I am furious.
As he posted on our Twitter account, my brother Jordan was told by a counseling pastor to his face (and to his mother) that he chose to be gay and that he might not be saved. Are you kidding me? Are you serious? For starters, if you knew Jordan in person, you would know that questioning his salvation is just foolish; he gives ample evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. It is clear that he is saved.
I have difficulty taking seriously individuals that hold to beliefs like this. I question their theology, and I even question their intellectual capabilities. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that these individuals have been taught a heavy anti-psychology bias. Every mental issue becomes spiritualized. Feel depressed? You must not be seeking the joy of the Lord. Anxious? You clearly aren’t casting your fears unto the Lord. Paranoid? You must not trust God.
To assume that people have “willful” control of every emotion they experience, of every impulse they feel, of every thought that crosses their mind is flat out heresy.
It’s heresy because it denies that our conscious experiences —- our thoughts and emotions —- do not have biological components. It denies that we have bodies, that we are physical beings. Everything that we do involves neurons firing in our brain. If I activated certain neurons in an individual’s brain, I could make them feel certain emotions, even make them move certain body parts. If you drink a bunch of alcohol, you will exhibit certain behaviors, regardless if you want to or not. If I give you a sedative, you will feel more relaxed and act more subdued. If I kept you awake for several days, you would be unable to sustain attention.
The reality is that all of our brains have been wired in particular ways. They’ve developed that way due to the genetic code that we have inherited, the chemicals exposed to that genetic code, and even how our cultural environment has interacted with us. Some people’s brains become wired in ways that make it easier for them to exhibit acceptable behaviors. Others don’t. Would we expect people who are mentally challenged to be able to grasp complicated concepts? No. Would we expect a child on the autism spectrum to always act socially appropriate? No. Would we expect someone who has no brain area for producing speech to suddenly talk? No.
So then, tell me, why do some churches/Christians expect some people who are consistently depressed, or have a high level of anxiety, or who experience same-sex attraction to suddenly have volitional control over these areas?
Some of you, same-sex attracted or not, have been spiritually abused and manipulated when it comes to whatever mental calamity or deficiency that your suffer from. You’ve been told that you’re not trusting God enough, not turning to Him, that you simply need to pray more for whatever you’re experiencing to go away.
Sometimes our struggles are the result of our failure to turn to God. But sometimes, no matter how many times we pray, our brain cells are going to stay that way and things aren’t going to change. And this isn’t because you’re doing something wrong; it’s because you live in a world that has gone wrong.
I’m not trying to be a pessimist. I’m not trying to say there isn’t relief for people who suffer from mental anguish. But to assume that people are only experiencing brokenness because they haven’t prayed in the “proper” way is dangerously tinted with shades of a triumphalism that does not do justice to the confusing depth of human suffering. To assume that every conscious experience of ours is spiritual (or within our control) is naïve, it’s bad theology, and to be blunt, it’s stupid.
When it comes to being gay, we have a part of our brain that is devoted to sexual arousal (the hypothalamic region). If I’m correct, all mammals have sexual arousal response systems in this part of the brain. In humans, it is a less “advanced” part of our brain, meaning we have less control over it. It isn’t part of our outer cortex. So it should not be hard to believe or come as a surprise, that there are males who have wiring that causes them to be sexually aroused by other males and that there are females who have wiring that causes them to be aroused by other females. Biologically, this could easily develop. There is sexual arousal in other parts of the brain too that is more plastic (changeable), and maybe this is why some people’s homosexuality is more malleable and flexible.
My point is that believing that people could be attracted to the same-sex isn’t a complicated concept. It’s not rocket science. Forgive me, I know I’m coming across as arrogant, but I’m so frustrated that there are people who refuse to believe this, especially those in some churches. It just makes Christians look dumb.
Now practically, no matter what we face in our lives, we are still called to turn to God — to trust that He is control of our lives, to trust that our God is bigger than anything we face, to trust that He can still use us despite any mental deficiency that we may face. And believe it or not, focusing on God’s love for an individual could help rewire a depressed person’s brain (thoughts have power to change connections and chemicals released). And focusing on how God is in control of our lives, could relieve some anxiety. But it may not bring complete relief. Some people’s brains are fairly hardwired, especially in regions that are less influenced by thought. They may always have a level of anxiety or perhaps a level of depression or perhaps a reduced ability to control their emotions.
But even with whatever affliction we face in our lives — whether it’s in our brains or pain in our joints or nausea in our stomachs — God is still God over our lives. He still loves us. He still uses us. And He will still set everything right someday.
I just wish that some Christians and some churches would stop denying the influence of our biology over our feelings, emotions, thoughts, and yes, even sexual attractions.