One thing I’ve observed through my involvement with ex-gay groups is a very subtle, but very real, feeling of pride among participants – a pride that says “we know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and so we pity those who are too foolish and/or rebellious to defer to what we know.”
It’s not a conscious sentiment, to be sure; most of the ex-gays I know would be the first to acknowledge that they’re not in any way superior to anyone else, gay or otherwise. But it’s there all the same, in that knowing laugh that runs through the audience when a speaker skewers a pro-gay argument, or in the edge that slips into the tone of their voice as they talk about an openly gay friend.
To be fair, I’ve heard that same tone when gays talk about ex-gays. And to be completely fair, when I take a moment to pause I can detect it weaving its way into my own thoughts as I sit here pointing out everybody else’s pride.
Pride is ubiquitous. It subtly permeates our entire worldview, whispering into our ears that we can know everything there is to know about God and His ways, or at least the important parts. It leads us to believe that, if we just study enough systematic theology, we’ll be able to predict how God will act in any given situation and thereby control Him (though we would never consciously admit the latter).
Just in case there’s anybody out there screaming “relativism!” by this point, I’ll take a moment to clarify that I do believe in absolute truth. What I don’t believe is the notion that we understand that truth as fully as we claim to. The Bible itself tells us more than once that we only know part of the story.
And yet we have no problem proclaiming a broad absolute based on several verses whose meanings are considerably less straightforward than they appear in our English translations. The conservative side can fall back on the design argument as proof that what we call the “clobber passages” must mean what we have traditionally assumed them to mean, but it’s questionable whether the design argument would have ever been applied to this debate in the first place if it weren’t for our interpretations of the “clobber passages.” And so we find ourselves trapped in a circle that perpetually feeds upon itself.
That having been said, I still acknowledge that conservative Christians could be right, at least to the extent of saying that God may, in fact, disapprove of all same-sex unions. But even if that is the case, a little more humility wouldn’t hurt us at all. Or do we really think that sexual sin is somehow worse than pride? It was pride that brought about Lucifer’s downfall. Pride damages and hinders every one of our relationships and distorts our thinking in more ways than we can ever uncover.
And the fact is that we don’t know as much as we think we know. If everything was really as simple and clear-cut as we try to make it, would the Church be continually splintering over an endless array of theological disputes?
It all comes back to pride.