The other night I beheld a demonic power in a dream; the blob-like entity had little form and was obscured by darkness. It made a variety of sounds as if it were feeding off something. Though I could not see its target, I realized the ‘thing’ was intent on foraging off a person, any person.
In the dream, I recalled a line from a movie in which the actor said wryly: ‘I sleep with all my friends.’ This entity was open to either gender, any person who would partner with it by indiscriminately engaging in sex of any kind. It was greedy and insatiable, as if its lust could not be satisfied. It gave the impression that it intended to devour its prey, to use the person up. I went from a mild intrigue to repulsion when I realized that the unclean spirit wanted the blood of embodied souls and would employ sexual immorality to get it. I rebuked the devouring thing in Jesus’ name and woke up.
I processed the dream with my wife and then the Desert Stream staff. We thought of a generation weaned on pornography and primed for ‘friendly’ sex with either gender; we admitted the doors to lust we had cracked in our own imaginations. And we considered how illicit sexuality counterfeits as completion yet actually fractures us. In truth, lust masks itself as love but has power to destroy persons (and marriages) who welcome it. We agreed that Lent is not long enough to contend with the battle for souls being waged today by predatory lusts.
We confessed our compromises and rebuked the devourer. We did both: repent and renounce. We are dealing not only with lusts of the flesh but with principalities which want our blood. We combat lust with Jesus’ blood and the authority He gives the faithful to pray for one another so we might be healed, ambassadors of freedom for a captive generation.
‘Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith because you know that your brothers and sisters are undergoing the same kinds of sufferings throughout the world.’ (1P 5:8, 9)
When Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles opened our Truth and Love Conference last week, his words about how we participate in Jesus’ baptism brought this to mind. C.S. Lewis describes a diver breaking the water’s surface then descending into the depths to retrieve treasure from the ocean floor. He breaks the water once more in ascent, joyfully holding out his ‘catch’ for the world to see. So Jesus reclaims our true natures as the Father’s beloved sons and daughters from the depths of enslavement (Gal. 4:3-7; Rom. 8:15-18). In so doing, He reveals His glorious mercy through grateful children.
I marveled at the Archbishop’s clarity; due to Jesus’ baptism (and baptism of suffering of Calvary), we who were slaves to the world’s system of defining ourselves can be free and shining expressions of the Father’s design. He cleared the way for people like me who experience same-sex attraction to forego all worldly claims (LGBTQ, etc.) upon our identities. Instead, we can settle deeply into the truth of who we are as children of the Father who delights in engaging with us in order to impart what we need to grow into maturity.
No small or easy thing, this baptism of Jesus and our own which makes all things new. The stakes are huge, for us and for others; in a world that invites persons made in His image to create their own ‘gender’ reality, we uphold a deeper truth of the Father’s claim upon His children. Let’s start 2017 by actively engaging with our own baptism and the Father’s will for our sonship and daughterhood. Toward that end, I would encourage you to:
Behold the Lamb; we become what we behold. Turn off your screens (after you read this of course) and be still before the Crucified. It helps to simply gaze upon the Cross, which conveys in an instant the watery death He died and His ascent. In the Cross lies all that we need to know: the Son won back for us our true selves. Gazing on the Beloved mediates who we are as beloved children.
Devour Scripture; we become what we eat. Meditate on verses that summon who He is and who we are. The aforementioned passages from St. Paul are a good starting point, as is Song of Songs, a love letter from the Father to His kids. Open the Book and let it permeate you. I memorize key verses so I can summon the truth at hard moments in the day.
Listen to the Father’s voice; we become what we hear. Turn off devices and be still. Listen in quiet to what He wants to say; His sheep hear His voice (JN 10:3). Don’t worry if at first all you hear is clutter. He loves your effort and will honor it. Quiet your heart in the Spirit of Jesus who upon breaking the water heard: ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’ (Matt. 3:17). You please Him; He loves you, His child.
Today’s freedom to be whatever one thinks (s)he is, gender-wise, sheds new light on the question of homosexuality and change. If Kevin can wear a dress, use a woman’s restroom, and legally damage another for not referring to him as Karen, then a Christian’s commitment to leave behind an identity based on his or her same-sex attraction while aspiring to love a member of the opposite gender seems positively sane. Or at least possible, and at best worthy of the respect we accord all manner of gender-bending.
It also sheds light on the authority of the mind and will in determining the self we want to be. And perhaps should cause us to question the assumption that some people are just immutably, unquestionably ‘gay’.
A writer for the New York Times says it best: ‘When Everyone Can Be Queer, Is Anyone?’ (Jenna Worthen, NYT Magazine, July 12, 2016). She marvels: ‘The speed with which modern society has adapted to accommodate the world’s vast spectrum of gender and sexual identities may be the most important cultural metamorphosis of our time. Facebook, which can be seen as a kind of social census, now offers nearly 60 different gender options…Plainly we are in the midst of a profoundly exhilarating revolution.’
This translates into college students having to account for their evolving gender status. Each year, a friend’s daughter at a large state university has to declare her gender status afresh. After all, who she was as a freshman, he/zee/undecided may not be as a sophomore.
Dr. Lisa Diamond has turned homosexual research on its ear by charting the ‘sexual fluidity’ of a group of 16-23 year-old-women over the course of a decade; she found that about a third of these ‘lesbian-identified’ women changed their identity status several times over that time, and preferred to think of themselves as open to both genders.
We dignify that freedom but may well demonize one who refuses to construct a ‘gay self’ and chooses instead to love an opposite sex partner. I recall Oprah Winfrey’s horrified look when someone on her show testified to no longer being ‘gay’, now happily married. ‘But you were born that way!’ she insisted. At a recent large Catholic gathering, a ‘gay-identified’ hipster dissed my claim to change with a ‘we know that does not happen, right?’
Jenna Worthen would disagree, citing ‘old notions of static sexual identities’ as ‘austere and reductive.’ Maybe ‘Born that Way’ is another ceiling we need to shatter in order to grant all persons the freedom to live out what makes them thrive. Lady Gaga, watch out.
The Obama administration has just insisted that all US public schools allow students to use whichever bathroom matches their gender identity, that is, whichever identity one is experimenting with at the moment.
Overlooking the facts of one’s biological birth, and the torturous mental health consequences for persons who deny their gender birthright, Obama now leads the world in obliterating the most basic distinction of our humanity.
Your daughter attends school where a boy who likes girl’s play has absolute freedom to insist that he be considered a girl and to follow her into the bathroom. Of course that may change; he may come to his senses and realize that he wants to be who he is. Then your daughter will have to change all over again.
The US government now decrees that your children understand gender as fluid, a state of mind, with no necessary connection to our biological selves. For people of faith, that is idolatry, the creature raising itself above the Creator. For people who value the social sciences, that is psychological nihilism: we harm children by not reinforcing the value of their gender selves.
Secure upon the foundation of our male or femaleness, we can grow into the unique men and women we are, free to exhibit a range of gifts and aptitudes that defy gender stereotyping. But we damage the core of our sons and daughters by letting them tell us whether they are sons or daughters.
Obama and company now consider granting fragile children and their clueless parents that freedom. They consider gender fluidity to be another great step forward for human rights.
Tell that to my friend Daniel who was advised by his high school counselor to embrace his gender fluidity. Identifying as a woman and winning awards in drag pageants, he witnessed among ‘trans’ peers the ravages of implants, estrogen shots, and seductive exaggerated feminine behavior. The fantasy of becoming the other gender was in truth a death wish. And isn’t that the end of all deception, to destroy human dignity?
Deceived by the belief that he is protecting human dignity, Obama obliterates it.
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.