After reading some of the horrible and distorted things that people have been saying about and to Ray Boltz after his coming out last week, I felt it was a good idea to send him a note of encouragement. I would post some of the things that have been said, but a simple Google search would suffice. I have no desire to bring hate out of its anonymity.
There was one message that was as candid as it was brutally honest; from J. Lee Grady, publisher of the popular Charisma magazine. Grady’s editorial was replete with plenty of common evangelical themes on the topic of homosexuality and reflected what I’ve seen elsewhere:
When I first heard Boltz’s announcement I felt betrayed, the same way I feel when a famous preacher admits to an affair or when a good friend leaves the faith. I’ll admit I immediately began composing a biblical lecture in my head.I was upset that Boltz chose to stop fighting same-sex temptation after all those years of marriage. I was sorry to learn that he feels “closer to God” since he embraced his suppressed gayness. Most of all I was annoyed that his decision sends a distorted message to our culture that Christianity doesn’t offer the power to overcome sin.
Grady’s statement that he felt betrayed, just as when someone has an affair or even leaves the faith is telling, but not uncommon. I’ve had members of my own family share the same sentiments when I came out a few years back. This is an example of just how deep this bitter root of resentment and hate for homosexuality has grown in so many of us.
That root was even in me — I hated myself! Let me be equally honest — this is exactly why I (and I’m sure Mr. Boltz) struggled with being gay and Christian so much. I believed that being gay and accepting that as a reality in my life would equate leaving the faith. It was literally two realities that seemed to be at war with each other. I don’t really need to go into details about that internal war since I’ve already written about it a great deal.
Grady goes on to say that he asked the Lord to share His heart on the issue. Since he (like most charismatics) believe that God still speaks prophetically, he continued:
But as I asked the Lord to share His heart with me about Boltz’s situation, I realized that our corporate response to this is as much about a right attitude as it is about right doctrines:1. We must weep. The prophets who called ancient Israel to repent for apostasy did so through tears. Not only did they declare the word of God, but they also spoke with His tone of voice. I pray we will refrain from speaking God’s words to gay people until we have wept long enough to internalize His heart for them.
Grady speaks here with a softness that so many others lack. This is a refreshing change.
The second element in this “heart of the Lord” message is worth telling – often:
2. We must love homosexuals. Preachers are fond of making grand declarations of God’s hatred of homosexuality, and we are prone to cheer them on. But Tim Wilkins, a recovered homosexual who is now director of Cross Ministry in Wake Forest, N.C., pleads with Christians to tone down the angry rhetoric. He says that every time a preacher makes a demeaning remark about homosexuals in a sermon, he wounds 70 percent of his listeners who either (1) silently deal with same-sex attraction themselves; or (2) have family and friends who do.
A 2007 Barna survey showed that 90 percent of young non-Christians and 80 percent of young churchgoers believe Christians display “excessive contempt toward gays and lesbians.” Could this be one reason we are not reaching large numbers of homosexuals with the gospel? If we don’t show genuine love, we can expect them to ignore us.
It was Jesus’ offer of friendship, not a sermon, that brought the hated tax collector Zaccheus to repentance. When Jesus called the little guy down from the sycamore tree and said, “Today I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5, NASB), He erased all the rejection Zaccheus had endured from the moralizers who had condemned his thievery. (And Jesus didn’t get more popular with religious people when He made this new friendship.) Perhaps we need more hospitality and fewer sermons!
These three paragraphs resonate with me, and I’m sure they’ll strike a chord (if not a nerve) with others. While I’m not crazy at the “love someone so they’ll see it your way” message since it’s a “hook” that doesn’t need to exist, the message of genuine love is sound. Grady says simply, “If we don’t show genuine love, we can expect them (why does it always have to be us-and-them?) to ignore us.”
Here’s a thought, Mr. Grady – what about the idea of showing genuine love regardless – without agendas, without hooks, and without any secret desire for us to see things your way? Seriously – I, like so many of my brethren who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, have long dealt with the issue in our lives, and we’ve settled it. It’s plainly obvious that the one with the problem is you, not us. That Barna statistic is only stating the obvious – far too many people use their religious beliefs as a screen to mask their own issues.
Far be it from me to quote an “ex-gay” minister, but in this case, he speaks the truth when stating that demeaning preaching about gays wounds the majority of their congregation. When we speak compassionately no matter what our point of view, we’ll get much greater response. “Ex-gay” ministries and programs have long been met with abject failure after failure, and are almost universally rejected as being quack science.
The most recent statement from the American Psychological Association came two years ago in August 2006 after a symposium where groups from both sides of the “reparative therapy” issue were able to present their data. The final statement was a stinging rebuke against NARTH (The National Association for the Reparative Therapy of Homosexuals), of which Wilkins is a member:
For over three decades the consensus of the mental health community has been that homosexuality is not an illness and therefore not in need of a cure. The APA’s concern about the position’s espoused by NARTH and so-called conversation therapy is that they are not supported by the science. There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Our further concern is that the positions espoused by NARTH and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.
The rest of Grady’s piece is an affirmation that (Charismatic or Evangelical) Christians can stand on their belief that homosexuality is sinful, and that anyone (including Ray Boltz) “doesn’t always have to be controlled” by their “desires.” The simple reality is, though, that it’s not our “desires” that control us, it’s our integrity, and it’s whether we choose to accept the truth about our own lives.
Grady, like most charismatic or evangelical Christians, believes that homosexuality is all about behavior. It’s all about the sex. When someone thinks of a “homoSEXual,” the word “sex” is first and foremost in the mind. Well, believe me when I say that if I actually had the amount of sex that some attribute to gay men, then I’d never even have time to write, let alone work a full-time job and run a home-based business.
Maybe we should casually remind our Christian brethren that sex isn’t what defines our lives any more than it defines the life of anyone… unless they’re in the adult entertainment business. We all have a responsibility to live our lives with integrity, and for me and countless others, that means being open about our sexual orientation.
Having said all of that, it’s important for all of us to support each other, and share the love of Christ whenever possible. While I disagree with Grady and other Christian leaders on the issue, I’m encouraged that they are beginning to understand that the gay community will never come to the table when all they hear is hate.
Thankfully, more and more are coming to an understanding that a Christian can indeed be gay. While they might vary on their opinion on how effective that Christian might be in their life and faith, the grace of God is sufficient. Just as it should be sufficient for us to have grace for those who disagree with us.
Grady’s final paragraph is a fitting end to his piece:
The gospel we must shout from the housetops is that Jesus loves all of us, no matter our condition, and that His forgiveness can heal our brokenness. I pray Ray Boltz will soon discover that truth in a fresh way—and I hope he’ll write many more songs about it.
Well, I suspect that Mr. Boltz has indeed already discovered that truth, just as I have. It’s the truth that God made us who we are, and that our complete healing comes in embracing every part of our lives. Even the part that others don’t like. I’m looking forward to hearing those songs!
Because of this, I knew I needed to send a positive note to Ray Boltz. Here’s what I sent through his contact page:
Thank you so much for your work, and especially for your courage in coming out — those of us who are Christians who happen to be gay celebrate with you — and stand with you!
May our Lord and God continue to bless you and your family in all you do. I know you’re getting a lock of flack. I saw it when I came out, but like you, those who knew me had to do a double-take. “But you’re not like those other homosexuals…”
The more of us who can stand together and LIVE WITH INTEGRITY – the more we can begin to peel away the horrible lies and distortions that are constantly heaped on those of us who have had to wrestle with this very issue.
Again, thank you.