Thursday, August 03, 2006

Betrayed by whom?

Explain this to me, please.

I’ve seen or heard of several cases like this. A couple in the church has been married for 20+ years, when the husband comes out and admits he is gay. The wife is, of course, devastated. Family and church members rally around her. Obviously she is hurt, she is distressed, she is angry—who wouldn’t be? Her whole life has been turned upside down. Her whole marriage has been revealed to be, essentially, a sham, or at least not what she thought it was. Then she and all her supporters turn on the gay husband and accuse him of “lying to” and “betraying” her.

Strictly speaking, they are right about the lying. It is true that the husband was not honest with her, his family and his church about his homosexuality all those years. He may not have even been honest with himself. So I guess that means everyone would have much preferred that he had come out with the truth about his struggles with homosexual feelings from the very start, right? Gosh, why do you suppose he might not have had much incentive to do that? It couldn’t be all the sermons he’d heard over the years from the pulpit condemning homosexuals as perverted, depraved, abominable, sick, pedophilic, sexual predators, now, could it? Or maybe he should have been encouraged to greater honesty by the way he saw fellow Christians squirm, scowl, sneer and jeer every time the subject of homosexuality came up in casual conversation. Sure, I’d want to spill my guts about my struggles too in the midst of company like that.

And what’s the deal with this “betrayal” he is supposedly guilty of? Everyone who is a part of the conservative church knows that the standard counsel given to those who struggle with homosexual inclinations is that they are encouraged to mortify their flesh and kick-start their true heterosexual nature by getting married and continuing to have sex with their opposite-sex partner until something magically clicks. So how did the husband “betray” his wife, his family and his fellow Christians by taking the church’s advice so completely to heart? He was doing exactly what he was being told to do. And now that this advice has been proven wrong twenty years later, is that all his fault?

Now that the guy is at the end of his rope, his homosexuality having never gone away, his marriage falling apart, he and his family suffering public humiliation, somehow I don’t see his pastor and elders coming up to him and taking responsibility for what happened. I don’t see them approaching him humbly, slapping their foreheads and saying, “Jimmy John, we are so, so sorry! That advice we’ve been dishing out all these years about using marriage to try to change people's homosexual desires is so obviously wrong! Could you and your wife ever forgive us for the part we played in ruining your lives with that completely asinine counsel? And would you be so gracious as to join a committee we are setting up to rewrite our church’s policy on how to pastor and counsel homosexual members in our church?”

But no. Instead what I’ve seen is that the gay husband is somehow to blame for everything. For following the godly advice of his spiritual leaders. For trying to live up to his “true” heterosexual nature. For demonstrating at tremendous cost to himself, his wife and his kids that the church is entirely mistaken about the nature of homosexuality. It’s a good thing he’s gay and everyone hates him already, because it makes it all the easier to cover the church’s rear-end by scapegoating him.