Zack Harrington

Exactly seven months after the publication of Charles Darwin’s book On The Origin of Species, a famous debate occurred at Oxford University. A number of people were involved but the two main protagonists were Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, a descendant of William Wilberforce, who led the fight against slavery, and Thomas Henry Huxley.

Wilberforce did not handle the debate very well, trying to ridicule Huxley for believing monkeys were his ancestors.  Sadly, this was typical of churches at the time, who dismissed fossils as being planted by Satan.

Religious belief has been in decline ever since.

I fear conservative churches are about to make a similar mistake in the next few years over the issue of same sex attraction, or homosexuality.

“America Reframed” is a PBS World television series that highlights significant changes taking place in the United States.  Last week’s program focused on Norman, Oklahoma, which soon found itself deeply divided following the suicide of a 19-year-old man who took his life after a Council meeting.  The episode, “Broken Heart Land,” profiled teen Zack Harrington, a young gay man with HIV/AIDS.  The Council meeting discussed a request to commemorate LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered) History Month.  The attitudes shown by people he had known all his life upset Zack and led directly to his taking his own life.

Zack’s parents were conservative Republicans who were suddenly faced with the worst crisis in their lives.

Another significant player was a local pastor running for election.

Without realizing it, the documentary got to the crux of the matter.

Homosexual acts are always a choice and always a sin . . . as are heterosexual acts outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.  But are homosexual feelings always a choice? A great deal hangs on this question and its answer.

And this is where churches are in danger.

In my ministry, I helped a number of people struggling with homosexual feelings. Every single one of them told me they knew they were different as young as 3.  They did not choose to be attracted to the same sex.   Some felt they were born with SSA (Same Sex Attraction); others that it was caused in the first three years of life, within the family dynamic. Either way, the feelings were not their fault.  However, they had to learn how to live with them.

As Christian adults, they wanted to obey God but found themselves struggling with their sexual feelings. They struggled with “Desires in Conflict,” the title of a book by Joe Dallas. This conflict was not easy to resolve. What was particularly hard to accept was the attitude of other Christians, who blamed them for having the problem in the first place. They soon learned to hide, to keep it all to themselves. For many, it was a very lonely existence.

A couple of weeks ago, The Economist cover was titled “The Gay Divide,” showing how divided the world is over this issue. Roughly half the world is accepting while the other half is condemning. It’s a dialogue of the deaf.

It was clear from the documentary on Norman, Oklahoma, that most Christians are convinced people choose to be homosexual. This is the root of the great divide.

It’s not so much that churches will be persecuted for taking a hard line stance; what seems more likely is that churches will be ridiculed for holding to the position that it’s a choice. Again, sexual acts are a choice but should be treated equally with illicit heterosexual acts, something the civil law already does. The Apostle Paul did the same in I Corinthians 6:9-11, listing adultery and fornication in the same passage with homosexual acts. “ Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”

When churches accept that same sex attraction, in most cases, is not a choice, it will at least lead to Christian compassion and love, qualities that were seriously lacking in Norman, Oklahoma.   It may also help the churches avoid becoming like the fossils they ridiculed 150 years ago.


  1. Well written Melvin. I think we also need to be careful not to call people homosexual who have homosexual feelings but don’t follow through on those feelings.

    If one struggles with the desire to steal or lie one is not a thief or a liar until they act on that feeling.

  2. Well said! I know many wonderful people who are homosexual. We must have the same feeling towards them as we do any other person. The world and the Word look at things quite differently. We must be very compassionate in our dealings and hate the sin while we love the sinner. Isn’t that what was done for each of us who call Him Lord?

  3. Melvin, thanks for writing this.

    I grew up near Norman, Oklahoma, in a small town of about 500 people. Back in the 60s, I knew as a kid that I could never let anyone know that I had “queer” feelings – even though they seemed natural to me. I am thankful that my family didn’t reject me when they learned that I am homosexual. (Actually, I was “outed” by my mother 1975 – on the very same day that I was moving to Seattle. She asked me if the man I was going to see in Seattle was homosexual. I thought frantically for about 3 seconds… I couldn’t lie to her – so I just said “yes.” It happened that fast.)

    I came into the Worldwide Church of God back in the 70s. As a young man, it was very difficult to be in the church and hear hostile and unkind things said by brethren who seemed to think the same things about gay people as the people of Norman Oklahoma expressed.

    Yes, it is true that behavior (for everyone) is a choice – but my homosexual attraction was not something that I consciously chose. The struggle to live as a celibate man in the Church of God was very difficult. Today, that struggle (partly due to age and partly due to learning to cope) is often a shadow of what it used to be. Yes, homosexuals must repent just like all sinners must repent. Under God’s merciful time-ordered plan – that will happen for most of mankind someday.

    Sadly, the tragic story of the young man you mention is just one of many. This issue won’t be going away. It can’t because pain and emotional conflict are driving it. I wrote an article about this back in 2004 that Mr. Dixon Cartwright published in The Journal newspaper. If anyone wants to read it, it is at: http://www.michael9776.com

    Thanks again.
    “Michael” (not my real name)

  4. I don’t understand Homosexual feelings. I don’t. I can’t imagine being attracted to a member of my own sex. But does my not comprehending give me the right to make a judgment based on what I think the bible and God says about it? I think most of this issue is about fear. Having been brought up in the old version of WCG we were taught to judge based on what the bible said..or rather on what we were told the bible said. But since WCG I have come to know a God of unconditional love for all mankind…all of it…all of us, warts, sins and all. If we started there I wonder how much this debate could change. I don’t know what the rules should be…should Christians allow same sex marriage, should Gay people be allowed to pastor churches? etc…I don’t know. What I do know is that if anyone…any one of God’s children feels rejection; If any one does not feel that they are loved unconditionally and can come to a Father who adores them then this is all wrong and we need to start again. I think it’s an interesting and necessary subject to address but I won’t join the debate on right or wrong. We have to start with the One who loves us and He will have nothing to do with our fear that causes us to reject any person.
    Margaret Halford

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s