Cross-posted at Sexual Authenticity.
I wanted to write a follow up to Ron Belgau’s piece on LifeSite’s interview of Joseph Sciambra.
Joe’s story is one of the those pieces of data that needs to be taken into account if we’re going to adequately provide for the pastoral needs of LGBTQ people, but it is a story that needs to be taken into account in the right way. LifeSite, not surprisingly, presents Sciambra as if he were a typical gay man and thus presents his story as the gritty, diabolical reality that underlies the sanitized images of gaydom that one finds in the mainstream media.
Sciambra’s story is perfect for this. It’s horrific. Literally. I write horror. I like The Shining, Lost Highway, Hour of the Wolf, and zombie movies. But by the time that I was halfway through Joe’s memoir I had overcome my capacity to handle the content. It’s also real, and although it would be politically convenient for me to sweep it under the carpet as if it were a very isolated and bizarre account, that would be just as irresponsible on my part as it is for LifeSite to present the story as if it were the norm. Grappling with Sciambra’s experience responsibly involves recognizing that the sadomasochistic porn scene really is a part of the gay community, and that although sexual excess in the gay scene is sometimes overstated by Christians it is also real. How do we address that reality? How do we provide responsible warnings for those who might be at risk of encountering the kind of horrific and predatory community that Sciambra found, while at the same time avoiding alarmism?
Suppose that a prominent secular gay organization, hoping to better understand and respond to pro-family Christian groups, sent a reporter to interview Heidi Fleiss, the former Hollywood Madam, in order to get her perspective on why men and women want to marry and start families, and to gain insight on why some of them try to make marriage and family policy a major political issue.
I would think that most of us would recognize this as one of the least intelligent strategies available for understanding what motivates pro-family Christian groups—something more worthy of an article in The Onion or a Saturday Night Live skit than a serious article by activists who hope to affect social policy.
However, on Wednesday, Life Site News published an interview with Joseph Sciambra, a former gay porn actor, escort, sadomasochist, and Satanist. The interviewer, Peter Baklinski, asked Joseph:
Your experience with homosexuality is absolutely terrifying, especially when you relate the kind of sexual acts that were forced upon you and that you forced upon others. What you related of your experience seems quite alien from anything having to do with the political push for gay “marriage”. From your experience on the gay scene for ten years in the 90’s, what do you think is really behind the push for gay “marriage”?
In this final post of my series on sin and sexual minorities, I will examine an additional major principle that is useful in determining what sins we should prioritize addressing, and I will conclude with a few related thoughts. This principle comes from Matthew 7:3-5 (ESV):
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Scripture clearly teaches that sin comes from the heart. For example, in Matthew 15:18-20, Jesus teaches that the sins that defile a person come from inside a person’s heart, rather than from outside. In order to truly address our own sins, including the sins described in the previous two posts, we must address the condition of our hearts. The gospel is not really about behavior modification, but about inner transformation. Therefore, in this post, I will discuss some of the attitudes of the heart that contribute to sins against sexual minority people. Despite the fact that I’m not straight, these sins in particular are ones that I have often had to address in my own life, and that I have not completely overcome. However, I believe it will be edifying to bring them to light.
A very common sin, and one that Jesus addressed repeatedly during his earthly ministry, is that of self-righteousness. I think that a lot of straight Christians see themselves as fundamentally better people than most sexual minority people. This is not a truly Christian attitude, because we are all sinners who rely on God for salvation and sanctification. We have done nothing to earn a better place in God’s eyes through our own actions.
Sexual minority people are often the victims of several forms of overt sins of word and deed. Many of these are actions that we can all acknowledge are absolutely sinful. However, I find that many Christians are reluctant to admit the frequency with which sexual minorities in particular are victimized. From what I’ve found, this often results simply from lack of awareness, so I would like to use this post to provide some basic background about issues we should be addressing. Unfortunately, the issues are too numerous to do justice to in a single blog post, so I cannot be comprehensive.
In “Day of Silence 2013,” I discussed the grave moral issue of anti-gay bullying and argued that we need to consider more than just sexual ethics when discussing the topic. Similar issues arise with the issue of hate crimes. In some parts of the world, it is tragically common for sexual minority people to be murdered or brutally beaten if their sexuality becomes known. Milder forms of harassment are also common, and are almost ubiquitous in significant segments of society. For example, “faggot” is a common insult, even though it is deeply offensive. Many people will call something they don’t like “gay.” I can tell you that as someone realizing my own attraction to other guys, hearing that has often been hurtful. Sexual minority people may be rejected socially if their sexuality is known, regardless of their beliefs or subsequent decisions about how to live. Although I have fortunately not experienced this personally to any significant degree, it has happened to others. This sort of behavior should never be considered acceptable.
I think I was in middle school when the pastor of the little Southern Baptist Church I grew up in preached about Jesus’ words on the subject of divorce for the last time. Afterward, he received a great deal of criticism from many in the congregation—including a number of Sunday School teachers and other influential members—who were divorced and remarried.
After that, he did not preach any more sermons condemning divorce.
On the other hand, when there were sermons that denounced the homosexual agenda, or called for reinstating the biblical death penalty for homosexuals, the pastor’s call was met with a resounding “amen,” and there were no protests from the congregation. So those sermons continued throughout my youth, and were still occurring from time to time when I left for college.
Many, though not all, of the sins I will mention in this series are not infrequently committed by Christians. In the past, when I’ve brought up these kinds of sins, I’ve sometimes been accused of harboring a deep-seated hatred of Christians. As is probably obvious to everyone who actually knows me, nothing could be further from the truth. I think these accusations might come from people whose thinking has been deeply affected by a mentality of culture war, and who see my concerns as a form of friendly fire that inhibits an effective attack on the enemy. I don’t think much of such a paradigm, especially given that our true enemy is not of this world and that we should be at war with all forms of sin, especially our own sin.
So why do I actually choose to spend so much time focusing on the sins of Christians? It can basically be summed up the same way Matt Jones discusses his reasons for coming out in Going Public, Part 2—“I love the Church too much to let it love LGBTQ people so poorly.” I think that some of the ways many Christians have approached sexual identity issues have been incredibly detrimental to the witness of the Church, both to sexual minorities and to the culture at large.
In Christian discussions about sexual identity issues, the notions of “sin” and “morality” often come up. Typically, gay sex is in focus. There are often complaints about how the gay community is promoting particular sins or forms of sexual immorality. As someone who holds to a traditional understanding of sexual ethics, I agree with some of these concerns.
However, I think this is a far too limited way to view sin and morality. Christian morality cannot be reduced to sexual ethics; other issues are critically important as well. Furthermore, many complaints by Christians demonstrate much greater concern about certain sins committed by sexual minorities than about sins committed against sexual minorities, if sins against sexual minorities are acknowledged at all. Sins against sexual minority people are in fact serious and common, and as Matt Jones discusses in “What Is Love?,” true concern for sexual minorities requires us to acknowledge and fight these sins.
In her essay, “The Other Six Deadly Sins,” (collected in Creed or Chaos) Dorothy Sayers writes:
There are two main reasons for which people fall into the sin of Luxuria [lust]. It may be through sheer exuberance of animal spirits: in which case a sharp application of the curb may be all that is needed to bring the body into subjection and remind it of its proper place in the scheme of man’s twofold nature. Or—and this commonly happens in periods of disillusionment like our own, when philosophies are bankrupt and life appears without hope—men and women may turn to lust in sheer boredom and discontent, trying to find in it some stimulus which is not provided by the drab discomfort of their mental and physical surroundings. When that is the case, stern rebukes and restrictions are worse than useless. It is as though one were to endeavour to cure anaemia by bleeding; it only reduces further an already impoverished vitality. The mournful and medical aspect of twentieth-century pornography and promiscuity strongly suggests that we have reached one of these periods of spiritual depression, where people go to bed because they have nothing better to do. In other words, the “regrettable moral laxity” of which respectable people complain may have its root cause not in Luxuria at all, but in some other of the sins of society, and may automatically begin to cure itself when that root cause is removed.
I grew up in the Eastern Orthodox Church and continue to call her home so whenever I see her handling the topic of homosexuality poorly it grieves me. This has never been so true as with the continued debate in Russia over the rights of its LGBT citizens. I feel very strongly that there must be a better way to discuss family values and uphold the basic rights and safety of a country’s citizens than Russia has been demonstrating. The Russian Orthodox Church’s involvement in the current debate only adds additional hurt and only legitimizes the Russian government’s persecution of LGBT people.