Everyone loves a good story. James, a 20-year-old college student, has been fed stories all his life, but there has been one narrative that's been vexing him for quite a while. He's worked hard to achieve the glory of this narrative that promised him so much. It promised him a normal life, friends, family, and above all, love and acceptance.
Five years later and James is working a good job and has found the love of his life. James is in a relationship with Bryan, a 26-year-old graduate student. James did everything in his power to achieve the straight narrative. He prayed for healing, he sought out Christian counseling and therapy, he pushed back all his male friends—gay or straight—and he even dated a few girls. None of this worked out for James. No matter how hard or how long he prayed, no matter how much money he spent on counseling or therapy, no matter how much time he spent with his girlfriend and less time with his male friends, the straight narrative never became a reality.
James is not alone. There are Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction (SSA) who are always being fed the straight narrative, the LGBTQ narrative, the celibacy narrative, etc. These Christians travel down a hellish road called the theology of glory. They hear that they can fix themselves if they pray hard enough for healing; they are promised the status of straightness if they attended this ministry or see this therapist. They are promised the love of their life and great sex if they accept narrative X, Y, and Z. How could we have gone so far off course in helping Christians who are struggling with SSA? We have led them down the road to despair.
My name is Dakota, and I, like so many others, struggle with SSA. I am a confessional Lutheran, and I am committed to celibacy. However, I am not writing to feed you the celibacy narrative, because celibacy is not THE answer. Granted singleness does have its perks. You have more time to pursue vocations. You have time to volunteer, study, write, hang out with friends, and serve your neighbor. But be warned, celibacy, if made the object of your hopes, comfort, and faith will fail you and lead you down the path of hopelessness. It will point you elsewhere other than to remember your baptism.
Lutheran parents, pastors, friends, political activists, and counselors would all benefit our churches if they would feed their fellow Christians who are struggling with SSA the Gospel narrative, that is, the theology of the Cross. We must remember that heterosexuality is not THE answer. Marriage is not THE answer. Counseling or therapy is not THE answer. Celibacy is not THE answer. Instead we must remember that JESUS is THE answer.
When we make something other than Jesus the object of our hopes, comfort, and trust, we are doomed to fall into despair and disillusionment. However, when we look to our baptism, which reminds us of all of God's promises to us fulfilled in Christ, we are compelled to look to Jesus. Our baptism reminds us of the Gospel. It is the promise that announces to us that God has marked us with His most holy triune name. People like me need to hear and keep on hearing God's Word of Gospel. Heck, we all do. We need to focus on Jesus and, when we do, good works will follow—not the other way around. When we focus on our good works, it will lead us away from Jesus and His Gospel. It will take us further into despair.
If you are a pastor, I would encourage you first to read good books on this issue. I also encourage pastors to listen more to those who share their SSA struggles with you. Pastors, please don't jump to heterosexual marriage the first chance you get; instead allow your struggling Christian to bring that topic up. Parents, your son and daughter might be terrified at the idea of revealing his or her struggle with SSA. So, I ask you to cultivate a family environment that focuses on Jesus and forgiveness and not on politics. I also encourage you to have your child meet with their pastor first before you ever consider a counselor or therapist. If a good Lutheran pastor cannot be consulted, then contact the LCMS or Higher Things.
For friends of Christians struggling with SSA, I would encourage you not to treat them any differently than you did before they revealed their struggle. I would encourage you to be mindful of how and when you use "homo", "fag", "gay" and other slang terms relating to homosexuality. It might be all in good fun, but Christians struggling with SSA may receive this differently than you intended.
Above all, constantly speak the Gospel narrative. Remind your sheep, your son or daughter, or your friend, of their baptism into Christ—direct them to Jesus. It is perfectly okay to have disciplines like filters or content blockers on your computer, accountability from friends or a pastor, to seek out regular help, to make appointments for private confession and absolution, and even to commit oneself to celibacy. However, it is never okay to make these disciplines the object of your trust, hope, and comfort.
Instead, take comfort in this: No matter with what you struggle with, dear Christian, Jesus is always there to forgive, to welcome you to His table, and to remind you of your baptism. He will never ever cast you off because you struggle with same sex attraction. So find your rest in the Gospel.
Dakota Monday attends Grace Lutheran in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Created: May 13th, 2016