Recently, my dear friend Diane was lamenting the fact that there are few places for Christians who experience same-sex attraction and wish to be faithful to Christian teaching to deal openly and honestly with those issues. Our culture’s sexual floodtide is breaching many individuals’ and churches’ fidelity to truth, and now, post-Obergefell, there is mounting pressure on any traditional morality “hold-outs” to give in and affirm all sexual acts as long as they are consensual. Thus “safe spaces” for Christians like Diane and me are fewer and farther between.
“Safe space” is a phrase typically used by the LGBT community to describe an area free from “judgment,” “discrimination,” or any negative evaluation of homosexuality or alternative gender expression. When I use the term “safe space,” I too mean a space where people can openly share their experience of same-sex attraction, where others will affirm their dignity as children of God and accompany them in friendship. But I mean something very different as well. In my vision, those with same-sex attraction can take refuge in this space and trust they will be sheltered from harm precisely because there is a steadfast refusal to affirm falsehood or to encourage any behavior that is contrary to human good.
Diane and I have journeyed together for over twenty years. I remember well the summer we met as she passed through my college town for a week’s stay with mutual friends. She wore a ball cap and had her girlfriend in tow, while I wore my hair buzzed in keeping with my masculine style. Both of us were confused, wondering whether we should continue to embrace our lesbian identity with abandon, give it up for our faith, or try to have it both ways by twisting the Scriptures and suppressing the voice of conscience.
Illuminating Dangerous Waters
Those were difficult times. That summer, I had gone to a well-known Christian professor on campus and begged her to tell me—as a Christian—her thoughts on homosexuality. In a reluctant voice, she said slowly, “Well, I can’t see anything in Scripture that would condone it, but . . .” Her voice picked up speed as she listed disclaimers of how the prohibitions couldn’t possibly apply to every situation, no one can judge, and so forth. As well-meaning as I’m sure my professor was that day, she did not have the fortitude to let God’s “yes” be “yes” and “no” be “no.”
I practically ran from her office, confused and desperately wanting someone to show me where the boundary line was. Greg, a classmate who was also a military chaplain, overheard the exchange and followed me out. As I wept, he grabbed my shoulders and commanded my attention: “Jean, Romans 3:4, let every man be found a liar, but God be true. You know the truth.” I was in dangerous waters, and rather than being given consoling words as to why I shouldn’t feel bad, I needed to be pointed to the shore. Despite all the “Safe Space” stickers decorating professors’ offices on campus, it was Greg who provided one that day.
However, I not only needed to be pointed to shore, I also needed hands to pull me out of the water and help me learn to walk uprightly. A few years later, I moved to attend graduate school and found myself in the same city as Diane. I knew that Diane had found a strong church, one that was providing the safe space she needed to heal and grow. So I visited, and as is typical with such generous lovers of God, they made room for me as well.
These were rough and imperfect years for both Diane and me, but they were also deeply blessed. We had found hope. We became part of a group of Christians who were committed to truth and willing to honestly share the messiness of life as we all walked toward maturity and sought holiness together. These spiritual friends and mentors were a wonderful example of a welcoming and accompanying community who made us feel safe and protected us from harm. I am forever grateful to God for their life-changing love, prayers, counsel, and friendship.
The Rainbow Veil
Over twenty years later, I am a teacher and married with children. Diane is an excellent businesswoman, lay missionary, and highly esteemed friend to many. She is still single. Our individual fulfillment lies neither in our marital state nor in our sexuality, but in our surrender to our Creator’s truth, love, and will for our lives.
When the Supreme Court redefined marriage and everything from the White House to corporate logos turned rainbow, I recalled that year of monumental personal decision when I was struggling with my relationships with God, women, and myself. I remember digging out my Bible, which was dusty from disuse. I dared to look at the first chapter of Romans. The words blurred through my tears as I read. My mind was also blurry, for having opened a door to sin, I had opened a door to deception. I prayed, “If it’s wrong, You’ll have to show me another way, because I can’t see it.” I honestly couldn’t see the truth—it was as if there was a veil over my eyes.
These days, when I see the multitude of profile pictures on Facebook bearing a rainbow filter, I think of that veil. The rainbow veil tints reality with false hues, blurs the vision, and prevents one from seeing clearly. But what is most distressing is seeing the rainbow veil over the faces of Christian friends and family.
Last year I wrote to Christian pastors about showing real love toward those dealing with homosexuality, and I’ve written about some of my personal experiences coming to terms with my sexual identity. Now, I sense an urgency to write again to pastors, theologians, and anyone who sincerely seeks to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. As Greg did for me so long ago, allow me to exhort you to let God be true. I implore you, by the mercies of God, to resist the rainbow veil and make yourself and your church a truly safe space for people like Diane, me, and countless others.
Here are some concrete steps toward this goal:
1) Recognize that you are under spiritual attack.
Most likely, you are among the vast majority (at least 89 percent) of people who do not personally deal with any degree of same-sex attraction. Nevertheless, you are under relentless assault. Over two decades ago, psychologist Marshall Kirk and marketer Hunter Madsen wrote After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Loathing of Gays in the 90’s. This book outlined a PR campaign strategy that has been so well-implemented and long-sustained in the media that its success is breathtaking. Kirk and Madsen advised desensitizing the American public to homosexuality through a constant shower of gay images so that they would “get used to being wet.” Now, we are inundated to the point of drowning.
This campaign is designed to make anyone who upholds traditional Christian teaching on sexuality look hateful and foolish. It seeks to “muddy the moral waters” by continually highlighting reports of Christian “epiphanies” about changing theological understandings. Through it all, the enemy of all souls wants to extinguish the light of God’s truth in every quarter, including you and your church. You need prayer as much as I did, and do, to resist the spirits of deception. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities. Fight accordingly.
2) Do not enter into dialogue about things clearly revealed in both natural law and the Scriptures as if everything is revisable. Doing so opens the door to deception.
In these mendacious times, truth bears repeating. There exist moral absolutes that have not, cannot, and will not ever change, and that are not open for discussion. Human sexuality designed for complementary union between male and female is one of them.
Accompanying others and listening to their struggles with Christian teaching does not mean being open to all possible conversations. While the world calls you “closed-minded,” to be open to all ideas is actually hubris and folly. Read Psalm 1 and ask: In whose counsel are you walking?
You must remain utterly clear and settled about where the boundary lines are regarding sexual activity. You cannot be a safe space if you are open to suddenly throwing us all back into the sea.
3) Remember that admonition of sinners is a spiritual work of mercy.
You are constantly being shamed and bullied by those claiming that you are being “unloving” or “hurting people” by holding firm to truth. Do not give in to this lie.
Years ago, the pastor of a large church that had embraced the LGBT social agenda was showing me the AIDS memorial wall they had for their members. He told me how proud he was that his church was on the front lines in serving the sick. On this wall, there was hardly a man memorialized who had reached fifty years of age. Most were between twenty and forty. While the church had provided very important corporal works of mercy, such as visiting the sick, it also approved of and encouraged the very behaviors that were robbing so many of its congregation of their health and very lives, some of more than half their life span. This is the type of “safe space” the world and now even some fellow Christians are demanding from you. Just as you cannot serve two masters, you must not accommodate these demands.
Repent for any indifference or hostility you have had to the gay community and then choose to love them with genuine love. You are commanded to care enough about your brothers and sisters to help them with both their physical needs and their spiritual lives, including addressing their faults and sins. Your motivation must be from love, and you must offer this correction gently and humbly. But you cannot provide guidance and safe harbor if you are never willing to correct at all.
4). Contend for the power of reason and a sound mind.
Much of this spiritual battle is directed at your mind and your powers of reason. Seek divine grace and pray for help to be discerning and wise. Follow premises to their logical ends.
While many around you have reinterpreted Scripture and claim that God’s moral boundaries are not those that the church has taught for millennia, recognize that human physiology has not changed. Ask questions regarding homosexual behavior: “If it is holy, why is it so unhealthy?” “Why do those Christians around me who support homosexuality now also support surgical mutilation as a triumph of truth and courage rather than a call to prayer for a confused and hurting man?”
Scripture offers stern warnings about immorality, the body as the temple of the Spirit of God, and any who would destroy that temple. It is neither loving nor safe to affirm behaviors that harm and destroy the body and wage war against the soul.
5) Be consistent and witness to the fullness of God’s truth for sexuality.
Don’t single homosexuality out, but don’t leave it out either. Instead, address the full breadth of sexual sin and brokenness. We live in a fallen world, our culture is in a post-sexual-revolution apocalypse, and all of us bear wounds and scars. Pornography, divorce, and heterosexual sex outside of marriage proportionally affect your members far more than homosexuality. Repent individually and as a church for all the ways you’ve fallen short in these areas and walk together toward health and submission to God’s will. Holding everyone to the same standard, with humility and openness about your own failings and struggles and with a resolute will to obey God, will make you safe.
You have everything you need tobecome a church like Diane’s and mine. We had no “experts” on sexuality. We had no special programs, though there are some I can highly recommend. We simply had mature Christians who—out of love for God and neighbor—were both unwilling to compromise on truth and willing to love, pray, suffer, and grow with us. Psalm 68:6 says “God sets the lonely in families.” A healthy church family is what every one of us needs to mature, not just those with same-sex attraction.
Pastors and Christian friends, this battle is not going away in our lifetime. It did not go away for Diane and me, yet we are still following and doing our best to take up the Cross of Christ daily.
Will you do the same?