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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Justice 2: Holy Tears

‘Justice without mercy is cruelty.’ Thomas Aquinas

When St. John (JN 8:1-12) describes the Pharisees hauling the adulterous woman before Jesus in the hopes of exposing His inability to unite mercy and justice (Lev. 20:10), with whom do we identify?

Like me, you can probably admit that you are both prostitute and Pharisee. Many of us who come out of sexual disintegration have worked hard at coming clean and helping the Church clean house. Congratulations. We now are less tempted by unclean spirits and more inclined to religious ones. What else explains the shock we feel when a real sinner shows up in our midst?

God is faithful. Might we recognize in our Christian ‘enculteration’ a flash of the inner-Pharisee whose outrage over the gender meltdown in our day tempts us to look with disgust at the unidentified gender being before us? Have we forgotten the bullies who beat us up at school before we were LGBT-anything, just lost and alone in our uncentered selves? What about the religious who squinted through their smiles at us? The idiotic counsel from church men who punctuated their platitudes with ‘just don’t tell anyone…’?

It is good to forgive and also not to forget how tough it is for outliers to find footing among the holy ones. And if we do forget, just wait. God is merciful to bring up old struggles of the flesh just to remind us of how vulnerable we still are and how somehow, we need the saving love of Jesus more today than yesterday. Let the accusing voices roar. Let the demons howl and chase us right back to the feet of Jesus where our divided souls can find refuge from the stones and stony gaze of Pharisees. C.S. Lewis is right: ‘If religion does not make you an awful lot better, it can make you an awful lot worse.’

Maybe your sins are not sensual; you cannot relate to the prostitute. Then think about adultery as illicit virtue, not sex. Have you quietly begun to pat yourself on the back for your ordered life rather than to thank God for His mercy? Perhaps you spend more time praying for your holiness than for saving a tortured soul from the flames of hell. Many of us can confess honestly that we needed the disordered son or daughter or spouse or friend to rouse us from our self-centered faith and to cast ourselves once more on the saving love of Jesus.

The sweet, savory truth: Jesus is God’s justice for broken ones like us! And it takes a good break in order for us pilgrims to be made new by His mercy, a cleansing love which engulfs and transforms our injustices into something good.

All we have left is tears, evidence that we have lost our way, grown cold in the light, weary in well-doing, unmerciful. Tears are good. They show us that we still have hearts that can break. What better time to break than now as we walk with Jesus to Calvary? Maybe our broken hearts are required to make room for persons who will perish unless they receive a share in His heart through ours.

‘The fire of divine love, which burns on the altar of our hearts…miraculously turns itself into water, the compunction of tears, which purifies us from sin and commends our good works. When our works are sprinkled with tears, splendor shines upon us, and a ray of light radiates from our depths with a serenity of delightful brightness.’ St. Peter Damian

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Frank, Thanks

Last Saturday in San Rafael CA, I was privileged to be among those who memorialized Frank Worthen, father of ministries like Desert Stream.

“Frank possessed a profoundly Christian heart—as the Hebrews understood ‘heart.’ His good mind could apprehend the meaning of things, and his love laid hold of what is best and true about God’s creation. Frank fused wisdom and compassion; he gave us a glimpse of Jesus’ heart.

Frank loved California; he honored her history–some of it Christian (Mission San Rafael!), and all of it about people leaving their old lives and taking up a new vision or job or self. While others waited for California to quake and fall into the sea, he cherished CA, and believed that Jesus could shine through created things like the Palace of Fine Arts. To Frank, beauty conveyed an aspect of Jesus’ truth. So Frank’s heart never closed to San Francisco. He still believed for her.

Frank loved people, especially people with gender identity issues. Yes the Bay Area led the world in misinterpreting same-sex attraction and in creating over 50 ungodly gender selves, and yes, Frank always held out hope in the Bay Area for the real self in every LGBT-whatever pilgrim. Frank knew only Jesus could summon that self from the slumber of sin.

You see, Jesus did that for him, thoroughly. Jesus woke him up from his sleep unto death. Jesus made him alive through this Church of the Open Door, one of the brave churches that sprouted up along the CA coast like wildflowers in the ‘Jesus-people’ revival. Jesus made Frank new, and his youthful vision for how Jesus can make anyone new never dimmed. It grew more clear and merciful over time. He gathered a remnant from around the world, grateful faces that enhanced his vision; and his sight was refined by the rebellious majority who tried to gouge his eyes out, including former spiritual sons and daughters.

Jesus gave Frank a share in His heart. He faced resistance peacefully, aware that he battled for souls. God gave him spiritual sight about this battle. While Exodus was dying and Frank and Stephen Black and Anne Paulk started Restored Hope Network, Frank prayed to Jesus for direction and received an awesome vision of St. Michael the archangel –warrior prince of the heavenly host—who upon a huge steed plunged a lance through the devil in the form of a dragon.

Rev.12: 1-12 shows us what Frank saw: St. Michael leading the host of heaven to combat a furious Satan intent on destroying Mary, Jesus and all who would be saved by Him. This vision of a violent unseen battle being waged for souls reveals Frank’s mission. It highlights the enemy who employs gender identity confusion to divide and disrupt the saints, the tyrant who vents his rage by scrambling the Church’s witness of Jesus’ love for persons enslaved to lies about their gender.

That vision of St. Michael also points to Frank’s witness of transformation for persons with SSA. Rev. 12: 11 declares that the dragon is overcome by the ‘blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.’ Jesus entrusted this simple revolutionary plan to Frank. Others were called to do so in that same season; only Frank endured the necessary testing, took up the sword in the Spirit of St. Michael, and plunged it in the enemy’s side by declaring that the problem of homosexuality was no match for the saving love of Jesus.

God calls us to continue that battle—to push back the devourer by declaring the sufficiency of Jesus’ blood through the word of our testimonies. We are wise to honor the one who came before us. We express thanks by continuing the fight.

I close today by drawing a parallel between Frank and another angel, the angel Gabriel who announced to Mary that God had chosen to dwell with man through her womb, a plan unlike any other, which required her consent. Today, Sat. March 25, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates this feast of the Annunciation. I want to honor Frank for the Mary-like role he played in saying ‘yes’ to Gabriel and to God. Against all odds. He endured shame for the joy set before Him. As Mary became the human hinge for our salvation, we honor Frank today as the flesh and blood guy who first declared for us freedom from SSA, freedom for a life full of Jesus. Frank said ‘yes’, and that has made all the difference.”

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Wisdom

‘Preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you…’ (PR 3: 21, 22)

Like you, I watch helplessly as divided men and women leave faith and family for another partnership, be it a younger lover, the actualizing of an ‘LGBT’ self, or just a ‘fresh’ start. Adultery takes on many forms in our world today. Especially painful is the mangling of many by the one who buys the lie that happiness lies in the illicit orgasm, the romantic rush, creaturely comforts that bypass the Creator. Solomon warns those who conceive adultery: ‘At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent.’ (PR 4:11)

How relevant is the wisdom of Proverbs for our consumer-driven culture! The wise declare: ‘Yes I have hardships and disappointment, yet my happiness rests in the One who orders all things and makes a way for me in all my conflicts.’ Wisdom guides that life and safeguards all who surround it by what Joseph Pieper describes as ‘the perfected ability to make right decisions.’ (His definition of prudence, which I am describing here as wisdom, is laid out excellently in The Four Cardinal Virtues, Notre Dame Press.) On wisdom hinges all other virtues. How else can you understand ‘this root and guide of all good action’?

I rejoice in a host of husbands who have betrayed their wives (with porn and both genders) then repented and worked hard to restore family life. From them I have learned wisdom. Why? Wisdom guided their steps; they were willing to be trained by her, and their recovery highlights several facets of Pieper’s wisdom.

First, wisdom is rooted in the truth; truth is her standard, and wisdom insists that one love the truth and effort to actualize it. Wisdom is based both on an ideal—God only honors sexual love in marriage and my wife deserves that–but also on a real struggle to stay true to that ideal—I must work hard and find roots in a recovery community in order to win back her trust. Wisdom aligns with Reality. One aligns with the truth of God’s will and works hard to live out that truth.

Secondly, wisdom insists on an ‘energetic promptness’, an ability to swiftly decide for the good. That means clearing out any delusion related to ‘managing’ one’s own sin. Wisdom’s clear-sightedness frees him to refuse nostalgic rubbish. He remembers things as they were—demonic entrapments that destroyed life rather than enhanced it; he runs to the fountain of life to partake of the One whose friends hold him to his best. One friend said: ‘I recall daily the devastation of my wife and marriage but also the refuge of our love today. We’ve worked too hard to give that up for anything.’

Thirdly, wisdom is all about foresight, ‘a sure instinct for the future.’ My friends are preparing for a long life with good women and kids and grandkids. ‘I am making truthful decisions today for tomorrow’ is their credo. These former fools repented unto Almighty Mercy and became wise. Wisdom makes whole divided lives, and sets in motion a righteous future for thousands of others.

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Exuberant Joe

My good friend and colleague Dr. Joseph Nicolosi passed away yesterday from an unexpected, swift illness. I am in shock. He is the man who gave men like me courage to name the wounds related to our early gender identity, get on a healing track, and proceed onto all we were created for. As a devout Catholic, he held fast to our fruitfulness and eschewed the false solutions offered by the LGBT community; as an astute clinician, he persevered to ensure that the healing arts and sciences still applied to persons with same-sex attraction who knew that they were stuck and needed to get on with life.

He did it all with panache. He was a force of nature—youthful at 70-years-old, mouthy, colorful, an unflagging provocateur of truth. He never lost focus. The last time I saw him was a year ago at his home in Thousand Oaks home with wife Linda; he exuberantly rehearsed a new paper he was presenting at NARTH, which he co-founded and designed as the only enduring network offering clinical care for persons with unwanted SSA.

The sheer volume of his output in papers, books, and presentations around the globe is staggering and can be summed up in these words: humanity is created to realize its heterosexual potential and homosexual behavior is a symptomatic attempt to repair early wounds that left the boy alienated from that potential–the innate masculinity that he has failed to claim. Sound psychotherapy is thus one means through which we can welcome the confirmation that eluded us in our wounds and recover our dignity as men from the illusion of seeking ‘completion’ in homoeroticism. I would urge you all to secure any of his books or articles. My personal favorite: Shame and Attachment Loss, IVP.

Joe got it right. He never apologized for the light he shone. In 1980, he founded the Thomas Aquinas Counseling Center in Los Angeles the same year Desert Stream began in LA. He provided for me and my colleagues studying psychology a reasonable, clear direction amid irrational forces. Ever exuberant, he seemed to enjoy the challenges he faced. He was born to burn calories caused by his contention that humanity has a direction born of God, a track no activist can alter.

God made Joe fit for the fight and he did so brightly and boldly in the face of adversity. Some did not know what to do with him. We did know. We loved him. His gift freed us to embrace life. Exuberantly.

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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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