Earth’s human population is growing at an alarming rate. Perhaps greater gender and sexual diversity is a natural response to overpopulation.
In Genesis 9, after the flood waters receded, God told Noah and his family to “be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it” (Genesis 9:7 NIV).
In November 2022, earth’s estimated population surpassed eight billion people. It seems safe to say we have obeyed the command to multiply on the earth. In the part of southern Indiana, USA, where my husband and I lay claim to five acres of trees, grass, garden, and running creek water, Wikipedia tells me there are around 75 people per square mile. In contrast, the world’s most densely populated cities have closer to 75,000 per square mile. That level of density is beyond my comprehension. Obviously, the people in those cities are not able to grow enough food to feed themselves. Earth is showing signs of stress from the burden of sustaining its current human population. We are full up.
One question to ask is: Will someone (Someone?) or something eventually put the brakes on? Whether one believes that God, natural evolution, civil government, or fate is responsible, it seems clear something needs to change if earth is to remain habitable for future generations. Whether it be a global pandemic, war, starvation, genocide, or some other controlling force, earth’s human population growth must slow in order to thrive and leave room for other species as well as agriculture.
Along those lines, I have been pondering a “what if…” question:
What if whatever Force or force will cap earth’s human population brings multiple resources to the table? Would some of those tools involve lowering the human fertility rate? Contraceptives are a start: various means to prevent human sperm from uniting with human eggs. Maybe, however, that is just one part of the solution. Maybe human sexuality needs more basic modifications: Either a lower sex drive or alternative means for sexual expression that do not lead to unplanned pregnancies.
We already seem to be seeing this sort of force at work. Fertility rates are dropping in many areas. There are multiple reasons for this. An increase in homosexuality is one. The human sex drive remains strong, but no longer automatically seeks to unite sperm with egg.
What if a growing portion of the population with same-sex attraction is a natural response to an overpopulated planet rather than sinful?
But What About the Bible?
Many people will offer Bible passages and claim that homosexual relations are obviously a sin. There are multiple possible responses to that, but for my purposes here, I will simply note that there is no reference in the Bible to anything resembling the long-term, same-sex, loving relationships we find in our society today. It isn’t mentioned as a temptation or struggle for believers nor as a common practice in secular society.
Those who insist that biblical texts clearly apply to the type of committed unions between consensual adults we are seeing in the 21st century also need to consider that those words date back to a time when the world population was less than 200 million. Is it possible we are in a different age now in terms of what is good for humanity and our host planet? Do we need to be open to a new view of human sexuality and reproduction? Is God once again doing “a new thing among us” (Isaiah 43:19)?
Is Physical Diversity the Result of Sin?
In John 9, Jesus’ disciples questioned him about the source of sin in a man born blind. It is easy to understand their confusion. It doesn’t seem fair that a child would suffer a lifetime of blindness because one or both parents sinned. On the other hand, how can a newborn baby be guilty of sin? The part of the puzzle they did not question was that blindness was punishment for sin. Jesus’ response was that neither the parents nor the child was to blame. No sin lay behind the blindness. The disciples’ underlying assumption was incorrect. Much like Job’s friends in the Old Testament and many others through the years, they had been taught to blame misfortune on sin, but Jesus explained that was not the case.
Today we know there are many different causes for blindness. Some people are born blind, others inherit or develop diseases of the eyes, others lose their sight due to accidents or poor choices by themselves or others. Regardless of the cause, however, blindness in itself is not a sign of moral deficiency. Nor is excellent vision a sign of moral superiority. Vision or the lack thereof is a physical attribute, not a moral issue.
Few, if any, people today associate impaired vision with sin. Those who experience such impairment may even reach the point where they do not view it as a disability. It is part of who they are, has shaped them into the person they are becoming, and is “normal” for them. Blind people often enjoy being more in touch with their other senses than other people. Perhaps that is why Jesus consistently asked people what they wanted before healing them. Were some people he encountered reluctant to leave the familiar behind? What if physical differences that seem “broken” to us, are “normal” for those experiencing them?
I am left-handed. As soon as I was able to grasp objects as a baby, my mother noticed I would move anything placed in my right hand to my left. Left-handedness is not something I chose as a child. Like approximately 10% of humans, I was born that way. With enough motivation and effort, I might have been able to adjust to using my right hand for writing, eating, and shaking those baby rattles, but it certainly was not my natural inclination. As I grew, I persisted in being left-handed, despite the example of my right-handed parents, siblings, and friends.
The Latin word for right is dexter, as in dexterous, skilled. The Latin word for left is sinister, as in menacing. In many times and places favoring one’s left hand has been seen as sinister. I am relieved to have never been pushed to use my “correct” (right) hand where my left was more capable. Undoubtedly, a large part of that was the full acceptance of my preference by my parents and their advocacy for me as a child. If I had run into adults who expressed disapproval of my hand preference, I would be no less left-handed, but I might deal with shame, guilt, and self-doubt, something that has never plagued me in this regard. Being left-handed is something I have long regarded as making me part of a fun subset of the population, even when inconvenient. In a group setting, I often look around to find my fellow “lefties.” The 1 in 10 ratio holds pretty true. In a group of thirty, I expect to find at least two other lefties and usually do. And those people are no more or less sinister than the rest of the group. Despite what many have thought through time and space, right-handed people are not morally superior to us “sinister” left-handers. At this point in life, if I were offered a “cure” for left-handedness, I would decline. Being left-handed is normal for me and part of my identity.
What if we could view those outside the cisgender population the way most people see left-handedness? I recently encountered a young man I first noticed several years ago when he was a student at the local high school. When he mentioned his boyfriend, I thought to myself, “He is gay! I knew there was something special about him!” As that thought came to me, I realized that even though I am fully heterosexual, I seem drawn to young people who fall outside the norms. I like their nonconformity and flair. They are part of a special subset of the population that appeals to me, another “club” of exceptions to the norm, like being left-handed.
Different? Yes. Sinister? Not as far as I can see. In fact, many LGBTQ people made a commitment to Christ as children and were initially devastated to discover that their developing sexuality cast any romantic interest they might have as sinful in the eyes of the church. Many continue to live as followers of Jesus Christ, despite how few churches offer them full fellowship and acceptance and how inclined many church people are to dismiss their faith as false.
Perhaps a shift in what we see as acceptable in terms of sexuality is what we need at this stage of human development. The earth is full already! Why would we insist on calling what seems to be naturally increasing within humanity in an overpopulated world sinister or evil? As I look around at creation, I see that God loves diversity. Why would sexual diversity in the human experience be different? Especially diversity that helps slow down population growth in an overpopulated world? People outside the norms have much to offer! My world is a better place because of them.
Marsha Lynn enjoyed three careers before retirement—electrical engineer, then full-time mother, and finally a public library director. She has also served in multiple areas of ministry in her local church. She first considered theological questions as a child in the Church of the Nazarene and continues to ponder them in her retirement years.