The Redemptive Silver Lining of the Sexual Revolution
I can’t help but imagine that the National Equality Act would be completely unnecessary had Christians historically offered hope, comfort and emotional healing to people experiencing the range of emotions and feelings we now call “LGBTQIA+.” Who knows why we failed. Over centuries the stigma and shame associated with sex has caused a lot of destruction inside and outside churches. From abortion to divorce to gender transition, shame around sexuality has impacted America. Our self-made effort to bring resolution, the Sexual Revolution, has hardly been the salve we had hoped. Its fruit is the whole-scale breakdown of family and sexual accountability that we see today in our Tinder and porn driven culture. Yet the silver lining of the Sexual Revolution may very well be our willingness to see and say all things sexual utterly shamelessly. In the end, our ability to be transparent and vulnerable about our sexuality and its formation could very well be an answer to prayer.
Over the past 30 years—the amount of time since I first came out as a lesbian—I have seen the response to LGBTQ issues change dramatically among Christians. In seminary as an “out” lesbian, I and all my close friends had taken dramatic risks to claim we were Christian while having the LGBTQ experience. Many of us had been kicked out of our home churches and several of us had lost our families. Some had pursued their callings as pastors—responding to Jesus’ love—through attending evangelical seminaries while secretly living undercover lives. A handful had been discovered, “outed,” and expelled. We had come together in one of the few denominational seminaries willing to openly offer Bible and pastoral training to LGBTQ people. We couldn’t yet be ordained or married to our partners, but we could wholeheartedly pursue our service to Jesus with the hope that would change.
I and those like me were trying to pioneer a way for LGBTQ to know and follow Christ. We assumed there was no deliverance, no healing or freedom because we never heard it was available. Or if it were available, it came through years of counseling that had uncertain outcomes. This, of course, is God’s divine irony seen in my own life. I have not experienced same-sex desires in years and no longer identify as lesbian. He has drawn me into an entirely new paradigm.
I believe churches that had the power and authority in Christ to bring physical healing, real miracles, were too impacted by shame around sexuality to offer wholeness—or even to contend for wholeness—to LGBTQ people. You can’t overcome what can’t be brought into the light. Over the past 30 years I have watched the complete bloom of the idea that one is born gay. Today, most believe that LGBTQ is an innate and immutable reality in one’s life and that doing anything but affirming the behavior can cause death. We assume that God made us that way and that in fact, homosexuality isn’t sinful after all.
But that idea matured while most Christians were willing to be silent about sex and sexuality.
Things are changing. We’ve reached a point in time when people are better able to talk about sexuality with authenticity. We are able to be vulnerable and raw about things that once were completely taboo. It’s “revolutionary” and it’s going to be one of the most important factors for the salvation of LGBTQ people.
Even today, many Christians who experience same-sex attraction or any kind of gender confusion have very few options. They often feel shame and fear. There continues to be a risk for them within their congregations. If someone knew about their hidden feelings, they might be asked to no longer pray on the ministry line, or they might be released from their worship team, or banned from the nursery. And, the LGBTQ community’s violent outcry hasn’t helped. Many Christians now fear any conversation about sexuality, concerned they will be humiliated, or worse, accused of abuse. As a result, the Christian with same-sex attraction who is seeking to live according to Biblical conviction is silenced or redirected to the LGBTQ culture even when it is at odds with one’s faith. There have been few spaces where a person can be open about their sexual desires and find support, encouragement and especially hope to believe God is good and that He restores.
Many of us dream about churches that could have walked with Lonnie Frisbee without shame so that he would not have been exposed to AIDS. Or the church that could have protected and better empowered Paul Caine. These great men are just two God-given leaders that have stood on the line between being cast out of the church or bringing the church into glory. I believe what is needed is the ministry of the whole body of Christ, where the unique identity wounds that partner with sexuality are addressed over time through discipleship, mentoring and encounters with the resurrection power of Jesus. It is a place where men and women are no longer asked to address their brokenness alone and may be celebrated for their surrender to Jesus.
There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to same-sex attraction. It isn’t simply a physical urge worth embracing, nor is it merely a thought to capture and control. There are years of perception, judgments, hormones and beliefs to address. Yet one thing is clear: God has answers and He’s willing to bring one to the depths of self-understanding to find them. However, that journey is not available to most people who experience same-sex attraction. LGBTQ people don’t know it exists and most Christian communities don’t offer the unconditional love it requires—but this is the time. Those of us who have already been on the journey are making our stands.
Some will find the way, and those who do will have the testimony of a generation that says, “He lives!” They will have experienced the beauty of wholehearted surrender to Jesus and its rewards. But above all, they will have pioneered a way within Christian circles to be open about their weaknesses while being empowered into wholeness. That creates a unique humility that invites relationship and intimacy. And it might just be a factor in restoring the family structure that the Apostle Paul envisioned for Christianity.
Nothing is impossible with God. Let’s not assume our sexuality is more than He can handle.