Written by: David Prosen, LMHC, LPC
Most Christians believe that God can heal those who are suffering physical or emotional illness or spiritual pain. Many of us have seen miracles happen. We have seen people recover from end stage cancer, overcome drug and alcohol addictions, survive shark attacks or weeks stranded in the wilderness. Miracles happen every single day.
But we also recognize that not everyone heals in the way they may be praying for. Yes, God does hear and answer our prayers but in His time and according to His will. Scripture tells us that all things work for the good of those who love the Lord. My step dad died slowly of a painful cancer. His faith was stronger than any one else I know and yet God didn’t “cure” him.
However, something amazing happened. My step dad turned his suffering into a prayer for each doctor, each nurse, each family member and each friend in his life. Lives were touched and possibly changed in ways we can never know. Some of the nurses and doctors had shared this with my mother. God used his trial for the good of other souls…a miracle of grace over the tragedy of human suffering.
Now, most Christians proclaim that God can heal anything…except, it seems, with this one exception: homosexuality. At least that is what most in the media want us to think. Magazine articles, television shows, news segments, talk shows, movies and popular literature all shout that same message and Christians are falling for it in droves.
The recent demise of “Exodus”, a Christian support group for ex-gays, is now touted as proof by the media that gay people can’t change, that they are simply born this way. Newsweek recently jumped on this bandwagon. But it proves nothing of the sort. The truth is that there were people in that organization who were not authentic and who bullied others and practiced unethical means of helping others that caused much shame. I know. I experienced some of this with them myself. But there were others who were authentic and who did experience healing and change and helped others in healthy ways. We must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water here or exploit this situation for political motivations. I think it’s important that we look at same sex attraction with a view to understanding it better and having a better comprehension of important concepts regarding healing and “change”.
First, I want to briefly address one common notion. I keep hearing that homosexuality is innate and any other theory that argues against this is “bad science”. Our culture has accepted this idea and those who disagree are seen as homophobes or bigots. Yet numerous identical twin studies refute this…and strongly. Given the fact that identical twins share the same DNA and prenatal environment, the prevalence of both twins being gay should be 100%, but reliable studies indicate an incidence of only 11% for men and 14% for women.
Jeffrey Satinover (1), in his article “The Biological Truth about Homosexuality” explained how there is no “gay gene” but there are some genes that, if combined with certain factors in the environment, could contribute to same-sex attraction, but yet are not the causes.
For many folks including myself, the attraction to the same sex was present way before we even knew what sex was. I used to think this was proof that I was born this way but I came to realize there are other reasons that explained this. I felt very different from others and was ostracized and made fun of by my peers because I was bad at sports and “threw like a girl”. I was a very sensitive kid and instead of proving that my peers were wrong and forcing myself to learn how to play, I believed them and was filled with shame. I used to admire the traits of those who were popular, thinking: “If only I looked like him, was strong like him, was athletic like him, then maybe I would fit in and wouldn’t be so alone.” This coveting of masculine traits for me, and many other men that I have met, became sexualized in puberty.
Several people have said to me, “I don’t believe that people can change because I have never met anyone in which the attraction went away 100%”. Hmmm…this seems to me a bit like saying an alcoholic can never recover-and shouldn’t try– because the attraction to alcohol never goes away 100%.
But perhaps there is some truth in that statement. You see, I believe we all experience same sex attraction. Not a sexual attraction but a healthy authentic attraction to the same sex. We were created this way. We seek out the good, the true and the beautiful. We all need people in our lives. This isn’t a want. It’s a need. We tend to gravitate towards those to whom we are attracted, and I am not speaking about eroticized same sex attraction. Maybe I am attracted to a man’s sense of courage, or maybe it’s his sense of humor or his creativity, or his compassion or his determination or maybe it’s because I see Jesus in his eyes.
We are attracted to our friends…and before puberty it’s common to be more attracted to our same sex friends than the opposite. For most 9-year-old boys, girls are often seen as “icky”. Remember The Little Rascals’ He-man Women Haters’ club?
Think about it. Who wants to be friends with those who we aren’t attracted to – liars, thieves, people who are hostile, mean or abusers? Even a smelly, slovenly person might be someone we avoid, regardless of gender. We are attracted to people who are attractive to us, both physically and, more importantly, whose good qualities and virtues we find admirable. To hyper-focus only on our sexual attractions and define ourselves that way, reduces not only us but others to objects and compromises their dignity.
The person with unwanted same-sex attraction will continue to be attracted to members of the same sex just like everyone else. That’s not unhealthy. The problem is that when this attraction becomes sexualized, at some point we stop relating to a complete person, but instead see this other as an object for our own gratification. It’s no different for those with opposite sex attraction. In fact, it’s a common complaint of wives that their husbands see them as objects for their pleasure, and often don’t relate to her inner most being. This is an important part of why the Church prohibits the use of artificial contraception in marriage. By respecting the intrinsic purpose of sex (ie. procreation/openness to life) and a person’s sexuality, we respect the intrinsic value of the person with whom we share this experience.
In our sex-saturated culture, our understanding of and participation in sexuality has become very distorted. This is especially true with men or women who view pornography. And this is an important point: when a man eroticizes his attractions through the use of pornography, every pornographic image, every sexual encounter, every fantasy while masturbating further sexualizes this attraction, an attraction that may not have been sexual in the first place!
The more a person has “acted out” on this “eroticized” attraction the more difficult it will be for him or her to reframe this and truly relate to a person with intrinsic worth. When he sees someone attractive he might have to remind himself that this isn’t about sex. He may also need to explore what is going on inside of him. For me, for example, if I don’t feel confident in my looks or who I am as a man because of a rough day… my attractions might become sexualized. However, once I realize what is happening I can reframe it since I know this attraction has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with how I may be feeling about myself. Once I recognize what’s happening and am able to know what my needs really are, the eroticized attraction quickly goes away, especially when I get my needs met in healthy ways.
Pornography and sexual acting out episodes are burned into our memories and bonds us with those images and partners. The sexual response was designed that way to bond a couple in marriage to endure the many ups and downs that married life presents. Perhaps that’s why those of us coveting the qualities of another man attempt to bond those qualities to ourselves in this way. But the more one has participated in these behaviors, the more difficult it can be to reframe. However, it’s very possible. It happens in my life and in the lives of many that I have met.
In light of this, it’s important to recognize that “change” can and does happen, regardless of what the media tells you. I have met many who live healthy and fulfilling lives in heterosexual marriages or as singles living chastely. But change must be seen on a continuum. The man or woman who decreased their eroticized attraction, or those who stopped acting out sexually and/or using pornography, or the person who stopped unhealthy co-dependent behaviors … all of this reflects change. We’re all works in progress…and miracles in the making.
So, in all things I must emphatically profess the Scripture verse from Matthew 19:26: “with God, ALL things ARE possible”… yes, even that.
(1) Footnote- Satinover, “The Biological Truth about Homosexuality” from Same-sex attraction: A Parent’s Guide, Eds. John F. Harvey, OSFS, and Gerard V. Bradley (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press, 2003) p. 11-12
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