Thursday, May 22, 2008

Last Sunday's class

My Sunday school class went really well this past week, and I've been so busy preparing for the next class I forgot I was leaving you guys hanging. Sorry!

My goal was to present my understanding of homosexuality to the class, so that later on we can discuss how Christians can do a better job of loving and understanding their gay friends, family members and acquaintances. I presented the homosexual orientation as both a fallen and yet unchosen condition, a definition that stays true to both biblical teaching and people's experiences. It is in accord with Augustine's view of original sin that is further expounded upon in the Westminster Standards' Larger Catechism, to which our denomination (the PCA) subscribes.

But it's not enough to present abstract doctrines and theological definitions. I also read from the testimonies of two gay men who were professing Christians who talked about what it was like to grow up with the dawning awareness that they were homosexual. To me this was the centerpiece of the class, because if you haven't heard people describe it for themselves, you can never fully appreciate what people mean when they say, "I didn't choose this." I don't know how people in the class felt about those testimonies, but everyone listened in a respectful silence.

The question and answer time went on for 30 minutes. No one was hostile, everyone was trying to think and understand. Maybe the reason it all went so well was because our church is very young. The vast majority of members are in their 20's and 30's.

People wanted to know if these testimonies were typical to most gay people's experiences. One guy mentioned off-hand that he didn't have a problem with the CA Supreme Court's recent decision, and wanted to know how Christians can distance themselves from the "religious right" image. We talked about celibacy, what that was like for people, how the church might support someone who makes that decision for him- or herself. Someone brought up Joseph Nicolosi, not to bring up ex-gay ministries but to ask whether Nicolosi's theories about child-rearing could prevent kids from becoming gay. (I said I had never seen any convincing evidence to support his theories.)

Before we broke up, I asked the class whether they wanted me to explain about ex-gay ministries next time, or if they just wanted me to move forward with how to talk to and befriend someone who is gay. I was offering to read some ex-gay testimonies and explain how they related to what we had just talked about in class. One guy said, "Skip it" and I saw a lot of heads nod. To me that was the most surprising thing about last Sunday's class. Is the younger generation of conservative Christians becoming more skeptical about the claims of ex-gay ministries? If so I think that would be a huge step in the right direction.