I once asked a ferryboat captain if steering a ferry was any different than driving, say, a big semi truck. He looked at me like I had just asked whether a bowling ball fell when you dropped it. “It’s completely different,” he said. “On the river, you never stay pointing at the same place. The river is always moving underneath you.”
A popular argument against gay rights is the slippery slope argument: if you allow two men to get married, soon you’ll have a line out the courthouse door and down the block of people wanting to validate their sexual choices. If it’s consensual, and both parties are in a sound mind, who are you to say them nay? We’ve seen this come true in predictable ways, with polygamists, bisexuals, and people who practice bestiality all shouting that they want to be accepted, too.
It’s a big, bison-in-the-living-room kind of problem. What I want to do is focus on the argument itself. The slippery slope has proven itself quite slippery, but the argument hasn’t yet made any converts. No one who is riding down a slippery slope admits it. In the case of gay rights, they actually believe they are climbing a mountain of progress. They believe that, by being true to their own desires, they are living life the way it ought to be lived.
The problem with the slippery slope metaphor is that it assumes there’s a flat top to the slope, a sort of plateau from which “normal people” gaze down at those who walked too close to the edge and toppled off. But God didn’t make a world where “normal people” can stand and cluck their tongues at those languishing below them. Wherever you are, you’re heading somewhere and you have to be careful of your direction. The river is always moving underneath you. To be is to become. A better way of looking at the debate – a more Biblical path – is to assume that everyone is moving one of two directions: towards their heavenly Father, or away from Him.
Of course, there’s a blunt reality to the way the world works. Biologically and culturally, it makes sense for marriage to involve one man and one woman. Frankly, it’s the only way cultures can continue to exist. But while our instincts may tell us that this is the correct way to do things, there are instincts in the world that are telling people the exact opposite. Read Twitter. Watch TV. It’s not enough to appeal to common sense. Our instincts themselves need to be shaped by God.
In Romans 1, Paul says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18). Later, he goes on to say, “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools… Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves…” (vv. 21-24).
Paul isn’t saying that unrighteous men can’t perceive how biology works. Paul tells us that they “exchanged the truth of God for the lie” (1:25). Judgment visited these men because they didn’t confess God as Lord, despite the fact that Creation won’t stop shouting about His eternal power and Godhead. Once they had exchanged truth for lies, they couldn’t tell up from down, good from bad, or death from life. The first step in their downfall was their rejection of God, and only afterward did perversion seem to be a good idea. But it really did seem like a good idea. Once God is out of the picture, there’s no reason why biology isn’t yours to command.
Christians sometimes speak of sex as if it were the primal boundary in Creation (“though heaven and earth pass away, your gender shall never pass away. . . ”). Without sex, we might as well be nothing, which is one reason why homosexuality makes some people profoundly uncomfortable. If we can’t rely on the birds and the bees, what can we rely on?
While sexuality does involve far more of the world than simply our bodies, it makes a very poor hook to hang your ideological cape on. The simple fact of the matter is that sexuality is more changeable than not. Transformative would be a better word. God created Adam a man, with all the parts of a man. But we were not all created like Adam, physically mature. Boys are not born with all the characteristics of a man. There are undeniable suggestions, of course, and over time those seeds of masculinity give the boy desires and abilities that give him a direction, a focus, and a drive. We shouldn’t treat these things lightly – man, male and female, is made in God’s image. But puberty is a full body makeover, and sex is what drives that transformation.
The same goes for the woman, though hers is even more radical. Puberty causes more changes in a woman than in a man, and pregnancy takes it even further. Her body grows, her organs shift, her tastes change. She is forced to alter herself to accommodate another, smaller human growing inside her.
When Adam was asleep, God didn’t ask for permission before splitting him open and removing a rib. And while Adam may have felt a twinge in his side when he woke up, its importance faded to nothing compared to the woman he saw before him. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” The distinctions between male and female are nowhere more obvious than in marriage, and yet, Genesis tells us that the man and his wife were one flesh. Once again, sex alters, it transforms. To be a husband is to become one flesh with your wife and to be a wife is to become one flesh with your husband.
I’m not saying that sex is merely an illusion and it’s high time we got past all those messy distinctions. Adam was a man, not a woman. And the obviousness of Adam’s maleness is a huge blessing to him because it tells him something about himself and his relationship to God. The way that he reflects the image of God is in a male way. When Eve arrives, she reflects God’s image in femininity. The fact that God created us each as a man or a woman should fill us with grateful awe. It’s a secret He’s given us about Himself. Marriage doesn’t erase those distinctions, but it places them side-by-side so that their differences are more obvious. Paradoxically, the more the husband and wife honor their one-flesh covenant, the more their masculinity and femininity are on display.
Marriage gives the man and woman the opportunity to use their sexuality to become more like Christ. But marriage isn’t the only way to become like Him. All righteous sexuality points us to Him, married or unmarried, gay or straight. Rather than assume that if we live according to what’s obvious, we will be saved, we should confess that we are broken people, in our sexuality as much as anywhere else. Sex, designed to make us more like God, has torn us away from him. Everything about our sexuality should make us fall down in worship – and pine for the savior who saves us as men and women. We are all one in Christ Jesus. There is neither slave nor free, male nor female, but that doesn’t erase your past, the story of how you came to be His. You came as a man or a woman, and now you are accepted as a son.
If there is a slippery slope, then we are all on it, at one level or another. At one end, darkness. At the other, Christ. What good does it do to tell someone that their sexual behavior makes no sense when all of us are required to surrender our sexual selves to God? While surrendering your sexuality may involve getting married to someone of the opposite sex, it could just as easily involve lifelong celibacy. Heterosexual desire fulfilled can draw us close to Jesus, and homosexual desire unfulfilled can also draw us close to Jesus. The point is not whether or not your sexual desires are met. The point is to become like Jesus. That’s what makes the world go round.
Christian Leithart is a staff writer at Project Opus Films in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
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