I referred, in a recent blog about about “homosexuality” (a disputed 19th century coinage), to the dubiousness of “purging sick people from the hospital” — i.e., outing closeted or discreet “LGBT” (a disputed 20th century coinage) people in the Church.
Social Justice Warriors would no doubt object to that phrasing. “There’s nothing sick about being LGBTetc!” I can almost hear.
Tough luck. The American Psychiatric Association doesn’t define Christian doctrine or moral standards, and it deals only with treatment of a narrow slice of “psyche” while the real Church treats the whole thing (drawing on psychiatry as an adjunct at times).
So this blog unapologetically is about the implications of treating the whole psyche of those whose distinctive sins are (homo)sexual.
There’s been a burst of news stories on reparative therapy and various purported “gay cures” in the past few weeks, or so it seems to me. My position on those “treatment modalities” remains deeply skeptical, which is in accord with politically correct opinion on the topic.
I’ve been particularly adamant about supposed gay cures that turn people fully “functional,” never-a-flashback-fantasy heterosexuals. People who suggest that this is desirable and possible strike me not so much as factually mistaken as deeply deluded about the place of sex in a well-formed Christian life (“Christian” because to proponents of gay-to-straight conversion seem to me to be mostly Evangelicalish Protestants — the sorts of folks that pray not to die before they have sex and think you’re imputing some kind of perversion to the Theotokos when you add “ever-virgin”).
Here endeth the sucking up to the Zeitgeistst. Now the heresies begin.
I’ve never wavered in my opinion that same-sex attraction is a spiritual affliction (one of countless afflictions, most having nothing to do with sex) and that acting on it is sin (missing God’s mark). But I’ve felt no competency to elaborate on that until a recent mini-epiphany. I think I now have something worth saying, if only for discussion:
- I believe the testimony of most conscientious same-sex attracted Christians that multiple, varying attempts at reversing their orientation, or even of reducing attraction to the same sex, have consistently failed.
- I nevertheless believe that the whole soul can be healed, and that this is the work of Christ’s Church, not of psychiatry. (“Secular” psychiatry can be a part of it, however.)
- I believe that a near-complete healing of the soul will eliminate same-sex temptation.
- I doubt that a near-complete healing of the soul would restore opposite-sex attraction, or even that doing so would be a desirable goal. (This is not because I’m anti-sex. It’s because I’m anti-idol.)
- Souls that have been almost completely healed become acutely aware of their residual illness and would never brag “Well, at least I’m not gay any more! I got that one licked!” (I could have stopped at “Souls that have been almost completely healed would never brag.”)
- The preceding observation is by itself a sufficient reason to doubt the cure of anyone who trumpets his or her personal cure from same-sex attraction.
- Priests and Spiritual Parents who produce Saints don’t brag about their accomplishments.
- The preceding observation is by itself a sufficient reason to doubt the boasts of reparative therapists.
- If someone comes to Church or Monastery minded to cure only his or her same-sex attraction, I suspect that a perceptive priest or Spiritual Parent would say something along the lines of “We don’t know how to cure same-sex attraction as a discrete phenomenon. If we did know how, we’d be uninterested because we don’t do custom-tailored partial soul-cures, numbing and restoring self-esteem to a hell-bound soul (i.e., one that rejects full healing). It’s all or nothing here.”
- The preceding speculation is half the reason I’m skeptical of “gay cures.” The other half is that they are undertaken mostly or entirely by people who are not within what I believe to be Christ’s Church, and who have no idea what a complete soul-cure might be.
If I could put my mini-epiphany into 15 words or less, it would be something like “the Church has something much better than band-aids for sexual boo-boos.”
I heard a monk say recently that God has three answers to prayer: “yes,” “not yet,” and “I have something better for you” (yeah: I was expecting “no” as well). When I imagine the spiritual cure of same-sex attraction, I always picture someone going to a monastery, praying and laboring for decades, and becoming saintly in every way (including humility) — a combination of “I have something better for you” and “not yet.”
There are no before and after photos on the GayNoMore website. They don’t take the show on the road, charging admission like side-show freaks. The only Coming Out Ball for these newly-minted saints is the Last Judgment.
This view, I hope you can see, is incommensurable with reparative therapies as relatively quick and focused sexual fixes. It therefore seemed almost certain to be misunderstood as bait-and-switch pandering had I said that the Church probably could cure same-sex attraction — as if that, instead of something better, were the focus.
Why should anyone be denied a chance for holistic healing? That’s why I object to purging sick people from the hospital just because their sickness is sexual, or homosexual, even though LGBT is uniquely scary to the Church at this historic juncture as it so threatens our ability to function unimpeded as the Church.
For me personally, this means that if someone at Church looks stereotypically gay or lesbian, I assume they’re taking the cure and that the current status of their treatment is none of my business — just as the current status of my treatment for different besetting symptoms isn’t their business. This isn’t speculation; this is Sunday-by-Sunday reality.
I’m not sure why they might feel a need to be publicly open and transparent about the sexual particulars of their sickness (versus open with a select few for purposes of support); I feel no need to be publicly open and transparent about the temptations I’m not going to name here.
Finally, since the complete spiritual healing I believe possible is a very long process, I assume that between sexual awakening and any complete spiritual healing, there’s going to be a lot of struggle, and presumably lapses, just as is the common experience of mankind with every other sin under the sun. Lapses are regrettable, but they’re nothing for others to get up in arms about.
Any more mature or knowledgeable Orthodox want to set me straight on any or all of this?
UPDATE: I noticed excessive dismissiveness in my third paragraph and revised it to give a nod to the legitimate use of psychiatry — which I already had done in point 2. I did so because I point back to this blog periodically as my position on therapy for unwanted sexual attractions.
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“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)