In these last couple weeks of our fast, I’ve had the privilege of making two trips to the Northeast where I witnessed the irresistible splendor of Jesus in His Church, both evangelical and Catholic. The Spirit is stirring up His saints, girding them in truth and welling up like living water to grant the gender broken a better Word. One can have any number of freedoms and still be a slave! Jesus alone frees the sin-shackled and makes us true sons and daughters of the one Father.
In Pennsylvania, I gathered with a group of priests who meet regularly to share their sexual vulnerabilities and the healing love that sets them free; in New York City and New Jersey I gathered with turned-on Korean-Americans who are as committed to becoming whole as they are becoming good news for their LGBT+ friends. I spent most of my time in the borough of Queens where I invested in a church renowned for its efforts at creating emotionally healthy community and fostering racial reconciliation. Stunningly so! Yet the pastors have the wisdom to know the difference between ethnicity and gender identity issues; they celebrate a diversity of tribes and tongues while refusing the ‘gender spectrum’ ideology that fractures God’s children. Mercy welled up as we testified of His unfailing love that reconciles us to our true humanity—male and female–in this one body.
Before setting off for these trips, I had the privilege of assisting at the Mass celebrating the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. It is my favorite feast of the church year, as it is the only one that celebrates the Church herself: the irresistible splendor of Jesus revealed in His body. As I read from Ezekiel 47 about the water levels rising in the temple until the saints are immersed and flowing out into the world in order to heal and feed the broken (‘their fruit shall serve for food and their leaves for medicine’, EZ 47: 12), I realized that this is our mission. It is being fulfilled as we gather and lift up Jesus as Healer!
In all of our Northeast gatherings, I fielded questions from countless saints who face increasingly complex hardships due to LGBT+ demands: the deacon working with a nominal Christian family whose 4-year-old daughter showed up in Sunday School as a boy, the assistant male youth leader who announced his ‘transition’ to womanhood, the influential minister now ‘gay married’ and adopting children while extolling the joys of ‘gay Christianity’, the worker whose ‘gay’ boss firmly encourages his employees to stick rainbow emblems on their office doors, and many who simply want to know how to care for loved ones who now live under the rainbow. As we prayed at every meeting for Jesus to come and show us His way–the mercy that is ours only as we enter through the gate of His body and blood shed for us in the one body–the water levels rose and immersed us in the divine love that breaks human enslavement. We bring a better Word endowed with power to save the gender broken. His love radiant in humbled, poured-out saints: Irresistible.
‘As long as it continues to be told, no story is ever wasted,’ opines a ‘gay’ Christian writer. Like many today, he feels compelled to testify of how Jesus confirms his intrinsically homosexual self as one expression of the good news.
Everyone has a story indeed. But not every story tells the truth of the Gospel. I contend that persons whose stories feature Jesus as the advocate of identities based on disordered desires distort the Gospel. However charming their speech and poignant their frustrations, these ones build on a fault-line that undermines the power of Christ and His Cross. When validated–published and platformed–by arms of Christianity that claim to be orthodox, these story-tellers become enemies of the Cross (Phil. 3:18).
To be sure, we all need the freedom to sort out our disintegrated lives with wise Christian friends and elders; we tell our stories in order to break down certain worldly assumptions and so become conformed to the Crucified. Jesus uses the little cross of our garbled confessions! He leads us through our crises in narrative, which are resolved only through death to the ‘selves’ we have cobbled together from feelings and worldly attachments.
In light of the Father’s marvelous love for us shining on the Cross and mediated through His community, we can exchange our rags for God who alone has power to establish our identities. We discover that we need not be slaves anymore to the world. He gives us the choice to lay down our ‘gay’ selves or any other LGBT+ aspiration and simply rest in Him who through Christ calls us His sons and daughters, men or a women made to reveal Him in our human dignity (Gal. 4:3-7).
We can choose not to lay them down. We can nurse ‘gay’ feelings and plateau on a kind of eloquent melancholy (self-pity?) that empowers the ‘gay’ self (Wesley Hill picks up where Henri Nouwen left off.) Or we can arise in the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. We died with Him, and need not worry about residual same-sex attraction. We are defined by the Father now, and therein resides His authority to restore us, His way. We are no longer tossed around by feelings. We are becoming conformed to Christ and His Cross. That is our commitment—a once and daily decision to pick up our little crosses in light of the one Cross that shelters us and makes a way for us. Always.
Only then can our stories reveal Jesus. I would dare to say that our stories are worth telling only if they reveal something about His Cross, and the joy of carrying our small ones into newness of life.
‘If no-one said “I die but I shall live” then there would be no hope for those who suffer. All suffering would be senseless, destructive pain; all grief would be the worldly sorrow that brings forth death. But we know people who have lived and suffered differently. There is a history of resurrections significant for others. A person’s resurrection is no personal privilege for one’s self alone. It contains within itself hope for all, hope for everything.’ Dorothy Soelle
Tragically, Inter Varsity Press, which published my books Strength in Weakness and Naked Surrender, is now celebrating ‘gay’ Christianity with a new book that shall remain nameless because it deserves no attention. Suffice to say it is written by a young man who claims to be ‘gay’, ‘Christian’, and ‘celibate’: whether he sexually acts out or not is beside the point–his legacy will be to promote an identity based on disordered desires which is divisive, dangerous for any young Christian seeking Jesus as the basis for his or her identity, and deceptive. The author claims to be a serious Biblicist while in truth he promotes a false anthropology based on the shifting sand of LGBT+ culture. The only sexual ‘ethnos’ that Scripture and Church tradition recognizes is male and female.
Why Inter Varsity Press would take seriously this travesty is beyond me. Reading the promotional materials that IVP and this young man put out made me laugh; the book sounds like a pre-teen girl sharing secrets from her diary. I quote: ‘Let’s make promises to each other….I’ll [the author] tell you how I lay in my bed in the middle of the night and whispered to myself words I’d whispered a thousand times since: “I’m gay.” Ugh. I think I saw the Lifetime movie.
Can’t we do better for a generation drunk on rainbow punch? How about the stern and splendid call of the Father upon sons and daughters whom He loves too much to let them slop around in identities that render them narcissistic and non-creative, dulled to the very purpose of their gendered selves? Please: I spent my university days listening to ‘gay’ Christians bemoan how misunderstood they were, and on the basis of their injury create a new people group founded on their desires, not Jesus Christ. I could not stomach it then and I certainly will not now.
Jesus died on the Cross to extinguish the power of sin in all of its forms, including the creature forging a ‘self’ out of disordered desires. And He lives to grant us new selves founded on that Cross and the new creation that issues from His reunion with the Father. St. Paul upheld the power of ‘the new creature’ to correct early church divides caused by persons holding onto old distinctions that leached the light from the Cross. ‘May I never boast except in the Cross through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world…what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule’ (Gal. 6: 14-16).
In his excellent new book Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted, Reformed Pastor Ron Citlau writes: ‘There are many areas where Scripture is silent but identity is not one of them.’ Catholic Dan Mattson deepens this thought in his new book which majors on sexual identity from a Christian perspective–Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay. ‘I’m not a gay man nor is any man. As Christians, called to be emissaries of His Word, we must say what things are again, and to give them the right names again, the names given them by God at the foundation of the world, reiterated by Jesus while He walked among us, incarnate as a man: ‘Have you not heard that He made them from the beginning as male and female?’ (Matt. 19:4)
Yes and amen. For the sake of a generation being tossed around by inane offerings from ‘gay’ Christians (and the stupid moves of publishers to platform them), let us hold fast to the truth of who people actually are, made in His image as male and female.
‘How pleasing it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity.’(PS 133:1)
We please Him. Maybe it’s because we realize that America is as much Mexico and Chile and Puerto Rico as it is the United States. Maybe it’s because we love marriage and treat it as holy, indissoluble, or because we have committed to growing beyond homosexuality and various addictions and abuses in order to become the good gifts we are. Or maybe He just loves us. Period. He showed His love for us by pouring out the oil of unity upon us as we gathered from the four corners of the Americas for our fifth Aguas Vivas Training in Cordoba Argentina last week. I have yet to experience such a diverse and ‘well-oiled’ team of leaders who gathered to offer their stories and gifts in love. Grateful for others’ gifts as well, we created a whole, united in our brokenness and the broken God who raises us up over and over again.
Miguel from Puerto Rico brought his two Pentecostal pastors and the woman he hopes to marry soon. He has become a mighty man of God since he joined us five years ago at our first training in Mexico City, a man divided by the ‘gay self’ yet desperately seeking Jesus. Five years later, he taught powerfully from his life experience about the gifts we can become for each other and for our churches.
Marie-Innes had been sexually and spiritually abused by a New Age leader which damaged her marriage to Daniel, a man struggling with same-sex attraction. After they became part of a dynamic Catholic community in Cordoba, the couple drank in ‘Living Waters’, which brought renewal to their marriage and a vision for their vocation as husband and wife. Along with awesome Father Adrian, they are raising up witnesses and healers throughout Argentina, several of whom shared brilliantly at the training (Griselda, Roxanna and Walter, you are the best!)
In 2001, I met Ruth, a pastor’s wife with a deep wound from her pastor/father and Ignacio who was seeking to overcome sexual addiction. In their brokenness before Jesus, they represented beautifully the Vineyard Churches in Chile. For nearly 15 years now, they have dug a deep well of Living Waters in Santiago; that was evident in the team they brought to the training to minister expertly to all. Gracias Carol and Alberto, and Ruth’s daughter Constanza whose worship leading broke open the fragrant oil Mary of Bethany offered to Jesus. We offered ourselves to Him, sweetly broken and grateful.
From Guadalajara Mexico came Father Ricardo, and Veronica who is growing out of same-sex dependency and into a calling to offer the gift of ‘Living Waters’ to Catholic young adults throughout Latin America. She is sharp and humble and loved by all. Father Ricardo is among our greatest gifts. Before he imparts his considerable priestly wisdom, he offers his humanity to us and like Pope Francis simply asks: ‘Pray for me.’ He receives Living Waters like dry ground and wants to ensure that his diocese is a deep, evident well of ‘Living Waters.’
From the Caribbean, to the Southern Cone of South America, then upwards to Mexico–Catholics, Pentecostals, and evangelicals entered the ‘Living Waters’ together in Cordoba under the sure leadership of North Americans Daniel Delgado and Ondine Morales (with special assist from our Kansas City treasure, Pamela). Undergirding the seven days was a team led by Anne in Canada that interceded daily and specifically for us; I believe their prayers guarded our graceful cohesion. Prayerful trust in His divine mercy forges a unity among us that pleases God’s heart. That unity overflows as a fountain throughout the Americas.
At the Courage conference last week in Chicago, Annette and I had the privilege to testify on the glorious challenge of forging a marriage in light of my same-sex attraction and her sexual abuse—two gifts that keep on giving! Actually, we are gifts to each other who through the grace of Jesus’ cross have delighted in our co-humanity for nearly 40 years now.
We spoke candidly on our intimate life. We wanted to break the false yet common assumption that chastity always involves abstinence. Not so. Chastity is integrating one’s sexuality in such a way that frees one to be faithful to God in singleness or marriage. If married, that means being faithful to the one you actively engage with sexually. For us, chastity invites us into a robust sexual life that celebrates this bond of two–body, soul, and spirit.
The context mattered as Courage has not majored on marriage and the person with same-sex attraction. One might get the impression (however erroneous) that Courage is comfortable supporting singles en route to chastity but uncertain about whether God calls persons with same-sex attraction to marriage. Untrue. Many Courage members are married. And in truth, Annette and I are treated with such dignity in the Courage world. For Annette in particular, the Courage family has been the most warm and consistent and hospitable to her than she has experienced in any other comparable network.
Nevertheless, you could say that marrieds are underrepresented at Courage. Several members have questioned my call to marriage as if my diminishing same-sex attraction invalidates that call. Or disables it. Not true. I am convinced that persons with a background of same-sex attraction who become espoused to Jesus and who ‘work the program’ of acquiring self-control and activating their gender gift for the other become the best spouses. We rely on Jesus and are intentional in our love for this other. We make great lovers. Period.
And we realize that chaste lovemaking—earthy and sensational as it is–must take place in the context of a greater regard for the whole person. We prepare for nakedness by disclosing—fully clothed–our dirty secrets, our ragged complaints, and our gratitude for this person before us who seeks to give all to us. Surrounding our sharing is the grace of Jesus. He gave all, He gives all still, and that makes all the difference.
I close with this brief note I recently found from Annette, fall ’82. It represents for me the foundation for chaste sex. ‘When you remarked on my complexity, I began to reflect on how profoundly the Lord has transformed me. He has wrought changes in me that have created a new heart: a soft, feminine one, not the hard protective shell of a heart I had when we met three years ago. Thank you for standing by me. You represent security to me—the Lord has used you to give me a kind of permanence I’ve always needed. I love you very much.’ Annette