Monday, January 30, 2006


And now, the exciting, action-packed conclusion...

What I found, instead, was even more questions. God was still there and just as present as ever, but rather than provide me with any resolution he simply prodded me to keep pressing further. In the process he began bringing people into my life to walk alongside me and help me work through that seemingly endless list of questions. I met several of those friends through the ministry I was involved with throughout this time, and they've continued to support me as I've begun to reach conclusions that I once would have considered unthinkable.

Even the ministry's leaders, though they disagree with some of my conclusions, are willing to remain my friends despite our differences of opinion. They would even agree with many of my criticisms of Exodus and its political allies. As I've said before, they're not your typical Exodus-affiliated group.

At first I stayed close to home, as it were, reading through a stack of ex-gay books and articles. This time around, however, I was unable to shut my eyes to the stereotypes, the bad psychology and the shallow theology that the authors invariably built their cases around. Once I did begin to explore outside the bubble I'd spent so many years inside, I was surprised to find people of sincere faith who disagreed with the things I'd assumed to be true (and was now questioning), individuals who couldn't be easily dismissed by painting them with the "liberal" label.

From there I turned to theologians that conservatives hailed as the best and the brightest on the issue. Instead of better answers, however, I discovered that their entire case rested on questionable assumptions, circular reasoning and faulty sociological data, and I ultimately came away from their books with an even longer list of questions, as well as the suspicion that I could make their world a happier place by putting a bullet in my head. I was still skeptical of some of the claims made by the pro-gay theologians I read, but they did have some very good points that nobody on the other side seemed interested in honestly addressing.

Even so, a part of me continued to insist that the conclusions I was gradually coming to couldn't possibly be valid. Every step of the way I would stop, dig in my heels and ask God to rein me back in. He never did, but instead continued to confirm in a thousand different ways that I was still on track. And so, inch by inch, never pushing or prodding, God gently led me away from the church's traditional stance on the issue of homosexuality. The results of that process have been chronicled here on my blog over the last several months.

I still struggle with that little voice, which continues to inform me that God is just letting me run wild so that I'll fall flat on my face and he can drag me back into ex-gaydom once and for all. And I haven't completely ruled out that possibility. Having doubts is part of being human, and I can choose to trust in God despite them. Rather than simply bury my fears (can I really be certain where they're coming from?), I use them as opportunities to turn to God one more time to make sure that I'm still on track. As much as I've gained through this process of self-acceptance and truth seeking, I don't want to become so rigid in my beliefs that I become unable to hear his voice.

I have little doubt that an Exodus booster could come up with a reply detailing what I did wrong and a list of ways in which I've "turned against God." And if there really were "hundreds of thousands" (or even a tenth of that number) of once-gay individuals who had achieved the change that Exodus advertises, I'd be inclined to consider the possibility. But there aren't very many people at all who have become heterosexual (or even bisexual) through ex-gay programs or reparative therapy, and at the same time there are more than a few gay Christians whose lives point to the work of the Holy Spirit inside of them, despite their "lifestyle choice."

So while I do still have a few reservations in the back of my mind, the time has come for me to put the conclusions I've been reaching to the test. Not through promiscuity (as most Christians would automatically assume) or anything of the sort, but simply through engaging in community with people that I once would have considered 'untouchables,' and through allowing myself to experience these emotions that I'm finally beginning to access for the first time. Emotions do need to be reined in and kept in proper perspective, to be sure, but they are at the same time a major component of what makes us human, and I'm done with trying to pretend that mine don't exist or that I can wish them out of existence.

As for the specifics of the questions I've asked over that time, they're scattered throughout my blog here (both in past posts and in ones still rattling around in the back of my head). Feel free to disagree with any conclusions that I reach; I am, after all, as finite and fallible as the next person. For my part, it's enough to know that I'm finally engaged in the journey that God had planned for me all along.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Eric at Two World Collision has been reflecting recently on his journey, and on the things God has been showing him as he's gone through the process of reconciling his faith with his sexual orientation. Reading his story has, in turn, caused me to spend time reflecting on the path God has led me down over the last year and a half.

It's been less than two years since I walked through the doors of a local ministry (I refuse to label them as "ex-gay" because A) they'd never use that label for themselves and B) they're far more than that. They do maintain a somewhat-strained relationship with Exodus, but they don't deserve to be lumped in with all of the negative baggage that's become associated with that organization). At that point in time I was stuck - I was confused, lonely, hurting and more than a little disillusioned that I'd failed to achieve "change" despite the programs I'd gone through and all the "right" things that I had done toward that end, and I had no idea what to do next.

Entering this new environment (where I wasn't being given some structured, multi-step program) enabled me to begin examining what was going on inside, and I quickly encountered a huge well of pain that I'd managed to keep buried for a very long time. At the center of that pain was hurt and anger over a friend that God had brought into my life at a crucial time, and just as quickly taken away from me again. At the time I wouldn't have acknowledged how deeply I'd fallen in love with him, even if I'd been able to put that label on it (since being gay, of course, was all about lust and sex, and none of my thoughts about him had been sexual), but when he moved away and got married it ripped my world in two - a fact that I buried so that it wouldn't interfere with my ability to celebrate with him and his new wife (who I also liked very much). And then I left it buried, where it quietly grew and began to hamper my ability to connect with people.

By the time I allowed all of that pain to surface it took the better part of a week to let all of it out, first grief and then rage, but I did eventually reach the end of it. At that point the healing began. For the next several months I engaged in a back-and-forth dialogue with God, bringing him my wounds and grievances one by one. He never answered my many questions directly; instead, time and time again his reply was simply "I love you." On occasion he'd also remind me to trust him, but otherwise I never got more than that one, simple answer that I so desperately needed to hear.

Through that process I was gradually able to trust God on deeper and deeper levels, until the day I was finally ready to tell him, "no matter what happens, no matter how much it hurts, even if I'm stuck being this way for the rest of my life, I'm going to trust you with all of this."

It wasn't long afterward that the questions started. As I began to understand that I really did have value and that God loved me exactly the way I was, I could no longer ignore the incongruity between what God was showing me and what I'd been taught my entire life. I refused to assume that I was free to do whatever happened to feel good, but I nonetheless began asking a lot of hard questions, expecting nothing more than to come to a better understanding of why all homosexual relationships were wrong and why God nonetheless chose not to change individuals so that they'd be capable of honoring him through heterosexual marriage.

What I found, instead, was even more questions. But that's a story for another post; this is getting too long and taking too much time to write as it is.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


As promised, here’s a brief history of the modern interpretation of the Sodom story. To the best of our knowledge, the first time Sodom is linked to homosexuality is in several of the works known as the pseudepigrapha. The pseudepigrapha were all written by Jewish authors in the intertestamental period (approximately 300-50 B.C.), and were apparently well known in New Testament times.

The first known work to suggest that Sodom's sin was sexual in nature was the Book of Enoch, which associated Sodom with the Watchers (the angels who took on human form and sired children during the pre-Flood era, and were imprisoned for their sin). The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs picks up on this theme in Naphtali, who appeals to Enoch and mentions how the people of Sodom "changed the order of their nature" (again in association with the Watchers). At this point in time the focus was entirely on the Sodomites' apparent interest in having sex with angels.

While some authors in this time period began to pick up on this new interpretation of the Sodom story, other works (most notably the Book of Wisdom, which appears in some biblical canons) continued to focus on the themes of inhospitality and mistreatment of the poor that the prophets had emphasized. Then, sometime in the last century before Christ, the theme shifted again. The book of 2 Enoch explicitly links Sodom with the Roman practice of pederasty, and later copies of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs begin to imply a link between Sodom and homosexual behavior.

So what happened? Consider the times that these rabbis were writing in. The relatively Jew-friendly Persian empire had been overthrown by Alexander the Great, and his successors lost no time introducing Greek culture and philosophy into Palestine and the other former Persian provinces. Then, adding insult to injury, Antiochus Epiphanes came along and desecrated the temple (in fulfillment of Daniel's prophecies). At this point the Jews revolted, and under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus and his brothers succeeded in gaining their independence from the Greeks, only to be overrun by Rome a short time later.

So what would the Jews have thought of their oppressors? The Greeks were dirty pagans with religious practices scarcely better than the Canaanites that God had ordered the Israelites to exterminate in centuries past. Their entire culture was degenerate in the eyes of the Jews. To top it all off, not only did they engage in the same kinds of "sacred sex" rituals that were condemned in Leviticus, they tolerated some homosexual relationships outside of a religious context (something the Canaanites never did). And the Romans were no better. Not only did they adopt and promote the Greek culture they had recently absorbed, but they openly embraced the deplorable practice of pederasty (an adult man in a sexual relationship with a teenage or preteen boy).

Is it any wonder then that the religious leaders of the day, already hard pressed to hold back the attempted Hellenization of Jewish culture, would turn their attention to a practice that most of their followers would instinctively detest? What better way to strike back at Greco-Roman culture than by appropriating the Sodom story and giving it a new twist as a condemnation of the homosexual activity going on around them?

And so this interpretation of Sodom began to gradually supplant the traditional understanding of the story. Jesus was undoubtedly exposed to this viewpoint in his youth - which makes it all the more striking that he ignores it completely and brings the Sodom story back to its original meaning by using Sodom in his condemnation of the inhospitality and rejection of the truth his disciples encountered in some of the towns he sent them to.

Throughout his career Jesus was continually offending the various factions of the time: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes and the Zealots all had reasons to hate him. And so Jesus gives them one more reason by effectively dismissing the interpretation of Sodom promoted by the later pseudepigraphal authors (who were the direct predecessors of the Pharisees Jesus sparred with) and turning the story back around to condemn them. Them! The Pharisees were the champions of godliness who had fought for generations to preserve Judaism from the corrupting influences of Macedonia and Rome, and Jesus was comparing them to the wicked men of Sodom! No wonder they wanted him dead.

Yet even in New Testament times this new idea had not completely supplanted the older traditions. Jude (who is often appealed to as support for the idea that Sodom's sin was homosexuality) cites the book of Enoch several times, and refers to Sodom within the context of humans overstepping their boundaries where angels are concerned. Peter, in turn, echoes Jude's use of the Sodom story while speaking more generically about Sodom's immorality; neither writer picks up the homosexual slant that would have been favored by some of their contemporaries. The other New Testament authors are largely silent on the matter.

Although this is a very brief (and probably incomplete) overview of a subject that scholars have written hundreds of pages about, my hope is that it provides a solid starting point for those interested in understanding how the church came to adopt such a skewed understanding of the Sodom narrative.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sodom Revisited

Back when I first decided to take Exodus’ advice and “question homosexuality” (an action that quickly forced me to come to terms with the many half-truths and outright fabrications I’d accepted without question from Exodus and other Christian political groups over the course of my life), one of the realizations I came to fairly early on was how badly the Sodom story had been misinterpreted by the church. Even when I still accepted the premise that all gay relationships were unconditionally wrong, it became clear to me that the destruction of Sodom had little or nothing to do with homosexuality.

As such, it baffled me that many conservative theologians held so tenaciously to the belief that Sodom was destroyed for a sin that the Bible itself never connected to that narrative, and that they would go to any lengths necessary to ‘prove’ that the Bible did, in fact, make that connection. It seemed to defy reason that they would shift so much of their energy away from the arguments that they did have reasonable support for to defend territory that had never truly belonged to them in the first place.

I was pondering this again more recently, when it occurred to me that without the Sodom story, the Religious Right has no basis for its assertion that failure to adequately persecute homosexuals would lead to the downfall of society. Nothing else in the Bible can be construed to support the notion that God reserves his strongest abhorrence for homosexual behavior, or that calamity of any kind will follow the acceptance of gays and lesbians as human beings worthy of equal treatment.

The notion that earthquakes and other natural disasters are God’s punishment for acceptance of homosexuality does date back to Roman times (and was the primary impetus behind a multitude of anti-'Sodomy' laws), and as the response of some Christians to Hurricane Katrina and other recent calamities has demonstrated, that’s one superstition that has lingered on into the modern era. So where did the notion that Sodom was destroyed for being a gay city come from, since the biblical authors didn't seem to hold it? We can't be precisely certain, but there are enough clues out there to make an educated guess. Stay tuned...

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Paper Thin

Perhaps the greatest part about attending the GCN conference last weekend was getting to know some of the people I've been interacting with online over the last year or so. I'd interacted with many of them online, read their thoughts, seen their photos, laughed at their jokes, but it would have been a stretch to say that I really knew them just from that. Suddenly they were no longer just words and images on a computer screen - they were now large-as-life, flesh-and-blood, three-dimensional human beings, each of them far more unique and quirky and interesting and beautiful than any online profile could ever hope to convey.

No matter how much information you exchange, you can't really, truly know a person until you've met them face to face and allowed your life to intertwine with theirs.

I think this also goes a long way toward explaining just what's so dangerous about pornography. Pornography reduces human beings to two-dimensional images on a page (or monitor) that exist solely to titillate the viewer. They have no life of their own, no real personality, no soul - and it's very easy to begin viewing the people around us in those same lifeless, self-serving terms.

In fact, many sincere Christians have fallen into a similar trap. In their zeal to apply the Bible to their lives, they've focused on what they can extract from its passages to the exclusion of all else. We spend our days reading books, listening to sermons and 'studying to find ourselves approved,' and we reach all of our conclusions about life based on Greek word conjugations before we ever set foot out the door.

In doing so, we have reduced the world around us to two dimensions, as we filter everything in it through the lens of our preconceived conclusions. The people around us cease to be fully human as they fail to conform to the rigidly-defined categories that we try to squeeze them into; anything that doesn't fit we either ignore entirely or explain away as the work of the devil.

And thus we see the failure of the church when it comes to dealing with the issue of homosexuality. The actual lives and experiences of gay individuals are completely irrelevant, since we have already reached all of our conclusions about them based on word studies and cross-references. As with every other life situation, it becomes unnecessary to consider the effects that our doctrines actually have in real life, since our theologians have already determined them to be true. If our proclamations of 'truth' cause pain and drive people away from God, then they were just godless rebels to begin with and good riddance.

But are they really the ones at fault? What happens when you try to fit a three-dimensional object into a two-dimensional space? You smash it. You distort it. You crush the very life out of it. How much more, then, do we become bringers of death when we try to impose two-dimensional ethics onto the three-dimensional people around us? If we truly want to bring life to those around us, then we must be ready to make corrections to our theology based on how it plays out in the real world. Truth is ultimately apprehended through community, not through endless, isolated study.

I'm not saying it's easy to do. It requires risk and a painful dose of humility and an equally heavy dose of self-sacrifice. Is the church ready to stop shooting its own wounded and once again become a place of life and love?

Thursday, January 12, 2006


I keep editing this and editing this, and I still haven't decided whether I'm going to actually post it (though I guess if you're reading this you can guess what I decided). This is far and away the most personal thing I've ever written for public consumption, and it's really kind of pathetic when you come right down to it. The single thing that stands out the most in my mind from the GCN conference wasn't terribly spiritual, or even directly tied to the conference.

During the conference people would quite frequently split off into groups to do various things. On this particular day (as on the other days, I suppose) I was at lunch with several other GCNers. Right at the end of the meal I started talking to this one really cute guy, when suddenly he paused, looked directly at me and said, "You have the most beautiful eyes."

Fortunately I was already sitting down. I've had women - some of them quite attractive - pay me compliments before, but while I appreciated the gesture there was never anything even close to the electrical surge that shot through me at that moment. I managed to blurt out a moderately stunned "thank you," but aside from that my deer-in-headlights reaction was the last impression I gave him as our respective groups parted ways.

I didn't run into him again until late that evening, which gave me plenty of time to convince myself that he was just making a casual observation (he is younger than me, so he can undoubtedly do a lot better) - not that that stopped me from spending the rest of the day slightly out of focus as everything from our first date to our house in the suburbs to our stint on the Amazing Race flashed repeatedly before my eyes.

Such a silly, fleeting thing - and yet in that moment I understood things that had never fully made sense to me before. I understood, to a degree I never had before, why my straight friends could act like such idiots around a pretty girl, and why they'd drop off the face of the earth once they'd found one who liked them back.

I understood what would cause a husband (or wife) to get insanely jealous when somebody else tried to hit on their spouse. And I understood how someone could fall into the trap of promiscuity in a desperate attempt to regain that incredible feeling. Not that I'd even try to equate what I experienced in that moment with love (I know there's a lot more to love than a moment's excitement), but it couldn't be reduced to lust, either.

It also occurred to me, after the conference, that if I can get that worked up over one little comment, how incredibly powerful must God's feelings for us be. Or at least that was my best effort to make something spiritually profound come out of all those hours of preoccupation.

And all of this came at a time when I was feeling kind of numb inside - not apathetic or depressed, really, but it had been a long time since I had felt anything very strongly. In an instant I was reminded that I am still fully human and in possession of emotions both irrational and powerful enough to sweep me away without warning. I still haven't decided how much I actually like that notion.

I told you it was pathetic. Here I am in my late 30s, experiencing something for the first time that most people experience as teenagers. And here I am, broadcasting that fact to the world where anyone can read it.

Anyone got a large rock? I may need something to crawl under if he ever reads this...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend GCN's annual conference in Orlando. It was a great opportunity to meet people from the discussion boards and build on several friendships I'd made over the past year. Although the clouds didn't part and no dove descended from heaven accompanied by a booming voice, the conference did seem to reinforce the direction that I've been moving in over the last year or so.

On Saturday evening as I was reflecting on the day's sessions and asking God what he wanted to teach me through all of it, this verse came to mind:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

It's one of those verses that sounds great and that we sing songs about, but what does it really mean? I've heard more than one preacher proclaim that Paul is talking about our freedom to not sin. But I still sin all the time, and so does everyone else (whether or not they admit it). Ah, the preachers add, all you need to do to achieve the freedom that Christ gave us is observe these 631 rules that our denomination has determined encapsulate the relevant commands of the New Testament.

Wait a minute - more rules? That's not freedom, that's just the Law with a makeover and a new shade of lipstick. And the context of Galatians 5:1 makes it clear that it's the Law (by any other name) that Christ has freed us from.

Not that our freedom is a license to indulge in sin, but all the same we are no longer bound to worrying about how well we dot our i's and cross our t's. If we truly strive to love God, we can trust him to guide us as we seek to do what is pleasing to him.

As Augustine put it, "Love God and do as you please." Rather than worrying endlessly about whether Paul's passing references to certain exploitative forms of homosexual behavior should be expanded into a condemnation of all same-sex relationships, each person can be evaluated as an individual, based on the good or ill that flows out of their actions. As Jesus said, "by their fruit you will recognize them."

It's not as tidy as we might like (at least when it comes to keeping others in line), but then again, freedom never is.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


So I finally made it to the theater on Sunday to see Brokeback Mountain (after feeling like practically the last person in the known universe who hadn't seen it yet; even most of the guys at the Exodus-affiliated ministry I maintain ties with have seen it at least once. Of course that's just one small example of the extent to which they don't see eye to eye with Exodus on a variety of matters, but I digress).

As I'd heard, Brokeback was a beautiful, emotionally resonant movie. A bit slow in pace, but very well written and acted. I can see how people with a variety of viewpoints could come away from it feeling that the movie supports their personal conclusions for or against same-sex relationships. The movie itself does no editorializing, showing us the unvarnished lives of Jack and Ennis and the effects that their relationship has on the people around them.

If the movie directs the viewer to any specific conclusions, I would propose the following:

1. Same-sex attractions cannot be reduced to mere lust. Jack and Ennis may be fictional characters, but the relationship they shared accurately captured the very deep and very real feelings experienced by gay men and women every day, and that simple reality needs to be fully acknowledged no matter which side of the debate one chooses to take. There is nothing - absolutely nothing - positive to be gained from stamping down and refusing to acknowledge one's emotions.

2. Any homosexually oriented individual who is thinking about marrying an opposite-sex partner should think long and hard before doing so. Marriage is in no way a 'cure' for homosexuality and should never be entered for that purpose, much less for the sake of appeasing societal expectations.

Of course, even those simple conclusions are clearly the product of my own bias, so take them with as many grains of salt as needed.

In any case, this isn't the type of movie you can put out of your mind as you leave the theater, or at least it wasn't for me. It still weighs on me, if not as heavily as it did that first evening. The only times I shed tears during the movie were during Jack & Ennis' last argument, and as the closing credits rolled. But then, not too long after I got home, Bebo Norman's "Our Mystery" came up on my iTunes playlist, and suddenly the floodgates opened and I cried almost as hard as Ennis did after he and Jack parted ways that first summer.

Feels like a brand new day
And I know I'm not the same
Because I see you
And I need you
And I know I couldn't leave you if I tried
To walk away

Your love won't bring me down

I'm living a long, long life
And I will not let you go
It's taken a long, long time to get here
It could be a long, long night
But I will not let you go
Love will be our mystery

So let's leave this world behind
And see what we can find
'Cause I don't need it
Or believe it
And I know I couldn't keep it if I tried
'Cause you'd change my mind

Your love won't bring me down

Yeah. Anyway. I suppose there's nothing actually surprising or unusual about my reaction (and it did provide a good release), but all the same I sometimes wish emotions were a bit more, well, rational. One thing I liked about the ex-gay programs I've been a part of was the time we'd spend analyzing our feelings and breaking them down into their constituent atoms to help us understand why we are the way we are, what triggers us, etc.

Of course, you can only sustain that level of self-scrutiny for so long before you exhaust yourself; at some point you need to take whatever you've managed to learn and move on with your life, while you still have one to live.

For better or for worse, I'm ready to experience life again.