Thursday, February 17, 2005

"Ex-homosexuals" and grace

It's difficult to know what to say about these Christianity Today stories:
My Path to Lesbianism and Cheated by the Affirming Church. I'm not gay, I'm not these people, and I don't get to say what experiences are "authentic" and which are not.

Still, quotes like this raise an eyebrow:
My first encounter with a woman gave me the most intense sense of belonging and connection I have ever felt. It is hard to explain just how enveloped I felt during that first encounter. I felt a sense of relief I had never felt before. I felt like I had finally found that sense of home within my soul I had been missing.

What I really had fallen into was an emotionally dependent relationship that had nothing at all to do with love. I was trying to fill my need for connection on my own terms. If love means honoring people, then is it loving to have them participate in what the Bible says alienates them from God? I realized that if I truly loved a woman, I could not sleep with her.

The implied priority here is Word over relationship--or perhaps better, Word establishing right relationship. That's hardly a value a good Christian can argue with, right?

Well, yes, actually. To understand why, look at the conclusion of the second article, written by an anonymous "ex-gay" man:
My pastor likens affirming Christians to the doctor who examines her patient and discovers life-threatening, but treatable, cancer. However, knowing that the patient cannot bear the thought of the painful treatment, she sends the man home with the "good news" that there is nothing wrong with him. Instead, the good doctor tells her patient that the symptoms of cancer are something "quite natural" that he should "accept."

In the same way, I've had Christians tell me that homosexuality is "natural," that I was "born this way," and I should "accept" the way I am. They have said that my marriage was a mistake; I should divorce my wife and affirm my gay identity. But I have heard countless stories of men and women who came out from affirming churches because they realized that they were not being who God wants them to be.

Believers can act like the false physician, telling people tempted by homosexuality that same-sex orientation is part of their identity and that they should accept it. Or, we can act as judge, jury, and executioner, driving them away from the Savior who loves them. Either way, we risk the same result: spiritual death.

Or we can respond like Jesus would, with grace and truth: "Come unto me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Those words called to me, weary and heavy-laden with sin, several years ago. Shouldn't all Christians bear that message of freedom and hope?

Well, yes. God in Christ will give us rest, and freedom and hope are indeed God-given gifts. The hidden factor here is the assumption that homosexuality is always chosen, always a form of bondage, always destructive of relationships. But with all due respect to the authors, the wasteland of their lives seems to have been accomplished pretty well by means other than their sexual orientation, and nothing in these articles to demonstrate that the freedom and hope offered by God is anything other than to be who we are, gay, straight, or some difficult place in the middle.

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