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The 2006 Academy Awards saw Oscar walking a lavender carpet. We had Brokeback Mountain, featuring gay lovers Jack and Ennis. There was also the brilliant, if flamboyantly fey, Capote. And don't forget Transamerica, whose main character, Bree, is a pre-operative transsexual.

The attention lavished on those films applauded homosexuality and gender deconstruction on an unprecedented scale before Oscar's estimated global audience of 1 billion people. Truly, a seismic cultural shift is taking place before our eyes, assaulting the core of our Judeo-Christian worldview and profoundly altering the way teens understand God's intent for human sexuality.

Evidence of this sea change appears in a national "Youth Hot Button Issues" poll by Zogby International. In it, 75 percent of high school seniors favored legal recognition of same-sex relationships—marriage or civil unions. Similarly, 75 percent oppose a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and 63 percent support adoptions by gay couples. Clearly, most teens don't see a problem with homosexuality.

So how can youth leaders reach teens with the truth about sexuality in a world awash in "rights" and moral relativism? When the God of Truth has been replaced by the god of tolerance, how do we get beyond the stereotypical image of bigots bashing teens over the head with Leviticus?

Provide Spiritual Context
Amazingly, the church has largely neglected to teach the basics about God's created intent for sexuality that runs through Scripture. Of fundamental importance is that we are made in God's image as sexual beings, male and female. Thus, when a man and woman are joined together in covenantal union as "one flesh," God's unity from diversity is most clearly manifested. The complementary relationship between the sexes is obvious throughout the natural order.

Given this, put yourself in Satan's shoes. What better way to attack God and His image directly than to set men and women against one another, causing confusion in their sexual identities? When a culture drifts away from recognizing God and His sovereignty, it is not surprising to see people perplexed about their sexuality.

Still, many conclude that homosexuality is natural and normal. They claim that since it exists in nature it must be part of God's plan. However, does this mean that we are to take our moral cues from animals? If so, should we likewise eat our young, as some creatures do? The larger issue to address with teens is whether what is should be.

Emphasize the Potential for Change
Despite a lack of evidence to support a "gay gene"—not to mention the fact that people change their sexual orientation—many today believe that people are born gay. They argue that sexual orientation and gender identity should be treated as a civil right no different from race. They argue that Jack and Ennis in Brokeback and Bree in Transamerica should "be who they are" and not repress their natural inclinations.

Suppose one day a clear genetic link to homosexuality is established. Does this mean we must redefine that which God calls sin and walk the lavender carpet with Hollywood, embracing homosexuality without question? Or should Bree, who claims to be "a woman trapped in a man's body," be encouraged to pursue gender reassignment without considering the root causes of his confusion? Of course not. From Scripture we know that many sinful conditions, including alcoholism, have potential genetic origins. Indeed, we know from the Fall that all of creation is broken, including our genes. What we need to stress to teenagers is that 1 Corinthians 6:11 assures us that change is possible for those in Christ, even the sexually confused.

Kermit Rainman served as a research analyst at Focus on the Family, editing the Focus on Social Issues Web site and working with Love Won Out, a conference that equipped the church to address homosexuality truthfully and with love.

Published April 2006

When Tolerance Turns to Compromise