To the struggler who has never acted out

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On April 30, 1997, millions of Americans cheered as Ellen DeGeneres acted on feelings and came out of the closet publicly on her sitcom. She decided to accept, enter into, and celebrate a lesbian relationship. Her decision was heralded by the media as heroic, groundbreaking, and gutsy.
That same evening, you resisted your feelings, acted on principle, and didn't leave the house. You decided to trust your God, hold on, and in the midst of heart-wrenching loneliness, celebrate your relationship with Jesus Christ. Nobody cheered. No one even cared. It is to you whom we want to address these thoughts:
Not all triumphs get the spotlight and not all victories taste sweet. If you are a Christian who has not yet succumbed to feelings and acted out sexually, you are to be commended. We want to tell you this now...because you likely will not hear it from another source.
The secular media could care less about your chastity, and non-strugglers cannot begin to grasp the intensity and depth of your battle, nor the intensity and depth of your courage.
Most of us have acted out. We bought the lie and have been regretting it ever since.
But Jesus, in His own perfect time, delivered us into recovery from homosexuality and carried us to the point of healing where we are today. We didn't have the faith that you have. We turned to the world to heal us while you were still focused on the Lord. We figured we couldn't wait any longer for God to act. You are waiting faithfully for your deliverance. You are awesome and you are strong.
Moses, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, Dr. James Dobson, Paul, Kathy Troccoli, Martin Luther, Chuck Swindol, Charles Stanley, Abraham, Elizabeth Elliot and you. An incomplete, yet proud, list of heroes of the Christian faith.
Your names may be lesser known, your successes too controversial for sharing, and your efforts unappreciated by the majority. But you can be assured that while the masses may overlook your hard-won victory, the Master has seen. And while the world is cheering Ellen for maintaining a same-sex relationship, you will hear but the lone clapping of two nail-driven hands and a still, small voice whispering, "Well done, My friend. You have believed and maintained your integrity. Very, very, very well done!"
[Reprinted by permission of the excellent Buggin' Out! newsletter #3, PMB #189, 831 Route 10 East, Whippany, NJ 07981]

Joe was a pastor, a good one too! He was a gifted counselor with a compassion that enabled him to help many people and he preached an uncompromising gospel message God used to bring people to Him-self.
Joe also struggled with homosexuality. The man who spoke so convincingly from the pulpit on Sunday morning often spent most of Saturday night in a gay bar cruising for a sexual contact.
His father was the pastor of an evangelical church where Joe had been active as a child and teen. He attended a conservative Christian college and was later ordained to the ministry. But, at the age of six, Joe had been sexually abused and thus introduced to homosexual behavior. He felt he was different from other boys, and it frightened him. In high school he began having frequent sexual encounters with other males.
A deep longing to please God and compensate for these desires led him to study for the ministry. Looking for a “cure”, he married. The earliest years were happy ones as he and his wife raised their two children. But the desires had not gone away. They had merely been repressed, and eventually they came back. Joe would fight these temptations until a time of stress seemed to drive him to a sexual encounter. He would then repent and later go through the whole cycle again.
He asked God to take the feelings away thousands of times. He tried to bury them in his work and his family. He went to the altar during revival meetings. He fasted and prayed. He did everything he knew to do, but the struggles continued. There seemed to be no way out.
Convinced that there was no hope, Joe decided he would not live a lie any longer. He felt he was literally on his way to hell, so it didn’t matter what he did. Leaving his wife, his children, and his church, Joe began living an openly gay life-style. During the day he worked at any job he could find. At night he went to the bars. He said, “It was a completely selfish life—promiscuous sex, alcohol, hard drugs. My total preoccupation was with being gay.”
Looking for friends, he went to a homosexual church where he was welcomed with open arms. “At first I felt a tremendous relief and it felt really good to be accepted, but the good feelings didn’t last long and a lot of problems emerged. I kept having to deal with broken relationships. I got put in jail. I went to a psychologist. I became suicidal. I tried to kill myself three times.”
He relocated, got a job as a florist, and moved in with a man who became his lover. This last relationship became a nightmare, as the man turned out to be seriously disturbed and violent. By the time Joe realized what he had gotten into, he was trapped.
The man was irrationally jealous. One night he and Joe had an argument which ended in Joe being viciously beaten, “lying in a bed soaked with my blood, having had two objects broken over my head—a wooden sculpture and a large glass ashtray—I was being slapped and punched by my ‘lover’ who spat out these words: ‘You are being punished for the life you have lived…’”
Joe was beaten so badly that blood was everywhere. He took it helplessly, expecting to die. He felt he had no right to call out to God because he had brought this on himself.
It was only the beginning. For the next five months the man literally imprisoned him. In a desire to totally possess Joe, he got him fired from his job and forbade him to leave the house, make phone calls, or get the mail. If Joe moved an object in the house while he was gone, the man would accuse him of having brought in a rival lover. He forced Joe to do whatever he wanted with threats of violence.
Fear paralyzed Joe. Escape seemed impossible. He was numb from the pain, shame, and horror of the situation. His lover worked only two blocks from the house they shared and threatened Joe with death if he tried to run away.
“All I did was cook and clean house. I because an avid fan of soap operas—and of the 700 Club.” Joe spent half the time cursing the hosts in cynical rebellion and the other half crying and hoping that something on the show would get through to him.
He began secretly reading the Psalms and praying that God would get him out of the situation. After six months, there was another argument and another beating. This time one of Joe’s ribs was cracked. He was expected to endure the pain as proof of his love.
Joe decided that the only way out was to kill himself. He took a long carving knife from the kitchen and held it just below his ribcage. Before he could thrust the knife into his body, the story of the prodigal son started to play through his mind as though he was watching a movie. For the first time he felt a deep sense of the love of God. He dropped the knife, sobbed, and turned on the 700 Club, which that day featured the testimony of a man who had found freedom from homosexuality.
That did it. Joe called the 700 Club and asked a counselor to pray that he could escape alive. He threw a few possessions into a suitcase and waited on the street corner for a cab, petrified that his lover would see him. He went to the bus station and caught the first bus out of town. Three days later he was home, not knowing how he was going to give up his homosexuality, but certain that he wanted God more than anything.
God led Joe to Homosexuals Anonymous and he committed himself to working its 14 Step program. Reading and sharing helped him with emotional and spiritual growth and he got involved in a Bible-believing church. He attended weekly counseling sessions where he learned that the deepest roots of homosexuality are not sexual, but arise from unmet love needs, that the condition itself was not the sin, but that indulgence in homosexual activity was.
When Joe learned that he was not born a homosexual, that the condition was a result of early influences and choices, something exciting happened. After forgiving those who had caused his hurt, he experienced a tremendous release. The strength of the homosexual desire significantly lessened and Joe came to the place where he could describe himself as “delivered from homo-sexuality”.
We all love a happy ending, but Joe’s story does not have an entirely happy one. Joe had contracted the HIV virus and developed full-blown AIDS. After a difficult period of illnesses, Joe succumbed and went home to be with the Lord.
We rejoice that while Joe is “absent from the body”, he is “present with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:7), but we mourn his loss and the loss of the wonderful gifts God gave Him that might have blessed so many.
We share his story to warn others of what has been called “one of the best kept secrets in the gay community” [David Island and Patrick Letellier, Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them, p. 36]. Island and Letellier, both self-identified as gay men, lament that only a handful of articles have been published by the gay press including “Battered Lovers” published “by the Advocate in 1986; “Breaking the Silence: Gay Domestic Violence” by San Francisco Coming Up! (now the Bay Times) in 1989; “Naming and Confronting Gay Male Battering” by Boston Gay Community News in 1989; “The Other Closet,” by the Dallas Observer in 1990; “Till Death Do Us Part: Domestic Violence Strikes Gay Relationships,” by San Francisco Sentinel, in 1990; and “Domestic Violence: A Serious Problem Lacking in Resources,” by the Washington D.C. Blade in 1990.” [Ibid., p.35-36]
If so little has been written on the subject, could it be because it is not a real problem? Island and Letellier say “No!” “Domestic violence is a big problem for America’s 9.5 million adult gay men. We estimate that as many as 500,000 gay men are victims, and, of course, equal numbers are also perpetrators.” [Ibid., p. 1] Their figure of “500,000 annual victims of gay men’s domestic violence represents a likely, reasonable, and non-speculative estimate. We hope it is too high, but we suspect that it is right on the mark.” [Ibid., p. 15] “Thus, only substance abuse and AIDS adversely affect more gay men, making domestic violence the third largest health problem facing gay men today.” [Ibid., p. 1] “The Director of the Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project at the Community United Against Violence (CUAV) in San Francisco stated that domestic violence may affect and poison as many as 50 percent of gay male couples.” [Ibid., p. 12]
Nor are the statistics more encouraging in lesbian relationships. “Bologna, Waterman, and Dawson ...discovered a high incidence of abuse in their survey of a self-selected sample of 174 lesbians. About 26% of their respondents reported having been subjected to at least one act of sexual violence; 59.8% had been victims of physical violence; and 81% had experienced verbal or emotional abuse. At the same time, 68% of the respondents reported that they had both used violence against their current or most recent partner and had been victimized by a partner. Similarly, in a survey of a nonrandom sample of 1,099 lesbians, Lie and Gentlewarrior...found that 52% of the respondents had been abused by a female lover or partner and that 30% admitted having abused a female lover or partner. Of those who had been victims of abuse, more than half (51.5%) reported they also had been abusive toward their partners.” [Claire M. Renzetti, Violent Betrayal: Partner Abuse in Lesbian Relationships, p. 18]
As Renzetti states, “It is doubtful that researchers will ever be able to measure accurately the prevalence of homosexual partner abuse, but this is not to say that these studies have no value. Their importance lies in the fact that they clearly demonstrate that lesbians and gay men not infrequently aggress against their intimate partners in ways that are physically and emotionally abusive and sometimes violent.” [Ibid., p. 19]
A recent publication of the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists, a pro-gay movement, further confirms all this. Kenneth V. Dodgson, M.D., writes, “Gay men, as well as adolescent gays, report high incidence rates of violent or abusive behavior, either as recipients or perpetrators, usually involving their same-sex partners.” [“Homosexuality: A Review of Recent Medical Research Papers,” The InSpiriter, (Summer-Fall, 2003), p. 5]
Here, then, is one more reason God, like the good Father He is, says we are not to engage in homosexual behavior. Good parents warn their children away from things that will hurt them.

There’s an old saying: “Hurt people hurt people.” Men and women who are tempted to engage in homosexual behavior are usually so tempted because they were hurt when they were children, either in their relationship with their same-sex parent, or through sexual abuse. The result is defensive detachment—a wall of anger and fear with which they seek to protect themselves. Their unmet needs from childhood drive them to seek love from persons of the same sex, but their defensive detachment makes it impossible for them to find it. If anger is the major part of their detachment, they may become abusers; if fear is the major part of their detachment, they may be abused. And, of course, anger and fear can change places from time to time so that one can at one time be the abuser and at another the abused!

God would spare us all that pain and all that sin. Will we heed His warnings, or must we learn the hard way? And, if we have already had painful experience as to why He said “No!” will we ever learn?

--John J.

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