Tuesday, January 24, 2006

About "The Homosexual Question"

Note: For those who are wondering what inspires this post, go here.

I have to admit that I have not had much experience with homosexuality as it pertains to pastoral ministry. I have met many homosexual people, counted some as friends. At one point, I was preparing to debate publicly the issue of whether homosexuality is consistent with Christian orthodoxy. I have even done some counseling of believers who have homosexual relatives. That however is but a small fraction of my experience.

The article I read recently (linked above) does not ask the bare question of whether homsoexuality is biblical or not however. It goes into the somewhat murkier waters of how we go about communicating our belief.

We can be honest here: answering a question posed in classroom ought to be answered in a manner different from that which would be used if that same question were posed in, say, a therapy session. The answer should be the same, ultimately. However the two settings are sufficiently distinct to justify different approaches to responding. A classroom setting is strictly informational. However a therapy session is not just looking for information; there is also an element of meaning and significance that is tied into things.

To bring in the current case, in a classroom I would clearly answer that homosexuality is incompatible with biblical Christianity, and I would give my biblical grounds for saying so. I would expect that some questions would arise, but they would deal with the validity of my conclusions and the accuracy of my facts.

In a pastoral visit though, it would be different. I would want to know why they are asking questions about the topic, just as the article's author does. My desire would simply be to discern the question behind the question. That "question behind the question" is really the one that needs to be addressed immediately.

I have made the mistake of not asking about the question behind the question. I was asked once a question about euthanasia. I described what it is, in strictly academic terms. What I did not realize was that the person asking was considering a situation with her father. She was a nurse, and I was addressing the issue as one professional to another; it did not occur to me that there would be any other concerns. The result was that I was labeled as being uncaring, and a relationship was lost.

Now I ask for the question behind the question. I do not assume that people are just looking for information. Most often they are not. Most often I find they are looking to find out if they can trust you. If they can, then they will let you speak to them on the level of dispensing information. At the beginning though there is a need to establish a relationship. Asking about that question behind the question is crucial in establishing that relationship.

Still, we need not abandon or soft peddle our convictions. I have found it effective to simply point out that I do have my convictions, but that for the time being it would be better served to get to know one another. People listen better in the context of a relationship. Once people know our heart we are in a position to give them a piece of our mind.

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