Guest review by A. T. Ross : Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic (Cities of the Biblical World) by Elizabeth R Moberly
This importance of this book cannot be overestimated. In it Dr. Moberly reassesses the Christian response to homosexuality. By this, I don’t mean that she tries to get around the obvious condemnation of homosexuality in Scripture, but rather that in focusing on the acts themselves we have utterly missed the point, and this actually hinders our treatment and approach to homosexuals seeking escape from their lifestyle.
She argues that Christians have commonly assumed that homosexuality comes to expression through deficient development in their relationships with the opposite sex. In other words, we think that homosexuality originates in disliking the opposite sex and that the solution is for homosexuals to develop strong relationships with members of the opposite sex, or get married.
By way of contrast, she proposes that homosexuality actually stems from developmental problems with a parental figure of the same sex. There is a deficiency in their relationship with their father, in the case of gay men, or their mother, in the case of lesbians. They did not get what they needed from this parent, and thus their ability to relate to their same sex is underdeveloped, and so they seek erotic and sexual encounters as a way of trying to resolve this psychological craving for affirmation and love from someone of the same sex.
In other words, homosexuality is not the problem. It is actually a confused expression of the solution. The homosexual’s mind is trying to get closure on an unresolved tension with their parent-figure, because the deficit is in relating to members of the same sex. It is wrong, condemned in Scripture, and misguided, but it is actually an unconscious attempt to develop a loving relationship with someone of the same sex.
Thus, she says, the only treatment available to homosexuals is to develop proper friendships with members of the same sex, rather than erotic relationships with members of the opposite sex. Apparently this is where treatment problems occur, because it is assumed that the relational deficit lies with the opposite sex and not the same sex.
She also points out that because homosexual activity is the desperate response of a person who has become a psychological orphan, the Scriptural injunctions towards the fatherless actually apply to homosexuals. She writes
“The perfect will of God for human growth is checked whenever a child is orphaned. However, although being an orphan is in this sense ‘against the will of God,’ one does not therefore seek to punish an orphan for being an orphan. Rather, to seek the will of God in such a situation implies doing all that one can to make good whatever deficits are involved. By analogy, the homosexual condition, as involving deficits in the ability to relate to the parent of the same sex, is not culpable as such, but rather requires the resolution of the deficits in question. To thwart the resolution of these deficits and to hinder the fulfillment of unmet needs is comparable to oppressing the orphan, indeed is a form of such oppression.”
She goes on: “Unmet needs are to be met – but without eroticisation. It is the sexual expression of pre-adult psychological needs that is unacceptable . . .” (pp 35-36).
Her solution? The Church must befriend the homosexual, and part of the mercy ministry of the church ought to include developing regular and close friendships with homosexuals. She does not get into this, but surely these friendships ought not to be merely with those similar in age to the homosexual, but to men or women in the church of older age through which the need for a father or mother figure can be even more easily filled. In this way they will attain resolution to the deficit of same sex relationships and the psychological tension will be resolved.
This was an astonishing little book, and one which every Christian layman, pastor, and counselor ought to read and put into effect. It was incredibly convicting. The fact that homosexuality has become part of the polarizing culture wars has driven all of them virtually from the churches who can actually help them, and forced them into “accepting” churches who are not interested in helping them overcome their psychological tensions. We of a conservative bent must do a better job of dealing with this issue, and treat gays not as monsters or evil people bent on the downfall of the west, but as injured orphans, many of whom do not know what it is they need. We must stop being weirded out by them, and show some compassion for once in our lives. Only then will there be true relief, both for us and for them. Do we really imagine that God will not judge us (and is not already judging us) for rejecting and persecuting the psychological orphan and fatherless?