Tuesday, April 5, 2011

God Made Me This Way

One of the most difficult arguments to deal with in the debate about homosexuality, is the “God made me this way” argument. The argument in its logical form runs something like this:

P1: I have a strong desire for a good thing: sexual love with another person.
P2: I am able to fulfill this desire only with members of my own sex.
P3: (This is usually a hidden premise) All desires for good things must come from God.
P4: (Also usually a hidden premise) God would not give a desire and then prohibit me from fulfilling it.
Conclusion: God made me gay, and it is therefore morally legitimate for me to act on my homosexual desires.

Most Christian apologetics on the matter focus on attacking P2. Protestant groups especially have tried to demonstrate that homosexuality is not fixed or innate, and that gay people can be brought around to happy heterosexuality. For obvious personal reasons, I’m suspicious of P2, but I do think that it’s fairly clear that there are some people for whom it is true; if not in an absolute sense, certainly in a practical sense. The actual problem, however, is with P4. Christianity must fundamentally reject this premise – and I’m going to argue that any belief in a good and all powerful God must necessarily rest on its rejection.

There are obvious cases where the argument would produce moral nonsense, for example:
P1: I have a strong desire for a good thing: justice.
P2: Justice can only be fulfilled in case X by a vigilante execution.
P3 and P4 as above.
Conclusion: Therefore God has given me the right and duty to lynch this murderin’ son of a barnacle.

We need not, however, resort to cases of obvious immorality, because P4 is untrue even when both the desire and the fulfillment of that desire are unquestionably morally licit. This is one of the central truths at the heart of the Passion. Christ kneels down in Gethsemane, and He asks God for permission to cling to life. The body does not wish to die, human life is a good thing, it is a gift unquestionably given by God, and Jesus, as a man, wants to hold on to it. He asks that the cup of suffering and death be removed – and then adds the most profound statement of Christian faith, “But not my will, but thine be done.”
God does not give permission. He sends His own only begotten Son out to die on the Cross. He says, “No,” and Christ assents to that no, and in assenting, in setting aside His legitimate desires, brings about the salvation of the world.
Oh ho. But perhaps we are talking about a special case here. Christ was God, and He made that sacrifice voluntarily, and presumably He was in on the plan before He was even born. He chose to come into the world to suffer and die, whereas ordinary people have made no such choice. A beneficent and humane God might expect such superhuman self-sacrifice from Jesus, but He would not demand it of us.
The problem with this is as follows: whether God’s “no” comes in the form of a moral prohibition, or in some other form, its effect on the human psyche – not to mention the human life – is the same. It is a readily demonstrable fact that people frequently go to God and beg for things that are objectively just and good, and God says No. People falsely accused rightly ask God to grant them liberty, that they may not spend the next twenty-five years incarcerated for a crime they never committed, and God, through the instrumentality of twelve honest folks, says No. A soldier prays to survive the war that he might return to his family and provide for them and raise his children up to love and serve the Lord, and God says No. An African subsistence farmer prays that the locust swarm may pass to the west, so that she might be able to have food enough to produce milk for the unborn child in her womb, and God says No. Examples can be multiplied endlessly: this is the problem of Evil, and it is the primary objection to the existence of a good and almighty God.
If you don’t believe that God would ever demand profound suffering and privation of human beings, you must become an atheist. There’s no good pretending that a different kind of God exists, because this is the sort of world that we live in. It is a world in which the denial of the ability to enjoy sexual love doesn’t even make the grade on the list of grievous trials which human beings are called to endure. It is a world that could only be justified and redeemed by an act as radical as the Cross: by the absolute and unswerving demonstration, on the part of God Himself, that suffering is not a negation either of the existence of God, or of the meaningfulness of life. That, on the contrary, suffering is the foundation of meaning, that the Cross itself is the way of truth and life.


  1. Mrs. Selmys,
    I watched you appear on EWTN's "Life On The Rock" last week and I just wanted to say that I think you are correct that Catholics should seek to bring Christ to others, including the gay community, through our witness of selfless love rather than shoving dogma or natural law arguments down their throats. I agree that through love and compassion and being able to truly love the person for who they are as a person and showing people that we can love them for who they are is the only way to bring Christ to them and lead them to the Truth revealed by Christ to the Church.
    I think so often my brother and sister Catholics take the approach of the religious right and hate the sin but forget to truly love the sinner, and treat homosexual persons as lepers rather than brothers and sisters in Christ. We can never accept same-sex sexual acts as licit, but we must also never forget that we need to look past what someone is doing and love someone for who they are. Thank you, Mrs. Selmys, for reminding us of that, and I can't wait to read your book.
    In Christ, through Mary,

  2. Nicely done. This is a great dissection of the debate, and concise/logical at that.

  3. This is one of the most cogent, beautifully written posts I have ever read. The last paragraph brought tears to my eyes.
    I have been reflecting on the "God made me this way" argument quite a bit lately, and I have tried to formulate an honest and loving response to it. Thank you for expressing, so exquisitely, what I have struggled to put into words.

  4. Melinda: I do think you're right to focus on Step 4, for the reasons that you gave. Obviously, there's an issue with reparative therapy; whether homosexuality is innate or developed through the classic triad, whether it can be cured or not, the point still remains that God has set his command against gay sex (as He has against heterosexual fornication), and so—to an extent—those issues are not central to the discussion.

    Having said that, I hope you follow up this point with a theodicy of suffering; I'm interested to see where you go with it. Here's my approach to it; I'd appreciate any fill-in comments you might have.

  5. I don't think God make a person homosexual When God made male and female to be together and love one another. Same sex friends are good but without the sex of homosexual.

  6. It isn't always just 25 years of unjust incarceration. Sometimes it is sixty-seven years.

  7. I suggest we tweak premise 4 to:
    God would not give me desire that causes no harm and may help develop me as a human being and prohibit me from fulfilling it.

    And now we add premise 5.
    Acting upon homosexual responsibly causes no harm and may help develop me as a human being.

    Christians will attack premise 5 on the basis that God has revealed homosexual acts to be a sin to the Church. However, followers of other benevolent Gods, such as the one I believe in seeing as I am a modern deist, might not agree that homosexual acts are sinful.

    I look forward to your response Melinda. :)

  8. I suggest you all read "A Letter to Louise".


Please observe these guidelines when commenting:

We want to host a constructive but civil discussion. With that in mind we ask you to observe these basics of civilized discourse:

1. No name calling or personal attacks; stick to the argument, not the individual.

2. Assume the goodwill of the other person, especially when you disagree.

3. Don't make judgments about the other person's sinfulness or salvation.

4. Within reason, stick to the topic of the thread.

5. If you don't agree to the rules, don't post.

We reserve the right to block any posts that violate our usage rules. And we will freely ban any commenters unwilling to abide by them.

Our comments are moderated so there may be a delay between the time when you submit your comment and the time when it appears.