It includes celebrities (Ellen DeGeneres, Ricky Martin, Clay Aiken), politicians (Rep. Barney Frank, Gov. Jim McGreevey, John Berry), and Christian artists like Jennifer Knapp and Ray Boltz. It is the growing group of high-profile people who have broken the silence about their homosexuality. Many of their stories share telling similarities.
They knew they were different at a young age. Throughout life, they struggled to hide their feelings and appear normal. After years of enduring rejection, low self-esteem, and depression, they learned to accept homosexuality as part of “who I am.” Eventually, they went public with their “true” identity.
Take Chely Wright, a country music artist and professed Christian, who “came out” last year.
Confessions of a country singer
In an editorial for the Huffington Post, Chely writes about growing up in rural Kansas. As a young girl, she developed a love for country music and a love for God through the influence of her Christian home and community. It was also as a young girl -- aged nine, as she recalls -- that she realized she was gay.
At age nine? When I was nine, I had some knowledge of the physiological differences between boys and girls, no knowledge of sexual orientation, and as for same-sex orientation . . . you’re kidding, right? Anyway, by her telling, that was the beginning of “the most difficult chapter” of her life.
Chely recounts the bewilderments of being a gay Christian farm girl with aspirations for a country music career. She confesses to “committing repeated crimes” against herself. She doesn’t reveal what those crimes were, except to mention, with some regret, settling for accomplishments in academics, athletics, and music as substitutes for “real love.”
In time, Chely learned to accept “that God had made me exactly as I was supposed to be.” But when she fell in love, years later, the torments of her hidden life became too much. After spending days in bed with a gun in her mouth, she prayed to God for peace. Then, as she remembers,
Something happened. Peace washed over me and warmed me from the inside out. I immediately knew that I had been given a massive gift of mercy and an understanding of what I believe God had been whispering in my ear for a long time. “Stand up and speak.”
Her takeaway? Be proud of your sexuality, embrace it, live it, and share the good news of homosexual liberation with other LGBT folk.
Confessions of a Christian singer
More familiar in Christian circles is Ray Boltz. After a two decade career of no. 1 singles, gold albums, and Dove awards, Boltz tired of living “the lie.” The lie? Despite a 33-year marriage that produced four children, the Christian music superstar was gay. Says Boltz,
I’d denied it ever since I was a kid. I became a Christian, I thought that was the way to deal with this and I prayed hard and tried for 30-some years and then at the end, I was just going, “I’m still gay. I know I am.” And I just got to the place where I couldn’t take it anymore.
Boltz talks of years in the hidden life, enduring depression, undergoing therapy, taking various psychiatric medications, and becoming suicidal. Then, on December 26, 2004, he disclosed the lifelong secret to his family.
It was at that point, Boltz recounts, “I accepted my sexuality and who I was.” It was also the point where his marriage crumbled. Within a year, he and his wife separated; three years later they divorced.
Boltz eventually moved to Florida where, he says, he could be himself, free to date and live a “normal gay life.” “If this is the way God made me,” Boltz reflects, “then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be. . . . I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.”
Common to Chely Wright, Ray Boltz, and gay advocates, in general, is the belief that our desires are fundamental to our essence, part of our God-wiring, as it were. Since that is the way God created us, they reason, satisfying our desires is not only not sinful, but sanctified.
The truth is that while some desires come from God -- the desire for transcendence, for example -- others come from an unsettled combination of nature and nurture.
Orthodox Christianity holds that creation, as God made it, was originally good and later became corrupted by man’s rebellion. Today, the whole world bears the pathologies of a virus that has been infecting planet Earth for untold millennia. So, when a person claims that an unbiblical desire is part of “how God made me,” they are conflating a dysfunction with their design.
Form and function
An axiom in architecture is “form follows function.” That is, the form, or design, of a thing depends on the purpose, or function, the designer intended it to serve. A John Deere tractor is designed for clearing and plowing fields. A Daimler Smart car is designed for high gas mileage and tight parking. Both products are perfectly engineered for their specialized purposes.
If, perchance, a person wanted to plow his field with a Smart car, or commute to the city in his tractor, it would be the desire of the owner, not the intent of the designer or the design of the product, that was disordered. Setting aside the moral arguments about same-sex desire, from physiological considerations alone, it is disordered because it is contrary to the function its “form” is intended to serve.
Human sexuality is uniquely designed to satisfy an essential biological purpose: reproduction. In a very real way, when a husband and wife come together they form a single biological unit through their “hand-in-glove” complementarity. It is a function that same-sex individuals are incapable of accomplishing. They can only transmogrify the sex act to indulge in sensual gratification.
Sex involves pleasure but, as C.S. Lewis once pointed out, that is no more the purpose of sex than it is the purpose of eating. In both cases, sensual enjoyment is the byproduct of functions that are indispensible to life and the continuation of the species.
Since form follows function, it is reasonable to conclude that God, as Master Architect, would not implant a desire within us that is inconsistent with our form and his purpose (to “fill and multiply”). What’s more, we can be sure that whatever causes same-sex orientation, even if it is ultimately traced to inheritance, it is not God, any more than He would be the cause of other congenital disorders, like club feet or cleft palates.
Unsurprisingly, the Book of Nature follows the Book of Scripture concerning the truth about sexuality. But how should that truth be communicated?
Challenge for the church
Too often, from pulpit to pew, the treatment of homosexuality is out of balance with that of heterosexual “hooking up,” cohabitation, adultery, and divorce. That has led to feelings of isolation and alienation among gay Christians. Sadly, many Christians who struggle with homosexual feelings, do so alone.
When Ted Haggard came forth after his homosexual encounters became public, he admitted to being secretive and deceptive about his problems to his church and loved ones. Chely Wright became so adept at keeping her hidden life hidden, that for over 25 years, she confesses, “no one really knew me.”
Ray Boltz studied self-help books and pertinent Bible passages, but never felt safe to share what he was going through with another Christian brother. Alone, and without benefit of godly flesh and blood counsel, Boltz concluded that the church had it wrong about homosexuality. And since it was wrong about that, he reasoned, quite likely it was wrong about other things as well. That set him on the path of re-evaluating everything he’d been taught and accepted as true.
Today, there is the widespread perception, especially among young people (even those in the church), that Christians are anti-homosexual -- not just anti-gay activism and politics, but anti-gay people. That points to a failure within the church that Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological seminary, expressed well:
We as evangelicals have a very sad history in dealing with this issue. We have told not the truth, but we have told about half the truth. We’ve told the biblical truth, and that’s important, but we haven’t applied it in the biblical way.
Mohler went on to say that the church has not done its job until “there are those who have been trapped in [homosexual] sin sitting among us.” So true.
As sinners, homosexuals are no different from anyone else. Each of us is grappling with our own menu of sinful thoughts and behaviors. The church is to be a place where we are neither affirmed in our sins (whatever they may be) nor condemned for them; but a place where we are joined together on the lifelong journey of transformation, overcoming sin’s gravitational pull, if incrementally and incompletely, through the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit and the caring community of faith.
Regis Nicoll is a freelance writer and a BreakPoint Centurion. His "All Things Examined" column appears on BreakPoint every other Friday. Serving as a men’s ministry leader and worldview teacher in his community, Regis publishes a free weekly commentary to stimulate thought on current issues from a Christian perspective. To be placed on this free e-mail distribution list, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.