Saturday, February 21, 2009

Homosexual Struggle

Homosexual Struggle, published by InterVarsity Press and credited to an author named Nancy (no last name), is one of the saddest and most heart-wrenching pieces of religious writing I've yet read. It's written from Nancy's point of view, and chronicles her struggle to deny who she is.

Sorry, that's harsh. It is Nancy's choice, after all, to fight against her sexual orientation. It is a choice that has caused her a great deal of pain and suffering, however, and I can't help but feel she's made the wrong one.

Why? Because she sounds so unhappy throughout the booklet's 27 pages. She uses words like frustrated, hurting and lonely to describe her battle with the will of her deity.

The story starts in Nancy's high-school years, when she describes herself as having been "pretty 'straight'". She dated guys, but never had sex with them. "Somehow my parents' religious morality had rubbed off on me." It did more than that; she gave her life to Christ in her junior year, and now had "a more compelling reason to say no to guys."

Then, during her senior year, she met a Christian girl named Sue, and before long "we became sexually involved." Interesting that her parents' morality, followed by Christ's "compelling reasons", kept her away from boys, but when the opportunity for a lesbian relationship came along all that reasonable morality went out the window!

But not for long. They were both Christians, after all, and they both agreed that the Bible forbade their love. Nancy "made the very difficult choice of following Jesus rather than my feelings," but Sue "chose to continue to pursue a gay life."

In college, Nancy tried to convince herself that her relationship with Sue was just a one-time thing. She could not, however, and her "first couple of years in college were incredibly frustrating and lonely." She "felt like a freak", afraid of the judgments of the Christians she hung out with. At last she was able to open up to a "casual acquaintance named Kathy," then to her friend and Bible study co-leader Steve, who had been having "similar struggles with homosexuality." That gave Nancy some comfort - "For the first time I didn't feel quite as alone in my agonies." - but she was still caught in a desperate struggle for self. Sure, she was able to talk about her "agonies", but they were still agonies.

For example, Nancy describes her inner struggled as a "civil war" between the will of God, as she understood Him, and what her gay friends told her was her "'true' sexual identity and personhood." In the end, she decided "only in a relation ship of submission to (God) will I be truly satisfied." Did it help? Not much, it would seem. While she was "much more willing to obey" God, she "found that the problems didn't get easier to handle." Nancy felt "very uncomfortable around guys" and was "afraid of getting too close (emotionally) with girls", and it all "added up to one incredibly lonely person." This led her to "live with my loneliness and not pursue the 'comfort' of physical intimacy." After all, did not John White say in his book Eros Defiled: The Christian And Sexual Sin, "Would you despise intimacy with the Almighty in insisting on more of human intimacy?" Yes, apparently he did. And interestingly, Eros Defiled was also published by InterVarsity Press.

"Then there were problems of lust and sexual fantasies," Nancy goes on, proving (to me, anyway) that "intimacy with the Almighty" isn't enough for a flesh-and-blood human being. "I struggled with lust toward nearly anybody, male or female," and "the Bible didn't seem to offer me much hope or encouragement in my dilemma."

Nancy eventually came to the conclusion that "the real root problem" was her own sinful nature. "I had to deal with the fact that I was a sinner - the primary source of my gay inclinations." Yes, you read that right. Nancy speaks of receiving help from "a Christian counselor" as well. God help her.

And apparently He did, because "today I am in a paid position of Christian ministry" and she has "not had sexual contact with another woman for several years." Well, good for you, Nancy. You traded your soul for a Bible. Still, who am I to judge? Nancy says "I have become content with being single and celibate," and now she is "really enjoying life." I hope that's true.

I'm sure the intention of this booklet is to help people, but it is no less dangerous than the last booklet I reviewed. I'm sure Nancy hopes her words will encourage those with similar struggles, and help them to see they are not alone. However, I'm just as sure her words will hurt a fair number of people, who will read about her suffering and be terrified they will have to endure the same in order to be good Christians. Plus, as is almost always the case with these things, Nancy cites only the Bible, her interpretation of it, and other Christian authors (like that John White guy) to back up her claims. She does not use any source that does not already back up her opinion. If she'd listed sources that opposed her point of view, then presented her rationale for rejecting them, this would be a more impressive work. Instead, it reads like the story of a prisoner being brainwashed, who grows to love and encourage further brainwashing in others.

"People who struggle with their sexuality," Nancy writes, "desperately need to know God's holy love." Perhaps, Nancy, but what I think they really need is for writers of booklets like these to leave them the hell alone.

Likely to Convert - N/A
Likely to Convert Gays - 2
Artwork - N/A
Ability to Hold Interest - 5
Unintentional Hilarity - 1
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 6