Recently, I have been working with a young man who has a sexual attraction to children (young boys) and, like me, comes from a religiously Christian background. Some of his thoughts and ideas give the impression that it is morally right for pedophiles to hate themselves for their attractions to children (the idea that pedophilia by itself is a disorder), and that they are obligated to hate child molesters for similar reasons: They are sick weirdos that deserve to be miserable. From this viewpoint, this is particularly true if the pedophile has attractions to boys, as a man, because of the supposed condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible.
As a Christian, I think this perspective needs examining, and that is the purpose of this post.
What Is The Point Of The Bible?
To begin, I need to discuss the Bible. What do you get out of reading it? To most Christians, the Bible is a source of truth, and a place to find moral guidance. However, that is not the overarching theme that runs through the Bible. No, the overarching theme of the Bible is that God cares about people and wants them to be in relationship with Him. That relationship must exist within boundaries, and that is why God provided those boundaries.
Indeed, you find the theme of love throughout the Bible in many forms, some more obvious than others. In the Old Testament, God’s love is often demonstrated through the image of a parental dictator who wants His children to do what He tells them to do for their own good. In the New Testament, God’s love is often demonstrated by sending Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of all mankind, and all we need do is rely on God and believe in His offer of salvation for our sins. That is it. That is all we have to do. It is heavily suggested that we respond to that offer and demonstrate our belief by living out Godly principles, but these “works” are not a requirement of salvation, but a natural result of that salvation.
So It Is About Love?
Yes. Even if you take the most conservative look at the Bible, you get the picture of a God who loved humans enough to send His Son to die for them on the cross, and wants humans to follow His rules. Among them is “Love others as yourself.” Hate is not a Godly perspective to have towards anything but sin, and our mandate is to hate sin and all evil. This does not extend to those who commit sin and evil, it only applies to the sin and the evil itself.
This line is frequently blurred, not only because Christianity is made up of followers who are human, but because many people believe that behavior is a reflection of someone’s personality. To an extent, it is, but our personality cannot only be defined by our behavior. I think for most, a one-time event in a person’s life can certainly have an impact, but most would not say that event defines their life, where someone who repeatedly engages in the same type of behavior is treated differently.
If Christianity Is About Love, Then…
…what do we do about someone who clearly loves God, but seems to violate something found in the Bible? What do we do about someone who has an attraction that most people have difficulty empathizing with? How do we handle issues that the Bible does not seem to cover?
I think the best thing we can do is apply biblical principles to that person. Most theologians will tell you that there are logically sound methods of interpreting the Bible, and there are methods of interpreting the Bible that are less logically sound. It is generally accepted practice to take not only the English translations of the verse in question, but also the cultural, linguistic, and historical context into account when determining how a verse would have been understood by a contemporary of the writer of that verse.
In context, we would take the many passages that describe God’s love for humanity, and how we are to love others (as ourselves, according to Jesus), in their appropriate context. These passages are universally understood to mean that God loves us, and we are to love others. While there are warnings against being selfish, we are also to love ourselves. These passages are very clear, and there is no arguing with their interpretation: We are expected to love God, love others, and love ourselves. To hold a grudge against ourselves where God has chosen to send His Son to forgive our sins is to insult and mock the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. It would be as if spitting in God’s face. In addition, it is a refusal to see ourselves the way God sees us: Redeemed human beings in the midst of a life-long process of being made holier every day.
Christianity Has Cherry-Picked Interpreting The Bible On Certain Topics
It is here where mainstream Christianity has failed the LGBTQ+ community, particularly homosexuals and pedophiles. There are eight sections in Scripture that seem to address homosexuality directly: Genesis 19, Judges 19.17–25, Leviticus 18.22 and 20.13, Romans 1.18–32, 1 Corinthians 6.9, 1 Timothy 1.10, and Jude 1.7. I will spare you some of the details on each of these passages (because this would be a 25-minute read if I did that).
The first two passages about the attempted and successful gang raping of an individual. In the first story, the attempt is “homosexual” in nature, in that it is men trying to rape another man. In the second, the rape is “heterosexual” in nature, in that men rape a woman. Both acts are condemned, rightfully, as being terribly inhospitable to a guest (in the first story, the guest is an angel), and as being an obvious violation of human rights. Rape is condemned throughout the Bible, not just in these passages. Some have interpreted these stories to mean that God forbids homosexual sex, yet the homosexual sex that we know of today is not rape or gang-rape, it is largely consensual. These stories relate to the last verse as well: The verse is referring to the fact that men were seeking sex with angels, and that such sex amounted to wanton rape and fornication.
The second passages in Leviticus use a word that is not found often in the Bible, and typically only applies to the Holiness Code, a set of principles found in the Torah of how the Israelites were to keep their conduct separate from the actions of other cultures in their day. Further, the passages are likewise discussing rape. According to the Jewish Study Bible (p. 251–252), the same passages referred to rape, of the kind used by animals where one dog dominates another, and interestingly, the first two passages in our set are referenced as being the same kind of domination.
It is the final three passages where interpreting the passages gets particularly challenging because of how modern translators have chosen to translate the words. The first passage in Romans makes reference to works by Plato, and is referring to wanton sexually indulgent behavior, which Plato referred to as “unnatural”. In the Greco-Roman world, “pederasty,” an act that NAMBLA would approve of, where adult men would foster sexual relationships with young boys, was a dominant cultural practice, very similar to the modern-day “bacha bazi” practiced in Afghanistan. Prostitution was also practice. It is likely that these practices and the wanton nature of too much sex was the target of Paul’s condemnation in Romans, particularly considering the final two verses.
In the subsequent passages in 1 Corinthians and Timothy, the words used in the Greek refer to participants in this same practice, on the dominant and submissive side, or to participants in prostitution (client and prostitute). This is why it is likely that Paul’s condemnation was not the heterosexual or homosexual nature of the act, but its wanton indulgence.
In short, none of these passages forbid homosexual feelings. Indeed if they did, the mere existence of someone with homosexual feelings would be in itself a sin, which runs contrary to all of the other sins found in the Bible which are actions or intent to commit actions, not an innate drive. None of these passages appear to condemn homosexual sex in itself, but rather the wanton indulgence in sex, as was popular in the Greco-Roman world.
In short, biblical principles and sound interpretation do not condemn homosexuality, nor an innate sexual attraction of any kind. The Bible does condemn actions that are non-consensual, as well as “sex with children” or child sexual abuse, as children cannot consent.
The Bible also does not empower anyone to hate themselves, while it empowers us to first love God, to love ourselves, and then to love others as much as we love ourselves. If a Christian develops a sexual attraction to children, they are not inherently sinful unless they rape someone or have sex with a child. Today, we simply refer to both as rape, and in some cases, the sexual abuse or rape of a child.
If there really are Christian pedophiles who believe that being sexual with a child is moral, then they need to re-read the Bible and re-examine their thought process behind that. However, it is likewise unbiblical for a Christian pedophile to hate themselves for the feelings that they have, and that person needs to re-examine the love that God has extended to us and why He extends that love.
I once hated myself, because well-meaning Christian leaders in my life left me with the false impression that a pedophile is a risk to children and I was going to inevitably hurt someone. I hated that idea of not being in control of my own behavior, but the reality is, I am in control of my behavior. Anyone who gives a pedophile the idea that they are a monster or a disaster waiting to happen has no idea what they are talking about, of that much I am certain.