Helping Parents Help Teenagers Deal With the World’s Pro-Gay, Anti-Christian Message

The Stream Senior Editor Tom Gilson discusses his new book on how to talk to teenagers about homosexuality.

By Published on September 1, 2016

The world tells young people that homosexuality is good and only bigots would stop two people who love each other from getting married — and Christian kids get the message loud and clear. Tom Gilson believes Christian parents can help their children see the truth and beauty of the Gospel story about human sexuality when the world does everything it can to stop them from hearing it. But parents have to know how to talk about it.

Gilson, senior editor and ministry coordinator at The Stream, is author of the blog Thinking Christian, which Feedspot recently named one of the country’s best religious blogs.  His latest book, Critical Conversations, aims to help parents and youth workers discuss the issue of homosexuality with teenagers. Teenagers Sermon‘s James Knight recently talked with Tom about his book, as well as asked him for his thoughts on a few common questions about homosexuality.

What inspired you to write a book for parents to help their teens with the issue of homosexuality?

I wrote the book to help parents (and youth workers) keep teens in the faith, in the face of pro-gay anti-Christian messages that would otherwise drive them out.

Homosexuality isn’t just a cultural controversy, it’s a spiritual one. Gay marriage and pro-homosexual morality have become “right” in the eyes of media, entertainment and many educators, which makes it look as if Christianity is morally wrong to oppose them. Christians are supposedly “haters,” “homophobic,” “intolerant,” “on the wrong side of history,” and so on. Not only that, but the Bible itself has come under fire for the same reasons. So when we ask young people to believe in Christ, for many it looks like we’re asking them to sign up to join a group of intolerant, hateful homophobes.

Not all youth would put it that way, of course. If they’ve been raised in a loving, Christ-following family or church, they know Christianity isn’t bad that way. At least they know it on one level. On another level it’s hard for them not to be persuaded by all the pro-gay messages they hear. They have contradictory things going on in their heads, and it’s got to be confusing.

Of course Christianity is still true and good, but young people need to hear its goodness explained clearly, in response to all they’re hearing that tells them otherwise. They need to know how easy it is to show that the barrage of messages like “Christianity is homophobic,” or “on the wrong side of history,” or “against equality,” (and so on) is nothing but a barrage of blanks. There’s nothing there but a lot of noise.

They need to know, too, that their parents aren’t as behind the times or mixed up as they might seem to be. Of course there’s a secret we need to admit too: too many parents really are that behind the times. They don’t know the issues or the answers any better than their kids. Even if they know the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, they can’t explain to a questioning teen’s satisfaction why we should take the Bible seriously.

Critical Conversations will help. It equips parents with practical information so they can stand on solid ground and give kids the answers they desperately need.

How big a problem is homosexuality for teenagers in particular? Why is it a bigger issue now than it used to be?

It’s a huge issue in terms of the spiritual confusion I just described. The great majority of teens think gay marriage is good. Obviously that number is a lot higher than it was when I was a teen! And it’s causing a lot of spiritual fallout: teens are leaving Christianity because of it. That’s tragic. It’s life-or-death, for eternity.

It’s a huge issue in the way it affects relationships. I never wondered whether my same-sex friendships, which were really, really close, meant I was gay. That idea never came to mind. Now it’s bound to come up, and throw friendships off balance.

It’s a huge issue for teens who begin to decide maybe they are gay. Research shows that most teens who think “maybe I’m gay,” or even decide that they are gay, will end up thoroughly heterosexual as adults. But if they’re being actively encouraged to be gay, they’re more likely to decide that’s who they are. Young people in previous generations never got such strong encouragement.

It’s a huge issue for young people because it’s still a huge issue for us all.

In the first interview for this series on homosexuality, Jovanna, a bisexual Christian teenager, said that she just feels she is being “who she is.” What would you say to this?

Jovanna, the first thing you need to know about who you are is that you’re a child of God, created in his image, saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. He loves you incredibly much, no matter what.

You say that being bisexual is “who you are.” Does that mean you’re sexually active with both males and females? If so, then that’s the first thing we need to talk about, because even in in a pro-gay day like today, what you’re dealing with is nothing new.

What I mean is, ever since the world began, young people have had to make decisions about how to express their sexuality. Ever since the world began, they’ve had internal conflicts, not much different from what you and every other teen today is feeling. One of those conflicts has always been, “The feelings are so strong — can I wait until marriage?” God’s answer to that has always been, “That’s my will for you. It’s my best plan for you. Everything is better in the long run if you wait.”

In other words, God knows “who you are” better than you know yourself and he didn’t make you so that “who you are” is someone who needs to be sexually active before marriage, either with men or women. That’s the first thing to bear in mind when you think about who you are.

He never made anyone bisexual, either. How can I be sure of that? Because you can’t live out a bisexual lifestyle without cheating on someone. Even if you’re not sure it’s wrong to be lesbian — we could talk about that another time (or you could see the Scripture passages below) — surely you know that God didn’t make anyone so that “who I am” is to be unfaithful!

I know there are feelings there. I don’t want to make false assumptions about what’s going on inside. I would need to listen to you more, to understand your own particular feelings better. But no matter what, I know that God’s truth is more reliable than anyone’s feelings. I also know that teens’ feelings about sexuality often change over time. My strong advice to you for now is not to let your feelings rule your identity, but to let God’s truth tell you who you are.

Some people say that accepting homosexuality will lead to the acceptance of things like pedophilia and incest. Do you think this is a fair statement?

This is a flash-point question. If I say yes, people will accuse me of all kinds of prejudice, bias and irrationality. But I’m going to say it anyway: Yes.

The reason isn’t because accepting homosexuality causes people to accept pedophilia and incest. It’s because when people give reasons for accepting homosexuality, the very same reasons usually apply just as well to those other forms of sexual misconduct. So as soon as you’ve accepted the arguments for homosexuality, you’ve also accepted many of the arguments for pedophilia and incest; and if someone comes along and says those things are okay, you don’t have any reason to disagree. People decide to do something and you have no way to say, “Stop!”

So the train keeps rolling down the tracks, without any brakes on it.

In your book, you address many key questions which conservative Christians face when it comes to homosexuality. One of the questions which you address is the fact that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality. Can you give a quick summary as to what you would say to this?

As I wrote in Critical Conversations, Jesus never mentioned internet piracy, either, but he taught principles we can apply to it. He taught principles we can apply to homosexuality, too, especially that marriage has always “from the beginning” been for a man and a woman (Matthew 19:3-6).

There are other things Jesus never mentioned that he could have: rape and incest, for example. One reason Jesus didn’t mention homosexuality more specifically is because he didn’t need to. They already knew. It was already clear enough from Old Testament teachings.

Not only that, but Jesus’ words aren’t the only inspired revelation we have from God. The whole Bible is “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16, NASB margin). We can count on Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 tell us what God thinks, just as surely as if Jesus himself had spoken it.

 

Originally published August 26, 2016 at Teenagers Sermon. Republished with permission.

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