As a follow-up to yesterday’s post (“I am a Sodomite”), here is an insightful piece from Dr. Timothy Tennent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary, on why we should make a big deal about homosexuality. While I agree with Dr. Tennett, my concerns about institutionalized covetousness in the Church still stand. Do we really need all the huge buildings!???
… and so are you. Now that I’ve got your attention, what arcane point am I trying to make? I’ve been ruminating on the use of “sodomite” in certain conservative Christian circles. The motive seems to be Christians not wanting to compromise on this important issue and wanting to call a spade a spade. Since so many Christians have prevaricated and danced around the issue of same-sex attraction, we want to boldly call a sin a sin, and so some men that I respect deeply have taken to using the term “sodomy” and “sodomite.” I believe the main target of this epithet is militant, politically-aggressive homosexuals. In reaction, some Christians adopt the visage and manner of a desert prophet in order to meet this challenge head on. I agree with my brothers in their concerns to be bold and courageous in these perilous times. I believe Christianity and Biblical morality is under severe attack, and I support their desire to fight the good fight. However, if they want to talk like Ezekiel-the-sexually-explicit, I hope they can also talk more like Ezekiel in chapter 16 of his magnificent book.
In Ezekiel 16, God pronounces judgment on Jerusalem through Ezekiel, and connections between sexual sin and idolatry are rampant. But, in the midst of this grim sermon, God compares Jerusalem to Sodom. Ezekiel says that Jerusalem has become “more corrupt than they [the Sodomites] in all your ways. As I live, declares the Lord GOD, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done” (Ezek. 16:47-48). What did Jerusalem do that was so wicked? “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it” (Ezek. 16:49-50).
What is interesting is the almost total silence on the issue of homosexuality.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Is is possible to be “gay” and a Christian? “Yes!”, answer the many Christians who openly practice their homosexuality and condemn conservative Christians as intolerant homo-phobiacs. Is it possible to be a Christian and wrestle with homosexual attractions, with no end in sight, no prospect of “healing”? Wesley Hill’s painfully honest book, Washed and Waiting, shows that this is indeed a reality for many gay Christians.
Let me admit that I took some time to open up to Hill’s perspective. I come from the Jay Adams, “Nouthetic Counseling” approach, informed by testimonies from the ex-gay movement exemplified by Exodus International and writers like Joe Dallas and Anne Paulk. My research so far has encouraged me in the belief that the people I know and love who are struggling with homosexuality can find healing and release from what I believe is emotional and sexual bondage. Then I read Hill’s moving book. Hill confesses his long struggle with homosexual attractions, and shares some of his victories (and his defeats). But he says repeatedly that he is still “waiting.” For him, the temptations are still present and the daily battle is intense. I think what finally won me over was Hill’s brutal honesty, as well as his unrelenting search for answers.
Although this is Hill’s first book, he is not a lightweight. There is plenty of theological substance here to wrestle through (he is pursuing a Ph.D. in New Testament at Durham University). I really appreciated how he did not simply pull out a few proof-texts against homosexuality. Rather, he showed how sexual desire, longing, and brokenness are part of the New Testament narrative of fall and redemption. He writes:
“In the end, what keeps me on the path I’ve chosen is not so much individual proof texts from Scripture or the sheer weight of the church’s traditional teaching against homosexual practice. Instead, it is, I think, those texts and traditions as I see them from within the true story of what God has done in Jesus Christ–and the whole perspective on life and the world that flows from that story, as expressed definitively in Scripture … I abstain from homosexual behavior because of the power of that scriptural story” (pg. 61).
Hill powerfully argues for celibacy as the only option for gay Christians who are waiting for healing. In our sex-saturated culture, this is one of the most helpful parts on the book. We sometimes forget that Jesus Christ lived and ministered as a single, celibate man.
I’m very thankful for Wesley’s willingness to share his struggles with the world. Anyone who wants to understand how to better minster to those struggling with sexual brokenness needs to read this book!
(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Zondervan book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Considering the fact homosexuality is evident in all aspects of American life, we shouldn’t be surprised at the number of Christians who deal with it as well. What is surprising is the lack of assistance available to such Christians, in spite of the growth experienced by the few ministries that do offer help.” (Joe Dallas, Desires in Conflict: Hope for Men Who Struggle with Sexual Identity, 24).
W.P. Campbell’s new book, Turning Controversy in Church Ministry, will help fill the gap Joe Dallas describes. Campbell is a pastor in the PCUSA (Presbyterian Church, USA), which has become more and more liberal in its acceptance of gays. (This is the denomination I spent my teen years in, and I remember hearing about the first heated debates about this in the 90s.) Campbell has been an active participant in these growing pains, and I respect his attempt to really understand what pro-gay theologians and activists have said.
Since he has obviously put in time researching this issue, and since he actually ministers to homosexuals, it lends enormous credibility to his position. He disagrees with the conclusions of pro-gay theology, and he believes that homosexuality behavior is a sin. But, that does not stop him from exhorting all churches to welcome, and minister to, the sexually broken.
I found his treatment of “sexual brokenness” to be especially helpful. We are all sexually broken, or messed up. Some of us are broken heterosexually, and some of us are broken homosexually. Christ came to heal our brokenness, not condemn us as hopeless perverts. Campbell makes the interesting point that the gay community is often called “the family.” It’s no coincidence that many people turn to homosexuality because they find a love there they never had in their own families. Sadly, they probably never felt this love in their churches, either. We need to focus on really, truly, loving others in our churches. We need to be honest about our own sexual struggles. Hopefully, that will create a culture of transparency, where those struggling with same-sex attraction will feel safe to open up and talk about their struggles.
Campbell has lots of wisdom and practical advice to offer in this book. I highly recommend it for all pastors, leaders in churches, teachers in Christian schools, and anyone who knows someone who is gay. Given the way our culture is deteriorating, you may be surprised at how many gay people you know, or how many people might be secretly struggling with same-sex attraction in your church, school, or family.
Here are some questions a former student (now in college) sent me, to help him write a paper.
1. What do you think about the homosexual lifestyle in general?
As Christians, we must always submit our views to Scripture, as interpreted by the Church throughout history. I’m sure you don’t need me to quote Bible verses, but here are some for quick references which clearly show that homosexuality is not God’s plan (Lev. 18:22; Gen. 18-19; Jude 6-7; Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).
2. As a teacher at a very conservative and traditional Christian school, what do you think about Liberal education(teaching complexity, diversity, and change)?
We’d have to more clearly define “liberal” if I were to give a complete answer. But, here’s an imprecise answer, anyway. Christians believe in “complexity, diversity, and change”–God is complex, His Word is complex, we are complex. God is One God in Three Persons (Diversity!). God “changes” us through Christ. We are continually changing to be more and more like Him. Christians can accept all the good things that liberalism is striving for (provided it is really “good”!)
What’s more, I can’t help pointing out that liberalism can’t live up to its own ideals. The central belief of liberalism (I’m using the term quite loosely here, I know), as opposed to conservatism is TOLERANCE. But, liberals have a double standard here. They preach tolerance, they enforce tolerance, and they punish anyone who doesn’t agree with their version of truth. Because conservatives do not coform to the liberals’ view of what truth is, liberals do not tolerate conservatives. Liberals are really quite intolerant people, if you look at it from the other side. So, we’re all going to be intolerant of some things. It’s not a question of whether we will be intolerant, but of which things/behaviors/actions we are not going to tolerate!
But, I also don’t like most conservatives either–they’re just trying to “conserve” things (like “traditional morality” or “traditional marriage”) without any firm foundation to base it on. So I think both liberals and conservatives have missed important truths, that only truly Biblical Christianity can provide a basis for.
3. Where do you see homosexuality in the future? Legalized marriage? Adoption rights etc.
I actually think homosexuality will become more and more common. I think this because (1) the factors which tend to cause homosexuality are increasing (like broken families, child abuse, and unhealthy parenting), (2) the militant liberals of our country are pushing (and suceeding) in implementing educational curricula that teach the acceptabilty of homosexuality from the earliest ages (I’m sure you can find all sorts of juicy material on Obama’s “education czar,” and other evidence of the agenda which is being pushed in the public school system.
Yes, I think gay marriage will become legalized eventually in our country (unless our country changes dramatically!). But, I have a somewhat radical view on this–I don’t think the government should be this involved in marriage in the first place. God defines what marriage is. Marriage is a covenantal reality which is solmenized by the Church. Perhaps a representative of the government should be at a wedding, but I’m more of a libertarian on the role of the government–scale it way, way back!!!
4. What is your response when or if you have seen a gay couple holding hands or kissing etc.?
When I first saw this sort of thing in public, I was a bit shocked, just like when I first saw really gory death scenes in movies. Now, after knowing people who struggle with same-sex attraction, I feel more pity and sadness than anything (though I admit when I first saw these behaviors, I was a bit repulsed by it.) But, now that I realize what tragic histories many homosexuals have, I hope I have more of the compassion of Christ, rather than the self-righteous indignation of the Pharisee.
5. What do you think the cause of homosexuality is in terms of Christian views and biblical teachings?
I believe the cause of all disorders is sin. How’s that for a simplistic answer! 🙂 First, I think we need to approach the issue with love and humility. We are all sinners. We are all inclined to disobey God’s will, and turn away from his perfect plan. God clearly created a Man for a Woman. This is seen not only in Genesis, but also in the most basic design of our body parts. When homosexuals turn away from God’s plan for sex, they still end up copying it in some respect (or they do bizarre and strange things, instead).
Back to the question about liberals and how they celebrate “change” and “diversity”–what’s diverse about homosexuality? The Greek (had to bring that in!) behind the word means, “same sex”. This isn’t diversity, this is boring sameness. God’s original design is incredibly diverse and complex! My wife is just plain different, not to mention complex! I will spend the rest of my life trying to figure her out, and I look forward to this exciting journey. Homosexuals usually mimic this God-designed pattern (with one of the pair acting more “male” and one more “female”).
The books I’m reading, point out obvious flaws with the studies that claim to have found a genetic cause for homosexuality. They even quote from some of the scientists involved in these studies (as well as studies that claim to have found biological causes or traits–differences within the ears, longer fingers, etc.) Even if science conclusively proves that all homosexuals have some gene which disposes them to same-sex attraction, what does this prove? Alcoholics may be genetically predisposed to alcoholism! Rapists might be genetically predisposed to rape! What if they find a genetic cause for pedophilia??? My genes predispose me to lust after every hot babe I see–does this mean I should just do what my genes (or my hormones) are urging me to do? Plenty of homosexuals have turned away from a homosexual lifestyle. There are even secular therapists who will do what they call “reparative therapy” for homosexuals who don’t want to be homosexual.
Some homosexuals themselves don’t like the gene theory. Anne Paulk writes: “Consider this recent [not so recent!] quote from Peter Tatchell of the gay rights organization Outrage!: ‘I’m amazed that it’s taken this long to destroy what is obviously a totally implausible theory. It is a choice and we should be glad that it’s that way and celebrate it for ourselves.'” (the footnote cites, John Arlidge, “No Tears for Passing of ‘Gay Gene,'” The Observer [April 25, 1999].)
People are complex beings! We will probably never know what “causes” homosexuality. However, it is is interesting that (at least for lesbians) many of them have abusive backgrounds, parents who did not have a healthy marriage, or some trauma in their life (death in family, or adoption at a later age). We are all broken by sin. We all have an emptiness that only God can fill. Some of us choose to try and fill it with Playboy Bunnies, lots of girlfriends, or lots of guyfriends. Some of us try to fill it with drugs or alcohol. But, this only numbs the pain. Only when we turn to Christ, and repent of trying to replace Him with the things He has made, only then can we truly enjoy the good gifts He wants to give us (like alcohol or sex). [Of course, someone could also try to replace Christ with an idolatrous love of their wife/husband, kids, car, or whatever. But, that’s another topic …]
6. Anything else you would like to add or tell me about with this issue?
I’m glad you’re taking the time to think through these things, and I’m humbled that you think my opinion is worth asking 🙂 Here are the books I’ve been reading on this subject lately:
Exodus International – a good web-site
Joe Dallas (a former homosexual) – When Homosexuality Hits Home
Joe Dallas – Desires in Conflict
Anne Paulk (a former lesbian) – Restoring Sexual Identity
Janelle Hallman – The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction