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I was an outcast in the 6th grade. I've told more than one person that I wouldn't go back to that time in my life for all the money in the world. That was the year my classmates got downright mean. We've all heard the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," but many of us know from personal experience that they can. Words can wound our spirits and create fear and isolation. Some of the 6th graders in my class knew this all too well and used it to their advantage.
One day after school, I boarded my bus and was waiting for it to take me home. There were around 20 other busloads of students waiting to do the same thing. One of my classmates leaned out his window so hundreds of kids could see and hear him. He started speaking in a mocking, effeminate manner that was clearly meant to emulate that of a "gay" person's voice. He then called out my name, waving and pointing. The message was clear, "Alan is gay." My entire bus just looked at me. Kids on the other buses did the same. They began to point and laugh. I endured more incidents like that than I care to recall.
As I transitioned to junior high and high school, I did a lot to repackage my image and worked hard to overcome anything that would hint that I might be gay. I'm not sure I did a great job, but most of my classmates finally decided they liked me. In my early adulthood, I began to seriously consider how to deal with my struggle with same-sex attraction. The world around me was shifting. The culture's beliefs and attitudes about homosexuality were changing. What had long been the position of Hollywood started rubbing off on Main Street. Eventually, after trying it I decided that Hollywood's views were based on the illusion of a contented gay life that conflicted with my deepest beliefs. I turned to the ministry I now lead, Exodus International, for support and they helped me unravel scars from the past and inspired me with hopes for the future.
It was during this time of transition that one of my classmates told me that the leader of the cruel attacks I endured in 6th grade had come out as gay himself. I did feel some empathy for him, but the fact that he was launching an all out verbal assault on me while he was struggling with the same issues was tough to reconcile. He was the most popular, accepted kid in our class and could have used his popularity to help me, a "geek," but instead shunned me and encouraged others to do the same. I guess insecure people often displace their insecurity by demonizing others.
Fast-forward more than 20 years later to now—where the social climate as well as the opportunity for rejection is still changing and evolving. We now have various social networking sites such as YouTube, MySpace and Facebook. For those of you who aren't familiar with Facebook, you have to send or receive a "friend request" in order to connect with someone. I've sent and received many from old classmates—good friends and casual acquaintances.
One day as I was perusing my list of friends, I noticed that two of my good buddies from high school had all of the sudden disappeared from my "friend" list. I wondered if it had anything to do with my "controversial" life or my "controversial" career. So I emailed them and asked. My suspicions were confirmed. Talk about hypocritical. I have 1,300 friends on Facebook (sarcastic "Woo Hoo!" to follow) many of whom by no means live moral lives, vote the way I would or even believe in God. I know several who are openly gay and others who outright reject my faith. I choose to befriend those who are diametrically opposed to the life I have chosen to live and yet I am rejected for my "bigoted" and "intolerant" views.
People of faith who choose to surrender their sexuality to Christ and who choose to live their lives in a way that is different than the culture's new normal are now the new social outcasts. It's obvious that people of faith in general are in the same category. I was just reading that California's Prop. 8 opponents are now circulating maps identifying the personal homes of individuals who financially supported Prop. 8 in order to harass their families and shame their views! Unbelievable.
Many students will risk the rejection of their peers and subject themselves to outright discrimination on April 20 to stand up for biblical truth on campuses nationwide on the Day of Truth. This annual event originated five years ago to affirm every students' constitutional right to free speech and to provide an opportunity to have an honest conversation about sexuality. These students will courageously join their voices with the more than 13,000 others who in years past have done just that. I stand with them as someone who has experienced the freedom truth brings and I am reminded that we are in good company. Jesus was a social outcast. He told us we would be too in 1 John 3:13, "Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you," and in John 15:18, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." He considered us worth the rejection of the world. May we consider those who reject us worth the same.
Alan Chambers is the president of Exodus International, the largest worldwide Christian outreach to those dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction and the author of two books: God's Grace & the Homosexual Next Door and Leaving Homosexuality. www.exodusinternational.org
Things are different in Canada. No offense to Canadians, of course. Recently I was engaged in a lively debate about the topic of homosexuality and politics with a dear Canadian friend while I was there for a speaking engagement. Obviously, Canadian law has gone much further than U.S. law when it comes to the legitimization of homosexuality. Canada's speech codes and laws on marriage are far more liberal than ours. And, from an outsider's perspective, Canadians are not as engaged in the political battle surrounding these issues as we are in the United States. In fact, many of my Canadian friends, this one included, give me a very hard time about ministering to people struggling with same-sex attraction and being active and outspoken on political and social issues that encompass homosexuality.
During lunch, my friend asked my views on "covenant friendships". I'd never heard that term, but quickly realized she was referring to sexless committed relationships between members of the same gender. I immediately called them sinful. She was shocked. So was I. Apparently, we don't share what I consider to be fairly cut and dry biblical position on this issue. So I asked her to give me a first hand account of such a relationship that she saw as healthy. She went on to share the story of a Christian lesbian who believes that homosexual behavior is sinful, but holds no hope of ever experiencing heterosexuality. The thought of living a single life was too much for her to bear and so she developed a committed non-sexual relationship with another woman. They held a commitment ceremony, bought a house together, combined their finances and are trying to live happily ever after. They live in separate bedrooms, but in every other sense of the word, they are partners. "What's wrong with that?" my friend asked. Everything.
Talk about selling God short in the "I will supply all of your needs" category. What about abstaining from all appearances of evil? How about fleeing from temptation? Two same-sex attracted women getting married and pledging their lifelong love and devotion to one another, with or without sex, is called homosexuality. How can we say anything less? There is no such thing as diet homosexuality. If I was going to go as far as these two women have I would just go all the way. It isn't only the sex that makes homosexuality sinful, it is choosing to live outside of God's best. He did not create two men or two women to meet the needs of one another in a spousal capacity. Loneliness isn't grounds for trying to meet your own needs outside of His will, sexually or otherwise.
The story of Abraham and Sarah comes to mind. God promised Abram that he would have a son and that his descendents would be as plentiful as the stars. Abraham expected that God was going to give he and Sarah an heir. By age 86, Abraham and Sarah still had no children or prospects of any. Sarah told Abraham to sleep with her maidservant, Hagar. Abraham did so and she conceived and later bore him a son that they named Ishmael. This wasn't God's plan for them or the heir He had promised and they quickly knew it. Fourteen years later, when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90, God fulfilled His promise and gave them Isaac. I don't know how much you know about world history and how Abraham and Sarah's choices affect us today, but the turmoil that exists in the Middle East - the turmoil that has always existed there - is directly linked to a war between Isaac, the heir God promised, and Ishmael, the product of Abraham and Sarah's impatience.
Our impatience with God and our inability to allow Him to work things out in our lives can lead us to sin. I see the relationship between the two women that I related above as a counterfeit to the intimacy that only God can give and bring through another person. Like Proverbs 13:12 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life." Filling the hole in our hearts with anything other than God's best will make our hearts sick. Whether we call them civil unions, domestic partnerships, same-sex marriage or covenant friendships, the truth of the matter is that these unions are less than the Creator's creative intent for His creation.
So as the Prop 8 debate in California reheats once again, I am reminded that God's plan for marriage transcends our human interpretation of fairness and affection.
Marriage is His idea. It is a reflection of Jesus, the Groom and the church - His bride.
It goes to the core of who God is and who we are in relationship to Him. Repackaging or redefining it in the political or social realm will not change the truth, but we are foolish to try.
Alan Chambers is the President of Exodus International, the largest worldwide Christian outreach to those dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction. www.exodus.to
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