“Some words, like strategic castles, are worth defending, and evangelical is among them,” Michael Gerson wrote. “While the term is notoriously difficult to define, it certainly encompasses a ‘born-again’ religious experience, a commitment to the authority of the Bible, and an emphasis on the redemptive power of Jesus Christ.”
Gerson, who previously served as a top aide and speechwriter for George W. Bush and is the author of Heroic Conservatism and coauthor of City of Man (a book edited by Collin Hansen and Tim Keller), has been an evangelical voice in the public square. It’s unfortunate, then, that he now uses arguments about sexuality that contradict Scripture and the church’s historic witness. As he notes, being an evangelical means being committed to the Bible’s authority—a position he seems to have now abandoned.
Has the LGBT+ Movement Harmed Anyone?
During Pride Month, Gerson used his forum in The Washington Post to write about “how the gay rights movement found such stunning success.” The article’s key thesis is that “in the conflict over gay rights, supporters have asserted a compelling view of human dignity, while opponents have struggled to explain how broadening rights harms others.” To support his claim, Gerson provides three examples.
Being an evangelical means being committed to the authority of the Bible—a position Gerson seems to have now abandoned.
For his first example, Gerson writes, “Some conservatives claimed that gay marriage would somehow weaken the institution of straight marriage. But the evidence that same-sex marriage increases rates of divorce, child poverty or children living in single-parent homes appears nonexistent.” His criteria reveals that he never truly understood the argument for how heterosexual marriages would be weakened by same-sex marriage.
Consider, for example, the issue of the redefinition of marriage. For almost all of human history, marriage has been considered the comprehensive union of man and woman that unites them for the purposes of procreation, family life, and domestic sharing. By simply redefining the term, it automatically devalued the institution.
If Gerson is looking for a more direct harm, he could look at the rise of nonmonogamous relationships. As I wrote nine years ago, being “monogamish” (i.e., when a couple is emotionally intimate only with each other yet engages in sexual infidelities or group sexual activity) has long been considered acceptable, even normative, within homosexual communities. As our nation embraces the acceptance of same-sex marriage, the idea that fidelity isn’t required within marriage has also been increasingly accepted.
A poll taken in 2021 found that the generation of adults most influenced by LGBT+ culture is adopting this view of fidelity. Four in 10 millennials (41 percent) said they’d be interested in having an open relationship. Among millennials who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or other, 52 percent would be interested in open relationships. Among married couples from every generation, 30 percent of husbands would be interested, while fewer wives (21 percent) feel similarly.
This shouldn’t be surprising since queer theory and LGBT+ activists have long stated that fidelity in relationships is a “heteronormative” standard that needs to be discarded.
It’s surprising that anyone can still believe the fight over same-sex marriage was about opening the door for marital fidelity for homosexuals. Whatever we were led to believe, the reality is that lesbians and gay men have limited interest in getting married. Only 4 percent of gay men and 6 percent of lesbians choose marriage, compared to (the historic low of) 53 percent for heterosexuals. About 30 percent of gay men are in nonmonogamous relationships, which means they’re five times more likely to be in an open relationship than to be married and faithful to their partner. Even bisexuals are more likely to be married (32 percent), though to an opposite-sex partner (84 percent of bisexuals are involved with someone of the opposite sex).
No Longer ‘Born This Way’
Gerson also argues that another reason for supporting gay rights is “an implication of genetics.” “Though there seems to be no single ‘gay gene,’ scientists in the field generally affirm a role for genetics in the determination of sexual orientation,” he says. “And imposing social or legal disadvantages on individuals for an unchosen disposition seems a violation of basic fairness.”
Gerson doesn’t seem to realize that the argument from genetics peaked around 2011 with Lady Gaga’s song “Born This Way.” The trend now is to admit that sexuality is “fluid.” Indeed, for more than 20 years longitudinal research has shown that people sometimes change their sexual orientation. And a study published in the journal Science in 2019 put an end to the claim that a “gay gene” causes homosexuality.
Also, in 2021 nearly one in 10 (9.1 percent) millennials (Americans born between 1981 and 1996) and one in six (15.9 percent) members of Gen Z (born 1997–2002) identified as LGBT+. In comparison, only 3.8 percent of Gen X (born 1965–1980), 2 percent of baby boomers (born 1946–1964), and 1.3 percent of traditionalists (born before 1946) identify as something other than heterosexual.
Does Gerson believe genetics has changed so rapidly that unchosen sexual orientation is doubling every generation? Doesn’t he see how social contagion and normalized homosexuality, more than just public acceptance, have led to the trendiness of identifying as homosexual? If the disposition can be chosen—as many young people will claim—then his argument falls apart.
Maybe the Bible Is Just Wrong?
But his most perplexing reason—at least for someone who identifies as an evangelical—is that the Bible may just be wrong:
Among religious young people, certain questions are growing more insistent: Why should we assess homosexuality according to Old Testament law that also advocates the stoning of children who disobey their parents? Isn’t it possible that the Apostle Paul’s views on homosexuality reflected the standards of his own time, rather than the views of Jesus, who never mentioned the topic? There is little wonder that, according to a Pew Research Center poll, over half of White evangelicals 50 and older oppose gay marriage while over half of those under 50 years old in the same group support gay marriage.
We could expect a 20-something Tik-Toker trying to accommodate his faith to culture to make this type of argument. But it’s embarrassing for a 58-year-old Wheaton College graduate and self-professed evangelical to shrug and say Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality and that the rest of the Bible’s commentary on it is outdated.
It’s embarrassing for a self-professed evangelical to shrug and say the Bible’s commentary on homosexuality is outdated.
As Christians have been pointing out for more than 2,000 years, the reason Jesus never mentioned homosexuality is that his views on sexuality were already so clear that it wasn’t necessary. What Jesus did do was speak explicitly about sexual immorality, which included homosexuality (e.g., Matt 5:28; 15:19), and define marriage according to the view of Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5). Until recently, serious-minded people didn’t argue that Jesus would endorse homosexual relationships, much less same-sex marriage.
“The corruption of a religious tradition by politics is tragic,” Gerson wrote in his 2018 article for The Atlantic, “shaming those who participate in it.” That’s certainly true. And Gerson—along with other LGBT-supporting “evangelicals”—have corrupted our faith tradition by embracing the politics of LGBT+ activism.