Thursday, July 05, 2007


Much has already been said by others about the Ex-Gay Survivors Conference. I may have a few more thoughts to add to that volume later, but at the moment I'm more focused on what was, for me, the most important part of the weekend: connecting with people. In addition to meeting up with fellow bloggers like Christine, Eric, Peterson and the incomparable Misty Irons, I got to spend time with online friends from GCN and Ex-Gay Watch, as well as a few new acquaintances. The weekend wasn't long enough to spend time with everyone I wanted to talk to, but it was well worth the trip all the same.

The biggest surprise of the weekend, however, was running into two guys I'd known in college. Back in those days I was deep enough in denial to be oblivious to the notion that other gay students might attend a Christian college in any significant number. The only real inkling I'd had came from an anonymous confessional printed in the school newspaper one year, which suggested that the anonymous writer knew of others on campus like himself. I still assumed it was a fairly small number, and certainly wouldn't have done anything to even hint that I might be one of them.

Since then, I've talked to enough gay alumni of Christian colleges to realize that gay (or same-sex attracted, if you prefer) students are not only present (however secretly) in such settings, but may well be represented at Christian schools in numbers larger than in the general population. Whether because of the draw that ministry has for many of us or because we hoped that immersing ourselves in a Christian environment would "fix" us, or both, the potentially hostile environment of a conservative Christian community did not deter us from attending.

Whether or not administrators at these schools are fully aware of just how many gay/SSA students they have under their auspices at any given time, it's not a fact that one will ever hear them acknowledge publicly. And it's not as though anyone could take a census of Christian college students and come up with anything resembling an accurate count; I certainly wouldn't have admitted it at the time, even anonymously.

Yet we are there, and always have been. Many of us end up walking away from our evangelical roots, if we don't leave the church altogether. Some stay permanently in denial, some commit themselves to the ex-gay path, some choose celibacy, and some find a partner and enter the so-called "lifestyle." Even among those who marry an opposite-sex spouse, extremely few ever actually change their orientation, despite the fondest wishes of those well-meaning administrators who force many to attend reparative therapy sessions as a condition of their enrollment.

Side A, B, X or otherwise, the day is coming when the evangelical church will have to face the fact that there are more of us than it ever imagined; that we are their children, siblings, friends, colleagues and ministry partners; and that any constructive solution to that "problem" will necessarily involve acknowledging that we're always going to be here, that we're not evil and out to destroy the church, and that we can no more go away by morphing into heterosexuals than we can by vanishing into nonexistence.

The church can continue to issue ultimatums and show the door to many of its most talented and enthusiastic members, but by doing so it reveals a heart that's selective in its compassion and conditional in its love. "Love the sinner, hate the sin" might become more than empty, self-deceptive rhetoric if more than a small handful of Christians ever came to understand what it truly means. As long as the church continues to place a higher value on on doctrine and ideology than on people, however, that's not likely to happen.

There is no easy solution to this issue - and maybe there never will be a definitive resolution. Perhaps we're not even meant to find such resolution in this lifetime. But we can still pray that one day the church will move past its desire for easy, black-and-white answers and rediscover the example of Christ, who took every burden upon himself without expecting anything in return. Then, and only then, can the healing begin.


KJ said...

It still surprises me to bump into people from my Christian school and college days and learn of their parallel journeys. What if we had known of the other "back in the day"? Would it have made a difference to know that we were not the only gay Christian on the planet? Will those that follow be not as naive?

Who knows? But I have certainly been blessed to make the connections, apparently when those connections needed to be made.

JJ said...

I remember hearing a talk by Tony Campolo in which he said something to the effect of how his research showed that there are a higher percentage of gay people in the church than in the general population, and he attributed this to the 'hope' (he doesn't believe that gay people can be 'healed or anything) that churches offer.

It's an interesting thought, anyway