By Timothy Kleiser
“I am human and I need to be loved. Just like everybody else does.”
These lyrics, sung by the inimitable Steven Patrick Morrissey back in 1985, have recently been given an entirely new meaning. Morrissey, the iconic former lead singer of The Smiths, has recently published his memoir, Autobiography, and the book is already breaking sales records. Undoubtedly, sales have been aided by the fact that the notoriously private Morrissey divulges that his first female crush was…a man.
In response to public praise of his “homosexuality”, Morrissey issued a clarification on his website that reads, “Unfortunately, I am not homosexual. In technical fact, I am humasexual. I am attracted to humans. But, of course…not many.” Morrissey does not recognize gender at all and so refuses to use the terms hetero-, bi-, and homo-sexual. He betrayed this sentiment years ago in a 1986 interview with Rolling Stone in which he explained that he deliberately wrote gender-neutral love songs so that no listener felt excluded. To Morrissey, he was simply one human writing love songs about other humans.
As the secular media rushes to celebrate Morrissey’s “humasexuality”, many Christians are more visceral and critical in their reactions. These predictable outcomes demonstrate that issues of sexuality have become increasingly commoditized and politicized in our culture. Rather than focusing on the individual, both Christians and non-Christians often blithely latch onto a story like Morrissey’s, conform it to their generic party lines, and then use it as yet another bullet in their rhetorical gunfight. In other words, Morrissey and others become fodder for our arguments rather than recipients of our compassion and subjects of our critical thinking.
The growing rift between Christians and the secular culture proves that this method isn’t working. So how should Christians respond when we disagree?
First, we Christians should lower our egos, approach people with humility, and recognize that they have something to teach us.
At one extreme, we may shove people into categorical boxes and—at least subconsciously—assume that because they are a [fill in the blank] they have nothing truly valuable to teach us. We mentally position ourselves as the enlightened teacher and our “opponent” as the ignorant student. Both “sides” are typically guilty of this self-elevation and the result is often two people who think they have something to say and no one who thinks they have something to learn. It is no wonder that little progress is made!
At the other extreme, Christians may be insecure and fear offending people and so we refuse to engage them at all. This approach not only takes the concept of humility too far—it ceases to be humility and mutates into cowardice. Godly humility is not about rejecting yourself and accepting others; it is about rightly aligning your view of yourself and others in accordance with God’s valuation. In God’s eyes, all humans have intrinsic and equal value since we have been made in His image. This does not mean that every lifestyle is equally valued but it certainly means that every life is equally valued. So, when Christians respond to Morrissey and others, we should approach them as people of equal worth and expect to learn something from them.
Second, we should listen for truth. When discussing these sorts of polarizing topics, it is easy to adopt a defensive posture toward our own beliefs and an offensive posture toward those of the other person. In the process, we run the risk of missing out on shared truths that can establish some much-needed common ground.
With Morrissey, it is tempting to simply debate or mock his “humasexual” views without stopping to consider the ways in which he may be correct. Although Morrissey’s views on gender are outside of orthodox biblical teaching and should rightly be critiqued, should we still commend his assessment of the equal worth of all humans? Of course! Should we affirm his belief that people should be treated simply as humans and not as means to an ideological end? Of course! Should we share his concern that no person be unloved? Of course!
So, when speaking with and about people like Morrissey, Christians should be quick not only to reject what is not true but also to recognize and rejoice in what is. And by establishing this common ground, we will have better footing to discuss the areas in which we do disagree. Regardless of whom we’re speaking with or about, that person will almost certainly have something true to say. And as stewards of truth, a Christian’s duty is to listen.
Third, we should love with truth. This means that love and truth are as inseparable as they are indispensable.
Some Christians believe that it is enough for us to simply humble ourselves and listen to what others have to say without feeling the need to offer any sort of biblical critique. As stated earlier, this sort of passive interaction is really just cowardly self-preservation masquerading as humility. Other Christians have adopted the mantra of truth-at-all-costs and have made it their mission to unflinchingly condemn every instance of immorality within their radius of influence. Tragically, this crusade for truth often trumps the need to show compassion to others. As a result, many arguments are won but many hearts are laid waste in the process.
Consider the condition of Morrissey’s heart as revealed in the lyrics to his song, “I Have Forgiven Jesus”:
“[Jesus,] Why did you give me
So much desire?
When there is nowhere I can go
To offload this desire
And why did you give me
So much love
In a loveless world
When there’s no one I can turn to
To unlock all this love
And why did you stick me in
Self-deprecating bones and skin
Jesus – do you hate me?
In the music video for this song, a forlorn Morrissey is clothed in priestly attire as a symbol of his commitment to celibacy at that time. Although his celibacy was well-publicized, few people knew that it reflected his humasexual struggles and, as the lyrics suggest, his inability to find satisfaction and acceptance for his sexual desires.
In response to the personal struggles of someone like Morrissey, we must reject both a loveless truth and a truthless love.
Just as it would be cruel to respond to a homeless beggar by lecturing him about financial responsibility, it would be cruel to coldly lecture someone like Morrissey about morality—regardless of how true one’s assessment may be. And just as it would be cruel to remain silent when a beggar asks for bread, it would be cruel to remain silent in the face of Morrissey’s spiritual need. He and many others desperately long for satisfaction in this life and Christians must love them by unapologetically speaking truth and pointing them to where the Bread of Life may be found. Christians should neither only speak truth nor only show love because the two are as inseparable as they are indispensable. Christians must hold both sides in constant tension.
As the sexual revolution continues to grow, stories like Morrissey’s will perpetually surface—and we Christians must refuse to cheaply politicize and commoditize these stories. As we read and discuss the news, we must remember that behind every story is a human for whom we must lower our ego, listen for truth, and love with truth. If we do this, perhaps we will be in a position to make an eternal difference when, like Morrissey, people cry out: “I am human and I need to be loved. Just like everybody else does.”
Timothy Kleiser is a student and a staff member at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Jenna, have been married for three years and are active members at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow Timothy on Twitter here: @timothy_kleiser
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