When God doesn’t heal

A great piece by Brian Pengelly as I come back from a few days away.

Recently I was asked to speak to a gathering of youth. The group was made up of youth from a variety of churches and denominations, and after I shared my story a number of youth and pastors came to talk with me and express how grateful they were. One woman told about having a gay brother, and how every time she mentioned him the Christians in her church became cold. Another young man came up to me with tears in his eyes, shaking visibly. He could only say “Thank-you! You don’t know how much that needed to be said” before he fled from the room.

In the hour from the end of my talk to when they locked the door, I made myself available to talk to any who wished, as well as left information about where I could be reached by email if others wished to talk more. I went home feeling tired and drained, but pleased with how things had gone.

A week later, the pastor who had asked me to come to speak forwarded an email that had been going around one of the youth groups. It was written by two leaders from that group denouncing me and my teaching. The email was long and written with a great deal of capital letters for extra emphasis. The crux of the letter was this: the authors were furious that I honestly admitted that I was still attracted to the same sex, that my sexual orientation had not changed, and that I had accepted that, in all likelihood, my experience of same-gender attraction would continue to be my reality for the rest of my life.

To these leaders, this honest story of who I was and what I was experiencing was threatening and dangerous. They apologized to their youth for bringing them to hear it. They made it clear to their youth that they did not believe God would allow anyone to continue to be attracted to the same sex if they really wanted to change. To them, what I had shared about what God had done in my life simply wasn’t enough.

The authors then went on to say:

“God did not make us depressed, or suicidal, or full of sickness in our bodies. God did not make homosexuals. We have done it to ourselves. At some point in each of our lives doors open to the demonic, whether by our own decisions or by the devil planting someone in our paths to set a trap. The outcome of each trap is determined by our decisions, or if we are children, our parents decision of how to handle each situation.“

It became clear to me that these youth leaders had bought into a stream of theology often known as Word of Faith theology. They believed that God has promised to heal every area of a believer’s life right now and given them the authority to command that healing into existence. Because of this, my testimony was a great threat to them because God had simply not done enough in my life. Despite the fact that I could testify that I had not been in a relationship with another male since high school, despite the fact that I was able to enjoy a happy marriage to a woman, despite the fact that God had clearly been using me in ministry for over a decade….my testimony was not acceptable because God had not completely taken away my attraction to men.

Brian raises some great issues about how we respond when we don’t experience God working how we want him to. Go and read it all and then comment below.

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  • Sue

    I found this article very moving and it made me angry! It is another example of the appalling lack of humanity and Christian love often ( not always!) found in fundamentalist groups – especially in the USA. Thank goodness the writer has the courage and honesty to admit that his attractions have not changed, not easy in the face of such condemnation and to keep hold of his own self respect and knowledge of God’s love.

    Brian spoke of how the people who wrote to him spoke of God’s work in their own lives. He pointed out that,
    “taking one’s own experience and universalising it can cause great harm.”
    We all need to be wary of this tendency to universalise  in a variety of ways. For example, just because some people are “completely healed” does not mean others will be,  just because some people find their sexuality to be fluid and mutable does not mean this will be the case  for everyone, just because some gay Christians are able to stay in their marriages does not mean everyone else will, just because some are able to embrace a path of celibacy does not mean that others will not be driven to despair by their longings for a close and intimate relationship.

    I guess what made the “Word of Faith” people so angry was that they didn’t actually want to admit the existence of  real LGBT people at all, I think they also wanted Brian to exhibit a proper sense of shame about the continuation of  his same sex attractions – or at least to be dishonest for their convenience . They never stopped to consider whether they actually exhibited worse sins or more shameful behaviours and attitudes.

    I read some of Brian’s other articles on the site – what  a lovely bloke.

  • Trinidad. Adventist. Gay?!

    I think they also wanted Brian to exhibit a proper sense of shame about the continuation of  his same sex attractions – or at least to be dishonest for their convenience . They never stopped to consider whether they actually exhibited worse sins or more shameful behaviours and attitudes.
    ——————————–

    Bingo!

    They wanted the man to grovel and show that he was an inferior being because he was a former homosexual.

    I have seen it before. These people waste no time trying to demonstrate that of all the sins out there, homosexual behavior is THE one that diminishes your intrinsic worth as a person f-o-r-e-v-e-r.
    Consequently they must detect a distinct and permanent aura of shame about you or else they will pounce: “You’re not truly repentant!”

    Brian broke the rules when he allowed the peace that God gives to all who put their trust in Him–regardless of their circumstances–to show. He was simply too confident, too happy, too guilt-free.

  • Saul

    I think it’s great the way Brian realized that the primary problem these two leaders have is not surrounding the issue of homosexuality, but their overall theology, which is fundamentally flawed and dangerous. It’s a heresy, really – at least that’s how us Orthodox or Catholics would put it.

    My personal experience with this theology is among certain Evangelicals and Pentecostals in Ethiopia, where the primary selling point is that God will heal all your afflictions. (Sometimes this is extended to the belief that God will make you prosperous, etc.) When people encounter crises that God doesn’t ‘solve’, their reaction is not only shame for not having enough faith. Most often, it changes into anger and then eventually unbelief. That’s why I say it’s dangerous – it turns folks into unbelievers.

    I think it is good that sometimes those of us who struggle with same-sex attraction put our problems in a bigger box. Our problems are not alone, so to speak, and are or should be essentially the same as all other problems faced by all believers. An example of this thinking, for me, is that we ought to be far more concerned about these folks’ heretical belief in general than their mistaken beliefs around homosexuality in particular.

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