Friday, August 19, 2005

3. Sex, and the Supremacy of Christ

I found a book called "Sex and the Supremacy of Christ" on the bookshelf of one of my pastors. It looked new, so I knew that there would be a chapter in it on homosexuality -- they all have one now. Because I am trying to figure this whole gay Christian thing out I decided I would find some time to read it... not the entire book, just that one chapter. I knew (both intuitively and from reading the blurbs on the back of the book) that the book would be about how sex is such a wonderful gift from God, how it shows His love for us... and, well...if I'm going to end up being celibate I don't need to read that stuff... how God gave this wonderful gift to everyone – well, to everyone else anyway.

Another assumption I made was that the chapter would say that gays were called to celibacy... or maybe it would say that we should probably seek 'healing'... I have read enough of these chapters to know basically what to expect. But I have never read anything like this chapter before. The thinking in this chapter is the sort of thing that gets gay people (celibate or not) kicked out of churches and families!

I should point out that when the pastor who owned this book saw that I was reading it, she told me that it was brand new, and she hasn't read it yet. I'm pretty sure she wouldn't be as... well, hateful as this author is.

Okay, so what was this chapter saying? I’m going to start at the beginning, and work my way through…it gets worse as it goes on.

1. "The fact that homosexual marriage is even an issue for public debate demonstrates that we are a civilization in crisis..." (p. 107)

This quote is on the first page of the chapter… talk about some panic driven language -- the fact that people are even discussing something you disagree with means we are in "crisis"? Are you kidding me? I don't even know what I believe on the issue of gay marriage for Christians (...although I do know that I believe it should be legal), but just because people are talking about it does not mean that there is a crisis. I know a lot of people make comparisons between the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement, and to be perfectly honest, I find that often this is a flawed comparison... but I'm going use it anyway. Do you remember when people were calling integration a "crisis"?

And it's homosexual marriage that indicates this 'crisis'? Not the astronomical divorce rate among heterosexual marriages? 50% -- for Christians and non-Christians alike! And at least gay people want to get married, to have their unions legitimized... many straight people don't even bother with that anymore...why isn't that in indication that we are a 'civilization in crisis'?

And to stretch the point further, how come the fact that there are still millions of people in North America living below the poverty line doesn't mean that we are a 'civilization in crisis'? How come the fact that as one of the wealthiest nations in the world we give less than 1% of our GNP to charity doesn't indicate that we are a civilization in crisis? How come the fact that we generate more and more waste and are destroying the planet God gave us doesn't indicate that we are a 'civilization in crisis'? Ugh...okay... moving on...

2: "Even for men and women given the gift of celibacy, and for those who by other circumstances are unmarried, marriage remains the defining institution for understanding masculinity and femininity and the arena of human sexuality" (p. 112)

I don't even know what to make of this statement. He goes on for a bit before this talking about how God ordained marriage, and made a helpmate for Adam...and this is the conclusion he comes to. I just don't know what to say to that. It doesn't make me mad like the other things he says, it just doesn't make sense. I am not female because of marriage, I'm female because I'm female...I learned to understand some of what it means to be a woman by observing women, that's true... but they were not merely "wives" to me, they were my aunts, cousins, grandmothers, friends... And on top of that, most of my sense of 'femaleness' doesn't come from outside of me, it's internal. I admit that my understanding of masculinity comes pretty much exclusively from outside, but that's just because I'm not a man. This passage made so little sense to me, that I would welcome anyone reading this to try and explain it to me actually... so, even if you completely disagree with me, I beg you to comment. I'm just confused!

3. In a section where he talks about how marriage is an essential part of every society, he says "Even where there have been aberrations such as polygamy or other forms of wrongly construed marriage, these have been noteworthy precisely because they are aberrations, and because they have been culturally transient" (p 113)

He didn't even try to address the massive elephant in the room here - that a lot of 'aberrations' of marriage show up in the Bible! ...polygamy, forcing women to marry men who raped them, having men sleep with their brother's widows in order to father children... The reason this jumped out at me is because of a discussion I had recently, where the person I was talking with was talking about how marriage was ordained by God, (which I totally believe) and was ordained to be between men and women, and is meant to represent the Church's relationship with Christ. Afterwards, as I mulled over our discussion I started thinking about how marriage was represented in the Bible, and how -- for the most part -- I can only hope that these marriages don't represent our relationship with Christ... because the marriages I see in the Bible are not marriages that I would want to be in (gay or straight).

4. "A genuinely Christian response to the challenge of homosexual marriage would go back to marriage itself and the gift of gender..." (p 114)

The only thing I have to say about this is that it is a common misconception (among both Christians and non-Christians) that gay people have gender identity issues. For the most part, we don't -- even those gay guys I know who call each other "girlfriend" don't have identity issues. I know that I'm a woman; they know that they are men.

5. "Some have gone so far as to argue that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was not homosexuality but inhospitality” (p. 116)

Is he kidding with this?? He is saying that the sin that Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed for is homosexuality? He is equating gang rape with homosexuality?

He says that Jude 7 proves that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for the sin of homosexuality… I actually looked it up. It says: “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”

I went to Biblegateway.com and looked up 19 different translations of that verse, and none of them say anything about homosexuality... most of them translate "perversion" as "desiring other flesh" which is incredibly ambiguous.

When I got home I looked up “sexual immorality” and “perversion” in my concordance. “Sexual immorality” in the original Greek means exactly what it means in English… it just means sexual immorality, which encompasses a lot of things. Perversion is a different story. It’s a compilation of 4 words… none of which mean homosexuality… the basic gist of the words is simply perversion so… can you think of that many things that are more sexually immoral or perverse than gang rape? Whether it’s gay or straight, rape is immoral and perverse.

6. "We must understand that female homosexuality is often directly traceable to the misbehavior of men... a woman who resorts to lesbianism..." (p 121)

Now, this is just insane. “Traceable to the misbehavior of men”? Resorting to lesbianism? Right, of course, all lesbians were abused by men (None of my gay female friends were abused at all...I'm the only one, and I was abused by girls!)...that's an inane assumption. He doesn't even try to find the 'root' of male homosexuality, saying that male sexuality 'can be corrupted in so many different ways' ...this is probably just because he's a guy, and therefore recognizes that there is complexity in male sexuality...And he probably thinks he’s got women ‘figured out’. Oy.

7. "We must declare God's verdict that every single homosexual act is sin, and that homosexual desire is in itself sinful." (p 122)

Oh man, this is the thinking that made me not want to get baptized when I was 11, because I thought that God would strike me dead or something if I tried to participate in a sacrament when I couldn't stop 'sinning' by having crushes on girls. Isn't sin, by definition, an action? Not a desire? I can't even believe he says this. It's ridiculous.

8. "We must urge all sinners to repent and abandon their sin, but convincing homosexuals to think of themselves as heterosexuals is not the same thing as salvation. We must show homosexuals their need for salvation and transformation." (p 125)

This is the big one...he makes 'homosexuality' and 'salvation' mutually exclusive, you can't be both... and because he has already labeled homosexual desire sinful, then even if gay person is celibate, he's saying that they aren't saved. I cannot even believe this. This chapter just got worse and worse.

9. "Becoming heterosexual is not salvation, but the miracle of regeneration and sanctification will produce, by God's grace, the right affections in your heart" (p. 125).

Actually, this is the big one. This is the one that had me fantasizing for years about jumping in front of buses, or driving into oncoming traffic... if it wasn't for my fear of hell, I might have actually done it. This is the one that made me think that God had abandoned me...because I prayed and prayed, and asked others to pray for me, and went to Christian counseling (not to an ex-gay program or anything, but to Christians at the church I was going to then) and I was never made straight... so therefore, it was obvious to me that God must not love me.

I find this to be such dangerous theology. I read an article about an ex-gay program (a program that tries to help gay people become straight) called Living Waters that was sent to me by one of my pastors...the article was obviously in support of the program, it was practically an advertisement...but at the end it gave these statistics -- 11% of men going through their program experience complete change, 37% of the women experience complete change... According to the author of this book then, only those 11 and 37% of people are recipients of God's grace...the rest are lost... and these people, who are going into Living Waters obviously desire change, and believe God will do it... so they must feel completely abandoned. This is the reason I won't go into an ex-gay program... I don't want to come out the other end either back in the closet (where I wanted to kill myself) or end up believing that either God abandoned me or there is no God. Not a good situation, no matter what.

Phew… well, those are my thoughts on this book. Definitely not a helpful book at all! Maybe the other chapters are good… but I'm not picking that book up again.    

8 Comments:

Eric said...

yes, very disturbing theology. it wasn't that long ago that i used to hold to that same belief system. it just doesn't sound consistent with the God I know - the one that loves me enough to die for me as the ultimate demonstration of His grace and mercy so that I can be reconciled with Him.

i went through the Living Waters program last year - it was a six month program. While they do suggest that homosexual behavior is a form of "brokenness", I can also say that it was a positive experience for me. Granted, this was before I began my own journey of looking at all sides to the issue, but still in hindsight, i found value in much of the program.

this doesn't mean i'm pro-ex-gay ministries. i've heard many others who have had negative experiences with Living Waters and other ex-gay ministries. personally, i liked it because for six months i got to be "known" and there was alot of prayer and support involved. the ministry is more than just trying to change gay people - it also focusses on the issues of lust - relational idolatry and narcisism. these things i agree are brokenness and their insight was helpful. in fact, there are gay ministries (non ex-gay) that actually address the same issues of lust and the need for gay men to live in committed love and monogamy.

however, the issue of homosexuality is very much a different subject. isn't it crazy how some heterosexuals have the assumption that homosexuality and lust are one in the same? they assume that to be homosexual means that sex is a central part of our lives. that simply is ridiculous!

i love your comments regarding a civilization in crisis. well said.

the author's logic in many of the points you quoted are tainted all over the place with false assumptions.

many use Sodom and Gomorrah as a prooftext condemning homosexuality. but their underlying assumption is that that is the reason those cities were destroyed. it wasn't.

sigh. people these days.

bless you JJ!

Kelly said...

JJ, I'm a heterosexual female. I am a believer, and I do believe that homosexuality is a sin. I think that God does call it an abomination in Scripture, though I can't remember where right now.

I just wanted to post regarding point number 2, about the author's point about women being created for marriage. It was rather bad logic on his part.

If I may just share a bit... When I was in high school, I struggled a lot with what I was supposed to do with my life. When I was asking God about it, He gave me a little bit of logic to think about. He took me back to Genesis to show me that Eve was created to be a helpmeet to Adam. She completed him. The Hebrew on "helpmeet" holds the connotation that she was a "lifesaver," that she was something no one else could be to Adam. I understand that the word is only used elsewhere in Scripture about God.

It was through His showing me that Eve was important to Adam that I came to believe that my calling as a woman was not to be a "wife" but to be a helpmeet.

It *is* possible to be a Christian if you are gay, just as it is possible to be a Christian and be judgmental. Both are labeled as sin in Scripture.

In reading a bit of your blog and of another blog I found, I'm starting to understand that the struggle gay people face is not so much that their homosexuality is a sin, but that it is their identity. With Christians shunning you from the Church because you are gay, they attack your identity and do not show you the love of Christ, leaving you to either fight them to be who you are or insisting that you must change who you are.

That's wrong, and that's not what Jesus did. The New Testament talks a *lot* about setting aside sexual sin, not even letting it be named among believers. But it does not speak of setting aside without a putting on. Jesus Christ died so that we who are sinners could have a *new* identity that was not our sin.

2 Corinthians 5:20 says that He "became" sin for us so that we could "become" the righteousness of God in Him.

That means that He became my judgment, my dishonesty, my pride, my slapping-God-in-the-face. God had to turn away from Him because He saw all of the sin in the world upon His perfect Son.

There is a lot of church abuse out there that teaches that we have to improve ourselves. I think, however, based on a reading of the New Testament, that the Holy Spirit accomplishes this through sanctification. Meanwhile, we are justified through Jesus Christ, and we who believe on His name and who have come to love Him want to obey Him. In that obedience, we put off evil speaking, malice, sexual sin, etc. Can we do this in our own strength? Can we do this through a 12-step program or through counseling?

I doubt it.

Keep seeking Jesus, JJ. Remember that He has borne your griefs and carried your sorrows. I don't understand what it's like to struggle with homosexuality, but I know what it's like to struggle with pride and bitterness and disobedience. Jesus bore all of these as surely as he bore your sin.

He will show you what His grace is, and how His mercy covers you. And I truly believe that He will free you. But until He does, rest in His love for you. Get deep into His Word and see what He will say to you. He started a work in you that He has promised to finish (Phil. 1:6) His Word won't return to Him empty. You have this moment with Him. Take this time to love mercy with Him, to do justly, and to walk humbly with your God. This is why Jesus came, so that sinners could be reconciled and walk with the God who loves them, and who longs to show them what He has for them.

From Him to me to you...You, JJ, are loved.

~Kelly~

JJ said...

Kelly, I really appreciate that as a straight Christian, you are trying to understand what those of us who aren't straight are going through. So many just dismiss us as deviants... it's nice to know that there are people like you out there.

The reference to homosexuality (well, to male homosexual acts being an abominiation is in Leviticus. As a Christian who is wrestling this out, I can tell you that I am well versed in all the references to homosexuality in the Bible. My issue is not whether or not what the Bible says is true, because I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, my issue is whether or not the Bible says what I've been taught to believe it says.

Eric, I'm so excited you wandered over here... your site rocks!

Regarding what you said about people thinking that homosexuality and lust are the same thing, that is actually what my next post is going to be about. How people assume that gay people are all about sex... it's one of the most frustrating things.

Eric said...

kelly, i honor you for your willingness to be sensitive to such a tough issue.

i'd like to suggest something though for perspective. you said that you don't know what it's like to struggle with homosexuality but you do know what it's like to struggle with pride, bitterness, and disobedience. one of the reasons why people like me have such a hard time in the Church is because of these kinds of statements - they reflect a lack of understanding about what it is we're struggling with.

you compare the struggle of 'being' homosexual with 'acting' with pride or 'committing' some other sin. if you want to understand the struggle, the more accurate comparison would be saying that you struggle with being 'black' or 'asian' in the midst of people telling you that it's a sin to act black or asian.

my point in this comment is not to argue the point of whether or not homosexuality is a sin. my point is to help you better understand what it is we're struggling with. part of the struggle is having people in the Church misunderstand our struggle. we don't feel heard. we don't feel understood.

the struggle is in having straight people tell us that it's wrong to be gay and that we can change. but how would you feel if you were told that being straight was wrong? even 'if' you believed that, how possible do you imagine that it would be for you to become gay when being straight is the person you are and have been? being straight yourself, can you possibly fathom becoming gay?

the profound depression that we sometimes feel is not because we simply refuse to give up our sin. it is in realizing that we are 'expected' to change and/or resist something that is at the very core of our being - our orientation.

the sad part is that no one is telling you to be gay. but they're telling us to be something we're not. I am a Christian. that's supposed to be enough.

David Wiens said...

the profound depression that we sometimes feel is not because we simply refuse to give up our sin. it is in realizing that we are 'expected' to change and/or resist something that is at the very core of our being - our orientation.

eric

i want to clarify something that you've said here, but please understand that i'm not applying this to being gay necessarily. you've said here that it is a problem that gay people are expected to 'resist something that is at the very core of [their] being' and that, by implication, being asked to resist one's 'orientation' is wrong (?) or insensitive (?). am i understanding you correctly? if i am, then i would have to disagree that this is a problem in principle.

for, in fact, God's call on all our lives is to resist our orientation. 'throwing off the old self and putting on the new self' is a call to abandon part of the core of our humanness--the self-interested part of that core. according to the bible (at least on some readings), sin is at the core of our beings, which is why sin is a problem. sin is not a problem because we do sinful things, but because we are sinful people. thus, the battle against sin is a struggle against an element of our core being.

now, like i said, i'm not necessarily placing homosexuality in that sinful core; nor am i equating it with self-interestedness. i am, however, challenging the principle that some thing's (orientation, behaviour, etc.) being 'at the core of being' makes it in some way morally neutral or benign. the struggle against sin is not a struggle against 'sinful actions' (that are in some way separable from our core being) but against a 'sinful orientation'--an orienting self-interested impetus that leads us away from God's purposes of love, mercy, grace, justice, compassion, peace, etc.

i am enjoying being a part of this journey with you. thanks.

Kelly said...

Eric,

Thanks for your clarification. What you wrote was actually something that hit me *after* I posted here.

Society teaches that homosexuality is something we're born with, and the church teaches that same-sex attraction is homosexuality.

But in reading a bit more of JJ's blog, I realized that she had not actually "committed" homosexual acts. I will admit to being a bit naive in these areas (I'm just figuring out what sexual attraction is for my fiancé, period!), but when I read that she had thought about kissing a girl I was shocked. I've done that! But I don't consider myself homosexual!

I was talking with someone on Saturday about how things might have changed after the Fall, how the attraction orientation may have changed, but I was also talking with my sister, who's had a bit more (a lot more) experience on these fronts, and she told me that a lot of it is that we're all sexual beings. We *do* react to the opposite sex. We *do* react to the same sex sometimes, especially in situations where we've been sexually abused as children (as in the case of my fiancé and others he's known.)

I think what David said is accurate--that our identity, gay, straight or otherwise, is to be found in Jesus Christ. I do disagree with you--pride isn't something I "commit"--I seriously feel like the pride and my selfishness and my struggle against judging--I feel like it's who I am, like it's my identity. But all that aside, I really believe that as believers, our identity is Jesus Christ, and not what we feel.

We are told to take captive every thought. All I can say about you and JJ is wow. I admire your willingness to do that in what you're facing. It's as hard for me to do that about my sexual attraction to other guys now that my body is waking up to my fiancé, and I'm wondering if that is something I will face now for the rest of my life.

Anyhoo, thanks for your thoughts and honesty!

Eric said...

thanks David and Kelly,

i would agree that we are to resist sin and i would agree that we are to put off the old self and to put on the new self.

in my journey of exploring the various positions regarding homosexuality and Christianity (it's okay in a context of commitment; it's okay but be celibate; it's okay and i can do whatever i want - which really has no validity; it's not okay so be transformed), i keep coming to the same observation. the disagreement stems from what is meant when homosexuality is referenced.

if God was referring to the lust and idolatry and disrespect of gang rape, male prostitution, pederastry (adult men with young boys), and temple worship (that was common in that historical context) when He said that homosexuality is an abomination, then in that context we are to put off all forms of lust and idolatry.

if God was referring to all forms of homosexual activity, then we are to put off all forms of it.

if God was referring to everyone who even has these desires, then we are to put off even the desires and strive to be straight or be damned.

I believe that God transforms us to be more like Him - more like Christ. Because we have the Spirit in us, we bear the fruit of His Spirit. For both gay and straight people, we are to put off lust and to put on love.

David, i agree with you that our orientation is towards sin - that is in our nature. That is what we ought to resist. When i reference orientation - i refer to sexual orientation in context of this blog not in our nature as a whole. So another question would be whether or not we ought to resist our sexual orientation.

My question on my journey is whether or not attraction towards a gender is part of that which we are to put off. Heterosexuals are not asked to put off being straight but rather to love honestly, sincerely, and godly. Homosexuals can do the same thing.

While i've made no conclusions yet, but am obviously inclined in a particular direction - i am thankful that i'm not on this journey alone.

I honor and value all of you - JJ, David, and Kelly - for being a part of it.

David Wiens said...

When i reference orientation - i refer to sexual orientation in context of this blog not in our nature as a whole. So another question would be whether or not we ought to resist our sexual orientation.

My question on my journey is whether or not attraction towards a gender is part of that which we are to put off. Heterosexuals are not asked to put off being straight but rather to love honestly, sincerely, and godly. Homosexuals can do the same thing.


eric,

i agree with you here, which is why i directed my comments to what i (mis)took to be a questionable principle. i haven't come to any conclusion as to whether homosexual orientation is something that must be 'put off'. thanks for the clarification.

cheers.