In a recent interview, Christopher Matthews asked Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush a thought-provoking question: “Can good people be gay?” The answer came back without hesitation: “Sure, absolutely.” Case closed, at least for a politician seeking the White House who wants to round up as many votes as possible. I’m sure Mr. Bush feels that less is better when dealing with this difficult and emotional topic. Since I’m not running for anything, I’d like to take a crack at the same question. Can good people be gay? The question bristles with unspoken assumptions. Exactly what is meant by the term “good people?” Who are the “good people” and what distinguishes them from the “bad people?” My guess is that in this context “good people” refers to what we might call decent, law-abiding folks who make nice neighbors and upstanding members of the community. “Bad people” would be law-breakers, murderers, criminals and what we sometimes call riff-raff and “low-life.”
Can those sorts of “good people” also be homosexual? The answer is obviously yes. And heterosexuals can be “bad people” too. Sexual behavior isn’t the only determinant of a person’s relative worth in the community. I imagine that George W. Bush had something like this in mind when he gave his two-word answer. And on that basis he is correct.
However, the Bible reminds us over and over again that God’s standards are much higher than ours. Romans 3:12 flatly declares that “there is no one who does good, not even one.” And Jesus told the rich young man that no one is good except God (Luke 18:19). Any perceived “goodness” in us is merely by comparison. It’s like asking whose filthy rags are the cleanest (Isaiah 64:6). We’re all so dirty apart from God’s grace that no one has any reason to brag that his dirt doesn’t smell so bad.
How, then, can good people be gay? The same way that good people often do any number of sinful things. To say that good people can be gay is really nothing more than saying good people are sinners. It’s like saying, “good people can be gossips” or “good people can be prideful” or “good people can be gluttons” or “good people can be envious” or even “good people can be liars.”
We may struggle with that formulation because many people today (even some Christians) want to redefine homosexuality in terms of genetics so that it is no longer a sin or at least isn’t much of a sin. But the Bible doesn’t leave us that option. The bottom line looks something this: Can good people be gay? Sure, absolutely, as long as we remember that “good people” are sinners too.