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Archive for April, 2014


How did you reconcile this with your faith?

Friday, April 25th, 2014


JohnSmidPensiveB&W#1I have often questioned people who have embraced their homosexuality and their Christian faith. “In light of the traditional view of God’s opposition to homosexual relationships, how have you come to reconcile this part of your life?” I really want to know what it is that has become the major factor in ones ability to find peace with God knowing they are going against the flow of years of Christian tradition. What were the factors that have played a role in helping find peace and joy living an open Gay life?


Matthew Vines has recently published his new book, God and the Gay Christian which has become very controversial. It is claimed to be one of the most impacting books of the year! Matthew has gone over the top to work to embrace his faith and reconcile his homosexuality.


As a young Christian man, Matthew Vines harbored the same basic hopes of most young people: to someday share his life with someone, to build a family of his own, to give and receive love. But when he realized he was gay, those hopes were called into question. The Bible, he’d been taught, condemned gay relationships.


Feeling the tension between his understanding of the Bible and the reality of his same-sex orientation, Vines devoted years of intensive research into what the Bible says about homosexuality. – Amazon Description


Dr. Michael Brown wrote an article based on four rhetorical questions he poses to professing gay Christians. I find these questions to be helpful in my own answers to those questions.


Today, however, more and more men and women who identify as LGBT are professing to be devoted Christians, believing that the church has wrongly interpreted the Scriptures through the centuries and claiming that committed, monogamous same-sex relationships can be blessed by God. – Dr. Michael Brown


Needless to say, I’ve written an entire book (Ex’d Out, How I Fired the Shame Committee) that chronicles my own personal journey in making this transition myself. But I’m still discovering other factors and other ways of communicating my answers. I’d like to take a stab at answering his questions.


Question 1: “Are you 100% sure that your interpretation of Scripture regarding homosexuality is correct?”


Throughout my vocation in ministry with LBGT people spanning over two decades, as well as my personal walk of faith for thirty years, there have been many unanswered questions about what the bible says and doesn’t say about homosexuality. As I continue to study, review, and listen, those questions continue. There are perspectives from many angles that continue to be revealed on this matter. The dialogue is certainly heating up in this day and age of revelation and from the information superhighway.


There are people who say they have absolute certainty about what the bible says and yet I question their honesty. The words written do speak of certain same sex behaviors that are incongruent with love and commitment in significant relationship. There are clearly prohibitions of idolatrous practices between two people of the same gender. Some of the words Paul uses regarding same sex behavior have been tremendously controversial as well as the understanding of the Hebrew or Greek languages from thousands of years ago seems to be studied and questioned regularly. Truthfully, no one can say they have it figured out 100%.


No, I cannot say I am 100% certain about what the bible says, or doesn’t say about homosexuality, or a full understanding of the interpretation of the verses commonly attached to same sex behavior. But I can say I have learned more in the recent years than I have known previously and what I have discovered has impacted my life deeply.


Question 2: “Do your beliefs start with certainty about the authority of Scripture, or do they start with certainty about your ’sexual orientation’?”


My beliefs and life practice begin with what I have known about the bible. I believe that the Bible has been given to us as a significant reference point regarding my faith, and belief in God as my Creator and Savior. I agree that the Bible is useful for correction, for guidance and as God’s love story for His people. I do not minimize the significance of how the bible plays a role in the formation of my own faith and Christian practice.


I must say I am very certain about my sexual orientation having lived with it for my entire life. There has never been a question in my mind as to where my romantic, and sexual attractions are. And to add to that, I don’t think God is the least bit surprised at my being gay and believe He has been actively leading my life throughout the years to discover more of myself and how I might make decisions about the results of that pursuit.


It sounds as though Dr. Brown is trying to separate the two points as though they can be mutually exclusive. My experience with homosexuality has always been subject to my faith and my relationship with God.


Question 3 “What do you say to those people who are genuinely ex-gay or to those who are still same-sex attracted but have chosen to separate themselves to the Lord unless he changes them?”


I had a public presence that communicated every day that I was ExGay for 25 years. Most who knew me would have never questioned me on my story of God’s intervention in my life. I held my cards close to my chest hiding them from virtually everyone. I severely minimized this reality in the way I spoke about my attractions, desires, and deep needs for same gender love and affection. I can’t say I lied, but I can say I was not authentic out of the fear that I would lose far too much if that kind of honesty came forth.


For those who say they are ExGay, I have no right to question their sincerity or their life experience. Who am I to judge, or to interpret their sexuality or to asses their desires? I know men who are married to women that prior to their wedding, have had a life experience with homosexuality that was real for them. Some of these men appear to be genuinely content with their marriages and their life in general. I also appeared to be genuinely content in my life as a Christian gay man who was married to a woman. I was certainly not going to in any way communicate anything to the contrary during those years. It was far too fearful for me to be that honest with myself, much less with others. But, honestly, I know other men who outwardly live what would be considered to be an ExGay life and yet they are acting on their same sex desires outside of their marriages. Yes, I do question the ExGay story.


However, while sharing a public testimony of change, deep inside I knew that nothing had changed and I did everything I could to suppress the deeper inner desires and anxiety that I lived with every day. So, honestly, I am hesitant to believe all I hear. But this doesn’t mean I won’t accept someone’s word that they consider themselves ExGay and live in peace with that. Some have been quite pointed with me that they believe God wants them to live a life without same sex romance or sexual expression and in that conviction they find joy in believing they are obedient to God in their sexuality.


I know men who are celibate who say they have joy and satisfaction in living a celibate life that they believe is congruent with their faith. What I question is what would they do if they discovered that it was acceptable to open themselves up to a monogamous same gender loving relationship? If their faith would allow them to have that, what would they do then? Would they admit that their heart’s desire had always been to find that part of their soul fulfilled? Sadly, for many, the longing that exists to connect to another soul in a deeply intimate way is staved off through one night stands and through the internet in unfulfilling ways. I’d like to hear a little more honesty from people regarding the real truth about their desires. I do at times believe that some people sugar coat their stories almost as though they are claiming something in faith that they do not experience in the hope it may come true some day. This is exactly what I did. I wasn’t truly honest during those years and gave the same messages of happiness and joy about being obedient to God as I believed I was called to be.


Question 4: “If you were convinced that God opposed all forms of homosexual practice, would you follow him anyway?”


When I first began my walk of a personal faith in God over thirty years ago, I separated myself from all of my gay friends. I became celibate. I spent $40,000 of my own personal money and twenty two years of my life to find healing, change, and the tools to live an obedient life because I believed God was opposed to any sexual expression with another man. I was taught to believe in the miracles of God to heal, to deliver, and to transform. It was my hope that I would find that miracle in my sexuality and I was going to serve God regardless of whether I got my miracle or not. I got married believing God would honor my decision and that He would heal my sexuality to the point where I would find satisfaction and joy within what I believed to be His will for my sexual and relational needs.


I think I proved my willingness to follow God deeply according to the convictions that I believed were from Him. I was convinced God was opposed to any form of seeking to fulfill my same sex desires. I lived within those convictions to a fault until I found changes within my personal faith and my understanding of the bible.


The changes in my convictions that have occurred didn’t begin with me pursuing a same sex relationship and then attempting to justify it. These changes began with changes in my view of scripture, church practice and in my own personal relationship with God. Over a period of eight years I prayed, studied, and began to embrace a renewal in my understanding of God’s grace and love for me as well as an overall view of the bible that is now filtered through the love that I know is God’s heart for me and for His creation.


After I embraced this refreshed relationship with God I began to see things very differently than I had for the previous 25 years. I began to see that the prohibition of fulfilling the deep inner desires for connection, love, intimate and fulfilling sexuality had come from what I believe to be a faulty interpretation of the bible as well as what I believe now to be fear based teaching on redemption and God’s heart for His people on this matter.


So, I was no longer convinced that God is opposed to same sex monogamous relationships. Once I began to see God as far more loving and personal than I had ever believed, I began to open up my heart to a more honest and authentic life. The suppression of the deep desires surfaced and I came to believe that God truly was open to me seeking Him for the desires of my heart to embrace my natural and very intimate gay self.


Along  this journey I’ve sought God with all of my heart. I have questioned, I have released and subjected my decisions to Him regularly. Each step of the way, the doors have opened without my need to pry them, or force any decisions I’ve made to embrace my homosexual reality.


For Dr. Brown to infer that there are not Gay Christians who savor their relationship with God, or subject their lives and decisions to Him is to deny their words and minimize their testimonies.


I would not want to deny the stories I hear from others who consider themselves ExGay, nor those who feel convicted to oppose same sex relationships within the Christian faith. We must have a willingness to trust these differences to the grace of God and continue to love one another throughout this journey called life.


In my opinion the main objective for relationships with those who make it their life goal to pursue God and follow Him is to be as supportive of one another as we can of that journey. I find that far too often in our differences on this matter we have become enemies that have no outcome but that of deep discouragement and separation that in my opinion isn’t of God. I do not believe this is an issue to divide over. I believe it is very important and so much so that it can be a life and death issue. But I don’t believe it is beneficial to reject one another over it.


Honestly, it does seem that in these days of discovery and revelation, there are people who are Christian leaders who seem to want to make this issue a line in the sand within our communities. Their words, questions, and poignant statements are at times divisive and counter productive.


I believe it would be far more beneficial to listen to one another than to throw the daggers of criticism at one another. Thankfully, I have friends on all sides of this issue. There are those whom I used to serve with in the ExGay movement that I consider to be gracious loving people with whom I cherish and enjoy wonderful relationship. Some people who have walked with me for many years continue to show their love and support even though they disagree with my life choices and my biblical understanding. Sadly, there are also those whom I’ve loved sincerely that have severed relationship with me over this matter. I feel grieved about the loss of our connection and wish it could be different. But even in that, I understand this can be a very emotional and challenging matter for many people.


We can ask these questions and truly desire to hear the answers in a healthy and intimate dialogue, or we can ask with an agenda to conform, or to change the other’s opinion through the questioning venue. I think we can discern the differences in the motives for the questions and recoil from answering them when the motive is to teach, or preach to the one we are questioning. I know I can tell the difference. Which one do you think is the loving way? Jesus asked lots of questions.


 

Apologies and Good Friday

Friday, April 18th, 2014


Title Slide for Good FridayAs Good Friday continues, I am reminded of the reconciliation that is available to us through Jesus death and resurrection. When this reality hits our soul I believe it is transformative. Some of the more powerful things that I can think of as I ponder this reality is the way it brings about life giving grace that produces repentance of the soul. When this occurs people begin to say “I’m sorry, please forgive me.”


I’ve known Alan Chambers for over two decades. We’ve been at conferences together and served on the Board of Exodus International for many years. We both believed in the message of change for homosexuals through Christ. In 2010 I began to work through my own apologies for how I believed I had been an instrument of wounding for gay people through shame bearing messages and proclaiming a false hope that gay people could change. I was inauthentic in my own life as I attempted to present and strive for change and represented false hope as I ministered to more people than I can count. Every week I hear more stories of hurt and pain as I remain open to validate the truth in the lives of many people as they search for their own healing.


There have been others who have apologized for the same false hope bearing message. Alan Chambers, the former president of Exodus International delivered his own apology a year ago in a very public way. Subsequently, Exodus closed their doors due to the reality that 99% of those seeking change through Exodus didn’t find what they hoped would occur.


This blog was written by Alan to acknowledge the year since his apology. It is worth the read for certain. Alan describes this journey and frankly, his story causes deep grief in my heart as I know what he has gone through in a very personal way.


Those of us who have made the transition from promoting an ExGay message, to seeing God’s grace for all, have gone through a lot of scrutiny. We have been loved for standing up for a message by a church who really wanted to eradicate homosexuality from their midst. We’ve also been hated by homosexuals who sought change but didn’t find it. Now we experience there rejection from some church folks who believe we’ve abandon the ranks of the religious to seek false grace, permissive living, or to deny Christ all together. The journey to grace and a willingness to accept it is life transforming like nothing else I have ever experienced. I’m sure, as Alan says for himself, I’ll never been the same again.


On this Good Friday, many  are pondering the death of Christ for all mankind. Some enter into the weekend to remember the foundation of the Christian faith. We live in the resurrection story as we hope for tomorrow to bring us closer to eternity.

 

Are Gay People Historical Novelties?

Monday, April 14th, 2014


Charisma NewsA friend posted on his Facebook page a link to an article by Alex Kocman. His comment was, “Consider these thoughts.”


I said I would consider them in my comment and have decided to write a response to the article as a result of my consideration. For convenience and reference, I’ve copied Alex’ article below. the link to the original article in Charisma News is -


http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/43439-even-lbgt-historians-admit-no-one-is-born-gay



LGBT Historians Admit No One is “Born Gay”

by Alex Kocman


Whether it’s Macklemore’s “Same Love” or Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” our culture is pretty convinced that homosexuality is inherent from birth.


But as it turns out, those within the LGBT movement aren’t that convinced themselves.


In an article in the Daily Caller, gay writer David Benkof presents the solid case of the historians—several of whom are also LGBT—who maintain that the sexual orientation of homosexuality didn’t exist until about 150 years ago.


While same-sex relationships and behavior have happened from time to time throughout history, LGBT scholarly studies show zero evidence of any culture with gay-oriented individuals at any point in history.


The mountain of scholarly research also continues to show no “gay gene” accounting for sexual orientation from birth.


The basis of these claims is that sexual orientation, as part of a person’s identity, is entirely a modern invention. Even in Greek culture, where homosexual behavior is known to have occurred, the line of reasoning goes, there is nothing to show that even a minority of individuals identified as gay or homosexual in any way. Rather, homosexuality was supposedly considered a supplement to one’s regular heterosexual relationships.


The reasoning of such historians also reveals that there was no heterosexual orientation in cultures past at all. Not that no one was attracted to the opposite sex—hardly—but that the idea of heterosexuality as an identifier couldn’t have existed in a world were homosexuality didn’t exist either. (Fish don’t know they’re wet.)


In other words, sexual orientation isn’t a core identifier like race or gender; it’s fully a social construct.


Although Benkof (this is the link to his article) maintains that the LGBT cause can survive in spite of such findings, only the biblical worldview fits in with the facts. So shouldn’t this lead to a victory in the so-called culture war?


The Challenge for Christians

The Bible doesn’t directly mention the gay orientation because the concept of sexual orientation is a non sequitur both in Scripture and in (as we now know) most of history. The Bible clearly condemns homosexual actions and desires, along with any kind of sexual action or desire outside of marriage. Genesis 5:2, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Matthew 5:28, Romans 1:27, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 leave no room for doubt.


But as long as the LGBT movement keeps the debate framed around sexual identity, Christians will be seen as hating people for who they are.


Christians are seen as saying, “Who you are is wrong, so here’s some moral actions that will fix it.” But that isn’t the gospel at all. When we identify ourselves with Christ’s death, we are rendered dead to our human nature and forgiven of all our sins; and through Christ’s resurrection, we are both declared innocent and given the ability to live in a new nature—a righteous nature—through God’s own Spirit.


On the question of “Who am I?” the New Testament really gives only two options: I am either a natural-born sinner or reborn righteous through Christ. (See Romans 5.)


Thus, who we all areis wrong because we’re naturally born into a state of sinfulness. But no actions can change our nature. (No amount of time spent in airplanes will make me a bird, and no amount of time doing good deeds will make me anything other than a sinner.) We need a new nature, and only then can we exchange sinful actions and desires for righteous ones.

Evangelicals must not only 1) faithfully represent the Word’s teachings on controversial issues like homosexuality, but also 2) make it known that your true identity from God’s standpoint is far weightier than modern social constructs about sexuality.


If culture catches up to the fact that the gay sexual identity is a social construct, then perhaps it will understand that the Bible’s condemnations of sexual immorality are directed against our sinful actions, thoughts and nature—not our basic personalities.


But until then, we in the church still have an uphill battle: to preach a gospel that doesn’t just correct wrong behavior but creates rebirth.



*******************************


My response to this article:


It’s true! It has been known throughout the contemporary gay movement that there is no conclusive evidence for the origins, or causation of same gender attraction in either men or women. Regardless of genetic, hormonal, developmental, or other origins, what is clear is that people do not have a buffet of sexual orientations that they willingly choose from to be predominant in their lives. It is what it is, and after 40 years of the faith based ExGay movement the outcome of searching for a “cure” for homosexuality has shown to a large degree that one’s sexual orientation is not something that can be changed. After many decades of research, education, and outcomes based studies, no one has concluded where homosexuality comes from, nor that there is anything that can be done to change it. The article referenced above is not new information. However, I find the comments on the article to be quite challenging to human dignity and at times, just downright rude. It never ceases to amaze me to read such vile reactions from supposed Christians to the reality of having gay people in our world.


Considering this article is published in the Charisma News Magazine, I would wonder what the author, or the commenters would propose is the answer for LBGTQ people within Christendom? What is the appropriate answer for men or women who are intent on continuing to pursue their faith, and yet they desire to live an integrated life regarding their unique design. Should they be placed outside the Christian camp, maybe some would rather they sit in a designated row within the sanctuary so they can be watched. Can LBGTQ people be allowed to worship together with “normal” folks as long as they don’t want to participate? What’s the point of this article? Is it another attempt to somehow silence gay people and make sure they don’t identify themselves as being gay in front of the children?


I find the article meaningless frankly. There isn’t much point in arguing the origins of homosexuality, rather, it seems something must be done to learn more about how to respect LBGTQ people and invest in their lives to help them continue to mature in their faith experiences. It is vital that our contemporary church communities learn how to integrate gay people and gay couples into full fellowship, and leadership. The only way this might happen is when we decide to listen and validate what it is like growing up gay within a straight orientated world. But this would require acknowledging that gay people exist and that the LBGTQ experience is valid.


Considering most personal experiences, LBGTQ people are living outside healthy and encouraging faith communities because of the very attitudes that are expressed within the comment section of this article, published in a Christian magazine.


Alex Kocman says in response to another opinion article that no one would claim they are gay and identify themselves with that term. He says it is a modern invention! He says it is considered something of an extra-marital experience to ones heterosexual relationships.


Yes! You are correct, Alex! The behaviors referred to in the New Testament are not same sex relationships as we see today. They are not committed, faithful, love centered marriage relationships. These actions are sex/slave, or sexually idolatrous shrine prostitutes which were common in that culture of Paul’s day. From what is known, the references are that of heterosexual men having sex with young boys, or with each other for idolatrous reasons. Clearly not gay as we understand it today.


“On the question of “Who am I?” the New Testament really gives only two options: I am either a natural-born sinner or reborn righteous through Christ. (See Romans 5.)”


Oh, come on, Alex! There are many identities that we utilize to describe our human experience. We use our vocation, our relationships, our hobbies, and yes our sexuality to identify ourselves. Of course, one can also use their religious faith to say they are a Christian, a Mormon, a Catholic. One can be a husband, a father, a carpenter or even, yes, a Pastor! Try telling a pastor that he’s not a pastor but a Christian and not to identify him/herself as a Pastor. What about the deep connection a child bearing woman has with being a mother! How often are mom’s offended when someone doesn’t affirm their identification as a mom? Oh, but you’re not a Pastor, and you’re not a mom, you can only be a Christian because Paul says you should not lay your identity with being a Pastor or being a mom.


Being gay is a filter through which many facets of my life goes through. From my childhood, my homosexual desires have deeply affected most factors of my development. As an adult, my life experiences attach to my unique sexual, social, and cultural circumstances as a gay person.


“Evangelicals must not only 1) faithfully represent the Word’s teachings on controversial issues like homosexuality, but also 2) make it known that your true identity from God’s standpoint is far weightier than modern social constructs about sexuality.”


If Evangelicals are going to faithfully represent the Word’s teachings on homosexuality, then I’d suggest they gain more significant knowledge about the context, cultural understanding, origins of language etc. before making overt statements against gay relationships or transsexual dilemmas.


I was discussing this article with a friend, Joel Riemer, a Christian apologist. He has made this statement.


“The word “homosexual” has only relatively recently been defined (within the last 200 years). The advance of psychology (the science of the soul, if you will) has only happened in the past few hundred years. We have many “constructs” about human behavior and motivation that weren’t “known” 2000 years ago. In fact, we gay Christian apologists use this very point to call into question whether Paul could really have been speaking of gay sexual orientation in passages like Romans 1. There wasn’t enough understanding of human psychology to have such a construct.


There is also another more silly and very non-academic implication in how this point is used in the article. The author is implying that this whole sexual orientation thing somehow was “invented” by culture as opposed to finally being acknowledge as a subtle and nuanced reality of human existence.”


One thing the writer got correct. There is little reference throughout the years or in the bible to gay relationships, or gay communities. No question, whether through legal structures, church attitudes, or just plain cultural bias and heterosexual preferences, being gay through the years has been hugely frowned upon. There’s not been many opportunities like we have today for a person to be fully honest, authentic, and chose integrity with regards to having experienced unique sexuality.


Jesus addressed some sexually unique people in his words about the Eunuchs of His day. He neither condemned, nor spoke about their sexual practice, rather He just acknowledged that they were in fact unique and were not able to go along with the traditional teachings on heterosexual marriage. This would have certainly been a perfect opportunity for Jesus to have made reference to celibacy, or some other response to being a Eunuch, but nothing is recorded there, or anywhere else about the sexually unique people of that day. Yes, prohibitions to sex for trade, or idolatrous practice, but nothing said about relations between two committed faithful people.


I can only surmise that it was foreign to them in that day, Jesus and other New Testament writers somehow refrained from addressing it. Consistently throughout scripture, same sex sexual practice that was prohibited was consistent with those same types of practices among heterosexuals. Adultery, sexual promiscuity, prostitution, and other non relationship oriented sexual behaviors are spoken agains for heterosexuals and same gender actions.


A friend and I were talking and she came up with this analogy, which I think is excellent.


“Is epilepsy a modern invention? Or left-handedness? Or the human mind/psyche? Did early psychologists and psychiatrists invent these diagnosis and new understandings out of thin air? Or did our ability to learn about the complex nature of the human mind expand? No – we simply have the capacity to study and research with ever increasing levels of precision and discovery. The bible is no longer the “go to” book on everything from history to science to psychology to sociology. Homosexuality is also not a modern invention. We simply have better methods for understanding how fearfully and wonderfully we are made (both before and AFTER our births). We can use history as a guide to our expanding understanding of the world around us and our existence within the universe. But to use history, and history alone, as some evidentiary refutation of modern discoveries does a tremendous disservice to many issues and concerns, and in this case, especially to homosexuality.”


My conclusion about this article is that it has little purpose other than to minimize homosexual experience within the human reality and to degrade the deep struggle that LBGTQ people go through when they attempt to pursue their faith within general faith communities.


As a gay man who is also a man of deep Christian faith, my identifiers are many. Yes, it is of great significance that I keep close to my heart that I am a child of an amazing and wonderful God. I identify with those of like faith. But I am also many other things. These other adjectives help me to integrate my life into that of being a man of faith.


I believe from what I read in Scripture that the bible seems to be silent on the matter of gay marriage and relationships. It clearly addresses selfish, sexual sport and idolatrous practice as being inconsistent with healthy living and a growing faith. There is instruction on marriage relationships which were the cultural norm for the day that those instructions were given.


This leads me to believe that same sex relationships fall in the same camp as many other practices that seem to be unclear for the Christian life. Whatever is done that is not done in faith is sin. Therefore if one has the faith to believe that they can manage a gay relationship and grow in their faith, feeling accepted by God and believe God approves of their relationship – then what can we say? I have nothing to add to their choice other than to bless them and support their lives lovingly.