“He/she struggles with same-sex attraction.”
I’d never heard this phrase until I started working at a church.
Come to think of it I still rarely hear it outside of the Church or Church folk.
The people who say this about others are almost always Christians.
They lazily attach the words to others without giving it a second thought.
I often share with them, the fact that in my twenty years of ministering to people, the most profound “struggle” most LGBTQ people I’ve met ever have—is with the hatred, condemnation, rejection, and isolation they face from Christians—many their family members, close friends, and church community. The greatest inner conflict they often face when encountering the Church, is ultimately over whether to be an authentic orphan or a welcomed liar. They realize they can get inclusive love—but it will cost them their real voices.
Whatever internal turmoil a man or woman experiences, it’s almost always about the reality of what they know their gender identity and sexual orientation would expose them to if it were known. That is to say, they aren’t so much struggling with their truest truth, but with the fear of what others might do to them if they ever dare live that truth fully.
Many Christians use the phrase “struggling with same-sex attraction” as a self-fulfilling prophecy for the LGBTQ community.
They speak these words, while simultaneously creating a culture that is openly hostile to them.
They spew hateful rhetoric and give incendiary sermons and dispense damnation.
They support political candidates and legislation that specifically target these men and women and their families.
They question their motives and resist their involvement and contest their humanity and assail their character.
They make it almost impossible for these men and women to feel loved and welcomed and their midst—and then have the gall to blame their depression and despair and their rejection of religion on some inner battle with “God’s natural order.”
No, they’re battling fearful religious people who are treating them terribly and acting as if Jesus compels them to. They aren’t as much struggling with themselves or even with God—but with God’s people.
Homophobic Christians desperately need to believe that these people inherently struggle, because without that they may have to claim some culpability for the fact that LGBTQ youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers.
They might be forced to consider how much violence the Church has done and is still doing to people, simply because of the gender identity or sexual orientation—and confess that there is nothing resembling Jesus in it.
And if they lost the narrative of people having an internal battle, Christians might have to admit that the only thing conversion therapy does, is convert someone to a less authentic, less open, less joyful version of themselves—one who learns to change behavior to avoid being ostracized and to gain acceptance.
I definitely don’t want to speak for any LGBTQ person, and I welcome their personal stories and insights here. I certainly may be wrong in my understanding. But as a fully affirming minister and someone who encourages people be the most authentic version of who they are—I’ve seldom (if ever) met a man or woman, who once freed up from the pressure of a God they’d been told hated them and from Christians who terrorized them—didn’t come to find joy and lightness living their truth. Any struggle that remains is usually to try and quiet the voices they got used to hearing in their heads about God’s disgust with them and about their eternal damnation.
Once unfettered by the guilt heaped upon them by family members and pastors and strangers all claiming they speak for Jesus, they can breathe and feel loved and finally live. In that place, many of them finally find Jesus there too.
More Christians need to stop telling LGBTQ what their stories are and what their battles are and how their hearts work—and actually listen to them. If so, their platitudes might be far less easy to toss around and their own actions might come with some new scrutiny.
Love is love, and hatred is hatred—and wrapping the latter in religion doesn’t magically transform it into the former.
This isn’t difficult to understand: If someone told you your gender identity and sexual orientation were enough to get you condemned to hell, kicked out of your church, and disconnected from your family; if they told you from the day you were born that who you were and how you loved made you despised by God—I bet you’d “struggle” too.
Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.