Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ex Gay Apologies...

Yesterday, another ex-gay minister issued apologies for the heartbreak and deep emotional pain that , for years, he feels he caused members of the gay community by telling them a change in sexual orientation was possible.  He describes the disappointment felt by many of those he counseled, self-destructive behaviors,  guilt and to make it all worse the condemnation from some in the church!

Okay I get it! Sexual orientation is not something you can change like changing a channel! That this ever was a question is surprising! People like him and others, who gave testimony of life changes, prayed and counseled others, and who began ministries such as Exodus, should have been more cautious with their claims, more transparent with their own struggles. Yet, as he speaks of the harm that he and other ex-gay ministers have caused, I can not help but wonder at their sense of self importance!

In over twenty years of listening to, treating patients and praying with people as a friend, counselor, physician and priest of a progressive outlook, I have encountered perhaps a handful of people disappointed or hurt by  a sexual orientation which was not changed by prayer or counseling! These numbers pale in comparison with the many which I have cared for, suffering from the stigma of HIV, the emotional pain of  unfaithfulness in a relationship, STD’s, the ravages of AIDS, depression, substance abuse and a general disillusionment all too common with humans.  Even among the out and proud, I have friends, now approaching their fifties, who live their lives lonely after serial attempts at relationships and a host of one night stands which have not helped their longing for love, ex gay ministries notwithstanding!

“The problem is the way we treat each other”, are the words from a longtime friend.  Another speaks of the lack of commitment of the many men he has allowed into his life; “It is not worth trying anymore…”. On a reflective note a dear friend, single, professional, successful in many areas of his life, says of an aspect of the male gay culture, as he has experienced it ; “…You have to be young, good looking, have money and be hung”. That is fine and dandy except for when you are aging, overweight and struggling with the realities of being human, of illness or loss! 

The Cuban author Reynaldo Arenas, poet and outspoken critic of the Castro regime gives a powerful witness of his own life as a gay man in Cuba and the United States.  “Homosexuality is not monogamous” , he states in his famous memoir Before the Night Falls.  This was true in his particular experience, but it does seem to mirror the experience of others and what statistics show to be true , even in committed gay male couples. Perhaps, the saddest and most telling portion of the book is the account of a visit to a bathroom frequented by gay men in search of sex. Of the experience, then forty-sh Reynaldo writes; "No one gave me a second look, no one noticed me, I was no longer desirable, I was old...". That will work for some people just fine, but for many others...not so much!    

I am sure we all have friends who have balanced, wholesome, stable lives while gay: married, partnered, single and a few in a relationship with an opposite gender mate!  Their stories are inspiring and remind us that faith, love , commitment , joy and success are not exclusive to certain society approved heterosexual relationships. However we would be remiss not to tell the whole story! It is not the joy of being gay and out that drove many people to Exodus and like ministries! It was the pain, rejection, despair of life in the fast lane, their search for acceptance in a  culture which very often  favors youth, beauty and distraction! 
Perhaps, as Christians feel the need to repent or apologize, we should encourage others to do so as well! Maybe the owners of gay bars and bathhouses, not always therapeutic environments! Certainly the publishers and writers of gay magazines which seem to promote a careless attitude towards sex, no better than their heterosexual counterparts! Perhaps those, who rightly tell younger people that “it gets better”, should also apologize for not warning that it could get worse! Call me insensitive but, most of the suffering in the gay community does not seem to have been inflicted by ministries like Exodus, there is enough culpability to go around!  I have never seen a person die from too much prayer, Bible reading, fellowship with people of faith, but I have seen plenty of young men full of life, sicken, some die, from embracing the myth of a “gay life” devoid of consequences! 

Then again, maybe its about time we get off the whole apology bandwagon and be bolder about the love of God! Sexual orientation change not promised, but a life of fulness, faith and integrity not dictated or limited by  the labels of the day is part of the heritage and promise of our faith! After all, the Good Book does say that people, gay or straight, if united to Christ are a "new creation", something beyond the understandings and rigid rules of this world! 

Now is the time to more consistently teach our children, some of which may be gay, about the love of God, their inherent dignity as human persons, the value of their bodies! Perhaps we should do much more to teach and encourage young people to aspire to chastity, true friendships and long lasting love! Despite all the things Christians may do wrong these are things they surely can do right with the help of God! There is no need to apologize about that!



Monday, July 22, 2013

Martha, Martha, One Thing Is Needed…

Monday is here again, so soon, and I must admit to feeling quite tired.  I did take some time to loaf, but am more certain today that, a vestry meeting Saturday and three services on Sunday probably were not helpful to an overall restful weekend.  Then there was the gospel lesson!

"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing". 
 No disrespect intended but, if that exchange would  have taken place on a Monday like today, I can envision her dropping the apron and saying with the sweetest smile ever; “…great, make your own dinner, I am in need of only one thing …and it is not this”. 

It is not that I disagree with the Lord about choosing the “better thing” , nor that too much busyness can spoil our perspective and rob us of the joy in service! It is just that, sometimes, there are many things that do need attention, few people to help tend them, and too many who seem intent on making the tasks just a bit harder.  Nothing like a busy Monday morning when you are already tired to bring these reflections to mind!

The gospel scene with one sister working and the other one sitting calmly and perhaps choosing not to notice the chores mirrors real life way too often. I have often asked the Lord about this, but keep running into the passage in the gospel where Jesus tells his disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his field. Perhaps, my thoughts chime in, that would be a solution, if said laborers would come willing, docile and trained! 

In my experience, more hands do not make the work necessarily lighter…according to my mom, more hands can mean more mess! Sometimes the adage does hold true that, too many cooks in one pot spoil the brew, or perhaps the one where there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians! And then there is the case we read about Sunday, there were enough hands in that house all right; one Messiah, 12 disciples with assorted skills and a sister…not a one in the kitchen!  

Monday is in full bloom!!!! I have a schedule filled of people who come with concerns and physical ailments, several unanswered calls and emails, a music minister to hire, people drama at church, and a host of demands for my limited time and attention…never mind the requests for authorizations, records and assorted mountains of paperwork on my desk!.The chance of any of that disappearing if I just take time to sit, or that there is help forthcoming for the day is nil! 

On this busy day what part can I choose? Not every Mary has the luck of a Martha to enable her choices, even if grudgingly!  Today it is crystal clear that choosing the better part does not always seem to include laying down your apron, your computer or stethoscope, or choosing not to listen! And never ever does that happen on a Monday!

Well here it is; I am going to repent….yes already! Then, pray, smile, slowly and deliberately tend to my duties at hand and thank God for his presence in the midst of busyness and turmoil. I will do what I must and at the end of the day, the rest can just wait!   

Next Friday I must revisit my scheduling priorities, after all, I have it from good authority that ; “there is only one thing needed!