Saturday, June 16, 2012

Complexity and Evolution

After my previous post on homosexuality and Christianity the biggest question that seems to have arose was one not addressed by Josh Weed or myself. People were wondering how gay Christians who don't enter into same-sex relationships deal with their orientation - how do you come to grips with the fact that God made you one way and expects you to act in another?

The simple answer is that God made all of us one way and expects us to act in another. We're all bent towards selfish, self-destructive tendencies in the name of immediate gratification and, at times, self-preservation. Everything from overeating to an almost constant need for sexual contact to a kill or be killed instinct in situations where our safety is jeopardized. We are ingrained with instinctive, natural responses that fly in the face of Christian morality.

Each and every one of us has to deal with the fact that "God made us one way and expects us to act differently."

But I'd like to posit the notion that God doesn't "make" us the way we are; God doesn't "make" people gay. Now I'm not going to argue that orientation is a choice. I don't doubt that a very few people might choose same sex relationships based on some severe trauma or other factors unrelated to orientation, but I don't question that people are born with a specific orientation. In fact, even my own, quite conservative denomination, seems to tacitly acknowledge that lots of people have an intrinsic orientation that is well beyond their control.

The question is not whether people are born with a homosexual orientation, but whether God made them that way.

You might respond, "God made everything," which is technically true, but I hope we're beyond the idea that God made things appear like Barbara Eden. God uses lots of complex systems to create and animate the world in which we live. The more we discover about this world, the more awed we become in its complexity and God's majesty within.

I believe quite strongly that God made a good creation, but I also believe God made a creation that was meant to be united to God, a creation that suffers when it acts counter to God's design, even if those actions are instinctive, inborn, and entirely natural. The point being that we discover the true beauty in self-denial, in thinking of others before ourselves. It's entirely counter intuitive, but, for me at least, based on my experience, seems to explain a lot.

Our best guess at why and how we've arrived at this point in history is the theory of evolution. Over time species have evolved into greater complexity through a natural selection of traits most fit for reproduction. Evolution is that drive for self-preservation deep within us. It is entirely natural, even as it runs counter to God's plan. For a while, I chalked up evolutionary outcomes contrary to God's purposes to the overall effects of sin in the world. Humanity, as a whole, corrupted itself over time, leading to the imperfections each of us possess. Of course this doesn't explain similar abnormalities in other species and evident long before humans showed up.

At this point, I don't really have an answer, but I'm playing with the idea that God's relationship to creation is even more complex that we could ever imagine. The explanations are beyond me, but I do believe we exist with a bent towards selfishness, but will find fulfillment only in denying that drive and committing completely to selfless living.

So, in a very real sense, we each have been "created" with drives and predispositions to things that are not part of God's plan for life.

Some of these predispositions are more obvious than others - dwarfism, albinism, homosexual orientation - all groups of people subject to derision and persecution over the course of human history, for things over which they had no control. It seems like much of the struggle for gay rights has simply been getting society to acknowledge "it's ok for me to be this way." Rolling Stone published an article about Peter Dinklage a few weeks ago, dealing with his struggle to be known as a person, not a little person.

This path has been tread (and continues to be) by people with different levels of skin pigmentation. We're working through this process for addicts and those with mental imbalances. Each of these traits that were likely inborn.

So often we attempt to apply a morality to such inborn traits, when in reality morality can only be ascribed to actions. This struggle is detrimental to everyone, but especially painful for homosexuals who end up hating themselves for nothing more than existing. It takes a monumental effort just to put everyone on the same footing before we can even get to ethics - a judgment of actions, which is really where people get hung up. Ethics and our understanding of how people act on their homosexual orientation is really where the drama occurs.

That depends much more on your understanding of God, humanity, life, and your place in the world than it does about your sexual orientation or the way God "made" you.


Odist_Abettor said...

You made a really important point here when you said "in reality morality can only be ascribed to actions." I've been thinking a lot lately about free will and the contradiction between natural drives and the apparent moral expectations of the Creator, and, as you pointed out, it does become more and more complex with evolution. Our higher brain functions make such a mess with things like "free will" and questions of why would someone punish their work for working the way it was made to work and stuff like that... but then other times I think of how important it is that "God looks at the heart", and since we can't really understand God's heart except through the bit we get to see in the love of Christ then and now, perhaps we must choose whether or not to give the Creator the benefit of the doubt by living morally or counter-naturally.

Ryan said...

I think we also tend to look at creation as unilateral. If I want something to work one way, I make it to work that way and no other. Creation was designed to work in right relationship to God, but it also functions without that relationship. The outcomes are vastly different, but both are functional worlds.

If your goal for life is just to get through it, there's a lot of ways to do that. If the goal is to somehow find enough love and beauty in life to make an eternal life even remotely desirable, it's a bit more tricky.