Christianity,  News

Wesley Hill comments on the end of Exodus International

Wesley Hill has weighed-in at the First Things blog on the closure of Exodus International. I highly recommend that you read this. In my view, more Christians need to understand Wesley’s testimony. It is steeped in an understanding of scripture and what the Bible teaches about human sexuality. It also explodes some of the unhelpful and unproven theories that many Christians have bought into concerning homosexuality. To wit, I do not question the fact that some people have been helped by reparative therapy. But I am skeptical of RT’s theological foundations, which seem to me to be problematic in many ways. I share Wesley’s concern that Christians may shoehorn homosexuals into narratives that do not fit them. Here’s an excerpt:

Like many younger people who are Christian and gay, I have shied away from much of what flies under the banner of Exodus and its affiliates. I was never involved in an Exodus group of any sort, in part because so many of their public statements led me to believe they were addressing themselves to people with rather different histories than mine. When I heard ex-gay accounts of the origins of same-sex attraction—accounts that focused on absentee or distant fathers or failure to bond with same-sex peers in childhood—I realized I was hearing stories that were pretty removed from my experience. I was raised in a very loving two-parent family, and the “father wound” narrative never illumined the possible causes of my homosexuality as it seemed to do for others. And I discerned, however inchoately, however rightly or wrongly, that if I were to join up with an “ex-gay” ministry, I would feel some degree of pressure to conform my narrative to theirs.

Read the rest of Wesley’s reflections here. Also, read Wesley’s book Washed and Waiting. It’s a must-read.


    • Denny Burk

      Yes, but he doesn’t mean what Brian McLaren means by that expression. Hill’s use of the term is one of the reasons that I wrote this: What Is a Gay Christian?. You’ll see there why I think that even though it’s not the most helpful term, Hill is not outside the camp for using it.

  • Dan Phillips

    OK, thanks, I read it and fundamentally agree with you. I have said the same as you many times about the wrongness of using the phrase, of identifying oneself by a particular sin, as “gay Christian” necessarily does.

    Your post inadvertently illustrates another problem with the phrase, which actually may explain the reason for the invention of the term.

    You say, “I admire his devotion to Christ while living with such a heavy burden…” You do? Why? How about me? Do you admire me? (Don’t!) I also live with a heavy burden. I struggle with sin every day. I’m waiting to be freed from “the body of this death.” I’m longing for resurrection and glorification and freedom from the daily battles with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

    You know who else is in that same spot? You. Jim Hamilton. Bud Anonymous. Shirley Secretary. Tom Schreiner. John MacArthur. Bill Brotherinthenextpew. In other words, every Christian is in that category.

    The term “gay Christian” is an exudation of the effort to paint the person with SS lusts as in a special category, a noble martyr with special status. But he isn’t, any more than any other redeemed sinner. That term isn’t helpful. It isn’t helpful to him. Self-pity and a feeling of detachment from 1 Cor 10:13 is not a motivator to sanctification.

    All right, need to get on to other things. God bless.

    • buddyglass

      I’d say that his walking away from his same-sex attraction places a heavier burden on him than my walking away from my predisposition toward heterosexual sin places on me.

        • buddyglass

          Just putting myself in his shoes and reflecting on what it would be like to live righteously in the presence of s.s.a., and comparing it to what I experience as a heterosexual married man trying to live righteously. His struggle seems like the more difficult one, given it requires him to give up some of the things I take for granted.

            • buddyglass

              I had no specific verse in mind. I’ll suggest, though, that not every truthful observation is backed up by a specific bible verse.

              If I had to pick one I’d probably point to Jesus’ remarks after speaking with the rich young man. While he doesn’t deal specifically with resisting sin, he does seem to imply that certain “kingdom things” are made more difficult by one’s circumstances.

              • Brian Warshaw

                I can’t say with certainty, since I haven’t struggles with SSA, but for me, struggling with sexual temptation was a nightmare that nearly wrecked my marriage.

                And yet here we come to a critical point. Do we consider these struggles difficult because we are grieved by our sins against our Father, or because we are grieved at being denied the earthly things we must give up for the sake of following Christ? If the former, then the homosexually-inclined is in no more dire straights than I, or the guy who is lazy and struggles to do anything for his family.

                When we define sin as acts that we struggle with, as though we could work our way through the check list and be done with them, we are missing the big picture. The real struggle is that we bless the Lord with our mouths while our flesh rages against his authority. And since his authority extends beyond sexuality, we’re all equally struggling.

          • Jon Loewen

            By that logic, a single heterosexual would have a heavier burden as well. Meaning the weight of burden has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Your logic is flawed. Better to stick with bible verses to show your point.

            • buddyglass

              The single heterosexual man a least holds out the hope of marriage. And, yes, I’d say that at least some single heterosexual men have a harder time (than married heterosexual men) living righteously. And I even have a verse for this one!

              “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

              If sexual desire is going to be an obstacle for you as a single person then Paul says you should get married. If it’s not an obstacle for you then he says it’s great for you to stay single. The not-so-subtle implication is that there are some people for whom sexual desire will make it difficult for them live righteously as single persons, and that they should address the situation by getting married, after which sexual desire won’t present such difficulty.

              • Jon Loewen

                You imply that ssa have no hope of OSA and heterosexual marriage. Do you have a verse for that? In any case you are agreeing that the struggle or weight of burden is independent of sexual orientation, hope not withstanding.

                • buddyglass

                  “You imply that ssa have no hope of OSA and heterosexual marriage.”

                  I can see how you’d think that. That was a lack of clarity on my part. God can and does miraculously deliver folks from same-sex attraction. It seems, however, to be somewhat rare, and I’m not willing to call it a failing on the part of one who experiences same-sex attraction if he or she repents, turns toward God, and doesn’t experience miraculous deliverance from temptation.

                  So while the one tempted by same-sex attraction always has the hope of deliverance from temptation and (possibly) heterosexual marriage, he or she doesn’t have the same expectation of marriage that the average straight person does.

                  “In any case you are agreeing that the struggle or weight of burden is independent of sexual orientation, hope not withstanding.”

                  How so?

              • Brian Warshaw

                Might Paul be speaking proverbially? There’s certainly not enough in the verse to suggest that marriage fixes sexually broken people.

                And stepping outside of the sexual realm, is not gluttony just as deserving of God’s wrath as practicing homosexuality? What about disregard for the civil government?

                There are indeed special difficulties for those struggling with SSA, but there are different but equally torturous difficulties for those struggling with other sins.

                To follow Christ is always to deny what at time feels like our very identity. The old man is still here, and while we delight in the law of the Lord, our flesh rages against it. But it is our Lord Jesus who delivers us from this body of death. And so there is no place for self-pity, and there is no place for encouraging self-pity in others. Jesus does not say “take up your cross” lightly. “Come and die” is what he’s telling all of us, whatever sin we fight each day.

    • Jay Ryder

      Dan, do you think that a former Muslim in an Islamic country who is converted to Christ has a heavier burden than ShirleySecretary or BillBrotherinthenextpew? How about Rahab the prostitute having a heavier burden than, say, one of the Israelites who marched around the walls of Jericho and blew a trumpet? Yes, we all have our crosses to bear, but clearly not everyone is called to bear the same degree of sacrifice.

      But, I will agree that in this regard it would be wrong or misleading for a person to identify themselves as a “MuslimChristian” or “ProstituteChristian”. As to the question about the Bible, God’s Word doesn’t seem to have any trouble with highlighting extraordinary faith and obedience by mentioning the depth of depravity from which many had been saved.

  • Dan Phillips

    Critics seem to ignore the substance of my comment. So let’s try this:

    1. Please list passages in Scripture encouraging self-pity as a motivator to mortification of sin and to holiness

    2. Please list passages in Scripture encouraging assignation of special categories to specific temptations as motivations and aids to mortification of sin and holiness

    There y’go.

  • Dan Phillips

    …and if anyone wants to try, seriously, to argue that encouraging ONE CLASS of sinner to CONTINUE TO IDENTIFY himself BY A SIN, because he’s so special, doesn’t foster self-pity — that’s a special little corner of Oz you live in, isn’t it?

    • Michael Beck

      Preach it brother Dan.

      Also, to be clear Hill does not think he is bearing the burden of “same-sex attraction” so much (something he thinks God created him with), but the burden of denying the act of homosexuality. The reason he calls himself a gay Christian is that he promotes the idea that same-sex attraction is not the sin, but the acting out of it. Therefore, a person can be gay (have same-sex attraction) and be a Christian at the same time, leading to his recommendation to be a gay celibate Christian.

      So the issue of whether “same-sex attraction” is a sin or not returns to the forefront. In other words, some people would say same-sex attraction is just a temptation (lust) and not a sin, contrary to Matt 5:28. But we’ve both been through this before:

      • buddyglass

        I’m not sure I understand how that view runs contrary to Matthew 5:28. If the argument is that “same-sex attraction” qualifies as “lust” in the Matthew 5:28 sense then why would “opposite-sex attraction” not also qualify as the same?

        • Michael Beck

          Lust (desire to have sex with someone other than your biblically defined spouse) is a sin. Same-sex attraction is not a desire to have sex with your spouse, therefore…

          With all due respect, this is not a hard logical concept.

          • buddyglass

            With all due respect, you’re oversimplifying.

            Is it possible to find a person (or class of person) “sexually attractive” without “desiring to have sex with them”?

  • Scott Christensen

    I think Dan has spoken straight-up on this issue. We have allowed ourselves to be brow-beaten by the LGBT agenda in our society to treat homosexuality with a degree of differentness (if I can say that) and wrong-headed sensitivity than other sins. Why do we have to walk such a careful line over this matter? Who sets the agenda here? The culture or the straightforward timeless teaching of Scripture? The Bible does not single out this sin for special treatment. It is interesting to listen to Rosaria Butterfield’s testimony (she was a far left feminist lesbian professor at Syracuse). When she was wrestling with the call of God upon her life she asked other Christians what they had to give up once they became believers. She treated their repentance of sin with no fundamental difference than her own. I doubt she would embrace the phrase ‘lesbian Christian.’

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