right?" This is disarming. It doesn't provoke the same knee-jerk reaction. Instead, there's a give and take. People naturally respond to questions, and the discussion moves along.
Or you can gently challenge their belief with a question like this: "Do you think any behavior is morally appropriate simply because it has a genetic link?" Notice that even though you're asking a question, you're still making your point. Just because a behavior has a genetic component, that doesn't make it right. Making your point with a question is friendlier.
Another way to incorporate questions into your conversation is to use the "burden of proof" rule. Applying this rule makes discussions about homosexuality less difficult and more engaging. The burden of proof is simply the responsibility to give proof—credible reasons—in favor of a point of view. The rule is simple: The people who offer an opinion bear the burden to give reasons for it. If they make a claim, it is their job to defend it, not yours to refute it.
Too often Christians ignore this rule. Someone says something like, "Christianity is a homophobic religion," and off we go defending ourselves. This is unnecessary. Why should we do all the work, when they made the statement? They made the claim, so it's their job to defend it.
Simply ask, "How did you come to that conclusion?" or "What reasons do you have for thinking that's true?" Then sit back and quietly listen. The question gently shifts the burden back where it belongs—on the person who made the claim. It asks them to give reasons for their view, which is a legitimate request. It also makes our job easier by taking the pressure off us to respond.
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