Armed with good intentions, individuals, organizations and outreaches have dedicated themselves to treating homosexuality, often by promising to turn homosexuals "straight." In other words, "cure" them of their orientation.
While many ex-gay success stories exist, not all of them include a change of orientation. The attractions often remain, and not for a lack of trying to lose them.
Gay activists make much of allegedly "cured" individuals who relapse into homosexual lifestyles, and use these stories to strengthen their narrative: "We didn’t choose to be gay," so many insist. "We're born this way, and no amount of 'reparative therapy' can change that."
But it's the argument within that argument that's the most problematic: that unchanged dispositions automatically justify acting on those dispositions.
For most Americans, this one-to-one correlation between same-sex inclinations and same-sex relations has stuck, which explains the shift in public opinion in favor of "gay marriage." If gay people can't change their orientation, how can we be against "gay marriage?" We might as well ask a leopard to change his spots—and then penalize him when he can’t.
Author and blogger Rachel Held Evans showcases this reaction in a recent article, referring to the story of Rosaria Butterfield, a former lesbian professor who converted to Christianity and is now married with kids. Evans chides fellow believers for setting up ex-gays like Butterfield as examples of what all LGBT people should do.
Evans writes, "Christians used [this story] as an example of what it means to convert to Christianity and as definitive proof that all gay people can change their sexual orientation if they just want to badly enough. [They take] this single story and project it onto all gay and lesbian people, and it’s unfair."
This, she says, forces all members of a group into a uniform story that isn’t theirs, something that’s always wrong to do.
Evans cites stories of those who beg God to make them straight, like Justin Lee, who wrote a book on the subject in which he suggests that Christians with same-sex attraction can rightfully enter committed gay relationships.
Well, leopards aside, the elephant in the room is that parties on both sides have for far too long confused homosexual disposition with homosexual acts. The LGBT crowd says same-sex attraction is unchangeable, and therefore same-sex acts are legitimate. Many Christians, meanwhile, realize that being tempted isn’t a sin, but we’ve failed to apply this to the issue of homosexuality.
Many Christians with same-sex attraction will never feel fully freed from it. And in that sense, Evans is right: Everyone’s messy reality doesn’t always fit within neat and tidy success stories. But she’s wrong to conclude that everyone’s story is therefore autonomous.
Wesley Hill is another Christian whose story mirrors that of Justin Lee. He came from a solid family and a church, but has struggled with same-sex attraction since his teen years. The difference, as he writes in his powerful book “Washed and Waiting,” is that he’s concluded that obedience to Christ in light of his sexual orientation means celibacy—neither acting on nor fostering his attractions.
He came to that conclusion because of another story, the story of the Gospel, the only narrative big enough for everyone’s sins and sorrows.
His story, like Justin’s and Rosaria’s, is real. But the Gospel story is, to borrow a phrase from Narnia, even more real. It’s a hard path, Wesley admits, and relief doesn’t come right away—maybe not at all until Christ finally makes all things new.
And as we, all of us, struggle with those strong temptations that never seem to go away—same-sex attraction included—let’s remind each other that our identity is even bigger than our own stories. It’s found alone in Christ Jesus who says to us, as He said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: November 13, 2013