From ‘monumental’ to unimpressed, Christians react to latest ‘gay gene’ research

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NEW YORK — A new study that found there’s no single gene linked to homosexual behavior has been making headlines that are met with praise by some Christian leaders and shrugs by others.

Absent was anyone who said it changed their position. 

“So much for the idea that people are ‘born gay,’” wrote Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council. He noted that some scientists were concerned about conducting the research because of how it might be interpreted by the public.

“It is ironic that those on the Left routinely accuse conservatives of being ‘anti-science’ — yet in this case, it is they who fear the results of a serious scientific inquiry,” he wrote.

Analyzing the genes of nearly 500,000 individuals and published in late August, it’s the first large-scale study of how genetic makeup affects a person’s sexuality. A team from the University of Queensland, Australia coordinated the research from across the U.S, U.K, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia.

Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said on an episode of his podcast that Christians should pay attention to how secular voices talked about the findings. Orientation was being substituted for what the research actually studied: behavior. That’s evidence of people trying to use nature as the ultimate explanation for everything, he said. Yet nature “cries out” about the complementarity of male and female through its mandate of reproduction.

“Watch this headline story as it continues to unfold in the cultural conversation, because what you're going to see and what you're going to hear is moral confusion driven by a moral urgency,” Mohler said.

Paul Cameron, founder of the Family Research Institute, said the study confirmed what he has been saying for 40 years.

“This is a monumental study in debunking what is a main pillar of the gay rights movement. That is, ‘We’re born this way. We can’t help ourselves. Accept us because God made us this way.’ Well it’s not that way,” he said.

Cameron pointed to the birth rate in the U.S., which has declined from an average 3.65 children per woman in 1960 to an average 1.8 in 2016, as a result of more children having homosexual experiences that lead to adult homosexuality. That will continue “unless we do something about it, and fairly quickly,” he said.

Some Christians with a traditional view of sexuality were less moved. On Twitter, some focused on how their opponents on the issue would spin the research. Many of those opponents expressed the same concern, which echoed that of the scientists who questioned doing the study in the first place.

Others simply found the findings unremarkable. John Stonestreet, radio host and fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, wrote in the Christian Post that he was unimpressed. LGBT advocates have moved on from arguing genetic causality, he said.

“After all, they’ve been far more effective capturing the cultural imagination, including much of the scientific community, without needing the science to back it up,” Stonestreet said.

News of the research didn’t receive much fanfare from left-leaning denominations, most of whom didn’t issue public statements or add links to their websites’ news sections. Some conservatives suggested that the findings didn’t support pro-LGBT political agendas. Voices from the left tended to reaffirm their positions.

Father James Martin, Jesuit priest and author of "Building a Bridge," about LGBT Catholics, cited a quote by one of the study’s lead researchers, Benjamin Neale of MIT. “It's written into our genes and is part of our environment,”  Neale said. “This is part of our species and part of who we are.”

“That seems to sum up the report accurately,” Martin said. “In the end, it doesn't seem to change much: most researchers believed that some people are genetically predisposed to homosexuality, and this confirms genetic makeup as one of the causes, along with many others.”

He added that religious groups still need to listen carefully and compassionately to the lived experiences of LGBTQ people.

For Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a Catholic group that advocates for LGBTQ people, the study only reflected the complex realities of sexual orientation that she has long understood. After all, she said, it’s irrelevant “given the fact that we are all beloved children of a loving creator.”

She dismissed the notion that genetic predisposition was a pillar of the movement for LGBTQ rights. She said she thinks people shut down when they consider that a combination of factors explain sexual orientation. 

She doubted whether genetic evidence of any sort was important to advancing the desire for equal treatment of LGBTQ people. “That it is about knowing us, knowing who we are in our full humanity,” she said. “That is what changes hearts and minds more dramatically than any piece of scientific evidence.”