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The Big Question

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  • Kapitano
    Hello. I m not a victim of the exgay movement, but I know many people who are. I m trying to understand the mindsets involved when a person s sexuality and
    Message 1 of 6 , Sep 13, 2002
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      Hello.

      I'm not a victim of the exgay movement, but I
      know many people who are. I'm trying to
      understand the mindsets involved when a
      person's sexuality and their interpretation of
      their religion are in conflict.

      Specifically, I'm interested in why this conflict
      often *fails* to find a resolution. Why apparantly
      intelligent and sane people find they are trapped
      between a irrisistible force (their beliefs) and
      an immovable object (their sexuality).

      Here are some thoughts on the issue.

      -----
      Imagine a religion that is unable to deal with the
      fact that humans eat food. Or a belief system that
      can't handle the fact that people use language.
      Such a system would promote nothing but ignorance
      and misery. Likewise with a system of belief that
      cannot accomodate the facts of sexuality.

      Can christianity deal with homosexuality? If it
      can't, then christianity is a pile of bunk and
      should be thrown into the dustbin.

      Presumably everyone here believes that christianity
      *is* able to recognize that homosexuality exists,
      is an integral part of humanity, and isn't going to
      go away.

      If christianity *can* cope with homosexuality,
      then there is the question of why so many branches
      of it cannot.

      The Courage organisation (http://www.courage.org.uk/)
      is run by Jeremy Marks, who spent 15 years trying
      to turn gay people straight, before finally realising
      he hadn't had a single success.

      Now, Courage is "a UK-based Christian Ministry offering
      understanding and support for homosexual people who
      wish to follow the path of Christian discipleship". This
      sounds good, but there is more. The Courage website
      also says:

      "We believe the Bible acknowledges from the beginning
      the important human need for companionship and
      belonging, but teaches that sexual intercourse is the
      consummating act of marriage between a man and a woman.

      However, for those unable to marry due to their homosexual
      orientation, we recognise the same need for companionship
      and intimacy. In view of the biblical injunction for all
      Christian people to shun sexual immorality we seek to
      encourage the optimum moral standard for commitment and
      intimate expression between those who are homosexually
      -orientated."

      This is the standard way of fudging the issue of homosexuality,
      though Courage tries to avoid saying it directly. It effectively
      says, 'Only straight sex is good sex, gay sex is bad. You can
      have homosexual thoughts and desires, but don't act on them'.

      It's like telling someone, 'Only my language is communication,
      yours is false.You are free to think in your native language,
      but you must not speak it."

      There are other ways for christianity to fail. It can
      deny that homosexuality really exists - this bizzaire
      position exists in many third world christian churches.

      It can classify homosexuality as a voluntary sin -
      a choice made through either gross error or an
      inherantly evil nature. This might be dubbed 'The
      Falwell Solution'.

      Or it can take a pseudo-compassionate stance, and
      treat homosexuals as victims of a mysterious sickness.
      From this comes the Ex-Gay idea - a cure for the
      sickness.

      The trouble is that the sickness has no pathology
      (though a fictional one can be invented), the doctors
      harm the patients, and the drugs don't work. Ever.

      So, what forms of christianity *don't* squeeze their
      adherants between doctrinal imperatives and stubborn
      reality?

      Liberal Theology? Too vague. Queer Theology? Just
      another fudge. Biblical Revisionism? Misses the point.

      I don't have an answer. Which is unfortunate, and rather
      disturbing for me. I was hoping you did have an answer.
      One that actually works.
      -----


      -- Kapitano
    • Norman Birthmark
      Thanks for joining and posting your thoughts, Kapitano. It seems ... Why and how people get stuck between their beliefs and their sexuality is the core of
      Message 2 of 6 , Sep 14, 2002
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        Thanks for joining and posting your thoughts, Kapitano. It seems
        that you have a pretty good handle on the whole conflict:

        > Specifically, I'm interested in why this conflict
        > often *fails* to find a resolution. Why apparantly
        > intelligent and sane people find they are trapped
        > between a irrisistible force (their beliefs) and
        > an immovable object (their sexuality).

        Why and how people get stuck between their beliefs and their
        sexuality is the core of this conflict. Many people, for a time,
        try to live double-lives (angel during the day, devil after dark).
        Some try to modify or suppress their beliefs to accommodate their
        sexuality. Others try to modify or suppress their sexality to
        accommodate their beliefs.

        Personally, I found myself stuck in this position having been raised
        into fundamentalist-leaning Christian doctrine. I've always felt
        that my beliefs should take precedent over sexuality. That is why
        the "ex-gay" idea that my sexuality could be controlled and even
        changed was so appealing. Although I was an emotional mess at the
        time, I was sane and intelligent enough to recognize that there were
        cracks in the ex-gay message. The theology did make sense and
        the "cure" seemed ineffective.

        What prevented me from getting out of the ex-gay mess was mainly
        fear. Fear of being a bad Christian or even somehow losing my
        salvation ("buring in hell"). I also feared that if I were to
        accept my sexuality, I would become a stereotypical, sex-oriented
        gay man (the ex-gay ministry was effective in exploiting HIV/AIDS as
        a deterrent to the 'gay lifestyle').

        I eventually got out of being stuck between belief and sexuality by
        re-assessing both. I re-evaluated my beliefs between those ideas I
        actually believed and those that I was merely taught to believe. I
        also re-evaluated my thoughts of what it means to be gay.

        > So, what forms of christianity *don't* squeeze their
        > adherants between doctrinal imperatives and stubborn
        > reality?
        >
        > Liberal Theology? Too vague. Queer Theology? Just
        > another fudge. Biblical Revisionism? Misses the point.
        >
        > I don't have an answer. Which is unfortunate, and rather
        > disturbing for me. I was hoping you did have an answer.
        > One that actually works.

        Are you searching for a particular form of Christianity such as a
        specific church, denomination, or religious doctrine? Since you've
        dismissed liberal churches and Biblical revisionism (I'll let you
        define what you mean by that), it seems that you have a specific
        picture of what you are seeking.

        Personally, the answer for me was becoming empowered to face my
        fears and re-think Christianity and sexuality. I guess I'm what you
        would call a liberal Christian. I believe faith has more to do with
        what a person's sincerity and selflessness than necessarily
        upholding church doctrines. What is important is find a community
        that encourages people to explore their faith rather than being
        indoctrinated.

        I wish I had the answer you're looking for. Maybe others here can
        give you a more concrete answer.

        - Norm!
      • nyguy_1225
        I appreciated your thoughtful post, Kapitano. You wrestled with some good questions and shared some interesting observations. One of the things you alluded
        Message 3 of 6 , Sep 14, 2002
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          I appreciated your thoughtful post, Kapitano. You wrestled with
          some good questions and shared some interesting observations. One
          of the things you alluded to was Christianity being "a system of
          belief that cannot accommodate the facts of sexuality." While I can
          well understand where you're coming from, I'm not sure I'd agree
          that this is at all true of Christianity.

          In fact, the Bible can be particularly graphic when it comes to
          sex. For example, the Song of Solomon celebrates Solomon's favorite
          harem girl's "rounded vulva, like a bowl always full to the brim
          with sweet liquid." She, in turn, sings of "my lover thrusting his
          shaft into the hole of my guts seething for him." Ezekiel mentions
          she who "lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of
          donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses. The Bible can
          be quite steamy when it comes to sex and perhaps should come sealed
          inside plain brown wrappers with a sign that says: "WARNING! Adult
          material enclosed."

          While there are many who experience and teach Christianity as an
          endless series of dos and don'ts and a constant endeavor to earn
          brownie points with God, there are others, like myself, who
          understand it fundamentally in the knowledge that we are deeply
          loved by Jesus Christ and we have done nothing, nor could do
          anything, to earn that. It is grace. And some of us, also like
          myself, have a very high view of Scripture and take the Bible very
          seriously. So what the Bible has to say about things is of high
          importance to us and not to be simply passed away.

          But responsible students of the Bible also understand hermeneutics.
          Hermeneutics simply put is the science of interpreting the Bible.
          Interpreting the Bible is not a simple process of reading what has
          been written. The meaning of any piece of writing is seldom clearly
          self-evident to anyone who happens to read it. This is especially
          true if the writing, like the Bible, is a very old document, written
          for people who lived in a very different cultural-historic setting.
          If we want to properly interpret the Bible (or any old document for
          that matter), we must ask at least five questions: (1) Who was the
          writer and to whom was he writing? (2) What was the cultural-
          historical setting of the writer? (3) What was the meaning of the
          words in the writer's day? (4) What was the intended meaning of the
          author and why was he saying it? (5) What should this mean to me in
          my situation today?

          The conflict between one's faith and sexuality "fails to finds a
          resolution," as you so aptly phrased it, when one has a high view of
          Scripture but ignores these fundamental hermeneutical principles and
          portions of Scripture are then applied woodenly with no regard for
          the intent, spirit and/or context of the passage.

          The few passages of Scripture that address same-sex activity do not
          at all address homosexuality as we know it today, as a sexual
          orientation. Our own romantic sexual experience was not known in
          the ancient world of arranged marriages and socially constructed
          inequities between men and women. The fact that the violation of
          others is strongly condemned does not mean that all homosexual
          behavior warrants such censure any more than all heterosexuals are
          to be condemned for their sexual behavior by association with the
          sins of pedophilia, lust, rape, fornication or adultery. The few
          verses in Scripture that proscribe sexual union between men all seek
          to address sins of idolatry, rebellion, self-indulgence, abuse, or
          grossly irresponsible behavior. None refer to gay or straight
          people, who love their partners, are faithful to them and who shun
          sexual immorality, according to biblical definitions.

          Our moral task as Christians is to apply Jesus' love ethic to
          whatever sexual mores are prevalent in a given culture. We can
          challenge both straight and gay people to question their behaviors
          in the light of love and the requirements of fidelity, honesty,
          responsibility, and genuine concern for the best interests of the
          other and of society as a whole. Christian morality is not an iron
          chastity belt for repressing urges, but a way of expressing the
          integrity of our relationship with God. It is the attempt to
          discover a manner of living that is consistent with who God created
          us to be. For those who are gay, being moral means rejecting sexual
          mores that violate their own integrity and that of others, and
          attempting to discover what it would mean to live by the love ethic
          of Jesus. This is what authentic Christianity is about.
        • Kapitano
          ... Well, I m trying. I m ploughing through the exgay bible study course at http://www.settingcaptivesfree.com/door_hope/. It s quite possibly the biggest pile
          Message 4 of 6 , Sep 19, 2002
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            > Thanks for joining and posting your thoughts, Kapitano. It seems
            > that you have a pretty good handle on the whole conflict:

            Well, I'm trying. I'm ploughing through the exgay bible study
            course at http://www.settingcaptivesfree.com/door_hope/.
            It's quite possibly the biggest pile of horseshit I've ever
            read.

            Goes on (and on) about how salvation - and 'freedom
            from the homosexual lifestyle' - only comes to those who
            are 'broken', much as a horse is broken by a trainer.

            Very authoritarian. Reminiscent of the version of
            christianity promoted by naziism - submit to the state,
            lose your will, love the leader, suffering and sacrifice
            bring salvation, only the elite succeed. The difference
            is that the state ('God') is replaced by the church ('God').

            > > Specifically, I'm interested in why this conflict
            > > often *fails* to find a resolution. Why apparantly
            > > intelligent and sane people find they are trapped
            > > between a irrisistible force (their beliefs) and
            > > an immovable object (their sexuality).
            >
            > Why and how people get stuck between their beliefs and their
            > sexuality is the core of this conflict. Many people, for a time,
            > try to live double-lives (angel during the day, devil after dark).

            Yes. Some people manage to deal with the conflict by
            forgetting that there is one. The best way to avoid answering
            a difficult question is not to ask it.

            > Some try to modify or suppress their beliefs to accommodate their
            > sexuality. Others try to modify or suppress their sexality to
            > accommodate their beliefs.

            Well, something has to give. And although sexuality does shift
            in unpredictable ways over time, it seems that it can't be
            changed by an effort of will. Beliefs, on the other hand, are
            very easy to change - especially for people who can convince
            themselves that they're not *really* changing.

            > Personally, I found myself stuck in this position having been raised
            > into fundamentalist-leaning Christian doctrine. [snip]

            I was lucky enough to be raised in that strange British Protestant
            tradition. This means that no one cares if you can't remember the
            ten commandments, so long as you obey the one true commandment
            - Don't Make A Fuss.

            That church was easy to leave. Somewhat more difficult was
            understanding why other people had a problem with my
            homosexuality. They held very strong opinions, but didn't
            seem to know what they had strong opinions *about*.

            They could offer no facts, and no justifications. All they
            had was a set of empirically false myths that all contradicted
            each other. So at age 13 I decided to find out how and
            why people could life with that mess inside their heads.

            17 years later, I have some answers, but not all. I've
            spent most of my life in educational institutions, partly
            because they are less full of deranged homophobes than
            the outside world.

            > > Liberal Theology? Too vague. Queer Theology? Just
            > > another fudge. Biblical Revisionism? Misses the point.
            >
            > Are you searching for a particular form of Christianity such as a
            > specific church, denomination, or religious doctrine? Since you've
            > dismissed liberal churches and Biblical revisionism (I'll let you
            > define what you mean by that),

            Biblical revisionism is like historical revisionism. It involves
            'airbrushing out' whatever is unfashionable at the time, and
            'reinterpreting' what remains.

            All religions survive by shaping themselves to whatever
            culture they find themselves in. Some doctrines are quietly
            dropped, others have their emphasis changed, and some
            are raised from obscurity. Revisionism is the same process,
            carried on more openly.

            In my experience, liberal churches miss out most of the
            bible. The sex, violence, hatred, genocide and impenetrable
            metaphors are ignored. As is most of the history. What
            remains is a few miracles, some parables, and a feeling
            that God is a giant Oprah Winfrey in the sky.

            > it seems that you have a specific
            > picture of what you are seeking.

            Yes and no. In case you haven't guessed, I'm an atheist, but
            for years I've been searching for a form of spirituality that
            wasn't offensive to reason, or a moneymaking scam.

            So far, I've found devout believers who don't know what
            they believe, philistines who just want a simple answer to
            all questions, snakeoil sellers who sold 'bottled salvation' as
            a fashionable drug, and a lot of people who find it very
            convenient that God agrees with all their opinions.

            Oh, and I've also found a lot of neurotic married men who
            slept with each other.

            > I believe faith has more to do with
            > what a person's sincerity and selflessness than necessarily
            > upholding church doctrines. What is important is find a community
            > that encourages people to explore their faith rather than being
            > indoctrinated.

            All very sensible.

            > I wish I had the answer you're looking for. Maybe others here can
            > give you a more concrete answer.

            Ah. A *concrete* answer. One rooted in social human reality, not
            in a vague mystical force or a disguised form of the political state.




            -- Kapitano
            Poing! Poing! Poing! Poing! Poing! Poing! Poing!
          • Kapitano
            ... It isn t true of all Christianity. Or all Islam, Shintoism, Tao or whatever. Just most of them. Indeed, most secular philosophies - Maoism, Stalinism,
            Message 5 of 6 , Sep 19, 2002
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              > I appreciated your thoughtful post, Kapitano. You wrestled with
              > some good questions and shared some interesting observations. One
              > of the things you alluded to was Christianity being "a system of
              > belief that cannot accommodate the facts of sexuality." While I can
              > well understand where you're coming from, I'm not sure I'd agree
              > that this is at all true of Christianity.

              It isn't true of all Christianity. Or all Islam, Shintoism, Tao or whatever.
              Just most of them. Indeed, most secular philosophies - Maoism,
              Stalinism, Corporate Capitalism - can't deal with sex either.

              > While there are many who experience and teach Christianity as an
              > endless series of dos and don'ts and a constant endeavor to earn
              > brownie points with God, there are others, like myself, who
              > understand it fundamentally in the knowledge that we are deeply
              > loved by Jesus Christ and we have done nothing, nor could do
              > anything, to earn that.

              Okay, but so what if Jesus loves me?

              If someone told you that a stranger loved you unconditionally, for
              absolutely no reason, would you feel compelled to return that love?
              If reciprocating the emotion meant gaining eternal life, you might
              consider it I suppose, but it's not as if Jesus is bribing you.

              His love would only have any relevence to you if
              (a) You were already in love with him - it's always nice when an
              emotion is returned.
              (b) His love wasn't just his attitude towards you. Rather, it was
              something that reached out and affected you.

              The English verb 'to love' requires a grammatical object (sometimes
              implied), but cannot take a semantic patient. It is a verb of state, not
              of action. It describes something that is done, but not something that
              is done *to* anything.

              So we're not dealing with anything like the literal meaning of 'love'.
              Rather, we're dealing with some kind of force. Unfortunately, no
              one seems to have defined this force.

              To say that such a force is unmeasurable is obviously nonsense -
              if it has an effect then it can be measured. If it had no effect we
              wouldn't know it existed.

              > But responsible students of the Bible also understand hermeneutics.

              Yes, I understand that. I've even done a bit of Biblical Redaction
              Archeology myself.

              > The conflict between one's faith and sexuality "fails to finds a
              > resolution," as you so aptly phrased it, when one has a high view of
              > Scripture but ignores these fundamental hermeneutical principles and
              > portions of Scripture are then applied woodenly with no regard for
              > the intent, spirit and/or context of the passage.

              Indeed. One might say Christianity is a Method, not a
              Doctrine. Methods can look at new facts and interpret them.
              A fixed doctrine can only deny new facts.

              > The few passages of Scripture that address same-sex activity do not
              > at all address homosexuality as we know it today, as a sexual
              > orientation. Our own romantic sexual experience was not known in
              > the ancient world of arranged marriages and socially constructed
              > inequities between men and women.

              Again, yes. I'm not sure whether sexual orientation is a discovery
              or an invention. If the former, then the discovery process is
              incomplete. If the latter, then the concept works pretty damn well
              for a falsehood.

              > Our moral task as Christians is to apply Jesus' love ethic to
              > whatever sexual mores are prevalent in a given culture. We can
              > challenge both straight and gay people to question their behaviors
              > in the light of love and the requirements of fidelity, honesty,
              > responsibility, and genuine concern for the best interests of the
              > other and of society as a whole. Christian morality is not an iron
              > chastity belt for repressing urges, but a way of expressing the
              > integrity of our relationship with God. It is the attempt to
              > discover a manner of living that is consistent with who God created
              > us to be. For those who are gay, being moral means rejecting sexual
              > mores that violate their own integrity and that of others, and
              > attempting to discover what it would mean to live by the love ethic
              > of Jesus. This is what authentic Christianity is about.

              Okay. But why do we need Jesus (or God) as the source of
              this 'ethic' - or 'method' as I say above? What you call the 'love
              ethic' could be formulated by anyone. And it would be valid
              or invalid according to whether it worked in practice, not
              according to the authority of whoever proposed it.

              Personally, I don't care if Jesus was divine. If his ethic
              doesn't work, then his parentage won't change anything.
              And if it does work, then this is irrlevant to his divinity.





              -- Kapitano
              Poing! Poing! Poing! Poing! Poing! Poing! Poing!
            • nyguy_1225
              ...
              Message 6 of 6 , Sep 21, 2002
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                --- In exexgayministry@y..., "Kapitano" <kapitano@b...> wrote:
                <<IT ISN'T TRUE OF ALL CHRISTIANITY. OR ALL ISLAM, SHINTOISM, TAO OR
                WHATEVER. JUST MOST OF THEM. INDEED, MOST SECULAR PHILOSOPHIES -
                MAOISM, STALINISM, CORPORATE CAPITALISM - CAN'T DEAL WITH SEX
                EITHER.>>

                It isn't true of all Christianity??!! What are you talking aout?
                It is either true of Christianity or it is not true of
                Christianity. Period. Moreover, because some misinterpret
                Scripture does not in any way invalidate the faith. And just
                because some are unable to "deal with sex" does not mean God is
                unable to. I mean, who created it in the first place??!!

                <<OKAY, BUT SO WHAT IF JESUS LOVES ME?>>

                So What??!! Well if the creed true, then as Hauerwas says: It's not
                only Christians' "truth, [and] the truth for everyone," but it's the
                absolute truth about "the way things are ... the way the world is."
                If Jesus Christ is the Lord in the sense that the Jews meant "Lord"
                (i.e. "I am the Lord [Adonai], and there is none else. ... there is
                no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; There is none
                except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For
                I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself ... That to
                Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance." -- from
                Isaiah 45), then nothing is left untouched by His Lordship. If
                Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not, every Caesar-substitute is
                dethroned. It's the most profound statement that can be said about
                anyone. And it's a statement, then, about everything.

                Physicists talk about a "theory of everything." Physicist Stephen
                Wolfram is now claiming that, by computer experiments, he has found
                the simple rules behind everything. Hearing this, people are all
                ears. Focusing on the central event of the Cross, Richard John
                Neuhaus asserts: "If what Christians say about Good Friday is true,
                then it is, quite simply, the truth about everything." Said Eugenia
                Price: "Jesus is God's explanation for everything." Hearing this,
                are people all ears?

                Sadly, these truly comforting Christian statements sound arrogant to
                people pre-programmed to postmodernist propaganda. And so, in their
                selectively intolerant indignation, they protest: How dare you say
                that Christ is the truth about everything! How intolerant! How
                culturally oppressive! But how beside-the-point can they be? If it
                is true that Jesus Christ is Lord, then that fact of reality – by
                definition – tolerates no competing claim. And if it is not true,
                the fault is not intolerance but falsehood.

                But they're blind to their own intolerance as well as to their own
                illogical argument. They're every bit as dogmatic as the Christians
                they'd fault. They're claiming: Jesus Christ is NOT Lord! And it
                makes no sense for them to allow that Jesus Christ may be Lord for
                Christians but not for them. The terms of the historic creed do not
                have room for such a fashionable favor. That creed, for which
                Christians all over the world have been tortured and killed rather
                than deny their Lord, does not mean to say that "Jesus Christ is
                some sort of little mini-lord" or a petty political hack with no
                jurisdiction over in the next county. The cosmic meaning of the
                creed won't allow for such "true-for-you-but-not-true-for-me"
                exclusion. The creed is inclusivity itself. That Kapitano, is "so
                what?"
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