Telling the Right Story
Peterson has posted an interesting video of Christine Bakke and Darlene Bogle outside the Southern Baptist Convention headquarters. Christine and Darlene are members of an “ex-gay survivors group” and this is a video of their response to the Southern Baptist’s stance on homosexuality. It’s about 15 minutes long and if you consider yourself on the more orthodox side of things then you might not agree with everything they say, but do them the courtesy of hearing their stories.
I want to take issue with some aspects of this video. In particular I want to consider the following statements made during the 15 minutes:
- “Promise to change people from gay to straight” – You know what, that’s what we don’t promise. What we promise is that lives that commit to the call to holiness that Jesus issues will be lives that ultimately see him at work within and without. Some people’s orientations (like my own) change, some do not, but change isn’t the goal, holiness is. The “promise to change” perspective might have been true ten or more years ago, and it might still be what some ministries claim, but most of us who pastor in the area of sexual brokenness know that being gay or straight is not the issue.
- “Homosexuality is a sin and can be changed by becoming saved” -What an utter piece of arrant nonsense. No-one (apart from a few whack teachers who probably never actually pastored anybody in the situation) teaches that one’s sexual orientation dictates whether you can or can’t be changed, OR that orientation will change on salvation.
- “They continue to be told that they are sinful, disgraced, unacceptable to the family and to God” – This is such a straw man that I don’t know where to start. Yes, I would tell someone that homosexual practice was not intended for them by God and that in the long run it will do them spiritual damage, but that’s not the same as the portrayal in this video clip that ministries teach that someone who is homosexual is by the nature of their orientation “sinful, disgraced” etc. I realise that some people on the progressive side of the debate disagree that one can separate the notion of sexual orientation and practice in terms of identity, but at least can we have the courtesy to engage with what people like myself actually believe and teach.
- “I am a lesbian by birth, not by choice” – Er right, and the scientific proof for this is what? Ultimately that’s a statement of faith in the absence of clear evidence, and the bi-polarisation of the issue of the development of sexual orientation in those nine simple words (birth or choice) betrays a complete lack of engagement with the current scientific debate on the subject. None of us teach that homosexual orientation is simply a choice and neither is there any direct proof that homosexuality is something you are born with. It’s more complicated then that and statements like the one above trivialise the issue and move the debate backwards, not forwards.
- “I came to believe that I had to change to be considered acceptable by fellow Christians and God.” – Well I’m not sure that anybody (apart from the whack fringe and by all accounts that’s not where Christine was going to church) would have taught that, so I’m curious about WHY Christine believed that. Was it something she was told or something that she started to believe despite the fact that it wasn’t true, in order to justify a reaction to that belief when she didn’t change? And sure enough Christine tells us that after four years she wasn’t straight, but was that a failure in her eyes or God’s? You see the problem with this testimony is that it’s set-up with the straw man that total change of orientation is meant to happen and when it doesn’t somehow that proves that exgay / postgay theologies are all a con. In reality the exgay path is one of walking away from “gay” and towards holiness, regardless of the hardness of the journey, regardless of the level of sanctification and wholeness this side of Glory.
- “It’s not about heterosexuality, it’s about wholeness” – Yes, but was Christine’s understanding of that flawed? You see for me wholeness is to do with one’s direction of journey. Am I pointing in my life towards the perfect, glorified, resurrection, sinless creature that God is one day going to make me, or am I structuring my life to point away from that? Wholeness isn’t just about brokenness having gone, it’s as much about recognising that brokenness still exists but that I’m not going to have my life dictated by it. One can be heterosexual and completely “un-whole” and one can be homosexual with no hint of heterosexual attraction and yet still whole because one chooses the path of chaste holiness.
Please don’t get me wrong – I recognise that both Christine and Darlene have had hard experiences with much pain involved, but that isn’t an excuse for taking these two stories and using them to decry all postgay ministries and pastoring. The polemic in this video doesn’t actually engage with the theology of wholeness on any substantial level. There is no interaction with the experience of men and women like myself who have experienced some measure of healing but who are also pastorally realistic about what might and might not happen when entering on this path. There are mis-assumptions and straw men that don’t do anything to foster a healthy dialogue in this area.
I welcome discussion on the above, but be warned that I will delete posts that are diatribe and not debate.