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Archive for February, 2014

Is this billboard hateful?

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

billboardI’ve recently come to know about a billboard that has been created in Louisville Kentucky. It says there are options. Are there really options?

I found a comment about the billboard written by a common friend.

Since it was put up last week, the ministry director has received a vehement reaction — some saying the message is hateful, offensive, and judgmental. Some responses are not fit to be written here, or anywhere. I’ve now been informed that it has been vandalized with “WTF” spray painted on it…now, who is hateful?

The implication in this comment is that the gay community is showing hate through their actions against the billboard. But, why would someone desecrate this billboard? What would you think is behind the statement that the message of options is hateful? I wouldn’t say that this message is hateful. I don’t like that word as it’s been used wrongly and abusively far too many times. I would like to say this. I struggle with messages like this billboard that say there are options for people who are unhappy being gay. My struggle is because people then often hope for changes in their orientation, which are very seldom, if ever, realized. The message often implies there is a way to not be gay any longer.

What are the options that Abba’s Delight offers? Is the hope that a homosexual person can find a life free of their homosexuality? Or is that a life of celibacy is the way out? From my own experience I’ve seen the despair that can occur when the changes aren’t seen that this kind of options message seems to communicate. What is the hope? For some who are out of control, celibacy may be an improvement for sure. But for most, an attempt at celibacy is short lived and the desire for connection and intimacy returns only to bring discouragement and shame. Then what comes next? Seeking more messages of hope? A treadmill of promises often follow. Then many people seek more counseling, prayer sessions, or intensive retreats attempting to find the changes in their sexual orientation that seem to be experienced by others who tell them there’s hope.

I believe the balance would be found in showing someone they can make the choice for themselves as to how they desire to live their lives as sexual beings, whether celibacy or same sex partner. Some gay men and women have opted for opposite sex marriage which often ends up a disaster for all concerned. Is that the hopeful message sent by this ministry?

If a person came to this ministry to say they deeply desire a healthy same sex partner but have been dissatisfied with one night stands, or short lived relationships, would they find support for developing a healthy relationship? Or, would they be told that God will not allow that and they must find satisfaction in another choice?

What I have discovered is that allowing people the freedom to choose, and finding supporting people in their choices to live healthier, they most often find dramatic positive changes in their lives. Some find relief from addictive behaviors. Others find a settled life, and many of them begin to reconcile their faith bringing them to a deeper spiritual life.

Evidence through years of my own personal experience shows that the message that you can never have a same sex relationship very often causes unhealthy and controlling emotionally dependent relationships, anonymous sexual addictions and all sorts of other problems.

This is why some say that this billboard is hateful. This word “hateful” isn’t a good one to use. However the message is deceiving at the least. It communicates to many that they are saying there is freedom from homosexuality. This is a long standing message through Exodus International that has brought far too many negative results. This is largely the reason that Exodus closed their doors this last year. They finally became honest that they had seen no changes in sexual orientation that that their message had been harmful.

There are those who have been touted as success stories who had gotten married. I’m sad to say that I’m encountering far too many men who have gotten married in mixed orientation marriages to find far more discouragement and despair than they ever thought they would endure.

There are others who claim that there are stories of success concerning people who attempted changes. Well, they aren’t so successful after all. I know many who have recanted their stories saying they were afraid to tell the truth that their sexuality hadn’t actually changed. They lived in silent despair believing they couldn’t be honest. It just seemed that there was no freedom to be honest within ExGay ministries. The expectations to perform were subliminal, and in some cases overt. Behind the scenes, their real life experiences were so often failures but who could be honest enough to say that?

This is why I struggle with the same message drafted on this billboard in a prettier contemporary graphic design. Not Happy? There are options! I’ve heard it all too often for too many years and the balloon lost its air. this billboard says the ministry is connected to the Hope for Wholeness Network. Does this convey that gay people are not whole? Does being gay mean you are fractured? For almost forty years, Exodus conveyed a message of healing and change for gay people. Are gay people sick? Do they all need healing? Is being gay a statement that one is incomplete, unhealthy, broken?  This  message must go away and a new way of ministry for homosexual people must come to be. It is necessary to grown and learn from our mistakes.

Exodus ministries began the journey to the discussion among church communities – but the discussion must continue and reflect what we’ve learned that we did wrong!

I’ve been there.

Okay to doubtI’ve done much reading, studying, and have gone through a thoughtful processes to come to a new place. My change of thought has taken many years to develop and certainly hasn’t been capricious.

Many have said they believe that a gay affirming position comes from lack of faith, lack of godliness, and lack of reverence for God’s word. Actually for me, and others I’m in community with, it has been a true reverence for God’s word and a deep faith that has led them to a new understanding of their homosexuality.

I’ve discovered a greater understanding of the gift of grace through Christ and this has become my foundation. Then I see that many traditional teachings and interpretations of the bible are actually incorrect in my view. A thorough review and study of the origins of those passages has shown me that they are not in any way addressing gay relationships that are committed and loving.

The Exodus message went on for four decades. It wasn’t until just two years ago that the president of Exodus, Alan Chambers, actually publicly spoke of not seeing changes in sexual orientation. Before that, Exodus shared story after story of the deliverance from homosexuality with little reference to what that actually meant. Deliverance can mean so many things, but a man or woman desperate for relief from the deep conflicts within their faith can easily see that word to mean a total eradication of their sexual orientation.

When I began my journey with ExGay ministry I heard a prominent leader publicly speak of being delivered from homosexuality. I looked at my own experience and felt discouraged because i wasn’t experiencing what he said he had. I later had a private conversation with him where he told me of his ongoing attractions to young men. I felt duped and deceived by his public testimony of deliverance.

If Exodus people had been honest about not experiencing changes in their sexual orientation, they would have lost their platform for sure. Teaching that there isn’t really any change from homosexuality brings about the question – then what is there for me? What can I hope for?

I believe that it is very important for people of faith to experience movement towards a God centered life. It is important to live a life of seeking to be more Christ-like each day. This does require a willingness to say no to things that are ungodly. it requires us to seek to be less selfish, and more other centered.

Of course many people still tell me that a gay relationship is ungodly and there could be no real love there. I do not see a homosexual relationship as ungodly and frankly for a homosexual relationship to actually be healthy and work, it requires a growing faith. Selflessness, servant heart, sacrificing ones rights to comfort and so on are very important to a successful relationship. it is frustrating to me to think that I used to teach, and I often still hear, that there could be no love in a gay relationship, nor any connection to God.

I believe strongly in a hope that is godly, eternal, and filled with joy. I’ve seen tremendous joy in the lives of men and women who have accepted and embraced their homosexuality. And, this is not a worldly happiness, but many I know experience a truly joyful, Christ centered life.

I’ve always been a seeker of truth, and deeply desired a God centered life. What I found is that I was living a self centered life before in that I was focused more on performance, and upholding an image. i was tremendously anxious that in some way I would fail to meet the mark of sexual performance expectations I believed were necessary within ExGay ministry. Along the way, my life was not centered on God, rather is was often centered on attempting to make others believe I had true joy.

Today, I am focused on breathing in the presence of God and allowing Him to work in me the good things He desires. I am no longer trying to change anyone else. One of the biggest things that has changed in me is the lack of codependency that I’ve lived in for so long.

freedom from the wall

I believe in the freedom in Christ that is so relevant to the gospel. He died so that we may be free! Free from shame, condemnation, and performance orientated relationships. Being free has been revolutionary for me.

Is there hope for those who are unhappy being gay? Yes, there is. But this hope is not found in a deceiving message of change, or a consignment to being alone and to never experience true intimacy with someone they love. The bible says that a hope deferred makes the heart grow sick. I know far too many LBGT people who have experienced the sickness of hope deferred. It’s time we represent a real hope for a life abundant.


Where do the tears come from?

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

tears from a man

I received a message from a friend that caused me to think, and to dig into my own heart.  I began to respond to my friend’s questions and as I wrote it sounded like something that may make others think too.

Please be aware this is a rant, but I wanted to post it anyway. It may not be really smooth and worked through, but I wanted to post this as kind of a raw editorial without trying to make it all pleasant and comfortable.

Hi John,  I hope you are well.

One of your Facebook posts led me back to Wesley Hill’s book. Perhaps you can help me understand why it was so grievous to one of your friends whose blog you linked to and identified with.

Here’s a quote that I’m curious about.

“My homosexuality, my exclusive attraction to other men, my grief over it and my repentance, my halting effort to live fittingly in the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit—gradually I am learning not to view all of these things as confirmations of my rank corruption and hypocrisy. I am instead, slowly but surely, learning to view that journey—of struggle, failure, repentance, restoration, renewal in joy, and persevering, agonized obedience—as what it looks like for the Holy Spirit to be transforming me on the basis of Christ’s cross and his Easter morning triumph over death.”

What do you hear him saying?

Thanks, Sam

Sam, you’ve posted an interesting  question about Stephen’s blog.

I think the thing that resonates with me so much is the many, many years I silently prayed, begged, and internally wept over the struggle with my homosexuality.

I lived outwardly according to the church’s expectations. I was given the message early on that if I was obedient, and trusted God, then I would find peace and contentment as well as hopefully a significant change in my attractions and ability to connect with my wife within our marriage. Each day living out the reality that it wasn’t happening.

I think Stephen is saying much of the same thing, only as a single man.  He expresses such innate desires for love, connection, and yet the religious culture conveys that there is no option for a gay man to have those desires fulfilled. Some would say that he can accept that he is gay, but conveys the message that celibacy is the only option. For a young man to think he will live the rest of his life alone can be insurmountable.  And if he is honest with himself, he knows he will never find compatibility with a woman.

I can fully understand the depression that comes along with those ideals. I spent 24 years within a marriage that was incompatible with my sexual orientation. I held to the standard that I had no option but to remain in the marriage and stick it out somehow. Lonelier, and with deeper shame each year I felt hopeless that I would ever find a true soul connection in this life. I just thought it was my lot in life and I’d better find a way to discover joy in it. Exhibiting  some kind of satisfaction on the outside and speaking of love and contentment publicly,  I was lost and internally dying from the core. A daily sadness, and anxiety was my true inner experience.

Another challenge is that the majority of straight folks do not begin to understand because it isn’t their experience. We’ve often heard that people don’t want our homosexuality shoved in their faces. But in reality, heterosexuality is a glowing presence, actually in our faces every day. Young lovers kissing in the park, elderly folks walking holding their hands in peaceful joy. Television movies of love and romance everywhere during the holidays. Ads, commercials, book covers,  all about heterosexual love. As a gay man, I believed I could never have what I was seeing around me every day, but they could live it out publicly. It was a glaring reminder of the turmoil within my own life.

Church experiences are all about heterosexuality. From sermons on marriage, dating, and in some places even sexuality – but all from a heterosexual perspective.  It’s very discouraging to  know that as a gay man, I may never enjoy a peaceful walk holding the hand of someone I love, or sitting on a park bench with my arm around them. The video of the service man went viral when he hugged his partner upon his return from active duty.  This gave courage to other gay people who are in similar situations but feel the resistance of the community to them hugging their partners publicly.

Can you even imagine what this is like for gay people? To hear from people like Wesley, and others that isn’t okay to accept that you’re gay, but don’t ever hope to fulfill your soul desires because God won’t allow it, is something that for some, can be depressing, and at times even debilitating.

I finally decided to trust in the love and grace of God. I looked at my life and decided to step out of the cast and live my life in ways that are natural for me. I decided to separate from the fears I lived in for so many years and move away from the internal shame that robbed me of my light, my soul.

There are certainly challenges of a decision to live out my homosexuality in a heterosexual world. Not the least is the loss of almost all of my familiar friendships with people who were just not able to follow my journey to where I am today. The belief that homosexuality is the worst of “sins” has shown itself clearly to me, even though many times  religious people have said that it isn’t. There are far too many other, worse, sins that people don’t abandon their friends over. But be that as it may, it’s proven to me that many conservative Christians show by their actions what they believe about homosexuality.

But, the positive nature of all of this is that I found a truer, and more real faith and relationship with God than before. I am no longer in a relationship with Him where I am constantly begging him for something I want. I’m no longer seeing God as a Genie in the bottle  where I continually ask for freedom. I’m able to just experience Him rather than a constant seeking for something that was never to be.

I’ve seen reconciliation with long lost family and friends, that share my faith, that has been amazingly orchestrated by God to show me His deep love and compassion for me as His child. I’ve experienced a tremendous amount of loving grace from people I never expected to receive it from. The listening ears and validation of my life has been amazing. Sadly, this has not been the case from many who have previously said they love me with the love of Christ, but haven’t shown me the compassion I’d hope to experience from those who believe they are God’s messengers of truth.

This is a very important excerpt from Stephen’s blog message:

You aren’t talking about politics. You are talking about our lives. You are talking about experiences, questions and traumas that have shaped us, tortured us, and terrified us. You are talking about the sometimes daily battle to overcome the deep feeling of inhumanity that has plagued some of us since we were young. You are talking about the tears, the numbing, the suicidal ideation and the prayers over countless nights, pleading with God that he would have mercy and make us normal. You are talking about the torture of the closet, the unbearable burden of keeping secrets from those we love the most, because of the conviction that if we stepped outside of the closet, we would be seen and rejected. You are talking about terrible questions that plague us: is it fundamentally evil for me to fall in love, to be committed to a single person, to raise a family? You are talking about relationships and bodies and marriages and families. You are talking about people.

Sam, the tears that are shed by gay people are deep and heavy. The straight world around us, especially from within the organizations called the Church, really don’t often show they are interested in listening or gaining a greater understanding about gay people and the journey we are on. We can be the pink elephant in the living room of the church that is never talked about.

These messages only prove to increase the shame that so many gay people feel about themselves. I always taught that the shame was God’s way of showing them how wrong they were and that they could be free of the shame if they aligned themselves with His desires. This too only exacerbated the shame they felt because there could be no change that would bring them to a true freedom from homosexuality, therefore they deemed themselves to be worse than others, with little hope they could ever  be accepted like heterosexual people are.

All of this stems from six or seven  verses in the bible that, are woefully misinterpreted and misunderstood. Religious communities regularly condemn two men or two women who truly love each other who choose to consummate their love. It’s very common for religious people to have this response when they’ve never truly studies these passages.

Well, I’m not sure what you were looking for, Sam, but I believe you asked how I could relate to the sadness and struggle that Stephen spoke about. I think I’ve touched the surface of this for you.

As we’ve talked before, there’s tremendous room in this subject to disagree, but at what point do religious folks drop the dagger and begin to love gay people with the same grace they love others without condemnation?

The messages in our world are loud and clear! Let’s vote on whether or not a business can choose to not serve you.  In some countries, the vote is on whether or not we can murder you because you’re gay. Men are drug out of their sleep, beaten without mercy.  Let’s vote on whether or not you can legally marry so that you can visit your loved one as they die in the hospital, or receive benefits that help to support and maintain your relationship. These news items send home a message loud and clear. If you’re gay, living your life has to be voted on.

Oh, and in the church, well…. You’re welcome to attend. We’ll pass the offering plate hoping you’ll give joyfully. You can even come to our social events and we’ll shake your hand, smile, and show you how we care. You want to talk about this issue with the church leaders? Why do we have to talk about it? We don’t need to do that. Can’t you see that we accept you?

What? You want to be a member? Not unless you confess you’ll never act upon your natural desires. We’re not sure what others would say if we have gay people that are actually members of our church. We don’t want to be known in our community as one of those gay churches. You want to become involved? We can’t have you greet people, what would they think about us if they knew you were gay. Maybe there’s something else you can do. Why can’t you just come, sit quietly and receive what the Lord has for you here. What? you’ve heard that our organist is gay, well we don’t know anything about that.

You have a partner? Please don’t embarrass us by you putting your arm around them here. You want to have a service to bless your love for this other person? We’re not sure we can do that here. But,  if your pastor has anything to do with this, we’ll bring him to the denominational trial and take away all of his credentials.

Yes, the messages are abundantly clear. Where do their tears come from? What does it take for a gay person to finally gain the courage to live life? Think about it. It’s no wonder it’s so hard to be a healthy gay person, or to have a healthy gay relationship. Look what we have to go through to be healthy. Oh, that’s right, the scriptures about temple shrine prostitution and male sex slaves prohibit us from having a loving, committed gay relationship.

Where do I see the cross of Christ in all of this. Its in each and every rejection, shame filled message, lonely night and  thankfully, renewal of relationship –  I see the work of Christ in my life. I see Him challenging my faith, calling me to even more grace, and calling me closer to what He desires for me. I see this as all part of the journey of life through which we become more and more of who we can be in Him.

These challenges bring me to learn more how to respond to others with the grace I desire for my own life. I’m hopefully learning how to give away that which I hunger most for myself has become more of a way of life. How can I love others sacrificially? And honestly, it is really hard sometimes but maybe I’m getting better at it.


The ExGay Deception and God’s Grace

Friday, February 7th, 2014

ShadowmanbyriverThe ExGay Deception and God’s Grace

By John J. Smid

My heart is grieving today for all of the men and women who have spent the majority of their lives praying, seeking, and hoping for deliverance from their homosexual attractions. For over four decades there has been a faulty message conveyed that people can change. A deceptive message that most often caused many to believe that they could experience a change in sexual orientation from gay to straight.

Begging at the altars of their churches, praying on their knees at their beds, crying themselves to sleep night after night; all to come away time after time with no change. They didn’t experience freedom from attractions that have often been said to be against nature, against God’s desires for their lives and often referred to as an abomination. Many have listened to sermon after sermon about the evil of homosexuality. Hearing that God’s desires for one’s life is contrary to their experience which is to them as natural as the desire for good food, or peace in the heart. These messages can be so deeply destructive.

Some people believe that homosexuality is merely a sexual desire. They believe it is simply a sexual appetite that can be controlled by repentance and self discipline, and that it should be. This mindset often comes from people who have never been gay. From straight people who have their own natural sexual orientation.

For my entire life I have had deep needs for an intimate connection with another man. The kind of connection that finds peace and fulfillment in merely holding one close, or laughing freely in such a way that can lead to an intimate hug without fear. It hasn’t been about an orgasm as much as it has been a connection of the heart of another man, something that transcends a sexual climax.

To be told for over two decades that this kind of connection is against God’s nature, sinful, and that one can never have this kind of fulfillment has been disheartening. It has led me to depression, sadness, and has caused many years of feeling separated from my very soul. The only way I could find to cope with that message has been to shut down my intimate life, to foreclose on any hope for being fully the man I have so desired to be. I’ve lost laughter, joy, and peace. I got married thinking that somehow, God would bless my decision and in faith believed that it could be a very satisfying alternative to my nature.

To believe it is merely a sexual desire minimizes the intimate nature of who we are. It can bring us to attempt a fleshly sexual practice that is unfulfilling. This is where so many gay men end up. Since the culture, especially the religious culture, says that within the context of their faith, they can never hold another man close or connect with him intimately. Many have lost their heart and soul. They have found themselves with only genital connections, or cold abstinence without the true fulfillment of embracing something that is a desire deep within them. I’ve known some who have given up any hope of a relationship and live alone which can exacerbate the problems of lonely sexual encounters without intimacy or a bitter contempt for life and people.

For women who are lesbian and desire intimacy with another women in relationship the cultural message is that this is wrong and will cost them their relationship with God and others. This has also been deeply destructive. This can heighten an anxious distortion of their search for intimacy that has led to emotionally codependent relationships and for some an erratic life experience. This has also been harmful, destructive, and has cost many women a total loss of hope in their hearts and their faith. For some it has created a hardened legalism for their own lives and towards others. A ministry peer once said that it is more common among ExGay participants to live in emotional dependency than almost any other culture. This pattern is more common in ExGay circles than it is in true lesbian relationships. I tend to believe him! Just like many things in life, when we are told we cannot have something that is so deeply natural, and needed, it can quickly become something that is distorted and fueled by disappointment and shame.

For over twenty years I worked diligently to help gay men lay aside addictive practices with sex and pornography. Some found abatement for a season, but many never found the freedom they desired and only went on to even more one night stands or anonymous sexual encounters. The ongoing shame often led to a complete separation of their souls from God or anything spiritual.

This is until they finally release themselves from the cultural message that would refuse to acknowledge the deep need within them. Once they went on to find the true intimate connection with another person that matched their nature it seemed somehow that their road of life began anew. Life entered into them. After time, they opened up the door to a timid seeking of God once again. As they peeked through the door towards God’s heart the fear of disapproval often kept them outside that door but at least they did open it a little.

As I’ve reconnected with a large number of those who were involved in some sort of ExGay experience I’ve discovered that quite a few of them have gone through this transition. As I’ve talked with them I found that many have found partners with which they now share their life. In most cases, they are no longer living in a frantic practice of one night stands and anxious dependencies rather, they have found peace with someone they love.

I’ve discovered that a major key to resolving the addiction of encounter after encounter has been for many, a release of the bondage of legalism and a decision to walk free in the love of Christ. This is the kind of love that allows them to embrace a relationship without shame. These folks are no longer trapped in the cycle of anonymous sexual encounters or the anxiety of emotionally dependent relationships.

The ExGay message of God’s deliverance from the homosexual orientation has been destructive! It has created a dangling carrot of change without any real outcome of freedom from homosexuality. The damage has occurred in the subsequent loss of one’s soul, or the destruction stemming from serial fleshly encounters that only leave one void and searching for the next one.

In all of my recent studies of scripture, I conclude that there is nothing that would forbid a gay or lesbian from a satisfying intimate relationship with another gay person. There is no prohibition of same sex intimacy with someone they are committed to and love from their heart. The forbiddances appear to come from fear, and an unwillingness to discover what homosexuality is truly all about. They come from a biased study of the bible. It seems there is a huge disinterest in many to truly study, and listen to the hearts of gay men and women.

I believe much of my grief today is also from how I played a role in furthering the message of deliverance from homosexuality. I used to teach that hope for their eternity would come when they found freedom. I conveyed a message that God would be more pleased with people who were not gay. I spent a tremendous amount of energy attempting to help men and women find a life of freedom of their natural homosexual desires.

Today I realize that it is far better to help men and women accept their homosexuality is innate, and an authentic reality. Regardless of where it came from, it is what it is. There is freedom in Christ for someone to hope for intimate connection with anther compatible human being if they so choose to pursue it. For those who are satisfied with a life of singleness, there’s a place for them to accept being gay and feel accepted and loved within that life experience. But neither choice can be made until they accept their homosexuality without shame.

I believe that in this they will find contentment and peace as a child of a loving God. Sadly, this acceptance may also cost them in their relationships with those who cannot accept that reality with grace. It may bring about human rejection and conflict with those they have known.

I also grieve about the way that homosexuality has become such a divisive issue within people of faith. The imbalances that occur in judgment and criticism towards gay people within faith communities is sad and unnecessary.

man_yellow_jacket_hands_raisedI am hopeful. As I watch the world around me, more and more people are choosing to act upon love and grace even when they don’t fully understand homosexuality. Those within faith communities are making the choice to practice the law of love, rather than trying to hold to a legalistic perspective of the Law.

I’m working my way through this very process myself. I’ve discovered the freedom from compulsions and facades that plagued me for many years. I’m finding the delivering power of the grace of God. I’m opening up my heart to an authentic soul experience. I’m seeing the freedom that I always hoped I’d find, but it’s not through being delivered from homosexuality – it’s through accepting it.

It’s a scary thing to expose myself to the very thing I believed for so long would destroy me and could cause me to lose God, and to bring me to fail in this life. It’s fearful to see those I’ve known for years abandon their connection with me because I’ve chosen to accept something about myself that has always been there. They appear to be resistant to follow my reality. I feel sad about my own separation from people who have become critical and have attempted to draw life away from me. I feel grieved that my marriage of 24 years ended because it was also built upon the false hope that someday it would be a natural marriage.

Deconstructing the facades that I used to hold up a false realty can be quite disconcerting and unsettling. But I do feel the anxiety levels decreasing. I can sit more quietly these days without feeling the need to make more noise. I breathe more deeply. I can also be silly and laugh uncontrollably more often than ever in my life. I am committed to continue helping others find this kind of freedom.

(C) 2014 John J. Smid