I probably don’t need to give a play-by-play transcript of the conversation I had with the pastor of counseling and his wife; I would most likely portray them less graciously than they deserve. It seems to be the case with these kinds of encounters that it is far easier to recount the perceived failures of the other. So pardon my vague summaries.
My mom had asked me if I would be willing to sit down with them so we could work through some of our disagreements about sexuality and holiness without placing unnecessary strain on our relationship. To my mom’s credit, she had no idea how intense the conversation was going to get.
Basically, the counselors’ position was that I was choosing to be gay, choosing to remain in sin, by not attempting to change my orientation through biblical counseling. Honestly, their conclusions are logical given certain foundational beliefs. They make no moral distinction between being attracted to the same sex and engaging in gay romance/sex. Thus, all of those sin lists in the New Testament condemn any person who experiences same-sex attractions. The counselors understand all sin as coming from the willful desires of the heart, and my attraction to men is no different. That means homosexuality must be a choice, according to the Bible.
When the words, “You chose to be attracted to men!” flew into the heated air, I lost any hope for the meeting. I appealed to the plethora of psychological studies, many of which were conducted by conservative Evangelicals, but the moment I did hands hit open Bibles and I was told, “The Bible tells us everything we need to know.” Neuroscience didn’t get me any farther. It was my first Bible-thumping experience, which was exciting.
 As a side note, I felt like I needed to make it clear that I do believe that I have chosen to do things that have contributed to the strength of my homosexual desires. I simply cannot locate all causality in a biological fixedness free of human agency. So, in a way, I don’t entirely disagree with them, although we diverge at a very crucial juncture.
Two hours of disagreement later, all that had been accomplished was convincing them that I had succumbed to a great and sinful lie and was rejecting the true healing power of the Gospel, and convincing me that clinging to a rhetoric of “choosing to be gay” is going to do more damage to the church than I had previously thought.
We realized we had no reason to continue the conversation, made some more small talk, hugged, shook hands, and parted.
Here’s the thing: I’m not interested in making this a me vs. them encounter. There has to be a way to hold such diametrically opposed notions of truth while still affirming the common bond of Christ between us. More than anything, this is what I am trying to learn from the experience. I drove home annoyed, frustrated, hurt, and more determined than ever not to become bitter. We are a family. We are united together by the saving work of Jesus, and that is where I have to begin and end as I process everything.
This is not a war. This is not about “factions” or “teams” or “winning.” I think it was easier for me to feel that way about the topic before I encountered men and women that I respect who strongly believe things that I find repulsive. However much I want to be horribly offended by what went down, there’s really no point. I want to be, don’t get me wrong, but to nurse the feeling of being mistreated would require me to look past what I know to be true about the nature of the Church, the necessity of forgiveness, and the intentions of the counselors. I found their words offensive, yes, but that doesn’t mean I have to stay offended; such a disposition is rooted in pride and will merely hinder the process of growth and reconciliation.
This isn’t the same thing as rolling over and acquiescing. I firmly let them know that I thought their words were only going to harm the witness of the Gospel. But this is a distinctly “in-family” conversation, and it is imperative we remember that. If we expect the world to be willing to have civil discussions with us about homosexuality, if we want to be respected even in our disagreements, then we must examine ourselves first.
I don’t want to go through anything like that again; it stings with the force of a sharp, iron barb being shoved through my core. But I might, and I need to be prepared to respond to each person in love and humility, no exceptions.
Thanks for the prayers and encouraging words! I’m doing really, really well by the grace of God. I won’t be home for more than a week during the next nine months, so I’m turning my focus toward other interests that make me come alive.
My contribution to this blog will probably become a bit more sporadic, though I’ll shoot for writing something once a week. But once I land in Africa I’m not sure what will be possible. This was a blessed summer. My time spent in the local church, though not always easy, has only served to increase my love of God and commitment to serving the church in general. What more could I ask for?
And please forgive the typos, I wrote this on a iPad. I have the finger dexterity of a sloth wearing mittens.