Thursday, July 11, 2013
Maybe a decade ago, I asked a very well-known evangelical pastor and writer, a Presbyterian, what he thought of the whole gay marriage question. He told me he just didn't know; but what he did was that not a week went by without someone wanting him on his or her side of the debate.
Just a week or so ago, Exodus closed its doors, the ministry at one time specifically given to helping alter sexual orientation in those men and women who have same-sex attractions and want it changed. Exodus was the godfather of those kinds of ministries, and a couple weeks ago the ministry simply shut its doors and windows and, amazingly, apologized for the hurt it has caused.
I'm with my evangelical pastor and friend. I honestly don't know what to think. But the radical change in Exodus as a ministry--if that change is not borne out of some kind of conspiracy, as some more conservative evangelicals are quite typically claiming--is yet another indication that how believers view LGBT folks is undergoing alteration that is as immense as it is rapid. And it reminded me of a couple of stories from long, long ago.
At the college where I once taught a man from Exodus was asked to visit and speak on campus. He did, and he spoke again at the church my wife and I attended, at an after-worship hour or so in the community room.
This kid--and he was just a kid, maybe early 20s, probably too young to say anything definitive on difficult questions--stood up before throngs of Christians and did what Christians often do in large groups: confessed his sins and testified to the glory of his redemption. Like an crack addict, I suppose, or someone driven around the block by porn, his testimony included a hour-long recitation of the species of sins he'd indulged in, most of it laced with specificity unlike any testimony ever uttered in that community room before. The walls turned blue.
His sin was gay sex, so we heard it defined, described, and detailed, and we sat at rapt attention. I couldn't help thinking something very strange, weird in fact, was happening in the back of our church that morning--men and women, many of them twice his age, listening closely to a R-rated recitation, at best, of graphic sexualit while glowing in the joy that all of that rancid, deplorable, God-awful, dirty rotten stuff had been washed clean in the blood of the lamb. The man was good at testimony.
It was odd. Not long after, the story was told that he'd become an ex- ex-.
But the phenomenon was similar in a Christian school gym a few years before when a well-known speaker on tour had lectured to a packed house about "subliminal advertising"--how that evil practice was perverting the Christian mind and entering our psyches surreptitiously by way of the f-word slyly inscribed into the positions graphically designed into the position ice cubes took in an ad for Mountain Dew. "Look here," he'd say, and point at a slide, "see that word?" Or then some curvy lines on fabric. He'd point, we'd gawk. "It's very clearly a vagina."
Hundreds gazed in rapt silence and deep conviction.
We were being seduced without our even knowing it, he said. The media was an underground of evil. The Devil was at work.
Both times, I left those places feeling half sick, not know what on earth to think. And in the end, both speakers proved deceptive. In both assembles, of course, the speaker was preaching to the choir.
I think it was Lewis who once said there are two ways of erring when it comes to Satan: to think him too weak is one of them; to think him too powerful is another.
I'm not as sure about Satan as some Christians are, not as sure where to place him on some really difficult issues; but I know we've been wrong about things--Christians, I mean--been wrong in the name of love or truth.
But that doesn't mean we should give up on either of the two.
A new museum at Gettysburg features an exhibition on devotion to the Christian faith among those soldiers who fought there. Both Yanks and Rebs went to their death carrying New Testaments in their shirt pockets.
There's a testimony there too.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:59 AM