"We sin against homosexuals by insisting that sexual temptation and attraction are predominately chosen," wrote the Rev. Albert Mohler, the influential president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mohler's position is a startling departure from years of insistence among fundamentalists that gay rights advocates are wrong when they say homosexuality is not something they choose.Some people are prone to alcoholism. Mohler is saying alcoholism is like homosexuality. We know alcohol abuse is wrong and damages oneself and others. So there is reason to hold alcoholics accountable. And to develop treatments for alcoholism.
Even more surprising, perhaps, is the implication of Mohler's statement that science can help inform Christians' response to moral questions — a rare admission among evangelicals.
In an interview with TIME, Mohler said his statement on gays does not change his views on the morality of homosexuality. "There has been among evangelicals a fear or a misunderstanding that if a scientific causation of homosexuality were discovered that that somehow removes the moral responsibility of the persons making these choices," he said. "But that is not true. The Scripture doesn't say we are responsible only for the temptations we choose. The basic sinfulness of homosexuality, that wouldn't change."
If science proves homosexuality is caused by genetic or other biological reasons, Mohler wrote, it's only a matter of time before science produces a treatment that will cure it. If so, he said, Christians have a duty to use it.
His point, he said, was that if a hormone therapy were developed for fetuses that would help them be born straight rather than gay, he would support its use, just as he would support medical treatment to give sight to the blind fetus.
That's what has angered gay rights advocates, and overshadowed Mohler's concession that homosexuals may be born that way. "What is wrong with Mohler's argument is that it implies that there is something wrong with being gay," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "I would welcome the fact that they are beginning to concede that homosexuality is not a chosen lifestyle. But it is hard for me to believe that anyone that would then conclude that our next step ought to be to get about the business of changing everybody is really offering any sort of enlightened view."
The territory Mohler still won't explore is why he thinks a homosexual lifestyle is wrong. He would point to scriptural condemnations, I suppose. But intellectual honesty requires, I think, that we identify the scriptural principles that guide the good life. Somehow I don't think it boils down to a list of rights and wrongs. Love is not a list, nor is justice, nor is sin.
"He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)
(Aside: Which is he? A fundamentalist or an evangelical? They're not coincident.)