I don’t know whether being gay is a choice; and neither does anyone else. So why does this matter so much in our faith communities and for our social policies? Why in the world should the most important things about us be the things we did not choose?
The answer to those questions is at the heart of our worst moments as human beings. Africans didn’t choose to have darker skin, but Euro-Americans enslaved them anyway. Women didn’t choose to be born as women, but men have ensured their second-class citizenship for centuries. I didn’t choose to be born white and male, yet untold benefits attach to my skin color and gender identity.
What about sexuality? Polling data consistently show that most Americans would support full civil rights for lesbian and gay people if sexual orientation is not a choice. That’s probably why Newt Gingrich recently insisted, in characteristically bizarre fashion, that being gay is a choice, just like choosing celibacy to be a Roman Catholic priest. (Read about that here.)
What, exactly, is Newt’s point here? If his point is that we should deny civil rights to people who choose certain ways of life, is he suggesting that we should deny civil rights to Roman Catholic priests? That is, of course, ludicrous. So why is it not equally ludicrous for lesbian and gay people?
Poor Newt isn’t the only one confused about this. Evangelical Christians have been shifting their rhetoric on sexuality over the last few years. Many of them now admit the possibility that being gay or lesbian is not a choice but rather something like a congenital birth defect. (Here’s just one example.) We shouldn’t condemn those born with a heart murmur, or Down’s syndrome, or autism, or (alas) a sexual orientation to people of their same sex. Oh, those poor people; they deserve our pity and compassion.
But I don’t want anyone’s pity for being a gay man. There’s nothing pitiable about being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. To the contrary, I think being gay is really quite fabulous – everyone should try it!
I may have born this way (nod to Lady Gaga) or I may have made choices along my life’s path that made me this way. But it really doesn’t matter. Given the choice, I would choose to be gay all over again, and always with God’s help.
So what does God have to do with this and why am I writing about this now, in this holiday season? Newt’s latest comments may have spurred me on, but this topic is actually perfect for Christmas, and here’s why.
Christmas is the celebration of God choosing to embrace humanity by becoming one of us. Now, this is at least peculiar if not downright queer. Why in the world would God choose to do something so outrageous?
The answer is deceptively simple and profoundly life-changing: God loves us. More than that, God desires us. God is rather crazy about us. God can’t get enough of us and everything else God made. God is totally into what God created. God is so into it that God decided that becoming one with us would be a great idea. Divine desire compelled God to do the unimaginable: become human.
So I want to thank Newt Gingrich for clarifying that Christmas is all about choice. It’s about God’s choice to live in solidarity with us. It’s about our choices to live as authentically as we can in light of God’s love and deep desire for us. It’s about the amazing choices that God and humans make to join earth to heaven in a vision of thriving and flourishing life for all on this planet.
Yes, Newt, choice matters. You might think about why it does when you go to midnight mass on December 24th. Because of God’s truly peculiar choice, we see God’s glory in the flesh, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).