Psychological and Theological Dead End
Although there is a need for distinguishing between homosexual orientation
and homosexual behaviour, the well-meaning Christian authors and
psychologists who do so lay a subtle trap which perpetuates the
individual's struggle for freedom by affirming that "homosexual
orientation" is a given, relatively unchangeable factor in one's life.
Homosexual behaviour is the acting out of sexual desires through various
forms of physical intimacy: cuddling, necking, petting, anal and oral sex
with members of one's own gender. Individuals who are not normally
disposed to homosexual behaviour have been known to engage in it.
Conversely, some individuals have only been familiar with homosexual desire
yet have never engaged in overt sexual expression with other members of his
or her own gender.
The accepted definition of homosexual orientation is the condition of
having a preference, emotionally and sexually, towards members of the same
gender. As an orientation, homosexuality becomes the core characteristic
of the individual, colouring human relationships. All of life is then
understood and interpreted through this "orientation."
Although I disagree with the use of the term "orientation," making this
distinction between homosexual behaviour and orientation is important
because the first steps in finding freedom from sin is by controlling
sinful behaviour. For the person who is just beginning to deal with his
homosexuality, we must break down the sin problem into smaller, more
manageable parts. Dealing with the entire condition of homosexuality is
too overwhelming a place to begin.
The distinction made implies, however, that only homosexual behaviour can
be overcome. This is false. The desire or drive to engage in such
behaviour or emotional relationships, which equally manifests the fallen
state of mankind, can also be overcome.
Secondly, the term orientation suggests a "state of being." "that is just
the way things are," or, more simply, "an unchangeable condition." When
applied to the person struggling with homosexual actions and desires, well-
meaning authors and counsellors are telling the individual, "You may be
able to stop the behaviour, but you must accept the fact that you are a
homosexual, and you will always be a homosexual."
In David Field's book, The Homosexual Way: A Christian Option? 1/, the
author states that it is sometimes not God's will for change to occur in a
particular person. While not completely dismissing the possibility of
change, Field errs in suggesting that it is not God's will to always change
the person. It seems unreasonable to me that God would condemn a behaviour
and not provide a means of escape. He surely knows that behaviour is not
the only issue to be dealt with regarding this particular sin.
My search for freedom from homosexuality was actually hindered by my
acceptance of my denomination's statement on homosexuality. It was good
that I was told to stop the behaviour. It was a major stumbling block for
me to accept their teaching that I would have to live with a homosexual
orientation throughout my life, "due to conditions to a large extent, if
not entirely, beyond [my] responsibility".2/ and because "to expect the
means of grace and power and prayer to redirect a firmly fixed homosexual
is to expect a miracle." 3/
The result was that I did stop the behaviour, but I was stuck with the
homosexual orientation. Homosexual: That is the way I am. My
understanding of homosexual orientation determined the course of all my
interpersonal relationships for the next seven years.
Professional opinion placed me in a box wherein I had to interpret my
experience in terms of the homosexual label. As strange as it sounds, I
needed to live up to the label -- not for my sake, but for the sake of
societal expectations. "Homosexual", even though I stopped the behaviour,
continued to define my identity.
It was not possible to take on the label, "new creature in Christ". How
could I be? I was a homosexual. "Forgiven and washed in the blood of
Jesus?" How could I be? I was a homosexual. I sank into despair. Maybe
God would forgive me of my homosexual sin, but he could never totally
freely love me and accept me as His child -- my former sin still dominated
my life in that I was homosexual by orientation. That was an undeniable
and unchangeable fact.
After an attempted suicide, the doctors agreed that "he is strongly
homosexually oriented." They prescribed therapy: "Help him adjust to his
homosexual orientation." Again I was trapped. I had to continue wearing
the homosexual label. Even the Christian psychologists said that the
orientation was unchangeable.
A Solution in Sight
Labels are dangerous things. They have the power to determine behaviour
and identity. They lock people into invalid states of being. They block
the radical, transforming power of God's new labels and identity.
Kent Paris at the EXODUS International conference in Baltimore in June
1984, taught about labels. 4/ He pointed out that the Scriptures began
with "And God saw all that He had made and, behold, it was very good."
(Genesis 1:31) The Bible didn't begin with "You're a sinner!" he went on
to say. The Scriptures don't even begin with "Jesus saves." God's very
first words about mankind are very good. We are valuable because God made
us that way. We don't become valuable when we enter right relationships
with God. We are valuable.
That is why God desires all to come to Him: the homosexual, the prostitute,
the affluent suburbanite, the criminal, the Ph.D., the high school drop-
out. We are valuable by purpose and origin, created good and in the image
of God. Our world has been distorted by evil, but God became Emmanuel --
God with us -- to redeem, to restore us back to that original state.
Homosexual orientation is a label with the power to destroy. By definition
that means the unchangeable state of being homosexual. It denies the
created order -- "God made them male and female." (Genesis 1:26) It
denies that heterosexuality is implicit in the make-up of being male and
female and capable of complementing each other. It denies the act of
redemption -- "Behold, I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5) (See
also I Corinthians 6:11, II Corinthians 1:10)
The homosexual orientation is not a label that must be worn. Rather, we
need to see ourselves as our heavenly Father sees us: very good.
In counseling individuals struggling with homosexuality, let us rather
speak about the components of homosexuality: behaviour and fantasy,
lifestyle, false identity, and psychic response. 5/ We can teach
individuals to find freedom from all of them. Let us teach them about the
nature of temptation and how to gain victory over that instead of
sentencing them to carry a cross that doesn't exist.
-- Douglas A Houck
1/ The Homosexual Way: A Christian Option?, David Field; InterVarsity
Press, Downers Grove, IL; 1979, pg 46.
2/ Report 42, Acts of Synod 1973; Board of Publications of the Christian
Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, MI; 1973, pg 630.
3/ Ibid, pg 627
4/ "Communicating God's Good News," Kent Paris; recorded at EXODUS IX,
Baltimore, 1984, cost: $4.50. Write to: Business Products, Inc., 11
Federal Blvd., #1, Denver, CO 80219.
5/ Exodus policy statement; EXODUS International, P O Box 2121, San
Rafael, CA 94912.
For further information about homosexuality or about other areas of sexual
brokenness, please contact:
LOVE IN ACTION
G.P.O. Box 1115
ADELAIDE SA 5001
Phone (08) 371 0446
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