Sexual Attraction and Lust

[Lamb’s Harbinger (writer, Sam Kean) realizes the below article is homophobic and based off of poor interpretations of the Bible, garnered from his fundamentalist and conservative evangelical past. He has since written a more up-to-date and accurate view of Queer theology, especially as regarding the subject of marriage HERE and HERE; and he can only apologize profoundly for his miss on the below article. As the About page of this blog indicates, Sam Kean is still learning and healing from the deeply abusive early life he endured, and he begs the critics’ indulgence, if nothing else, than to gain a real-time view of the writer’s evolving faith.]


Today, according to an article at Religious News Service, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention–arguably America’s largest evangelical denominational convention–stated that he rejects reparative therapy for those who find themselves sexually attracted to the same gender. Russell Moore is president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Reparative therapy, as applied to sexual matters, asserts that sexual attractions can be transformed into desire patterns which cohere (coincidentally) with biblical mandates of heterosexuality. The declaration by Mr. Moore, as the article from RNS reads, goes against many other leaders’ views and previously affirmed data in the evangelical Christian world. The idea behind Moore’s denunciation is that “attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation [have] been ‘severely counterproductive.'”

Is reparative (Christian) therapy (RT) sound and valid according to the best interpretations of the Bible’s (New Testament) morés? The goals of RT are sound and valid when stating change is possible. The “severely counterproductive” effects of RT lie rooted not in its goals but in its methods of guilting and shaming to produce change as well as the fallacious theological ideas that require instantaneous and permanent (unwavering) change on the level of desires. Moreover, a Christian’s true identity is “in Christ–a phrase mentioned 164 times in the New Testament.”

Rebutting Behavioral Guilting and Shaming Methods

Behaviorally speaking, as long as one does not actually steal, he is accepted in the church. As long as one does not have sex outside of heterosexual marriage or exhibit gluttony or drunkenness, one is accepted in the church. As long as one does not commit actions which betray his pride or covetousness, one is accepted in the church. In fact, in everything, if one does commit actions which are sinful but is afterward repentant by showing a genuine desire to again grow in grace, then one is accepted in the church. Yet, if one thinks that correct behavior is the same as internal freedom from evil desires, or that Jesus came only to focus on guilting/shaming us into changing only our behaviors, then he has not heard the heart-focused words of Christ.

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. (Matthew 15:19 NASB)

I agree with Mr. Moore’s proposition that “The Bible doesn’t promise us freedom from temptation…. The Bible promises us the power of the spirit to walk through temptation.”

It is also true and admirable to say with Moore,

The idea that one is simply the sum of one’s sexual identity is something that is psychologically harmful ultimately, …. And I think also we have a situation where gay and lesbian people have been treated really, really badly….The response is not shunning, putting them out on the street… The answer is loving your child. (RNS)

I furthermore concur that “Faithfulness to Christ means obedience to Christ.”

Yet, when Mr. Moore states, “It does not necessarily mean that someone’s attractions are going to change,” I have to give considerable pause, so that I am walking the fine edge of biblical truth. As indicated above, I would amend his statement to read as “It does not necessarily mean that someone’s attractions are going to IMMEDIATELY or AUTOMATICALLY change (in this lifetime).”

Rebutting the “Instantaneous and Unwavering” View

All Christians agree that the temptation itself is not sin, but that, giving into the temptation (to entertain prohibited desires / act on them) or even knowingly setting one’s self up for (to plan on) temptations is sin.

Also, we biblical Christians don’t believe in complete and instantaneous change of desires at the time of conversion about any other sins (ex. desire to steal, desire to glut or become drunk, desire for power or to be admired [pride], desire to continue addiction to porn/smoking/drinking/drugs). That is, we realize there must be a maturation process–a.k.a. Sanctification, and that, claims of sinless perfection are rebuked by John the Apostle (1 John 1).

However, Christian history tells of believers who (at conversion) have experienced change and sometimes have exhibited complete change in desires (even from addictions that have become physiologically imbedded), BUT no one would say that is a solid rule for the way it always happens. If we did, there would be no need to disciple anyone and all Christians would be 100% perfected at conversion. That is observably untrue.

Rather, most conservative evangelicals view sanctification this way:

The degree to which one recognizes self need in comparison to descriptions of God’s nature, and the degree to which one resultantly and repeatedly allows God’s grace instead of his own way, are directly proportionate to the degree of one’s experiencing God’s supernatural grace for change–no matter what the issue.

Again, this is not to assert that said changed desires are immediate or inevitable within this lifetime, but they are possible. RT (as administered by Christians) has been wrong to expect immediate and unswerving change on the desire level at the moment of conversion or during prescribed courses of treatment. That is a standard which does not allow for process of sanctification and by which they themselves cannot possibly fulfill in their own areas of weakness. However, I reiterate, it has been right for RT to say change, even on the level of desires, is possible through grace.

Also again, there are cases where one has experienced total change in desires, so that what were once weaknesses to specific temptations are (as a general rule) no longer appealing. Yet, these cases should be viewed as individual cases which prove the possibility, not that everyone must experience grace for biblically aberrant ways in the same instantaneous fashion. Battling one’s fleshly desires daily proves that 1.) Humans, especially Christians, are not to be identified by their desires and physicality; and 2.) God’s grace is supernatural–not of the person’s own strength or doing but God’s and available to the trusting; and 3.) When one aligns his will with God’s revealed will by diligent trust (Heb. 6:10-14), grace can do what the person can not naturally do.

Each Christian’s self-directed question is not ‘how little’ can I allow God’s grace but ‘how much.’ The temptations for a heterosexual man or woman to step out of his/her marriage for sexual pleasure or emotional fulfillment are just as strong as the homosexual desire to obtain erotic pleasure and (emotional) relationship through same-sex encounters. Just as a heterosexual Christian sometimes wavers in desires (if not actions) and must learn to battle one’s sexual appetites daily by taking part in God’s nature, even so, a Christian who deals with homosexual attraction must learn to battle one’s sexual appetites daily in the same way. But notice that such individuals are contending at the level of their desires, not just the actions level. If the best way to aid the desires-battle for the individual is celibacy, then that must be. But, if celibacy at any time becomes a crutch at the action level by which the individual does not continue to grow in grace on the desires level, then that too would be disobedience.

Clarifying Sexual Attraction as Desires

Let us be to-the-point. We are not discussing mere attraction and attractiveness, as in one’s noticing the attractiveness and general visual appeal of–say–Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome. That sort of attraction and attractiveness does not involve the moral integrity of a human and is open to the realm of general opinion, without the need to consider innate make-up of the individual’s morality. Furthermore, from the premise that “The idea that one is simply the sum of one’s sexual identity is something that is psychologically harmful ultimately,” it does NOT follow that if one has same-sex sexual attraction, then one should seek emotional relationship from the same.

We are, however, concerning ourselves with sexual attraction, which not only involves the visual and physical (anatomy, hormonal drives for glandular release) but also includes the immaterial (elements of either seduction or sexiness: appeal to emotions and the thoughts behind them, which may or may not be pulled from past experiences and conditioning). To find someone of the same gender sexually attractive means a person unquestionably finds representatives from that gender arousing and stimulating sexually, as opposed to never or extremely rarely finding any representatives of the opposite gender sexually appealing.

For a neutral example, one may find that he or she is not sexually attracted to either gender as a rule. In this case, the person would be self-classified as asexual. Though one may have reproductive anatomy, he or she is not stimulated sexually by either gender.

In another case, one may notice that a person of the same gender possesses physical attributes which humanity collectively agrees is aesthetically pleasing (ex. golden mean and proportion or ratio) and/or finds that a person exudes what is personally attractive (ex. socially positive/affable, self-secure). Accordingly, one may even be able to make comparisons of that person to other persons without any element of sexual attraction. Proof of this can be found in the Bible itself, where the writer of the Books of Samuel (a male–scholars agree) states that David was a beautiful man (1 Sam. 17:42). This statement is not, however, sexually charged–considering the context. It is possible to recognize gender and even beauty of the same sex without sexual attraction.

However, being frank at the risk of being vulgar, to admit sexual attraction is the same as admitting one would perform sexual activities with the individual of their interest, if that were possible / permissible. [Reasons why one would not or should not engage in sexual activities with another are matters such as: mutual consent, personal belief about morality, and societal beliefs about moral limitations for humanity.] In other words, there can be no definition of sexual attraction for an individual without that person’s first recognizing a pattern of desires or lack of desire patterns within herself or himself. Therefore, sexual attraction is a self-recognized set of desire patterns pertaining to one’s appetite/disposition for obtaining erotic pleasure.

Answering the Question of Self-identifcaion Labels:

As Sarah Pullman Bailey reports, “A newer question among some Christians is whether those with same-sex attraction should self-identify as gay.” If one is self-identifying as gay, then he/she is sympathizing with what the Bible calls the “old self” (the way you naturally were before being redeemed and regenerated by Christ). Please see Rom. 13:11-14; Eph. 4:17-24; Col. 3:5-17. In that vein, I would like to offer a confident “no” to the question Christians’ self-identification as gay. Those who have same-sex attractions must not self-identity as gay, because they are first and foremost to self-identify as a new creature “in Christ,” and this identity extends to their whole being (1 Cor. 6:9-11, 19-20; 2 Cor. 5:17-19) as opposed to just one very temporal and secondary aspect of humanity–sexuality.

The best Christian teachings on Christian maturity are NOT behaviorally and intellectually focused. They are “heart focused”–identity and desires focused. Though one is wrong to expect complete and instantaneous perfection of desires upon conversion, we must (on the other hand) hold that obedience to Christ DOES extend to desires–a.k.a. lusts, esp. (sexual) desires (Matt. 5:27-28). Since obedience to Christ extends to desires, we may conclude that grace is meant to influence us to the level of desires. Change is possible, even in this life. If the statement about lust by Christ in Matthew 5 applies to men toward women, then (in the names of equality and sound logic) it would also apply fairly to men toward men, women toward men, and women toward women. From the biblical Christian viewpoint, indulging in or sympathizing with all sinful desires / attractions is wrong. And, only each individual can be honest with their own heart on what they desire. That being said, if one self-identifies as “gay,” then (as a Christian) that is ever-so-subtly showing sympathy for one’s Christ-less desires.

Conclusion:

Jesus Christ did not come in order to rescue us only from our actions. He came to supernaturally change our identity by changing our natures, and that means exchanged desires, or infusions of Godly desires which override the forbidden desires natural to us (as humans apart from God). Transformation into Christ’s likeness is not instantaneous or even the result of a course of “treatments,” but it is possible and it is something to pray for (Gal. 4:19). Where one cannot change himself, God offers that one becomes (through accessing supernatural grace) what Christ is by nature. That access is by continued agreement with God’s design and parameters & trust in God’s ability to work miracles, especially in regards to transforming you (little by little & according to your trust in his grace) into a you in the very likeness of God. Imagine Jesus–but with your personality and none of what God calls your fallings short of His original design for life.

……………………….

OTHER RESOURCES:

A Proposed Consensus on Articulating Sanctification

Deeper Walk International

Homosexuality and “Hate”

Letter from C. S. Lewis on Homosexuality

Joy Starts Here

Richard Hays and the New Testament Witness on Homosexuality

Sexual Identity and Equality

The Cure by TrueFaced

The Moral Vision of the New Testament

What Did Martin Luther King Jr. Think of Homosexuality?

One thought on “Sexual Attraction and Lust

  1. I like what you’ve written here, especially about the negative/downside of guilting and shaming.

    Also, this quote was quite good for just about everybody, but I was thinking especially of women in today’s culture, “The idea that one is simply the sum of one’s sexual identity is something that is psychologically harmful ultimately.”

    The world is very big on “I-dentity” right now. So many people are focused on trying to define themselves, find themselves. For Christians however, our identity can only really be found in Christ.

    Like

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