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Lisa Ling’s episode of Our America asked the question, “can you pray away the gay?” I finally got to watch this episode last week and I had mixed reactions. I had a few general opinions on it and now I’m rewatching it to give more specific comments. I’ve never recapped a show before but I may have read enough to sort of have the hang of it. We’ll see. 🙂
Initially, I want to give my answer to the question posed. No, I don’t believe that you can “pray the gay away” and, contrary to most of the comments I’ve seen about the show, I don’t believe at all that if your feelings don’t go away, you aren’t praying hard enough. I personally prayed for God to change me and He hasn’t. I don’t believe I haven’t change because I wasn’t a good enough Christian. My faith isn’t based on what hoops I must jump through to get to a certain level. My faith is about a God who loves me and wants the best for me and has a perfect plan for me and I believe that He will and is with me every step of the way as I work through this struggle. Maybe I will change over time like Alan Chambers did or maybe I will still be like Ethan in 20 years but it won’t be contingent on whether or not I’m “praying hard enough.”
Overall, the episode (and the comments about it on the OWN website and Twitter) left me feeling frustrated and more misunderstood than ever. I felt like I was on the wrong end of a moral battle – that Exodus was blanketed in mystery and shame and The Naming Project was all about bright happy people wearing tie dye. I did not find shame at Exodus. It’s actually one of the few places I’ve found freedom to be me – a Christian who struggles with same sex attraction.
The majority of the comments I saw did not differ from the same ones I see here. People saying that we are denying who God made us and that we are fighting against what is natural. In his interview with Lisa Ling, Alan Chambers said something that I’ve been trying to express (less eloquently for sure) for the past few months.
I’m denying the power those feelings once had over me…I’m not defined by those fleeting temptations. I have chosen to live my life through the filter of my faith and not through the filter of my sexuality.
Lisa Ling comments in the introduction that there are only six verses in the Bible that condemn homosexuality. Even if those verses did not exist, I would still be making this journey. I personally can’t reconcile my faith and my sexuality…and faith wins. Faith wins every time (however ugly the process looks…and I make it look ugly a lot).
One other note about Exodus. I was never told that Exodus would “cure my gayness” or make me straight. In fact, I need to go back and listen, but I recall Alan Chambers actually promising that Exodus would not turn me straight or “cure” me.
Lisa Ling also visited and interviewed a lady name Janet who leads a ministry based on the idea that you can turn off being gay. While I admire Janet’s own journey, my heart breaks a little for anyone expecting their homosexuality to turn off. I believe that’s when depression and suicide attack. Basing your entire faith on whether or not God makes you straight will depress you. Believe me. I’ve been there.
If you are struggling with same sex attraction and looking for answers, please please hear me when I say that I believe with all of my heart that God is powerful enough to snap His fingers and remove any hint of homosexuality in someone’s life. He can do it, I know, and maybe Janet is proof of this. But I also know that if He chooses not to take it out of your life, it does not mean that you don’t matter to Him or that you aren’t good enough. Basing your entire faith on one act of God isn’t faith at all. Of all the things I’ve learned over the past few years, that’s the one thing I wish someone had told me – that He loves you even if He’s saying no.
Another reason I felt misunderstood after watching the episode is because there was a focus on turning from gay to straight. For me, it’s not about turning straight. Ultimately, it’s not even about being “not gay.” It’s about chasing after God and living the life He has called me to.
Later in the episode, Lisa visits a pro-gay Christian camp called The Naming Project. This segment left me very emotional. Jumping ahead a little, Alan Chambers says at the end of the episode that thinks he will see Christians living a gay lifestyle in heaven because life is about the relationship with God and gay Christians have that relationship. After watching The Naming Project’s segment, I honestly struggled with why it is that I can’t be one of those people that Alan talks about and at the camp who can fit their sexuality in the frame of their faith. It’s something I’m still working through – mostly because I’ve recognized this covetous attitude I have toward people living a gay lifestyle. I have to be honest to say that I wish I could have both. I wish that God would come down tomorrow and say that it was ok to give in to the desires of my flesh, but I believe that He has called me (and us) to a higher purpose than what our carnal selves tell us we want.
Something else that they focused on at The Naming Project was that God made them exactly as they were supposed to be. I don’t disagree with this. God says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. This message was loud and clear at Exodus, too. Each of us was knit in the womb by God and God does not make mistakes. None of us are defects.
I am who I am because God wanted me to be that way but we are sinful people in a fallen world and God is calling us to transformation through Him. Maybe your transformation looks like mine and you are on the journey to purity and holiness. Maybe your transformation is learning to be less judgmental and more loving toward people who are different than you or maybe it’s leaning on Him instead of yourself.
I’m grateful for this episode for two reasons. One: it got people talking about church and homosexuality which it seems that hardly anybody does. Two: it made me think things out. A lot of questions came up and I had to search my heart for the answers. I’m still working through some of these and can’t even pretend to have the answers. As much as I know that most of you will taking shots at the holes in my post, I do appreciate the conversation.
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Lisa Ling has a new show on Oprah’s new network (OWN) called Our America and tonight’s episode addresses the Christianity vs. Homosexuality issue. Lisa was at the Exodus Freedom Conference this summer as part of her research. As far as I can tell from the website, a segment of tonight’s episode features the conference and an interview with Exodus president Alan Chambers. You can watch a quick sneak peek here. I won’t be able to watch until later this week but I’m interested to hear what those of you who are able to watch think. If anything, I hope you get a glimpse of what my experience at Exodus was like and hear from a more eloquent and experienced speaker than myself. 🙂