'Standing in their shoes'
I ask you now to use your imagination, and to read this carefully, perhaps
more than once. For this is your chance to 'feel' what the world is like
for homosexual people.
An exercise in imagination
For just a few moments I want you to imagine yourself in a world in which:
* You are a lonely heterosexual in a homosexual world.
* Only homosexual unions can produce children.
* Society and the Church both declare in their different ways that your
heterosexuality is perverse and evil.
* The scriptures are essentially homosexual in culture, and are interpreted
as stating that heterosexuals and heterosexuality are wicked, though Jesus,
the Lord, the Living Word and inspiration of the Church, has nothing to
say on this in the Gospels. You wonder why, if Jesus said nothing, the
Church does not act in the spirit of Christ - the spirit of Christian compassion
* Platonic friendship between the sexes is the norm and is encouraged.
But potential meeting places are all for both sexes to ensure that people
of the same sex are not alone together.
Into such a world you are born and grow up in a devout, committed Christian
family. As a schoolboy you had a crush on a woman teacher, but this is
considered quite normal. (From now on,women readers may wish to switch
'male' for 'female' and visa versa.)
As a young male teenager you are disturbed to find that you feel a strange
attraction to girls when all your male friends are dating boys.
One girl in particular is very difficult to put out of your mind, but you
know this is unnatural and try very hard not to think of her. Yet as you
continue to grow, so (to your dismay) do the feelings of attraction towards
the opposite sex. You wonder what is the matter with you - you feel disgusted
To compound this, the preacher's topic at church is sexual sin. He speaks
quietly but firmly of the evils of heterosexuality, saying that heterosexuals
cannot be Christian. He preaches that such people choose to encourage their
heterosexual feelings. You feel despair!
You have already responded to Christ and live your life as a disciple.
You read the Bible devoutly, and Jesus' teaching influences what you are
and do. You give generously of what God has given you and you receive the
sacraments which mean much to you.
For love of Christ and the world which he and you love, you are deeply
involved in serving others.
Can these feelings stand between you and your Lord? They have not affected
any other aspect of your discipleship. But can you be heterosexual and
Christian? The preacher seemed to think not.
You speak to your minister, and he warns you of your feelings, which if
not dealt with may destroy your life and faith. He suggests you find a
fine young man to marry, and get rid of your heterosexual feelings. You
take his advice, and throw yourself into a relationship, then marriage,
with a man you much admire. Your friends are overjoyed; they previously
wondered if you would ever marry, because you've never had boyfriends before.
Then one day you are out with a female friend shopping. As you talk, you
find her warm and understanding.
As friends, you confide in each other about the past. And as you talk,
your heart sinks - there is the old stirring inside you. You try not to
think of her, or see her. But when you do see her your emotions go haywire,
and it becomes increasingly obvious she feels something very special for
But it must remain secret; you can share your joy with nobody. The sheer
delight of loving her (it is love) is accompanied by disgust and self-loathing.
You pray to God as you have never prayed before to change you.
You go back to your minister and share your distress. He tells you of people
who can help you - people who have healed heterosexuals in the power of
God. You keep praying for deliverance; this threatens your whole life!
You go to all those who claim to be able to help. But they only leave you
in a state of despair. For nothing has changed except your feelings of
guilt and desperation, which have merely grown stronger.
You wonder if you should simply end it all. You just cannot continue in
a state of deception, yet you must in order to keep your marriage and your
place in the church. What a mess you feel - torn apart!
Your love for Christ; your love for your female friend, which can never
be recognised and which is condemned as unnatural, yet is so natural to
you; your marriage, which is now making you and your partner un-happy.
The last thing you want is to hurt him, because you care for him deeply,
though you have never felt what you feel for your female friend.
What are you to do?
You know of some like you who have decided to stop the pretence, and have
quietly let it be known who they really are.
Some of these have experienced the trauma of attacks - verbal and sometimes
physical. Many of those who are Christians have been eased or pushed out
of the Church.
Some, more fortunate, have been understood and loved. Yet you know of others
who have tried to keep their secret to themselves only to be black-mailed
by nasty, greedy people who have guessed their secret.
What would be the response if you took the courageous step of being honest
with your fellow-Christians?
How does that feel?
The scenario I have asked you to imagine is just one unending story from
among many possible stories that illustrate the pain experienced by people
who are different, and whom we try hard to pressure into our conformity.
How did you feel standing in their shoes?
Some real-life stories
I could tell you several true stories about gay men.
There was one man who frequented the 'gay scene', where he could meet people
of like sexuality and feel relaxed for a while, knowing he was in the company
of those who understood him, but equally where there were temptations to
which he yielded.
Coming home, tired and disgusted with himself, he cried out to God to help
him. And there on the London bus alone, he met with his loving Creator
God. His life was changed: he learned to pray, to allow Christ through
the scriptures to influence his life. But his sexuality was still the same,
although now he lived forChrist.
He felt it was time to find a church to share in the worship of the God
who had called and blessed him.
But this is when his problems began!
'It would be better if you went elsewhere' was the rejoinder when he finally
told his story to his pastor because when preparing for baptism he thought
he should share who he was and remove any deceit.
I could also tell you about a fine Christian man who found Christ in an
evangelistic crusade. He too left the gay scene, and his partner - for
he was assured that Christianity and his gay partnership were inconsistent,
even when based on Christian love for one another. But his gay feelings
have never changed, even though he has sought help from those offering
it through the Church - counselling; exorcism; prayer.
He is a man of high integrity, and one of the most faithful Christians
it has been my privilege to meet; who has struggled to reconcile his faith
with his sexuality.
He still has no partner, but knows that like others he needs love. Thankfully,
he now recognises that God loves him with his sexuality as it is - and
with a partner, too, if God should send along 'Mr Right'.
The church that he loved, and where he wished to serve, has now eased him
out. So it is not surprising that he is losing faith with the Church, though
thankfully not with Christ.
I shall now talk about a woman for a change, and tell a story that, unusually,
has better ending. She has always been involved in the Church, and a very
gifted woman she is too. She has gone through life without any loves, until
she recently met her partner.
As she describes it, 'I felt abhorrence like everybody else about homosexuality,
though it never entered my life in any way. I didn't think much about it.
Then one day I found this was me!'
She and her partner, both Christian women, are among the more fortunate.
They both love Christ and the Church, and while they were unable to get
permission for blessing on their union in church, they were allowed to
receive a blessing in their home.
Perhaps such women are seen as less of a threat, somehow.
If only people realised there are homosexual men and women all round them.
They are ordinary people, and no threat to them except possibly to their
Carol and I count among our many friends certain ministers, lay readers
and preachers, choristers, organists and church members - all fine Christian
people, and all of them homosexual.
Having discussed who the people are that we are talking about, let us now
go on to look at what we need in order to make sense of what the scriptures
really say about homosexuality.