Praying the Gay Away…Or Not

Recently I stumbled upon this video on Facebook and felt compelled to share it with you along with a few of my thoughts. Please take a moment to watch it, it’s under twenty minutes – you’ve got the time 🙂

After you’ve finished watching you can read my thoughts below and then let me know what you think in the comments section – I look forward to hearing your feedback!

— 1 —

First of all, I loved this. Julie was open and honest – she didn’t try to sugar coat it or give any easy answers. She was incredibly gracious, even when looking back at years of her life spent in a ministry that she no longer agrees with. She acknowledged her very real desires, frustrations, struggles, doubts, and conclusions.

And, most importantly, she offered hope and a fresh perspective.

Okay, on to a few minor quibbles. I raise these minor points precisely because Julie herself states that, “There just hadn’t been many people thinking about this with very much nuance.” and I agree. Hopefully I can add a couple of other nuanced points to the conversation.

— 2 —

Quibble #1

First and foremost I think we need to steer clear of defining human beings by their sexual orientation. Julie rather interchangeably refers to herself either as gay or as same sex attracted. I think that a distinction should be made. Human beings are not fundamentally straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or any other label we would use based on sexual orientation. You don’t have to be a Christian to agree with me on this; consider the quote from Gore Vidal below:

“Actually, there is no such thing as a homosexual person, any more than there is such a thing as a heterosexual person. The words are adjectives describing sexual acts, not people.”

And he’s right – sex is something we do, not something we are. The Scriptures give us a window into who and what we are in the very first chapter of the very first book of the bible.

God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.1

We are human. We are created in God’s image. We are male and female. We are not defined by our sexual acts. I think that Julie would agree with me on this – after all, choosing not to engage in sex doesn’t mean that you’re not a person! Again, this a minor quibble, but one worth noting. We need to stop having a conversation that is defined by what we do instead of by who we are. I’ve written much more extensively on this in another post: Homosexual, Heterosexual, or Just Plain Human? that may shed further light on the subject.

— 3 —

Quibble #2

Implicit in Julie’s experience (and those of her friends) is the idea that ones sexual orientation is a genetically predetermined fact and not the result of, “childhood baggage”, psychological issues, environment, abuse, etc. It is clear that she comes down on the nature side in the nature vs. nurture debate. 🙂

There is nothing wrong with holding this as your opinion, and it may indeed be very true to her personal experience; but again in the interest of nuance, I would like to suggest that the truth may be far more complex than an “either/or” answer. When looking at individuals with same sex attractions as a whole, I think that many different factors would come into play including (and not limited to) all the ones listed above. There are many individuals who have emphatically asserted that they chose a gay lifestyle – i.e. that they weren’t just born that way.

Either way, it’s not the point of her talk and it really is a minor quibble on my part, but I do think that we have to be nuanced and careful, and not just slip into discussing all individuals as if they were the result of the same internal/external forces.

— 4 —

The other reason I wanted to bring up this second quibble is to note that there are really two basic assertions that come into conflict in Julie’s story.

  1. Assertion one is that she was born this way and cannot change. I want to be clear that I’m not denying this assertion. I also want to be clear that just because this has been her experience, it doesn’t follow that the same is true for everyone who has ever struggled with some aspect of same sex attraction.
  2. Assertion two is the perceived assertion of many churches that marriage is the primary goal for all “normal” human relationships.

You can see the obvious conflict between these two. How refreshing is it to hear a Christian state unambiguously, “I knew that…my starting point was that I loved Jesus with all my heart. And that I was going to follow Him no matter what. I knew that everything about my life was here to glorify and honor God.” ? I wish that all of us as Christians approached our walk with Christ with the same attitude. Following Him comes first. Obedience comes first. Sacrifice is just part of it. No excuses – no whining.

But there was still a conflict between the two assertions. I was born this way and cannot change – therefore I cannot fulfill the primary goal of human relationships, namely marriage. Julie puts it this way, “The gospel of Jesus for me had really been married to [sexual] orientation change…and heterosexual marriage.” 

— 5 —

Again, to her credit, she doesn’t buy into revisionist theology. Scripture is actually pretty clear. Sex is a good and beautiful thing within the constraints of marriage. Marriage is between a man and a woman. And that’s all He wrote.

“There’s been this story that was told about love and about belonging, that was primarily found within the context of a marriage, within the context of sexual relationship in a marriage.”

Julie correctly recognizes that two things are being conflated here. Sexual intimacy and marriage are being conflated with love and intimacy of a platonic nature. You can be celibate and still love and be loved deeply. You can be celibate and still experience intimate relationships. Just look at Jesus! Would anyone argue that this was a man devoid of deep loving relationships? Devoid of deep personal intimacy? Of course not.

In fact, when the disciples assert that it is perhaps not expedient to marry, Jesus replies saying, “Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”2

St. Paul is perhaps even clearer writing,

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. If any one thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin. But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. So that he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.3

— 6 —

Debunking False Assertions

Let’s leave the first assertion alone for now, and just agree that sexual orientation may be more nuanced than simply whether or not someone is, “born that way.” The second perceived assertion – marriage is the primary goal for “normal” human relationships – is an interesting one for me. I would agree with Julie that this was very much my experience growing up in Protestant Christianity. Since becoming Catholic however, I have been exposed to a Christian tradition far more in keeping with the teaching of Christ and of St. Paul. A tradition which asserts that marriage, sexual intimacy, and procreation are all good things, but perhaps not the best thing. That in certain aspects, and for certain people, celibacy is far better. Catholic history is literally littered with saints who were virgins – celibate and consecrated for the Lord’s work. Priests, nuns, monks, ascetics, and even laymen and women who had forgone one form of intimacy for another which they found to be far deeper, richer, and more rewarding.

We forget that marriage to another person is only one of the options which we see expressed in the Scriptures. That marriage between a man and a woman is itself only a dim reflection of the marriage that takes place between Christ and His Church. That we are all called to the vocation of marriage with our Lord – even if we are not called to take a spouse here on earth.

— 7 —

I wholeheartedly agree with Julie’s conclusions and with her call to, “costly obedience” regardless of her sexual orientation. We are all called to be chaste regardless of our sexual orientation. We are all called to intentional discipleship and costly obedience regardless of our sexual orientation. And for many the call to celibacy is a higher call – regardless of sexual orientation.

Celibacy is not settling for less, but rather denying yourself for the sake of something more! Costly obedience should be the norm in every Christians life, and it should be done within the context of community! Celibacy is, for some of us, a form of costly obedience; but we should all have areas in our life where Christ is calling us to costly obedience. It will look different for all of us, but the call is the same. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”4 We are all in this together. We are all a part of Christ’s bride. And we need each other desperately on this long journey in the same direction.

“We can live without sex ya’ll, but we can’t live without intimacy.”

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  1. Genesis 1:27 

  2. Matthew 19:11b-12 

  3. 1 Corinthians 7:32-28 

  4. Luke 9:23 

  8 comments for “Praying the Gay Away…Or Not

  1. Mary
    February 5, 2015 at 7:35 PM

    I cannot speak to her LGBT issues, but I can say as a 50 year old, never married, virgin woman it is hard to be part of the Church community that has an obvious preference for marriage and families. I went to my first women’s retreat last May and it was horrible. It wasn’t a women’s retreat at all. It was a wife and mother retreat. When I expressed my feelings after the retreat the women I told looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. We’ll see how this May’s retreat goes. I’ve been told that they are making an effort to be more inclusive to singles.

    • Adam N. Crawford
      February 5, 2015 at 8:05 PM

      Mary – thanks so much for the response and input! I think that you are absolutely right when it comes to trying to be a part of a community that has a preference for marriage/families. I know that within the Catholic tradition there are many different types of communities where the emphasis would not be expressed this way, but I can also absolutely understand your frustration depending on what sort of a community or Church you find yourself in! I really liked Julie’s encouragement to reach out to these families and married people as a single/celibate person and begin forming new types of communities using a different and “redemptive imagination”. What did you think of her suggestions on this point?

      • Mary
        February 5, 2015 at 8:19 PM

        That’s a great idea, especially for a single who is young and has no one specifically relying on them. My single life has come in handy at several times in my life (including now) when I’ve been able to give a sibling and their child(ren) a place to live. In my parish life I try to be aware of the freedoms I have that married couples with children don’t have. For instance, if a volunteer is needed for something around the dinner hours, I can help without making many concessions. And I do hear in homilies an attempt made to include singles (without assuming they are single-religious). My situation is unique, so I try not to get too bent out of shape, but as it relates to our LGBT brothers and sisters, more of an attempt to celebrate and appreciate their singleness and celibacy would go a long way.

        • Adam N. Crawford
          February 5, 2015 at 9:19 PM

          Great thoughts Mary! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Daniel
    February 6, 2015 at 11:13 AM

    Adam Thank you for this. Always like another persons perspective. Before watching this video you were talking about I kind of assumed like many that You can’t be gay and a Christian but watching this video I see how someone can be (fill in the blank) and a Christian. again thank you for your perspective.

    • Adam N. Crawford
      February 6, 2015 at 11:18 AM

      Daniel – I used to feel the same way! It is an important distinction to realize that the temptation to sin is not the same as sin itself. Someone may struggle with same-sex attraction their entire life and yet still choose to follow Christ in “costly obedience”. Thanks for the comment!

  3. March 12, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    Great post. Very sensitive to the issues.

    I do have to disagree with your assertion that people are not the sum of their sexuality; either by appearance, desire or experience. Gore Vidal can say whatever is formed in his mind. Speaking the words does not make it so. The reality of our existence is wrapped up in a set of genetic codes (yes, God’s codes) that is all about a fundamental truth; sex perpetuates mankind, and God planned it that way. Almost everything we do is somehow related to our sexuality. It is about the very basis of our existence. Whatever we think of it, we cannot reject it or subdue it, but we can temper it to fit one’s lifestyle. Julie expresses that very fact quite well. This is why we debate it so much, and always will.

    Oh, and yes, one’s sexual acts do label, if not define. Labeling is an external function by society, and define is an internal function by each one of us. We all label for both good and evil purposes. And we all define so we might have some idea of who we are.

    • Adam N. Crawford
      March 13, 2015 at 7:15 PM

      Reese – I really liked the distinction you make between the “labeling” that is done by society, and the ways in which we choose to”define” ourselves. I wonder if there would also be a third category that moves beyond mere labeling and defining and gets to the truest essence of a person; who and what they are as seen by God?

      While I would agree with you that sex perpetuates mankind and that God planned it that way (check out my post: Homosexual, Heterosexual, or Just Plain Human?), I would still point out, as Christ does in the Scriptures, that marriage (and therefore sexuality and procreation) will not be a part of our shared human experience after this life. It is for this reason that marriages dissolve when, “death do us part.” While we come into existence through the sexual process, we will apparently move beyond our sexuality in the life to come; which is why I would assert that humans are not merely the sum of their sexuality.

      The fact that so many have chosen celibacy even in this life (including Christ) would also lead me to believe that we cannot be reduced to simply the sum of our sexuality. Those who choose not to engage in sex perhaps foreshadow for us the life to come when we will all exist as the angels do – seeing and being fully seen as God Himself sees us, and without the need to define ourselves or label others based solely on our sexuality. Thanks so much for the insights – I really enjoyed reading your comments and considering the points you brought up!

I want to hear your thoughts! Go ahead and keep the conversation going, but please keep it at least PG and respectful.

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