This is a guest post by someone who approached me and asked if they can communicate a message to the evangelical Christian church. Its from a man who deals with same sex attraction (as he views it). He wants to tell churches how people like him should be treated and loved. This is his message and I will gladly give him the platform.
“I started to get to know them as people. I started to empathize with their unique struggles, and my stereotypes were crushed and confronted. And most of all, I found myself enjoying my new friends who equally and beautifully reflect our Creator’s image. Debates about sexuality and gender are not just about issues. They are about people, beautiful people. These debates, they’re about my friends.”
Preston Sprinkle, teacher, speaker and co-author of “People to be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just An Issue.”
“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.”
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35 NIV
University of Chicago Rockefeller Memorial Chapel
Dear Church, I’m Gay
Not long ago I was approached by a man who asked me if he could share his story about same sex attraction. He has requested that I use the term same sex attraction and not gay, which I am inclined to say. So to respect his wishes and desires in this post I will do that. This man wants to tell the evangelical Christian church a message. He wants to share the burden and difficulty of dealing with same sex attraction. He wants the church to know how he should be treated and loved. And what he wished the church would say to the LGBTQ community. For him its a message of hope, encouragement and love. So I agreed and am going to let him share his message with the church. So with that explained I am going to turn this post over to a person who I appreciate and deeply respect. I hope we can have coffee one day and I can listen to his story and perspective in person. The one thing I enjoy from this blog is meeting people of all stripes, belief systems and no faith and to hear their story and what they believe (or not) and why.
There are many things which I wish the Church knew when addressing Same-Sex Attraction (SSA). I will make an attempt to narrow it down to four.
First, I wish the church KNEW the Gospel message of Jesus Christ when addressing SSA.
After over thirty years of struggling with SSA, I was finally told of the book, “Desires In Conflict“ by Joe Dallas, where, for the first time, spoke to me not as a condemned sinner but as a creation of God who was a redeemed sinner.
Growing up in the church, I had read the Old Testament story of how God demonstrated His hatred of homosexuality (which would include SSA today) by His complete destruction and obliteration of Sodom and Gomorrah. When I got older, I learned from the news of the protests against “Gay Day” at Walt Disney World. But I was also conflicted in my attempt to understand how a loving God sent His one and only Son to save all sinners except for homosexuals. Was this a sin that was unredeemable?
I believe that, for too long, the church has viewed those who have both struggled against or chosen to give into their temptation with sexual identity as both brazen sinners who have turned their backs on God or are completely unredeemable. Now, with the revolution of technology and the capability of reaching vast audiences with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I believe that the church has waited too long to reach those who want to struggle against their desires and live celibate lives for their Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
It seems as though a week doesn’t go by when I read of ANOTHER conference, seminar or symposium where believers are meeting to “help church leaders think through how to navigate issues of sexuality in a way that is clear and compassionate for our churches” (Source: @SamAllberry, Twitter). Now, granted, they are inviting Dr Tim Keller, the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, NY, at this particular conference, but my question is: While Dr Keller “has a complementarian view of gender that believes that the Bible teaches defined roles for both genders” and has written a book (The Meaning of Marriage) on his biblical view of sex and marriage, does he have first-person knowledge of what it is like to struggle daily with SSA? Is the church asking and LISTENING to those in their attendance who are hurting in their daily struggle with SSA? Or have they buried them so deep in their recovery programs that they can no longer see or hear them? In every personal encounter Jesus had in His ministry, He met people, men and women, where they were, spoke to them in their individual life, then gently and lovingly shared with them God’s love for them. Aside from being omniscient, He didn’t try to dissect and understand their lifestyle or sin struggle before loving them.
Secondly, I wish the church knew those who both struggle against SSA and those who have given up hope of salvation and have given themselves over INTO SSA.
Several months ago, a good friend of mine told me of an upcoming movie in the making entitled “The Heart of Man”. I looked at the initial trailer and it just seemed like what I considered your standard “here’s what temptation looks like and here’s what a few Christian authors think you should do about it” movie. I had read so many books that had great advice, which would also request you sign up for online chat rooms for human accountability and advertising for online Internet accountability software (which either slowed down the complete functionality of your computer or just made you trying to find ways to get around it!) and keeping journals which would then evolve into more merchandise. Sadly, all of the books I had encountered and read only addressed heterosexual temptation and never addressed me in my own struggle! Now, for many people, these things worked well and I am sure that it helped in their own personal recovery. For me, it usually ended in both my own frustration, which induced stress and resulted ultimately in diving into pornography and masturbation! Then, I would disconnect the software, then have to give an explanation to my accountability partner as to why, then the shame and embarrassment of my failure would catapult me even further down the rabbit hole of more porn and masturbation! But I digress . . .
So, the other night, I was having dinner with a Christian brother and his friends who were in town from spring break from Bible college who shared with me their recent viewing of “The Heart of Man” (none of them knew of my personal struggle). In my mind, my thought was, “Oh, this movie again!” I respectfully listened attentively, trying feverishly to dismiss my personal bias against previous “Christian” movies I had viewed which seemed really flat, cheesy and deliver a very unrealistic and unattainable Gospel message. After much encouragement, he urged me to give it a view.
The next morning (a Saturday), I awoke at around three and began reading a book, then remembered the previous night’s conversation about the movie and decided to watch it. For the second time in my life (the first being after reading Desires in Conflict), I was both blown away and captivated by the scenes and dialogue contained within the hour and fourteen minutes of this movie. For me, it was more than a retelling of the Prodigal son but an enlightening of how sexual purity, temptation and sin affects not only the heterosexual but homosexual struggler as well! WHY hadn’t this movie been written YEARS ago and HOW many believers like myself could have been spared the years of anguish of both “reparative therapy” and unattainable recovery efforts?!
Among the MANY monologues within “The Heart of Man”, two stand out to me:
“When I choose to run from Him, into the darkness, He’s with me in that moment, (emphasis mine) and He’s not angry, and His facial expression is fixed on mine, and He’s loving me. And he wasn’t demanding that I stop. He was demanding that I invite Him into that moment, (emphasis mine) to help me understand how I got into that moment and what’s beneath that moment, and to help me search what I’m really searching for (emphasis mine). . . . . I melted. You know, it’s one thing to read . . . I’m loved. It’s one thing to read, I will be with you. But for Him to be with me in my addiction . . . for Him to be with me in prison, and in sickness, and in relapse, over and, over, and over again, that’s what changes me.” – Tony Anderson, songwriter
“God wants you naked, why? ‘Cause He wants to clothe you.’ God wants to enter into your heartache, why? ‘Cause He really wants to bring you a taste of joy.’ So often, we think God is just trying to get us to conform, when really what He’s committed to is unbelievable transformation. If we could only enter the depths of His love, we would find our lives deeply changed.” – Dr Dan Allender
Our churches are really good about teaching the Bible and dissecting Scripture and explaining the underlying theology, but they seem handicapped in their ability to speak of God’s love and desire for loving mankind when addressing sexual purity and addiction. A few years ago, the phrase “speaking truth at the sacrifice of love” appeared. Paul in his letters to the Ephesian church writes in Ephesians 4:15 “speaking the truth in love”. Too many churches sacrifice the love of God for His truth and many times, I’m afraid, break the spirit of many believers.
Thirdly, I wish the church equipped themselves better about the subjects of unwanted same-sex attraction, gay identity and same sexual behavior, instead of grouping all of these together as the sin of homosexuality.
As Preston Sprinkle said in a conversation with Undone Redone Webcast, many churches interchange unwanted same-sex attraction, gay identity, and same-sexual behavior into one lump sin of homosexuality. Eighty-three percent of the LGBTQ community were raised in Christian churches and left the church due to their being treated as “other” species. It is NO wonder why these men and women have sought love elsewhere when they have been made to feel like Jesus did not love them by the example presented by both leadership and church members.
Lastly, I wish the church knew the present and future damage being done by NOT sharing the Gospel message to those of the SSA community.
A few months ago, I discovered the video Preston Sprinkle and The Center for Faith, Sexuality & Gender, wrote and produced which is now available on Netflix and YouTube entitled “Dear Church — I’m Gay”. (You can see this an the beginning of this post). Unlike so many things I had read and seen, the opening narration of Preston Sprinkle really touched my heart: “ . . . Debates about sexuality and gender are not just about issues. They are about people, beautiful people. These debates, they’re about my friends.” It is with the heart of Sprinkle, who diligently searched the Scriptures and commentaries, then shut the Bible and the books and began befriending actual people who had struggled with SSA and began viewing them as humans who had sin struggles like himself. As I watched the video, while I couldn’t relate to all of the stories, I could relate to one young man, who like me, had searched the Scriptures in the hope that there might be a way for God to allow him to have a relationship with someone. Like his own results, I too found that such a relationship would not be possible and accepted that.
I believe that there are MANY men and women today who have struggled with SSA all of their lives. Most of them have seen the reactions of many churches and because of that, have not been offered the opportunity for the redemptive salvation God offers in the Gospel. This has resulted in the creation and evolution of the LGBTQ communities, promiscuity and sexual sin and the resulting high cases of sexual diseases and deaths today. Protestant and Catholic Christians, secretly living with SSA hanging over their heads, possess the knowledge of God and redemptive salvation He offers but struggle alone without the Christian community’s help in walking beside them and encouraging them to “fight the good fight”. They too fall victim to the sexual diseases and deaths today. Lastly, there are those believers like myself who both struggle with SSA and have chosen to lead celibate lives and have found safe haven within the walls of churches but are still hesitant to open up to others about their struggle out of the fear of rejection they’ve experienced in their past and the gross misunderstanding of what SSA is. ALL of these scenarios hurt the Christians of SSA and God’s heart for those who are lost and will never live in the “peace that passes all understanding.”
While I have walked a long, and many times, dark road, I have been blessed with a few close friends who love me for who I am and don’t judge me merely because I struggle (and sometimes sin) differently from them.