In December I went to a very interesting seminar presented by Living Waters Canada. The day long presentation for Church leaders comes out of their mission “to help people find hope and live life through experiencing Jesus in their relationships and sexuality.”
Presenters were terribly honest about their own story, and they were experientially informed about how to live out pastoral care and Christ-like behaviour with grace and wisdom. Despite an October 5, 2013 article in the Toronto Star, in which an undercover reporter enrolled in a Living Waters program (akin to an AA program with deeply confidential sharing) and wrote a negative story, these men and women remain committed to their work with people who know they are sexually broken, and who want healing.
First, let me get this out of the way: they are not trying to change a person’s sexual orientation. You might be interested in reading the stories of men and women who have been helped through this ministry.
Second, the question of identity is key to what it means to be human – and as I wrote in “Sexuality R Us” – our identity is larger than our sexuality:
- We are all sexual creatures.
- Sexuality does not define us as persons, but it is essential to who are are as persons. Personhood is best and most profoundly defined by the One who made us for Himself.
- We are all sexually broken.
Of course, what I have written is actually “fighting words” for people who define themselves by their sexual orientation or gender identity. You can imagine how difficult it is to have a conversation in a culture that Rick Warren describes this way:
Our Culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything thy believe or do. Both are nonsense.
You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.
Culture: it’s the water in which we fish are swimming; that makes it difficult to discern what’s culture, and what’s us. At the seminar, there was a review of four sweeping cultural trends as it relates to the discussion about sexual/gender identity:
- Essentialism: is the view that, “for any specific entity (such as an animal, a group of people, a physical object, a concept), there is a set of attributes which are necessary to its identity and function.” There is this notion that one MUST live out one’s essential character; to do otherwise would be self-contradictory. Unfortunately this is applied to teens in the course of massive gender/sexual confusion during puberty. Interestingly enough, so much of sexual abuse and sexual manipulation occurs to persons in puberty.
- Moralistic Therapeutic Deism: is best seen in the enormous influence of the Oprah phenomenon. Her deism might be summarized as “there is a god out there who simply wants us to be happy, to feel good about ourselves.” Thus our happiness becomes the highest ethical good.
- Extreme Grace: Can be summarized as: “God (as one personally conceives him/her/it to be) accepts me as I am and expects nothing from me; therefore no one has a right to comment on other people’s lives.” This perspective is not informed by Romans 6:1-14, or I Corinthians 6:12-20, or concerned, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, with “cheap grace.”
- Theology-Base Narrative: This is shaping “god” by the narratives of people and one’s own experience rather than by God speaking for Himself through scripture. Gordon Fee remarks, “We need to stop taking theology from below and start taking theology from above.”
Living Waters offers a counter-cultural script to those based on these cultural trends:
- Same-sex attractions do not signal a categorical distinction among types of persons, but is one of many human experiences that are “not the way it’s supposed to be.”
- Same-sex attractions may be part of our experience, but they are not the defining element of your identity.
- The most compelling aspect of personhood for the Christian is one’s identity in Christ.
“Who are you?” might be the most important question for which you search for answers. This is the question I explore a little in Living in the Shadow:
When we don’t know who we are, we are reduced to picking sides… When we do not understand the mystery of our worth, we do not recognize the worth of the other. What difference is it – what side I chose – when every side is missing the point anyways?
What identity have we lost when we’ve lost perspective on “whose we are?
I invite you to find out who you are from/through the ancient and ever-present One – by seeking relationship with this One who made your for Himself. In finding who He is, you find out who you are too.