Tag Archives: Homosexuality

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Power to Change 2: A Fortress of Friends

‘A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds.
For he who fears God behaves accordingly, and his friend will be like himself.’  (Sirach 6: 15-17)

Fortress of FriendsThe journey out of homosexuality and into Christ-centered heterosexuality is unimaginable to many. That is apparent in the ludicrous way that the popular media frames ‘change.’ From cartoonish images of flipping off the ‘gay switch’ to ‘praying away the gay’ to intensive ‘camps’ that promise reorientation in a week, journalists seem intent on dismissing efforts to grow beyond the ‘gay self’ as nearly delusional.

What most fail to realize is that the journey to actually becoming a whole-enough gift for the opposite gender is a magnificent and arduous journey that cannot be reduced to a method. Rather, it involves a profound relationship with Jesus Christ. Through His advocacy, we can be reconciled to the intrinsic value and worth of our respective genders. Yes, we face real impasses to becoming the men and women of God’s design. Yet the fractured and shameful parts of our identities are no match for His power to redeem us. Such redemption is the task of His empowered Body, the Church.

Gender integration requires ‘grace with faces’: those walking partners we discover in the healing community who satisfy our deep longing for same-gender identification and intimacy. Here we discover the love/hate relationship we actually have with our own gender. Holy and humble friendships help us navigate the fear of rejection, the threat of desiring too much, and the surprise discovery that that we are actually good gifts to out comrades. Deeper still, we realize that our ‘homosexual’ needs are not erotic at all but rather deeply emotional.

These needs line up with how the book of Sirach describes real friendship: ‘a sturdy fortress’, ‘a life-saving remedy’, ‘a treasure, beyond price.’ These attributes describe beautifully my significant friendships. United in Christ, these comrades have freed me to be forthright, even painfully honest. Together we have discovered what it means to be men whose goal is faithfulness to Jesus Christ.

That is where Sirach’s emphasis on ‘the fear of the Lord’ comes in. Our fighting for the best in each other is informed by how God defines us. We offer great drafts of mercy to each other in our weakness. Yet such weakness also compels us to call each other onto the deeper, truer realities of God’s destiny for us.

Refusal to uphold a brother in truth is serious business. That is why many fall away. They define love as accepting whatever one wants at whatever point in time. Friends who fear the Lord know better. We know that to love another means to see him as God intends him to be. We become sturdy fortresses for one another, a life-saving remedy for those of us seeking to follow Jesus in a perverse, uncomprehending age.

‘Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.’ (Is. 32: 2)

 

 

What is at the Core of Same-Gender Attraction?

Facing well one’s same-sex attraction requires more than good theology. One must also understand how we develop into whole-enough men and women. Yes, we are born to become good gifts to the opposite gender and yes, we readily stall en route to the goal of such ‘gift-giving.’ Next to Leanne Payne, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi has influenced me more than anyone else in his astute psychological understanding of how we become (or do not become) mature expressions of men and women for each other.

Check out Joe and his many fine books. As the Chair of Restored Hope Network, I am proud to say that Joe is on our new Board of Reference.

PaulkReflecting on John Paulk’s recent return to gay identity and culture, Nicolosi offers us these insights on the identity crisis at the core of those who claim ‘healing’ then falter and fall away. He writes:

“Recently, ex-gay spokesman John Paulk left his wife and three sons after more than 20 years of marriage and rejoined the gay community. He has renounced his former married life and is now discouraging others from attempting change.

Long ago, John emerged from a very troubled past. Prior to his Christian conversion, he assumed an identity as “Candi,” a cross-dressing and drug-using prostitute, immersing himself in the wilder and more anti-social aspects of the gay world.

But his Christian conversion led him into a stark change: marriage with Anne, a former lesbian and a committed Christian woman dedicated to an orthodox understanding of family and sexuality, with whom he raised three sons, now teenagers.

He also had a key position with Focus on the Family, where he became a well-known media figure testifying to his commitment to heterosexual family life and the traditional, Biblical understanding of sexuality, which holds that a gay identity is a false construct, not part of our human design. But now, all that life has crumbled.

As a reparative therapist who has worked with thousands of homosexually oriented men seeking change, and a friend of John’s for many years, I believe I am in a unique position to speculate on these recent events.

First, John’s story is a cautionary tale about ex-gay celebrity.  There is an inherent risk in the ex-gay movement’s reliance on any public spokesperson.

Second, in his testimony, John advises against Reparative Therapy, but he himself has never been in Reparative or any other professional psychotherapy.  Rather, his sexual-identity change evolved as a result of his Christian conversion.

As John tells his own story, he is a man who always felt unloved and who always searched for identity and belonging. While I will not speculate about his own interior processes, I will, however, speak of psychological patterns I have seen in other SSA (same-sex attracted) men who describe similar feelings.

For many SSA men, the deepest problem they must wrestle with is not sexual identity, but core identity. The original source of this struggle is not the more obvious problem in bonding with the father, but a breach in the primary attachment with the mother.  For these men, their deepest-level problem is not about sexual orientation but about something more fundamental: identity, attachment and belonging.

Gender-identity conflict and attraction to men are only surface symptoms. This is the problem that the media chooses to ignore, and which both sides of the debate fail to acknowledge.  

As such a man’s identity evolves, there will be an excited “discovery of my True Self,” followed by disillusionment, then a new “real discovery of my True Self,” and then again, disillusionment.   At the base of this desperate search is the anguished grasp for a stable personhood, a profound emptiness and beneath it, a self-hatred.  That self-hatred is often expressed in deconstructing and condemning every previous aspect of the person’s own former life, including the influence of persons most near to him.

Radical shifts in “the discovery of my True Self” are associated, in some such people, with Borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and gender confusion, since gender identity is built upon an earlier foundation of self-identity. A fragile self-identity makes the later structuring of gender identity particularly perilous.

The restlessness such people feel is shown in a chronic state of dissatisfaction; in the narcissistic expectation that “if others really love me, they must take this pain away from me; and they [or what they stand for] are responsible for my pain.”

When others fail to do this, there is a deep sense of betrayal; betrayal that these individuals failed to take away the core emptiness, and so the person in conflict may become angry at the people that participated in his former life.  The pain of an identity search and the need for escape from the ordinariness of life can be alleviated for awhile by adulation.  The narcissistic inflation found in celebrity, for example, can be an intoxicating balm.

This periodic disillusionment leaves behind devastated individuals who have invested deeply in the person; in John’s case, Anne, his wife of 20 years; his three teenage sons; and even his former ministry employer, Focus on the Family, where John served as a role model for Christians seeking to live out the orthodox Biblical conviction about the nature of sexual wholeness; also, the young people who were inspired by his public example.

John and his supporters in the gay community want to frame the latest change in his story as proof that people who experience SSA were simply designed and created for homosexuality, but we would be deceived if we believed this simplistic paradigm.

Where core identity is the foundational problem, we suspect a breach in the primary attachment with the mother. From my clinical experience, there is a particular kind of client who, although he is deeply dissatisfied with gay life and does succeed in developing good heterosexual functioning, will, over time, struggle to muster the self-discipline and maturity to put in a hard day’s work, come home to wife and family, help the children with the homework, have dinner and settle down to a good conversation with his wife, and go to bed.

Such a life of day-to-day investment in one’s loved ones seems too confining: it is boring, lusterless, unexciting, “just not enough.” Underneath the boredom and restlessness remains this deep, chronic dissatisfaction.

It’s not just about needing to find a partner of a different gender; it’s about getting attention, flirting, being made to feel special,  distracting oneself from one’s chronic dissatisfaction with life through parties and other high-animation activities, such as the gay community offers on its well-known, drug-saturated party circuits.

I suspect that “excitement” was what John was looking for when he went to the gay bar in Washington, D.C. many years ago, just after speaking at a Love Won Out conference, when he created a public-relations crisis while working for Focus on the Family. I don’t believe John was there looking for sex. I suspect he was bored with the Christian community and its expectations—I believe he sought diversion, flirtation, adventure, and –a favored word in gay politics- “transgression.”

Of course, every shift the person makes from “I thought I was such-and-such…” to “Now I really know who I am,” will always have its cheering admirers. Even Randy Thomas of Exodus Ministries—a group which is supposed to support people in living a life of sexual purity according to Biblical standards– says of John: ” I told him that while I related to him more after his gay bar visit in 2000, I could relate to him even more now that he is genuinely questioning past actions and motivations… his apparent newfound depth of honesty made me happy for him.”

Does that mean that Mr. Thomas respected John less when he lived a Christian married life?  We are left to wonder if Exodus has now simply drowned in a sea of “cheap grace” and the Philosophy-of-Oprah about following one’s heart.

And so we have seen the many faces of John Paulk—the female impersonator/prostitute “Candi,” the  “Ex-Gay Poster Boy,” and now, the gay man.

Can John really believe that he’s going to find love and happiness walking away from his wife and three sons?   John says he never in his life felt loved.   However, I conjecture that no one has ever truly loved John more than his own wife, Anne.

 

 

 

Authentic Drivel

GriefWith grief I consider the irony of Exodus’ response to John Paulk’s immersion in gay culture (Exodus Blog, April 22; Paulk presided over Exodus in the nineties). Exodus used to focus on how Jesus leads persons out of homosexuality. Now Exodus appears to celebrate those who return to it.

Exodus VP Randy Thomas just wrote a glowing account of Paulk’s renunciation of his ‘ex-gay’ status. In the spirit of Exodus new ‘radical’ grace message, Thomas ‘agrees with 95%’ of what Paulk confided in him, commends him to us as ‘one pursuing the true meaning of grace’, and describes John as ‘a man without guile.’

Yet Thomas omits the fact that Paulk’s choices violate his vows to his wife and three boys who as teenagers need their father more than ever. Exodus seems more concerned with John’s authentic gay self than with the needs of his wife and kids.

If I was married to a SSA-struggler tied to Exodus, I would jump out of my skin. Dabbling in idolatry, even if married, now appears to be covered by Exodus’ ‘grace.’

Ironically, Thomas notes that Paulk ‘got very emotional talking about young people.’ Maybe father Paulk could stop grieving for gay teens and attend undividedly to the teens he sired. Maybe he could be encouraged to cry tears of repentance and return to them.

Perhaps John grieves for himself more than for anyone else. Such is the narcissism that drives any ‘ex-gay superstar’ as well as the ‘ex-ex-gay’ who cries victim rather than takes responsibility for his own bad choices.

The narcissist is usually winsome in his confession; Thomas sure seems taken by Paulk’s. But confession, when not in the service of repentance, remains in the service of sin. What a novel idea: that Exodus or any ministry claiming to be Christian might discern the difference between authentic drivel and a heart turning back to Jesus.

Only repentance will do—the desperate ache for Jesus, and desperation to repair what one has destroyed. Only then can real grace meet real sin and overcome it.

 

 

Six of 7 Prayers for Marriage: Just Love

love marriage ringIt is now popular to label anyone a ‘hater’ who upholds marriage and refuses to remove its centerpiece: gender complementarity. On the other hand, those for ‘gay marriage’ are applauded as loving and just. I contend that love is far more stern and splendid than conceding to another’s demands. What is harder: to give people what they want or what they need?

True marriage bears witness to all people, including to persons with same-sex attraction, of something deeper and more beautiful than two people sharing lives. It reveals a quality of sacrifice and mutual submission not unlike Jesus’ love for us.

Early on in my journey out of homosexuality, still confused as to my sexual future, I caught glimpses of my parents’ love for each other. However imperfect, they always conveyed respect to each other; I noticed the very specific ways they understood and bolstered each other in their respective weaknesses. These weaknesses grew as they aged but so did their patience and care for each other. My father died with dignity due to the love of his still devoted bride.

My parents’ marriage had a converting impact upon my spirituality and my broken sexuality. It revealed the limits of same-gender pursuits; it opened a window to what I could aspire to as a man created to be in right relationship with woman. What people do not realize is that every human being is created to realize the gift of his/her otherness in relation to the opposite gender.

There are many ways in which we can get stalled or sidetracked in that realization. But that does not change the truth of God’s design and destiny for human sexuality.

When the state upholds true marriage and refuses its redefinition, it points confused citizens like me in the right direction. The state helps clarify the goal of our sexual humanity. It directs us by properly defining reality. The state misdirects us by misnaming reality.

We are thus wise to halt the efforts of gay couples to normalize their unions through ‘marriage.’ In truth, no heart open to the Creator can wholly rest with these ‘normalizing’ efforts. That unrest can work two ways. It can prompt us to go against the grain of our culture and uphold the original meaning of marriage. Or that unrest can fuel the activism driving ‘gay marriage.’ What one cannot resolve internally, (s)he directs outward in efforts to convince the world that ‘we really are normal.’  

But ‘gay marriage laws’ cannot calm the moral unrest underlying two men or women trying to become one. Such laws ‘whitewash’ something that God cannot bless. ‘Gay marriage’ is alien to Him and His design for all of humanity.  

On behalf of the moral and sexual integrity of all persons with same-sex attraction, we act in love when we uphold marriage as one man committed to one woman for the sake of kids they create. It sets a boundary that distinguishes one type of union from another; it clarifies an essential difference between heterosexual commitment and same-gender friendship. In this hour when our nation lurches along the broad path to ‘gay marriage’, we do well to take the narrow way, the way of love, by insisting on true marriage.

Most importantly, we who are married must make every effort to love well our friends with same-gender attraction. We must extend the gift of our communion, just as I benefitted from my parents’ marriage.

Annette and I marvel at a beloved couple. Both spouses have struggled with the husband’s same-gender attraction; they have succeeded at loving each other faithfully and well. You can imagine their grief, concern, and finally their understanding at the ‘coming out’ of their son. Now they love him well. Though they disagree with his choices and self-definition, they manage to treat him with sensitivity, compassion and respect. (CCC #2237)

This couple seeks prayerfully to give their son what he needs, which is their love. They cannot give him what he wants—full acceptance of his homosexual practice.   They have not changed the truth of God’s will to ‘manage’ their disagreement with him; instead they embody the truth by loving him honestly. Their marriage is a living witness of how God created humanity and how He redeems us. It is a bright light to their child and to all of God’s children.

 

Please pray with us this Holy Week as the Supreme Court hears both cases concerning ‘gay marriage’ on Tuesday the 26th and Wednesday the 27th.


 

‘Father, we lift up marriage before you in this hour. We do so for all loved ones with same-sex attraction. For their clarity as Your children, we ask for the Supreme Court to uphold the true definition of marriage. In particular, we pray for plaintiffs opposing marriage, Paul Katami and Kristin Perry, both self-affirmed homosexuals. Would You manifest Your goodness in their lives? Might You give them what they need—a revelation of Your saving love, and not what they want– ‘gay marriage’?  We love You Father and ask for Your advocacy on behalf of marriage in this crucial hour for our nation.’     

 

Housecleaning

‘For we are reduced, O Lord, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins.’ (Dan. 3: 37)

church in stormFor a couple years my pastor engaged in heterosexual immorality; we discovered this later, but in the meantime, everything changed. Our church became the soil for a strange kind of ‘grace’ teaching; out of his compromise, the pastor seeded a guilt-free, unclean Gospel among us. He extended his false liberty to us, a group of new converts barely free from our youthful addictions.

Another pastor I know recently changed his view on homosexual practice and now believes it is compatible with the Gospel. One of his staff had repented of her lesbian past and had resolved, at no small cost, to live a chaste life. Hearing her senior associate’s new view opened doors for her. She has since met a vulnerable woman in the church with who she is now sexually involved.

Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic leader, a cardinal, just acknowledged that he has been guilty of homosexual misconduct with several younger priests. (To his credit, he resigned and apologized for his actions.) No matter how conservative his theology, the ex-cardinal’s actions has sown perversion into a nation.

His sin also casts a deepening shadow on the cardinals who now gather to select a new pope. Several of these are already suspect of covering-up priestly sexual abuse in their nations. The weary ask: ‘Can anything good come out of Rome?’

Take heart. Jesus is not weary; He is intent on cleaning house. In the same way that He purged the temple of those who made the Father’s prayer house a den of thieves, Jesus will expose and get rid of those shepherds who prey on the sheep.

That was precisely Jesus’ point to the church at Thyatira. Jesus came to judge the church due to one Jezebel, a prophetic leader in the church who was leading congregants into that now familiar blend of sexual immorality and spiritual idolatry. (Rev. 2: 18-29) Sensual worship of the creature is an idolatry all its own.

His eyes blazing like fire, Jesus takes aim at those elders who did nothing about this woman’s ministry. Extraordinarily longsuffering with vulnerable sheep, Jesus is remarkably intolerant with tolerant shepherds. He claims that the elders have shirked their responsibility toward the most vulnerable. They let Jezebel do her thing, which involved seducing (v.20) and committing adultery (v.22) with the saints. Despite her claim to offer devotees ‘the deep things of God’ (1Cor 2:10), Jezebel is described by Jesus as trafficking in the ‘deep things of Satan’ (v.24).

Jesus is intolerant toward tolerating sexual immorality in His house. He insists on repentance, but claims that Jezebel will not repent. He thus visits judgment upon her and all that commit adultery with her. The unrepentant will suffer greatly, intensifying in the death of her offspring—morally, spiritually, physically. (v.22)

Jesus means business. His house will be a house of prayer, not of seduction. He wants us to love each other with clean hands and a pure heart. Those of us who know better need to help create a clean house for those just barely free from sexy idols. When we do this, we participate in ‘overcoming’ the deluge of false gods and goddesses tempting the people of God (v. 26). He promises that His very life, ‘the morning star,’ (v.28) will rise in our hearts and make a way for others, in truth the nations, to know Him more.

I close with this exhortation from Jude as to how we are to encourage the weaker ones to stand in purity. ‘Be merciful to those who doubt.’ (v.22) That means we reclaim those drawn to idolatry with kindness and gentleness. ‘Snatch others from the fire and save them.’ (v. 23) Decisive action is needed for those already under the power of sexual and spiritual seduction. Pray and love boldly. Jesus’ alone springs the trap but we can do our part!

Lastly, Jude urges us to be careful in our love, so that we do not fall under the deception of the beloved. “Show mercy mixed with godly fear.’ (v.23) That means we suffer long with profound mercy. We can do this while holding fast to God’s design for the vulnerable one as culled from Scripture and Church tradition. We proceed in mercy, certain of its power over sin and the judgment it incurs.

‘Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.’   (1Cor. 4:2)

 

 

 

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