1) There is no such kind of person as “a homosexual”.
An English dictionary is not a great source for a degree in psychology or theology, and the noun definition of “homosexual” blurs the line between people who engage in erotic activities with other members of the same sex and people who experience erotic attractions to members of the same sex. There is huge overlap between these two groups, but churches have traditionally only been able to address the first, and ignore the second. I’ve limited this discussion to the second group: men who have attractions to members of the same sex which have been eroticized. It turns out God did not create such people, He created us male and female, both with erotic attractions oriented towards the “other than self”; instead there are people who’s erotic attractions feel like they are oriented towards members of the same sex because their same-sex attractions (not erotic attractions) have been eroticized.
So what do I mean by “eroticized”? Culture calls it “gay”, but that’s a socio-political label many people chose not to accept. Lots of other folks just use the term same-sex attraction “SSA”, but I found that’s not precise enough for what’s really going on. Merely using the term “same-sex”, from the dictionary definition can actually relate to very healthy desires: our desire to spend time with other men – do things with other men, play football, go fishing, communal showers in the locker room, arm wrestling, or any other activity that men enjoy doing together, and that women typically don’t do with men. In addition, even the perception that another man is “handsome”, “striking”, “fit”, etc.. Is an attraction to his masculine attributes which is not unhealthy, in fact it could be inspiring. Hopefully, each of us men had a father to whom we looked exactly this way.
Eroticized same-sex attractions are an emotional perception that another member of the same sex is “hot”, or “sexy”. This is different from lust, which is actively fantasizing about having erotic relations with the other person. No amount of “bouncing his eyes”, or “white knuckling” will reduce the feeling that other men are “hot”, because it is not one desire, but two which need to be separated. There are other ways in which a man may become erotically or romantically attracted to another men, that particular one was what we call “pre-gender-identity disorder,” or “pre-Oedipal disorder”, there are several life emotional dynamics which eroticize same sex attractions, you can learn more about them later, the key is to realize there is no such thing as a single “homosexual desire”, and there is no healthy path into eroticizing same-sex attractions: they are always the result of unmet love needs and/or deep emotional wounds. And once they have been eroticized, there is no path out alone: it always involves someone else working love into our lives. I believe this is why “ever-straight” Christians need to learn about this issue so much: because straight Christians of the same sex as your brother or sister with eroticized same-sex attractions have the most to offer for healing.
The percentages of self-identified “gay”s who experienced sexual abuse seem to be shrinking. Currently, around 1/3rd report sexual abuse. Many will not admit to sexual abuse, ashamed they enjoyed it, not realizing the Bible has several examples of men whose bodies were fully-erotically-functional in their sleep. Others will not report it because they have not identified it as abuse. For others, it’s an issue they do not wish to discuss with everyone. Please do not expect or insinuate abuse in someone’s past. If it happened, and they want to talk about it, they’ll bring it up.
2) Erotic homosexual acts are prohibited by both the Old Testament and the New, for all national origins.
In a misguided attempt to “love”, many “gay friendly” churches have tried to remove or “grace away” what the Bible has to say about erotic same-sex activities. But despite their best attempts, there is simply no valid Biblical hermeneutic to argue that erotic same-sex activities will be beneficial or healthy for anyone ever. Robert Gagnon describes from the most liberal possible perspective of scripture that homosexual activities are not commanded or permitted in his book The Bible and Homosexual Practice.
There’s a double-edged sword here, so be careful. One the one hand, you don’t want to encourage them to engage in erotic same-sex activities by misstating Biblical truth, but on the other hand, if you aren’t accepting of them as a son or daughter of God, they won’t get their love needs met in a non-erotic way.
It’s pretty clear the certain passages in Leviticus and Corinthians indicate that same-sex erotic activities are a sin, and a pretty big one at that. Some argue that in Christ the law has been removed, but we need to be mindful that while the punishment has been suspended, the things prohibited by God’s law are still unhealthily for us in the long run. When we break God’s law, there are blessings He cannot give us. God has planned ahead good works for us to do, and the wedding dress the Church (bride) wears on judgement (wedding) day is made of these deeds. When we sin, God’s grace rescues us, but what? “should we continue sinning that grace may abound? May it never be!”
So my recommendation is if they’ve ever heard that you don’t believe erotic same-sex activities are ‘ok’, they’re going to remember. This isn’t like forgetting someone’e favorite ice-cream flavor; this is one of the major ways they define themselves. Repeatedly telling them what you believe is “right” and “wrong” won’t meet their unmet love needs or heal their emotional wounds. Because their very concept of “self” has been hurt, they believe “a gay” is what they are, so even phrases like “hate the sin, love the sinner” don’t convey a message that will help them at this point.
The key here is really to just love, and keep loving and keep loving. Do they have a live-in “partner”? Love him / her too; remember, they also have unmet love needs and emotional wounds.
3) As straight Christians, you have the most to offer to men and women with eroticized same-sex attractions to help 1) heal their emotional wounds, and 2) meet their needs for love.
Psychologists have identified 4 relationships that men who want to “change” can have, and how they can help:
- relationships with other members of the “gay community”
- others with eroticized same sex attractions who have chosen not to pursue the gay lifestyle
- same sex peers who have not experienced eroticized same sex attractions (i.e. “ever-straight”) who do not know about an individual’s eSSA, and
- ever-straight same-sex peers who do know about an individuals’ SSA.
They increase from least helpful to most helpful in that order. There are very few cities in the US where Christians with SSA can get the kind of vibrant support groups to help meet their needs and heal their emotional wounds.
It’s way too easy to dismiss someone’s subconscious wounds as “childish” because the needs we have are typically met in childhood. It’s important to realize the reason God designs these needs to be met in childhood is not because they are less important or silly in some way, but because they are more foundational. I’ve even heard well-meaning leaders in Christian ex gay ministries say “we don’t advocate these these kinds of therapies because this isn’t how adults relate to each other.” But when our troubles come from unmet love needs, telling people that they must remain deprived of love is not going to heal them: it’s drives them out of the church.
We need to learn how to empathize, not sympathize, with these men & women, and the easy way to do that, besides going back in time to live their life with them, is to watch reenactments of stories like theirs. Many times, it takes months or years for men and women with SSA to trust us enough to open up about the real source of their pain, if they even realize what it is. That’s the entire reason the Recently Straight project was started: to make an easy on-ramp to forming empathy for these men as a basis for helping the men form support groups to they can get their unmet love needs met and to heal their deep emotional traumas. In doing so, we’re discipling the Church to fulfill Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are the broken hearted, for they will be comforted.” – Jesus