Dire Consequences Theology

This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Timothy Kincaid

August 21st, 2008

I have noticed a trend in those who seek to defend a traditional theology on homosexuality. Rather than base their objection on their understanding of Scripture or upon divine revelation, they base their argument, at least in part, upon The Dire Consequences of a Homosexual Lifestyle.

The argument goes something like this: Homosexuality is a miserable lifestyle full of sickness, misery, and death. We as Christians are not doing God’s will when we accommodate this miserable existence with civil protections and recognition. No, the compassionate action is to oppose homosexuality in any way possible so as to compel these miserable sinners into finding God.

As one theology professor recently wrote in an online magazine for Baptists:

I am sure to be accused of lacking compassion for those embracing a homosexual lifestyle, and that grieves me. Yet, is it a rightly applied compassion that affirms a lifestyle that too often compromises the physical and emotional well being of fellow human beings? The data seems to indicate that homosexual practice for both couples and individuals leads to a greatly reduced life expectancy (as much as three decades, and not just due to AIDS). Among homosexual men, for instance, there exists a much higher risk of rectal cancer and rectal trauma (which causes a much higher risk of a wide range of diseases). Is it compassionate to affirm such a lifestyle?

I’ve had the opportunity to correspond with that individual and found him to be sincere. He was not a homophobic propagandist seeking to spread lies; he was simply reporting what he had heard.

But while his basis for his beliefs about homosexuality rested in his understanding of Scripture, his article shows that he found his hermeneutical argument less compelling than the warning and example he found in Dire Consequences.

The roots of Dire Consequences Theology run deep in Christianity. There is a firmly held belief that true peace and happiness cannot be found without Christ and that those defined as sinners have an emptiness and hunger in their soul. It is but a short step to assume that those one thinks of as godless are deeply miserable and joyless.

Another tenet of faith is that sickness, misery, and all that is bad are the result of sin in the world. Before Adam’s fall, life was Eden. But sin brought sickness; while one’s own sickness may not be the result of one’s own sin, it is nonetheless the result of a sinful world.

Further, there is a belief that God richly rewards and blesses the faithful. This is especially emphasized by some of the more evangelical branches of the faith.

So combining these ideas, it’s not hard to see that the misery and pain and sickness and hopelessness in the homosexual lifestyle are an evidence of its sinful nature. And conversely, the evident sinfulness of homosexuality must surely result in most dreadful results.

But conservative theologians should be very cautious in adopting Dire Consequences Theology. Because it is built upon a logic process that could ultimately be their undoing.

If homosexuality is bad because it results in bad things, then if bad things are not evident, their theology breaks down completely. If the tragedy of homosexuality is an evidence of its sinfulness, what would a lack of tragedy mean? Would that indicate God’s blessing?

Taking the professor’s example above, a greatly reduced life expectancy and a much higher risk of rectal cancer tell him that it isn’t compassionate to “affirm such a lifestyle”.

But we know that there is no known reduced life expectancy at all. And we know that rectal cancer only impacts one thirtieth of one percent of gay men. So what does this say to the theologian?

To his defense, his personal understanding is probably founded in his Bible studies and not on his adopted Dire Consequences. But to those who know that his “statistics” are wrong, his adoption of false calamity may have lost him any credibility he had with them.

Which may help explain why some anti-gay Christians will go out of their way to ignore or disbelieve anything which says that most gay people live normal lives. They champion blatantly false “studies” and dredge up irrelevant and out-of-date AIDS statistics and anything else they can find to try and shore up their claim that Gays All Live Sordid Lives of Misery and Desperation!!!

Their theology is not built on Scripture, faith, or revelation but on bigotry. They need to believe that gay persons are hedonistic, miserable people who suffer greatly as a consequence of their homosexual lifestyle in order to keep their anti-gay theology in place.

But as more people come to know their gay neighbors, the falsity of such claims become more apparently. And more and more, average people – be they Christian or not – will lose trust in those who make proclamations of Dire Consequences.

It may well prove in time that the insistence by anti-gay Christians on relying on Dire Consequences Theology may result in the death of anti-gay theology altogether.

a. mcewen

August 21st, 2008

so true. even when you point things out to them, some of these folks will jump literally jump through semantic hoops rather than admit that they are wrong about lgbts.


August 22nd, 2008

Brilliant article. It reiterates how important it is for us to be visable, every-day members of society. Neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc.

We really are everywhere.

Willie Hewes

August 22nd, 2008

Excellent article. Yes, the reliance on the misery of The Lifestyle is problematic, and becomes more so as time goes on. But what else do they have?


August 22nd, 2008

Great article.

While you admirably show that the “Dire Consequences” theology is inconsistent with reality, you gloss over the fact that Christian claims about god are also inconsistent with reality.

Given Christians’ demonstrated ability to survive the cognitive disonance of having reality refute their god claims, I am not quite so optimistic as you that the “Dire Consequences” theology will not be equally resiliant.

Bruce Garrett

August 22nd, 2008

There’s a quote from Eric Hoffer that goes, “Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves”. I think of that one often when reading articles like the one you quoted.

See…the thing is, it isn’t just a matter of shoring up a belief system. It’s how do you put a knife into someone’s heart and life with yourself afterward? Simple. You tell yourself the heart isn’t there. It’s an addiction. It’s a disease. It’s a perversion. It’s a lifestyle.

I appreciate that a lot of people are probably being mislead by all the junk science being put out there. But mislead people don’t stubbornly cling to lies in the face of what their own two eyes are telling them. Or could tell them if they’d only look. I don’t think shoring up the belief system is the heart of it. Avoidance of responsibility is the heart of it. Avoidance of guilt. In California they’re now trying to cut the rings off of hundreds of married same sex couples. They have to tell themselves that the rings signified nothing. The alternative is to see their attack on the human heart for what it is, and there’s a staggering mountain of shame waiting for them when they do.

Matt Algren

August 22nd, 2008

I see your point in general, but in this case we aren’t talking about some Joe Schmoe who thinks that gays are miserable wretches. We’re talking about a man with a Th.M, a Ph.D, and a M.Div. He’s published seven books and assisted in two Biblical translations. His degrees and his background lend credibility to his words, and that extra credibility comes at a price.

Through his degrees, he knows better than to make claims like this and not back them up. He knows that when he says “The data seems to indicate…” he’d better check his sources and include them in his article.

I daresay that if one of his students did something like this he’d rap them on the knuckles.

Jason D

August 22nd, 2008

“we know that rectal cancer only impacts one thirtieth of one percent of gay men.”

I’m wondering where this data came from. Wouldn’t it just be easier to say 0.0033 percent? Just curious how this came to be.

Garrett O'Neal

August 22nd, 2008

Yesterday, I was writing my ex-counselor that her involvement with the Desert Streams ministry is wrong and manipulative. As for myself, I can only imagine what it would be like to have accepted something, a doctrine, and then be faced with a fact that it is wrong. No wonder they are so defensive. The most I feel for the anti-gay/ex-gay activists is sorrow; sorrow for how they will feel when they realize that all the time and money they’ve devoted to this movement was wrong. It’s stated over and over in the Bible that one must go through the worst to experience and appreciate the best. We can only pray that these people come to a realization sooner than later.

Ben in Oakland

August 22nd, 2008

Brillian, Timothy. It’s what I call the sally Kern school of BS. It’s one thing to say “My religion says homo is wrong.” (Not a good thing, but at least defensible).

It’s when you go over the line to making up stuff and denying the very evidence before your eyes that it becomes bearing false witness.

I would l;ove to write this pastor. any possibilityo f getting his name?

Timothy Kincaid

August 22nd, 2008


I’m in communication with this individual and I would prefer if we do not inundate him. He’s rather busy at present.

I am hopeful that he will agree to base his future writings on his scriptural understanding and will not rely on claims that do not have any bearing on reality.

Timothy Kincaid

August 22nd, 2008


I hear what you’re saying… but I’ve found him so far to be open to hearing facts about the claims he believed.

I’m hopeful for change and I really don’t want to make this about him in specific.

Matt Algren

August 22nd, 2008

Understood. That’s why I didn’t give his name. :)

Ben in Oakland

August 22nd, 2008

I absolutely understand– good for you. One mind at a time. Here is a letter I sent to a local pastor.

I wrote to you a few days ago in response to your comments to the Mercury News. Since it was sent via email, I was not too surprised that I didn’t hear from you. So, I thought I would write again via regular mail, and hope for the courtesy of a response.

In your comments about the gay marriage issue, you said, “I’m soul-sick over this. The Supreme Court is promoting a lifestyle that is destructive. We’re not angry at homosexuals, we’re trying to protect the family.”

As an out, proud, and happy gay man, I have a lot of concerns about this statement. The first is about my so-called lifestyle. I have a life just like you. I know that it is very difficult for people who have very strong feelings about homosexuality, but don’t really understand much about gay people and what it means to BE a gay person, to conceive that we actually have lives, and that as gay people, on the average, our lives are very much the same as the average heterosexuals’ lives. It does not revolve around either being gay or the search for sex, any more than yours does. In short, it is not a lifestyle, any more than your life with your wife is a ‘lifestyle’. (I am assuming of course, that you are married). To call my life a mere life-style choice, as if I liked to dress up in a sailor suit and pretend I am Captain Nemo, is to trivialize it. Mine is full of friends, family, love, enjoyment, spiritual joy, peace, and happiness, and the blessing of a wonderful partner-in-life that I hope someday to marry, and for exactly the same reasons that you married your wife: because we love each other and wish to build a life together, as we are in fact doing. And doing, I may add, despite the efforts of people who disapprove of gay people and think that they are doing a GOOD thing by attacking us and making our lives as difficult and unpleasant as they possibly can.

However, when you call my life, as you put it, ‘destructive’, you are not merely trivializing it, you are attacking it. Using a biblical phrase, you are bearing false witness against us, because you do not know me, my partner, our families, our friends, or indeed, anything about us. You are merely repeating the same tired old fabrications, distortions, and gossip about our lives created by the anti-gay industry and suckled at the breast of prejudice, without concerning yourself that you might not be speaking the truth, whether knowingly or unknowingly. I can assure you without the slightest fear of contradiction that there exists at least ONE gay couple whose lives are not destructive. We are both of us contributing, tax-paying, law-abiding and productive members of the community, as are our friends. If you knew us at all, you would find that we are both healthy, we live active and positive lives, and are well thought of by family, friends, and colleagues, and live in peace with our neighbors. If this is destructive, then I would say more people should lead lives like this. The world would be a lot better place.

Your final statement is you are just trying to protect the family. How? By denying us marriage? Can you tell me how preventing my partner and me from marrying, from enjoying the same rights and responsibilities and benefits that you and your wife enjoy, has anything to do with, or does anything at all to protect, YOUR family? Not THE family– let’s take it out of the abstract– but YOUR family. How it will cause a husband to stop loving his wife, or a mother her children, or either not to take care of their familial responsibilities?

If you truly want to protect the family, here are some issues to consider that actually are relevant, and whose solution will greatly assist real families now: divorce, adultery, lack of birth control, children having children, air and water pollution, universal health care, unwed mothers, absent fathers, child abuse, child molestation, education, a sliding dollar, racism, poverty, unemployment, inflationary energy prices, drug abuse, overpopulation, and global warming, for starters.

If you truly wish to protect the family, then let us work together to end this unreasoning prejudice towards gay people. I can guarantee you that the prejudice directed towards gay people has destroyed far more families that I could do if I took family destruction on as a full-time occupation. I have personally known examples of children rejected and outcast by their families because they are gay. I have met many men who are heterosexually married but are not heterosexual, who commit adultery and endanger their families and careers because the positive option– having a fulfilled life with another man, with the full support of family and community– is not available to them. Three names I’m sure you know come to mind: Ted Haggard, Lonnie Latham, and Paul Barnes, to name a few. AIDS is rampant is the Afro-American community because of the down-low phenomenon, with black women bearing the brunt of the disease.

I have a friend who adopted a child with her partner– an unwanted child who would have been raised in poverty and disease, but has been given a chance at a different life with her. M. is now healthy, bright, charming, well behaved, and a joy to be around, instead of merely another piece of 3rd world refuse heading towards an early death because his heterosexual parents neither wanted him nor were prepared to care for him. How does preventing my friend from marrying another woman, thereby giving M a set of married parents and all of the benefits that the law and society allow, do anything to protect anyone else’s family? As the Supreme Court decision said, there are an estimated 70,000 children in California being raised by gay parents. Do not those families need the protection of marriage as well?

I have asked these questions respectfully and politely. I hope you will do me the favor of replying in the same vein. In fact, my partner, Paul, and I would like to make you an offer. Please come and have dinner with us at our home in Oakland. (I’m known as an excellent cook). Please bring your wife, or the companion of your choice. Learn a little about us and our lives. I’d be happy to discuss scripture, sociology, psychology, what have you.

Please let me know.


August 22nd, 2008


Did he take you up on your offer?

Ben in Oakland

August 22nd, 2008

No, and I didn’t think he would. My experience in these matters runs thusly:

If someone has decided that gay is bad, that determines pretty much his whole thinking on the subject. likewise, gay is good.

This is where I differ a little from timothy. This thought ‘gay is bad’ is the timber from which all other thinking comes. Unless forced by personal involvement (e.g., Dad, I’m gay), or some other factor, there is nothing that will really cause them to look at this basic position.

Two examples: Larry Craig and Ted haggard. Even with the evidence teabagging them on national TV, they’re still not gay. Reality will not intrude.

Many years ago, I was speaking out against an anti-gay initiative in a forum with the opposite side. She was telling the usual lives. Afterwards, I went up to her to talk. she said: ‘here’s my card. please write me.’ I did, showing her the real truth, not her fabrications. I did it politely, respectfully, and with full citations.

I ran into her at another event and asked her if she had look at what I had sent her. “I don’t have time to read letters from homosexuals.” Her contempt was far greater than her interest in truth or compassion.

So much for Christian charity and the truth shall set you free. i could tell a simiar story, though not so bile-ridden, about my parents.


August 22nd, 2008

Dire Consequences theology goes even farther – which can be helpful to point out to conservative Christian who are open to reconsidering ‘homosexuality is sin’. Ask them how they felt about “9/11 was punishment for sin” – that was dire consequences theology. Ask them about family members who have died of cancer, in car accidents, babies born with birth defects – strictly speaking, dire consequences theology applies there as well.

When the same storm system strikes Florida three times in a week, is it Dire Consequences theology – punishment for attempting to write prejudice into their Constitution, or it is a random expression of the laws of nature?

My father is a minister who used to teach Dire Consequence, not so overtly, until he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, suddenly, he stopped teaching that disease was punishment for sin. People who believe it tend to have a hard time applying it to their own lives, and that provides an opening for re-examining whether it truly applies to anyone’s life.

Once you get them considering all of the bad things that happen to heterosexuals, the whole concept quickly falls apart.


August 28th, 2008

I believe that Dire Consequences is actually heresy. Jesus and the rest of the New Testament were clear that those who follow Jesus will be met with pain, suffering, ostracism, and death.

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