Thursday, December 28, 2006

Surrendering Our Desires

Last weekend my paper had an article on a new gospel band . . . it's like many other gospel bands, but this one is composed of gay members.

I had to sit and think about this a while. I've wanted to talk about it, but I'm well-aware that this is an explosive topic. If you haven't noticed, there's been a real campaign on television to move homosexuality into mainstream entertainment. ER, one of the few TV shows I watch regularly, had two plot threads dealing with it recently, and both plot threads are ongoing.

So, for what it's worth, here are my thoughts.

I do not hate--or even dislike-- gay people. I've had several gay friends--one of my dear friends and fellow singers died of AIDS, so I have felt that loss. I associate with the gay couples in my neighborhood, have had them in my home and I've been to theirs. I have written a gay character into the first Fairlawn book.

BUT--my character in Fairlawn is a gay man who loves Jesus, and as a result, he lives a celibate life. (I have to credit Lisa Samson, who did this first in her novel, Tiger Lily.)

The problem, I think, lies in how you define "gay:" does "gay" mean someone who is actively living a homosexual lifestyle, or does it mean someone who is attracted to people of the same gender? Sexual temptation is not sin. Sexual surrender is.

When I first found out that my friend Glenn was homosexual, I called him and begged him to come to my city to talk to a Christian counselor. He fit the stereotypical profile: a sensitive young man, difficult relationship with this father, an artistic bent. He assured me that he wasn't living "that lifestyle," but he said he'd felt "this way" his entire life.

Obviously, he lived the lifestyle at some point, because he contracted HIV and AIDS. But his comment made me realize that this is not a problem easily solved. As Jeff Watson says:

"While a heritable gene may predispose a carrier toward physical height, heredity does not require anyone to play for the National Basketball Association. Stated differently, even though a person may be born with a vulnerability toward manic depression or alcoholism, one’s personal outcomes can be modified by choice and by experience. If a boy with a sensitive disposition is marked as “different” by his father and is subsequently rejected by male authority figures, peers, and potential heterosexual partners, he may experiment with the temporary anesthesia of homosexual companions. What starts out as a relatively “free” act can become less so over time because of the biological power of repetition.

"Homosexuality can be changed. The vast majority of young people who adopt homosexuality eventually give it up.10 An overview of secular therapies suggests an approximately 50 percent success rate, with Masters and Johnson reporting 65 percent in a five-year follow-up.11 Successful approaches focus on treating social anxieties rooted in father-to-son gender-identity injuries12 and on encouraging Christian forms of abstinence, self-discipline, and mutual accountability.13"

Angie here again: The current "politically correct" stance holds that anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, has the right to pursue sexual pleasure and gratification without limitation.

But Christians are commanded to follow the Scripture. We call Jesus "Lord," and by granting him that title, we are acknowledging a surrender of our rights. And what does Scripture say about sexuality to every follower of Christ ? Let's look at 1 Cor. 6:9-13:

9 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. You say, “Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.” (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.

Blunt talk ahead: I am married, so I am not free to have sex with anyone other than my husband. If I were single, I would not be free to have sex with anyone else. If I were widowed, I would still be commanded to control my sexual impulses in a way that honored Christ. I am a slave to Christ, not to my own appetites.
Battling sexual temptation--of any sort--is not sin, but surrendering to that temptation is. If we habitually surrender to sin, Christ is not Lord of our life. If we really love Jesus, we don't want to hurt him, we want to obey him . . . because we love him more than we love our rights.

So--about that gay gospel band. If it is composed of people who battle a common sexual temptation, okay, and why not have a band for gluttons (I'd join that one) or chorus for coveters? Surely we all have enough besetting sins that we could form clubs of all kinds.

I wonder if it's good to focus on our besetting sins--we are to focus on victory in Christ. We who follow Jesus have been cleansed and made holy. We may stumble into sin, but we do not make a habit of practicing it . . . because we love the Lord and want to please him.

No matter what our temptations and weaknesses--and we all have them--we can find victory in Christ if we are willing to surrender and trust him. But we have to come to that place of surrender.


10 E. O. Laumann et al., The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 295.
11 M. F. Schwartz and W. H. Masters, “The Masters and Johnson Treatment Program for Dissatisfied Homosexual Men,” American Journal of Psychiatry 141 (February 1984): 173–81.
12 Joseph Nicolosi, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach (New York: Jason Aronson, 1991).
13 E. M. Pattison and M. L. Pattison, “Ex-Gays: Religiously Mediated Change in Homosexuals,” American Journal of Psychiatry 137 (1980): 1553–62.

Jeffrey A. Watson and Charles R. Swindoll, Biblical Counseling for Today : A Handbook for Those Who Counsel from Scripture, Swindoll leadership library, 189 (Nashville, Tenn.: Word Pub., 2000).

Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible : New Living Translation., "Text edition"--Spine., 2nd ed., 1 Co 6:9 (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004).


Anonymous said...

I agree with what you say. The problem is when the gay community doesn't realize what they are doing is sinful. When they want to make it ok in the mainstream and have it taught in our schools. I believe 100% it is due to the breakdown of the home and the lack of father/child commitment. The problem is I don't know how to fix that other than through a lot of prayer. I think the feminist movement has hurt men more deeply than we can imagine. It's made them unimportant. We need to make sure our little boys know how important they are (as well as girls--but the boys have really been effected by it).

lisa said...

I agree with everything you've said, Angie. I'm not somebody that shies away from homosexuals at all, but in talking with some young men who categorize themselves this way, one thing I say is, "Just because you're gay doesn't mean you get a pass on purity. God's expectations of you are the same as they are for my daughters." Also, what concerns me, is anybody defining themselves first and foremost by their sexuality. When we start to do that, we immediately set ourselves up to be attacked. Are you gay? Okay, but what else are you? What else do you think about when you think about who you are? Surely there's more?

As for the gay gospel band, even if they are a celibate gay gospel band, let's face it, we've got a long history of making the "old man" a celebrity. I realize there's a place for testimonies and for what God has brought people out of, and I'm not sure if this is even what Paul meant when he set "forgetting those things which are behind." It seems we're not forgetting, that we want all the lurid details of a sinner's life pre-Christ. The New Man has to take a bit of a back seat. And yet, I know, it's such a victory as to what Christ has done. Tough to know what to do.

I have several friends who had a really terrible past who really did put those pasts behind them, refusing to drag them up because that wasn't them anymore. (Unless, of course, God brought someone their way personally they could minister to). From watching them, I'm a little bit compelled to lean the way that when we come to Christ, the old really does become new.

Gosh, I've blathered. Sorry.

Ooh, just saw the previous comment. I don't know if 100% is due to father/child breakdown. For the gay people in my life, that's part of it for some, but a high percentage have experienced same-sex sexual abuse as well. I think that's why we always have to tread compassionately and continue to love as Jesus loves and always come at it with humility, remembering our own failings.

Sharon Sews said...

Thank you for this great, thought provoking post. My husband and I have had conversations on this topic. I'm going to share this post with him. I especially like the simple statement "Sexual temptation is not sin. Sexual surrender is."

Anonymous said...

I agree with Lisa about the sexual abuse link - and it's not always same-sex abuse. I had a friend in high school who became a lesbian for a few years. As a child, she was repeatedly molested and raped by a male cousin, and as a result was filled with hatred and bitterness toward men. She is now married to a man and has children and is happy - so there's one story of someone who gave up the homosexual lifestyle and is flourishing.

My only concern about the gay gospel band is this: if these men are all fighting the same kind of temptation, is it really wise to spend a great deal of time singing and traveling with other men of the same weakness? I know that my weakness - gluttony - is much harder to overcome when I am with my family who suffer from the same temptation. Something to think about.

Anonymous said...

I should've said "one of my weaknesses" - it's not like that's my only one! ;)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Angie. I, too, have a friend -- a dear friend from my high school days -- who announced to the world that he was gay when we were in our early forties. He and I sang together in a Christian group during high school, dated awhile (then decided that we were better as friends), and he went off to travel with a well-known Christian music group, recorded a Christian album, married and had children . . . and THEN decided he was gay. It devastated his family and friends, but he claims to be "happy" and "free". He insists that his commitment to Christ has not wavered, but he somehow has been able to rationalize the destruction of his marriage and his relationship with the man with whom he now shares a home. I agree with everything you said, though, and I think it's important to try to find a way to walk in love toward those caught in this sin -- which, after all, is no more abhorrent to God than any other sin that any of us struggles with, right?

Anonymous said...

Angie, Thank you for your thought-provoking post. You've given me much to think about. I must admit, I still have trouble thinking of "gay" and "Christian" in the same sentence.
I'm a little concerned that you are writing a gay character into your new series. I read Lisa Samson's book, Tiger Lilly. I've always enjoyed Lisa's books, but I really did not enjoy that one. The gay character made me very uncomfortable--maybe because he was so stereotypically, overtly gay. He seemed totally out of place in that book. I pass many of my books on to friends, but I did not feel comfortable passing that one on.
To be honest, I wish you would leave this character out of your story. I know the trend now is to bring gays into the mainstream, but I'm not sure we need it in Christian fiction. I think we walk a fine line here between showing compassion to all, despite their life choices and "normalizing" what is clearly unscriptural.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with Anonymous on the gay character in Tiger Lillie. I believe that there are people who have a homosexual tendency - and that in itself is NOT a sin. The character in Tiger Lillie was living a celibate life - not acting on his homosexual urges. There is no difference between him and a character who is tempted to have an affair or to lie or to steal and chooses not to because of his/ her faith in Christ. I appreciated the honesty of that character, and because there are Christians out there who are walking out that choice, I believe they should have representation in Christian fiction.

Anonymous said...

Just found your site so having a look round.
God bless
Maria in the UK

lisa said...

Keep the character in, Ange! LOL! I truly believe homosexuals especially those with HIV/AIDS are the lepers of our day. And we know how Jesus treated them.

It's funny with this issue. You're not going to please everybody. If you say "Hey I don't think a gay person has to turn straight, get married, have a family etc., but I do believe celibacy is in order" you're thought of as horrible by people on one end of the spectrum because you say homosexual union isn't part of God's plan. But you catch it from those who think all homosexuals should be straight to be pleasing in God's eyes.

In the end, we can only write what God has called us to write. Portraying a faithful, celibate homosexual isn't anymore normalizing than portraying an alcoholic who doesn't drink anymore.

I'm sorry Tiger Lillie was a disappointment to you "anonymous" but that character and that work is something I will wholeheartedly stand by until the day I die. Christoff, I feel, was one of those characters God gave me to write about. I hope he helps people search their own hearts and lifestyles (consumerism, greed, apathy, jealousy, food? and I could go on) and somehow shed light on the areas of their own lives they would do well to shun as Christoff has done.

Anonymous said...

I really took to heart this post. Having a family member who is on this band wagon and in the same breath says she's Christian really had been a struggle for me. It took me a long, long time to realize her sin is no different from mine. Jesus was nailed on that cross for all of them. I still stumble when I think about this topic. I want to show grace, I want to be loving, but I don't agree and you put into words perfectly what I've been trying to get straight in my head. I too could join the glutton band also! ;).
Thank you for being open and honest.
BTW I love your books!