Show me a man who doesn’t suffer, and I’ll show you a dead man.
One of the more irksome aspects in the current conversation on LGBT issues and Christianity is the remarkable amount of dreary and droopy writing I hear from folks like me who grew up in the Church and realized they had an attraction to men.
The trope goes something like this, as I read in a recent blogpost in the “we’re gay and Christian and you should listen to us about how to minister to us” blogosphere:
[I]t would be beneficial for Christians and Christian traditions as a whole to consider [the] question: are we imposing sexual abstinence as an unfunded mandate with dire consequences for LGBT people who do not succeed? Especially as more people are coming to awareness of their sexual orientations and gender identities at younger ages, it is irresponsible and cruel for churches to repeat,“You can’t have sex!” and refuse to offer any additional support.
Then there’s some mention about the Church today being like the Pharisees Christ scolded because “they tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them,” with the clear implication that the Church today is like that for young people.
I grant that the Church can do better–but it can do better in all things. It can do better ministering to single mothers, it can do better ministering to those who went through divorce, it can do better feeding the homeless, and it can do better with teenaged kids with same sex attraction, like I was so long ago, feeling lost in Church. (Cue the sad violins, please. Who HASN’T felt lost in the Church at some point in their lives? It seems it’s nearly a necessary part of the journey of faith for everyone to feel lost at some point in their lives.)
What I find so irksome is how awful a picture they paint of the kid who wakes up with an awareness of same sex attraction, and is a Christian. In most writing on this subject today, from the first person narrative, this is portrayed as an impossible situation, such as this blog continues to communicate:
In the eyes of many young people, the only two options in this situation are 1) force yourself to be sexually abstinent with no sense of future vocation or present support, or 2) don’t force yourself into a permanent state of abstinence, but simultaneously risk being excommunicated, barred from entering the church building, and/or kicked out of your parents’ house. It shouldn’t be surprising that with no other alternatives, numerous young LGBT Christians find themselves crushed by the pressure from priests, pastors, parents, and faith communities.
I hate that sort of portrayal of what my life must have been like back when I was a teenager in the eighties, or how that must be what the life is for a 15 year old. How fatalistic. How could that ever inspire a teenager to fight the good fight of chastity if they were to ever read that?
Sure it’s hard! But we are made of the stuff of God. We are made in the image of a God who willingly went to the Cross. That’s the building block of our humanity. Boys and girls with same sex attraction aren’t witless victims of the vagaries of fate if they find themselves attracted to the same sex–they have a choice, and God has promised that he will always provide his children the grace to live out the most difficult of demands. Boys and girls who find themselves living with same sex attraction are being invited to a great battle–yes, let us help them! But, for crying out loud, God is ever present in their lives, and our God is not small–nor are teenagers victims of “unfunded mandates.” What about all of the youth in the 2000 year history of the Church who found themselves sexually attracted to the same sex and quietly said, “OK. These are the cards I’ve been dealt. I trust God, and I’m going to obey Him, come hell or high water.” Those numbers are not few! Far better for those of us who are striving to follow the paths of the saints to inspire kids by our desire to daily plunge into the battle, than to talk about dreary stuff like “unfunded mandates.”
One reason I write is to inspire young people to not focus on the dreary picture most self-proclaimed “gay” Christians seem to paint of their lives and experiences, nor to focus on how difficult this particular cross is, compared to others. Rather, I write with the hope of inspiring them to pursue the great and noble cause of chastity for the sake of their love of God, and love of neighbor, and love of the world. And indeed, love of themselves!
I write hoping that youth will be moved to focus outward, to look to the great saints who’ve gone before us, and who have done the impossible, so that they can say, “hey, this is hard, but I can do it too, because they did it before me.” I write with the hopes of stirring up a burning desire to do the impossible, which is a rather exciting way to live one’s life.
I don’t really care very much to hear about what the celibate “gay” Christians have to say to me, or to the Church about how the Church should minister to people like us. I’m far more interested in finding out what the Church has to say to me about homosexuality, than I am in changing what the Church says, and how it says it to me. Sometimes the sheep can help point out their needs to the shepherds in their care, but rarely. Most writing on the subject of same sex attraction and Christianity today seems to be the sheep shouting to the shepherds: “you’re idiots when it comes to this flock. Oh, and we’re the ones who can point your shepherds’ crooks in the right direction.”
Blech! Stop looking in the mirror so much, my fellow same sex attracted Christians, and instead, look at yourself through the lens the Church provides for us. Your life will be more peaceful because of it.
There have been generations upon generations of men and women who have grown up in the Church, with an attraction to the same sex. St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:10, in reference to sexual sins such as homosexual acts that “such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” This isn’t the first time in history that men have lived with deep seated attractions to men–it’s just the first century in which men and women have felt so strongly compelled to share this information with the world, and to say, “Hey Church, you don’t get this whole topic, and you’ve had no idea what you’ve been doing for the past 2000 years. Thank God we came along to tell you what you’re doing wrong, and how you can do it better.”
From the very beginning, the message of the Church has been constant: offer up your life, as a living sacrifice to God. And there have been saints galore who’ve done this in the area of sexuality–including teenagers! I don’t need special “gay saints” to be inspired to live chastely. I just need St. Joseph, or the Holy Mother, or St. Augustine, or St. Thomas Aquinas, and all the other saints who pursued chastity, in whatever station of life they found themselves. St. Clement of Alexandria wrote long ago, “The best means towards understanding of the truth and the performance of the commandments is to follow those others who have already been through the test with flying colors.” Do we honestly believe that this is the first century in which men and women have been “running the race” of obedience with regards to homosexuality? No. It’s just the first century in which we have decided that it’s the “greatest of crosses,” and where any of us who choose to pursue the virtue of chastity get an extra pat on the back, because it’s perceived as being so hellishly difficult.
Sure, it’s hard.
But show me a man who doesn’t suffer, and I’ll show you a dead man.
I have long been of the conviction that the healthiest way for any of us to live our lives is this: I need to assume your cross is worse than mine, and I need to help you carry yours. People already believe that this cross of ours is a hard one–which is why so many folks are now in support of same sex marriage. It’s time for us to start focusing on other people’s crosses more than our own. I don’t want to focus on how hard this life is. It’s far healthier to focus on how hard other people’s lives are, and help them navigate their lives.
Enough with the whining, my fellow same sex attracted Christian. We’ve got to cling to what Job said: “Though he slay me, still will I trust in him.”
Instead of painting dire, awful pictures of the despair that must be ours if we wake up with an awareness of same sex attraction, or talking about “unfunded mandates” for chastity, instead, we need to inspire kids to jump with two feet into the greatest of battles they’ll ever face, and to do it out of love of the King of Kings, out of love for their neighbor, and out of love for themselves. What we need is stuff that stirs the soul to battle for chastity, and to paint the picture not that it’s horrible, but rather that it’s the most exciting adventure of one’s life.
What’s needed is less whining…and more Shakespeare!
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.