There has been much in the news over the last few year about Christians trying to cure gays. Silly Christians… In California there is a current court battle about the proposed ban on gay conversion therapies for minors. Between 1952 when the American Psychological and Psychiatric Associations published their first Manual of Mental Disorders including homosexuality as a disorder and 1973 when the National Institute of Mental Health took it off the list questioning its scientific accuracy. People did for a short period of time consider homosexuality a medical disorder which needed treatment. Recently a well known Christian leader withdrew from President Obama’s inauguration due to a message he had given 20 years earlier saying that gays could find healing. So is homosexuality a sickness that can be cured? I do not believe so, in the specific way we usually speak of sickness like cancer, schizophrenia or influenza. If it is not sickness then using language like healing, curing or praying the gay away would be inappropriate and I believe it is unhelpful and even harmful.
Before answering the “cure” part of the question before us, it bears taking some time to look at the “gay” or “homosexual” part of the question. There is an assumed premise in the question that homosexuality is not a sexual behavior, instead it is the identity of a people group. As a Christian I believe in the biblical view of sexual union. All sexual union outside of the marriage covenant between a man and a woman is sinful. Much sexual union in our culture happens outside of this covenant and is therefore by this definition “sinful”. However not all sexual activity leads to an identity. We do not identify individuals as fornicators or adulterers. However both the church, the LGBT community and wider society accept and use the term homosexual to refer to identity (which in turn leads to civil group) rather than activity. With this being the case there is a current culture war in the US which sees conservatives pitted against liberals in the war over LGBT rights. If the LGBT is a community they deserve civil rights and so the discussion is about civil rights.
Naming things and people has a profound power to create identity of that said thing or person. I believe that homosexuality is the action of same-sex sexual union, and not a necessary identity. This should be a point of profound disagreement between Christians who have a belief in the authority of scripture and those in the LGBT community. It is highlighted by Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly “gay” Bishop in the Episcopal church who recently stated “Gay is not something we do, It’s something we are. I’m not just gay when I’m making love to my husband. I’m gay all the time. I’m gay right this minute talking to you, and it … affects how I relate to the world, how I relate to people.”.
This brings up by necessity another crucial question. Is homosexuality a choice? Or are people “born like this”? If people are born this way it is either “natural” and needing to be embraced or either it is a disorder that needs to be treated. I actually believe both of these approaches are red herrings. As a Christian I believe that all humanity is born “in sin”. The traditional approach of the Latin, Eastern and Orthodox Church (ie nearly the complete testimony of Church History) to sin that is found from the narrative of Genesis to the entire corpus of Pauline literature is that sin entered the world through Adam and Eve. Because of this initial action all humanity is inherently corrupt. Before this is dismissed as an absurd idea, please look at the data of just a few generations in today’s world. Doing studies on sex offenders (e.g. rapists, child offenders etc) We see that often sex offenders were abused themselves as children. Did these individuals have a choice over their destiny? I believe ultimately everyone has a choice over their actions, but it is not as easy a choice as we might like to believe, many of these individuals need help. In recent years it has been proved that there is an “alcoholic” gene. Often those who have parents who are alcoholics will have a greater propensity to become alcoholics themselves. Is the alcoholic gene natural? It would appear so, however even if it is I believe it is as a result of sin and inherent corruption in humanity and therefore should not be embraced as good, but should instead be recognized as sinful and harmful. This is the crux of the gospel however, we all are inherently corrupt and we all need help, none of us can redeem ourselves from the curse of sin. None of us will be released from the temptation of sin except through the power of the cross of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a foundational belief in Christianity, no matter what your sin, no matter what your false identity, no matter what your idol. Jesus can redeem you. So is same sex a sickness, no, but it is a sin. And like any other sin it requires the solution of Jesus’s redeeming blood. All people are inherently selfish and sinful, all people need help, Jesus offers that help.