The results of a major study on sexuality and gender have been released, and it completely dismantles the reigning assumptions of our culture.
The work was published by The New Atlantis, co-authored by leading experts Dr. Lawrence Mayer and Dr. Paul McHugh, and involved hundreds of peer-reviewed studies. It is serious scholarship from highly regarded scholars and the conclusions challenge what we are accustomed to hearing about sexuality.
One finding, in particular, is sure to cause controversy: “The belief that sexual orientation is an innate, biologically fixed human
property — that people are ‘born that way’— is not supported by scientific evidence.”
As it turns out, the “born that way” narrative is just as naïve as the ‘choose to be gay’ narrative. What the study reveals instead is a deeply complex understanding of human sexuality. Things like sexual orientation and gender confusion are not biologically fixed nor are they autonomously chosen, rather they formed by the convergence of many factors.
It may come as a surprise, but the Bible actually shares a complex view of sexuality.
A Christian worldview sees human beings as an integration of both body and soul, meaning we are neither the sum total of our physical biology nor independent souls trapped in a body. Instead, we are an inextricable union of the two. Complicating things even further is the Bible’s view of us as social beings inhabiting a story with unique experiences that form both body and soul in countless ways.
All of this has implications for sexuality. My sexuality, as an intricate part of me, is as equally complex as I, and the results of this latest study bear that out.
In addition to noting the complexities of human sexuality, the study also identifies the alarming mental-health crisis within the LGBTQ population. The data is heartbreaking — highly elevated risks of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide.
The most prevalent explanation for this crisis is social stress, such as stigma and discrimination, but the study also challenges this common assumption: “The social stress model probably accounts for some of the poor mental health outcomes experienced by sexual minorities, though the evidence supporting the model is limited, inconsistent and incomplete.”
In other words, the data leave us searching for different ways to explain the immense pain that accompanies human sexuality.
I believe the Christian worldview helps make sense of this as well. In addition to our complexity, the Bible also speaks of human personhood as fallen. In defiance of our Creator’s design, none of us are as we ought to be, and perhaps nowhere do we sense this more than in our sexuality.
To put it bluntly, nobody is “straight.”
That is if we define straight as more than heterosexual attraction. If the standard is God’s perfect intentions for human sexuality, then nobody escapes the reality of sexual brokenness. When it comes to our sexual desires, thoughts, secrets and practices, we all know something is off, and it haunts us.
The modern remedy is to deconstruct sexual ethics and replace them with a new paradigm where everything is normal and anything goes. But this is failing us, because deep down we know it to be untrue. Our society keeps saying there is nothing broken about our sexuality, but in our most vulnerable moments, no one believes it. And the mental-health crisis associated with sexuality testifies that this is so.
So what can be done? The study doesn’t seek to answer that question but simply concludes with the need for more dialogue: “We hope that this report contributes to the ongoing public conversation regarding human sexuality.”
My question is whether there is any room in that public discourse for a Christian perspective on sexuality? If so, then I have an unconventional invitation: What if the first step toward wellness is acknowledging brokenness? Instead of trying to normalize sexual shame, regret and guilt, why not just admit them? Why not tell the truth about your broken sexuality?
To all who are willing to do so, the Bible offers far more than a helpful diagnosis; it extends to you a hopeful promise — the promise of forgiven and redeemed sexuality.
The Rev. Robert Cunningham is senior pastor of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in Lexington. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org