Tuesday, May 01, 2007

"What did we do wrong? We paid for piano lessons..."

Thanks to Eric at Two World Collision for bringing to my attention the story of Christine Bakke and her years of involvement in "ex-gay" ministries, desperately trying to be "cured" of lesbianism. Her story is like many I've read: a heartfelt desire to change, burdensome guilt and shame, loneliness, and an inability to build a bridge of understanding to frightened and angry family members and fellow churchgoers.

The most difficult and poignant passages recount the reactions of her family to her initial attempts to admit her sexuality:
The conversation brought a flood of tears and arguments. Her mother claimed that God couldn’t have made her gay because “the plumbing just doesn’t match up.” Then she “made certain hand motions to communicate this. There’s nothing quite like seeing your mother put her hands in an OK sign and move the holes together to explain about the plumbing...
...“When you rock your baby in your arms, you never think one day my daughter will be homosexual and want to have sex with another woman, never have children. No one holds their baby and says maybe they’ll grow up to be a rapist, or this or that. You have dreams for your children.”...
She also vividly remembers her mother asking, “What did we do wrong? We paid for piano lessons!”
It's easy to be angry at the suffering that stems from such a profound insensitivity and lack of understanding, especially when it's done in the name of God. But I remain convinced that the church has a great awakening coming with regard to how it has dealt with the gays in its ranks, an awakening that can only be hastened the more that stories like Christine's make their way into the hearts of an otherwise fearful and suspicious church in America.

As an aside: the same day I read this, I also came upon this post from Andrew Sullivan, blogging innovator, conservative, and gay Catholic. The post brings up the topic of gay marriage and the difficulties that gays have getting legal protection for their relationships. Andrew recounted a heartbreaking memory from the days of the AIDS devastation in the 1980s that I wanted to share with you:
I remember a story told by a friend during the plague years. He was visiting a dying friend in hospital and a couple of beds down the ward from his friend, the curtains were drawn around a patient. From behind the curtains, he could hear a man softly singing a show-tune. "Well, at least that guy's keeping his spirits up," my friend remarked. "Actually," his dying friend replied, "the man in that bed died this morning and was taken away by his family. That's his boyfriend. The family won't let him go to the funeral or ever see his spouse's body again. They've kicked him out of their apartment. It wasn't his name on the lease. So he's just sitting there, singing their favorite song to an empty bed. It's the last time he'll get that close to his husband. The nurses didn't have the heart to tell him to leave yet. He's been there for hours."
Again, I can't help but think that the reason there's so much dogmatism on the subject of homosexuality is because few people have bothered to walk a meter, let alone a mile, in the moccasins of gays forced to deal with the stigmas and stupidities that we load upon them so carelessly.


At 6:49 PM, Blogger ChemE said...


I'm all for having compassion for all sinners, I'm just not sure from your post if you consider homosexual acts a sin. I'd never criticize anyone because Satan tempts them in a different way then he tempts me. However, I also don't want to deny everything GOD calls sin is sin. I guess I'm seeking clarity of your position?

At 7:48 PM, Blogger dorsey said...

I think the larger point is that scripture refers to sin as "whatever is not of faith."

So, according to what God calls sin, whether you make a third trip to the buffet, take a second look at Jessica Simpson's chest, fail to pay sales tax in your state for something you bought in another state (it's the law), dispose of alkaline batteries in with your regular garbage, or bugger your old college roommate, you're in pretty much the same sinful boat as everyone else.

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Christine Bakke said...

Hey Zeke, didn't know if you know that's my story (I've posted on your blog before, Dorsey's, Ninjanun's and Stupid Church People). Small world! Your blog's a regular stop on my circuit.

I was also on GMA the other day (ok, how totally weird was that!) and the video is still online, in case you're curious what I actually look like in motion.

Here's the video. You really do have to let it just load for a bit.

Anyway, thanks for your words, Zeke.

At 11:32 AM, Blogger Zeke said...

Chem: Reading this post, does it really rank as important what I think about this doctrinally? I'm not dodging the question--I've answered it many times on this site--I just want to see people's doctrine informed by the reality of what is happening in people's lives, most of which goes on to the complete mystery of your everyday evangelical. It shouldn't be that way, so I talk about it.

At 12:06 PM, Blogger ChemE said...

Zeke - I think it does matter, only in this regard: God has given us law and gospel. It is important that we listen to the whole word of GOD. This means recocognizing our sin and GOD's grace that covers all sin. It is obvious that both yourself and Dorsey have a very strong sense of the grace GOD gives. My question is which of the following is what you have (or would) say to someone who is actively homosexual:
1)It's OK if you're having gay sex
2)I love you, but I believe what you're doing is wrong. I hope you consider changing your actions. However, I will love you whether you choose to change or not.

Personally, I pick 2. I have a gay family member (not immediate family) and have had several gay coworkers (though currently none I am aware of). I once would have picked statement 1, but it was real experiences that caused me to think deeper and change my mind.

Of course, this only scratches the surface of the issue. I don't want to suggest this covers everything or is any more important that any other sin I or anyone else has commited. I find those who fail to love their (gay) neighbor as themselves are a bigger issue.

At 2:11 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

Chem, I suspect that everything you or I have to say on this matter has been heard--what, 1000 times?--by Christine and most of her fellow gay Christians. At some point it might serve us better to stop teaching and start listening. Your call, mate.

At 2:33 PM, Blogger Christine Bakke said...

I suspect it's somewhere at about the 4,585 mark actually. ;)

The sad thing to me is that the ONLY thing many gay people know is that Christians feel it is a sin (and they do not distinguish between behavior and orientation, so it feels as though folks are saying WE are a sin). For many, the only thing they know about the Bible are the passages purportedly dealing with homosexuality. Many gay people associate Christianity with hatred. How can that change?

Zeke, I like what you are doing.

For a good example on what most gay people hear from Christians, check out the latest comment I've gotten on Glamour.com, from Rebecca1231. How can Christians differentiate from that?

When you meet someone who gossips, or overeats, do you say "I love you, but I believe what you're doing is wrong. I hope you consider changing your actions. However, I will love you whether you choose to change or not."

I suspect not. Most Christians have an appalling double standard when it comes to homosexuality. And trust me, I heard all of this for years before I'd ever even "done anything" that could qualify as homosexual behavior.

I hope I am not coming off as angry, but I read the comment from this person today, and I starting crying and cried most of the way to work. It just brings back so many memories, and feels abusive, but in the name of God.

I have gotten some negative feedback from all of this (as you can imagine), and the stuff that has been the most hurtful has been from Christians. There have been others who have disagreed with me, but church hurt might be the worst kind of hurt, ever, because it involves God, or at least, some people's concept of God.

I really am glad for the discussion though. Really.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Christine Bakke said...

Oh, just to be clear, the "I read the comment from this person" refers to the Glamour comment, not any comments above.

At 5:54 PM, Blogger ChemE said...

I think I need to give some background of why I feel the way I do. I have a gay cousin whose "outing" involved him being caught looking at gay porn. My family who lives near him presented one of two views to him: A) Whatever you want to do is great.
B) You're evil and if you ever even talk about it again you're going to hell.

He obviously ran to those who didn't give him any rules and watched several family relationships split over the issue. He has since become very angry and become involved in many things that test my ability to forgive far more than anything related to his sexuality. He wants nothing to do with GOD and will not even talk with anyone who is in anyway associated with any religion. I believe if a few people has spoken to him with truth and love things would be different. Zeke, I see now that that's what you would have done if you were with him.

I'm sorry if I've dragged this out or caused any pain to anyone from doing so. Thank you for being patient and graceful with me.

Christine - You don't sound angry, just honest.

At 7:22 AM, Blogger Zeke said...

Chem, you haven't dragged anything out. I think this is actually an important dialogue, thanks for being here.

At 9:15 AM, Blogger ChemE said...

Christine - Thanks for calling me out on the "I love you, but I believe what you're doing is wrong. I hope you consider changing your actions. However, I will love you whether you choose to change or not." statement. I'll first clarify I would NEVER greet anyone with this statement. In fact if I don't know enough about the person to make this a little more personal, I really need to keep my mouth shut.

I have made similar statements to people regarding their gossip, and once on overeating (I overeat at times). Of course I don't call out every sin I should, and sometimes call out sin I shouldn't (at least not directly). You're statement made me reflect on why. I (and every other Christian I know) call out sins I don't struggle with much more than those I do struggle with. I'm one of the few people I know that doesn't frequently struggle with gossip; therefore, I'm tempted to call this out frequently and get self-righteous about it (which is worse that gossping in the first place). Looking at effective calling out of sin - both my sin and others - I can see a definate pattern. When we address sin in another that we ourselves have struggled with, we have a much better chance of becoming closer to GOD than calling out sin we haven't struggled with. I'm going to make an effort to 1) not chicken out when addressing sin that I have or do struggle with and 2) be more cautious when addressing sin I've never struggled with.

I'm now going to go repent for thinking about Jessica Simpson's chest - thanks Dorsey!

At 3:17 PM, Blogger Mrs Zeke said...

The things that at least for me and maybe Zeke find so hard to swallow about some of the actions of our brothers and sisters in Christ are the way people who are gay are rejected while people who are committing other sexual sins are not.
Not that it is ok to reject anyone but the hypocrisy is enormous. We don't call out people living together, having affairs as long as it is with the opposite sex, viewing porn or anything else like we call out people who are gay. It is not said these sins are against the body but homosexuality is much worse. However we act like it and I have to wonder why.

We all will stand before Christ. Would it not be better to default on kindness and let God work out salvation, since salvation is not ours to give but His and His alone.

The issue's of sin are vast and while I wish I could say easy to understand I can not. I can not even work out why I would have a sinful thought and claim to be a daughter of God let alone anyone else.

Love is truth and truth is not always easy to accept but truth and love do not need our help to do there job. We tend to taint both with our lack of understanding. We can not go wrong giving water to the thirsty, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked or professing our belief but, we can go very wrong if not completely lead by God attempting to correct the perceived sin in someones life.

I say perceived not because sin may or may not be there it is in all of us but we don't know that God Himself may be teaching in that very moment. All we can do is honor another person as created by God and let God do as He would, He is God He will make Himself clear if we are to say anything for He alone knows the heart of man.

Be loved

At 8:52 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Homosexuality is not a sin.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger shelly said...

I agree with Steve.

At 7:18 AM, Blogger Steve said...


See here's issue... I will love you whether you choose to change or not.

"Choose to change"... sexual identity and attraction is not like choosing between which team you are going to cheer for at a sporting event. It's not choosing to die your hair blond after being a brunette. It's more than that and to simplify it beyond that is to be dishonest.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger ChemE said...

Steve - You're definitely correct. I should have said "..choose to change your actions or not..". It's that same as the way GOD loves me whether or not I continue to think about Jessica Simpson's chest and whether or not I continue to blame Dorsey for starting the idea in my head.

At 2:31 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Uhh... how's that any different really?

And, I don't think looking at Jessica Simpson's chest is a sin either.


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