First, if you haven’t read Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s “DOMA and the Rock,” you should. She’s the lesbian, tenured English and Queer Theory professor turned Presbyterian pastor’s wife. She says some things in her article at Desiring God that really got me thinking yesterday, so much so I decided to bump my normal book review to write this up before the thoughts passed. She says,
The Bible is not some pragmatist’s paradigm. It is the double-edged sword that chiseled truth into my stony heart, rendering it new and with it, recreating me as a new creature in Christ, a daughter of the King. I have no personal sexual orientation to call my own after Christ chisels my heart anew — and neither do you. We have Christ orientation, an alien identity to which we claim no rights. Do we struggle with sin? Yes. Is temptation a sin? No. What distinguishes temptation from sin? Temptation clobbers you from the outside and lures you to do its bidding. Sin makes temptation a house pet, gets it a collar and leash, and is deceived to believe that it can be restrained by impositions of civility. What you do with temptation reveals Who owns your heart. How you talk about other people’s sin patterns reveals Who owns your heart. . . .
Homosexuality is a sin, but so is homophobia. Homophobia is irrational fear of a whole people group, failing to see in that group God’s image diminished but not extinguished by sin, and that God’s elect people linger there, snared by their own design and awaiting gospel grace. Biding time. Think about that. Waiting like the caterpillar that spawned today’s butterfly. God has set apart a people from before the foundation of the world to receive his grace, and they are waiting for you in every nation and people group. It is an act of homophobia to believe that people in the LGBT community are either too sinful to respond to God’s call on their life, or to believe that people in the LGBT community have a fixed nature that will never, by the blustering, unfounded, and uncharitable declarations of secular psychology, change by the power of the gospel.
The only fixed feature of the human constitution or badge of personal identity is the soul; imprint of God to us, it will journey from life to death to life and will last forever, permanently, for eternity in heaven or hell. (emphasis mine)
Rosaria is attacking one thread of the gay story. “Gay is something you just can’t change.” Listen to Macklemore’s hip hop apologetic “Same Love,” a lyrical sermon for gay marriage. (Mary Lambert, a lesbian artist from Seattle, sings the chorus)
A preconceived idea of what it all meant
For those that liked the same sex
Had the characteristics
The right wing conservatives think it’s a decision
And you can be cured with some treatment and religion
Man-made rewiring of a predisposition
Playing God, aw nah here we go
America the brave still fears what we don’t know
And God loves all his children, is somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago
I don’t know.
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
Write off the bat, I want to acknowledge when I’m talking about change, I don’t mean reparative therapy kind of change. Nor do I mean “pray away the gay” kind of change. If the debacle with Exodus International shows us anything, it’s that addressing this kind of issue apart from the gospel is dangerous. It’s dangerous because Scripture is sufficient and God-breathed, but the Freudian therapy which shapes stuff like reparative therapy isn’t. The Church has mud on her face because she stood idly by while this kind of foolishness was going on.
Back from the rabbit hole. What is brilliant about the swift uprising of support for gay rights is the story its advocates told. They crafted it brilliantly, not perfectly, not without holes, but well enough. Primarily, the narrative goes something like this, “I was born gay. I didn’t choose these feelings. These feelings are who I am. I am gay.” We have been told this all over the board (music, movies, tv shows, news, books, politics). This singular point is unifying for their story. There’s a gay union and communion within this “truth.”
Rosaria undercuts this. She might, I believe, (I do) readily admit people are born with predispositions for certain sexual desires. I have struggled all my life with certain sexual desires. I bathed in shame for years before I understood the gospel, before I laid hold of the cross, before I battled these desires in the Spirit. The presence of these desires doesn’t identify me anymore and they don’t control me. Christ does. He is who I am. I couldn’t change, but Christ could put my old self to death and raise me into new life in him.
Brothers and sisters who struggle with same sex attractions (SSA), you may struggle with your SSA every day of your life. I can’t guarantee these desires will go away, but I can guarantee Jesus Christ is enough. He’s better than sex. He’s better than any and all of our appetites. Sex isn’t ultimate. In the New Heavens and Earth, there will be no marriage or sex--just union and communion with the Triune God. That’s enough. Even though now our struggles seem weighty, it will be nothing in comparison with “the weight of eternal glory” when we see the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4).
So although you may not be able to “pray away the gay,” you can pray to your heavenly Father casting yourself on his throne of grace assured of comfort and communion because of Jesus Christ. You can battle against SSA through prayer. Prayer is warfare on self-dependence. It’s us saying to God, “Father, your will be done, not mine.” In the Spirit, you can completely shift your identity from your sexual desire to Jesus Christ who embodies the love of the Father. You can so identify with him that putting to death sexual desires seems light.
The gay political juggernaut has, in a way, beat Christians at their own game. They tell one heck of a story. Christians have lost sight of our story. We are essentially a story-formed community. Central to this story is union and communion. We are no longer who we once were, but who Christ is. We are in him. He is our singular identity. If I may suggest a bit of contextualization, there’s a B truth parallel, as Tim Keller would say, we agree with gays about. Identity is crucial for understanding who we are. Union and communion within community are central. We can affirm this because the gospel story affirms this. What we cannot affirm is that our sexual desires are the end game for our identity.
Thank God, we know the end of the story. I said earlier the gay political juggernaut beat us at our own game. I spoke foolishly. It seems for now we played their game and lost at it. Go figure. Our methods of warfare are not carnal or political. Our methods of warfare are Word and Spirit. They’re love. Jesus will have his Bride. She will be washed and white. She will be made up of former practicing sinners of all stripes. Yet she will be white as snow. Her beauty will be irrevocably united with Jesus Christ.