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Dignity of Choice

Dignity of Choice

‘Fatalism is resigning ourselves to the inevitable; faith is entrusting ourselves to the One who is worthy of our trust.’ Richard John Neuhaus

A prevailing assumption today: homosexuality is a genetic, inborn condition that requires us to defend ‘gay’ persons and ‘gay marriage’ because persons with such inclinations just cannot help it. Parents who confirm ‘gay-identified’ children seem especially intent on perpetuating such a fatalistic view of homosexuality; they lead the way in reducing their offspring (and others) to faulty notions of morality and identity.

In a front page article of the NY Times last week, Methodist Pastor Frank Schaefer offered this counsel to his ‘gay-identified’ son: ‘It’s so obvious that you did not choose this for yourself. This is who you are and this is how God created you to be.’ On those assumptions about his son’s inclinations (and the nature of God), the pastor determined to officiate at his son’s ‘gay wedding’ and lead the charge in promoting ‘gay marriage’ in his denomination.

Wow. Popular, superficial, utterly deceptive thinking with devastating consequences for everyone.

Think about it. Isn’t it obvious that our bodies are designed for fruitful communion with the opposite gender? If that is so, then any feelings to the contrary must be understood as some kind of frustration to the normal progression unto wholeness.

In other words, biology determines the direction of our sexual development but still requires a process of becoming reconciled to our gender selves, a process marked by fits and starts and subject to a variety of variables that impede that process. For some, fixating on the same gender represents a kind of ‘stuckness’ en route to the goal of human sexual relating—the freedom to commit one’s body and soul to another for the purpose of creating new life.

For many persons with SSA, such impediments are deep, unconscious and include temperament, which becomes the grid through which (s)he responds to formative relationships and social cues. Even the APA acknowledges this interplay between personality and social learning in sexual formation. What we all agree on: NO EVIDENCE EXISTS FOR A ‘BORN THIS WAY’ BASIS FOR HOMOSEXUALITY.

While we who struggle with SSA do not choose our inclinations, we also must accept the fact that from the start we choose how we respond to the sins of omission and commission that shape our lives. Painful, confusing, and shameful experiences influence our view of self and other: in the wondrous, woeful mix, we make decisions about the kind of person we want to be and how we are going to steward our bodily desires to love and beloved.

Our Designer and our Redeemer gives us the dignity of choice. We with SSA can courageously choose to entrust ourselves wholly to Himself and His way, including resuming the journey to sexual wholeness.

We begin by forsaking fatalism, and the passivity and self-pity it engenders.

1. Then, we line up with the truth of our destiny: ‘I am created to be a good gift. I refuse to construct a social identity around my SSA.’ All persons have the right to choose whether or not they will create a ‘self’ based on unwanted attractions.

2. We can choose to participate in any number of healing opportunities that identify obstacles to growth and support us in making good decisions that line up with our goals. Maximize healthy church involvement and a host of therapeutic and group options. (NARTH, RHN, TOB, MPC, Courage, DSM/LW)

3.‘Feeling and dealing:’ Let your SSA become a window to the good hard work you can do to understand what these desires mean–to connect the dots between emotional needs and feelings, and to transform the threat of falling back into the grace needed to press forward onto truer ground.

Change is hard. That’s why we settle on fatalism. ‘Born this way’ gives us a ‘pass’ but fails to meet the deepest desires of our heart. We were born to become who we are, men and women whose very bodies testify of the truth and beauty for which we ache and can aspire.

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Death or Liberty

‘You took your sons and daughters whom you bore to Me and sacrificed them as food to the idols…you slaughtered and sacrificed My children.’ (Ez. 16: 20, 21)

Unthinkable. A father leaves his 22-month-old son in a hot car to die while he exchanges nude selfies with six women. Monstrous.

Think again. The monster lives in us, tempting us to abandon our own dignity and the lives of those we love most. The end of sexual addiction—in truth of all illicit sexual acts—is death. Few among us have not experienced the lure of sexy images or love objects whose presence promises a rush of pleasure so intense that we might just forsake all others for its demands.

Two things become clear in the tragedy that came to light in a Georgia courtroom last week: first, addiction enslaves desire. It takes our good and normal longing for love and twists/perverts/intensifies those desires by attaching them to false objects. Neither the real woman who conceived that child, nor the child left to die, was on the father’s mind as he trembled with anticipation for the next disembodied image on his I-phone.

He had entered the dreamy, demonic world of phantoms—unrealities far removed from bills and diapers and human need. Vengeful deities promised him relief at the cost of real life. These demons demand blood.

Besides enslaving our desires, addiction blinds us to impact of our compulsions. Addicts cannot recover while they live in the lie that their enslavement impacts no-one but themselves. Thus the wake up call to self-consumed addicts is a loved one who stumbles upon the affair or the thousands of websites on the home computer.

Whole-enough spouses and friends sound the alarm: ‘What kills you kills me too. I will no longer participate with our slow death. Get help. Not getting help means you are making the choice to seriously limit, if not end, our relationship.’

Heather King says it best: ‘We try to be pure because someone else needs us to be pure. Someone in pain needs us to refrain from using another, whether in reality or fantasy, to anesthetize our own pain. Maybe that person is standing in front of us in the grocery line with three screaming kids. Maybe that person is our spouse.’

Sound the alarm. Wake up to the nightmarish impact of your dreamy gods and goddesses. They enslave you and demand the blood of persons you love most. Remember the real faces of the one you married, the ones you sired or conceived, the faces of the kids your lover has abandoned to dance with you. Our God is just and will punish persons who stumble ‘little ones.’ See their faces and repent while you still can.

I marvel at the darkness that hovers over Christian families today in which the mother or father facing same-sex attraction is given a ‘pass’ to explore his/her gay destiny because the poor one cannot help it. So a parent abandons his/her family for a gay ‘spring break.’ In the name of compassion, we are sacrificing our children to the idol gods. Justice has stumbled in the streets.

Wake up. You have a choice. Get help. You cannot overcome this alone. It takes a village. Find a group desperate for God and for a daily commitment to loving real people. Like any drug addict, be prepared to go through withdrawals. Cry out for mercy constantly. God always hears that prayer and at some point that mercy will invade your heart. Worship Jesus. Turn off ‘Blues in the Night’ and sing ‘Amazing Grace’. You are both a wretch and a beloved child of God. Your destiny is love.

‘If I choose to act in such a way that separates me from my infinite destiny, I move closer to the abyss of not being free, that is, of not being able to love any more. I can be rescued only when the attraction of infinity wins over whatever is attracting me away from it. That is the redemption of my freedom.’

Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, as quoted by Christopher West in The Heart of the Gospel

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Fighting fire with Fire

‘For you did not receive a spirit that enslaves you to fear, but you have received the Spirit of sonship, and by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’(Rom. 8: 15)

Have you ever consider the truth that many persons who face intense same-gender longings are actually motivated by fear: original experiences of rejection for personal and gender inadequacy–the threat that their offering to parents or peers may be rebuffed? Fear intermingles with shame, goes underground, then resurfaces in a kind of homosexual entrancement in which the rejected one plays out a kind of sensual reconciliation with his own gender.

The futility of this effort is obvious: the fearful one is compensating for a trauma, not complementing another person as a valuable counterpart. But bonds forged in fear and lust can be more binding and blinding than those conceived in wholeness. My friends and I agreed that our efforts at gay love only distorted what could have been good friendships with bright, searching guys.

We resonated at a recent seminar with Dr. Joseph Nicolosi as he described the early experiences of sensitive souls who in the face of early shaming experiences faced a ‘dropping, sinking and collapsing’ of body and spirit then retreated for years into a kind of ‘no man’s land’ until same-sex feelings emerged and became another reason for self-hatred.

Gay fantasy, identity, and relationships assuage the fear and shame and self-hatred temporarily but cannot dissolve the truth that something more basic is happening: an effort to resolve a wound that no amount of civil liberties can heal. Even therapy has its limits here. Through undoubtedly helpful, it cannot wholly answer the cry of body and spirit.

Only Jesus can unlock the dungeon of self-rejection and hatred. Only He can enter into our darkest memories and current temptations and grant us a way of escape (1COR 10:13). His ‘perfect love casts out fear’ (1 JN 4:18) and gives us, perhaps for the first time, the fight we need to arise in our original dignity and resume the journey to wholeness.

After the seminar, I encountered a bulky guy to whom I might previously have abdicated my own masculinity—my chest sinking and collapsing–through a flash of homosexual lust. But not this time. Conscious of anxiety, I breathed deeply and practiced the Presence of the One ‘who has stooped down to make me great’ (PS 18: 35b).This David blessed the Goliath before me and walked on, unencumbered and grateful for the man I am and the God I worship.

‘We overcome the fire of lust by entering into an infinitely greater Fire, that of God’s Eros-Agape love.’ (Christopher West, The Heart of the Gospel)

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The-Joyful,-Fiery-Gospel

The Joyful, Fiery Gospel

‘God infuses the soul and sets it on fire with the Spirit of Love.’ St. John of the Cross

My heart burns with hope. After a week enkindled with story after story of God’s healing love in the lives of persons wounded by homosexuality, I am a believer: the fiery love of Jesus overturns the claims  of those who insist that ‘homosexuals cannot change.’ The Gospel truth is vastly superior. Jesus sets persons captivated by same-gender longing free: free from the shaming events and beliefs that inspired the inclinations, free from the sensational habits that enslave one to lust, free from the Pharisee and free from the secular bully who wants to impose chronic homosexuality as one’s destiny.

Our third Restored Hope Network in Portland OR started on the Feast of the Sacred Heart: the devotion to Jesus’ fiery, merciful heart that inspired St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy (a much-loved devotion at Desert Stream Ministries.) Among persons emerging out of same-sex attraction who testified of steady, inspired progress in chastity and gender complementarity, I witnessed over and over the power of Jesus’ sacred heart: the fiery love that surpasses all other loves, an intimacy so profound and deeply personal that one is provoked by Love Himself to surrender all and begin again with Christ Himself as one’s guide. Is this not the fruit of the joyful Gospel that Pope Francis, quoting Benedict, extolled when he described that Gospel ‘not as an ethic or lofty idea but…a Person’, who offers our wounded lives ‘an open horizon and decisive direction?’

As I listened to dozens of persons gathered from around our country and beyond, I witnessed this flame of Love that in truth had opened their horizons and granted them a clear direction. That is nothing less than a series of diverse encounters with the One who makes all things new! This reflection on the Sacred Heart offers us a glimpse of what happens in the hearts of men and women, singed by homosexuality, who discover the greater passion of God’s all-consuming love for them.

‘What strike me most in contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus are the flames which consume and surround it. These mysterious flames cannot be contained even in that burning Heart; they escape through the wound, pass around the Cross and among the thorns, penetrating it completely. In a word, it is a burning heart, an inflamed heart. And what is this sacred fire that consumes the Heart of Jesus? IT IS THE FIERY LOVE HE HAS FOR US. “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled.” (LK 12:49)’ Father Martin Berlioux

I witnessed the kindling of that fire during our week together. A huge log was thrown into the fire by the premier (at our conference) of a new feature film expertly directed by my friend David Kyle Foster. Entitled ‘Such Were Some of You,’ the film features a dozen stories of men and women whose gay destiny was consumed by the fire of divine love. I recall Christie, a brilliant gender-confused women whose rowing coach at Stanford invited her into Christ and a whole new life, Jim who at 10 began imitating porn films with his elementary school buddies and whose life was changed by a friend imploring him to enter into her community of faith where Jesus was transforming lives, Maite whose Catholic upbringing was undermined by sex-play with an older girl that led to everything but Jesus. Desperate, she attended a Spirit-filled Catholic meeting that was the beginning of a whole new life.

I write this for my fellow Catholics in particular: if we want the Sacred Heart of Jesus to blaze and light up the darkened lives of those we love most, then we must mobilize our communities to provide living, breathing, winsome onramps for those stumbling around in our confusing, demonizing landscape. ‘Such Were Some of You’ features more evangelicals than Catholics because frankly, evangelicals have done a better job than Catholics in providing life-transforming communities for young people turning from homosexual sin. Let’s catch up! We have a profound inheritance in our moral understanding and most importantly, in our reliance upon the One who makes all things new through His Body, broken and offered to us.

Let us renew our efforts to create space in our parishes for healing community: places of actual encounter between His sacred heart and the broken hearts of persons becoming conformed to an image other than Christ. Your children and theirs will thank you for such an effort. Take heart. His sacred heart is ablaze and effectual in love to transform persons with SSA.

‘How I long to find the right words to stir up enthusiasm for a new chapter of evangelization full of fervor, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction! Yet I realize that no words of encouragement will be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts.’ Pope Francis (EG 261)

Click here to purchase ‘Such Were Some of You’ from Pure Passion.

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the-bad-and-the-beautiful

The Bad and the Beautiful

‘We don’t want merely to see beauty. We want to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to become a part of it.’ C. S. Lewis

June was a bad month for persons seeking to overcome homosexuality. The once morally sound Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) voted overwhelmingly to change its definition of marriage, Obama polished up his gay-affirming legacy by extending all kinds of ‘gay’ federal rights and an ex-Exodus leader came out with a smooth- as-a-snake testimony of how ‘love means never having to say you’re sorry’ for homosexual practice.

Ah well. I am learning to hear the bad news while listening more intently than ever to God’s love song. Through the God who took on a body, we can hear and see and taste in our bodies Heaven’s desire for us. It’s true: God Himself wants to unite Himself with us, which corresponds with our deepest desires. More than anything or anyone else, we want Him! And He wants us–the God of beauty wants to abide and dwell and remain with us in profound communion.

Amid the din of fallen humanity, I am learning to listen to the Song of Songs. When I do, beauty overcomes the bad and I am reminded that One greater has overcome the world and its deceit. He will overcome that deceit through persons who have been wooed and won over by Beauty Himself.

Applying deftly JPll’s teaching on ‘The Theology of the Body,’ Christopher West describes the real desire in us that God accesses. That desire is sourced in His design for our bodies, a truth He liberates as we learn to dance in harmony with His great love for us. Finally, that ‘dance’ results in our destiny, which is to join Him eternally when heaven and earth become one at the end of time. For now, we long and listen for Heaven’s song, music that flows from His heart to ours. The key is to learn to sing along, and to invite others into the dance.

We cannot expect broken people who barely can hear His song to line up with Christian morality. Instead, we must teach them God’s song of love to them. Once they hear the music, God will prepare them to take the next steps, to begin to move closer to His design for their lives. That’s how I see ‘Living Waters’: it is a series of dance lessons, well-choreographed, in which we begin to move in accord with our design. But that would mean nothing without beautiful love songs.

The Father urged me to begin to listen and pray for a wonderful gay-identified man at my gym who needs Jesus desperately (but does not yet know that.) While praying, Jesus gave me a picture of him, driven and distracted by the demands of others. Then a light shone on him and compelled him to look up. He was filled with light and his face went from gray to gold. Our glorious God said to him: ‘I want your happiness.’ I recounted my vision and his eyes filled with tears. ‘I did not know God cared about my happiness,’ he replied.

My friend is not yet ready to repent of homosexuality. But he is beginning to hear heaven’s song. Alleluia. Beauty wins.

‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers; if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.’ Pope Paul Vl

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