Five Things You Need to Know
At the very heart of the homosexual condition is conflict about gender. In the boy, we usually see a gender wound that traces back to childhood. He comes to see himself as different from other boys. Gender woundedness usually exists as a silent, secret fear—one that the boy’s parents and loved ones only vaguely suspect. The boy has felt this way for as long as he is able to remember. That differentness creates a feeling of inferiority and isolates him from other males.
—Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D.1—
A man boarded a plane and sat down with his three young sons. As passengers continued to find their seats and as other preparations were being made for takeoff, the boys became disruptive, argumentative, and loud. Even after the plane was airborne, their unruly behavior continued. The passengers seated near the family wondered why the dad didn’t take steps to reign in his kids; but in fact, the man seemed oblivious to their misconduct. He had a blank expression on his face and seemed even to be in a daze. Finally a lady spoke up. “Sir, I don’t mean to be rude, but could you please get your kids to behave?” The man didn’t respond, so the woman tapped him on the shoulder and repeated her request.
As if pulled in instantly from another world, the man reconnected with his surroundings and offered a sincere apology. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry. Please forgive them and me. You see, their mom, my wife, just passed away. We’re a long way from home. She’s been in a hospital here because it offered treatments we couldn’t get for her anywhere else. She passed away just yesterday, and the boys have been taking it really hard.”
As you might imagine, the attitudes and responses of the surrounding passengers instantly changed. They offered their sympathy to the man and his boys. They began to relate to them in a different way, simply because they now understood their circumstances and the challenges they were facing.2
This illustration is instructive for us. We who defend natural marriage and religious liberty need to understand the “players” in the ongoing debate that is so critical to our nation’s future. One of those players, obviously, is the homosexual. He is our neighbor; she lives on our street. What do we need to know about those who are struggling with same-sex attraction or who may even consider themselves gay? The insights I’m going to offer here never should lead us to compromise the truth or to soften our resolve to contend for marriage and religious liberty. Yet hopefully, they will help us respond with greater patience and kindness to those who disagree with us. Remember that even in the midst of a strong discussion about God’s judgment in the first two chapters of Romans, Paul wrote, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4). We who have never struggled with homosexuality certainly have needed God’s grace just as desperately as those who have. Let’s pray God would use our kindness toward them to bring them to repentance, the same doorway we walked through to experience God’s grace.
Here are five things we need to know about homosexuality and the experience of the homosexual. Although we will speak primarily in terms of the homosexual male, the differences between male and female homosexuality don’t prevent us from making broader, corresponding applications where appropriate.
First, a “gay gene” has never been discovered, but you’d never know that listening to the mainstream media. Homosexuality is complicated and likely results from a variety of factors, some of which we will explore in a few moments. As an article that addresses the issue of the causes of homosexuality states,
At best, the evidence for a genetic and/or biological basis to homosexual orientation is inconclusive. In fact, since the early 1990s, numerous studies attempting to establish a genetic cause for homosexuality have not proven to be valid or repeatable—two important requirements for study results to become accepted as fact in the scientific community. Because of this, the current thinking in the scientific community is that homosexuality is likely caused by a complex interaction of psychosocial, environmental and possible biological factors.3
The acknowledgement that biological factors may be involved does not mean researchers have discovered a “gay gene” that determines a homosexual orientation. As we have said, no such gene ever has been found.4,5,6,7 At the same time, we need to acknowledge that all people, heterosexuals and homosexuals alike, are born with an inclination to sin, and they sin by choice as well (see Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:23). God holds each person responsible for his actions (see Rom. 2:1-16). While a person may not choose whether or not he or she has same- or opposite-sex attractions, the individual clearly chooses what he or she will do with those leanings.
Second, people struggling with same-sex attraction and gender confusion obviously do make choices related to their leanings, but they do so in a cultural atmosphere that exacerbates gender confusion. Society has lost all objectivity. Bruce Jenner’s sex change is celebrated,8,9 despite evidence that such transformations are harmful.10,11 Yet, even apart from this, our society treats masculinity with destain.12,13,14 Moreover, the individual’s personal situation usually doesn’t provide any help or clarity, and the pressure to embrace a gay identity is enormous.
Alan Medinger was involved in homosexuality himself and came out of that lifestyle as a result of his conversion to Jesus Christ. One of the early leaders of the ex-gay movement, Alan wrote Growth into Manhood to help men struggling with homosexuality. Medinger writes, “The road to manhood is a long one. It is a road of learning, trying, failing, trying again, a journey of victories and defeats.” Most males, he says, make the journey without giving it a great deal of conscious thought, but they still arrive at the destination of manhood and are able to fulfill their responsibilities as men. Alan continues,
Some boys, however, did not reach this destination. At some point the striving became too much, the defeats and failures too painful, so they opted out. They got off the main road, and they took a detour. They arrived at a chronological age that classified them as men, they appeared to have all the parts that made them men, but deep inside, in the place of that nonverbal sense of manhood, there was a void. They did not feel as if they were women—most of them, that is—but somehow, in the world of men, they did not belong.15
Third, although homosexuality results from many factors, one of its root causes is a home environment that involves an overinvolved mother, a distant father, and an emotionally sensitive boy. Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, an expert on homosexuality and on therapy for overcoming it, writes,
Repeatedly, researchers have found the classic triadic (three-way) relationship in the family backgrounds of homosexual men. In this situation, the mother often has a poor or limited relationship with her husband, so she shifts her emotional needs to her son. The father is usually nonexpressive and detached and often is critical as well. So in the triadic family pattern we have the detached father, the overinvolved mother, and the temperamentally sensitive, emotionally attuned boy….16
Alan Medinger authenticates this scenario:
My journey into homosexuality fits the same pattern that I have seen over and over again in many other men I have worked with. I was an unplanned child, born to parents who would have preferred a girl. My older brother was more athletic and generally fit the “all boy” model far better than I, and somehow, he became Dad’s and I became Mom’s.17
What often happens in this situation? Christian singers Steve and Annie Chapman have written and performed many Christian songs about the family and about family relationships. In 1990, Steve composed a song titled “Father’s Embrace” that explains the plight, the typical background, and the hope of the homosexual. The song also paints a true picture of a homosexual man’s emotional and identity needs.18 Here is the powerful message conveyed by “Father’s Embrace.”
Many people have a hard time understanding why a man would become sexually intimate with another man. Even though he would say he was born that way, the homosexual actually is looking for affirmation he never received from his father when he was a child. His dad was consumed with other things, and the boy waited in vain for his father to give him attention and affection. Now grown, he looks to other men to fill the void, even in relationships that are sexualized. He won’t find what he needs in those relationships, but God hears his heart’s cry. Human fathers are woefully imperfect, but God is the Perfect Father. God loves the homosexual. He hears him crying out for his father’s love, and, as the Perfect Father, longs to meet that man’s needs. No one has to violate God’s plan to get what he really needs. Yet sadly, no one has ever shared with this man that God can fill the longings of his heart, if he would just come to Him in humble repentance, seeking wholeness on God’s terms rather than his own.19
Let’s assume a scenario exactly like the one Steve Chapman has depicted (one that is, in reality, all too common). It’s important for us to note that the elements in the boy’s life are not his fault. He did not choose his parents, nor their temperaments. Nor did he choose his own temperament. Furthermore, he cannot be blamed for the fact that no one has yet told him about God’s wanting to fill his “father need.” The church and individual Christians must bear responsibility for this. Now, none of this takes responsibility away from this individual for bad decisions, especially decisions he makes as an adult. At the same time, an awareness of these realities should help us understand the man’s situation and should give us a greater sense of compassion and love toward him.
At this point we must add a word of encouragement to parents. Noting the commonality of the “triadic family pattern” does not mean that parents should live under a pile of guilt for their child’s homosexuality or same-sex attraction. In his book 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality, Mike Haley, a former homosexual, answers this question early on: “We just found out our child is gay. Is it our fault? Did we do something wrong?”20 Here is a portion of Mr. Haley’s response.
This is often the first question that comes to the mind of any parent who has just learned of their child’s homosexuality. Your heart may be broken, and your mind will probably race back to review every milestone in the life of your child to see what could have possibly gone wrong. But take heart. The answer to this painful question will rid you of any false guilt and free you to respond in a helpful way.…
You must remember that no person has the power to make another child of God anything. Homosexuality is not the result of one single factor. Many influences can contribute to the condition: the child’s perception, parent’s behavior, the environment (which is often beyond any parent’s control), interactions with others, predisposing personality characteristics, and so on. While some familial contribution may have weakened the psyche of your child, making him or her more susceptible to same-sex attraction, each person is accountable for his or her responses to circumstances. No parent would ever willingly cause sexual struggles in any of their offspring. We live in an imperfect, fallen world, and we all make poor decisions that we alone are accountable for.
Think of your own life—of your vulnerability to a certain weakness. What “makes” you indulge? Surely not your parents, regardless of how imperfect they may have been. As you continue to read and learn, I pray you will be comforted by these truths: You are in no way directly responsible for your child’s sin, and the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ provides a way out of that sin.21
Fourth, the nature of homosexuality compels the homosexual to be consumed with his sexual orientation. Here is a simple illustration. Consider a chocolate chip cookie. That cookie represents you, and each chip in it represents an aspect of your life. You might say that one of the chips stands for your career, another for one of your hobbies, another for your family life, and so on. You might assign your heterosexual orientation to another of the chips, but this idea probably wouldn’t even occur to you. On the other hand, a homosexual’s sexual orientation isn’t a single chip in the cookie, but the whole cookie. He cannot divorce his sexual orientation from anything else in his life.22 This is one of the reasons it’s very difficult for gays and lesbians to understand what a Christian means when he says, “I love the sinner, but I hate the sin.”
Fifth, one hundred years ago, people viewed homosexuality as a behavior. (By the way, this is exactly the way Scripture sees it and treats it.23) Fifty years ago, society viewed it as a condition. Our culture today sees it as an identity.24 This is yet another reason gays and lesbians have difficulty understanding Christians’ claim to “love the sinner but hate the sin.” A gay man believes, “If you hate homosexuality, you must hate me, because that’s who I am.”
For these reasons and many others, it is often difficult to reach a homosexual with the truth about his actions and lifestyle—and about God’s love. This is why I am excited about a new movie that not only helps Christians reach out to homosexuals, but that also helps gays and lesbians understand better why Christians are compelled to warn them. The movie is produced by Living Waters, a ministry headed by evangelist Ray Comfort. Titled Audacity, it is currently available for download from the Internet for $19.99. It will be posted on YouTube for everyone to see on August 19. Without being judgmental, Audacity tells a story that explains the urgent need for all people—not just homosexuals—to get right with God. It treats the issues of homosexuality and same-sex marriage sensitively, yet forthrightly and without compromising the Bible’s message. To learn more, visit www.audacitymovie.com.
As you continue to contend for marriage and religious liberty in America, pray for all who have bought into the lie about homosexuality. Homosexuals may not know it, but they are hurting and have deep needs. Be available to be used of God to open others’ eyes to the truth. For homosexuals it is no different than it is for all other sinners; God longs to meet their deepest needs but so respects them as persons that He will not violate their will. As Steve Chapman so eloquently put it, God hears the cries of the one who missed his father’s embrace. He is listening to him and is “reaching down in love.”25 In Him is true hope.
Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Audacity may now be viewed here.
1Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., and Linda Ames Nicolosi, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 19.
2Summary of an illustration given by Bill McCartner at a Promise Keepers conference.
15Alan Medinger, Growth into Manhood, (Colorado Springs, CO: A Shaw Book published by WaterBrook Press, 2000), 1.
16Nicholosi and Nicholosi, 71-72.
18In Growth to Manhood, (p. 3), Alan Medinger writes that “homosexuality is much more than simply the direction of one’s sexual attractions. It has two other strong components: emotional neediness and identity.”
19paraphrase/summary of “Father’s Embrace” by Steve Chapman, 1990 Times And Seasons Music (Admin. by Crossroad Distributors Pty. Ltd.)
20Mike Haley, 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2004), 31.
22This insight was shared at a Love Won Out Conference (informing and assisting the church and families in addressing the issue of homosexuality). These conferences were held in various places several years ago by Focus on the Family.
23Joe Dallas and Nancy Heche, eds., The Complete Christian Guide to Understanding Homosexuality: A Biblical and Compassionate Response to Same-Sex Attraction, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2010), 99.
24http://www.citizenlink.com/2010/10/27/understanding-male-homosexuality-–-god’s-power-to-change-lives-part-3/ (original link); http://www.prophecydude.org/news/understanding-male-homosexuality-gods-power-to-change-lives-part-3/
25Steve Chapman, “Father’s Embrace.”