Same-Sex Sexuality & Christianity, part 4: Pastoral Care

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2. Scripts Same-Sex Attracted Christians can Follow[4]

The concept of ‘scripts’ is used to describe sets of understandings and expectations, which in turn help direct behaviour and relationships. Popular discourse tends to include only the first of the two following scripts. Efforts need to be made to introduce the third script to public discourse.

Script 1: The “Condemning Script”

This is what church communities can be like for same-sex attracted Christians, or at least perceived as such. Hopefully this is less and less the case today.

1. “Same-sex attracted people are inherently broken, probably morally corrupt, usually perverted.

2. “Same-sex attraction leads to homosexual sex, which is shameful, unacceptable and destructive to society.

3. “People who are homosexual or ‘gay’ deliberately choose to be so.

4. “Homosexuals are bad for the community, and should be monitored, shunned, and/or punished. Homosexuals often become child abusers.

5. “God forgives all sin, but homosexual sin is particularly grievous, and so homosexuals can only be forgiven and accepted by becoming heterosexual.

It is worth asking how true this script has been. Even if it is exaggerated, what has been the treatment of same-sex attracted Christians  in the church? If they don’t keep it a secret, then what?

This script has elements that are theologically true, and pastorally difficult, but the ways that points have been drawn out is not true and pastorally disastrous.

Script 2: “The ‘Gay’ Script”

This is a much more positive to what is presented (and too often is) as the conservative or Christian script. The emphasis on self-discovery and expression is well in tune with contemporary society, as can be seen in popular films and music. This helps explain the popularity of this script.

1. “Same-sex attractions signal a natural distinction between homosexuality, heterosexuality, and bisexuality.” (i.e. the assumption is that these are distinct categories rather than a range of blurry-edged experiences on a continuum)

2. “Same-sex attractions are the way you know who you ‘really are’ as a person” (note the emphasis here on discovery).

3. “Same-sex attractions are at the core of who you are.

4. “Same-sex behaviour is an extension of that core.

5. “Self-actualization (that is, matching behaviour to ‘true’ identity) of your sexual identity is crucial for your fulfilment.

Consider the allure of this script. It is affirming and exciting, using the concept of ‘discovery’ as a positive experience.

Script 3: “An Alternative Script”

This is, in my opinion, a much better ‘Christian’ script than the simple moralism presenting in script 1. It sets the reality of same-sex attraction within the more complex reality of human experiences, and draws on a more faithful expression of Christian thought and spirituality.

1. “Same-sex attractions do not signal a categorical distinction among types of persons, but is one of many human experiences that reflect the disordered creation we are part of.

2. “Same-sex attractions may be part of your experience, but they are not the defining element of your identity.

3. “You could choose to integrate your experiences of attraction to the same sex into a ‘gay’ identity.

4. “On the other hand, you could choose to centre your identity on other aspects of your experience, including your biological sex, gender identity, etc.

5. “The most compelling aspect of personhood for the Christian is one’s identity in Christ, a central and defining aspect of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Is this ‘alternative script’ a script that same-sex attracted Christians are aware of? My impression and experience tell me that it is not. Perhaps this shows a general underdevelopment in Christian formation in the church, which is costing same-sex attracted Christians more than it is costing others. Whatever the case, life crises of any kind are always challenging, and will be best met where Christian faith and identity are well formed.

What these three scripts together can show us is the need to decentre ourselves from our sexual orientation: Human identity – especially for Christians – does not revolve around sexuality.

One problem that has been identified for Christians with secret same-sex attractions is that there are only rarely examples of people who had openly revealed their attraction and remained in the church. One person I spoke with while preparing these presentations had been in this position as a teenager, and said ‘no one had come out before’, and so didn’t know what do about his attractions. It is worth finding out what young Christians do when they discover they have these attractions.

Examples for them to follow as ‘role models’ would be helpful but are rare.

Lacking these, Yarhouse’s concept of scripts might be helpful.