Repairing the Breach between the Church and the LGBT Community, by Kathy Baldock (a summary by Pat Evert)
The Chasm of the Great Divide I had a death-grip on the viewpoint that “you can’t be a practicing gay person and a Christian.” So the way in which I “dealt with” Tom was to become friends with him. The trails there became my sacred sanctuary. It was the only place I could take my secret and cry, lament, pray, and listen to God. Netto and Tom were spared my Christian attempt to rid them of sin and get them right with God. Instead, I simply spent time hiking and chatting with Netto and got to know her as a friend. With the privacy wall between us pushed aside, I moved into Netto’s social circles, and she moved into mine.
Over the next five years, through my relationships with Tom and Netto, I made more friends in the gay community. They wanted no part of Christianity, and Christianity wanted no part of them. Several years later, over the span of four months, I went from not knowing one gay Christian to knowing hundreds. So, God, whatever this thing is, let’s do it! Let’s get this thing going. I’m ready. Did gay Christians really exist? If I started considering the possibility of people being gay and Christian, would I fall into an abyss of heresy? Trying to align your negative assumptions about gay people with the good you’ve seen in their lives … I walk in the expanse between distant groups: the straight community and the LGBT community, as well as conservative Christians and gay and transgender Christians. The mission of Canyonwalker Connections, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2011, is guided by Isaiah 58:6-12, paraphrased: “Loosen the chains of injustice, untie the cords of the yoke, set the oppressed free and break every yoke. Then you will be called Repairers of the Breach.” The Jews needed to repair the breach in the wall, “If you do away with oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, the blessings will come.”
PART I: HISTORY AND CULTURE
1 – Yearnings and “Urnings”; How Homosexuality Was Invented. Men took the dominant role by penetrating. The passive role of being penetrated was socially acceptable only for women, slaves, or young males who were not yet Roman citizens. It’s important to note that one was called a sodomite whenever one—he or she—engaged in a non-procreative sex act. Finally, in the late 19th century, a few people started to notice that some individuals seemed to be attracted to age-appropriate people of the same sex and not attracted to those of the opposite sex. Peter Damian coined the term sodomia in a letter he wrote to the pope. Damian was concerned about priests and monks engaging in sex with young boys (pederasty). All non-procreative sex was subject to criminal penalties. Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825–1895) coined the word Urnings in German—“Uranians” in English—to describe men who were attracted to other men. He described and labeled the condition as “sexual inversion.” Late 1860s marks a pivotal moment when Ulrichs introduced the first attempt to distinguish between men exclusively attracted to men and men who were attracted to women. Just as Kertbeny and Ulrichs had done, Hirschfeld used his skills to defend the rights of sexual inverts (later called homosexuals). It is believed he interviewed over 30,000 people in an effort to create a scientific basis confirming sexual inverts as representative of a natural variation of human sexuality. For Hirschfeld, the attraction of sexual inverts for a person of the same sex was natural, to be expected, and, therefore, should not be punishable. The Institute (and all of its over 10,000 books, articles, and research records) was destroyed by an angry crowd spurred on by Nazi storm troopers in 1933. In 1924, Gerber established the Society for Human Rights—the first sexual invert (gay) rights organization in the country. In 1910, Freud began postulating that sexual inverts exemplified a broken person in need of repair. Now, for the first time in America, it was suggested that the object of one’s attraction, rather than the sexual role played, should become the distinguishing factor of a person’s sexuality. Before the end of the 1920s to identify an individual’s sexual attraction is meaningless. The concept of being defined by the sex of the person to whom you were attracted would have been completely foreign within the general population. Two things determined whether sex was good or bad. First, was the sex procreative or non-procreative? If the sex made babies, it was good sex. Secondly, what role did the man perform in the sex act? Was he the penetrator—in the dominant position? That kind of sex was manly and good. Or was he the penetrated partner—in the submissive position? If the one being penetrated was male, that kind of sex was bad.
Friendships between men were often considered more fulfilling and richer than friendships with their wives. Deep, and even passionate, relationships between men were common in the 19th century. America went from a predominantly agrarian society to an industrial economy. Things went from male-only living environments, the vast majority of families lived in a tenement without a bathroom, certain bathhouses became refuges of privacy for sexual encounters, women had been fenced out of many jobs, the predominantly male-teacher culture shifted to a female-teacher culture at the end of the 19th century.
Becoming a “manly man” became an imperative and a common pursuit. Close male friendships, once freely affectionate and intimate, were viewed more negatively. In 1912, the Boy Scouts of America was founded. In the street language of the day, a man who took the passive sexual role was referred to by a variety of names. Most commonly, he was called a “fairy.” Views of women as less than men—less important, less noble, less powerful, etc.—were perpetuated in the language used to describe women and, eventually, gay men. Queer was not initially seen as a negative term. It was used as a descriptor of how such men saw themselves in the culture. Queers were not as flamboyant as fairies and could easily pass as normal. Beginning in the 1920s, medical knowledge about equal-status, persistent same-sex attractions began to migrate into the wider culture. Again, we see the consistent and pervasive use of words first demeaning women coming to be used to demean gay men. By the 1920s, sexual inverts started using the term “gay.”
Starting in about the 1970s, it included lesbians. The word “lesbian,” as it is now associated with same-sex attracted women, was first printed in a medical dictionary in 1890. Until the early 1900s, women who were attracted to women were mostly invisible in society. As traditional caretakers of the home and hearth, women did not have the social freedom or independence necessary to explore their potential for romantic relationships with other women—that is, until they began entering educational institutions, the workforce, and the military. With men off to war in the 1860s, space opened up for the education of women in formerly all-male institutions. By 1870, almost one-third of American colleges allowed women to enroll, thereby exposing women to same-sex environments on a comparatively large scale for the first time. Women who refused to hide their attraction to other women were frequently diagnosed as mentally ill. It is not surprising that lesbians felt pressured to keep their affections hidden. The term “Boston marriage” was used in the late 1800s and early 1900s to refer to two unmarried women who cohabited. Now they no longer required financial assistance from men to survive. When Prohibition ended, state officials were pressured to focus selectively on sexual vices between men to clean up the effects of the social depravity of the Roaring ’20s. In years prior, fairies and queers had been at the center of the speakeasy and entertainment scene in urban lower- and middle-class neighborhoods. Suddenly, they were banned from social participation, pushed into hiding “in the closet.” In the darkness and shadows, and out of the way.
2 – Evolution of the Understanding of Sexual Orientation; Psychoanalysis and Homosexuality from 1880 to the 1970s. In 1879 Psychology became a new method by which behavior and mental processes were investigated and reported. World War I directly challenged traditional beliefs about “madness” passing through family lines and blood. Doctors thought maybe they could fix people rather than ship them off and out of the way. In 1896, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) founded a new strain of psychology and called it psychoanalysis. After World War I, psychoanalysis came to be seen as a respectable way to deal with trauma, and the treatment became more widely available. Freud had set the benchmark, albeit with no scientific support, little client interaction, and creative theorizing, and many psychologists followed in his footsteps. Indeed, gay people were not allowed in the APsaA until 2001—almost forty years after homosexuality was struck from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Even if once-progressive psychoanalysts wanted to speak out in favor of greater understanding for gay people, they couldn’t dare to risk the consequences of the growing public anti-German and anti-Jewish wrath in America. The homophobic strain of psychoanalysis during the middle of the 20th century, for the most part, was an American phenomenon. As the sheer number of returning service members began to overload and overwhelm the existing system of psychoanalytic therapy, the U.S. Government looked to other resources to meet the demand.
Moveable sexuality, Freud believed, was a potential in all people. Until the 1980s, the APsaA resisted the work of any researcher not a part of its own organization. Henry George wanted to help decriminalize homosexuality and to treat it as a medical condition because he believed it could be cured. Violence against gay people had been on the rise since the end of Prohibition. Bieber, believed homosexuality was a mental illness caused primarily by imperfect parents, especially mothers, along with childhood trauma. He never looked beyond the patients in his office for comparisons to the general gay or transsexual populations. Shame and blame for creating homosexual children was placed squarely on the parents, who generally felt guilty and compelled to seek therapy to “fix” their children. Many Americans felt disgust, discomfort, or fear, one out of ten says “hatred.” The majority of Americans favored legal punishment. It was believed that the average homosexual, if there be such a thing, is promiscuous. Sadly, the personal experience of having a gay son did not change what Dr. Socarides professed publicly. Instead, he continued counseling gay children and their parents, as well as gay adults, using the same unproven theories. He advocated for reparative therapy throughout his life, despite the fact that it didn’t work for anyone, not even his own son. Though the APA’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973, they never observed, studied, or gave weight to gay men and lesbians who might be living in a healthy, “everyday” way within the general population. Psychoanalysts expanded on assertions created from flawed theories, gross assumptions, and insufficient research on the lives of a limited number of patients in therapy.
3 – Into the Closets; The Growing Persecution of Gays from the 1940s to the 1960s World War II affected the United States, one of its biggest contributions came in how it disrupted gender roles and sex patterns in the American culture. Sixteen million men enlisted or were drafted into the military. Another fifteen million people relocated to urban centers for jobs in the defense industry, including women, who now entered the workforce in great numbers. Soldiers found to be gay while serving in the military were discharged, and rather than return home to probable shame and secrecy, many decided to remain in the port cities where they had been dismissed. Pants on women became commonplace. Couples got married in greater numbers, the baby boom, the newly created traditional American family.
The range and variety of sexual behaviors were far greater than Americans had ever imagined themselves, or their neighbors, participating in. Many Americans started believing that both their families and their moral way of life were at risk of communists and sexual perverts. Communists were trying to indoctrinate children to their way of life; sexual deviants were trying to indoctrinate children to their way of life. The number of proposed laws nationwide increased, and they were easily passed amid the atmosphere of fear and hysteria. Both gay men and lesbians were incarcerated in prisons and mental institutions throughout the United States for being gay or suspected of being gay, and even for consensual same-sex sex. Mistreatment of vomit-inducing drugs were used, electroshock, frontal lobotomies, castrations. Many states passed laws subjecting gays to imprisonment or mandatory incarceration in mental health care facilities or asylums. The “protection of society” trumped the civil rights of gays. The director of the CIA was given authority to dismiss gay employees, calling them national security risks because of assumed weaker moral integrity of gays. Without any supporting evidence, the report stated that “homosexuals are at risk for blackmail, a threat to national security, and, therefore, not suitable for employment in government,” adding that they were “found to be mentally unstable, morally weak, criminals, and destructive to work environments.” Now in 1950 the same requirement placed on communist subversives to register with the Attorney General was placed on “sex offenders.” Various words were used interchangeably to describe sex offenders: “psychopath,” “sex criminal,” “pervert,” and “homosexual”; culturally, all these words took on the same meaning. The American public went into a panic. Gays were now known “security risks” as “proven” by the Hoey Report. The need to be a “real man” became essential in avoiding suspicion of being gay. In summation, Hoover brought down a heavy hand on Eisenhower, pressuring him to fire Vandenberg Jr. Eisenhower went a step beyond in enacting Executive Order 10450, which became a presidential-level weapon used to further destroy gays during the Lavender Scare in 1948. Hay was the first activist to unite gays and lesbians—or homophiles, as they were often called—against oppression. President Bill Clinton finally rescinded Executive Order 10450 in 1995. It is still legal in twenty-nine states to fire an employee for being gay, and in thirty-four states, a person can be fired from a job because they are transgender.”
4 – Out of the Closet and into the Open; Moving toward Freedom. As a professor, Evelyn Hooker had been teaching that homosexuality was psychopathological, a criminal offense, and even a sin. “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex” presents a wildly distorted image of what it meant to be gay. Today, we can read these excerpts and wholly dismiss them—even laugh at them—for their lack of credibility. “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask” kept many gays closeted for decades. It seemed as though everyone was marching and demanding something. But where were the gays? mostly hiding.
Then three incidents of civil disobedience took place in the late 1960s—two on the West Coast and one on the East Coast—and together began to energize, organize, and empower the gay and transgender communities. The first-ever instance of gays fighting back set a new tone. But Stonewall was the beginning of the gay liberation movement. Gay men and lesbians were now encouraged to come out to their friends, family, and colleagues. The first Gay Pride March took place in June of 1970 to celebrate diversity in how human relationships are expressed. Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), was born in 1972. We are the only minority whose parents do not share our minority status. Because of the importance of family to all of us, being estranged from your parents is a very traumatic thing. Being forced to closet your life from them is very devastating. Their suggested language stated that homosexuality was a normal variant of human sexuality.
PART II: RELIGION AND POLITICS
5 – Getting the Faithful into the Voting Booths; Turning Politically Unengaged Christians into Republicans They made an interesting distinction between sexual inversion and sexual perversion. He concluded that the church had an obligation to correct the part it had played in the creation and perpetuation of destructive attitudes and laws used to punish sexual inverts. Church doctrine, he said, had blurred the concepts of immoral perversion and consensual inversion. Though Bailey did not approve of same-sex acts personally or theologically, his Christian faith and sense of fairness had motivated him to protect those he felt were being treated unjustly. His work and book had paved the way to decriminalize homosexuality in England and Wales. It took thirty-seven more years for the United States to join England in erasing the sodomy laws criminalizing consensual sex between adult men.
The Scofield Bible promoted dispensationalism—a belief that the timeline of the Bible can be broken into seven eras, the final one being Judgment. In contrast, the Modernists took a more expansive view of the Bible and focused on the social issues set before them: poverty, injustice, hunger, disease, equality, and slavery. They, too, believed the Bible to be divinely inspired, but focused their attentions on understanding Scripture passages in context rather than taking isolated verses literally, as did the Fundamentalists. While Modernists viewed the Genesis 1–2 stories as figurative, the Fundamentalists believed creation had happened precisely as written in the Bible and, thanks to the Scofield Bible, they even had a date for the beginning of the world: 4004 BC. The final break between the two groups came as a direct result of the events surrounding the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925. The fundamentalists became extremely apolitical isolationists. Most of them never even registered to vote.
Though Weyrich saw the benefit very early on of seducing conservative Christians into politics, Goldwater felt it was a bad idea. “There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs.” Goldwater’s top political strategist, Paul Weyrich, didn’t heed Goldwater’s warning about the potential damage of an unholy alliance between religion and politics. Jimmy Carter was the first self-identified “born-again” evangelical Christian to win the White House. Three contributing factors came about -tax-exempt status for religious institutions, abortion and the gays. Reconstructionism held sway in the Southern California evangelical movement from the 1960s to the 1990s. It impacted many of the televangelists and high-profile religious leaders of the 1970s and 1980s, who believed they had been given a call to rescue America from destruction and immorality by ushering in an age of biblical law.
6 – The Start of a Bad Marriage; The Religious Right and the New Right Merge On January 18, 1977, Anita Bryant led the newly organized Save Our Children (SOC) campaign into the Dade County chambers. Angry, gay-fearing protesters joined her. Still, the commissioners, led by Shack, were determined to extend equal civil rights, and passed the nondiscrimination ordinance. Throughout America, the lines thickened between conservative churches as Bryant went from city to city on her “crusade against homosexuality,” she gained still greater support from conservatives.
Be cause of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in the United States, gay people came out of the closet by the thousands. White climbed through a window at City Hall and shot San Francisco Mayor George Moscone in the head, killing him. White then went to Milk’s office and shot him five times, killing him as well. Harvey Milk’s death became a rallying point not only for the San Francisco gay community, but nationwide as well. Across the country, the gay community came together.
With no expertise on the subject of homosexuality, LaHaye authored “The Unhappy Gays: What Everyone Should Know about Homosexuality.” LaHaye’s book in particular helped set the tone for the interaction between the conservative church and the gay community by escalating fear and paranoia. Rev. Jerry Falwell (1933–2007) was the best candidate for front man of a planned political/religious organization. As the host of the nationally syndicated Old-Time Gospel Hour TV show and founder of Liberty Baptist College (founded in 1971 and later named Liberty University), Falwell already had a substantial following. The Moral Majority was driven to bring the Christian vote to the GOP. Falwell famously repeated his mantra over and over: “Get ’em saved, get ’em baptized, get ’em registered.” The mission of the organization was to identify, register, educate, and rally conservative religious voters. Falwell also recruited Dr. James Dobson to help. The group in attendance became the core of the Religious Roundtable, organized to involve evangelical Christians in mainstream politics. Neither abortion nor homosexuality was a focal point at the beginning of the Reagan White House. They had both served their purpose as vote-getting election tools. The Carter Administration opened the doors of the White House for the first time in history to receive a gay rights delegation. On the day of the National March on Washington, it probably appeared as though the LGBT community, despite opposition from the Religious Right and the New Right, would continue to forge ahead toward civil equality. Then, AIDS happened.”
7 – The Origin of HIV/AIDS and the Political-Christian Response
AIDS Is Not a “Gay Disease”. Given the existing negative attitudes toward gays in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it is not surprising that the political, cultural, and religious response to people with AIDS became another way of expressing prejudice against gay men. I believed that people who contracted AIDS through sexual behavior got what they deserved. In the 1980s and early 1990s, no one in our evangelical circles believed you could be both gay and Christian. The common thread of teaching in most of the churches we grew up in was that all gay people were pedophiles. We were taught they’d committed so many horrible evils that they were turned over to the worst sin of all, homosexuality. So many were dying, and the church didn’t seem to care. That day was a turning point for Bob and me. It wasn’t easy to grapple with what we had been taught compared to the visible evidence of God living in this group of people. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) attacks the immune system. Scientists don’t know why HIV doesn’t operate like most viruses. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a breakdown of the immune system caused by the final stages of HIV infection.
In Africa, with the presence of the Europeans came their appetites. So they hunted, killed, ate, and sold the chimps’ meat to satisfy their colonialist desire for bush meat. SIV-infected blood in the Pan t. t.s entered the hunters’ blood system through wounds they got while butchering the animals. Because Pan t. t.s share about 99% similarity in genomes with humans, the SIV virus took hold in the humans and adapted, becoming HIV. Two cultural shifts permanently impacting the African population occurred as a direct result of European colonization: urbanization and urban prostitution.
The natural food source of the tsetse fly had been cattle and wildlife, but an African cattle plague in the late 19th century practically wiped out the entire cattle population. With their natural food supply gone, the tsetse flies turned to close-by humans as a food source. Medical supplies were scarce and sterilization even scarcer. The civil war also marked the end of government health regulations that had controlled the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and, with it, the spread of the HIV virus. There was an economic crisis. Now, prostitution and sex were at levels high enough to cause another amplification in the passage of HIV from person to person. The HIV virus migrated from the sex worker population to the general population, migrated to the population of Haiti, which at this time exported 1,600 gallons of plasma each month to the United States. The AIDS crisis in America continued to grow at alarming rates while Reagan remained silent on the issue. When Dr. Koop left office in 1989, the New York Times editorial board, which had previously weighed in against his appointment, praised him: “Throughout, he has put medical integrity above personal value judgment and has been, indeed, the nation’s First Doctor.” Koop put medicine and science ahead of politics, holding his strong personal beliefs about homosexuality in tension with his duties as Surgeon General. Interestingly, sexual and financial scandals erupted within the ranks of these vile televangelists during the very same time. Public distrust of televangelists increased, and they began to lose their dominant voice; even the Moral Majority lost its relevance and shut down in 1989.
How a person contracts a disease should not be the barometer by which Christians determine their attitude toward the sick and needy. The early Christians’ dedication to caring for their neighbors as themselves during times of plague and sickness, whether the sick were believers or not, showcased the integrity of their unique message of love for others. The exception to the silence came from two organizations in 1983: The National Council of Churches of Christ and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) committed themselves to advocating and caring for people living with AIDS. The space in me that should have been occupied with kindness and empathy for people suffering from any deadly disease was instead filled with accusation and disapproval. Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in 1981, 1.7 million Americans have been infected with HIV, and over 650,000 have died of AIDS-related illnesses. Of the 1.1 million Americans currently infected with HIV, one in six do not even know they are infected.”
PART III: SCIENCE
8 – The Myth of a Pink and Blue World; Sex, Gender, and Sexual Orientation Historically, a multitude of “abnormalities” in babies were thought to be the curse of God. In fact, in ancient Israel, those born with or acquiring defects, deformities, or illnesses were denied access to the temple area. When babies were born with genitalia neither fully male nor fully female, they were categorized as “monstrous births.” Three revolutionary breakthroughs happened in the 1870s that would eventually influence our understanding of sex, gender, and sexual orientation. Oscar Hertwig (1849–1922), a German zoologist, discovered that a human embryo was formed when a male sperm fertilized a female egg. Fellow German Walther Flemming (1843–1905) discovered that human cells had pairs of chromosomes carrying genetic code. And, as we discussed in Chapter 1, Karl Kertbeny noted and grouped people together by the sex to which they were attracted.
Epigenes don’t change the genetic coding, but they can affect whether genetic code is expressed or not. Most of the time it’s either female XX or male XY, but in one out of 1,666 instances, it’s not. Other naturally occurring variations of the twenty-third chromosome include XXY, XO (the O indicates that neither an X or a Y is present), XXX, XXYY, and XXXY. The twenty-third chromosome is, therefore, not female XX or male XY; this individual is a third sex, or intersex. The external genitals can still appear strictly male or female, yet the person is neither male nor female, but intersex. One in every 1,500–2,000 births results in a baby born with ambiguous genitalia. These babies are intersex. We no longer view babies who are born intersex as defects or monsters because now we understand the science behind intersex births. The earliest sex change surgeries took place in Austria and Germany in the 1920s. Gender and genitals do not necessarily align. Gender is an innate trait established within the fetal brain. There are thirty-one known intersex conditions. For the 0.5% whose gender does not match their sex, the term is “transgender. To differentiate between transvestites, those who for sexual arousal or emotional comfort dress in the clothing opposite to their birth sex, and transsexuals, those who have an internal sense that their gender is opposite to their birth sex and desire to express the internal sense in their dress and behavior. There is no single reason why about one in every thousand people is transgender. When a baby is born, the doctor and family can know the baby’s sex: male, female, or intersex. At that point, though, nobody can know the gender of the child. By age five, those who don’t fit in are aware that something is “different” about them. There are about 1.5 million transgender Americans, or approximately 0.5% of the population. Transgender people have a naturally occurring condition. The trans population suffers a disproportionately high rate of underemployment, homelessness, harassment, and family rejection. All people have a biological sex (male, female, or intersex), a gender (male, female, or along the spectrum from male to female), and a sexual orientation. Sexual orientation indicates the sex to which one is naturally attracted. Genes, epigenes, and hormones all influence sexual orientation. There is nothing to indicate that parenting or early-childhood events, such as abuse, affect either gender or sexual orientation.
PART IV: THE BIBLE
9 – Same-Sex Behavior in the Bible; Looking at Passages of Scripture Though the Genesis 18-19 account never mentions what the sin was that was “so grievous” (18:20) as to lead to the destruction of Sodom, Ezekiel 16:49-50 does list sins of Sodom: arrogance, an uncaring attitude toward the poor and needy despite their own riches, and other “detestable things.” In the thirteen mentions of Sodom and Gommorah after Genesis 19, same-sex behavior is never cited as the sin that caused the destruction of the city. Sexual immorality is mentioned in Jude 1:7. The verse says that the people of Sodom had “given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh” (NIV). Same-sex behavior, whether in situations of personal lustful excess or of ritual and worship, was a common pagan practice and, therefore, strictly forbidden for the Israelites.
I’m The Levitical prohibitions involve same-sex behavior in a pagan culture where a man taking the sexual role of a woman was degrading. The Israelites were told to remain separate from all behaviors resembling those of the pagans, lest they become like them or appear to be one of them.
The first part of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome deals with the universality of sin, our inability to gain a right status before God through our own merits. For a Stoic to be in complete harmony with nature was akin to a Jew keeping the whole of the Law. Neither aspiration was fully possible all the time, and even if they did come close to perfection, it would still not be enough to be righteous before God. All the behaviors are called “shameful” because they are lustful, outside the male-dominant social and sexual norms, and not procreative. So, when a man either voluntarily took, or was placed in, the sexual role of a woman as the penetrated partner, his entire social and personal status was degraded to that of a woman. Further, when a man abandoned his self-control and was driven by his lust, he was found to be acting like a woman. Add non-procreative sex to this scenario, and everything going on countered the Stoics’ sense of morality and harmony with nature. Unnatural/against nature = lust + defiance of male-dominant social-sexual norms + non-procreative sex.
As used by Paul in the first century, arsenokoitai likely means pederasty or closely connected to exploitative sex for money. A curious shift began to happen for the first time in the late 1940s: Arsenokoitai was translated in the 1946 Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible as “homosexual.” This meant that the translation changed the meaning of the original word from a condemnation of any kind of man who played the dominant role in sex with another male to a condemnation of one specific kind of man—a gay person. After the RSV translated arsenokoitai to “homosexual,” the floodgates opened. Arsenokoitai was soon translated variously:
- men who engage in exploitative sex with males (before)
- pervert (1962)
- sexual pervert (1966)
- sodomite (1966)
- those who practice homosexuality (1978).
These changing translations directly reflect the evolving perceptions of gay people in the culture surrounding the American translators of the Bible. The translation shift of arsenokoitai from men who engage in exploitative sex with males to “homosexual” referring to both men and women appears to have been “prompted not by criteria of historical criticism. Malakos is associated with the traits of women as women were seen in the ancient world: morally weak, given to unnatural vices, lazy, unchaste, lustful, whorish, impure, and taking a submissive role in sex. Malakos was used to characterize men who lived lives of decadence; partook in excesses of food, drink, and sex; were weak in battle; prettied themselves for sexual exploits with women. In those historical social structures, the worst way one could treat a man was to treat him as if he were a woman, and the worst thing a man could act like was a woman. Consistent with what was happening in the culture and legal system, malakoi and arsenokoitai(s) came to indicate the two partners in gay sex.
10 – Creating Families; Historical and Civil Marriage and the Case for Christian Same-Sex Marriage Ted recalls a “witch hunt” targeting the removal of gays in the mid-1970s. The stress of the possible discovery of his attraction to men and the disgrace it would cause took a toll on Ted’s health. While serving the Jacksonville church, he was hospitalized for three months. Once out of the hospital, he fell into a severe depression. He knew he couldn’t tell anyone he was gay; desperate, he took enough pills to commit suicide. Ted wrote to his hometown newspaper and likened Bryant’s attacks on the gay community to Hitler’s attacks on the Jews. Imagine the joy and sense of wonder for Ted to feel loved by someone and to love in return! At the age of fifty-two, for the first time, he was hugged and kissed by someone he loved and who loved him back.
In June 2011, marriage equality came to New York State. Ted was very emotional—elated that his state was finally treating people like him as equals, but aching with sadness because Jack was not around to see it. First, the anti-gay sentiment now found in churches has replaced the love Ted experienced while in seminary and serving churches in the 1960s and early 1970s. He feels this is the result of “the tail wagging the dog,” or a few people controlling the conversation.
The other thought is a challenge for all readers: “The trouble comes when we use the Bible to confirm our biases rather than to confront them. Across cultures, marriage is a social union or civil contract establishing rights, benefits, and obligations between spouses, and sometimes includes families. This union or contract can be recognized by a community composed of family and peers, a tribe, an organization, a religious group, and/or a state. In effect, the new marriage regulations ensured that powerful and wealthy men could not expand their holdings either by divorce and remarriage, or by taking several wives and annexing the property that came with such economic and/or political moves. Marriage between one man and one woman ensured fewer threats to the supremacy of the Holy Roman Empire. The Catholic Church “owned” marriage until the Protestant movement when the Church of England challenged the Catholic Church’s authority, and civil marriages began.
But starting in 1563, married priests were restricted from saying mass. This policy change, in effect, stopped priests from marrying, so upon their death, any wealth they had was passed to the church. Over the next century, marriage unions based on love and romance, rather than economics, began to emerge. Since the 1780s, marriage in the United States has been a civil contract granting legal status to a couple during a public civil marriage ceremony performed by agents of the state.
According to many religious conservatives, it was a sin, as well as a crime, for a white person to wed a person of African ancestry. Africans, who were thought to be Ham’s direct descendants, were cursed to be forever subservient to others and kept separate from other races. Hence, no intermarriage allowed. Though today this theology has been forgotten, or denied, as recently as the late 1960s, various states still restricted marriage between a white person and a member of another racial group, primarily blacks. After a series of appeals in the lower courts, Loving v. Virginia made it to the United States Supreme Court in 1967.
The major objections voiced by marriage equality opponents today are uncannily similar to yesteryear’s cries against interracial marriage:
All interracial relationships, even committed, long-standing ones, were considered
illicit sex rather than loving marriages and, thus, morally wrong.
Interracial marriage was contrary to the will of God.
Interracial marriage was “unnatural.”
The right to legislate marriage should belong to the states, not the federal
government. In December 1968, Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in Los Angeles, performed the first public same-sex “holy union” in the United States. No group of people, not even the majority, has the right to withhold the civil rights of any other group. In 1967, only 4% of Americans approved of interracial marriage, yet the Supreme Court dismissed the desire of 96% of Americans who did not support it in order to preserve the rights of the minority. Civil unions extend fewer than two hundred benefits, protections, and responsibilities to couples, while civil marriage offers over one thousand legal benefits, protections, and responsibilities. “What we wish churches and fellow Christians understood is that Colin and I want to be held to the same standards of love and commitment that other married, straight couples in the church are held to.” When Christians divorce, the beautiful image that bears witness to God’s unconditional covenant with His people and to Christ’s sacrificial love is damaged. I’m not sure which has surprised me more, how much the world has changed since 2004, or how much I have.
In the creation story, “God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number’” (Genesis 1:22, NIV). It was a blessing pronounced upon humankind, not a commandment. In the Genesis 2 creation story, Eve was created because “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). There is no mention of procreation as the purpose of Eve’s creation; rather, her purpose was to provide a suitable companion and helper, because it is not good for one to be alone. Likewise, in the Ephesians 5 definition of marriage, there is no mention of procreation. For those who care about the protection of families and children, consider this: A substantial number of parents in the United States are gay and have children living with them; they would like to provide their children with a family built on the foundation of a loving marriage recognized in both civil and Christian spheres.
Using Galatians 3:28, we understand that the boundaries between Jew and Gentile, free and slave, and male and female will not exist in eternity and, in fact, are not to persist in the church on earth either, where we “are all one in Christ Jesus.” In God’s kingdom, all systems of hierarchy will be gone. What should we do with those who don’t fit into the pink and blue boxes of gender and anatomical differences as required by the doctrine of complementarity? Intersex and transgender people can’t be ignored in the conversation about legal or Christian marriage. We are prompted by our faith to do away with injustice and inequality. The LGBT community is legally a class of people and, by law, is due the protection and extension of civil rights accorded every class of people.
PART V: LGBT CHRISTIANS AND THEIR ALLIES
11 – Trying to “Fix” Gay People? The Futility of Reparative Therapy. In 1976, wanting to offer a more loving response to homosexual callers and church members, Bussee, Gary Cooper, and Jim Kaspar formally organized a group they named EXIT (Ex-Gay Intervention Team) to offer hotline counseling, prayer groups, Bible studies, follow-up phone calls, and workshops. Bryant began joining forces with conservative Christians and asked if some board members of Exodus International would join her in her cause. They declined. Politics was not yet part of Exodus International’s mission. Lee’s desire is to help gay and transgender people overcome the effects of the shaming and destructive messages about homosexuality from both the culture and the church.
Jerry spent twenty-two years in Exodus, as well as similar Christian ex-gay fellowships and counseling, only to learn that nobody was actually changing from homosexual to heterosexual. The seemingly impossible demands of reparative therapy were conflated as demands of God. And very few individuals were able to find a church community in which they could worship and serve God without being rejected. “Trying to do everything possible for almost thirty-two years to not be gay just sucked the life out of me. Since accepting that I am gay, I am at peace for the first time in my life. All of the inner turmoil and anguish has vanished. My family and my friends have noticed this change in me. My relationship with Christ is no longer based on my performance. My acceptance from God is no longer wrapped around my trying to be straight. A change began to happen at my core. God hadn’t been able to change me because that was how He created me. I was falling in love.” People are, or they are not, homosexual. It is an intrinsic part of their being. Actually, I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.
Love in Action (LIA) gave up its name in 2012 and handed over its files to a Christian sex addiction ministry calling itself Restoration Path. The group Courage was essentially Exodus United Kingdom. For many years, New Directions had been the Exodus affiliate in Canada. In 2007, under the leadership of Wendy Gritter, they, too, changed their stance and direction, acknowledging that sexual orientation is not a choice. Exodus International eventually shut down in May 2013. The final straw came when nobody would step forward and say, “I am no longer gay. Pick me as the new leader.” Thus, when Brookman stepped down, there was no one ready to take over leadership of the organization. Living Waters shut down permanently in April 2014.
Even before that, Evergreen International, the largest Mormon ex-gay ministry in the world, founded in 1989, had shut down on January 1, 2014.
After forty years of failure, the damage continues. In 2009, the American Psychological Association, in a 130-page study, reported the harm done to people who have undergone reparative therapy. It is currently against the law in two states, New Jersey and California, to subject minors to reparative therapy treatment by a licensed health care professional. While church leaders may accept that people have a natural sexual attraction or gender identity that cannot be changed, church policy may state that gay people must control their natural desires and not act sexually or romantically upon their attractions and, further, should commit themselves to lifelong celibacy. Celibacy throughout church history has been viewed as a spiritual gift or calling, not a condition forcefully imposed on another person without their consent.
In summary, reparative therapy for change in sexual orientation was disavowed over four decades ago by major professional mental health organizations. All major professional medical associations agree that sexual orientation change therapy does not work. Most experts, along with people who who have gone through the change-therapy process, say it is harmful.
12 – Gay People Marry Straight People—Now What? Looking at Mixed-Orientation Marriages Many believed marriage would “cure” them of homosexuality. But over time, life’s pressures increased, and it became harder to keep their sexual orientation suppressed. One was hopeful that with hard work, he might be able to lead a fulfilled straight life. Once again, I was keeping my dirty little secrets and leading a double life. I knew that if my church friends and extended family found out, I would surely be rejected and alone. I kept my secret hidden. I heard God ask me, “What is the most loving thing you can do?” I answered, “To set myself and my family free.” My wife has been the only one in my life who has shown me unconditional love. My sobriety, sense of self, and integrity all depend on my ability to be authentic and open about who I am. The aching pain I felt deep in my chest for so many years is gone. The codependency I had on others to make me feel and look acceptable is dissolving. We’re only as sick as our secrets. Gay men were routinely told that if they took the next step and married a woman, God would “bless them with heterosexuality.” Several of those who were publicly claiming to be heterosexual were privately talking about sexual experiences with men.
Even though Jerry knew they were being hypocrites, they kept up the charade so others would stay strong and “leave homosexuality.” Lynn thought marrying a man was the only way for her to please God and the church; she opted for a life of suffering in silence. I prayed over and over again for God to change my sexuality, and all I got was silence. I felt like God assured me that He saw my sexuality as a non-issue. It was time for me to tell Dale the truth and to set him free to find a woman who could love him as a wife should. I’ve told many people that living as a heterosexual feels like walking with my shoes on the wrong feet. Lynn is now married to Linda, the woman of her dreams. I feel vibrantly alive. I don’t want to die anymore. I was accused so many times of being selfish for leaving my marriage. However, my ex-husband, who is still my close friend, is on cloud nine in love with his soul mate, whom he would have never met had we stayed together. I wish I’d seen that before wrecking someone else’s life in an effort to do the “right thing.” To young people thinking that you can keep this secret forever—don’t try. It will more than likely eat you alive. These groups acknowledge that mixed-orientation marriages are rarely viable; thus, their primary counsel to those who find themselves in such a relationship is to get a divorce.
Rather than ministering to them with compassion and support, the church lays even more guilt, shame, and futile expectations on these couples. The added burdens often drive both the spouses and their children away from church. Neither Emily nor Devon nor their children attend church any longer. Church leaders did not minister to their needs; they tried to fix what was not broken, shamed them when they did not comply, and caused further damage to each family member’s individual relationship with God. I suddenly realized that I had no one to talk to about this. I felt alone. As our situation became known, many family and friends either rejected us or judged us. The most hurtful group of all was the church. The greatest gift the gay spouse can give the straight spouse is being completely honest about their orientation. I understand all too well, the need for acceptance is so very strong. And what’s happened to the wives? “Collateral damage,” he said. They’re the largest single group of wounded people that no one talks about or cares about. Couples aware of their orientation differences generally “keep up appearances” in churches. This behavior is both expected and supported, while honesty about the situation is rarely encouraged. Gay people, like straight people, want to find a relationship in which there is comfort, transparency, and intimacy. For the most part, when gays and lesbians come out in conservative churches, they are robbed of the opportunity for and the blessings of these things. They cannot date, get married, or begin families in a traditional way; instead, they are pressured to lie, hide, and deceive themselves and their mate.
13 – They Did Not Leave Church When the Church Left Them; The Beginning of the Gay and Transgender Christian Movement They found there were few spiritual refuges that would welcome them as congregants, let alone leaders. For the most part once gay people came out, they were put out. Gays were not welcome in mainstream churches, yet Troy Perry had a vision of creating a spiritual refuge. He placed a small ad in The Advocate, a magazine whose target audience is the LGBT community, inviting gay people to join him for a worship service in his living room. Twelve people showed up, and the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) was born. Perry and his partner, Philip De Blieck, have been together since 1985. They were legally married under Canadian law at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto in 2003. God called and anointed a very good and courageous man to lead the gay Christian movement starting in 1968. Rev. Troy Perry has been a strong, passionate, and tenacious man of God and a pioneer for political and social justice for over forty-five years.
Three major church movements—Calvary Chapel, the Vineyard, and Harvest Christian Fellowship—were birthed as part of the Southern California Jesus Movement. Even though Chuck Smith knew Lonnie Frisbee had been/was gay, he responded by reminding her that it was the price she needed to pay for being married to a man so greatly used by God. Still, God continued to use Frisbee to bring tens of thousands of young people into Calvary Chapel. Frisbee became an enigma to those around him. He was said to party hard on Saturday nights, and to preach harder on Sunday. Frisbee complied and got a haircut, put on suits, and got a job, submitting to yet another leader who didn’t acknowledge that he was gay. Frisbee continued to try to hide and deny his homosexuality, but when he was caught in an affair with a man, he was out once again. Things also didn’t go well with Connie, who had an affair with another pastor.
The Frisbees got divorced, and they both left Calvary Chapel. Within six months, Wimber’s Vineyard church, with the help of Frisbee’s preaching, teaching, and praying, exploded from 500 to 2,500 in attendance. Thus began the Vineyard Church movement. When he was invited some years later to preach and teach in Sweden, Denmark, and South Africa, revival followed him wherever he went. When asked in 1992 why he thought God had used him in such powerful ways, Frisbee said:
I stand in total awe every time the Lord touches our lives, every time He reveals His loving kindness toward us. Every time He uses me. Believe me, I am the least likely candidate for what the Lord has done with me. I look back and the only explanation I can offer is that since I was a little child, I have desperately needed God. I had nothing or no one to turn to except God. He responded to my cries with a plan and a divine purpose for my life.The revival began with the most unlikely of people—a gay hippie who many said looked like Jesus Himself.
Marsha Carter came out as a lesbian. She stated later, “The feelings that I had when I was fourteen were suddenly on the surface.” Immediately, Marsha was shunned by Calvary Chapel, and by the administration and parents of the Christian school her children attended. As they saw it, coming out as a lesbian was tantamount to publicly renouncing her faith. For being a lesbian, she has been all but written out of contemporary Christian music history. In 1987, Marsha founded a music ministry she named Born Again Lesbian Music (BALM), which she and her wife, Cindy, now run together. God called Troy Perry to preach at the age of fifteen. He called Lonnie Frisbee to begin the explosion of the Jesus People movement, including the Calvary Chapel, Vineyard, and Harvest Christian Fellowship movements, at the age of nineteen. And God called 16-year-old Marsha to usher in contemporary Christian music.
Did God know they were gay? Of course He did. God looks to the margins to use the foolish and unlikely to confound those who think they know what God says, wants, and does. God chooses the lowly, the despised, and the discarded to bring about His will. By discarding so many LGBT men and women of God, the Christian church has lost out on the full, rich diversity and spiritual gifts of countless Christians over the past forty-five years or more. It is sad that church doesn’t share the gospel anymore. We’re challenged because so many gay and transgender people believe they can’t have a relationship with God. The community has been told that God hates them, wants nothing to do with them, that they’re an abomination and going to hell. The mainstream church is missing out on a tapestry of gifts and callings.
Isolation and loneliness became my way of living. I maintained celibacy but not because of a gifting of celibacy. I never spoke of my attractions—never. Not to anyone, ever. Survival demanded secrecy that I was attracted to men. I never took the risk of coming out. Then I asked The Lord to show me why He hadn’t healed or changed me. Many fail to recognize the loss to conservative churches of almost two generations of excellent pastors, leaders, and servants. We have a generation of young gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians growing up in our churches now. How shall we treat them?
14 – The Next Generation of Gay and Trans Christians; Nurturing Their Christian Growth Yes, the times have changed, and the secrecy and shame that have plagued gay youth for generations are lifting. Research on healthy gay and transgender youth has been going on for less than three decades. While the internet allows gay and transgender youth to search out reliable information on their own, now nationwide programs and organizations are available to support the coming-out process: The Trevor Project; the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN); PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays); and the Gay Christian Network (GCN). Unlike their predecessors, gay youth today are better able at an earlier age to understand their feelings and attractions. In recent years, two states, New Jersey and California, have made it illegal for a licensed therapist to try to change the sexual orientation of a minor. Though licensed therapists are banned by law from using reparative therapy with gay and trans youth, pastors, staff, and lay ministry leaders are not.
One piece of advice I would give to young Christians in conservative environments is to always be safe! Be careful about who you pick as a faith mentor. Never let anyone tell you that you aren’t welcome in church. But the cost of living a lie and not being honest with myself was to risk a life of destruction. I grew up thinking that my existence was shameful, even though I had the cleanest record in the book. I struggled with the thought that I was broken and had failed in my lifelong attempt to embrace the gender that society expected of me. Because I viewed God as an extension of the church that had trouble accepting me, I also felt that perhaps I was a disappointment even to God.
15 – Making the Christian Church Safe and Welcoming for LGBT Christians;
Those Who Advocate for Inclusion The landscape of the American Christian church is shifting because many of us have established relationships with gay and transgender friends and family members. Relationship changes things. When we love and respect a person, any issue related to him or her becomes more human and more personal. He cites the following stages churches go through along the journey from extremely unwelcoming to fully inclusive:
- Negativity or hostility,
- Deconstructing negative stereotypes about LGBT people,
- Creating safety,
- Learning and studying,
- Considering federal rights,
- Accepting, and affirming.
Of gay and trans people who are religiously affiliated, most identify with mainline Protestant faiths, and almost one-quarter of the LGBT population identifies as born-again Christians. Over the years, I’ve met thousands of LGBT Christians who, for countless reasons, have silently slipped out of churches or even left Christianity altogether. The most obvious impetus for the exodus is condemning messages constructed from faulty interpretations of those six passages of Scripture we examined in Chapter 9.
- Insensitivity to their journey with Jesus,
- Similarly, having their testimony dismissed,
- Inability to conform to the unreasonable expectation of orientation change,
- Stringent, inflexible views and the unwillingness to hear other views,
- The un-Christ-like witness of fellow believers,
- Extreme frustration,
- Loneliness, and isolation,
- Denial of opportunities to serve the body of Christ,
- Lack of resources,
- Lack of godly same-sex role models and an absence of allies and advocates.
- Potential for divisiveness,
It’s not possible to see the fullness of the image of God when we exclude the stories, witness, blessings, and gifts of a whole segment of His children. At what level are LGBT people able to participate and serve in your church? Will you encourage lifelong celibacy and discourage any same-sex relationships? Can LGBT Christians become members?
As Dallas Willard stated, “Understanding is the basis of care.” Without our willingness to understand, we will be misguided into thinking that we are showing love when in reality, we are not. When the issue becomes a person, as it did in my case and in the lives of many others, we are forced to revisit scriptures we were once “sure” about. The high value placed on certainty – more than anything, many evangelicals need to be right. They often state that the Bible is “abundantly clear,” even when it is not. The transformation for me came through getting to know LGBT people who love God. I pray that more people in the church have such an experience! Watching him struggle broke my heart. I realized that this was not an isolated case. Religion has been the culprit of wars and demonizing all that is not within its circles or its opinions. What makes these ordinary people extraordinary is that they kept walking forward, even in the discomfort; they walked forward until they got answers. Most lost friends; some lost their reputation, their job, or a position of leadership. But all gained characteristics of Jesus that now shine through their lives. Over the past few years, I’ve lost a lot more than I ever thought I could. But it’s not anything near what my LGBT friends have been through, and I am so grateful for their examples, for their grace and patience. God will find a way to reach the people that He loves, regardless of what the church is or isn’t doing. Being gay is not a choice and it is not a sin. Allies who personally promote equal rights can be among the most effective and powerful voices within a movement. As humans, we naturally recognize patterns. When someone from the majority steps out and advocates for the minority, it disrupts the existing pattern, and we notice. Above all, conversations need to be motivated, guided, and empowered by our unity in Christ. Define your terms and listen to the other person to make sure you understand what his or her main concerns are.
. . . walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Repairers of the Breach; Final Thoughts. I’ve begun to realize that my passion for justice is rooted in the deep pain those church leaders of my youth inflicted on my family and me. Eventually, with my encouragement, my mother even returned to her faith at the age of seventy-four, but my brothers have not done so. They walked away from the church and from God altogether. Too much damage had been done to our family, simply because a few Bible passages were thought to be God’s final word sentencing divorced people to damnation.
I asked God earnestly, almost in disbelief, “Is that true? God, do You really not love my gay friends just because they are gay? How could You be like that?” I recognized the clear movement of the Holy Spirit among a beautiful and diverse group of people whom the conservative church had excluded from its fellowship.”