Recently I was invited by two professors at one of our local colleges to share my perspective as part of a dialogue on homosexuality and faith in one of their classes. I’ve been honored to have this opportunity on several occasions, and I welcomed this opportunity again this year. In the past I have mostly shared my personal testimony of change, but this time I used a curriculum that I’ve been referencing when given speaking opportunities.
Even though it can be encouraging to hear an individual message of hope and change, my testimony is just my personal experience. And though many relate to my testimony, many others do not. So in recent years, I approach speaking opportunities as a chance to help other people understand the subject of homosexuality while applying my personal story. I believe it’s much more important for listeners to be equipped with information to help them understand and love those who struggle with same-sex attractions or identify as homosexual. There is a tremendous amount of ignorance, stereotyping, myths, and misinformation on this subject, and until people become more aware and educated, these misunderstandings will remain.
During the 40-minute class, I shared some of the “causes” of same-sex attractions, what change does and doesn’t look like, and what people – namely the Church body – should and shouldn’t do in the attempt to “help” someone who is struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions. Change will always be different for each person. Many people erroneously believe that marriage is evidence of change. For many, marriage is not an option or desire. It certainly doesn’t make one less changed if he or she does not marry.
Other people believe that an external change – hair, makeup, clothes, and mannerisms – is evidence of spiritual change. I’ve had several women in counseling appointments ask me about their appearance (short hair, clothes) and if they need to change it. My main focus is helping to find healing for the inner brokenness, not their appearance. If they are concerned about attracting more attention for “looking” gay than they desire, then I encourage them to start making small changes that they are comfortable with that will help them present something different than what they want. Changing one’s behavior and the desire to change will vary depending on the person and her, circumstances. When my life changed 8.5 years ago, I wanted my appearance also to reflect those changes. My more masculine attire/mannerisms brought unwanted attention and assumptions, so I aspired to make such changes to reflect a different person that I wanted to present.
I also discussed how many methods used with the best intentions to help those who struggle with SSA can produce great damage and harm. For instance, there is no cure for homosexuality because it is not a disorder or a disease; you cannot find a drug, a therapy, or a program that will “fix” or cure a homosexual. If a child or teen discloses a struggle with SSA, don’t assume it is a phase or something that will go away. Also, finding the “right” guy or girl is also not the answer. I have heard that said many times when talking to parents. They blame immature, abusive, or wrong guys on their daughter’s struggle, but that is not the case. The perfect guy or girl will not bring completion or healing to the struggler.
There are many more wrong methods, but for this article I want to address the one that not only breaks my heart, but also speaks to the very core of my faith: the hellfire & brimstone approach – the ones who protest Gay Pride and other pro-gay events with “There is no water in hell” or “God hates fags” signs; the ones who call the homosexual an abomination; the ones who reject and condemn the homosexual person, not the behavior. I have been on the receiving end of hate, condemnation, and rejection. I was told I was going to hell and believed that God was mad at me because of my SSA. I didn’t feel loved, worthy, or even human at times. I was a Christian, yet I was lost; I was hurting and confused, yet people treated me like I was a sinner-to be avoided and misunderstood.
The ignorance of many who call themselves Christians never ceases to hurt and anger me. Even more disheartening, because I am a Christian, I am aligned with those who display such detest and condemnation for homosexuals, grouping me in the same homophobic, hate-filled category as these people. Surprisingly, many Christians disapprove and disagree with our ministry – they believe we should be more condemning in our approach: we should preach the Bible, tell them that God hates their detestable behavior, and remind them of eternity in hell for those who do not change.
Romans 2:4: “Do you not know that it is the goodness of God that leads you to repentance?” Just as I told the class, hate doesn’t change people’s lives; it only produces more hate. It wasn’t hate and condemnation in my life that changed me, but those who were gracious, kind, loving, and understanding; those who took the time to talk to me, show me God’s goodness, mercy, and grace, and accept me where I was. It wasn’t the religious zealots telling me about my eternal punishment for my choices and behavior, but those who told me that God had so much more for me and there was hope for change-I didn’t have to choose to follow my feelings even if I didn’t understand them. What years of heartache I may have avoided had someone like me come to a class I was in to share a testimony of hope…a testimony to help me understand some of the reasons of why I struggled for so long.
I greatly appreciate the two professors inviting me to share a message that is so needed in the world today by one who has been on both sides of the issue: a message that brings understanding, truth, hope, and love. My heart and my hope were to convey that message to this group of young adults.