Category: Sexual Brokenness

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
How to Love a Vulnerable Friend Responding to the Transgendered

How to Love a Vulnerable Friend: Responding to the ‘Transgendered’

First, thank you for your commitment to your friend. Sometimes devout, energized persons like you can help prevent an already vulnerable soul from doing further injury. I realize your friend is on the verge of doing just that by pursuing gender reassignment surgery.

Gender is not a product of the mind; it is a fact of our birth. To be sure, your friend has a deep conflict with his or her true gender self, for which one must only be compassionate. Such compassion flows from the truth. Your friend has a gender self and to be at odds with that truth is a serious affliction. Your advocacy may help him or her to begin to resolve this identity confusion in the right way.

Your friend is not hearing the truth today, only pretty lies. To paraphrase Dr. Paul McHugh, the idea that gender is a matter of choice remains unquestioned in our culture and is utterly without scientific foundation. Studies reveal that in spite of terrific costs to all family members, gender reassignment surgery does not result in happiness but the same or worse mental health conditions than existed before the surgery, including drug addictions, psychotic disorders and the risk of suicide.

Your friend is vulnerable to robbers, and needs understanding and inspired care. This is a person who looks in the mirror and hates the reflection. He or she believes that self-acceptance lies in becoming the other gender. Wrong. I have worked with several persons whose ‘fantasy gender selves’ arose in response to profound distress. Their fantasy selves became the prison. It is a joyful labor of love to accompany the gender afflicted out of unreality and into the truth of their real selves.

Spiritual and emotional intervention makes sense. Why? We cannot change our genders. Guess what? Bruce Jenner is still a man! The only real choice we have is to make peace with the gender of our birth. Nevertheless, we must recognize that our gender identities (the psychological adjustment we make to our gender) are subject to profound frustration. We may feel chronically inadequate to master certain ‘gender’ tasks, or experience repulsion over one’s body type combined with a persistent desire to have different body traits.

The gender-afflicted need inspired therapy, not surgery. It is cruel to subject a vulnerable soul to knives and implants and alien hormones. We do not ‘cure’ an anorexic by exercising fat from her body because she feels fat any more than we ‘cure’ a man who feels like a woman by cutting off his penis. We help him make peace with his intrinsic manhood, just as we help the anorexic adjust to a true body image.

Your friend is imprisoned by the lie that ‘feelings’ can and should determine biological gender. Wrong. God determines our gender and we must work that out in fear and trembling. Yes Jesus is the door that swings out from the prison and yes we must open it. Praise Him—we can do so in the light of Divine Mercy and merciful friends like you.

For this transformation, we need entire faith communities. I would suggest that you check out our offerings at Desert Stream/Living Waters (desertstream.org), the national Restored Hope Network of ministries (restoredhopenetwork.org), and the international network of Courage (couragerc.org). Please stay in touch. If your friend and family want to come out and meet with some of our staff, please let us know.

Andrew

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Chastity and Mercy

Chastity and Mercy 2: United We Stand

The Samaritan woman of John 4 represents many Christians today; you could say she is a ‘type’ of the Church in the 21st century. Her Jewish roots inspired a ‘holiness’ tradition of which she was proud. At the same time, her heritage was also sourced in the intermingling of the Jews with the Canaanites, a nation that worshiped many gods through a variety of sexual practices. She too is divided–a woman of faith (“I know that Messiah is coming” v.25) fractured by a series of failed, dehumanizing relationships with men (v. 18).

Split between the proper and the profane, the Samaritan woman is us. Our love for God is often not reflected in the sexual decisions we make, if we take seriously the rates of divorce, co-habitation, and porn use among Christians (not to mention our lack of clarity on why the ‘gay’ and ‘trans’ self may not be God’s best for His kids). We are a people divided who, if not caught in the undertow of dehumanizing passions, are at least painfully aware of loved ones who are. In the words of Joseph Pieper, we witness how ‘the same forces that give rise to life also have power to destroy life.’

We want more for our loved ones, more for us too. Sick of sensations that ignite souls only to burn them out, we are a people ready for chastity. Something in us knows that we are created for wholeness, for integrity. Chastity means that we are seeking to live a united life; in chastity, we effort to align ‘the powers of life and love’ (CCC#2338) within us with the God who placed them there in the first place. United with the Creator, we begin to discipline our creative powers. The chaste person ‘seeks not itself blindly but with open eyes endeavors to correspond to the true reality of God, self and the world’ (Pieper).

We can know reality! And reality in the sexual realm corresponds with what is good and right and true for others. We know that the sexual bond belongs only to a man and a woman united for life, and we know that creative self-giving, fully clothed, is God’s call upon everyone–a fruitful expression of the connectedness that is related to sexual love. Chastity opposes any behavior that impairs such fruitfulness, and ‘tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity of speech’ (CCC#2338). Informed by reality, chastity discerns and refuses the enslaving power of sexual ‘unrealities’ and so can act clearly on behalf of others’ good. In so doing, we the chaste reclaim our dignity (CCC#2339).

Getting there would be impossible if not for the God who looks upon us divided ones with almighty mercy. Just as Jesus engaged the Samaritan woman, He waits to catch our gaze. He sees what is most real about our sexuality; His Spirit (‘living water’) summons that reality. In His love, He grants us the choice to become chaste, to participate in our becoming whole-enough expressions of His will for us and others. Will we unite with Him this Lent and so allow wholeness to define us more than our divides?

‘Father, our tendency to live divided lives seems woven into the very fabric of our histories, our culture, even our Church. Have mercy, Lord of mercy. Renew our vision of chastity that we might aspire to a whole life, a life of integrity founded on reality, not the unrealities that have deceived us. Thank You that they have not destroyed us. In mercy, do not let them destroy our loved ones. Have mercy on Your divided creation. Unite us in holy love, we pray. Breathe on our cry for chastity. Divided we have fallen, united may we stand.’

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Bowie

Bowie

Crazy how a few songs can elicit a host of memories. David Bowie’s death at 69 this week flooded the airwaves with the soundtrack of my teens—‘Turn and face the strange Ch Ch Ch Changes…’ Strange indeed.

For a kid with same-sex attraction who adopted the credo that weird is good, sex better, and sensational times set to music lay just beyond suburbia in nearby Hollywood, I made Bowie the troubadour of my teen dreams. He was smart and sexy and for rebel kids, a guide to gender-bending bliss. I can relate to Madonna’s recent comment: ‘I was inspired by how he played with gender confusion.’

Confusion was our clarity. My high school friends and I would salivate at each new album, its cover sporting another evolution of the ‘glaminal’ Bowie. ‘Rebel, rebel, put on your dress; rebel, rebel, your face is a mess; Rebel, rebel, how would they know? Hot tramp, I love you so …’ When he growled: ‘All night, I want the young American…’ we related. We were the young Americans he wanted, right?

Strung out and resilient, insinuating ourselves into adult clubs and the fantasies of father figures, we had fun. Even when Bowie turned the tables and exposed the sickness of the ‘Fame’ we were seeking (‘What’s your name, what’s your name?’), we stayed faithful to his ever-changing persona.

I just saw a clip of an interview with Bowie where he equated his search for new expressions of music with a search for God. Which I guess means you never really land; a new riff, another spritzer of spirituality–the search is everything, more important than actually finding God. Or perhaps being found by Him.

For all my bluff and dare, I hoped someone would find me. I was strung out but not that resilient. My two friends with whom I traversed the thin line between Disneyland and Hollywoodland (we lived smack dab in the middle) bottomed out. One became a porn guy and died of AIDS and as did the other. But he passed radiantly into the arms of Jesus, the prayers of his Pentecostal single mother answered as he cried out for mercy in his dying.

I pray Bowie did the same. Sensations aren’t enough. Personas and good music do not save you. Only Jesus.

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Enkindling Hope Andrew Comiskey

Enkindling Hope

‘A person’s resurrection is no personal privilege for himself alone. It contains within itself hope for all, hope for everything.’ Dorothy Soelle

Like you, I tend to fear what may come out of my mouth in ‘polite’ society. A fire burns in me constantly that longs to enkindle the hope of transformation for anyone serious about Jesus Christ. Good news yes, and scandalous too.

While at a well-heeled Christmas party with new neighbors last week, the subject of a particular Catholic theologian—Richard Rohr– came up. Rohr lost my respect a while back when he shifted his anthropology and began to recognize the ‘LGBT’ set as an ethnic group in need of rights rather than repentance unto the transforming love of Christ Jesus.

This theologian has now unwittingly blocked the way for men and women to open themselves to the new life Jesus has for them. Instead, his worldly thinking limits them to sexualizing their own gender, a direction that forever frustrates God’s will for their good lives.

In a flash, I thought of all the young women and men with same-sex attraction whose aspiration to walk in chastity is hindered by churchmen like Rohr who have become worldly in their thinking. The path of a generation needs to be cleared! We remove the weeds through the fire of truth, spoken in love. When well-aimed and timed, such fire enkindles hope for a life that surpasses ‘gay love.’

Fire burned in me. Amid the tinkling of wine glasses and well-tailored holiday wear, I knew that I had to basically undress and tell the whole truth of what Jesus can do for persons like me. I gently broke into the conversation and said that while I appreciated much of Rohr’s work, ‘I fear he is blocking the way for a generation to know the truth that can set them free.’

The woman, a college professor, interrupted me with some bogus worldly wisdom—‘Since the beginning of time, there has been the same % of gays everywhere on the planet…’ I quietly refuted her (such data does not exist) then redirected the conversation back to the truth of the Gospel—‘Jesus opens a door that cannot be shut for persons who knock for a way out of homosexuality and this is how He did so for me…’ Because my tone was respectful and my content deeply personal, she listened and left with ‘I see this now in a whole new light.’

That light is nothing less than the Gospel, which will remain hidden toward persons who will perish (2Cor. 4:3) unless people like you and me enkindle hope with the truth Jesus has entrusted to us.

Theologian Karl Barth says it best: ‘Something often flames up in our soul that we would like to call out to all people—a question, a complaint, a word of defiance, a rejoicing, a stark truth—something of a sort that a person cannot keep to himself once it is there…It saddens us to see people coming and going, all in so much dullness and error when we have something to tell them that would help them…Our talk is such a wooden, dead talk. Fire will not break out in it, but can only smolder in our words…Whatever does not grow out of God produces smoke, not fire. But that which is born of God overcomes the world (1JN 5:4). We need only to speak with our fellows on the basis of faith. As long as our words do not arise out of faith in God’s power, we will remain mute. Only faith can speak. But faith can speak! Our ears must be opened then our mouths.’

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Wounds and Walls

As we continue our 40-days of prayer for loved ones, we bump up against some thick walls, or defenses, that surround their sexually immoral decisions. We wonder why: (s)he is not by nature a defensive person. How did this fence get electrified?

It may be helpful to remember that preceding immoral choices are significant wounds of which we are not aware. Sexually brokenness usually results from a series of disempowering messages and experiences in childhood that a sensitive soul agrees with and internalizes. What results is a pervasive belief that one is flawed in his/her adequacy as a gendered person and disqualified from normal love. The enemy of his/her dignity stokes shame and self-hatred to a degree that perhaps we have never experienced.

When this exquisite soul, now in darkness and dangerously turned against itself, experiences illicit love from a similarly wounded soul, (s)he feels like she has come into the light. ‘Someone understands me and pays me attention and thinks I am wonderful!’ Add the sensual bond (sensational and habit-forming) and you have a stronghold that is mightily defensive. A starving person now eats and will fight for his/her freedom to self-nourish.

We know these ‘eating’ habits are disordered and thus doomed to fail. But such awareness is rational; the wound and the wall arose out of chaos, irrationally, and are not immediately subject to reason. We have a deeply spiritual problem. Our common enemy who seeks to destroy these souls employs psychological wounds and defenses to wall them off from unfailing Love.

So we pray, and ask the Father of all-living to make known His kindness to loved ones. And He sensitizes us as to make us answers to our own prayers: more aware of what may well drive their defenses, more inclined to listen to His voice than ours, turning from fear and strife and toward compassion for the loved one’s well-being. We ask God to burn off our shame and to make us fearless in love for the other’s best.

Yet the sword is in our hearts, not our hands. May He turn our zealous efforts to ‘set this one straight’ into tears for the wounds they bear. Only water brings down such walls. Let us embody the brokenness that invites our loved ones into His.

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