• February 2012

    “Exchanging the Truth of God for a Lie”: Romans 1:25a

    In 2008 I wrote a book with this title, in which I explained (amongst other things) why I believe St Paul’s words give us a vital clue to understanding ourselves—as gay Christian people.

    All my life I had been taught to believe that if you said you were gay, you were denying the truth of God—which is that we are made male and female and therefore, by default, we must be innately heterosexual. In fact, in Romans 1, Paul is totally unambiguous; he is not saying that homosexuality is in itself is an act of rebellion against God’s creation; he goes much further, by declaring (vs 24) that homosexual practice (described in terms of the pursuit of unbridled lust) is God’s punishment for our idolatry. Dr Keith Sharpe points this out in his very helpful and illuminating new book, “The Gay Gospels: Good News for LGBT people”. In other words, being gay is the punishment not the crime! Presumably this is why the traditional Christian understanding of homosexuality was that gay people are beyond redemption; our acceptance of being gay is a sign that we have already been cast out. The difficulty with this view is that one has to ask, why then are there so many gay people in our churches, including leadership positions? Has the devil infiltrated our churches by the back door?

    I have recently been reflecting on the profoundly traumatic experience that so many young gay Christian people go through, when experiencing the reality of attraction towards the same sex, often during our adolescent years. As long as the majority of heterosexual people around us tell us that we are wrong about this and that our feelings (and therefore our understanding of ourselves) is not only untrue, but actually a sign of deep-seated rebellion against God, we find ourselves forced into a kind of schizophrenic double-think. Because in order to understand ourselves (according to this world view), we have to say to ourselves, “I am feeling this way, yet I am told by others that I am not this way, but that actually something else is true about me that I don’t feel, or understand or connect with. Consequently, I doubt my own ability to perceive anything correctly! I cannot be sure of anything that I instinctively feel or believe is true, because the majority view of others is that I am wrong about myself.”

    Now in my sixtieth year, having learned to be open and honest about the truth that I am gay, I sometimes discover that I am still having to grapple even now with this deep-rooted all-pervasive sense of self-doubt. It catches me unawares, especially in recent years when some of my closest friends (who disapprove of the change in Courage’s approach from ex-gay to gay-affirming) tell me that I am deceived and leading people down the slippery slope—away from the light God has revealed to us through the Bible and into outer darkness. Do I dare to believe in my own intuitive sense of God’s leading, or do I believe in the years of self-doubt, and agree that I am incapable of true judgement? My former friends leave me alone now—expecting me to discover the error of my ways when it will be too late.

    My solace comes in deciding that what is true, therefore, IS the truth! What is true is not an opinion or an idea or a tradition about a cherished viewpoint; nor is commitment to orthodoxy the same thing as commitment to the truth. The truth remains that, like most gay people, I always knew I have found myself attracted to the same sex not the opposite sex. I am just different in that regard to my straight brothers and sisters, just as left-handed people are different to right-handed people. If I say that I am not gay, to conform to the prevailing orthodox view in many evangelical Christian circles, then it is I who am exchanging the truth of God for a lie. Whereas if it is true that I AM gay, then I must accept that God loves me AS a gay man not in spite of being one. God is not hoping that one day I‘ll see the error in my thinking, repent, and “realise” I am straight.

    Whilst thinking about all this, I came across one of the most important books I believe I have ever read, that brings vital understanding to gay people as to why we can be so deeply traumatised. Entitled, “The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the pain of growing up gay in a straight man’s world” by Dr Alan Downs, this is a study of the internalised shame that so many gay people suffer from, the devastating impact of shame on our lives, and the path to wholeness and authenticity. I’ll no doubt say a lot more about this book when I have re-read it, but I wanted to mention this important book now as I am sure many of us, straight and gay, will find it invaluable.

    So was St Paul wrong in Romans 1? Quite the contrary: I believe he gave us the clue to understanding ourselves here. As I indicate in my own book, if we know that we are gay from the internal witness of our own hearts, we must stay with that truth whatever anyone thinks about us. Otherwise we won’t be able to see anything straight (pun intended). In Paul’s own words, it is the rejection of God in favour of idols that precipitates the moral landslide into every kind of sin, including men and women being given over to “shameful lusts” (“men being inflamed with lust for one another,” vs 27).

    If we know that in truth we love God and we live a life of worship, whilst at the same time we are attracted to and fall in love with a member of the same sex, then we must believe that these factors reveal a different understanding of what God is saying and doing in our lives, and follow the leading of the Spirit accordingly. We are surely the “eunuchs who are born that way,” as Jesus reveals to us in Matthew 19:12. Because unless we begin by believing the truth about ourselves, we won’t be able to trust our own judgement or intuition about anything in life at all.

    Jeremy Marks; 8th February 2012

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You can order your copy of this book by e-mailing Jeremy at: jeremy@courage.org.uk

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